May 27 2011

Heroically Random


With respect to WoW recently I am really time poor. I can grab an hour here, half an hour there, at odd intervals, and so raiding is entirely out of the question (as I watch the guild pull away from me again), and I really don’t want to waste any time.

Which is why the state of Cataclysm Heroics and PUGs is really annoying, but I will keep the rant to a minimum.
I’m only trying to run heroics on Belmann, as a healer, at the moment. I don’t have time to waste sitting in a DPS queue for 40 minutes to run a 40 minute instance. So my queue times as a healer are ok, at most 5 or 10 minutes. But the instance runs themselves are proving horrible, and I’ve not actually finished an instance in weeks. Monday was a good example of the pattern.

I queued up and popped into the Stone Core. The DK tank immediately shouted “f* this”, spawned his Army, and quit the group. Wait. Wait. Wait. Another tank showed up,  said “this is an instance I don’t need” and quit. The melee DPS Paladin requeued as tank (this doesn’t look good) and we picked up another DPS. Off we went, with the tank apparently in DPS gear, or at the very least wearing cardboard armour. He could barely hold aggro, and I had to keep spamming Greater Heal to keep him up. The other DPS were dropping like flies on trash as I could not spare them heals, and they kept pulling mobs off him. We replaced three DPS before we got to the first boss, and two more between that boss and the dragon boss. Did I mention that he was chain pulling all the way, not giving me an opportunity to regain mana, and complaining we weren’t going fast enough?

Now I’ve found the dragon boss in that instance to be really difficult to heal as holy. It’s not just that I have to keep moving to keep out of the fire, which makes for really inefficient healing, the line of sight issues are horrid. At least twice I began to cast Greater Heal to keep the cardboard tank up, and a sodding pillar dropped in front of me just as the cast was ending, and a fire spot bubbled up between my feet. Move, cast again. No time at all for the DPS. We wiped twice (and lost another DPS), and got him down. As I ran back to the instance, since I died just at the end of the boss with a heroic saving ghost heal, I mentioned that it was an annoying fight and said something like “I’m sure Blizzard have rigged the fire to pop under the healer :-)”. His response? “L2 Move Noob”

The next part of the instance after the dragon boss is a little bit tricky, and all the advice I’ve ever seen is to be careful of how many mobs you pull. Off he went with a huge chain pull, had something like 20 mobs on him, and of course we wipied again because the DPS pulled mobs off him, died, and I ran out of mana. So he rage quit.

There’s a little over an hour of game play, consisting entirely of dealing with bad manners and lousy understanding of how to play. If we’d slowed down, been careful with the pulls, marked up the mobs, and actually thought about what we were doing we’d have gotten through it, and gotten through it faster than we did with the constant wipes.

Ok, rant over.

Because I’m so time poor, what am I doing instead of the PUG hell? At the moment I’m rolling a dice. I’ve currently got 9 toons, at different levels of progression. Two 85s, and my DK is about to pop 85. The hunter and warrior are in the low 60’s, the ‘lock is racing up the ladder and is in the ’40s. So I can pop onto virtually any of the toons other than Belmann and progress something. Even Belmann I can progress, by chasing profession levelling and small achievements – hence a lot of fishing lately. And somehow or other I’ve wound up with three toons who pick flowers, and two miners, so there’s a bit of money starting to roll in as well.

So part of my preparation to play, other than pouring a glass of wine of making coffee, is to roll dice.
You heard that right. Random heroes. Heroically random. Nine toons, and a D10. If I roll a 10, or Giladris-the-70-bank-alt, I roll again. It might be silly, but it’s a way that I can have fun in the game while time poor, as long as I don’t have to deal with what seems to be a preponderance of kunckle-dragging mouth-breathing examples of why cousins shouldn’t marry.

May 19 2011

Teach a Dwarf to fish…


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.

May 13 2011

Easy Mode when you don’t need it


As I mentioned, I’ve taken my two mid-level dwarfs into Outlands, and let them sit for a few weeks without touching them much. I will try to keep them at about the same level, for no readily apparent reason.  And there is a reason for writing about two toons that I’m not doing much with: a renewed commitment to myself to write more frequently.

A few times recently I’ve spoken of hunters as “easy mode for people who don’t need easy mode”, and my experiences today with Glymly bear that out. Do you see what I did there? “Bear” it out? Because the favoured pet for solo PVE content is the big black bear, Cuddles? It was a pune, or play on words?

Never mind.

I spent about half an hour with Glymly while I finished my coffee before going to work this morning, for the first time in weeks, and really for the first time in Outlands. Now Hellfire Peninsula would have to be very low on any list of anyone’s favourite zones, and my memories of it the first three times through were that it was pretty dismal. I went through it first with my badly specced, under-geared rogue, and spent an inordinate amount of timed stealthed and sneaking around trying not to get eaten by those maddening boars. It was the first zone where virtually all groups of mobs were linked, and as a rogue it was a nightmare – sap one mob, stab another, beat it down and vanish, then sit around for several minutes waiting to heal and for the vanish cool down to finish. It was grindingly slow and horrible. Going through with Belmann as a Shadow Priest was a bit easier because he was better tuned and equipped, and could resort to bubbling and madly healing, but it was slow. By the time I went through it with the third toon, Morkhaeus the fire mage, I vowed to never do it again.

Mork had a slightly easier time because he had some heirloom gear, and still had a viable AOE attack that would knock mobs back, but still, I got out of there as quickly as I could. As I did when I broke the vow and briefly visited with Macmorris the DK. In each case I did enough of the zone to get breadcrumbed along to the next zone, and made no attempt to “finish” the zones.

So it was surprising how easy Glymly is finding the experience, going through the PVE quests like a Tauren in a china shop. Yes, he’s got several heirloom pieces that are pretty well best in slot, but it’s amazing what can be done with the bear tank. Quite regularly while finishing the quests involving the maddening groups of linked orcs, I was doing these mad chain pulls running for several minutes, with five, six, seven mobs one after the other being aggrod and beaten down. Stupidly easy.

But not straight away. When I first picked up the reins again, both Cuddles and Glymly died three or four times in a row.

And there’s the tricky part. Yes, I think Hunters are Easy Mode. But only if you have a pretty good grasp of the game mechanics. If you don’t understand threat, if you don’t understand how to get and keep the mobs’ attention, if you don’t watch the threat meters and health, if you don’t keep a pretty steady stream of DPS while also healing the pet and using the pet’s special abilities when they come up – you die. There’s a lot to keep track of, and a lot to balance.

But man, it’s fun.