Wednesday, June 30, 2010

I See... Active Abilities

One of the things that I've noticed while playing Aeven is that there is a lot more going on with her than I'm used to. Cooldown management is a pretty important part of the class. On top of that, most of her cooldowns are under 10 seconds... which means that at any given point in time, there may be a couple of abilities that she can use, depending on what the situation calls for.

Until recently, my play style with Aeven has been point and click. Yeah, I know. N00b. I'd gotten to the point with my mage and priest that I could handle most of my common abilities via hotkeys, and I wanted to get there with Aeven, as well. The problem is that just keeping track of what ability was available meant that my eyes were generally on my action bar, instead of on the real action. So I'd tend to miss out on those little details that make combat interesting. Things like mobs casting spells, or calling for reinforcements, or smashing Aeven's poor face into the ground. Things like that.

It was annoying enough while playing solo, but the more I thought of tanking with my eyes on the action bar, the more I realized that I was developing a bad habit. Keeping my eyes off the mobs while running solo? That's OK - I can deal with the occasional brown-trousers situation that may raise. Doing the same while trying to tank for some random aggro-happy boomy types? Not so much.

So, I went ahead and got my hands on the add-on that I've heard is pretty much the solution to this problem: Power Auras Classic, hereafter simply referred to as PAC.

And then I ignored it for about a month, because HOLY SWEET AUNT FANNY, HOW MANY CONTROLS CAN YOU CRAM INTO ONE PANE?!?!

Seriously. PAC is amazingly configurable, so it's pretty intimidating right out of the box. Playing around with it a bit, I figured out pretty quickly that:
(a) I had no idea what I was doing
(b) Despite that, I was still able to get PAC to do something, and
(c) While I was doinking around getting it to do something, the mob Aeven was fighting took the opportunity to inflict some minor un-elective surgery on her with a rusty butter knife.

I managed to find a couple of examples of Paladin auras, but nothing that really seemed to suit my play style. I didn't want strobing lights, or fancy-shmancy subtle shifting colors, or anything complicated! I just wanted to be able to keep my eyes on the action, and see what abilities were available for me. So I'd try someone else's PAC settings, get all confused, die a couple of times while I tried to figure it out, then delete it and go back to watching my action bar until I got disgusted enough to fiddle with PAC again.

Last week, I finally got to the point where I said to myself, "OK, self. Buckle down and figure this out. Oh, and self? Stop talking like Mocker, it's weirding self out." The result of that little bit of cognitive dissonance was a couple of PAC auras that did just what I wanted:

There you go. I can keep my eyes on the mob(s), and yet, I've got something telling me exactly which of my most commonly used abilities are currently available. The icons are far enough to the sides that they're not obscuring anything, and close enough that I don't have to change focus to see what's what.

As time goes on, I'm sure I'll add some additional icons/indicators using PAC. Frankly, what I've done here probably the "Hello, World" equivalent for PAC. There's definitely room for improvement and enhancement here. Still... it meets my needs, and it's definitely helped out. Keeping better track of Aeven's cooldowns has let me boost her single-target dps by about 100 - it's gone from 500-600 into the 600-700 range.

I see active abilities. Which means that I see dead mobs, instead of the spirit healer. All in all, I'd say that's a win.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

I knew there was a reason to level alchemy!

Aeven is inching her way towards 80. Well, not so much inching as cruising. Rested bonuses and the Fire Festival XP boost really add up, even before you toss in the 20k XP you can get by honoring/desecrating whatever fires you stumble across in Northrend. As a result, Aeven hit level 78 last night, and after a good bit of running around in Zul'drak, is just a hair shy of halfway to 79.

Since she was in Zul'drak, of course, one of the quests she ended up doing was Something for the Pain - where you collect mature water poppy plants so that the Argent Crusade alchemists can create a pain-relieving salve for their soldiers. As is her wont (ha! I got to use "wont" in a sentence!), my wife was watching me play last night as Aeven scrambled through the Drak'Sotra Fields, searching for poppy plants.
"What are you doing now?"

"Oh, I have to collect these plants."


"They're for injured soldiers. To help relieve the pain."

"And the plants will do what for them?"

"Well, they're water poppies..."

"Oh... OH! Yep, that would help. So... you're a drug dealer now?"
And yes, I did LOL.

Monday, June 28, 2010


A while back, I heard an NPR story that discussed what super power people would choose - flight, or invisibility. One comment was that everyone would want to choose invisibility, but because that would be the "sneaky" super power, some people would instead choose flight, because that's more "socially acceptable".

What utter, absolute garbage.

All my life, I've had incredibly vivid dreams of flying. So much so that I can easily recall them, even decades later. I've always woken from these dreams with a sense of joy, followed by loss and disappointment as I realized that it was a dream, and no, I can't actually lift off and swoop through the sky.

I've never once had a dream about being invisible.

All this to say... ding! Level 77... and Aeven can fly in Northrend again:

Friday, June 25, 2010

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Northrend Ready

A Busy Day

Monday evening, Aeven became a Veteran of the Wrathgate:

... a more accomplished cook ...

... gained another level of "Quest Hound" ...

... and took another step towards being a professional Explorer.

Oh, and she hit level 76 as well. All in all, a really good night.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Reaching the Wrathgate

Aeven's now halfway to level 76, and partway through the quest chain that leads up to the Wrathgate event. Oooh-RAH!

Questing in Dragonblight has a bit of a schizophrenic feel to it. There are a number of different quest hubs, each with a very different feels. Moa'ki Harbor, Star's Rest, Wintergarde Keep, Wyrmrest Temple, Light's Trust, the Crystal Vice. Each has it's own feel and flavor. If you're like me, and you're bopping around the zone doing whatever quests happen to fall into your path, everything seems a bit chaotic.

There are breadcrumb quests leading you to and fro over the zone, but it's not nearly as cohesive a place as the Borean Tundra or Howling Fjord. In those zones, while there were a bunch of quest hubs, you at least got the feel that they were connected in more ways that "Oh, by the way, so-and-so out at this other place wants you to drop by." There was a sense that something was Going On, and that you - for whatever reason - were in the center of things.

Maybe it has less to do with the zone, and more to do with how I did the zone. Instead of starting at Wintergarde Keep, I started at Star's Rest. Then visited Moa'ki harbor, and worked my way east to Wyrmrest before heading to the Keep. So instead of following the "flow" of the quests, east to west, I went against the current.... and have found myself doubling back, and asking questions like "Why didn't they mention this the last time I was here? Sheesh!"

Once I realize this, I intentionally skipped doing anything with Light's Rest. I plan on completing the Wrathgate chain, and then I'm going to move on into the Crystal Vice area, and from there into Grizzly Hills. I'll save Light's Rest for the time when I'm done with the Hills and ready to move on into Zul'Drak.

Monday, June 21, 2010

What the...?

Level 75. She's moving on up... slowly, but surely.

Along the way, she recently acquired a new pet:

Yep, that's her lil' itty-bitty core hound pup. Isn't he cute? He's the pet you get when you attach an authenticator to your account. I ordered an authenticator a few months back, and then got lazy about adding it to my account. Why bother? It's just another step in between me and playing, and an annoying one at that. My password security is fairly decent, and... well, it was just a bother.

Then a friend's account got hacked.

That brought the whole "there are bad people out there just waiting for you to screw up" lesson home pretty quickly. I dug up my authenticator and had it attached to my account before the evening was out. And, as a bonus... core hound pup. He's worth the added bother of keeping track of the authenticator, don't you think?

On a completely unrelated note, I realized that at some point, I had a green leather chest piece equipped - the Regenerative Hide Harness that you can get by completing The Gearmaster quest in the Borean Tundra. I didn't see it until I found an Ice-bound Plate Chestpiece on the auction house. I went to check my current chest piece to make sure I got the same enchantment on it and... awww, man! How long have I been wearing this piece of junk?

I immediately replaced it, but now I feel... sullied. I'm going to have to find some way to atone for this transgression, I fear. A naked Deadmines run, maybe? Or something more severe?

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Does she know something I don't?

Aeven just completed Mystery of the Infinite - the quest in Dragonblight where you have to team up with "Future You" to protect the Hourglass of Eternity in the Bronze Dragonshire. I had to take a screen shot of this accomplishment:

Not because this is any sort of "Wow, look at me!" quest to complete - it's actually pretty easy to do. No, what made me scramble for my screenshot button was the final bit of dialog from Future Aeven:

I will, Future Aeven. Just not quite yet...


Two bad attempts at doing Utgarde Keep tonight.

Both groups were willing to give me a shot. For the first group, I pulled... and immediately got lagged into the ground. I have no idea what happened, but my entire UI froze for about 10 seconds. Then everyone ran around like a maniac as the UI caught up with what was going on, I got off a few attacks, and then... frozen again. After we wiped, I came back to the instance, thanked everyone for giving me a shot, buffed 'em, and dropped group.

Waited out my deserter buff, and gave it another go, with better results (at least from my end). The second group was willing to give me a chance, so long as I could hold aggro. I wasn't doing as well as I could have, there; in particular, the the fury warrior kept pulling off of me. But hey - fury warrior. He can dish it out and take it as well, at least on trash, right? He didn't seem to mind when a stray mob focused on him for a bit here and there, so that was OK.

We cleared the first 3-4 packs, then the druid dropped group, saying that he was "casting all the time". Um... OK. Did I miss something there? A bit of bad timing on my part - he dropped right after I pulled a pack. Ended up dying rather quickly, though it looked like the other folks survived.

I'll try and make it back in next week. For now, though, it looks like Aeven the White just isn't up to tanking Northrend dungeons... yet.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Level up!

Not Aeven. Moi. As part of my effort to not be a complete couch potato this summer, I did... well, this:

That's our new gew grape vine arbor. Took about 2 1/2 hours to do - digging the post holes, leveling the supports, etc. The top pieces still need to be tacked down, but otherwise, it's complete.
"You are now a Level 11 Homeowner."
"You gain 1 strength".
"You gain 1 stamina".
"You have learned a new pattern: Grape Vine Arbor"
After leveling up my Homeowner self, I had a few minutes to log on and get Aeven those last two bubbles she needed to get to level 74. I was kind of tickled that I was able to end my few minutes online this evening at a really nice stopping point: with King Mrgl-Mrgl going "Oh Noes, the Tadpoles!"

It's a great place to stop, because it means I'll have a good excuse to show off the baby Winterfin murlocs to my wife and kids again. We love those little guys. My "beep" noise on my laptop - and I swear I'm telling you the truth, here - is the baby murloc gurgle. I intentionally abandoned the Winterfin quest line on one of my characters just so I could come back and play with the tadpoles again, whenever I wanted.

I didn't shell out for a sparkle pony. I'm not interested in the Remote Auction House. Special loot cards from the TCG make me go, "Meh". If Blizzard were to start selling ilvl 300 epics, I'm not positive, but I'm pretty sure that my reaction would be a resounding and loud yawn.

On the other hand... it frightens me to think of how much I'd be wiling to pay in order to get a Winterfin tadpole as a non-combat pet. I'd probably whip out my wallet so fast that it would leave scorch marks. I'm not positive, but I'm pretty sure that I'd club Al Gore with a baby seal if there was even a chance of a Winterfin tadpole showing up somewhere along the line.

Seriously. Cutest. Quest. Ever.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Down, down, down

After the weekend, Aeven was just shy of level 74, too. Rats. On the plus side, she was just shy of level 74 because I spent some time on Friday night running ICC 25 for the first time on Aetherna, my arcane mage. I joined in for the gunship battle (which was tremendous fun) and for downing Deathbringer Saurfang (which was a bit anticlimactic). After that, we did Stinky and Precious, then wiped a couple of times on Festergut before calling it a night.

No new loot for me, but - and I'm very proud of this - I managed to out-DPS not only the healers, but also the DK's gargoyles and the other mage's Mirror Images.

Yeah. Just a little bit out of practice, there.

Last night, in an obvious tribute to my Deathbringer Saurfang kill, the Kirin Tor server decided to go down. So, no chance to get Aeven that last 150k of XP and tip her over into level 74. Instead, I ended up on a Emerald Dream, playing Taelesin, my Tauren Druid. I created him a while back to chat with a friend on that server, leveled him to 20, and there he sat in Orgrimmar for months, a poor neglected country cow in the big city.

Within a few moments, I had a whisper asking me if I thought I could tank a dungeon run. I explained that I was very much out of practice, and had never tanked on my Druid before, but that apparently wasn't a problem. So I found myself joining a Deadmines run with a competent, skilled group. We flew through the mines, the Defias dropped like flies, and I learned a little bit about bear tanking (and using shape shifting to break stun - woot!) Also, unlike Aeven, I could equip new gear, so I ended up with a couple of nice upgrades from the run.

All in all, a fun hour or so. I doubt my poor little cow-boy will get much love from me, but he was a fun diversion for the evening. Most significantly, though... after tanking on tiny little Aeven, tanking as a Tauren Druid made me realize just how accurately named the Big Bear Butt Blog is.

I mean... seriously. Do these pants make me look fat?

Monday, June 14, 2010

Path of the Titans, R.I.P.

Well, I've got my answer to the question about how Path of the Titans will function in Cataclysm: it won't. Read all about it in the usual places. I won't say that this is unexpected; it seemed like a pretty big change to the game. Apparently, Blizzard is going to try and compensate for the crushing disappointment of loosing the Path of the Titans by bringing us things like better glyph management, the ability to downgrade raids, new raids, new dungeons, a new CoT instance, and something like 3,000 new quests.

3,000 new quests? Yowza. That's a nice, big, fuzzy blanket to cuddle up with while I cry into my tea over... what? Oh, yeah, Path-something-or-other. I think. Whatever! Why am I crying again? And how much can I vendor this blanket for?

If you're not champing at the bit for news about upcoming Cataclysm changes, maybe you'd be more interested in the post over at Tobold's MMORPG Blog where he discusses the idea of how to change up the MMO trinity of tank/healer/dps to make things more interesting. Follow up with The Noisy Rogue to continue that thought to the logical conclusion - what would an MMO look like if you got rid of the tank/healer roles entirely?

Friday, June 11, 2010

Weekend Warrior!

As it's the end of the school year, and the beginning of the summertime "everything happening at once" season, these last two weeks have been very busy. While that generally makes for a lot of fun for me, it doesn't necessarily mean WoW fun. I doubt you're really interested in hearing the details of the high school graduation I went to earlier this week, or the wedding I'm going to be at tonight, or... you get the idea. Lots going on, but not a whole lot of play time.

I'm going to attempt to rectify that a bit this weekend. Hopefully, I'll be able to run Aeven through a couple of dungeons (Utgarde Keep, anyone?) and plow through a bunch of quests in the Borean Tundra. And, yes, I will once again intentionally fail to rescue the Winterfin tadpoles, because they're just so stinkin' cute that I love to be able to go back and visit them. I can haz army of baby murlocs, plz?

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Geek Senses Tingling...

Cynwise has come up with something very interesting : toplogical battle maps for WoW battlegrounds.

It seems to be a unique idea. Google "topological battlefield maps". Here, I'll help you. There's her post, sitting pretty at #1. According to Wikipedia, her maps are rightly classified as examples of topological maps. Some quick searching on Google failed to turn ip any references to military use of topological maps. What references I can find seem to use "topological map" as a synonym for "topographic map", which is obviously wrong in this case.

This is the sort of thing that really grabs my attention. It's such a useful idea that I'm absolutely positive that it has to have been used, in some form or another, by the military already. I suspect that they're missing from my Google searches because I lack the proper terms to turn up the real references that would have to be lurking. Knowing the modern military mind, they're probably in use, but called "Tangential Interstitial Ground Emphasis Resources" or "von Hagen models" or something else that's unique in military jargon.

I'm croggled just thinking of the possibilities for analysis and planning that these kind of maps imply.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

The Things I Thought I Knew

I've been playing WoW for almost two years, now. In that time, I've leveled two Alliance characters to 80, and I'm working on a third. I've gotten The Loremaster and World Explorer, and any number of other achievements on my main "gotta do it all" experience hound.

And I'm still running into things I've never seen before. Quests I've somehow missed, areas that - despite running around like a hyperactive ferret with ADD - I've never actually been to before. Little nooks and crannies and treats like the Dwarven mage above Starfall Village in Winterspring, or the shoe shine gnome in the "Threads of Fate" shop above Dalaran.

Two that have caught my attention recently:

Old Icefin is a Murloc in the northwest corner of Howling Fjord. He's friendly, and has a kind of melancholy quest for you - Trident of the Son. I found him while looking over quests, trying to figure out if Aeven could get I've Toured the Fjord without having to do any group quests.

Archavon's Log is something I haven't seen yet, on any of my characters. It's found in Wintergrasp, and is apparently the (sort of) diary of Archavon the Stone Watcher. Like Old Icefin's quest, the log itself is not quite what you would expect.

The little things like this don't really make the game. That's questing, and running dungeons, and raiding, and PvP. These little touches, though - they're like a hint of spice in what could easily be an otherwise bland meal. For me, at least, they're what helps keep the wonder and the "Oh, wow!" moments coming, even after years of play.


Gendarme's Cuirass? Puh-lease.

You can wear those petty baubles if you want. As for me - I'm going for the truly epic loot:

I want my very own Green Linen Shirt.


Eight days

Aeven's been in Northrend for eight days now, real time. Last night, she just dinged level 72, in her first quest outside of Howling Fjord. Yep, she's a murderer, a thief, and now a kidnapper, too. What can I say? Those Tuskarr just love them some Wolvar pups!

Seriously... I just try not to think about it.

Anyways, as I said - level 72, in 8 days, or about 4 days per level. At that rate, she'll ding 0 in another month or so. She's just making her way out of Howling Fjord, but will probably return there to wrap up a couple of last quests before taking her final leave of the zone. I'm thinking that the Borean Tundra would be good for another level or so, at least... then maybe on to Dragonblight and Grizzly Hills before hitting the Nessingwary All-You-Can-Skin buffet in Sholazar Basin. I understand they're giving away a free saronite node with every blood-soaked skin you rip off of a dead animal these days.

Overall, Northrend mobs haven't been overpowering. Aeven is still able to handle 3-4 level-appropriate mobs in her retribution spec, assuming she's prepared - sealed, buffed, and at/near full health and mana. One thing that's really interesting about playing her is that a Runic Mana Potion or a Runic Healing Potion is pretty much a "back to full" consumable. Couple that with Lay on Hands, and she's effectively able to heal herself to full, instantly, twice a fight. If she's fighting a single mob, she can also toss off a Hammer of Justice and get herself to near full by using a Frostweave Bandage in the 4-5 seconds that the stun gives her.

That's not to say that even one mob is easy to kill. They don't hit exceptionally hard, for the most part; but they do have a lot of health. In some cases, even a single mob can take 10-15 seconds to down. During that time, Aeven is pulling out all the stops: judgements, crusader strikes, holy storm, consecrations, you name it, when it comes up, she's working it into her rotation somehow. I'd say that about 1/3 of the time, when she's low on mana, her single mob attack sequence looks something like:

Judgement of Widsom - auto-attack for 8 seconds - Judgement of Light - Flash of Light - auto attack moar - Judgement of Wisdom... lather, rinse, repeat until she's ground the mob down and she's left with about 3/4 health and mana. Top off, loot, head for the next mob.

Tonight, I'm going to take a look at the Northrend 5-mans. I was supposedly able to queue for Utgarde Keep at something ridiculous (level 67, I think), so presumably, a level 72 tank should be able to handle things, even in white gear. We'll see. If I wait a few days, I may be able to rope some guildies into coming along. It will be interesting - these are the most challenging 5-man instances in the game for my current level, but unlike a lot of the old world and Burning Crusade content, I know these instances really well. Some of them, far too well. So while I may still be a bit wet behind the ears as a tank, I can at least find my way through the instance without getting lost. Which will, sadly, be something of a novelty for me :-)

Monday, June 7, 2010

The Impending Apocalypse

Two interesting tidbits about being a theology student. One, you learn how to spell "apocalypse" correctly. Two, when you're emailing your co-worker Chris, you really need to watch your muscle memory, otherwise that extra 't' will sneak in at the end and you'll deserve the snark you get in response. Just sayin'.

Anyways, where was I? Oh, yes - the anticipated apocalypse. The coming cataclysm. The doom of Deathwing. Blizzard announced a 24 hours downtime for a big bunch of servers tomorrow, time required to upgrade them to handle the Cataclysm release. There's been some noise about the beta, some news trickling out from behind the iron walls of NDAs... but, so far, nothing about the one thing I'm really interested in:

Why such an interest? Degrees of freedom.

Let's be honest, here: WoW really doesn't have a whole lot of degrees of freedom. If you're an arcane mage, what stats are most important to you? That's going to drive your talent choices, your gear choices, how you gem and enchant, what buff foods you use and what flasks you stock. Same story, different stats for rogues, tanks, priests, druids, or what have you... it's all a question of "what stat is most important."

Now, how you get to that point involves a lot of choice. Talent for more hit? Easy enough for an Arcane mage. What if all your gear has hit on it, and you're over the cap? Ah, now you can shift around talent points. Or maybe swap out that +hit enchant for a +damage enchant. Or do both, and start scarfing +hit food before raids. Still, the basic game doesn't change. "Get to the hit cap," or defense cap, or whatever... "then start stacking X. If you can't get X, then get Y. Otherwise you really don't care."

In Wrath, Blizzard kind of dangled their toes just a leeetle bit into the DoF waters. The introduction of inscription gave them the leeway to allow a player to make some minor changes to the basics of how their character works. This was always the realm of talents, which were much more core to the character. If you were a fire mage, you were a fire mage, period. There weren't a whole lot of ways to make yourself something different and still stay a fire mage.

Glyphs (in some instances) allow for a little bit of freedom. Not a whole lot, but some. Unlike some racial and professional bonuses, they're not as immediately noticeable. They do have an effect on play style, though, and depending on your profession, there may be equally valid choices for any particular glyph or combinations of glyphs for your character. Choices that really will affect the way you play... kind of.

It's almost a real degree of freedom.

In Cataclysm, we're getting archaeology: a new profession, which at level 85 will allow you to progress down the Path of the Titans, and discover and use "Ancient" glyphs. Presumably, up until max skill, you'll still get some benefit from archaeology - maybe some bonuses that vary depending on what discoveries you make, or what your current primary professions are. Or maybe they'll take the easy way out, and just give role X +1 Y per 5 points, call it a day, and be done with it.

There's an opportunity here, though, to really give players an additional degree of freedom, or even two. To help make this fire mage different from that fire mage. Choices that involve tradeoffs that affect play style, or allow for different play styles, without giving an obvious advantage to one or another. I think that's going to come, in part, by making the talent trees less "+hit +crit +dmg" centric, and giving us more interesting abilities to play with.

What I'd really like to see is for Blizzard to overhaul the glyph system, and give us more interesting glyphs. I mean, if +1% damage talents are booooor-ing, then +1% damage glyphs are, too. Now, a glyph that fundamentally changes a talent or skill, that's fun. Glyphs that alter spell cooldowns - changing rotations - that's interesting. Glyphs that give an ability, rather than a bonus - that's neat. Glyphs that let an existing ability proc a slightly different effect (replenishment, haste buff, whatever) - those are exciting and fun.

Glyphs that give you +1% damage vs. Undead? Booooor-ing. But... a warrior glyph, "Rage Against Death" that adds a Holy damage component to your Sunder Armor ability when used against undead?

Oh, yeah. Now that could be fun.

Continuing that thought: on the Path of the Titans, I'd really like to see some class-changing ancient glyphs. Glyphs that really give you a fundamental change in how a class performs. I'm not sure how they would best work, though. Some could be special abilities, a la Lifebloom - skills that add a dimension to a class that otherwise wouldn't be there; the mage that can heal in a pinch, or the warrior that can capture a spell and then unleash it later. Others could be proc-based, more powerful abilities that only manifest some of the time, but when they do, they change how you play; a glyph that lets an arcane mage proc a fire spell buff that lets them shift rotations and use double damage fire spells for 30 seconds or so.

We don't know yet what archaeology and the Path of the Titans will look like. I'm hoping, though, that they'll both really interesting, and not just +1% better than nothing.

Friday, June 4, 2010

No news is good news

Not much to say today... just questing in Howling Fjord, pushing on towards level 71.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Let's go SHOPPING!

Between work, end-of-school-year stuff for the kids, and my country's 500th anniversary to plan.... no wait, did I say that last nit out loud? Anyways, things have been busy. So I only got to spend a short time with Aeven last night. Rather than going a-questing in Howling Fjord, I took her shopping.

First stop, she hit Bartleyby Armorfist in HF and picked up a Layered Bone Shield. After that, it was a hearth to Dalaran, where she found a nice little Dalaran Cudgel to replace her venerable Ancient Bone Mace. Then off to Ironforge, where she got her big brother Laenshield to slap on an enchantment or two... Greater Defense for her Heavy Draenic Breastplate, Major Stamina for her Heavy Draenic Bracers, and Defense for her new shield. All told, +40 stamina and +42 defense rating. Round that out with Superior Potency on her new beat-down stick for +65 attack power, and she was quite the happy camper at the end of the day.

In the meantime, while she's not using them, she's been collecting quest reward gear and tucking it away in the bank. My goal is to level her to 80 using only common gear, but while that may cut it for regular questing and dungeons, I don't think it will work out too well while trying to run Northrend heroics. I may give it a try - just to see how things go - but there will definitely come a point where I'm going to need to gear her up, and I want to be ready for when that day comes.

On an only somewhat unrelated note, her mining (417) and skinning (429) are both coming along quite well. I'm planning on getting both to 450, collecting and stashing away bars and skins along the way; then she's going to drop skinning, and power-level Engineering.

Looking over some engineering leveling guides, I think that she's got most of the materials she'd need to level available in the bank already. The raw mats that she's lacking, I can farm up easily enough, or just buy off of the auction house. There are over 145 white items craftable by and engineer, including wonderful toys like Cobalt Frag Bombs and Saronite Bombs, Explosive Decoys, and Gnomish Flame Turrets. Not to mention health and mana injectors, bots, and a host of other nice little goodies.

I'm looking forward to playing around with high-level engineering toys - I had started off leveling engineering on my first character, but eventually dropped it in favor of jewlcrafting. I've always felt like I was missing out on something, and pretty soon, Aeven will give me the chance to see if that was true or not.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

The Secret of Tanking

Here, let me just quote BBB and cut to the chase:
It doesn’t sound all that hard, does it?

That’s the secret. It’s not.
Go on. Read it. If you're here because you want to find out if you can tank Ragefire Chasm, or because you're wondering if you can handle Sunken Temple or Hellfire Ramparts or any of a number of other dungeons... head on over to BBB and see what he means when he tells you the Truth about Tanking: it's not all that hard.

Not to say that it's easy. Or that you won't be nervous or intimidated the first couple of times you tank. Or that you won't make mistakes. When it's all said and done, though, and you're standing over the final boss in RFC or Deadmines or Ramps, looking around, you'll realize that it was scary at times, fun at times, and overall...

... it wasn't all that hard.

Search Terms 101

One of the benefits of using Google Analytics to track blog stats is that their reporting will tell you what search terms people have followed to access your site. Now, mind you - I don't get a whole lot of search term traffic, but I do get some. Here, for your enjoyment, are some of the terms that people have plugged into google, only to find themselves faced with a meandering blog about a Dwarven paladin...

can i tank ragefire chasm - It's the absolutely lowest level instance in the game. You can enter RFC at level 8, in fact, two levels before you get your first talent point. Practically speaking, if you're a melee DPS class, and you have a bit of armor on your side, and your companions are willing to wait a second before starting to pile on to your target... yeah, you can tank Ragefire Chasm. Go on, then - just do it.

desolate desolacy - I really don't know what to say here, other than if you're looking for pictures of gender-confused emo tweens who are barely bearing up under the crushing despair of simply existing, then you've come to the wrong place. Have a kitteh picture instead:

making bosses - I find myself intrigued by this incomplete statement. "Making bosses... " what? Give you a raise? Let you take that three day weekend? Into hamburger? The mind simply boggles. Since I'm such a helpful soul, though, I'll give you the answer to at least one of those questions.

queuing for ragefire chasm - OK. I can understand being a new player, or a new tank, and wondering about whether you're ready or not to jump into your first group. "Can I tank RFC? I mean, really - can I handle it? Will I be able to hold aggro when the rogue pops out of stealh and starts making with the stabbity-stabbity? Will I miss a mob on the pull, resulting in the healer becoming a pile of something that resembles a potted meat product?" All those are good and understandable questions to ask yourself. On the other hand, not understanding how to queue for RFC? I mean... you know enough to realize that you can queue for the dungeon, but not enough to understand how to queue for the dungeon? That's a pretty exclusive group you're in, there. Just in case you've missed it, here's a few tidbits on the Dungeon Finder interface.

retribution pvp - I'm trying... trying... trying... mmm. Nope, got nothin' for ya, man. Sorry. Who do you think I am, Zach Yonzon?

soul%20silver - This one scares me. I always thought souls were gold, you know? Not silver. Gold is valuable, and pure, and a symbol of the light. Silver, on the other hand, is cheap, and tarnishes, and is intimately associated with the more despicable elements of Azeroth. I'm pretty sure that I once heard that every silver coin has been up a Warlock's nose at one point or another. Why? I don't know. Then summon demons, they dabble with fel magic, and you're asking me why they put silver coins up their noses? Probably because, when you're a Warlock, it's the most sensible thing that you'll do in any given day.

Geek Women, Unite!

So says Miss Medicina, who has declared June to be "Celebrate Geeky Women" month.

As I am married to a geeky woman, and raising three (hopefully!) geeky girls, I heartily approve. There are a hundred and one reasons that geeky girls are wonderful. Just a few of them:

Who else will watch you play WoW, and - in a serious tone of voice - ask you, "Why is your male Dwarf priest wearing a dress?"

Who else will help you while away a wedding anniversary road trip discussing zombie survival techniques?

Who else will call you at work to tell you "OOTS is up!"

Who else would consider an L2 cache and memory upgrade an entirely appropriate Valentine's day present?

Geeky women, that's who. Well, my geeky woman. You will have to get your own :-)

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Better late than never...

Meant to comment on this in my earlier post about hitting 70, but forgot.

When she headed to Outland, at level 60, Aeven had died a total of 60 times. About once per level, on average.

When she headed to Northrend, at level 70, Aeven had died a total of 139 times - minus the 60 deaths in the Old World, that means she died 79 times in Outland. About 8 times per level, on average.

She's managed to get about 10% of a level completed in Howling Fjord so far, and died once. So, it looks like Northrend is going to be (hopefully!) about on par with Outland in terms of difficulty.


It was a busy weekend, both IRL and in-game. My wife and I celebrated our 18th anniversary by heading west and taking a little road trip on Monday. Aeven celebrated reaching level 70 by heading north, looking for new lands to explore and new foes to smite. For the light, of course!

On Friday, I took Aeven to Shadowmoon Valley, where the questing was... different. If I had to guess, I'd say that there were at least two different teams at Blizzard doing quest design for zones. One of those teams (Zangarmarsh, Nagrand) seems to like short, co-existant quest chains. In those areas, you can fill up your quest log and run around the zone like a madman, sometimes killing one mob and getting credit for three different quests. The other team (Shadowmoon Valley) likes long, epic questlines that take you across the zone and back multiple times. Questlines where each piece needs to be done in order, just so you can run across the zone again... and again... and again, like some sort of deranged bicycle messenger, just to accomplish one task.

I'll give you three guesses as to which one I like more.

I did a couple of the shorted quest chains and solo quests in Shadowmoon Valley, but pretty quickly realized that I was going to be there a while, doing epic quests to forge the Staff of Foobar and the like. Stuff that is interesting, sure, but which I'd already done once before... and I wasn't really interested in re-reading those novels.

So Aeven looked around, called it finished, packed her bags and headed off to Netherstorm to finish things up. That zone follows the "lots of little quests" philosophy, and there was plenty to do. A quick flight around the area, and she had a quest log full of nice little XP-bearing jobs just waiting to bloom.

In an odd twist of fate, though, that prooved to be entirely unnecessary. Logging in on Monday night, I found a couple of guildmates who were leveling alts, and who were interested in running some BC dungeons. Another guildmate offered to come along and heal, we used the LFD tool to pick up a random DPS, and an hour or so later, we had plowed through the Slave Pens and the Mana Tombs... with Aeven hitting level 70 just before Nexus-Prince Shaffar. I was keeping an eye on her XP bar, and she was literally one experience point shy of hitting 70 when we hit the top of the stairs before Shaffar. It would have been nice to have my level 70 ding come from the prince himself, but that extra level before hand was nice, too. So we'll just call it even, shall we?

Hearth to Dalaran. Portal to Ironforge. Train a bunch of new abilities for both retribution and protection. Empty bags of a bunch of lower-level potions and food, and hit the aution house to grab a couple of stacks of Runic Mana Potions and Runic Healing Potions, as well as some level 70 battle and guardian elixirs. Take a deep breath, hop on the griffon, and head for the Stormwind piers. Get there, realize that the Stormwind boat goes to the Borean Tundra, and mutter curses at myself for forgetting that I needed to go to Menethil Harbor if I wanted to catach a ride to Howling Fjord. Head back to Ironforge, pop over to Menethil Harbor, finally board the boat for Howling Fjord... and get disconnected during the trip, so that when I log back in a few seconds later, I'm 20,000 feet in the air over the Hillsbrad Foothills. On my charger. Plunge to my death, rez at the spirit healer, fly back to Menethil Harbor, jump on the boat again. Huddle, unmounted, in the center of the ship. Nope, no insane little Dwarven pally here, no no no. Just some... cargo. Yeah, cargo. Heading north. Nothing worth smiting here, no, not at all!

Then, finally, she stepped off the boat in Northrend. Gorgeous scenery, beautiful background music, and within a minute of her arrival, she was at the gates of an Alliance fortification surrounded by slavering worgs who thought she was a new chew toy and and gigantic humanoids who thought she was some sort of pinata. You know... you know... the Aliance recruiting brochures don't nearly do Northrend justice. If she had know it was going to be this much fun, she would have headed here two levels ago.

Along the way, Aeven picked up a few minor upgrades. She's sporting a Deteriorating Plate Chestpiece and Deteriorating Plate Boots now. She had a matching belt to go along with them, but ditched that as soon as she hit Northrend, in favor of a shiny new Heavy Aldor Belt. She'll be replacing her bracers and breastplate as well (with Heavy Draenic Bracers and a Heavy Draenic Breastplate) as soon as she can get scrolls to enchant them.

Tonight: raining death and destruction on the Vrykul! Presuming, of course, that you're talking about some sort of magical rain that falls up from the ground. And really only reaches their kneecaps. And which is made of sharp, nasty pummeling death instead of, um, rain. So, ok, yeah, it's going to be less like walking through a gentle summer shower and more like jamming their foot into a titchy cuisinart with a taste for blood.

Whatever it is, it'll be fun :-)