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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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Uldum and The Vortex Pinnacle January 23, 2014

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, Instance Group, World of Warcraft.
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Saturday night and we were back at it in Azeroth after a week off for illness.  Last time we wrapped up a quick jaunt into Deepholm, running the initial quest line and then jumping into the Stonecore to just to scout, but ending up finishing the instance.  That left the group all around level 83 and ready to look into Uldum next.  The state of the group was:

  • Earlthecat – Level 83 Human Warrior Tank
  • Skronk – Level 83 Dwarf Priest Healing
  • Bungholio – Level 83 Gnome Warlock DPS
  • Alioto – Level 83 Night Elf Druid DPS
  • Ula – Level 84 Gnome Mage DPS

Uldum meant getting down to Tanaris, the nearest flight point available to me.  Unfortunately, after nearly 9 years at this game, I still don’t know an expedient way to get there from any of the major cities.  Being a druid, I used my free pass to Moonglade skill and took the bird all the way down, which took a while. (Didn’t there used to be an addon that showed the flight time between points?  Anyway, it took long enough to make me wish for the faster travel guild perk.)  Anyway, the distance shown on an out-of-date map.

The Horde - More Centrally located

The Horde – More Centrally located

At least we are long past the days where you could only go between two flight points before having to select your next point on your way to your destination.  And this problem pretty much goes away once you are into Uldum, as you get a direct portal from Stormwind thereafter.  But we had to do it the old fashioned way once.

Some of us did, in any case.  Skronk had pre-positioned himself at the summoning stone for the Caverns of Time and I joined him there once I arrive, so we were able to summon in the rest of the group without them having to make the trek.

From there we moved to pick up the flight point at the southwestern part of the zone, as it is the one that links Uldum to the rest of the world.  I am sure many an adventurer has figure that one out the hard way.  Then it was time for the entry event into Uldum.  You get on the cart and ride.

Headed in

Headed in

More after the cut.

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An Evening in Deepholm January 9, 2014

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, Instance Group, World of Warcraft.
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The full group has not met up for a couple of weeks, though we have somehow managed to form a secondary “alts” group from an unlikely set of characters.  We have two DPS spec’d warriors, a rogue, and a restoration druid in the level 71-75 range, and the four of them together managed to do some instances.  We had trouble with Burning Crusade heroics, but normal mode dungeons in WotLK seemed to be possible.

Hi! We're the "B" team!

Hi! We’re the “B” team!

So now I have two night elf druids in play in guild groups, one DPS and one healer.

As a four person group we have to actually fly/walk to the dungeons we want to run, but that is part of the charm.  It is all manual mode, so to speak.

Anyway, that was what we were up to in the off weeks after Blackrock Caverns.

Last weekend though we managed to get the whole group together again and pointed in the same direction.  Our lineup was:

  • Earlthecat – Level 82 Human Warrior Tank
  • Skronk – Level 82 Dwarf Priest Healing
  • Bungholio – Level 83 Gnome Warlock DPS
  • Alioto – Level 82 Night Elf Druid DPS
  • Ula – Level 83 Gnome Mage DPS

And our destination was Deepholm.

More after the cut.

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Do You Know the Way to Blackrock Caverns? December 19, 2013

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, Instance Group, World of Warcraft.
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We had something of a double session of instance group fun last Saturday night.  As noted in the first post on the topic this week, we got on early and went to the Throne of Tides.

What you first see through the whirlpool

Previously on “The Instance Group”

By the time we finished that up and were back in Stormwind, we were just past the time when we would normally start playing, 9pm.  So we decided to scout out the next destination, which according to the instances by level guide, was Blackrock Caverns.

In hindsight, I supposed if you had asked me where Blackrock Caverns was, without any preamble or other data, I would have placed it in Blackrock Mountain, that well known location between Searing Gorge and the Burning Steppes.  Easy answer.  We’ve been there before many times to visit Blackrock Depths, Blackrock Spire (upper and lower), and to assault Coren Direbrew during Brewfest any number of times.

However, it appears if you mix in a zone in a new(-ish) expansion that is nowhere near that location, add in a quest in that zone that some of the group isn’t sure they have, add in our usual disdain for any pre-run research of any sort, then the obvious can become the obscure.

And so it was that, on arriving back in Stormwind after the Throne of Tides, we headed off to the portal to the Mount Hyjal zone on Kalimdor to search for the next instance.

More after the cut.

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Seated on the Throne of Tides December 17, 2013

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, Instance Group, World of Warcraft.
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It was Saturday night and we were all online and in-game extra early.  The usual start time is 9pm.  A couple weeks back we all showed up at a little after 8pm.  This time we seemed to have a group nearly ready to go at about a quarter after 7pm.

It isn’t unusual to find Earl or I or Skronk on that far in advance, but when Bung showed up we knew we were off to an early start.  Ula was rousted out of whatever she was up to and got into the game, giving us the whole team.

  • Earlthecat – Level 82 Human Warrior Tank
  • Skronk – Level 82 Dwarf Priest Healing
  • Bungholio – Level 82 Gnome Warlock DPS
  • Alioto – Level 82 Night Elf Druid DPS
  • Ula – Level 82 Gnome Mage DPS

From there we figured we ought to head straight into our first Cataclysm instance, the Throne of Tides in Vashj’ir.

In order to avoid anybody feeling the ill effects of motion sickness from the sometimes disorienting zone of Vashj’ir, Skronk and I swam out to the great whirlpool at the bottom of the abyssal something or other and went on through to the other side.

The whirlpool beckons

The whirlpool beckons

There we were able to use the summoning stone to get everybody together.

Summoning Stone

Summoning Stone

Then it was just a matter of getting everybody pointed in the right direction and through the portal and into the instance.

More after the cut because… well… the same stuff I say every time.

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