Vale of Eternal Blossoms: a memorial in pictures and words

From the Gate of the Setting Sun, you make out the Golden Pagoda and even a few things beyond - in spite of the mist!

From the Gate of the Setting Sun, you can make out the Golden Pagoda and even a few things beyond – in spite of the mists!

Introduction

The Vale of Eternal Blossoms represents different things to different people.

In fact, it represents different things to the same people, too.

At level 87, leveling players do a short questline at the Temple of the White Tiger which leads to their participation in the opening of the Vale by Xuen and the other celestials. Once this veritable paradise is opened, visitors, heroes, and refugees alike are treated to wonders both natural and constructed: majestic waterfalls and sparkling water, brilliant autumnal colors, colossal statues, magnificent buildings, and a beautiful soundtrack. The opening of the Vale represents opportunity, hope for a new and better existence, for all who enter (including players).

To many players, the Vale also represents the brutal Golden Lotus reputation grind. Players spent weeks, doing more than a dozen quests per day for a pittance of reputation per quest. (I know that it was mid-November before I myself reached Exalted.) The Golden Lotus became the poster boy for the complaints about dailies leading to burnout due to the gating of gear behind reputation requirements. I remember finishing my Golden Lotus grind, getting my necklace, and swearing off that faction for a while. And mine was one of the kinder reactions: many players finished and never looked back.

This is unfortunate, because Blizzard’s basic design for the Vale as a questing and dailies zone was extremely well-crafted. We got to know the Golden Lotus pretty well, and their story was vital to the telling of the story of Pandaria itself. It’s a place and faction rich in lore, and tied in with raids in both tiers so far (and will, of course, with the 5.4 raid as well). Blizzard crafted more than 80 quests that made it into the game in the form of dailies, which is really just phenomenal, and the Golden Lotus questline as a whole was very interesting if one both a) cares and b) can look beyond the brain-numbness that the daily grind brought to so many of us.

In truth, while the rep gear gating and the resultant grind were a bit of an overreach, it was an honest attempt on the part of Blizzard to ensure that players had plenty to do when the leveling process was over. And the result was a fantastic zone and faction that were, unfortunately, tarnished by the amount of repetitive slog that players felt forced to put into them for the sake of gear.

The Vale and the Golden Lotus at the end of 5.3

As our time with Mists of Pandaria pre-5.4 drew to a close, I had in the back of my mind that I wanted to take a bunch of screenshots for posterity and memory, since we know that Garrosh is going to do something today…

(We players are a prescient and privileged bunch, aren’t we!)

…and then on Sunday, Matthew Rossi of WoW Insider tweeted this:

…and I thought that was an excellent idea. So I, Mushan, went back out into the Vale and dutifully did every Golden Lotus daily available that day. It was fun and fairly easy, and as I quested, I visited with old friends in the GL, thought about how I felt about the places I visited, and recalled some of my memories of times of yore (such as when killing Thundermaws was a perilous undertaking early on…).

That was a great experience, and I’m completely glad that I did it. But in doing so, I almost forgot to take screenshots.

I would have regretted that error, so on Monday night, I decided to buckle down and take some screenshots, which was an adventure of its own. I took 58 pictures, and then I remembered that, while I have a decent computer, I typically run with custom settings for better performance during raids, since I’m not running a top-of-the-line rig. So I stuck all of those shots in a folder, moved my settings to high/ultra, and took another trip around the Vale to the tune of 64 more screenshots. They turned out beautifully, and I’d like to share a couple dozen of them with you.

Without further ado, here we go. (Click pictures to enlarge.)

The Summer Fields/Mogu’shan Palace

The lake in south-eastern Vale, with the Shrine of Seven Stars in the background

The lake in south-eastern Vale, with the Shrine of Seven Stars in the background

View of Mogu'shan Palace from the south

View of Mogu’shan Palace from the south

The lake just north of Shrine of Seven Stars, looking down toward Mogu'shan Palace

The lake just north of Shrine of Seven Stars, looking down toward Mogu’shan Palace

The short waterfall from said lake...

The short waterfall from said lake…

Mogu'shan Palace has an amazing front yard!

Mogu’shan Palace has an amazing front yard!

Here's a closer look...

Here’s a closer look…

Jaluu the Generous has an awesome place to sit

Jaluu the Generous has an awesome place to sit

The Horde had this view a lot

The Horde had this view a lot

The little lake on the north side of Mogu'shan Palace. Such a tranquil place...

The little lake on the north side of Mogu’shan Palace. Such a tranquil place…

The Golden Pogoda/The Emperor’s Approach

The Golden Pogoda

The Golden Pogoda, with Shrine of Two Moons in the background

I'm going to miss you, friends... in spite of having to work so hard for your favor. Others of you... I'll be bringing my friends to fight against you.

I’m going to miss you, friends… in spite of having to work so hard for your favor. Others of you… I’ll be bringing my friends to fight against you.

The view west from the Pogoda, to The Emperor's Approach / Whitepetal Lake

The view west from the Pogoda, to The Emperor’s Approach / Whitepetal Lake

The largest Mogu statues ever!

The largest Mogu statues ever!

We fought Mogu ancestral spirits here...

We fought Mogu ancestral spirits here…

... and here's the view from the opposite side.

… and here’s the view from the opposite side.

Mistfall Village/Whitepetal Lake

Looking at Mistfall Village from the north east side of town

Looking at Mistfall Village from the north east side of town…

...and again from the west side.

…and again from the west side.

Whitepetal Lake

Whitepetal Lake

The lake is quite deep!

The lake is quite deep!

Perfect, pristine, beautiful.

Perfect, pristine, beautiful.

Ruins of Gou-Lai/Setting Sun Garrison

Ruins of Gou-Lai (and quest-givers)

Ruins of Gou-Lai (and quest-givers)

The approach to Gou-Lai Halls

The approach to Gou-Lai Halls… with sun-shafts!

Gate of the Setting Sun

Gate of the Setting Sun

Setting Sun Garrison, viewed from high above the wall.

Setting Sun Garrison, viewed from high above the wall.

Thankfully, from what I understand, Setting Sun Garrison will be untouched by the coming destruction. Because, you know, they don’t drink water there, and stuff.

And finally, a bonus…

This waterfall at the northern edge of Valley of the Four Winds - where we do the 1000-Year Water quest - pours Well of Eternity-colored water into the valley. Will that stop flowing now? Hmm...

This waterfall at the northern edge of Valley of the Four Winds – where we go to do the quest “1000-Year Water” for Nana Mudclaw – pours Well of Eternity-colored water into the valley. Will that stop flowing now? Hmm…

Closing

When the coming destruction was first announced, I watched the video and looked at the pictures, but that was months ago. I know what some of it looks like, but I will be seeing it again with new eyes when I log in later today. I’m looking forward to it… but I’m not looking forward to the awfulness, if you know what I mean.

The changes to the the Vale are devastating and probably irrevocable. They are also not phased, so every player will see the same thing, even those opening the Vale for the first time post-5.4. The Vale may heal at some point, but it will never be quite the same. I wanted to document how the Vale used to be for posterity, so that I can tell the young night elves about it when I am an old one.

I hope you enjoyed this post, and my amateur photography. This is a sad day, but we press on. Garrosh will fall!

Saya from Heals n Heels posted a haiku yesterday that is fitting for how many of us feel about what has happened and what is to come. Check it out here.

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


The time for alts is ripening

Gearing my DK on my terms… casually.

I’ve written before about how I’m sick of LFR. As such, I try to avoid it wherever possible.

I’ve certainly used it enough. I’ve raised four of my toons’ item levels drastically through the Raid Finder in MoP. It’s certainly an effective way to do so, in the long run (and barring any consistent bad luck). And, of course, some of the best gear is there, provided you’re not on a normal raid team. But I’ve gotten to a point where the mere idea of entering causes my mind to roil. At this point, I’ll only occasionally take my resto druid into an LFR, and usually only if I’m helping a guildie get some gear.

We’re in the dog pre-patch days of summer, and with the recent announcement that 5.4 will arrive on September 10th, it’s possible that some players have a lot to do, while others have very little – as per their respective interests. I am personally in a spot with my hunter where all he needs to do is attend his raids. He’s been Valor-capped for weeks in anticipation of new gear from Throne of Thunder (none), or, alternatively, the patch. And so, with the official patch-release announcement, he has more than two weeks left of general idleness with respect to Valor-grinding.

Thus, Death Knight Week has been happening at an opportune time for me, because this week, I’ve spent most of my time outside of raids on my burgeoning Blood DK, Saldrahn.

Since Saldrahn is relatively new, he’s not only green, but he also “needs” gear. A very important question (for the sanity) is this: how much gear does he need?

Well, as my seventh toon to reach 90, he’s not going to be a raider. He doesn’t need the legendary cloak. He doesn’t need tier gear. This doesn’t mean that he’s not important – right now, my resto druid is my favorite alt, with the warrior second, and the DK is a very close third. I don’t yet have the close connection with him that I have with the druid and warrior to varying degrees. But he’s a lot of fun to play!

While the warrior is a serviceable tank, and the druid is a serviceable healer, the DK is strong for both tanking and soloing. In fact, I’ve found him to be both more enjoyable and better to solo with in a tank spec than those other two classes, which has led me to a point right now where I spend most of my time on him. Dailies are the meat of that time, although they seem less of a chore because I’m doing them at my own pace on a fun character. Isle of Thunder, the Klaxxi, Shado-pan, and Barrens see me regularly. I’m steadily building up some VP, at my own pace. I can drop him for something important at any time, but he’s a lot of fun to go back to when I have the opportunity.

Anyway, since I know he’s not going to be a raider, I can cut out many activities that I know will not be fun – like spending tons of gold on spirits for crafted gear (because I’m a miser) or… yes, taking him into LFR.

I stated in my previous Death Knight Week post that I plan on tanking some dungeons with him at some point in MoP. I’m not in a rush to do that. When I do get around to that, it will be because I am looking to have fun, and I don’t expect that they will be difficult at his gear level. In the meantime, I’m casually gearing him. Here’s what he has so far…

- The boots from the quest where you help Seer Hao Pham Roo up the mountain: ilvl 502.

- The engineering helm: ilvl 476.

- The belt that can be purchased very cheaply from the Kirin Tor Offensive for gold: ilvl 476.

- BoE world drop Hit/Haste legs that, while not optimal, aren’t bad, either. ilvl 476.

- The crafted Mastery/Parry gloves (about 1k gold for the Blood Spirits): ilvl 496.

- Seal of the Unscathed, the ring from finishing the Klaxxi story: ilvl 489.

- The crafted two-handed sword (cost negligible for someone like me who just has extra Lightning Steel): ilvl 502.

- Relic of Niuzao (8k gold from the AH during Darkmoon Faire): ilvl 476.

- A Mastery/Exp chest that I got last weekend after doing my first weekly Barrens quest: ilvl 489.

- Various crafted blue gear to fill in the blanks: ilvls 450/458.

Overall, he’s sitting at a 473 item level. I have yet to step into a dungeon. I have not done any LFR. I have done no scenarios, beyond those in the the Barrens questline. I have no Valor gear. But I’m still more than geared enough to handle just about anything in Pandaria-world without much trouble.

And my prospects are good: before the next reset, I will have another Barrens piece; likely the shoulders. With 16 days left until 5.4, I have 1500 VP, and I should reach 2k+ before the next reset. In three days, I’ll be revered with the Shado-pan, which means I will be able to replace my Ghost Iron Dragonling with the sweet trinket they sell to tanks who are Revered, and still have plenty of room to be Valor-capped when the patch drops and the Shado-pan Assault necks have their prices discounted by 34%. At that point, I will start running dungeons, which will be great, because all of the non-Shado-pan Assault Valor gear is going to be purchasable with Justice points and won’t have reputation requirements. We’ll finally have a use for JP! And I should be able to purchase other SPA gear as I go, without stepping into LFR once, after 5.4.

The time for alts is finally arriving. If you’re like me and are tired of LFR, we’ll be at a point where gearing an alt has the most options ever without raiding: Valor and Justice “rep gear,” heroics being meaningful again JP-wise, scenarios if you desire, converting JP to HP if necessary, spending a little gold to fill holes in your gear set, the Timeless Isle… I’m really looking forward to this.

This week, I’ve had a lot of fun with my death knight, doing things at my own pace and taking all comers (NPC-wise). While I am itching to do something meaningful on my main hunter, it’s been nice to do a casual grind on a fun toon. I’ve found it relaxing, like a nice vacation from the frustration that randomness in WoW can be.

If you’re looking to gear up an alt, and you don’t need to raid with that alt, and you either hate LFR or are feeling shafted by the RNG gods, consider the alternatives to LFR. The recipe for casual gear progression is in the game now, and it will be ripening soon – coming into its own again at the end of the expansion in an almost perfect* manner. And you’ll be strong enough to do almost anything in the open world.

*”Perfect” would be if there were new dungeons in 5.4. I’m going to miss not having those. But I’ll survive.

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


Are we heading back toward less opposite-faction aggression in Expansion #5?

As 5.4 – reportedly the final raid patch of Mists of Pandaria – draws near, along with Blizzcon 2013, speculation is ramping up as to the exact setting and nature of the next WoW expansion. We’ve seen announcements and hoaxes and so on… I won’t go into those here.

However, I do wonder about how the story in the next expansion will affect our gaming experience, with respect to the intensity of conflict between the Horde and Alliance. As I see it, there are several possible factors that will determine this – beyond, of course, how much priority the game’s creators give to the conflict itself.

Here of a few of them, and, while they’re all related of course, to my way of thinking, these fit into two subsets of the equation.

A) The Antagonist and The Setting

1. Who is the big baddie, and what is the nature of the threat that he or she presents to the entirety of Azeroth?

2. Where will this entity come from / where will we be questing and fighting it?

Let’s expand a bit upon these questions.

1. Who is the big baddie?

I don’t know about you all, but to me, Garrosh Hellscream, the Thunder King, and the Shas don’t seem… quite as much the dire threats that recent end-bosses have been.

We’re coming off the threat, and subsequent destruction, of Deathwing. As in Deathwing the Destroyer. Consider that during the Madness of Deathwing fight, Deathwing periodically attempts to invoke a second cataclysm. The spell tooltip states that he is “trying to finish the job he started” – during the boss fight! It doesn’t get more dire than that, in my opinion.

Previous to this, we fought through a fairly long mess of Arthas’ minions en route to the Frozen Throne, where we fought the Lich King himself. Arthas, who murdered his own father and destroyed his kingdom and birthright, along with the lives of untold numbers from virtually every race and civilization on the known planet. Who made his presence felt all over Azeroth – even before players stepped onto one of the boats to Northrend – and constantly threatened and taunted us thereafter, until we came face to face with him.

While we did fight the Lich King in the coldness of his throne room, as opposed “out in the world” with Deathwing, it was still the climax of a story that went carried us throughout the expansion. One of the overarching themes of Wrath was that fighting the Lich King was a do-or-die task: if we did not defeat him once and for ever, he would eventually overwhelm the entirety of Azeroth with his might and that of his ever-growing Scourge army, and we would join him in our own unwilling undeath. And Icecrown, with its constant threats, the undead and insectoid trash, the ever-presence of his voice, all had a creepy effect on the raid instance, giving it a vast yet claustrophobic feel that enhanced one’s dread. The Lich King was an amazing antagonist for an expansion.

In contrast, the mogu and the sha – while obviously fascinating from the Titan connection and the burying of emotions manifested in as corporeal malevolent power – seem to really only be an imminent threat to the serenity and normalcy of Pandaria and those who live or go there. Sure, we’ll be descending on Orgrimmar shortly, and Garrosh is intent on using heretofore unseen power to expand the strength of his New Horde, but it still seems to me to be isolated in a way that we didn’t see in the past two expansions or so. Ok, so it’s Pandaria and Orgrimmar. And Theramore, before the expansion came out. Certainly not insignificant, but we’re already looking beyond this raid, and it’s not even out yet. And we’ve been looking for a while now.

In summary: while the Lich King and Deathwing were omnipresent threats to the whole of the peoples of Azeroth for the entirety of their respective expansions, Garrosh still seems like something of a noob, comparatively. And while his transformation has been swift and terrible, as apparently are his dreams of destruction, the situation seems less like a world-wide threat like those others, or like the Burning Legion.

2. Where does this entity come from, and where will we be playing?

This is a huge unknown. While the speculation recently has been about Azshara and N’zoth, and about the return of the Burning Legion, we really don’t know who and where we’ll be fighting. Will it be Azeroth, phased? Will it be a new place, like an underground/underwater expansion (please, dear Lord, no…)? Will it be a phased Azeroth and a phased Outland? Will there be some other dimension that we go to, or some island off the coast of whatever that has only ever previously been hinted at?

In BC, Wrath, and Cata, we had a host of neutral factions that chose to put themselves apart from / above the Alliance and Horde for the good of the world. In MoP, we have several as well, but we seem to have more Alliance or Horde factions than we’ve seen recently. The Kirin Tor Offensive vs. the ousted Sunreavers. Dominance Offensive vs. Operation: Shieldwall. Jinyu vs. Hozen. Tushui Pandaren vs Huojin Pandaren. And while we’ve had conflicting Horde-based and Alliance-based factions before, it has long seemed that we were generally fighting for a common cause, regardless of affiliation: the Argent Crusade/Ebon Blade/Ashen Verdict. The Avengers of Hyjal, and so on.

Based on Wrathion’s forboding conversations during parts of the Legendary questline, it’s easy to presume that there is an imminent,  dire threat to the world. When he beheld an image of the world, and spoke of an unimaginable power threatening Azeroth, it was easy to let our thoughts go to their speculative space. “Hmm, does he mean Sargeras? Old gods? Bolvar Fordragon going insane? Azshara? Something we’ve never heard of before?” Etc.

While we don’t know what we will face, if Wrathion is right and, in the next expansion, that unknown power surfaces and threatens the fabric of the Azerothian universe, the Horde and Alliance will likely have to put aside their differences again.

B) The Warchief, the Horde, the Alliance, and the world

3. Who replaces Garrosh?

Names have been thrown about. Some are reasonable, others seem less so. The popular ones include Vol’jin, Sylvanas, Lor’themar Theron, Baine Bloodhoof, and Varok Saurfang. The most divisive idea – even more so than Sylvanas – seems to be that Thrall could reassume his position.

There seem to be some generally accepted thoughts on the levels of Alliance-Horde conflict that could result from the choosing of some of these people. Baine, Vol’jin, Thrall, Lor’themar, and Varok seem to be somewhat less hostile and more reasonable. Sylvanas has been one of the more aggressively anti-Alliance leaders of late (see: the northern part of Eastern Kingdoms, post-Shattering), and would likely be the leader that the Alliance would have the most objection to. Which leads to the next part of this subset…

4. How does his replacement come into power? Who has influence over that decision? 

One of the biggest questions, post-Garrosh, is how much influence certain entities will have over the selection of the next warchief.

Assuming that Thrall isn’t reinstated, will he have a say? And will his be a “final say,” giving credence to the idea that he ultimately has the most universal respect among Horde-related leaders (and the Alliance, for that matter)?

And, for that matter, how will the Alliance be involved in all of this? Are they going to march on Orgrimmar – the combined might of all of the factions along with the Darkspear Rebellion – unseat Garrosh, and then say, “Well, good work, all. Grats on loots, see you next time” and head back to their respective homelands? Or will they insist upon sitting at council with the remaining leaders of the Horde and the “neutral” parties involved (such as Thrall), in order to monitor, moderate, or otherwise influence the picking of the next warchief, directly or indirectly?

Will they allow the Horde to be as they were – allowing them autonomy, while insisting on some treaties to keep things copacetic – or will there be an Alliance Kor’kron-like presence in Orgrimmar for the foreseeable future?

Or, will Wrathion’s prophecy fall upon us and the world before there is any resolution?

Looking at what has happened doesn’t make predicting the future any easier. The general questions I ask in this post merely splash the waves in the sea of possibilities regarding the next expansion, and I’m not enough of a lore nut to write cogently about anything much deeper than this.

I do think that we’re facing multiple “mind. blown.” scenarios in the next several months. Assuming that Blizzard announces the next expansion sometime within the month-long window leading up to and including Blizzcon, it’s likely that we’ll soon have a grasp of the nature of the next expansion’s lead antagonist, the new “area” – if there is one – and perhaps even some idea of the level of faction antagonism. And if there is indeed a post-Siege patch that wraps up the warchief question and begins to lay out foundations for Expansion #5, we’ll have some closure there, too… maybe.

My gut feeling is that we will face a danger that once again makes the Alliance-Horde squabbles seem trivial, and that, while there will be different flavor to the factions’ leveling experiences, the anti- nature of those differences will be toned down compared to what we’ve seen in Mists of Pandaria.

Of course, I could be completely wrong.

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


Trying a different strategy on the route to the ‘Valor of the Ancients’ buff

Last week, I managed to get all three of my favorite toons Valor-capped. Not only that, but they were all capped by early Sunday.

I want to say that I don’t know how that happened, but I do. Basically, I raced to the cap on Mushan: weekly Barrens quest, heroic scenario (A Brewing Storm can bite it, by the way), some dailies, a heroic dungeon, and a section of LFR, and I had 605 points by Tuesday night. Tuesday night! Soon after that, he was capped, and my druid and warrior were also on their respective ways to the cap.

Saturday night and Sunday night, we raided. But on Monday, I was completely bored; as such, in addition to writing the bulk of three blog posts – two of which were posted on Monday and Tuesday, and the other one is slated for sometime in the not-so-near future – I took Mushan out to the Barrens again and quickly farmed up all the items needed to turn in the weekly Barrens quest for this week. Yes, I was that bored.

Then on Tuesday, I had a weird day at work that caused me to have a massive headache all night. So once again, I didn’t want to do too much. I farmed my Barrens stuff on the warrior, did Sha and Galleon on the druid with a couple of guildies, and called it an early night.

Wednesday, I woke up without a headache, thankfully. But I found myself still not interested in doing Isle of Thunder on the hunter, or waiting in long queues for LFR. I need exactly zero pieces in LFR. The only things I need from there are the Titan Runestones that drop from the final six ToT bosses (supposedly – apparently they are hard to come by, and I saw zero last week).

It’s a very different feeling from last week. For some reason, I just don’t have the energy. So I decided to take a different tack, one that I didn’t ever think I would want to take: cap on the druid first this time.

So, as of this writing, I’ve done just that. On Wednesday, a guildie and I ran three wings of ToT. I turned in my Barrens weekly that night. Thursday night, I did some quests after work, but when Squido asked me to run some LFR with his shaman, I just had to take the hunter in there, because it was likely to be the only chance I had to get relatively quick queues as a DPS. The rest of the evening was dedicated to running the final three wings of ToT with him, and that was about all that I had in me, so the druid got no more attention.

Friday, I finally capped. Some dailies in the morning, and four wings of T14 LFR at night, brought me to 1,000 VP on Anacrusa. Meanwhile, Mushan is at 597 going into the weekend.

He’ll cap – there’s no question there. No problem.

“Now, why would you do that,” you might ask?

The reason I decided to try this different tack is because we raid on weekends. With the reset on Tuesday, capping on Mushan before we raid means that I get exactly zero VP from our normal kills. This normally doesn’t bother me; I just wanted to see if I liked doing it better this way.

Additionally, since all that I need from ToT is the chance at Titan Runestones on Mushan, it seemed like a novel idea to try to be more fervent about getting gear for toons that can actually use it. It makes sense, in theory… in general…

However, now that I’m here, I don’t know if this is something I will repeat any time soon.

Granted, because of the flexible nature of my work schedule, no two weeks are exactly alike. And this week has been somewhat busy, between work and real life responsibilities. So it’s not a truly equal contrast or comparison between situations, but nevertheless, I think I actually like my usual way of going about this better than this experimental week.

There are several reasons…

1) Everything goes better with the hunter. While the queue times can be longer if I don’t go with a healer or tank, the play just flows. And questing is a breeze. I can be farming the Barrens or doing dailies while sitting in queues for heroics and LFR, and make a seamless transition whenever the queue pops.

2) In comparison, the druid, which I quest with as a guardian, is slower. There are advantages to going this route with her: as a tank, I can round up several mobs, build up a lot of vengeance, and survive while I complete quest objectives. However, given the approximately 50-ilevel difference between the hunter and the druid quest-spec gear that I have, there’s still no contest: the hunter blows stuff away with all deliberate speed; the druid plows through it slowly and methodically, like an ox.

3) Healing. Healing is great, and I have a lot of fun with it. However, it comes with its own set of stresses. I’ve already got that ‘I can’t let him die, even if he’s doing something really really stupid’ mentality that healers have, which can lead one to a point where it feels like it’s time to take a break. So while chain-queuing as a healer sounds like a great idea, it doesn’t always turn out to be the most enjoyable option.

4) Bottom line: compared to last week, I’m behind. My warrior has… zero VP. The hunter will be fine, but the warrior is not going to have the kind of Valor I want for him by the time Monday night rolls around. He’s usually the hardest for me to cap anyway, because the way I play him (prot) can get a bit slow and intense. But a week with almost nothing to show for it on that toon isn’t all that fun for me, even though it looks like this could be one of those weeks with him. We’ll have to see.

Maybe “wasting” raid VP isn’t a bad thing when I think about it this way: if I’m going to grind, I’d rather do the lion’s share of it on the hunter – raid VP be damned. Doing it my normal way makes the other toons feel 30% less grindy, which helps me enjoy them more.

As I said, this week and last week aren’t ‘apples to apples,’ but I won’t be surprised if I go back to my normal Valor Point Acquisition Strategy when next week rolls around. However, that doesn’t mean I won’t use take this road again, some other time. I’m just not going to make it my main path.

She isn’t my hunter, after all.

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


So… alts?

This past Monday, Bashiok let us all know, via a Twitter response, that 5.3 would not be dropping this (current) week.

On the surface, this was bad news for some people. People like me, who have been Valor capped on their mains and/or basically done with Isle of Thunder for a little while now, without much meaningful to do without getting into some avenue of the game that they enjoy less (like PvP, pet battles, etc., etc.).

On the other hand, there are people who feel that things are moving too fast, that there is not enough time to do everything they want, who play lots of alts and want more time for them, who want an extra week or two to hit the VP cap before Item Upgrading becomes available, etc. For these folks, it was great news.

I’m among those in the first group, with Mushan. I’ve been max-VP capped since the 3rd or 4th of May, have nothing to spend VP on, have been done with the Isle of Thunder story for a while, and so on. For me, the wait has been frustrating. I went from trying to let go of the grind to having almost nothing in the game that has real progressive meaning without killing new raid bosses. So I was disappointed when 5.3 didn’t happen this week.

So… alts?

For me, the answer is yes. And, this past weekend, I had a certain alt in mind…

Anacrusa!

Anacrusa!

Yes folks! I shook a boatload of dust off my druid last Saturday.

This is the same druid that has largely remained parked at the Stormwind Auction House selling leg enchants, or at Halfhill farming motes to make those leg enchants with.

Now why, you might ask, would I want to do such a thing?

Well, you can’t discount aesthetics, for one thing. I mean, just look at that killer transmog she has going on. It’s one of my favorites! (And it took some serious farming to put those pieces together back in the day, too!) Plus, she’s a female night elf, and they look pretty badass anyway, especially with the particular tattooing/facial structure combo that I chose for her at the character creation screen.

Plus, fire trees.

So anyway, that’s settled… it’s been a joy to get to see that gear in action this week.

Aside from aesthetic appeal, playing Anacrusa represented some very new territory for me in MoP. Thus far, I’d leveled two tanks (including this toon), two hunters, and a mage to level 90. Now, this is not necessarily one-dimensional play – I know several people who have four or five max-level DPS toons and nothing else, and that is certainly not me. With those toons, I have three of the four bases covered (yes, I finally put together a Fury spec for the warrior… and it’s NOT pretty, folks): tank, ranged DPS, melee DPS. Additionally, I have my Prot pally and Blood DK in the wings… so in some ways, that’s more of the same. It’s probably also part of the reason the DK is still waiting for me in Grizzly Hills…

Lately, though, I’ve been wanting to do something different. And I may have known that subconsciously, but it took me a while to conjure up an active realization – along with some balls* – that I wanted to do something related to healing.

*I have a rough time jumping feet-first into certain things that require some responsibility that I might fail to live up to, and it’s always been that way. Takes me some internal argument to take a new toon into PvP, for instance. To heal. To tank important stuff. It’s just my nature – I am a timid one at heart, I suppose.

For a while, I thought about my options. I could finish leveling my pally, but I don’t really feel like doing that right now (and haven’t for some time). I could level a priest or shaman, but I really don’t feel like doing that either. Same with a monk. So that left the druid.

Finally, last weekend, I dug her out of the mothballs. I put together something of a really bad PvP set, thinking to myself that I could do some BGs and get some gear. But I never made it into a BG, or at least I have yet to do so. She had over 2000 Valor stored up from doing cooking dailies over the last several months, and was well on the way to some nice reputation with certain factions, so I started working on that a little bit, with the idea that I could build up a set and step into LFR to try things out. Along the way, I made her the 496 crafted pieces, along with the 502 Reborn mace, and I bought her the 476 off-hand, the Darkmoon trinket, and the 522 Valor necklace. I made some more “Crafted Gladiator’s” pieces, and soon stepped into Mogu’shan Vaults.

Over the past seven days, I’ve gotten her ilevel up from sub-450 to 481! All but three pieces are epics as of this writing. Other than a couple of bad experiences (along with the bosses in ToES being very stingy), the T14 Raid Finder raids were fun and rewarding. I grew leaps and bounds as a healer throughout the week – which is good, because I was starting at about as close to the bottom as someone can be without not having actually healed before**.

**I’ve healed before. Not much, though, and not for quite a long time. And never in raids.

The goal, once I got into it, was to be eligible to run some ToT LFR by this weekend. As of this morning, mission accomplished. I ‘stayed Klaxxi’ consistently enough this week to get the Exalted (Shadows of the Empire) ring today, and I also hit Revered with the Kirin Tor Offensive, which enabled me to grab the cloak from their vendor. And getting a couple of Keys to the Palace of Lei Shen enabled me to stay well-stocked in coins, so I was able to roll on every relevant T14 boss and get a few nice pieces that way.

So Anacrusa is now a Resto druid, for the time being. Awesome!

I quested as Guardian, which may seem odd, except for the fact that I already had a full set of guardian gear from when I was leveling, etc. that was good enough to be daily quest-worthy. I found that I was able to pull multiple mobs at once on Isle of Thunder with little problem. It was also much more enjoyable than doing it as a boomkin would have been.

Overall, I’ve had fun with her this week. It was a very fun diversion from the norm and the tedium, and brought new life into my enjoyment of the game. Plus, it was great to get back on my old main and have fun playing her for the first time in many, many months.

Tomorrow, it’s back to the hunter, as we attempt to make some progress in ToT for reals this weekend. I do hope to get Anacrusa through a couple of wings of ToT LFR before the reset, though, because there are a couple of Shado-Pan Assault items that I’d like to purchase for her, but I need to be Friendly with them to do so. We’ll see how that goes. Meanwhile, I need to make sure that I can still remember how to play Mushan!

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


Pet taunts on the Isle of Thunder

With Patch 5.2, I got rid of my rarely-used PvP off-spec and set up a questing/soloing SV spec, glyphed and talented for pet healing and a little bit more utility. With the Isle of Thunder containing clusters of mobs with higher health levels, quest “bosses,” rares, solo scenarios, and so on, I felt that it would make my life a little bit easier, and it definitely has.

Pet Growl is great in MoP – very effective in situations like this. Because I’m a lazy hunter, I usually just leave Growl on. Lots of other hunters do the same thing, which makes it kind of humorous when you’re fighting a rare with two hunters on it and the pets keep taunting off one another.

However, I’ve been learning (again) that, when hunters do this in certain situations, it’s not as funny on the other side of the ball.

While the knowledge has always been there, this was really brought home to me over the past week with my warrior tank. Stage 4 opened last week, bringing more “boss” quests per day, and more rares to kill. A couple of these bosses, including Itoka, Master of the Forge, and Metal Lord Mono-han, put a lot of bad on the ground in the form of energized metal, roaming electric sparks, electrified water, and so on. These things are obviously good to get out of, and likewise, kiting the boss out of or away from them is imperative.

As a prot warrior – and hence, on the other side of the ball with regard to the relationship with tanking pets in these situations –  I’ve repeatedly been frustrated when hunters keep Growl on when it’s pretty obvious that I’m tanking the boss. It’s pretty annoying when, as a tank, you can’t kite the boss out of persistent bad because the pet is taunting him immediately after you do, every time.

With Itoka, the roaming sparks are a constant nuisance, and Metal Lord’s “Toss Energized Metal” is similar, although in his case the danger circles are static. In either case, constant re-positioning is fairly mandatory, and, as someone who enjoys tanking, I like moving the boss around to give everyone the best chance to do damage and to take a minimum of damage themselves. This is virtually impossible when the hunter either ignores this concept or is completely unaware that it’s a problem.

I do take solace from the fact that, on several occasions, hunter pets have died during these fights, and I’ve been able to resume controlling the boss’s position. But here’s the bottom line about hunter pets constantly taunting off the tank and standing stationary in bad stuff, regardless of whether hunters care about their pets dying:

IT TAKES LONGER TO KILL THE BOSS THAT WAY.

Potentially a lot longer.

When the pet has either of these bosses, and the hunter isn’t spending any time re-positioning it like a normal tank should, the original tank and any other melee DPS cannot do their normal damage to the mob. They could, theoretically – but that would involve taking boatloads of damage due to spending way too much time being hit by electrical charges of one form or another, and likely dying if they didn’t get out in time. The AoE damage on these fights is no joke; even as a decently geared tank, it’s virtually impossible to stand in one of these circles for the entire fight and survive. And even if there is no AoE around for the moment, a tank taking no damage is building up zero vengeance, so his/her damage for that time period is going to be pretty anemic.

And pets don’t have a vengeance mechanic, so there’s absolutely no “win” in pet tanking when there’s someone else there that wants to tank the boss for you.

There have been several occasions over the past week where a hunter pet has taken control of the boss, and I’ve been forced to stand outside the circle, telling the hunter to “please turn off Growl” (if the hunter is Alliance) and tossing Heroic Throw because I can’t otherwise reach the boss. I try to make it obvious, without resorting to being unpleasant, that I. can’t. do. anything. And neither can that ret pally or DK or rogue standing next to me. And the boss loses health at a much slower rate, and it’s just a huge pain in the ass, because nobody can do what they would normally be doing in that situation, other than the hunter.

So, a word to wise hunters: please keep the Growl button on your pet bar. Know when to turn it off – and if you don’t know when to turn it off, it’s any time you don’t need to be the tank on a rare or a quest “boss.” And use Glyph of Stampede, so that it turns off Growl on all of your stampeding pets as well. Because if you don’t, you’re needlessly making your own dailies – not to mention others’ – take a bit longer to complete. Which sucks, because dailies take enough time as it is. Don’t shoot yourself in the foot.

Bad pun intended.

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


An in-game excuse to slack off

(Writing this on Wednesday evening.)

This past week-plus has been spent not doing quite as much as I normally do over the course of a day or week in WoW, following my previously detailed realization that I am suffering burnout due to over-exposure to the Valor grind(s).

While I continue to cap my hunter, I’ve been purposely slacking on every other toon. I spent a good deal less time doing just about everything that I normally do last week, except for raiding, than I have in a long time, and that was good.

Raiding

We skipped last week’s Friday night alt raid due to some absences, which was totally fine by me. The main group finally stepped back into Terrace and cleared that for the first time, which was nice. We downed Garalon. We’re planning on finishing up HoF this Friday if we can get enough people (Easter this weekend means, for good reason, that our weekend raid is cancelled). We can clear Jin’rokh every week, basically, so that’s good, because many of us need the gear he drops. But Horridon will wait until April, which is fine.

Isle of Thunder and The Thunder Forge

This raid lockout – while still “young” – has been kind of fun, since Stage 4 of the assault on the Isle of the Thunder Throne is now open. While doing my dailies on my hunter on Tues., I finally got to see The Thunder Forge, get my quest to learn how to make Lightning Steel Ingots, and start working on building up a store of such ingots to put toward creating some cool “reborn” weapons.

For some reason, I got all excited about this – perhaps it’s because I’ve been learning recipes for gear from making Magnificence of Leather and Imperial Silk since 5.2 Day One, so it’s nice that my two Blacksmiths (hunter and warrior) can finally start doing the same. Not sure why Blizzard made Blacksmithing this way, since the weapons that can be made after 29 days look like they will cap out at 489, which is hardly current raid levels. I imagine that this might be their reasoning – which I think is flawed, since there’s really no grounds for the penalty – but even if it’s not, I don’t have the interest or energy to hunt for an official answer. At any rate, I’m happy to be able to do those “transmutes” now, since I have a couple of toons that can use weapons of that level – appreciating that, at this point, my interest in gearing up alts via Raid Finder is at something of an absolute all-time low.

Shado-pan Assault rep and 5.2 Valor gear

Last week’s announcement that Patch 5.3 will see the Item Upgrade NPCs returning from their respective vacations was one that, at the time, merely sparked my interest. The reduced costs (500 VP for an 8-ilvl increase per item) mean that upgrades will be more flexible and user-friendly – more like putting a gem in a piece of gear (although not exactly like it) and less like buying an entire new item. Easier to commit to.

That kind of thing, I find interesting, whether it’s the old model or the new one.

However, things were thrown into a different light this evening as I neared the “Honored” threshold (of my ongoing quest to gain rep with the Shado-pan Assault) on Mushan.

When the Valor gear was initially revealed, I glanced at it. Wow, nice trinket. Lot of Hit, but nice proc. Other pieces… most of them upgrades. Nice. No helm or boots… but those can be crafted at a later date. That’s good. Etc.

I bought the neck immediately, and shortly thereafter I purchased the trinket, then the ring and the bracers. Everything was good there – my Hit Rating was a little high for a short while, but it’s under control at the moment.

In the meantime, however, I’ve had some decent luck with a couple of other slots. I got the Thunderforged legs (528) on our very first Jin’rokh kill. Our third kill resulted in the shoulders (522) on a bonus roll. I’ve gotten several pieces in Raid Finder, but the only piece I’m able to use right now is the cloak (502) from Ji-Kun. Nevertheless, I’ve got some decent gear going for me right now, which is helping me stay competitive and contributing to our team.

However, the combination of gear that I’ve acquired from Valor and drops means that I’ve suddenly run into a weird wall. Because of the fact that I still have the T14 2p bonus going on (helm and gloves), and the legs I got are so good, and there’s so much hit (or blue sockets) on the gear that is available to me, I’ve reached a point where my need for Valor Points is rapidly diminishing. Having just reached SPA-honored, I’m seeing a small upgrade with the cloak, which I’ll buy on Thursday. However, the legs are a direct downgrade from my 528s, while the gloves would break my set bonus. So for the next month or so, I really do not need much in the way of VP.

This looks to continue to be the case once I hit revered. At that point, the belt is totally sweet – and will be a must-buy – but the chest is loaded with Hit, Expertise, and two blue sockets with a +120 Agility socket bonus. For real, Blizzard? Beg pardon, but… are you shitting me?? So that’s a big kick in the sack – although it’s still a minor upgrade as things stand with my gear right now, believe it or not, because of the Agility bump. I’ll have to reevaluate when I get there, but I can see myself going “no thanks” when the time comes. And at exalted, the shoulders (with a 700g cost?) are a slight downgrade from Jin’rokh’s, so I’ll probably pass on those too.

All of that to say that my need for VP is likely to diminish rapidly, and is likely to stay that way until 5.3 arrives and upgrades return. I’ll be hitting those babies hard when the opportunity to use them finally arrives.

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A side-note about all of this – and, incidentally, the title-theme of this post – is that this could possibly go a long way toward momentarily easing my demand for VP on my hunter. With no demand for Valor – and I’m talking almost no demand for several weeks – I could possibly just forego questing on that toon for a while. This would open up more time to play other toons for fun, or to simply not play them much at all. Which wouldn’t be a bad thing at this point. I’ve got a strong desire to dig into that copy of Kingdoms of Amalur that’s been staring at me for a while from the shelf.

All I have to do is make sure that I have enough VP to buy the cloak, buy the belt, and be capped for upgrading purposes when 5.3 arrives, and I will be all set. Depending on when that happens, I could conceivably have that taken care of just from raiding, which would be nice. That’s my favorite end-game thing to do on my hunter anyway.

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


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