Tag Archives: Warlords of Draenor

Fine, You Can Fly in Draenor, But Only AFTER You Hit an Arbitrary Content Threshold!

I nearly did a spit-take when I saw this announcement.

Blizzard has responded… or changed its mind… or caved in to the mob… or stuck to its principles… or screwed over one group for another… or completely failed to understand the issue at hand… pick whichever option fits your personal narrative… and announced that players will be allowed to fly in Draenor after all.

This all started a couple weeks back when Blizzard announced that they were not going to enable flying in Draenor.  The top level reasoning was:

Having looked at how flying has played out in the old world in the last couple of expansions, we realized that while we were doing it out of this ingrained habit after we introduced flying in The Burning Crusade, it actually detracted from gameplay in a whole lot of ways

Basically, flying meant that people ended up not playing the game the way Blizzard wanted.

Flying lets you bypass all our hard work! How can you not see that?

Flying lets you bypass all our hard work! How can you not see that? Look at this terrain!

You can put whatever other spin you want on it, but that really seems to me to be the essential point.  They designed all this content assuming you’d be on the ground, but when you can fly, you can bypass it all.

I love when I can fly by the form hasn't drawn yet...

Sometimes I bypass having a flying mount or flight form altogether and just fly!

For me, the great unanswered question in all of this remains how much control over their game should a developer be allowed, whether or not the dev’s view of how their game should be played should trump the player’s view, whether MMO studios be dictating a “right way” to play and should players accept that or not?  Maybe that should be a question for Blaugust, when we’re all struggling to post for 31 days straight.

Anyway, that aside, Blizzard has come up with what feels to me very much like a “have your cake and eat it” solution to the rage about flying.  Or maybe it is a good compromise.  It is hard for me to tell at this point.  However yeah, you’ll be able to fly in Draenor, but first these things you must achieve, ‘ere the freedom of the sky ye see!

When you have achieved…

…and collected 100 treasures in Draenor, AND raised three Tanaan Jungle (a new area coming with the 6.2 update) reputations to Revered (I bet it was exalted in the first pass), then and only then will you be granted the Draenor Pathfinder meta achievement which will reward the Soaring Skyterror mount and unlock flying in Draenor on your account for all your characters at or above level 90… once they patch that in.

The money quote for this:

We believe this strikes the right balance between ensuring ground-based content lives up to its full potential, while providing players who’ve already fully experienced Draenor’s outdoor world extra freedom to “break the rules.” This also provides a general blueprint going forward for content to come. Players will explore new and undiscovered lands from the ground, and then once they’ve fully mastered those environments—a notion that continues to evolve with each new expansion—they can take to the skies and experience the world from a new vantage point.

And I can guess the results of this now.  A large group will be quietly happy and we’ll never hear from them again.  But they were probably quiet this whole time anyway.

Meanwhile, those who very much oppose flying will feel betrayed because content bypassing and dropping in on mobs from above and all the other complaints will be enabled on alts the moment they hit Draenor.  At least back in Pandaria every character had to hit level cap before getting to fly.

And those who have been demanding the ability to fly… well, it would be hard not get the sense that they want to fly so they can do all the things now required to get flying by… well… just flying.  If you’ve already done all that, flying doesn’t help you out as much.  I cannot imagine that unbridled happiness will ensue as this group expected the Pandaria deal, just get to level cap and part with some gold and let me fly dammit!

But somehow the world will keep spinning and the sun will still come up tomorrow.

At least that is how I see it… and I don’t even have any of those achievements.  That would require me to leave my garrison… or log in, which has been getting harder of late.

But others are talking about the great flying compromise of 2015 as well.

Fear of Flying

In one of those “note the date, something big was said” moments, Blizzard has announced… through a proxy at least, if not via an official press release… that they likely won’t allow flying mounts in Draenor… or maybe in any future expansion.  You can read about it over at Polygon, where the fateful words came as part of an interview.  I think this sums up the justification.

Having looked at how flying has played out in the old world in the last couple of expansions, we realized that while we were doing it out of this ingrained habit after we introduced flying in The Burning Crusade, it actually detracted from gameplay in a whole lot of ways

There is a bit of irony in that, seeing that Outland, an alternate timeline Draenor, was the first place to feature flying mounts, but Draenor will be denied them.  Flying mounts have been a thing in WoW since 2007.  But the interview goes into all the thing people tend to bring up as the downside of flying mounts.

Certainly, flying has been a contentious thing in WoW.  And Blizzard has no doubt been aware of the trade off that flying brings with it since The Burning Crusade.

Back then you only got to spend what seemed like a ton of gold on a skill and a flying mount… back when buying the mount was the expensive bit… when you hit the level cap.  At that point you got to fly and there was some content that required flying to access.

Then came Wrath of the Lich King, and there was much moaning because flying went away the moment you hit Northrend, at least until you got to level… 77? 78? not quite the level cap… at which point you could train Cold Weather Flying and move into some of the content that required a flying mount.  That was a hint at the problems to come, as once somebody has something, it is a hard task to take it away.

Cataclysm gave us flying from the first moment and pretty much proved to me that flying had its problems.  Aside from Vashj’ir, which was under water (though you could make the case that your under water mount was effectively a flying mount), you had access to your flying mounts in all of the new zones, which took much of the effort out of them.  There were a few points where you needed flying, but for the most part flying felt like a pass to flit past any opposition to get to a quest objective.  It basically sped up leveling, something I am not sure WoW really needed.

Blizzard pulled back from that with Mists of Pandaria, going back to the model of allowing flying mounts only at level cap.  There was even a bit of content that required a flying mount, though nothing like the level of content in Outland or Northrend.  But that led us back to the cycle of losing flying with the next expansion again, and Blizzard hemmed and hawed about flying in Warlords of Draenor.  There was a promise to look into flying, an assumption that we would get flying, but no concrete statement that it would be so.

And now we have the word… or perhaps it is just a trial balloon that Blizzard can deny was the official line if the rage grows too strong.

Personally, I get what is being said when it comes flying.  It does make the world feel smaller.  It does trivialize travel.  It does let players bypass all that annoying “content” to go straight their objective.  It does make an already too fast and too convenient game feel even faster and more convenient.  Exploration ceases to be a thing… there being little or no effort in exploring on a flying mount… and some types of adventures just don’t happen when you can fly.

It is just a shame that flying is so much damn fun.  Here is what I wrote back when I got my first flying mount in WoW.

Flying… it is good enough that it feels like cheating.

Yeah it does.  And I never get tired of it, especially when it comes to druid flight form.  I could easily spend an idle hour amusing myself with my druid just jumping off of tall buildings and then going into flight form as I fell.

Patience got me Flight

Druid just floating above the world…

Once you have a druid with flight form, even flying mounts feel a bit awkward.

I love when I can fly by the form hasn't drawn yet...

I love when I can fly and the flight form hasn’t drawn yet…

And, like any really good, empowering cheat, it is very tough to let go once you have used it once.  I never think, “Oh, I should just ride or walk, flying is too easy.”  I just fly.  It would take a serious effort of will to walk or ride when flying was available.

So I can see why people are upset at the even the suggestion that we might not get to swan about on flying mounts everywhere in Azeroth.  We’ve all had that bit of heroin in our veins by now, and it is a tough habit to break.

But I also can’t help but see something of a parallel between how a few people are responding to this and how some botters responded to their bans recently; petulance and declarations and speaking for the community as a whole along with threats to never give Blizzards another nickel.  The usual stuff.

I just can’t get all that worked up about it myself.  If I could press a button and turn on flying in Draenor, I probably would.  But I also have a bit of a fatalistic outlook when it comes to video games.  I try to look at things like this as obstacles to conquer as opposed to things that I should spend much time pouting/raging about.

And, coming of age with video games when I did, I also seem to give developers a lot of leeway in shaping their game to be played the way they want it to be played, as opposed to the way the players think it should be played.  That is one of the great philosophical questions of our age, the relative importance of developer vision versus player desire, and one that gets deftly avoided time and again when people, including myself, write about games.

That doesn’t mean I don’t bitch and moan about some decisions, or count the cost of a particular change… that’s great fun at times… or occasionally think I am smarter than the devs on a given issue, but you’ll note that I mostly focus on the games I keep playing anyway.  It is more a matter of my wanting to talk about games than any desire to impose my will.  Just last week I took the time to note that the harsh death penalty of TorilMUD was being relaxed.  I had suffered from that harsh penalty more than a few times in the past, but always considered it to be part of the game and altered my play style to accommodate it.  Now that has changed, and likely the game itself will change because of it… though given the low population of TorilMUD these days the range of the impact likely won’t be great.

Anyway, there is a mob howling about flying.  I won’t be upset if Blizzard holds to their current vision for flying mounts.  I think Blizzard has some legitimate points, ones that have been brought up time and again.  But if the heat is too much for Blizzard and they decide that putting the toothpaste back in the tube is beyond their means, I’ll be riding around in the air on my flying mount like everybody else.

Other bloggers looking at the whole flying mount thing:


Draenor Tourism Season is Over, WoW Back Down to 7.1 Million Subscribers

Blizzard Entertainment had the largest Q1 online player community in its history, up a double digit percentage year over year despite no major launches in the quarter. As expected and consistent with our experience following prior expansions, we saw a decline in the World of Warcraft subscriber number. Subscribers ended the quarter at 7.1 million. World of Warcraft’s revenue performance at constant FX has been more stable, driven by continued strong uptake on value added services, and price increases in select regions, which partially offset subscriber declines, particularly in the East. World of Warcraft remains the No.1 subscription-based MMORPG in the world.

Activision-Blizzard Earnings Report for Q1 2015

The East is always letting World of Warcraft down.  What is it they want over there?

Well, we knew subscriptions would go up when Warlords of Draenor shipped, though perhaps how early the number went up was a bit of a surprise.  And it lasted through the end of 2014 as expected.  The real question was how long the bad guys in Draenor could hold the 10 million subscriber number.

Chieftain Cheat Sheet

How can you leave these guys?

The answer is, apparently, less than six months.

Not that 7.1 million subscribers is anything to balk at.  That is still a player base any four current MMOs could divide amongst themselves and each feel like a huge success.  (And that same subscriber drop would kill any competitor.)  But this is World of Warcraft and forever will that “more than 12 million” number dominate its destiny.

Of course, the money is still coming in hand over fist, though the strong dollar looks like it will be an issue.

Given the weakening of foreign currencies versus the U.S. dollar, the company’s 2015 international revenues and earnings are expected to be translated at lower rates than in 2014. This impacts the company’s 2015 outlook as compared to 2014 actual results given approximately 50% of the company’s revenues, and a higher percentage of profits, are generated outside the U.S.

So you have to have to wonder if the game will continue its “expansion about every two years” trajectory as subscribers bleed off during the between times.  I won’t even say “the dead period” as there still seems to be a lot to do and more is coming up.  But for some people, the leveling game is all she wrote, and those were a quick ten levels.

The report mentioned other irons that Blizzard has in the fire.

Blizzard's slide from the deck

Blizzard’s slide from the deck

There was also a bit in there specifically about the WoW Token being launched.  Though that might keep some gold-rich subscribers in the game longer, it isn’t any sort of revenue machine like the base subscription.

So are we going to see an expansion sooner this time around?  Or will there just be more content released before the next box shows up?

Another Rush to Draenor

After our runs through Skyreach the previous week we were, as a group, off the leash and headed to level 100 in order to get access to the final four normal mode dungeons in Draenor.  And once I turned Tistann’s experience back on and started using him for pet battle dailies along with catching up with some of the quests in Spires of Arak, I found his levels quickly mounting.  He is already into 99 with what does not feel like all that much effort.

So I decided to slow him down a bit.  I didn’t want to be first to 100 necessarily, and what would the point be getting there when others in the group are still working on hitting 98.

It was time to bring out another character.

I guess I could have worked on all of the garrison related quests and building related things, but I do like the leveling game in WoW and always seem to have a character somewhere I am working on.  So it was more a question of which one I should return to this time around.  I have been spending some time now and again with my Orc hunter.  But, in looking down the list, I decided to go with my other druid on Eldre’Thalas.

For reasons unclear to even me I ended up with two night elf druids on the same server.  They used to even have the same spec and professions.  The second druid, Selirus (one of those name generator names that I took before ever trying to pronounce aloud) was actually the senior of the two, but somewhere fell by the wayside as Alioto moved ahead.

While Alioto sits at level 100, Sel was just level 83, somewhere in the Cataclysm content, close enough to Draenor that I could get that sixth garrison soon enough, but still with some work to do.  His gear was a bit of a mess, having tried to be both feral and resto by turns, so the first thing I did was decide to go with healing and concentrate on just that.  If nothing else, when he catches up with the rest of the group, that would give us a secondary healer option so Skronk isn’t always “it” for instances.

Fortunately, after splurging on heirloom gear over the years, I had a selection of items for him to wear for his role.

Restoration Druid Heirlooms

Restoration Druid Heirlooms

That would keep me outfitted until 90, when the Draenor gravy train of gear would take over.  With crafted items, mission and quest rewards, and things that pop up as drops, I have yet to miss heirlooms past level 90.

Leveling as a healer means either slogging through quest content in a spec that doesn’t do much damage or doing random dungeons.  And what better way to get back up to speed on druid healing than jumping into the mixed bad that is Dungeon Finder groups!

I downloaded the Healium addon, threw some healing skills on my bar (I nearly found them all!), and queued up to see how bad it could be.

The first group was rough.  They were in Stonecore and their healer had just dumped the group after the second boss for reasons that became very clear very quickly.  As a whole, the tank and the DPS seemed to be operating on the “everybody pull a mob and tank it, the healer will sort it out” philosophy of instance running.  Also, run run run and grab the next mobs even when the healer is trying to ress after the last batch.

There were deaths.  But there were no wipes on my watch.  I quickly went back to my baseline of putting lifebloom on the tank and keeping him alive, then me, and then any DPS way out in distant third position.  We managed to make it through and finish up, and I felt no compunction about hitting need on drops from the final boss.

After that though, I hit a good streak.  I ran with four groups all of whom seemed t have their act together, including one team in Grim Batol that was so in tune that we had what must have been the most efficient run ever.  Everybody knew the instance and nobody stood in the fire.

Having a full blue bar, a pile of heirlooms, being able to do the quests with each of the instances, and getting the bonus experience from doing randoms, I saw my levels mount quickly.  After Grim Batol Selirus popped to level 86 and was out of Cataclysm and into Mists of Pandaria.

I was wondering how that was going to work out.  I thought at one point you actually had to hit the right quest line to be able to open up dungeons in Pandaria… or at least get onto the ground in the expansions.  But from my perch in Stormwind I was able to queue up and quickly found myself in Stormstout Brewery.

The brewery awaits

The monkeys awaits

The first run in Pandaria was a good one, with only one death when our rogue ran ahead.

My final instance of the evening wasn’t so smooth.  I was dropped into a group at the start of the Temple of the Jade serpent, which is an easy enough instance.  We did it as a four player group at level back in the day.  And things were about 80% fine.  As a healer, I just happened to have one problem child, a dwarf paladin would just had to stand in the gunk like he had a death wish.  Up to and back from the first boss, there is just one simple rule, don’t stand in the water or you will die.

He wasn’t obnoxious or rude or anything, he just wouldn’t listen to my suggestions that he not stand in stuff and that he pay attention to his health bar.  He never said a word and eventually I just stopped healing him simply to get his inevitable death out of the way quickly.  Checking the Recount numbers, nobody else was healing him, nor did he use his lay hands ability or anything.  I didn’t feel bad about that, though in hindsight maybe I shouldn’t have stopped ressing him, instead telling him to release and then shouting “Run, fatboy, run!” to encourage him to catch up on his own.

Alright, I didn’t shout that, but I did leaving the resses to his guild mate who was also in the group.  If only he could have explained how to not stand in things while casting.

Anyway, everything aside from my little death eating pally pal was fine on that run, as it tends to be on most Dungeon Finder runs in my experience.  Out of six runs in one evening, four were good to excellent, and the other two were only slightly annoying.  But the negatives hang in your mind, so I can barely recall anything from a couple of the good runs while I am sure I will remember that pally for a long time to come.

All of which left me on the edge of hitting 87.  At that point I did the intro quests for Pandaria so that I would at least have access to the continent via the portal in Stormwind.  At this rate Selirus will be in Draenor and I will have that sixth garrison to tend this weekend.

Falling off of Skyreach

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

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

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

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

I fucking love summoning!!!

I fucking love summoning!!!

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

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

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

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

Eying Ranjit

Eying Ranjit

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

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

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

Ranjit, dust in the wind now

Ranjit, dust in the wind now

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

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

Amongst the beams of light

Amongst the beams of light

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

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

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

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

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

The whirl of wind

The whirl of wind

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

Leap of Faith

Leap of Faith – it has its uses

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

Once you get here it is easy

Once you get here it is easy

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

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

Facing the high sage at last

Facing the high sage at last

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

During the fight

During the fight

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

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

Carried way over the edge...

Carried way over the edge…

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

And there I go!

And there I go!

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

At the end of Skyreach

At the end of Skyreach

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

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

Left Hanging after Auchindoun

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


Crazy? Indeed!

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

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

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

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

Busy in Auchindoun

Busy in Auchindoun

Our party line up was

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

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

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

The instance is something of a horseshoe in shape.

Auchindoun map

Auchindoun map

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

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

Dead Azzakel and his skin condition

Dead Azzakel and his skin condition

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

Eying the eventual goal

Eying the eventual goal

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

It is very pink in the middle of Auchindoun

It is very pink in the middle of Auchindoun

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

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

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

Like this big mook

Like this big mook

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

The cockiness might end there.

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

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

Meanwhile, Back in Azeroth

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

The Draenor Contestants

My five garrison characters, pre-Draenor

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

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

But occasionally I do get out and do things.

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

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

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

Flushing out all the NPCs in the Iron Docks

Flushing out all the NPCs in the Iron Docks

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tistann with the big gun and the big pet

Tistann with the big gun and the big pet

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

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

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

The instance group in the Iron Docks

The instance group in the Iron Docks

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Vikund in his garrison

Vikund in his garrison

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