100

Beyond The Dark Portal

Beyond The Dark Portal

I started playing Warlords on launch day – November 13th – during the day. I took my time with it. Regardless of my decision not to blow through the content, I didn’t have much of a choice anyway. In real life, I work retail, and during the past month-plus the place has been devouring all of my time and energy. As such, I started playing that Thursday, spent the next week doing little more than a few quests at a time when I could snatch an hour to play, and finally hit 100 eleven days later, on Sunday the 23rd.

(And here I am, nine days later, finally writing about it. Yeah.)

I had a good time. The game looks beautiful; I took more than 2800 screenshots along the way to 100, both to have a record of quest progress and to simply capture the beauty from time to time. I read the quest texts, and will re-read them the next time I take a character through.

An ancient road in Gorgrond

An ancient road in Gorgrond

However, now that I’m 100, I don’t know what to do. Since I am not raiding, I’m not trying very hard to gear. The only real post-100 gear that I’ve been going after, very occasionally, is PvP gear. More on that in a moment. I’m basically spending time at 100 doing Garrison dailies, a little bit of PvP, and trying to decide which toon to bring to Draenor next. And that’s about it for now.

Anyway, here are some of my early thoughts on the expansion…

Gearing for Leveling

So far, only Mushan has stepped through the Dark Portal, so I can only vouch for how this worked for that character. However, I can tell you that early-Pandaria heroic dungeon gear is more than adequate for leveling on Draenor.

As I mentioned in a previous post, I started WoD with an item level of 471 (upgraded Heroic dungeon gear). I kept every piece until I was a good way past 92, at which point I picked out the best pieces I had gotten from quests and rares and equipped those. This brought me to ilvl 511. Then, I kept all of those pieces equipped until I was 95, at which point I swapped gear again and bumped my ilvl to 543.

Second gear swap on Draenor

Second gear swap on Draenor

So halfway through the leveling process, I was still basically wearing gear roughly equivalent to Siege of Orgrimmar flex, before upgrades, with no set bonuses.

Before I go further, let me also mention that I did the first couple of levels without a pet. My first use of a pet was during my first Garrison invasion, before which I tamed a wolf because I felt that it was time, and because I did not know what to expect during the invasion. Before that, though, I did the group quest where you kill the elekk elite near your fort by myself, with no pet. I took some hits, but I managed to kite it well enough that I was able to persevere and take it down with little problem.

Anyway, I kept that gear until I was level 98, and when that swap was complete I was up to 580 and had finally eclipsed my top Mists ilvl.

Third gear swap on Draenor

Third gear swap on Draenor

 

I rode that gear until I hit 100, and then I made my final mass-swap and jumped up to 604. I haven’t built much upon that since, although I haven’t had any real problems out in the world with that gear.

I like that I was able to get some use out of the gear acquired through leveling. I enjoy that part of the leveling process – getting gear as I progress – and I believe it helped me appreciate the enemy encounters along the way much more than if I had Husqvarna-ed my way through Draenor with SoO gear.

It was also nice not banging my head against the wall in SoO over the last couple of months trying to get gear and the heirloom weapons (or legendary cloaks for my alts). I got weapons at regular intervals throught Draenor, as I had suspected I would, and they served me well. It was a much less stressful way for me to play.

PvP

After hitting 100, I went to check out Ashran.

After about an hour and a half of play there over three occasions, I don’t have many thoughts on it, other than that the same two bosses always seem to be engaged, and that the fighting always seems to be taking place on the road in the same place. The zone is pretty cool – I’ve enjoyed exploring around – and has been compared to Wintergrasp, but my early impression is that it doesn’t hold a candle to Wintergrasp. I’m pretty disappointed overall. I still want to try out Southshore vs. Tarren Mill, and get my feet wet in some other BGs again. But overall, my time in Ashran has caused me to be more interested in leveling my next toon than in PvP.

Garrisons

I’ve enjoyed the Garrisons more than I thought I would have. I’m glad that I didn’t fuss over them extensively before the launch. It was fun to have the ins and outs revealed to me as I progressed.

I decided to go with the Barn and Tannery to supplement my Leatherworking and Skinning. This has turned out to be beneficial, since I don’t really have time to go out and acquire mats for the daily cooldowns. I also went with the Salvage Yard, Stables, Storehouse, Barracks, and Gladiator’s Sanctum. I’m still leveling my buildings, since I missed a lot of days leading up to and during the holiday. It’s fun, but it also seems like a lot of busy work.

I like having followers. There are some cool people hanging out at my Garrison now: I really like having Admiral Taylor, Rulkan, and Lantresor of the Blade around. I like doing missions, although I’m somewhat handicapped by the fact that I have no followers who can mitigate spells. I’ve got, like, 37 rogues, 12 priests, 15 warriors, and 26 paladins. At least, it seems that way. For now, though, I don’t really mind. I’m still not done doing everything in the game yet, like some of the quests and all of the dungeons, so we’ll see what happens.

I just wonder what spending time in my Garrison will look like six weeks from now…

Dungeons

As much as I love dungeons, I haven’t gotten into any of them yet. I got invited to one last week while I was partially afk, and didn’t have time to do it. Other than that, though, I’ve only been doing content that I can leave at any time, because, as I mentioned, I’ve been very busy, and when I get home from work, I am usually extremely tired.

Story (Alert!! Possible spoilers below, if you haven’t finished all of the questlines yet!)

A couple of random story thoughts…

- Deaths. AU Velen, I was feeling a little shocked, but I understood and admired his sacrifice. Maraad, I was quite saddened by. AU Orgrim, I thought to myself, “oh shit, no way!” but that didn’t affect me like Maraad’s death, and I was just glad that AU Durotan was still alive.

However, I absolutely loved the cinematic at the end of the Nagrand storyline. Dude had it coming, and he got his in epic fashion!

- At the end of the Auchindoun questline, we defeat a demon, and then take the gate to Auchindoun, where Exarch Maladaar and Soulbinder Tuulani seem to have different and somewhat bizarre reactions to the disappearance of Gul’dan and Teron’gor…

The Exarch is happy that we slayed several baddies. His reaction is completely without regard to the situation on the ground, or in Auchindoun:

Yay, we won! :P

Yay, we won! :P

Meanwhile, Tuulani is saddened and mystified:

What happened?? :(

What happened?? :(

Apparently neither really knows how instance portals work…

Generally, the leveling story was pretty good, but I felt there was something important missing at the end of this questline. Any normal player/hero knows that they jumped into the instance, which took them out of PvP. Right? And Teron’gor is a boss in the Auchindoun dungeon, so… yeah.

It just didn’t seem written well at all.

Huntering

Man, I miss Scatter Shot.

I also kind of miss Arcane Shot as Marksmanship, but I’m okay without it. In Warlords, it would have made rotations smoother. But I generally enjoyed MM for leveling: the Aimed/Chimaera double-whammy was nice on single mobs. And while Multishot seems terribly ineffective, Explosive Trap is awesome when you pull a bunch of little podling b-holes…

As I said, I had no problem leveling with no pet for a while, and with simply using the leveling gear.

Closing

There are a lot of words in this post, and not a heck of a lot of substance. Oh well. I hope you don’t mind; I just wanted to check in since I have a rare day off and the servers are down for maintenance. I’m still here, and checking the game out a little bit at a time.

I’d like to decide today who I want to take over there next. I’m actually thinking of starting more than one: I have a mage, warrior, and death knight, and I’d like to see which of them I want to take to 100 first. The problem with the plate toons is that I don’t know if I want to level them as tanks or damage specs. I’ll probably stay Blood/Prot, because ultimately I’d like to tank some dungeons once the holidays are over and I (theoretically) have more time, but we’ll see.

If I get all three into Draenor this week, I can start on their profession stuff, which will be nice.

Until next time, hope you’re all having fun!

* * *

Thanks for reading this post by Mushan at Mushan, Etc. Follow me on Twitter at @MushanEtc. Comments are welcome!


Gearing down for Warlords

The new Mushan?

The new Mushan?

Yes, I wrote that correctly…

In the wake of the Warlords of Draenor announcement at Blizzcon 2013, I wrote a few posts about my desire to approach the leveling process differently. One of them described my desire to self-nerf: to gear down, as opposed to “gearing up” for the expansion.

There was some discussion about the subject here at the time, and then I put it on the back burner. My preparation for Warlords over the past year – gear-wise –  has basically consisted of keeping a reserve of Timeless Isle tokens on an alt so that, at the least, I could slap that gear on and be done with it.

At the time, Quelys suggested going in with T14 gear, but I got rid of those pieces as I replaced them, for the most part (basically, I kept Fang Kung, Tao’ren, and the DMC). I was thinking I would probably just go with Timeless Isle gear, as I didn’t see myself putting too much effort into it. However, with Patch 6.0 drawing near, over the past couple of weeks I’ve found myself soloing MoP heroics, painstakingly assembling a dungeon set. Of course, being the behavior-driven nerd that I am, I found myself upgrading that gear once I discovered that I was Justice-capped. This, in turn, set up a nice cycle for me, where I drove myself to get both the gear that I wanted and the JP to upgrade it.

Mushan's end of MoP dungeon set

Mushan’s end of MoP dungeon set (almost)..

^^Possibly my last screenshot of the old Mushan?

As you can see, as of today, my mission is almost complete. I’m having no luck to-date with respect to pants and helm, but I do have some time before leveling begins. And if worse comes to worse, I’m going with the Golden Lotus JP pants and the 476 PvP crafted helm. The goal is to get down to an overall ilevel of 471 (463 plus upgrades, on average), and I think I can get there with that combination if I can’t come up with those last two pieces.

Some thoughts:

  1. In this set, I’m doing roughly 60k DPS single-target (casually, un-buffed) on a raid dummy. It’s interesting how many times-over the damage multiplies from the beginning heroic dungeons to the end of the expansion. Additionally, I’m sitting at about 55% of my SoO health level.
  2. I’m unclear about how my health level will translate with the stat squish, particularly with respect to mobs on Draenor. However, I’m still confident in my ability to handle them, even though…
  3. I’m planning on leveling as Survival. While part of me wants to try leveling as Marksmanship (and that was my plan previously, because I’d love to try “one-shotting” stuff), it seems to be the new (and only) hotness as far as hunter specs go (thanks Obama Blizz). On the positive side: as gutted as it is, leveling as SV could present me with some challenges, which is something I am definitely interested in. I’m looking for an epic experience, and playing hunter with no Kill Shot and no Multi-Strike… will most likely make killing mobs more challenging, if not epic.
  4. I’m planning on carrying my raid gear with me for dungeon purposes, particularly at the lower levels. I don’t necessarily know that I will run dungeons along the way, but the possibility is definitely there. And if I do run dungeons on occasion while I level, I will not be causing my group any extra anguish brought on by my self-nerfing activities.
  5. I’m still going to level like I have in the past in new expansions with respect to buffs, enchants, gems, etc. I’ll be appropriately specced out, have consumables with me, use drums, etc. I just won’t be starting out grossly overpowered like I used to.

* * *

I mean no offense by this, but I get a chuckle whenever I read about people specifically “gearing up for WoD”… and doing so by raiding. Needing that cloak, needing that heirloom, needing that 4-piece. I fully understand the players who are looking for those items because they’re great to have, but I’ve seen many, many people who are frantically chasing after those pieces for their alts… “for Warlords.” On Twitter. Blogs. WoW Insider.

More power to them, but to me it seems unnecessary.

Think about it this way: I am very, very far from being among the best players in the world… But when I level a new toon, I don’t stop at level 80, get a bunch of raid gear, and then proceed to 85, get some more raid gear, and then proceed to the next endgame; I simply go to the new zone and start tearing it apart. All of my level-90 alts that are between ilvl 510 and 550 are very prepared, gear-wise, to romp through the opening levels of WoD before they start to get some gear… and none of them have either heirloom weapons or legendary cloaks.

It just seems like when we do that, we’re actually “over-preparing to overpower”… like we’re trying to get the biggest hammer possible in order to smash a sandwich with it.

* * *

I’m looking to stretch myself a bit as a player – perhaps for the last time in this game.

I may have mentioned this on Twitter briefly a few weeks back, but I got another promotion in September – my second in the last five months – and, where my free time was limited over the summer, it’s downright precious now. I’ll be very surprised if I raid at all in Warlords, and once I get done playing through Draenor, I don’t know that I will keep going. However, that’s a decision to be made sometime down the road.

As such, I’m looking to have an experience on Draenor. Discovery, story, taking my time and enjoying the scenery. Testing my skills as a hunter. Talking with my friends about it all, here and on Twitter, as time and energy permit. I’m looking forward to it!

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Thanks for reading this post by Mushan at Mushan, Etc. Follow me on Twitter at @MushanEtc. Comments are welcome!


500 Valor

Upon logging in on Friday, I was surprised to see a new buff amongst the normal ones on one of my characters: Heart of the Valorous.

This, after I logged in on Tuesday on my Resto druid and promptly spent 30,000 Timeless Coins to get my other toons (who are somewhat more “Offense-ive” or “DPS-ish” characters than my healer) the Valor of the Ancients buff.

It’s all good. It’s all good. Friday was a good fine whatever time to plop that buff down…

Seriously, though, it’s a crazy good buff. It’s even better when you add it to the Valor of the Ancients buff. The first toon that I finished the Empowering The Hourglass weekly with, Mushan, on Saturday got 500 Valor Points from it!

Here’s how that works:

Heart of the Valorous = +100% X (Normal Valor Reward 200 VP): you get twice as much Valor;

Valor of the Ancients = +50% X (Normal Valor Reward 200VP): you get 50% more than base Valor.

The (probably unnecessary) ‘equation’ looks something like this (where x = 200 VP in this case):

2x + x/2 =

500 Valor Points for turning in a quest.

It was awesome!

Think about it: it’s kind of un-frickin’-believable. In fact, I think it’s safe to say that we’ve never seen this (a potentially 500 VP turn-in) before in WoW. I remember when the Barrens weekly was active; I posted something on Twitter about how I VP-capped my hunter, which allowed me to get 300 points per turn-in on my alts; someone replied that I was a genius… (You could also do something similar with the weekly Champions of the Thunder King on Isle of Thunder for 225 points with the buff.) But this is different. This stacks, so any Valor you earn once you have both buffs is 150% more than usual.

With this buff, along with the initial use of Deeds of Valor to cap my druid on Tuesday, I managed to cap five toons this week without too much effort. I killed one raid boss with my hunter on Friday, finished single LFR wings on my mage and DK, and otherwise earned the bulk of my VP by doing the Shaohao daily (leading up to Empowering The Hourglass, of course) on Timeless Isle. With the mage and hunter, this is a piece of cake, and with the warrior and DK tanks, it’s still not much trouble. It was nice, considering the current incentive provided by the extra eight ilvl upgrade points available on 5.4 gear.

* * *

I should qualify the apparent noobishness of this post by saying that I’m reading WoW news about once every week or two. I can’t hang daily on Blizzard’s every tweet/reveal… I just can’t: I don’t have it in me to do so when there are so many months left before Warlords becomes a reality, and there isn’t even a beta yet. So when the Heart of The Valorous buff arrived in my interface, I had little more than a vague recollection of reading about it somewhere, whereas it turns out that most people I follow were expecting it with 5.4.8, or any day now…

Oh well. I guess that’s part of what comes from being willfully ignorant in the face of nothing new being playable, for all intents and purposes. It was certainly a nice surprise.

A couple of days later, I learned that this buff was temporary; apparently it ends during maintenance on June 10th. So this week is the second and final week that I will cap five toons with very little effort. Once the buff drops off, I’ll resume cherry picking which toons I want to focus on, which will likely vary since I don’t have clear outcomes in mind for any but Mushan (cap upgrades, start killing some heroic bosses when/if possible). My alts are gravy, so at that point I will probably go back to spending more time with my new hunter on the different server.

In the meantime, this week is about capping those five toons. One will be via Coins. The others will be via those two Timeless Isle quests, for the most part. I’m glad I happened to be back during the time that this was happening, since it’s like I can ‘make hay while the sun shines’ with respect to the upgrades without burning myself out again.

Hopefully.

* * *

Thanks for reading this post by Mushan at Mushan, Etc. Follow me on Twitter at @MushanEtc. Comments are welcome!


My alt and profession mindset for Warlords part 3: Alpha

Blacksmithing, soon to be going bye-bye.

Blacksmithing, soon to be going bye-bye. Oh, and Dimples. :D

Back in December and January, I published speculative posts regarding my toons’ professions in Warlords of Draenor: which alts I might level, what their professions might be, and why.

I have seven level 90s (all home-grown), but lately I’ve been thinking that – depending on how much I decide to actually play once my initial new-xpac buzz wears off – there will be a maximum of five that end up making the journey to 100. Could be a lot less, of course.

At any rate, at the time I noted that there were certain motivations for wanting to switch things up, and that there could be more on the horizon. As of last weekend’s Alpha info dump, one of those motivations has been clarified. So, with those in mind, I give you the factors that will play into how I play profs in WoD:

  1. I don’t know how many toons I will level because a) I don’t know if I will continue to be a serial subscriber in WoD, and b) even if I am, I am determined not to burn myself out like I have in the past.
  2. I want to make it easier to level profs on my main toon (and possibly others).
  3. I don’t know if I will be raiding, so optimal prof usage might not be important.
  4. I already have plenty of gold, so if I never sell anything on the AH for the whole xpac, I’ll still be fine. I have absolutely no need for a ‘job’ (or several) during WoD.
  5. Flying might not be a Thing in WoD for a while (or even the whole xpac).
  6. Alpha news: Professions will no longer provide performance bonuses (stat buffs / weapon bonuses / extra sockets / exclusive enchants / better gems, etc.).

#6 on that list was revealed in the Alpha patch notes, and answered a question that I had related in one of my earlier posts in the subject. As of 6.0, profession bonuses will be no more. Which basically negates any concerns raised by #3 on the list.

So, looking at my main, Mushan (hunter/LW/BS), I can tell you right now that he will be jettisoning Blacksmithing and picking up Skinning. Before the notes were released, this was already being seriously considered; now it’s a no-brainer. I have another max-level Blacksmith (Droignon, warrior/BS/Mining) anyway, and Mushan was really, obviously, just using Blacksmithing for his own advantage, and Blacksmithing is such a nice person who deserves better than a one-sided relationship… I don’t know, I try to stay out of it as much as possible (it’s complicated).

In all seriousness, after leveling Mushan in MoP as a LW/BS, I’m looking forward to being able to gather my own resources while I play him in Warlords. I have big plans for leveling him (which may or may not… OK probably will be revealed at a later date), and the main theme is going to be that I will immerse myself in playing him, as opposed to racing to the cap. I’m not going to worry about getting him capped ASAP, and then hopping on the druid to skin a bunch of dead things, and then hopping on the warrior and riding around mining everything I can in Jade Forest and leveling out of the zone before I do many quests from all of the gathering XP…

/breathe

…like I did last time. All to get those crafting profs maxed on Mushan, who for the past two expansions has been able to craft amazing stuff, but somehow is incapable of gathering his own materials himself. This time will be different.

Skinning also fits Leatherworking hunters better in my opinion, lore-/immersion-wise.

#5 on that list (no flying) sort of puts the kibosh on possibly changing Ana’s (druid/LW/SK) profs. Without the flying advantages, changing her to an Herbalist, as I mentioned in a past post, has no appeal for me. She’ll remain a LW/SK, unless I decide that I really really want to change her into an Alch/Herb, which I’m doubtful will happen.

The list (updated @ Alpha)

There are no other changes that I can think of, with respect to how my toons will approach profs in WoD. With that, here’s my list:

  1. Mushan (90 hunter/main): Leatherworking, Skinning (new)
  2. Anacrusa (90 Resto/Balance druid): Leatherworking, Skinning #
  3. Droignon (90 Prot warrior): Blacksmithing, Mining #
  4. Modhriel (90 Frost mage): Tailoring, Jewelcrafting *#
  5. Saldrahn (90 Blood DK): Engineering, Mining #
  6. Abenadari (90 pally): Alchemy, Herbalism **
  7. Ghilleadh (90 hunter alt): Enchanting, Skinning **
  8. Mydnas (85 druid bank alt): Inscription, Herbalism ***

Notes:

# Mushan is the only real concern for the time being. The rest will happen only if fun-times permit.

* With all of the forthcoming stat changes, I’m not particularly enthused about JC anymore, but then again, it’s not terribly important (see previous note), is it? As for Tailoring, that should be fairly straightforward to level, since killing equals gathering in that case.

** These toons will most likely not make the journey. One or both may be deleted for future character slots, unless they ever get around to connecting my server (grr..).

*** I don’t care a lick about this toon or Inscription anymore, but she’s the bank alt, so she stays for now. But I’ll be very surprised if she doesn’t mostly gather dust.

* * *

So, really? Hundreds and hundreds of words, and there are only two actual changes to my mindset compared with my previous post on the subject?

Yeah, sorry. That’s how I roll, usually. But this post comes from the fact that I’ve been spending portions of cold nights in an easy chair under a blanket, in my pajamas, making plain text notes on my iPad. I’m casually working on a grand plan for my foray into Draenor, and prof changes were on my list of prep questions. I can now go back and edit those notes, which will give both my prep and leveling expectations more clarity. It’s all part of a process that I am determined to enjoy as fully as possible.

Is it self-indulgent? Hell yeah it is. So is the vast majority of the rest of the stuff I post here. :)

* * *

Thanks for reading this post by Mushan at Mushan, Etc. Comments are welcome!


Revisiting Outland with a new hunter

Ah, the low level greens

In my “free time” – which, in World of Warcraft, generally constitutes time spent “not advancing” my level 90 characters or professions in some shape or form – lately, I’ve been leveling a new hunter.

Now, there is no need for me to make a new hunter, at least for the sake of hunters per se. I already have three hunters on my realm, and two of them are max level. However, I do love the class, and so when the time came to work on a new project, it was a fairly easy choice for me.

Anyway, I’ve got this new hunter. And this hunter has a purpose. Due to this purpose, it’s extremely likely that he will never reach max level.

* * *

If I think about the history of my experience in WoW, with an eye toward my favorite parts of the leveling experience, something interesting happens.

Some people love(d) Vanilla WoW. And, the truth is, I did too; I didn’t start playing WoW until the month after TBC launched, but I did spend a ton of time leveling through the “Vanilla” parts of the game when I started playing – I didn’t have my first level 70 toon until just over a month before Wrath launched! And while there were frustrating and faulty aspects of that part of the game, I have a lot of good – fuzzy, but good – memories from that time.

However, that part of the game is gone. Forever.

It’s not 100% gone, of course: there are areas of the game that survived the revamp (the “kill 10 Young Stranglethorn Tigers -> Stranglethorn Tigers -> Elder Stranglethorn Tigers”-type questlines come to mind, for one), but they’re relatively few in number. As a whole, the Vanilla WoW experience no longer exists.

As such – and this is the interesting thing that I realized – the earliest “nostalgia-era” content that is still available in anything collectively resembling its original form is The Burning Crusade. And Wrath follows that, of course… and those two zones are the reasons that I made this new hunter.

If you’ve read some of my previous posts, as well as some of those from before, you may know that I’m at something of a crisis point as far as the game goes with me. A lot of times, what’s needed in these situations is a break from the everyday endgame experience (or lack thereof), and that’s what I’ve been looking for lately. Looking at the game, I realized recently that I had no characters that could play in Outland at-level – seven 90s, an 85, and two toons at or below 30. One of those lowbies is a hunter, and the other a shaman. I don’t enjoy the shaman as much as I had hoped, and the other hunter is reserved for a different project, should I ever return to it.

Anyway, I decided that, while I’m not a fan of leveling the revamped content on Azeroth, I wanted to take another toon into Outland and Northrend… and I didn’t feel like leveling a second DK (not that that isn’t fun, but my DK is the last toon I leveled, so I’d like to give DKs a bit of a rest for the moment). So, hunter it was.

But, why Outland?

When I look back at the past few years and think about the toons I’ve brought to max level, starting with Mushan and including a (now deleted) mage, warrior, replacement mage, second hunter, and DK, I realized that my favorite zones to revisit during the leveling process are Outland and Northrend. They were the continents/expansions that I played before I raided, which means “back when I sucked.” Back when I had no idea what was going on, or how to play. Back when the world was a complete wonder to me. When things were scary and new.

For some reason, nostalgia brings me back to those zones, to those expansions’ content. To a simpler time. That’s the number one reason. The revamped Vanilla content was okay for the first play-through, but there are certain aspects to the leveling process that make the experience uninteresting to me, including the lack of virtually any challenges along the way and the updating of the content to the current-as-of-Cataclysm time period.

* * *

I’ve set some parameters to encourage discovery, exploration, and learning… and also to ensure that I do not simply blow through to the higher levels like I usually do.

Heirlooms

No heirlooms past level 58. I did use several heirlooms through level 57, because the goal here was absolutely to zip through large chunks of the pre-58 content at a time. Once I hit 58, I did away with them, replacing them with quest greens I had saved for exactly that purpose. I even equipped a level 15 (ilvl 22) cloak as I prepared for Outland, because that was the last one I had saved. Not that that mattered – everything has been nerfed, so the simple fact that I had something appropriate equipped in every slot ensured that questing would still be very easy.

I’m also not in a guild, for guild perk reasons (including the bonus XP perk).

Locking XP

Based on past (post-4.0) experience, a player can hit Hellfire, Terrokar, Nagrand, and SMV or Netherstorm, run a couple of dungeons along the way, and easily be 68 (and ready for Northrend) before completing any zones, and skipping the vast majority of the Outland content. My aim with this toon is to spend time in Outland, so skipping content is anathema in that scenario. Therefore, I went to Wowhead and looked up the required levels for quests in each zone. For instance, virtually all of the quests in Hellfire are available by the time players hit 61; thus, when I hit 61, I lock my XP. This means that, once I finish the zone, I can unlock my XP, move on to Zangarmarsh, and continue gaining XP until I get to 62 (when all quests in Zangar become available). Then, when I finish Zangar, I can start Terrokar with unlocked XP and re-lock it again at 64 for Nagrand. This preserves some semblance of “I’m playing at-level,” which is another goal that I have. I could do each zone and run each dungeon without locking XP, but I would quickly outgrow each zone well before I finish it if I did it that way. I’m likely going to spend more time in Outland with my XP locked than unlocked, but that’s ok.

By the way, I discovered the other day that locking XP also interrupts the accrual of “rest,” which, for these purposes, does not disappoint me. Knowing that I won’t be out-leveling a zone quite so fast makes for more fluid progression within the zone than 30 bars of rest would – to a point, of course.

Mounts

Ground mounts only. Some people may think this is crazy, but I’m determined to play it very much like I did when I first took Anacrusa through it in 2007-08. And I couldn’t fly back then. Taxis (flight paths) are allowed, of course.

Additionally, while I do have a vendor mount, I will not use it with this toon.

Dungeons

There are quests in zones, once you get to a certain point/level, that send you to a dungeon that corresponds with the story; in Hellfire, it’s Hellfire Ramparts. In the interest of playing through the story, I will run the dungeons. However, I will only do this while XP-locked.

It’s fairly clear, at this point, that managing the throttling of XP-gain is a large part of this endeavor. Part of this is an experiment to see how it affects immersion; I’m of the opinion that while going back several times to Stormwind to (un)lock XP is a slight annoyance, it’s no more immersion-breaking than any other non-core activity in the game, such as doing my farms every day on max-level toons, or raiding the same instance every week.

* * *

It’s an imperfect science, obviously: there are several aspects of the game that are impossible to recreate. LFD didn’t exist back then, there were group quest elites, stats and specs and talents have been revamped, glyphs have been added, and things have been heavily nerfed. There’s no way to go back 100%, but that’s something I was fully aware of as I began the project.

The goal is to immerse myself in Outland. Revisit and enjoy the lore, and experience it as authentically as possible from a playstyle perspective. Revisit some memories of formative times in my WoW-childhood. There really isn’t a way to completely and accurately replicate that experience any more, but I can do things to mitigate the hyper-leveling paradigm that plagues** old content.

** “Plague” indicating a certain perspective; I know that there are many who are absolutely done with Outland in every way, but I also know that there are a lot of people who love TBC and love spending time there. So for my purposes, leveling quickly is the opposite of what I’m interested in. However, for others, it’s a necessity.

At any rate, along the way, I am taking a lot of screenshots, reading quest text, and completing each zone the best I can.

By the way, I’m leveling as Marksman on this hunter, which is what I leveled Mushan and Ghilleadh with back in the day. I don’t play Marks anymore on those toons, but it is absolutely killer for leveling. I approach the mob. I plant, and (unglyphed) Aim, and Shoot. 95% of the time, the mob either dies from a single shot or is critically injured (and is subsequently finished off with a Kill Shot). For elites or higher-level-than-me mobs, I do the “Aimed/Chimera” combo, and if it doesn’t kill them, it usually does serious damage. Even without heirlooms, the damage is punishing if it crits, and with Careful Aim, that happens quite often…

Playing this way makes me feel more like a ranger than just about anything else in the game. And that’s a fun aspect of this project, too.

* * *

As I mentioned above (and in a previous post), there’s no way to 100% accurately replicate the experience of playing WoW or a new expansion for the first time – once you’ve done it, you’ve done it. However, there are ways to revisit it. I’m a leave-my-poor-arms-at-the-emergency-room-afterward raider, but I also love leveling, and I love some of the old parts of the game. It’s fun and relaxing to lose myself in my new character, imagining him seeing this content for the first time and experiencing that wonder and awe with him. I’ve seen it before, but I also like seeing it again. And perhaps I’ll learn something new along the way.

Of course, this dovetails somewhat nicely with the idea that it’s nice to see Outland as it was a couple of years ago on the eve of Warlords of Draenor, since a great deal of that lore (along with that of the relevant books) will be somewhat pertinent to that expansion as well…

* * *

Thanks for reading this post by Mushan at Mushan, Etc. Comments are welcome!


Leveling the new-xpac playing field via self-nerf

In Tallhide garb with Keepers of Time tabard: a potential throwback transmog.

In Tallhide garb with Keepers of Time tabard: a potential throwback transmog.

Late last month, I mentioned a plan to abandon my recent “habit” of reaching the level cap with all deliberate speed at the beginning of an expansion, when Warlords of Draenor arrives. Since then, I’ve been putting more thought into this idea.

In previous expansions, the “race to max-level” generally involved playing through a zone until I reached the next level and could go on to the next zone, skipping the rest of the content until a later date. Higher-level zones equal more experience, after all. My first toon through the leveling gauntlet has historically been geared to the teeth (to whatever extent that toon had raided in the previous expansion), blew through the opening levels, and powered through the final zones in order to get started on daily quests and heroic dungeons. Later on, in moments of down time, those other zones were finished in order to complete achievements or get started on reputation grinds.

Having done just that in Mists of Pandaria, I found myself with plenty to do, but no reason to have done it so quickly. It took my guild more than a month after I reached 90 to start raiding, and that left me with LFR, dailies, the legendary quest grind, and so on. I spent way too much time being antsy to raid, frustrated with guild-mates and fretting over our inability to get ten people together in what I considered to be a reasonable amount of time.

With what has happened over the past year-plus, my perspective on the experience has changed. While I’m looking forward to WoD, I’m not going to hold my breath that people will come together quickly at level 100 – nor will I race to be first to that point myself.

. . .

With that changed perspective, I find myself looking forward to jumping into WoD with more of an interest in the story taking place on the ground. I used to be guildmates with a couple who level together at the beginning of each xpac, completing each zone as they go. While that approach didn’t resonate with me at the time – not because I didn’t understand the attraction of leveling that way, but because it seemed like a less efficient way to gear for raiding* – I find myself looking back with envy and regret that I didn’t approach things that way at the beginning of Mists. So this time I’ll probably go about it that way.

*And there’s my old tunnel vision, coming back to repeatedly bite me in the ass…

The old way: geared to the teeth, overpower early content, build to better gear, power through the end zones. Gear up. Raid.

The new (for me) way: Play the story. Enjoy the journey, because once it’s over, it’s over for that toon – and that first toon gets to see it when it’s brand new. Take your time, read the quests, relax and have fun. Worry about raiding when you get to that point, and not before.

Sounds like a good idea to me.

. . .

But what about the gear?

As it stands, if I never raided SoO again, my ilvl going into The Squish would be 563**, including the Legendary cloak, great weapon (not the Garrosh heirloom – more on that later – but still very good), CD-reducing trinket, and so on. Even if I hit the ground walking, so to speak, I’m still going to be able to handle enemy mobs with little thought in such gear. This, of course, contributes to blowing through quests, which contributes to faster leveling and forgetting why I’m there.

**Note: 563 is a full 100 ilvls above launch-period heroic dungeon gear. Holy crap! And I have… let’s see… exactly zero heroic SoO pieces to my name. The gap is massive.

But what if I didn’t have that gear, to start with?

I’m actually considering downgrading my gear for Warlords of Draenor, in order to somewhat level the playing field between Mushan and Mushan’s enemies (which will presumably be numerous…).

At first, I thought about replacing it with gear one can purchase from the likes of Trader Zambeezi, but that gear is ilvl 372, which is essentially level 85 gear, so that’s out of the picture. I don’t really feel like hitting level-91 mobs with level 85 gear – this route I’m considering isn’t intended to be a semi-Ironman, extreme soloing adventure. So then I thought, what if I spend the next few months farming heroic dungeon gear? If I could put a full set of that gold-ish looking stuff together (and transmog the crap out of it, of course, because, seriously… that gear does not look becoming on a night elf), it would make WoD a real adventure at the beginning, methinks. And I already have Tempestuous Longbow in the bank, so worrying about a weapon would be a non-issue.

Then again, despite my earlier professions of love for the dungeons we can choose to run nowadays, I am getting pretty sick of them, in all honesty. I’m not sure I could stomach farming them for some hare-brained scheme now that the flow of new gear has stopped and I haven’t needed Valor Points in a while.

My other thought was something a little more interesting and easy: a full set of gear from the Timeless Isle. I made a set for transmog purposes a while ago (although I don’t think I can wear it in all seriousness… I was just checking it out at the time), and of those pieces there are two that have two whole secondary stats per item. However, I have a bunch of unmade pieces sitting on an alt, and I figure that since I’ll probably farm Ordon b-holes at some point until I get to Exalted with Shaohao on Mushan, I’m likely to get more.

Once 6.0 drops pre-xpac, with The Squish and stat/gear/enchant/gem changes in effect, I can make all the pieces until I get serviceable ones (“or die tryin'”). I can combine 496 Discipline of Xuen with my Darkmoon Trinket – 484 Relic of Xuen*** – to fill the trinket slots with all kinds of Xuen… and I can use my 491 Sha-touched weapon. I have an absolutely sick number of Timeless cloak tokens, and a few rings, so I think I can make do with this kind of strategy. I just don’t know if it’s enough… ah, who am I kidding? All things being relative, this set would be way weaker than what I’m wearing now, but would still be “last-xpac-current” enough that I would feel competent.

***Due to bag space concerns, I’ve deleted so much gear this xpac… it’s kind of sad. But I did keep the Relic. For some reason, I have a hard time deleting Darkmoon trinkets. I didn’t delete Greatness for a long time, and kept Hurricane until sometime after I was deeply involved in the Pandaria campaign.

This is, of course, assuming that The Squish won’t diminish the relative power gap between SoO gear and Timeless gear. I’m assuming that it won’t.

. . .

You may ask, And what about that heirloom bow?

In all honesty, at this point, if I never get the bow, I don’t think I’ll care. In addition to the fact that I feel less and less inclined to care much about killing Garrosh, the heirloom bow would work against what I’m thinking of doing anyway.

OK, how about the Legendary cloak?

This is where I pause…

…because one of the things that interests me is how far I’ll go into the mid-90s or later before my first and only legendary becomes irrelevant. I’ve never, ever had one before. So I’m torn. I may just keep the cloak equipped, for fun and for pride. Removing all set bonuses/CD-reduction gear and the rest of the current raid gear will be a massive self-nerf as it is, and would likely put me exactly where I want to be, which is not overpowered vs. the first couple levels of mobs on Draenor.

. . .

As shown in the screenshot at the top, I’m also looking at going in with a nostalgic look via transmog. I’ve spent so much time leveling alts through places like Nagrand that I thought it might be fun to wear this simple Tallhide Mail set for that throwback feeling. I wore the Gryphon Mail set for most of MoP, although for the past several weeks I’ve been rocking a T7 Cryptstalker set, which reflects my (recent) darker mood regarding the game while also looking like I mean business.

A small part of me thinks that going into Draenor wearing something that looks badass would be more appropriate in the larger scheme, given that we’re chasing after a warmonger who doesn’t know when to quit. However, on a personal level, I’m intentionally entering WoD not as an end-game raider, but as (possibly) a Timeless Isle-equipped adventurer who will get caught up in events that, as usual, I wasn’t (supposed to be) expecting. Thus, a simple transmog like this – tied to so many memories of picking up Tallhide BoEs in Nagrand – lends somewhat to the immersion level, given what I’m going for.

. . .

So, what do you think? Full Timeless? Heroic dungeon gear? Is there a better idea that would make what I’m aiming for more interesting?

Or do you think the whole notion is preposterous and stupid? I think it could be fun and challenging, but maybe you think I’m off my rocker.

One thing that I’m well aware of is that, like previous expansions, it’s likely that I’ll replace this gear as I go through the campaign in WoD. That’s ok. Like I said, I don’t necessarily want to make this into an Ironman thing, where I’m fighting a constant uphill battle while being massively undergeared. I’m just looking for a different experience, and upgrading from, say, a Timeless-dominated set with quest greens and dungeon blues from Draenor will be a more natural extension of that, as opposed to wearing all of my current gear until 94 or so (and wondering if I’ll ever really be challenged).

Anyway, let me know what you think!

. . .

Thanks for reading this post by Mushan at Mushan, Etc.


RNG has a funny sense of humor

The day finally arrived. Friday was the day that my girlfriend finished making 21 Hardened Magnificent Hides, so we got together and exchanged mail belts in the evening.

First, she made the belt for me on her druid…

My Gorge Stalker Belt - yay!

My Gorge Stalker Belt – yay!

Then, she switched over to her shaman, and I made her the Int Mail belt…

Krasari Prowler Belt

Her Krasari Prowler Belt – yay!

And then, I finally ditched my Tier 15 2-piece gear by equipping some new shoulders and making myself the mail legs. I figured, what the heck – it’s just a game, and these hides couldn’t possibly mean more to me if used for anything other than new hunter pants, even if only for a short while.

This trade was necessary because, betwixt my two Leatherworkers, I still had not learned the belt pattern on either (in 50 days X 2 worth of cooldowns). It worked out, because she was able to help me and I was able to make her a belt to compensate her – she was able to get her belt as soon as she was able to make it, and I was able to get mine in the face of possibly never learning the darn pattern. As I said in a previous post, there’s something fun and immersive – and elusive – about mutually beneficial activity when it comes to professions, and I’m glad I waited for the experience, rather than just buying a belt at the Auction House.

Of course, the next morning, this happened:

"Congratulations, you have learned a now-virtually-useless pattern!"

“Congratulations, you have learned a now-virtually-useless pattern!”

*and palm met face*

Ah well, at least we each got our belts – no harm, no foul. Although, regarding the legs, I fully expect to win the tier legs or some Warforged ones during the next week, now that I’ve used four weeks worth of mats to make the crafted ones. That’s how RNG works, right? Manipulative, playing with our emotions, torturing our hopes and dreams, laughing in our faces… It would not surprise me in the least!

Thanks for reading this post by Mushan at Mushan, Etc. Comments are welcome!


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