Levelling like a very slow train

So far in Pandaria I have levelled my 3 85s to…85. I’m completely besotted with the scenery and so have spent the entire time just wandering around and /gasping. Pandaria is stunning, like an entire continent made of Nagrand beauty. So many nooks and crannies, sweeping vistas, and things to discover. This has been bad for actually getting anywhere, but so pleasurable to the eyes that I’m not fussed.

I parked my Rogue in Greenstone Quarry hoping to discover the Ancient Pandaren Mining Pick. Staking out rare spawns is a bit dull normally, but Pet Battles has made it entirely tolerable. Check the spawn spots, go into stealth mode to avoid the zillion mobs in the mine, then queue for a quick PVP pet battle. Excellent.

Meanwhile Angler, my ostensible Prot Warrior main, has just been wandering, gathering Ghost Iron, and fishing. Tonight he stumbled into Halfhill and may never leave. Can you tank with turnips and pumpkins, as it looks like that’s the only gear I’ll be getting for a while.

Which leaves Knive as my only hope. Being LFR geared means the mobs drop a lot quicker, and she’s less likely to get distracted by professions, so I guess she’s the one getting on the level 90 train. Although, gee, that escarpment looks beautiful, I better go check it out…

Mana bombs and the problem with Goblins

Theramore was an obvious misstep by Blizzard. As has been well documented, the problems are less to do with the scenario itself than with the story delivery, and more specifically with the expectations that were heaped upon it. We were all expecting a major pre-expansion world event, a-la the WotLK zombie invasion. I guess the ‘one week only’ news should have been an early warning, but really Blizzard could have hosed down expectations before making it available (rather than a meek blue post after the fact as spotted by The Godmother at ALT:ernative).

If it had have been promoted as a Scenario teaser, the grumbling might have been quieter – the failure to explain the lore would still have rankled, but who reads dungeon background details these days? Rades has the most positive take on it I’ve seen, using it as training ground for the Scenario runs to come. That’s exactly the right way to approach it, and how Blizzard should have sold it too.


When I played through Theramore on launch day I was completely nonplussed. Why were we here? What was going on? Are we the invading force? It was all over so quickly. As Horde, the last thing we did was rescue some kind of spy who proceeded to flirt with the players. Totally bizarre, especially not knowing who this spy was or why we were rescuing him. I guess this means we’ve taken Theramore for the Horde?

Then came the cut scene.

I was horrified. We were nuking Theramore? Killing everyone and everything? I had no idea this was coming – why didn’t we invade, fight the honourable fight Orc vs Human?

It reminded me immediately of the denouement to Stonetalon Mountains, where another Horde bomb is used for similar evil. I had the same sinking feeling, the same horror that I had participated in this act. But in that case it was severely denounced by Garrosh as dishonourable. His stance there was so strong that it made me rethink my previous Tauren-based hatred of the Warchief.

Stonetalon set us up to think that honour is Garrosh’s saving grace. In a masterful article at Stoppable Force, Stop nails it: Garrosh is “a jerk, but he’s a jerk who represents “old school” Horde values, such as honor above all.” Read his whole article – for Theramore background and deep speculation on the next Warchief.

Now, thinking back on it, I wonder, did he really turn a corner in Stonetalon? Or was it all just a show for the player? He knew there was a bomb. He knew we were trying to secure it. Maybe he didn’t want it set off just then, but he knew the potential. It was just a practice run for the Theramore monstrosity.


And behind all this catastrophic behaviour are the Goblins. The Theramore cut scene has them hooting about what they’re about to do with typical misguided enthusiasm – cheering about mass murder basically. Same in Stonetalon. And in every quest and every zone they’re in, they are basically strip-mining or deforesting or some other environmental depravity. I hope they never get to Nagrand.

Playing through the Goblin starting zone drives home the point – Kezan is ugly, polluted, the landscape riven with smokestacks and paved with hideous racetracks. Horde players are complicit in all their scheming, often assisting with promoting their profit-above-all agenda. I hate playing the first few quests in Azshara now, as it forces you to ravage and plunder before eventually slaughtering an innocent Talrendis Ancient in a Goblin engineered tree killing machine. Aborcide? Murder more like.

There was an excellent question buried in the recent Warcraft Reddit AMA which asked why Thrall would let the Goblins into the Horde given their history of slavery. The answer was enlightening:

Thrall’s vision of the Horde is a refuge for people in need. He’s a helpful guy. The Bilgewater Goblins just had their home destroyed, and they were refugees (he can certainly relate to that). They helped him in the Lost Isles, so he offered them a home. Presumably he’d put a stop to any slave trade (the player characters don’t remain slaves once they join the Horde.)

Of course… afterwards he was no longer the Warchief. Garrosh was probably a lot more hands-off of the goblins, so long as they showed their usefulness – as they demonstrated immediately in Azshara.

‘Garrosh was…a lot more hands-off’. Let the Gobbo’s off the leash, see what happens. Mana-bomb development, I’m guessing.

They’re the pits.


In a final indignity after all my Goblinish pondering, our guild is named after them. Kezan Cartel. Created before Cataclysm and inspired by Gazlowe, denizen of Ratchet and self-styled saviour of Orgrimmar (he dug the Ragefire caverns to deliver water to the parched city). We figured it was a fun semi-RP name before the Goblins arrived in force. And it was for a while, as we gleefully hunted for treasure under Gazlowe’s auspices.

But after Azshara, Stonetalon, and now Theramore, I think it’s time for a Guild name change.

In which Bane develops a…bane

Make it go away!

Things I can’t do:

  • Fly an aeroplane
  • ‘Get’ Jazz
  • Cook tempura
  • Leverage the low hanging fruit
  • Tank HoR

One of these things is easier than the rest. Our guild whistled through it with Pallytank, but endlessly wiped with me. It’s not a gear check for the tank, it’s a “are you a nub” check, and I just can’t get it going. It wouldn’t matter if I was geared out in Tier 27. Gear doesn’t help with taunting, tab targeting, dealing with ranged, and noticing my healer being destroyed.

Stupid Mages fireballing people to death, or even worse Rifleman standing in the middle of the room and  pewpewing people down. Killed by a trash hunter, the ultimate shame.

Ghostcrawler says there’s no way they’d introduce a mechanism where “everything is pretty much taunted to you the whole time”, and of course they shouldn’t, but right now I’d pay cash money for that ability.

It’s now become an official “thing” for me, so that I’m pretty much doomed before we even start – or as wow.com aptly put it when talking about this exact instance, “fear is the mind killer“.

After rage quitting the instance, I had miles of fun facerolling through normal instances levelling our 76 Druid healer in PuGs. We were complimented on our healer/tank-work, which was nice but also silly given I am geared enough for starter 10 mans and Heroic everything else. I used to think OPing instances was lazy, it should be a challenge, make it hard, blah blah. Now I see the error in that thinking. As our healer said after wipe 18, “let’s do something fun”. Exactly!

/LFD normal-mode-anything-but-Icecrown

Old skool PVP

There’s an interesting thread over at slashdot asking where are the Ultima Online style MMOs. Whilst the question is broad, the discussion revolves around the pros and cons of the Player Killer, aka PVP.

In UO, it sounds like everywhere was a PVP zone, other than the cities. So the minute you stepped outside a city, you were a target. That is pretty hardcore, and no doubt led to a lot of rage quitting by the more PVE oriented crowd before the non PK shard was created. There was even a feature which was meant to discourage PKers by eventually giving them a title so all could see what a horrible ganker they were. Which of course failed miserably as a discouragement, as what PKer wouldn’t want to the world to know just how nasty they are??

I played most of my WoW career on a PVP server (Barthilas), before transferring to Feathermoon (RP-PVE). I’m a poor excuse for a PVP player, and would just sit and take it when being ripped apart in Ganklethorn Vale or mining in Sholazar. Meeting outside dungeons was always a fraught experience, with places like Nexus and UK often dissolving into a PVP battle just to get in the door. Even after a 9 months on Feathermoon, I’m still surprised when I can compete in the STV fishing comp and not need a guild escort to keep the gankers away.

And whilst I never really participated in that kind of world PVP, it’s funny how I kind of miss it. It added an edge to the game that PVE realms simply don’t have. You never quite felt safe, and the cries for help on chat were often met with swift main-swapping to rid The Barrens of an Alliance camper destroying baby Horde toons. And of course you occasionally encountered famous gankers, who would always demand your immediate attention – one tormentor of our guild, who went by the handle lolpewpew (the name alone tells the story!) still has a standing kill order despite being on another realm 🙂

PVP realms are the minority, partly due to the Sheep/Wolf ratio discussed at Slashdot, and partly due to the almost guaranteed gear level difference in random PVP which means the target of the attack will most likely not be in a position to fight back. Even in gear-balanced controlled-duel environments such as RogueRogue sets up, it is very difficult for the non-fight-opener to recover for a victory.

Despite all of the balance issues and a general lack of PVP skill, most of our guild members sound almost wistful when they reflect on our days on Barthilas. It wasn’t the PVP itself, or the victory rush or red rage, it was the edge given by unpredictability – and unpredictability is something to be treasured in an MMO world which is otherwise so tightly controlled.

Gear Checks

It’s interesting reading about hitting a hard limit on progress. Righteous Orbs has a lovely public service announcement for people complaining that fights are easy when they require 7k DPS average. 7k! Awesome. Our guild DPS tops out at 3.5k, so we’re a long way off. For we casuals, it’s handy to remember the fact that only the very minority of players are clearing ICC raids, but they are a vocal (blogging!) minority. We need more average mode bloggers 🙂

Even with 3.5k, we still have fun cranking through the 5 mans. We did sequential clears of normal PoS & FoS on the way to HoR the other night, the first time for a few of us. Hall of Reflection is just genius design. It was great hearing the reactions from the others who hadn’t seen it: Whoaaa, there’s Frostmourne! Epic…wait…ZOMG THE LICH KING!!!! It brings all that lore & story that we’ve been exposed to home to roost.

Unfortunately we didn’t get to actually ‘fight’ him, as we hit a healing gear limit. Our resident Shaman, having only recently specced Resto after a career as Enhancement, showed champion skills through the first two ‘wings’ but HoR stopped us . We could get to the first boss after 5 waves, but kept wiping on his Defiling Horror fear (when everyone takes damage whilst being unable to do anything about it). It was a hard mana/healing limit, so we only gave it a couple of tries before calling it a night. Though I’m pretty sure we could get through it with everyone on top of their game – it was late, and it was hard to muster the requisite focus.

I struggled mightily with my tanking too, being squashed in that tight corner in order to LoS the casters is counter to my normal Charge-Thunderstomp-Shockwave launch sequence. I kept forgetting to Bloodrage, leaving me rage starved at the beginning, or I’d leave one of the ranged mobs out in the middle of the room meaning we had to go chase it down out there. Confined fighting is not something I’ve had to do much, so practice-practice-practice is required.

So even normal modes have a gear check, and you’ll struggle to progress if you don’t have the right amount of stuff. Not necessarily purples, as Gevlon keeps proving, but at least the right blue drops.

Oo-oo, baby you’re a fool for love

Banehammer is now officially a Fool for Love, having cleared the final two hurdles last night.

The first was to get a nice bouquet of roses from the first boss in UK, Prince Keleseth. Because the roses only drop off the Prince and only for one person, doing it via LFD was fated to be a ‘ninja/drop’ disaster.

So we guild ran it with our Rogue, our Hunter, and me. No heals, but I guess not surprisingly it was challenge on normal mode, given the mobs are ~70 elites and the boss not much more. We even two manned it for a second run, just me and the Hunter. We employed ice traps, misdirects, and much hilarity ensued.

The last achievement was to set off 10 Love Rockets in 20 seconds. I’d already burned through 25 of the @#$@# things and not got the ding, so this time I disabled all my add-ons, turned the graphics down to Vic-20 level, and went to an isolated pocked of Mulgore. Success!

The next festival on the list is the Lunar Festival. I’m really enjoying doing each one that comes up, having previously had no real interest. Planning what you’ve got to do, working out the most efficient way, and just the general design of the various quests is all good fun. I’m don’t even mind the PVP quests, I always intend to just zone in and do the Achievement, but tend to get caught up in the fight despite my appalling PVP noobness. For the Horde!

Blackrock Depths

Our guild ran Blackrock Depths last night, the first time for many of us. Wow. They don’t make instances like that any more.

The scale and size of the dungeon is amazing – epic Dwarven architecture, of even greater ambition than Ironforge. You start in rough hewn tunnels before emerging out into majestic amphitheaters, arenas, and lava strewn forgeworks. The Dark Highway in particular is enough to make you stop and take copious screenshots. It feels like a living, breathing, working underground city.

Some of the mechanics are beautiful too – opening a wall cabinet reveals the portrait of a fallen Dwarf Lord, whose obituary message reveals the location to the Shadowforge Key. And there are many moments where you look down on somewhere you’ve been, or somewhere you’re working toward.

It’s also very complicated, and easy to get utterly lost. We did, several times, despite having copious guides, screenshots, maps, handwritten notes, and a old skool veteran in the party. We stumbled into the Grim Guzzler at around midnight, sunk a long cool Thunderbrew, and called it a night.

There are a million bosses, many which you run into before realising, and all of who seem to drop cloth blues, despite this being the only place in Warcraft where you can forge Dark Iron.

BRD is also full of truckloads of mobs, everywhere you turn. We must have killed an entire Dwarvish nation just getting to some of the bosses, so much so that we felt some kind of penance might be due. The sheer numbers are what makes it seem like a real place – spectators cheering the arena, forgesmiths at work, miners, technicians and engineers working on weapons and great siege engines. I can see why Blizzard reduced the trash on modern dungeons, and am glad they did for everyone’s sanity, but less NPC activity does take some of the life out of the newer instances.

It would have been an incredible challenge to play on level back in the day, with 6+ pulls being common. We were all hovering around 55 last night, but despite my Bear tanking being pretty rusty, all the dungeon nerfs & player buffs meant we dominated most everything, even when our healer was annihilated by 800 angry wrench throwers.

Gotta catch them all

A while back, Pike had a nice thoughtful post up about encountering genuinely new players when you’re busy on an alt (or a main visiting the old world areas during things like Hallow’s End). Unless they’re obviously sporting Heirlooms or twink gear, I tend to treat everyone as if they are a Stranger in a Strange Land, helping out and assuming they know as much as I did when starting out (i.e. nothing – being absorbed in Civ4 at the time, I spent 5 minutes trying to make my very first Dwarf Hunter move forward by right clicking where I wanted him to go. WASD didn’t even enter my head until my friend /whispered me to ask why I was still standing on the spawn spot).

Even if they don’t have the gear it’s easy to get fooled – I was tooling around Mulgore in my Heirloom Shoulders and someone asked where I got them, how you get them, etc. I was dutifully explaining that when you get to 80 you can earn tokens, which you can use to buy Heirlooms, etc. He then challenged me to a duel, at the same time as insta-swapping into his full Heirloom/Twink gear set…ouch.

It is nice when you do encounter someone who really is new to the game, and you can help out in some way. I still remember the total awe I felt when first approaching Bloodhoof village, seeing a high level toon offering free bags to the first 5 people to visit him in the Inn. Or encountering a level 70 running wild in Gol’Bolar Quarry in Dun Morogh on that same 2nd level Dwarf Hunter. I asked him why he was doing it, and he said he just wanted to come back to where it all started end exact some revenge on those tricky early mobs.

The other question Pike asks in her article is whether Blizzard have effectively closed off older end-game content (e.g. Naxx) by making the rewards from newer areas (e.g. ToC) so much better.

I think there’s some truth in that – but only for those where Progression/Gear is the goal. If you’re playing to have the best gear, and see the latest content, then sure, you will bypass Ulduar by simply buying Tier 9 epics so you can dominate Icecrown.

But if you’re playing to enjoy the content, to “see it all”, to experience the thrill of downing your first Ulduar boss, these days there’s not much stopping you. With the new LFD system, you should at least be able to easily see every five man, and if you can find a Guild that isn’t in it for the Progression, and you should be fine with the 10’s too. With the massive success of 3.3 LFD, it can’t be long before Blizzard extends that to 10 man raids too.

My old guild didn’t reach Kara until just before WotLK was released, but that didn’t stop us having a ball in there, spending hours slowly working through the bosses and honing our tactics. Maiden stalled us for weeks, but the hoots when we beat her, and the way each week we got better until she was just traffic, was brilliant.