Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Epic PUG

Setting: Halls of Lightning (normal verison)
Group: Tank - Me
3 DPS - Guildees
Healer - PUG Paladin

We zone in and the pugpally goes
"wow, an 80 tank! Whoa, three 80s (including me)! This is going to be a good run."

First couple trash pulls go fine, I don't think I even required healing. I was sitting at around 44,000 hp for that run and the death strikes were healing just about as much damage as the trash mobs were doing to me.

First boss pull

I'm thinking.... Hmm.. taking a lot of damage here wonder why? Health drops lower.... Activate Vampiric blood and a rune tap to give me a 40% heal and I'm still losing health. Fine.. Mark of blood. Ug. Just not enough. WTF? I died? How did I die?

DPS 1 dead
DPS 2 dead
DPS 3 dead

Pugpally immunity bubbled and ran like a bitch for the door.

Pugpally "Oh, sorry, was AFK"

At this point the fail is so epic I can't help but laugh - and hard.

We regroup and down the boss. At which point the pugpally suggesting killing more trash mobs for the "crzy good xp" [he really did type crzy. seriously, is one more letter that much harder to type?]

I don't realy care to spend more time in there than we have to so I plow ahead. Everything goes smoothly until the second boss. Fight proceeds as normal.

Golems are running around and off to the corner of my screen I see the pugpally getting awfuly close to the pack of trash mobs. I'm thinking hmm.. maybe he's just running from the golems. Pugpally throws a heal and scoots closer to the trash.



Dead pugpally.

Happy tank.

...little bastard was going to try to force his way into more xp.

Well you can't get xp when you're dead now, can ya? Jerk.

The rest of the run was him repeatedly asking to run another dungeon because "we have such a geared out tank."

As soon as lokken dropped I left the group shortly followed by the rest of the guildees. One, however, told me pugpally had written:

"... but where are you going?"

Did I feel a twinge on the old heart strings? Maybe a little. Do I regret it? No.... My repair bills for dying just ONCE is getting absurdly expensive with the plate epics I have. We're talking 15 gold just about every time I die.


Monday, December 28, 2009

Slogging it Through

When Quintalan hit 75 the other day, I took some gear out of storage that Murtaugh's Kriegtrommel had made for me ages ago. (Okay, I took out only half, as the other half was for level 76.) I spent some time equipping my Holy Spec with the gear, and then proceeded to start cleaning out the vault of some old equipment.

I kept a few items that had some special significance to me -the old Sindorei Warblade, Ravager, and some others- but I was in a house cleaning mode. Naturally, I need to do this with my part of the Guild bank, but I've already cursed myself a couple of times for having already burned some gems needed for the Jewelcrafting dailies from Dalaran and I had to spend extra time prospecting for them. Yeah, the old stuff -the Tigerseye and whatnot- that can go, but the oddball items I'm keeping hold of. In this game the oddest stuff shows up as an ingredient in some of these recipes, and I'm not going back to the Arathi Highlands just for an item or two. (Yeah, I know about the auction house, but I've already gone through that in my final Jewelcrafting push to get to 300, and I'm not inclined to spend a boatload of gold again. Painful, that was.)

Going through all of that stuff got me to thinking about where Quintalan has been in the journey, and what he did to get there.

I have a regular group night on Thursdays. It works out well for me as my wife is a big Survivor fan; she gets to watch her show while I spend some time online. That said, at least 85% -probably around 90%- of my leveling has been achieved by solo quests outside of the weekly session. With a few exceptions, I've even completed the non-dungeon group quests solo. Some of them (ol' Knucklerot and Luzran come to mind) I waited on until the quest was comfortably green to handle, but a lot of others I went in and just bashed it until I made it through. I could do this as a Paladin; doing it as a Priest is a bit dicier at the lower levels, I've discovered.

All of this solo questing has etched itself across the documents I've kept -the Horde Trauma Certificate is one example- as well as the occasional bonus item that was mailed to me a couple of days after. Sure, reputation is another indicator of how often you've been questing vs. instance hopping, but equally so is how it impacts your gear. With the exception of the gear that Murtaugh had made or gave to me (including sets of Fel Iron and Saronite gear as well as my current two-handed weapon), some items from a guy I ran into in Desolace, and a couple of items I bought at auction, everything else has been a pickup from somewhere.

Since my leveling has been solo heavy, my gear is a mix of green and blue. The Holy spec has the most blue right now, as the Saronite gear was made for a Holy Spec. The Retribution spec is still mainly green and in a constant state of flux as I pick up new drops and swap things out. I used to weigh whether the marginal increase in stats was better than the amount of gold I could get at auction, but once the vendor trash started being worth more than a gold coin I stopped worrying and would just equip as necessary. (You have to love Northrend for that.)

If you look closely at what I've got on, you can guess where I got a lot of the items. (Worg Slayer's Ring? Must be Grizzly Hills. Shoveltusk Pendant? You've been seen in the Borean Tundra having some beers with young Hellscream. Bladefists' Breath? Isn't that from Hellfire? Hmm... I need to replace that.) WoW doesn't have scars on the characters, but it does have this.

I can't say I've had a lot of players comment on my gear much. When I do get some comments, it's usually about the weapon attached to Quintalan's back. I received more comments about the Sindorei Warblade than anything else I've carried around, mostly along the lines of "Wow, what a kick ass blade! Where did you get that?"

Most of the rest of the comments I've gotten from other players I've encountered are more akin to wonderment that I've gotten so far with all of that green gear. "You should have at least only blue stuff by now," one Hunter told me when we were waiting for an 80th level Alliance character to evacuate the area we were farming. Another Hunter told me I need to get my gear up so I can go raiding and get the really sweet gear.

I just sort of shrug at those comments. I'm not concerned about the patchwork nature of the gear; it's Quintalan's story written there for everyone to see. Even after 75 levels, I'm enjoying the ride and how the quest chains pull together the overarching tale. If my gear isn't up to a raiding spec, that's fine with me; I don't raid anyway. If the luck goes my way in an instance, so be it; if not, well, there's always beers back at the inn later. Outside of the regular weekly session, I don't do instances either; I'm too wrapped up in the story. Since I don't do instances much, it follows that I don't have a lot of blue gear.

My job is simple: keep myself and anybody else alive in spite of best efforts otherwise. If it were possible to see, Quintalan's gear is probably covered in dried blood of both my enemies and my friends, and after a while that's all that matters, not whether its green, blue or purple. Just bring 'em back alive, baby.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Not Again

Okay, I'm not an expert at PvP but I'm getting better. While gear is a significant determining factor in who wins a PvP fight, a decent amount of PvP is luck and who got the drop on whom.

That said, how the hell did that Priest get the drop on me, and what the hell is in his arsenal that kept me from whacking him before I could close?

I really need to get my own Priest out a bit more often and level him more if they can do THAT in Shadow spec in the 70s.


Oh, and Happy Holidays.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Role Changing

I’ve reached the level where I get to be the cavalry should some of my fellow Hordies end up in trouble in the non-Northrend areas. It’s a strange feeling, turning from the hunted into the hunter, but satisfying in that I get to help my side in some small ways.

A couple of weeks ago when I was farming Fel Iron in Hellfire Peninsula I came across a couple of Horde players working on the quest chain in Fallen Sky Ridge. They were in their low-mid 60’s –a Death Knight and a Mage, while a Warlock was operating independently nearby- and seemed to be doing well enough for themselves from what I could see from my vantage point above. I’d turned away toward the deposit of Fel Iron nearby when they were jumped by an Alliance player a couple of levels higher than they were. “Oh no you don’t,” I grumbled to myself as I swooped in.

The Horde players –caught between a Raging Colossus and an Alliance player- concentrated on the Alliance player first. By the time I landed they’d defeated the Alliance guy –a Death Knight, I believe- but they were too weak to overcome the now multiple Colossi closing on them. The Warlock was in desperate straits and tried running away with a Colossus close on her heels. I may have been too late to help out with the Alliance guy, but I could do something about the Colossi.

I got the Colossus to aggro on me and cut it down to size –amazing what six extra levels can do for you- and went to check on the others. They were making do, but with no healer among them the situation was deteriorating rapidly. I switched into party healer mode and zapped them back up to strength while they finished off the remaining Colossus.

It was at that point when an 80th level Alliance player swooped in.

“This is so not fair,” I thought as I steeled myself for sure destruction.

The Human Mage looked me over, took the Fel Iron I’d been eyeing, and left.

I shook my head and made sure the Horde players were at full strength before I bugged out. The Warlock split, leaving the Mage and Death Knight, but they seemed okay and thanked me for the help. I’d mounted and hadn’t gotten far, however, before I realized that the Horde players weren’t paying too close attention to that Fel Reaver that had wandered dangerously nearby.

I could see the train wreck coming, so I hung around.

Sure enough, in the middle of fighting a Colossus, the Reaver aggroed on them and, well, that was that.

I may have been 71st level at the time, but I didn’t have the tank spec or the gear to handle one of those guys on my own. I knew better than to get involved.

A minute later, the Reaver moved far enough away for me to resurrect the two players.

I believe one of them may have said “Oops” before thanking me –again.

Just another day in Outland…

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

One Small Fact

Never stand in front of a dragon.

(In my defense, I'll say that -as a lefty- my first inclination when running away from an AoE attack is to turn left. That just happened to be the wrong turn at the time.)

Sunday, December 20, 2009

On Noobs and Heirlooms

There are several items that have been kicking around in my head since I last wrote about things other than WoW farming. (Sounds like a non-sequitur, doesn’t it?) I’ll try to cover them all over the course of the next few posts, so don’t be alarmed if I suddenly start spamming the blog.

Having had my share of run-ins with Alliance players, I’m starting to wonder about the need for heirloom weapons/equipment. For longtime players, it’s a tremendous boon: you don’t have to constantly upgrade your equipment, you start out with equipment that gives you a tremendous advantage over other players, and you can concentrate on quicker leveling. The first and third items are great if you’re a power leveler, but it’s that second item that has me bothered.

Sure, you can zip through those lower levels if you’ve got all blue equipment (which is what heirloom equipment is -at minimum- for any particular level, anyway), but it’s just about at the point of being unbalancing in PvP combat. I’m not talking about arenas or team combat, but rather PvP combat out in the real world. Having been ganked (or Tarren Milled for you Horde players out there) enough times by other players several levels lower than my own in a straight up fight, you start to wonder about how much of an advantage the heirloom equipment gives over the people who are new to the game. I can understand someone who gets in a guild and gets a bunch of blue and green equipment that the other players don’t need, but when a Warrior 7-8 levels lower than your Warrior beats the snot out of you and you follow the standard hit procedure, there’s something else at work here.

This sort of suspicion really didn’t crystallize until I went through a couple of dungeons with Murtaugh. At the time, he was using his 80th level Orcish Death Knight, Kriegtrommel. One Thursday night of fighting, things look normal. Then, the next Thursday night, ol’ Krieg was bashing heads left and right to the point where he –as the tank- was doing most of the damage. (DPS? What DPS?) I told him at one point like I was back to being in the 30’s just tagging along for the ride.

What was different?

Sure, there are a lot of factors at work: the dungeon involved, group dynamics, etc., but for my money it was the time he spent on the weekend in between getting the best tanking gear possible.

Then my mind made the logical jump: if an 80th level character benefits this much from improved gear, imagine what would happen to a low level character if they had access to an equivalent heavy load of gear in the form of heirloom equipment.

Maybe at high levels the nature of heirloom stuff is dwarfed by the epic level items, but at those critical 10-40 levels they become a potentially unbalancing effect in the game. When you size up somebody in PvP you have a reasonable expectation based on level whether you can beat them or not. I’ve done it, I’ve seen others do it, and even Alliance players in their mid-upper 60’s gave me a wide berth when I was farming Fel Iron at 71. (The aerial view that a flying mount gives is invaluable for that observation, particularly if you’re not a Hunter.) However, when you’ve got gear that disrupts that expectation, that 32nd level Paladin your 39th level Hunter might be waiting to feast on could actually be tricked out and ready to turn the tables.

Perhaps this FUD campaign is what Blizzard had in mind when they created heirloom gear. I often got the feeling that the concept was much simpler: wouldn't it be cool to bequeath some gear to your new characters? To the noob, however, you can get the feeling that you’re doing something wrong by working your way through the system without the benefit of a “get out of jail free” card. After all, what priest or mage wouldn’t want a Grand Staff of Jordan to help them through those first 40 levels or more?

The D&D player in me is coming to the fore here, as one of the great issues that affect DMs when they run a PnP RPG campaign is to make sure the game is balanced for the players. If the DM lets that +5 Holy Avenger slip into the hands of a 4th or 5th level Paladin, the campaign goes all out of whack. The lucky player has a much easier time fighting monsters, while the rest of the group is stuck back where they're supposed to be. The situation becomes lose-lose ("Hey, why can't I have one of those?" or "Wow, this is way too easy!"), and the DM has to correct this problem before resentments and boredom threaten to destroy the group. I get the feeling that we're seeing a similar situation occurring in WoW with the introduction of these heirloom items.

Now, if heirloom gear could be taken from a defeated character in combat, that would be something. I was originally going to suggest one of any gear, but something special -like heirloom gear- would be fought over in any viable fantasy world. Why simply leave it as a reward, when history (and SF/F literature) has boatloads of examples of people who misused an item of great power and had it stolen from them.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Love to Hate

So Krieg is now pretty well geared out. Just about the only things left for me to upgrade on him out side of a raid environment are one trinket, lets and gloves. And also some BOE epic boots, but I don't have the pattern, nor the funds right now to get it off the AH.

I've been reading some interesting things about disparity in tanking classes. From both the tanking boards I read as well as a few of the healing blogs I visit.

Tamarind over at Righteous Orbs describes his impressions of healing tanks in raid environments. The post over there is complete with fancy graphics straight out of mspaint.

Druids seemed to be taking damage at a steady and somewhat predictable pace. They cannot block or parry but have exceptional dodge rates, so their combat log must look something like: miss, miss, miss, hit, miss.

Paladins as Tamarind notes in his post are just a straight line... "steady and pure"

And then there's the death knights. It looks more like a wave. And I, for one, know for damn sure that's a close analogy to the way my tank handles incoming damage. My extent of tanking most recently in wow has been limited to normal dungeons and heroics (except for Halls of Reflection. Owwie make it stop.....)

Which has me curious about starting to gear up my paladin and compare the two. I have experience tanking on both classes and it would be intersting to see how the two stack up.

The problem with that is my paladin. I just love to hate him. I cannot express what exactly it is about him, but it eventually makes me a very angry individual when playing him. Well ok, not angry really, but more like frustrated...

That could be because the last time I played him, dual specs were not out yet and I was stuck 24/7 as a protection paladin. Let me tell you, having what (at the time) was a decent set of gear and trying to quest solo was an excercise in frustration. Mana? What mana... I hit the mob with three special attacks and now I have to wait for a bit before I can do anything. Time to tab out and surf the net.

Perhaps the introduction of dual specs will allieviate some of that frustration, as I could run around as Ret when doing solo quests or just out and about to stir up some trouble.

Time will tell if I want to jump back into the light.

Stupid butt elfs... /sigh

Monday, December 14, 2009

Kriegtrommel the Patient

Using the new dungeon tool, I have successfully completed the group with 50 random pugs achievement.

I have been 80 what, 3, 4 days?

I am now rather decked out with sweet sweet tank gear. I dinged 80 and had a small cache of BOE epics to equip and start running dungeons. I didn't exactly have the confidence to tank right away, so I joined the dungeon queue as dps.

I had marginal success as dps. It was fun, because I got a chance to run with our other 80. Dungeons are always more fun when you have somebody to BS with. He's an arms warrior, which means he was after plate dps gear. With me being there as dps as well it pretty much meant I wasn't going to be getting upgrades for a dps off set, and only getting a shot at tanking gear if the group's tank didn't need the piece.

I did enough groups to get the tier 9 tank shoulders. With the current set of gear I had I figured I would TRY to tank something. Knowing full well that the best shot of upgrades I would get are from Trial of the Champion, I figured what the hell. The worst that can happen is utter failure infront of random pugs from random servers. Meh, that's ok with me.

Lo and behold! Success!

Don't get me wrong, it was a bit hairy at first, but I lived. Nothing gets the blood pumping like jumping into a new battle and not seeing the fights first hand. I mean, I'm anal about these things enough to search out the fights on wowwiki and youtube to see what's going to happen, but surviving it is another story.

With epic pieces dropping from the Trial of the Champion dungeon on a normal setting (not heroic - as you can only do each heroic dungeon once per day before you get locked out), it meant I had a good chance of getting major upgrades after each run.

Let me tell you..... I am now well acquainted with that dungeon. Very very well. I farmed it enough times to get EVERY piece of tanking gear that could possibly drop for me. After getting new gloves, boots, belt, legs, and a trinket, I was in pretty darn good shape to tank what ever came my way.

Yes, Sir!! I was feelin' pretty good.

I'm wondering what to do next and I see a LFM Onyxia 10 man come across trade chat and figured what the heck. I'll try it out. I raided onyxia back in the day and it would be fun to say hello again. I got the invite and everything was dandy. I start heading to the dungeon and see "Sorry, your gear score is too low."

Here I am, feeling pretty good about the new gear I have and wham, hit by the ignorance of the gear score.

I had been reading about this on tankspot and a few other places, but I had not experienced it before. Hell, I didn't even know what my score even was. Turns out I was somewhere in the neighborhood of 3600 score. I had to download the mod because I was curious.

So, with my newly developed distaste for finding a raid group in trade chat, I went back to heroics. This time as a tank! Rawr! I had great success. I earned enough badges for the tier 9 badge ring, and the tier 9 chest piece.

So the warrior friend of mine and myself were lamenting over the lack of weapon upgrades. Here we were both sporting the titansteel mace. It's nice for a fresh 80, but trying to hold aggro against much better geared players was a challenge.

So we both decided to enter the heroic version of the Trial of the Champion. Again, success! Hurrah! No weapon... Boo, Hiss!

So, having successfuly tanked that, I was wondering if I could do the new dungeons. Turns out, yes, I can. I was well enough geared at that point. Boy are the new dungeons cool! Some awesome new mechanics. These dungeons are getting elaborate. How cool.

First time through the Forge of Souls and a 1 handed tanking mace dropped. Nice! Just the upgrade I need. Or so I thought. So deathknights CAN dual wield weapons and tank with them, just not tanking weapons, from what I understand. I had aggro control issues a couple times. It was not bad, but when a clothy gets literally one shot by the boss, things get interesting.

Which as a funny side note... We were in the Pit of Saron on the final boss. I'm up front waiting for the Scourge Lord to dismount his awesome looking skeletal dragon and fight like a man. When suddenly the Troll priest charges past me just in time for Scourge Lord Tyrannis to say hello. It was quite ammusing. It was one of those, "WTF was that, are you serious??" moments.

After a valiant attempt of healing by the ret pally, we ended up wiping when the boss was at 7%. Close but no cigar. But let me tell you... the next attempt the priest stay way the hell back, lol.

So to wrap up this suddenly great wall of text I got geared out over the weekend and for a 4 day old 80 I'm feeling pretty damn good. Best of all, I am now actually better geared than my paladin tank, who I quite despise.

All because the wifey had a cookie exchange on Saturday and a ladies crafting night (for NINE HOURS) on Sunday. Though I did actually miss the wifey this weekend I did get a LOT accomplished in game and that made me feel pretty good.

Cue Duelling Banjos

(Yes, I've been busy, and yes, I'm now seen in Northrend. I'll get to that on another post.)

The past week or two -save for occasional forays into Northrend and our weekly group session on Thursday night- I've become Farmer Quint.

Yee haw.

Back when I was somewhere in the 30s, I made the decision to concentrate on leveling and questing rather than stopping for every copper, iron or tin deposit around. I was also in that peculiar stage in Jewelcrafting where you need some higher level metals and/or gems to fashion stuff that will advance you, but those higher level materials were rare in the 30s level areas. I figured that I'd get around to backfilling my professions when I got to the 40s, so it was no big deal.

The 40s went by, and I said I'd do it when I got to the 50s.

Rinse and repeat. Twice.

You'd think that when I landed some Green items with sockets in them from Outland that I'd remember to go and start bringing up my JC capability, but noooo..... I think it was when I realized that I couldn't mine anything in either Northrend or Outland that it finally clicked that I ought to do more than simply keeping my First Aid current. (All the time spent learning Cooking for the Thanksgiving-esque achievements also reminded me how far I had to go.)

So, a-farming I went.

First, I had to get to being able to farm Thorium, which meant mining so much freaking Mithril and Truesilver that my ears were turning silver. Well, that gave me an excuse to explore some parts of the Eastern Kingdoms that I'd neglected. I also found the 70th level Raid dungeon in Deadwind Pass, which provided me an outlet to get some XP while farming. Luckily for me, it didn't take that long -timewise- to reach the plateau needed to mine Thorium.

Thorium is a real bastard. The best places to mine Thorium, as Murtaugh likes to put it, are in the Silithid dungeons. (Yes, I know about the Eastern Plaguelands, but have you tried farming there? It would have taken me twice as long to farm in the Plaguelands as anywhere else given all the competition for resources.) Well, I'd already explored and quested in Un'Goro Crater, so I knew where to look there, but I hadn't explored Silithus that much. That was to shortly change.

Since I was there, I figured I might as well gain some reputation with the Cenarion Hold and work on some quest lines. That wasn't too bad, and it took me a couple of hours to progress the quest lines to the point where I'd need another body or two to help finish. The farming, however, was painful. Almost all the Thorium was below ground, which meant fighting my way through Silithids that posed no real threat yet weren't low enough level for them to ignore me. And that last gasp before you reach 300 is painful: you spent about 40 points with only one way to raise your skill -mining Thorium- yet it's a green level skill at that point. I probably went through about 60 mining attempts (plus smelting) before I reached that 300 plateau and I could mine Fel Iron in the Outlands.

Then I had to do the same for Jewelcrafting.

Given that the last 20-30 points in JC before you reach 300 is spent generating rings and necklaces heavy in Azerothian Diamonds, guess where I had to prospect for the necessary ore?

Oh, I was so sick of Silithus when I was finished, I just wanted to blanket the entire region in a spray of Raid. The Cenarions might not approve, however.

I've spent the past several days farming in Outland, and while Mining has been a breeze -relatively speaking- Jewelcrafting is going to be painful once again. I've reached 333 on JC, and the gems, which are my primary method of advancing to this point, are all either green or about to turn green.

Here we go again.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Here we are...

at December already. Where has this year gone?

I know there's tons of 3.3 patch impressions floating around the blog-o-sphere and I won't comment on it much more than that I LOVE the new dungeon finder. It helped me find groups for dungeons while leveling the last 2 levels towards 80. I was able to queue up for a few dungeon runs and do some dungeon based quests I had not previously been able to.

The tool is nice for a small group such as ours. So I'm really excited to help the rest of my group out by tanking in dungeons. I've done all the dungeons before, so I have a bit of the strategy down. I do tend to forget minor details though.... like the AOE blast that happens when the final boss of Utgarde Keep comes back to un-life. What... so we lost one clothy and almost our healer. /flex OOOoh yeah.

I'm glad this new tool also affords our group what is finally an actual game play experience. The healer gets an opportunity to shine, and the dps gets a chance to actually dps instead of my character (ho was much higher level than the content) saughtered everything in sight.

Oh, and I'm also excited because I finally did reach level 80, where upon I equipped the 6 bind on equip epics I had saved / crafted for my tank.

That excitement comes with a bit of anxiety. I am now technically ready to start heroics. I have a defence rating of 537 which is just two points over the minimum to make sure I don't get a critical strike against me while in heroic dungeons. The anxiety comes from me being nervous about my character's gear. The role I've chosen to take is that of a tank. I am responsible for keeping my party alive and making sure I am the meatshield I am supposed to be.

Heroics are a new challenge for me, and I hope I am geared well enough to survive some of the heroics until I start getting better gear. I still haven't got any tanking trinkets and I will need to do some regular instances I think before I'll be ready to tank heroics.

I'm on my way though with 6 badges of triump!