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Mists of Pandaria – Three Weeks In

On September 25th, something very interesting happened. Mists of Pandaria was released to a horde of fans who were eager to have something different, and hopefully better than what Cataclysm had been. They were chomping at the bit, desperate for something more than running a raid for the past 9 months.

Blizzard Entertainment did an extrordinary thing. They delivered, and then some.

Most people I had spoken to were completely done with Cataclysm. Dragon Soul had been out for about 9 months, they had cleared everything and had all of the mounts and achievements they could get or wanted to get. All of their professions were maxed, they had all the reputations they needed, or whatever their case may have been.

Personally, I wasn’t playing as much as I had before. I would log on a few nights a week to do a couple randoms, maybe a Raid Finder group (if it didn’t blow up). Leveling alts only stays exciting for so long. Not having time to raid took out the only regular thing I had ever relied on in previous expansions. The only thing I was doing was leveling my Alliance Mage on my friends’ server.

When Mists launched, all of a sudden I had so much stuff to do again. True to what I had been expecting, the very first thing I did was do some pet battles. I had only done a little bit of them in beta, and they were just as much fun as I remembered. Memories of playing Pokemon in junior high school came back in a very big way.

For the first time since Burning Crusade, my wife and I decided to level our mains together. I play a Feral Druid and she plays an Enhancement Shaman, so we were able to power through most mobs without much problem (except for some of the rares that we stumbled across). We hit 90 this past weekend, and really enjoyed all of the zones that we quested through.

Overall, the quest design of this expansion is absolutely amazing. There were quests where we laughed – mainly the Hozen quests, especially Riko expressing his undying (see what I did there?) love for Kiryn – some quests that were quite touching, but the most important thing is that pretty much all of them were a lot of fun.

There is one thing that I keep coming back to, something that I find myself saying all the time, which is how absolutely beautiful the new content is. It’s hard to believe that the engine running this is over 8 years old, yet we’re still given these amazing views. Everything from the grand temples and structures, down to the small little tumbleweeds that blow around Kun-Lai Summit. The environment is gorgeous and incredibly immersive.

At the moment, I have yet to find something about this expansion that I don’t like. The closest thing that I could label as a complaint is that there’s just too much to do. Once I hit level 90, I have at least four different factions that I want to raise my reptutation with immediately, and being the completionist that I am, I want to eventually get them all up to exalted.

I still have yet to fully do many dungeons or scenarios – the only ones I’ve done is one run of the new heroic Scholomance, and one instance of the Arena of Annihilation.

All I know is that I’m more excited about this expansion than I have been for any other, possibly having Burning Crusade for the exception (only because at the time, it was the first expansion). One last note: a few friends of mine were extremely critical of the Mists of Pandaria announcement after BlizzCon. They were complaining about how much it looked like a very weak expansion without much content. Now, after talking with them after the release, they have completely changed their stances and are quite happy with the result.

Bring it on!

Signature Abilities

There are certain things in the game that scream: “THIS IS WORLD OF WARCRAFT!” Each class has their own special thing that people think of when they picture the class in their head. Some have changed over time, being iconic when the game came out and all but vanished now. Some have emerged over time, starting as a thought and finally being realized.

One good thing is that I couldn’t think of one specific ability that is recognizable for the entire game. There are a few front-runners, but there are many that define each class. Blizzard has done a great job of making each class very individual (with a few exceptions), and you know who you are playing by what you can do.

Shamans get two picks from me: Frost Shock and Bloodlust. Sorry Alliance, but it will always be Bloodlust and not Heroism. In Vanilla PvP, Frost Shock was one of the biggest abilities that the Horde had in their arsenal, as it was a good snare on a short cooldown that did a decent amount of damage. There used to be an addon that would have an audio file of “FROST SHOOOOOCK!” when it was used. Bloodlust, including the roaring-murloc-style sound, is such a great feeling. The very first time it was used in game for my character gave me goosebumps.

(The above is my son being a good PvP Shaman in training)

Druids are pretty straight forward, being that their forms truly define who they are. Not as much as previously, with the removal of a permanent Tree Form, but I believe that Bear Form & Cat Form are truly iconic (and of course the laser chicken). There’s no mistaking what you’re fighting when you have a cat tearing up your face. Being able to be a warrior, rogue, mage, and priest all in one is a nice feeling.

To me, the Warrior’s signature ability was mainly visible in Vanilla as it was before big nerfs. Mortal Strike was a high damage move that also caused the target to receive 50% less healing as a debuff. This was in place for a very long time until it was nerfed to be only 10% less healing, as it was very overpowered for PvP. Many tanks were Arms spec in Vanilla mainly for this ability, so mobs that healed themselves could be mitigated. Close second is Titan’s Grip – being able to wield two two-handed weapons is just awesome.

Rogues are mainly known for one thing: their stuns. They have close to fifty thousand of them (or so it would seem at time in PvP), and used well they can completely lock out someone for a good period of time. By the time the stuns wear off, the target’s health is low enough that they’re as good as dead.

Warlocks also have two great abilities to cause grief to people: Fear and Death Coil. Both mainly in Vanilla again, but the combination of the two spells were great to keep a player or a mob out of the way for a good period of time. The only problem with PvE use of them is that they have a very good chance to pull approximately one thousand other mobs who are close by.

Mages have two things that I believe is their signature, which is Polymorph and the ability to blow stuff up. Polymorph’s history goes back to the early RTS games, and thankfully stays in the game today as a great crowd control device. Being able to have different animals other than sheep is nice for groups or raids with multiple mages, but the sheep is still awesome. Plus, mages can blow stuff up, including Living Bomb. How can you go wrong?

Hunters are definitely known for having their pets and their traps. The removal of Eyes of the Beast, allowing direct control over the pet, is definitely a big loss – it was also the way our guild pulled Baron Geddon in Molten Core back in Vanilla. When pets had their happiness system or needing to tame specific pets to learn specific abilities, or basically how pets were before they were all made generic are what truly defined hunters for a very long time. The traps have become a lot better, as rather than having to place them where the character is, they are now able to be launched to a location without having to sacrifice yourself. Coming close behind is feign death, which is also useful in real life.

I had a difficult time coming up with a specific priest signature ability. Eventually I decided on Shadowform and the ability to be a very flexible healer. Unfortunately with all the specific heals that a priest has, there are too many to narrow down to one signature one, apart from Greater Heal. Bread and butter healing. Shadowform is very different in the fact that it gave priests a way to do very good damage and still be a priest at heart.

Death Knights are pretty easy, as Death Grip is one of the first things that a player uses after rolling one. Being able to yank someone right to you, also acting as a taunt, is a tank’s best friend. Plus, a lot of fun in PvP. Army of the Dead is a close contender, as there are few things more awesome than an army of ghouls rampaging on your behalf.

The Paladin signature ability was the easiest one to come up with. Divine Shield, or the infamous “Bubble”. Unfortunately not being able to last long enough for a full bubble-hearth, it still has the reputation that it definitely deserves.

In conclusion, each class has things that truly make them feel unique. Even the Druid, which “borrows” the styles of other classes, still makes the playstyle their own. Even though they use rage like a warrior, they are not warriors (parrying with their faces takes skill).

As a signature ability for the game? I don’t think there needs to be one. The closest “iconic” one that I can think of would have to be Bloodlust. It is synonymous with the Orc culture, and every time I hear the sound effect I can’t help but think of the Warcraft series.

Memories of Azeroth: Zangarmarsh

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After Hellfire Peninsula, the next stop is Zangarmarsh.  Whereas Hellfire looked a lot like the Blasted Lands, and wasn’t too “alien”, Zangarmarsh is a completely brand new world.  It’s basically a reminder of the Warcraft II expansion set “Beyond the Dark Portal”, as there were forests of mushrooms there.  Well, here’s your forest of mushrooms!

Cenarion Refuge - Click for full size

Telredor - Click for full size

Starting in the zone, characters would have breadcrumb quests leading to Cenarion Refuge, and their respective faction camps of Swamprat Post for the Horde or Telredor fot the Alliance.  I must admit that I was always a little choked that the Alliance got this amazing looking outpost built into a mushroom, and the Horde just gets a generic Troll camp.  The quests here would take up half the zone, eventually leading west.

The Dead Mire - Click for full size

The Spawning Glen - Click for full size

The zone’s story has a lot to do with the Naga, and how they’re draining the lakes for their own purposes.  They don’t say exactly what purpose that is, but I think it’s along the lines of: “It’s MINE! Go away!”  The Dead Mire is an example of what happens to an area once the water has been drained out completely.  Among the inhabitants affected by this are the mushroom people of Sporeggar.  There are some quests to help them out, and a faction associated with them.  The rewards include a non-combat pet, but it takes a very long time to get the reputation required.

Ango'rosh Stronghold - Click for full size

Orebor Harborage - Click for full size

The west side of the zone dealt mainly with the Ogres, and that they were chopping down the mushrooms for themselves and messing things up for Sporeggar.  Because the fungal giants didn’t have mushrooms to eat, they decided to eat Sporeggar’s young while they were growing in the Spawning Glen.  It’s up to the player to go and crush the Ogres at their stronghold, which is a small island using a downed mushroom as a bridge.  Altogether you get to lay a beat down on a bunch of things to try and bring things as close to normal as possible.

To Terokkar Forest - Click for full size

To Nagrand - Click for full size

After Zangarmarsh, it’s off to Terokkar Forest – normally.  I try to skip Terokkar, as I’m not too fond of the zone, so I try to go right to Nagrand.  There are entrances to Terokkar, Nagrand, and Blade’s Edge from Zangarmarsh, very much the crossroads of the continent.

 

Screenshot of the Week – August 20

Even though I said my next Memories of Azeroth post would be coming this past week, unfortunately real life got in the way. It should be up this coming week.

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A while back when I was working on my Explorer achievement, I was able to have a nice view on the Night Elf boat from Darkshore to Teldrassil.  Looking back at this makes me extremely glad that the old cat form model is ancient history.

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.

Screenshot of the Week – August 6

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My hunter just finished leveling through Nagrand again, and I can never get enough of the zone. It truly is absolutely beautiful – I could have a post full of the many different areas of it. Not only that, but after reading Rise of the Horde by Christie Golden, I can appreciate the history of Orcs that is throughout the zone.

Character Identity

This is part of a Shared Topic, started by Akabeko of Red Cow Rise. Make sure to check out more great posts from other Blog Azeroth authors!

What defines a person? What is the thing that is at their core, which makes them who they are? There can be many things that do this, which can be small or large parts of their lives. As a gamer, we have a way to extend these definitions of ourselves into the virtual world through the characters we play.

Of course, not everyone does this. There are people who play only for the enjoyment of what a certain character can do or a role that is required. I believe that someone who truly enjoys playing a certain character does so because it’s something they can identify with.

Looking back at the characters I’ve played over the years, I can see a progression of how I identified with these characters and why I chose what I did. More so, I can see why I’ve stuck with my Tauren Druid so long and still really enjoy playing him.

Of my many characters, I’m only going to focus on two: my previous main, a Blood Elf Paladin and my current main, a Tauren Druid.

I stuck with my Paladin for a long time, starting on BC launch day and raiding as a healer through Tier 5 stuff (Serpentshrine Cavern and Tempest Keep). This was my first experience playing a melee oriented class that I actually enjoyed, as previously I had played only ranged/magic classes in my online gaming career. With this character, I found that I could identify with him somewhat.

In real life, I’m a very ordinary guy. I work for a living, I have a great family, I do very normal stuff. However, part of what I do in my job is help people out (since I work for a bank, it just happens to be financial help), and that is part of who I am.

When I focused on being a healer and a paladin, I could identify with what the paladin is supposed to be. A protector of others, putting other people ahead of one’s self. As I was healing my guildmates and keeping them alive through these encounters, I could see myself in that role as well. Because of this, I believe that I stayed with the character for a while.

The Paladin was a member of the Blood Knights, originally siphoning power from M’uru, and thinking that he was just doing this for his own advancement. Yet, as time went on he realized that he actually liked being able to help others out. Rather than just being another Blood Elf minion, he established himself as a member of his guild and a vital member of a raiding team. When he found out about the betrayal of Prince Kael’thas, he decided to focus on the friends he had made in his guild and only be loosely affiliated with the Blood Knights, even though the Sunwell was restored.

My current main character was born because my wife had recently started playing WoW as well, and we wanted to level characters together. She had created a Tauren Shaman, and I wanted to create a new Druid – hoping that it was better than the original time I tried to level one in Vanilla. We had a lot of fun, and made it to max level in Burning Crusade, and I eventually made him my new main.

I see my Druid’s identity as part of that original experience. He was going through the world with his wife, trying to help people out and bring glory to the Horde. His loyalty is first to his family, then to his fellow Tauren, then the Horde. This is basically how I am in my real life situation.

Our experiences shape who we are, in-game and out. Whether that is a traumatic experience that makes you cringe when you see spiders, or a smile whenever you see kittens because you just love them. If you value protecting others by keeping them safe, a healer or tank might be a good option for you because it aligns with natural personality. If you protect others by removing things that would cause others harm, there’s DPS for you. What type of DPS? Take out your frustration by stabbing things as a rogue. Enjoy setting things on fire as a warlock.

WoW’s longevity can be credited to a number of things, and I believe that relatable characters is a very big part. I wrote about this before regarding NPCs, but this definitely also applies to player-controlled characters as well. Why have a hero if you hate being that person?

Job Application: Warchief of the Horde

I was thinking the other day about the leaders of the Horde, and our current Warchief.  After looking them all over, each has their own reasons for wanting to be in power and has the experience to warrant it.  So I thought I’d put down a brief job application for each of the six leaders and what they would have said to Thrall if they had applied for the job of Warchief.

Enjoy this humourous representation of what I think the different people would say.

Applicant: Garrosh Hellscream

Gender: MANLY ORC!

Race: DID YOU NOT SEE MANLY ORC?

Previous Employer: Mopey emo-Orc based out of Garadar

References: Greatmother Geyah. Don’t talk to Mor’ghor. My Dad was Grom Hellscream! That counts for something, right? Hey, how did Magatha’s name get on here?!

Experience: Running Warsong Hold with the “help” of Saurfang. Smashing things with Gorehowl. Cleaving things with Gorehowl. Beating more things with Gorehowl. Oh, is that a basic campfire? So pretty… er, um, I like beating things. Good history of arguing for the sake of arguing. Lack of foresight. Dueling.

Applicant: Baine Bloodhoof

Gender: Bull

Race: Tauren

Previous Employer: Chief of Bloodhoof Village

References: My father’s legacy, and I’m sure Magatha will attest to my battle prowess.

Experience: Not being Garrosh Hellscream.  Having honour. Running Bloodhoof Village for many years while my father was leading our people. Battle experience notably includes taking back Thunder Bluff from traitors. Do you want to see the dents in my totem from those pummeled by it?

Applicant: Sylvanas

Gender: Female

Race: Previously High Elf, currently a banshee inhabiting the dead body

Previous Employer: Arthas (*spits*), Quel’Thalas Rangers

References: There’s a few Val’kyr here who will be willing to say how awesome I am.  Oh, and an entire nation of followers.

Experience: Leading formerly enthralled minions of the Lich King under one banner to oppose him. Helping kill Arthas through the various parts of Icecrown Citadel. Destroying many enemies while in the Rangers. Not making plague (*coughs*).

Applicant: Vol’jin

Gender: Male

Race: Troll

Previous Employer: Masta’ o’ da Darkspear Trolls

References: Afta’ Bwonsamdi blessed de Darkspears, I be sure he happy wit’ me. Thrall be me brudda in arms.

Experience: Leading da Trolls away from massacre of da Gurubashi. Kickin’ heathen Trolls out of Zul’Aman. Emissary to other Troll tribes. Loyal member o’ da Horde since we came to Kalimdor. Lay down a beat, and I be de masta’ dancah!

Applicant: Lor’themar Theron

Gender: Male, right?

Race: Blood Elf

Previous Employer: Prince Kael’thas

References: Nobody knows who I am…

Experience: Looking good while doing anything, or nothing. Standing around in Silvermoon for the past few years. I look amazing. My hair looks fabulous.

 

Applicant: Trade-Prince Gallywix

 

Gender: Male

Race: Goblin

Previous Employer: ME!

References: Ask any Goblin, they’ll know what to say. YOU KNOW WHAT TO SAY OR YOU’LL PAY!

Experience: Swindling the life savings out of a brazen young upstart who wants my job. Hostile takeovers. Insulting others, especially people who want my job or Gnomes. Being the best at everything… except sailing, I guess.

Screenshot of the Week – July 23

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Another blast from the past this week, venturing into Arathi Highlands and the former city-state of Stromgarde.  The questing through there is both better and worse, in the fact that previously you could knock everything out at once – now you have to go back and forth a few times to finish everything.  Hopefully one day we’ll see Danath Trollbane come back, reclaim the city, and have a cool new place.  For the Alliance – to quest; for the Horde – to burn.

Screenshot of the Week – July 9

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Flying around doing archaeology one day, I was passing through Uldum and was wondering why it was on fire. There are times I’m not very observant, but the last time I checked I was at the south end of Kalimdor and not by Blackrock Mountain.  Deathwing had apparently just been through, and had unleashed his swath of destruction.  I would be upset, except for the fact that he roasted me a while back.

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