New WoW gets thumbs up… for now

Well it’s been quite a long while since my last post. It’s been hard to find time to write something since I’ve been busy at work on a bunch of stuff. And at night, if I’m not taking care of our son (who has been sick for quite a while, the poor bear) I’m busy having fun in WoW.

Thankfully I have no regrets on resubscribing and I’m loving Cataclysm so far. Since starting on Christmas day last year, my goblin shaman has hit 84 and has just a few bars to go to 85. That sounds like I leveled pretty fast, and according to the in-game time played its just under 8 days. In fact I spent a large amount of time afk idling in game as well during times when I get called off to attend to a bawling little carebear, so I suspect the actual time spent would be about a week to go from 1-85. That’s a testament to how fast and easy levelling is now, especially with the dungeon finder.

New old stuff

In fact, just as many have said it’s almost too fast. I love doing the new revamped zones, but I also love the opportunity to run all the old dungeons that I never got to do in classic because it was such a pain putting a group together. Me and my wife used to run each other’s characters through some of them once we had high level characters, but it’s not as much fun as doing it at the level it’s meant to be done at. However, doing all the dungeons made me very quickly outlevel every zone I was questing in. 95% of the time I never managed to see the later half of each zone before the quests became grey. Personally I would have continued on finishing up the grey quests, but my wife was playing my shaman as well before she started work again and she’s the type who just tosses quests as soon as a next zone becomes available (not a completionist like me…). So I levelled though half of Azshara, half of Ashenvale, half of Stonetalon, half of Un’goro, half of Blasted Lands… you get the drift. The new quests are a blast, especially in the zones that received complete revamps like Azshara and Thousand Needles. Instances were fast, with the longest ones like Maraudon and Scarlet Monastery all split up into wings, and quest-givers are conveniently located at the start. No more running all over the world to pick up 4 quests! The goodie bag for doing a random also gives good blue gear for quite a few slots such as neck and rings that are otherwise normally hard to get. Plus there are in-game maps now for the dungeons, with bosses conveniently labelled. Man that’s so much better… Wilhelm from the Ancient Gaming Noob talks about needing 3 hours to do Wailing Caverns in the past, which isn’t an exaggeration since it was so easy to get lost in that darned place. Now it only took me 45 minutes!

Overall 1-60 went by like lightning, so much so that I really want to roll alts to see all the stuff I missed. I hardly even stepped foot on to the Eastern Kingdoms before I was heading through the Dark Portal… again.

Time warp to Outlands

A lot of people have said that there is such a strange disconnect between the Shattering and Burning Crusade. It’s really like going back in time, because everything in Outlands is supposed to be in the past from levels 1-60. Oh well, even if it doesn’t make sense I’m perfectly happy to kill 20 fel orcs for nice clown gear that has double the stats of my old Azeroth gear. Plus now that you can train flying at 60 (with a buff to normal flying speed from 60% to 150%), the quests in Outlands are really a breeze. They were obviously not designed with flying players in mind. Case in point, the quest in Nagrand which requires you to bounce on a trampoline on to a big bird nest to smash a giant egg. Previously I used to use the “epic mount with carrot on a stick” trick to jump onto the nest, since it was really tricky to time the trampoline correctly. Now you just summon flying mount and fly up there… Trampoline? What trampoline?

The quests in Outlands are unchanged, and unfortunately so are the dungeons. This means you have to do the prequests and pick them up from the usual NPCs outside the instances… boohoohoo no more bevy of questgivers awaiting the rabid click-fest at the entrance. This meant that I wasn’t particularly encouraged to do that many instances, especially since we had played a lot during BC and therefore were very very familiar with them. So I mainly quested through Hellfire Peninsula, parts of Zangarmarsh until 65, then headed to my favourite Nagrand where I hit 68. Sadly Outlands has been reduced to 3 zones, since there’s no reason to grind any of the old factions or try to get any gear once Northrend becomes available. I had never played Horde past 60 before, so I was looking forward to some unique quests but sadly they didn’t seem any much different from the Alliance versions.

Snowing again

Once I reached 68, it was time to train cold weather flying and head to Northrend. Again, flying really makes things a breeze, especially with the fact that you can mount up in water. Makes the shaman water walking spell almost redundant actually, unless you really want to fish in the middle of the ocean or something. The Horde quests in Northrend are actually quite different, so it was kind of refreshing and I mostly quested all the way with a few instances done here and there since once again you have to do all the pre-quests first before the instance quests become available. The Outlands clown suit thankfully was replaced pretty quickly with Northrend stuff. At this point I dropped mining for alchemy since I wanted the alchemy trinket for healing at 85 and figured it was a good time to start training up. Plus alchemy should be a decent money maker too, better than flying around mining at least.

I went from Borean Tundra to Dragonblight, some Grizzly Hills, Sholazar Basin and then finally on to Icecrown where I hit 80. Also finally saw a few Alliance players, which were like an extinct breed up till now since Thaurissan is heavily Horde dominated. Even though it is a PvP server, it plays almost exactly like a PvE server. I encountered a gnome DK at a quest giver at Icecrown, but just spent a few moments staring at each other before going our way. I later met him again fighting an elite mob as part of the same quest I was on, and killed him while the mob was on him. I got quest credit for the mob kill too… but I felt kinda bad about it later since he hadn’t done anything to me. I don’t know why but being on a PvP server initially made me crazily try to kill every Alliance I saw for no reason but now I’m much more inclined to just leave them alone.

After hitting 80, I was initially tempted to try to do the new ICC instances which I had never done before such as Halls of Origination and Halls of Reflection. Unfortunately I wasn’t allowed to because my gear level was too low, plus I needed to do some quest to unlock the instances. So too bad, it was off to Cataclysm!

New shinies

I started in Vashj’ir, after first doing some frantic googling to find out how the hell to actually get there. I really enjoyed the whole zone, not sure how much of it was due to it being totally new. But all the quests flow nicely together and tell a nice story, plus the seahorse mount is so cute. The zone design is amazing and makes me think of Nemo or One Piece, especially all the random sea monsters swimming around like a giant boss whale shark that blots out the sun and some huge elite shark boss too. I wonder if they drop any loot…

Since it’s a new zone my wife was pretty keen to play too, so I think she actually did most of the quests. I felt a bit lost sometimes when logging in because I would be in a totally different place, but that’s ok I’m sure I’ll get to do the quests with one of my numerous alts. The gear is amazing, especially considering I went in with lousy Northrend greens. It was pretty hard to kill mobs initially and I had to heal myself like 3 or 4 times just to kill a single crab, but after getting a few gear upgrades which had like triple the stats of what I was wearing my shaman started WINDFURYing things to death in 2 seconds again. I mean really… some mace dropped with 871 spellpower on it wtf. I think my previous caster mace from Northrend had 303 spellpower… I guess most people were decked out in the free epics from facerolling the later half of WotLK and probably wouldn’t have been as impressed but I still feel shocked seeing gear with like 400 stamina on it. Can’t help but recall the times when I was raiding Molten Core and people would drool all over the Azuresong Magebladewhich had… gasp! 50 spellpower!!!! Funny how the game has changed…

The end of the quest line leads to the new Throne of the Tides instance. I tried it out as DPS first, since I hadn’t done any healing till now and didn’t want to go into an instance totally unfamiliar with my bars and spells. On that topic, respeccing seems to have changed a lot now. I was expecting the usual 10 silver cost to respec for the first time from my elemental dual-spec to resto, but it cost 29 gold instead… seems to be related to how many talent points have already been spent. Not only that, but the dust to change glyphs cost 10 gold per glyph change for characters above 80! Ouch… Anyway, back to Throne of the Tides. Was quite an interesting instance and not too long. A bit confusing since I had no idea what was going on, but that’s why I went in as DPS. Spam buttons and piakpiakpiak!!! The boss fights are quite interesting and much better than the Wrath-style fights which all boil down to “hit boss, move out of bad stuff kill, adds when they come”. I especially liked the squid-headsucker boss, he reminded me of a Justice League episode I had randomly watched about Starro the facehugger starfish. I’m sure someone at Blizzard must have watched that too, the similarities are uncanny. Anyway a dps shaman makes Starro cry, since his Lava Bursts instantly got interrupted and his Absorb Magic buff gets immediately purged. Ahh I love my shaman…

After finishing Vashj’ir, I went to Hyjal even though it was the same level as Vashj’ir. I need to get Hyjal rep eventually anyway, so might as well. I think the Blackrock Caverns instance is unlocked here, but I never managed to run it (although my wife did) and now I can’t go back using the dungeon finder since I’m too high level. Hyjal quests were fun but nothing really much to say about them, although I did like the final battle against Ragnaros. Seems strange to fight him until he retreats and Cenarius says “We can only defeat him in his own elemental plane” when I very obviously killed Ragnaros dozens of times in Molten Core 🙂 It’s not like he retreats there either, I mean he obviously drops down dead in front of the raid and gives you his hand.

Now I’m 84 and questing in Deepholm. I’ve since also done Stonecore and Vortex Pinnacle as resto. Stonecore isn’t very enjoyable to heal and feels very long, even on normal. Plus I once had to heal a 4 melee group in back-to-back runs. Talk about ouch… Vortex Pinnacle is much easier to heal although the bosses are a bit more boring since they are almost tank and spank. I can’t access the other dungeons yet because I haven’t discovered the entrance yet, so I’m going to be holding off on instancing for a while until I hit 85 and unlock the other dungeons. After 85 I still intend to go through Uldum and Twilight Highlands, not to mention Tol Barad and the new BGs.

So far there’s still tons of content left for me to enjoy, so I’m looking forward to seeing lots of new stuff. Even though I haven’t done any heroics yet, I really hope Blizzard doesn’t listen to all the whiners out there and revert back to Wrath-style stupidly easy dungeons. I love the new instances so far, especially when done with proper CC and nice pulling. During my first Stonecore run, some idiot rogue started chafing that the tank was too slow and pulled the first pack by himself (“gogogo!”) while the tank was marking the kill order. I was still setting up my bars when suddenly the whole group started taking massive damage. The next 5 minutes were filled with me spamming my buttons like a blind monkey trying to find the “open” button in front of a peanut dispensing machine. Greater Healing Wave! No wait that’s too slow, Riptide! What’s this Unleash Elements thing, mash it mash it! Oh wait I don’t have earthliving weapon on… I’m running out of mana?!? Doh water shield fell off… chain heal! Bugger that only 1 guy in range??? Mummy!

Somehow we got through that without anyone dying and after being berated by the tank for pulling, the idiot rogue initiated a vote kick against the tank for being “too slow”. Well guess what, he gets 1 strike for being a rogue (therefore useless by definition). 2nd strike for being from Jubei’thos, and I hate the name Jubei (there was an annoying griefer in Duris who went by that name). This was the 3rd strike since I like tanks who mark kill orders instead of charging in like stupid Wrath babies. So I rejected his vote kick and vote kicked the rogue instead for being annoying. Guess I wasn’t alone in my sentiments since he instantly got booted and no one was surprised when a replacement DPS got in immediately. Kek I like this kick feature.

Hopefully the tougher instances will actually teach players how to play properly, or at least encourage the stupider portion of the player-base to quit. That would instantly raise the quality of WoW drastically and make Cataclysm a resounding success in my opinion.

DK – Dunceykong!

Not much has been happening on the raiding scene, so I’ve been playing my latest alt a lot more.

The originally abandoned midget of destruction is now 72 and beginning his adventures in Dragonblight. Obviously I’m following my own path to 80 so that I get the most rep during the levelling process.

Solo questing is obviously a /facerolling affair, especially with a blood-spec DK. But I also managed to get into a UK and Nexus group, which was slightly more interesting.

Utgarde Keep

The UK run was pretty fail at the start. I was actually prepared to go buy my dual-spec and craft some cobalt tanking gear if they needed a tank, but the resto druid leader asked if the pally could tank and he said “sure, let me go buy a shield”.

Ok this should have set off warning bells in my head at this point (prot pally with no shield? wut?) but my brain was numb from the facerolling. We zoned in, and when I looked at the pally he was a) 53 points ret and b) wearing 0 defense. He “tanked” with no Righteous Fury and used Seal of Light.

“Ok, let me try tanking… it can’t be worse” So there I was with hardly any tanking gear and a non-tank spec. Surprisingly it actually went fairly well (with me popping all cooldowns) until that last pull in the dragon room, where we wiped because Healbot zoinked out on the resto druid and he kept casting slowmo Healing Touches instead of hots. The mage threw a fit complaining about people using mods to heal for them (had been complaining since the first pull about the pally as well) and left group.

Fortunately, the warlock kindly offered to come tank this with her 74 prot warrior (who actually had some tanking gear) and we got another warlock to replace the QQmage. This went much better and we cleared the rest of the place without much incident, although Dunceykong died to Ingvar’s axe whirlwind 1s after Ingvar died… Ended up topping dps with about 1k over the run.

Nexus

The next day, I saw the same druid healer in lfg for Nexus along with a bunch of others. I’d already done all the pre-quests, so we quickly formed up and got ready to go. The group was a 70 prot pally (yes he was actually prot, although still with minimal defense), me as 71 blood DK, another 70 DK who seemed to be unholy, a 76 hunter, and the 70 druid.

I had reservations due to the pally’s gear, but he actually seemed to tank fairly well. Perhaps the druid also managed to fix his add-ons. I helped along the way with Mark of Blood to make the enemies heal the tank with their attacks when he got low, but we killed every boss with only 1 wipe on the dragon due to the hard-hitting enrage.

The other DK, however, was a classic. He did about half my damage throughout the run, and was about a third below the pally tank. He had defense gems socketed in his dps gear. According to Recount, his top 3 damage abilities were… Auto-attack, Frost-fever (DoT) and Plague Strike (DoT). Judging from this, his “rotation” was probably
1) run up and Icy Touch
2) Plague Strike
3) Pestilence to spread diseases
4) eat sandwich

The best part was when he told me to stop using Death and Decay because “the tank needs aggro”. Since this pally tank actually had a brain and was using consecrate, he never had any aggro problems. So I happily continued using D&D while he happily continued auto-attacking.

Overall, I did about 1150 dps for the Nexus run. Sadly, the level 76 hunter did barely more damage than the pally tank, although based on my past experiences with hunters this isn’t really surprising anymore. Doing 42% of the group’s damage is quite impressive for a DK in quested greens randomly spamming Heart Strike and Death Strike.

I’ve since dual-specced and plonked points into a unholy tanking spec, as well as bought a set of tanking glyphs and crafted some cobalt tanking gear. Not sure if the opportunity will come up for me to tank anymore before I reach 80, but if it does I’m definitely prepared.

The return of Crowd Control… sorta

On Sunday, the guild finally managed to down 10-man Mimiron after his major nerf. Of course, the guild leader told me “he wasn’t nerfed that much, just that the tank won’t get 1-shot by laser barrage while the bottom spins madly”. I was like “yeah, that’s the whole reason we kept wiping on P4 wasn’t it…”

So with Mimiron down, we decided to head in to try General Vezax. Of course to get to him, we had to clear his/her/its trash…

*Cue Twilight Zone music* “OMG it’s Shadow Labs”

There are quite a few packs of Twilight buggers standing around, with a Fire elemental add as well. There seems to be a mix of ranged/melee/healer mobs in each pack. We were only running with a single tank since Vezax himself only requires one tank, and coincidentally none of the other tank-capable classes present had a tanking dual spec.

So… we actually had to CC!!! Mobs were actually marked, people pulled out sheep, freezing trap, sap and blind from their spellbooks. The raid leader assigned CCs… the rogue sapped his target… tank pulled… mage sheeped his star… and then everyone pressed their AoE button.

The “snikt snikt” of Fan of Knives mixed in with swirling yellow Divine Stooooorm and crackling Thunderclap. Both hunters tried to trap the same mob, only to have their auto shots break the trap immediately afterwards. Our shadow priest friend courageously tried to help matters… by putting SW: Pain on every mob that was loose. The mage tried to resheep his target, but immediately after it hit the warrior frantically charged over and devastated the mob.

Amazingly we didn’t wipe, but I think there were only 4 people left alive at the end of it. It was hilariously bad CC, and really showed how rusty a lot of people had become at CC. Or maybe they never knew how to, given that a lot of players in my guild are of the late-TBC or WotLK generation.

We did sort of improve over the next few pulls, but our hunters definitely did not know how to chain-trap properly and the warrior was obviously unused to working with CC. My shadow priest friend was playing around with Recount and proudly linked to me the damage meters showing him at the top, in reply to which I linked him the CC Breaking meter with him at the top as well.

We had quite a few tries on General Vezax but never got past the first Surge since a lot of people hadn’t bothered to read up on the fight and it took a while for them to understand what was going on. Despite Mark of the Faceless not being supposed to be cast on people within 15 yards (according to WowWiki anyway) I was pretty darn sure that he cast it on me a few times when I was right at his feet. And it was pretty sad seeing how so many people, especially DPS classes, failed at avoiding Shadow Crash despite DBM putting a GIANT BLUE WARNING on their screen. But at the end of the night, there was some progress made and I’m sure that we will get him down eventually.

But that first pull “with CC” was akin to a mass Leroy Jenkins zerg. I have no idea what the rogue was thinking when he stealthed up, distracted, sapped, then spammed Fan of Knives 😛

Ulduar-10 continued

This week, we managed to get in a couple more nights of attempts in Ulduar-10 after my first fresh attempt. We managed to make fairly good progress, and hopefully next week we’ll get to explore more.

Iron Council
We wiped quite a bit to these guys in our previous foray into Ulduar, but with everyone fresh and experienced now as to their abilities, they didn’t pose too much trouble. We went with the standard strategy of killing Steelbreaker first, followed by Runemaster Molgeim and Stormcaller Brundir in that order.

It is quite a healing intensive fight in terms of mana due to there being a lot of raid damage and very spiky damage on the tanks. The mechanics require people to spread out a bit as well, making it a bit hard to land AoE heals effectively.

Steelbreaker was tanked where he was, with the other two mobs being offtanked near the entrance (far enough that Stormcaller Brundir’s Overload doesn’t hit anyone). He does a Fusion Punch which hits fairly hard and tanks need to be topped off with big heals after that. The dot portion can be dispelled/cleansed immediately to save some damage. This phase is just tank and spank with some random aoe damage, but tanks have to move their targets out of the blue spotlights which buffs their damage (they also buff dps that stand in them, no buff for healers though).

After Steelbreaker dies, Runemaster Molgeim was dragged to the front. This is the critical part of the fight as he gains an ability known as Giant Green Glowing Rune of Immediate Death (GGGRID). He randomly targets a player and puts a huge GGGRID underneath them, which causes everyone in the area to take mucho damage. There is no way to know where it is going to be and no way to survive it unless affected players move fast out of it (and pray your healers save you). I’d recommend the Tuskarr’s Vitality for those without any great boot enchants for almost all fights throughout Ulduar, as they hinge on “get out of the bad stuff”. We popped heroism during this phase and had all dps spread out to avoid too many people getting hit at the same time.

Once Runemaster Molgeim is down, its pretty much smooth sailing. Stormcaller Brundir is a caster mob, and the majority of his damage can be interrupted. As a shaman healer, I could keep him almost perpetually locked down by wind shocking his chain lighting and lightning whirlwind abilities. As the last mob standing, he gains Lightning Tendrils where he flies in the air and chases after random players, doing AoE damage along his path. He is untauntable in this form, so players just have to get out of his way. But in 10-man, the damage is pretty insignificant and is easily healed through. You still have to watch out for his Overload ability (somehow our hunter died to it… it’s a mystery what he was doing so close to the boss) but dps isn’t a real issue at this stage. DBM kept warning of an impending enrage, but we never ever saw it. It seems perfectly possible for a healer/tank to duo him as long as you can interrupt his casts consistently. In fact, the fight lasted so long that I managed to heroism twice. This means that it took more than 10 minutes from starting on Runemaster Molgeim to killing Stormcaller Brundir, and I ended with full mana because I was mostly just shocking Stormcaller Brundir and didn’t need to heal.

Auriaya

Again her trash was really harder than the boss herself. The two giant constructs must be tanked about 30 yards apart, and periodically they will send a lightning orb towards the other. The orb is targetable and must be killed before it reaches the other construct, otherwise it grants a huge damage buff and crazy AoE damage. The constructs also have to be killed together (Blizzard loves this mechanic now) so they are brought down to about 10% then brought together and AoE’d.

The hardest part about Auriaya is the pull, since she comes with 2 panther type mobs. Our first pull had 4 deaths within 2 seconds, as the panthers pounce a random target once they are engaged and 1-shot any non-tanks. We then took more care for the second pull, and made sure we all stacked up really close behind a corner such that the moment she is pulled, we are all in melee range and within the minimum distance for the pounce.

Once the pull is done, we all stacked up in front of Auriaya and AoE’d her panthers down first. I put a tremor totem to deal with her Horrifying Screech, which despite saying that it’s a Horror effect… is actually still just plain old fear. She periodically summons a panther add which turns into a big void zone when it is killed. Our original plan was to just flat out dps Auriaya and offtank the add, but somehow during the fight the add kept dying. But it wasn’t really a big deal as we just moved Auriaya away and continued zerging her down. We killed her on the 2nd try with only a hunter dying by being feared through a void zone before tremor totem pulsed.

Freya

Nice change of scenery here, with lush greenery. It’s also a paradise for Herbers, since most of the trash mobs can be herbed for Northrend herbs. There’s a lot of poison debuffs, which my spanky Disease/Poison cleansing totem took care of easily. We killed off her Watchers first, which were easy sources of Valor badges since they are mostly tank and spank with “get out of bad stuff”. However, you have to be careful of Freya herself since she patrols around the middle of the room and gets pretty close to some of the Watchers.

Once her buddies were downed, it was time for Freya herself. This is basically an add swarm fight, where every minute one of three types of adds spawn. One type is 10 small lashers that explode when they die and are untankable. The second type is a set of 3 mobs that must all be killed within 12 seconds, and includes a water elemental that charges and causes knockback. Both of these types were tanked with the whole raid stacked up on the offtank (main tank is on Freya off to the side). The small lashers were just AoE’d and their explosions healed through, whereas the sets of 3 were single target dpsed down and then AoE’d.

The last type of add is a single big Guardian treant. He has a raidwide debuff called Constructor’s Grip that prevents you from using your abilities. However, this debuff can be removed by standing near one of the mushrooms that spawn throughout the place. The mushrooms grow up and then disappear, so the raid is basically hopping from mushroom to mushroom while killing the Guardian. An additional complication is an explosion-type debuff called Nature’s Fury which damages everyone around the target, so the target has to go find another mushroom by themselves while they explode furiously. But its not critical and can be healed through (about 3k damage).

Once 6 waves have spawned and been dealt with, it’s pretty much smooth sailing. The adds stop spawning and the raid can concentrate on a weakened Freya, with some periodic killing of some glowing green trees that shoot up from the ground. If left alone, the trees heal Freya, so just kill them. There are also small mushrooms that sprout up all over that explode after a while, causing knockback. These can easily be avoided. Again, popped heroism (that seems to be my main purpose…) and burned her down quick.

Interestingly, Freya drops a Alchemist’s Bag that can only be opened by Alchemists. It contains a whole crapload of potions and flasks. Guess those will drop even further in price once more people farm Freya.

Thorim

Usual wiping on trash ensued. The Vrykul mobs come in pairs, with 1 having a sunder-type debuff. Tanks need to switch before the debuff stacks too high, and dps has to burn down the sundering mob fast.

Thorim himself was interesting. He didn’t look the same as when he was jumping around Storm Peaks during the Sons of Hodir questline, but he vaguely remembers you before the illusion of Sif starts nagging at him to kill you.

The raid has to split into 2 groups, 1 to go through a hallway “backstage” to pull Thorim and the other to stand in the middle of the arena and…. er… I guess amuse Thorim enough to not realise he’s getting commando-raided? We split into 4-6 for the hallway and the arena groups respectively. I was with the arena group, so I don’t know what went on in the hallway. We wiped a few times to the waves of mobs spawning, until we once again figured out that the best tanking strategy was to all stack up right in the middle of the circle on the floor while the pally tank pumps out consecrate. Some of the mobs whirlwind, but it was easily healable compared to spreading out and risking healers getting swarmed before the tank can pick up the mobs. You also can’t get too close to the sides due to some lightning orbs, so standing in the middle is really the best option. The evokers have a damage shield that can be purged/dispelled to increase dps on them.

Once the hallway group pulls Thorim, it’s a dps race to kill him before enrage. This is pretty much tank-and-spank with some moving to avoid some lightning streams. Basically shiny stuff is bad. If something looks shiny, move away. Grey, goooood. Red/green/blue/purple/pink, baaaaad. Popped heroism, yadda yadda he died. There’s even an achievement that seems to be just for killing him.

Hodir

I actually missed out on this since I couldn’t raid that night, but from the sounds of it he wasn’t too difficult since he only took 2 tries. It boiled down to, as our friend put it, “Indian dancing” around icicles and just constantly moving. I’ll probably update this once I get to experience it myself.

More next week

Hopefully we’ll be able to clear out the earlier bosses quickly next reset, and try some of the new bosses. We still haven’t killed Ignis, and Mimiron sounds… interesting…. Memories of Vashj make me shudder >.<

Impressions of Ulduar-10

So, first of all I moved my shaman over to another guild that was a bit more active. The casual guild run by our friend had been quite inactive recently, due to boredom and real life issues. As I was logging in most nights with nothing really interesting to do except dailies and pugging heroics, it was getting boring for me as well. This new guild was founded by players from our casual guild who were more interested in raiding, but still on a more casual basis. So it was worth a try.

Note to other guild leaders: When “interviewing” a candidate, its best not to ask questions like “Are you comfortable with complicated fights?” because no one in their right mind would say “No, I can only spam heal on my focus target using my healing macro”. Even if it’s the truth for most people apparently…

So I actually joined them in Ulduar-10 on Sunday night and participated in guild first kills of XT-002 and Kologarn. Wednesday night saw us back in there again with a fresh instance, so here are my impressions of the fights.

Flame Leviathan

This encounter is quite entertaining. I personally don’t see why people are annoyed with it, it’s a refreshing change from the usual gather-everything-up-and-aoe trash clearing. I was assigned a motorbike since I wasn’t able to connect to ventrilo (the 3.04 client throws a wonderful Fatal Error and then closes itself when installing, without any explanation about said error… good job, whoever coded that…).

I don’t think its actually possible to fail on the trash, and we just zoomed around with me honking my horn at everything. Eventually we reached the repair portal and we got ready for the last pull. Even if you die along the way, you can just zone in and hop in a vehicle and drive back.

Once the last pull is down, Flame Leviathan busts through the door and starts attacking. Ok, granted that we did it without any towers up, but again it seems almost impossible to NOT down him. We did not launch any passengers onto him to stun him, and just “kited” him around with siege engines and demolishers. “Kited” because most of the time he caught up and hit them a few times anyway. I just honked him and spread tar in front whenever the cooldown was available, and other siege engines/demolishers interrupted his flame jet ability whenever he used it.

He went down quickly and we got an achievement for killing him without causing shutdown. Yay?

Razorscale

Next stop was Razorscale. I was a bit worried here as the description of the fight seemed to involve a lot of movement, with avoiding fireballs and fire on the ground.

We spread out around the harpoons and started the encounter. It was quite a chaotic fight, with adds spawning all over, but our tanks did a fairly good job picking them up.

However, I can see why people are saying that 10-man Ulduar is much easier than 25-man. In the 10-man version, the fireballs and blue fire on the ground, while not insignificant, are not damaging enough to make immediate healing critical. Even with the movement required, it wasn’t difficult to toss a riptide or a lesser healing wave here and there. Furthermore, non-tanks can actually survive a couple of hits from the adds that randomly spawn, giving the tanks some leeway in picking them up. The room layout is also the same in terms of size, whereas the raid is much smaller with 10 people instead of 25, leaving much more space for people to spread out and lessening the raid damage.

We killed adds until Razorscale was brought down, popped heroism and burned him to about 70%. I helped dps as well with puny lightning bolts and lava bursts since there wasn’t anything to heal. I was actually standing right in front of him dpsing, but after a while I realised there was no one standing with me and it might not be a good idea so I moved to his side, which turned out to be fortunate as he unleashes a big breath before flying up again.

Repeat killing adds, and after pulling him down and dpsing him to 50% he stays grounded for good. The tanks kited him around the room to avoid the blue fire and swapped to let the slowing debuff run out. I just ran along behind plopping riptides and lesser healing waves and refreshed earth shield when tanks switched, and Razorscale dropped soon thereafter.

XT-002

Everyone loves this whiny boss. We had quite a few wipes on him on Sunday but 1-shot him easily this time. Again, 10-man seems much easier than 25-man as there is much more room to spread out. Not only that, gravity bomb essentially does nothing in 10-man unless it happens to pull people who also have light bomb together, which is trivially easy to avoid. Light bomb just means tossing the announced target a riptide or a couple of lesser healing waves. Only tympanic tantrum, where he does a aoe and everyone needs heals, poses a slight challenge, but we collapsed together and plopped some aoe heals (chain heal + riptide) and went back to dpsing. I popped heroism at the first heart phase and helped dps to try to bring his health down quickly past 50%. The adds in 10-man aren’t much of an issue again and were quickly picked up by an off-tank. The bombbots were killed by ranged dps and the scrapbots aoe’d before they could reach XT-002 so that he doesn’t heal, while pummelers are simply tanked until the XT-002 is deconstructed. Got another achievement for not letting him consume any scrapbots as well.

Kologarn

The trash to him consists of huge bouncing giants, which were interesting until we figured out to spread the healers out so not everyone got stunned at the same time.

Kologarn himself took us a few attempts last week, but we 1-shot him this time round. The mechanics again favour small raid groups, which makes it easier to avoid his eye-beam. We focused dps on his right arm every time it was up, which meant his grab ability was used very rarely and the person grabbed was freed quickly. An off-tank picked up the earth elementals every time the arm was destroyed, and they were aoe’d down fast. The left arm sweep ability is pretty trivial in 10-man and easily taken care of by a couple of aoe heals.

Iron Council

With about 30 minutes left to midnight, we put in quite a few attempts in on Iron Council. This is the first fight where my mana was actually tested, as there is a massive amount of damage on the Steelbreaker tank due to Fusion Punch as well as a lot of raid damage. We were facing problems with people running out of the big green rune of death fast enough, and the late hour meant people were starting to do stupid stuff like unload on a boss during the pull before the tank is even in range. So we called it, with our best effort being 1.5 mobs down. Tonight we’ll probably be trying them again.

So far, Ulduar-10, while certainly more challenging and interesting than Naxx, isn’t really all that difficult compared to TBC raids. It seems to centre around avoiding bad stuff on the ground, which is easier to do on 10-man due to more space and the abilities generally hurting less such that a few seconds of inattentiveness isn’t fatal.

Heroic Achievements

I think Blizzard really struck gold with the achievement system in general, regardless of whether they copied Warhammer’s Tome of Knowledge. I don’t really care who copied whom as long as it results in a better game, obviously good ideas will be used by other people.

Personally, I’m the sort of person who likes to complete objectives, hence why I’ve always tended to try to complete all quests in an area or why I like to level alts (another level 80, check!) So it’s not exactly a surprise that I find myself running around some zones just to discover a few remaining unexplored regions just to get the exploration achievement for that zone, or I’ll actually pop into Ragefire Chasm during the Wrathgate event in Orgrimmar just to get the achievement.

However, one thing I never felt was the urge to get the heroic achievements done, which has a proto-drake mount as an achievement. It took me a while to realise why this is the case, even though I’m a fan of achievements in general.

When I play the game and do instances in particular, I approach it as a problem to be solved. “How do I defeat this boss with this particular group?” The best part of raiding in TBC was helping devise strategies to beat difficult bosses. I don’t think I am exaggerating when I say that me and my wife were one of the very few people in the guild capable of devising or adapting strategies for difficult bosses. Most players have no clue about gameplay mechanics and their idea of raiding is throwing themselves at a boss until it dies. There is no discussion about what went wrong and no attempt to improve things. Many good players are terribad at explaining what to do. “Don’t stand in fire” is only a simplified criticism and sometimes giving bad players tips and tricks does help.

However, most heroic achievements actually go counter to this approach of problem solving. As an example, there is an achievement in Heroic Utgarde Keep for not shattering the frost tombs on the first boss, Prince Keleseth. The frost tomb does damage and stuns the afflicted player. What’s the best way to counter this ability? Hmm…. shatter it quickly? Hence, doing the achievement basically means “handicap yourself by doing the wrong thing”. Another example is the Watcher achievement for the first boss of Azjol-Nerub, which requires the party to keep all 3 watchers alive until the boss is killed. If the goal is to defeat the boss… then it makes sense that you would kill the guards off quickly rather than purposely tank all 4 mobs.

Does that sound familiar? Hmm… Sartharion will call his drakes to him if they are still alive, buffing fire damage, shadow damage, and reducing the raid’s max hp. What’s the best way to deal with this?

Kill the drakes first…

This is why I feel absolutely no drive to do most heroic achievements. I’ve mentioned before that I can’t pretend to lose. I find it very difficult to purposely play in a manner that does not make sense, hence why I can’t afk in battlegrounds and I can’t play while watching TV etc etc. There is no incentive for me to do the achievements, since I do not care about the proto-drake mount and I do not care about the improved loot. I’m all for achievements like “kill malygos in 6 minutes” because those will come naturally in the course of executing a good clean boss kill. But most of the heroic achievements are in the vein of “This boss has a gimmick. To get the achievement, ignore the gimmick and pretend you’re retarded”. This isn’t really Blizzard’s fault, because how else do you get an achievement besides just killing the boss.

Some people (probably the more competitive in nature) look on it as a challenge. I don’t feel like I accomplished anything by tanking without a weapon. Or not using mangle. Or eating smash. But that’s what the heroic achievements basically are. Admittedly there are some creative strategies used to overcome them, but it all boils down to going really out of the way to do something, which doesn’t appeal to a practical person like me.

Who’s carrying who

Hmm… Tobold has a post about how silly pugs are getting nowadays. Players trying to form groups in our server have also started putting requirements like 2k dps or “must be full epicced” when trying to fill spots for heroics.

Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with wanting to avoid a pug from hell with mages that do 800 dps and afk death knights. But some of these “requirements” are nothing short of pure idiocy. The point of the run is to do the heroic smoothly and quickly. Unless you are going for the heroic achievements, whether or not you kill a boss in 1 min or 45 seconds isn’t a big deal. Requiring someone to be in full epic gear in order to do heroic Nexus is as laughable as only doing deadmines with 4 level 80s to escort you.

The justification used by these players is often that they don’t want to carry along weak players. However, what constitutes carrying someone along? I take that as meaning that player can’t perform their role in the instance. Just because a player does not satisfy purely arbitrary “requirements” does not mean they are being carried along. As long as a tank can hold aggro and not get 1-shot, he has done his job. As long as a healer doesn’t let someone die on every pull, he has done his job. As long as dps can kill a boss before he enrages or the healer runs out of mana, they have done their job.

I can only think of two possible reasons for these players only accepting overgeared group members.

Firstly, these people have no clue what’s going on. They genuinely believe that a healer/dps/tank’s ability to perform their job and complete the instance is directly correlated to how much spellpower or hp they have. This is especially funny given that different classes and specs can have completely different stats. I’ve once had some healer ask me how much defense I had on my feral druid when I offered to tank a easy heroic. For your information, druid tanks require 0 defense. If they have no clue what they are asking about, why are they asking?

As a healer, I prefer tanks who have 25k hp and actually move out of smash and pound rather than 35k hp sacks of shit that sit there and eat everything. As a tank, I prefer 1500 dps players who let me get at least one attack in before starting aoe rather than 2000 dps dumbkin who pull mobs using typhoon and hurricane. As a dps… ok as dps I just nuke everything, who cares what the rest are doing…

The second possibility is that they want overgeared players so that they can brainlessly zerg the instance. They are lazy players and want to watch tv or chat on the phone while pressing frostfire bolt over and over. They also want to feel that they have powerful characters. They want to laugh as they pull 3 packs of mobs at the same time and aoe them down. They want to kill bosses in 20 seconds before they have time to even use their abilities. All this contributes to their feeling like “pro” and elite skilled players, although again I have to say that taking damage from obvious avoidable abilities doesn’t make you elite. How dare the healer not be able to heal them while they tank the boss along with 2 packs of patrolling mobs, they are obviously being held back by his undergeared ass and standing in the way of their feeling like invincible superheroes.

There’s nothing stopping them from continuing to only take overgeared players, it is their choice after all. It’s not against the ToS that they would rather spam in /lfg for 1 hour rather than take a normally geared player and complete the instance in 30 minutes rather than 25 (oh the horror). But make no mistake, its obvious to all who are the ones looking for a free ride. Who works harder during a heroic run, the overgeared tank and dps spamming random buttons or the poor “undergeared and lazy” healer with ONLY 1800 spellpower frantically spamming heals on their dumb asses as they stand in AOEs and cleaves?

My personal conclusion is that it isn’t a big loss that they are setting such requirements, it allows me to pick out the idiots and young kids from the normal people.