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!

Alt appreciation: Dungeon Week

Droignon has Haze of Hate! Eh, I went with it. :D

Droignon has Haze of Hate! Eh, I went with it. :D

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. Furthermore, while I love the idea, I don’t have the interest in playing or doing things in-game with certain alts just because it’s a focus during a certain week. It’s just not how I operate.

Nonetheless, I’m an altoholic, and I have several alts that I play on something of a regular basis. I have 7 90s, for goodness’ sake. So while this week is #HunterWeek – and there are sure to be a ton of great hunter-related things going on in-game and around the interwebs (check out the hashtag all week for the latest news!) – I’m putting my own spin on it this week, because my hunter is my main, and the love of my WoW-life, and he gets appreciated here at Mushan, Etc. so much that he’s developed a bit of a complex at this point!

Therefore, without further ado…

…this week is Dungeon Week in my world.

With Patch 5.4 now just a week away, I’ve been prepping the troops. With goals in mind for some of them – some of which are long-held ideas, while others are newer (*cough* @ the mage) – I’ve been getting ready for 5.4 in several ways.

Goal #1 is to get the toons I’m interested in playing in 5.4 Valor-capped. While Mushan has been capped for weeks, I’ve been working the DK pretty hard, buying him the Shado-pan trinket last week and then capping, with 800 to go to hit 3000 this week. I have three other toons that are close to the cap, and I think I should have no trouble VP-capping them all before the 10th.

Goal #2 is to get as many Justice Points on these toons as possible pre-patch. This includes Mushan, for reasons I will describe below. Disregarding him for the moment, the reason for this is that pre 5.2 Valor gear will be purchasable with JP in 5.4. And while this means less than nothing to Mushan, my alts are each in a position to use some of this gear in some way or another; even my druid and warrior, who won’t sacrifice set bonuses for “Justice” gear, have off-specs that can use that level of gear to fill in OS slots.

With these things in mind, I offer a completely self-interested look at my main/fave toons and their states of preparation, and my plans for them for this week.

Mushan (SV hunter – duh? :P ); ilvl 535; 3000 VP; 543 JP; 3908 HP

Mushan has been a pretty bored archer lately. Not much raidin’ goin’ on, no new gear when he has raided, and so on. However, I recently took him to Stormwind in order to swap as much JP as possible for Honor, because one of the changes coming in 5.4 will be that it takes 500 JP to buy 250 Honor, which is a nerf to JP, I suppose. I haven’t PvP’d much at all since 5.2 dropped, but I don’t want to completely discount the idea that I may actually want to do so in 5.4. So I’ve put myself in the best position possible regarding Honor: I’m almost capped, should be able to pick up 2-3 496 pieces right off the bat after the patch, and then continue to fill out the PvP set from that point on.

Since he’s already Valor-capped, it’s highly likely that he will not work to snag any more JP through dungeons or any other means this week, but I’ve maxed out my conversions at this point anyway, so the rest can come once I actually need more JP for more post-nerf conversions…

Droignon (Prot warrior); ilvl 507 (prot) 477 (fury); 2765 VP; 1808 JP

Droignon hasn’t gotten much love lately. Since playing him is somewhat arthritis-inducing (/nods at Hass for the reference), and I’ve been working on the DK lately, Droig has mainly done his Halfhill stuff and not much else. However, he’s still someone I take seriously – he is a frickin’ huge night elf warrior, after all… I kid, I kid – and so I’ll be making sure he’s VP-capped. Seriously, it’s not going to take much effort. I’ll probably get there solely from Halfhill Ironpaw dailies and tripping over rares on the Isle of Thunder. And the fury spec is a joke, the way I play it, and not of much importance. So he may sit out of dungeons this week, but you never know – I may take him into a couple on the short path to the cap, in order to get a few more JP.

Anacrusa (Resto druid); ilvl 506 (resto) 480 (guardian); 2588 VP; 1186 JP

Like Droig, Ana has been keeping a low profile lately (/glares at Saldrahn…). And my biggest problem with her in 5.4 will not be gear, but rather learning to use Swiftmend as the insta-heal that it will solely be at that point. Nevertheless, I’ve been debating how I will go about actually reaching the cap with this one; this may be hard to believe, but she has healed exactly zero dungeons in MoP. I’ve healed scenarios and Champions of the Thunder King groups with her, but the vast majority of my healing experience has come in Raid Finder this expansion, which is why my JP-fund is so anemic. The Guardian spec, which is my questing spec, is in need of some hole-filling, so JP will still be important to some extent. So I may try to take her into a few dungeons this week, in order to grab some extra JP for that gear set. Because seriously, folks, questing as a guardian sucks extra-hard, and the better the DPS I can pull / the more mobs I can handle at once, the better.

Modhriel (Frost mage); ilvl 486; 2192 VP; 2077 JP

This is where the dungeon-running is going to get extra-serious. This is where Mushan’s Dungeon Week comes into its own.

Modhriel has, with very few exceptions, been sitting at the furthest, loneliest end of the bench since 5.2 happened. For proof, checking his armory shows that he has killed each of the first six bosses in ToT-LFR exactly one time. And that’s it. While I did open up Isle of Thunder with him, I set him down before I had enough VP and rep to buy anything. He has exactly zero pieces of 522 gear on. Poor guy…

With all of the time I spent on my hunters, warrior, druid, and DK during this tier, Modhriel took the back seat, limiting the sum total of his activity beyond April to Halfhill and cloth cooldowns. However, I jumped on him this weekend and ran a few dungeons, and MAN was it fun! He hasn’t gotten any gear in months, but he still absolutely ripped face. And I remember him doing well the couple of times I took him into ToT as well. I realized that I missed him this past weekend, so I think that, with my raiding picture a bit clearer now (since Ghilleadh the Worgen Hunter is done raiding), Modhriel is going to be back in play in 5.4. I’d like to cap his Valor and Justice this week, so that he can be on the road to being eligible for LFR as soon as it launches.

Good times…

Saldrahn (Blood death knight): ilvl 480; 2200 VP; 390 JP

As I’ve mentioned before, I’ve had a lot of fun with this toon. I’m a death knight fan now. However, this toon is a fun, casual toon, and I’m looking forward to playing him in dungeons in 5.4.

My personality, though, is one which compels me to gear him as fast as possible, even though there is no pressing purpose for doing so. I’m fighting this compulsion with everything I have. The last thing I need is to hit a complete roadblock with yet another toon, held back by LFR and LFR alone. He’s not a raider, and he’s not a sub, and he’s always been for fun, so I’m going to take it easy with him post-patch. However, since there is almost nothing going on right now otherwise, I’ve been working hard recently to get him some gear and get him Valor-capped for 5.4 (I can’t help that!). The JP can come now or later, though. I don’t really care which. So I may do some dungeons if I get bored toward the end of the week. Or I might save him for later. Either way, I win, because it’ll be fun to continue to progress him casually.

Level 90 toons “not pictured:” other hunter (going somewhat dormant); paladin (is always dormant).

Ghilleadh is done with normal-/heroic-mode raiding. I’m back to only raiding on weekends with Mushan and my normal team, and that’s it. So in a 100% anti-#HunterWeek fashion, I’m relegating him – my “other 90 hunter” – back to “make enchants for me, farm turtle meat, and do Fatty Goatsteak dailies”-status. And I’m fine with that. For several reasons – some of which are completely unrelated to him, but others of which are definitely all about him – I haven’t enjoyed him anywhere close to as much as I enjoy Mushan.

And the pally is, as I mentioned above, always dormant. Always there to make flasks and potions and do transmutes for me, but otherwise, yeah… dormant.

I have no qualms about either of those situations.

So the plan for this week is to get three toons VP-capped, picking up some JP along the way. I like heroic dungeons, and queues don’t seem to be long right now even for DPS, so it should be a fun week.

I’ll shut up now. This turned into quite a long post!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

There are several reasons…

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

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

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

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

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

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

She isn’t my hunter, after all.

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

Echoes of a Big Bear

Ana killing a Mushan >.>

This morning, I read Big Bear Butt’s post from yesterday, about his decision to stop trying to force himself to be a bear tank. I won’t quote it or copy it, so go read it if you haven’t already. Basically, he is letting go of his guardian druid, and his hunter will be his raiding main. Sound familiar?

Anyone who has followed BBB for a while – like I have – knows that he has long been both a passionate advocate of bears and one of the foremost progenitors of furry-bottomed face-tanking, in-game and in the blogosphere. With experience comes wisdom, and he has much of both. I found it very interesting that many of his thoughts echo mine with regard to my own druid.

Once Mists of Pandaria launched, I leveled my hunter in about 30 hours. A week later, my druid hit 90 as well. I’m currently working, off and on, on my warrior, who hit 88 yesterday. The hunter was the most fun. There were very few situations that I had problems with, and it was undoubtedly the toon that I am capable of leveling the fastest.*

*This includes choices that I’ve made; I could have leveled my druid as a feral druid, and I could level my warrior as arms, but there’s no way I could have done so with the apparent recklessness and efficiency with which I approached many of the Week 1 situations I found myself in – not with either toon.

Leveling the druid was brutally slow. She’s a guardian, which was what I had planned. For those who remember my post a while back about leveling her to 90 with my Cataclysm gear, here’s the update on how that went: at roughly level 88 1/2, in Townlong Steppes, I gave up the idea. Item level 387 was not cutting it. Level 88 mobs took a minute to kill sometimes. The damage was punishing. I was missing too much, and reforging put my survivability in even more jeopardy. So I gave up the ghost, went back to Stormwind, rotated in what green/blue gear I had collected, reforged and slapped on cheap enchants (yay profession leveling!), and went back for a much, much more reasonable experience for the final 30-ish bars.

Once I hit 90 with her, I ran Direbrew to get the trinkets, and am currently wearing the Brawler’s Trophy. Her gear has stagnated a bit, though, as I’ve been working on the hunter (of course) as well as leveling the warrior.

Droignon versus the Stag

Leveling the warrior has been interesting and fun. He’s protection, of course, and his gear experience began a little differently than the druid’s. When I was leveling Blacksmithing on my hunter, I procced no less than four very usable ilvl 415 plate blues that were immediately equippable. One or two of them had Crit or Haste on them, but the Strength and Stamina upgrades over my 378 gear were so nice that they were definite wins. When I got to Jade Forest, I was absolutely crushing stuff, which was fun. I’m still wearing a couple of the pieces, and things have evened out as I’ve leveled him, so the rate of kills has slowed down considerably, which isn’t surprising.

Druid tanking is a cousin of warrior tanking, although the warrior tends to have better movement as well as spell reflecting abilities, while the druid has more in-combat healing ability. When I’m on one, I tend to miss the advantages of the other from time to time.

However, one thing that has been on my mind lately is how different they can feel as classes. By feel, I don’t necessarily mean the differences in abilities, but rather the way that I connect with the characters when I’m playing.

As a druid, there was something inspiring about being there with Hamuul Runetotem and Malfurion Stormrage during the battle against Leyara. Hamuul, burned and broken, shapeshifts – in what must be a painful situation for him – and goes “all-for-the-cause” bear-apeshit on her until she’s dead. Come 5.0.4, we bears turned into guardians, like the Guardians of Hyjal. I felt, and feel, kinship with him to a point.

However, as a warrior, there is something so visceral about what is essentially the most physical class in WoW. It’s a humanoid with plate, shield, and sword/axe/mace, leaping into the fray and taking all comers. Listening to the sounds of combat on my warrior, it feels physical: the slamming of shields and swords, the boom of Dragon Roar, the crash of Thunder Clap. And the visuals are great too: the warrior balances on his toes, slices with his sword, slams his shield in his opponent’s face. It feels very personal.

As much as I try, I can’t make that personal connection with the druid.

As feral, I was a cat. I was a hunter pet with free will. As a moonkin, I was a fat chicken, which is a look I have never enjoyed. As a healer… well, that has never felt comfortable to me. And as a bear, things feel visceral to an extent, but not as much as on the warrior.

As a warrior, you have your gear and your colors. You look sharp and ready to go. When the battle begins, the warrior charges in and fights for his life and those of his friends. He proudly continues to display his colors and fights until victory is assured or until all is lost.

There’s something that feels definite and permanent about my warrior. Perhaps it’s because of the shape-shiftiness of the druid. It can be a bear, or a cat, or a chicken, or a stormcrow, or a stag, or an orca. It can heal or rip or call down nature’s elements for purposes either deadly or life-giving. At the end of the day, a druid can potentially be a lot of different things.

On the other hand, a warrior is a warrior. Mine has never fought or killed any enemy as any other spec but protection. He is a rock, covered in plate and flashing steel weapons. He is nothing more, nothing less.

Right now, all of that appeals to me. And the druid appeals to me much less.

I haven’t started a monk, in part, because I am so happy with my warrior.

And so this gets me to my point, which is that I, like BBB, am also thinking of letting go of the druid as a seriously played toon.

The plan for MoP was to raid on the hunter, maybe to tank on the druid if possible, and to enjoy my protection warrior in limited play. But lately I find myself thinking of making my warrior my main tanking character: gearing him, getting him set up with all of the factions, tanking dungeons, and bringing him along if we ever end up running an alt raid.

With warriors, there is no pussy-footing around. We smash. We survive. We do what we have to do. With my druid, I’ve been gearing as a guardian while also trying to heal BGs because I don’t want to PvP as a feral druid. Neither has been the most fun. The warrior has been enjoyable. And that’s what this is all about, after all.

– – –

In closing… I will write an update as things progress. Right now, we aren’t yet raiding. After I finish this post, I’m going to hit up Raid Finder on Mushan.

I’m a little behind where I want to be gear-wise, in part because I took four days off to go visit with family during the second half of last week. I haven’t completed three of the heroics yet, due to issues such as having Scholomance completely reset on us (and disband the group) after killing the second boss the only time I’ve been in there, as well as a lack of luck with the dungeon finder. Thus, I’m not using any of the pre-raid BiS trinkets, but I am otherwise 463-plus in every slot. I have the Sha of Anger boots, the Valor neck, the crafted gloves and chest, the belt from Raid Finder, and Direbrew’s trinket. So I’m in decent shape, but hopefully I’ll be in better shape after this week’s reset is over.

I’m not sure when we’ll start raiding. Right now, from what I can tell, we have one tank, one healer, and some DPS returning from our Dragon Soul team, so we have some definite needs. I’m chomping at the bit to get at it, but we’re nowhere close to being ready, and as my girlfriend pointed out, the expansion is still new and we have plenty of time to get in there and kill all 16 bosses in this tier. I have to confess that I’m a little jealous of the people who are downing Mogu’shan bosses already – my girlfriend’s guild already has two down as of last week’s lockout – but I’ll just have to use the time to prepare myself as much as possible, and to be patient in the meantime.

I’ll write more when I have more!

– – –

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

Unconventional leveling, post #2: Guardian druid plans for levels 85-90 in Mists of Pandaria

With Mists of Pandaria just a few weeks away, it’s time to stop holding out on you all, and write about one of the fun plans I have for the launch.

As I’ve written before, I plan to start the leveling fun with my hunter, Mushan. And I plan on having a blast doing so. However, it doesn’t end there. I have three toons that I am particularly excited about leveling, and one of them is my druid.

Throughout the course of Cataclysm, Anacrusa morphed – er, shapesifted, I suppose – from a cat DPS-er to a cat PvP-er to a moonkin DPS-er to a bear tank. By June, I had gotten very comfortable with tanking the Hour of Twilight heroics, and also enjoyed questing as a bear, although I did not have much reason to quest other than to farm – I’ve been exalted with every Cata reputation for a while.

At any rate, a plan that I had been cultivating for a while really started to come together around this time.


Here it is:

I plan to level my druid through Mists of Pandaria without substituting any gear until I reach max level.

Now, I know that this may not seem like a very hardcore plan. It’s not realm-first-ing it to 90, nor is it questing naked, or anything like that. It won’t be an Ironman, and it won’t even be a mini-Ironman. However, I expect that it will be much more challenging than leveling conventionally, as the gear typically tends to improve dramatically as we begin replacing it after a level or two (depending on end-of-expansion gear levels).

Anacrusa has an equipped ilevel of 387. It’s all PvE gear with the exception of the Cataclysmic gloves, which have the 66% cost reduction to Skull Bash. I have almost no Dragon Soul normal raid gear, as I stopped raiding on her – due to lack of interest on the parts of other guildies – before I picked up tanking again, so all of that raid gear is balance gear.

I did not participate in the beta, but based on how Cataclysm went, I would imagine that a questing toon would be between 412 and 425 at level 90, and with that would come significant stat upgrades: in my case, Agility, Stamina, Armor, Hit/Exp, Mastery and Crit. I will be foregoing those until I finish, if I can.


I see several benefits to giving this a try.

With the changes to how mitigation works in MoP – active mitigation, as opposed to relying almost solely on stats to reach immunities or at least to minimize damage passively – the DPS-minded bear tank can easily forget about, or neglect to learn, new abilities. I’m finding this out on my less-geared warrior, as I quest for guild rep. I can still take on seven or eight enemies at once on Tol Barad Peninsula without too much trouble, but I’m having to learn to apportion my rage resources properly in order to stay away from coming close to dying.

In a plan to level without gear upgrades, skill must become a factor. Now, my gear is none too shabby, and we will of course gain things like stamina and attack power as we level, but we also encounter the idea of stat devaluation. Each point of Hit Rating will provide much less Hit percentage per level gained, and each point of Agility will provide less Dodge, and so on. As the levels go up, with gear providing static and finite amounts of key stats, I’m going to be taking much more damage (and doing less damage, of course) against at-level mobs.

This is where the active mitigation becomes key, along with crowd control, interrupting, and so on. The tribulations that I expect to deal with as I level will force me to make use of my talents and abilities, and I should come out of the leveling process a much better Guardian druid than I am right now.

Aside from that – more skill needed to survive and progress during leveling – there is the concept of providing myself with a somewhat unique set of challenges by doing this.

Leveling is too easy from 1-60 now – at least that’s a common complaint now, and it’s one I share. I haven’t had much of a challenge leveling my druid for several years now (not that there’s been an awful lot of leveling going on, but…), and leveling of alts has become easier with the introduction of the guild-reward heirlooms that work through level 85.

By leveling this way, I hope that at least the latter part of the leveling process on my druid will present me with some truly epic gameplay situations that require me to draw from both my wits and my skill progression to get through the process without making too much of a bloody, furry mess of myself.

Since I reached the point where I became satisfied that my hunter is my main, my raider, I don’t feel the need to race to the finish on this toon. Keep in mind, I don’t plan on taking weeks to level her. However, I do expect that encounters with mobs (and groups of mobs) will begin to take a bit more time to complete, allowing me to use more of my abilities, test my skills, and be more considerate of strategy while questing. And that is something that I am desperate to experience, and I feel that the Guardian is the perfect druid spec for me to attempt this with.

Closing thoughts

The one thing I worry about is that this challenge could be a let-down, diffculty-wise. I’ve heard people in past betas say that they don’t start replacing gear from the final tier of a previous expansion until about two levels from max, and that gnaws at me, because if this is too easy, I won’t be satisfied with the challenge.* Then again, I’m ilvl 387, which is a significant difference from 397 when it all comes down to it. And the people I heard saying these things were in heroic gear. So I don’t know if I have anything to worry about. I guess that’s part of the fun: the whole “we’ll see!” aspect of it.

*Then again, if it turns out to be too easy, I can give it a second try with my Prot warrior, since his gear is not as good…

As MoP gets closer to being a reality in everyone’s lives, I’ll finish setting her up with everything she needs (UI, bag space, consumables, and so on – the staples of the somewhat-prepared leveler), and then once I’m well on my way with Mushan, I’ll give this thing a try.

Oh, and that’s the other great thing about this challenge: I’m going into it almost blind. Yes, I’ve seen pictures of the zones. They look stunning, and I’m excited to see them. But that’s just it: I haven’t been in the beta, so I haven’t done any of this before. I know nothing about the quests, the mobs, the general consensus on leveling difficulty, the lay of the land, and so on. Yes, I’ll do them once on my hunter – at a rapid pace, with incrementally better gear – but once through won’t prepare me for every challenge that I could face. And he’ll likely be doing some dungeons along the way, as well. I’ll just be questing on the druid.

As such, that’s why I said I would be a “somewhat-prepared leveler” in a previous paragraph. I’ll be ready, but I won’t be ready to be a star. I’ll be ready to survive, to come out scarred but victorious, and better for the experiences.

So the potential is there for this to be a true and epic adventure. I’ll let you know how it goes down the road, once I’m there (or when I’ve finished)!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Things are very, very quiet around here

Doin’ the Bear Twist

“Around here” meaning “in game.”

With the release of Diablo 3, the servers have been very quiet.  Guild chat has been very sparse; the friends list has been mostly gray.

We managed to get a fairly efficient full clear in with our regular raid team on Sunday night – and I finally got some loot for Mushan after a three week drought – but the alt raids didn’t even get started.  People are just more interested in playing D3, or doing other things.

I think it’s just that time of the year.

And I’m fine with that!  I’m not playing D3, but I’m enjoying hearing about it from my friends and reading about it on other blogs.  It’s interesting, though, that it appears that the only true WoW-killer seems to be Blizzard itself*.  Not that D3 will kill WoW at all, but I haven’t seen the server this dead in a long, long time!

*Well, that, and also the twelve years of anticipation.  And the Annual Pass.  Which isn’t hurting WoW at all, actually.

I’ve been taking the opportunity to do some different things, stray from my habits a little.

For instance, I did no extreme soloing at all last week; instead, I re-specced my soloing spec and took Mushan into a bunch of battlegrounds.  I picked up a second resil trinket this week, and I’m saving up for the 397 polearm, which will finally put me more in line with what my resilience level should probably be.  I should have that in the next week or so.

I’ve also been running dungeons on Anacrusa as a tank the past several days.  Since there’s really nothing else I can buy for my balance set, and I’m still considering making her a Guardian in Mists of Pandaria, I thought it would be fun to jump into the Hour of Twilight dungeons as a bear and give that a try.  It was generally pretty fun, although I felt like I was using Thrash and Swipe a little more than I would have liked for the sake of interesting game-play.  However, I haven’t really tanked – other than Alterac Valley / Isle of Conquest, once in BWD, and once in Firelands – since Wrath, so I’m not as in the swing of it as I was back then.

I’m not really interested in tanking LFR for now, and if we ever have any alt raids again, I’ll play balance.  But it’s fun to go into the HoT heroics and face-tank some Twilight wankers.  I probably won’t cap out on Valors each week through the end of Cataclysm, but it’s nice to do something different for a little change of pace.

Other than that, I’ve worked on a few achievements, done some daily quests, opened up a little bit of bank / bag space in preparation for MoP, and made a little gold, as usual.  There isn’t much going on to talk about, though.

Perhaps I’ll make the dreaded MoP bucket list… I mean, I’m going to make one anyway – at least in my head – so perhaps I should publish it!  We’ll see. :)

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Rage tank improvements in Mists of Pandaria; problems with early judgments about redesigns

Some thoughts about rage tanks and how making decisions based on early beta info can, at times, lead to undue worry and poorly-made choices…

Droignon is happy to hear that Shield Slam, his favorite ability, hits like a truck in the MoP beta.

Protection warriors (Guardian druids are also mentioned)

Matthew Rossi, warrior guru at WoW Insider, posted an update on the states of Protection and Fury warriors in beta last night.  It gave me some hope for my warrior*, who is one of three toons that I have who can play a tank spec (I don’t have a DK…).

*My warrior, Droignon, is the only toon I’ve ever brought 100% to max level solely with a Protection spec, and I plan on continuing that trend with him in MoP.  So while he’s an alt that I’ve never really raided with before, I’ve enjoyed playing protection immensely, and hope to do so in MoP.  I may even use him as a real tank.  So the warrior part of this post is pertinent, I assure you!

Early returns on MoP rage tanks have been that their damage was terrible, that they’ve been overly-gutted of rage-generating abilities – passive and active – and have been much more boring to play in beta than they are live.  After I posted a while ago about possibly running as a straight PvP/PvE Balance druid for the first time ever in MoP, I played (for a while) with the idea of making Anacrusa a Guardian.  However, a little bit of research left me feeling less than confident in the state of Guardians in MoP, and Prot warriors were looking similar.  Not coincidentally, both specs use rage as a resource.

Rossi’s article from May 12th, however, gave me hope for both classes, despite the fact that he did not write about druids in his post.  While he has serious concerns about Fury warriors on beta, he seems to be pretty satisfied with the updated state of beta Prot warriors.  It looks like Prot damage is getting better, rage generation will be less of a problem than originally anticipated, defensive abilities – both old and new – seem to be working well, and the spec seems both interesting to play and very functional.

This is good news – a sigh of relief, actually.  And it gives me hope that changes to Guardian / Feral druids in beta will also make that class more exciting to play.

I’m not in beta, so I’m not testing anything myself.  I’ll have to do that when the pre-expansion patch drops.  Therefore, I have to rely on the expertise of others in these types of cases, and that leads me to my next point.

Making premature judgments (a cautionary reminder – mainly for my benefit – for players of all classes)

Next week, the beta will celebrate its two-month birthday.  Well, perhaps there won’t actually be any celebration; however, the date is notable because we’re likely approaching the halfway point of the beta itself, and while nothing is really finalized, we’re starting to get better pictures of how our classes will play.  It’s exciting to see spec redesigns turn a corner and start to really come into their own – particularly when they started off looking awful – and it looks like the Protection warrior could be doing just that.  I’m hoping that I’m proven wrong with druids, too – perhaps when 5.0.1 drops, we’ll find that Feral and Guardian specs are not just viable, but are also exciting and fun specs to play.  Here’s to keeping fingers crossed…

This is a problem, though, in this day and age.  I’m not referring to beta testing and player feedback – that stuff is priceless, and I think the games we play are much better, in general, for it.  However, from a personal standpoint, I find myself latching onto certain “design priorities/goals” that the development team articulates or demonstrates (or both) in early beta.  If it seems like a shitty idea to me, particularly with a spec like Feral druids (i.e. the developers’ constant desire, both spoken and test-built, to tone down special attacks in favor of white – or sustained – damage, which has been going on for years now), the history combined with that idea can make me inclined to abandon the spec, however premature that may prove to be.  It’s a trap I’ve fallen into multiple times, although I think that it’s not entirely without merit that I do so.  However, early betas are probably coloring my impressions of certain classes more than I should be letting them.

It’s something to think about.

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