Sunday, December 8, 2019

A Blast from the (Infamous) Past

I periodically make a trip back to Ravenholdt, on the border between Alterac and Hillsbrad, because that's the one place I wanted to see as a Rogue in Classic. When you're an Alliance Rogue in the low L20s and you get that quest to "come visit" Ravenholdt, you have to traverse not only the Wetlands but Arathi Highlands, where the wandering enemies can be over 10 levels higher than you.* As a Rogue that means that you pretty much go through all of Arathi stealthed as much as is prudent, but even then I was chased by one of those damn buzzards for what felt like an eternity.

But once you're high enough level --and you've already gotten the Southshore flightpoint-- Az made her base at Hillsbrad as it was the closest a low-mid L30s Alliance toon would get to the Scarlet Monastery without having to run through the Western Plaguelands.** I spent the Halloween season hanging around in Southshore, watching the occasional Horde incursion to throw rotten eggs around the town.

Once I moved on from Scarlet Monastery, Az left Southshore to entrench herself at Theramore instead. But me being me, I'd still occasionally send Az back just to wander around. Seeing Hillsbrad as it once was warms the heart.

Anyway, the other day I was visiting Ravenholdt and Alterac when I got into group for Uldum. I figured that a quick jaunt down to Southshore and catching a flight to Thelsamar was faster than hearthing to Theramore and catching a ship to Menethil Harbor, so I stopped bashing ogres in Alterac and ran towards Southshore. I quickly passed the Tarren Mill spur on the road from Alterac, where a Horde toon gave me a wide berth even though I wasn't marked for PvP.

There I ran --almost literally-- into a group of L60 Alliance that were coming back to Southshore after a successful foray into raising hell in Tarren Mill. They were bouncing around, taking their time, and one of them waved at me as I caught up to them.*** Even though I started playing WoW on a PvP server, it still felt very weird being surrounded by allies with green colored names. Perhaps because this was Hillsbrad and I was once a Horde lowbie getting ganked by those evil Alliance, I suddenly got the creeps.

I turned off the main road toward Southshore, and everything exploded around me.

Figures with skulled yellow nametags were everywhere, swarming all over the Alliance group. At that point I was eternally grateful that none of the Alliance PvP group had decided to buff me or something, as it would have made me a sitting duck.

I had one Swiftness Potion left in my packs, and I used it to quickly get the hell out of there and reach the Flight Master before the Horde could gank her. Good thing, too, as when I flew away I turned around to see the much larger Horde retaliation group right on my heels, having dispatched the Alliance group.

Okay, I should have had absolutely nothing to fear, as I wasn't marked PvP. However, I know from experience that accidents happen and I could quite easily have been buffed by a PvP late comer or someone not part of the Tarren Mill raid. I also have a lot of dark memories of being ganked in Tarren Mill, to the point where I stopped calling it "ganking" and started calling it "being Tarren Milled". Since this was open world PvP, I wasn't prepared for it in the same way that I'm prepared for a battleground.

So when I read online in places (Reddit is the loudest party here) about how the heavy Horde skew on PvP servers is making Alliance players leave in droves, yeah, I can appreciate where they're coming from. Yes, these players should have known this was coming when the Honor system dropped, but still it can be quite a shock to the system. And it makes me glad I rolled on a PvE server.

But this has also hardened my resolve. Bring on Alterac Valley; I'm ready.




*And that's not counting the elites that wander the zone --and the road-- on a regular basis.

**Not recommended, although some plate wearers in my various SM groups died only once, and that was at the armed border crossing from the Western Plaguelands into Tirisfal Glades.

***The people who I first grouped with those first few weeks of Classic had long since passed me to max level, and it was entirely possible one of them recognized me. However, I think that it was more that they'd had their fun and were enjoying the chaos they'd wrought.

EtA: Corrected some grammar.

Tuesday, December 3, 2019

Queldorei Were Larger Back in the Day...

Posted without further comment.


Friday, November 29, 2019

Where's the Shower, Part Two

I was supposed to get up early yesterday to start work on cooking the Thanksgiving turkey, but I for some strange reason I ended up waking up a couple of hours before that. Therefore, I figured I might as well goof around on WoW Classic for a while.

In retrospect, maybe I shouldn't have.

Oh, the first part of the early morning was fine: I logged in as Cardwyn and got into a Blackfathom Deeps run fairly quickly, and I also finished a Mage quest for Cardwyn's second robe*, so not too bad overall. The BFD run was nice, efficient, and we all got along well. I even added a few people as friends in case we wanted to run or quest together.**

After the instance, I got back to Lakeshire and the Inn there, and got up to take care of dishes in the dishwasher.

By the time I came back, Cardwyn was AFK. Not a big surprise, perhaps, but what another toon was doing was.

This other toon, a female toon, was messing around with Cardwyn.

As in maneuvering around, and then kneeling, so it looked like the two were kissing.

Then standing up and again carefully maneuvering around so that it looked like Cardwyn was going down on the female toon.

And then back to the kissing pose, and back to the other pose.

Rather than let the other toon know I was there, I just waited and watched, wondering WTF was wrong with this person. After 3 minutes of this, the other toon eventually got tired "playing around" and logged out.***

It was almost a surreal experience, like the time that I was propositioned in the middle of an Isle of Conquest Battleground. At least this time the other toon didn't try to emote or say anything, because if they did I was going to do something. Not sure what, but I was.

Well, I had wondered where the Moon Guard Lion's Pride Inn crowd was, and now I know.





*I'll talk about those stories in another post.

**I asked the Paladin tank if it was okay if I could use AoE when DPSing mobs down --I always ask as some tanks prefer to not handle the chaos that Blizzard can cause-- and he was fine with it. After all, he said, he understands where I'm coming from as his main is a Fire Mage.

***I'm not sure how long it had been going on before I returned to the PC, and I've no idea if this person was doing it to the NPCs before she zeroed in on Cardwyn.

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

Living The Frosty Life

When I started playing Classic, I had two real goals: to get into old style Alterac Valley matches, and to get a chance to play once more a lot of the classes I'd leveled before. While I'm still waiting for that AV run, I'd made a point to create several toons so that when I was ready I could start leveling a different one.

My first toon to be used was pretty much a no-brainer, as I've been playing Rogues/Thieves/Shadowblades since I rolled up Azshandra back in late Cataclysm.* While I fumble around with my Warlock Dominius when I enter an instance, I know exactly how to play Az.

But while Az is my main, I've got a few other classes that could vie for second place.

There was the Paladin, whom I've played on both the Horde (Quintalan) and Alliance (Tomakan and Balthan) sides, but squeezed in between the Paladin years and the Rogue years there was my multiyear dalliance with Nevelanthana the Mage.

"Barkeep, hit me up! And add another
for the lady to my left!"


Neve, a Sindorei Frost Mage, leveled primarily in late Wrath and Cataclysm, and hasn't seen much time since her semi-retirement**. But having played her out in the Wild, in BGs, and in 5-man instances, I know how to handle a Mage in a more well-rounded fashion than I do a Warlock.

So I eschewed the temptation to roll a Paladin and instead created a Mage.

***

I resisted the "obvious" Min/Max choice for an Alliance Mage --the Gnome-- and instead created a Human Mage. Like the Kaldorei Rogue Azshandra, a Human Mage isn't the optimal choice for the selected class, but I'm not interested in the strictly optimal build. I'm not interested in raiding, and I'm not going to let the "git good scrub" crowd tell me how to make a Mage tick. And since there are only two Alliance races that can play a Mage, that meant a Human Mage.

Which fit in with the WoW Classic equivalent of Neve I'd envisioned.***

Therefore, let's put the rest of this behind a spoiler window, because I'm going to be talking about those low level Mage things that people don't want to have spoiled.

Sunday, November 17, 2019

Backup Gear, I Needz You

This post's title might be a bit confusing unless you know two things:
  • I finally got into an Uldaman run last night.
  • I was on Az, which means exclusively melee combat.
I'd been trying to get into Uldaman the past several days, but I'd made the executive decision each time to switch toons and try for Deadmines after 15 minutes of trying in Trade Chat and LookingForGroup*, so I suppose you could say I wasn't trying wholeheartedly. But when I saw the "looking for DPS for Uld" pop up in LookingForGroup, I pounced. I almost immediately got an invite, and I quickly abandoned my goofing around in the middle of nowhere (Stranglethorn Vale) and Hearthed back to Theramore** and caught the boat to the Wetlands.

 A short flight to Loch Modan and run to The Badlands later, I was at the entrance to Uldaman.

My memories of this place are a bit hazy, as I didn't venture inside when I leveled Quintalan and then Neve on the Horde side, and I think Tomakan got in one LFG run when he was leveling. It was only when I was exploring on Q at L80, trying to get all of the achievements for the Loremaster achievement in Late Wrath before the Cataclysm changes dropped that most of my memories from the place came from. Of course, Q steamrolled through everything, so I never got to know the details of Uldaman the way I got to know, say, Halls of Stone. Still, I knew that it was a precursor of the Titan oriented instances/raids in Wrath and onward, so I knew there were going to be Troggs, Earthen, and those Myzrael-like people/statues/whatever around.

Oh, and there were going to be walking statues, too. It's kind of the Titans' thing, I suppose.

I didn't really think much of those statues, until we started fighting them.

You see, with creatures made of rock there are no bleed effects, so several of a Rogue's best abilities are useless against them. Because of that, my DPS went down quite a bit when we would have to take them out.

However, there was a second impact to those walking statues that I only noticed when we were approaching Archaedas: the yellow warning symbol appeared on my screen for my weapons.

"What the..." I began as I pulled up my character screen. I knew I had fully repaired gear before I joined the group.

But there it was: my main dagger had only 5 left, and my off-hand dagger had 16 left.

"How did.... OH." I looked at the recently dispatched walking statue and realized these stone creatures were grinding my weapons to dust.

I quickly switched my off-hand and primary daggers, and told the rest of the group that my off-hand might break before the end of the instance. "I'm definitely going to have to repair when we get out of here."

As we ran down the passageway toward Archaedas' room, I was kicking myself. I could have rolled Need on a dagger that had dropped in a random mob, but as it wasn't as good as the two daggers I had I decided to just roll Greed on it. But now, I saw that random drop for what it was: an insurance policy. I should have known that with Classic things such as this were a lot more realistic, and you can't get much more realistic than what happens when you use an edged weapon to attack a thing made of stone.

We managed to down Archaedas, and wonder of wonders, my (now) off-hand dagger survived with ONE point left.

But I did learn an important lesson last night: always carry a backup weapon, just in case.




*On Myzrael, at least, the LFG channel has fallen by the wayside while most everybody has moved to LookingForGroup. I still keep it up and running, however, just in case.

**Hey, don't judge me. It works for being able to quickly get to instances on both continents, courtesy of the boat ride and its proximity to Ratchet, which is a short flight away to a ship to Booty Bay.


Thursday, November 14, 2019

Beating Those L40s Blahs

Azshandra has been in that weird low-mid 40s zone for a while, where she's not really high enough level (or geared enough) to take on Uldaman or Zul Farrak, but too high to get anything meaningful out of Scarlet Monastery and Razorfen Downs.*

So, what's a Rogue to do?

Make some forays into The Hinterlands, and realize that you're really in over your head for most of the zone.

Felwood? Nah, I know better.

Feralas? Sure, but keep an eye on the levels, because they can spike pretty quickly. And hanging out with the Gordunni Ogres can be satisfying, although in Zone Chat the name "Gordunni Ogres" quickly morphed into the "Gonorrhea Ogres", and all manner of shenanigans broke out. (Sorry, no screenshots of that. I do have some scruples.)

Head into Dustwallow Marsh, where you're overpowered until suddenly you're underpowered? Okay, but keep an eye on your surroundings. And try not to get depressed about the creepy nature of the place, that simply screams "A GREAT AND TERRIBLE BEAST RULES HERE!"

Set your sights on Booty Bay where you discover that you're not really overpowered for the zone, but you really have to group up to tackle some of those Troll and Pirate mobs. They aren't elites, mind you, but that you'll end up with about 5-10 of them swarming you before you could even say "What the hell happened?"

Yeah, let's do Stranglethorn Vale, because at least the greenery is mood lifting.

And we could do some fishing, I suppose. There's that Nat Pagle guy, who wants these fish from all over. So yeah, I could hang out in Stranglethorn Vale, Desolace, and Feralas, enjoy the coast, kill some Nagas and Trolls, and fish for those rares Nat wants.

***

But come on. That's not what I've really been doing.

I got a bunch of All Hallow's Eve candy, and I've been having fun shape shifting when the people out and about in the world aren't expecting it.

Like the Pirate's Costume:

Hey, I know that outfit!

Back in prehistory when I attended the University of Dayton, I used to go with friends to the big outdoors Halloween party in the Oregon District**. Being the stereotypical poor college student, my costume frequently consisted of using a white bedsheet as a makeshift toga. This wouldn't be much of an issue if it weren't for the temperature at those parties: 40F/4.5C. A wee bit chilly to be wearing just a bedsheet, some gym shorts, and shoes. My solution to that was to take a few swigs of double strength rum and try to just ignore the cold.

But what I couldn't ignore were the stares.

Yes, I got a lot of stares of the "are you nuts?" variety. Even though I was reasonably fit at the time, I got a lot of "aren't you cold?" questions from people who wore costumes more appropriate for the weather. However, I was a distant second in my group, because one of the women we went with wore a costume exactly like the WoW Pirate's Costume:

It's kind of hard to have a nice pose
when there's a slain Naga behind you.
The only difference was that she didn't have much of a bare midriff, but like the WoW version her outfit was completely skin tight. And believe me, in the cold weather you noticed.

With a wicked grin on her face, she exclaimed, "We're getting all the looks because you're almost naked, and I've left nothing to the imagination!"

***

But the WoW Pirate Costume wasn't the only thing I got. There was the ghost --which didn't last long enough for me to get a screenshot-- and there was this:

GIANT... ORANGE... AZSHANDRA!!

It's not everyday you get to look down on a Tauren. And for a reference on just how gigantic Az had gotten, here's the pre- and post- growth Azshandra:

Night Elves are tall already....





But now Humans don't even reach
Az's navel.



Maybe I should have gone and danced on the Stormwind mailbox....

***

I still have a bunch of those candies left, so maybe I'll pull them out when people aren't expecting it. Like, say, January.

In the meantime, I'll be back to my normal self, doing some questing and fishing, and lending a hand when I happen to be in the area:

Dropping in to help out the
Night Watch in Duskwood.




*And, truth be told, I'm kind of sick of SM. Not Gnomeregan-level sick, but still tired of the tactical nature of SM. "Everybody over here, I'll pull them over, we'll DPS them down, and do the next pack." It's a marvel of tactical design, but when you're about halfway through you start to wonder just how much longer you've got until the end. And when you realize most of the gear isn't Leather....

**Yes, THAT Oregon District. And yes, I know exactly where the shooting happened.


Friday, November 8, 2019

Letting My Fear Flag Fly

The Warlock Follies continue unabated, starring me as a Warlock who'd prefer to be in a good match of Warsong Gulch right about now.

I experimented with just Fearing packs while attempting to use the Voidwalker to tank the one that I've left behind, and I've had mixed results. About 3/4 of the time the baddies that I cast Fear on ran right into another pack, and I went from having 2-3 enemies at at time to 5-7. That's pretty much in line with what I expected, particularly given the closed-in nature of some of these groups.

Given these results, maybe going Destruction is an option to try to quickly AoE down mobs. I'll have to think about that, although I'd prefer to run Battlegrounds with the Lock than, say, instances.

***

Speaking of instances, I've run Deadmines twice on Dominius. First time, things went fairly well up until the Healer dropped group. Second time, not so much.

Since I hadn't run any instances on Adelwulf back in the day, my Warlock experiences in an instance were limited to the effect that Warlocks have on group dynamics. Just like any player, good players enhance the effect of the group and do a great job of DPS-ing down mobs and bosses. But bad players have a greater effect than, say, your average DPS.

While a Mage, Rogue, or Druid can pull mobs like crazy if they don't watch their threat, the presence of the Demon companion adds a level of complexity that only the Hunter shares. I can't count the number of times over the years that I've experienced a wipe caused by a Hunter's pet or a Demon was set to "Aggressive" in an instance. And then when you factor in the Warlock's Howl of Terror or Fear abilities, well....

Yeah, I'm not the greatest fan of poorly played Warlocks in instances.*

So... Let's talk about some things that I need to improve on.

***

In the first Deadmines run, almost as soon as we started, the Healer started giving the Warrior tank grief.

First, about tank's lack of a shield. Second, about how he wasn't going to bail the tank out if he wasn't keeping up sufficient rage. And after a few pulls, he started grumbling about the tank's pulling technique.

These grumblings weren't whispers to the group leader (me**), but said out loud in party chat. I've been in runs where I get whispers from someone complaining about another person in the group, but nothing quite like this.

Nevertheless, we kept going and downed the first boss. I'd made a point of the following rotation when fighting, and it seemed to work well enough: DoT the pack, do a Life Tap to boost my mana, Drain Health to add some health back, then repeat the cycle. Instead of a Voidwalker, I opted for the Imp and kept him on Passive until I told him to attack specific targets. This is the "prior experience with Warlocks" working here.

Once that first boss was downed, we started forward, and I realized the Healer remained in place.

I called out for the group to hold up a sec, steeled myself for another set of complaints, and asked the Healer what was up.

He said nothing.

And then he DCed.

"Really?" the tank asked. "Was I doing that bad a job?"

"No," I replied. "You were holding threat well enough, and you weren't running around like crazy trying to pull the entire area."

I took stock of the situation, and started putting out requests in LFG, LookingForGroup, and in the instance chat for a replacement healer.

No dice.

We eventually had to drop group, because without a healer we weren't going to proceed.

***

The second Deadmines run was, well, different.

Unlike the previous run, I was struggling to keep up with everybody. Not as in running with everyone, but trying to keep the DoTs up and whatnot. I'd also run out of Soul Shards prior to the run, so I was trying to kill as many Defias in Moonbrook as I could to obtain them, make Cookies, and distribute them to the group I was putting together. (Again.) By the time the group was ready, I had even managed to get a Soulstone together, so I figured that if I needed extra shards, I could suck them out of mobs we'd run into.

But still, it felt like I wasn't pulling my weight in the fights, as I was at that level (L18) where you get boosts to some of your other abilities, but not a new ranking in the DoT capabilities. Being specced as Affliction, DoTs were kind of my thing. And not being L20, that meant I didn't have an AoE I could use in an emergency.*** Even beyond that, I felt I was missing something that I couldn't place my finger on.

At the same time, the Mage began running ahead, exclaiming "Look, I'm a tank!!" and aggroing the next mob, forcing the Druid tank to catch up and pull aggro back to keep the Mage from getting plastered.

Oh, this isn't going to end well, I thought.

Two bosses down, we headed into the Foundry, working our way down the ramp. This is the locale where those remote control units the Goblin Engineers drop can wreak havoc. At the base of the ramp, the Druid pulled, and we had another three enemy mob to deal with.

Then all hell broke loose.

I was busy dropping DoTs and when I focused on the main screen again****, we didn't have a mob of 3, but 8-10.

"WTF!" the tank called.

"Shit!"

"Ow!"

We wiped.

We all appeared back at the graveyard, and the tank asked me "Did you use ss back there?"

For a brief second, my mind went blank. Was he accusing me of pulling all those extra mobs? "It wasn't me," I responded. "I only hit the mob you pulled."

"..."

"And," I continued, "I keep the Imp on a tight leash so this sort of thing doesn't happen."

"... I meant soulstone."

Oh crap. I completely forgot to set the Soulstone on the Healer.

"OH," I finally replied. "I thought you were accusing me of aggroing the entire group back there. No, I forgot. Sorry about that."

We got back into the Deadmines and I made a point of creating a Soulstone and tagging the Healer with it, and then letting the tank know I did that.

Or I thought I set it up, until I realized that something wasn't right again, but I didn't have time to find out what it was because everybody was running forward.

Gah.

We finished the Foundry, and then the DPS Pally dinged. He then surged to the front, exclaiming "I'm the tank now!"


Not again.

This is how it went through the instance, up until we got to the ship. We fought through Smite, went up the ramp, turned right, and then the Pally jumped up onto the Wheel. Everybody else followed, except for me, because the mob he'd aggroed zeroed in on me as I was in the back, and as I was surrounded I couldn't do anything even if I ran.

The Healer jumped down to rez me, while the Pally tank was saying, "Hey, I thought you guys were skilled."

Given that in the number of times I've run Deadmines --both pre- and post-Cata-- I think I've only jumped onto the wheel as a viable strategy to bypass mobs maybe 2-3 times. And this was definitely the first time since roughly 2013 or so.

But still, it was incredibly humiliating, first forgetting to Soulstone, and now not remembering the wheel.

Ah, but things weren't done.

While I was trying to climb on the Wheel after I'd been rezzed, I aggroed that same damn pack again and jumped off the platform into the water to escape them, figuring that I'd lose them after jumping down.

Well, that didn't work, as the pack came down and zapped me from behind.

"You'd better go rez him," the Pally tank said to the (former) Druid Tank, who came down and rezzed me.

"You should have died up here so we could rez you from here."

"Right," I replied, just focusing on finishing this damn thing and being done with it.

Even if I'd have managed to get up on the Wheel that first time, it wouldn't have saved us any extra time as we still had to fight the same mobs because the Pally tank got cute and ran around, picking them up anyway for no reason other than "just because".

The rest of the instance proceeded without incident, but it wasn't until afterward that I realized that I hadn't actually clicked on the Healer before setting the Soulstone, so it was actually set to me. But since we didn't lose the Healer, I was actually spared that further humiliation.

***

About the best thing that came out of those two runs was that the Rogue in the second Deadmines run, who'd remained pretty much silent the entire run, whispered me at the end that he was going to be doing some dueling and asked if I wanted to come. I told him no thanks, as I had to get going to bed. While that was technically correct, I just wanted to log off and not think about Warlocks, Soulstones, and the Deadmines for a while.

For a person who'd actually played a Warlock before, I felt woefully unprepared for being in an instance as a Warlock. While I knew a lot about what not to do, what I should do was where I was lacking. Rotations are one thing, since you can figure out a mana efficient way of inflicting damage while being out in the field, but forgetting how to do a Soulstone? That's pretty basic --and critical-- stuff.

And the activity a Warlock has to balance is insanely high compared to a Rogue or Mage. Managing the demon, making sure that it is actually doing damage to the right toon, and keeping all the DoTs going means that a Lock's instance activity is actually harder than in the average Battleground, where the Lock is looking more to lay crowd control via Fear nearly as much as DoTs and AoEs. In a BG, a Lock can let their Demon just go do their thing with minimal supervision, but in an instance I was tempted more than once to simply dismiss that Imp so I could focus on the rest of what was going on.

I realize that this was good for me in the long run, as I needed this experience if I'm going to level Dominius up to L60. Better to learn these lessons now rather than at, say, L35-40. I'm not going to lie and say it was fun, however. It wasn't.





*And that's coming from a player who --the past several years, at least-- prefers to play Rogues. My brethren don't make my job any easier, as poorly played Rogues will forget that what they do in an instance affects the entire group, so if you get cute and try to sneak past mobs --accidentally aggroing them-- they all come after your companions if you decide to use Vanish to escape.

**I'm not kidding when I say that I frequently get assigned the job of pulling a group together. And if you knew me in real life, you'd laugh because I'm a big introvert.

***The first Warlock AoE is Rain of Fire, learned at L20.

****I was cycling through the entire pack, making sure I had DoTs up on each Goblin, so I was focusing on the enemy target icon and making sure the right DoTs were present.