Wednesday, 29 October 2014

Badge


"Game Over", with two weeks left until World of Warcraft soars again, I am now finished for this expansion. No tasks to perform, no reputation to gain, no vegetables to grow, no herbs to pick, no ore to mine, no animals to skin.

The bucket list that I never had is now empty and I am left without a need to logon. It is strange that at the end of an expansion I have been playing more than I have for a long time. I am tempted to take a WoW vacation for 14 days and come back refreshed for the marathon sessions that we will all take part in. Staying up into the small hours on release day, taking days off work to level up to the new maximum. Whatever my intentions are, and however hard I try, everybody else seems to be ahead of me. Only at the end of an expansion can I feel smug that I have achieved as much as possible and can enjoy watching everybody else scurrying along whilst I am able to put my feet and enjoy a long cool drink.

It is possible for me to collect some Heirloom weapons or even get unbelievably lucky and gain the last Ordos gear that I could use on my alts, but it really does not matter any more and I can no more stop the next expansion, than King Canute could stop the tide.

My new level 90 Orc Hunter, the gift from Blizzard, last night gained four new pieces of equipment, and I am surprised how quickly and well I have been able to gear up in a three week period. I am now sitting on an average iLevel of 546, and the chance of borrowing the Heirloom Warbow when the time come round.

My haul of Four new pieces of gear came at a cost, and that cost was sitting through the worst LFR group of all time. I am now utterly proud that the Horde can be that bad at PvE. I have sat through some inept Alliance LFR performances, but this was an utter disgrace. The Siege of Orgrimmar, Vale of Eternal Sorrows was the site of this disaster. Immerseus was one of the quickest cleanest kills, but the Fallen Protectors got up to 25% determination bonus. Norushen also wiped the party on four occasions, some which only lasted less than a minute.

My favourite part of the whole experience was the lack of understanding of the fights and in particular the four phases of Sha of Pride. The Manifestation of Pride that appears behind the party would be dealt with by one or on some occasions two people. Thankfully they were both Hunters, expelling the myth that Hunters are the Noob class of choice.

The only explanation I have for this whole debacle is that there are a lot of returning players or else new players with level 90's that they as yet do not understand. The only reason for the eventual success is that most people are overpowered, and it is raw power that eventually ran roughshod over the content.

I am utterly embarrassed to have witnessed such a performance but kind of delighted to know the Horde are as bad as the Alliance.

Monday, 27 October 2014

I Feel Free


No more Frogs! After a mad flurry of Frog genocide I have for the immediate future given up frogging or looking in through steamy car windows.

Instead my interest was piqued by Cymre who wrote about the Toys available in Hallows's End. I am normally not very interested in anything available from the holiday events, they have long since been consigned to the "Been there, seen it, done it and bought the T-shirt" bucket of Blizzard content.

Oddly enough the same people who are attracted Pet Battle collecting seem to like collecting the new craze "Toys". Who would have thought, that collectors like collecting? Almost hidden away in the Holiday news was the availability of two new pets to collect for the princely sum of 150 Tricky Treats. I did some quick calculations and decided it was eminently doable and decided to take out my Panda, who could do an Azeroth tour in the process. It turned out that 150 could be obtained from Kalimdor and the Eastern Kingdom. It is a boring process but it suits my weekend schedule of cleaning my house and hours spent on unmanned flight paths.

Having snagged Cursed Birman, I decided to repeat the task with Queen of Transportation my Frost Mage. The ability to portal is invaluable for this task and decided to change the landscape a little and went for Outlands, Northrend and Pandaria. Two days messing around for 2 pets that I will never use. I still can't explain why I would do this content other than "because I could" or "it was there".

Having snagged two new pets it made perfect sense to go Pet Battling with them and it was not long before I found a fertile spot with weird cockroaches and fire beetles to snag. I have long since discovered that owning weak battle pets does not count, and if you are serious about the business you want a complete collection of Blue Rare pets and nothing else will do. This is the time to remove the poor quality pets and capture both new and Rare pets. Finding Rares can take an age and in some respects it is far more rewarding flying around Azeroth for a guaranteed pet than dancing with the RNG Gods.

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My weekend of Pet Battling was brought to sudden standstill when I got bombarded by my Guild asking if I want to kill Garrosh for the guaranteed Heirloom Weapon. I seemed to have missed an announcement some where along the line but Alternative Chat is making the most the Heirlooms and even paying 8000 Gold per head for a Garrosh Kill with the Realms top Raiding Teams. For a full rundown on how get in and smash and grab some gear the Bare Butted One has all the answers.

My Hunter Main was first up and won the Warbow without any major issues. From what I could see it was an A-Team Alts run. The second run was a complete disaster with everybody getting mind-controlled with 5% to go being the best result. With everybody stepping down a peg or two with everybody changing roles and classes it had none of the panache of the first run.

My Warbow which was still an upgrade will now service my 3 level 90 Hunters and will also be available when my wife finally levels a 4th member of the Hunter community. A staff would be nice and would be usable by 4 characters and a Two Handed weapon would be usable by 3. This would just leave a Monk and Rogue. It would cost more than 8000 Gold to buy those two a place in Heirloom run. We still have two weeks left, who knows what might happen, and besides it is still a better place for a weapon than queueing for UBRS and not getting a drop from there.

Friday, 24 October 2014

A Whole Lotta Rosie


As a Joe Average player with declining reactions brought on by age, I tend not to be a chart topper. That is not to say that my Hunter cannot rock up under the right conditions. I have often said that being an Altoholic means that it becomes very difficult to cope with mass changes or spec changes. I pick a spec and live with it. Some of those characters are genuine dual spec (I don't include a Frost and Fire mage in that list) with a DPS and a Healer spec, and I have tried Tanking on DK and Pally.

This is a lot of info to take in, and any changes will need to be assimilated slowly and if not played regularly will be soon forgotten. Never a week goes by without taking out one of me three Hunters out for a spin, and except for a brief flirtation with Marksman have all been Beastmasters since birth. I can cope with a certain amount of change on a Hunter, including changes like removing mana (what a day to celebrate that was), and the recent bloat removal. This liposuction needed to be done to the Hunter class and some of the other classes and specs, but not all of them. More buttons does not make for a better experience but neither it would appear do less. Beastmaster is basically a two button rotation with the occasional GCD thrown in. I have learnt to live without casting Hunter's Mark for a long time now, but for some reason Serpent Sting is like losing a limb.

I have yet to discover exactly what state all the classes and specs are currently in, but I have noticed a huge improvement in my Combat Rogue's figures which is something that I didn't think was possible. What is more shocking still is that Dps on my Balance Druid is now hitting the floor. Boomkin was always the strange hybrid, but it had it's moments. First it went Oom and then it went Boom and now it is just crap. The eclipse seems to move along like a metronome and is not controlled by the player who could speed up gaps in between eclipses. Now it requires a PhD to work out the timings and according to Icy Veins it is less important than before:

4.2. Applying and Refreshing DoTs

Applying and refreshing DoTs is not longer as complicated as it has historically been for Balance Druids, but it remains extremely important.
Simply put, it is best if your DoTs are applied when benefiting from their respective Peaks (Lunar Peak Icon Lunar Peak for Moonfire Icon Moonfire and Solar Peak Icon Solar Peak for Sunfire Icon Sunfire). Note, however, that this does not actually affect the periodic damage of your DoTs at all. The only part of the DoTs damage that is increased by Peaks is the instant damage. So, applying and refreshing DoTs at Peaks is definitely a DPS bonus, but not a very great one.

As mentioned in the rotation at the start of the guide, Sunfire's duration is such that it will not last until you complete a full cycle (and return to Solar Peak). Furthermore, Sunfire cannot be cast when you are not in Solar Eclipse. This means that in order to keep up Sunfire, you need refresh it shortly before leaving Solar Eclipse, or that sometimes you will need to refresh it immediately on re-entering Solar Eclipse to prevent it from dropping off. This is acceptable.
There no longer is any real restriction about when it is too soon to refresh a DoT. As long as you refresh Moonfire each time you reach Lunar Peak, and Solar Eclipse at Solar Peak and right before leaving Solar Eclipse, then you should have no problems.

I hope that makes sense to you because I am losing the will to live. (Having played Balance since reading and writing this, Blizzard makes it easy by lighting up your icons, when you  need to press them). I am using the right spells as per rotation and I have reasonable gear, so what is causing the huge discrepancy?

The stat squish seems to be throwing up some peculiar situations where it is possible with proc to one-shot a mob. The term one-shot is often overused, to suggest an easy kill at the first attempt. I am talking about mobs that just roll over and die, and the next one will require a semblance of a rotation.
I always liked that as a game play, the ability to miss, dodge or one-shot, especially for a Marksman, with Sniper Training. The ability to one-shot requires for the character to have a downside in the style of James Bond. 007 is a trained killer but he has a weakness in beautiful women, alcohol, cigarettes and gambling. Some might argue what is the downside to beautiful women, but he can easily be manipulated by the opposite sex and lured into a trap.

Frost Mages seem to be in exactly the same place as before, minus the one spell that is missing from my action bar. A quick browse reveals that Invocation has gone, but I worked that out myself and the other was Alter Time. This was one spell that I always thought would be really useful if only I knew when to use it.

I have already mentioned that Combat Rogue is looking fairly sexy (more playable for idiots like me), but there is absolutely no easy AoE for this class. Every other class can drop something on the ground but since combat lost Fan of Knives there is nothing I can see that is obvious to replace it.

I am slightly biased towards AoE damage after spending so much time killing frogs. I am no longer going to need to hunt down Lesser Whatsits because I am fairly certain they are not required moving into Draenor.

A couple of aspects that have annoyed me about Blizzard are the On/Off need a Legendary cloak to do Ordos. It was not communicated well and the only way to test is to fling yourself off a broken bridge. Along the same lines is the horrible PvP flag that we still get for innocently joining a group using the new Group Finder. join a group and automatically accept the PvP flag. It should be in Big Bold Red Letters "PvP" so that the majority of people who don't want to be part of a teenage Rogue's Ganking fantasy can stay well away.

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

We All Stand Together


The last two posts I have made, make reference to the new Group Finder and the custom groups for Frog killing on the Timeless Isle. Original I thought this was a useless usage of a new tool. Grumpy yesterday put me straight and that there is a new reason to Group and murder Timeless Frogs.

Apparently I had all the aspects but I had failed to put them together. With the absence of Valor, we can now collect Lesser Whatsits of Chance to our hearts content. The upshot is that the easiest way is to group into 5 mans and create Frog Genocide on a grand scale.


 The droprate appears to be around one Lesser Whatsits of Chance per Frog, and with a kill rate of around 20 per minute depending on the competition and the group composition. This beats the 5 from the Dailies at Halfhill Market which would take 5-10 minutes. There is no other task that generates Lesser Whatsits of Chance at anything near to that rate. It is possible to do the Daily and Weekly (50 Epochs) at the same time.

Kudos to Grumpy for letting me know about this little secret and if you need some armour upgrades and are running short of Lesser Whatsits then you now know where to go.

Good luck but it is a frustrating place to be if you don't have a nice ranged AoE.

Monday, 20 October 2014

I Don't Know What You Want But I Can't Give It Any More


I was reminded of a fact by Grimmtooth, who questioned whether nostalgia is showing previous pre-expansions in a better light. The obvious facts are that was WoW was better in the past, and Blizzard used to know how to throw a good pre-expansion party.

The reality is that large chunks of the game are vastly superior to the original game and that pre-expansions are always damp squibs, with the exception of the Zombie curse which seems to have a close proximity to what is currently going on in West Africa with the outbreak of Ebola.

The Zombie event rendered the game totally unplayable and Blizzard made light of the event being curtailed by several days. It is of course a memorable event, but it not something than anybody would wish to repeat, and Grimmtooth highlighted the fact that these are normally short introductions into the next expansion. Under normal circumstances the current content plus a holiday event would be enough to keep us busy, but personally I think the lack of content for such a long period might have driven some us a little stir crazy.

I have had a few more days to devour the content and I might have got some things wrong as well as having some more opinions on 6.0.2. The first on my list of errors is the Raid Finder, it is a much better tool than I gave it credit for, and the customisable sections allows like minded people to go around murdering frogs on the Timeless Isle, but I was right that Celestials and Ordos need to be considered as Raids, especially Ordos. Celestials can be ignited by one tank managing to stay alive for 30 seconds without assistance, and a group of 10 people can make short work of these bosses. Ordos could benefit from a meeting stone to take the pressure off the Warlocks. I have also lost track of my characters weekly activities now that Saved Instances addon does not record Celestial kills and is a little suspect about recording Ordos kills too.

The other mistake I made was the tidy up bags button which I did not know existed or maybe it doesn't and it is just on the Bagnon addon. Unfortunately it often causes more problems than it solves. Two steps forward and one step backwards. I am however delighted with the amount of space saved by bigger stacks and the Toy cupboard. It seems very odd crafting with materials that are in the bank. It is one less aspect of realism in the game and a giant plus for convenience.

One thing I have noticed is that with all the changes, this is in fact the Pre-Patch and not the Anniversary and Pre-Patch rolled into one. There will be no PvP in Tarren Mill unless I am doing it on my own and besides with the huge queue times to do the UBRS mini adventure, it will take me 4 weeks to snag all the weapons, and that is if I get very luck indeed.

One other change I would like to discuss is the no more valor points and  upgrades with Lesser Whatsits of Chance. Originally when MoP first dropped I had far too many things to do to concentrate on just one character to get 1000 Valor. Later in the patch with all major activities completed I could rig the Valor of the Ancients and the Deeds of Valor used in-conjunction with the glitch which allowed the Valor of the Ancients to be still active from the week before. This was a perpetual valor stream so much so that it was possible to valor cap on all my level capped characters.
The downside was that you could only earn 1000 on any single character. The new system which is only in place for the next 3 weeks will essentially reward hard work.
 
1 upgrade = 250 valor = 50 Lesser Whatsits of Chance


In any given week you could only manage to generate enough new valor points for 4 upgrades, now you can generate as much as you like. The only downside is that you need to keep doing something in order to generate them. They do drop off everything , but even so when you need to hundreds of them, the droprate is still never enough. The positive in this is that I can do these tasks whilst waiting for UBRS.

Friday, 17 October 2014

What Have I Done To Deserve This?


The Patch 6.0.2 is now firmly deployed, and with the returning Millions it is going to be busy in Azeroth for the next month.

My first impression is just how good the graphics and character artwork upgrades are. Your favourite character is bobbing along with new facial features and the world seems sharp and in focus. I liken the process to renovating a painting, and showing the original painting in all it's glory after having the years of grime stripped off. Unfortunately not all the characters benefit the same. I am still systematically going through all my characters and have so far only done four:
  • Dwarf Male - big improvement, the nose is about half the size, and the hands are no longer the size of shovels. Did Leonardo never invent the Vitruvian Man?
  • Draenai Male - I can't detect too much change. Probably centred around better looking face tentacles
  • Orc Male - What a surprise Blizzard did an excellent job remodelling this class! No more round featureless faces all looking like Shrek or an average plain Peon. "Job Done".
  • Gnome Female - I am still finding the face somewhat disturbing. It is very similar to that strange look of young girls wearing heavy makeup.
Logging in gives the new "What's New?" screen. I know that I have many screens to wade through but in terms of communication this is a step in the right direction and well done Blizzard. The rewards outweigh the inconvenience of having to click a button to remove the screen.

New Dungeons, new PvP, my content of choice is the quest chain. Move the story on and allow me to partake in a few quests.

I follow the breadcrumbs and make my way over to the Blasted Lands. The Fortress is in ruins and the Alliance are gathered on the beach. There are Orcs nearby which I shoot at. It only then I notice that rotation is shot to pieces. No Serpent Sting! This was always one of the first spells in the rotation and unless I switch to Survival it is now gone forever. There are other gaps in my bar, my damage is miniscule and yet the mobs go down as soon as I look at them.

I am curious as to whether the difficulty is pitched correctly. It certainly appears on the low side. It makes a mockery of the whole scenario, if I can multi-shot the entire Iron Horde on my own and come out without a scratch. Even the final boss is laughable and you get help by whichever faction hero sent you there. I don't want difficult, but I don't want a boss to roll over and die, merely because I turned up.

I was curious earlier in the week when I found the loot table for the UBRS 5 man level 90 style. The gear is iLevel 550 Rare not even Purple in colour. Who is it designed for? I have dug out my often used table yet again to highlight the problem:

  • 502 - ToT LFR
  • 528 - Thunderforged
  • 528 - SoO LFR
  • 535 - ToT Heroic
  • 535 - Burdens of Eternity
  • 540 - SoO Flex
  • 541 - Heroic Thunderforged
  • 550 - UBRS (5 Man level 90 - Rare)
  • 550 - PvP Conquest
  • 553 - SoO Normal
  • 553 - Crafted (Legs and Belt)
  • 566 - SoO Heroic

  • Using comparisons with other content it is more than SoO Flex and less than SoO Normal (Don't get started on the new naming conventions). The problem is that UBRS is Rare and not Epic and it is not upgradeable. The others are for four more weeks and the upgrade table looks like this:

  • 510 - ToT LFR
  • 536 - Thunderforged
  • 543 - ToT Heroic
  • 544 - SoO LFR
  • 549 - Heroic Thunderforged
  • 550 - UBRS (5 Man level 90 - Rare)
  • 550 - PvP Conquest
  • 551 - Burdens of Eternity
  • 556 - SoO Flex
  • 569 - SoO Normal
  • 569 - Crafted (Legs and Belt)
  • 582 - SoO Heroic

  • It is essentially a minor upgrade for anybody in LFR SoO gear which is fully upgraded (possibly) or more likely for anybody in Timeless Isle 498 (+16 fully upgraded) gear. This is not designed for the people who have kept a continuous subscription but is aimed at a last chance for gear for the returning masses. Already we know that subscriptions are up and we are still a month away from the WoD release.

    UBRS offers up 4 different weapons:

    Dripping Willow - 2 Handed Strength Mace
    Finkle's Shanker - An Intelligence dagger
    Tharbek's Terrible Charge - 1 Handed Agility Sword
    Tharbek's Horrific Posessor - 1 Handed Strength Sword

    That by my reckoning would give most classes with the exception of one a reasonable boost if they are only in starter or Timeless gear. The missing class? yes of course it is Hunters, with no ranged weapon.

    Weapons and Trinkets are traditionally the hardest items to get your hands on. But MoP has taken this torture to new lengths. It started with the Thunderforged weapons that you could but huge gems as a gift from Wrathion, if only they ever dropped. Then LFR scattered weapons throughout the Siege of Orgrimmar so that after people had failed to acquire the weapon with both chances they would drop from the raid. New people would not stay because they had already missed a chance at the weapon and the queue went on and on. It took six months to get a ranged weapon on my main and only 5 out of 12 characters have got anything better than the 20,000 Timeless Coins version. yet they have average iLevels above 550 and weapons at 484 iLevel. Weapons make the biggest difference to DPS of all the gear slots. So a big thank you from all my Hunters to Blizzard, and at a time were Hunters are doing less damage than the Healers Tanks.

    Apart from the weapons (and exempting Hunters) there is no need to run the content more that once, which it could be argued that Blizzard don't care about because it only lasts for 4 weeks. At this rate it might last less than a week. Thankfully the UBRS is not wasted content because it is already being recycled and will be recycled again come the expansion. Clever of Blizzard to re-use content, no wonder it took so long for the expansion to be created.

    The new Group Finder UI was introduced to make finding groups easier. Unless of course you want to do Ordos and Celestials. The old system may have been hidden and in a stupid place, but at least it was usable. The new system means that no-one knows exactly where to put the custom group. I don't ever create a Random raid group, but judging by the number of Raid groups, people have not embraced this new feature yet, or perhaps it still needs to be modified. Surely Ordos and Celestials should count as Open Raids and not clumped with people farming Emperor Shaohao rep.

    The interface looks so much better and it is now in the right place, but it would not have been tested for current content and only for the Beta and PTR content. That suggests that the grouping for Open World Bosses will be different in Warlords of Draenor than the 5 World bosses that appeared in Pandaria.

    I am liking all the bagspace that we now get by stacking in 200's instead of 20's but it would be nice if we had a button that would automatically do it for us. I am sure with all the programming might at Blizzards fingertips that this would not be a major task.

    Overall I am impressed but the loss of framerate is a real worry 60 FPS down to 30 FPS is making me consider my options. I have a newer PC available but I really need to find a decent SFF Graphics Card that will hit the spot in terms of price and performance, which will mean trawling through benchmark scores again to find the right card. It would be nice to turn up those graphic options to max and see the game in it's true glory.

    Friday, 10 October 2014

    Gimme Something Good


    33 Days to go and I am really hoping that Blizzard going to give us something good. Alternative Chat is delighted about new Garrisons feature but for those of us who have not ventured through the portal (not that one, the new one) we have no idea what to expect. I am sure Garrison will become self evident when we are there with our new plot of land, but until that time it only makes  a modicum sense.

    A number of decent guides and articles have hit the street in the last week, so I have started to compile my WoD Resource Kit, I am of course open to any suggestions, but at the moment it looks very Garrisons top heavy, with only one other topic about Ground Mounts. I only really started populating the MoP version when it went live, but I am guessing the topics are highly likely to appear in live as they are now.

    There are no new races and no new classes and no new professions and from that sentence alone the expansion sounds lightweight. The heavyweight content is Garrisons and the race graphical makeover. The feel is apparently so different that people are referring to it as WoW v2 and with no Titan or any other Blizzard MMO in the near future we are stuck with this rolling behemoth for the next decade.

    The screen is going to be prettier and a new graphics card is on standby, and we are be promised some end game content that is not Raid orientated. Raiding seems to have hit a point were new ideas have long since all been used up, and some of the mechanics were not used for obvious reasons, like a deep purple maze on a dark floor, which was undetectable to the naked eye. Stay out of shit on the floor, stand in shit on the floor, group separate. Alternatively you could "hold a chicken in the air, stick a deckchair up your nose, buy a jumbo jet,  and then bury all your clothes, paint your left knee green, then extract your wisdom teeth, form a string quartet, and pretend your name is Keith."

    Why do we still put ourselves through these tasks? can anybody say that the MoP expansion brought any decent boss fights that would sit in the Pantheon of boss fights. Blizzard made big boasts for both Throne of Thunder and Siege of Orgrimmar comparing them to Ulduar in scope and grandeur, I personally feel that none of the fights are of that standard.

    The Grumpy Elf made a good case for not doing the returning 5 Man Heroics, and with Scenarios consigned to the history books is it case of all Blizzards eggs are nestled in Garrisons being the runaway success. It could be argued that Garrisons could have been a stand alone game, micro managing your base with followers (minions) doing their own missions and crafting etc... Could this have been a tablet game?

    The pre-expansion is due on Tuesday 14th October as predicted by every man, woman and child who have ever played this game. I am assuming that the Europeans will wait an extra day for the patch, but the launch date for WoD will be a Thursday which means that Europeans and Americans will both launch on the same day. It means for once the European realms will be the test bed for the expansion, but the developers who are US based will need to put a shift on when the European realms operating on Central European Time (GMT+1) will open 6 hours before New York hits midnight. Expect bug fixes to be written by bog eyed bleary developers, in those first 24 hours.

    I am really excited about the new expansion but already I seem to know the entire expansion story arc. I am hoping Blizzard can gimme something good but already I am sensing a few cracks in the dam. Only time will tell.