Friday, December 10, 2010

Lessons in Lore: Blackrock Caverns

Cataclysm is officially underway, and with new zones, new quests, new dungeons, and a plethora of other new things, it's not hard to get lost in the shuffle of what is actually happening with the lore.  Case in point, while questing in Hyjal, you'll meet a familiar gnome who has a problem. It's related to Hyjal, but he sends you all the way over to the other side of the world. In a mole machine no less. Blackrock Caverns is one of the new 5-person dungeons for levels 80-81.  Let's take a look inside.

The gnome who you meet in Hyjal is none other than Finkle Einhorn. If you've ever been to Upper Blackrock Spire and fought The Beast, killed him, and skinned him, you'll remember finding Finkle inside. Thanks to his trusty lava suit, he survived the belly of the Beast and now he's assisting the Guardians of Hyjal in investigating Ragnaros' return to Azeroth. Apparently Finkle's an expert on the matter due to his previous exploits.  Of course, we could have told him we saw Ragnaros and Deathwing having a little heart to heart as we flew into the zone for the first time.  Regardless, Finkle informs you that the Twilight's Hammer Cultists are moving elementals between Hyjal and Blackrock Caverns.  Along with Finkle's bodyguard, Raz Skullcrusher, you hop in the mole machine and show up on the doorstep of the instance.

Blackrock Caverns is physically located near the entrance to Blackrock Spire. Upon entering, you'll start the quest chain with Finkle and Raz that involves you chasing a crazed Orc throughout the instance.  Rather than regurgitate the quest line to you, let's take a look at the bosses of the dungeon and see what exactly they're up to, and how it relates to what is going on in Hyjal.

Bonecrusher is the first boss of the instance. He's an Ogre Lord working for the Twilight's Hammer Cult under the leadership of Cho'gall. When you reach him, he's torturing and interrogating Raz, presumably to find out what he's doing in the Blackrock Caverns. Once defeated, Raz is released, but he's not quite the same Raz.

Next you'll come upon Corla draining the energy from a Nether Drake into other cultists.  She is a high ranking member of the Twilight's Hammer Cult, using her abilities to take that drained energy and turn regular cult members into drakonids. She's not afraid to die, for death is what all of the cultists are devoted to. But to save Raz and to prevent the cultists from becoming drakonids, die she must. 

Like all good armies, the cult is in need of armor and weapons.  Karsh Steelbender is the resident evil blacksmith making the necessary equipment. He also happens to be in your way as you chase after Raz. 

Beauty is most likely the mate of The Beast from Blackrock Spire.  She also happens to have a litter of puppies named Lucky, Spot, and Buster after the dogs of 101 Dalmations. No matter how cute you think they are, Finkle doesn't think leaving her or her litter alive is good for anyone, so you'll have to take care of Beauty just like you took care of The Beast.

Lord Obsidius is the last boss of Blackrock Caverns, and introduces us to a new class of enemy, the Elemental Ascendant.  These elementals appear to have originally been Twilight Cultists who through a ritual or draining of power from other elementals, have ascended to a new form.  Obsidius appears to be the one in charge of all of the operations within Blackrock caverns, orchestrating the transport of elementals, armor, equipment, and the transformation of cultists into drakonids.  Obsidius claims he cannot die, so it's possible we will see him later on, perhaps in the Twilight Highlands. or at least he will not be the last Elemental Ascendant we see. 

Taking it all in at once, Blackrock caverns appears to be a staging ground for the Twilight's Hammer Cultists to supply troops, equipment, and magically created monsters to the battle for Hyjal to fight against the druids there.  Thankfully, with Finkle and Raz's help, you're able to cause quite a lot of damage to their operations, and hopefully swing the battle in the Guardians of Hyjal's favor.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

First Impressions of the Shattering

After reading that maintenance had been extended until 8 PM EST, Lal and I settled in around dinner time to watch the season six finale of Deep Space 9 which we've been renting from Netflix.  However around 6 PM we got notification from several sources that the servers were up! So we logged on to have a look around at the newly destroyed world.

I logged in on Elionene in Ashenvale at the graveyard right next to Astranaar.  The town was on fire, and a horde outpost was just a stone's throw away. Ack! I checked on the NPCs and they seemed to have things under control, so I rode over to the Raynewood Retreat and helped pick off so orc invaders and talked to the druids defending the tree.  From there it was on up to Felwood.  Oddly enough Felwood seemed like it was about the same as it had been.

I checked my hearthstone, and realized that it had been set to Teldrassil.  From what I could see, every one of my character's hearths had been reset to the racial capital city.  So off to Darnassus I went.  The new Worgen area of the city was kind of cool, and there are fancy new flight points all over the place.  I paid my respects to Malfurion Stormrage, back from the Emerald Dream. He's up holding court with Tyrande in the Temple of the Moon in case you were looking for him.

From there I took the boat to Stormwind. I have to give props to the designers for the Stormwind overhaul.  It's huge, and as one of my guild mates put it, it feels more like a real place.  There's more going on, and there's more NPC movement and activity.  In particular, check out the huge graveyard North of the cathedral, and look for the memorial to Varian Wrynn's deceased wife, Tiffin.  Speaking of Varian, the keep is newly redone as well with a giant statue of the King in front.  Anduin Wrynn is all grown up, which is probably a good indicator of how much time has passed.  In game time, it's probably been at least two to three years since we went North to fight the Lich King.  Since then, parts of the city have been renovated, and others destroyed.

During this time, other guild members were looking at other zones.  One of them mentioned he had seen foxes, which are new with the patch, and tamable. At first I went to Redridge to get a fox, but all of them were black. Instead I had to make my way to Loch Modan to find the red foxes.  It's  not much of a loch anymore actually. The dam is busted and the water is all gone, but I found the foxes and got one or my very own.

Foxes are unique pets in that they have a "play" ability which just causes it to jump up and dance on its hind feet. It wasn't long before I realized that you can tell the fox to play and then send it in to attack something and it will continue the play animation while it's attacking things.  After checking out the new Deadmines, we decided to have some fun with the fox, and Marilee was able to capture it for You tube. I'm still laughing. Beware dancing foxes!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Waiting for Deathwing

It's here! The Shattering is happening this very moment.  Deathwing will be destroying Azeroth from 3 AM PST to 11 AM PST and when we log in we'll get to see everything that's changed.  Did you do anything to prepare? Throw any late night "End of the World" parties? Where did you park your characters to await the end of the world? Somewhere practical like Stormwind or Orgrimmar? Or maybe somewhere sentimental like the Barrens, Darkshore, or Hillsbrad?

I moved Salthier to Stormwind and set his hearth there as well. I sent a couple of my other characters to Ironforge to see what the Dwarves are up to.  But for Elionene, I took her to Ashenvale, so the first thing I'll be able to take a look at when I log in tonight are the changes to what I think of as her home and one of my favorite zones.  For the rest of the night, it will probably be running around and saying, "ooh look at that!"

I was going to write about some of the things that are changing with this patch and what things still won't be available until you install Cataclysm on the 7th of December, but WoW Insider already has a pretty good summary up.  Check it out here. Of the things that are mentioned in that article, here are the ones that stand out to me.

- Those NPCs that took cloth in exchange for city reputation are gone.  In their place you can buy city tabards that will provide reputation from dungeon running, just like the Northrend faction tabards.  

- Experience from level 71 - 80 is reduced by 20% making it that much faster to reach the level cap before Cataclysm actually hits.  My lone horde Death Knight is currently 78, so this will help give me incentive to push on to 80.

- New hunter pets and new pet skins for old pets.  Monkeys! Foxes! Beetles! Oh my!

- Dalaran and Shattrath portals are being removed, and replaced with class trainers.  If you're someone like me, this might not affect you much because I don't do much in game besides leveling and running dungeons and raids. However, if you're doing dailies, and using the auction hall a lot, then the next two weeks are going to be very inconvenient because the quests and AH are separated by a lot of land and sea with no easy way to get back and forth.** If I had a level 80 mage, I'd park myself in Dalaran and advertise portals for all of the people that forget to set their hearthstones in other cities or are stuck in Dalaran after the patch.  Might stand to make a few gold. 

- What we won't be able to do until Dec. 7th is anything Goblin or Worgen related.  The newest archaeology profession is not available.  Old world flying is not going to be purchasable until the expansion is installed. Guild leveling and achievements won't be implemented, and of course, the new 80+ zones will not be accessible.

It seems like even with all of the changes there aren't a lot of new things to do with patch 4.0.3a unless you want to roll one of the new race/class combos like Dwarf shaman or a Tauren paladin. I'm not really interested in rolling any new toons until after I get my mains to 85 and start raiding. So tonight I'll just be observing the changes, and maybe knocking out the last few levels on my Death Knight. Incidentally, if you were farming the Cataclysm bosses for loot, Blizzard has made them available around the clock  So there's that, oh, and a holiday world event. You can roast your turkeys over the burning coals of what used to be Stormwind!

**Edit: I was just reading this article on PC GAMER.  Apparently there will be an auction hall in Shattrath and Dalaran. So even if you have to bribe a mage or take a plane, train, and boat ride to get to and out of those cities, at least you should have all the resources you need at hand while you're there. The article has a lot of other cool information straight from J. Allen Brack, Blizzard's Productino Director.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Coming Up Next, The Shattering

The latest patch is hitting the servers today. That would be 4.0.3, and as many sources will tell you, this is not the patch that will bring the shattering of Azeroth and thus the new zones and quests.  That will happen with 4.0.3a which is expected in a couple weeks, shortly before we all install the expansion proper. Still, the fact that 4.0.3 is going live is exciting! The Elemental Invasion is going strong on live servers currently.  Lal and I participated in the defense of Stormwind and Ironforge last night. It basically consisted of attacking large elementals and then waiting a few seconds to see if those attacks actually worked.  The sheer amount of people in the capital cities, combined with all of the fighting made for some heavy latency.  Somehow we prevailed, and we got to fight some pretty neat bosses in various places around the world with our guild.

Speaking of our guild, we've recently started our own. Theoretical Novelty on the Moon Guard server. Our goal is to be a solid ten person raiding guild in Cataclysm, but not hardcore.  I like the description I've heard tossed around of "Skilled Casual" in that we have limited time to raid (two or three nights a week), but we're no slouches when it comes to knowing our classes and learning to work together as a team. I look forward to facing these new challenges with the new guild, and seeing how it all pans out. Along with the raiding, many of us are role players in some fashion, whether that's in character stories, in game events, or elsewhere.

When we started it was hard to keep interest in running raids since we were just shy of a full team, so many of us turned to more relaxing game time distractions of rep grinds and alts while we wait for the coming Cataclysm. Lal and I finally got Bogdan and Nadya to level 80. And a few other members have been diligently working on disappearing reputations and other achievements that may or may not be available once Deathwing comes.  With the release date of December 7th looming ever closer, the excitement for seeing new zones, running new dungeons and raids, and playing Worgen and Goblins is building.  Activity levels of our members are starting to increase bit by bit. Hopefully recruitment will pick up with the expansion so we can field a full ten person team for Cataclysm raiding, and hopefully we're up to the challenge of doing those raids.

All in all, I think I've accomplished most of what I was hoping to do before the expansion.  The last thing I can think to do is get my Death Knight to 80. He's almost 78 at the moment, and he would be my first Horde 80. I don't get a lot of time to play him, but my hope was that I'd be able to do some of the more lore centric quests from the Horde point of view, and so far it's been a lot of fun. Aside from that, I'm making sure to do all of the pre-Cataclysm events, and really understand the lore behind what's happening with the world.  It's a lot of fun, and it's great fodder for future blog posts.  I'm fairly sure not everyone is familiar with who Cho'gall is, and what he has to do with the Doomsday Cult. And what ties all of this to Deathwing? Will there be another Old God to deal with, and what will his, her, or its part be in all of this? Some of my more popular posts have been the Lessons in Lore stuff I used to do, so look for more or those, and more frequent posts in the near future!

Friday, November 5, 2010

Home Sweet Ashenvale

This week's Blog Azeroth shared topic asks us about our in game home.

What does 'home' mean in your book? Do you have a particular home in Azeroth - a place you feel you belong, that you know like the back of your hand, or that you feel more comfortable in than anywhere else? Would this be different for different characters or different factions, or is there just a place that really resonates with you? Do you think Cataclysm will prompt you to find new and different turf, or will you be heading back there first thing to see what might have changed? If it is destroyed, how do you think that will affect your experience of the game, or your characters' lives? Or do you think the whole idea of having a home doesn't even really apply to a game?

As the question goes, it's fairly broad. There are many things that can be considered home about Azeroth. The first aspect that comes to my mind is about my characters and their backgrounds. Surprisingly, out of all of my high level characters, only one of them has a significant link to her home, and that is Elionene, my main. Of the others, most are displaced such as the Draenei, Bogdan, and Khristin. And Salthier has given up his idea of home and become an ambassador of sorts to the humans of the Eastern Kingdom. He could call the Night Elf lands his home, but he travels so much, it's not really a concern to him. (Caution: Minor Cataclysm spoilers ahead, if you're trying to remain ignorant of everything that is about to happen.)

But Elionene is different. She was born and raised in the forest of Ashenvale, and it will forever be a place of peace and restoration to her. It's where her fondest memories of her family are. It's where she learned the skills to be a hunter, and it is the heart of the Night Elven lands where many of her faithful pets come from. When she needs to get away from the battles in Northrend, the tumultuous nature of Outland, or the constant presence of people in Azeroth, she can find a secluded area of Ashenvale and find a refuge unlike any other.

Little does she know the Cataclysm is going to take this home away from her. When Deathwing makes his debut, Ashenvale will erupt. Literally. A volcano will appear in the middle of the land. The orcs of the Horde will take advantage of this turmoil and take more land from the Night Elves in Ashenvale, cutting down the trees for their barracks and fortresses. The Night Elves will be pushed back to Astranaar and be constantly berated by scouting parties from the East and the West. Ashenvale will no longer be the refuge it once was for Elionene and others like her.

How will this affect her? I can see it hardening her a little bit. It will further antagonize her towards the Horde. She's already distrustful. This act may very well make her hostile. It certainly gives her motivation to lead a charge against Deathwing, and the Elemental Lords who will be ravaging the land. Luckily for her, she has a band of adventurers and friends willing to fight along side of her to protect the world they hold so dear, and the people in it.

Personally speaking, when I think of home in Warcraft, I also think of the Night Elven lands. More specifically the atmosphere and music of Teldrassil and Darkshore. Whenever I find myself in those areas with any character and the music starts to play, it immediately takes me back to when I first rolled Elionene and played through the Starter zones. And then when my wife and I rolled Salthier and Lal to play through those same areas, it just intensified the feeling that this is where it all began. This is where my roots in the game are. It's kind of like remembering when you first played the original Super Mario Brothers, or why geeks like me get all nostalgic for games like Centipede, Dig Dug, and Pac-Man. It brings back a time when things were simpler, and you were just learning how to do everything. It was all new and wonderful.

After thinking about the topic for awhile, I'm encouraged to work on the concept of home for some of my other existing characters, and especially for some characters I expect to roll in the near future. What will my Worgen consider home? What about the Gnomes as they attempt to take back what many of them consider their home? Home is an important concept, and I think the Cataclysm expansion is an ideal place to focus on what it means for us and our characters.

Friday, July 30, 2010

New Adventures

Fresh after the high of defeating the Lich King, I've reached a bit of a low spot in my time with WoW. Lal and I have decided to leave the only guild we've known for the last three years and search for something new. What that something new is has not been entirely decided yet. It wasn't easy to leave for anyone involved, and I'll miss everyone dearly that is still with Veritas. I still consider them friends, even if we don't share a guild tag. I sincerely hope Veritas goes on to bigger and greater things than they ever have. I plan to stay in touch with the guild leaders and other members without being a nuisance, and in the mean time branch out into new territory for myself.

This blog will continue to be a place for lore posts and raiding stories and other miscellany of the World of Warcraft. I have been lax in those duties for a few months now, but the coming Cataclysm has me excited to write more. Lal and I have returned to the Draenei we started years ago, Bogdan and Nadya, and are now leveling in Outland and having a rather fun time of it. I expect we'll be in Northrend in a week or two and hopefully level 80 before long. After that, we'll be anxiously awaiting the new expansion before leveling any new toons. I have some low level alts that I'll probably re-roll in Cata to experience the revamped zones that are coming.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

It's about time.

We have finally killed The Lich King.

The Strength of Wrynn buff was at 30%. I'm pretty sure that's as good as it gets. After weeks and weeks of struggling just to get 10 people together on the same night that knew the entire fight from beginning to end, we finally got our act together and converged on the Frozen throne.

First attempt: Lost some people to an errant Frost Orb on the first transition phase. A careless mistake, but we recovered quickly to try again.

Second attempt: Bad defile placement on the second phase, so we called the wipe and started again.

Third attempt: Everything went smoothly into the second phase. We nearly lost Lal to a Val'kyr but managed to kill it at the very edge. We're running in and out of defiles, and the Val'kyr are dying a little quicker than we're used to thanks to that buff, and a focused intensity of our DPS. As we're heading into the next transition phase, I'm mostly hopeful that we just get some time in the last phase as we've barely spent any time there.

Transition happens, and spirits are dying fast. We head back into the Lich King and someone gets whisked away to Frostmourne, I'm not sure who. Raging spirits are dead, but the Vile spirits are just appearing, so I swap targets. They don't die nearly as fast as they need to and I realize then that it must have been our other ranged DPS in the Frostmourne room. The spirits come down and start exploding on people. I hear Lal yelling from across the room at the damage people are taking. But after the spirits are gone, we're still alive.

At this point we've got a weird rhythm. People are scattered due to defiles and spirits, but I'm still trying to call out when to close in and when to spread out. Somehow the healers are keeping us alive through explosions. Then I see Giraud go down. I call out for a battle rez and we're back to full strength again. More spirits, more running, more explosions. There goes a healer! Thank goodness he's a Shaman. He's back up and we're still fighting. At this point I realize we're not just practicing. We're nearly there.

My hands start to shake when I see Kill Shot come up because that only happens on mobs below 20%. We only have to get him to 10. His health is dropping fast and we still have 10 people alive. At this point I start thinking people are surely going to start dying, and planning what do do if that happens, because we could still potentially pull it off. But in the end I didn't have to worry about that because we all died at the same time. And that was the most amazing thing that could have happened that night.

The scene played out, and in the end, we stood triumphant. After months of working on just this fight and nothing else, it was such a relief to finally have beaten it.

I'm proud of everyone for making it through, and putting up with all the pain and heartache that got us there. We've essentially beaten the game now. For some of us that have been invested in Warcraft since the RTS games, this was the ultimate final boss. And now, we're the heroes of the story.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Sindragosa Down. One Boss To Go.

Sweet Fancy Malfurion! We finally killed her!

We went in on an off night since we didn't get to go last Friday and decided to clean up Putricide, who was the only other boss up over the last few weeks of extensions. It took us a couple of tries, but we got him. Our DPS was pretty high so the fight wasn't all that bad once we got everyone coordinated. With Putricide down, we headed to Sindragosa, hoping to get in a few attempts before we ended for the night.

A few people joked about one shotting Sindragosa, and we were pretty pumped after killing Putricide. I mean, it's probably been three weeks since we killed anything other than trash in Icecrown. In hindsight, maybe those people weren't joking because we did in fact one shot Sindragosa to the surprise and amazement of everyone involved. We had one person who had never seen the fight before, but somehow all of the stars in the sky aligned and everyone was in the right spot at the right time during the last phase which had been killing us before. Someone mentioned that we had done 40 attempts on Sindragosa up to this point. About time.

With time to spare, we visited with Arthas before starting the fight. We hadn't studied up at all, so it was just for fun. We actually lasted a good while before wiping to mechanics that we were unaware of dealing with a plague or something.
Needless to say we were ecstatic. I think it gave us a much needed push to finish this place. We're invigorated and ready to take on the Lich King. No more trash, no more weekly runs through ICC. It's just us, and him. And Lich is going down.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Sindragosa and Raid Extending

*dusts off the blog*

Now, where were we?

Right, so two months later we've defeated Putricide and saved Valithria Dreamwalker. Having decided that our gear is sufficient, we made the decision to start extending the raid until such a time as Arthas is dead. Or at least, more dead than he already is. So for the last two weeks we've been banging our heads against Sindragosa. We've made a lot of good progress. We've got the first phase down great, but getting her dead in that final phase has proven a problem. We don't have the DPS to burn her down, but our coordination hasn't quite been there to survive the tombs and icy grips. We're going back in on Friday, and I'm confident we're going to get her this time. All told, we've probably spent 6-8 hour son the fight and that's about right for how long it's taken us to get other bosses down like Putricide.

I will be so excited when we finally get to the Lich King, and when we finally down him. We've been in Icecrown for far too long now, and I'm eager to finish it so the pressure is off. The plan is to defeat the Lich King once and then spend some time on heroic fights like Marrowgar and Gunship while we continue to do the upper spire on normal modes. A bit more challenge and more gear for people involved.

Outside of raiding, I've been taking a small break from WoW and playing some other games on my recently acquired Xbox 360. That and work stress have kept me from blogging, but things have settled down a bit now, and I hope to get some more writing done. That's always the hope though. For those of you that are interested in reading about other games, I'm keeping a blog at Gamespot about my non WoW gaming. That makes four blogs total that I'm somewhat keeping. I better be careful I don't let this get our of hand.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Icecrown Raid Updates

Earlier in this year we restructured our raid teams to get more people involved in Icecrown. We had been running one team because it was simple enough to fill that team each week, and it wasn't a strain on the weekly schedule. And also because we only had one raid leader, me. But that left us with a number of able raiders who didn't get to raid as often as they liked because we could only take 10 at a time. We discussed doing a scheduled rotation, but I was against that plan. I worried that it would just compound the problem we were having, namely that people weren't getting to raid as often as they wanted to. Rotations wouldn't fix that, they would just distribute the "not raiding" equally across the members.

We had enough members, and so we eventually ended up with two separate and individual teams. Our rules were simple. To avoid one team being cannibalized by the other in the event of no shows or scheduling, neither team could take a main raider for the other's use. Alts were up for grabs as long as people were willing. We did our best to allocate people to each team based on class, role, and approximate skill levels, and I think we did a pretty good job of it. We still didn't have a permanent raid leader for the other team, but we were going to use sub leaders until someone stepped up.

So that's the context for the rest of this post. I lead one of the teams weekly on Tuesday and Friday nights now. We've been very lucky in that we haven't had any major scheduling problems with people to the extent we couldn't raid one of the weeks. Granted, this has only been going on for a month, so our time will come. Hopefully with enough advance notice, we can reschedule or sub people in to make it still happen. The other team raids Thursday/Sunday, and they've struggled a bit on getting people together on one or two nights due to scheduling problems. Just the other night, Lal and I were able to help with our alts to fill some holes though, so the system seems to be operating as expected, and doing well.

The heart of this, though, is our progress. Last week, my team got our first kills on Blood Prince Council and shortly thereafter, Blood-Queen Lana'thel which had us very excited. We'd spent the previous 3-4 weeks wiping to Rotface and his oozes. A victory over the Crimson Halls really encouraged our abilities as raiders and as a team. We're going back into Icecrown tonight with the Lower Spire and Festergut down, so we'll start with the Blood Princes and attempt to finish them and their Queen off with fewer wipes than last week.

Rotface has me stumped. We originally had our paladin tank kiting oozes and our bear tank on Rotface. Even when we got better at avoiding slime sprays and kiting the small oozes to the big ooze, we were still dying at around the magical 4 minute mark when the oozes became too much to handle. Rotface never got much lower than 25%. The next time, we changed it up, and I kited oozes while maintaining some DPS on Rotface and the paladin tank went DPS. We had a lot better success with this strategy, but we still couldn't get him down. I think our best attempt had him with less than 5% health. The causes of these wipes were mostly getting a second big ooze in the middle due to people not dragging them out in time. Avoiding slime sprays also seemed to be a bit tricky. Our DPS was a lot better though, and with just a little more we thought we could get him. We spent a whole night on Rotface, and 24 wipes later, we were defeated.

I'm expecting to beat the Crimson Hall again tonight. After which we will return to Rotface to claim our victory. I think with a few more tries, the hunter kiting strategy will work, but it takes everyone being on the ball about moving out with their little slimes and side stepping out of those slime sprays. The other hang up usually happens when the big ooze explodes, and the transition out of the center of the room and back is usually very rough. We tried to two heal the encounter to help get the DPS up, but then people were dying to much to little oozes and puddles, so we went back to three healers. I don't really know which is better, but what's important is that we find a way that works.

After that it's Putricide time. We haven't fought him yet, but I'm hopeful, so very hopeful, that he's not going to be as hard as Rotface. Compared to all of the other encounters, Rotface is an exponential increase in difficulty for our raid. I don't know if it's the same way for most other people, but Rotface seems to play to our weaknesses much like Yogg-Saron did in Ulduar. But Rotface isn't the final boss, so the difficulty level was a bit unexpected. Putricide has some fun mechanics as well, but much like we were able to get the Blood Council and the Blood-Queen, think a few hours on Putricide will spell his doom. But don't quote me on that.

We briefly tried the Dreamwalker fight in Icecrown where the Healers take center stage in healing Valithria. We were overwhelmed with adds and wiped twice before calling it for the night. We got a taste of it though, and we'll soon be working on the nuances. For now, I'm deciphering the best plan of attack to make the most of our raid nights. It's a fairly simple task to clear the lower spire and Festergut in about two hours on Tuesday. But depending on how we do tonight in the Crimson Halls, I may start trying to clear the lower spire and then through Blood-Queen all on Tuesday night to make way for doing the harder wings on Friday.

All three of my 80s are Icecrown geared now. Elionene the most, obviously, but Khristin is doing very well on gear. I just need an off hand and a nice trinket for her. Salthier is borderline, and I've discovered that there are very slim pickings when it comes to bear tanking upgrades that you can obtain outside of raiding. All of Lal's 80s are Icecrown ready too, which makes us prime candidates for filling in spots on teams when needed, and we like it that way.

We're going back in with the second team on Sunday. I love healing it on Khristin, my Shaman, and I've been tinkering with her glyphs and spec to be a little more productive. I expect us to do very well, hopefully getting Blood Princes down, though I'm not sure if that's what they'll be working at. In that role, I'm not the leader, so it takes a bit of effort from me to hold back and just follow orders. Something I definitely need to work on.

Between the two teams in Icecrown, a group of people doing hard mode Ulduar fights, and some random raids here and there, Veritas has been cementing itself as one of the best 10 person-strict guilds on our server. I'm proud of that, and I'm looking forward to continuing our progression and maintaining that status.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Shared Topic: The Coming Cataclysm

In an effort to get back into the habit of blogging and writing, here's a shared topic from the Blog Azeroth forums. The question put forth is, "How will the Cataclysm change your game?"

A lot of us are looking forward to the new expansion. It's still a ways away, and I still have a lot I want to accomplish before it comes, but the new expansion will change a lot of things in the game. And I'm excited about most of it.

A Changed World
Many of the old world areas we know and love today will be forever changed. One of those areas is Ashenvale, which is rumored to be finally be decimated by the Orcs. In a role play sense, this is the home of Elionene, and it will be a very significant event to her. Where she may be at most distrustful of the Horde now, after they rampage over the forest she grew up in, she will become more openly hostile. This makes a difference in how I role play with people in game, what role play I do anyway. Since becoming a raid leader and officer in the guild, I've sort of let role play slide off to the side a bit. The Cataclysm might be what entices me to return to it a bit.

New Races
I'm excited about both of the new races. I don't typically play horde, but I think it would be a lot of fun to play a goblin. I'm at least going to run the new starting area for them. I've also got plans to make my goblin a hunter, which will be my first hunter since rolling my main, Elionene. Where Elionene is about skill, grace, and precision (I tend to use bows exclusively), my goblin hunter will be all about the explosions, the kill, and might be a tad on the insane side. I need to contemplate the perfect pet for him. Ideally, something much bigger than he is.

Worgen will be awesome. I'm hoping to roll this race with Lal and maybe a few other people to play through the starter area as a group. My plan is to make a worgen priest. A discipline priest if I ever get to a high enough level where it matters. My inclination is to think of worgen as a melee class, fighting claw and tooth at the front lines. So I'm purposefully going against that grain and creating a spell caster, and a healer to boot. Should be fun.

Speaking of a worgen priest, I've come to find out (after 3 years of having a dps main) that I actually really enjoy healing. I've experienced both restoration druid and shaman healing at level 80. I generally prefer the shaman healing, but healing in general is very satisfying for me. There's a possibility that I would consider switching my main to a healing class to raid with at level 85. Since we all start over with gear when an expansion hits, it's the perfect time to switch mains for raiding.

My hang up is that as a raid leader, it's hard to watch the fight and call out stuff to the raid when I'm glued to healing bars. That alone will probably prevent me from switching. As a dps, and especially as a ranged dps, I have a good view of every fight we do. And I do intend to raid in Cataclysm. Before I roll any new races, I'll be working my way to 85 on several toons.

One major thing that will be different for raiding is that Veritas as a 10 person raiding guild is light years beyond where we were when we started Karazhan. I expect to start raiding much earlier into the Cataclysm expansion than we did in the Wrath expansion, and competing with the other top 10-strict guilds on our server.

Guild Leveling
Something the other officers in Veritas and I are very excited about is the new guild leveling system. We don't have a lot of details, but from the sound of it, it will be fun and rewarding for everyone in the guild. Something to work on together besides just raiding. It may change how we run the guild, or how we do ranks and privileges for our members. I'm eager to hear more about this.

The more things change...
As I'm going over all of these changes in my head, I realize I'm probably not going to change much about how I play the game, but just looking forward to the new stuff that's coming. Above all else, I'm most excited about new lore, new quests, new dungeons and raids, and new alts to roll. All of which I'm doing now.

Monday, February 15, 2010

A Closer Look at Icecrown Citadel - Lower Spire

Lord Marrowgar
Lord Marrowgar is the first line of defense against those that would seek to enter Icecrown Citadel and attempt to assault the spire upon which sits the frozen throne. He is the only known Bone Wraith in existence and is an undead construct similar to abominations. What is he constructed from? I'm glad you asked.

The Lich King and the scourge have killed a lot of people in the last few years. Most of them were probably raised as ghouls or skeletons and thrown right back at us among the hordes of undead already attacking, but some of them, quite a few of them actually, were reserved, and the bones of those adventurers were used to create what we know as Lord Marrowgar.

That's really it. He's a collection of bones pieced and held together by the power of the Lich King, and when you make him angry, he yells BONESTORM! and spins around a lot. This leads me to believe he's made up of mostly warrior bones, and maybe a few frost mages in there too.

As far as bosses go, Marrowgar is pretty light weight. Seems the Lich King needs to make his guardians a little stronger, but the king does have other responsibilities. That's why he's got scourge like Professor Putricide on the payroll. But more about him later.

Lady Deathwhisper
Yes, you're eyes are not telling you wrong. It's a she-lich. The only one we've encountered so far, too. Lady Deathwhisper is the Supreme Overseer of the
Cult of the Damned which is somewhat surprising since the cult has been around for some time, but this is the first we've seen of Lady Deathwhisper. Within Icecrown, Deathwhisper stands in the Oratory of the Damned behind the spire, preaching the will of the Lich King to the cult members that gather there.

The Cult of the Damned, for those that may not know or recall, is a large group of living (not dead or undead) races that have devoted themselves to the service of the Lich King. It was through this cult that the Lich King first exerted his influence in the world many years ago. Kel'thuzad was on of the founding members before he was killed and raised as a lich, and it was through the cult that the plague was brought to Lordaeron. It appears that Lady Deathwhisper's role has been to oversee the operation and to preach the message of the cult to the uninitiated. We don't know anything about her prior life, who she was before she was a lich, or how she came to be the overseer.

When you happen upon her, you can hear her extol the virtues of death and service to the Lich King. She's somewhat of a zealot herself, proclaiming even upon her death that it is all in accordance with the Master's plan.

Gunship Battle

There's no actual boss to talk about here, but that's not to say there isn't a lot of lore to talk about. For one, you have two very strong lore figures in the captains of the horde and alliance gunships, as well as the entire storyline leading up to the Horde vs. Alliance standoff in Icecrown to begin with.

Muradin Bronzebeard is the captain of the Alliance ship, the Skybreaker. Muradin is brother to Brann and Magni Bronzebeard. You remember Brann as the explorer from Halls of Stone and Ulduar (Evasive Action! EVASIVE ACTION!), and Magni is the King of the dwarves over in Ironforge. Muradin is the middle child and was the liaison between the dwarves of Khaz Modan and Lordaeron. It was through this connection that he met a young Arthas Menethil and helped to train him as he was growing up. Later on, Arthas would betray Muradin's friendship when he took up Frostmourne and seemingly killed Muradin.

Muradin survived however, and found his way to the Frosthold in the Storm Peaks where, his memory lost to him, he joined and became king of the Frostborn Dwarves. Through a series of quests in the Storm Peaks, we the players reunite Muradin with his brothers and he gets his memories back, and first on his list of things to do is to take down Arthas who had since become the Lich King. Thus we see Muradin take a central role in Icecrown as he seeks to end the reign of Arthas that started when they had found Frostmourne.

On the Horde ship, Orgrim's hammer, High Overlord Varok Saurfang leads his forces. Saurfang has been a fixture in the Horde since early WoW, serving a s a quest turn in for Nefarion's head and backing the rule of Thrall over the new horde. He is a veteran of the first, second, and third wars on Azeroth, and a legend in his own right. He lead the Horde forces in Ahn'Qiraj, and served as an advisor to Garrosh Hellscream in the push into Northrend.

Saurfang's son, Dranosh, also fought in Northrend at the Wrathgate. It was there that the Lich King took the soul of Saurfang Jr. And it is for this reason that the assault on the citadel is very personal for Saurfang Sr. In fact, the battle directly after the gunship battle is against Deathbringer Saurfang, the broken spirit of Dranosh, now in service to the Lich King. As the Alliance, we get to see a scene play out after the fight where Saurfang comes to reclaim the body of his son. It's a touching moment (until Jaina mucks it up), but I imagine it's even more dramatic Horde side, as Saurfang has to issue orders to attack his own son, even if his spirit is no longer whole.

So two heroes of their respective factions, both with personal vendetta's against the Lich King, as well as a mandate from their superiors to attack the citadel. The question stands out, why aren't they working together?

The tension between the Horde and Alliance has always been tenuous, but with the events of the Wrathgate, the hostilities throughout Northrend, and the unwillingness to compromise shown by their respective leaders, both sides feel that they are more entitled to the defeat of Arthas, and rather than join forces, they fight each other on their way to defeat the Lich King. It's a matter of pride, and an unwillingness to trust the other side, but be what it may, this is how things have transpired. It's interesting to me that Tirion and the Knights of the Ebon Blade have managed to band together in the Ashen Verdict, yet while they spear head the attack on Icecrown, the Horde and Alliance trivialize that union with their squabbles.

It will be interesting to see how this plays out as we reach the end of the Wrath of the Lich King and what it means for the hostilities between the factions.

Deathbringer Saurfang


Saurfang is the Lich King's most powerful Death Knight. He's also one of the more recent acquisitions of the Lich King, which leads me to believe he's not powerful because of his service to the Lich King, but because of the strength of the soul from which this death knight was made. So let's take a look at how Deathbringer Saurfang came to be.

Dranosh Saurfang is the son of Overlord Saurfang (who we talked about on the boat). His mother is unknown. Our first encounter with Saurfang the Younger is in Nagrand where he is one of the soul survivors of a war party made of young orcs on a mission of revenge against the Murkblood Broken. The broken had decimated Sunspring Post, and young Saurfang's band did not fare well when they confronted them. Through a few quests, you assist him in his revenge, and when you finish, Saurfang Jr. declares that he cannot return hom, and that he must walk the earth, for he feels he has a greater destiny.

Fast forward to Northrend. Saurfang the Elder and Grom Hellscream are leading the Warsong Offensive in the frozen wastes. Saurfang the younger is stationed at the Wrathgate. In a role similar to that of Bolvar Fordragon on the Alliance side, Saurfang Jr. leads the charge for the horde against the gate. The Lich King emerges and kills Saurfang the Younger, drawing his soul into the cursed blade Frostmourne. Before much else happens, Putrice busts out a plague on both the scourge and the alliance and horde forces, sending the Lich King packing back to Icecrown.

We don't see it, but it becomes apparent that the scourge were able to grab the body of Saurfang Jr. before they retreated as when we encounter him in Icecrown, he is alive as an undead orc Death Knight can be. But before Icecrown, there is one more glimpse of Saurfang. In the fight with Yogg-Saron, players encounter three visions. One of these visions incorporates the Lich King torturing the souls of those he has killed. One of them, the immolated champion, has not yet been broken, but the other, the turned champion, has been broken, and is in fact Saurfang Jr.

So a sad tale for one who once saw he had a great destiny. His soul captured and tortured, he was raised once more to fight both the Horde and Alliance as the breach the upper spire of Icecrown Citadel. Upon his death, the Alliance sees Saurfang the Elder approach for the body of his son. King Varian sees fit to allow this, over Muradin's objections. We're all so proud of him.

In the Horde version, Saurfang is there at the beginning of the fight, stating that he is there to claim the body of his son, who died at the wrathgate. He then reveals Saurfang the Younger's first name, Dranosh, which means Heart of Draenor.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

A Closer Look at Icecrown Citadel

We've been in Icecrown Citadel since it opened up. We did really well on the Lower Spire, and after a few close calls, we seem to have mastered the Festergut fight. But we cannot get Rotface down. It's reminiscent of Yogg-Saron in that it feels like we're banging our heads against a wall and not getting anywhere. A lot of fights you can see your progress as you get closer and closer and finally win. But his fight. This fight just feels messy.

Anyway, while we're working on that, I think it would be nice to get back to some lore posts, and since we're working on Icecrown, let's delve into the lore behind it, and the bosses inside.

Icecrown Citadel sits on Icecrown Glacier in the area of the world known as Icecrown. That's fairly easy to follow. Icecrown itself was just a cold spot at the top of the world until Kil'jaeden decided it would be a good place to toss the tormented soul of Ner'zhul, now the newly minted Lich King. Of course, being a soul, he had no means of getting around, and was stuck where he was on the Frozen Throne.

Still, being the Lich King, he was able to call forth the people of the world that would dedicate themselves to him and help establish the scourge, and eventually Arthas Menethil overcame a lot of obstacles to join with Ner'zhul, finally giving a body to the Lich King. With Arthas on the throne, and an army of scourge at his command, the rebuilding of Icecrown began. Using the hardened blood of some old god (hey, he's old, he doesn't need it anymore), Arthas and the scourge proceeded to erect a mighty fortress around the frozen throne and throughout the area of Icecrown. The saronite ramparts and gates now permeate the zone. It is said that these structures even reach deep under the ground around Icecrown.

So Icecrown Citadel is a giant fortress built around the spire that the frozen throne sits upon. But like many castles and fortresses, it houses a great deal of other things. There is a lecture hall where Lady Deathwhisper preaches the virtues of the Cult of the Damned. The Plagueworks is where Professor Putricide commits diabolical biological experiments. The San'layn are ruled by their Blood-Queen from the Crimson Halls, and there is even a prison where a sleeping green dragon is tormented. And of course, at the top of the spire, resides the Lich King on his frozen throne.

Some of these bosses have more back story to them than others, which is typical. Marrowgar is pretty much your every day skeleton guardian, but Deathbringer Saurfang has a long sad path to his position in the citadel. Over the next few days, I'll explore the lore behind each boss and speculate a little about their purpose in guarding the Lich King's domain.

Friday, January 15, 2010 Application, formerly WoW Insider, is a very popular warcraft blog with a lot of contributors. It's a very well known source of information for all things WoW. I've been reading it pretty much since I started playing the game and looking up information on the internet. A few weeks ago they put up a notice that they were looking for new columnists, including a lore columnist.

Now, I had chickened out earlier when they were looking for a hunter columnist because I just couldn't convince myself I had the passion for huntering that I felt I would need to write a weekly column on it, even though my main is a hunter and I love the class. But lore? I really enjoy the lore of this game. I could do a lore column. Heck, most of my posts in this blog are about lore. So over the last two weeks I put the application together and sent it off. It was actually pretty challenging to get the application done.

I have a few horde characters, but I admit that I'm an alliance guy. Part of the application involved writing what I felt was in store for the future of the Horde, and I struggled with that. It's not that I don't know anything about the lore of the Horde, or what potential things are changing for them. I just couldn't think of how to express it in 500-750 words. I'm really looking forward to seeing how a leadership change from a diplomat (Thrall) to a more militaristic (Garrosh) personality will change the Horde. If we thought they were vicious and bloodthirsty now, it's only going to get worse. I'm curious how goblins being an official part of the horde will affect them. But it was hard for me to speculate on what those changes might actually be.

The rest of the application was more fun. I had a good time writing up a list of potential topics and I think I came up with some really good ones. I was more generic in my topics. My intention was to leave it open ended so I could make a more detailed decision later. They may have been looking for more specifics, so it may work against me, but at least I'll have some topics to put on this, sadly, seldom posted on, blog in the future. I was joking on the officer channel in our guild last night with another officer who submitted an application that even if we don't get hired, at least the people at will be reading our blogs that we linked in the application. Maybe I'll start getting a few more hits here and feel like I'm actually contributing to the WoW Blogosphere!

Anyway, I'm glad I got it finished and sent in. I can think of several other bloggers that could probably talk about lore a lot better than I could, but I would never know if I didn't try.

Thanks, and have a good morning.