I decided some weeks ago to level Belmann’s fishing skill. This is a sort of sack-cloth and ashes action, as to despite protestations from Blizzard since the original pre-Vanilla beta days, they’ve never found a way to make fishing very interesting, other than achievements. And the result of the various achievements is a lot of fish and time, and not much else. Still, I set out to level by chasing achievements, and decided initially to pursue the Oceanographer and Liminologist ones. These involve catching one of each of about 120 specific species in salt and fresh water respectively, and I finally knocked off the last three fish for Oceanographer last night.
Ironically, the last fish (a Redgill) was not in what I would have thought of as salt water, but was listed at Wowhead as one of the best spots – the lake in the middle of Moonglade. There is something relaxing about standing in the middle of knowhere, listening to the ambient sound of frogs and wind, and the in-game music, while the green text of guild chat flickers in the corner of your vision. And some of the fish are fetching surprisingly good prices on the auction house – I have probably raised about 300G that way. Which is about half of what I would have gotten by dancing semi-naked on a mailbox for the same amount of time.
Anyway, between the penultimate and the ultimate fish, the guild’s awesome bear tank Nyngo logged in and called out for a random something or other. After about 20 minutes he’d put together a group for a random heroic – which turned out to be Shadowfang Keep – and off we went. With some glitches. There were three of us from the guild – myself, Nyngo, and a cat druid I’d not really met before. We started out with two shamans that Nyngo knew, but one was having computer problems, and dc/d before the first mobs, came back as a shadow priest, and dc/d after the first mobs. About two thirds of the way through the other shaman had some real-life issues and had to log out as well, and we picked up a pretty good warrior who was entirely silent throughout the run, and a worgen mage.
As an aside, I think that’s the first worgen mage I’ve seen. I’ve seen lots of rogues and a vast number of warriors, and little else.
Anyway, off we went.
Now, SFK was the first Cataclysm heroic I did with Belmann, some months back, and I did it that time accidentally, not realizing I’d queued for heroics rather than normals. On that occasion I was lucky to have a very well geared group, and we got through it fine. This time we had a pretty well geared group, but more importantly we had players who knew how to play their characters effectively. Nyngo has always been a damned fine tank, and I spent a good deal of time throughout Wrath watching his furry bear butt bounce around as he flattened everything up to and almost including Arthas. But in this instance, we also had DPS that were sensitive not just to the mechanics of each fight, but sensitive to the needs and strengths of the other toons they were running with.
I’ve got mixed feelings about SFK. I only ran the vanilla version a few times, and found it an interesting design, but much of it felt somehow claustrophobic. The physical design is almost unchanged, even though the content is radically different now, and the hemmed in claustrophobic feeling remains. I don’t know how it is for other healers, but SFK has the physical features that make it a fraught experience for me – lots of stairs and twisty narrow corridors make for horrid line-of-sight issues, meaning I was often standing very close to the tank, and the low ceilings make for weird and obscured camera angles.
The vanilla version had a strange and melancholy flavour, possibly enhanced by it being so isolated and difficult to get to, and I suspect few Alliance players ever ran it. There was a great deal if lore bound up in and around it though, and the revised version uses that lore to make a compelling story and experience – you sweep into the Keep as the pointy end of a liberation force, cleansing it evil, etc etc. So apart from the slightly disconcerting aspect of clearing a boss room of evil worgens only to have it fill up with good worgens with roughly the same character model…
The other thing I don’t like about the design is that the first boss, whatever his name is, is considerably tougher than the rest. Maybe they put him in as a gear check, but as a healer it’s a rotten fight: as a holy priest, it takes a *lot* of mana to get everyone back up after he does that horrid choking effect, and if there is insufficient DPS to get him down before my mana pool is exhausted, it’s a wipe. It feels like a cop-out on the part of the designers in that winning the fight is not a matter of finessing and dealing with the fight mechanic, but simply a matter of having crossed the numerical threshold.
My strategy can be summed up as “flail desperately”. I use the chakra to turn on Holy Word: Sanctuary, and throw a lightwell down in front of myself and the ranged DPS. I keep throwing down the Sanctuary on the tank and melee whenever it cools down, and throw out my shadow beast halfway through the whole mess. When everything goes right, my mana is *almost* exhausted by the end. When it doesn’t, everyone dies. The annoying thing is that with a competent tank the rest of the fights are trivial to heal.
On the other hand, last night I had a pretty good gear check. After we’d gone through the first two or three bosses, and were on the battlements area slugging gargoyles… I realised I still had my fishing rod equipped. Amazing how much easier it became after I switched back to the staff with all its buffs.