Tag Archives: Dungeon Finder

The Coming of Wrath of the Lich King Classic

In addition to the WoW Dragonflight announcement on Tuesday, which I covered already, there was also the announcement of Wrath of the Lich King ClassicThe WoW Classic page is now dominated by the grim icy visage of the Lich King.

I suppose I could have covered both in a single post easily enough… words are words and all… but WotLK occupies a very different spot in my relationship with World of Warcraft and felt like it should get its own post.

The classic comes to classic

Also, WotKL Classic is supposed to be arriving this year, which might make it a standout from Dragonflight.  Blizz has to ship something this year.

I have, at various points, attempted to rank WoW expansions via various dubious methods, and I always work it so that WotLK comes out on top.  Not that it is the incorrect result, it is more a matter of my metrics being less than scientific.

Still, it remains a stand out for me, the only expansion I played from the day it launched until the day the next expansion launched without a break.  While there are lots of factors that play into that run, they all added up to me going all in on the expansion like no other before it.  Wintergrasp, the Argent Tournament, leveling up alts, crafting, grinding faction, running the instances, building the chopper, it was my peak effort in WoW.

So I should be totally stoked for WotLK Classic, right?  I was stoked for WoW Classic.  There were points between beta and launch that all I wanted was just to play WoW Classic.  And I was pretty excited for Burning Crusade Classic, wasn’t I?

Then why am I not feeling it?

Sure, part of that is the Blizzard malaise, the discovery that the company is problematic on many levels along with a feeling of tiredness about the whole genre at the moment.  It happens.  I don’t want to be down on the whole thing, I just am.

But I am also wary of going back to try and relive what might have been my peak time in the game.  I worry that WotLK was great in its time, both in the state of the genre when it came out and at the point in my life when I played it, but that it might not be all that when it comes to nostalgia.

The thing is, I have been back to Northrend a few times over the years with alts at various times as the game has gone on and I have never, ever stuck it out when I didn’t have to.  Even after the level squish, when getting to the level cap was suddenly much quicker and you could choose which expansion you wanted to level up in, I tried WotLK, but ended up opting for Legion or Battle for Azeroth to finish out some alts.

And then there is the practical aspect of the whole venture, the fact that we ran out of steam when it came to Burning Crusade Classic.  The overland content in Outland was every bit as grindy as I had said over the years, and the four of us were not quite enough to get through five person instances without having to simply be better than we’re every likely to be.

So I have a level 62 paladin in Outland.  That is a ways to go, six levels at least, before you can hope a boat to Northrend.

Yes, Blizzard will happily sell me a level 70 boost.  They are even going to let death knights get an early start so they can be level 70 before the expansion drops in the land of classic.  But do I want it that bad?  And what awkward mount package will they sell this time around?

Meanwhile, there is some controversy about there being no Dungeon Finder available in Wrath Classic, which seems odd to me.  My most popular post yesterday wasn’t about Dragonflight or CSM17. Those two weren’t even close.  The big attraction here at TAGN yesterday was a twelve year old post about some early good/bad experiences with Dungeon Finder that got linked in /r/wow due to all of this.

I have been down the “where does classic end?” path before, but I think you could make a very strong argument that Dungeon Finder is the dividing line between “classic” and “modern” World of Warcraft.  Yes, Cataclysm changed the world, making Azeroth a different place, but Dungeon Finder changed how we played.

We no longer had to schlep out to a dungeon in some zone, maybe use the summoning stone, then enter the instance… or, in places like Scarlet Temple, fight to get to the instance… to get rolling.  We also no longer had to have our dungeon quests all lined up before we walked in.  There was still some connection to the zones, still quest chains that culminated in an instance run, but more and more quests were given inside the instance, right at the start, because people were just being teleported right into the dungeon from Stormwind or Orgrimmar or where ever.

You can argue whether or not it was a good change… my recollection is almost a dozen years of non-stop complaining about its problems and being castigated for defending it now and then… but it was a radical update that changed how we played the game and, frankly, marked the end of what I would consider the classic era of WoW.

But I see a bunch of people angry that Dungeon Finder isn’t in Wrath Classic, including a column over at Massively OP which says I am a selfish gatekeeping ogre for even considering the idea, which baffles me a bit, given the above.  So many years of people complaining about it has led me to expect that is the default reaction to the feature.  I guess not.  There is an attempt to lay the blame on Holly Longdale due to her history with EverQuest and the contested raids thing that eventually got scrapped in favor of instanced raids on retro, which isn’t even close to a parallel situation, but if you were ever seen as gatekeeping… and what is a classic server but an exercise in gatekeeping… then you get painted with that brush forever I guess.

Oh well.  Just because I define classic one way doesn’t mean anybody has to agree.  Certainly the comment thread on that Massively OP post seems to be completely on the side of Dungeon Finder.  I expect Blizz will, if not cave, hedge on the issue due to the outcry, and then we’ll hear the other side of the issue howl.

Selfishly speaking I hope Blizz sticks to this because Dungeon Finder (and achievements frankly) would undermine the whole experience for me… should I decide to play… which isn’t even feeling likely at the moment even if they don’t include it, so I shouldn’t really care about it but I clearly DO care about it and… I don’t know, it is a mix of emotions.

I know, I am in a mood.  And moods pass.  Maybe, when the launch date is closer I will find some enthusiasm for Northrend again.

Timewalking to Northrend

Timewalking has been in World of Warcraft for a while now.  This is where they open up dungeons from past expansions, reworked to support players in the current expansion.

Re-using old content and making it viable in the current context/meta of the game is something I am totally in favor of.  I just haven’t participated in the whole Timewalking thing up until now.

That is mostly because I haven’t been subscribed and playing for about the last year, so I missed the previous events.  Now that I am back though I took an evening to look into what was going on.

I was lured in by the fact that the current event is for dungeons from the Wrath of the Lich King expansion, which was provably the peak of my interest in WoW.

That was the only expansion I stuck with from day one through until the next expansion drop.  Unfortunately, the next drop was Cataclysm, about which I have a list of gripes, and which started my pattern of starting expansions, go away for six months to a year, then coming back to finish them off after Blizz has unlocked all the content and fixed the more egregious issues.

(As an aside, Wrath of the Lich King was launched nine years ago yesterday.  That seems like a long time ago now.)

However, now that I am back and enjoying Legion, timewalking is also an option, of course I was going to indulge myself in the current even and travel back to Northrend and the instances I knew so well at one point.

I did a couple of the instances before figuring out that there was a quest for the event that would award some additional benefit in the form of vendor tokens, so I grabbed that and kept on going for a while.  Going back to the old haunts was a nice little break from Suramar, and didn’t slow me down too much.  I have been on a WoW binge for a bit now.

Slaying King Ymiron again

The event was popular so queuing for it in Dungeon Finder was quick, even as DPS.

I wasn’t sure what to expect from the dungeons themselves and how they might scale or what drops one might get.  I was quite happy with the ilevel 880 timewarped Northrend gear I got, which was both an upgrade over what I was currently wearing as well as giving me a bit of the old school WotLK look.

Vikund and the Knights who say “Ni!”

There were also artifact boosts for every boss and vendor tokens along the way, though the drops from dungeon mobs themselves were still seemed to be in the WotLK level range.

Finding the vendor took a minute though.  When I completed the event quest it told me to go find the vendor in Dalaran.  However, he was nowhere to be seen in the Legion Dalaran, so I had to think about the best way to get to the WotLK Dalaran, the two co-existing in the game.

I decided to take the portal to the Vale of Eternal Blossoms in Pandaria from the Legion Dalaran, remembering that there was a portal from there to the WotLK Dalaran.

Passing through Pandaria

That got me to the correct Dalaran where I was able to find the vendor, standing in the center of town with a crowd around him.

The vendor is in there somewhere

The quest turn in actually gave me quite a few tokens to play with, tripling the tokens I had earned along the way.

The reward

The tokens can be turned in for various bits of gear… though honestly I got so many upgrades that there was only one piece that was a semi-side-grade for me… or tokens to up your standings with various Northrend factions… not helpful since I am exalted with all the factions for which there are tokens… and some expensive things like a mount.  I’d have to run a lot more dungeons to get there.

The list of things from the vendor are over at the WoW Head timewalking guide.

It was there that I also learned that there were only six dungeons in play for timewalking, which explains why I saw some repeats.

The limited rotation wasn’t all bad.  My main worry was pulling The Oculus, the gimmick instance most likely to cause a rift in a group in the entire expansion.  Dungeon Finder groups fall apart doing that on normal mode.

What is probably my all-time most run instance ever, The Nexus, was on the list so I got to run a victory lap there.  I even remembered to jump during the last fight.

Still, I wouldn’t have minded doing Utgarde Keep or a couple of the others.

Which leads us down to the experience of running the instances now, so many years later.

On the one hand, it was fun in its own way to romp through a few old places.  I even remembered how most of the fights went.

On the flip side the problems with both timewalking and Dungeon Finder were apparent.

The ilevel reduction to make the instances something of a challenge doesn’t seem to be enough.  This is doubly so since I noticed I was getting credit for doing Heroic instances in doing these timewalking dungeons.  The power/difficulty ratio barely put these on par with normal mode dungeons at level.

And then the real problem with Dungeon Finder, which isn’t jerks or the unhelpful, who tend to be rare in my experience, but the speed.  When you’re in a group with strangers you’re not there to share an experience but get the reward for completion.  So each of these runs became races through the content, made all the more hasty by the ease with which we tore through boss after boss.

Ideally I would have liked to go through these old instances in a pre-made group, preferably the old instance group, to savor a bit of the history, to sit a while and listen to what the bosses have to say, to actually enjoy the fights.  But you go with the options you have, and random Dungeon Finder groups are the only choice some of us have, so you have to make the most of it.

Sweet Home Azeroth – Summing Up a Bit

So I had the post about the great big return to Azeroth.  While it wasn’t really nostalgia, as the goal was actually to do something new, it still represented a return to an old friend.  I had a couple posts about the guild and things that remained the same, and then haven’t mentioned our adventures in World of Warcraft for… two weeks now.

Which, if you are a long time reader, might be taken as a sign that I stopped playing.  I tend to just go quiet on games I stop playing unless there was some big, breaking event.

However, such has not been the case with WoW.

In fact, if you look at my Raptr profile, you will see that WoW has been far and away my most played game for the last two weeks.  I log on every day and play a bit.

I just haven’t done anything really interesting.

We still haven’t formed a guild, remaining with Khaotica for all the level 25 boosts and bennies.

I ran my first character, Makawao through a number of zones, which has been fun enough.  The zones, while clearly still focused on being solo story events in the post-Cataclysm model, are fun.  I goggle a bit at how much effort must have gone into some of the locations or quests only to spend mere minutes in them at times.  The Stonetalon Mountains seems especially full of such locations.

But I am not sure I need to write a zone guide about that.  Maybe I could start tracking Blizzard’s seeming obsession with poop quests and balloons.  Balloons especially seem to be a post-Cataclysm motif.

I have been quite keen on pet battles.  I still have a full post in the works for that at some point.  I think I need to go further with it than I have currently before I come to any conclusions.  But I will say that the Pokemon-like “collect them all” is a big driver.  I speak as somebody who, at one point, had literally caught them all in Pokemon.

I ended up getting too far out in front of my daughter with Makawao.  It was fine for her to race ahead, but when I did it there are complaints.  So I stopped when he hit 40 and go the epic mount skill.

Which meant faster rides

Which meant faster rides

The whole account-wide mounts thing made that interesting.  And it will be more so when I get to flying mounts.  I have more choices than I remember.

With Makawao on hold, I started working on an alt.  I had rolled up a blood elf paladin, Banff, and decided to take him another path.  I picked the protection spec with the idea of running him through all of the instances as a tank.  I generally play the healer, falling back to DPS when somebody else in our regular group (usually Potshot) already has the role.  But I rarely play the tank.  Both Earl and Gaff insist on playing that role when they are around (which makes having them both around interesting at the rare times it happens), so I generally consider that somebody elses job.  (By my calculations, I have been healing Gaff the tank off and on for nearly 20 years.)

So going tank is another aspect of the “do something new in Azeroth” plan.

But doing instances via Dungeon Finder has been… a change.  More after the cut.

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Selling Middle-earth

For some of us in the instance group, Lord of the Rings Online is not a tough sell when we’re not playing it.

Certainly it seems that for myself, Potshot, and Gaff, Middle-earth is a serious feature of the game.

And it isn’t all about occasionally seeing Gandalf in action:

Take that, you fiend!

Or getting to hang out with him after the show:

Wait until my mom sees this!

There is the matter of simply being in Middle-earth, of seeing the places we’ve read about (no movie version worth mentioning having been around when we were young) and feeling like we are a part of that world.

Let us ride to Weathertop!

Things like that keep the game in our mind even when we’re not playing.

But others in the instance group are less keen on the subject.

Earl, for example, does not seem to be a fan.

And so, LOTRO is just a game.  A game that competes directly with World of Warcraft.  A game that, in many ways, offers up a comparable experience.

And since he enjoys WoW very much and has played it for years, in coming to LOTRO he immediately sees the ways in which Turbine has been less apt at creating a smooth and polished game.

So last Saturday night, much of the evening in Middle-earth was spent on the “Why aren’t we playing WoW?” question.

WoW is polished, fun, familiar, and the need for certain things, like a group of a given size, is taken care of via the Dungeon Finder interface.  WoW is a well oiled machine.

And LOTRO is… different.  When you are used to one thing, even different can be viewed as a negative.  And then when some details are both different and arguably worse, well….

Our goals for the night were:

  • Have fun
  • Get Earl closer to the level range of the rest of the group
  • Show Earl that LOTRO isn’t that bad

The first is always our goal.

The second was a manageable goal.  The main character for the group sat at about level 18, he was level 12.

The third item though.  That wasn’t going to be easy, and we got off to a bad start right away when these questions came up:

  • How do I get bigger bags?
  • Why is every building an instance?
  • Why can’t I sell things to a vendor straight from my bag where I have things organized?
  • Why can’t I sort things in the Sell tab at a vendor?
  • What is the sorting criteria in the Sell tab at a vendor?

Now, smarter people than I might have been able to come up with good, game selling answers to these questions, but I was left with.

  • You can’t
  • No idea
  • Because you can’t
  • Because you can’t
  • No idea

Fortunately, not every question was like that, but enough were early on that Earl began talking about taking a break from the Saturday night group until Cataclysm ships.

It was time to get out in the field and play together.  We pulled out some alts in the right level range and headed out towards Thorin’s Hall where Earl was running some quests by himself.

We were all able to pick up the dwarf prologue to the Epic Quest line.  That one has a couple of nice instanced missions to run through.

We ran through To Avert a War pretty quickly.  But there were four of us and it is now a pretty much a solo event.

Then we went to Rescue by Moonlight.

He's on a boat!

That instance seemed to have been toned down quite a bit.  I seem to recall the battle on the boat being quite a fight, but this time it was over before I could recover from taking that screen shot.

After that Gaff called it a night.  Earl, in what I took as a good sign, stuck around to finish up the prologue chain.

We did face a challenge with the next segment in the quest chain, Preparations for the Assault, as we took a wrong turn while finishing up the sub quest and ended up fighting our way into an area full of elite mobs.  Potshot’s Rune Keeper, who was healing, ended up dying twice during that little mis-adventure, but at least it was a challenge.

Then we were actually able to return to that very same area where we battled the elite in the final instance of the prologue, Assault on Rath Teraig.  Here, the aptly named elf, Cardavor (cadaver?) was able to utter the best line of the night.

It made Admiral Akbar famous, why not me?

Ironically, getting to the point where Cardavor lay was much more difficult outside of the instance than inside.

That done, we picked up the final stage of the prologue, which pointed us to the Prancing Pony in Bree, to speak to Barliman Butterbur about that unwanted guest we were working with just the previous weekend.

So we got our characters settled into Bree, went to our respective class trainers, emptied our bags, and generally wrapped up for the night.

We had fun.  At least I think we did.  We did not have the usual killer of fun occur, the lack of things to do.  And I had fun.

But I suppose, for Earl, the real test will be this coming Saturday.  Will he be back for Book 1 of the epic quest line?  Or will he decide it is time for a break from the weekly group and take off until Cataclysm ships?

Advancing Two Instances

After a two week hiatus due to sickness and travel we were all back in the game last Saturday night.  It was time to let the dungeon finder take us away.  The lineup was:

62 Orc Shaman – Earlthebat (Earlthecat)
62Tauren Druid – Hurmoo (Vikund)
62 Blood Elf Paladin – Enaldie (Ula)
62 Undead Deathknight – Maliverney (Skronk)
63Undead Mage – Bigbutt (Bungholio)

And since we were all at least level 62, a new instance opened up to us.  We were now facing a range of possibilities.

So, it was time to roll the dice again and see where the dungeon finder would send us.

First pick: Blood Furnace.

This pass through ran almost exactly as it did in our last outing, including an almost exact replay of our fight with Broggok, which included Earl and Bigbutt dying on the last round of trash before the Broggok actually comes out to fight.  As with last time, Earl had his shaman revive handy and Hurmoo was able to use his combat ress on Bigbutt, so Broggok was defeated.

Broggok Coming For Us

And that was about it for drama in the Blood Furnace.  Broggok is the tough fight, being something of a multi-round event.  After that we sailed through to finish up and collect our goody bag.

Hurmoo overhealing for the win

With that out of the way, and with plenty of time left to play, we let the dungeon finder pick again.

Second Pick: Slave Pens.

Something new!

Hurmoo, in anticipation of perhaps getting into the Coilfang dungeons, picked up the only quest (Lost in Action) he could find that did not require a chain of lead-in quests, so we at least could boost our experience a little bit.  The quest actually required us to hit both the Slave Pens and the Underbog, but best to have it handy just in case.

I do not think any of us had been through the Slave Pens since we ran it together with the original cast of characters in the instance group.  So we had to relearn a few things.

For example, a minute or so into the fight with Mennu the Betrayer, we remembered that we had to put somebody on duty to take care of his healing totem.  Otherwise the fight just goes on and on as his totem heals at a prodigious rate.  And, after Mennu, you get to see some of the more spectacular scenery in the instance.

Ramps up to the drop-off

Then there was Rockmar the Crackler, a tough fight for us back in the day.  Now, however, he was just so much lobster to be harvested.  Still, delicious when dipped in melted butter.

Of course, feeling cocky after knocking down Rockmar without breaking a sweat, we managed to get in trouble with two groups of mobs who were, in turn, helped out by a wandering patrol.  Slew the boss, wiped on the trash.

We took a few with us at least

We almost made it.  In the screen shot, you can see the patrol that broke up the party walking… slithering… whatever naga do… heading away from us pretty much unscathed.  It pays to be fashionably late.

Once we recovered from that, it was a smooth trip to the last boss, Dame Helen Quagmirran.

Quagmirran caught in the tub again!

As before, the last fight went by pretty quickly and Quagmirran was defeated.

Quagmirran laid to rest

There was some worry as to whether or not everybody was in the screen shot.  I don’t think I’ve ever left anybody out.

And so the achievement and goody bag was ours.

While the Slave Pens took a while, we felt we still had another run left in us… maybe two if we drew Hellfire Ramparts… so we let the dungeon finder roll the dice for us again.

Third Pick:  Underbog.

Two new… well, new to these characters in any case… instances in one night.

Again, it had been a while since we visited the Underbog as a group, though I have actually been there more recently in a dungeon finder group with another character.  This meant we at least knew which direction to head.  Underbog has a few points where you can end up going the wrong way.

We were able to bypass a number of the trash groups and take out Hungarfen on our way to the first real fight, Ghaz’an, who happens to be a distant cousin of Ghaz’rilla.

Going after Ghaz'an

The fight really isn’t that tough, but it does have a danger to it.  It takes place on a platform and if you get caught in the wrong spot, Ghaz’an has a knock-back attack that will send you over the side into a pool full of hungry fish… elite, aggro, hungry fish.

Hurmoo was standing in the wrong spot and got knocked into the pool and died before he could get to the ramp.

Fortunately, as I said, the fight isn’t all that tough and we were far enough along that even with the healer down the fight was ours.

Ghaz'an defeated

Once done there, we remembered to go through the big crack at one end of the pool below the platform.  All of the hungry healer-killing fish die when Ghaz’an goes down, so the swim was safe.  On a previous venture into the Underbog, we spent a long time trying to figure out where to head next.  Even after noticing the crack, you have to jump down to a path well below it and with no way back up, so we were hesitant to commit.

This time we knew to just jump.

Then it was down the path to Swamplord Musel’ek and a surprisingly tough fight.

You face two bosses, Musel’ek and Claw (who also happened to be the last NPC we needed to find for our one quest) who have a habit of freezing the whole group and then setting in on the DPS.  At least that was what happened to us, which lead to a wipe.

All Down

In an attempt to save the fight, Earl used his revive right away when he got killed, but it was not enough, and so we had to do the long run from the graveyard to the instance.  It was a good thing that Hurmoo had gone to visit the instance earlier, so he knew the way.

Once back, we consulted a couple of sites about the fight to get an idea of what we were doing wrong.  The fight seems to rely heavily on the tank being able to get and keep aggro, which seems to get reset when the freeze trick happens.  With that bit of knowledge, our second run through was a success, though we did lose Bigbutt.  Being the only cloth wearing player in the group seems to make him a priority target… well, that and all the damage he put out.

Winning let us finish the quest and sent us on our way to the last boss, the Black Stalker, who I recalled giving us an interesting fight before, but who went down so fast this time that he only got to do his mid-air suspension trick just before he died.

That gave us the achievement and our goody bag.

And while we all started the evening around level 62, we ended up at, or very close to, 64 as a group.

Hurmoo, whom I had not played for two weeks, and who thus had a full load of rested experience to go through, exhausted his blue bar and got the dreaded “you feel normal” message part way into the Underbog.  Experience-wise, that was a pretty good evening’s work.

The quest turn-in put those of us who were close to 64 over the top, so next time around we may get to hit another new instance or two.

This also puts us four levels away from the big dungeon finder switch over.  At level 68, the random dungeon option will send us to Northrend.  Then it will be farewell to the Burning Crusade.

The Outland instance count so far is:

Hellfire Ramparts: 4
Blood Furnace: 2
Slave Pens: 1
Underbog: 1

We’ll see what we end up getting the next time around.

Hellfire Random Remix

It was a long Saturday for some of us and it looked to be a long Sunday for others, but we all still logged on at 9pm Pacific time for instance night.

A couple of us admitted that we would not be heartbroken if we skipped a week and that a long dungeon crawl might not be our fondest desire at that moment.  So after a run through the options, we decided to just let the dungeon finder pick our destination for the night.

We also had a character change this time around, the first change out in our horde group and only the second since I traded out Blintz, my rogue, for Vikund the paladin way back in the day.

This time around Potshot decided to put in his death knight, Maliverney, in place of his druid, Azawak.  So a tank change in the lineup.  That gave us the following group for the night:

59 Orc Shaman – Earlthebat (Earlthecat)
60Undead Mage – Bigbutt (Bungholio)
60Tauren Druid – Hurmoo (Vikund)
60 Blood Elf Paladin – Enaldie (Ula)
60 Undead Deathknight – Maliverney (Skronk)

It was just a little after 9pm when we were all grouped and selected the random option.  Take us away dungeon finder!

And we ended up in Hellfire Ramparts.

Enter the Ramparts

Looking at the dungeon finder interface, once you hit 60 you are apparently too high of a level to get a classic dungeon a random pick.  You are limited to the Outlands.

Well, what the hell… so to speak.

A couple of us had already wandered into the Burning Crusade expansion in order to pick up our flying skills and mounts and, while there, ran just a couple of the initial quests for a gear upgrade or two.  I think Enaldie, Hurmoo, and Bigbutt all had a new had and pants.  But the rest of our kit was strictly classic Azeroth.  Hurmoo, for example, was still swinging the Scepter of Celebras.

Because of this, there was one school of thought that felt an Outlands instance might be a challenge.  We hadn’t ramped up on the gear, we were working with a new class tanking, and we hadn’t actually been there at level for more than two years, at which point we had problems finishing up, all of which seemed to add up to a non-faceroll experience, to use the SynCaine term.

The reality though…

Okay, Hurmoo died two fights in when we pulled a group and got a patrol in addition, though the reason Hurmoo got jumped on was that he was playing with Wild Growth before Maliverney had a solid aggro lock on everybody.  And even then, the fight went down okay with some healing from Earl and Enaldie.

No, we were in for a quick kill AOE fest with no crowd control required.  Once we settled down a bit and Maliverney got into the tanking groove, we were splashing through the trash pretty quickly.  The first boss, Watchkeeper Gargolmar, gave up the ghost pretty fast.

Soon we were past him, up the ramp, and clearing out the courtyard with the two remaining bosses within sight.  We went left first and took on Omor the Unscarred.

Omor Awaits

There were some vague recollections of this being a tough fight, with Omor summoning some sort of helpers part way through the fight, but we didn’t spend too much time dwelling on that.  We asked Enaldie to keep her consecrate going in order to pick up any random adds and went straight and Omor.

I think Omor only got to summon a single felhound.  I couldn’t recall if he had any other special attacks, everything went by so quickly.  And when he died, we got the instance achievement.

That seems kind of flimsy, handing out the achievement for the second of three bosses.  Then again, the last boss has all of the cool stuff, so they probably figure you are going to go after him no matter what.

Then it was on to the last fight, the event with Vazuden and his dragon mount Nazan.

This fight left a couple of lasting impressions with us.  For example, we all remembered that the battle event starts when you kill the last pair of guards.  Those guards look just like any number of guards in the instance, so it is easy to think you’re just clearing some trash rather than kicking off the event.

Also, it was well recalled that we need to step out of the blobs of fire that Nazan shoots at people during the fight.

After those two facts, things were a little blurry.  But those two facts turned out to be enough as we went into the fight.

Fight Finale

The fight was exciting, if only because people had to keep on the move.  That can be tough on the casters.

You can see the end of the fight above, with Hurmoo casting tranquility while standing in one of those blobs of fire.  That was enough to keep us all going and finish off Nazan.  That finished the instance and got us our bag of goodies.

We looted the chest at the far end of the platform, took our victory shot, and looked at the clock.

Nazan Defeated

The time was 9:50pm.

So we decided to do it again.

And when we finished that round it was 10:40pm.

So we decided to do it one more time.

We did get sloppy on the third round, when early on, in the exact same fight where Hurmoo died the first time, we ended up pulling two groups plus a patrol leading to more damage hitting the tank than the healer could keep up with.  But we didn’t, technically, wipe, since we were close to the door.  So Hurmoo ran out when everybody else was dead, then came back to ress people.

But after that we pressed on and wrapped up the third run at around 11:30pm.

Weapon upgrades

Three runs through yielded some good drops, getting upgrades for all of us.  You can see Earl’s new Crystalfire Staff (which looks like he took it off of one of General Grievous’ bodyguards) and Enaldie’s Hellreaver in the picture above.

The evenings run left us with another idea for how to go forward.  We might just see if we can run through the Outlands, and how quickly we can manage it, doing nothing but random dungeon finder instances.  How much of the expansion can we avoid this time through?

Embracing the Dungeon Finder

Saturday afternoon found Potshot and I running around with alts on Lightninghoof.

I had Grungur, my healing shaman on and he had his pally on, who was only a couple levels ahead of Grungur, and also spec’d healing.

Thinking we might get some good, fast exp, he re-spec’d to protection and we hit the dungeon finder as a healer tank pair.  We got off to a bit of a slow start… working as a team we tend not to be the “gogogo!” types, something which lost us one impatient DPS player… but we hit our stride pretty quick.  And joining as a tank/healer pair meant never waiting for more than about 5 seconds to get a group.

Earl showed up and got out one of his alts, a fury warrior, and joined us as DPS for a run.  We had a bit of a hiccup with the dungeon finder at that point, as the level spread between us left only one dungeon possible to run (the armory in Scarlet Monastery) but when we tried to do random (because we wanted to goodie bag) the system kept picking dungeons that at least one of us were not eligible for.

Still, the experience was good, so we thought we would go the random dungeon route with our main characters that night, since we were a bit shy in levels to get the quests for Sunken Temple.  Going into the night, our group was:

46 Blood Elf Paladin – Enaldie (Ula)
47 Tauren Druid – Hurmoo (Vikund)
47 Tauren Druid – Azawak (Skronk)
47 Orc Shaman – Earlthebat (Earlthecat)
47 Undead Mage – Bigbutt (Bungholio)

The first thing we had to do though was go back to Maraudon and finish up the quests that are (mostly) in what I will call the vestibule of the instance.  We had to knock off the first three khans, kill some elementals, and take a quick peek into the instance to cure some tainted plants.

Finishing up Maraudon Quests

That did not take us too long.  Once we turned in the quests it was time to queue up for a random dungeon with the dungeon finder.  And that dungeon was:


Although it was called, Maraudon – Pristine Waters.

I guess they have Maraudon chopped up into more manageable chunks for dungeon finder.  This chunk puts the group in mid-air over the waterfalls that leads to the last section of the instance.  You drop into the deep water and can swim to the shallows.

In the shallows, ready to start

If I recall right, that is about where the staff of Celebras used to drop you, back before it had stats. (And decent stats too, Hurmoo is wielding that staff.)

That leaves a pretty reasonable chunk of Maraudon to take care of.  And to complete the dungeon and get the goodie bag, you do not even have to go after all of the bosses, you can just go straight for the princess.

We opted for a detour to Landslide, but then headed for Princess Theradras.

Stalking the princess again

The princess did not take us long, and soon we had our loot.

That went so fast, we queued up again.  And this time we got…

Sunken Temple!

Well, crap.  We were going to hold off on Sunken Temple until we had all the quests.  The experience from quests has been really good, so we don’t like to skip it.

Still, there we were.  We didn’t want to wait out the 15 minute re-try timer just to get it again, so we decided to give it a go.  At least this would be a good warm up.  All we had to do was kill the Shade of Eranikus.  However, you have to do a few things before you can do that.

And so began a blurry trip down memory lane.

We went and killed the mini-bosses on one level.

Then we went and activated the statues in order on another level. (Fortunately, Alpha Map has the order listed.)

Then we headed down to the very bottom level, killed the boss, and activated the altar which I don’t suppose we really needed to do, since it just shows you the order you need to activate the statues, and we’d already done that.  Score one for thoroughness I suppose.

Finally, we headed to what I will call the main level and began clearing everybody out.

Dealing with Morphaz

All the dragons and dragonkin were a boon for Azawak, who is the leather worker in our group.

We ended up with just Jammal’an the Prophet and Eranikus.  But Jammal’an was behind a force field and Eranikus wouldn’t give us the time of day.

Excuse me, Mr. Ghost Dragon? Can we kill you?

We ran around a bit, just to see if there was anything left in the area we needed to do, but all seemed quiet.  We did find the Elder Starsong who hangs out in Sunken Temple during the Lunar Festival.

Elder Starsong

Then Bigbutt spotted one of the mini-bosses still alive up in his balcony.  We missed one.

That meant finding our way back, which wasn’t so easy because Sunken Temple seems to respawn pretty quickly.  That means you can just go where everything is already dead and know you’re on the right track.

We fought our way to the last mini-boss, killed him, then jumped down from his balcony to the main floor and headed for Jammal’an.  Sure enough, the force field was down.  We knocked off his congregation, remembering to simply avoid the ghosts that sometimes appear, and were able to take him and his assistant down pretty readily.

Then it was out to the center again for the last two dragons before Eranikus.  Once they were dispatched, we were finally ready for the last fight.  As has often been the case, the final fight was pretty much a foregone conclusion.

Unlike our usual ending, we got an achievement AND a goodie bag.

The corpse of the shade of Eranikus

The experience was good.  We all ended up at least two levels higher than we were when the night started.  Now we just need to go grab all the quests and do it again!

Dungeon Finder – Becoming Part of the Problem

Dungeon Finder, so far, has been pretty successful for me.  I don’t use it a lot. I had been in maybe a dozen groups total with a couple of different characters in the mid-30s to the mid-60s.  But it has been fun.

I’ve healed with my resto spec’d druid.

I’ve tanked with my feral druid.

Heck, I’ve even healed with my feral druid.

That worked well enough except in that group that was me and four death knights.  Those in the DPS roles felt that they could tank too, so they all tried to be the tank off an on and I only had enough mana to really keep one tank alive.  (Somebody needs to take “death grip” away from certain death knights, I swear.  It does not belong in your rotation if you’re in the DPS role in an instance.)  And even then, the person in the actual tank role was good and we decided just to let the suckers die if they wanted to yank mobs off the tank until they figured out that wasn’t a good idea.

My overall impression has been of a nifty, quick way to get into a dungeon without requiring a lot of effort or much beyond very basic player skills.  Knowing what the tank, the healer, and the DPS are supposed to do seems generally to be enough.

Of course, I had yet to test this impression out at the highest levels.  The original and Outlands content does not, perhaps, represent the cutting edge of this tool and its use.

So on Saturday I decided to get out my main character of old, my retribution spec’d paladin Vikund, and give it a try.

Unfortunately, suffused with the sense of easiness that my lower level experiences gave me as well as the fear of long queue times for DPS characters, I decided to put him out in the healing role.

Now, I wasn’t totally unprepared for the role.  I had bought the ability to have a secondary talent spec.  I had at some distant past date gone to Elitist Jerks and read up on how to spend my talent points.  I had even stowed away some paladin healer gear… the stuff with +int and mana per 5 seconds stats on them, right?

So I was, perhaps, a step or two ahead of merely having my own hat that said “Healer” on it in lights so you can heal after dark when the mobs are much less likely to aggro on you.

And, to a certain extent, I figured I was probably getting in over my head.  So I went and downloaded the addon HealBot, tinkered with it for about 5 minutes, and figured I was good to go.

I brought up the dungeon finder and put myself in as healer for a Northrend heroic instance please.

And I was very soon granted my wish.

First up, The Occulus.

Erf.  Not exactly the first instance I wanted to take on in this role.  Not that I dislike the instance as much as some people do, but it is a bit different.

I got in, looked around, and noticed that the tank was already running around the first arc of the instance, collecting up mobs and down to about half health.  Well crap, 10 seconds in and I am already behind.

So I go trotting after him.  I caught up with him when he was at about 25% health and had most of the initial host of bad guys on him.  I planted myself and got off a Flash of Light and then a Holy Light as he continued running towards me.  As the Holy Light hit, I was greeted with the words “Changed Target” over the head of seemingly every mob he had in tow.  I’m the new target.  And they were all nice and close, so they turned and stomped me into jelly before turning back to the tank.

The tank died as well at just about the point when the DPS team shows up.  They died mostly of surprise I think.

One of them asked, “What happened?”

The tank replied to the group, “The fucking pally isn’t healing!” and left the group.  And then so did everybody else.

Okay, maybe I was not ready for heroics in prime time.  Obviously there was something more to this than just dropping a heal now and again.  I went repair and think.

I decide to back off a notch or two.  I brought up the dungeon finder again for a random Northrend instance, non-heroic please.

I quickly got an instance, the Halls of Lightning.  Okay, I’d been here.  We had done most of this with a 4 person group way back when.  The rest of the group was 77-78, almost all in green gear, while I was this level 80 almost all in purple.  “This should be easy!” I thought, “And they should all be in awe of me in any case, epic god that I am!”

I dropped Blessing of Kings on everybody and had a little drink while I waited for the fun to commence.

“i would like greater blessing of might pls” said the tank, which I had to admit was most polite thing I had heard so far.

I hit him with Blessing of Might because I didn’t have the reagent for greater on me.  I accidentally tossed it in the bank when I was clearing bags and swapping gear.  No big deal though, it is the same effect with just a different duration.  I had no problem keeping and eye on it and refreshing it more often.

The tank announced “how about a greater blessing”

So I started to type in pretty much what I wrote above.

However, I have to guess that my lack of immediate obedience to this request was yet another sin on my part, because in about as much time as it took him to type it out, he said, “well i don’t play with cheapass pallies” and left the group.

So much for politeness.

The DPS guys, who hadn’t said a word, left as well, and I was back where I started.

Dungeon finder, dungeon finder, find me an instance!  I asked for another one, no heroics please.

And there I was in the Trial of the Crusader.  Hrmm.

Trial of the Crusader isn’t heroic, but it is a step up from the average 5 person instance in Northrend.  Again, I’ve done this one and sort of know the drill.

When I arrived the group appeared to have already done the jousting part of the event and was waiting to jump in on the first three bosses.  I hit everybody but the tank with greater Blessing of Kings.  The tank got greater Blessing of Might.  I wasn’t going to sin in that regard again.  Of course, he then asked me for Kings.  Sure, whatever.  I drank up, got myself ready.

The tank ran out to engage and we began.

I put out one heal and had the second one coming but the tank was already dead.  But he wasn’t too dead to say “You suck!” almost right away on dying.  I left the group before the bad guys came to get me.  Afterward I wondered if I should have asked what happened to the last healer.

So up to that point my actions ruined instances for 12 strangers.  According to Recount, none of them were from my server, which no doubt explained the lack of follow-on tells about how badly I sucked.

I decide to put away my healing toys, turn off Healbot, get out my DPS gear, and go queue up with the rest of the DPS players.

One, non-heroic, DPS seating, if you please dungeon finder.

And, honestly, it did not take long for a spot to appear.

As soon as we arrived in the zone the tank announced that they were farming for a specific item and that was reserved for the healer and if we had a problem with that we could leave right now.

I groaned, thinking that here was going to be another social nightmare.

He linked the item in chat, and it was a caster trinket, something I was unlikely to bid on given my performance so far during the day.  I figured I would stay.

This was another healer/tank group that just needed DPS to fill out the party.  So while I might crow about being the top of the chart when it came to damage, both in absolute and DPS terms, the tank held aggro and the healer kept everybody alive.  I could have put out considerably less hurt and we would have been fine.

We went through the battles without issue.  Lots of purple items dropped, not one of which was of use to me, so I passed on most everything.  However the trinket they wanted did not drop.

So when we were done, the tank asked if we wanted to run it again.  By the time he asked that the other two DPS had left.  I said I would stick around for another.

We picked up two new DPS for the team and kicked off again.

I made my statement about me being able to put out less damage in the first group based on what happened in the second.  My DPS brethren weren’t as apt this time, (the tank was in second place when it came to damage) so fights took a bit longer.  Not that it changed much.  On the last fight there were a couple of deaths because we didn’t totally steamroll the black knight, but we still won the first time out.

Still no trinket for the healer, while I passed on everything again.  They wanted to go again, and I would have stayed, but we had run the instance twice in an hour and were on some sort of cool down.

I called it a day after that run.  Best to leave on a success I suppose.

Such was my experiences trying out dungeon finder at level 80.  Sorry to those whose instances I ruined.  I think I’m just going to have to work on the regular group to get them to come back from the horde side if I want to run heroics.

The Interchangablility of DPS

At the end of our Scarlet Monastery run Hurmoo was about 10% into level 33.  I decided that before we went into the next instance, I ought to get him caught up to the some of the team who were already 34.

So on Saturday I got him out and went looking for a level.

A Saturday afternoon in winter seemed like a bad time for uninterrupted solo questing on a PvP server.  At level 33, every place Hurmoo can go for quests is contested territory.

Battlegrounds now give experience, but at 33 your choices are Warsong Gulch and Arathi Basin, neither of which are on my favorites list.  And being at the lower end of the 30-39 bracket, you tend to spend a lot of time dead as people shoot for the easiest target to kill.

That left the dungeon finder.

Could I PUG for a level?

The answer turned out to be yes.

Three PUGs was all it took to get Hurmoo to 34.  And an illuminating 3 PUGs it was.

Being a healer, I did not expect to spend too much time in the queue, and I was right.  All three times I was picked up with in a minute or two of joining the queue.

All three times I ended up in the Library wing of Scarlet Monastery.

All three times I ended up with the same protection spec’d paladin as a tank.  He knew what he was doing which made things go smoothly.

All three times we blazed through almost without stop.  The practiced caution, target identification, and crowd control of the regular Saturday night group was nowhere at hand.  Pull, kill, pull, kill, pull, kill, eat or drink if required, repeat.  The main point of discipline was the tank insisting (quite rightly) that we stay back and he pull mobs to us, rather than rushing forward into a mix-up with possible adds.

Despite the haste, through all three runs nobody in the group died.  And only once was there a questionable need roll on an item, so nobody got kicked.

During all three runs, communication was at a minimum.  It was a greeting, a statement from the tank about how he’d hold aggro, an occasional “in” or “back” to bring the group forward or have them stay back while he pulled,  then a thanks for the group at the end.  I had configured and turned on voice chat in WoW just in case, but nobody mentioned it.

And all three times the DPS players were completely different.  We had hunter/shaman/rogue the first time, hunter/warrior/mage the second, and warlock/druid/paladin the third.  But the tank pulled, I healed, and the DPS damaged and it all went the same.  The only minor issue was that the warrior seemed to feel the need to pull aggro on himself every now and again, so I had to heal him once in a while.

The mix of DPS did not seem to matter.  As long as the tank held aggro and I kept the tank healed, the DPS could ply their trade however they liked.

The whole thing ran rather like Syncaine suggested in a recent post, and all in about the span of 90 minutes.

In the Library Again

And, this brings us to another proposition being discussed of late.  Should tanks and healers reap the greater reward due to their position in a group or not?

Hurmoo certainly did not reap much as part of these runs.  At least not in the instances.  But the nice little treat bag you get for doing a random dungeon provided him with some nice blue upgrades.

So Hurmoo got his level, got some goodies, and had some fun using the dungeon finder.  What’s not to love?

2 Hunters, 2 Strangers, and a Bear

I have been a bit skeptical about the who Dungeon Finder thing that got introduced with WoW patch 3.3.

For starters, I have yet to see any sort of “Looking for Group” tool that seemed workable to me.  They all end up looking like complicated solutions that do not address the basic problem, which is that we’re all suspicious of strangers and cannot really stand each other in general.  Or maybe that is just me.

An early LFG tool prototype

Anyway, for me, there has always been the air of “not joining any club that would have me as a member” about them.

And then there is the whole “too damn convenient by half” aspect of being magically transported to a dungeon, avoiding all that travel and bother.  And this was confirmed by experimentation with the Saturday night instance group.

We found that we could form up our group of five, use the dungeon finder, pick where ever we wanted to go (within an acceptable level range) and be teleported there without any risk.

Here I was worried about travel to Gnomer the other week when it turned out we can be whisked straight to Stormwind Stockades, five horde players on a PvP server, without getting a hair out of place.

So I can see where some people are coming from with their dire predictions of the Guild Wars-ification and death of non-instanced Azeroth.

Well, I certainly wasn’t going to be party to any of that.  I like the fact that the world has size and presence.  I have been enjoying running around “classic” Azeroth both as a horde player on Lightninghoof as well as with some of my alts that are still working their way to the expansions.

And so it was on Sunday with my daughter, my mom, and myself all online and running around.  Our characters are on the cusp of passing through the dark portal and hitting the Outlands.  In fact, I am holding things up a bit.  Their hunters are both ready or a fraction of a level from being ready while my druid is lagging behind.

We were on and talking about what to do when my mom asked if we couldn’t do an instance together.  She reads the blog (Hi mom!) and has seen all the instances I’ve been through with the regular group and is keen to experience a bit of that herself.

Stuck in my old ways, I started doing the mental calculation about what the three of us might be able to handle.  I started saying that maybe we could manage something well below our level since we lacked a real healer.  Something where we would be facing all grey mobs.

Then my daughter, in the tone of voice that expresses exasperation with the parental generation said, “Dad, just use the dungeon finder.”


Well, why not.  I pulled up the dungeon finder window.

Then I got us all in a group and put us in the queue, flagged as three damage dealers, two hunters and a feral druid, ready to take on a random classic dungeon.

After a bit of waiting, I thought better of that.  I backed us out and change us to a tank and two damage dealers.

Choosing to be the tank

While I have not played my feral druid in bear form for more than a few minutes (I had all of two skills on the action bar for the bear) I figured that DPS is common, but that tanks and healers are rare, so we might be waiting a long time if we needed to fill both of those slots.

With that small change we were offered a dungeon within a minute.  Go us!

Our group was a 58 hunter, a 57 hunter, a 56 druid acting as the tank, an 53 paladin as  the third DPS, and a 52 druid coming in as the healer.

So there I was busily pulling bear form skills onto the action bar while trying to figure out what they all do, but feeling okay because what are the odds that we’ll draw an instance I’ve never even set foot into?

And our instance: Dire Maul East.

If you go back to the post Three Years of the Instance Group, you’ll see there are but five standard instances we left undone.  Dire Maul East is one of them.  (Dire Maul North is another.)

So here we go, I am the group leader, the tank, and in an instance I have never before entered and cannot recall the story behind.  Something about trees I am going to guess, given the initial bad guys.

What could go wrong?  I’ll figure out tanking and how likely is it for me to get a non-linear instance in WoW?

Dire Maul East Layout

Hrmm… not so linear I guess.  It is a good thing I had Alpha Map loaded or I would have been completely lost.

And the whole thing started linear.  Sort of.  We started killing things in any case..

My mother, daughter, and I were all on Skype together, so we were talking.  And it was a good thing too.  It turned out my daughter had been here before, though had never completed the instance.  So she pointed me in the right direction for a while.

Meanwhile I tried to educate her a bit on group etiquette and  best practices.  Things like not opening up on mobs until it looks like I have a bit of aggro established and not running way out in front of the rest of the group.

We wound around the instance, going this way and that, until we had made our way to just about all of the bosses.  We had done pretty well too, with only one death up to that point.  It helped that the three of us were a bit over level.  I’m glad we didn’t pull Statholme or Scholomance.

Anyway, we killed bosses, chased the imp, and were wandering around trying to figure out how to get down to the last boss.  There is a courtyard below the area where you enter and in our meandering about the instance, we didn’t run across a way to get down there.

So as we hemmed and hawed about if there might be a safe place to land if we jumped, my daughter lept down, leaving us to follow her in.

We had our second death due to a badly placed landing, but managed to clear off all of the surrounding mobs and get to the center of the courtyard where you talking to an ancient protector who literally walks over and kicks down the door keeping you from getting to the final boss.

The door down, our was was pretty much clear to Alzzin the Wildshaper.  Just a couple or trash mobs in the way and we stood before the last guy.  I let everybody get back their mana, did a /readycheck, and when everybody clicked “yes,” in we went.

Victory in Dire Maul East

The fight went our way.  We made it.  I managed to play the tank and survive.  Having a pair of beast mastery spec’d hunters and a paladin for DPS meant that off-tanking was had lots of options.  And we all ended up with the experience, extra cash, and the goodie bag for doing a random dungeon, which tossed us all a nice blue item.

I’m still not totally convinced the dungeon finder is the best thing ever, but it certainly has its place when you have a partial group and want to do the dungeon crawl thing.