Leveling the new-xpac playing field via self-nerf

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

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

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

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

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

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

. . .

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

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

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

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

Sounds like a good idea to me.

. . .

But what about the gear?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

. . .

You may ask, And what about that heirloom bow?

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

OK, how about the Legendary cloak?

This is where I pause…

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

. . .

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

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

. . .

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

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

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

Anyway, let me know what you think!

. . .

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


Alt Appreciation, week 1: Death Knight

Preface: Laeleiweyn suggested recently that we altoholics could collectively celebrate alts, either on blogs, Twitter, or by starting/playing them in-game, over the course of eleven weeks starting on August 19th, and ending November 3rd. Each week will be themed by class – week one for DKs, week two for druids, week three for hunters, etc. 

It’s a fantastic idea, although I do not have an alt for every class. However, I do have several alts, so I plan on participating by writing posts on the classes I do have. Week one is Death Knight Week.

I have a long and un-storied history of not playing death knights.

I made a death knight shortly after Wrath dropped, played through the starting zone, got myself drafted into the Alliance. I got him up to level 62, and was working through Hellfire Peninsula, smashing enemies like they were made of papier-mâché. My death knight was freakin’ awesome.

Yet, for some reason, I let him lie dormant for several months. And when I came back to him, I found that the class confused me, and he wasn’t as powerful as he had been, and I didn’t like him any more. Soon after that, he became a victim of the dreaded Delete button, and was no more. This was sometime in 2009.

Thus began the long and empty saga of not playing a DK.

Between that death knight and 2013, I killed Anub’arak, the Lich King, Ragnaros, Deathwing, took a laxative in Grizzly Hills seven or eight times, watched Thrall get married, ate some Red Bean Bun, and did many, many, many other things, both in-game and in real-life. Death knights weren’t really on my radar for a long time.

However, in Mists of Pandaria I came to a point where I began to want to play one again. Perhaps it was the memory of that epic finish to the starting zone; or a small fascination with the mechanics of playing a DK tank, as compared to a warrior; or a desire to figure out how the runic system worked. Whatever it was, I started a new DK several months ago.

Without further ado, let me introduce you to:

Saldrahn

Saldrahn, with some classic DK transmog action goin’ on!

If someone had told me a year ago that I would make and level a DK to 90, I would have laughed and shrugged that prediction aside. I really didn’t think it would ever happen.

From any type of end-game standpoint, there was no need for this toon. I made him purely for fun… and boy, was he fun to level! I leveled as Blood, and had an awesome time. I guess you’re supposed to level DKs as Frost, but I’m getting to be fairly experienced at leveling tanks, so I went with it. I leveled him casually: if there was a time when I was bored or tired of Pandaria or the Barrens, I could log in and rip some face on my DK for a while.

I’m still learning how to play him. I haven’t really read up on the runic system, so I’m still in the process of figuring out how it works, how to use Death Runes properly, and so on. I haven’t tanked any instances with him yet. That wasn’t something that I was interested in while I leveled – I just relaxed and had fun and didn’t really worry about interacting with others most of the time while I was leveling. So there are areas where I have a lot to learn, and his UI is a bit of a mess right now, and so on… but I hope to start using him to tank some dungeons before the end of the expansion, just to see how that goes.

On a side note, I finally leveled an engineer to max-skill for the first time. Saldrahn is that engineer. So I picked this achievement up, the same day I hit 90:

Master of All

Master of All!

That was another thing I never saw happening! Leveling engineering can be a frustrating process, for certain.

My DK is a toon that I leveled for fun, and it was totally worth it. It still slightly surprises me that he even exists, much less that he’s at max-level. However, he’s here now, and I look forward to more adventures with him in the future!

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


Thoughts on Activision Blizzard purchasing its independence from Vivendi

The news came down last night: Activision Blizzard and a group of investors led by Activision CEO Bobby Kotick has bought out Vivendi’s 60% controlling interest for $8 billion.

From Game Informer (because I usually go to them first, for whatever reason):

$5.83 billion dollars of the buyout will come from Activision, while another $2.34 billion will come from a group of investors led by Activision CEO Bobby Kotick and co-chairman Brian Kelly. The pair have put a combined $100 million of their own funds behind the purchase. Tencent, which owns 40 percent of Epic Games is part of this group.

This is huge. As the situation stood, Vivendi (aka Soulless Conglomerate) was perfectly willing to extract huge sums of cash from one of its few profitable / well-run subsidiaries by declaring a dividend to their benefit, forcing Activision to take on massive debt in the process. As GI puts it, Activision Blizzard was likely to be bled dry over time by Vivendi’s self-serving financial moves.

As such, and for fans of Blizzard games, this is great news. It was still a huge price to pay for its independence, and so Activision Blizzard will of course still be striving to make great products in order to cover debt and turn a profit. However, there isn’t a gauntlet hanging over the company’s neck like there would have been if Vivendi had indeed saddled AB with mounds of debt and then cast them off.

But what does this mean for the future?

I am not an expert in anything, but to my way of thinking, it means more of “the same.” By that, I mean that we’ll continue to see Activision run in a fiscally conservative manner, investing in high-upside IPs like Destiny and Call of Duty. Blizzard, meanwhile, will continue to develop content for Diablo, Warcraft, Starcraft, Hearthstone, and whatever Titan turns out to be.

Player cost models will not change abruptly, but will continue to evolve over time. This means that the subscription model (which people have been predicting the death of for almost half a decade) for WoW will continue to be in place for a while, since, even at the recently announced “new low” of 7.7 million subscribers, that represents at least $100 million in revenue per month on subs alone. Subscription details could change in the future, however, as Blizzard tries to both facilitate new player growth and retain current players.

The in-game store will become a world (of Warcraft)-wide reality, and real-money vanity items will become more common. The much-talked-about introduction of transmog helms is just the beginning; we’re careening toward a shift in what the “pet store” is all about. Whereas it has, in times B.H. (“before helms“), seemed that each new item in the store was a special thing that many people “had to have,” we’ll soon be in a place where there is so much content on the store that even die-hard fans will have to choose between which items are “have to buy” and which are not (we’re already seeing this with the helms). At some point – particularly with transmog items and the like – there will be many options on the store that will be redundant (“I like the red helm, it looks awesome with my gear, so I will buy that one, and skip the blue one,” etc.). Considering this, I wonder how soon diminishing returns will come into play… I suppose we’ll see as it happens.

At any rate, microtransactions in WoW are here to stay, and the only unknowns are “how much / what kinds of content will they make available?” and “how soon will they be?” Given the modern gaming climate, this is hardly surprising or unforeseen. Activision Blizzard has traded an uncertain debt future (bled dry by Vivendi) for a certain debt future (controlled, responsible debt, as has been Activision’s strategy for a long time now). It is still a business, however, and will always strive to be a profitable one. However, unlike the subscription (which is currently a necessary expense for players wanting to play the full game), the store will remain completely optional for the foreseeable future: transmog items, pets and mounts, etc.

As The Godmother has said (and I paraphrase here), Blizzard has always made end-game progress a measure of gameplay, rather than dollars spent – and when that changes, it will be the end of World of Warcraft. As long as that integrity to gameplay is there on Blizzard’s part – and history shows that is a good bet – players will always ultimately have a choice when it comes to “which / whether to buy” from the store. And that is a good thing.

I’m excited about this news. Activision Blizzard has wrested its creative and financial future from the clutches of a corporate hell, and that is good news for all players who love its games.

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


Microtransactions and Blizzard: part of a larger picture?

My scope of “reading everything on the internets” is probably somewhat lacking, because one only has so many hours in the day for one’s hobby. However, amid all of the discussion that I’ve seen in recent days regarding the Elixir of Wisdom, the newly-announced transmog helms coming to the Pet Store (sic), and “the sky is falling”/”FTP is just over the next hill”, there seems to be a false reading of where this movement is coming from – and to my understanding, this misinterpretation goes to the root of just what Blizzard is.

For those not in the know, Blizzard is not simply “BLIZZARD, gods of video games and money, deciders of everything, the end.”

In fact, Blizzard, or “Activision Blizzard” – as they’re known to the general gaming community – isn’t even just Activision Blizzard, one of the largest (if not the largest) video game companies in the world. Rather, Activision Blizzard is one cog in an international mass media conglomerate called Vivendi, which owns a 61% stake (controlling interest) in Activision Blizzard.

Vivendi, based in France, has its hands in several telecommunications companies, music (Universal, which owns roughly 30% of the music industry market share), video games (Blizz), mobile service, and film. Activision Blizzard is therefore just a part, albeit an important one, of this massive company.

It’s funny what gets edited out of what’s front and center for us. Obviously, on the player level, the games themselves are most important, and then we’re often interested in the development, refinement, and evolution of those games. Finally, focus for gamers generally ends at the Blizzard-level, where our final judgments (“they made a great game!” or “they’re money-grubbing corporate tools!” etc.) are made. This is generally all that anyone needs to know – this is just gaming, right?

Well, for purposes of discussions regarding how much of our money Blizzard is looking to pocket and in what manner they will try to do so, I think it’s important not to forget about the Vivendi thing. Because the corporate ladder goes higher than you may think. Vivendi’s financial struggles, which seem to be akin to one man whose mission is to juggle ten elephants at once without ever letting one touch the ground, could have more to do with Blizzard’s (and Activision’s, for that matter) increased interest in making more digital booty available for your hard-earned cash than any other factor. From Game Informer (via Financial Times, via Reuters) from last Monday (July 8th):

According to the Financial Times (via Reuters), Vivendi will gain new managerial powers over Activision Blizzard tomorrow, the closing date of the 2007 Activision/Vivendi merger. The merger gave Vivendi a 61-percent stake in Activision.

Speaking with Joystiq, Wedbush Securities analyst Michael Pachter describes a potential scenario in which Vivendi can now take out a massive loan in Activision’s name and then pay itself an equally sizable dividend. “Borrowing of $5 billion would permit a dividend of $8.5 billion,” Pachter states. “As the holder of 61 percent of Activision’s common stock at March 31, 2013, we estimate Vivendi would receive approximately $5.2 billion in cash, easing its mounting debt concerns.” The move would leave Activision with a mountain of debt to overcome, while Vivendi uses the payoff to get its own finances in order.

(Click the link to the Game Informer article for some worrying analysis.)

I was at a wedding last weekend, and so I’ve been slowly working through my reader feeds while also raiding, working, and so on. As such, I just read this article yesterday, and it immediately dawned on me that perhaps the reason we’re seeing all of the datamining of these new microtransaction items isn’t because it’s simply a way to “give the fans an option they are asking for,” but might actually be the fastest way for Blizzard to contribute to a general buffering of what could possibly be a massive financial hardship imposed upon Activision Blizzard. Remember, Blizzard is a subsidiary of Vivendi – they don’t stand alone, or just stand with Activision. The economic reality is that they are part of a conglomerate that focuses on profit, and a quick Google search will show you that certain other sectors of Vivendi’s business – particularly the mobile business – are struggling in this regard for multiple reasons, and have been for a little while now.

Ultimately, as a gamer, you hope that the game you play can continue to be fun, and in a situation like WoW, the best way for Blizzard to make money has been the subscription to a great, ever-evolving game, the fees for character services, and so on. However, perhaps that isn’t (or won’t be, very soon) enough anymore. If this is indeed the situation, hopefully Activision Blizzard can weather the fallout and continue to produce interesting, challenging, entertaining games and expansions while remaining profitable, and doing so in a way that doesn’t affect the integrity of gameplay.

In light of this, I’ll be interested to see what the next few financial reports contain, not because subscription numbers specifically mean anything to me, but because I want to see if there is indeed any mention of Vivendi issues and their impact on Activision Blizzard’s financial situation.

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


Packin’ on some Expertise-pounds with Tortos’ longbow

The ugly continues...

The ugly continues…

Epic weapons can be a funny thing. A ‘hit-or-miss’ thing, rather, when it comes to drop rate (among other things… yes, bad bad joke).

So I have to say that I feel pretty lucky to “finally” have gotten the Shattered Tortoiseshell Longbow from Tortos last night. It was my sixth kill, which means that with bonus rolls it was my eleventh and twelfth chance to get the bow. As usual, his corpse had non-hunter gear on it, but the bonus roll was finally the jackpot.

Of course, the thing looks terrible. Thank goodness for transmogrification. But seriously… it looks like it was made at the Thunder Forge, wrought of rock and stone and a shattered tortoise shell, and some other weird crap. It doesn’t look like something that you would hold at arms-length for several minutes while shooting. But I’ve generally been unhappy with the way almost all of the hunter gear has looked since, oh, I dunno… the beginning of Cataclysm. So no surprise there.

Like I said, transmog. At least Arathar, the Eye of Flame (Ragnaros) is proving to remain useful well more than a year after it stopped being so from a DPS standpoint. A true legendary, even if only in my heart!

The other thing that is so ridiculous about this bow is the gobs of expertise it has on it. At this point, shooting just about anything in the game is like shooting at a porta-pot from inside the porta-pot. Managing it was frustrating before; now, though, it’s just hilarious, because while this was a big upgrade over the LFR Durumu “crossbow,” the stat budget – over 900 hit, over 1000 expertise – is just so unnecessary that one might feel that his/her only options were to a) get even more frustrated or angry, or b) resign one’s self and start chuckling*, because the situation with hit and expertise is just getting stupid at this point.

*Or just completely snap and start cackling maniacally. Thankfully, that hasn’t happened in my case. Not yet, anyway…

Ha. Ha ha ha. Ha HA HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAAAA!!!

Ha. Ha ha ha. Ha HA HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAAAA!!!

However, I was prepared: checking out some other hunters that have progressed further than I have recently, I realized that this is the way of the world for the time being, and there’s really nothing that I or anyone else can do about it.

So, I’m not complaining. I’ll take the upgrade!

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!


Hunter Transmog: Gryphon Mail set

Back in the early spring of 2012, I started working on a new hunter transmog. Because I love transmog, and I love having characters that don’t look ridiculous.

Around the time that I had procured the first couple of pieces for this set, I finished my Black Dragon Mail transmog, and I used that for a bit. (I also played around with another set that wasn’t that great and isn’t worth mentioning right now.) And while I liked the Black Dragon Mail set – and while that set was somewhat appropriate for use while killing THE black dragon and his minions – I was secretly coveting the necessary pieces to complete the one I’m going to talk about today.

This is pretty much my personal  Number One favorite transmog for hunters, out of the ones that are possible to make. My actual favorite would be a dark ranger in 100% black, but that’s not really possible without wearing leather, and while there are certainly “dark ranger” looks out there, they don’t quite fit what I’d be going for (although they do look badass!).

Mushan in Gryphon Mail set

Mushan in Gryphon Mail

The Gryphon Mail set, as worn by Mushan, is comprised of (and complemented by) the following:

Core Armor

Gryphon Mail Pauldrons

Gryphon Mail Breastplate

Gryphon Mail Legguards

Gryphon Mail Greaves

Gryphon Mail Gauntlets

Complementary Items

Malefactor’s Eyepatch

Golden Filigreed Shirt

Keepers of Time tabard

Talhide Stitched-Belt

Arathar, the Eye of Flame

Note: there is a Gryphon Mail Belt, which I wore for a while before replacing it with one that I felt better matched the tabard; there are also bracers, which are hidden anyway, and a helm, which I feel gives an unflattering look, so I didn’t bother obtaining either of those two items.

How I put it together

This look fits most of my criteria for what I want my hunter to look like. The outfit, while basically a Wildhammer-ish design, looks very good on a night elf, with gold feathers, soft purple trim, and green gems in the shoulders and chest.

The purple trim goes well with night elves in general – which I’ve tried to illustrate by showing him in Darnassus – while the gems match his green hair. The only thing I’m not crazy about are the huge shinguards on the boots (what’s up with that, anyway?), but I had to make a small sacrifice with that to get the rest of my look.

The chest is… a little short, to put it nicely -

Gryphon Mail Breastplate - a little risqué, no?

Gryphon Mail Breastplate – a little risqué, no?

I guess it’s probably fine, but I wasn’t loving it. Plus, I really wanted to use the Keepers tabard.

Adding the Golden Filigreed Shirt was nice, too, because it gave some additional color to the upper arms, and it matches perfectly:

Gryphon Mail, complete with Arathar

Gryphon Mail, complete with Arathar

Arathar, the Eye of Flame has trim that comes closer to matching the colors on the armor than any other bow I have, and so it’s great to be able to use it. It also drops from what was probably my favorite boss fight in Cataclysm, so it has good memories associated with it.

How to get it

This set – particularly the core Gryphon Mail pieces – can be very difficult to construct, although your success may vary from realm to realm. The Gryphon Mail pieces are BOEs with extremely low drop rates. I got a couple of pieces while I was leveling alts, but had to buy most of them on the auction house. For months, I checked daily for the shoulders and – especially – the chest, which was particularly difficult to find. It finally appeared in August, and while it was 200g, I would have paid 50 times that amount for it if I had to, because I waited months for it!

Other than that, Rags’ bow (which had dropped for me when Firelands was current), getting exalted with The Keepers of Time, and purchasing the shirt in Dalaran were no big deal, and I had done the quest line for the eyepatch earlier in the year. Ultimately, while I had to wait for the pieces to come together, it was totally worth it, and I’m extremely happy with how it came together – I find it cool, appropriately Night-Elven, and colorful yet tasteful.

This is the transmog set I’m rocking in Mists of Pandaria! It’s already shown up in several screenshots on this blog since early-autumn. And while I occasionally look at other sets, I haven’t found anything that looks better – to me, anyway – on my toon.

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


Hunter (non)-transmog: Black leather-garbed sniper

Mushan, the “temporarily black-garbed sniper”

(Aka “Why some males play female toons” or “The problem of shoulders in WoW” or “If only hunters could wear leather…” or something along those lines)

One of the things I like least about gear in World of Warcraft is… just about everything about the shoulder slot. Other than the stats, of course.

For the first few years that I played WoW, I played female characters more seriously than males. My paladin (my oldest surviving toon) and druid (second-oldest) are hangers-on from that era. Since 2010, when I created Mushan, I’ve made male toons almost exclusively – hunter, mage, warrior, alt hunter, replacement mage, new-for-MoP-hunter…

(Although I did make a night elf female rogue more recently. And I don’t like rogues, and she never gets played anymore, so she may get the “Delete” treatment when character slots start getting tight on this server again.)

At any rate, I tried to figure out why I preferred females in WoW a few years back on my old blog. I wrote a long defense of males playing female toons, standing up for those who, like me, prefer females over males in part because they are just designed better aesthetically, or are animated better. Of course, the most popular argument among meat-heads is “If I’m going to look at an ass all day, it may as well be a female’s ass.” I’m not of this school of thought. You’re looking at a digitally-rendered cartoon ass covered in armor – or, at least, it should be covered in armor, and if it’s not, you’re doing something wrong. Calm your hormones, guys.

In my case, there were several issues.

With night elves, my preferred character race, and humans, with whom I’ve dallied on occasion, the females are both better looking and have more graceful movements. Human males have pretty poor faces, and both races look like dopes when they run. Females look graceful when they run and fight. Male night elves look better when they fight than human males – unless they’re casters, in which case humans just look better than night elves, no matter the gender. However, now that humans have learned to hunt, they do have the advantage over both male elven races, who insist on holding their bows incorrectly… but I’ve learned to get over that with Mushan.

Additionally, I’ve come to realize that the shoulder issue has been a big deterrent for me. I love WoW – play it all the time, have for years – but the shoulder looks are some of my least favorite parts of the game.

Did you see the Tier 13 mail shoulders? Did you see them on a male night elf? Mushan looked like he played tight end for the Stormwind Dragon-corpse-parts AAFL (Azerothian American-football League) team. Of course, I transmogged the shit out of every set of shoulders I got as soon as I could, but even then I had to look hard at every available set before deciding on some looks that I didn’t find absolutely garish (or completely stupid; or both).

Shoulders look less offensive, in general, on female night elves, draenei, and humans. For a while, I couldn’t get past that.

Dwarves have less of a problem with most of these issues. While I prefer male dwarves to females, they both have fine animations and their gear looks appropriate on them, for the most part. And male dwarves just look awesome.

At any rate, thanks to the power of transmogrification, I can minimize the horridness of the shoulders I equip on male toons by picking sets that have decent-looking ones that don’t make me look like either an orc or a douche.

I still wish that Blizzard would allow us to hide shoulders, but they’re continually stubborn on this issue, claiming that it adds a level of… something to the game.

Yeah… it adds a level of “it makes me transmog to something less annoying.” If I could hide them, I would hide them as soon as the function became available. On almost every toon.

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Enough about the male-female thing for now.

A little over a week ago, our guild (plus friends) went into Raid Finder for our usual Sunday night struggle.*

*I prefer to run Raid Finder on Tuesdays – we go in, mostly random but also mostly skilled players, wipe the floor with the bosses, collect our goodies and leave. But the guild has people online on Sundays, so that’s when we go as a group. As a consequence, I run RF way too much… and wipe a lot on Sundays.

At any rate, when we got to Will of the Emperor, Ela hit me with the Ninja wand from Hallow’s End.

This transformed me into a male human ninja. A ninja with no shoulders. A ninja with a bow. And a pet.

A ninja with no shoulders who fires arrows from the correct bow position.

Oh. My. Goodness.

I was in love.

I was in love with my black-garbed, shoulder-armor-less, upright-position-bow-firing, male hunter.

Remember Agent Kearnen in Westfall, or more recently in Jade Forest? Or the SI:7 snipers that accompany you along the road to Grim Batol in Twilight Highlands? Ever since I saw them when Cataclysm launched, I wanted to have that SI:7 sniper look. This is pretty close to that.

I STILL didn’t have the presence of mind to take a screenshot in combat. But coming from a guy who plays a toon that gets into a warrior stance and then shoots his bow or crossbow like Rambo uses a machine gun, this was heaven.

I don’t take back everything – anything, for that matter – that I’ve said about how much I don’t like human males.

However, I could do this. If I could play a toon that could wear the Scouting set (or a mail set that looked just like it), sans shoulders, with a bow, I would play a human male. I would race-change. Because the way that it looked in combat was exactly what I want from the game.

Not that I don’t love Mushan – I have a great setup, transmog-wise, that allows me to really enjoy my character. He looks classy. He actually looks great in combat. His shoulders aren’t all that intrusive. He doesn’t poke a hole in his brain when he aims.

But… that look in the screenshot above is how I would prefer to look. And the vertical bow position is also something I covet.

Anyway, I just thought I’d share that with you.

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


Mandatory Feeds: WoW Hunters Hall

As of today (Friday, August 23), we’re four weeks and change from the release of Mists of Pandaria. While this blog has been kind of dead for the majority of the summer, I am still very excited about the expansion – particularly excited for the thought of reuniting with my raiding friends as we sink our teeth into the first tier of raids that will come along with it.

I haven’t been writing much about hunters this summer. Since my iMac went down for the count on June 26th or so, I haven’t been playing Mushan much at all. I have, however, finally gotten my new mage (mentioned in previous posts) up to 85 (as of the middle of last week) and close to max level for both Jewelcrafting and Tailoring. so I am good to go with respect to leveling those professions once MoP drops.

However, my hunter, despite the lack of attention, is still my great love, and my greatest interest in the game, come Pandaria.

As such, I must pass along, without further ado, a must-see site if you are looking for hunter info for patch 5.0.4 (August 28 pre-xpac patch) and MoP (9/25):

http://wowhuntershall.com

WoW Hunters Hall (Tabana = curator; follow her!!) has been amazing over the life of this pre-expansion period, and her collection and linking activities have really increased quite rapidly over the past couple of weeks. A lot of bloggers and theorycrafters have been putting a great deal of time into testing out hunter specs, glyphs, new abilities, gear, and stats, as well as raiding and pvping. There is a wealth of information on WHH, and Tabana has been working very hard to bring all of that and even more discussion to your eyes and mine.

And I haven’t even mentioned the work Tabana has put in when it comes to gear lists and general MoP hunter guides. She has a living, quickly-updated set of guides available, and as new info comes out that pertains to hunters, she is on it immediately, culling and presenting it to you and me and thousands of other lucky players.

She also has a great list of hunter resources, including blogs, hunter Youtube channels, podcasts, forums, theorycrafting resources, tools, and other references for just about anything you need. It’s really the mandatory hunter portal for serious hunters in World of Warcraft.

I’ve definitely benefited from following WHH. So add the site to your RSS, follow it on Twitter, do whatever it takes to make WHH a constant part of your WoW-related reading if you’re a hunter. I’ve personally been salivating over the gear list, glyph info, updates on buffs and nerfs and changes, and the thoughts of my fellow hunters as we blog and play our way into MoP and beyond.

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(new subject)

I’ve been trying to decide how I’m going to replace my iMac’s corpse, and I’m leaning toward building my own PC. I’m going to hazard a guess that this will (financially) become reality around Sept. 15th, at which point I will hopefully be re-downloading all 23GB of the stinkin’ game and getting things set up. Once I’ve accomplished that, I will absolutely be playing my hunter more, and will be able to include screenshots and what-have-you in my posts again, and all that good stuff.

I have plenty of writing material on my mind, and will be playing my hunter hard-core – and he will be the first toon that I level through MoP, of course. In addition, I’m also excited about leveling my warrior and druid tanks, and I may post about this in the coming weeks. Active mitigation is an idea that fascinates me – as do the reactions of those players who feel negatively about it.

At some point, I will think about a monk. I’d love to level a Brewmaster, but I’m afraid that doing so will make me forget about my warrior. Is that weird? It probably is. But it is what it is…

Anyway, go visit WoW Hunters Hall today. You won’t regret it!

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


Reversing the tide of a reversal of the tide (whimsical replacement-mage saga)

Yeah, sometimes my titles aren’t the best. I don’t even know what that one means – the first part, anyway.

For those who may remember (read this if you don’t), I started a new mage a while back. The express purpose of this mage was to replace a max-level mage that I already have, with maxed primary crafting professions and decent (I did fine in Raid Finder) gear.

Now, as I pointed out in that post, this is something that probably sounds crazy. I have a mage. He works fine. He’s not a main. He makes me tons of gold. So, just leave him alone, right?

Well, I decided to replace him because he was a human male and because I wasn’t crazy about his name. And since money is tight, I have a hard time using cash to change all of that.

(This mage still exists, by the way, for now. I’ll likely keep him until Mists of Pandaria is underway, and then let him go when he stops being useful.)

In the meantime, I started this new night elf mage, with exactly the same professions, so that he will become a “2.0 version” of the current one, with no drop-off in production, so to speak. However, things came to a halt with him when my iMac decided to succumb to its terminal illness.*

*The technical name for the iMac’s terminal illness is something like “Apple develops shit (the iMac) that costs more than a certified pre-owned car, with inferior parts, and looks great or new-fangled or something, but its designs are fatally flawed and they run way too hot and so on, so their shelf life can be shorter than you expect.” Or something to that effect.

The death of my iMac combined with my girlfriend’s heavy Diablo III play meant that I’ve been offline much more than usual, since hers is the only working PC in the family at the moment. As such, I eventually sort of resigned myself that I was going to $#*t-can the idea of replacing Theophilos, as my new mage still had all of Outland, Northrend and Cataclysm to complete, as well as maxing out Jewelcrafting and Tailoring, before MoP dropped.

However, over the past week-plus, I dove back into play with him (he was 60). I quested. I ran several dungeons (all Wrath, so far). I worked on professions. I changed him from Frost to Fire for all leveling, since I just like playing Fire anyway.

As of today, he’s halfway through to 82. His Tailoring is at 505 (yay!). That’s the good news. His JC is at 412 (ehhh…), which is indicative of the fact that JC is probably one of the more difficult crafting profs to level without spending an iMac’s worth of gold on mats.

At this rate, I should be finished leveling him – depending on how much time I get to play him – within the next seven days. The profs are going to be fine, I think. At the very latest, they should be ready to go (maxed) by the time MoP drops, so I will be able to switch seamlessly from the old mage to the new one at that point.

So… let me briefly elaborate on why I made the decision to replace Theophilos:

I was using MogIt to look at cloth combos for transmog, and… seriously… human males look so awful in cloth gear. Most gear, actually, but really, I just can’t stand it. So I made a nelf. I like how he looks. And I’m excited to put together some looks for him once that becomes something I care about again (aka after I finish mogging my hunter and warrior, at least).

OK, I should have said “prioritize,” not “care about.”

So yeah, new race, new name, same class, same profs. “Money” (because I’m totally dropping some chunks of gold while leveling this one’s profs) well spent? Absolutely.

It’s in-game gold. Meaningless currency. Fun money. It means I don’t have to spend U.S. currency to have the mage I want. And I’m enjoying the leveling experience. Win-win.

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


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