Thursday, October 30, 2008

Week in Review

I've been busy doing a lot of things in and out of game, so I haven't had as much time to post. Here are some highlights from the last week. As well as some pictures, since I haven't posted many recently.

We ran Karazhan last Friday. Our quickest run ever at three and a half hours. These patch changes have made a huge difference, but we also know the fights really well now. But more than anything, I'm the most proud that I finally got us to line up to get our Chess badges. It's so much more efficient! Oh, but Gnomes get a pass, I mean, they're Gnomes. They need time to dance on the box.

While the Zombie invasion had its up and downs, I think it was generally implemented pretty well, and if anything, it was at least realistic in that an invasion of zombies really would interrupt your normal plans and daily activities. I didn't spend much time as a zombie, but I did tool around Shattrath with another guilde for a little while searching for brains. We took our search to the World's End Tavern right before Perry Gatner was to perform. We unknowingly infected Shattrath Saul as he was about to introduce him and he turned into a Zombie. I guess Perry got scared because he never showed.

And here's an interesting Zombie fact. Tinkerbell, Haris Pilton's pet in the tavern, is immune to the Zombies. But the Zombies don't know that. Here's a picture of the dog tanking about 20 of the undead.

I think I mentioned that I got the Leeeeeeroy achievement. If I didn't, here's a shot of our group after we got our new Jenkins titles.

Both Lal and Salthier have completed all of the Hallowe's Eve achievements, save for that dubious mask one. Thankfully we should still qualify for "The Hallowed" title when the next patch hits. We haven't been after the Headless Horseman much since we got everything we wanted, but one time while we were waiting for a few people, we had a little fun with some wands.

Another time while waiting for people to come do the Headless Horseman, I took Salthier into the Scarlet Cathedral solo and tried to down Highlord Mograin and his girlfriend. Sadly, I was unable to do it since about 100 Scarlets rush you if you don't kill them all on the way in. I was able to get Mograine down, and then Whitemane when she came out, but didn't have enough time to kill Mograine a second time. I was really close, might try it again and pop a few more special abilities.

We also went back to Zul'aman and managed to get the 4 animal bosses down. Hex Lord was still too tough for us, even with the changes. I think our tanks and healers might just need a little bit more gear to handle it, but we gave it a valiant effort and did really well. We also managed two of the timed chests.

The expansion will be soon upon us. I've been working slowly on my Shaman alt, and doing random things with guild members. Tonight we're having a bit of a Hallowe's Eve ball with a costume contest. Hopefully it will be a fun time for some role play without being draining. There's so much to do lately, that it's hard to do anything!

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Azeroth. Population: Lots of Zombies

They're everywhere! Well, at least in the places I've been. It appears that some mysterious crates showed up in Booty Bay, leaking a strange substance that when touched turns you into a ghoul after 10 minutes or so. Looks like Arthas is sending a calling card. The Lich King is on the move.

Thankfully, the Argent Dawn has already responded to the threat and placed healers at vital points near Alliance towns. (And maybe Horde too, but I don't know what they're doing.) If you get infected, you just need to find a healer and they'll be able to cleanse. Paladins, Priests, and Restoration Shaman can also purify your diseases if they are so inclined.

We'll have to watch for the increasing threat from the Lich King. It seems the disease is already growing stronger against the ability to cure it. What will happen when we cannot cure the disease at all?

So what's really going on? Well, this new in game event is heralding the coming expansion. It's a lot of fun, but it's also causing a lot of grief. Especially, my guess is, on role play servers. If we play this straight, no one should want to be a zombie. And if you do get infected, you should be relieved when a friendly Paladin or Priest cures you. We should be trying to push back on this new Scourge and seek information on doing it in a more permanent way. Unfortunately, even on Moon Guard, and other realms, a lot of people want to be zombies, and throw fits when someone cures them.

Add to this that since NPCs can be affected, many quest givers seem to be zombies or dead. For some reason people that become zombies like to flock to the early zones. I know that Auberdine was totally infected last night, and I can only imagine what the scene looked like in Goldshire. These days are not going to be pretty for people doing early questing. It's also been found that you can go to Shattrath where no one can attack you because of the neutral flag of the city. So you can run around turning people into zombies without fear of repercussion. Even Khadgar becomes a zombie.

So the mechanics of this new world event have caused the griefers to rise to the surface, people purposefully becoming zombies so they can kill quest givers and turn unsuspecting people into zombies. Again, role play would dictate that you try and avoid being a zombie at all costs. But IF you do become a zombie, then you should act like a zombie. But even then, you can have some respect for the player base and not run to a lowbie zone on purpose to cause problems for people.

I'm wondering how long this even will last. I've heard that it will gradually change as we get closer to the Lich King, but I wonder if the potential for griefing will continue. It's going to make the current holiday events and leveling a little harder to accomplish if I have to avoid zombie attacks all the time. But that's actually pretty realistic. If a zombie break out actually did happen, it would probably interrupt a lot of day to day activities.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Tanking with a Tenacious Pet

So I briefly mentioned how I took some friends to Hellfire Ramparts with my new pet Bear. Let me tell you a little more about that.

First, with the new hunter changes, several families of pets are now known as Tenacity pets and have a talent tree with pet talents designed to make these pets excellent tanks. Some of the talents revolve around generating threat, or increasing pet health and armor, or even give taunt and intercept like abilities. Very cool. Now, the first thought would be that these would make great pets to solo with so that they can both hold the aggro of whatever you are killing and also withstand most of what is thrown at them. But I had read in various blogs and places on the internet that you may even be able to tank instances with just a hunter pet and no other tank. I wanted to try that out for myself.

So Elionene went out and trained an Ashenvale Bear in Ashenvale. He's nothing special. Just a plain brown bear. I chose a bear because Elionene used to live in Ashenvale, and it would make sense for her to have a bear from that area. It's the same reason she has Lethan, her owl. I also got her a moth from Netherstorm for various reasons. Perhaps I'll post on that later. Anyway, Bears are Tenacity pets and have a unique ability similar to what Bear druids have. They can swipe up to three targets in front of them. I talented him with armor and health, and a bonus to healing so that my mend pet and other healers spells have a better effect on him. He can also taunt once every 3 minutes and has an ability similar to last stand that raises his health by 3000 or so temporarily for those "danger" moments. When I trained him, he auto leveled to 65, 5 levels below my current level.

A couple of my guildies had recently turned 60. A paladin and a warlock team that were leveling together. I asked them if they had yet been to Hellfire Ramparts and offered to take them with my bear tanking. I offered for others in the guild, and an adventurous level 70 rogue decided to come along to see if I could actually tank with my bear. He was skeptical to say the least.

I got to the instance first and went inside on my own to test it out a bit. The bear was able to keep one mob occupied, but I somehow aggroed the second mob and had to Feign Death. I was a bit slow on my abilities, but I managed to get the mobs down solo. I started to think this might not be so bad.

So when all four of us got there, we prepared and I made the first pull. Initially I thought it would be simple enough to misdirect mobs to the bear to start off a pull where I wanted to, and not necessarily where the mobs were standing. However, the changes to Defensive mode for pets made this a bit awkward. For example, if I MD my bear, and then shoot the mob so that the mob runs to the bear, if the bear is on defensive, he'll start to run after the mob as soon as I use a shot to MD. What this means is that I have to keep the bear on passive, and then wait for the mob to get to him, then manually tell the bear to attack the mob. It's not that big of a deal, but it does mean a lot more button pushing.

The second pull went bad. I didn't pull the mobs back and so we pulled a patrol, which in turn pulled a second group of mobs. For one, it's hard for me to see all of what is happening around the bear since I'm back a little bit doing ranged damage. By that same token, it's harder to maneuver the pet than it is to maneuver yourself. We didn't wipe thanks to the superior attack power of a level 70 rogue and hunter, but it was a messy attack process.

I took a little bit more time on the pulls after that, marking them and laying down an ice trap, and having the rogue sap mobs. Things went generally okay as long as people stuck to kill order and didn't attack things that the bear wasn't directly attacking. His swipe was working, but it didn't seem to build that much aggro on the mobs he wasn't directly attacking. Little by little we made our way to the first boss of the instance, Warkeeper Golgalmar.

The first boss has two healers that you have to kill so that they don't heal the boss. I marked them in kill order and sent the bear in. After the first mob went down, I moved the bear to the next one and killed him. Then I put him on the boss. I don't think the bear lost aggro on any of them at all, so I was pretty happy about the way it worked out. As far as the bear's health, I usually could just throw a mend pet on him and not worry about it too much. Our paladin was also throwing out occasional heals, but he said he wasn't seeing the need for many heals in general. Awesome.

On we went to the second boss, Omar the Unscarred, who is a demon that throws out some curses. This is where the bear truly shined. I put him on the boss and then we spread out and just laid into the guy with DPS. The bear kept aggro the whole time and the boss went down quickly. A battle well won I thought. All that was left was the dragon rider boss, Vazruden the Herald.

This fight would be a bit complicated since you have to attack the Orc boss first and then pick up his dragon when it lands. You also had to make sure and maneuver out of the flame circles that cause a lot of damage. With maneuverability being a big awkward with the pet, I was a little worried. We started off on the orc and he died pretty quickly as before I knew it, the dragon was landing. I moved the bear to the dragon and picked him up pretty well. With the orc dead, we only had to concentrate on the dragon who was belching flame on my bear. I hit passive to move the bear back to me and pull the dragon, but as soon as he was out of the fire, I ordered him to attack again, but this time not in the flames. The dragon soon died and we celebrated our run of ramparts with 4 people and a pet bear tank.

What I learned:
It's difficult to tank with a pet because it's a little harder to control, but with practice could become much easier.

He was able to hold aggro on single mobs really well. He's only level 65 but I think as far as single target aggro went, I didn't have to hold back on DPS too much.

Things that are not the direct target of the bear can be pulled off pretty easily if people are attacking the wrong target. Occasionally I would see a mob start attacking another person or the void walker or something. I couldn't always tell what the cause was, but it just showed me that the bear is not the best multi mob tank, which I sort of already knew. If you want a pet that tanks like a paladin, get a gorilla.

All in all it was a lot of fun, and the two level 60ish people got a lot of neat loot from the dungeon. Our rogue wasn't completely convinced that pets made good tanks, but was at least a little impressed at the boss fights. The trash pulls were sometimes really messy though.

I'm going to continue doing instance runs with the pet tanking. I'd like to get him to level 70 and try some of the harder dungeons, maybe Steamvault since I'm pretty familiar with that place. I feel that at level, he could definitely be an awesome off tank and hold his own against almost any equally leveled mob with just a mend pet going. And if that's the case, then I could effectively CC two mobs at a time. One with the pet and the other in an ice trap. But that's going to take a whole of of concentration. I think I'm up to the challenge.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Achievements and Other New Things

I've been a bit lax in posting lately due to a few reasons. Mostly I've just been using my time to play more with the patch changes, and I've doing less blogging from my day job, which is probably a good thing. :D

Good things have been going on though. Hallowe's Eve is here and Lal and Salthier have been enjoying the festivities. Actually, Driya has been enjoying the free experience from trick or treating. Salthier is obsessed with getting the achievements for the holiday done. I have the continent of Kalimdor to finish trick or treating in, but I've done most of the other things. Just need to grab a squashling and get transformed by a few more wands. Thankfully the mask achievement is going to soon not be needed for "The Hallowed" title. It seems almost impossible to do if you can't trick or treat constantly.

Karazhan on Friday was a full clear, all bosses, including some spider boss in the basement which we did with six people after we were done with everything else. It's a lot easier with the patch. We did have one wipe on Nightbane due to some aggro management issues.

I've been slightly dissapointed with my new hunter abilities. As soon as I could, I tooke Elionene up to Netherstorm and tamed my new Moth pet. I want to have at least one from each of the new pet trees, and this was going to be my Ferocity pet. I love my moth. I named her Sophora after a type of plant that moths can eat, but is poisonous to other creatures. Weird, I know. But then I started having issues with the auto cast function on my pet abilities. Serenity Dust, the moth special ability seems to not work properly, and it might be due to a bug in which the ability is too high of a rank for the moth's abilities. Rabid only auto casts if the pet has aggro, so it has to be manually hit during raids and things where I have a tank. I tried adding it into a steady shot macro, but even that has been a little buggy.

I also tamed a plain old brown Ashenvale Bear for a tenacity pet. I named him Kukalaka, which sounds a bit silly, but is a reference to Star Trek: DS9. On Sunday I took a couple level 60 guild members and tanked regular Ramparts with my bear. It was fun, if a bit chaotic, but he did excellent on the boss fights. Having specced 51/10/0 Beastmaster hunter, I plan to get a Chimaera and a Rhino for exotic pets. I just hope that the bugs work out, and that I can get more comfortable with all of these abilities. To say nothing of the pet bar being too small to include them all, so I have to make macros to put on my already full action bars. /sigh

In some other interesting news, you may recall that Lal and I rolled Draenei alts some time ago, Nadyezhda and Bogdan. Bogdan was to be my healer, a Resto Shaman. Since then, Lal has preferred to play on her main and not give much attention to the Dranei, which mean I never played Bogdan because they were a duo. I still wanted to paly alts, so I made a gnome rogue and played him to level 20. It was frustrating at first, but I started to really enjoy being sneaky. Then Lal, feeling sorry that I didn't have a healer to level made a good suggestion, and I took her up on it. Bogdan was only level 13. So I deleted Bogdan and rerolled him as a Paladin (future tank I think) and leveled him solo to 12.5 and then parked him where the old Bogdan was on Bloodmyst isle. Then I created a brand new Shaman to level solo as a healer. Her name is Khristin. Bogdan and Nadya are not forgotten, and we'll level them some day, but this gives me the chance to level Khristin on my own so I can have a healer, DPS, and tank character all at top level. I'm going to have to work hard to get Khristin to 70 before Wrath, which in all reality probably won't happen, but I'd like to at least get her close to 60.

One thing that his new patch has done though is made the game a whole lot more busy. In fact, Moon Guard is starting to see queues. Long ones. Sunday night we waited 40 minutes to log on. I'm hoping it was just the new patch, weekend, and new holiday event that contributed to that. Yesterday we still had a 10 or 15 minute wait though. We'll see what it's like tonight!

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

It's Here!

We downloaded patch 3.0.2 last night and installed it. I actually had to make room on my hard drive to accommodate it. This thing is big! Then we joined the millions of people around the world as we signed in to the server and....waited to retrieve our characters. And then we waited for game to load. But hey, we got cool new loading screens to look at.

Actually, it took so long we set the laptops aside and started watching the TV show Chuck from Monday night. We got about halfway through it when we noticed that our characters got logged in. Of course things were buggy, our addons didn't work (so we disabled them), and everywhere you went was really crowded and thus our frame rates were low.

The first thing I noticed were the new achievements since as soon as you log in you achieve a bunch of stuff. Then my first thought was click my pets and mounts and make them the spell items and free up some bag space. As soon as I learned my first vanity pet I got the achievement, "Can I keep him?" Very cute. Of course, everyone and their dog has that achievement.

It was about this time that we got booted. So back to watching TV and waiting to load again. We got back in and it was immediately apparent that the pets and mounts we had just learned were no longer in our spell books. Oh, and we didn't have the items either. /panic. Apparently we were not the only ones affected, and we saw later on that it was a known problem and had something to do with display issues. I'm still waiting for the hot fix to this. I want my hippogryph back!

With that out of the way, Lal and Elionene headed to Darnassus to learn new abilities and talents. We chose Darnassus because we figured it would be the least crowded. Throughout all this, we had gotten on vent with a couple guildies and were talking back and forth about things. A few people in the guild were grinding their inscription ability. One of our members made it to 350 last night. He's crazy. Lal kept her Discipline/Holy build, moving a couple talents around to grab some of the new talents. Elionene stayed Beast master and went 51/10 into Marksman. I have the extra points for my pet and the ability to tame exotic pets, but for now I'm not sure which exotic pet I want. Another hunter in the guild made his way to Azuremyst Isle to tame the newly available core hound, The Kirken. He collects all white pets and mounts, so I was excited for him to get the only white core hound in the game. He's still deciding on a name. In homage to the mob and his quest, I would call him Kirkenstocks.

Salthier logged in and specced 51/10 Feral. I had to give up omen of clarity, but I really wanted to try out the new Berserk talent. It looks pretty crazy. I'll just have to grab omen when I get to level 71.

After doing all of this, and exploring the new Stormwind Docks, and seeing the hole where Dalaran used to be (and picking up the Going Down? Achievement by falling into the crater) it was already getting way past my bed time.

I heard through the guild forums that the server was still buggy. People were getting kicked every 30 to 60 minutes. And all of our addons are still a little finicky. Some work, but others some cause problems. Outfitter is especially MIA.

The other thing I really wanted to check out was the new calendar option. I really like how it looks, and that you can create your own events, but it's lacking in its ability to allow people to sign up. You can't just post a raid or event and have the whole guild see it. You have to invite people individually. There is a Mass Invite option that was always grayed out for me, so I'll have to take a look at that again. If you're interested in knowing more, Gun Loving Dwarf Chick wrote a fantastic blog post on it. I'm hoping Blizzard adjusts it to be more useful in the near future.

Tonight I'm hoping to try out my new talent trees in some dungeons or quests or something. We have a guild meeting, after which we are going to pub crawl and try and pick up the achievement to drink 25 different beverages. Should be fun.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Lessons in Lore - Kel'Thuzad

Because we had a long weekend and I forget to put it up last week, here's a lore post for you.

Kel'Thuzad was a high ranking member of the mages of Dalaran at the time of the second war. About 20-25 years ago. He had long been interested in Necromancy and was one of the key people who interrogated Khadgar about Medivh after the Guardian had been killed in his tower. His goals and views often differed with others in Dalaran, which made him all the more susceptible to the calling of the Lich King.

When Ner'zhul was made into the Lich King, he sought out people who may be willing to be his hands as they worked out his plan to weaken the inhabitants of Azeroth before the arrival of the Burning Legion. Kel'Thuzad was a prime target and he responded just as the Lich King had hoped. Drawn by the Lich King, Kel'Thuzad went to Northrend and offered his service to the Lich King in exchange for immortality and power beyond his wildest dreams. His mission was to return to the Eastern Kingdoms and begin a secret following of people that would worship the Lich King and undeath as a religion of sorts. Eager to prove his worth, Kel'Thuzad was more than happy to do this. And so was created the Cult of the Damned.

Eventually, the time to unleash undeath upon the people of Lordaeron came. Kel'Thuzad and his cult put cauldrons filled with the plague of undeath in towns around Lordaeron that were actually controlled by the cult. There is actually a quest involving these cauldrons in the western plague lands. This plague is what turned normal humans into the undead that would then mindlessly serve the Lich King. Many members of the cult were eager to sacrifice themselves in this manner. While undergoing operations in Brill, Kel'Thuzad was found by Arthas and Jaina Proudmoore. Arthas eventually killed Kel'Thuzad in his fight against the Scourge, but it was only the beginning of the end.

Haunted by Kel'Thuzad, Arthas was eventually driven into the grasp of the Lich King and became a servant himself. He then recovered the remains of Kel'Thuzad and burned a scar of death through the city of Silvermoon to the Sunwell where he resurrected the mage as a Lich, destroying the Sunwell in the process (or so we thought). Kel'Thuzad, along with Arthas, were then able to draw the Burning Legion into the world by summoning Archimonde, who then proceeded to wage war against the alliance and horde forces in Kalimdor, and was killed in the process. Arthas was then called back to the Lich King to protect him from Illidan, who had been tasked with destroying the Lich King for his betrayal of the Legion. Arthas prevented this and was reborn as the Lich King himself. Throughout all of this Kel'Thuzad kept a low profile, supporting the ultimate goal of the Lich King to be free of the Legion and to rule as he saw fit.

This culminated in Kel'Thuzad overseeing the Scourge operations in the plague lands from his citadel of Naxxramas. Within the context of the game, he was defeated by us, the adventurers in the game, but his phylactery, the source of his power, was given to the wrong hands, and not destroyed. This meant that Kel'Thuzad lived on. As of today, when Patch 3.0.2 is loaded, Naxxramas will have moved to Northrend, to fight another battle of the Lich King. I don't know all the details, but I'm eager to find all of the reasoning behind the move of Naxxramas and Dalaran in the expansion.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Time Flies When You're Downing Bosses.

It's already Friday? I haven't posted since Tuesday!? O.O

I wanted to have a nice juicy lore post for you today, but I haven't had time to research anything. I might make special weekend post for this. I know there's stuff I want to look into and share with all of you.

As far as guild stuff, this week has been busy! Tuesday night we joined with Brothers of the Fallen who needed some help filling out a raid. They had about 18 people, and asked us to supply some extras. We took on Gruul, and won! A couple of the people pining after the Champion of the Naaru title were able to grab that. Since it hadn't taken us that long to get Gruul down, we went and killed Magtheridon again for good measure. The guild we were with is a bunch of Tier 5, Tier 6 people, so they made it look easy. Unfortunately, this meant that Lal and Elionene were no longer available to get the title because we wouldn't be able to kill Magtheridon again before the patch hits on Tuesday, but I don't think either of us really cared that much.

It's of interest to note that none of the three bosses we killed, High King Maulgar, Gruul, or Magtheridon, dropped any T4 tokens for hunters. Each one of them dropped two "of the defender" and one "of the champion" tokens. It was actually kind of eerie. I think Lal snagged a T4 token for priest pants. She's totally decked out now.

After the raids we did a quick run of regular Botanica with a friend who just got to 70 on a pally tank alt. It was actually pretty fun. Easy and quick. After that we went to heroic Slave Pens to turn in the quest from killing Gruul and Nightbane. Sheesh! That was a full night.

Wednesday night's guild meeting was replaced with a meet and greet tavern role play event where instead of strictly going over guild business in character, we just talked and drank, and casually brought up events coming up in the future. Then Lal and Salthier got to go to Magisters' terrace with the same guy who had a pally tank alt. It was a bit stressful. Lal and I had never been there before, but overall I think I liked the instance layout, and the bosses were a lot of fun.

Last night we finally did our Heroic Shadow Labyrinth run. Ugh. What sadistic developer created this place? We did pretty well up until Blackhand's room. Every pull seemed to cause a wipe in there. I think I finally figured ou the pull order and we were able to do the 6 mob pulls without wiping. When we got to the third boss, Vorpil, who had given us a headache and stopped our progress the last time in Heroic Slab, we surprisingly killed him after only one teleport. I was happily surprised. And we all /cheered.

Murmur was a bit of pain. But we ended up going with the stay put strategy. We all ate the sonic booms and just kept up a lot of heals on everyone. On our third attempt, the tank went down at about 12% on Murmur, but we managed to get him the rest of the way down anyway. There was much rejoicing, and the tank got away with a pretty cool polearm and shield off of Murmur.

The officers in Veritas have been heavily discussing the future of raiding and role playing as we get to the expansion and make our way into Northrend. Some of it has been a little confrontational, but think we all feel like we want raiding to be more fun than taxing, and role play to remain a central part of our guild. It should be something that everything else revolves around. So we're working on role play and lore incentives for the guild to explore Northrend. We're sort of waiting for the in game world event to start it off, but each day gets me more and more excited. A lot of people are getting a little bored now, or tired, or both. Hopefully the expansion and even the patch next week will breath some new life into people.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Veritas Conquers Netherspite

Last night we went to kill Netherspite. And we did! It took us three tries, and on the third one everything just clicked and he was dead in a matter of moments.

It was our guild's first kill, and we had a lot of fun doing it. I was respsonsible for leading it, and I had a lot of fun. We nearly had it on our first try too, but he got healed part way through, and then we had some DPS die, and we ended up dying when he was at 5% and enraged. I got smoosed with a 100,000 point smack from a void zone. Oof!

Our second try was a little off. He kept aggroing random people after his banish phase, so we lost people early on. I decided to just call it after that, so we could quicly release and try again.

Third time's a charm. Everyone was in the right spot at the right time, and Netherspite's health dropped fast. I think he was dead after only two banish phases. As I told my guild, it's really a technical fight, and when you get everything done, it works really well, and he dies quickly. He dropped a nice caster off-hand and a mail healing chest piece. We were all excited. A much better ending than the Gruul run last night.

And as far as Gruul goes, we're trying again tonight. Hopefully he'll cooperate and die, but if he doesn't, we're taking another shot on Thursday. Whew, that's a lot of raiding for our little RP guild. It's not the norm. People just really want that Champion of the Naaru title. I think because of all of this, we're having a little more fun with our guild meeting tomorrow night. The meetings can be fun, but they tend to go long. It's all done in character as we talk about things that we did over the week, and events coming up. Tomorrow we're going to make the meeting really short, and then just hang out and role play in a tavern in Ironforge to let off some stress with all of the recent raiding.

And then soon we'll all be leveling. I keep mentioning that, and maybe it's because I'm excited to go exploring again, and doing quests and preparing for the level 80 scene.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Gruul is a Big Meanie, and Other Thoughts on Raiding

With the 3.0 patch on the very near horizon, a few people in the guild have been after the Champion of the Naaru title which culminates in killing Gruul, Nightbane, and Magtheridon. Veritas as killed Nightbane, and with a coalition of other guilds, Magtheridon. Last night we tackled Gruul's lair.

The first thing that happened was that 8-10 people we expected from a guild didn't show, so we spent some time talking with other guilds and finally getting our 25 people together. We go in, we clear the trash, and we sit down to talk about High King. Sheesh, this guy is complicated. 5 mobs, five different types of tanking. We had a good guy directing us though, and we killed the group on our third try. Loot is passed out, people are happy, let's keep going.

Kill some more Ogres, and suddenly we're standing in a big room with a large Gronn staring at us with his one little beady eye. We discuss the strategy and we all run in and position ourselves. I figured out where to stand so that I don't get thrown around too much when he does his ground slam, so the shatter doesn't hurt me too badly. But the tanks are having some aggro issues and then a group of people go down during a shatter and the chain reaction starts. Raid wipe.

So now people have seen the fight and we go back in and try it again. We do a lot better, get him down to 40% or so before the raid dies again. By this time, people are a little tired, cranky and I think we spent some time filling some spots. Which of course meant that the trash respawned and we had to clear it again. That's fine, we want our titles!

Gruul again, and this time we have some new tanks who seem to be better on the aggro. It's going really well until the ground slam throws everyone together and people die. We are still plugging away, but our DPS isn't high enough to plow through the growths. I succumb to a cave in that I don't move out of quickly enough. More people leave the raid, we try to fill spots, but then the trash comes back again. Yeah, we've been there awhile. It pretty much ends the night, and while everyone had pretty high spirits throughout the whole thing, we are really disappointed we couldn't get him down.

25 person raiding is not my thing I don't think. And as mentioned before, I don't even want to think about what 40 person raiding was like. It's really satisfying when you do get it right and the boss goes down, like we did with Magtheridon last week, but the frustration and difficulty of making it happen makes me wonder if the benefits don't outweigh the costs.

In Northrend, all of the raids will be have 10 person versions. I'm excited about this, but also a little daunted. I'm a raid leader now in the guild, so I'm planning to push to 80 and be one of the first to gear up for Naxraamas. As a guild, we really want to progress, and we really want to see all of the content that's out there. So the question for me then, is how do I make this happen?

We've been pretty casual about raiding. Tonight we're going to complete our first full Karazhan clear when we kill Netherspite. I want to try and maintain that easy going attitude where raiding is done for fun AND for progression, and we don't have to sacrifice one for the other. But if we want to be able to progress through these 10 person dungeons, we'll have to make some changes about how we raid. And that's where I'm a little scared. I don't want to turn us into a hard core raiding guild. That's not Veritas. But we do want to do these raids.

It starts with the leader, of which I am one, so I'm going to do my best to lead by example. Step 1 is that I'm going to do my research on gear minimums for these raids, and make sure that people are at those minimums before we go into the first raid. It just makes sense, and it will mean less frustration in the long run. If people know that they have to be geared, and we don't make any exceptions, then there will be less confrontation in the long run. No one can claim that gear is what prevented us from killing a boss, for example, and then point out the ungeared person. It's just a matter of learning the fight and practicing.

Step 2 is a consistent team. This is where most of the problem lies. I imagine we'll get to level 80 and eventually 10 people will be geared to go into Naxxramas, the first level 80 raid, and we'll start going. But as more people get to top level and geared, when do they get to go? If you have a lot of people switching in and out of the team each week, it just means that it's going to take you longer to complete that raid, by virtue of gear being distributed more widely, and having to teach more people about the fights. So one of two things has to happen:

a) Have a loot system that rewards the more consistent people first, so that overall progression is kept as high as possible. Cons) The less consistent people aren't going to get first chance at loot, and that can cause some drama.

b) People that get to 80 and geared after we have a full team have to wait until we start a second team before they can start raiding. Cons) People waiting can get impatient, and feel left out.

From what I've seen, Veritas is going to lean towards the second option before we start establishing loot DKP. And that's fine. Ideally, after we get one group, the people who want to form a second group will help each other get to that point. This is probably what I'll stress. It's sort of how we did Karazhan, but it will need to be more structured for it to work, and for us to not be doing Naxxramas for six months before we clear it.

Step 3. You can't make everyone happy. And trying to make everyone happy will eventually make some people unhappy. Most likely the raid leader trying to make everyone happy. But at the same time, there has to be a general feeling of well being amongst your members that we are raiding, we are progressing, and we're all in this together, whatever stage we're at. Otherwise they'll just get disgruntled and leave. And we've had a fair number of people leave recently for reasons I don't fully understand, but that are related to how we raid. That alone tells me something has to change.

Thankfully I'll have 10 levels to think about it and plan for it before we finally take our first steps into the home of Kel'thuzad.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Salthier, A Day in the Life

Salthier looked down into his hands as he gripped the mace firmly. The handle was long and wrapped with tough leather for easy handling. The head was rectangular and glowed a feint green, probably imbued with the essence of nature by the Night Elves who had crafted the weapon. Spikes lined the handle right below the head, as deadly as they were decorative. It was a well crafted weapon, made even more unique in that it was only given to those who proved themselves worthy to the Cenarion Expedition by helping their fight against the Naga within the Coilfang Reservoir. It truly was the Earthwarden. It was a shame he would never swing it.

Long ago, Salthier had been knowledgeable of weapons, but now as a Druid he had know practical use for it, other than the magic it was created with. He would wear it with pride, a visible depiction of his rank and dedication to the cause of his people, but when it came to battle, the claw and the tooth would be his weapons. These things had never failed him as he bonded with the spirit and form of the bear and the cat.

Salthier left the calmness of Zangarmarsh in a flash of feathers and flew to the center of activity in Outland, Shattrath City. He set down in the heart of the Scryer tier and became himself once more, the mace easily visible on his back. He made his way to the inn and checked for any recent correspondence from home. Lal had sent him some spicy crawdad, his favorite, magically preserved so as to not spoil and be available to use while out adventuring. He chuckled as he read her note, chiding him for not taking his lunch with him that morning. Sadly he would not see her until later today, as the Shattered Sun kept her busy running around Outland. He had another letter too, this one from Elionene.

Elionene often sent letters to Salthier informing him of her efforts in Karazhan. Some time ago, after she had gained the favor of the druids as well, she had turned her attention to the assistance of the Kirin Tor. She had some sort of fascination about Medivh and his tower and sought to learn all she could. The wizards were impressed, and Veritas saw it fit to have her begin leading a team into the tower weekly. The letter he had received was about the tower, as most of the letters tended to be lately. It was attached to a package with some weapons and armor obtained from the tower. Most of it junk with which he could create enchanting materials from. After briefly looking through the items in the package, Salthier began to read the note.

Hello Uncle,

We continue to have success in our research of the Ivory Tower. We have not yet found a way to completely neutralize the spirits within as they return week after week, but we have started to master their tactics and send them fleeing faster each time. The Kirin Tor are quite impressed, and have seen fit to bestow on me the highest rank possible without actually being an actual mage. However, I think the wizards from Dalaran are starting to turn their eyes to other problems. Recently they have called more of their brothers and sisters back to the ruined city in the Hillsbrad Region. I have not been privy to what they are doing, but I have heard rumors of dragons and the northern lands. It almost appears that they are preparing for another battle. It saddens me to see them leave the area around Karazhan. They may think they have discovered all they can from the tower, but I continue to grow more namored with it. Medivh kept a large number of notes on so many things. He has a whole section devoted to Kaldorei culture. Much of it has been lost to age and vandalism, but there is still much to learn. How did he know so much of us when we had not even encountered the humans until more recently?

Even as they leave, they have promised to let me continue my research in the tower at least for now. I plan to make good on that. There is one room that we have not yet ventured into. It is an observatory of some sort, but within is a Nether Dragon. How he got there, I am unsure, but he guards the access. He also appears to have lost his mind, as most all things that have dwelt too long in Karazhan have. Perhaps Mordenai would know who he is. I will have to ask him when I am next in Shadowmoon Valley.

I'm sure you found the package that accompanied this letter. Do what you can to make those items more useful. Hopefully in my next letter I will be able to tell you what the wizards are so anxious about. My attention is still with the tower, but I can't say I'm not curious about these whispers.



Salthier folded the letter and placed it in his pocket. Strange that she would mention rumors of dragons and the north. The druids themselves had been discussing strange feelings on the wind and in the earth coming from a northerly direction. None of them knew for certain what it mean, but it was certainly an omen of things to come. Salthier was ready for it.

He walked towards the center of the City of Light and took the portal to Stormwind. Leaving the mage quarter, he made his way for the Keep of Stormwind to meet with several other ambassadors. There was to be a meeting among the Alliance about these rumors. Adjusting to the new weight on his back, Salthier strode quickly into the keep, eager to personally volunteer himself to be one of the first to discover the true face of these rumors.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Lessons in Lore - Varian Wrynn

If you've not done the Onyxia key quest chain, or wish not to be spoiled on the events surrounding the return of the king to Stormwind, you may want to skip this post.

I think I've mentioned before that I'm reading the series of WoW comic books available from Wildstorm Comics. The focus of these books is on Varian Wrynn, the rightful king of Stormwind. If anyone has done The Missing Diplomat quest line, you know how the story starts. The Defias Brotherhood, those disgruntled city builders turned bandits, kidnapped an important Diplomat from Stormwind, and whisked him away to the Dustwallow Marsh, where there seems to be Naga and the Black Dragonflight involved. I haven't done this questline, although I want to and plan to with my gnome rogue soon. The gist of it is that the Diplomat was actually the king of Stormwind, Varian Wrynn, and he dissappeared after the kidnapping, from the kidnappers as well as everyone else.

With the king missing, Anduin, his young son, was made king. But being so young he needed an advisor. In comes Lady Katrana Prestor and Lord Bolvar Fordragon. Bolvar is sort of an acting king on Anduin's behalf and an all around good guy. Lady Katrana Prestor is actually tyring to manipulate things from behind the scenes as an advisor as well. Yes, Lady Katrana Prestor is actually that evil black dragon, Onyxia. But I digress, this is about the king.

This is also a little more about recent lore. The comic books start with a man (who we will learn later is Varian) being captured by an Orc Shaman somewhere in Durotar and put into the gladiator circuit to make money for the orc. Varian does not remember who he is. He is partnered with a Night Elf and a Blood Elf. Eventually, they make their escape from being gladiators and find their way to Dustwallow Marsh and Theramore, where Jaina Proudmoore, along with the help of Aegwynn, yes the mother of Medivh, help Varian remember who he is.

Now remembering everything, Varian and his friends rush off to the other continent to return to Stormwind where Lady Katrana Prestor, and an imposter King Varian are trying to pull the wool over Bolvar and Anduin's eyes. As the real King Varian heads to Stormwind from Menethil Harbor, they help the dwarves defend Thandol Span and also end up venturing to Blackrock Depths to free Marshal Windsor from the prison and the Dark Iron Dwarves. This is about as far as the comics have gotten. Obviously a lot more happens in the comics, but I don't want to give it all away. Go read them!

So the point of bringing all this up is that Varian Wrynn is basically just doing the Onyxia key quest chain. If you've done it, you know it starts by doing some quests in the Burning Steppes, which lead to freeing Marshal Windsor from Black Rock Depths, which leads to a huge revealing event in Stormwind, which leads to a raid on Onyxia in her cavern in Dustwallow. The comics treat all of this as if we, the adventurers, didn't have a part in it, but the King of Stormwind did. I feel a little used.

Anyway, with the new patch coming out in a week or two, the new and improved Stormwind Harbor will be open, and King Varian Wrynn will have returned. Hey, the King's back! The next comic comes out on the 15th, so I'm hoping that it details a little bit of what brings Varian from Ironforge to Stormwind. I'm curious to see what he'll look like and what he'll be doing once he is back, too. Will he send us to Northrend? And why? How does that relate to his return? I'm getting anxious for the next expansion!

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Moving Forward

Our scheduled ZA run was canceled last night when we failed to get enough people interested in going. The most troubling part was waiting for an hour trying to find someone and accomplishing nothing. We actually had nine people ready, but needed a healer, and there were no healers available on the server. /sigh

I like running Zul'aman, and would like to at least see the other two of the first four bosses in the next couple weeks. We'll see if that happens. A lot of people who had been on the Mag raid, and previous to that, Tempest Keep, and then Karazhan on Monday because I couldn't lead it on Friday, were sort of raided out. We're not technically a raiding guild, so when you have four nights of raiding in a row, it takes its toll. We also discussed how leading up to the expansion release, people are sort of tired of raiding in general since these raids will become fond memories as we level and gear for new dungeons and raids. Such is the life of an MMORPG.

In character related news, nothing much is happening. Elionene is leading Karzhan runs on Fridays. Salthier is pretty much just around for helping people who need him as a tank or DPS. Lal has been dutifully doing her Dailies, and recently got to exalted with the Cenarion Expedition so she can have her own hippogryph! Salthier needs a couple more Steamvault runs to get exalted as well and grab his Earthwarden. I should really do that before Wrath comes. It looks like I'll be leveling Salthier first in Outland, along with Lal. I hope I have enough time to play and level Elionene as well. Maybe I'll have a reason to get up and play before work again. ;)

We did get to play Bogdan and Nadya a bit this last week, which I thoroughly enjoyed, but I can tell Lal really prefers to stay on her main character. Originally, I thought the aspect of leveling was something she really liked, and thus creating and playing alts would be something she would like. But I was wrong. More often than not, she wants to do things with Lal, even if it's just helping other guild members. I think it's the idea of learning a new class. Even though it's fun for her to play a mage and kill things quickly, she prefers the familiarity of her priest. And she's also very much into making Lal the best she can be, which includes healing and smiting, so she has two sets of gear to achieve. Speaking of which, she got a nice smite cloak in Karazhan the other night. I forget the name, but I'll link it later.

I, on the other hand, feel pretty much content to raid with Elionene and use Saltheir when needed. So I actually would prefer to play Bogdan most of the time, except on raid nights. Sadly, he's meant to level with Bogdan, so when Lal doesn't want to play Nadya, we don't play on our Draenei. Occasionaly she'll indulge me and we'll play them, as we did the other night. But I just don't think I'm going to get far on them before we're leveling our main toons in the expansion. I'm sad about that, but at least it means less to worry about when the expansion does hit, and we can always go back to them in a few months when we're 80 and bored. :D I've probably talked about all this before, but it's what's on my mind at the moment.

I hear that the new patch will radically change a lot of things about all of our classes, and that it's supposed to go live on the 14th of October. After that, it will almost be like a new game.