Category Archives: World of Warcraft

Unfinished Business in Azeroth

It isn’t as though I am avoiding Outland, I am just having a bit of trouble letting go of Azeroth because there are still things to be done there.

Out with friends

I mentioned last week that I had run my druid up from level 36 to 58 since the pre-patch hit, which enabled him to head on through the Dark Portal.  And through he went.  But after doing the first few quests and getting some gear upgrades, he was back in Azeroth again.

He was back in part because I wanted to see how the gear upgrades would fare in places like the Eastern Plaguelands.  But mostly he was back because I needed thorium.

I needed thorium because my druid had picked up mining and herbalism as trade skills and, while I managed to get the latter up to 300 long before I hit level 58, mining was another story.  You cannot mine fel iron in Outland until your mining is up to 300 and his was still 280.

So there was mining to be done and thorium was where the skill ups were to be had and that was all back in Azeroth.

A rich thorium find

I do sort of wonder why there are Azerothian herbs in Outland… you find them all over Hellfire Peninsula… but no thorium.  Hellfire and the Blasted Lands look similar enough, at least at a glance, so tossing a little thorium into the former seems like it would fit the pattern.  But no.  Or at least I’ve never seen any thorium.

I also needed thorium for Wilhelm.  His trade skill is engineering and to make that last run up from about 285 to 300 he needed a bucket or two of thorium bars.

And then there was Viniki, who took up blacksmithing.  He too needed thorium… about 400 bars of it to go from 270 to 300, since the path forward for him needed about a dozen bars per skill up if he followed the least resource intensive way of leveling up.

That is a lot of thorium, and all the more so when a small thorium vein might cough up 3 ore if you’re lucky, while a large vein could be good for as many as 6.

This was all complicated by the fact that everybody and their dog has been out hustling for thorium nodes because they also need the skill ups or because they want to make some gold.  That hot market I mentioned last Friday?  It is still going strong with a huge demand for mithril and thorium.

If I didn’t desperately need the thorium for trade skills I might be making even more gold.  Still, I picked up enough mithril along the way to have something for market.

And I was not the only one in the group our working on that sort of thing.  Fergorin decided to go with jewel crafting as a profession, a new one that came in with Burning Crusade, so he too needed to mine himself up into and through thorium.

Ula was also out working on enchanting, which she took up in addition to being our tailor, in order to get herself up to 300.  Viniki managed to get far enough up in blacksmithing in order to craft the arcanite rod, which covers the last tier of enchanting.  Fortunately Skronk was able to transmute arcane crystals into arcanite bars to make that. (The transmute also required thorium, so add that to the list.)

I did managed to get Alioto up to 300 mining (along with hitting level 60) and Wilhelm up to 300 engineering, but Viniki is still stuck at 280 blacksmithing, so there is some work to be done there.

In addition to all of that, Potshot (who plays Skronk and Fergorin, keeping the names straight is a chore all around I guess) also took to heart a comment about Hellfire Ramparts having encounters that suited a shaman.  So he rolled up a Draenei shaman and started working him up through the levels this past weekend as well.  Alioto took some time out to shepherd him trough the Deadmines, which was fun.

Blowing the door in the Deadmines

It is a long climb from character creation to Outland, but it isn’t impossible.  I managed to get most of the way there with Alioto.  Still, we might not have a shaman healer in the group for a while still.

Then there is the epic mount question for Wilhelm, Fergorin, and Beanpole.  We still have things to take care of on the Azeroth side of the Dark Portal.

Friday Bullet Points from Outland

Bullet points posts are often tidibits of news that I want to mention.  This time around it is mostly just about me and Burning Crusade Classic, with a couple of news items mixed in, just to get them all into a single post.

  • A Druid for Outland

I have somehow managed to get my druid, who was level 36 when the pre-patch hit, all the way to level 58.

Level 58 out in Silithus

I will say again that the leveling path from 36 to 58 has been smoothed out considerably with the 2.5.1 patch.  The dead spots seem to be taken care of with new, or newly visible, quests.  I know the stuff in Theremore is new, but the fact that available quests appear on the mini-map means I probably picked up more quests that I likely missed the fire couple of times through the content.

This now gives me four characters available for Outland.  I suppose that means I should stop screwing around so much and go play in Hellfire Peninsula.  I do wonder if my druid should bother at level 58 or wait until 60 to go through.  There are still plenty of quests for him in Azeroth.

Plenty of quests at Lights Hope Chapel still

On the flip side, there is a lot of hugely improved gear if I go through the portal.  We shall see.

  • Hot Market

I mentioned previously that the pre-patch before Burning Crusade Classic was clearly pulling people back into the game, with my primary evidence being the number of pages of auctions that were coming up in Auctioneer.  That number had sagged down into the mid-to-low 200s towards the end of WoW Classic, but jumped into the 600s with the pre-patch.  And now with the Dark Portal open and Outland at our feet, that number can reach into the mid 700s over the weekend.

There is a lot of economic activity going on, at least on the Bloodsail Buccaneer server, with demand for commodities that aid in leveling up trade skills being particularly in demand.  As such I have managed to make a bit of gold in the game for once.  Not a ton.  I am just not that invested, so to speak, but before the pre-patch I was worrying about scraping together the 350 gold for the Paladin Charger quest, thinking I would need to loot my other characters.  Now, a few weeks later, I have that much gold just on my pally, so I am happy with that.

  • Fast Market

For a bit there after the patch, and even more so after the opening of the Dark Portal, the auction house was starting to drag quite noticeably when it came to searches.  People were complaining and Blizz looked into the issue, applying the following hotfixes:

  • Implemented settings changes intended to lower the time it takes to search the Auction House.
  • Players who list, bid, buy out, or cancel a very large number of auctions may now incur a delay between consecutive actions.

The latter is one of those annoyances that keeps coming up.  I am not sure what advantage is bestowed by listing dozens of the same thing, often a commodity that would sell fine as a stack, as a bunch of singles, aside from maybe trying to obscure your competition by driving them off the first page of results.

Anyway, Blizz says they are monitoring the situation.

  • Falling for Shattrath

I have already fallen to my death in Shattrath trying to run for the elevator out in front of the inn in the Aldor area.  This is one of those “seriously, why did I just do that?” recurring events that I remember from the expansion back in the day.

I’ll step out of the Aldor inn, get on my mount, and as I ride towards the elevator, it will already be at the top so that, just as I get close it starts to drop and I instinctively jump for it.  The descending platform and my forward motion then carries my over my  target and I fall to my death.

I did this often enough back in the day that with my pally I got good at hitting Divine Protection to save myself.  But this time I did it with my hunter who has no such option.  A passing priest ressed me, which saved me the run back at least.

As for “Why Shattrath?” that is where the portals back to the main cities are, which include the auction houses.  Shat isn’t one of my favorite cities in the game, but it is the transit hub for Outland.

  • Arena Season 1

Finally, Blizzard announced the start of Burning Crusade Classic Arena Season 1 for those who were waiting for more PvP options.  Available to teams of 2, 3, or 5 players, rewards include gear, titles, and even a special mount.  Not my thing, but everything doesn’t have to be about me.

Blizz did make a mistake and enabled some season 2 rewards, then had to track down the 81 players who cashed in on that.  The transactions were reversed and the honor refunded.

On the Edge in Hellfire Ramparts

After last week’s run the group spent a bit of time going out and running quests out of Honor Hold in order to gear up a bit.

The place is a bit of a mess

That did, of course, get us some experience as well, and by the time we formed up again for another run this past Sunday, the group looked like this:

  • Ula – level 61 gnome mage
  • Beanpole – level 61 gnome warlock
  • Wilhelm – level 60 human paladin (protection)
  • Fergorin – level 60 human paladin (holy)

Potshot had also been busy with Skronk, the guild alchemist, who was out gathering herbs and creating potions for us, including a fire resist potion for that last boss fight.

We managed to get right into the instance… we ran back enough last time to not get lost… and into the first few mobs.

Starting off strong

We did have a couple of minor mishaps on our way to the first boss, as we mis-timed a patrol and forgot that when you hear the announcement about hounds, you had best be prepared for even more adds.

Whoops

Fergorin also accidentally lit off a consecrate in the midst of some adds, which brought him down as well.  But we successfully made it to the first boss, Watchkeeper Gargolmar.  After clearing all the groups from where he wanders, we followed our previous successful strategy and killed off his helpers first, leaving him vainly calling for healing as the fight went against him.

But no healing came as his healers were dead

After Watchkeeper Gargolmar we cleared the rest of the opening area and went up the ramp in the tower to face our biggest non-boss nemesis, that group of five at the top of the tower.

Those guys again

We made sure the soul stone was up and went at them.  This time they resisted Ula’s polymorph and seemed to deflect all of her frost damage.  We thought we were going to wipe and then we wiped.  But at least we brought three of the five down in the attempt.  Once we revived we gave it to the other two.

Not so tough without all your buddies, are you?

We managed to get through the open area at the top of the tower and to Omor the Unscarred.  Last time around it took us four tries to bring him down and I wasn’t sure if we really learned much about the fight after the first two tries.  But we tried to harness what we knew, spreading out and getting ready to go all in.

And it was a near run thing.  Ula got popped trying to remove Omor’s curse and Skronk fell to that as well.  Beanpole and I held him for a bit before the curse got him as well, but Skronk had a soul stone up again… we had waited until it was ready again before we started the fight… and got in some heals on me and some damage before going down again.  That left me alone with Omor, who was down to the hairy edge of hit points, but so was I.  I had used everything besides lay hands up to that point, so hit that as I got low, which gave me just enough to bring him down.

It is for you

I had just a bit of health left.

Just 21% left in the tank

Unfortunately his last words were prophetic as he had left behind three fiendish hounds that were still on me.  With no mana and everything else on cool down I went down before I could finish them off.

Omor lost and defeated us in the end

So we beat him on the first try AND we wiped.  We had to run back to the instance, but his corpse was still there to be looted when we returned.  That was good, as he had the Tenacious Defender, a nice belt upgrade for me.

That just left us with Vazruden and his dragon mount Nazan.

Vazruden and Nazan waiting for us

This fight we felt we had learned something from.  We had some fire resist potions and had read up that the tank, if careful, can nestle up to Nazan when he is down on the ground, getting under his head, which will cause him to miss with his big fire breath weapon.  So we kicked off the event by killing the guards, then tackled Vazruden, and finally I went in and grabbed Nazan.

And the plan of keeping under his chin seemed to work.  Nazan steps back every so often when you get that close, but I kept pressing up to him with each retreat until I had him up against the edge of the platform where the battle takes place.

Nazan breathing fire over my head

It went well right up until it didn’t.  While I was avoiding his breath attack, he was still hitting me and dropping fire bombs on me, which added up to a lot of damage.  I used my health stone, but didn’t have a health potion up because my fire resist potion was on the same cool down.

I died.

But we were so close and, while Fergorin was clearly next to go, both Ula and Beanpole were still in the fight and if seemed like we would get there.

Nazan must die, he is almost there

But once Fergorin went down Nazan turned on Ula and his breath did her in, which left Beanpole alone to whittle down the last 2% of Nazan’s health.

Beanpole alone

He didn’t make it.  We wiped.  And, furthermore, while we had the soul stone up again, Fergorin couldn’t ress me, way out in the open area, before the event reset and the guards reloaded.  He just got off the spell before being attacked.  I ran past him, hitting myself with Divine Protection, which somehow kept me out of combat, so when Fergoin went down I was at least able to ress the party.

Still, we were feeling good about how close we had been to victory.  It felt within our grasp.

And then we did the fight two more times and came nowhere close.  On the next fight I forgot to take the fire resist potion and got caught in the open between Vazruden and Nazan as I was trying to go grab the dragon’s aggro and took the fire breath weapon full on and died instantly.

The next time I took the fire resist potion and managed to grab Nazan successfully, but on his first hop back he launched his breath weapon at me before I could step forward and I was down again.

Dead again

After that Beanpole had to go as RL was calling, so that was the end of our second attempt at Hellfire Ramparts.  We will have to look into what else we can do to mitigate Nazan next time around.

Where Does WoW Classic End?

Just last week we launched into The Burning Crusade in Blizzard’s WoW Classic experiment.  We will likely spend close to two years playing that.  Maybe less.  The thing about doing a retro server is that everybody who doesn’t already know the dance steps can find them online, so a lot of people move at a much quicker pace.  I’ve already gone from “Hey, that’s the first level 70 I’ve seen!” to seeing them all over.

Still only level 60 still as I head to Hellfire Peninsula

After Outland I fully expect that we will move into Wrath of the Lich King Classic, just to finish off what I will call The Classic Trilogy.  That probably gets us out into 2024.

But then what?

I would argue that “classic” ends with WotLK and that Cataclysm, though it is more than a decade in the past at this point, marks the “modern” era of World of Warcraft.  And while there are descisions to be made about WotLK… it was during that era we got Dungeon Finder and achievements, both of which remain of debated value… Cataclysm really represents a leap.

Which isn’t to necessarily say that Blizzard couldn’t or shouldn’t roll the classic train on into Cataclysm, but it does represent some issues.

First off, unlike EverQuest, which is ever the model for these sorts of plans, and all the more so since Holly Longdale is driving the WoW Classic team at Blizz, Cataclysm went back and changed old content.  This differs from the EverQuest model where they just piled on new content by adding zones and maybe adding an NPC here or a teleporter there to the past world.  Cataclysm represents the destruction of vanilla WoW yet again and a lot of the push behind the whole WoW Classic experience was from people, myself included, who were somewhere between annoyed and filled with white hot rage that Blizz did this.

Does Blizzard want to re-ignite those memories of betrayal?  And, probably more importantly, is there demand for a fresh start for Cataclysm?  If there is enough money on the table, I have no doubt that Blizzard will try to claim it.

And I have softened a bit on Cataclysm over the years.  Some of the content was good.  The instances were all interesting.  But none of that has changed over the years and when Blizz already has the post-level squish, fully scaling, parallel paths experience available, do they bother rolling to Cata?

The Shadowlands level squish parallel experience

I suspect there would be demand for a fresh start for any expansion with a rush of people all together and all the content to re-explore.  But the hitch for Blizz is that it isn’t as easy as it is for EverQuest.  Over at Daybreak these sorts of things are done on one or maybe two servers at a time.  It is easy to handle and contain.  WoW Classic went live with more than 150 servers.  And then they had to add some more when Burning Crusade Classic hit and they had to split out the people who wanted to stay in the land of vanilla.

So it isn’t a trivial exercise moving forward.  And they have to make the decision about whether or not to move everybody forward.  I suspect that there is a faction at Blizz that believes you progress or you die off, that this classic ride ends with a whole bunch of people at whatever post-Shadowlands expansion they’re at  when and if they catch up.

I expect, however, there will be a loud group in the community that won’t want to go past WotLK.  Will Blizz off another era split?  Will they offer one for Burning Crusade Classic as well?  Will the classic experiment require Blizz to create a whole pantheon of expansion locked, never to progress, special snowflake servers?

I know that seems ideal to some, but I suspect that it won’t be as nice as it sounds, that some expansions will be more favored than others, that the overhead will be large and confusing, and that Blizz will need to make transfer/clone forward options available all the way along at a price lower than even $15. (Also, how many versions of WoWHead and Icy Veins will we need?  One for each expansion?)

But the flip side of all of that is what do they do if they just stop at WotLK, that “classic” really is just the first three seasons of the game and everything after Cataclysm is ignored?  I suspect that Blizz just re-rolls WoW Classic again and launches into that hype again.  It will have been at least five years since the first rush to old Azeroth, and the EverQuest team has demonstrated that nostalgia is an evergreen source of money.

Will it be another 150+ server event that has a big impact on the company financials?  I don’t know.  I suspect that it won’t be that popular, but the draw of WoW is not to be discounted.  And what happens with the previous classic servers if this hits?

Those are a few options and I am sure I could come up with more.  Blizzard has time to think about this.  As I noted above, I expect that WotLK Classic is a given and that we’re at least 18 months away from that being a thing.  But at some point they’re going to have to make a call on direction and plans.  I am already curious as to where they will go.

Where do you think the classic experience is heading?

Stumbling Into Hellfire Ramparts

When we got together this past weekend for our first run after the opening of the Dark Portal the question came up as to where we ought to go.  There had been some talk of staying pure and not going to Outland until we had finished up the remaining Azeroth instances.  That was our idealism speaking.

But with shiny new content just on the other side of the portal we ended up deciding to go through to give the first instance a try.

On the way to Honor Hold

We had all done at least a couple of quests in Hellfire Peninsula and had upgraded a piece of gear here and there… I had a new shield and new pants, both of which were basic first quest green gear that were markedly better than the dungeon blue gear they replaced… but were mostly going in with Azeroth gear and our new group composition, with which we still had some learning to do.

But we didn’t really talk about all of that, we just wanted to try the first five person instance, Hellfire Ramparts.

The first thing we had to do was find the place.  I did what I expect we did last time, which was go out to the wall where the instance is, ride up the wrong set of stairs, and then wander around for about 20 minutes until I finally thought I had found the right place.  There was a crowd there, so I just asked.

This looked like the right crowd

I got an affirmative.  It turned out that I had ridden past the ramp that goes here to go up onto the wall.  I’m pretty sure I’ve made that mistake before.

Once we had assembled at Honor Hold we rode on out to the instance.

Crag Boars Assemble!

Our group for the run was:

  • Ula – level 60 gnome mage
  • Wilhelm – level 60 human paladin (protection)
  • Fergorin – level 60 human paladin (holy)
  • Beanpole – level 60 gnome warlock

We managed to navigate successfully navigate to the right spot and, once inside, found ourselves facing the first encounter.  Two mobs.

There they are

We managed those two without issue, and then managed to nearly wipe on the next pair.  To be fair, a patrolling group came around the corner and the wheels came off… and we only “nearly” wiped because the exit was a short distance from the fight so once I went down people were able to run for safety.

Down already

We were still getting used to the new group composition and learning things about our classes.  Beanpole’s Felguard took some getting used to.  The Felguard is a big part of his damage output, but it has some quirks.  He has to be careful about when the Felguard gets sent in, as its first attack is always a charge with a stun, which can be awkward when I am trying to pull a mob back to a safe place to fight.  The Felguard also has an AOE attack that goes off every so often that will break polymorph if the mob is too close.

So we used that run up to the first boss to hone our play.  We tried to work it so that I would pull the main group away from whichever mob got sheeped so it wouldn’t get whacked by the Felguard… and so I could use consecrate to help build up aggro when I needed it across multiple mobs.

There were a couple more deaths before we made it to Watchkeeper Gargolmar, the first boss, but we made it.

Watchkeeper Gargolmar wanders

That fight wasn’t so bad.  He doesn’t hit too hard and you just have to kill his two companions first, as they heal him otherwise, and then it is on to him.  He called out for heals, but none were coming for him.  He also dropped a very nice item, the Light-Touched Breastplate, which arguably should have gone to Fergorin, but which was such an upgrade over my chest piece that I got it.

Past Gargolmar is the tower up to the next level, where we had more problems than we did with the boss fight.  There is a group of four casters and a melee mob at the top of the ramp which brought back bad memories from runs long ago.  We ended up wiping on that group, but not before we had taken down three of them, so the clean up afterwards was easy.

At the top of the tower a doorway leads out into an open area with patrols and groups standing around.  A bad pull on my part got a patrol and a group, which led to another wipe.

Down again

During the fight Ula was knocked back and landed behind some barrels, where she was stuck until she died.  We were able to spot her skeleton once we were all back.

A gnome sized skeleton

After that though, we were able to clear around the open area and make our way to the next boss, Omor the Unscarred.

There he is

This fight was a challenge.  I expect if we had either spent time gearing up in Hellfire Peninsula or if we had brought a fifth person for some additional DPS, this wouldn’t have been as much of a challenge.  But we were on the hairy edge of being able to handle this with only two DPS, our gear, and our skill set.  We wiped a few times.

Dead on the ground

Three times we came back and were still willing to give it another go.  We were close on the second and third tries.  On the fourth we were very close as well, but this time on the right side of victory.  Fergorin and I were left standing after the fight, but we had done it.

We took a victory shot with the fallen foe, thinking this might be the pinnacle of our run.

Victory over Omor

And that was a pretty accurate estimate.

The final boss pairing, Nazan & Vazruden, turned out to be a bit too much for us.

The pair of them are an event where you start off with two guards, then Vazruden jumps down off of Nazan, his dragon mount, and you fight him.  Nazan shoots fireballs while you’re fighting him, and you have to move away from them.  Then Nazan lands and joins the fight.  That was the point where things went bad for us each time.  Nazan pretty much one-shotted me with his breath attack three times running.

Nazan burninating again

After the third run at him I was red paper doll on about half of my gear, so we were about done.  Later on we read up a bit on how to fight Nazan, but that was going to have to wait until next time.

While we didn’t finish the final boss, we learned quite a bit about how our group works now and we got a few nice drops along the way.  Still, we need to upgrade some of our Azeroth gear for Outland gear before we go back.

The Dark Portal and Outland a Week Later

Last week I was keen to get through the Dark Portal and into The Burning Crusade the moment it was available.

The Azeroth cannon shooting people into Outland

I made it through with the first rush, got to Honor Hold, and even completed a couple of quests.  I logged in my other level 60s and got them through the portal a bit later, had them upgrade their trade and gathering skills and had a bit of a look around.

I was even there when somebody dragged a Fel Reaver into Honor Hold.

How could I have missed?

After which I went back to playing my druid in the vanilla content.

Part of that was because Hellfire Peninsula was quite crowded.  It wasn’t that people were being mean.  Some were being quite nice.  A mage came by and offered me some conjured food and water at one point.

Some people are just nice

But even when people are trying to be pleasant, crowds do make for competition over mobs and objectives and such well beyond my tolerance at times.  Meanwhile, back in Azeroth, things were relatively quiet… unless you were working on a harvesting trade skill… in that case it was also a bit trying.

More than that, however, I was having fun with my druid.

Having just done many of these quests recently… and with my pally, which made them all the more excruciating at times… running through them again with knowledge, stealth, and the improved quest experience have made this oddly joyful.

Since the pre-patch I have managed to move him from level 36 to level 52 without feeling like I have had to dedicate myself to the task.

Part of that was the exp changes.  The amount of exp needed to get from 30 to 60 was reduced by 15% and the amount of exp given for quest turn ins was boosted.  That helped smooth out the somewhat rough ride from 35 to 60.

The fact that a pile of quests got added into the game in and around Theremore also gave a needed boost to the previous quest gap around level 40.  But, in addition to that, a number of quests that required you to defeat elite mobs had those mobs changed to normal mobs, turning those into quests one could solo.  So Overseer Maltorus, who is at the intersection of two quests in Searing Gorge, can now be handled without needing to form a group.

You are now soloable Maltorus

Quests are now appropriately marked as “group” when they need more than one player, which was not always the case.  Maltorus there was kind of a surprise elite once you made your way to him, as the quest didn’t warn you about his elite status before.

And quests are a bit easier to find.  Quest givers show up on the mini map and quest turn ins, even inanimate objects, now have the big question mark above them.

This should really be the WoW logo

That actually helps a lot more than you might think.  I especially recall a quest in Feralas where you had to find a lost satchel in a gnoll camp and the quest description described it as being in a shaft of sunlight, which was true if you happened upon it at exactly the right angle.  But now it has the big question mark on it, so you can focus on clearing the gnolls to get to it without wandering past.

Basically, after having done it “the hard way” twice through with a hunter and a paladin, making a post patch run feels light and fun… though, as I said, having stealth helps too.  I simply avoid a lot of trouble.  So my druid is 52 and is just finishing off Tanaris and the Hinterlands, after which he will turn to Un’Goro Crater.

I will probably keep running with the druid up to 60 before I really start focusing on Outland.  Outland will wait for me, though I keep seeing reminders that it is there.

Is this effect from the Deluxe Edition special Outland hearthstone?

If you found that the grind of old school vanilla was getting you down, but you think Outland might appeal, the path there is much smoother.  It isn’t “do it in a weekend” quick, the way the path to 50 is in retail WoW is, but it is much more friendly than it was before.

Stratholme with The Replacements

The Dark Portal might be open, but we still have some work to do back in Azeroth before the instance group travels to Honor Hold.  One of the things on our list is get used to the new composition of the group.

The joke on Monday when we were playing is that Ula had fired the old group and hired some replacements for dungeon runs.  Last time around I had substituted in my paladin, Wilhelm, for Viniki, my warrior.  But, with the level 58 boosts available, we ended up getting two more substitutions.

First in was Skonk our priest, who dropped out in favor of a boosted paladin spec’d to heal named Fergorin.   That was the group’s first experiment with the WoW Classic character boost, which gives you gear and skills and a basic mount and a bit of gold. (30 gold seemed to be the amount.)  The gear didn’t seem bad… Fergorin got something for every slot, which might make a solo leveling player jealous, as trinkets are kind of rare outside of instance content… though the look of the gear might have left something to be desired.

When a Dwarf cosplays as an Ogre

With two paladins in the mix we could double up on auras and blessings and not lose a resser.

The Moronae, dissatisfied with the changes to the feral spec on his druid, went for a boost as well, choosing a gnome warlock whom he named Beanpole.  That lost us a combat ress, but got us soul stones and health stones along with warlock DPS.

The weekend was busy, but Monday was a holiday in the US, so we met up that afternoon to give the new team a try out.  The group was:

  • Ula – level 60 gnome mage
  • Wilhelm – level 60 human paladin (protection)
  • Fergorin – level 60 human paladin (holy)
  • Beanpole – level 59 gnome warlock

The new group met up for the first time out in the Eastern Plaguelands at Light’s Hope Chapel.

Welcoming everybody onto the new team

We were out there because we had decided on Stratholme as our next target and warm up run.  It had the advantage of possible gear upgrades, several quests that had decent rewards both in gold and gear, and both paladins needed drops from the instance to get going on the charger mount quest.

From Light’s Hope Chapel Stratholme is just a modest ride to the northwest of the zone, where we found the meeting stone and went in.  Going in we were reminded how much we had likely forgotten since we last visited.  Going through the main entrance leaves you locked inside the instance.  The only way out… discounting portals or hearthstones… is through the instance.

Looking into Stratholme

We got into the instance and cleared the first couple of groups, but it quickly became clear that it had been a long time since we last did Stratholme.  Going back through the blog I have one run from January 2008 and another after the Dungeon Finder was put in when we were doing Horde alts in mid 2010.  We eventually had to go dig out an old map online to figure out where we were and where we ought to go.

Stratholme of old

On that map we came in where the blue “A” is and worked our way around to the courier and the first mailbox, managing not to wipe even when we did things like open the mailbox immediately after the first fight, before we had healed up, something that triggered another fight.

The mobs were in groups of elites and non-elites, so for me tanking was getting in there, casting consecrate and holy shield and then keeping them up.  That was mostly enough to keep everything on me.  Fergorin quickly got in a cycle of healing that seemed pretty active.

Beanpole had gone the demonology spec route, so his Felguard was in there doing melee damage.  We tinkered around with having its taunt on or off and seemed to do better with it off in most circumstances.  And then there was Ula, still the mage queen of burst DPS.

We made our way north, through the gate that traps you and releases mobs, only opening when you kill them… we remembered that much about the place, until we got to the Y intersection at point 2 on the map, where it was a left or right choice between the living and undead portions of the instance.  We decided to go right, into the undead.

We seemed to do pretty well and made it to The Unforgiven, who is 3 on the map, and defeated him.  There was a nice upgrade for me at the end of that fight.

New Shoulders

That was an upgrade for me on all stats.

We made our way around to the open area around the fountain, which is where the 2s are on the map.  That is where our first mishap came.  We pulled one group from around the fountain and, during that fight, Beanpole’s felguard went running past me through another group, and into a third, pulling everybody back on to us, causing our first wipe.

Down by the fountain

We did manage to kill a lot of the mobs, so some progress was made.  And Fergorin had the soul stone, so was able to revive and ress us.  But more importantly, as we sat there getting ready to return to the fight, we spotted a shadowy figure somewhat hidden off to the side of the road.  You can just barely see him by a barrel off to the left of the screen shot above.  That was Hearthsinger Forresten, a rare spawn.  He is not aggro and just hangs out off to the side, so you can miss him.  Our pause there made sure we saw him, and we slew him in turn.

Forreseten finished

He coughed up another big upgrade, this time for Ula, the Magister’s Boots.

From there we cleared the rest of the fountain and moved into the next area, where we found Magistrate Barthilas, who drops the key to the side door of the instance.  But only one key, so Fergorin got that.  From there we pressed on into the mini-boss section, marked 10, 11, and 12 on the map.  There we started having some problems.

Into that section of town

There are a lot of mobs, often in groups very close together, along with some flying mobs that move around the area and who can fear you into other groups.  So we got in over our heads at least once before we had made it very far.

A bad pull will do you in

We cleared as carefully as we could, and did okay, but our first run at the first of the mini-bosses, Baroness Anastari, ended in a wipe due to a proximity pull of nearby mobs we had sought to bypass.

Baroness Anastari survived

We had been lucky with the soul stone previously, but with a 30 minute timer we were eventually going to end up in the gap between casts, so we had to run back from the graveyard this time around.  Fortunately, the run from there to the side door is very short and we had obtained the key to it already.  Magistrate Barthilas sometimes spawns further in the instance, so we were happy to have found him early, if only to avoid a longer run.

From there we did okay.  Another wipe on trash getting out of hand caught us, but we had the soul stone up by then, and were able to carry on and slay the other two bosses.  So we went towards the final area, 14 and 15 on the map, only to find the gate locked.  Something sparked a distant memory about the three bosses we had just killed, so we ran back and checked the areas behind them, slaying the mobs there.  Clearing those areas opened the gate and left us facing the final challenges.

Facing the patchwork undead

This is an event, though it starts off slowly.  Once you start pulling the mobs around the courtyard some start wandering your way, so if you aren’t killing them fast enough you can end up overwhelmed.  We figured that out the hard way, wiping once more.

Our second try got out of hand as well, though this time Fergorin had set up a Divine Intervention macro as we were once again on the soul stone cool down.  As we got too many mobs and started losing people, he hit the macro and put DI on me, as the soul stone was on cool down still, which takes you out of combat for three minutes, sacrificing the caster.  I waited until all the mobs reset back in the courtyard and ressed Fergorin and then we ressed the other two.

Getting everybody back

I had also managed to go red on my shield during that fight, so part of the reason I started losing aggro is that you cannot cast Holy Shield if you don’t have a shield equipped.  Ula had picked up a green loot shield and traded that to me for another try.

We got ourselves set up for another run, and this time managed to slay all the patchwork horrors, drawing out Ramstein the Gorger.  We finished him as well.  Success.

We then sat down to drink and heal as another group came out of the central building.  We had not even looted Ramstein when they were walking towards us and in aggro range and suddenly we had to fight again.  We fell apart and wiped again.

Another wipe

We didn’t have a soul stone again, so it was another run back from the graveyard and in through the side door.  But once at the gate we found that mobs we had passed a while ago had begun to respawn.  The loot on Ramstein was lost as we decided to call it a night there.

That room and beyond looks full again

So we did not get to the final boss on the undead side of the instance, so we still have that left to do.  Fergorin and I also did not come up with the Strathome holy water vials we needed for the paladin charger mount quest, getting only two each.  So we’ll have to come back for that as well.

On the upside, we did get some nice drops, Beanpole made it to level 60, we did complete at least one of the quests, and I made it to honored with the Argent Crusade, largely because Wilhelm was still wearing the Argent Commission in his trinket slot.  I was eyeing the trinket that Ramstein dropped, but that was not to be.

And, most of all, it wasn’t a bad warm up run for a group of four, three of which are playing new classes in the group.  At least it seemed like we did okay to me.  We’ll see if Ula keeps us or fires us and looks for more replacements.

Through the Dark Portal at Last

All the tension and the build-up and what not over the last two weeks since the pre-patch came to a head yesterday at 3pm my time.

The date finally arrived

I had logged in earlier in the day and set my hunter Tistann up on the rim of the vale where the Dark Portal lay.  About ten minutes before “go time” I logged back in to see the crowd assembled.  It honestly didn’t seem that bad.

The portal awaits

What that picture doesn’t really show is the size of the scrum down in the vale, clustered around where the quest giver with the intro quest would show up.  But all I had to do was get closer to see how dense the throng was.

Nobody was wearing a mask either

There were still technically a couple minutes to go before the 3pm start time, but people were already running towards the portal.  The quest giver was apparently up somewhere in the scrum of people.

There is a quest giver in there somewhere

I am not sure how I managed to click on the quest giver… I certainly couldn’t pick him out of the crush of players, but I managed it and got the quest.

I’ve got a golden ticket!

After that if was time to head through the portal.  I didn’t even get back on my mount.  I started to click it but I couldn’t see myself in the mass and started to move too soon, so I just turned on Aspect of the Cheetah and hoofed it through the portal.  My screen shot time stamp says I made it into Outland at 2:58:41pm Pacific Time.

On the far side there was an almost comic stream of characters running through the portal, pooling up at each quest giver, then moving on to the next.  The last step there was the flight master who was launching gryphons like a machine gun, sending people off to Honor Hold.

Fly my pretties! Off to Honor Hold

At the far end I was in the stream of flights dropping people in Honor Hold.  The stream was non-stop for a while.  I wish I had setup to record a video of it, as it was just one of those things that you only ever seen at moments like this.

Coming in to Honor Hold

Once there I found the quest giver, once again buried in a mass of players, then went around and found the skinning trainer, the leatherworking trainer, and the cooking trainer.  The latter confused me for a moment.  You don’t get trained, you buy a training book from him.

And then I went back to the inn and logged off for a while.  Having refreshed my memory of the starting quests in the beta, I knew there was going to be a huge competition for mobs as the “bowling ball through a python” mass of players tried to move in parallel into the expansion.  As fun as the first night of WoW Classic was, I wasn’t up for standing in line or fighting over spawns.  I went off to do other things.

When I logged back in a couple hours later things had calmed down.  Blizzard had reported a DDoS attack about 45 minutes after the launch, but it appeared to have been cleared up by then.

Honor Hold had calmed down considerably… which is to say it was still full of people and when I went out to do a couple of the initial quests there were still a lot of people out in the field with me, but it wasn’t completely crazy.

As far as I could tell our server, Bloodsail Buccaneers, didn’t have a queue and wasn’t showing any lag, but it is also the RP-PvE server, so not the most popular in the batch.

It will no doubt remain busy for a while though and I expect that we might see queues come the weekend as those without a lot of free time during the week get stuck into the expansion.

Meanwhile, back on Azeroth, Ironforge was deserted.  I literally saw zero players in the usually active area between the bank and the auction house.

They’ve all gone off

Stormwind was likewise feeling like a ghost town, though its proximity to the Dark Portal meant a few people could be spotted now and then.

Burning Crusade Classic has landed at last.  Outland lays before us, and everybody who could get through the portal last night apparently went.

Addendum:  I didn’t have the foresight to record video, but Ula did.

Some nice images of the opening moments in that video. (Also a blog post about it.)

Meanwhile, there are already players at level cap.  I think my hunter ended up 10% into level 60.

All Eyes on the Dark Portal

A few hours from when this post goes live Blizzard is expected to open the Dark Portal and let us all through and into Outland and Burning Crusade Classic.  The magic time is 3pm local for me here in California, midnight Paris time, or 22:00 UTC.

The World Wide Launch Plan

There isn’t much time left to prepare… well, there isn’t if  you plan to go through the Dark Portal at the first possible moment.  But our server was very busy over the holiday weekend, so a lot of people look to be ready to go.

Despite not being quite as far along as I thought I might more than a year and a half after WoW Classic launched, I do have three characters at level cap.  Ready to head to Outland are:

Tistann – My level 60 hunter and solo character.  He will, no doubt, be my first character through the portal and headed towards Honor Hold.  I am actually pretty happy with his progress.  In addition to being at level cap, his trade and secondary skills.

  • Leatherworking – 300
  • Skinning – 300
  • Cooking – 300
  • First Aid – 136
  • Fishing – 151

He is my only character to finish maxing out his primary trade skills.  First aid he is stuck back at heavy wool bandages, which is kind of a flat spot in the training curve.  He has some remedial work to do on that front.

Wilhelm  – My level 60 paladin and now my main instance group character, he was my last to level 60, getting that last half a level after the pre-patch hit, but he is ready to go.  He is also doing pretty well on his trade skills.

  • Engineering – 280
  • Mining – 300
  • Cooking – 300
  • First Aid – 300
  • Fishing – 270

Viniki – My level 60 warrior and the some time tank for the instance group.  I have to figure out what I am going to do with him.  I am actually surprised, it putting this together that his cooking isn’t at 300.  Going to have to fix that.

  • Blacksmithing – 271
  • Mining – 300
  • Cooking – 285
  • First Aid – 300
  • Fishing – 121

In addition, I have one up and coming character.

Alioto – My now level 45 druid.  He was level 36 when the pre-patch hit, which put him in prime position to take advantage of the additional quests added into the game and has moved pretty quickly towards the level cap.

I had toyed with the idea of boosting him to level 58… I think Blizz tapped into the scarcity idea in that you can only buy a boost for one character in classic… back when he was just level 36.  But since the pre-patch I have enjoyed playing him enough that I am just going to level him up to 60 the old fashioned way… or, the Burning Crusade old fashioned way in any case.  He only has harvest trade skills, and those are easy to catch up.

So that is my team for the Dark Portal.  I am still half-tempted to boost a character to 58, though I suspect that is the scarcity thing playing with my head a bit.  I am not even sure who I would boost… maybe my level 21 rogue, maybe my level 25 warlock… and I am unlikely to have the time to play yet another character if my WoW Classic experience is any guide.  But my enthusiasm is high at the moment and that can lead to bad decisions.  We shall see.

And the game itself… I hope that load test was enough for them to tune up Outland.  It seemed pretty laggy in the beta, but had shaped up some once they hit the second load test.  Still, this video is probably a reasonable simulation about what is coming:

Soon.

May in Review

The Site

Activity-wise, it was kind of an odd month.  Page views were falling at the end of April and that led to a very weak showing at the beginning of the month.  And then the Burning Crusade Classic pre-patch hit and suddenly daily traffic doubled.  You can see from the most viewed posts list that people were interested in things that might help them level up their brand new Draenei or Blood Elf characters.

I also managed to continue on with the post a day record.  That doesn’t seem like a big deal… I this will be post 43 for the month of May… and it probably isn’t, but the way things work out I often end up with a week of multiple posts per day due to timeliness of a topic, then get to the weekend with nothing to hand.  Still, I made it.

The streak continues

I guess my goal now is 500 days in a row, which should happen before the fifteen year anniversary of the blog.  Go me.

One Year Ago

As Blapril came to an end I did a post about my top five most viewed posts over various points during the life of the blog.  After that there was the usual summing up of the event.  I also joined in and did my gamer profile again and did that “have you ever” quiz thing.

Daybreak was changing up the plan for the Rizlona and Aradune progression servers they had planned for EverQuest.  They launched, but not without the usual issues and overcrowding.  They also finally merged the Fippy Darkpaw server into the Vox server after its nine year run as a progression server.

Blizzard revenue and margins were starting to look up and we were getting hints of a Diablo II remaster.  However, BlizzCon 2020 was not going to happen.

The instance group made its first run into Zul’Farrak.

I went out and explored a bit in our old Minecraft world and we started tinkering around in a new world.

CCP was celebrating 17 years of EVE Online.  They also gave us PLEX trading in the companion app for… reasons.  We got the candidate list for the CSM15 election and the Forsaken Fortress update that made Upwell structures easier to kill.  Then there was the MER which showed mineral prices starting the rise and ratting numbers starting to fall.

I correctly predicted Burn Jita was unlikely to happen.  I also was looking to earn some ISK.

Out in space were up north defending structures in a couple places.  That led to the GEF moving to Cloud Ring for some action for fights.  We even got to fight in Notoras, the best system in low sec.

LEGO Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga was announced, which sounded great.  It was later delayed.  There was also a promise of more Grand Admiral Thrawn from Timothy Zahn.

The regional groups forming in the US in response to the pandemic were starting to look like some post-US strategic game.

Five Years Ago

Overwatch went live.  Still haven’t played it.

DUST 514 went offline.  Never did play it.

Landmark’s official launch date was announced.  Never did buy it.

There was word about Pokemon Sun & MoonCivilization VIEverQuest II prestige servers, the tribulations of WildStar, and the WoW Legion Beta, all in one bullet points post.

One thing I did end up playing was Stellaris, which launched back in 2016 as well.

In EVE Online I saw my first citadel.  Now they’re everywhere.  There was also a free weekend on Steam that got a lot of accounts created, but which still faced the wall of the new player experience.  There was a Blog Banter about Project Nova and that brief experiment with recurring opportunities that granted skill points. There were also details from the CSMXI election and that whole 85% thing, which did not add up for me.

In space the Casino War was still a thing.  We were huddled up in the back room of the Quafe Warehouse in Saranen plotting ways to strike back and keep the war going.  We threw industrials at sovereignty.  That got us a foothold back in Fade for a bit.

Mostly though it was battles in low sec.  Asher led us out to battle in his Phantasm, we squared off against capitals, blew up some fax machines.  There were battles over structures in Saranen and we managed to anchor an Astrahus to face the citadels arrayed against us.  Lots of shooting, but not much changed.

Oh, and SynCaine joined KarmaFleet.  I even saw him on an op.

Outside of New Eden Blizzard could only talk about MAUs after renouncing discussion of subscription numbers.  Given the whole Nostalrius situation I was wondering what Vanilla WoW really was.  And the Warcraft movie was approaching.

In Minecraft I was planning a rail line and finding a path for it to run.  Aaron’s project of the month was a facility in the nether to make the collection of Ghast tears easier.

I was also momentarily nostalgic for Starsiege: Tribes… or for what I could remember of it.

And in TorilMUD the elves were no longer restricted to the isle of Evermeet until level 20.

Ten Years Ago

May 2011 was the time of the great Sony outage, with the PlayStation Network down for 24 days and Sony Online Entertainment down for 13 days.  It was a communication fiasco from start to finish, with bad updates almost daily.  About all they could do was promise us all goodies for when they finally came back up.

CCP was starting the build up to the Incarna fiasco with the introduction of Aurum.

On the Fippy Darkpaw time locked progression server, there was agitation to vote NO on unlocking the Kunark expansion.  Such agitation shows up with every unlock vote.  But no vote failed until Gates of Discord came along.

The instance group was in EverQuest II… when it was up… and trying to get the hell out of the starter area.  We managed it, but it took a lot more time than I would have thought.  We started in on some dungeons and got ourselves a guild hall.

World of Warcraft subscriptions started to decline, down to 11.4 million (those were the days!) while Trion started offering free server transfers in Rift.

My daughter was asking me about Dungeons & Dragons.  There was a thread going around about making better MMO players.  There were clearly some bad players about.

And finally, as hot as things seemed to be around here, there was no rapture.  You just couldn’t buy a break that month.

Fifteen Years Ago

World of Warcraft lead designer Rob Pardo was named as one of Time magazine’s 100 most influential people for 2006.

The Wii “steals the show” when it comes to the 2006 Electronic Entertainment Expo, or E3.  Despite a drop in attendees, there are long lines to try out Nintendo’s new console.  This was the last E3 before the “new format” of 2007 and 2008.

The ESRB changed the rating for The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion from “Teen” to “Mature” in part due to topless female art assets in the game that could be accessed by mods.  Former California Assemblyman Leland Yee (later Federal Bureau of Prisons inmate number 19629-111) took time out of his organized crime activities to slam the ESRB for missing these hidden art assets.

Most Viewed Posts in May

  1. Alamo teechs u 2 play DURID!
  2. Robbing Some Space Banks
  3. The Altar of Zul and Jintha’alor
  4. Bloodmyst Isle – The Worst Zone in WoW
  5. Getting Upper Blackrock Spire Access
  6. CCP Rushes Warp Core Stabilizer and Interdiction Nullification Changes into EVE Online
  7. Mischief is Coming to EverQuest
  8. CCP Takes Aim at Cloaky Campers in EVE Online
  9. Embracing the Iron Age in Valheim
  10. CCP Changes to Nullification and Warp Core Stabilizers hit the Test Server
  11. CCP is Just Going to Keep Selling Skill Points for Cash
  12. How Long can the Fifteen Dollar Subscription Hold Out?

Search Terms of the Month (Yandex Edition!)

летящие буквы как в звездных войнах фш
[Not sure, you mean like this?]

как украсить стену дома в майнкрафте
[Paintings?]

подводный риф 3.3.5 на карте
[Warm oceans are work to find]

схема Аннуминас kjnh
[I like Annuminas]

особняк майнкрафт данж
[I have a couple of posts about that]

забытый город камень встреч
[The Lost City of the Tol’vir?]

ферма призмарина майнкрафт
[Aaron made a whole farm for that]

cat is 4 fite
[Dude, speak English]

Game Time from ManicTime

May saw us hit the end of our hype cycle with Valheim.  I logged in and did a bit of exploring.  But focus clearly turned to WoW Classic and getting ready for the coming of The Burning Crusade expansion.

  1. WoW Classic – 63.39%
  2. EVE Online – 29.64%
  3. Burning Crusade Classic Beta – 2.90%
  4. Valheim – 2.22%
  5. World of Warcraft – 1.19%
  6. War in the Pacific – 0.66%

EVE Online

The war carried on into its eleventh month, with forces stalemated at the Imperium capitol constellation.  The enemy can still bring double our numbers if they ping for operations in advance, but haven’t been able to break into our home.  We, on the other hand, are somewhat limited by how far we can reach from that constellation.  TEST miners and ratters in Delve get dropped on regularly in their new home, but operations beyond that require groups to find bases far off, which takes them out of the Delve fights.

Pokemon Go

I set a new personal record for the longest time defending a single gym, managing 19 days, 1 hour, and 24 minutes.  We drove up to Portland to drive our daughter home from her first year at college and I got into a gym on campus… and then nobody kicked the defenders out for almost three weeks.  Other than that we managed to do all the events in May, which meant fighting a lot of Team Rocket grunts and leaders.

Level: 41 (38% of the way to 42 in xp, 2 of 4 tasks complete)
Pokedex status: 643 (+10) caught, 673 (+11) seen
Mega Evolutions obtained: 11 of 13
Pokemon I want: Still need Eevees for the level 42 tasks
Current buddy: Eevee

Valheim

We still have another boss to slay, but that wouldn’t buy us anything, so our efforts have tapered off.  The small team that made the game can only manage a monthly patch for bug fixes while serious updates still seem far away.  I have no doubt we will return, and I do log in to do a bit of base building now and then, but our goals have pretty much been completed.

War in the Pacific

I put some more effort into this, grabbing a more focused scenario about the 1942 Burma campaign to see if that would get me up to speed more quickly.  It is hard to tell what I am doing still however.

World of Warcraft

As usual, not much time spent in the retail side of Azeroth.  I did Darkmoon Faire on my main, then actually did a few pet battles during the week that they had the xp bonus, getting a few more battle pets up to level 25.

WoW Classic

May was prep for Burning Crusade Classic.  Three characters to level 60 now, new specs explored, and some work on a fourth character who managed to go from 36 to 45 over the last week or so.  Plus I spent a bit of time in the beta.   Basically all eyes on Outland and the changes that come with it.

Coming up

Tomorrow at 3pm my time we transition into Outland as Burning Crusade Classic opens the Dark Portal.  Expect a report on that I suppose.

In EVE Online the war carries on, heading towards its one-year anniversary.  PAPI, the blue donut coalition, will continue to camp us in the south with their numbers advantage while also rolling over any small groups in the north to expand their own ratting and mining empires, basically doing what they allege the Imperium did.

Meanwhile, CCP has the CSM16 elections coming up on June 8th and their cloaky camper fix is likely to hit us suddenly next month as well, if recent company behavior is any indicator.

And… I am sure other things are coming up in June, but the war and the Dark Portal are both immediate and of interest to me.