Monday, January 31, 2011

Sometimes WoWlife is good

Since my last entry I was thinking about a new post showing more discontent with the actual expansion. Several things weren't feeling quite right. Maybe we were too used to Wrath and its various loot-farms, the possibility to carry an undergeared char into heroics so he could get some decent gear, the possibility to get decent gear crafted thanks to Frozen Orbs... I hadn't feel this way before, even during Bruning Crusade. But I couldn't find a solid point to blame at all. Everytime I thought "oh, but X sucks" I saw that maybe that wasn't right and there was another thing that made me feel that X was sucking but that wasn't really true. And that other thing wasn't sucking too per-se. So everything looked like a vicious circle while I was feeling more tired of the game every day that passed. Maybe I was reaching the endlife of WoW, I've been playing almost since it was released and during this time I've seen a ton of people leaving because the game wasn't fun anymore for them.
Since Cata was released I've been busy mainly leveling my chars. Right now I've seven chars at 85, so the leveling process is boring as hell. Been there, done that... seven times before, and will do at least three times more. Not what I'd call exciting.
Dungeons were mainly a problem. In normal mode I've done all of them except Grim Batol at least once, mostly as dps except one BRC tanking and one VP healing. At level 85 the gear you may get there is mostly useless compared to your quest and crafted blues, and after experiencing how stressing healing can be I refused to pug as healer or even tank. I could go as dps at least, but having to wait 20 minutes for it? No way. So I did some dailies with two or three chars and dedicated some time to leveling or completing quests in Twilight Highlands and Baradin Peninsula with these main characters (warrior, paladin, mage). Heroics were totally out of scope. I only tried one, was a semipug and we couldn't get the second boss down and it took a long time to get there. And reading the horror stories in posts and comments (nab tanks not using cc, gogogoers, dps standing in fire, 3 hours to complete an heroic...) well, that didn't help much to cheer me up. To make things worse our guild has returned to the usual few people logged in, maybe even less than normal, so getting a guild run was as difficult as winning the Euromillions. Things weren't looking good...
But sometimes you get pleasant surprises and life performs a 180ยบ turn, making you love the game again.
It started in Twilight Highlands while I was doing the dailies with my warrior. A retri paladin asked me to join forces to down Warlord Halthar (whom I can down easily with the warrior and paladin alone) and asked me why I wasn't wearing the Crucible of Carnage sword, better that the weapons I was using (the Axe of Earthly Sundering and the Obsidium Executioner). I told him that I didn't like pugging right now and prefered to get some guildies to do it. As we finished the dailies someone was asking for people for CoC and he encouraged me to join them. Oh well... I could try...
I asked and got the invite, they told me they needed just a random, so I thought I'd stay as fury. In fact I ended being the tank after some role-changing before starting. Warrior tank.. something I hadn't played for quite a long time (I think last time was an ICC rep run) and a role I never found comfortable with, due to weak aoe-aggro generation. But we weren't in Wrath anymore and this was a Ring of Blood style fight, so it should be ok. I only had seen some fights from afar, so I was mostly clueless, but mobs weren't that complicated. Mostly tank and spank. Kite the cadaver like Grobbulus, grab the adds on the worgen boss and be careful with fire on the ground on the last boss. My aggro generation was a bit short sometimes, but nothing a good old taunt couldn't fix. We finished the bosses and I got a shiny new sword and two achievements.
Then a pally guildie logged in and asked for some heroics. Since he was tanking (and he's good at it and has good gear) I joined as dps, ready to cope with any wipe-fest. It was now or never.
We good a group pretty fast (having a tank on your side ensures an instant run) and Lady RNG assigned us Blackrock Caverns. One frost dk, one balance druid and a healer priest... suspiciously in shadowform. Before we couldn't finish greeting eachother the priest dropped the group. Surely a smartass trying to get a free ride as dps. Bon voyage. We got a replacement immediately, a resto druid. Looking at the group I was fearing the worst since our cc was limited. Druids could use entangling roots, but we didn't have anything to put a caster out of play. That meant we had to deal with them first and quickly before the melee freed from the roots. The dark shadow of wipefest was looming upon us...
How wrong I was. The group ended being awesome. The best pug in a very long time, even on Wrath times where you could thrash an heroic in 10 minutes or less. Not even we finished the random dungeon and the next one (Halls of Origination) but we managed to score several achievements. I think we wiped only 3 times, one of them at the hands of BRC last boss and was a mutual kill. Not even we had to do things a bit Wrath-style due to the limited cc but we also managed to get some impressive performance in dire situations. At Karsh Steelbender my colleague pulled the boss while pulling the first fire elemental. A wipe was called but the group pressed the pedal on and decided to kill the add while the boss was being tanked too. During the fight I died and was battleressed. First elemental was downed and we pulled the second one while the healer did wonders to keep everybody alive, specially the tank. We dispatched the second elemental and then proceeded to kill the boss and also get the achievement for having more than 15 stacks of Superheated Quicksilver Armor. On the last boss, Ascendant Lord Obsidius, we also decided to complicate our lives to get the Ascendant Descending achievement. The balance druid kited the adds while the frost dk and me made all we could to slow them down and dps the boss. I never thought we'd made it but we managed to kill the boss (and he killed us too at the same time) and get the achievement.
Excited by the triumphs earned in BRC we queued again and got Halls of Origination, where we also got some achievements despite our non-ideal composition. But as someone in the group said, "brains > gear". Couldn't agree more. If getting the runs done in a reasonable time was already a great goal for me, pulling all these achievements: Too Hot to Handle, Ascendant Descending, I HateThat Song, Straw That Broke the Camel's Back, Sun of a.... was totally awesome. Knowing your class and how can interact with others was the key (aside some good gear worn by the healer and the tank :) ), and I was happy again and enjoying my main character. The only downside was the loot. A lot of leather and caster gear dropped, making the balance and the resto druid very happy (and they truly deserved it!). I ended with a shield for my offspec and a Chaos Orb, but the joy was better than any loot.
If all heroic runs were half the good these were, I'd be more than happy.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Vashj'ir? No, thanks!

After bringing my 6th character to 85 one thing I can say for sure: Vashj'ir contains several flaws that affect people who are leveling and decided to choose that area as starting zone. And it's not because it's an underwater area with a full 3D environment (the so-called Oculus-effect). Let's get to the points!

1. Excesive long intrduction/arrival quest. If you want to start in Hyjal you just speak to a Hyjal Guardian who teleports you to Moonglade and there you take a short flight to the starting point, witnessing the return of Ragnaros meanwhile. To go to Vashj'ir you talk to a shaman that tells you te get on a boat. And here starts the problem. The boat is located in the same dock as the Northrend boat, so the instroduction is phased. But instead of arriving at the dock and finding the boat waiting for you, you have to wait for it to arrive. And it's a long time until the phased action begins (with the soldiers gathering up and talking) and then the whole boat trip, which is not that long, but after all the time listening to the soldiers while waiting for the boat you are already fed up with all that inactivity.
Didn't Trial of the Crusader teach anything to Blizzard? Longs introductions containing lore are ok the first time. But when you're leveling your second or third alt you wish you could skip it. By the fourth you're totally fed up with it. Could we avoid at least the soldiers gabbing and just find the boat once we head to the dock?

2. Huge area. I get the sensation Vashj'ir was the first designed starting area and looks it got a little out of their hands. Instead of just a single area it consists of 3 areas, not as big as a the rest of Cataclysm areas but still there's a lot of space out there! And much of it it's empty! At least the seahorse has a good speed so moving down there is not a pain in the ass (anyone remembers the Thorim questchain when normal flying was 60%? How I loathed Thorim's tall mountain!).
Also while the rest of Cataclysm areas get it's own diferenciated subzones (even Deepholm!), all Vashj'ir looks the same, except for Scalding Chasm and the Throne of the Tides vortex.

3. Reputation. Right now this is the most painful point for me. If you do all the quests in the area you'll end Friendly with Earthen Ring, while other areas leave you at Revered with its faction. I can't understand why Blizzard puts the Earthen Ring quartermaster in Silver Tide Hollow when most of the Earthen Ring reputation is won in Deephom. Well, the only answer I can find is to avoid having two queartermasters (ER and Therazane) in the same area, but the result is very lame. And it's even worse when you want to get some ER rewards and you started in Mount Hyjal. You must endure all the starting introduction plus several quests until you get the seahorse and can move around (getting only Sea Legs may be good for druids but for the rest is too slow due to Vashj'ir size) and locate the quartermaster. Big design fail, Blizzard!

4. Dungeon. Same as before, getting to the Throne of the Tides is not trivial, like locating Blackrock Caverns and you must do a big amount of quests until you get the quest to go there. Even worse, once there and you start heading to the center of the vortex you'll see the Fatigue bar appearing on screen. First time I saw it I thought I shouldn't go there and maybe the entrance was located elsewhere, so I moved back and let the quest gather dust in the Quest Book.

5. Azshara's veil. This plant only grows in the area. While other "low level" plants like Cinderbloom and Stormvine can be found (specially Cinderbloom) in other areas, alchemists must go to Vashj'ir yes or yes. Even if it's an underwater plant there're places with water out there (Mount Hyjal pool where Tortolla's eggs are located, Twilight Highlands coast...) I have no problem with exclusive area herbs as long as they're not starting herbs. And if you add the grinding madness things are even worse. While the initial madness has rushed off, now comes the daily grind ninjaing. Same as for ore, but at least you can get obsidium ore in several places. So if you really need Azshara Veil to level up your skill or to produce specific pots you're screwed. Go back to point number 2.

6. Poor lore. While in Mount Hyjal you get tons of info about the Ancients, Vashj'ir only offers some bits of naga lore and how they teamed up with the Old Gods minions. The battlemaiden quests are good, but until you get them you must do a ton of quests before.

Basically these are the points why I don't recommend leveling your char in Vashj'ir. But don't get me wrong, I think the area is beautiful (I'm scuba-diver, so I enjoy it specially) although a bit repetitive, the quests are good (the Jaws hunt quest is a laugh, Nespirah and its twin creature have good quests too, etc), offers good leveling loot (as Mount Hyjal), but these design problems are a ballast preventing you from getting a pleasant experience. Solving the long introduction would be a big step, also adding more Earthen Ring rep (it would be ok to reduce it on Deepholm as a counter) would make wonders.

Monday, January 3, 2011


The *urnaks family continues leveling up, with 4 chars already at top level (warrior, paladin, priest, mage) and another that will hit it this week (hunter). Professions are also over 500, with Blacksmithing and Alchemy at 525 (plus others like Mining, Herbalism and Cooking). I've also started doing some instances (on normal mode to learn them), mainly as dps (tanked BRC with the paladin and wasn't that bad). But yesterday decided to try healing.
I think next time I'll try shooting myself in the foot. I think it will be less painful.
Other great bloggers have already mentioned healing in instances, like Tam or Shintar and yes, it's that bad. At least right now. The most appropiate word I can find to describe healing dungeons is panic. It won't matter if your level is above the required, or your gear. Or the tank's. You're going to panic from the very first moment. And you'll continue panicking all along the whole run. Welcome to Panic Heals Word. Please don't forget to take your stress pills.
It was supposed to be a Vortex Pinnacle guild run and I decided to switch from dps to healer, but ended being a semi-pug (so no guild rep). Still I decided it was about time to try healing. I brought my disco priest since healing with a disco priest was always kinda relaxed. You shield the tank and you have time to prepare for the worst if tank is starting to get bitch-slapped. That was how it worked. But that's over, baby...
You shield the tank, PoM it, even add a Renew just in case and the tank is prepared to pull. Tank pulls first trash pack, shield lasts 1 second, he gets a magical debuff and his life bar goes from full to 20% in a blink after that first second where the shield lasted. Then comes the Panic and your mind starts to block. If you start casting fast heals you'll run oom and the amount of healing won't bring the tank over 25%. If you cast a powerful and slow heal the tank surely won't survive at that hitpoints level. Panic flows in even greater quantities. In your mind Deathwing's laughs while he tells you with his deep voice "you're f*cked!". Using the right heal at the right time, Blizzard's motto for Cataclysm healing. My hairy balls in a leopard skin thong, I say.
Of course we wipe... on first thrash pull on normal dungeon. Great man, great job! Pugs ask wtf happened. I wish I knew, because I was unleashing all my arsenal and couldn't save the tank (Save the Tank, Save the PUG). I wonder if I could ask a refund for my dualspec and just leave the priest as Shadow...
Take two. Tank pulls again, his life bar plunders but this time I manage to keep him alive... but only for some time, after downing one or two mobs (I couldn't check since I was focused on the tank's damn green bar) he dies again. Panic just bursts out of my ears, flooding my room. Now the dps are also taking damage in big quantities but I manage to keep them up (don't ask me how) and the tank runs back and takes all mobs off the dpsers, saving this pull.
The rest of the run was strangely smooth. Looks like first pull in instances (other people in guild also said the same) are tougher than the rest as a kind of sieve, because it's not normal that first pull just makes you fail as a healer while healing bosses (remember, it's normal dungeon) is almost a laugh, specially the last boss, Asaad.
If finding a tank was hard in Wrath I foresee finding a healer will be even harder in Cataclysm. Or at least find a healer that hasn't gone insane chanting "panic, panic, panic..."