Vaguely prepared

‘Vaguely’ is probably the best descriptor for my Legion readiness. Bags are half empty (could do better), gear is good (though soon to be very dated), pre-patch achievements are complete. No real plan about how to level, but I’m keen to start in Highmountain due to the strong Tauren connection. And I can’t wait to get cracking on the Underlight Angler fishing Artifact!

One major decision is whether to stick with BM, or go over to Marksmanship. By all accounts Marks is going to be well ahead in the early Artifact days due to its rapid power accumulation. I think I’ll put my faith in Blizzard to balance that out though.

I much prefer the idea of a bow over a gun, which is a vote for Marks. As just about everyone has commented the models seem the wrong way around, despite the archetype of the Vanilla-cinematic BM Dwarf with his gun. The ‘hidden’ bow model for BM is a pretty ordinary mechanical looking Goblin creation unfortunately, so transmog is the only route to a handsome bow, which is a shame given the changing Artifact appearances.

Marks sounds quite RNG dependent for Marking Targets procs, which might become frustrating. And having to abandon pets also seems a bridge too far.

Strangely BM is getting very mixed reviews – many hate it or find it unplayable, others love it and are switching mains to BM. I’m finding it tolerable, if a bit limited in terms of opportunities to do things. I miss having Kill Shot as a finisher (my thumb still instinctively reaches for it), and there is often an autoshot zone where you’re just waiting for an ability to become available. Stampede also seems a bit borked in the way it won’t adapt to boss positioning, as very few bosses will stand in one spot long enough for the full impact to be felt.

Garwulf’s biting criticism that BM has become almost a caster class is pretty insightful too – your ability to do physical DPS is far outweighed by summoning Crows, Dire Beasts, and Stampedes. Add a lightning-powered Artifact and summoned wolf and BM has become very Shamanistic.

Still, if I was going to swap the invasions would have been the perfect time to test out the new model, but I’ve left that too late now. So BM it is. I think.

Other than spec, the biggest decision left is whether to abandon Tailoring for Mining, to better match Engineering. It seems a bit of a waste having burnt through all that cloth to level Tailoring, but Legion seems to heavily favour matching gathering and crafting professions. I fear that without mining there will be a shortage of Blood of Sargeras drops, which would be super annoying.

20 hours to go. Better make some decisions!

Mid-list

After a man-flu hiatus, I managed to logon for some mid floor HFC this week. I’m still a bit shaky and nervous on mechanics – throwing Iskar’s bauble to the wrong person, or the total floor chaos of Xhul. And pretty sure I pulled some trash with a badly placed Barrage, yike. Least it wasn’t a boss! On those bosses my DPS was better, but still pretty poor – staying alive isn’t enough.

The better news was on the bosses where I felt more at ease – Zakuun, Socrethar – I graduated from bottom of the pile to mid-list. Success! Mild success, but still. I was surprised about Zakuun as that was a fight I still wasn’t 100% on my responsibilities, but it worked out ok. Helped as usual by some good strong voice directing from the raid leaders.

Comparing my combat logs in AMR to similarly geared players shows I’m still below average, but the encouraging thing is seeing improvement. And it’s still only 5 or so goes that I’ve had at each of these bosses in Heroic, so I guess a steep learning curve is to be expected. I’m super appreciative to Frostwolves for being able to do this so late in the Warlords piece.

I think next is seeking some feedback. What am I doing right, what wrong, is there any hope!?

Reconfigured

As planned, I respecced to the recommended talents for Beast Mastery, redid my keybindings for the new priorities, and spent all the Valor I had on the upgrades recommended by Ask Mr. Robot.

AMR is great, well worth the ~$10 for a yearly subscription. Without it I would have probably upgraded the wrong stuff, and definitely defaulted to higher iLvl gear when something lower might be more beneficial. The ability to export and import gear lists using their add-on is invaluable.

New rotation and gear in hand I dutifully queued for some Cataclysm Timewalking. Which was probably unfortunate for the first couple of groups as I was making all kinds of muscle memory mistakes. But I pretty quickly settled into it – there was a definite improvement in the key mapping, making things more obvious and faster to reach.

Timewalking doesn’t give a good idea of DPS output so I queued for all the LFR wings, hoping to also pick up the final Tomes. The good news was there was a definite improvement in damage output – phew! From being mid list I was steady in the top 5, which has the added bonus of knowing the healers will pay you a little more attention. Speaking of, I think anyone who heals or tanks LFR is a saint. So many people on follow, or just standing in the fire, dropping things at the tanks feet, pulling bosses early, etc. Chaos!

In any case, it’s pleasing when you set to work on improving something and there is a clear result. Sure it was only LFR, but the improvements were pretty obvious. Added bonus: Barrage is much more fun than Glaive Toss.

Serendipitously, all four remaining tomes dropped after only running 6 bosses, including 3 for 3 on the last section. So I’m the proud owner of the Legendary Ring, at a similar expansion stage to when I got the MoP cloak. Maybe for Legion I’ll be ahead of the curve instead of waaaay behind!

Barely clinging on to the horse

So, Heroic HFC is a different kettle of fish. Having galloped through Normal a few weeks ago, my gear levelled up enough to join the Heroic lower and middle floor guilt alt runs.

Unfortunately my skills didn’t level up at the same time as my gear, so there was a fair amount of floor tanking going on.

The lower level went pretty well, my DPS was at least equal to a few of the other newer geared players and I stayed alive until Gorefiend. We then switched to normal and felled Archimonde, which was a first for me and earned the Time is a Flat Circle achievement. I did notice however my DPS was well below the tanks for that, which should have been a warning for middle floor…

…which is much harder! I started badly by face pulling some trash on Iskar, to much raid astonishment, then forgetting to get my pet out after dying, etc. Ugh.

Luckily the guild once again were very forgiving, and slightly amused I suspect. Zakuun proved to be tricky too, though after a few wipes I started to understand the fight properly, helped by some good explanations of mechanics. There’s some nice calm voices in Discord and a sense of humour, and you could kind of feel the sudden focus on the attempt that got Zakuun down.

Someone called out with surprise to see my still up at as Xhul’horac went down, which was funny. But it’s pretty disappointing to be below the tanks in the DPS tables – I once read an opinionated blogger saying that is a sure sign of being overwhelmed and under performing, and they’re quite right. So work to be done.

It’s certainly a challenge coming up to speed with boss fights with a group who know them backwards. There’s a certain assumed knowledge, which is completely understandable after a year of the same content. Hopefully being there at the start in Legion will make a difference.

Back on the horse

After a long hiatus, I spent the last two nights running an actual, current, relevant raid – Hellfire Citidel. Some may argue that two year old content is hardly ‘current’, and that’s true but it’s the most current on offer!

The last time I properly raided – so not LFR – was waaaay back in WotLK when I was main tanking Naxx on my Warrior. Since then guild implosions and lack of direction has meant just LFRing my way through endgame. LFR is great for seeing the denouement of an expansion (I really liked finishing off Deathwing and Garrosh that way), but it is in no way comparable to raiding with a guild.

Luckily for me, my new guild Frostwolves decided on a one-last-time Achievement run through Normal HFC, and I’d just managed to edge over the 690 gear score limit. So I was kindly invited along and it was a blast.

My main focus was not dying and getting my rotation and the fight mechanics right, as I realised my DPS output would be pretty lowly. Even knowing that it was kind of staggering to see Mythic geared people putting out at least 5x the DPS that I was. So I guess you could say it was a carry – but at least it was with Guildies!

We rolled through the first 6-7 bosses, and I stayed mostly alive (only dying early to Reaver). Probably largely to Guild Leader Navi’s healing generosity, but I was pleased to be more or less coping. The sheer power of the DPS meant trash was being obliterated which is fun to watch, and many of the bosses seemed easier that on LFR thanks to the lovely control from the tanks and smooth blanket of healing from the, uh, heals.

I was kind of surprised at how the mechanics of the fights were more or less clear, despite my not having seen any bosses after Gorefiend. I had the advantage of being able to focus on mechanics more than contributing a huge DPS output, but I still felt it was mostly clear what was going on and I think I managed to keep my rotation pretty clean. DBM and Wowhead research helps enormously, as does the occasional instruction and whisper from the more experience team. Some of who managed to whisper mid fight – amazing skillz!

It wasn’t until Xhul’horac that a major challenge arrived, with the complexity of the debuff mechanics meaning we were forced to wipe repeatedly in order to keep the achievement alive. On around the 12th attempt we managed to just scrape through, literally by the skin of our teeth.

That unique and thrilling feeling of having accomplished something tricky with a group was palpable – hoots in Discord and many !’s in raid chat. I suspect that feeling is why people keep raiding – working as a team to overcome a challenge is a magic feeling. Even if for me that challenge was mainly about doing the right thing more than contributing a huge amount to downing the bosses, it still felt great to get the achievement done.

We got all the way to Archimonde, and had two attempts at the achievement before having to stop for the night. Hopefully we can pick that last one up next week.

I was treating these runs as a bit of a test to see if raiding in Legion was something I could invest some time in. Come Legion I will be able to start on a vaguely level footing, so given how fun this was it seems worth trying to earn a spot in Normal Raiding.

I’m also super pleased that Frostwolves seems a good fit – there was no finger pointing and a generally good and constructive atmosphere. It was really nice to hear some of the invited guests (from other guilds and servers) give a special shout out to Navi for organising the runs – a sign of respect and a nice reward for hard work.

Fun to be back on the horse, or in my case the toy-pony.

Dungeon Fear

Apparently there’s truckloads of gold to be made from Garrisons, and I figure I want in on that before the Legion nerf. The common theme for easy mode gold seems to be running plenty of Treasure Hunter missions – Alternative Chat says her partner has made half a million that way, and Disciplinary Action makes 20k every 2-3 days. Sounds good to me.

Only one hitch – to get the fabled Treasure missions, you need to have a level 3 Tavern. And to get a level 3 Tavern, you have to complete 10 Draenor Dungeon quests. Simple, right?

Well yes, trouble is I hadn’t run any Dungeons levelling up. I clean forgot about them. Which means I have no idea of the mechanics and strategy.

I find Dungeons far more stressful than Raid Finder, even as DPS, as your lack of knowledge of the fights is far more obvious. So I tend to over study and worry about not just being baggage.

So I’ve been arduously studying each Dungeon, learning the bosses and tactics, and trying to keep it all straight in my head before queueing. “Obtain a Lunar Purity buff by standing on a Lunar Rune during Dark Eclipse”. Got it. “When Gor’ashan gains Power Conduit, jump down from the platform, avoid Electric Pulses, and click on the Rune Conduit”. Uhh, ok. “Once you are carrying a Mortar Shell, click on a Blackrock Turret and use the Homing Shell ability on the Assault Cannon to damage it. Players must hit the Cannon with 3 Mortar Shells to destroy it.”. Argh!

So far it’s been fine, thankfully. I’ve retained just enough knowledge for each boss to get through it without embarrassing myself, and of course this late in the piece then tanks and DPS seem to be so well geared that a learner tagging along hardly matters. Watching a well geared Hunter destroy everything in sight is certainly inspiring – I remember the same inspiration happening in Cataclysm watching a Hunter dominate Deathwing, which led me to eventually challenging the Raid Finder DPS charts.

Thus: Growl off, aspect off, dungeon-on!

For the Hoard

I’ve been running chain instances on my Rogue, starting with normal modes and just now graduating to Heroics. The Icecrown 5 mans drop so much epic stuff in regular mode that Heroics are almost not required. But there is still some gear that is best farmed from Heroics.

And of course the flood of emblems is irresistible. Because Stroeb is just fooling around, I’m not driven or fussed by getting BiS, she’s just looking for enough to hold her own in 5 mans. Which is nice as it means guilt free Heirloom purchases, rather than feeling like it must be spent on Tier gear. I can feel a nice Lava Dredger incoming for my Druid.

One problem I encountered was my woeful DPS. Despite upping my gear, I was still only putting out 1200-1500 deeps. Luckily I was running non-heroics, and all the random groups were encouraging rather than dismissive.

So I went in search of the reason, and found a great post on Slice and Dice on just this topic – how to ramp up your Heroic trash DPS. My main problem was saving all the cooldowns for bosses, and using the EJ boss rotation religiously, rather than being looser on trash, using cooldowns, and adapting the rotation based on what was happening. Good lessons all.

I followed Sam’s advice, and bingo! 2000+ DPS instantly, with the same gear.

In think that the reluctance to use cooldowns, trinkets, and consumables actually goes back to pen and paper role playing. In DnD, you tend to save the good stuff for when you really need it, when you need the GM to give you a break or reward for using a special item. You’re lucky to have a potion in your bag, or a spell to save everyone, so you use it judiciously.

This is as opposed to WoW where there are more or less bottomless pits of food, buffs, and 30 second cooldowns. My bags tend to be full of consumables and my action bars full of cooled down specials, all of which I’m saving for that urgent moment. And it’s not just Warcraft – I have the same hoarding mentality in all single player games.

No more! From now on, it’s use it or lose it. For the HoardHorde!