Monday, January 31, 2011


Aeth's grinding out reputations and running dailies. Laen is busy gathering cloth, generating dreamcloth and knitting some epic-level armor pieces. Life in Azeroth - minus the whole "impending doom as Deathwing prepares to destory the world" vibe, obviously - has taken on a slightly domestic feel.

Which is why I spent some time on Aretae, the Worgen rogue, this weekend. My immediate goal is to get him to level 20 so it doesn't feel like I'm crawling everywhere I go. Long term goal, obviously, is to get him to a high enough level to help Aeth get the Insane in the Membrane achievement.

Playing a low-level alt is always interesting. I'm a hero of Azeroth! I've defeated constructs of the Titans, Old Gods, and the forces of the Lich King!

And now I'm collecting corrupted crawler parts in Darkshore. Hence, today's music monday song. See? I have a reason. It's not just that I bumped into it again last week, and have had trouble erasing it from my mind since then. Nooooooo! Not at all. This is a carefully selected song designed to indicate the POV of voluntarily going from a high-level character, on top of the world, to a low-level alt clawing his way up through the ranks. Not at all an attempt to pass on a particularly insidious ear-worm to you all.


Aside form the whole "back to the beginning" thing, playing Aretae is a very different experience for me. Rogues are... frenetic. I feel less like I'm playing a careful, reasoned game, and more like I've walked into an arcade and jumped on one of those button-mashing fighting games.

I mean, I even have combo points and finishing moves!

I'm almost ashamed to admit that my "fighting style" with Aretae is, in fact, button mashing. Since most of the mobs in Darkshore are lower-level than he is, it really doesn't make much of a difference what abilities I use - things die amazingly quickly. I feel like some sort of whirlwind of death and destruction chewing through packs of enemies, leaving broken bodies in a growing wake of death and destruction across the land.

I die pretty often, too... but the whole "engine of controlled fury" thing really is kind of fun. I find myself thinking that maybe doing a battleground or two would be interesting. Just, you know, to see how it feels to be on the other side of a stun lock for a change.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Plugging Away

Did the daily quests in Tol Barad a couple of days ago, went to turn them in, and... wait, what was that green flash? Exalted with the Wardens already?

Wait, what? Seriously - I had no idea that Aeth was that close to exalted. She immediately turned around and hit up the quartermaster. One hundred and twenty-five Tol Barad commendations - three weeks of dailies - gone with a click, in return for a Stump of Time.

Fair enough deal, I think.

Pair that with her shiny new Lightning Flash Pendant from the Wildhammers - yep, she's hit exalted with them as well - and her average item level is at 335, and heading for 340. Which should make running Cata dungeons a bit more comfortable... which is important, now, because that's the only way she's going to raise her remaining Cata faction reputations.

More to the point, she's three reputations shy of getting her 45 Exalted Reputations achievement. I think the next in line will be the Keepers of Time, since that will net her The Burning Crusader as well. After that... well, it'll be running dungeons, and probably heading back to Outland to try and solo some of the Heroic dungeons.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

How is it...

... that I've somehow managed to miss Manalicious?

Good, solid mage-centered writing, and excellent artwork to boot. That's a plenty cute Wildhammer lady at the link above... sigh.

Yes, I know. I just like Dwarves, OK?

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Counting the Cost (Part 3)

Here's the scenario: you have a character with 450 skill in a profession, and you want to level him/her to 525 skill. What's it going to cost you for the various professions?

In part one, I covered tailoring, blacksmithing and jewlcrafting.

In part two, I looked at engineering, inscription, and alchemy.

Today, we round out the examination with leatherworking and enchanting.


When skillups aren't assured, assume we need to do twice as many craftings...

  • 2020 savage leather - @ 9g = 18180g
  • 35 eternium thread - @ 2.4g = 84g
  • 42 volatile earth - @15 g = 630g
  • 18 volatile air - @ 38g = 684g
  • 108 volatile water - @ 18g = 1944g
  • 148 volatile fire - @ 25g = 3700g

Total? 25,222g! Blowing the previous leader - inscription - out of the water.


To simplify cost calculations, I just assumed that one greater celestial essence was the same cost as three lesser celestial essences. From what I can see on the AH, this isn't quite true, but the price of 3 LCE is close enough to the price of 1 GCE that it doesn't really matter.

  • 460 hypnotic dust - @ 19g = 8740g
  • 278 lesser celestial essence - @ 20g = 5560g
  • 5 elixir of impossible accuracy - @ 20 g = 100g
  • 6 heavenly shard - @ 75g = 450g
  • Elementium rod - @ 100g = 100g
Total? 14,950g. A tad bit on the expensive side, but hey - at least it's not leatherworking.

The Final Tally

As a reminder, these numbers are pretty much a SWAG. Yes, they're based on Actual Auction House Prices (TM) for the most part, but they're still going to vary from server to server and from day to day. As a general ranking of "this profession is more expensive to level than another", though, they should be pretty accurate.

The final totals, from least expensive profession to level to most expensive:
  • Alchemy - 2,993g
  • Engineering - 7,442g
  • Blacksmithing - 10,408g
  • Tailoring - 11,240g
  • Jewlcrafting - 12,615g
  • Enchanting - 14,950g
  • Inscription - 18,276g
  • Leatherworking - 25,222g
And, finally, some thoughts.

Obviously, if you want to level on the cheap, alchemy/engineering is the way to go. On the other hand, if you're a leatherworker/scribe... man, I feel for you. You're burning through enough gold to get you a Vial of the Sands, just to level your professions!

No worries, though. Once you're finished with the profession leveling gold sink, I'm sure that alchemist/engineer will be delighted to sell you a vial.

Each of these figures includes the cost to get to 525 skill. Once you're there, well, you're on your own. Each profession has it's own method of obtaining additional high-end recipes or patterns for use at 525 skill, and the cost to get a complete set of recipes can range from daunting (Jewlcrafting, where it will take you a month of dailies and fistfuls of gems to get 6-7 JC cuts) to trivial (Enchanting, where coughing up a few thousand gold will get you enough heavenly shards to buy a bunch of high-end enchantments all at once). In general, though, hitting 525 is just the start of your profession-related expenses.

Also not included is the cost of training new recipes on the way to 525. Factor in a few hundred extra gold for that particular expense. I'd expect that the relative cost difference for training has only a minor variation between professions.

I'm surprised at how cheap alchemy is, but in hindsight, I shouldn't have been. With most other professions, as you level up, you're generally creating permanent items that will serve a character for multiple levels. Laenshield is still sporting the cloth items he created early on while leveling his tailoring, for example. When those items do finally outlive their usefulness, they can be sold for a small refund, or disenchanted for a larger profit.

Alchemy, though? Everything you create, just about, is a one-shot item that will last for an hour or two at most. The ephemeral nature of potions, elixirs and flasks means that the items you produce via alchemy will be more in line with the cost of buff foods from cooking than with high-end armor from leatherworking or weapons from blacksmithing.

After alchemy, as you progress through the list of professions, you can see reasons why certain costs are lower or higher than the 12k or so "norm" of Jewlcrafting. Engineering requires materials from multiple gathering professions, and the end result of much engineering crafting is BoP instead of BoE, making it harder to make back money from leveling the profession. My guess is that these two factors are why engineering ends up being the second cheapest profession to level, helping to keep it an attractive alternative to some of the less complex crafting professions.

Enchanting and leatherworking at the high end of the spectrum doesn't surprise me. In the case of enchanting, profession leveling materials are readily available in the form of disenchantable quest rewards... generally speaking, any quest reward will give an enchanter some materials, as they can either disenchant the reward itself, or equip the reward and disenchant whatever item it replaced. So while the overall cost is high (in terms of using materials to level), the actual availability of materials to the enchanter is also high.

Leatherworking is a case similar to enchanting, primarily in that leatherworking is often paired with skinning as a gathering profession. Skinners not only have access to their own defeated beast mobs for purposes of skinning, but also any other random beast corpses that others have defeated. Especially early on in an expansion, there are a lot of skinnable mobs littering the ground in some places. Keeping the material requirements (and so, the cost) of leatherwoking high helps balance the availability of materials a bit.

What to say about inscription, though? Not having a scribe at Cata levels yet, I'm at a loss to explain why the cost of leveling inscription would be so high. It doesn't seem to be a cost vs. availability situation, as with engineering/enchanting/leatherworking. I'll have to talk to some scribes and see if there's another reason why inscription is such a money-sucking hog of a profession.

Predictions for the Future

I'd expect that - eventually - the relative cost of enchanting and leatherworking will be brought in line with the median costs of tailoring/jewlcrafting, at about 12k or so to level. Look for a slight reduction in the amount of materials required for trainable enchants, and a pretty hefty (40% - 50%) reduction in the amount of leather required for trainable leatherworking patterns. Conversely, we might see a small increase (10% - 20%) in the cost of engineering materials to help bring it's overall cost closer to the 10k mark.

Other professions I'd expect to stay more-or-less where they're at right now... though I really don't know about inscription. Blizzard has already tinkered with that profession pretty heavily, so I wouldn't be surprised to see it stay at the high end of the spectrum, at least until it becomes obvious that the cost needs to be decreased in order to encourage more people to pick up the profession. Given the explosion of scribes from the Wrath years, though, I think that day - if it ever comes - won't be here for a while.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Counting the Cost (Part 2)

Just as a reminder, here's the scenario: you have a character with 450 skill in a profession, and you want to level him/her to 525 skill. What's it going to cost you for the various professions?

In part one, I covered tailoring, blacksmithing and jewlcrafting. Today, I'm going to look at engineering, inscription, and alchemy. As before, I'll be using the profession leveling guides from The Noob School as a guide for what materials are needed to level, and either AH pricing on my server (Kirin Tor) or from wowhead data to determine what those materials will cost ya.

And yes - if you're working on your professions while leveling in Cataclysm, you'll likely be gathering some materials along the way as well, one way or another. As I stated before, though: keep in mind that those materials aren't free. There is zero difference between farming 1000g and spending it on materials, and farming up 1000g worth of materials yourself. Either way, at the end of the day, you've got 1000g less than you could have had, and have opted to have 1000g worth of materials instead.

Accounting for up to 2x the number of Heat-Treated Spinning Lures, as warned in the guide.
Assume 3 obsidian bolts per 2 bars.
  • 33 electrified ether - 66 volatile air @ 38g = 2058g
  • 37 obsidian bars - 74 obsidian ore @ 4g = 296g
  • 4 alicite - @ 15g = 60g
  • 242 elementium bar - 484 elementium ore @ 6g = 2904g
  • 92 volatile earth - @ 15g = 1380g
  • 40 embersilk cloth - @ 5g = 200g
  • 10 volatile fire - @ 25g = 250g
  • 6 dream emerald - @ 49g = 294g
Total? 7442g. Cheapest so far! Engineering apparently got a break in this expansion.

Assume that inferno ink is purchased from Jessica Sellers in Dalaran, at a cost of 10 blackfallow ink.
  • 905 blackfallow ink - @ 17g = 15385g
  • 80 resilient parchment - @ 0.5g = 40g
  • 15 dust of disappearance - @ 12.5g = 188g
  • 2 scavenged dragon horn - @ 17g = 34 g
  • 156 volatile life - @ 9g = 1404g
  • 18 volatile air - @ 38g = 684g
  • 12 volatile fire - @ 25g = 300g
  • 12 volatile earth - @ 15g = 180g
  • 1 bleached jawbone - @ 40g = 40g
  • 2 deathwing scale fragment - @ 6g = 12g
Total? 18,276g. Ouch ouch ouch ouch ouch. The actual cost will probably be less, given that milling Cata herbs can produce inferno ink, but still... ouch.

  • 59 cinderbloom - @ 5g = 295g
  • 16 stormvine - @ 6g = 96g
  • 51 Azshara's veil - @ 12g - 612g
  • 46 heartblossom - @ 10g = 460g
  • 55 volatile life - @ 9g = 495g
  • 17 twilight jasmine - @ 11g = 187g
  • 23 whiptail - @ 10g = 230g
  • 3 jasper - @ 18g = 54g
  • 3 hessonite - @ 18g = 54g
  • 15 zephyrite - @ 19g = 285g
  • 15 alicite - @ 15g = 225g
Total? 2,993g. Wow.

I had to go back and check my numbers... and, as far as I can tell, I have the quantities correct, here. What I may have wrong is the price of herbs; rather than using AH data from my server, I went with the buyout price listed in wowhead, which may be a little low for your server. Still... you'd have to double the price of herbs to get into the same range as engineering, and triple the cost of herbs to approach the same cost as tailoring and jewelcrafting.

Next up: leatherworking and enchanting, and some concluding thoughts on crafting in Cataclysm.

Indentured Servitude

Today, Aeth will finally reach exalted with the Wildhammer Clan, which will finally let her get a Lightning Flash Pendant. First epic, yeah!

That still leaves her with a number of Cata factions to continue to grind rep with. Guardians of Hyjal, Ramkahen, Earthen Ring... and Baradin's Wardens.

The Wardens.

The key to the reins of the Drake of the West Wind and the Spectral Steed.

Not to mention the Stump of Time and the Insidious Staff.

Oh, yeah - and the Rustberg Gull.

If you're keeping count, that's a total cost of 625 Tol Barad Commendations.

Assuming that the Horde continues to dominate our server and hold Tol Barad nearly 100% of the time - which seems to be the case right now - Aeth can earn a maximum of 6 commendations a day via the daily quests.

That's 105 days of Tol Barad dailies.

I manage dailies about 5 days a week, so that's 21 weeks worth of dailies. Just over 5 months in Tol Barad.

Yeah, I don't have to do them. I don't need the Drake or the Steed. I probably really don't need the Stump or the Staff, either. I certainly don't need the Gull.

But I wants them... I wants them!

They're my precious.

I'm not saying that I've sold my soul. That would be... silly.

I've apparently just... rented it out for a bit, maybe.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Counting the Cost

I commented recently that I thought tailoring might be the most expensive profession to level in Cataclysm. That said, I started wondering... is it, really? Where do the other professions stack up? If you're just interested in power leveling, what's it going to cost you, now that the initial new expansions fluctuations in the WoW economy have settled out?

When I'm interested in leveling a profession, I usually hit the profession guides at The Noob School. Yeah, they advertise their own gold making guide, but it's not too in-your-face... and the advice they give for leveling professions is generally pretty decent. I don't follow their advice 100% (or even 50%, really), but I can at least look over their info and say "Hmm, my tailoring is at 230 - I should be making some of those higher-end mageweave pieces."

Ironically, their tailoring guide is still a work in progress, so I ended up having to get my tailoring information from wowalism instead. Same caveats about that site as for NS. I'd use the NS guide if it were available, though. I just like their style a bit more.

One of the particularly nice things about their guides is that they give you an idea of how much of a certain material you'll need for your leveling. So: let's start by assuming that you've got a character with a 450 tailoring that's been sitting around for the last month or so. Now that you're determined to get his/her skill to 525, what's it going to cost you?

Roughly speaking (there are a couple of alternatives at differatn points), you're looking at the following:

  • 100 eternium thread - a relative pittance at 240g.
  • 75 volatile fire - at 25g each, that's 1,875g total
  • 365 bolts of embersilk cloth - or, rather, 1825 pieces of cloth; at 5g each, that's 9125g.
Total? 11,240g.

Ouch. Yes, you will sell some crafted items to make back some of that gold; and as a tailor, if you're leveling through the Cataclysm zones, you'll scrape up some embersilk cloth here and there. Keep in mind that those materials aren't free, though. There's zero difference between farming 1000g and spending it on embersilk cloth, and farming up 1000g worth of embersilk yourself... either way, at the end of the day, you've got 1000g less than you could have had, and instead opted to have 1000g worth of embersilk instead.

Let's do some similar calculations for a couple of other professions, then: blacksmithing, engineering and jewlcrafting, all of which are pretty widely regarded as being money sinks. We'll keep the same starting conditions - 450 skill today - and see how much it would cost to buy the materials needed to level to 525.

This includes the 60 elementium bars you'll need to purchase the high-level blacksmithing recipies needed to get from 510 to 525.

  • 166 obsidium bars - 342 ore @ 4g = 1368g
  • 354 elementium bars - 708 ore @ 6g = 4248g
  • 120 volatile earth - @ 15g = 1800g
  • 8 volatile fire - @ 25g = 400g
  • 144 volatile water - @ 18g = 2592g
Total? 10,408g - only slightly less expensive than tailoring.

Since you purchase recipes using tokens from the JC daily, and each of those tokens can be used to purchase a Chimera's Eye, I used the cost of an CE to determine the value of a JC token.
  • 45 jewler's settings - @1.50 ~= 68g
  • 34 hessonite - @18 g = 612g
  • 39 carnelian - @ 20g = 780g
  • 55 nightstone - @ 65g = 3575g
  • 15 zephyrite - @ 19g = 285g
  • 15 jasper - @ 18g = 270g
  • 15 alicite - @ 15g = 225g
  • 25 shadowspirit diamonds = @ 200g = 5000g
  • 4 JC tokens - @450g = 1800g

Total? 12,615g. More expensive than tailoring, but the majority of that cost is the large number of meta gems you'll need to obtain. Oh, and if you're going to purchase a couple of uncommon gem cuts along the way and use them to level your skill, tack on another 1500g - 3000g.

Enough for tonight! I'll look at engineering, alchemy, and inscription tomorrow.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Layout Changes



Sometimes... even a pack of hardened killers willing to murder a murloc for two bits of copper...

Sometimes... even they want to look pretty.

Now, I'm a software developer by inclination and intent, which means that I have all the graphic design skills of a dead murloc that's been robbed of his last two bits of copper. Even so, I think that the addition of a bit of color to the blog serves to make it more visually appealing.

Pardon me for a moment while I bask in the overwhelming beauty of the new banner...



We now return you to your regularly scheduled commentary about killing teh internet dragons.

Busy Times

This past weekend was very busy IRL... my wife and I attended a winter retreat with out church's teen group, which resulted in (a) a lot of good memories which unfortunately came with (b) a reminder that I am nowhere near to being a teenager any more. Ooof. Getting old, man. I mean, it couldn't have had anything to do with playing murderball in the snow, right? Exercise is healthy for you!

Since we were essentially incommunicado for a day and a half or so, I did something I usually don't do, and logged in on Friday morning before heading to work. I really didn't want to miss doing my JC and cooking dailies, and once I did them, I realized I was something like 36 rep away from reaching revered with my guild. Since I had managed to get my 40 exalted reputations the night before, I was thinking, OK - let's push this over the edge!

One fishing daily later, and... whoa! Am I the first person in the guild to hit revered? Must have been, because along with Aeth getting to the new level of guild rep, we got the Diplomacy and Ambassadors guild achievements. Woohoo! Very nice. I'm just bummed that nobody else in the guild was on to see it. Ah, well.

In related news, Laen managed to hit level 84 yesterday. Which meant he was able to do the intro quests for the Twilight Highlands, and unlock the vendors there. Vendors who were sooooo grateful that Laen had saved them from horrible death at the hands of the Horde, that they were willing to offer him a massive discount on their merchandise! If by "massive discount on merchandise" you mean "massive indifference, discounting that I just saved your rancid hide and your merchandise from going up in flames".

Gotta love the vendors.

In any case... Laen has access to the high-level enchanting and tailoring recipes now. In the long run, this may not make much of a difference - the cost (in terms of heavenly shards and bolts of embersilk) that these trainers charge is outrageous across the board. I'm pretty sure that you can make the case for tailoring being the most painfully expensive profession to level... well, no. On average, JC is probably the most expensive, given that (on average) it chews through something like a half-dozen green gems a week in exchange for a recipe or two. In terms of a more immediate "Holy cow, where did my money go, and why is this man smiling at me that way?" expensive, though, tailoring is definitely up there.

Even though he's got access to the Twilight Highlands trainers now, I'm going to keep pushing Laen through to 85 and beyond... got to get his reputation up to honored so that the grind to max out enchanting and tailoring count for guild achievements.

Edit: Almost forgot! Music monday... enjoy your Buffett!

Thursday, January 13, 2011

It's A Small World, After All

I've been thinking about updating the blog and adding a little bit of color. I'm generally a plain-Jayne type of guy, but even the stark wasteland of black text on a white background gets to me, eventually.

To that end, I was browsing through my screen shorts folder, when I came across this beauty:

Yes, that's Aeth, Flintlocke, and Doc. While I'm a great fan of Fargo's comics, I was particularly tickled by this particular shot.

You see, in one of those odd twists of fate, I used to work for Dave's brother, long ago and in a galaxy far, far away [1]. While I never got to meet Dave, it amuses me to think that my avatar, in some manner, got to meet his avatar, in a game that he writes for and that I write about.

It's a strange world, indeed.

[1] Metaphorically, in a literal sense. While it was actually only a few minutes across town from where I work now, my employment there eventually led to my name making it into a SF book as that of an alien infiltrator. So, yeah. I know some really cool people. I'm still not sure why they bother to hang out with me...

Carrot, Meet Stick

Last night I finally managed to get Laenshield's enchanting up to maximum - 525 skill. Boo-yah! He's still only level 82, so he's got a while to go before he can start shelling out Heavenly Shards for the max-level enchanting recipes.

While having a maxed-out enchanter is a nice convenience - especially since you can now put any enchantment on a scroll and mail it to an alt - that's not why I pushed him to 525. Since Aeth hit 525 in JC, with Laen at 525 in Enchanting, that means that I've contributed twice to our guild's "Working as a Team" achieve...


Where's the green? The achievement? Here I am, I just hit 525 skill! Does it take a minute to... oh, crud.

Requires that I be honored with the guild?!?


Hence, the title of this post.

I knew that I was eventually going to have to level Laenshield to 85, just to get access to the enchanting vendor in the Twilight Highlands. There'd be some questing along the way, sure - got to get that experience somewhere, after all - but no real need to do more than the minimum to get to level 85, right?

Now I'm thinking maybe not.

Aeth is pushing towards revered with the guild, but it's taken a almost two weeks of dailies to get to that point. I can't recall where she was at the end of questing, but the fact that doing 25 dailies gives around 1000+ guild rep kind of indicates that she was somewhat short of revered, even after doing all the new zones.

Laen is currently still only neutral with the guild. He's halfway to 83, and he's still not even friendly yet. For all the adventure he has ahead of him - Deepholm, Uldum, Twilight Highlands - I'm starting to wonder if he'll actually be able to scrape up enough guild rep to get to revered. There's always Vash'jir, of course - but really, I'm skipping it this time around for a reason, y'know? I don't like the idea of being forced back into questing there just to grind out some rep.

All in all, though, it's a pretty moot point. I'm sure someone else in the guild will contribute the enchanting portion of the guild achievement, and I would have leveled his enchanting skill anyways - so no loss, right? So no, I'm not bitter about it.

What I am, though, is dismayed.

When I first leveled Laen, I did so to have a priest so I could see what healing was like. It was a lot of fun, and for a while there at 80, Laen was effectively my main. I did a few things on Aeth, but swapping over to another level 80 for a couple of weeks wasn't that big of a deal.

Now, though... well, I've already seen one example of the fact that Laen, no matter what his level of skills may be, really doesn't count the same as Aeth, at least in some areas. Whenever I work on something that might be related to a guild achievement, at least, I'm going to have to stop and make sure that I'm doing it on the correct character... at least until time and tides bring Laen up to par with Aeth in terms of guild reputation.

After that, too, there's Aeven and Aeristal and Aretae...

Oh boy.

I have to admit, I'm incredibly impressed with Blizzard right now. I mean... think about it. Anybody can deliver a beating. Just pick up a stick and start flailing away with it. Really not much too it, is there?

Now... consider what guild rep means for folks with multiple alts in Cataclysm.

Anyone can just deliver a beating. It takes a special sort of diabolical mindset to generate a situation where 12 million people pick up a stick and start beating themselves.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Tol Barad

Last night, I finally had the chance to participate in a Tol Barad battle on Aeth. It was a tremendous amount of fun - I particularly liked using Ring of Frost and Flame Orb - and I managed to pick up the Tol Barad All-Star achievement. Personally, playing as an arcane mage, it was a blast. I enjoyed my new abilities, as noted. I was very, very, very happy that folks had to work to take me down instead of one- or two-shotting me. I actually had the option to blink or ice block or frost nova and escape instead of just standing in one spot, stunned and dying. Much more fun.

Despite a pretty good effort by the Alliance, though, we failed to win. At the high point, we managed to control 2 buildings, and were contesting a third, but we weren't able to pull it out.

Simply put, taking Tol Barad is just too hard. Defenders don't even need to take a hold a building - so long as they can deny one point, they can keep control. All other things being equal, in a 30-man battle, the attackers are always going to be facing a superior defensive force, because the defenders can - without risk - abandon one or even two points of defense, and mass at the third. In WoW, as in real life, defending a point already has advantages over attacking. Tol Barad's win criteria just magnifies this difference.

There's been any number of articles and blog posts written about the balance problems in Tol Barad. From my point of view, there's two real problems: the difficulty of gaining control, and the lack of incentives to gain control.

Let's look at the last one first. Lack of incentives? Why, yes. In Wrath, the big PvP area was Wintergrasp. Gaining control of Wintergrasp meant that you got access to daily (then weekly) quests in the zone. On top of that, you could collect Stone Keeper's Shards from dungeon bosses. It also meant that you got access to a special raid instance with high-end loot. Everyone - meaning both PvP and PvE players - benefited from their faction taking and holding Wintergrasp.

Compare and contrast with Tol Barad, where the winning side gets... access to a half-dozen daily quests, which reward Tol Barad Commendations.

Which you can get, just as easily (if at a slower rate) by doing the non-PvP related daily quests on the island.


Why, as a casual PvP player, I should beat my head against the wall of Tol Barad?

I still have to give Blizzard kudos for trying to make Tol Barad interesting to the casual PvP and PvE player. Aeth has her eye on the Stump of Time - dripping huge gobs of hit rating, this is obviously PvE gear, obtainable through doing PvP content. I haven't looked, but I wouldn't be surprised to find that there's PvP gear that's primarily obtainable through PvE content as well. After all, that's how Aeth got into PvP in the first place - she won a set of PvP legs from Torvalon in Wintergrasp.

I don't have to participate in the Tol Barad battle to get it, though. Nor does my faction even need to control Tol Barad. Those things are nice, and would make getting my new shiny happen faster, but they're not essential. Consider how many people in Wrath were interested in Wintergrasp... asking who controlled it, when the battle was starting, forming up raids as the start time approached. Now consider how much effort and involvement you've seen for Tol Barad battles in Cataclysm. Really, nobody cares, because there's no reason to care.

So there's no real incentive there. For the amount of effort required, the reward just isn't there... at least for me, and other casual PvP players. If I just want the thrill of PvP, there are any number of other battlegrounds where I can get that, and still have more than a ghost of a chance of being on the winning side.

So, option one: Blizzard can up the incentives, making winning Tol Barad as it exists today much more attractive to each faction. Which brings us to option two: decrease the difficulty of winning Tol Barad to bring it into line with the current incentives.

I really don't have a problem with defending being easier than attacking - as I mentioned, that's the way things are. The problem is that the victory conditions for attacking side aren't just slightly more difficult than the victory conditions for the defending side, they're much more difficult. So Blizzard can either change the victory conditions, or make obtaining the current set of victory conditions less onerous than they currently are.

Some options for changing victory conditions. Reduce the number of buildings the attackers must capture to 2 instead of 3. Or require that the defenders actually defend all the buildings in order to keep control of the zone. If the attackers control all three buildings at the end of the battle, they gain control; if the defenders control all three buildings at the end of the battle, they retain control; otherwise, the zone is contested... and instead of the current crop of daily quests, players get a different set of PvP related dailies.

If we keep the current victory conditions - attackers must take and hold all three buildings - then we can still level the playing field a little bit by giving the attacking players some NPC help. Consider adding the following mechanic: if the attacking players are able to capture two buildings during the battle, then they gain the ability to "raise the vengeful dead". An artifact appears somewhere between the two buildings that requires 3 attacking players to do a 15-second channel. If they can manage to pull off the cast, one of the buildings they control is garrisoned by the vengeful dead: 20 elites friendly to the attacking forces, hostile to the defenders. This gives the attacking side a non-trivial bit of assistance, but only if they're able to (a) capture two buildings, (b) keep those two buildings, and (c) keep the defenders from interrupting a long-running channeling effort that takes away 3 players from their forces.

Something like this would force the defending forces to defend. If they hunker down in one spot and keep control of a single building, then the attacking force will win, period. Instead of being passive defenders, waiting for the attackers to come to them, they would have to make an effort to disrupt the attacker's forces.

Take it all with a grain of salt - I'm a casual PvP player at best, after all, and I'm sure that there's a hundred problems with changing incentives or changing victory conditions that smarter folks than I can point out. Even as it stands right now, Tol Barad is a fun battleground to play in. Long term, though, part of the fun of playing is winning once in a while. Taking that element of fun out of Tol Barad makes it an interesting diversion, and keeps it from becoming a core part of Cataclysm game play.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

5-Man Raids

As I mentioned yesterday, I had the chance to attempt a couple of heroics over the weekend with Aeth doing dps. The experience was both mildly frustrating and a whole lot more fun that I thought it would be.

I was part of a guild group, which obviously changed the level and character of interaction. We were all on vent, which helped significantly with communication. Since we knew each other, there was a level of civility, discussion and co-operation that you only rarely experience in a dungeon finder PuG. The trash was tough, use of CC was liberal - I actually had to be told it was OK to do a sheep pull! - and we wiped more than once. We actually started with the Stonecore, wiped several times on the first boss, and eventually re-queued and completed the Halls of Origination.

Overall, it didn't feel like we were running dungeons, even heroic dungeons. I'm essentially a Wrath player, having barely hit Outland on my first character when Wrath was released. So my experience with heroics is limited to what few I ran at level in BC content, and what I saw in Wrath. Even in those limited instances, 5-man content felt like 5-man content. Tough, definitely, but not horribly impossible.

Stonecore and Halls of Origination were... roughly about the same level of difficulty, I'd say. Less trash than the BC instances, but what trash there was, was tougher. More like a collection of mini-bosses than elites. The bosses themselves were more active than Wrath bosses. To me, it felt like there was less tank-and-spank, more special abilities, more decisions to make and more opportunities to react instead of following a pre-planned script.

So, yeah. It felt less like a heroic, and more like a 5-man raid.

I like it.

Leveling through the new Cataclysm content, there are a bunch of quests that are obviously designed to help teach people how to react to, and deal with, the kinds of special abilities you find in heroic and raid bosses. Fire to move out of, positioning requirements, stop dps and shield... that sort of thing. All good.

Heroics feel like the next step in the chain, where you start having to do additional work. Things like crowd-control. A lot of the HoO fights seemed to involve managing adds as well. Quite a few had me switching targets based on the flow of the fight, or from single-target dps to aoe and back based on what was happening.

I won't lie - it was rough in spots. I died a lot. My dps wasn't near what it could have been or should have been, and I let my sheep expire a couple of times when I shouldn't have. But you know what?

Next time, I'll be a bit better than I was this last run.

Next time, I'll have learned a bit, and be ready to switch targets when the fight demands it.

Next time, I'll know when to ice block through that aoe effect to save the healer a bit o' mana.

It's not just re-learning skills I already had, though. It's learning how to adapt, how to make the right decision to use the skills and abilities I have to their best effect.

Sure, at some point, even Cata heroics will be trivialized by folks running them in top-tier gear. I have a suspicion, though, that that time is far in the future... and that even then, competent players with good coordination will still do better than the overgeared "gogogo" crowd.

As 5-man heroics, Cata dungeons are hard. As raid trainers, though... they're excellent.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Mighty Laenshield At Bat

I Started working on leveling Laenshield, my shadow/disc priest, this weekend, and frankly, the experience was very different from leveling Aetherna, my arcane mage (who got to run a couple of dungeons with some guildies... more on that in a later post).

Obviously, the Great Crush of folks experiencing the new Cataclysm content has died doen significantly. Taking Laenshield through Mount Hyjal, there were one or two places where I ran into someone else killing the same mobs I was after... but that's just what it was, someone else, not somemobofotherplayers. That was a definite plus.

Also, things seemed to go much faster this time around. Starting in Mount Hyjal, it took Laen about 4 hours or so to get to level 82 (well, 4-5 bubbles in to level 83, but who's counting?) I think you can attribute this two a couple of reasons. One, guild perks and rested XP - that's a decent bonus right there. Two, I had upgraded Laenshield's gear with a bunch of crafted Deathsilk and some random cheap crafted green. I'm sure that sporting a couple of ilvl 290+ pieces instead of the 230+ pieces that Aeth had helped make a difference.

Three... shadow priests are just OP, man. I thought Aeth was a leveling monster with her glyphed evocation allowing for a simultaneous heal/mana restore every two minutes. Woohoo!
Yeah. Compare that with "I heal myself every time I do damage, and I'm constantly doing damage. Mana restoration? Can you say 'replenishment'? How about 'shadow fiend' and 'dispersion'? I knew you could!"

When facing more than a couple of mobs, it could get dicey, of course. And while Laen was burning down mobs consistently, there was an obvious bit of "get the DoTs up" ramp-up time before they really started to suffer. Still... while Aeth has the "massive damage in short time" spot in my heart all sewn up, Laen is definitely holding strong in the "massive damage over long time" slot. Especially with those shadowy images, which are just way, way, way cool. There were times I'd DoT up a target and just run around to watch my apparitions chew the face off of a poor mob.

On the minus side, embersilk cloth is still rarer then hen's teeth. Running through Mount Hyjal in it's entirety got Laen enough cloth to... um. Make a set of shoulders? Almost? Yeah, the whole "cloth is hard to come by" meme is being ruthlessly exploited. On the plus side, though, the crafted cloth gear really is kind of awesome. So we'll call it a draw for now.

Oh, and for music Monday - here's what really has to be the PuG anthem in Cataclysm. "Clowns to the left of me, jokers to the right; here I am, stuck in the middle with you..."

Friday, January 7, 2011

Professions in Cataclysm

Not a first impression, really. Not even a second, or a third... more like "Holy cow, it took you this long to get around to looking at professions?"

Meh. What can I say? Dailies, man. Dailies. There's reputation to be earned!

Cooking: Amazingly easy to level just as part of the "on my way to 85" experience. The cooking daily is wonderful, fun, and easy, and I'll be doing them for the next 3 months in order to get all the recipes on Aeth. After that? Not so much, unless Blizzard adds new recipes or items you can purchase with the cooking awards.

Fishing: More painful to level, but (obviously) not impossible. The extra skill up from the fishing daily was awesome - do a daily, avoid 5 minutes of fishing? Definitely worth it. Now that I've hit 525 fishing, though, I doubt I'll bother to do the fishing daily at all, unless I find myself needing to squeeze out a little extra guild rep.

Archaeology: Haven't really worked on this yet. There's too much other stuff to do! It looks like it will be a time sink, though, primarily from all the traveling that it will involve. Being a mage should be a slight help there, though.

Mining: Barely even noticed that I was leveling. Just by hitting available mining nodes in the new zones, I was able to hit 525 mining on Aeth about halfway through Uldum. Which I did before Deepholm, by the way... yes, Aeth went from Hyjal to Vash'jir to Uldum to Twilight Highlands, then back to cover Deepholm. She's weird that way. In any case, mining - and, I expect, herbing and skinning - falls into the "Wow, I leveled that already?" category.

Jewlcrafting: Ah, here the pain begins. Dailies to earn JC tokens? Check. Dailies that require you to consume 150-200G worth of gems to turn them in? Ouch. Recipes that seemingly stop giving skill-ups as soon as they turn yellow? Ah-yep. So, really, this is the Wrath version of Jewlcrafting, but taken to the next level. Expensive, annoying, and under-appreciated.

Enchanting: About as painful as jewlcrafting, though the flood of crafted 81-83 items on the AH listed for cheap has made it a bit easier. Well, it would have made it easier if I was foolish enough to buy and DE items to level enchanting. Instead, for the last 4 weeks, I've been buying cheap (under 30g) level 81+ greens off of the AH, disenchanting them, and then turning around to resell the resulting dusts and essences for a 3x-4x profit. I've managed to make about 20k gold in a couple of weeks, just doing this once a day or so.

Now that the prices of dusts and essences has dropped, I've started using some of my mats to level enchanting on Laenshield, and it's going about as well as you would expect - slow, but not painfully slow. I've created a mess of scrolls that sell for far less than their materials cost, so instead of dumping them on the AH, I'm stockpiling them for use on other characters. Laenshield is still at 80, too - so once I start leveling, he should end up with a nice cache of materials from DE'ing quest rewards that he can use to finish leveling his profession.

One annoying thing about enchanting is that the high-level recipes require (a) unlocking the vendor in the Twilight Highlands, and (b) heavenly shards. Yeah, thanks. I thought 200G every other day or so for the JC dailies was bad. I'm afraid to see what the price of heavenly shards will be. Looks like Laen will either have to become a dungeon-running DE junkie, or shell out gobs of cash to buy shards of the AH, if he wants to learn any of the high-level enchants.

Tailoring: Let's see. You can learn new tailoring patterns directly from the tailoring trainer? Yay! No dailies to run! You find the materials as you quest, right? Awesome! How hard could this be? Really?

Hard enough to make you want to drive sewing needles directly into your brain.


One of the things I did with Aeth was gather and stockpile embersilk cloth for Laen, so it would be easier to level tailoring later on. The problem here is that the drop rate on cloth for non-tailors is painfully low. So low that, after leveling through every new zone, and doing every quest, and running dailies for 2 weeks, Aeth barely had enough cloth to allow Laen to get to 480 tailoring skill.

You heard me right. Four. Eight. Oh. 480.

No, wait, that's not true. I had to shell out a couple of hundred gold on the AH to buy the extra cloth I needed to get him that far. Leveling tailoring to 525 is going to be... slow, I think. Vera, vera slow.

On the plus side, once I start leveling Laen, he'll be pulling in additional cloth. Still, will he manage to get the... holy cow, 1700+ pieces of embersilk cloth to level tailoring to 525? That's insane! That's about 9000G worth of cloth!

Yeah. I'm thinking that maybe leveling tailoring can wait a bit.

Edit: Right after posting this, I notice that Larisa slips a little cloth-gathering suggestion into her latest post. Tresure-finding potion and AoE farming? Yes, please! I plan on starting to level Laen soon, so once he hits 85, I'll definitely be giving this a try.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Enumerating the Innumerable

Over at Disciplinary Action, there's an interesting post up on Shameless Self-Promotion.

In the interests of full disclosure (and getting back into the habit of posting daily during the week!), here's the A20S statistics from the past year, courtesy of Blogger and Google Analytics. Rest assured, I will be poring over this data, and use it to craft my eventual plan for WoW-blogging domination.

Well, I mean, once I get my Cataclysm reps to exalted. I mean, you've got to have priorities, you know.

  • 3,196 page views of 170 posts in 23 categories
  • 2,354 visits from 49 countries
  • 80% of visitors were from referring sites
  • Peak traffic was on Friday, June 25th (thanks to a WoW Insider post)
  • Most Referrals: Disciplinary Action, Righteous Defense, Righteous Orbs
Top 10 Search Phrases!
  • hail my tauren compatriot
  • shen'dralar rep cata
  • earthquakes in ironforge
  • geek women unite
  • keepers of time rep
  • ragefire chasm wont let me in
  • ravenholdt rep cataclysm
  • shen'dralar cataclysm
  • shen'dralar rep cataclysm
  • 20k azeroth fly
Top Posts!
  • Music Monday Posts: 8
  • Music Monday Posts made on a day other than Monday: 1
  • Number of times Shamus Young is mentioned: 4
  • Number of times OOTS is mentioned: 2

Monday, January 3, 2011

How in the world did that happen?

Here I am, a month of so after Cataclysm came out. I've pushed Aeth to 85, and started her reputation grinds with Therazane, Wildhammer and Tol Barad Wardens. She's geared enough - barely - to qualify for running heroics, though I've not yet stepped foot in any regular dungeons.

Laenshield has been hanging out in Ironforge, buying uncommon greens for cheap, and turning them into massive stacks of cash. Well, dusts and essences, really - but when a 30g weapon can DE into 3-4 essences worth 30g each, well, that's just a money-making opportunity that can't be passed up. In between times, he's been buying cheap netherweave cloth and making bags. Both the DE and bag business seem to be winding down, though, so I may be taking him out into the wilds of Mount Hyjal soon.

Poor Aeven will have to wait her turn until after Laenshield levels up. I expect that she and Aretae will be the laggards, at least until Aeth has managed to snag all the achievements she can squeeze out of Cata... and Northrend, and Azeroth, for that matter. Lots of new quests in the old world to do, lots of new achievements in the Old World, as well! And not just the ones that have been added in the expansion, either... I'm thinking that wandering through Karazhan solo might actually be possible, now. Maybe not the boss fights, but 100k health and 20-30k dps should make the trash wonderfully grindable!

Oh, and Music Monday. Enjoy! Today it's Clannad, with a live version of "In A Lifetime".