Warlords of Draenor cinematic, release date, and other miscellaneous thoughts

It’s been quite a while since I chimed in here…

But now, with November 13th now solidly penciled in on the calendar, we have some long, long,

LONG…

-awaited closure with respect to the Warlords of Draenor release date.

As I mentioned back in March, the 11/13/14 release date means, since it is indeed after October 21st, that

“Warlords will have both A) taken the longest time-after-previous-expansion to release of any expansion in the game’s history and B) given players the greatest amount of down-time after the previous expansion’s final content patch in the game’s history.”

So, we’ll have to see how this expansion unfolds, with respect to measured content updates and shorter downtime between final patches and new expansions. That will be another year or two (or more). Blizzard says that they are already working on the next one, but we’ve heard that before. They’re still bleeding subscriptions, and they failed to solve that problem this go-round, so we’ll see.

The question is, how many of us will see…

* * *

Anyway, how about that cinematic? I have to say, I loved it, in spite of the exclusion of anything other than male orcs and a demon. The setting was compelling, the production spectacular, and the action was thrilling. I absolutely loved the flying-Grommash-axe-to-the-head killing of Mannoroth.

I’ve watched the cinematic approximately twenty times. It makes me want to do two things: re-read Rise Of The Horde, and read all of the books post-The Shattering – in particular, War Crimes. That’s something to put on the list of things to get done within the next three months.

It was quite possibly the best cinematic yet. As good as Cataclysm’s seemed at the time, this and the trailer for Mists absolutely destroy it, in my opinion. Wrath’s was awesome too, and I loved the original WoW trailer as well. Darkbrew published a list of his favorites, and mine would be similar.

Here’s a recurring thought I have every time we get the expansion trailer: Blizzard should make a complete movie with CGI. I’m willing to be impressed by the live-action movie that will grace us in a couple of years, but I would love to see something killer like the past couple of cinematics become a major motion picture. Perhaps the cost/risk would be too great – I don’t know about these things. But hey, a guy can dream, right?

* * *

I’m still playing, although I basically stopped raiding near the end of June. My job has been stressful, and I wasn’t finding it a productive use of my time to come home from work and promptly beat my head against a wall until a couple of hours after midnight, particularly when I would have to be back at work early the next day.

In fact, I’m becoming convinced that my raiding days may be behind me. Barring a change of circumstances, I’m not going to have the time and focus to commit to raiding and raiding well. Real life comes first, and I am at an age and in a situation where I can’t let structure in WoW interfere with my future. The idea of not raiding can be a painful one, but the way I’ve felt the past few months, I don’t know that I can do it going forward.

With that (and other things) in mind, my plans for Warlords have been shifting over the past couple of weeks.

I had already planned to not race to level 100. What’s shifting may surprise the socks off of some of you…

I’m thinking of leveling a different toon first. As in, not Mushan.

* * *

Why not Mushan? I know, it seems anathema to lifelong hunters out there, but I’m not the average WoW hunter. I’ll be honest: I’m not terribly happy with what I’ve read about the changes to Survival. It seems like it’s a shadow of its former self. I know that’s a simplified way to look at changes to the spec – and I’ll certainly try it out when Patch 6.0 goes live – but I’m not feeling it right now.

And, while I feel a little better about Marksmanship than SV, it seems like, pre-numbers-pass, Beast Mastery is the way to go. And (here’s where I know I differ from other hunters) I don’t enjoy BM. To me, it’s like being a guy with a water gun and a remote-control car, and you shoot your water gun and remotely control your car, which sometimes gets stuck on a rock in the dirt or some other protrusion and ends up getting stepped on. Perhaps this reflects the true lack of skill I have in the game, but I’ve never enjoyed playing a hunter less in the post-mana era than when I went BM for Council of the Elders in ToT.

Anyway… *washes hands of the issue* I’ll be able to better make a decision on that when the patch goes live and I’ve had a chance to try out each spec to see if I like one of them.

* * *

As for what I’ve been up to in WoW, there hasn’t been much of note.

I’m steadily making cloth for Royal Satchels: So far, Mushan and my druid, Anacrusa, are fully Satcheled-up, with a few other Satchels on various other toons. Now that we have a release date, I’m certain that I will not have full Panda-bags on each of my main toons, but I won’t need that space immediately since I am not racing them all to 100 ASAP, so I will probably leave Modhriel (my Tailor) at Halfhill for the foreseeable future while that project is going on.

I’ve taken up PvP on my druid, which has been interesting. With a gear set largely composed of Timeless Isle gear, about a week ago I stepped in and started losing a lot of random BGs. Compounding the gear problem was my inability to play the spec well, and vice-versa. It’s been a long time since I PvPed regularly on my druid – three years or so – so there has been a lot to learn. I felt a bit guilty for holding my teams back, but I shouldn’t have – I wasn’t the main problem. Most games, we were getting crushed. Ana in full Prideful gear wasn’t going to turn most of those matches into wins, believe me.

Along the way, I’ve picked up a few pieces of Grievous, and the weapon will be next (and a huge upgrade). Things are getting better: I’m getting the hang of the spec, which is my #1(a) goal, with #1 being to have fun doing something that is both old and new.

Aside from that, I’m casually grinding Valor on my warrior, druid, DK, and paladin. My mage has had horrible luck getting a weapon to replace his T14 Sha-Touched sword, so I’ve basically given up on that (and on grinding other gear and Valor) with him. When he finally gets to Draenor, he’s going to destroy mobs anyway, so I’m not terribly worried about it. Frickin’ guy has a 544 ilvl, so I think he’s going to be just fine, even in spite of his 491 weapon…

I’ve also been hitting up some old raids on Mushan. A couple of friends and I went into Ulduar last weekend and wiped the floor with 25-player mode, which scored me a boatload of achievement points. Before that, we did the same in ICC-25. I also finally completed my Valorous Cryptstalker set on my hunter (at least to a point where I could use the gear), which I may talk about in the near future.

* * *

Without making this a book, these are just some miscellaneous bits from the world of Mushan.

Etc.

More, soon. :)

* * *

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


Beta/launch dates, “killing” the Greench, and what I’ve been up to

Mushan surveys the mess created when the Greench shoved Christmas into this cave.

Mushan surveys the mess created when the Greench shoved Christmas into his hole.

With the holidays in full swing, raiding has been on hold since Thanksgiving. As such, things haven’t been very exciting for me in WoW, and I’ve consequently been playing less. I’ve also been playing less because work becomes very stressful (and the hours more extreme) this time of year, so my life around the game is something of a cycle of boredom and fatigue. “Not much goin’ on..” and “Don’t really care.” It’s weird, but it has felt like we’ve been in the pre-expansion doldrums since October, and my real-life commitments haven’t helped to alleviate that feeling for me.

Anyway… I was, for some reason, uncharacteristically excited about a holiday for once. I’m a Christmastime baby, and have always loved the season, so perhaps that partially explains why I was looking forward to The Feast of Winter Veil so much this year. That, and that there’s not much else going on.

I haven’t been that plugged in to the community lately either. Yes, I’ve read blog posts; and I’ve hopped on Twitter on occasion, but Twitter seems to be becoming so much like Facebook lately that it’s.. it’s just difficult for me. So I’m not as in the loop as I’m accustomed to being, but I am, somewhat.

At any rate, I am playing a little bit almost every day, when I have the energy. I’ve been writing, too, and some of those posts may survive and be published at some point. In the meantime, I have some thoughts to share about topics that are getting old at this point (because I’m usually late to dinner when it comes to putting in my two cents).

Beta speculation

One thing that there has been much excitement about since Blizzcon has been speculation on beta and launch dates for Warlords of Draenor. In my small world, The Godmother has been the most vocal about it, recently organizing a pool of sorts, where people could pick release dates. She also writes consistently about the expansion at her blog, Alternative Chat. From what I can tell, she is both a proponent of a quick release schedule and believer that it is likely to happen. It’s all fun, and speculation is just that, but I tend to be much more skeptical about such quick roll-outs than (I think) she is.

After Blizzcon, I read people who wondered if a beta would release before the end of the year, or, at the latest, early January. Spring 2014 for WoD to drop. Faster patches, faster releases! I could never catch that excitement. I’m just not a believer. I’ve spent too much time over the years, pining for something new to happen “sooner-than-later” – to no avail – to now, all of the sudden, think that Blizzard is going to start pumping out expansions at anything close to their stated goal of one per year. And yes, this is in spite of the fact that it sort of seemed that Blizzard pumped out content for MoP faster than in the past…

I’m going to have to see how the cycle for the Warlords xpac pans out.

In the meantime, let’s take a look at “recent” expansion-release history:

Cataclysm cycle

  • Announced: August 21, 2009
  • Beta testing begins: June 30, 2010
  • Expansion released: December 7, 2010
  • Beta-to-release: 160 days

Mists of Pandaria cycle

  • Announced: October 21, 2011
  • Beta testing begins: March 21, 2012
  • Expansion released: September 25, 2012
  • Beta-to-release: 188 days

Warlords of Draenor cycle

  • Announced: November 8, 2013
  • (speculative) Beta test begins window: mid February to early April
  • (speculative) Expansion release window: mid-July to mid-October
  • (speculative) Beta-to-release: 135-180 days

Here’s the not-very-scientific way I came up with these vague predictions:

A) Once the holidays are over, players will be chomping at the bit to get into the beta. Given the experience that we have – historically – prior to every patch, beta, and expansion release, we’ll get to sit and simmer through two-to-four months of “When is beta starting??” “Soon(TM). Not yet, but Soon(TM).” So with the goal a quicker turnaround, but without sacrificing quality, I can see them getting some basic beta features up as early as mid-February, but I’m not holding my breath.

B) Based on the last beta period, which lasted a full four weeks longer than the beta for Cataclysm, I’m predicting that the best that Blizzard will realistically be able to accomplish from beta to release will be about 150 days, or approximately 20% less time than the MoP schedule. Allowing for them surprising me, I’m giving them a 15-day margin of error on the early side of that, and for the skeptic in me, I’m allowing for an extra month on the long side of that “goal.” Thus, the rough release window that I’ve given above.

More thoughts on beta speculation

While I have doubts that we’ll see Warlords in the spring or the beginning of summer, it’s not only because of the history of recent releases. To me, there are some features that don’t seem very fleshed out yet.

Those features include – to name a few – the player character model revamps, garrisons, adjustments to professions, and class mechanics changes. Some of these things will likely be refined and completed during the beta period, of course. However, it seems to me that the slow pace of updated model reveals could be indicative of how long it could really take to see the beta.**

I could be wrong: it’s quite possible that the beta will come out with just a few character models, with added models as the beta period progresses. But it seems that they would want to have a majority of the models playable at the start of the beta in order to facilitate a quick release rollout, rather than dripping them in periodically and asking for feedback over and over again.

**I say this about model updates, because it seems that they’ve been in development for so long that it’s unlikely that they’re going to whip out both sexes and all of the variables for all eight original models in a rapid-fire fashion at this point. After all, they announced that they were actually working on such a revamp in October of 2011 originally, so apparently a lot of work is going into them, and that doesn’t seem like something they can just finish up, publish, and move on from in a quick and efficient fashion.

So much is unclear about this and other features – which is par for the course, by the way, but doesn’t seem to be par for a faster schedule. It’s likely that information will come out much more quickly after the holidays end, but meanwhile, time continues to tick. Right now, with no beta announced, we’re just nine months away from the two-year anniversary of Mists of Pandaria. In terms of the history of WoW expansions and their beta lengths, that isn’t much time to cut the turnaround time from MoP to WoD by a whole lot less time than previous launch cycles.

The Greench

This may seem kind of mind-blowing, but this year was the first time I killed The Greench since he was revamped a couple of years ago. Hence, my photo at the top of this post.

When they revamped him, I was so uninspired (for whatever reason) by the idea of going to kill him like a world boss that I never even took the “You’re A Mean One” quest to kill him, rescue Metzen, and recover the Stolen Treats. I just never even thought about it.

However, this year, as a result of my excitement over the coming of Winter Veil, I decided to take the quest and see what it’s all about.

I got the quest in Ironforge, flew up to the Alterac Mountains, and found the Greench’s lair. There were dozens of players around, but no Greench. His cave was there, and as I landed, I got quest credit for freeing Metzen… without freeing him. All I did was arrive, and nothing else.

“Okaaay…”

There were several sparkling bags around, so I looted one, and got the Stolen Treats. I looked up at my Quest Tracker: the quest was complete. I didn’t have to kill the Greench at all.

“. . .”

I did anyway. I waited for him to respawn, he went down fairly quickly, and then I flew back, turned in my quest, and got my achievement.

But I was disappointed. While I understand (I suppose) why the quest works that way, I was disappointed that I didn’t even have to “face him,” as the quest text suggested. It sort of killed any kind of excitement and immersion that could come from such a quest.

Having done it a few times now, I don’t know if I’m going to do it any more. I don’t really care about the pet, and going up there and finding a dead Greench and a virtually completed-for-me quest has no real pull for me.

What I’m doing right now

Lately, I’ve been doing the following: leveling my new hunter, hitting up the Timeless world bosses on my hunter and druid, farming old-world mats as part of a hare-brained scheme that I may write about in the future, helping my girlfriend in old raids from time to time, and writing posts or post ideas and not posting them.

I’ve done LFR a couple of times over the past few weeks on my Resto druid as well. She’s up to 534 now, isn’t working on the legendary quest (because I can’t be bothered with the grind), and is fun to play when I do play her. And that’s what it’s all about at this point – having fun – so that’s been rewarding, particularly as one time I was with my friend Somb, who’s always a blast to play with.

I’ve also been playing other games. I picked up a bunch of cheap used games recently for my 360, and I’ll be bumbling around*** in some of those over the next couple of months as the spirit moves.

***Truth be told, I’m not actually a very skilled gamer.

As for what the future holds? Who knows… raiding is officially on hiatus until January, but we have unresolved open spots on the team. So all of that’s up in the air at this point.

We’ll see what happens.

In the meantime, I’m not sure that I’ll write a separate post on Christmas Day, so I’ll say to you now: Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to you, my friends. I hope the season is treating you wonderfully.

***

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


My alt and profession mindset for Warlords

Many alts

On Wednesday, I wrote a ton of words about nerfing myself for the launch of Warlords of Draenor. Today, I’d like to elaborate more on some of the more structural changes I’d like to make, with respect to some other aspects of how I play the game.

I’ve reached a point in my life where the rat race like the one I embarked upon in Mists of Pandaria isn’t appealing, practical, or enjoyable. At the time, I did it, but I was looking forward to better times – and they have certainly come, to some extent. But the way I played in Cataclysm and MoP – many level-capped alts, all ten professions capped (sometimes more than once), seven full farms, plenty of Auction House action, and so on – is something that I just don’t have the energy or interest in anymore. So, while I still farm those farms, post those auctions, use those profs, etc., I am winding down as the expansion does, with an eye toward a more streamlined experience in WoD.

Originally, I had intended to write this post in point-by-point sections, but with the nature of alts and how I play/use them, everything is connected. So, one section it is.

. . .

Like many players who have several alts and most/all professions, I use my professions to support both my raiding toon(s) and each other. Miners provide ore for Blacksmithing, Engineering, and Jewelcrafting. Skinners provide leather for Leatherworkers. Herbalism provides herbs for Alchemy and Inscription. Tailors, um, tail stuff, or something. And all of those profs benefit each of my toons, directly or indirectly. Additionally, they support my gold-making activities. And while I am no AH expert, and do not use addons for that activity, I’ve done well for myself casually auctioning my wares.

In fact, I’ve done so well this xpac that I could probably not sell anything on the Auction House for the entirety of WoD, spend gold like I usually do (which includes paying for all of my own repairs, by the way), and still have more than I need left.

In the absence of an active interest in the gold-making meta-game, there are diminishing returns the longer someone like me continues to fight the AH fight. Unlike some of my peers, I don’t do much wholesale raw material buying, flipping, min-maxing my profit margins, and so on. I’ve done a little bit of that in isolated circumstances, but for the most part I’ve sold what I had/farmed/made, and left it at that. Going further – toward anything remotely approaching the gold cap – just doesn’t interest me much. So with a tidy savings in the bank, I think it could be time for a rest.

With that in mind, I’m planning to chop the number of professions that I max out in WoD to less than half. I currently have 15 primary profs maxed over eight toons, so I’m thinking six-to-eight total would be good…

Before I go further, I’ll also say that that number will correspond approximately with the number of toons that I take to 100, or even into Draenor. Of my current seven 90s and one 85, only three or four of them will likely be heading to 100. Certain profs will hit the chopping block as a result of this.

My 85 druid scribe is the first to come to mind. I’ve never really enjoyed Inscription, other than the concept itself and the convenience of making my own glyphs. I don’t really need a second druid any more, since I made her for the express purpose of leveling as a healer back in the day, and now that I heal on Ana, the other druid has no purpose other than those conveniences and the fact that she has a guild bank. I haven’t decided if I will delete her – for now, she stays, but that could change on a whim. But I’m done putting any effort into Inscription – that much is certain.

Anyway, one of the themes of the next expansion for me will be, as I wrote in my notes for this post, “Less alts. Period.” I should have written “Less alts at max level with maxed profs. Period.” but… I knew what I meant when I wrote it. When something is as much of a time/energy drain as alts have been this xpac, you don’t forget.

Aside from Inscription, I don’t necessarily dislike the other professions, since I finally got an Engineer (DK) to max-level. That was a rough one to level, but now that it’s up there, I don’t hate it. But it won’t be a priority in WoD, in part because my DK will itself probably not be a priority.

. . .

My priorities, in fact, will look something like this:

Mushan – hunter, main raider; LW/BS.

Anacrusa – druid (healer), potential raider; LW/SK.

Droignon – warrior (tank), potential raider; BS/MI.

Those toons will be my three level 100 toons in all likelihood. And, because I probably won’t be able to resist, I’ll probably level my mage (TA/JC) at some point, because I like playing him. But he’s not a priority. His profs will also not be a priority.

Additional profs that have potential to be leveled at some point include Enchanting (2nd hunter), Alchemy (paladin), and Engineering (DK). However, unless I decide to level the DK instead of the warrior for tanking purposes, all three of those toons will be sitting in SW collecting dust for the foreseeable future, and their professions will be leveled incidentally (particularly Enchanting, because of, you know, Disenchanting…) if at all.

So, with those things in mind, if I level the three main toons, I’ll have five different professions maxed. Six if I’m able to level Enchanting while my worgen hunter sits on his butt in a tavern. Eight if I level the mage’s professions. Eight is enough… right? Right?

. . .

It’s my hope that by not letting gold/prof concerns drive my playing activities, I will cut down on wasted time and enjoy a higher percentage of my playing time. I pretty much hate playing the paladin, the 2nd hunter will be unnecessary, and the DK will be dormant until some unknown point until I get very bored. Cutting out a lot of that “toon-bloat” should make me something more of a lean, mean playing machine, or something.

And anything I need that I can’t make myself or have made by a friend, I’ll buy. I sold all that stuff for a reason. This will be the time to use the proceeds.

. . .

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


Alts: what do you do best, and where?

Second attempt on Armsmaster Harlan. Yes, you read that right.

Second-attempt kill on Armsmaster Harlan. Yes, you read that right.

During each week, I have certain priorities that I like to complete on my main:

  • Cap Valor Points
  • Kill a Celestial and Ordos
  • Be supplied and ready to raid
  • Raid

Additionally, there are professions to take care of on a daily basis:

  • 2 Blacksmithing cooldowns
  • 2 x 2 Leatherworking cooldowns
  • 1 cooldown each for Alchemy, Engineering, Enchanting, Jewelcrafting
  • 2 Tailoring cooldowns
  • 7 x farms
  • Check raid/food supplies and shuffle items accordingly

Beyond that, though, my time is basically mine to use as I wish. Since the second week of 5.4, I’ve mainly used it to play my Resto druid, although my Prot warrior has gotten some love lately, and I’ve played my mage on and off. One thing I’ve noticed is that, although I’m moderately proficient with each of these toons in certain areas, there are certain places where I do well, and others that I enjoy less.

Healing

This really started to come to mind when I began taking my druid into heroic dungeons for Valor Points recently. Until a couple of weeks ago, I had healed exactly zero dungeons. I had tanked a couple of dungeons early on in the expansion with that toon, but virtually all of my healing has come in LFR. Since the druid is an alt – and therefore Valor Points are not vital – I’ve simply gotten my healing fix in LFR and left it at that.

However, I have healed a few dungeons recently. And there have been mixed results.

Don’t get me wrong – I am overgeared for these dungeons. Grossly overgeared. I’m geared enough that I can heal in wing #1 of Flex (and have done so, a little) and not do too badly. This means that when I go into a dungeon, usually one of two things happens: A) if the tank is overgeared for the dungeon, I’m bored. B) if the tank is grossly undergeared for the dungeon, or does things he/she can’t handle relative to his/her gear, that tank can still die… much to my chagrine.

In my limited experience thus far, I’ve mostly run into tanks who are fine and can handle whatever they try. However, last night I ran into a Prot paladin who had 387k health (buffed), but played like he had twice as much.

Pro tip: if you’re at the level where most of the gear that drops for your spec in heroic dungeons is still an upgrade, and you’re the tank, chain-pulling and repeatedly going out of line-of-sight of the healer is not going to be a good recipe for continued survival.

Things came to a head in this instance – which was Heroic Scarlet Halls – when we got to Armsmaster Harlan. I was still halfway up the stairs across the hallway when this tank jumped down into the pit and lost almost all of his health. I barely made it into the room before the door shut, and kept him alive, but then he was smart enough to get caught up in Blades of Light (and died). He also did this on the second pull, although the DPS managed to still kill the boss. The DPS then kicked him, and we finished the dungeon with our DK, who switched to Blood and pulled things in a more manageable fashion.

Anyway, I was frustrated with the tank, but I was also frustrated with myself, because I couldn’t keep him alive. Then again, I suppose that even great healers might have a problem with a tank in bad gear playing badly.

LFR/raiding is a different story. I think I enjoy it more. Perhaps I would feel differently if I were running dungeons with friends, but that doesn’t happen anymore in my circle of friends/guildies – if any such grouping happens, it’s usually for LFR. And whether I’m running with friends or not, I generally enjoy LFR more on my healer. LFR still sucks – don’t get me wrong – but since it’s not imperative that I finish it, and I’m doing it because I want to rather than because I have to, I can just go in and do heal-y stuff and not worry about it too much.

Gekkan bites it in a timely fashion

Gekkan bites it in a timely fashion

Tanking

Things are pretty much totally opposite for me when it comes to tanking.

I’ve always preferred tanking dungeons to tanking raids, especially LFR. I can generally tank just fine in any situation, but I prefer dungeons because I’m in control. It doesn’t matter if there’s someone there with a legendary cloak or if everyone else’s average ilvl is 450: the dungeon will be completed if the tank is moderately skilled, around or above ilvl 500, and doesn’t make boneheaded mistakes.

As a tank, the group goes through at my pace, and I’m comfortable enough with both the dungeon and my own familiarity with Protection warriors that I can gauge how much we can pull at one time, which way we’ll go, and how to handle emergency situations on the fly.

Of course, I’m to the point where I’m tired of all of these year-old dungeons, so I’m not the dungeon-running nut that I would like to be at this point in the xpac. However, if I’m in the mood, I can do a few, snag some VP, and have a decent time along the way.

This is my preferred tanking mode. I’m just not interested in tanking enough to do so in LFR. I expect many tank-players feel the same way. If necessary, I would tank in normals or flex, but that would involve coordination with familiar players, which has its own enjoyable qualities. And at this point, I’m not needed for tanking.

Ranged vs. Melee DPS

I play a hunter. I’m pretty good at it. I enjoy the ranged aspects of playing the class. I also enjoy not having to be up close to the boss’s hit box* in order to be doing damage.

*Obviously, you have to be close to the boss to tank. But if you’re tanking correctly, the boss wants to be close to your hit box, so it’s a win-win situation.

While mages have a different toolkit than hunters, I do enjoy playing my mage, in part because it’s also ranged, so I don’t have to deviate much from my positioning habits in general as I play. With both my hunter and mage, I am proficient at both raids and dungeons. So I don’t necessarily have a preference, although I will say that I’ve usually taken my druid into LFR rather than my mage, in part because of queue times. But if I’m going with a group of friends, I’ll bring the mage along, and he’ll do fine.

Melee, on the other hand, is a different story. At this point in the game, just about the only melee I enjoy playing is as a tank. Perhaps it’s because I’m out of practice, or because I’ve only tried it on a warrior this xpac (I suck at warrior DPS, period). But in general, I’m not a fan of the limitations of melee. Perhaps it’s something I should explore more, perhaps in PvP…

Anyway, if I’m going to DPS at this point, I’m either going to DPS at range, or I’m not going to DPS at all.

“Conclusion”

Things are pretty clear for me, with regard to the alts I play the most.

DPS: I like ranged, without question; doesn’t matter where.

Healing: I’d rather be raiding, but I can heal dungeons I suppose.

Tanking: Dungeons all the way – unless I’m tanking with a friend-tank. Which rarely happens.

Here’s my question for you. What do you do best, and where?

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


“World of Warcraft: 100″

Mushan, the "Golden Lotus Hero"

Mushan, the “Golden Lotus Hero”

I’m just sort of winging it here…

The past couple of days, I’ve been thinking a bit about the next expansion and how I want to approach the opening week(s) of play.

With the past two expansion releases, I made increasingly concerted efforts to get to 90 quickly. In Cataclysm, my druid went first, leveling as a tank, and my hunter came second, leveling as… well, as a killing machine!

(/queue a Joe Swanson “YEEAAAHHHH!!! LOCK N LOOOAAD!!!”).

Hunters! Anyway…

The druid took longer, obviously – I finished on Friday after playing almost non-stop other than sleep and meals since the Tuesday morning of that launch. The hunter wasn’t speed-leveled, but it took less play-time regardless. In MoP, I reversed course, leveling my hunter in about 30 hours and finishing on the Thursday, after starting at about 6pm on the Tuesday of that launch. The druid and warrior soon followed, but the speed-leveling was done at that point.

The reason I leveled the druid so fast in Cataclysm was because I wanted to devour the content. In retrospect, I should have done that on the hunter, but I wasn’t thinking about it that way at that point. In MoP, however, the reason that I speed-leveled the hunter was because I wanted to be ready for raiding as soon as it was available. I was chomping at the bit to start raiding, without a doubt.

So, how did that go?

Well, it had its positives and negatives.

I had fun leveling on Mushan, because it’s the toon I would have the most fun doing most things with anyway, but I also blew through content that I could have enjoyed more, particularly given the speed at which we actually started raiding. (For those not in the know, it took us more than six weeks to get into Mogu’shan Vaults.)

In light of those general facts, I’m contemplating different leveling strategies for BC2*. More on those later in the post.

In addition to the 90-95 or 90-100 grind that is forthcoming, I’ve also been thinking about the leveling game as a whole recently.

Right now, I have seven 90s. Of those, one raids, two can do LFR whenever I want, and the others are currently in various states of “profession mule”/”play when I feel like”-ness. In addition to these, I have my 85 scribe druid – and I am loathe to level her right now (although I probably will sometime before the next xpac, because I do like having a scribe) – and low-level (25-30) hunter and shaman.

I usually enjoy leveling, and had some good fun leveling my death knight during this expansion. But I can’t get into leveling either of my lowbie toons right now.

This is a somewhat sad thing for me, because I remember a time just five years ago when the game seemed much bigger. There was so much that I didn’t know about it: I was leveling my druid, and having so much fun. The quests were awesome (if painful at times), there was no way to fly around and air-drop into quest spots, there were a ton of materials and items that I had to figure out what to do with. As this was my first MMO, and one of my first RPGs, there was a lot to learn about crafting and questing and the like. I made my way through this completely huge world in constant awe of everything before my eyes, which is something that I miss – indeed, it’s even something that’s easy to forget when you become a jaded veteran, which is what I sort of consider myself.

These were the days before I was a raider. The days when I was scared shitless just thinking about PvP. When I got stuck on some quests in Dragonblight and got so frustrated with questing that I grinded Crystalized Water at The Mirror of Dawn (to sell on the AH) for two-thirds of a level so that I could just skip to Grizzly Hills… which took me for-EVER…

Yes, you read that right.

There is something terrifying and wondrous about being a complete noob and learning new things through the sheer experience of encountering them in the game. It causes you to work through problems in your own way, even if your solution seems completely asinine to others or upon reflection – like what I did back then in Dragonblight. It causes you to tread with care, to learn by trial and error what you can handle and what you can’t. It causes you to make mistakes – like using a rare crafting mat to make something that maybe you don’t need, or wearing something from the wrong armor class because you thought it might help, or spending your gold on something dumb and then not having enough to buy your first mount – and to learn to both live with the consequences of that choice and to get by in spite of it. This all comes in addition to the constant joy of new discovery through exploration and interaction.

In some ways, those experiences are both irreplaceable and unrepeatable. You can look back nostalgically, and revisit, and even still learn new things, but the first wave of eye-opening is a powerful thing.

Back when things were new... (remember Fox? lol)

Back when things were new… (remember Fox? hehe)

There’s one time you can do this again (without rolling a toon on the opposite faction, which is still an incompletely new experience), and it comes every couple of years or so: when a new expansion drops. And even then, it can’t be a completely new experience, because there are elements of the game that are the same as they’ve been since the beginning, and you’ve already experienced them to some degree or another.

Regarding what I said toward the top of the post, I’m thinking about these things as I imagine Week 1 of BC2*.

*BC2, for those who haven’t read me lately, is my attempt at a semi-humorous working title/reference for the next expansion, which may, or may not, be about the Burning Legion. Your mileage may vary… and we’ll find out in about a month what’s really going to happen!

There’s not much that we know about it at this point. There’s speculation, based on the tooltip for the heirloom weapons in Siege of Orgrimmar, that the next expansion will feature a level cap of 100. Presumably, this will mean that individual levels will be achievable more quickly, since the last thing many people want is an even more brutal leveling experience..

Beyond that – and that there will be many changes to how we play the game – not much has been confirmed. But it’s pretty much certain that there will be new zones to explore, new characters to meet, and so on.

My current m.o. is that I prepare and conquer, but I’m not so sure that that’s the way to go in “6.0.Whatever.” Based on my experience at the beginning of MoP, there probably wasn’t much value for me in getting to level 90, and getting geared to the teeth, as fast as possible. I sat and waited – impatiently, I’ll admit – for six weeks before we started raiding. And it took a long time for the raid team to come together even after that.

Oh, there was definitely value in being as geared as possible when we made our first foray into raiding. That extra preparedness on my part certainly didn’t hurt our efforts to kill the first boss or two in MsV. Being 90 in less than a week meant reaching the Valor cap the first week, being able to do LFR on schedule, getting the long rep grinds underway, getting the legendary grind started, and so on. But was it more fun than the alternative?

At the time, I spent a sizable portion of my time stewing over the fact that people weren’t leveling as fast as I thought they should. Several people had talked enthusiastically about raiding, but then disappeared, or whatever, and while there were several of us that were getting there, ready to go, there were others that took longer than I liked or even fell off the map. And the key here – given that switching guilds isn’t really an option that I’m interested in, since I’m playing with my friends (Period.) – is that I spent time resenting people when I could have been enjoying myself and my game-time more.

So the value was there, but I think I went about it the wrong way. Perhaps the uber-intense Mushan isn’t the best Mushan for Mushan’s guild.

We’re a casual guild – like, hard core. And I think that I’d like to embrace the opportunity that that can afford by enjoying my leveling time and experience in the next expansion. I’d like to complete more zones, get into the story a little more, and not worry about being the first to everything, the most heavily armored, one of the best-geared peeps on the server right away; that sort of thing.

I think that taking a different approach to this next expansion can help heal some of the malaise that I’m feeling about the leveling game right now. If I’m going to raid with good players / friends in a casual guild – in due time – perhaps I would have more fun if I allowed myself to enjoy the process of getting to that point.

I know this is all sort of general and abstract, but hopefully it makes sense.

This morning, I talked with a Pandaren NPC. Of course, at the end of the encounter, he left me with “Slow down. Life is to be savored!” I thought to myself that, given what I am contemplating for the next xpac, there’s a certain irony that I’m thinking of “slowing down and savoring” my experience a bit more, but an expansion late.

Ah well, better late than…

P.S. I’m going to suggest that the new expansion could be called “World of Warcraft: 100″… not that it should be, of course! But “100” and level 100 both go with the 10th anniversary kind of well, do they not?  :)

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


Revised plans

Vale of Eternal Sorrows

Vale of Eternal Sorrows

We’re a week and change into Patch 5.4 as of this writing, and if there’s one thing that’s become quite apparent about the patch, it’s that there is no shortage of Stuff To Do.

While I went into 5.4 prepared on some fronts, I did willfully remain ignorant about certain features that were coming, including the Timeless Isle and its quests/coins/etc. and Proving Grounds (which I tried the other night when I was bored, and found to be a nice challenge). However, I did have plans that were falling into place over the course of the last three weeks, and some of those sort of went into the toilet about 90 minutes after I logged in on Tuesday night.

As I wrote a couple of weeks ago, with loot tables remaining uniform aside from item level (and heirloom weapons) in all formats of Siege of Orgrimmar, I felt that it was my duty to take my hunter into SoO LFR once a week, in order to try to acquire upgrade items such as Assurance of Consequence and any of the 528 weapons. While the quality of LFR started out poor and has gotten worse over the course of the expansion, I was hoping for some positive experiences, at least on Tuesdays early on in the patch.

However, I was disabused of that fantasy after a 48 minute wait to get into Vale of Eternal Sorrows on Tuesday. The group was on Norushen and had apparently lost almost all of its original members, according to what I could gather from chat. There were four stacks of Determination, which I didn’t notice until after we wiped once on said encounter (at which point, five stacks…). At that point, I decided to use a flask…

Take 2 for me – Take 6 for the group – was a success, and we managed to one-shot the Sha of Pride. But it was rough going: it was as if we were still in Throne of Thunder LFR two weeks ago, rather than something new. The truth is that Flexible Raiding seems to have further decimated the ranks of LFR raiders, making the transition from ToT LFR to SoO LFR a fairly seemless one, unfortunately.

“Maybe you just hit a bad group,” one could say. And that person could be right – and is probably correct, actually. But I’ve seen enough.

So my plans for raiding on my toons are being revised.

Mushan in LFR

On my main, Mushan, I’m going to relax and be satisfied that it’s not going to make much of a difference if I don’t get anything out of LFR this tier. Time to put that “I feel forced” feeling in the grave. I’m not going to have fun in LFR, so I’m not going to do it – Assurance of Consequence be damned.

Will that come back to bite me down the road? It’s hard to tell at this point, but given that I’ve completed the legendary and acquired my T16 two-piece bonus already, Assurance of Consequence (528) is a very minor upgrade over my normal mode trinket, and a downgrade from my Thunderforged one, so I don’t think it’s worth the effort.

Now, Haromm’s Talisman (528, Kor’kron Dark Shaman) is a definite upgrade, so I may feel a tinge of regret if I have problems scoring that one in Flex at some point…

…but then again, I might not, after all.

One of the things that I noticed when I started putting together gear lists for my hunter was that with three levels of raiding (raiding, FR, LFR), your overall Warforged Seal “spending power” is diluted if you run all three every week. So, for instance, if I’m targeting certain items like weapons, tier pieces, and trinkets, then choices have to be made as to which pieces I will take a bonus roll on. Since I plan on running Flex every week anyway, I’ll want to save my Seals for that – or for normal – rather than LFR, since I’ll definitely be looking for weapons/trinkets/tier there until I replace my ToT gear. So LFR would provide only one opportunity per boss, no matter what, since I’ve made that decision and have the FR/normal opportunities. And if LFR continues to largely be the way I experienced it on Tuesday night, it’s a drop opportunity that I’m generally willing to forego.

Alts in LFR

As I thought over all of this after my foray into LFR, it suddenly hit me that this will also affect my plans for alt play.

Originally, I was planning to regularly take my Resto druid and my mage into SoO. However, now I find myself not looking forward to taking either. This doesn’t mean I won’t; however, I no longer think I’m going to make doing so a priority. I’ve still been having fun playing both toons, the mage in particular. However, I may have to find some other avenue for them, although right now I don’t know that I have that many options that appeal. For the druid, at least, I can generally count on short queues, which, in my experience, reduce the overall stress level going into an LFR. However, I’m not going to commit to doing it regularly with either toon, like I had previously done. I just think that doing so has the potential to ruin my enjoyment of the game / those toons, and I don’t really want to do that.

So, we’ll see what happens, how much time I have, and how much desire I have to take them in at some point…

Flex

We did the first wing of Flex last weekend. It wasn’t bad – we took 13 people, and five!! of them were healers.  After wiping on a sloppy first pull of Immerseus, we ran the table up through Sha and called it a night. Many of us got some nice upgrades; I actually got three pieces, although only one of them – the tier chest – was usable.

Although we were healer-heavy, it was easy to see how Flex is different from both LFR and normal modes. I think Blizzard struck a nice balance between the three levels. To my eyes, though, Flex is going to be about the gear for people like me, and not for the challenge.

I’m not the raid leader, so I don’t know what the plan is, but I am hoping that we at least go in and try Immerseus this weekend on normal mode. I do think that there is a benefit to taking time to run Flex as a team for a few weeks, because we’re not a team that is going to out-play most raid bosses’ mechanics. The gear will help us progress, particularly for our newer and lesser-geared players who are coming from a little bit behind. That being said, however, I’m itching to raid. Last week we were missing a couple of key people, so we didn’t, but I’d prefer to be the team that killed Jin’rokh the first week of 5.3 and went 12/12N in ToT before 5.4 than to not kill bosses for a few weeks, particularly since Fallen Protectors is not supposed to be the wall that Horridon was at the beginning of the patch. We’re not world-beaters or progressive, but we are competent, and I’m itching to raid.

Then again, when am I not?  :)

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


Getting the alts settled

As Tuesday – and Patch 5.4 – approached, and arrived, I felt that I was in a pretty good position.

My hunter is always my priority, and I was looking forward to new challenges with him, as well as the legendary cloak. Aside from that, which alt might get “priority” (using that term very loosely) was up in the air. The four alts I’d been prepping for play, post-patch, were the Resto druid, Prot warrior, Blood death knight, and Frost mage. All but the druid were Valor-capped (and she was within 250 points), gear was updated as much as I was willing to update it, and so on.

Additionally, I was well-stocked with crafting materials for both personal use and for sale, and I’d especially stocked up on flasks, potions, and food for the hunter. In fact, you could say I over-stocked him. But that’s just my nature.

Anyway, with the newness of the Timeless Isle wearing off after a few hours each day, I’ve tended to find my thoughts drifting back to those alts. And, if you had asked me a month ago what I was planning to do with each of them, the answer might have been something along the lines of:

  1. Druid: SoO LFR each week, perhaps Flex. Top “priority” alt.
  2. Warrior: No idea. Be ready to tank, but if not, whatever. I can play him, or not.
  3. Death knight: Run H dungeons with him. Have fun.
  4. Mage: Take him into SoO LFR from time to time, but no priority here.

I’m not going to be tanking LFR unless my raid team goes with me and I’m tanking with a friend as my fellow tank. I just don’t care to – it’s just not something that interests me much. So things will be fairly casual with the plate toons.

The mage? Well, he’s a damage dealer, and for me, ranged damage is easy and enjoyable. However, I already do ranged damage all the time, so while the mage plays differently than the hunter, the similarities are still there.

The druid, however, is a different story. Healing requires a fairly different mindset to play, which is something that I find value in. I love my hunter, but healing gives me a different perspective on fights, even if it’s just for LFR. And it’s a new set of challenges, and one that I’ve tackled less than any other role (ranged/melee/tank) in the entirety of my WoW experience.

However, when I dusted off the mage at the very end of 5.3 for some dungeon fun, I found that I was having a ton of fun with him, and so he’s back in the rotation now. He’s quite undergeared, and if it weren’t for the fact that yesterday I bought three 522 Shado-pan Assault pieces and two 496 Shieldwall pieces for him, and made Timeless shoulders and bracers for him, he’d be far from qualifying for SoO LFR when it opens. But now he’s at 498, and even though that means LFR will be a challenge for him, I’m not terrible at playing him, so maybe we can make some magic happen…

…yeah! I went here.

I also picked up a pair of 522 legs for the druid (she’s 509 now), 522 chest and cloak for the warrior (511), and made a couple of pieces for the DK (490), so things are starting to look like they’re settled as far as being able to spend points on gear pieces for a while.

At any rate – and this could change from week to week, for all I know – my new priority seems to be:

  1. Druid. I really want to become a better healer.
  2. Mage. Oh man, I think I’m going to have fun with this toon!
  3. Warrior.
  4. Death knight.

The only thing that sucks about the druid is that her OS is Guardian, and her gear for that spec isn’t that awesome, so questing and doing things on the Timeless Isle is slow. However, that might not really be a problem, because as long as she has the ability to get her three Warforged Seals for bonus rolls every week, she might not even need to go “Timeless” all that much. Although the skinning there can be amazing if you go at the right time, and she is a skinner…

(There’s a pun in that last sentence, somewhere…)

With so much on the horizon with my main, and the busy season at work kicking into gear very soon, I don’t know what kind of time I’ll have for alts. But they’re never far from my mind, even when I’m otherwise occupied, because they represent a break from my main endeavors, which is never a bad thing.

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


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