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The Instance Group Mostly Finishes Off Pandaria October 30, 2014

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, Instance Group, World of Warcraft.
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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.

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The Instance Group Resurgent in Azeroth… Sort Of… And Hallow’s End October 24, 2014

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, Instance Group, World of Warcraft.
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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 June 12, 2014

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, Instance Group, World of Warcraft.
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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.

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Pandaria – Jade and Ale May 16, 2014

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, Instance Group, World of Warcraft.
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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.

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Remembering Our Time in Zul’Gurub April 18, 2014

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, Instance Group, World of Warcraft.
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Part of being able to blog regularly is having a routine.  There is a time I sit down and write and another when I review screen shots and so on.

For the Saturday night instance group, I usually sit down Sunday, start the post, sketch out what I will write, noting down some key events or interactions.  Later I go through the screen shots, which will usually stir up more memories. (Most of my screen shots are crap, but are often taken simply to capture some small detail that relates to the evenings events.)  Eventually I sit down and write the narrative out, insert the screen shots, and schedule the post.  (Anything that posts exactly on the hour here was likely scheduled in advance.)  Then Thursday morning rolls around, the post goes up, I look at it, gasp in horror at the typos, frantically try to correct them, and eventually let go and return to a stable state.

However, for the last instance group run, I totally forgot to do any of that.  Things came up at home, there were other games I wanted to play, other things I wanted to write about (I think I have had two posts a day running all week here, and I have a couple of fresh drafts I still need to finish… next week I guess) and suddenly it was a week and a half later and I found myself thinking, “Didn’t we to Zul’gurub just recently?”

Yes we did.

Now to try and actually blog about it well after the fact.

I do remember the line up… well, I remembered to take a screen shot of it.  We were:

  • Earlthecat – Level 86 Human Warrior Tank
  • Skronk – Level 86 Dwarf Priest Healing
  • Bungholio – Level 85 Gnome Warlock DPS
  • Alioto – Level 85 Night Elf Druid DPS
  • Ula – Level 85 Gnome Mage DPS

And the destination for the evening was the level 85++ instance, Zul’Gurub.

The previous week we did the raid-turned-instance Zul’Aman, which turned out to be a just-about-perfect difficulty run in a sprawling open troll themed environment.    Its companion instance, Zul’Gurub, proved to be a worthy follow on.

What I actually remember from the run after the cut.

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Facing the Voodoo in Zul’Aman March 27, 2014

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, Instance Group, World of Warcraft.
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We have had a bit of a gap since our last full instance group run.  Birthdays, marathons, and some other outside activities have intruded.  We have done some things together.  Operations in search of mounts, bags, and rep are always an option.  But it hasn’t been the full group for almost a month.

And I wasn’t sure we were going to have a full group up until nearly the last minute on Saturday.  I was in a game of Age of Kings with that group, where we were working on build strategies influenced by our obliteration at the hands of MoronHunter and friends, when suddenly everybody in the instance group was online.  Time to go!  I quickly built a wonder, thanks to my booming economy, and let that match run out in the background with my apologies while I got World of Warcraft up and running.

We were on for the night, and our group was:

  • Earlthecat – Level 86 Human Warrior Tank
  • Skronk – Level 85 Dwarf Priest Healing
  • Bungholio – Level 85 Gnome Warlock DPS
  • Alioto – Level 85 Night Elf Druid DPS
  • Ula – Level 85 Gnome Mage DPS

No boost in levels for anybody since last time.  I think I mentioned this before, but an interesting side effect of the huge inflation in numbers when it comes to Mists of Pandaria is that, at level 85 and beyond, experience gained from doing Cataclysm content is almost negligible.  You have to get into Pandaria to move that experience bar beyond a rate measured in single digit pixels per hour.  The situation is almost EverQuestian in that regard.

Anyway, despite everybody getting logged on at the appointed hour, we ended up mucking about for drinks and bathroom breaks and at least one computer reboot to clear up a sound issue.  I was able to watch the end of the Age of Kings match and close that out as we got ourselves settled.  Earl and I got on the bird to get out to the summoning stone at our target for the night, which was Zul’Aman.

Zul’Aman is rated level 85++, where 85+ is a standard heroic mode dungeon.  Given that, even with out item level 372 gear upgrade from Pandaria, we still ran into problems in the heroic Deadmines, I was a bit concerned that an instance considered to be a challenge relative to that might be an issue.  But we were going to give it a shot.

Earl and I summoned the rest of the party out to the stone and off we went.  Well, we bounced of the entrance for a minute because the group leader (me) had not set the instance mode to “heroic.”  It seems odd that a heroic-only dungeon should care about that setting, but whatever.  At least the error message was informative, so I switched modes and we were able to enter.   We picked up the quests in the foyer of the instance and then the gate was opened and we were set loose.

Opening to Zul'Aman proper

Opening to Zul’Aman proper

Our efforts in detail after the cut.

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Return to the Heroic Deadmines February 20, 2014

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, Instance Group, World of Warcraft.
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Last time out for the instance group we finished up the last of the normal mode instances, Grim Batol, and then decided to try our hand at Cataclysm heroics.

The Deadmines, ever the favored dungeon in Azeroth, was our target and the fact that we couldn’t use the Dungeon Finder because the item level of our gear was too low did not deter us in the slightest.  An item level of 329 seemed too much to ask.

In hindsight, we might have paid a bit more attention to that last bit.  While we managed to get in the door and through the first couple of bosses, we were clearly in over our head and called it a night after too many wipes in the foundry.

The Machination in the background

Where we left off last time…

Thus stopped mid-instance, we decided to remedy the gear item level situation in Pandaria.  Four of us went to visit Silkweaver Rul in Pearlfin Village.

The Gearing Up Vendor

The Gearing Up Vendor

While we had all picked up at least a few items in our first foray into Pandaria, where we stopped at Pearlfin Village, we clearly did not pick up enough.  The four of us each ended up buying 8 or 9 items from the vendor.

The gear is kind of interesting.  There is something there for everybody and it is all item level 372.  It is also all bind on pick up and you cannot disenchant them.  This is clearly the “catch up” vendor for those entering the expansion.

Earl, on the other hand, decided to press on into Pandaria to gear himself up.  He didn’t get to read the discussion in last week’s comment thread about the balance between health and main stats versus secondary stats as you level up in Pandaria, which was probably a good thing as it was more than I really wanted to consider, and just leveled up to 86.  He also came up with an item level 450, account bound (which means you can mail it to your alts), sword to wield.

So the group was all at item level 372 or above and ready to go.

  • Earlthecat – Level 86 Human Warrior Tank
  • Skronk – Level 85 Dwarf Priest Healing
  • Bungholio – Level 85 Gnome Warlock DPS
  • Alioto – Level 85 Night Elf Druid DPS
  • Ula – Level 85 Gnome Mage DPS

The question was, where should we head with our new gear?  Ula was AFK when that discussion started, and when she returned she flatly stated that we were going to go back to the Deadmines and that was pretty much that.  The decision was made.  Having walked there last time, we felt entitled to use the Dungeon Finder to get us there.

DMHqueued

Did all that gear make a difference?  More after the cut.

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Grim Batol and Beyond in Cataclysm February 13, 2014

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, Instance Group, World of Warcraft.
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Back to the more comfortable (for me anyway) world of five person instances.

We all got together again on Saturday night wondering what we should do.  We had all reached the magic level of 85.

  • Earlthecat – Level 85 Human Warrior Tank
  • Skronk – Level 85 Dwarf Priest Healing
  • Bungholio – Level 85 Gnome Warlock DPS
  • Alioto – Level 85 Night Elf Druid DPS
  • Ula – Level 85 Gnome Mage DPS

We had all at least poked our noses into Pandaria for a few gear upgrades.  So the question was where to head next?  The only normal mode instance left undone by us in Cataclysm was Grim Batol.  Kicking off the quest line into Twilight Highlands and doing that was the default plan for the night.  We could also attempt Grim Batol in heroic mode, try one of the heroic only instances, or really roll the dice and try one of the two converted raids which were ranked as 85++.

We decided to go with the default.  That would complete our minimum plan for Cataclysm content and then we could mess around with whatever else afterwards.  That meant picking up the opening quest for Twilight Highlands and heading over to Stormwind Keep to chat with the king.

Hanging around in Stormwind Keep

Hanging around in Stormwind Keep

You can sort-of see the enchant on Alioto’s staff, which Skronk made for me with one of his alts.  It is the agility enchant, but it is green and has an animation of leaves dropping from it, making it about the most perfect druid weapon enchant ever.

As we hung out waiting for everybody to get ready, we watched what seemed to be a continuous stream of people show up and speak to Major Samuelson over in the corner, at which he would transform into some sort of Ganesh-esque monster which had to be slain.  Clearly a popular quest line on a Saturday night.  We weren’t sure what lead to that, but we had our own tasks to work on.  Once we were all together, we spoke to the king, got our one version of the destined to be troublesome Prince Anduin (nicely, everybody’s copy of the prince was only visible to themselves) and off we went to unlock the way to the Twilight Highlands.

Headed out of the keep

Headed out of the keep

More after the cut because of the usual group nice verbosity.

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Making the Jump into Pandaria February 6, 2014

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, Instance Group, World of Warcraft.
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After the previous weeks run through three instances, the group had all ascended to level 85.   That left us with some choices as to how to proceed.

The minimal completionist path was to at least take on the Twilight Highlands long enough to get to Grim Batol, the last normal mode instance in Cataclysm, before heading off to Pandaria.  The argument for this would be that we could at least say we had “done” Cataclysm by some very basic measure.

The “onward and upward” path would take us directly into Mists of Pandaria, bypassing the remains of CataclysmCata becomes a “fly over” expansion, and we are in and out in the minimum time.  And why not?  Pandaria has more than enough group content to keep us going at least out to the inevitable group summer hiatus, and probably enough to last us until Warlords of Draenor finally makes its way to us.

And then there was what I will call “the middle path” in our discussions.  This was the idea that we should take our time at level 85 and knock out some or all of the heroic-only five person instances that were included in Cataclysm.  I was all excited about the idea of Heroic Deadmines back in August 2009, it might be reasonable to follow up on that and see what came of it.  Pandaria isn’t going anywhere, and Draenor isn’t close.  Why not hang around in Cataclysm for a while?

In the end, the argument for the middle path hinged on a bag.  Specifically, the Tattered Hexcloth Bag.

TatteredHexclothBag

We are, as always in World of Warcraft, suffering for lack of bag and bank space.  And the promise of 24 slot bag as a quest reward from Zul’Aman, one of the level 70 raids converted into a five person heroic instance for Cataclysm, was like the lure of shoes to Lee’s army before Gettysburg.   We will go a fair bit out of our way for that.

Plus there is the allure of this instance, and its companion Zul’Gurub, as large, sprawling affairs that could eat up a whole evenings adventuring.  We would view that as a good thing. (And I know some people are unhappy about the conversion of these raids to five person instances, but it looks awesome from where I sit as somebody who only does the five person group content.)

The only hitch is that the two converted raids are flagged as “Level 85++” and, frankly, we just aren’t that good.

So the amended plan for the middle path included a brief foray into Pandaria to get that first round of gear when the time was right.  We didn’t think we would need it for Grim Batol, but it would help with Heroic Deadmines and would likely be a necessity for the converted raids.  We would hold off on the Pandaria thing as long as possible.

And then Earl was away this past weekend and we couldn’t think of anything else to do, so we went into Pandaria early.  Go us.

Our roster for the evening was:

  • Skronk – Level 85 Dwarf Priest Healing
  • Bungholio – Level 85 Gnome Warlock DPS
  • Alioto – Level 85 Night Elf Druid DPS
  • Ula – Level 85 Gnome Mage DPS

And we all had the lead-in quest for Pandaria, so we headed off to meet up with Sky Admiral Rogers.

Meeting the Skymarshal

Meeting the Sky Admiral

Musings on the intro to Pandaria after the cut.  If you have been there, you are pretty much excused for reading further.

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A Busy Night at the South End of Kalimdor January 31, 2014

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, Instance Group, World of Warcraft.
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Last weekend we launched ourselves into Uldum and got through The Vortex Pinnacle, the instance in the sky.  That still left us two instance to do in Uldum, the Lost City of Tol’vir and The Halls of Origination.  Uldum is the instance hot-spot in Cataclysm I guess.  Fortunately, we were all online again on Saturday night.  Our group was:

  • Earlthecat – Level 84 Human Warrior Tank
  • Skronk – Level 84 Dwarf Priest Healing
  • Bungholio – Level 84 Gnome Warlock DPS
  • Alioto – Level 84 Night Elf Druid DPS
  • Ula – Level 84 Gnome Mage DPS

We had all managed to hit level 84, either during last week’s run or on Sunday as a catch-up.  As we got ourselves situated outside of the Lost City of Tol’vir, Skronk was telling us about a new priest skill he got.

Out by the Tol'vir summoning stone

Out by the Tol’vir summoning stone

Called Leap of Faith, it apparently allowed him to target a member of the group and pull that person to him.

Leap of Faith

Leap of Faith

We were not quite sure when that might come in handy.  We speculated on about the healer pulling people not paying attention out of the fire or whatever gunk they were standing in, or maybe grabbing the tank and hauling him back to save the healer.  We were not sure when such an ability would come in handy, so it was filed away for later as we went into the instance.

More after the cut.

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