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 Cataclysm. Cata 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.
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.
Musings on the intro to Pandaria after the cut. If you have been there, you are pretty much excused for reading further.
As with the start to Uldum, I did the start to Pandaria long after the initial rush into the expansion happened. There is a whole live area that is used for the transition from the great gunship in the sky to actually being in Pandaria which I assumed was a solo instance because in two passes through it in the last few months, I haven’t seen anybody else there. But since the whole thing lasts maybe 15 minutes if you are at all diligent in pressing forward, that turned out to be just a matter not spending all that much time there.
So rather than having some solo work to do, we ended up seeing each other. The initial gyrocopter assault is fun. You get to strafe masses of horde peons assaulting the area. It is, however, a rail shooter and Bung and I ended up pretty close on the track around the event.
It might not be visible in the thumbnail, but Bung and I are pretty much superimposed, one over the other. Well, we were sharing updates as part of our run, why not share the same point in time and space as well. We kept that up until we parachuted from the gunship to actually set foot on Pandaria for the first time. The Golden Knights should be so precise.
Well, the first time for these characters. Skronk, Ula, and myself have all invaded Pandaria on alts by this point, leaving Bung as the only one new to the experience.
That lead us into what I consider the surprisingly difficult initial series of quests on the ground in Pandaria.
Actually, the quests are not that difficult, and all of the standard fare as part of the introduction to the lore, but they run through an area that was clearly configured to handle a large influx of players. That influx has long passed. Again, you are in this area for maybe 30 minutes if things are going well, so that runs towards empty these days isn’t a reflection on server population. But going into the area alone now, you will end up with lots of unexpected adds and will have to fight your way back and forth across the area a few times to get things done.
But for a group of three or four, the initial area seems just about correctly paced if nobody else is about. So while three of us shared tales about how annoying a given bit of the whole thing was in our solo runs through the place, Bung actually got to see the area run at probably the optimum configuration. This was enhanced by Blizzard being pretty much on the mark with which quests ought to share updates and which shouldn’t. That is always a fine line.
And even Blizz knows that the area can be a pain to fight your way through. For the last set of quests, you get a ride home at the end. Another gyrocopter.
Well, until your craft gets shot down, then it is parachute time again.
After which you are on your way into the Jade Forest zone. We ran along into the chain of quests at Pearlfin Village to help the jinyu until we hit the series of story quests where you take the perspective of a couple different NPCs, one by one. Those are completely solo and, while interesting in their way, made for a good end point for the evening.
That got us far enough to update quite a bit of gear. One of the things I noticed was that not only is there a big step up in damage and stats from Cataclysm to Mists of Pandaria, the experience curve is also a big jump. Doing quests or killing mobs at level 85 in Cataclysm barely moves your experience bar at all, while it jumps up quite noticeably once in Pandaria. There appears to be room for a squish on that front as well. But at least we won’t level up to much facing the level 85 instances.
Now to see how we will fare back in Cataclysm. I suspect that the upgrades will make Grim Batol rather easy. We shall see. Maybe we should go straight for the heroic version. The real question will be how viable Zul’Aman and Zul’Gurub will be for us as equipped.