Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Vanilla Quest Chains To Do Before Cataclysm

I recently transferred my Alliance warlock alt to join a bunch of coworkers on another server. This warlock was 54 before I started playing her again and I figured with Cataclysm coming I really should relive some of the more epic quests I'd done before, or had never done at all.

For me this meant traveling to both Western and Eastern Plaguelands. I'd really only spent time here on Hana, since she's my only character that hit 60 before TBC. Sure Gillien and Darkker had made brief forays, but Gillien moved on to Outland around 58 and Darkker focused on PvP as she reached the upper end of the 50-59 bracket.

Oddly enough, doing mundane quests in Plaguelands felt like a home-coming of sorts. There was a time when these zones was bustling with activity, and there's so much lore to be found here. I'm pretty sure the majority of WPL is changing and EPL will probably have some significant changes as well.

The following is my list of quest chains to do before I hit up Outland. I don't care if I'm over level 60 by the time I finish them. I want to do them as close to the level I was when I did them originally, or as close to the level I was intended to be in case of the quests I never completed. It's just not quite as epic when everything gets one-shot.

1) Tirion Fordring's Redemption

When I originally met Tirion back in vanilla WoW, he was this old human hermit in EPL and I was struck by how he saw honor to be a facet irrespective of race. As a Horde player, he immediately won me respect, and though he offered tedious kill 30 of this particular monster quests I did them anyway. Gold was hard to come by in vanilla WoW. Doing quests in the later half of vanilla was one way to earn some.

After I finished killing many horrible things in Eastern Plaguelands, Tirion told me his true story for being out there, that he had refused to betray his honor for his station, and that his greatest regret regarding his exile was that he hadn't been able to guide his son into being a better man.

In this quest chain, the player has to gather a bunch of items to remind his wayward son, now a Scarlet Crusader, of what his father stood for and to reunite father and son together. The chain ends with Tirion vowing to reforge the Silver Hand and lays the groundwork for everything that happens in WoLK with the Argent Crusade.

Of course, then he gets all shiny in Northrend and I can barely stand him anymore. But once upon a time I thought he was one of the coolest NPCs in the game.

2) Darrowshire

Darrowshire was so epic back in its day that its finale was one of the few raid quests that did not take place in a instance. There are a couple ways to start this chain. One is from Marlene Redpath's ghost in WPL, and the other is from Jessica Redpath (still living) in Winterspring. Both want you to check up on little Pamela's fate since the town of Darrowshire was overrun by the Scourge.

It turns out Pamela, a young girl, did not survive the attack and her ghost still wanders waiting for her family to come back. As you go through the quest you learn the story of the horrible battle that razed Darrowshire and how Pamela's father had been corrupted by the Scourge and betrayed the town.

The quest chain eventually shifts from finding out what happened, to recreating the battle (which is why you needed a raid--there was a hell of a lot to fight!) so that the spirit of Joseph Redpath can be redeemed.

From my understanding, it can be solo-ed now if a person is careful. Many of the formerly elite mobs have been nerfed, and even the elites have been pulled down to the level of being a "normal" elite rather a "boss" level elite.

Still, it's a very moody quest that really drives home what it was like for the families who were assaulted by the Scourge. Probably one of the best examples of vanilla WoW storytelling.

3) Avenging the Ghosts of Caer Darrow

Scholomance sits above Caer Darrow, a town that has been ruined and his inhabitats butchered. Initially there is a quest chain from a pair of ghosts to destroy their bodies and those who tormented them, which awards the player with a trinket that gives them the ability to see all the ghosts of Caer Darrow.

One of those new ghosts sends the player on a quest chain to return the lich Ras Frostwhisper to his human form so he can be slain. While not quite on the epic scale of the previous two changes, it certainly involves its share of running round to Arathi Highlands, to Baron Rivendare's room in Stratholme, and back again.

I've never done this quest chain before, so I figure I should give it shot.

4) Fallen Hero of the Horde

There are few quest chains that rival the full length of Fallen Hero of the Horde. Only the longest of the WotLK chains can hope to match its 20+ quests (exact numbers appear to vary between Alliance and Horde).

The basic story is that an orc grew tired of waiting for orders that never came and unwisely led his unit into the Blasted Lands where they were overwhelmed by a powerful demon and his followers. Their souls were torn from their bodies and made to serve. Only the Fallen Hero, managed to escape though he still died shortly afterwards.

He asks the player to free his trapped soldiers, then discover the name of the demon. Once the demon's name is known it can be forged into a weapon against it. Finally, by killing the demon's three followers, the player can assemble an amulet that will allow the summoning of the demon.

To do this the player must scour not only the Blast Lands, but enlist help from a demon hunter in Azshara and a smith in Stranglethorn Vale. It's the kind of globe-trotting only a vanilla quest would make a player do.

After all that work, the player can face the demon himself in a hellish battle atop a mountain in Blasted Lands. Judging from comments on Wowhead the battle has been nerfed by a fair margin, but it used to be a 5-man quest that required careful preparation before anyone went up there.

It additional to all its other rewards, the chain also awarded a 16-slot bag, which was the gold standard back then. I still have that bag as a keepsake on Hana.

5) Dreadsteed

This is my first and only warlock, so the dreadsteed quest chain was not of interest to me before, but since the old world's being overhauled, I think there's a good chance this quest will be going bye-bye. Dire Maul is being retuned for a lower level and the level at which the player needs to be in order to visit the all areas needed by this quest won't match with the finale in the revamped Dire Maul (even allowing for the fact that Scholomance will now be similarly low in level).

I know this chain involves stealing a dreadsteed from a very cranky demon and traveling to such locales as Felwood, Burning Steppes, and Scholomance. Personally, I plan to combine the Scholomance run with turning Ras Frostwhisper into a human to save myself a trip.

It's also going to cost gold, but I think I have gold to spare. My alt is extremely rich compared to a vanilla WoW character, thanks to the incredible price people are willing to pay for herbs, so I don't anticipate going broke for a mount I already bought off my trainer. I just want to do the quest for posterity.

And it'll be a good excuse to do Dire Maul West since I've never done it before.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Reflections on 10-man Strict

This may be because of Vidyala's post about whether or not not her guild should give up its 10-man strict qualifications. This is also because last night my raid downed heroic Sindragosa for the first time.

Next week we're going to start working on the remaining achievements for [Glory of the Icecrown Raider] and our Bloodbathed Frostbrood Vanquishers. Not everyone is going to get theirs at once. It might take us three lockouts to get everyone their frostwyrms (two rounds of the achievements on normal to cover our eleven raiders, and one more heroic round to cover the people who missed the H Sindy kill), but I hope we get everyone their wyrms in that amount of time.

Our server is not terribly well progressed, so we're actually the second Horde guild of any stripe to defeat Heroic Sindragosa. It's a nice badge to have, especially being 10-strict. I admit it's going to be fun when the group of us park our frostwyrms around Krasus Landing like a bunch of giggling teenagers and people wonder just who the heck is Be Your True Mind anyway and why are they so good they get to have frostwyrms.

Being 10-man strict means that you fly under the radar a lot.

Certain people seem to acknowledge us. The top Horde raid guild in our server seems to think fondly enough of us. I remember getting congrats from a couple of their guildies, complete strangers, after we downed Lich King. We also got grats from someone in one of the top Alliance raid guilds after we downed heroic Sindragosa.

But by and large the general population of our server has no idea who we are. We are in a position regarded as a prestigious among a very select group of people.

Nobody thinks "Hey, that person is in Be Your True Mind! They must be good!" Now that at least thirty guilds on our server have killed the Lich King, Kingslayers can be found aplenty, even in guilds that have never managed the Lich King on their own.

Kingslayer is still a token of respect, but it's not quite a strong as it used to be, especially as Kingslayers leave their raid guilds for more casual pastures. Just because a Kingslayer is in a guild, doesn't mean a guild is good. Certainly, we've seen plenty of guilds take in a Kingslayer so they could start working on heroics before they could even kill the Lich King themselves.

Be Your True Mind has never been about the prestige though. Sure, we like it when we can get it. There's no reason not to be proud of one's accomplishments. But when my 25-man guild broke up, all I could think about was how I still wanted to face the Lich King and how I wanted to do it in the small 10-man environment I enjoyed most. I would have made a 10-man guild even if the strict criteria hadn't existed.

It took months of starts and stops, and we wouldn't have made it if not for former guildies and their friends who so kindly plugged the gaps in our roster until we reached a (mostly) self-sustaining number of eleven. (Sometimes we'll have two absent, but we have more non-raiding members now who are happy to plug gaps.) Even then we lost people to real life, and we've recruited replacements. Out of the group of eleven that became Kingslayer together, eight remain.

We're still a close knit group though. Our former raiders remain in the guild, occasionally come as backup, and two of the replacements are really friends we're raiding with once more. Only one replacement came to us as a total stranger, and though he had some skeptics, he's working out and impressing us despite being the worst geared out of all of us. Finding someone who won't count against us in 10-man strict is hard, and finding someone who is actually good, is even harder. In that way he's a gem.

I honestly don't know if we'll ever down heroic Lich King. I mean, he's the final obstacle between us and having beaten all the content, it's natural to want to bash heads against him, but it's discouraging when I look at the 48 10-man strict guilds ranked above us and see that none of them have beaten him.

Does it mean that it's impossible? Did Blizzard tune this one too high for a 10-man guild in 10-man gear? How far have those guilds gotten? Are they working on Phase 2? Phase 3?

The 30% buff went live last week and it's not going to go any higher.

If I never kill heroic Lich King I won't be disappointed. I already accomplished my personal goal in founding this guild when we killed the Lich King on normal. As far as we've gotten with heroic modes and in working towards our frostwyrms is just a bonus. A bonus I'm totally enjoying, of course, but it wasn't what I originally set out to do.

I'm sure the group of us are going to stay together for Cataclysm. It's fun listening to people talk about what they're going to do. Surprisingly we have at least three people who say they want to become goblins, and our bear druid wants to become a troll (if he does we're going to be able to find him from all the way across the map with those skins!).

I'll still be Hana, the tauren moonkin druid, because she's too much of my WoW identity to change, but I already have a name saved for my baby tauren priest, because I've never played a priest before and I have a fondness for the moo-cows.

Not that I would race change Gillien now that paladins can be tauren. Gillien will remain a pretty blood elf.

Once Cataclysm comes, there will probably be no in-game distinction between a 10- and a 25-man guild, we'll have our progress ranked together. The 25-man teams should still progress faster though due to getting gear faster, which probably means that we will fall in our standings, quality of players aside. If skill and encounter difficulties are equal the guild getting gear faster will progress faster.

Besides, we only raid two nights a week, which already puts at a time disadvantage. Even other 10-man strict guilds generally raid more than us. (I like to think that we manage our quick clears by yelling "Pull! Pull! Pull!" to our obliging tanks over vent.)

We'll probably do well for ourselves in Cataclysm, even with the raid gear and lockout change. If all the Horde guilds on our server broke into 10-man raid guilds we'd probably be in the Top 5. We won't be so unique anymore, and it'll be difficult to earn firsts of any kind, but on the bright side, if everyone is running 10-mans, maybe we'll be noticed for the accomplishments we do earn.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

[Druid] The Fuzzy Swiss Army Knife

As of last night I have now performed as a tank, healer, and dps on every fight in ICC, all on the same class. I can't think that's something common. And honestly it's not something I set out to do.

I started ICC as a moonkin with a bear offspec that I used once in a while, but not very often. Our tanks have good attendance and we had other people with backup tank specs. Our roster at the start of ICC hadn't stabilized but the content wasn't punch-you-in-the-face hard so when we needed a third healer I usually brought in my paladin, despite the fact we already had a paladin healer.

But by the time we killed the Lich King and started hard modes, our roster was stable and we had a spiffy ret pally with a decent tanking offset. It was decided that what we really needed was a backup healer, so I changed my off-spec to resto, and I healed for many a hard mode if one of our healers was missing. I also healed the normal modes of the bosses we couldn't kill on heroic yet. I even did embarrassing things like heal in my moonkin gear because I forgot to swap gearsets. (Did that twice on normal Lich King and once on heroic BQL. We lived.)

Then our ret paladin retired, and a few weeks later our OT was going to be gone for a weekend, so I specced back to bear and tanked for a couple nights.

Since our healer attendance was good I left my bear spec up since I prefer tanking random heroics as a bear to healing them as a tree. I figured I'd just go back to tree when needed. And then last night we ran into a problem on heroic Sindragosa.

We were making fantastic progress, and got within 300k of killing her (so sad!) when our MT's internet gave out. He popped on, he popped off. He couldn't stay connected for more than a few minutes, and Sindy's not exactly a short fight. We only had a half hour left to our raid night and our only backup raider online was our unproven ret pally replacement, currently on trial with our guild. He'd never killed Sindragosa before, not even on normal. Heroic was out of the question.

We made the call to switch to finish the lockout on normal. I would OT and our usual OT would MT. (Two bear tanks. Such fun!)

Sindragosa went down easily enough on normal. It was a little sloppy, but that was because our healers decided to try two healing it for fun.

Then there was the Lich King.

When I play as my off-spec, whether it's as a healer or tank, I always try to fill in the role of the missing person. For something like BQL, where each raider in the guild has a usual spot to stand, I stand in the spot of the healer I'm replacing. It means no one else will have to adjust to accommodate someone being missing. For something like Putridice that means I will be the abom if our DK is missing or the Putricide tank if our bear is missing. It means I have to be flexible, but it also means that I really get to see the different sides of a fight.

Since our DK was the one who couldn't stay online that meant I had Shambling Horror and Raging Spirits duty. And I'd have to say that I'm really envious of our DK's ability to Death Grip the horrors to himself. I hit the first one with FF as soon as I could target it only to find out that it doesn't establish a threat table right away so I had to wait a second to taunt it. I was also terrified that a dps would pull a horror off of me since our more zealous squishies have made the occasional "oops, pulled threat" mistake while our DK was tanking. I consider myself a competent tank, but I can't help feeling a bit nervous stepping into someone else's shoes, because I want my substitution to be as seamless as possible.

We did have one wipe, which was totally random (the healer in charge of cleansing forgot to dispel off the MT going into Phase 2, and that was really unusual of him), but we downed him in short order. The new ret pally won some brownie points for being excellent about Defile, considering that he'd never done the LK fight before. It's really hard to find someone who can play and won't flag as having 25-man experience on GuildOx, so I'm hoping he works out.

Being able to say I've tanked/healed/dps-ed every fight in ICC, probably gives me some perspective. I do know that if I am to set up an alt/non-raider run for the guild (it's been brought up a couple times) that I will want to tank if we cannot get a guildie to do it. But I don't think tanking is the hardest role.

The thing is… once I know what to do as a tank, I might be a bit nervous, but I know what to do. The boss's attacks don't change. Damage is generally predictable. I pot. I use cooldowns. I tell someone when to taunt. The raid depends on a tank knowing what s/he's doing, but once the tank has that knowledge and is capable of executing it, the role of tanking itself is more routine. For an alt run that may include puggers I would want to tank instead of a stranger because I trust myself more than a tank I've never met.

The role that stresses the heck out of me is really being a healer. It might be because of my lack of experience (I only went tree once we started ICC hard modes), but healing hard modes always leaves me feeling like I'm running on a treadmill with a nasty set of spikes behind me. I toss my Rejuvs and my Wildgrowths, the occasional Lifebloom or Nourish, I'll top the meters on heroic Festergut and BQL, but even if everyone lives at the end of the night I'm still wondering if I'm doing it wrong. Perhaps the whole idea of blanketing the raid with hots just doesn't work for me because it's just a tick over time, whereas I'm comfortable with the machine gun style of paladin healing because you know pretty quick whether or not you're "doing it wrong." (Tank death will do that.)

While I hesitate to say that dps is the least stressful job (being ranged dps on heroic Blood Princes will quickly disabuse any notion of facerolling), it's a job I know very well. I can feel like I'm at the peak of my performance and still have the mental bandwidth to call out instructions during raid. Granted, I can usually do the same as a tank (if I don't have boss crotch blocking my view), but I have difficulty functioning as a raid leader if I'm healing a heroic mode. I'm very much a fan of audio alerts because if I'm healing I might not see what's happening around me, but if I can hear there's a good chance I'll react.

Still, there's a part of me that finds it fun being able to fit in wherever the raid needs me. I'd rather dps of course (I love being a boomer and booming is what I do best), but I like the challenge of being able to do whatever's necessary to get the job done. It's something that probably wouldn't have happened back in my 25-man guild, at least not without a lot of consternation, but being a druid in a 10-man there's a real opportunity as a fuzzy swiss army knife.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

[Druid] First Pass 31-point Cataclysm Talent Trees

To the surprise of no one, MMO-Champion has the new talent trees up from the latest Beta build. Blizzard says the druid trees aren't as far long as the other classes, so much of this will probably change, but we can at least see where they're going.

Since I've actually raided as all four druid playstyles now, I figure I can probably talk about all four without sounded like a complete idiot (though kitty remains my shakiest), and the changes to all trees are actually relevant to me.


We can see right off the bat that unpopular or straight dps talents have been kicked out. No more Brambles or Earth and Moon. Even though Lunar Guidance remains in name, it now increases the radius of our Solar Beam and generates more Solar or Lunar energy for our new Eclipse.

I made a preliminary talent spec using the available talents and was pleased to find myself at 36 of 41 points spent, and this was after I'd taken everything I'd considered must have, or even taken talents I would have considered to be so-so just so I could continue up the tree.

For instance, I have a full three points in Genesis now, which is considered fairly worthless for moonkin in WotLK. But when the talents I'm skipping over are Fungal Growth (slowing targets in area of my wild mushroom or expired treants), Owlkin Frenzy (unchanged), and Lunar Justice (mana back from standing in beam of light over defeated enemy that awards honor or exp), is Genesis really that bad anymore?

I spent a full 31 points in the balance tree and those three talents were my leftovers.

On the resto side I spent 3 points in Furor (more or less the same, just with fewer ranks) and 2 points in Blessing of the Grove for increased Moonfire damage. There's nothing deeper in the resto tree that's moonkin specific.

So what to do with my last 5 points? Well, I'd probably pick up Owlkin Frenzy since having situational pushback isn't so crazy anymore and maybe put 2 points into Perseverance in the resto tree to reduce the amount of spell damage taken, since healing's supposed to be a bigger deal now. Or maybe two points into Fungal Growth, because the slow might come in handy.

We actually do have choice, which is kind of nice.

And what happened to moonkin form itself, since it's not in the talent tree? Apparently it's now trainable! Level 40 according to MMO-Champion. That's kinda trippy, and it makes me a wee bit jealous that other druids can /dance in moonkin form without being balance druids.

It might not stay that way though. Ghostcrawler says they're experimenting with whether moonkin form or Starsurge should be the level 10 bonus for specializing in the balance tree.

Feral (Bear)

The feral tree saw a lot of pruning of "X talent increases the damage of Y ability" as well as any pure damage or stat increase abilities. Feral Swiftness and Natural Reaction stay, but Survival of the Fittest is gone, oddly enough, since bears would still need it to be uncrittable. Mangle is now baseline for ferals, as a reward just for specializing in the tree, so that's not a talent anymore. Primal Fury lost the cat component and now looks like a bear-only talent. Thick Armor remains a talent so apparently the damage reduction just from our mastery alone with not be enough to cover us. We'll still have to spec into it.

Fury Swipes is a new talent that gives us a chance at a free auto-attack whether in cat or bear form, which is nice. Pulverize and Endless Carnage will synergize for more threat since the first does extra weapon damage and gives us extra crit based on the number of Lacerate stacks for a limited time, and the second will allow the Pulverize state to last a few seconds longer.

But the feral tree doesn't feel finished yet.

For one thing, Feral Charge is still a talent, when there is a new trainable skill called Skull Bash that does the same thing. The Brutal Impact talent has similar been changed to reference Skull Bash rather than Feral Charge. I doubt ferals will have both since 2 points in Brutal Impact will already reduces the cooldown of SB to a mere 10 seconds, and having two methods to charge and interrupt would result in a crazy amount of mobility while simultaneously locking up casters (though that would be fun). But then there's also an Improved Feral Charge, so… maybe we will have both?

I didn't find quite the room in the feral tree for a bear spec as I had with the moonkin, with 39 of 41 talent points spent, but that's because I pushed up the resto tree to get Perseverance for the spell damage reduction. If that's regarded as optional, then another 5 talent points are refunded (since both the Tier 1 Blessing of the Grove and Natural Shapeshifter are fairly useless for bears). But then what's left to spent them on?

As with balance, it's easier to say what I skipped over than what I kept.

I skipped over King of the Jungle (same as on live), Primal Madness (which I think has a typo, but generates a certain amount of rage when Enrage or Berserk is used), Nom Nom Nom (pure cat talent), Nurturing Instinct (same as live and still pure cat), and Brutal Impact.

With two points left I'd probably take Brutal Impact. More stuns and interrupts are good, and that would take care of all my points.

Feral (Cat)

I found cat to be freer to spec than bear, even taking what would arguably be filler along the way to arrive at my 36 and 41. For cats the key new talents is the lovable Nom Nom Nom, which allows the player to use Ferocious Bite to refresh Rip during the last 25% of the target's health. Primal Madness will increase maximum energy by 20 during Beserk and Tiger's Fury, so there should be less losing of energy when those are activated at less than optimum times, and Endless Carnage will increase the duration of Rake and Savage Roar, all of which makes the cat rotation more forgiving than its current incarnation.

I ignored all the bear only talents in the feral tree, but I put 1 point in Nurturing Instinct as a filler just to go further down the tree, because with healing being harder, getting more heals as a cat seems to work in my own interest. Who knows. There might even be a need for cats to pop out and heal themselves if a fight gets really bad, and since all cats will have Predatory Strikes just to get to the Tier 2 talents, it'll be possible to make that heal an instant.

In resto I nabbed Furor and Blessing of the Grove, the latter for the boost in Shred damage.

With 5 points left to spend I'd probably fill out the rest of Nurturing Instinct and grab 2 ranks of Infected Wounds since I like the kitty PvP, leaving me with 2 more points I'd probably drop into Natural Shapeshifter because of the PvP. Or maybe I could take Perseverance for the spell damage reduction.

Again, there are choices.

But the tree does feel a little lean for me. There are still talents I'm passing over, but they're clearly for bears rather than usually for bears (like Infected Wounds) because they do not operate in cat form. In the bear spec I made for myself I skipped over talents that still had a bear component to them. In the cat spec, there's nothing not taken that had a cat specific affect.

I'm gonna love Skull Bash in PvP though. Ten second cooldown with talents on a combined spell interrupt/charge that increases the mana cost of the target's spells for the next 10 seconds? Now if only cats didn't have to Skull Bash from a distance so we could reliably interrupt on boss fights like rogues.

For a different perspective on the feral trees I recommend Kalon's write-up at ThinkTank. I agree that a lot of the removed talents did things like boost our expertise and increase our combo point generation, but I'm not as concerned about them because expertise can be fixed with gear and even combo point generation might not be as much of an issue if the numbers are changed so our white damage counts for more or when we do perform a Rake or a Mangle the damage is more meaningful.


I'm much less happy as with the resto tree than I am with the others, largely because most of the bottom tier talents really don't have anything to do with being a resto druid in particular. Most of the bonus healing to this spell and that spell is gone, with the higher tier talents introduced in WoLK being pulled in to form the bottom half of the tree, though a few oldies like Improved Rejuvention and Empowered Touch remain in slightly altered forms. Newer "quirky" talents such as Living Seed and Revitalize remain, and there is the new Efflorescence that creates an AoE heal after critting with Regrowth.

But getting back to building a spec, the early talents just feel like filler. Blessing of the Grove's bonus healing to Rejuvenation is the only direct boost to what a resto druid down. Natural Shapeshifter doesn't impact healing at all and Furor effects every form except the caster one. No matter what, the resto druid will be dropping two points in filler off the bat. I suspect this will have to change.

In Tier 2 Improved Rejuvention would be a must have, but its only companion is Perseverance, which feels like it should be optional, except there's nothing else to take at this tier and we've already seen what great options there are at Tier 1, so again the resto druid would be dropping a couple points in filler. Considering that it will no longer be possible to subspec until reaching 31 points in a talent tree, this is quite a concern for someone who wants to level as a healer!

Tier 3 is a bonanza though with Living Seed, Nature's Swiftness, and Revitalize all on the same row. MMO-Champion's calculator currently says that moonkin form is required for Nature's Swiftness, but even if moonkin form is now trainable I'm sure that's a mistake, because balance druids will be unable to get high up enough in the resto tree to use it, and resto druids can't cast heal spells in moonkin form.

Tier 4 only has Nature's Bounty of interest, but because of Tier 3's bonanza I was able to fill more points in there and ignore Fury of Stormrage (chance at instant, free Wrath) which I'm sure is nice in PvP, but I don't do as a resto.

I put full points in the rest of the tree except for Natural Perfection to take me up to 31 points, and then spent 9 points in the balance tree to get Genesis, Nature's Grace, and Moonglow. Swiftmend is probably going away through since that's supposed to be the level 10 ability druids will get just for specializing in the tree.

This left me with a meager 1 point to spent somewhere else, which is maddening because of all the "waste" in Tier 1 and Tier 2. Natural Perfection, with its crit bonus, sounds like a fantastic "optional" talent, but I can't take two points in it without dropping a point from Nature's Grace or Moonglow.

On the other hand, if I could get back the points I "wasted" on Natural Shapeshifter and a lesser degree Perseverance, I'm not sure what I'd spend them on. Perseverance I might have dumped points into anyway, but since I didn't get a choice at the end of my tree it feels like appetizing. Natural Shapeshifter I'm sure I don't need as a resto druid, but the remaining options aren't that appetizing past Natural Perfection.

More than the other specs, the resto druid feels like there's no choice involved.

Though it still could be worse. I actually can't figure out a spec with points leftover as a paladin...

In conclusion I'm probably most happy with moonkin, somewhat with bear, less with cat, and least with resto. But all of this is still early and hopefully there will be some more "interesting" talents to make things fun without us having to maximize dps, survival, or heals. I think the moonkin's optional talents like Fungal Growth are the most "fun" of the bunch and it would be nice if the other trees could take a page from it.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Through a Newbie 80's Eyes

I'm still playing, but WoW's starting to slip from my mind a bit. Guild's doing all right. We just downed H Putricide last night, placing us 10/12 for Heroic ICC and #60 on the World 10-man Strict. But I find myself taking more breaks to play other things, read more books.

Still, a topic came up recently at my work (which is filled with WoW players), that reminded me of my old post Tanking Isn't For Everyone.

There are a fair number of coworkers who are all in the same guild together on Alliance and I talk with them a lot (usually about non-WoW stuff, but WoW does come up frequently with a few of them). One of them is probably my favorite way to get a perspective of what it's like to be a newbie. And I mean a real newbie.

She just hit 80 for the first time a couple weeks ago and has a particular playstyle she's grown attached to over her long trek to max level. (She has been playing since vanilla, but didn't hit 60 before TBC came out and didn't hit 70 before WotLK.) The quirky thing about it is that her favorite playstyle while leveling was prot, on her warrior. Not that leveling prot is a bad thing, but she has primarily been a solo-player and enjoyed prot for the survivability, even back when prot was horrible as a leveling spec.

Now that she's 80, she's becoming more interested in group play, and since she's in a guild with all these other coworkers, group play is theoretically in the cards. But she's very, very new, and while she has the basic notions of what a tank has to do, she rarely, if ever, tanked while leveling up. She didn't like running instances with strangers and being a tank she could only perform her party role if her friends along for the ride were the same level (because anyone giving her run-throughs would just dps and not let her tank). But she can't prot dps her way through heroics without being laughed at (though she says she's fine with people laughing about her poor gear as long as they're not being outright rude), so her guild gave her the suggestion of going fury while accumulating prot gear.

She did. And though she was laughed at for her poor dps, she made do, and the folks at work pointed her to sites like Maxdps and Wowhead, so she could play around with the tools and learn more about her class. They suggested a spec for her, gave her advice. I gave her what limited knowledge I had of how to play a fury warrior, but realized I couldn't advise her to learn the way I do when I'm learning a spec. Elitist Jerks? She needed to know rotations and how to pick gear, but she didn't need BiS lists, which raid trinkets to wear, the merits of a standard meta gem vs. an unorthodox one, or how a run speed enchant enhances dps.

Her needs are much more basic than EJ. She's a person who's still learning how to function in a 5-man.

Over the past couple weeks she has diligently been gearing towards the magic 540 to be defense capped (and she's hit it!), but she didn't know of this number until we told her. There's nothing that tells a player in game that they are now good to go.

Just today we found out she hit another pitfall. She had enough emblems to go buy her first two pieces of T9 and because she was working on her fury set, she intended to buy two pieces of the dps set, which Maxdps had recommended to her. Problem was, nobody told her that there are actually two sets for warriors. (Think about it, if you're a newbie and you rarely read anything outside of game, how are you supposed to know there are two sets with near identical names?) She just saw "Wrynn" which she knew was the warrior T9 set, and bought the first legs and shoulders she saw and promptly socketed them with Strength gems, which she knew were good for warriors.

Unfortunately, she didn't read the bonuses so she didn't realize until after she'd socketed them that she'd purchased the tanking pieces. Fortunately for her, she at least got two pieces of tank gear instead of one tank and one dps so she now has a set piece bonus. And she really wants to tank instead of dps.

She loves having a shield and Spell Reflection is one of her favorite warrior abilities. If that's not an endearing thing to know about a budding warrior tank, I'm not sure what is.

But she still needs to learn how to tank, because here's the kicker.

This coworker's guild wants to go to ICC. They're a small guild, just short of having ten people to do an all guild run (they're trying to remedy that by bribing me to bring an alt over) and have never stepped into ICC as a unit. Most of them fall into the non-raider category, though a few have mains in a raid guild.

My dear coworker wants to go to ICC, because she's never done anything like this before. And she has no problem with the whole gearing concept, as in working on running heroics to get emblems to get gear, but there's a lot she's missing just because she has never been exposed to the raider mentality of being prepared before even setting foot in the instance.

She's with friends, so nobody's too harsh on her, but I told her quite flatly that the tank has one of the most important jobs in the raid and a tank's gear has to be in tip top shape. More than anyone else, a tank can't slough off on gear. She's at 23k health in her tanking gear at the moment (despite being defense capped) and initially I was shocked while going over her armory with her, but then I quickly found out why.

No enchants. Gems weren't of the highest quality (and the Strength gems in her T9 tanking pieces didn't help). Even though she'd bought her dual spec she hadn't set up her second tree for prot yet.

If she fixed that just on her current gearset/spec she probably could push up to 25k. A defense enchant on her shield and chest would let her remove one of her defense trinkets for something like Essence of Gossamer or The Black Heart. Still a long ways for being ICC-ready, but she'd start looking respectable. I know some people can raid ICC in blue gear, but she doesn't have the skill to do something like that.

And then there's the tanking itself. She hasn't tanked many instances yet. I don't think she's confident enough to do it for a pug, and had a rough experience just with a guild group in a non-heroic. Practice makes perfect, but I'm not sure she understands just had hard it will be in a raid, especially what will amount to progression tanking for this group. She just has nothing to gauge it against, being so new to 80.

I think if she manages to get into ICC she'll be surprised by how hard it is, how progress is measured by bosses, or even phases of a boss, and many guilds still have not finished. Will she be able to react quickly enough to get out of a Defile on Lich King? Will she be able to manage tanking swaps on Sindragosa? Could she possibly kite slimes on Rotface?

I might be overreacting, because everyone has to start somewhere and goodness knows I had my share of being a nub, but she's got a long road ahead of her. I wouldn't have the patience for her in my own guild, and I don't mean that to be mean. My guild has a very different focus than hers, and I know we're not newbie-friendly. Everyone's at a different place in the game and our expectations are different. I couldn't conceive of training someone who's never tanked before (especially one on their very first 80!) to where they can do ICC.

But you know, I want to see if she can do it.