Brew-mess: How Mist of Pandaria’s Brewfest scheduling will effect my leveling experience

Update 8/1/2012: It was announced a couple of days ago that Blizzard is moving back Brewfest at least a week, meaning the likely start date will be around September 28th. This is great news for everyone who wants to be able to enjoy the festival while also getting started on leveling and enjoying the new expansion content. This makes me very happy. Great work, Blizzard! 

I just read that Brewfest will indeed be going on as Mists of Pandaria releases, and that Coren Direbrew will only be available to players level 89 or 90. This puts a cramp on anyone’s plans – including mine – to use Brewfest to get cheap and easy trinkets out of the bargain.

I was hoping they would move Brewfest back a couple of weeks, in all honesty. It makes sense, and it doesn’t trivialize the holiday, which is a popular one in Azeroth.

Anyway, as the schedule works out, Coren Direbrew will technically only be available for 10 days – the first ten days after the MOP launch – during which time people will be leveling, pushing through bottlenecks, and all of that good stuff. For those of us who plan to level mains quickly, this isn’t necessarily a problem. I see myself having at least five, and probably six, days to farm him for Coren’s Cold Chromium Coaster on my hunter.

However, Mushan is probably the least of my worries (although I really, really would like to have a 470 ilvl trinket to play with that early in the game). I do play more than one toon, and so it would be really nice to have the opportunity to get the Brawler’s Statue for both my druid (especially) and my warrior before it becomes fairly obsolete, and one of the stamina trinkets for each would be nice as well. And the Mithril Wristwatch would be nice for playing my balance druid early in MoP, if I decide to do so. It would be nice to have those options.

As it is, here is how I see the leveling process going after release: I’ll level Mushan (hunter) quickly out of the gate, since my goal is to be ready to run level 90 dungeons with my guild-mates by Friday or Saturday of that first week. Once Mushan is leveled, he won’t stop being my focus, but I will nonetheless begin to level Anacrusa (druid) shortly thereafter. I’m thinking about leveling her as a guardian, although that’s not written in stone. Regardless of spec, I don’t anticipate that it will be easy for me to get her to level 90 before Brewfest is over. But since she is not my number one priority, it would be nice to be able to do so, in order to have the chance to spam Direbrew for those trinkets. The dodge and stamina trinkets would be nice early on, since I won’t be able to chain Dungeon Finder like I will on Mushan.

As for Droignon (warrior), well, he’s basically SOL. I’m not hardcore enough to level three toons in nine days while also preparing my hunter for raiding, so I guess he’ll have to come by his trinket assortment the more natural way. Upon reflection, I’m pretty satisfied with that, but I can’t help but think that it would be cool to be able to get him some good gear early on, rather than relegating him to underdog status when I do get around to playing him as a level 90 tank.

On one hand, toons like that are good to have for the times when things calm down before patches – toons that I “still need to gear up” – and so on. On the other, I’d like to have him be one of my main alts, but since I have so many professions that I will also be working on (spread over six toons for the main ones), that’s going to be difficult to achieve in Tier 14.

Ah well. At ilvl 470, there’s a chance that in September 2013 I will have a toon or two that could benefit from Coren’s trinkets. It just seems a shame that they’ll basically be obsolete well before that point in time. Then again, it’s not like we usually have an expansion launch that falls during an in-game holiday, with a boss that drops usable loot…


Progression feels good

The hunter

When I started this blog about a month ago, I had just begun raiding again.  I’d been running Raid Finder Dragon Soul for months, and had gotten to a point where my item level was about as high as it could be without killing Alizabal or setting foot in Heroic Firelands or Normal DS: RF Tier 13 4-piece set, along with Zeherah’s Dragonskull Crown, Batwing Cloak, the crafted bracers, Valor ring / belt / boots / necklace, both RF weapons, and the Matrix Restabilizer.  That put me at around a 390 ilevel, perfectly fine for normal modes, but not quite high enough for progression.

Our guild raids the 10-player versions.  I had told my raid leader that I was available wherever he needed me, although we both agreed that I didn’t quite have the gear for much in the way of heroic progression.  Within a couple of weeks of alt raids, I had Kiril, Fury of Beasts, a 397 tier chest, the Valor trinket, and Destroyer’s End, as well as a Heroic Morchok kill.  A spot opened up on the progression raid team, and he asked me to run with them.

At the time, the team was 2/8 HM (Morchok/Ultraxion), and the raid invite instructed study for Zon’ozz and Yor’sahj.  I put in some time watching video, taking notes, and reading up the finer points of the fights at Icy Veins.  The raid team had decided collectively to focus on progression at the expense of clearing DS every week, due to time constraints, meaning that we would likely stop at Ultraxion for a while as we worked through the second, third and fourth bosses.  Despite our best efforts to get some Protector tokens in the alt raids, as well as a bow and Agility trinket from Madness and Spine, respectively, drops had been scarce, so I went in with them on that first night sitting at 393 and feeling that I would have to play very well in order to not hold the rest back.

The first week (4/22), we spent quite a bit of time on Zon’ozz before switching to normal and killing through Hagara, and then I got my Heroic Ultraxion achievement.  (During the next night’s alt raid, I switched out the druid after we killed Ultraxion for my hunter, in order to have another chance at the bow, etc.)  Last Sunday, we came back and, with some adjustments, killed Heroic Zon’ozz on our third attempt, which was pretty effective.  We then spent the rest of the evening working on Heroic Yor’sahj, coming fairly close to killing him once (~1.5%, if I recall correctly).  We decided to take an extra night and try again last Monday, and we did indeed come back and down him the next night, which we followed by completing the rest of the instance anyway since we had the time.

Not bad for one weekend.

(Still, no bow.  Ah well.)

It was very exciting – two heroic progression kills in one weekend, my second with the team!   Granted, it’s Dragon Soul – not any of the earlier tiers, which were more challenging in my opinion – but it was intense and gratifying.  It was also nice to get the Yor’sahj kill before Tuesday’s most recent Dragon Soul nerf.  Personally, I felt that I could hold my own with the rest of them, although I certainly didn’t play perfectly.  My damage was solid though relatively unspectacular, and since I was learning the fights along with many of them I didn’t feel like I was holding anybody back.

Tonight, we’re looking to work on Heroic Hagara.  It’s going to be tough, although the nerf will make it a little easier.  With new 397 shoulders, 410 gloves and the Starcatcher Compass, I’m sitting at 395, so I feel less like an underdog, gear-wise.  Once I post this, it’s time to revisit Fat Boss and Icy Veins to brush up on the Hagara strategy.

I’m running as Survival, which I’ve done for the entirety of the tier on Mushan.  I have run RF DS a few times as Marksmanship on my alt hunter, Ghilleadh, who has no set bonus yet, and the first alt raid I ran with Mushan had no paladins in the group, so I did respec for that night to bring Trueshot Aura.  That was crazy – I hadn’t ever tried MM with the set bonuses, so I was learning a ‘rotation’ on the fly.  I was able to hang with the rest of the group, although I’m sure I wasted a lot of focus, but I haven’t needed to do it since, and I don’t expect to, given that I think I’m going to be on this team for the duration and both of our tanks are paladins.  MM works, but SV is more flexible for both movement and focus management, and at this point there’s little question that I’m currently playing 4-piece Tier 13 better as SV.

I actually like the look of this druid tier. I think I’ll forgo transmog on this spec for a while.

The druid

Anacrusa is absolutely not a priority relative to my hunter and the main raid team, but after weeks of bad drops and continued mediocrity playing moonkin, I had a banner gear night last night.

With 2300 Valor points in my pocket, I’ve been waiting and waiting for a fourth tier piece, both in order to have the set bonus and so I knew which off-set piece to buy (helm, chest or gloves).  I’ve been faithfully running RF DS, but between bad rolls there and bad luck during alt runs (other than Lightning Rod, which is an awesome weapon), I hadn’t gotten the chest or gloves to complete the 4-piece bonus.

Well, last night, all of that waiting came back to pay its respects in spades!  Running with two better-geared druids, a better-geared rogue, and no DKs or mages, I picked up four(!!) tier tokens and the Will of Unbinding.  With those five pieces, I only had two ilevel 378 pieces to replace, so I upgraded them with the Valor belt and relic.  I spent more gold than I care to discuss filling those pieces with epic gems, reforged, and voila!  My druid is now slightly better geared than my hunter.

This… this makes me both laugh softly to myself and shake my head in disbelief.

On one hand, it’s just annoying, because obviously I’d prefer my hunter to have better gear – he needs it, in some ways, more than she does.  On the other hand, I’m a better hunter than I am a moonkin.  Balance is a bit more frustrating for me to play, because movement almost requires Moonfire spam, while Survival huntering just requires focus to allow for some high-powered instant shots while on the run.  So in some respects, she needs the gear more than he does.  So I guess that’s good.

Seriously, I have to admit that I’m excited to try this new gear out next weekend, to see how much it helps me (and how the four-piece changes the way the rotation works out).

Closing

Anyway, that’s an update on last week’s raid progress.  I’m grateful for the opportunity I’ve been given, and proud of the recent success we’ve had.  Hopefully we can continue to progress over the next several weeks; I’m confident we’ve got the team to do it.

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


Letting go of a long-time main

Lissanna (Restokin) posted recently that she is seriously considering changing mains (away from her moonkin) after years of playing and writing about druids.  Unhappy with how balance plays in Dragon Soul, she’s also less than enthused about how druids are playing in beta, and is contemplating making the change after the Dragon Soul cycle, possibly to a mage.  (Check out her post for more info and comments.)

Changing mains is something I’m familiar with (previous post here).  While I really enjoyed the challenges and playstyle of the feral druid in Wrath of the Lich King, I soured on it, particularly for PvE, in Cataclysm, and am feeling even less positive about the spec in MoP.  While I’ve grown much more comfortable with balance, Anacrusa is no longer my main, as I’ve come to feel that playing my hunter is my greatest pleasure in WoW over the past year and a half.

<< Awesome sauce! >>

I definitely struggled with the switch as it evolved.  For the entirety of Cataclysm, my druid has remained my achievement leader, the character on which I prioritize reputations, professions, PvP, transmogrification, and so on.  I have used my hunter for the majority of my raiding during this expansion, although I have, as I said, grown comfortable enough with the balance “rotation” that I’ve generally been able to perform adequately in the raid encounters I’ve taken my druid into.

For a couple of years (2008 to late 2010), I was all about druids.  I loved playing one, felt a special affinity and familial relationship with other druids – particularly trees and kitties – in both the blogosphere and in game, and was “ever and always” excited about the prospects for the class.  I even rolled a second druid for the express purpose of learning the non-feral specs – a decision that proved fortuitous, both for learning that I don’t really have the mindset for healing and for learning the ways of the balance druid enough to convince me that balance was a viable possibility for my former main in Cataclysm.  At this point, though, that druid alt sits in Stormwind and occasionally makes glyphs for my other toons, and that’s about all it’s good for at this point.

Pulling away from my attachment to my druid, and druids in general, was made easier because of several factors.  Among them were: my own frustrations with playing the class; the retirements of several druid blogs that I followed, which eroded my sense of the community somewhat; the opening of my eyes to the vastness of – and the excitement within – the hunter community; and the sheer enjoyment I got from playing a hunter.  Playing a feral druid was great at one time, and playing a balance druid is functional; playing a hunter, on the other hand, is just awesome.

Personally, if I had changed my main from druid to mage, or to another class with the express intent of playing a high-dps class, I’m fairly certain that I would not enjoy the game as much.  Everyone is different in this regard.  Having an attachment to my main character is something that comes with my personality, and I haven’t ever been attached to another toon like I used to be with my druid, or am with my hunter now.  I enjoy occasionally playing my mage, or taking the hunter alt for a spin, or taking my prot warrior into battlegrounds, or leveling a different class.  However, the attachment to my main is strong.

I empathize with Lissana in her situation.  Ultimately, WoW comes down to doing what you enjoy.  If she finds that she enjoys another class more than her druid – and she’s certainly put plenty of time and focus into that toon and class, only to be disappointed with it over the past year-plus  – I recommend changing.  At the moment, she has a cute little gnome mage that she’s leveling, and I wish her the best with whichever toon she decides to make her new main, if she does go through with that choice.

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


Music for raiding: Týr – Hail To The Hammer

Tonight starts a three-night string of raids for me.  As of this raid lockout, I’ll be joining my guild’s regular Sunday raid team, which is currently 2/8 Heroic, on Mushan.  I’m currently 1/8 (Morchok, of course) Heroic on him, and we’ll be working on H Zon’ozz and H Yor’sahj as well as likely downing H Ultraxion.  In addition, tonight I’ll be running the regular Saturday alt run on Anacrusa (balance), and I’ll probably be breaking in my other max-level hunter, Ghilleadh, in the guild’s Monday alt run.

I don’t always do this, but I often like to listen to – or at least think about – music that gets me hepped up for kicking some ass before a raid.  It’s almost always of the metal variety (naturally), and as there are several songs that I like to choose from for this purpose, I thought I would start sharing them here on the blog.

For this first post, I’d like to share one of the most epic Viking-esque songs I know.  It’s called…

“Hail To The Hammer” by Faroese band Týr

For a game like WoW, this song just about has it all.  It sounds amazing.  It’s heavy.  It’s got the elements.  Folklore.  Gods.  Swords.  Hammers.  Hailing to hammers.  Hunters.  Tales of times of old.  Seasons.

Here are some of the lyrics:

Longing eyes turn into the sun, low in the winter.

Grey as a wolf, now the wind has come, cold as a hunter.

Ride across the sky; thunder roll and lightning fly.

Gone is the summer.  What will keep us warm in the winter?

Tales of those who died, sword-in-hand in times gone by.

Hail to the hammer!

Narrow eyes turn against the wind; out from the ocean,

Until the day when we sail again.  Life is a long pain.

Hail to the hammer!

To the god of thunder, the god that’s protecting us all,

All hail to the giant hunter, and hail to the forces of nature!  All!

As I said, this song has it all.  Hammers, swords, hunters, mythological figures, forces of nature, and tales of past battles and bygone heroes.  It makes me want to pump my fist, bang my head, and go in and kill stuff with my team even more than usual!

This song gets me hepped up to raid, and I thought I’d share it with you.  Hope you enjoy it!

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


Why I might abandon the feral spec entirely in Mists of Pandaria*

Kitty at the dummy

*See end of post for title asterisk reference.

A bit of backstory

Back in the period roughly between 2008-10, the feral druid community was blessed with several very useful blogs dedicated to ferals cats and bears.  Since then, some have disappeared – either because the blogger left the game (Feral Aggression – my favorite – and Of Teeth And Claws), or ceased posting (Primal Precision) – while others tend to post way less often nowadays (The Fluid Druid, Think Tank, Druid Of The Moon, etc.).  There are others that I can’t recall at the moment, because they’ve long been absent from my reader.

What’s true about this is that the decline in some of these blogs coincided with my rapid drop in interest in playing as a cat.

In Wrath, I ran as feral for both raids and PvP, killing up to and including all of the end bosses (and Onyxia, Sartharion, and Malygos) except for Yogg-Saron, Algalon, and Hallion, as either a cat or bear.**  I got to be pretty good at it, in large part because of the advice, strategies, theorycrafting, and enthusiasm of these bloggers.

When 4.0.1 hit, expectations for the feral class were low among us, because ferals were weak throughout the beta.  As a result, I didn’t even touch my druid for two days after the patch, focusing (no pun intended) on learning a new rotation with a new resource for my MM hunter.  In the meantime, ferals were buffed in a hotfix to compensate for their low damage, and after that were sitting pretty.  Bleeds were pretty strong from that point until the great kitty Mastery nerf, which happened as Tier 11 raiding was getting into full swing if I recall correctly. Before that, though, PvP as a feral was very fun.  Admittedly, bleeds were likely too powerful, and the nerf was much deserved, but it was great while it lasted.

My Cata feral experience

When ferals lost their ability to shapeshift out of snares, PvP became more difficult, although that was eventually fixed to some extent when Dash and Stampeding Roar gave us the ability to break them on a cooldown.  In general, feral druids have had a strong PvP expansion, with the ability to do some nice burst damage with adequate bleeds and good mobility.  In this expansion, I have gone exclusively feral for PvP, and have enjoyed its mobility, utility, and Skullbash, being able to defend flags well as a bear, and immunity from being sheeped or hexed, as well as from having my bleeds dispelled, among other things.

On the PvE side, things have gone very differently.  Once I hit 85 and ilvl 329 (12/2010), I began running heroic dungeons.  I quickly became very frustrated with the melee PvE experience.  Uptime has always been an issue for melee classes, but it became even more so with the difficulty of heroics at that ilvl, the changes to healing and mana, and the abundance of area damage in places like Throne of Tides.  I found myself having to be away from mobs/bosses quite a bit to stay out of “fire”, self-heal, and to not die in general.  This, among other things, led to me taking a month-long break from the game in January ’11.

When I returned, I stuck with PvP for a while and avoided dungeons on the druid, concentrating instead on my hunter, with whom I got plenty of dungeon experience.  Eventually I got to a point where I wanted to play my druid more, so – since I was much more comfortable playing a ranged toon at that point, and there was a rather well-known issue where T11 content in particular favored ranged – I cobbled together a pretty bad set of balance gear and started learning the spec.  For the remainder of the expansion, other than a couple of times where I’ve tanked, or played feral for a specific boss fight (like Erudax), I’ve played balance exclusively and become fairly comfortable with it.

I still quested as feral for the most part during Cata, although lately I find that I don’t care which spec I’m playing to quest, since my best PvE set is a balance set anyway.  Generally, though, playing a kitty still feels crunchy, bursty, and fairly fast.

Not looking forward to Mists of Pandaria

At least, not as a feral.  Here’s why.

Back to blogs: at this point, there are really only two feral blogs that I follow anymore.  One is The Fluid Druid, as I mentioned above.  The other is one that I began following at the beginning of Cataclysm, Druidify.

Reygahnci at Druidify plays PvP pretty much exclusively.  He is an arena veteran, and I have never done arenas, but I find his insights into PvP as a feral druid to give me better perspectives on my own play.  If you’ve never heard of Druidify, I highly recommend it.  Lately, he posts about once a week.

Recently, Reygahnci began posting about his beta impressions, and his most recent two articles have me feeling pretty pessimistic about playing a feral in MoP.

In the first, he talks about the differences between his level 85 cat on live and beta.  Here is a very small sampling:

  • Savage Roar now buffs all damage by 30% and is considered an enrage, which is easily dispellable.  Live, SR is an 80% buff to white swings only.
  • White swings are much, much more powerful: on live, they hit for 1.5k and Crit for 3k; on beta they hit for 5k and Crit for 10k.  With SR up, they go up proportionally to the Savage Roar buff definitions on live and beta, respectively.
  • Critical Strike is way down, from ~42% live to ~28% on beta.
  • And more.  Check out his post.

In his analysis, Blizzard seems to be moving a lot of melee damage away from burst and toward sustained damage.  Hence, the massive increase in white swing damage, Savage Roar change, and Critical Strike drop.  High sustained damage is going to require high melee-range uptime, as white damage as a percentage of overall damage is going to go up significantly.  Granted, druid mobility looks pretty good in MoP, but this is still a significant negative when it comes to PvP.

In his most recent post, he’s even more blunt in his analysis of the situation: one of the first sentences is basically “Why you should play a monk instead of a feral druid.” In it, he goes through and gives all of the reasons monks are better than ferals, and the evidence is pretty damning: his monk in ilvl 378 gear is significantly out-damaging his ilvl 403 kitty.

One of the worst things he mentions is that monks will be able to dispel bleeds, which is just not cool for ferals (among other specs).  Not cool at all.

Wrapping up

I find myself, here in the beta stage, not looking forward to playing a feral druid in the next expansion.  This is a bit of deja vu, obviously – I felt very similarly at this stage of Wrath.  It’s not a fun feeling.

However, I’m in a different place in some ways with regard to the druid.  For one thing, Anacrusa, while having by far the most achievement points, is not my main raiding toon, and no longer my only PvP toon since I can play the hunter as well.  For another, I’m basically an expansion removed from seriously raiding as a cat druid.  As a semi-competent balance druid, I’m at a place where I feel I have the confidence to not only raid as a moonkin, but to level as such, and also to PvP as balance, when Mists of Pandaria comes out.

It seems like it will be a good time to let the feral thing go.  And this may be true even if they undo some parts of the “sustained damage” philosophy for melee classes.

It does seem like feral is historically one of the more volatile specs.  Perhaps that’s just because I’ve played feral for a while, but between the end of Wrath and now, we’ve finally gotten that interrupt we were missing, were hotfixed to be OP, then nerfed and hobbled by the Mastery and shapeshift changes, had damage tweeks to our Shred and Mangle abilities to make them more similar while still never fixing the positioning issue, and so on.  Made to burst, made to bleed, made to do sustained damage. Given mobility, stripped of mobility, given some mobility back.

Personally, I like a feral druid to be bursty.  Alternatively, I’ll take a druid with strong bleeds.  I’ll even take a druid with a combination of the two.  But I’m not interested in playing a druid that’s as dependent on white damage as Reygahnci and Alaron (The Fluid Druid) see us being.  That just seems both more difficult and stupid – or less fun in general.

______________________

*For those hunters who have something against feral druids – and I know there are many out there (OutDPS-ers, WHU-ers, etc., along with those of both classes who hate each other for stealing “their” weapons, which is going away in MoP anyway) – yes, I play a feral druid sometimes, and I am proud to say I’ve done so fairly well.  I also play a night elf hunter.  I don’t give a rip about all of the anti-night elf / anti-feral antagonism; humorous or not, it has no effect on me. 

**I did toy with healing toward the end of the expansion, but that was out of sheer boredom, and I wasn’t very good at it.

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


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