Category Archives: Instance Group

Tales of the Twilight Cadre instance group in Azeroth

In Search of Hypnocroak

There were only four of us on last Saturday night, Earlthecat, Skronk, Bigbut, and myself, playing as Tokarev.

That meant postponing the question from last time, how will Draenor work out for a part of five playing through, to embrace the question of the moment, which was how will Draenor work out for a party of four playing through that doesn’t want to get too far ahead of a fifth member who is out for the week.

Skronk, who had been thinking of this in advance, suggested that we roam Shadowmoon Valley in search of rares and whatever else we might encounter.  That sounded like a reasonable plan, so we ran with it.

We met up right outside of the garrison border line and hit that “suggested three player but you can probably solo it” Elekk quest that is right there.  Knocking that out, we moved on into the zone.

Initially we were following Skonk, who was looking for rare locations in a browser window while we roamed hither and yon.  After a bit I grabbed an addon, MyRareFinder, that marks all the rares on your map and marks them off once you have killed them. (They are only good for one pass, after which they are just regular mobs.)

MyRareFinder map

MyRareFinder map

Of course, in an age of all ground travel, having something marked on the map doesn’t automatically mean you know how to get there.  In fact, I am beginning to suspect that we won’t get flying mounts in Draenor for a long while as Blizzard clearly spent some time making things a bit tricky when traveling on ground mounts.

In the north of the zone mobs were on one plateau or another and we had to find the right path.

At the Anguish Fortress, which was guarded by a forcefield because none of had done that quest with Khadgar yet, we had to find our way around into the place through a back door in order to get to Voidseer Kalurg.

Levitate let us drop right in on him

Levitate let us drop right in on him

I wonder if, when I do get to that quest, if I can just tell Khadgar that forcefield is no big deal because the Iron Horde left the back door open?

But our biggest challenge of the night was getting to the rare named Hypnocroak.  He isn’t just a Futurama reference, he is also a jumping puzzle, and one it took us a while to find.

We went to the spot on the map where his location is marked, which is up on a plateau, in a lake.  However, he was nowhere to be seen, though we could, when in the correct position, see his icon on the mini map.

The lake had a waterfall at one end that led down to another water area.  Standing at the edge of the waterfall, however, put his icon on the mini map behind us.  So we decided he must be behind the waterfall.

The waterfall

The waterfall

Standing on the edge of the waterfall, we thought we could just glimpse a cave opening.  I tried to see if I could get to it by dropping first onto the trunk of a tree sticking out from the waterfall, then jump to the mouth of the cave.  That did not quite work out as I expected.

Tokarev, dead on the rocks behind the waterfall

Tokarev, dead on the rocks behind the waterfall

But from there I could at least see the cave.  It was also clear that the cave was situated in a way to prevent us from dropping in from above.  Instead, we would have to reach the cave from below via a jumping puzzle.

Another corpse on the rocks

Another corpse on the rocks

As it turned out, I fell to my death at just about a perfect spot, as it marked the point you had to get to on one of the rocks in order to be able to successfully jump to the next. A death not in vain.

Scrambling and jumping and falling and trying again, I managed to bull my way up and into the cave without really being able to describe how I did it.

Looking down from the cave

Looking down from the cave

Earl made it up next, then Bigbut managed the last jump and was up in the cave as well, which left only Skronk working his way up.  And he was having problems, to the point that we were beginning to discuss whether or not this was a short race issue.  As the dwarf in a group with two Draenei and a human, Skronk was at a serious height deficit.

Eventually though, he was able to get past the two big jumps, which were really all that was standing in his way.  With a dwarf you have to time them just right.  So he made it up and we were able to slay Toxicroak.  His loot was a toy that lets you hypnotize critters so that they will follow you around.

The group in the mouth of the cave

The group in the mouth of the cave

From there, Skronk hit us all with levitate again and we were able to cruise on down to the water below and float to our next objective.

Levitation party

Levitation party

Levitate is kind of a creepy way to travel.  You just adopt a casual pose and float off in the direction you’re headed.  There is no look of “I’m moving” on your character.  It is, rather, one of some indifference.

From there we went on to hunt down a few more rares.

They all have their own special gimmick

They all have their own special gimmick

But it wasn’t much long before I called it a night.  We managed to find some rares, we all added a follower to our garrison, and we at least picked up the quest chain that unlocks the level 2 town hall upgrade, though we did not finish it up.  I went and did that the next day and ran the upgrade.

No a bad evening.  We will see if we can get back to the party of five next time.

A Table for Five in Draenor Please?

The Saturday after Thanksgiving we finally managed to get everybody at home, online, on coms, and in World of Warcraft together, so we could face the specter of how this expansion was going to work out for us.

Chieftain Cheat Sheet

Are you ready?

Of course, we didn’t really have an answer for that, so we did what most people do and started rounding up the details in hopes that the big picture would resolve itself when the time was ripe.

So we spent some time working out who would be playing what in Draenor.  Mike was tired of Bungholio the warlock, a member of the team since we formed up in 2006.  Actually, all the characters on the team have remained static since 2006 except mine, which I am sure says something about somebody.  Anyway, he had his insta-90 option to hand, so we had to run through who might want to play what class and what role.

Nobody really wanted to change roles badly, so Earlthecat remained the tank… and he’ll be fearsome with his Garrosh heirloom sword… and Skronk held onto the healing role, while the rest of us stayed on as DPS.  Chris had Ula and Scsla into Draenor, so she could stick with mage or go with pally power for her character.

I was keen to drop the feral druid… after playing a rogue from scratch to level 88, a feral druid feels like a pale imitation, flight form aside… but haven’t really committed to what I will play.  I could go hunter or I could catch my rogue up to the group.  For the evening though I decided to get out my Draenei death knight, Tokarev to run with the group.

And, after some deliberation and discussions around flexibility, Mike went with a Draenei monk named BigBut.

He isn’t big on the role play compatible names, but I think we had figured that out after Bungholio, Shooty, Chicken, and TruckNut.

Anyway, with that… if not fully decided, at least as settled as it needed to be for the moment… we moved on to the next task, which was just getting into Draenor.  We were not very well  coordinated on that front.  Rather than running through the starter zone together, we ended up strung across various bits of the intro.

Assault all around the Dark Portal

Assault all around the Dark Portal

That wasn’t necessarily a bad thing.  We all got to go at our own pace.  I, on my third trip through, was probably less interested in the story or the fights than Mike, who was both playing a new class and seeing the story unfold for the first time.  I held back a bit, in case he needed help, but he seemed to be doing okay, so I moved along, catching up to Skronk.

Tokarev and Skronk

Tokarev and Skronk

I was pleasantly surprised that the game did not duplicate our followers for that stage.  I wonder if we each saw the other with different companions.  The game was also less punishing of running solo quests in a group than it has been in past zones.  Not everything counted across the group… we each had to pick up our own pile of weapons at one point… but kills and the like seemed to work.

When we arrived at the final battle, Skronk asked what would happen if we just didn’t shoot anything from the giant tank.  Would the quest fail?  Would the bomb carts destroy us?

Bomb Cart

Bomb Cart

We didn’t quite have the nerve to try.  However, I did test to see what happens if, when you are supposed to run for the docks, you instead take off at a course 90 degrees off from your intended destination.  Once you stray too far, you get teleported all the way back to the dwarven quest giver at the Blackrock Quarry, about twice as far back as seemed necessary.  So now we know.

Eventually I stopped screwing around and, like everybody else, made it to the docks to be whisked away to Shadowmoon Landing and the first “being there” achievement.

TFFWelcomeToDraenor

It occurs to me now that the portal icon on that achievement is green, which was the Burning Crusade portal color, and not red, the Warlords of Draenor portal color.  Where is Red Shirt guy when you need him?

Anyway, we ran off to found our garrisons and what not.

To be built on the spot: A Garrison

To be built on the spot: A Garrison

Everybody landed at least at level 91 by the end of the evening, with level 92 being declared the “do not pass” mark.

So there we were.  Op success.  Mission accomplished.  Live and in Draenor.

But we still do not really have an answer to the big question, how this expansion is going to play out if we try to take it on as a full group.  My own, perhaps ill-formed impression, is that Blizzard has mostly punted on the leveling game and has attempted to move content to the level cap where it will at least stay somewhat relevant to players over the life of the expansion.  I was a bit heartened to see that there were at least a few quests about that recommended you tackle them with three players… or I was heartened until I realized I could solo them despite that recommendation.

So there are things to do, quests to run, rares to stalk and all of that.  But what should a team of five really expect if they want to move through the expansion together?

Collecting Frostweave and Achievements

It was just Potshot and I again on Saturday night.  We were both on early and, as the appointed hour approached, it became clear that it would just be the two of us.

As it happened, we were both tooling about in Northrend doing the ground work for a couple of guild achievements.

He was on as Skronk and working on Tushui Pandaren faction, as nobody in the guild had managed to get to exalted as yet.  Mobs in heroic instances in Wrath of the Lich are still green, giving experience and faction when killed, so that looked like an easy way to advance his standing; just put on the Tushui tabard and go nuts.

Meanwhile I was trying to shore up another guild achievement related to crafting.  We were short a max level tailor and archaeologist.  I knocked out the archaeology earlier in the day with Vikund.

Zen Master in boring

Zen Master in boring

I had long ignored archaeology as a profession, but decided to run with it a bit over the summer.  Leveling up isn’t too hard, there are some decent rewards, and a long list of related achievements.  However, the basic mechanic of the profession, exploring dig sites, becomes so tedious after a while that I could only hold out until my skill level hit 600.  I am just not that desperate for something to do.

The guild was also missing a tailor at max level, so I had started working on that with my summer project alt, Trianis the rogue.  He is now sitting just shy of level 80, having sprinted through Northrend fairly quickly.  However, in that sprint he did not pick up nearly enough frostweave cloth to get into the Cataclysm skill range.  A guide I read said that you needed 12 pieces of cloth, which reduce down to bolts of frostweave at a rate of 5 to 1, in order to get to the next tier.

So I had Vikund out in Northrend to gather frostweave and bind on equip gear, the latter because Trianis is also an enchanter.  Tailoring and enchanting seem to go together.  Neither requires resource harvesting and you can disenchant all the useless tailoring items you have to make in order to skill up and use those to help skill up enchanting.

In pursuit of these twin goals I was headed towards Naxxramas.

It seems bigger on the inside...

It seems bigger on the inside…

I had read… at the very same crafting site that said I needed 1200 frostweave… that Naxx was the place for frostweave.  However, there was a trick that involved setting it for 25 player, going into the Plague Quarter, killing up to but not including the second boss, the running back out to reset the instance and then set it for 10 players and you would be in frostweave farming heaven or something.  Just kill the mobs in the bat section, reset, repeat.  Only I seemed to have messed it up as no bats were available on the reset.

And why do bats has frostweave?

And why do bats has frostweave?

At that point Skonk was in the neighborhood and decided to join me.  We got on Skype and wandered through Naxx together, slaying all who opposed us and collecting frostweave and equipment drops.  We were on the lookout for interesting items for transmog, though I am pretty picky on that front.  I have my troll shoulders and my sword (Claymore of the Prophet, which I have held onto since Argent Tournament was a thing), both of which I love, but other equipment tends to be less interesting.  I tend to hide my helm and I am seriously considering hiding my cloak if I don’t find a nice one, and everything else sort of fades into the background if you’re wearing a tabard.

Anyway, much frostweave was collected, though not as much as I needed.  It is a long ride to 1200.  I also picked up some BOE gear to send to Trianis.  This wasn’t helping Skronk with his faction quest… raid mobs don’t seem to give faction, though I am not sure why… but we were having fun.  We stumbled through and survived, managing to figure out each of the fights pretty much by patience and dumb luck.  And we picked up a pile of achievements. (Note to Skronk: Go back and kill that first boss you missed at 10 player level and you’ll get three or four more achievements.)

A good enough time was had that we decided to do it again.  We decided on Ulduar, never having been there.  We flew up to Storm Peaks and then had a bit of trouble actually finding the way in.  There are a couple of instances in the neighborhood, the Halls of Stone and Lightning, but the big raid swirly seemed to be eluding us.  Then I looked at the map and decided that maybe we needed to check out the great big building.

Here be Ulduar

Here be Ulduar

That wasn’t so subtle and soon we were in what looked to be a vehicle park.  There were gnomes all over and siege engines and other vehicles in various states of repair and whatnot.  However, since we couldn’t immediately get into any of the vehicles, we walked on past them and looked out on the sea of foes opposing us.

That is a lot of guys

That is a lot of guys

And, in seeing the might of our enemy said, “Meh, whatever” and advanced to face them on foot.

It was an epic battle.  They came on in seemingly endless numbers… which was in fact the case, since you have to destroy those towers to keep them from pouring out at you… and at various point we stood and slaughter them by the dozens and then ran ahead.

And here’s the thing; it worked.

We actually made it through the morass of hostiles to the first boss, the Flame Leviathan.  And that is where our effort fell apart.  He was hitting us for big numbers, big enough that eventually we succumbed.

The Fault in our Cars

The Fault in our Cars

We came back into the instance to find all the vehicles had been moved up to a start line just before the first boss, but we still couldn’t figure out how to use them or what to do.  Something was amiss.

I saw my friend Pia online and asked her what we needed to do to use the vehicles, and she said it was the same old big green arrow interface to mount up and drive as always.  While this didn’t tell us how, it was a clear indication that we had missed something.  So we went back out of the instance, reset it… which was successful this time since we hadn’t killed a boss yet… and went back in to more closely examine the starting area.  There we found noted adventurer and general troublemaker Brann Bronzebeard.

Brann Consults

Brann Consults

Since he was the party of interest in the local 5 player dungeons, we decided to speak with him.  And, sure enough, that conversation unlocked the vehicles.  So we took a siege engine, with me driving and Skronk in the turret, and headed on out.  I didn’t take a screen shot of it… I seemed to take very few over the course of the evening, but it was the one like I used to drive in Wintergrasp back in the day.

Shooting things, I understand that part

Shooting things and ramming things

And from that point forward things went swimmingly.  We knocked down all the towers one by one, slaughtered the hostiles in huge numbers without much effort, and went and taught the Flame Leviathan a thing or two about driving.  We were The Stig in a field of Captain Slow clones.

And then we were done with the vehicles.  They only seem to be for the first stage of the raid, and after that it is back on foot and tracking down bosses the old fashioned way.  So off we went, slaying all that we could find.  I am not sure we found everybody.  We went up and down every side path, but there were several towers with portals that we could not enter.  After we ran out of stuff there it was about time to call it a night.

All in all, an enjoyable time.  I collected a pile of frostweave and went on to get even more the next day.  Skronk went on to finish up the Tushui Pandaren faction the next day, as did I.  He also finished up all of the Northrend heroic dungeon achievements, which inspired me to do the same.  The Occulus was a bit of a pain, but I managed.

And, as everything in Northrend raids and heroics was green to us, I also managed to finish up the test of strength quest for Darkmoon Faire, the first time I had done that in ages on Vikund.  I also noticed, when I went to turn that quest in, that Goldshire appeared to still be on fire even though Hallow’s End had been done for a week.

That's not supposed to be on fire normally

That’s not supposed to be on fire normally

Anyway, it was a weekend of many Northrend achievements.  I think I piled up more than 30 if Raptr is to be believed, though it has been known to double count.  And I still some more frostweave for Trianis in order for him to get to the next tier.  I guess I will just put on a new tabard… maybe Wildhammer Clan this time… and start in on that.

The Instance Group Mostly Finishes Off Pandaria

Warlords of Draenor will be dropping in about two weeks, so it was clearly time for the long standing instance group to shake off the warm glow of summer and get back to work in Pandaria.  Last week it was just Skronk and I online on Saturday night.  We doubled that number this time around as Ula had resolved her authenticator issue and Earl felt a bit healthier, so the lineup for the night was:

  • Skronk – Level 89 Dwarf Priest Healing
  • Ula – Level 89 Gnome Mage DPS
  • Alioto – Level 90 Night Elf Feral Druid DPS
  • Earlthecat – Level 90 Human Warrior Tank

While it wasn’t a full group, Earl and I had run to level 90 and subsequently equipped ourselves with gear from Timeless Isle, so we were much more powerful than we would have been if all of us had been level 89.  We certainly felt we had a shot at the last three normal mode, five person instances in Pandaria.  We would have a mighty tank at least, which would no doubt help Skronk come to grips with the healing changes that hit with the 6.0 release.  So this would work as a training exercise as well as a tour of the last few instances.

The first instance on our list was the Shado-Pan Monastery.

We had actually attempted this back in June with a four person group.  After we looked into the Mogu’shan Palace, Earl couldn’t make it, so the rest of us gave the instance a try.  The four of us managed to get to the third boss, the Sha of Hate, before we hit a wall.  I just never got around to finishing the post about that evening… or the Mogu’shan Palace run.  They are in my drafts folder still.

Anyway, we were set to pick up where we had left off.  With Earl tanking, we blew through the first two bosses without problem and caught up to the Sha of Hate.

Down with the Shah... I mean Sha!

Down with the Shah… I mean Sha!

The Sha of Hate didn’t offer much resistance either.  With gear boosted DPS via the Timeless Isle gear, the Sha of Hate was down.  He barely had time to do any of his specials.  From there we fought our way to the final boss, Taran Zhu.

More after the cut, because I run on as usual.

Continue reading

The Instance Group Resurgent in Azeroth… Sort Of… And Hallow’s End

We decided to get our collective act together and get into the game so as to get used to the new realities of WoW 6.0.

And we tried.

However, due to authenticator problems, bronchitis, and a previous engagement, only Potshot and I ended up in game last Saturday night.

Such is life.

We decided that, just two levels shy of the cap, we probably no longer needed to stick with the group on levels.  We both chose to run through some of the quests in the Kun-Lai Summit area, which has the advantage of having a series of fun/interesting quests and a 24-slot bag as a quest reward.  Even with the new bank tab for crafting materials, I will still lunge for and bag space upgrade.  I have been trained to do so over the years.

Kun-lai Summit

Kun-Lai Summit Map

We didn’t bother grouping up as we were on different quests in the zone, or even getting on coms, but we chatted on the guild channel as we moved through the zone.  I got my bag and we both hit level 89.

However, I could not stop there.  The next day I got on, I wrapped up the zone and moved into the Townlong Steppe until Alioto hit level 90.

Level 90

Level 90

I did that for a number of reasons.  90 unlocks a few things, including the ability to train flight form, which is one of the main reasons you should level up a druid.

I love when I can fly by the form hasn't drawn yet...

I love when I can fly but the form hasn’t drawn yet…

I was a bit confused to find that they had consolidated the three travel forms into a single button that just transforms you into the form the game thinks is most appropriate.  I can no longer be the Nelk (nigh elf elk) on command.  On the other hand, when my flying form dives into water, it changes to the water form, and back when I jump out, so there is some upside.  I’ll get used to it.

Of course, there was another reason I wanted another level 90… Alioto is my 4th character to hit the level cap.  I wanted another bite at the apple every day when it came to the Headless Horseman.  You can queue up once per day per character for a shot at the horseman, with just about everybody looking to get the mount drop.

So that is what I do, four times every evening.  I log in each of my level 90s an hope to get that drop.

There he is again...

There he is again…

On the one hand, the fight is pretty easy and the queue time is pretty short.  On the other, I wonder just how many times I will have ended up killing this guy over the years looking for that mount.

Unlike Brewfest, it turned out that I had one more Hallow’s End achievement.  Somehow I had neglected to hit all the candy buckets in Pandaria last year, so I rounded that up.

Anyway, most of the group has resolved their issues… or gotten healthier… and it looks like we might make our full return this weekend.  We shall see.

Looking into the Mogu’shan Palace

Bung was back from LEGOLand and Earl was back from the wilds of Canada and we were all together again on Saturday night.  We had already done Temple of the Jade Serpent and Stormstout Brewery, so the next instance on the list looked to be Mogu’shan Palace.

As an instance it is rated for level 87 and up, and our group was a bit shy of that.  Our lineup at the beginning of the evening:

  • Earlthecat – Level 87 Human Warrior Tank
  • Skronk – Level 86 Dwarf Priest Healing
  • Bungholio – Level 86 Gnome Warlock DPS
  • Alioto – Level 86 Night Elf Druid DPS
  • Ula – Level 87 Gnome Mage DPS

Only two of us were 87, but we figured that was close enough.  Sure, we couldn’t use the Dungeon Finder, but that was never our plan in any case.  We would follow the grand old tradition of “screw Dungeon Finder, we’ll just walk there and do it below the recommended level!”  After all, what is the worst that could happen?  Maybe the quest giver won’t give us the quests.

There was a question of how to walk there though.  Mogu’shan Palace is in the Vale of Eternal Blossoms, and one does not simply walk into the Vale of Eternal Blossoms.  There is a quest chain to get in there, and once inside the whole thing is geared for level 90s, which can be awkward if you are level 86 and cannot fly

But, as it turned out, Skronk already had us covered on that front.  Actually, we have enough level 90 alts in the group that we could have done it without Skronk’s setup, but it felt better that he was in the zone already.  He had managed to sneak into the zone in tow behind Ula’s level 90 alt and so had already set his stone to the alliance hub at the Shrine of Seven Stars, gotten the flight point, and scouted out the summoning stone for Mogu’shan Palace.

He did need somebody else to help him summon the rest of the party, so I swapped out for one of my level 90s and we commenced to summon.

At the Mogu'shan Palace stone

At the Mogu’shan Palace stone

One everybody else was there, I logged out, re-joined the group as Alioto, and was summoned as well.

Mogu'shan, here I come!

Mogu’shan, here I come!

Once we were all there, we took a minute to run over to the Shrine of Seven Stars so everybody could get the flight point and set their hearthstones there if the so desired.

At the Shrine of Seven Stars

At the Shrine of Seven Stars

I pointed out that the Shrine of Seven Stars had almost everything one could want, banking services, vendors, daily quests, portals to all the other major locations, and so on.  The only thing it lacks is an auction house NPC.  Well, it has one, but only for those who follow the engineer’s trade.  Otherwise you have to head back to Dalaran or Stormwind for an auction house.

Anyway, once we got ourselves set there, it was back over to the Mogu’shan Palace, where we stood before the instance portal.

Behold its majesty

Behold its majesty

It was time to go in!

More after the cut.

Continue reading

Pandaria – Jade and Ale

Having wrapped up about everything we wanted to do as a group in CataclysmZul’Aman and Zul’Gurub being the final acts… it was about time for our group to move into Pandaria for real.

We had already poked our collective noses into Mists of Pandaria in order to get some gear upgrades to help us deal with the 85++ heroic dungeons, so we had a foothold in the expansion with a few flight points.  Now the time had come to invest ourselves fully in the land of the anthropomorphic plushies and to take on an instance in the Jade Forest.  Our group for that was:

  • Earlthecat – Level 87 Human Warrior Tank
  • Skronk – Level 86 Dwarf Priest Healing
  • Bungholio – Level 86 Gnome Warlock DPS
  • Alioto – Level 86 Night Elf Druid DPS
  • Ula – Level 86 Gnome Mage DPS

And, as it turned out, four of us had already hit the first instance, the Temple of the Jade Serpent.

The previous week I was out, but the other four members of the group were on, so they decided to give the instance a try short one DPS.  And with considerable effort, or so I understand, they figured out each boss and made it through.  So the first order of business was to drag my ass through the instance, expecting that with an additional DPS and all the fights now a known quantity, things would go quickly.

And so they did.

More after the cut.

Continue reading