As a welcome to the new year, this past Saturday saw the full instance group reunited once again in Azeroth.
While we have all been in the Warlords of Draenor expansion at the same time on at least on occasion, that was less than a coordinated group effort. We were just getting through the intro and into our garrisons and sort of laying the groundwork for things.
This time we were all online and ready to join together and do something as a group.
Our lineup for the night was:
- Ula – Level 91 Gnome Mage DPS
- Skronk – Level 92 Dwarf Priest Healing
- Bigbut – Level 92 Draenei Monk DPS
- Tistann – Level 93 Dwarf Hunter DPS
- Earlthecat – Level 93 Human Warrior Tank
Ula was able to join us, but not having been around for the last couple of forays, was behind the curve when it came to levels, being not too far into 91.
And then I changed up my group character, pulling Tokarev, my Draenei DK, and substituting in Tistann, a Dwarf Hunter and one of my oldest characters on the server, second only to Vikund. I decided I wanted to give this whole “ranged DPS” thing a try after more than six years of being melee DPS in one form or another. (Rogue, Pally, Feral Druid, then DK.)
As for what to do, that seemed a pretty easy choice. We were going to go back to the Bloodmaul Slag Mines.
More after the cut.
The Bloodmaul Slag Mines were known to us, of course.
We did the instance as a foursome previously, so it seemed like a good warm up for Ula and Tistann. No worries that we could manage it, just a way to get back into fighting shape. We could do that and then move on to the next instance, The Iron Docks. To speed that up, we figured that we would just use the Dungeon Finder to jump straight to the Bloodmaul Slag Mines.
Unfortunately, Ula did not meet the item level requirement to do that, so we would have to get there using one of the more traditional means. We had already done the overland route, so three of us, Earl, Skronk, and Bigbut, had the flight path to get there. They flew off to use the summoning stone outside the instance to bring Ula and Tistann along.
We were duly summoned and headed on into the instance together with the group.
Inside we shook out into our roles and pressed on to the first boss. As noted, with five of us instead of four, and a couple of us a level or two higher, there was not much holding back our progress through the instance.
The first two bosses in the loop, plus the big pig… is he a boss or just some special mob… went by pretty quickly. Both Earl and I had been through these parts in Heroic groups. We got through the boss event on the bridge successfully and, pretty quickly, we were facing the final boss, Gur’gokk. Again, a fight known to us, the boss went down easily enough, and soon we stood in victory, the first full group instance completed in Draenor for us.
I was particularly happy with the performance of my hunter. Vikund had made him the item level 630 gun and I had been upgrading his equipment whenever I could, so I was finally able to out-DPS Earl in an instance run. Earl is a damage machine, helped along by his Garrosh heirloom sword (and those item level 630 goggles I made him). He still led the group in total damage, but at least I was keeping up with Tistann.
The warm-up done, we figured it was time to head out and tackle a new instance, the Iron Docks.
As with the Bloodmaul Slag Mines, Earl, Skronk, and Bigbut had the flight point up there, while Tistann and Ula did not. So we grabbed the flight point outside the mines and then hung around waiting to be summoned.
Once the rest of the group arrived, we were summoned out and we all made a dash for the instance and jumped through the portal.
All of us except Ula. She was still level 91, and much to my everlasting disappointment, Blizzard has a hard level lock on instances still, as they did in Mists of Pandaria. I can understand locking people out using the Dungeon Finder or pre-mades or whatever. But if you and your pals actually travel to the instance portal, you ought to be able to wander in even if you are way below level.
But no. Blizzard is enforcing a universal “You must be level 92” barrier on The Iron Docks, and presumably all of the other instances in the expansion. We won’t be able to go in a bit under level, as we had during some of the medium-to-old days.
So there we were. Ula was still 30% of a level shy of 92.
We decided we should just head back to the Bloodmaul Slag Mines and run that again. We could use some more gear drops, the experience would be good, and another group run would put another 250 gold in the guild bank. What is not to love? We ran back to the Iron Docks flight point and found that Ula and Tistann were missing a connecting flight point between the Iron Docks and the Slag Mines. Another item for the “to do” list. So once again Earl, Skronk, and Bigbut flew off without us, only to summon us along.
The second run through was easier that the first. Now we were all well versed in the fights and cleared the place even more quickly, pausing only to look at Croman the Barbarian, toiling away in a back room. Earl says that the heroic groups he has run with his alt never want to stop and get him. He becomes an epic follower if you release him and keep him alive through the balance of a heroic run. We may have to do that when we hit level cap.
The second run got Ula closer to level, but she still had a ways to go. We decided to head out across Frostfang Ridge to get the connecting flight points, picking up some rares along the way, as we headed to Gorgrond. There was one rare right outside of the Slag Mines, and then we headed east to the next one at Colosaal’s Fall.
The place could have been called “Tistann’s Fall.” for a bit there.
The rare is on top of the big structure, which is made from the rib cage of something… well… colossal. We spent some time running around trying to figure out how to get to the top, before finally discovering that the way in was the obvious way; up the ramp in the middle of things. From there you jump off the balcony, head to one of the ribs, run up that to the top, then make your way across a coupe tarps or whatever before dropping down on the rare, whose name I have completely forgotten at this point.
This is easy if you have a tall race character. Earl the human and Bigbut the Draenei were up top and to the guy quickly enough. The short races though… the ribs have bands or rope across them. They are easy enough to jump over if you are big, not so much when you are small. Dwarf, Dwarf, Gnome were having some problems getting up there, including falling off, which Tistann did multiple times… sometimes before he had healed up from the last fall.
Fortunately, the graveyard was not too far away, so Tistann was able to run on back and try again and again.
Eventually we found our way up, trying various ribs until we found one that was small race friendly. We were then able to make our way to the rare, where we did him in. Then Skronk hit us all with levitate so we could just jump off safely before moving on. After having experienced the cloud mount slow fall effect in EverQuest II, I expected our falls to be controllable… or at least steerable. But with levitate, that isn’t the case. Whatever direction you jump off, you’ll be heading that way until you hit the ground. I picked a safe direction, but we had to rally around a couple of group members who picked up a fair bit of aggro based on their jumps.
From there it was across the Crackling Plains, where we avoided that event where you feed ogres to the thing… we never did quite figure that one out, it might be Horde only… but picking up the hunting party rare, then headed into the mountains to pick up the flight point over by the lakes. That gave Ula and Tistann two flight points that connected in Frostfire Ridge, but nothing that connected to the rest of the world, Tistann having not yet headed into Gorgrond.
So we kept on heading east into Gorgrond, both to find flight points and to find some more exp for Ula.
While there, we hit a couple of the local open quest areas, where you have to kill some of the locals. They payoff is usually well worth the effort in both gold and experience, and all you have to do is go to that area and the quest pops up for you… unless, of course, you are not level 92 and trying to do them in Gorgrond. Ula kept saying she didn’t see the quest while we were all slaughtering the designated targets.
She also couldn’t see any of the quests in the zone, they were all gray for her as well.
So, aside from exp for just killing things (and getting to see the NPC named Ula, who is fighting Tog the Earthrender, and who looks nothing like our Ula), she was not benefiting much from what we were doing, while the rest of us were taking home bags of experience. Tistann actually ended up almost at level 94. After we wrapped up I brought him to Stromwind to turn of his experience for a bit… I wanted to do the Gorgrond quest chain, as well as some of the remaining items in Shadowmoon Valley in order to pick up followers… and I did not want to get too far ahead of the group.
We closed out the night heading to a flight point on the west coast of Gorgrond that did connect both Ula and I back to Shadowmoon Valley, at which point I excused myself from the group to stop myself from leveling up and because our 15 year old cat Oscar had begun what we call “the meowing hour” where he wanders around the house and meows very, very loudly until somebody picks him up or gives him a treat or he’s just ready to stop meowing. He is like a furry car alarm going off in the house at times. I am not sure how that much sound can be stored in a twelve pound cat. Anyway, I went to try and sooth him so he’d curl up on the bed and go to sleep.
Since then, Ula has been online catching up a bit in levels and getting her garrison settled, an important source of equipment upgrades. We should have no problem on the next outing.
Meanwhile, as I said above, I am pretty happy having swapped Tistann into the group. His damage is way up compared to Tokarev or Alioto, and playing as ranged DPS in boss fights so far has been very nice. It is an interesting change to be able to see the fight without having to back enough that I am no longer doing my part. And the team now covers the four main armor food groups, with Earl wearing plate, Tistann wearing mail, Bigbut wearing leather, and Ula & Skronk left to fight over the cloth drops.
I just wonder why I did not make the swap sooner. I could have substituted him in at Razorfen Downs back in 2007 instead of Vikund. If nothing else, think of all the mail armor drops that went to waste over the last eight years! Hah!
Now, is Tistann using the right pet? He has his wolf as a DPS pet, which he probably tamed back in 2006. (Along with his other pet, the basic brown bear from Elwyn Forest, which plays the tanking role when required.) What is the “must have” hunter pet for group play?