Weekly Warcraft Wednesday:  Remembering one of WoW’s Worst Moments.

Note:  I’ve chosen not to link the video discussed in this post.  If you want to, feel free to look it up on your own, but I’m not going to promote it here.

World of Warcraft has produced some funny moments, and some interesting moments.  It’s also produced many truly awful moments as well.  Today marks the ninth anniversary of the most notable – at least in my opinion – event in WoW’s history.  The details go something like this:  An avid WoW player suffered a fatal stroke, so her in-game friends decided to have a makeshift funeral for her inside Azeroth.  They posted notices on WoW’s forums, inviting players from both the Alliance and Horde to come pay their respects.  The rules were pretty straightforward.  Do not attack one-another.  Be respectful.

As you can imagine, things did not go to plan.  What began as a beautiful moment quickly degraded into a slaughter.  As members of both the factions lined up single file to pay their respects to a fallen friend (or foe), a group of players from the Alliance guild, Serenity Now came barreling in and killed everyone they could.  Part of what made this awful moment so noteworthy is that the perpetrators created a montage of the massacre, complete with soundtrack, and posted it to YouTube.

When first I saw the video I’ll admit that I chuckled a bit out of sheer amazement that people would go so far out of their way just to be mean to others.  The actions of the players in question were clearly in bad taste, but it was funny in the same way an off-color joke is.   I also couldn’t help but wonder what the organizers of the funeral expected.  In real life people are generally pretty decent, but in a game where the mask of an avatar and the safety of anonymity are so prevalent it’s really not that surprising that people can act awful.

Over the last nine years the incident has stuck with me.  I’d say that I’ve probably gone back and watched the video at least five times over that period.  Each time I’ve watched it, it’s bothered me a little bit more because since then I’ve become more and more invested in my digital persona.  Whether it’s World of Warcraft, Twitter, YouTube, or another online community we, as a society have slowly placed more and more stock into what people think of us online.

These days there is a decent chance that you’re Facebook friends with at least some of the people you game with regularly.  Those people know all kinds of details about your life.  If you tried to pull a stunt like the funeral raid today, and one of your Facebook gamer friends took offense, it wouldn’t take much for them to get a lot of your personal information out there for the world to see.  Make no mistake, this is a good thing.  Less anonymity means less of the activity you’d only engage in anonymously.  Still, the death-threat-via-tweet that was so prevelant during the height of Gamergate is proof that either we’re still too anonymous, or some people just don’t care about consequences.

Nine years later, what I think remains most relevant about the funeral raid is how much attention it received.  Amongst the WoW community the video spread like wild-fire, and in turn, it promoted the type of bad behavior that has seemed to permanently soak into online gaming as a whole.  Things like Facebook and Twitter help to humanize those on the other side of the screen, but clearly it’s not enough yet.  Most of us still operate with enough anonymity that day-to-day rudeness is hard to police.  It might be harder to pull of something like the funeral raid with complete anonymity, but you can still scream slurs at your average Call of Duty opponent without much consequence.

I’m of two minds about the meshing of our digital and physical personas.  On one hand, it would be nice to be able to see the Facebook profile of every person you gamed with.  If they were rude to you, you could much more easily call them out, and if they were nice, it would be easier to connect with them.  On the other hand, you’ve probably thought of about a hundred reasons why that’s a terrible idea just in the span or reading that this sentence.  After all, if it turned out to be your neighbor that cursed at you online you might be more apt to confront them physically.

The thing is, you wouldn’t join a softball team and then spout off curse words and racial epithets to everyone on the other team, would you?  You wouldn’t yell at your teammates for striking out, would you?  Of course you wouldn’t.  And you most certainly wouldn’t go kick over the casket at the funeral of someone on an opposing bowling team.  Who you are on the internet is not who you are in real life.  Unfortunately, as the funeral raid incident proves, that’s not necessarily a good thing.  As we experience the growing pains of moving to a more connected society, I’m sure that we’ll see more incidents of digital activities having real world consequences.  That’s kind of scary, but then again, maybe it’s not a bad thing for digital bullies to be a bit scared.

Weekly Warcraft Wednesday: 5 Things I Learned From WoW.

I know, I know, it’s not Friday, but I’m still going to give you a top 5 list.  World of Warcraft has been a tremendous influence on my gaming habits over the years.  Some of it’s influence has been good, some not so good.  Either way, I cannot deny that WoW has affected how I play games nowadays, so I thought I’d share some of the more influential parts of the my WoW experience.

  1. It made me more patient.

World of Warcraft all about patience and diligence.  This was a very jarring reality for me when I first started playing.  I was used to games I could play at my pace.  I could play for 8 hours or 15 minutes, and I could accomplish things.  The most obvious example of how WoW differs from other games is raiding.  You simply cannot raid by yourself, so it’s necessary to find a group that raids, and then raid with them at some scheduled time.  If there is some item that you want to get from the raid but your group doesn’t meet for another 4 days, tough.  You have to wait.  And when your group does meet and the item you want doesn’t appear, tough.  You have to wait to try again next week.  Before WoW I would have never had the type of patience to be a part of that.  After WoW, every other game feels easier.  Spending 40+ hours on a Final Fantasy game feels like a simple task now, where it used to feel like a monumental accomplishment.

  1. It made me obsessed with numbers.

    How to play WoW.

WoW is a game about numbers.  If that’s not your thing, that’s fine, but if you’re going to play WoW you’re eventually going to have to confront the fact that a very large part of what makes up the game’s core is maxing out some number.  Whether you’re a damage dealer, healer, or tank, there is some number you’re trying to make go higher.  Add-ons like recount have taken the math game to an entirely new level, giving players a real time bar graph comparing their output to everyone else’s on a second-to-second basis.  Seeing my damage made me a better player, but possibly for the wrong reasons.  I become so obsessed and competitive that if my damage wasn’t the highest on that graph, I was mad.  I went so far as to create my own spreadsheets trying to simulate my damage output so that I could improve it.  That’s a little nuts.  That said, in some weird way WoW has given me a deep understanding and appreciation of mathematics in general.  That’s a good thing, but probably not for a good reason.

  1. It made me more social.

Believe it or not, WoW made me more social.  A lot of people believe that MMO type games turn people into trolls, living off Cheetos in their basements.  That’s not entirely incorrect, but we do communicate with the other basement trolls.  Joining a guild, typing in guild chat, and eventually using my mic to actually speak to other people helped me to feel more open when speaking to others in real life.  After meeting strangers in WoW, meeting strangers at a party felt less threatening.  I was never one to have serious social anxiety, but I would still get nervous going to parties where I didn’t know anyone.  WoW helped me to feel at least a little less threatened by that prospect.

  1. It made me an elitist.

There were a couple of times when I realized, while playing WoW, that I was becoming a terrible person.  There were moments when I was genuinely upset because other players weren’t adhering to the insanely high standard I was setting for myself (see number 4).  At the height of my raiding career I would get angry with other members of my raid group for not doing as much damage as me.  I liked these people from a social standpoint, but I became resentful that I had done so much extra work to be really good, and they hadn’t.  To them, WoW was a fun game, but to me it was an outlet for my obsessive personality.  Where they were able to enjoy WoW in moderation, I became an addict.  The end result of this was me being a big jerk, and feeling like I was better than others.  Among this odd social circle I developed I had crowned myself king because I could do more damage than anyone else.  Writing about it now, it seems really stupid, and it’s a bit embarrassing.  I never wanted to be “that guy”, but looking back, I totally was.  To a large degree I’ve let go of that mentality, but I can still feel it creep back in every once in a while with other games, or even real life scenarios, and it’s something I constantly have to keep in check.

  1. It made me stop cheating.

I’ve mentioned it before, but I grew up during the Game Genie generation.  As a kid I loved cheat codes.  Anything I could do to make a game easier to beat I would.  This might be a natural maturation process too, but I know that WoW helped to change that mentality.  There’s really no cheating in WoW.  There are no cheat codes, and if you’re caught using a hack to improve your performance your account is immediately banned.  This makes getting cool stuff in WoW that much more rewarding.  I remember seeing players standing around in Stormwind with their cool gear and their awesome looking mounts.  I wanted to know where and how they got that stuff, and I was impressed when I realized how much effort it had taken them.  I developed a new respect for doing things the hard way, and have come to really dislike cheating.  The gear you earn in WoW is really just a manifestation of the effort you put in, and cheating steals that sense of pride.  I now enjoy taking on the hardest challenges that a game has to offer, in hopes that I can feel that sense of pride that comes with overcoming them.

Weekly Wacraft Wednesday:  6.1 Stuff You Might Have Missed.

If you’re an avid WoW player (and you probably are if you’re here) you know that 6.1 is coming out next week.  Like most of us, there’s a good chance that you’ve been paying more attention to the fact that there is a brand-spanking-new raid out.  Obviously Blackrock Foundry arrival has overshadowed the new patch a bit, but there are plenty of things you should be aware of.  Lucky for you, I’ve compiled a nice little list of things you can expect next Tuesday.

Lots of heirloom changes.

Remember that new heirloom interface that they promised back at Blizzcon?  Well that’s finally a thing.  As of now you no longer have to keep heirlooms in your bag.  Instead they’ll have their own interface, similar to the toy box where you can easily use them without worrying about misplacing them on some random character.  What’s more, there is now an achievement for collecting 35 of these heirlooms and it rewards a special heirloom mount that can be used at level 1!  In addition, the heirloom vendors have returned, and their gear now sells for gold, so no more having to farm justice points.

Blood Elf makeover.

Dude’s got some serious duck face going on.

You’re probably aware that Blood Elves are the only race to have not yet received their new character models.  Not to worry, the new models are in-game as of 6.1 so if you’re looking for an even higher res version of a malnourished looking bag of bones, you’re in luck.

Twitter integration.

Why?

Have you ever thought, ‘It’s such a shame that I can’t tweet to the whole world that I just got this brand new mount’?  Neither have I.  Regardless, WoW now has Twitter integration because why not.  So link your twitter account and spam the world with your WoW accomplishments…or don’t.  Please don’t.

Lots of garrison updates.

The most meaningful additions to the game (beyond that awesome Twitter integration!) are the multitude of additions to the garrison.  Let’s get a little more in depth on what we’re actually getting.

Followers

  • Follower’s maximum item level has been raised from 655 to 670.
  • New missions will reward gear from Blackrock Foundry (you’ll need followers with a 660+ item level for these).
  • Followers who are working at buildings now earn XP for every work order that’s complete while they’re working.
  • There is a new legendary follower that can be attained through the legendary ring questline.
  • Harrison Jones can now be recruited as a follower.
  • Fen Tao, a new Pandaren follower, can be recruited outside your garrison.
  • New NPCs have been added to your garrison that sell contracts for followers you may have missed due to outpost choices.
  • There is now a daily quest available from the Dwarven Bunker / War Mill to exchange Iron Horde Scraps for a follower item.

Buildings

  • Profession buildings now offer quests that convert normal crafting materials into your choice of 15 Primal Spirits or 4 of your professions daily cooldown item. (e.g. For leatherworking you’ll convert 50 Raw Beast Hides to do this).
  • Profession buildings that are level 3 now offer profession missions that reward Rush Orders. Followers with the appropriate profession trait increase the success rate of those missions.
  • Salvage from the salvage yard now always drops one follower upgrade item.

Work Orders

  • There are now items that can create “Rush Orders” for profession buildings. A rush order immediately finishes 5 work orders and rewards the appropriate items.
  • You can now queue multiple work orders at once instead of having to push the button over and over.

Invasions

  • Invasions now offer have a platinum Completing an invasion with a platinum rating rewards a 660 item.

Resources

  • Daily dungeon quests offered at the inn now include quests that reward extra garrison resources.
  • Rush Orders can be purchased with garrison resources.
  • Follower items can be purchased with garrison resources.

That’s a lot of changes to weed through, and that’s not even a complete list (I only included the most important bits).  With all of that, managing your followers and resources becomes a bit of a game of Tetris so I may do a guide in the coming weeks on how to squeeze the absolute max out of your garrison.

So yeah, 6.1 looks pretty cool.  I’m always a fan of patches that give players new things to do outside of raids and dungeons.  Sure, that stuff is obviously awesome, but get really pumped for stuff I can figure out on my own time.  A raid, even if you’re really hardcore, typically only takes up a few nights a week.  If you’re playing a lot of WoW, that still leaves plenty of time to be bored if there isn’t anything new to do.

Weekly Warcraft Wednesday: Healing Tips Part 2, And Let’s Talk Gathering

I continued my adventures in Blackrock Foundry this week and managed to kill both Hans’gar and Franzok, and Beastlord Darmac.  Since I already discussed Hans and Franz last week, let’s talk about the Beastlord.

Healing Beastlord Darmac.

Like many of the boss fights in Warlords of Draenor this is a test of healer efficiency.  It’s another one of these, “conserve, conserve, conserve…ok heal as fast as you can” type of encounters.  You’re probably already aware of how Beastlord works, but in case you’re not here’s a quick rundown.   As you fight him he periodically jumps on different animals around his room.  When he’s on an animal he’s not attackable, the animal must be killed instead.  He then jumps down, fights a bit, and then goes to another animal.  Once all four animals are dead he’s on his own.  Here’s the trick; every animal he gets on grants him a new ability, so at the beginning of the fight healing is really easy, but by then he’s become really dangerous with four new menacing abilities.  So again, you conserve as long as you can, and then once all the animals are dead you heal like there’s no tomorrow.  Some other pro-tips:

  • Don’t get pinned down. It seems like common sense but when you’re trying to manage everyone’s health it can be difficult to notice that he’s throwing a spear at you.  Getting pinned down is literally the worst thing that can happen to you in this fight.  You can’t heal, you take damage, and the DPS has to get off the boss and attack the spear to save you.  The less people get pinned down, the easier the fight.  It’s really that simple.
  • The dragon is the most dangerous of the animals that he can mount and should be dealt with last. His fire breath is very dangerous to anyone in front of him so be wary of your positioning.  That said, the breath can be dispelled so prioritize your tanks and then start dispelling others.
  • Use a channeled mana-pot, and try do so as he transitions off of an animal. Once you see an animal at 5% or less, this is a good time to take your mana-nap.  You want to have as close to full mana as possible when the four animals are done.

Gathering professions are dead, long live gathering professions!

It occurred to me the other day that mining, skinning, and herbalism are largely irrelevant in WoD.  With the mine and the herb garden you end up with a lot of herbs and ore regardless of whether or not you have those professions.  Sure, you won’t ever have stacks and stacks of materials, but here’s the thing…you don’t need them anymore.  Everything that’s worth anything in WoD is based completely (or at least heavily) on your crafting profession’s daily cooldown item.  As an example, a blacksmith can make the Truesteel Breastplate; it requires 100 Truesteel Ingot (the blacksmith daily cooldown item) and a whopping 10 Raw Beast Hide (easily gathered or purchased).  There is no need for any of the ore you would typically go out and mine.  That’s not to say the ore is completely useless, it’s used to produce your daily item, and can be used for work orders to create extra daily cooldown items.  Still, the amount of ore you gather from your mine should be more than enough to cover that.  If you have even one alt, you should be rolling in the stuff.  Even if you don’t, the ore is ridiculously cheap on the auction house (because no one needs it).

“Gathering” professions are irrelevant now, but that’s not to say that there’s nothing to gather.  The new form of gathering professions now come in the form of garrison buildings.  If you have the lumber mill or the barn, you’re probably constantly looking for a few minutes here and there to go cut down some trees or capture a few beasts.  I hate to say it, but this design is truly ridiculous.  Blizzard has trivialized one part of the game only to lean heavily into another (identically designed) part.  Why not just let herbalists gather logs too, and skinners also gather the animals themselves?  I understand the design choice of not wanting to force players to spending time gathering too many different things, but the system was fine the way it was before WoD, now those of us with gathering professions basically have a completely wasted profession slot.

Weekly Warcraft Wednesday: Blackrock Foundry Healing Tips (Part 1)

As of yesterday Blackrock Foundry was live, with all its new bosses, new achievements, and of course new loot.  My guild got in there last night and we managed to kill Gruul.  It was fun being a part of a progression raiding guild for once; I’ve raided a bunch in the past but I never seemed to be in a group that was doing brand new content.  I always ended up in groups that were either lagging behind new content, or I had joined them after they had already conquered the new stuff, so I found it particularly satisfying to be able to say that I killed Gruul on the very first day he was out.  Our group elected not to go to Oregorger next (as most groups seem to be doing) and instead went to Hans’gar and Franzok.  I figured that this week I’d give some healing tips based on my personal experience with the content.  Hopefully it will help some of you fellow healers get a better feel for some of the encounters.

Trash mobs.

That’s right, I’m dedicating a whole section to the trash mobs in Blackrock Foundry.  As usual with new content, the trash is significantly harder than expected.  There are too many different types of trash to go over all of them but I do have some general healing tips.

  • Use all your mana.   Trash pulls in BRF tend to be short, but damage heavy encounters, after which you’re welcome to drink up, so don’t be afraid to use the mana you have available to you.  It takes the raid less time to wait for you to drink than it does to run back because you were trying to conserve mana.
  • Most trash encounters are very heavy on burst damage and can be made simpler by CC’ing and killing specific mobs. The flame binders (I believe that’s what their called) in specific will pulse a very nasty AoE damage effect on your raid if not dealt with quickly.  There are a lot of mechanics like this, so be ready.
  • Be careful where you stand. The trash in BRF tends to be relatively spread out, but it’s still close enough that you can body pull and extra group pretty easily.  This is made trickier by the mechanics of certain groups (I.e. you need to move out of ground effects but might not have anywhere safe to move to).

Gruul

Watching the FatBoss guide to Gruul made the fight seem much more complicated than it actually is.  FatBoss guides are great because they explain every mechanic the boss has, but most of the time only some of them will apply to your given role.  As healers our job is relatively easy, and it’s made easier by using a few simple tricks.

  • Have your raid leader place people in groups such that each group(s) will be taking one of the alternating Inferno Slices. So, in a 10 man raid, group 1 stands together, and group 2 stands together.  This way, when looking at your raid frames you can easily determine which group you should be focusing on before Gruul even casts Inferno Slice.
  • Be proactive about healing the appropriate Inferno Slice group. As a druid, I apply a rejuvenation to every member of the group before the get hit by Inferno Slice and immediately use genesis once they take the damage.  Regardless of your class, have your big AoE heal ready for the Inferno Slice and time it to heal as soon as they take damage.
  • Prioritize the tanks, especially the off-tank. Because of how Gruul’s mechanics work, it’s extremely difficult to kill the boss with one tank (unless he’s very close to dying).  Losing a DPS player is far easier to overcome than losing a tank.  Furthermore, the off-tank specifically will be taking large chunks of damage from Inferno Slice twice as often as either of the other groups, so make sure that they’re topped up within 15 seconds of taking that hit.
  • There is some movement in the fight, but not as much as it seems. Be prepared to move away from others when Gruul casts petrify, and strafe out of the overhead smash.  Neither of these abilities will happen to you all that often, and doing them correctly will effectively save you the need to heal anyway.  The only damage that cannot be avoided are the Inferno Slices and the petrify, which by themselves, are easy to deal with.

Hans’gar and Franzok

We were unable to kill these guys last night, but we were able to get them to about 3% of their health, so I feel confident that they’ll go down on our next raid.  In addition, we got to try them several times and learn their mechanics well.  This fight is a lot of fun, and actually quite easy when the mechanics are properly dealt with.  Also,  you gotta love the homage to Hans & Franz from Saturday Night Live.

  • There is only one truly deadly (and unavoidable) mechanic in the fight and it’s called Crippling Suplex. During this ability one of the bosses will pick up one of the two tanks and smash him into the other tank doing massive damage to the tank getting smashed into.  This happens often enough that it’s not possible for a tank to use a defensive cooldown for every single one.  It then follows that healers must rotate their own defensive cooldowns to prevent the tanks from dying.  As a healer you should be saving your Hand of Sacrifice, Pain Suppression, Iron Bark, etc… for these crippling suplexes.
  • The rest of the damage on this fight is minimal, but the fight requires a lot of movement. You will find that during the periods when either the plates are coming down the conveyor belts, or the stampers are hammering down, you have to be moving a lot.  The stampers are far more difficult to deal with than the plates, although both are fairly simple if you’re on your game.  Any movement enhancing ability you have is useful here.  As a druid I found Displacer Beast to be particularly useful for avoiding a stamper at the last second.  If your raid has good awareness, healing should be minimal during these phases, but if players make mistakes and get hit by stampers or plates they’re not going to last long.
  • The last 15% of the fight is pretty tough. We noticed that below 15% the bosses engaged both the plates and the stampers simultaneously, making movement even more difficult.  In addition, both bosses were out so there was more damage on the raid as a whole.  We opted to use Bloodlust / Heroism at the beginning of the fight, but it might be wise to save it for this last bit in order to get through the tough part as quickly as possible.

I hope these tips were helpful. I’ll be reporting in next week with more tips as our group works it’s way through this new raid.

Weekly Warcraft Wednesday: The Future Of WoW

The other night my wife and I had an impromptu and in-depth conversation about the future of WoW, and MMOs in general.  The conversation began with me saying the following, “I’m sad because I used to be waiting for the next ‘WoW’, but now I just don’t think it’s ever going to happen”.  Continue reading “Weekly Warcraft Wednesday: The Future Of WoW”

Weekly Warcraft Wednesday: Talking Raid Design.

So last week I started raiding with a guild again, something I haven’t done for quite some time.  When last I left you we were struggling to get past Ko’Ragh.  I’m happy to report that we have indeed slain the beast and collected his phat lootz.  We were then able to move on to the final boss of the Highmaul raid, Imperator Mar’gok.  As much as there is to manage on Ko’Ragh, I was stunned by the sheer amount of mechanics to deal with on Mar’gok.  In practice, the fight isn’t quite as intense as the videos make it seem, but here is the raid explanation video, courtesy of FatBossTV.

Note that the video is almost 20 minutes long.  That’s right, it takes 20 minutes just to explain what this guy does.  Watching the video, and subsequently getting squashed by him over and over got me to thinking about WoW’s raid system in general, and what an interesting predicament the design team is in.  Let me explain.

It’s a matter of time.

WoW has been around for a long time.  Ten years, to be exact.  In that time there have been many dungeons and many raids and within them, many different bosses.  There must be well over 100 raid bosses alone, not even considering the 5-man dungeon bosses.  This matters because over time I would imagine that it becomes more and more difficult to create a new experience for players.  Every six months or so the WoW team has to come up with a complete fresh set of ideas for typically 6+ boss encounters.  If a boss is too much like a previous boss players are mad because it’s boring; too much new stuff going on and players are mad because it’s too hard.  It’s a tough job and one that I’m not envious of (ok, I am a little envious).

Remember when we thought this guy was complicated?

What’s more, there’s only so many mechanics that a boss can do in WoW, or in any game really.  Every game has a set of rules, and bosses are meant to challenge those rules by bending or occasionally breaking them.  Eventually though, when you’ve created over 100 bosses you start running into a problem; you’ve broken every rule there is.  The only way to up the ante now is to start breaking multiple rules at once.  So where a boss might have made parts of the floor fall away (a challenging mechanic), he might now make the floor fall away AND turn invisible.  Once you’ve burned through all of those permutations you start having to add a third tier of mechanics.  All of this is done to keep things challenging for players who very quickly adapt to whatever you throw at them.

Over time, WoW’s raid encounters become more and more difficult to design, and the balancing act between too easy and too hard gets really tough.  Above is a video explain a WoW boss encounter that is 20 MINUTES LONG.  Compared to the boss strategy videos from, say, the Wrath of the Lich King expansion, this seems ludicrous.  But that’s where we are now.  It’s not enough for the boss to do one or two interesting things, they now have to do four or five.

The net effect.

The net effect of this is mostly negative, as far as I can tell.  First off, for us veterans it’s creeping into ‘jumping the shark’ territory.  I mean, how many ridiculous things can one boss throw at us?  It’s tiresome to have to manage so many details, all the time.  It also has the effect of scaring possible new players.  If I were trying to sell Chris on playing WoW with me and I showed him the video above, I’m pretty sure he’d tell me to take a long walk off a short pier, and how could I blame him?  It’s so intimidating to try and understand, let alone manage all of that stuff.  Plus, as WoW continues to lose steam over the years (yes I know the subscription numbers rose a bit again), the player base gets smaller, so there are less and less people actually running these raids so discouraging new players isn’t a great strategy.  That said, Mar’gok is the last boss in the raid, with the others being considerably simpler than him.  Having a helpful, encouraging group makes the learning process a lot easier as well.

I’m not saying that the raid design is bad, per se’.  I think the boss encounters are challenging.  In the end though, WoW is on a train that it can’t stop now, and eventually they’re going to up the ante so high that no one will want to attempt these bosses.  I’m not sure that I have an answer for that, as the only recourse would be to go back to ultra-simple boss design which I think would upset players as well.  It will definitely be interesting to see where the boss encounter design goes from here though.  I’m a bit scared for my sanity.

Weekly Warcraft Wednesday: The Raid.

Weekly Warcraft Wednesday

If you’re a regular reader of Weekly Warcraft Wednesday you may have picked up on a growing frustration I had.  You see, I’m enjoying the latest World of Warcraft expansion just fine, but there simply isn’t a ton that you can do in WoW without a group.  My wife and I really enjoying playing together, but two simply isn’t enough to accomplish much.  We level up together, we do daily quests together, occasionally we PvP together.  We can’t raid as a team of two though, nor can we run through dungeons.  Those activities require at least 3 more players, and we simply don’t know a lot of people that play anymore.

Given all of that, I had begun to get frustrated and complacent.  I enjoy playing my druid, and I’m eager to get some better equipment for him.  I’ve done LFR pretty much every week that it’s been available, and I have a good portion of the gear available there.  I’ve tried using the new premade group finder to find groups for the normal version of the raid but I got declined every time (my item level wasn’t high enough, I suppose).  I felt stuck.  I had no way to raid without biting the bullet and joining a guild.  So, this past week that’s exactly what I did.

Not that kind of raid.

 

I joined my current guild on Tuesday at about 5:30pm and got invited to raid that night at 7:00.  It was an interesting experience to go from having no guild to being in a raiding guild in about an hour and a half.  I suppose that’s how things go these days though.  We began a fresh run of Highmaul and managed to clear the first four bosses without issue.  Brackenspore proved to be a little much as one of our tanks was experiencing some serious lag and having trouble properly countering some of the bosses abilities.  In one night I ended up getting a ring and a weapon and was quite pleased with my performance.  Then came Thursday.

No, not this raid either.

Thursday night we focused on killing Ko’Ragh.  Now, I’m completely aware that normal Highmaul is not exactly the pinnacle of all raiding, but it’s the farthest I’ve been this expansion, and it’s been fun and interesting getting there.  This particular jerk makes everything much less fun though.  As a new-ish healer, I was completely caught off guard by the amount of movement and coordination this fight takes from a healing perspective.  More than one I died during the encounter because I failed to move while trying to heal myself of someone else.  It was a constant struggle to decide whether to stop what I was doing to move away from a damaging ability or finish casting the heal that a party member desperately needed.  After two hours and many attempts I’m sad to say that we left Ko’Ragh undefeated.  Many an attempt ended with me literally pounding my head on my desk.  The worst part…on one of our last attempts he killed our last player while he had less than 2% of his health left.  There is nothing more heartbreaking than grabbing defeat from the jaws of victory.

I really hate you, you big fat jerk bag idiot face.

All in all though, I have to say that I enjoyed my first week being back in the raid game.  I went back and watched a YouTube video about Ko’Ragh so I’m more familiar with the fight now.  Hopefully my performance will be better and thus help the group a bit more.  I’m confident that we’ll get him at some point, and I’ve struggled like this with bosses in the past (I’m looking at you ping-pong boss from Dragonsoul) so this isn’t completely unfamiliar territory.  My hope is that once we we’re able to clear the normal mode version of the raid that we can begin to work on the heroic mode.  I’d love to get some of that sweet, sweet gear.

In addition to all that, I decided to switch out my second spec from balance to guardian.  I’ve never been tanked as a druid, but my wife was interested to try healing in some normal dungeons.  To make her feel a bit more comfortable I figured I’d go in with her as a tank.  That way she’d be able to avoid some of the nightmarishly awful tanks I experienced.  Going guardian spec was a change I didn’t expect to like, but almost instantly fell in love with.  Not only was it easy to understand, but it still managed to provide a nice bit of damage while tanking.  Running as a tank and healer we were able to join any dungeon with nearly instant queue times, and even when we weren’t in dungeons, being a bear helped to group up lots of mobs for daily quests.  As reluctant as I was to lose my balance spec, I don’t think I’m going to look back anytime soon.

Weekly Warcraft Wednesday: Money, Money, Money.

LFR is really easy.

I’ve tried to get my LFR runs in for the last couple of weeks, and I’ve noticed that this time around the raid feels strikingly easy.  LFR has never been known for it’s difficulty, but I remember at least a few times in the early part of Mist of Pandaria when where groups would have trouble with some bosses that had punishing mechanics.  This time around it has felt like a complete face roll right from my first attempt.  I don’t believe I’ve wiped on a single boss except for Ko’Ragh which happened only once.

Heroics are pointless.

Because of the ease of LFR, the value of running heroic dungeons has dropped considerably.  This was the case in MoP as well, but it feels a lot more pronounced this time around.  With the exclusion of valor and justice points, the only real reason to run a heroic dungeon anymore is to get the item level required to get into LFR.  This is made even worse by the fact that it doesn’t take much to level up your followers to the point that they’re regularly bringing you back item level 630 gear from their missions (the same found in the heroics).  I would say that I’ve gathered about 75-80% of my gear from sources other than heroic dungeons.  I suppose I shouldn’t complain too much, as heroics have been the bane of my WoW existence lately, but I can’t help but feel like heroics are a huge piece of content that players just skip over now.  This is something Blizzard should take note of and either fix, or get rid of.  If players aren’t going to run heroics, why spend the man hours to create so many of them?

Fishing makes BANK!

Want to make some quick gold?  Level your fishing.  As I said last week, I leveled up my fishing and have been doing a little here and there.  Fish sell for quite a bit, as does Worm Supreme, the +200 fishing bait that you occasionally fish up. In addition, if you’ve also leveled up first aid (which, by the way, can easily be leveled using fish now) you can make health pots.  That’s right, health pots are no longer tied to alchemy, but are available to anyone who chooses to level up first aid.  All that’s needed to make these health pots are a few pieces of easily accessible fish, and they sell for a lot more than you’d expect.  Last I checked they were going for 100g for 20.  It takes about ten minutes to fish up enough to make several stacks, so if you’re looking for a quick buck, that’s my tip!

So does Savage Blood.

Savage Blood, not to be confused with Randy Savage Blood which is far more powerful, OOOOOH YEEEEEEAH!

If you’re still in need of money, you can always sell savage blood, a practice I’ve become well acquainted with.  It seems that all of the gear crafting professions need savage blood, but as I’m an alchemist, I have no use for them.  I also don’t have much use for primal spirit.  Given that, I’ve taken to trading my primal spirit for savage blood and selling the blood on the auction house for upwards of 1,000g a piece.  From my level 3 mine and level 3 herb garden I end up with enough primal spirits to trade for a savage blood about once every two days.  Between the bloods and the health pots I’ve found quite the nice way to make a some extra gold here with very minimal effort.

Why bother with all that gold?

Amassing large amounts of gold isn’t much fun if you have nothing to spend it on, right?  Well, you’re in luck there because the auction house is flooded with epic equipment these days.  Farming Highmaul trash mobs for their bind-on-equip items seems to be the thing to.  As such, there is a lot of quality gear on the AH if you have the cash (usually over 10,000g).  It’ll boost your item level quite nicely, providing yet another means to circumvent the old gear progression system of heroic dungeons.  With my little gold making strategy, I could probably afford to buy a new piece once a week or so, which provides a great return on investment considering the very small amount of time it takes.  The auction house epics also provide a great way upgrade that particular stubborn item that you can’t ever seem to find an upgrade for.

Weekly Warcraft Wednesday:  A Very Draenor Christmas

This past week I was out of town on Wednesday – which also just happened to be Christmas Eve – so I decided to take a break from the blog for a couple of days.  That means it’s been two weeks since my last report from the world of Azeroth (and beyond).  I’ve done a lot since then and I’m happy to say that my little tirade from a few weeks ago feels like ancient history.

The current state of tanks.

Given my rant a couple weeks ago, it’s hard to imagine that I’d ever step foot in another dungeon, but I did.  After a few days away from instances I decided to get back on the horse and give it another go.  I was greeted by tank after tank who chain pulled the instance, made no attempt to slow down, and sometimes flat out ignored my request to stop and regen some mana.  That’s the bad news.  The good news is that if you know that this is how things are, you can more easily just accept it.  A few tanks were nice people, but for the most part tanks in WoW have become bottom feeders; players who are queuing up for a dungeon as a tank spec only so they don’t have to wait in line with the rest of the DPS.  It’s annoying, and it has lowered the overall caliber of player that chooses to tank, but it is what it is.  As long as you understand that tanks have become real jerks then you won’t be surprised when the tank for your dungeon turns out to be just that.  To all you nice tanks out there, keep up the good work!

Garrisons (and followers) are really important.

My item level has jumped way up since last I blogged.  I was probably sitting at about 618 or so a couple of weeks ago and now I’m up to about 632.  I ran my fair share of heroics to get some better stuff, but more gear than I expected came from follower missions.  Once my followers hit 100 I started outfitting them with the little bonus items they bring back from their missions and from salvage.  Once I started getting followers of a high enough item level they started getting better missions with better rewards.  Before I knew it they were bringing back 630 gear pretty often.  Of all the 630 gear I’m wearing, the vast majority of it is from followers.  In addition, it’s come to my attention that the item level of your followers has either no cap or a very high cap.  Some trade discussion (believe it or not it was productive) yielded a bit of insight that the symbiotic relationship between follower items level and the type of loot they bring back from quests doesn’t just stop at level 630 gear.  Continuing to raise your followers’ item levels will continue to reap more and more benefits from their missions.  Players were talking about 645 gear they were receiving from quests which, at the time, seemed ludicrous.  It makes sense from a long-term progression standpoint though.  At some point all of your followers will be 100 and then they’ll all be epic and from there what’s left?  It makes sense that their item levels have such an impact on your own progression.

I fished…a lot.

looks about right

 

Sunday was our first day back from a long week of holiday traveling so I bounced between playing Metal Gear Solid 4 and fishing in WoW while watching football.  I managed to get my fishing to max level during my football time and get Nat Pagle to come hang out at my garrison.  He’s now officially my follower and he’s pretty cool.  In addition to all the normal benefits of fishing, WoD fishing has some unique benefits.  For one, health pots are now part of First Aid, not alchemy, and the only ingredient required to make them is fish.  This means that anyone with fishing and first aid can make their own health pots instead of having to rely on the astronomical price on the auction house.  That said, the price on the auction house is still astronomical because no one fishes.  What’s more, having max fishing allows you catch “enormous” versions of the WoD fish which yield extra fish meat.  This means that in a pretty short amount of time you can make several stacks of health potions to sell.  All in all, fishing is still a very boring exercise in WoW, but it’s benefits are more tangible than ever.  I’d highly recommend taking the time to level the skill, especially if you have access to a second screen you can use to watch something.  It can actually become quite hypnotically relaxing.

The legendary quest line is pretty cool.

Two main things prompted me to start trying dungeons again.  First, I wanted to get my garrison’s inn to level 3 which required me to complete a bunch of heroic dungeon quests.  Second, I wanted to continue the legendary story line.  After an afternoon of running heroic after heroic, I had completed both goals, but the road certainly wasn’t over then.  Upon completing the dungeon quests I was then led down a series of other tasks that ended up taking me to Nagrand.  I won’t spoil it for you, but the next part was pretty cool.  After all of that you then get some raid quests, similar to the ones from the MoP legendary quest line.  You’ll be collecting lots and lots of stones from Highmaul, so get ready for some serious raiding if you want to progress to the next stage!

Next week.

I keep meaning to talk about pet battles, some gripes I have with the garrison design, and some other stuff I’ve been doing, so stay tuned for next week’s edition of *queue massive reverb* WEEKLY WARCRAFT WEDNESDAY!