Category Archives: Instance Group

Tales of the Twilight Cadre instance group in Azeroth

Falling off of Skyreach

After our last run, which brought us through Auchindoun, we spent a week off getting everybody up to the minimum level to get into the next dungeon on the list, Skyreach.  Take my complaints about level locking dungeons from walk-ins as read.

Fortunately, the goal was pretty modest and we were all at that minimum, level 96, when last Saturday rolled around.

  • Earlthecat – Level 96 Human Warrior Tank
  • Skronk – Level 96 Dwarf Priest Healing
  • Bigbut – Level 96 Draenei Monk DPS
  • Tistann – Level 96 Dwarf Hunter DPS
  • Ula – Level 96 Gnome Mage DPS

Skyreach is out in the Spires of Arark, out at a flight point that only a couple of our group characters had, Skronk and Earl to be exact, and we had to walk in, because Skyreach is locked until 97 if you want to use Dungeon Finder.  But that was fine, we walk in by tradition, so those two flew out and summoned us to the stone.  Tistann was first, and he joined in the summoning.

I fucking love summoning!!!

I fucking love summoning!!!

Sorry, I just had to use that screen shot because of the expression on Tistann’s face.

There we assembled, wondering how we would do.  As I mentioned before, four of us went in with level 100 alts, led by Earl’s “done all the raids, got all the upgrades” insane fury warrior, only to get out asses handed to us on the first boss.  Healing on the move was a problem, but we should have had enough DPS, to my mind, to blow past on that alone.  Instead we wpied six times and called it a night.  So facing this with five level 96 characters seemed like it might be a challenge.

I did go grab Alioto, who does inscription, and made Bigbut an item level 630 staff for his monk so as to up our game a little bit, but otherwise we were going in pretty much as we did in Auchindoun, which barely added up to a faceroll for out four level 100s.

We got in, buffed up, and started, getting ourselves into a bit of trouble almost immediately, at the second fight.  We engaged one group right as a mobile group walked into aggro range, which gave us a lot of targets and we ended up with a couple of deaths.  That was sloppy, but we learned from it and used a bit more care, clearing the mobs right up to the first boss, Ranjit.

Eying Ranjit

Eying Ranjit

I am still not sure who brought the shirtless lumberjack in that shot.

We went through what to expect and what we had learned from our past fiasco, which largely amount to “stay moving and stay out of the wind.”  Skonk had changed his priest spec from discipline to holy base on our experience.  Then, with nothing else to say, we ran in and started the fight.

In with a hunter, who can fire on the move, the fight wasn’t too bad for me.  I had gone in as melee DPS with the 100s, and the wind is always a problem then.  However, nobody else seemed to be having much of a problem either.  Skronk especially seemed to be holding up and keeping people healed.  So, after a few minutes of running all over Ranjit’s platform, he went down while we were all still standing.

Ranjit, dust in the wind now

Ranjit, dust in the wind now

That was something of a “wait, what?” moment.  The fight wasn’t super easy or anything, it was more a matter of the five of us (which amounted to considerably less combined DPS) working with our regular group characters managed to keep it together long enough whittle Ranjit down.  The fight easily took as long as any two of our level 100 wipes.

We let that sink in for a moment, then started on toward the next boss, Arknath.

Amongst the beams of light

Amongst the beams of light

Here is a tip I figured out too late.  The first guy you fight, he isn’t the boss, so you shouldn’t necessarily unload all of your focus and any skill that has a cool down on it when you engage him.  Not that the fight was tough, we blew through it on the first go, but I was thinking, “Wow, we are capping this one in record time” only to find myself flatfooted and using auto attack for a bit because I shot my load.  (I didn’t know the bosses name until after the fight.)

Anyway, we blew past him and around to the next platform and Rukhran, who has a set of mechanics we had to figure out.  First there were the birds on the platform that we need to kite around to kill.  Unfortunately, kiting around managed to aggro the whole set on the platform, causing a wipe.  But at least we had most of them down, so the return was just a clean up operation.

Then it was on to Rukhran himself, who summons flaming bird minions from piles of ash who go after specific party members.  You have to put DPS on them and kill them before they reach their target, or they explode for many, many dice worth of damage.  However, if you kill them right by any of the piles of ash… and when you kill one it leaves a pile behind… another one will spawn.  Or something.  We were figuring this out as we went along and managed to wipe on the first go.  The second run through, however, we managed to pull it together and at least make less mistakes, bringing Rukhran down.

After that, we were on to the most deadly part of the whole instance for me, the windy stairs.

Seriously, after Rukhran there are some steps up to a platform, and some steps up from there, that are plagued by winds trying to blow you off the platform.  The first bit is fun.  I ran up the stairs and let the wind blow me back down, ha ha.  And then I got to the platform.

The whirl of wind

The whirl of wind

There you have to get in the right groove and go the long way around to get to the second bit of stairs.  I first tried to go straight through and got blow off to my death.  Then I tried to run a shorter route through the platform and got blown to my death.  Then I again I got caught in the wrong guest, but Skronk hit me with Leap of Faith and pulled me up to the top of the stairs, saving me.

Leap of Faith

Leap of Faith – it has its uses

Ula got through easy because she used blink to get across, while everybody else seemed to have figured out the pattern of the winds on the first try.  And then, of course, at the top of the stairs we managed to pull aggro on everything, wiped, and we had to go through the wind again where I managed to die because I managed to get hit by all of the birds… they wait for you to pass and take a run at you… on the way back for another death before finally making another trip up the far stairs.

Once you get here it is easy

Once you get here it is easy

As Skronk had his Hypnocroak platforming problems, I had my wind issues.

After that, we cleared the rest of the trash, we were left at the final platform facing the big boss, High Sage Viryx.

Facing the high sage at last

Facing the high sage at last

The Viryx fight is one of adapting to mechanics.  He bombs the crowd.  A mechanical assistant shows up and shields him, so you have to kill the assistant.  He has a giant laser that targets people, which you then must run from without dragging it over your comrades.  But the most exciting dynamic are the Solar Zealots he summons, which pick up a player with the intent of dropping them over the side of the platform to their death.  All of that ends up keeping the ranged part of the group in motion quite a bit.

During the fight

During the fight

The Solar Zealots were certainly the most troublesome and, like back at Arknath, a good reason not to blow your cool downs until you really need them.  I was the first to get picked up, then Ula, then Skronk, then me again.  We managed to save people, burning down the Solar Zealots and then returning to the fight, while Earl and Bigbut continued to keep the boss busy.  Our dancing around was a success and we brought Viryx down and got the achievement for the instance.

SRachiHowever, that happened while I was in the grip of yet another Solar Zealot and, having been caught too close to the edge of the platform out of focus and on cool down yet again (having poured everything into the last bit of Viryx) things looked grim.

Carried way over the edge...

Carried way over the edge…

Sure enough, before we could kill it, the Zealot dropped me and I plummeted to my death.

And there I go!

And there I go!

So I had to release and run back up to the group.   Fortunately, at that point, the wind was turned off on my personal platform of death.  It was time for a screen shot of the group.

At the end of Skyreach

At the end of Skyreach

All in all, that run did not take us very long, so we outside, reset the instance, and did it all again.  Earl, who runs an addon for boss fights that, among other things times your fights, reported that our second run at Ranjit took less than half the time.  In fact, we shaved time off of all of the bosses and managed not to wipe.  I even made it through the wind without falling off.  So we seemed to have mastered Skyreach on normal mode, and picked up some upgrades along the way.

That puts the group half way through the eight normal mode instances in Warlords of Draenor.  The remaining four all require the group to be level 100 to walk in, so it is time to start leveling up.  Everybody in the group was close to 97 by the end of the night, though both Ula and I had turned off experience in order to not get too far ahead.  We can turn on exp now, and I think almost all of us were 97 before the end of the weekend.  But with our varied play schedules it may be a while until we all hit the level cap and can pile into The Everbloom, the next instance on the list.

Left Hanging after Auchindoun

Way back when Warlords of Draenor was announced… back in late 2013…  one of the things I was excited about was the return to a 10 level expansion.

Leveling

Crazy? Indeed!

The previous 10 level expansion era, the time of The Burning Crusade and Wrath of the Lich King, was a high point for our regular group.  Of course, we call it “the instance group” because we are a five person team that likes to run dungeons together, and both TBC and WotLK offered up 16 normal mode dungeons a piece to work through while leveling up, and then heroic versions of each after that.  Yes, the last few normal mode dungeons were meant for the level cap of the time, but there was still more than one dungeon per level and, with doing the lead-in quests out in the world, you could make your way to the cap by following a happy dungeon running path through the expansion, if that was your thing.

That, however, was a different era.  Cataclysm and Mists of Pandaria and a lot of changes in game philosophy have come and gone between those days and Warlords of Draenor and its 8 normal mode dungeons, four of which lock out anybody below the level cap.

In fact, all of the dungeons are locked out to players below a set level, even if they walk in the front door… and we always try to walk in the front door.  No longer can we try out a dungeon a few levels ahead of its designated prime.

And so it was that, after a couple of weeks of leveling up a bit, our group was back together and standing in the entryway of Auchindoun, the third instance in Draenor.

Busy in Auchindoun

Busy in Auchindoun

Our party line up was

  • Earlthecat – Level 95 Human Warrior Tank
  • Skronk – Level 95 Dwarf Priest Healing
  • Bigbut – Level 95 Draenei Monk DPS
  • Tistann – Level 96 Dwarf Hunter DPS
  • Ula – Level 96 Gnome Mage DPS

We only had to be 94 to walk in it seems, but in-game the only way to check is to actually try to walk in or via the dungeon finder and, as it turns out, the DF requires one more level to queue than to walk in… at least for the first four dungeons… so we thought 95 was the bar we had to reach.  Ula and I actually went a bit too far.  I got Tistann to half a bubble shy of 96, intending to turn off exp at that point, only to stop and do a couple of pet battles on the way to the guy… oops.

Anyway, we were there and in the instance and… well… thing went pretty smoothly.  Huge equipment upgrades from garrison missions and crafting put us all above the item level required for the run so that yard trash melted before us and the bosses barely had time to take a breath before they moved to their next special attack or event.

The instance is something of a horseshoe in shape.

Auchindoun map

Auchindoun map

You go to the first boss off to the left, then run back to the middle again for the second, then off to the right for the third, before heading back to the center again to head straight up the middle for the final encounter.

The first fight with Vigilant Kaathar involves hiding behind his shield at the right… and clearly indicated by the announcement in red letters… moment, and then beating him down.  Then it was back to the center of the horseshoe and Soulbinder Nyami, who has a great voice, but whose special attack I cannot even recall at this point, it having gone by so quickly.  Then around to Azzakel, who summons helpers and who might be the ugliest boss so far in Draenor.  When he is alive his green skin pulsates with what looks like horrible sores.

Dead Azzakel and his skin condition

Dead Azzakel and his skin condition

After that, it was time to get to the center of the whole thing, which involved a few warm up fights on platforms around the center stage.

Eying the eventual goal

Eying the eventual goal

Finally, we hit the central platform and squared off against Teron’gor, whom we burned down so fast he never really got a chance to move off of his spot.  He just sort of fell off the back side of the platform and that was that, mission accomplished, time for a picture of the team.

It is very pink in the middle of Auchindoun

It is very pink in the middle of Auchindoun

It all went past so quickly that we went back and did it again, stepping out of the instance, resetting it, then heading straight into the thick of things.  That is the only reason I know that Teron’gor moves, because we didn’t kill him quite so quickly on our second run through and he actually left his spot during the fight that time.

The runs, while quick, did yield more gear upgrades.  Bigbut was a primary beneficiary, as leather gear seemed to be dropping in abundance.

After that we decided to run around Talador picking off rare mobs and wrapping up a few quests that people had.  We actually had a few deaths in that big mob melee event down the hill from the mining camp on the road to Shattrath.  But otherwise we were slaying all who stood before us.

Like this big mook

Like this big mook

Of course, I’m sounding pretty cocky at this point when it comes to the ease with which we have slipped through the first three instances in the expansion.  Now we all just have to get to 96 so we can walk into Skyreach, the next… and last pre-100… instance on the Draenor hit parade.

The cockiness might end there.

The previous weekend, when only four of us were on, we got out our level 100s and tried to do a four person run and came up short on the first boss, Ranjit.  We got close, but couldn’t quite power through it.  It might have been because Skronk, attempting to heal for the first time with his pally alt, was getting overwhelmed.  Or maybe we just didn’t get the mechanics of the winds and how we needed to position ourselves.  Or maybe the instances finally start ramping up at the fourth one, leaving us facing a real challenge.

But first we have to get everybody leveled up so we can even get into the instance.

Meanwhile, Back in Azeroth

I haven’t written much of late about actually play World of Warcraft.  That hasn’t been due to a lack of play time really.  It is more a lack of doing anything worth writing about, a problem of sorts that I lay directly on the cumulative doorsteps of the five garrisons I have running right now.

The Draenor Contestants

My five garrison characters, pre-Draenor

Seriously, when I log in and go through each character, collecting all their work orders, checking all their buildings, doing all the harvesting, upgrading follower equipment and then sending them out on new missions, and then finally go through the various daily pet battles to continue work on my pet army, I am about done with time on an average weeknight.

That isn’t necessarily a bad thing.  At least Blizzard has given me a reason to log in every day to check on things, but sometimes days go by before I do anything besides garrison maintenance.

But occasionally I do get out and do things.

I did, for example, run Alioto through the gnomish section of Spires of Arak in order to finally pick up the level 1 plans for the Salvage yard.  I am what, four months late in doing that?  And then when I found out you get a follower as well when you finish that chain I started pushing the rest of the Draenor crew through it.  I think only Trianis is left.

The instance group has not been completely idle either.  I see Earl, Skronk, and Ula on regularly, no doubt tending to their own garrisons and working on alts as well.

We also went out and did the Iron Docks as a group… like five times already.

Flushing out all the NPCs in the Iron Docks

Flushing out all the NPCs in the Iron Docks

It is kind of a neat instance.  There are several interesting mechanics that you have to learn as you move through the whole thing, so there was some trial and error, which is always good.  There is at least some satisfaction in figuring things out.

But once we figured things out the whole thing was pretty easy in normal mode.  Easy enough that the first two times we ran the instance Ula was not feeling well so we ran it as a foursome.

And, as an at-level four person party, we beat it on our first run through.  Granted, we died a lot as we learned the mechanics, but once we figured things out the fights were not all that tough.  So after our first run through as a team of four, we did it again.

Then the next time we were one, we ran it three more times with Ula in tow.  We did it that many times because, by that point, the run was pretty quick and because she was level 93 still and Blizzard decreed way back in Pandaria that you cannot even walk into a dungeon, much less enter it through the Dungeon Finder, unless you meet the minimum level requirements.  Heaven help the nanny state.

So our last couple of runs through we tried to maximize experience by killing every mob we would find.  We even tried to take on that big open area that you roll the giant iron wheels through to clear.  We did well on the periphery, but the big mass in the center overwhelmed us, so we rolled one wheel through to thin that out and then cleared the rest.

Of course, part of the problem is that Tistann and Earl are both over-equipped.

Tistann with the big gun and the big pet

Tistann with the big gun and the big pet

Tistann has the full upgraded purple engineer’s gun and a couple of the item level 630 crafted pieces, while Earl has a Garrosh heirloom weapon and level 630 pieces of his own.  So we have way more DPS than anybody would ever need to take on instances at level 94.  That advantage will get pared back as we level up, but right now we are OP.

If we were a more active group, I might even suggest we all just drive for the level cap and work on the heroic versions of all of these instances.  I am just not sure we are that active.

Still, we have conquered the normal mode version of the Iron Docks.

The instance group in the Iron Docks

The instance group in the Iron Docks

And then there was the whole 6.1 patch thing, which I have not yet begun to explore in any depth.  Garrisons keeping me busy and all that.

I was happy with how the heirloom changes turned out.  While Blizz warned us that we might need to log on and dig through every character’s bank in order to get all of the heirlooms we socked away over the years to show up in the new heirloom tab, mine seemed to all get picked up automatically.  I still logged everybody in all the same… that was kind of interesting to go visit some old characters… but it wasn’t really necessary.

All told I had 19 heirlooms, which was enough for three achievements.

HeirloomAchiI then turned around and went to the guild vendor in Stormwind and the heirloom vendor in Ironforge and filled out some missing slots by buying a pile of the now readily available for gold level 1-60 heirlooms.

I then used Darkmoon Faire tickets and ancestral coins from the Lunar Festival to upgrade some key heirlooms that I just bought, and which I thought might be useful in the near future, to the level 1-90 versions so I can drive some alts straight to Draenor when the time is ripe.

Blizzard figured out a way to get me to participate in holiday events again.

I mentioned my 2006 vintage Orc Hunter Garnatz as the prime candidate to get me a Horde version of the Garrison thing, because I clearly need more freakin’ garrisons!  Well, he is heirloomed up the butt to level 90 now.  I can have a whole army of forgotten and idle… but well equipped… alts now.

And, finally, I did take the obligatory selfie with the new camera.

Vikund in his garrison

Vikund in his garrison

So that is about all the news I have from Azeroth of late.  Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go attend to my followers.  Some of them might be idle!!!

In Gorgrond You Must Be Level 92 for Just About Anything

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.

Assault all around the Dark Portal

Assault all around the Dark Portal

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.

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Cross Country to Frostfire Ridge and the Bloodmaul Slag Mines

Last Saturday night we managed to get four of us online for one last go at Warlords of Draenor.  The line up was:

  • Skronk – Level 92 Dwarf Priest Healing
  • Bigbut – Level 92 Draenei Monk DPS
  • Tokarev – Level 92 Draenei Death Knight DPS
  • Earlthecat – Level 93 Human Warrior Tank

It was not a full group.  Ula was not feeling well.  But we thought we ought to scout the path to the first instance, in keeping with our standing policy of not using the Dungeon Finder to enter them.

The first five person dungeon instance in Warlords of Draenor is the Bloodmaul Slag Mines, which is all the way over in the Frostfire Ridge zone, where the horde starts out after exiting Tanaan Jungle.

Frostfire Ridge is quite a ways away from the comfort of garrisons in Shadowmoon Valley.

Fortunately, on hitting 92, we all got the starter quest for the Gorgrond, which includes a flight out to the zone from your garrison.  That at least put us in a zone adjacent to Frostfire Ridge.  Earl had already been deep into Frostfire with other characters, while Skronk and I had gone at least far enough in with other characters to get the first flight point in order to be able to do the fishing daily for the zone.  So we had an idea of how we were going to get there, a general route.

The planned route

The planned route

Just take the flight to Gorgrond and then follow the road to its closest point to Frostfire, then cut across, making our way through a pass and into the snows.  We met up at the flight point in Gorgrond and off we went.  We have been on cross-continental travel adventures before.

On the road to Frostfire

On the road to Frostfire

Earl had actually gone into Gorgrond already, following the quest line up to the point of building his lumber camp outpost in the zone.  The rest of us were setting foot in the zone for the first time, so I was curious to see if we would have any phasing issues as we went.

When we reached the point just before the outpost location, we could still see Earl, but it was clear that he saw different terrain than we did.  For him there was a clear path up to the plateau where his outpost lay.  For us, there was a series of large boulders blocking the path.  You could go around the boulders easy enough or, if you like a jumping puzzle, you could actually climb up through them.

So phasing seems to have been upgraded a bit.  Unlike the days back in Wrath of the Lich King, people didn’t just disappear from the world as you entered an area that was different for each, though there is still the potential for comedy in “Go up the path!” “What path, it is just boulders!” I suppose.

We carried on past the outpost location, heading for Frostfire, stopping to kill the occasional silver border mob and, once, getting ourselves splattered all over the scenery by an open world heroic mob.

Okay, maybe level 100 was our reach exceeding our grasp...

Okay, maybe level 100 was our reach exceeding our grasp…

We rode across the zone, zig-zagging and trying to find a gap into Frostfire.  I was pretty sure I knew a route that would work, but there were a couple of potential paths along the way that we had to check in on.  They were dead ends, but did lead to at least one more silver border mob kill.

We pressed on, eventually finding the way through to Frostfire, dashing through a hostile village, and emerging near the Iron Siegeworks, where there are lakes to fish in and an alliance friendly flight point.

Draenei in Frostfire

Draenei in Frostfire

From there it was a ramble out of the mountains and into the Cracking Plains.

The Cracking Plains... not so cracked actually

The Cracking Plains… not so cracked actually

We did stop to pick up a couple more special mobs along the way.

I forget who this guy was, but we had to feed him ogres

I forget who this guy was, but we had to feed him ogres

We eventually found the flight point, summoning stone, and entrance to the Bloodmaul Slag Mines and were soon inside.  As for what we found… it wasn’t a completely linear dungeon.  We chose to turn right at the first intersection and cleared as we went around the circle.

Bloodmaul Slag Mines

Bloodmaul Slag Mines

Given that this is a five person instance and we were not exactly beyond the level gap and only a four person group, the whole thing seemed pretty… easy I guess.

Granted, Earl is superman, and he has that Garrosh heirloom sword that ensures he not only tanks, but also tops the DPS list.  However Skronk was coming into to healing for real for the first time since the 6.0 changes, so I thought we might have a hiccup or two.  But we seemed to plow on without fuss until we hit the final boss.

Gur'gokk reclines

Gur’gokk reclines

Gur’gokk did give us a little trouble, though it was less about him being tough and more about us learning the mechanics of the fight and simply stepping out of the fire at the right time.  He lays down all sorts of molten harm you have to avoid, and we failed on that front the first time through.

We're going to wipe on this one...

We’re going to wipe on this one…

However, we regrouped and ran back.  Armed with what we learned… which was we needed to kite Gur’gokk around a bit so we could stay out of the molten gunk… we were able to defeat him handily on the second try.

Gur'gokk down, Santa hat is ours

Gur’gokk down, Santa hat is ours

That got us the achievement and earned us some gold for the guild bank.

BSMachiWe took out usual post-instance group picture.

Standing in Gur'gokk's chair

Standing in Gur’gokk’s chair

Then there was a question about what to do next.  Travel and the instance took up a decent chunk of time, but we still had a bit more in us, so we decided to run to the next instance just to scout it out.

So off we went to the Iron Docks, which was back on the upper west coast of Gorgrond.  We had to ride, because we did not have a connecting flight point between the Iron Siegeworks and Gorgrond.  So off we went on another set of minor adventures.  At one point I got completely separated from the group, but manged to rejoin them.

Along to Gorgond coast

Along to Gorgond coast

Then we tried to sneak up along the cliff, only to fall in the ocean.  At that point the Death Knight skill frost path became pretty handy.  We were a bit worried about how we were going to get back up to the land, as the coast was mostly cliffs.  However Blizzard left us a path up from the beach just south or the Iron Docks.  We got in, got the flight point… which also connect the flight paths from Frostfire Ridge to the rest of the world for us… poked our noses around, got chased by a pile of mobs we accidentally aggroed, ran into the instance to shake them, then called it a night.

And so ended the last adventure of the instance group in 2014.

We will have to get Ula on when she feels better and go back to the Bloodmaul Slag Mines so she gets the achievement as well.

I am also considering trading out my Death Knight.  I have a hunter in the right level range, I wouldn’t mind a change from melee DPS, and if I brought him we would have somebody who wore mail armor, thus covering all of the bases, cloth, leather, mail, and plate.

We will see how I feel in 2015.

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?