Monday, February 28, 2011

A Life That's Full

Didn't get much play time this weekend - there was a lot going on IRL - but what I did manage was pretty revealing.

I ran two new (to me) heroics on Aeth - Blackrock Caverns and Deadmines. The BC run was a bit of a challenge, with multiple wipes. I found myself grateful for (a) The Quick and The Dead, and (b) that there's finally a graveyard in the Deadmines, just outside the instance portal. Oh, and (c) that apparently, all the new dungeons include some way to teleport from the entrance to whatever point you've managed to clear up to already. Yay for convenience helps!

We only had one wipe on the Deadmines run, and of the three DPS, Aeth clocked in at the bottom of the charts with just over 10k dps. Apparently, this was a Good Run (TM). During the course of the two dungeons, Aeth managed to pick up a number of achievements:
That's in addition to the normal and heroic achievements for completing the dungeons.

Here's the thing, though... I went into these runs cold. No, I hadn't read up on the dungeons or the bosses, studied any strats, or watched any videos. What I did do was stay out of the fire, sheep (well, turtle :-) when directed, and - once - pop Time Warp when the tank asked for it, instead of relying on my own judgement.

Overall, it wasn't anywhere near as difficult as I expected. Granted, these were guild randoms - we started off both runs with an excellent tank, and for the Deadmines run, we also had an absolutely top-notch healer along as well. Minus some quick direction on boss mechanics, though, I was surprised that the fights were... well, fairly obvious. Stay out of the fire. Don't let the bad stuff hit you. Pick up the adds. Pay attention, be ready to move, collect phat lewt.

So, I think I'll be jumping into more randoms here and there, as time permits. I'm sure I'll eventually run into a "gogogo" guy again, but for now, at least, it looks like picking up 1-2 guild mates and filling in the res of the group from LFD is a winning strategy.

On other fronts, Aeth finally rescued Pebble for the last time, and so got the achievement Rock Lover - which means she now has an incredibly cute little elemental that can follow her around. Which causes a bit of a quandary, as this weekend is when Aeth's campaign against the foxes of Baradin came to an end when one dropped the almost-unbearably-full-of-squee Fox Kit. Ahh! Which one, which one? Ah, well. As the mood takes me, I suppose... but I have to admit that Pebble is a really, really, really cute lil' guy!

Oh, and for music Monday: here - have some Haggis. I've got kilts on my mind, as a friend is going to get married soon, and her husband will be in traditional Scottish garb. I'm trying to convince my wife that really, if that's the case, then I absolutely should get myself a kilt for the wedding as a show of respect. No luck so far, but there's months to go yet...

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

The Incongruity of PvP on a PvE Server

Tol Barad, time T minus 5 minutes: Doing dailies, I find myself in the same areas as Angelic, a troll priest. Running from point A to point B on my own business, it's no problem to toss off an Arcane Barrage or Fire Blast to lend a hand. I do it without even really thinking about it.

Tol Barad, time T plus 5 minutes: Fighting the battle of Tol Barard, I find myself in the same area as Angelic, a troll priest. Running from point A to point B on my own business, it's no problem to stop, slow, spellsteall her buffs, then pop trinkets and hit her smack dab in the face with a couple of buffed arcane blasts. I do it without even really thinking about it.

What a difference 10 minutes makes.


It crept up on me completely unexpectedly... my last post here was #200. Wow.

Another milestone of a sorts happened as I played Aeth last night. The battle for Tol Barad came around while I was finishing the dailies there, so I hopped into the battle, and had an absolute blast. A spell-stealing, slowing, polymorphing blast. I don't know what was up, but I was bouncing around and attacking and defending with glee.

Highlights of the battle? Following a running battle and managing to spell-steal every single buff from a half dozen Horde attackers - that was good. Sneaking up behind a healing shammy and keeping him locked down with polymorph and counterspells - nice!

Absolute best moment, though? Dying at the hands of an orc warrior twice in the same pitched battle for the Warden's Vigil. I managed to catch him alone on the road headed for the scrum, and while I didn't kill him, I whittled him down enough that another player was able to finish him off pretty easily. When he returned to the battle, he singled me out for punishment. Orc warrior vs. human mage? Yeah, not much of a fight there. What made it for me was that he obviously went out of his way - bypassing even the healers, for crying out loud! - to target poor lil' Aeth.

Apparently, I was a threat.

It was glorious.

We lost the battle, but even the losing was an awful lot of fun. Afterwards, I jumped on Aretae and continued working on leveling him in Northern Stranglethorn. Even without any heriloom gear, leveling is quick, and fun. I have to admit that I was not being very rogue-like while hunting the beasts of stranglethorn... I'd pop Running Wild, lope across the landscape until I spotted a target, and then leap and attack.

Watching my wolf-man run down a panther, then leap upon it for the kill? Oh, man. I think I could do that for hours without it getting old.

Oh, wait. I did.

And it was glorious.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Vote to Kick? Why not "Pay to Kick"?

Some comments about the new LFD vote kick rules over at WoW Insider just made me think that Blizzard really should change the vote kick mechanism to a "pay to kick" mechanic instead.

Something like the following...

The first vote kick in a run is free.

The second vote kick costs 25g per person voting.

If the target of the vote is kicked, they get the gold.

Third vote kick costs 50g per person voting.

Fourth costs 75g per person.

Each boss that you've cleared in the instance raises the cost to vote kick by 25%. Done four bosess, kicked three people and want to kick a fourth? That'll be 150g per person voting going into the pot.

Each wipe reduces the cost by 25%. Wipe four times, and you're back to a zero cost vote kick.

The only thing that keeps me from thinking this is an awesome idea is that you'd potentially get people farming instances, being jerks just to get kicked and get a gold reward.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Work, work, work...

Ah-yep. Work's been eating up a lot of my time lately.

A lot of time.

Part of the price you pay for working at a startup is, in fact, working at a startup.

In between dealing with virtual memory issues, operating system bugs and other wonderful esoterica, I've only had a little time to escape into Azeroth this week... and while there, I've pretty much only managed to take care of the essentials.

Like snagging Aeth a new pair of pants. That brings her to a total of 4 epics, 9 blues and 5 greens. Item level 342 equipped!

Well, OK. I got to run around and murder undead for an hour or so on Aretae last night. That's hardly even playing, though, really. They all fall down so easily...

Something I did notice, which seemed kind of weird. You're able to use finishing moves like Recuperate after a mob has died. This is apparently intentional, and is really kind of interesting. If I'm only down a few percent on health after finishing a mob, I'll hit Slice and Dice and get an attack speed buff. Otherwise I'll go for a nice HoT from Recuperate. If I'm quick, I can alternate the two, and zip from mob to mob, healing and slicing and healing and slicing and generating nice big purple XP numbers.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Gearing Up

This weekend, I was having some fun leveling Aretae. He's made it to level 25 now, and leveled his inscription to the point where he was able to make a couple of Mysterious Tarot decks for Aetherna. The obvious goal there is to get him to the point where he can start producing Darkmoon Cards (350 base rep per turn in) instead of the lesser decks (which are only 25 base rep per turn in).

I've also dipped my toes into the LFD tool, with good experiences. Probably because I was running a regular dungeon that I'm more than geared for. It was a nice practice run in a regular, though, to help get me oriented and familiar for heroics.

I also spent a lot of time in Tol Barad, and finally won my first victory there. As a result, though, I've started to develop an absolute loathing of Troll hunters. One that almost, but not quite, matches my loathing of Undead rogues. I did discover that, if I can get the drop on a hunter, I can fill his life full to the brim with pain, so there was some consolation there. Call it a learning experience, in that I learned that (a) I can kill hunters, and (b) I like killing hunters. Well, Troll hunters named IcyFizzyPop or something similar, at least.

Unfortunately, with only one hundred and mumble resilience, my primary use in the battle was to spell steal, frost nova, and otherwise act as a distraction for the few seconds it would take a passing Hordie to turn me into a corpse. Yee-haw. I've been told that I should be shooting for about 2K resilience, so I went ahead and spent some of my hard-earned honor points to pick up a pair of Bloodthirsty Gladiator's Silk Handguards. She's already sporting the Bloodthirsty Gladiator's Cuffs of Prowess, so that gets her a whopping 277 resilience!


I see more battlegrounds in Aeth's future. A full set of Bloodthirsty regalia will get her to 955 resilience; with gems, enchants and a few other tweaks, getting to 1500 shouldn't be too difficult.

Now if I can just find that glyph of hunter slaying...

Monday, February 14, 2011

Storybook Love

This is for the woman who, 19 years ago, agreed to share my life. I doubt that she ever anticipated that being my wife would someday include lying in bed, making snarky comments about my character's shoulders while watching me defeat internet dragons. There's a thousand other things that have happened in our life together that neither one of us ever anticipated, though, so all things considered, what's a few dorky shoulder pieces and a couple of internet dragons between friends and lovers?

Shari - my princess, my queen, my friend - thank you for your tolerance, your patience, and all our years together. You, my love, are made of win.

Friday, February 11, 2011

The Forge Of Souls

Normal mode, solo.


Not all the way, unfortunately. Bronjahm turned out to be able to take quite a bit of punishment. I popped my trinkets, put up Time Warp and Mirror Image, and commenced to blowing through my mana like there was no tomorrow. 30 seconds later, I had him down to about 30% health when my mirror images disappeared and he decided to start melting my face off.

I was completely ignoring the corrupted soul fragments, though. I suppose that if I paid attention to those, I wouldn't have had quite as difficult a time getting him down. I'm thinking that it might be worth it to (a) lay out some cash for some higher-end consumables, and (b) plop down 40 Tol Barad Commendations for a Baradin Footman's Tags. Depending on how survivable the footman is, a combination of Mirror Image followed by a Footman may give Aeth enough time to overpower Bronjahm.

Good news is that the trash packs were tough, but not so tough as to be overpowering. There are a couple of 5- or 6-mob pulls in FoS that were a bit hairy (as in, "finished off the last mob with 1% health"), but a using trinkets on cooldown and all of Aeth's many CC abilities helped keep those fights manageable. If I keep it up, I may be able to get her her own Battered Hilt.

So, making a complete SWAG, it looks like Aeth should be able to solo normal Wrath dungeons up to the Nexus (modulo any "you need at least two people to beat this boss" mechanics like Svala Sorrowgrave). Next up is trying to gauge heroic difficulty... I'm thinking to give Heroic Drak'Theron a try, and see how that works out. Maybe pick up an achievement on the way!

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Raising the Bar

If you haven't heard, in patch 4.0.6, Blizzard changed the requirements for getting "The Exalted" title, and removed it from players that already had the achievement. The new requirement is apparently 50 exalted reputations.

Um. OK?

I'm not going to complain about this, really. I was planning on grinding out 50 exalted reputations (or more!) eventually, so it's not a big deal for me. It just means another couple of months before I get a title I'll never really wear (not so long as Aeth has Matron, at least).

On the other hand... with 4.0.6, we also got the achievement "Just Another Day In Tol Barad" for completing each of the 34 daily quests in Tol Barad. Some of which - I kid you not - I have seen only once, or have even yet to see, even after doing Tol Barad dailies for weeks. I've earned exalted rep with the Wardens twice over by this point, gathered enough commendations to get Aeth the Stump of Time and make good headway towards some of the other reputation items I'd like to get my hands on...

... and none of those quests count, apparently.


Now, that is a bit annoying. Couple that with the fact that you still can't Explore Tol Barad, and I've got to wonder if the folks at Blizzard have handed off TB development to a summer intern or something.

In other news... did my last Black Morass run with Aeth, and got her to exalted with the Keepers of Time, which got her her Burning Crusader achievement. Time to head into some Cata dungeons, I guess!

Or maybe not...

To finish of the evening last night, I ported to Dalaran and caught a taxi to Valgarde in Howling Fjord. A quick flight later, and Aeth was strolling into the normal version of Utgarde Keep solo, just to see what that was like.

About 20 minutes later, she was done. Trash mobs were approximately on par with the weaker non-elite Cataclysm mobs, but hitting for a whole lot less. I was using CC at the start, but quickly realized that was serious overkill. Even without mana shield up, I could down a pack of 4-5 mobs without dropping below 90% health. Of the bosses... Prince Keleseth? Downed without any trouble, even before he could summon any adds. Skarvald and Dalronn? Not an issue. Ingvar? It is to laugh.

Yeah, yeah - it was the entry-level normal dungeon in Wrath. At this point, Aeth seriously outgears the content. Still, it's amazing how easy this was. I'm sure Wrath heroics will be more challenging, but I'm not sure by how much.

Next stop, I think, will be the Pit of Saron on normal mode, to see how tough the high-end Wrath dungeons are. If that's doable, I'll have to give the Wrath heroics a try... maybe see if I can pick up some of the heroic achievements she's missing, like Chaos Theory and Less-Rabi. It would be a real kick to finish off her Glory of the Hero achievement by running solo or duo!

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

So Close I Can Taste It

Ended last night with a partial run of regular Old Hillsbrad, leaving Aeth at 20,990/21000 for Keepers of Time rep.

Why? Why else? So I could finish it up tonight, when folks could actually see me get my Burning Crusader achievement.

Sigh. Yeah - I'll admit it. I crave the momentary endorphin high initiated by the approval and admiration of people I've never met IRL.

Monday, February 7, 2011

The Agony of Defeat

No, nothing so mild as loosing Tol Barad for the 173rd straight time. I wish that were all it was!

No, alas... I'm a Pittsburgh native.

Which meant that last night was both exhilarating and depressing, in just about equal measures... with, unfortunately, depressing edging out for the win. C'est la football! I was really hoping they'd get that "7 Superbowl Win" achievement, but hey, there's always next year.

Yeah, missing the seasonal achievements stinks, doesn't it?

On other fronts, Aeth is back to achievement hounding with a vengeance. She's picked up a bunch more BC era heroic dungeon achievements, and has started to get serious about grinding out her Keepers of Time rep. I've got enough gold to keep me more than happy, enough challenges (achievement-oriented or otherwise) to give me some enjoyable diversions, and enough interesting stuff on the horizon (most of the regular Cata dungeons and heroics) to keep me happy.

Yep - aside from the Halls of Origination, I've really not run any Cata dungeons yet. I'm starting to think that progression content may not be my thing, if the idea of leveling archaeology or getting The Limnologist has more appeal than wiping repeatedly on Baron Ashbury.

Yeah. Baron Ahsbury. Between Stay of Execution and Mend Rotten Flesh, that guy's a nightmare. Not because he requires interrupts - that makes the fight interesting. It's that he has three abilities that he uses that require interrupts, and missing any one of them will pretty much ruin your chances of downing him unless you can make an heroic effort (no pun intended) to recover from the setback. Heaven help you if you miss an interrupt, or mistime an interrupt, or double up on an interrupt and so miss his next "interrupt this or fail" ability.

Hmpfh. We'll see how hard he is after the 4.0.6 patch, once he forgets how to Mend Rotten Flesh.

Oh, and for music monday: this one's for Myrann, Eeler and the rest of my WoW friends who - unlike me - are rejoicing at the outcome of the game yesterday. All in all, folks, if the Steelers had to loose, I have to say I'm happy that they lost to the Packers - they're a fine, fine team, and they deserved the game.

Hopefully, we'll see a rematch next year!

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Cynw... er, I mean, Bloodrose on PvP

A Rose by any other name is still a... murdering little ball of gnomish fury.

Burning Gold

So, what do you do when you've finished your Cataclysm dailies, look at your bags and realize that you have a few extra thousand gold burning a hole in your pockets?

Well, if you're an achievement hound, you head to Shattrath, of course! There you can spend a measly 1200g to get a Haris Pilton "Gigantique" Bag. Then fly to Zangarmarsh and drop 1600g on the Cenarion War Hippogryph. Two achievements in the space of 5 minutes, and it only cost 2800g. Not a drop in the bucket, but certainly more affordable thanks to the increased flow of gold in Cataclysm.

After that, since I was in Outland, I took Aeth out to solo some heroic BC dungeons. She managed the Old Hillsbrad Foothills, Black Morass, and Blood Furnace last night without much difficulty at all. At the end of it all, she had managed to pick up another three achievements. Woot!

Even better, along the way, she gathered about 7k reputation with the Keepers of Time - bringing her almost halfway to exalted, on track to get two more achievements: The Burning Crusader and one more step towards 45 Exalted Reputations.

Reputations aside, last night reminded me how fun doing older solo content can be. As a level 80 arcane mage at the end of Wrath, doing the high-end BC heroics solo was just a bit beyond my reach. Now, at 85, they're doable - still a bit of a challenge, though, especially for a squishy mage.

It's kind of odd, but the elites in the BC dungeons feel a lot like the non-elite mobs in Cataclysm. Their health is a little lower, and in some cases, their damage is way lower. In others, though - here I'm specifically thinking of the Heroic Blood Furnace - the trash mobs are still a challenge, even with the health and damage increases that Cataclysm has brought to the table. It makes me think that a little bit of dynamic tuning might make the dungeons even more interesting for solo play.

Maybe this weekend I'll head to Northrend and see what it's like trying to solo some of the entry level dungeons there, starting with Utgarde Keep. Or get a guild mate to join with me and forma raid group so I can see what Karazhan looks like, now that I'm level mondo. My gut feeling is that, even with the Cataclysm changes, both UK and Kara will be a significant - and very fun! - challenge.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

War Games

I didn't make it to Tol Barad last night. Didn't make it to my dailies, as a matter of fact. Instead, I got swept up into a guild group, and we did a couple of rated battlegrounds.

We also lost miserably.

When you're talking 10v10, and the other side has 4 healers to your 1, there's a little bit of an imbalance there that's kind of hard to overcome. Meh! Whatever. I got to equip some of my shiny new PvP gear, I got to throw around arcane blasts, polymorphs and circles of frost, and we had fun :-) Next time, we'll kick their scruffy little butts. Really!

Afterwards, we split into two 5-man teams and played War Games, which is - IMHO - probably one of the neatest things I've seen in terms of WoW PvP. Form your team, challenge your opponent, and - oh, hey! You're in a battleground with a bunch of guild mates! No honor to grind, nothing to gain, nothing to loose - just a game of capture the flag. Nice!

I think that's the first time I've ever been on the winning side in Warsaw Gulch, which alone made it a pleasant evening. The lack of pressure was wonderful, as well. It was nice to take a break from the game and... er. Play a game? You know what I mean.

I think there may be more War Games for me in the future. A nice, low-pressure bit of capture the flag with a bunch of friends would be a great way to see how Laen and Aeven perform in PvP.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

"Damn hippies."

"Every one of 'em."

I am really starting to like Ash'gor... and Mig's a close second.

Cywnise is... well, wise

Or, at the very least, wiser than I am.

If you want to know How To Win Tol Barad, she's got the answers for ya.

I'm consistently impressed by the thought, experience and insight that Cynwise puts into her posts. It's one thing to lay out the battlefield, talk about strong points and the flow of battle, and give people the information they need to know in order to effectively attack or defend.

It's another thing entirely to write an article that makes your readers go, "Crud... I won't be able to try this for another 8 hours! Maybe I can put together a bit of a premade? I mean, there's that PvP gear I crafted and put up on the AH, but I could pull that off and equip a few folks in the guild and... and... I wants it! I WANTS MY PRECIOUS! TOL BARAD WILL BE OURS!"


"Inspiring" is the word I was looking for, I think.

Go. Read. Be encouraged.

Then go kick those arrogant SOBs out of your battleground.