Tuesday, September 25, 2007

10K and the Jagdelf Effect

This past weekend, I reached Revered reputation with Netherwing and received my Commander's Badge and with that, I was able to boost my health in my PvP gear to above 10k. I had to switch out my Hourglass of the Unraveller which meant losing crit % but in PvP, survivability is more important. This is particularly important when fighting those 10k+ health MS warriors. Have I mentioned how much they hurt?! I better not get started on that rant again...

Last night, after getting sick of losing slow, drawn out but not even remotely close games of PuG EotS, I decided to do something else. When I had logged on I tried to peek to see if any groups were LFM for Mana Tombs using the LFG/LFM interface and well, I couldn't get myself out of it. The LFG interface has the ability to clear your status but the LFM doesn't so I ended up sitting there for an hour flagged as LFM for Mana Tombs. About the time I gave up on EotS and went and took Halaa in Nagrand, I received a tell from some PuGer who wanted to run Mana Tombs as well. I mentioned this on vent and Lilura said she'd go too, so I asked Rhubarb who had recently logged on and he said he'd go. So with 4 people we just needed one more. Normally, Wichita would join us but he was planning on watching Heroes last night with his wife so he was out. I eventually got a tell from another PuGer who, I think, wanted to go. His exact words to me were "do you have room" and when I asked, "for Mana Tombs", his response was, "I think so". He thinks?! If you want to join a group for an instance, shouldn't you be sure you want to go to that instance?
Anyway, about that time Jagdelf logged on and I asked if he wanted to go. I'd much rather take a guildee than some PuGer, especially one who wasn't sure where he wanted to go. So we get everyone summoned to Auchindoun and head for Mana Tombs when just before we zone in, the PuGer who first contacted me drops from the group. He didn't disconnect because when I did a /who, he was still online. He didn't give a reason, nor did he say anything, he just dropped from the group. Well, his loss and our gain as at about that time Homerjay logged on and he was interested in joining us. So what was a partial PuG became a guild group!

The interesting thing about last night's Mana Tombs run is that no one needed anything from there really. Lilura was in the level range to use drops from there but had already done the quests and probably had most of the loot off the bosses in there. All the others were just along for the fun I guess. My motive for running was for the Formula: Enchant Boots - Fortitude which drops off the Ethereal Priest.
I've run Mana Tombs a number of times previously with no luck but these dropped for me last night. The great thing about this enchant and why I've been after it so much is that this enchant can benefit everyone in the guild, not just a certain subset (e.g. not just DPS or just tanks or just casters or just healers). Everyone can use stamina to their gear for PvP so this is a great enchant for Heroes Inc. to have.
A month or two ago, I was running Steam Vaults any chance I could to get a similar enchant: Formula: Enchant Bracer - Fortitude which dropped off the Coilfang Oracles. Back then I was unsuccessful in getting that enchant after a lot of runs until one night I ran it and Jagdelf was in the group. He suggested we clear more trash near the entrance after we finished the run to try for the enchant and on our first additional trash pull, the enchant dropped. Well, last night Jagdelf was in the group again and the enchant I was after dropped again. I think he's the good luck charm - I'm calling it The Jagdelf Effect. I just need to get him to come with me to Shattered Halls (Formula: Enchant 2H Weapon - Savagery), Arcatraz (Formula: Enchant 2H Weapon - Major Agility), and Auchenai Crypts (Formula: Enchant Boots - Dexterity). Those are the only other instance drops I can farm for. All other enchants are either world drops or Kara drops so I'm not holding my breath or wasting my time farming for them.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Top Gun

Recently, I had started my rep grind for the Netherwing faction. Most people go through this rep grind to hit exalted to get the Netherdrake flying mount but I couldn't really care less about that mount. I find the Netherdrake mount to be too big and much prefer the aesthetics of the smaller epic gryphon mount. My real purpose for the Netherwing faction grind is to get the Commander's Badge which is a nice, relatively easy and inexpensive stamina trinket to get.
I had heard the daily quests to for the Netherwing rep were very annoying but after Wichita had done the grind he assured me that I'd only have to go through the annoyance until I passed Friendly and then I'd have a variety of quests to choose from and I could skip the annoying ones. In fact, the ones that he told me he found annoying are ones that haven't presented such issues for me. The most annoying one for me has been the herbalism one because I keep getting jumped by those giant Dragonmaw Ascendants and I just can't get away from them. I try to look out for them but they seem to be spawning on my screen just as they aggro me.

Anyway, besides the daily quests you can get during your Netherwing rep grind there are those one time quests that you get that help you through your rep grind. For Netherwing, when you hit Honored, there is a quest chain where you race 6 npcs through the air, one at a time and should you defeat each one, you'll get gold and increasingly more rep as rewards. I should clarify something here: these aren't actually "races" and you don't actually try to "beat" the npc. Instead, for the quests, your objective is to not fall behind the npc while he flies ahead of you and shoots stuff at you that could knock you off your flying mount (non-druids, sorry for your deaths). Should you manage to stay "in range" of the npc and follow him all the way around some invisible course he flies, then you'll have "defeated" him.
The quests can be fun and you start out with against an older orc who doesn't try too much and shoots straight at you while you're flying around behind him. He's pretty easy to keep up with and it's pretty easy to dodge his shots. Things get trickier as you defeat an npc and "move up" the totem pole. When you get to the fourth defender you actually face Wing Commander Ichman. Yes, THE Wing Commander Ichman from Alterac Valley and if you read the quest script, it's actually a little funny as you read how he took off out of Alterac Valley because of all the whining (which sounds a lot like the whining Alliance do in AV) and came here to race.
Should you defeat Ichman, you move on to Wing Commander Mulverick, who is also from AV and also has quest text that reads of how he left AV due to all the whining (Horde whining this time) and came to Netherwing to compete in the races.

By the way, in case you didn't get it, Ichman and Mulverick are Blizzard's references to Top Gun's Iceman and Maverick. Some people have gotten stuck at Ichman or Mulverick as each of them have a nasty attack that can be tricky and they fly some tricky routes with doubling back on you. I actually lost Ichman a couple of times, trying to dodge his attacks and keep up with him but at least he never shot me down. All in all though, I didn't have any big trouble with any of the guys up to and including Mulverick. I had to redo the quests a couple of times here and there if I lost sight of the npc but that was about it.

Once you defeat Mulverick, you face the last guy who is Captain Skyshatter. I beg you, think in a British mindset on the name Skyshatter and you'll know how I feel about this guy. I must have attempted this quest thirty times! Skyshatter doesn't have any fancy pants attacks. He uses a meteor shower attack that has meteors fly at you from a location behind him. This wouldn't normally be that difficult if some of these meteors weren't invisible! Well maybe there is an issue with rendering on my system but a lot of times I got knocked out of the sky for no apparent reason. The worse part of all of this is that Skyshatter flies faster than you AND has a shorter range within which you must stay! If you're like me and you don't already have a riding crop, you haven't completed your epic flight form quest and received the trinket, and you don't have Crusader's Aura, this is a very, very difficult quest. Everytime I managed to not get knocked out of the air and stay with him, Skyshatter would hit a straight-away and leave me behind.
If you have yet to do this quest, I highly recommend either equipping your riding crop (if you have one) or trying to get a pally to help you by grouping and flying with you so you can get the speed boost. In the end, I had attempted this so many times that I knew half the route he takes by heart. The best advice I have if you are like me and have no speed increase boosts is to learn his route and then just fly it, making sure to cut corners where you know he'll turn and just stay ahead of him enough that you don't get out of range as much as you can. Once I managed to get ahead of him and stay in range, when he did his straight-away runs he never got too far ahead of me before he hit a corner and I could cut it and get ahead of him again. And once I beat him to the middle of the island run and kept with him I was home free. See, after that he likes to occassionally stop and do 360 degree spins and that allows me to catch up if I'm behind. People tend to get freaked out by this but I just stayed well to his right and above him and watched as he aimlessly shot meteors at no one in particular. After that I kept with him and got back to the runway and finishd the quest. (Note, both Wing Commanders and the Captain like to to a last ditch attack just before they land on the runway, so don't stay right behind them when landing).

With the quest completed, I got the nice 1k rep reward and Skybreaker Whip, which is ironically a trinket that increases mount speed by 10%. I could have used this for the race but if I had it (or the Riding Crop) I wouldn't really have a use for it as a reward, now would I?

Friday, September 14, 2007

On Alliance and Horde

Someone remarked on vent last night about how Alliance sucks at PvP no matter what server they were on. This generalization is rather quite true. I have found it very difficult to get into a PuG Battleground and not lose. Every once in a while, the Alliance will steamroll the Horde or there will be a nice comeback or close victory but this happens much less often than just a flat out loss.
So why exactly do the Alliance suck at PvP? If you read the WoW forums many of the posters say it's because the Alliance is filled with the "kids" who played Alliance for the "hawt sekz Night Elf females" but I don't buy it. Usually these same "kids" are also blamed for having too much time on their hands to play WoW and youth on their side for reaction times and that's why they're so good at games like Counter-Strike, which are skills that lend themselves well to PvPing. And besides, anyone who's played at least one Horde character knows that Barrens chat (before The Burning Crusade came out) was probably the worse general chat you'd see anywhere - it was worse than Ironforge chat! So, it can't be that all the "immature kiddies" were all playing Alliance and all the intelligent adults were playing Horde.
The other argument I've heard, which makes more sense to me is that most "RPers" (roleplayers) and "casual" players, when they start a game like WoW, will choose the "good/light" side which, in the case of WoW, is perceived to be the Alliance (yes, I like to comma-splice). Not that I believe roleplayers can't PvP but it's more credible that casual players are less likely to be as competent at PvP.
When you watch the Alliance in BGs, it can be so sad it's actually funny. If you play a stealth class you can sit back at fights and watch what the Alliance do compared to what the Horde do. This is most comical in AV where you get really large groups of Alliance running together. I've watched as most of the Alliance players zerg after one little 'ol Horde in the midst of fighting the NPCs. The best example is how the Alliance will stop at IB tower to fight Horde defenders, rather than charging the flag and trying to cap it, preventing the Horde defenders from rezzing right nearby and coming back to defend. The same thing happens in AB where the Alliance will fight in the middle of roadways, well away from flags just because they spotted Horde. There have been AV's and AB's where I spent the entire match bouncing to nodes we Alliance have captured but no one bothered to defend. Alliance PuGs just like to zerg. It's like most of them aren't confident to stay anywhere by themselves and defend. And it's not like the Alliance zerg is very powerful. If they vastly outnumber the enemy then they may be victorious but usually it takes fewer Horde to defeat a group of Alliance.

Don't get me wrong though, it's not all rosey on the Horde side. I played for quite a while on a server as Horde and sometimes I think the maturity level of the Horde players is lower than the Alliance. And sometimes the perception that Horde are better PvPers make them a little too cocky. Either that or Horde players don't know (or don't believe in) the concept of picking smart fights. I've seen Horde attack Alliance on site, regardless of the fact that the Horde was much lower level than the Alliance.
Take for example, last night. Our guildees Lilura and Ashur were trying to get The Ring of Blood quest chain done. They had help from Ferth and Azwynn, both L70. A L67 Tauren druid decides to gank in the middle of the fights. Now yes, he managed to kill Lilura three times and cause them to wipe. I bet he was feeling pretty cocky and good about himself - that is until Rhubarb and I show up. Yeah, he tried again to gank but this time he died a fast death and we still got the quest completed. That was the last fight in the quest chain so everyone left and the druid rezzed and ran away. But that wasn't the end of it for him, even though he thought it was. See, I stayed in the area and flew around a bit on the suspicion that he was farming or questing in the area. Sure enough, I spot him doing a quest I remember that had him escort some Ogres into the camp and fend off attacking Ogres. Guess what? He died. And he failed the quest. And then he rezzed and promptly died again. An Alliance druid nearby wanted to get a shot in on him because that tauren druid had killed him earlier so I left him to gank the tauren when he rezzed. In the end, I really don't think it paid off for that tauren druid. If I didn't have a SLabs run to tank for I would have stayed and camped that guy a whole lot longer.
Another example of this happened earlier this week. I was raising my herbalism skill and was riding into Swamp of Sorrows when I rode past a L70 hunter and a guildee of his who was L52. The L70 hunter started to attack me but I decided to just keep riding and ignore it. It irked me but this is a PvP server and that stuff is supposed to happen so I forgot about it.
After a while I had levelled to the point where I needed to move to Blasted Lands and get my final few points to 300. I was riding around merrily picking flowers when I rode by that same hunter again. Sure enough the guy attacks me again so this time I rode away, dismounted, healed up, went kitty and stealthed. I stalked this guy and stayed with him and watched him as he helped two of his guildees (both L52 and L53 hunters) with a quest. I watched and waited until they let their guard down and the L70 and one of the L50's hunters ran ahead of the third. I jumped that guy and he was dead in 2 or 3 shots. I re-stealthed and sure enough the L70 comes running over, throwing up a flare. No problem, this was expected. I just waited patiently while he got bored (in about 20 secs) and went back to questing. Unluckily for him he then pulls 3 mobs, which really shouldn't have been a problem for a L70 but he and the other hunter start running around all chaotic like they were in a panic. Perfect! So I run in and jumped the L70 Hunter while the mobs kept the L52 hunter busy. I expected a rough little fight but it was hardly that. The hunter had pretty crappy gear and he was dead much quicker than I expected. The L52 hunter starts attacking me and he was dead in 2 shots. That was fun but only the beginning. See, I don't like being attacked when I ride by peacefully but again, this is a PvP server so I don't take offence. However, if you're helping your guildee with a quest and an opposing faction player rides by peacefully you let them go! I take offence when they're that hostile. What's worse, this guy's gear was pretty crappy so he was either too cocky or too stupid to consider my gear before attacking me. The combination of both made me just have to camp him and so, I was there to welcome him when he rezzed. And his little guildees too. And I was there again when he next rezzed. And again.
Up to this point, I had been chatting to Wichita on vent about this. I guess he thought the situation was amusing enough to come out to the Blasted Lands. So, Wich takes over camping these guys (from the guild HELLFIRE ASSASSINS - because all caps makes you more dangerous!) while I finished levelling my herbalism to 300. Wichita got to kill them a few more times because they really deserved it.
Once I got my 300th point I came back over to where Wich was camping them and he said that the L70 hunter had stopped rezzing (these guys rezzed one at a time too) so we thought it was all over when suddenly a L70 horde Warrior shows up and charges Wichita. "He brought friends!" was what we thought (and were expecting... no, hoping). We noticed this guy was in a lot more bling-blingy epics so we thought we were in for some more interesting fights. I'm in kitty form attacking this guy while Wich is trying to get lighting bolts off and I remember thinking in the back of my mind, "man this guy has some amazing gear to be blocking and parrying all my attacks". When we kill him I hear Wich start laughing and saying how little damage the guy was doing. That's when it dawned on me - this guy was a prot. warrior! I alt-tab out and check out the Armory and sure enough this guy is epic'd out - in PvE prot gear! The hunter showed on the Armory as having the ghost buff so we surmissed that this is the same guy just playing his other L70 alt. Oh my!
The Warrior rezzed again and immediately charges Wichita. He didn't even try to bandage up first. So this time Wichita and I both just melee attack him while Wich kept himself healed up. Yeah that fight took like 5 minutes or more and we finally got so bored we killed him off and left.

So, while Alliance may not be so PvP-centric it seems there are quite a number of Horde who are just a bit too quick to attack any Alliance player they see. I wonder if these Horde are former Alliance players? I hope we can start mixing the pool of players more so that the PuG fights in BGs are more even. In the meantime, I will enjoy camping the occassional bloodthirsty, undergeared Horde that chose the wrong Alliance to pick a fight with.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Well That Just Blows!

This weekend we got news that Honorshammer is leaving our guild to join a raiding guild that's doing 25 man raids. I was both surprised and disappointed. Sad too. Everyone is being so polite. That's great. But I'm not going to be.
You see, on the one hand I'm happy for Honors, I really am. I know that he wants to do the raiding content and he's probably the biggest raider in Heroes - or was, at least. He also seems to have a mission to prove to himself and the ignorant masses that a well played prot. paladin can tank anything. Good for him! Sort of. Maybe, if or when he gets to the end of Mount Hyjal, he'll be standing over the corpse of Kael'Thalas or whoever and think to himself, "I did it!" Maybe at that moment, his need will be satisfied. Of course, by then or right after that, Blizzard will release Wrath of the Lich King and there will be yet more raid content to prove himself in. At what point will he satisfy himself that he can tank any content as a prot. pally?
As for the ignorant masses, I'm sorry to say it, but he's not going to be able to educate very many. There are those who just plain don't know. Their opinions may be easy to change but Honors won't be grouping with them - at least not all of them and not for raiding. There are those who staunchly believe only prot. warriors can tank any true raiding content. Maybe they need to see with their own eyes that this is possible. But how? Honors isn't joining a guild that is out to prove this. In fact, if what he told us is true, that this guild specifically wanted a tankadin, then he's joining a guild of believers. So, the only person he's going to prove anything to is himself.

Anyway, those are the 2 reasons I've been given for his leaving (at least what he told us on vent): he's joining a raiding guild and that they actually wanted a tankadin (something that's very rare). I understand each of these reasons individually and I understand them as a package. And as I said, I'm happy for him that he got such an offer. However, I was still surprised even (or especially) given this reasoning. Why? Because of his last blog entry (at the time). I will quote the most relevant part:

I want to do every instance in the game, I really do, but I have to realize that I am never going to see Black Temple, or Mount Hyjal. I'll be lucky to see SSC before the next expansion. Could I leave Heroes and apply to a 25 man guild and start working my way through the end game. Perhaps. But I was looking over some of those guilds. Even assuming I could find one crazy enough to try a Paladin tank, it seems as if Raiding on that level is going to require a dedication of time and energy that I just can't give. That level of dedication belongs to my wife and my daughter now. I was actually mad at her at first for inviting friends over on Saturday night. I had a raid scheduled on Saturday night, how could she? I guess that's when it kind of started to dawn on me that maybe I've gotten a little over my head with Raiding.
I guess somewhere in between posting that and applying to other guilds, Honors must have decided he could dedicate the time and energy to raiding. If that is the case, then more power to him. I guess, selfishly, I wish he could have updated his blog to let those of us who read it know.

And my disappointment? Well, to me, a guild is more than a means to acquire gear or to experience content that you cannot do solo. A guild that you've spent any amount of time in, made friends with and that you've adventured with and grown with becomes like a virtual family of sorts. And unless that guild then takes a drastic downfall with drama and immaturity, that guild becomes more important than the other parts of the game. Well, maybe I can understand it if those friends and guildees you've made were satisfied with doing nothing once hitting 70, maybe all alting and their goals ultimately differed from yours then you may lose interest in that guild and want something different. However, I didn't think Heroes was such a guild. I mean besides the slight bit of drama we had, normally Heroes is very fun, friendly and social. And while we may not be advancing as fast as other guilds, we are attempting to make our way through Kara. In fact, we let Honors lead that cause.
So, to log in one night and find out that our friendships, our accomplishments, and our experiences together are ultimately not more important than these other goals of Honors' - I guess that's my source of disappointment. I thought we were more important than those goals. That's not something I could do. I wouldn't give up the friends I've made in Heroes for some WoW goal I may have... but I play this game more for the social aspect than anything and although I thought Honors did too, maybe that's the difference - maybe he doesn't play this game for the same reasons as I do and I've got to accept that.

Don't get me wrong. Honor's is a great guy and I do wish him the all the best in his new guild. I don't hold a grudge or anything. I'm just expressing my surprise and disappointment at the turn of events. Afterall, that's what this blog is for.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Great Expectations

I've been pretty busy lately so I haven't had time to do much blogging but I'll squeeze this one in.

Last night Heroes hit up Kara again and we had a strong group so everything went very smoothly. The raid consisted of:
Honorshammer (Protection Paladin, main tank)
Origami (Feral Druid, offtank)
Sameth (Holy/Discipline priest)
Sweatyz (Holy Paladin)
Dlow (Holy Paladin)
Ferth (Arms Warrior)
Jagdelf (Beast Mastery Hunter)
Darolynn (Shadow Priest)
Regolas (Affliction Warlock)
Lakini (Balance Druid)

This group had it all: lots of healing power, high DPS, shackles (kara is a place of undead afterall) and banishes, and solid tanking.
We took down Moroes (adds: Holy Priest, Retribution Paladin, Arms Warrior, Shadow Priest), Opera (Romeo & Juliette event), Curator, and Maiden all in one shot. There were no wipes in this raid and only a few deaths during trash pulls. Most epics were claimed except 2 which were disenchanted to void crystals (I'm not saying what what was disenchanted!).
I was pretty lucky to get the T4 glove token with a winning roll. I hope it wasn't a huge upgrade for the others but it was a pretty significant tanking upgrade for me and the set bonuses for the Malorne gear are pretty nice.

After Kara and after getting my new Gauntlets of Malorne enchanted I went to Stormwind to make my latest PvP purchase. As I already have the epic Belts, Bracers and Boots (although the boots are not Veterans so they need to be upgraded eventually), I purchased the Veteran's Band of Triumph which was a PvP upgrade for my ring slot (increased resilience and stamina at the cost of some AP). My resilience is up to 235 now and that makes me happy. My next PvP purchase will likely be the necklace, then the cloak and then lastly updating my boots. My next Arena purchase will be a difficult decision: I can get the gloves in one or two more weeks but the pants will be a bigger upgrade but costs more. I also have a feeling that just before I can get my last piece of Arena armor, they're rolling out Season 3. *sigh*

I also did some 2v2 last night. 2v2 is interesting because it's where feral druids are purportedly better but for most people, it's just a practice venue for their 5v5. Anyway, we had some tough fights and I lost a couple of fights that ended as basically a 1v1. There's nothing I can really do versus a mage - they have too many instants and can blink or trinket out of my stuns so I can't really keep them locked down to beat on them. If they're any good, they can use their ice spells to keep me snared and bear attacks are too slow to beat them down.
One 1v1 fight was against a MS Warrior who had lower health than I did in bear form. But he's going to out-dps me in a straight up warrior vs bear fight. I couldn't get away from him very effectively because of his hamstring spam and intercepts. I need to duel Ferth some to get an idea of the range I can go to avoid intercept so I can cylone/root a warrior and get some heals off.

Anyway, PvP has gotten challenging and less frustrating with the higher stamina and resilience. At least I don't drop in 3 or 4 hits now. :)