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A Change in Scenery

As I’ve mentioned many times before, I have a great guild. I’ve been a member of it for my entire WoW career, and I don’t plan on leaving it anytime soon – not many other guilds would put up with my incredibly messed up schedule and still let me raid. Through this guild, I’ve met a number of people and formed some great friendships.

However, I’ve been looking at trying something different for a little while now. Every once in a while I’ll roll an alt on another server and see what happens, which eventually just gets deleted. I lose interest quickly, and just go back to my main server.

Rolling a new character somewhere that has absolutely no connection to people you know, gold, or heirlooms is very difficult. Not only does the new character start with nothing to their name, but also having no connections or a guild to talk to is quite lonely. Fortunately, there have been a few changes to make things a bit easier now.

Even though I thoroughly enjoy the low level changes to Azeroth, it still takes a good amount of time to progress through levels 1-60. On top of that, I’ve wanted to try out a Death Knight tank, so that’s what I decided on. Therefore Borble, the Goblin Death Knight, was born on the Earthen Ring server.

Many times, choosing a server is one of the most difficult choices that someone can make. Do you choose a low population server and have a tight-knit community? Do you choose a high population server for more people to interact with? What are the guilds like with their raiding? By going through server forums and guild websites, it’s possible to find something that works for you.

My choice of Earthen Ring was for two reasons. Firstly, I wanted to try a role-playing (RP) server as I haven’t done much of it in WoW. I previously did a fair amount of RP in a previous game, but nothing so far here. (On top of that, creating this character also gave me a good idea for a submission to Blizzard’s writing contest.) Secondly, I’m a big fan of The Instance podcast and they have their mega-guild AIE on Earthen Ring. I’d love to be part of a guild like them after being in a small one for so long.

Unfortunately, AIE isn’t accepting any new characters until October, so it gives me time to explore other opportunities until then. One nice thing about this is that I had my first experience with the Guild Finder option. I listed my name, gave a little bit of a blurb about myself and what I wanted to do, and applied to a few guilds that were on the list. A little bit later, I was invited and in the guild. Now I have new people to talk to and spend time with!

The majority of my time so far has been spent herbing and working on alchemy, while in the queue for random Burning Crusade instances. I just hit level 61, and have not stepped foot in Outland at all. I’ve only done instance runs while herbing in Azeroth, and it’s quite possible that I won’t do anything in Outland at all by the time I’m ready for Northrend.

Through this, I had my first experiences as a DK tank. I’m always terrified of trying something new – whether it’s trying a healing spec on my priest or druid, or tanking on this new DK. Because I knew that I’d never be completely comfortable with it, I decided to just jump in and see how it went.

Amazingly enough, it went pretty well. The first few pulls were definitely learning experiences, as I had only ever witnessed other DKs do the tanking while I do other stuff. Very quickly I found out that being disarmed is very bad and that runes will never refresh fast enough. The other downside of doing this tanking at level 60 and 61 is that I don’t have my regular taunt yet, and only Death Grip… which is on a 32 second cooldown. Many times I need something more frequent than that.

The first experiences have been good, and I’m really looking forward to continuing my journey on this new server. I hope to join AIE when possible, but until then I’m having fun in a completely new environment.

Moving On Up

I have mentioned before that I was working on a goblin priest for an alt, something I’ve wanted to do for a while. That priest is finally level 85, and heroic ready… but the process was a little bit different from the expected.

Originally, my thought was to try to level through the dungeon finder to work on healing skills as I had never healed on a priest before. It worked out well for quite a while until level 41, when I got too frustrated at other people and then decided to just take the plunge and quest with a shadow spec. This ended up being a good plan, as I now have the basics of both specs down.

The thing that was scaring me was the idea of healing Cataclysm instances. On my druid, I have done all of them multiple times (excepting the new Zandalari ones), so it wasn’t that I didn’t know the fights. I had the simple fear of failing at something that I set out to accomplish. Many times I’ve been in a group where there’s been one member that was doing a very bad job at their role and I was afraid that one day I’d turn into them.

Once my item level was high enough – unfortunately heirlooms make this a bit difficult, as they’re an item level 1 – I decided to give it a try. From when I first made my priest, I decided to use discipline as my healing spec since it looked like fun, and so far it has been. Having the multiple methods of damage prevention and utilities make it so I have more tricks up my sleeve, and hopefully will make the run go smoother.

All in all the regular instances went fairly well. It didn’t stop me from being nervous through all of the runs, but at least we were able to make it through them. The hurdle now is the transition into healing heroics.

I’ve done a number of heroic runs with my shadow spec, getting drops and justice points to improve my gear before I try to heal them. As of last night, I am at the point where I think my gear is ready to go into a heroic. There are a few fights that I’m worried about that have high levels of damage, and whether I’d be able to cope with the stress.

Unfortunately, I have a bad habit of forgetting to use cooldowns at times. The biggest problems are two of the best cooldowns a discipline priest has: power infusion and pain suppression. Huge increase in healing throughput and huge damage reduction, and I forget to use them? I have to set up some power auras to help me remember, the same I did for my boomkin stuff.

My priest has yet to heal a heroic, but I think I’m ready for it. If not, that’s why there’s the option for a dual spec.

Outland and Northrend, redux

Here we are, 4 and 2.5 years after the content was released, and I’m doing a review of the Outland and Northrend areas of World of Warcraft. Timely reporting, right? In this case, it actually is – I just finished getting my former-lowbie priest up to level 80 and blazed a trail through the two former content areas. As I adventures through these places, I was reminded of things that I liked and things I certainly didn’t like.

With heirlooms, I actually didn’t go through all of the zones for each continent. (As an aside, I was using the heirloom shoulders, chest, cloak, weapon, and trinket.) Even without, I know that I could have skipped some areas. It is nice that the leveling process has been eased as time goes by through these old areas, as what was once the best part of the game is now some of the worst.

Outland and Northrend are now suffering the “middle child” disease, being forgotten and overlooked. Cataclysm brought us a completely redesigned Kalimdor and Eastern Kingdoms (less a few zones, coincidentally from Burning Crusade), and going from levels 1-60 in the “old” world is now very exciting and fun. Prior to Cataclysm, people would power their way through the Vanilla content so they could get to the better things in Outland and beyond.

Now the two continents are relics of an old design philosophy. Cataclysm has brought so many new quest mechanics and storylines that it’s truly fun to play through the zones and see what all is going on. Outland and Northrend have many of the same thing over and over again with little deviation.

Outland

My progression through Outland started with Hellfire Peninsula, going through half of Zangarmarsh, and then finishing most of Nagrand before hitting level 68. With 25% experience bonus from heirlooms and an extra 10% from the guild perk, the levels flew by – so much that I was level 73 before hitting Zangarmarsh. I only did two instances, and that was my wife running me through Hellfire Ramparts and the Blood Furnace. This time I was going for efficiency in leveling, and wanting to get through as fast as I could.

One relic quest design that still exists in Outland is the amount of Elite/Group quests. Fortunately, as I was playing a Shadow Priest this time around it was actually fairly easy and I was able to solo a majority of them. There were the few that I needed help with, like Arazzius the Cruel and Durn the Hungerer, but more often than not I was fine.

Nagrand is my favourite zone from Burning Crusade. The looks of it were just amazing, along with very good questing design for the most part. However, this zone suffers from quest hub-itis. There are five places in the zone where you get quests (mostly), and three of them are in the same area – for the Horde side at least. This means that while you can grab about 7-12 quests at once, there’s a lot of travel time involved from place to place. As much as down time is necessary to regroup and calm down, there’s a lot of travel time involved in Nagrand.

All in all, Outland isn’t a bad place – it’s just boring to me. I’ve gone through Outland numerous times and it’s still the exact same as it was when it first came out, with the exception of how long it takes to get through it. There are many great views, quests, NPCs, and other things to see along the way. I just ask that Blizzard update things to make them better. If someone has never gone through the continent before, I think they would enjoy it.

Northrend

Going through Northrend was also a lot quicker than at first, mainly due to heirlooms and guild perk. I started in Howling Fjord, did all of Dragonblight and Zul’Drak, then about halfway through Storm Peaks is where I ended up hitting level 80. Through this I only did two instances, both through the LFD tool, coming up with Utgarde Keep and Halls of Stone (of course).

Normally in my quest to level alts, I end up getting stuck around the beginning of Northrend. I can usually make it through the first zone, usually Borean Tundra, but by the time I reach Dragonblight I get bored very quickly. In a WoW Insider Show, they had likened the province of Manitoba as being the Dragonblight of Canada, and I have to agree – Dragonblight is just boring.

As I said, I normally start from Borean Tundra so the first area I hit in Dragonblight is Agmar’s Hammer. Since I started in Howling Fjord this time I did the Venomspite quests first, which is what I believe made the difference. It wasn’t much of a change, but any change is welcome in boring content.

Similar to Outland, there were a number of Elite/Group quests that were out there. Also similarly, I was able to solo most of them and only needing help with the ones that had mechanics that were harmful to cloth-wearers. The travel time to get to different places still was a big factor, but not nearly as bad as Outland. By this time, Blizzard seems to have learned that people don’t like having to fly somewhere for five minutes before getting to the quest objective.

During my initial time in Wrath, I didn’t really have a favourite zone. This time, Zul’Drak really stood out to me – the story of an empire that wanted to fend off the Scourge so badly that they killed their own gods out of desperation. I would love to see the zone the way it was before, as the pinnacle of a troll empire.

Right now Northrend is still too fresh in my mind from Wrath. Cataclysm has only been out for five months, so it hasn’t been long enough for me to get over it. The zone and quest design isn’t bad, but I’m glad it’s not the current one anymore.

Conclusion

Many times through my leveling experience, I was extremely thankful for the ability to have a flying mount. Originally, flying wasn’t available in Outland until level 70 and in Northrend until level 77. Having to run through all the stuff before was painful enough, I am so very glad that I didn’t have to do it again.

Last year I wrote up some retrospectives about Vanilla, Burning Crusade, and Wrath of the Lich King. Going through the two expansion contents, I’m reminded about many of my original observations and my overall conclusion from them: I’m glad that I was able to play through them when they were relevant, but I’m very glad that it’s the past. What’s done is done, and I’m glad the game is moving forward.

It shows how much Blizzard has done to improve the game over time. Anyone who says that the game was better during Vanilla, Burning Crusade, or Wrath is a liar. The game as it is today is far more superior to the previous content. Blizzard will always improve their work.

I’m very glad to be back in Cataclysm content. Hyjal, here I come!

Screenshot of the Week – April 30

Click for full size

This week’s screenshot comes from Howling Fjord, taken while leveling my new Shadow Priest the other night. I really like this picture as it shows the beauty of the skies of Northrend alongside the destruction that is around the zone.

It doesn’t help that the Royal Apothecary Society is plaguing the proto-drakes in the area either.

Melting Faces and Taking Names

Once upon a time, it was said that Shadow Priests can melt faces. After testing out this theory for myself, it turns out that the information presented was indeed correct. For the first time in my World of Warcraft career, I’m playing a “squishy” class without actually being squishy.

When Cataclysm hit, I had my sights set on making a goblin priest. I’m not sure why exactly I wanted to do that specific race/class combination, but it seems to be working for me so far. The first bit I decided to try to level entirely by using the dungeon finder, and it worked – for a while.

Levels 15-35 were fairly uneventful, with decent groups being able to go through a dungeon in a good amount of time without much drama. After that, it seemed every second group would either be completely full of idiots, or people who don’t know what they’re doing. If I was really fortunate, it would be a nice mix of both. I was really hoping to continue leveling through the LFD tool to work on my healing, since I would likely be doing this once I hit max level. However, this didn’t end up happening, and at level 42 I decided to start questing again.

Unfortunately, since this character had been parked in Orgrimmar from levels 15 to 42, I didn’t have any flight paths other than Bilgewater Harbour and Razor Hill. Thankfully I had epic riding skill, so the drive down to Dustwallow Marsh to pick up the Thousand Needles breadcrumb wasn’t too big of a problem. I changed over to my dual spec of Shadow, and promptly began to melt the faces of Grimtotems, pirates, and anything else that stood in my way.

Since then there has only been one circumstance when I switched back to my Discipline spec for use, which was to heal a tank so we could duo Durn the Hungerer in Nagrand. Apart from that, I’ve only switched over to spend the talent points that I had earned. Fortunately, there hasn’t been any need to do so.

While I was leveling my enhancement shaman I found I was able to solo most things, including some group quests which I had never been able to do before. Out of curiosity, I decided to try this in Hellfire Peninsula on my priest. I had gotten the feel of the class by this point, and was comfortable in what to do for an elite mob. After some preparation and making sure I had the proper buffs, the giants for the Colossal Menace quest were destroyed efficiently.

I was honestly quite shocked – a clothie that can solo group quests this easily? It was different from what I had expected. (For the record, I have leveled a Warlock previously and they did well for group quests – but having a Voidwalker or Felguard will help quite a bit! Warlocks aren’t that squishy, but I don’t have any experience with one since originally leveling through Outland back in Burning Crusade.) Not having a pet or something to tank an elite mob, while I was able to still do very decent damage and have self-healing… it was a nice feeling.

Going through Outland, I was able to solo all group quests in Zangarmarsh and Nagrand (with the exception of Durn). In my brief time in Howling Fjord I’ve been able to solo the one group quest that has come up which has always presented me with problems on other characters, which is March of the Giants – elite giants who do heavy damage, along with a hard-hitting damage over time debuff placed on you. Fortunately a priest’s arsenal includes Dispel Magic, which saved my hide a number of times through the course of that questline.

I was able to hit 70 before completing the quests in Vengeance Landing and Camp Winterhoof in Howling Fjord the other night. Originally, I was expecting to level by healing the dungeon finder groups I found with a Discipline spec. I’m extremely glad that I decided to make the switch.

It will be interesting to see how things go through Northrend and Cataclysm content. I’ll be wanting to get more healing experience, but being able to melt faces is just so much fun. Rolling this priest as an alt seems to have been a very good idea.

Screenshot of the Week – April 23

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Once again, here is a picture from the Goblin starting areas. There are so many things that happen through it, it’s hard to not take a ton of screenshots as you go through it.

The Goblins are at it again, this time causing a volcano to erupt by killing a flame turtle.  I have a feeling that he didn’t like it.

Screenshot of the Week – April 9

Spring may have finally arrived in Edmonton. I just got a car wash, so I hope that it’s true.

Click for full size

Today’s screenshot of the week comes from the Goblin starting zone of the Lost Isles, going from the smaller island to the bigger one.  You go across the channel in style, by means of a slingshot-propelled rocket.  What can go wrong?

Screenshot of the Week – February 19

This week, I’ve decided to start a screenshot of the week post on weekends.  I have a bunch of them on my computer, so I thought I’d share some.  I hope you enjoy!

Click for full size

This is from the Goblin starting area, where you get to help the Orcs out by mowing down a bunch of hungry plants.  As with most of that area, it’s quite a bit of fun.

Cataclysmic Beginnings, Part 1

Having gone through both of the new races’ starting zones, I thought I’d give my opinions on how they turned out. They were both well done, but in different ways. The Goblin starting zone was very goblin-esque: it was fun, campy, had some entertaining moments. The Worgen starting zone was very sober: it was like you were in an industrial revolution time period, and you’re fighting for your survival.

This is going to be part one in a series of going through the changed starting zones of all the races, finishing up their respective starting areas – Durotar, Tirisfal, and so on.

My biggest disappointment was what happens to the Worgen after the starting zone is done, but we’ll get to that part later.

There will be lots of spoilers forthcoming.  Follow along after the break to go through my thoughts about these two great areas.

Read the rest of this entry

First impressions of Cataclysm

I listen to the WoW Insider Podcast a fair amount, and one constant that comes up quite a bit is how awesome Cataclysm is.  After finally having a couple days to try things out, I too would like to add my voice to this.  Cataclysm is freaking awesome.

Unfortunately, I’ve had to fight a raid boss every night before I can do anything else: the dreaded login queue fight.  Remember when I was talking about our guild transferring to a new server?  At the time it was high population, and with the launch of Cataclysm and more people returning to play the game, there’s been a bit of a queue each night so far during prime time.  There are times when it isn’t too bad, but there are times when it’s 30+ minutes of waiting to be able to log in.

Thankfully there were free character transfers opened up, so if we’re lucky the queue boss will be defeated sooner rather than later.  The first server I played on was Doomhammer, and there were nightly queues for about the month or so after the game launched.  I can live with a little bit of one right now.

Complaining aside, Cataclysm is awesome.  So far I’ve been able to get to the beginning parts of level 81 on Korath in Vashj’ir and started up my Goblin Priest as I had wanted to.  Vashj’ir is visually stunning as well as very well designed: at first I wasn’t sure what it would be like, since it’s Blizzard’s first attempt at a fully 3D zone where you have to look for things all around you rather than on the floor.  One thing that came to my mind was the battle in Star Trek II where Khan forgets that he’s in space, and that he could be above him rather than just in front.

Kezan and the Lost Isles are lots of fun.  It’s extremely campy and not intended to be very serious, but at the same time it has a fair bit of serious meaning to it.  After the volcano starts to erupt and you want to leave, Gallywix decides to take everyone as captives to be sold into slavery – this is not a very funny situation.  My wife finished the Lost Isles, and I’m still working on it, but what I’ve seen is a very sleek progression and lots of quests that are both fun and can be challenging.

Before Cataclysm launched, I was able to finish up exploring the existing world and get all the new flight paths.  Along the way I was still stunned by how beautiful everything looks.  It’s quite fantastic.  My suggestion to you is that if you get frustrated at something, find a place in Azeroth that helps you calm down and just chill.  The Sundering in Stranglethorn Vale is one of those places for me.

As I write this, I fight the queue monster, and hopefully I’ll be able to get going with Korath’s progression.  There’s a fair amount of people in the guild who are already at 85, and I don’t want to be left too far behind.  That happened to me in past expansions, I don’t want it to happen again.

Happy hunting all!

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