Wednesday, June 30, 2021

What Would Frank Think?

"I hate this song. I HATE THIS SONG! I got it up to here [with] this God damned song!"
--Frank Sinatra on My Way, 1979


Last Thursday, when I finished and posted this post around lunchtime, I was about halfway through L69. Several hours later, after work, it became obvious to me that if I wanted to ding 70 I could do so Thursday night.

I'd been working on both Shattered Halls and Karazhan attunement via the quests and pugs --and courtesy of a serendipitous encounter in Netherstorm-- I didn't have to try to find someone to group up with to finish the last quest up there. The XP from those quests alone took up about a 1/4 of a level, so by the time the evening rolled around I only had 1.5 bars to finally cross the finish line and complete leveling Briganaa.

So, I took the rest of the evening off and helped my leveling buddy with her L34 Priest by killing mobs for her. Oh, and in the process I worked on leveling my skinning as well.*

I'd been at L69 for a couple of days by then, and I'd started getting whispers from people saying that surely I was going to ding soon.

"Soon enough," was my typical reply.

My leveling buddy knew I was close and accepted that I was going to do what I wanted to do. She'd been patient with me while I bitched about how TBC Classic had played out on the server**, and she was happy to get a chance to get her Priest leveled a bit as I'd left it in the dust a couple of weeks ago. So we knocked out about 4-5 levels for her while I brought my skinning to the point where I needed to head out to the Hinterlands to work on pushing it closer to 300.***


Even then, she sprung a surprise on me during a conversation we had early in the week. The conversation began with my concerns about getting enough gold for flying, because that was going to be the big sticking point in Karazhan attunement. She told me not to worry, because the gold rewards are a lot higher than even I'd be expecting. "You're talking upwards of 20 gold for quests in Netherstorm and Shadowmoon Valley," she told me.****

"So how are the quests in Shadowmoon Valley?" I asked.

"I wouldn't know, because I've been waiting for you to reach L70 so we can quest there together."

My breath caught. She'd been at max level since shortly after I arrived in Outland, which while it had been a short time overall, it felt like an eternity to someone who leveled a Shaman from scratch. "You waited for me?" I finally typed out.

"Sure! Why?"

I completely lost it. 

I put my head in my hands and began to cry. "Because all of my MMO career," I finally typed out, "nobody has ever waited for me. Ever."

"Isn't that what friends do?"

"Well, yes, but.... That's never happened to me before."

This Penny Arcade comic from 2004
has been my MMO experience. And I'm
never the one on the cat.

For me, the MMO experience has largely been a solitary one because everybody I ever made contact with or joined up with while leveling has eventually left me in the dust in the pursuit of max level. Or, in the case of my current situation, I was already at max level so there was nothing to wait on. But the past month and a half has been an exercise in awakening all of the old resentments and demons concerning leveling out in the field, and how isolating that can be when you want to be playing with friends. 

I guess I'd just gotten used to raiding with regulars that reverting to my solitary MMO experience has been a shock to the system, particularly when bare lip service has been paid to the Leftovers while everybody else has been "leveling together".

But this.... This was proof that someone was out there who cared enough to do something I'd never experienced in game before. And I proceeded to lose my composure for about 10 minutes. Thank goodness I wasn't on voice, or that anybody else in the house wandered over during that time.


The promise of questing together weighed on my mind while people who hadn't said crap to me during the entire leveling Death March suddenly started becoming interested in my progress just as I was finishing up. It was then that I decided I wasn't going to give people the pleasure of self congratulation by saying congrats to me that evening.

I was going to ding my way, and my way was doing it when nobody was looking.

After helping my leveling buddy get her Priest 5 levels, I logged for the night with several completed quests in my queue. If things worked out right, I'd be on first thing Friday morning before work and get this done.

As the sun rose on the 25th, I got up, helped get my wife out the door to work, and settled in with some coffee. I logged in, found that I was literally the only person in guild online, and smiled.

I ran over to drop off several different quests, and afterward I found myself about half a bar short. 

"I suppose I could drop by Blade's Edge and knock out a quest there," I mused.

Then a request to assistance kill Teribus came across LFG.

"I can help," I replied, and rode over to the eastern side of the wasteland surrounding Auchindoun.

Even though Teribus has three people recommended, we knocked it out with just the two of us. It helped that the other player was a Hunter, and between their pet and my Fire Elemental (courtesy of the Fire Elemental Totem) we one shot Teribus.

I rode back to turn the quest in, and found myself exactly 1000 XP short. So I flew up to Blade's Edge mountains. During the flight one person in guild logged in, but I wasn't too concerned about that. I landed, found a couple of lynxes, and....

There was nobody in Blade's Edge either
that morning.

I nodded in satisfaction. It was done and only one person was online to notice.

And that person didn't notice for 10 minutes or more, in which I got a belated "I didn't notice you'd dinged!" gratz. 

At lunchtime, I logged in, got some quests done, and much to my delight nobody noticed. Or noticed enough to say anything that one of the Leftovers had finally made it to L70.*****

After work I logged in to run some more quests and I joined up with my questing buddy to start work on Shadowmoon Valley.


Some things about Shadowmoon Valley never change.

By then I got maybe one or two whispered congrats of the "I didn't notice you'd dinged" variety. My standard response was "I snuck in the back door first thing in the morning, when nobody was looking. Pretty much as I liked it."

That night was a guild first attempt at Gruul's Lair, and I was happy to not be in attendance. I had gold to make via questing and a mount to attain. By early evening, I was sitting on about being 150 gold short if I pooled all of my gold, and I blinked. "That's a lot closer than I was at the beginning of the day," I told my leveling buddy.

"Have you been looking at the gold rewards? They're 10+ gold per quest."

"Well yeah, but I still wasn't expecting it to rise that rapidly."

Later that evening, my leveling buddy took off for the Gruul raid, and I continued to quest and get across the the gold finish line. Sometime before the raid started, I pooled all of my gold, took a deep breath, and set off for Shadowmoon Valley again. I handed over what was for me an obscene amount of gold for the flight skill (800 gold), and then selected the nondescript "standard" looking griffon as my flying mount (another 100 gold).

And, because I'm me, I was flying around in Blade's Edge and accidentally dismounted.

Oops. And given the proximity of all those
baddies, I had to take rez sickness. Double oops.

At least I provided entertainment.


And then, after supporting me for so long, it was my turn to support my leveling buddy.

She went into the raid feeling like her DPS was lousy and that she was going to be carried by all of these players who'd raided Naxx while she hadn't gotten inside the place at all. Luckily for me, one of the raiders streamed the Gruul event, so I hopped on to watch.

I turned on my analytical mind and watched the first couple of pulls on the first boss, and I was impressed by what I saw. "You're doing really good," I told my questing buddy. "Seriously bringing the heat there!"

"Yeah, but we wiped."

"That happens. It's how it was for us in Naxx: we work and get things down and then finally once we figure it out we've suddenly got it."

And then they brought down the King on a subsequent attempt.

"Did you see my DPS?!!" she asked excitedly.

"Hell yeah!! You're doing great!!"

Gruul Dragonkiller was next.#

I watched the first couple of wipes, and although the spacing wasn't the greatest, I saw the potential. 

"You've got this," I told my leveling buddy on the third try.

The first shatter phase came and went with minimal deaths.

"As long as they can keep Team Evil## upright, you've got the DPS to take him out."

Another shatter phase, and then another, and critical DPS pieces stayed alive.


Gruul was rapidly approaching a growth point where he'd simply deal too much damage for the healers to keep up with, but the DPS was still there and steadily bringing him down. 







"Yay!" my questing buddy exclaimed. 

"You did it!!"

It turned out later, courtesy of Warcraft Logs, that the Gruul kill was the "worst" on the server. One healer mentioned that her gear was so bad that she didn't even get a parse rating. That, to my mind, means that without the gear it was mostly skill --and some luck-- that helped bring about the kill.

And I was incredibly proud of my questing buddy, who acquitted herself well.


*Let's not talk about my Leatherworking skill level. Let's just say that it's in the Apprentice range.

 **I continue to hear stories about how people quit their guilds based on the behavior of guild leadership and others favoring one raid over another or one group over another. All of this was entirely preventable given enough planning and proper management, but the more I see how things shake out the more I realize that "proper management" is sorely lacking in the majority of guilds out there.

***I did that later, and then after a bit of time in Eastern Plaguelands, aka "nobody goes there to skin so it's a good place to skin if you want to be left alone", I moved on to Silithus. When I was skinning there, the average number of toons in the zone was... 6. Pretty much how I'd always found the place before Classic came along.

****Again, I didn't record the conversations in this post, so it's approximate.

*****There's an addon that the guild promotes for use, called Guild Roster Manager, that has a ton of automatic tracking features and alerts when things happen, such as leveling or when people go AFK for a while. Maybe that's good for a large guild to have officers use it, but from my perspective it's pretty damn invasive for joe average to utilize. And, as it goes without saying, every level that I made that I never got a gratz on (unlike the main leveling bubble that sprinted to Outland the moment the Dark Portal opened) is highlighted there by GRM and their users, so I knew pretty much that a decent subset of the guild didn't give a crap about the Leftovers if they weren't gonna say anything even though the alerts were right in their faces. 

#To be perfectly clear, I'm not exactly sure why we're trying to kill Gruul at all. Anybody who kills all of those Black Dragonflight dragons is an okay person in my book, but that's how the raid goes.

##My nickname for the Warlocks.

Sunday, June 27, 2021

A Moment of Relief and Joy

The last of the Leveling Shamans (or the Leftovers, as one of the group call ourselves) has arrived in Outland.

It's been a long time coming, and she's got a long way still until L70, but the hardest part is over.

Several of us banded together to help her in a Blackrock Depths run, and that coupled with a judicious use of summoning her toon at L57 to get a couple of Hellfire Ramparts runs in pushed her over the top. 

I'm incredibly happy for her and for what The Leftovers have accomplished. We've got this.

Thursday, June 24, 2021

At the Crossroads of Practicality and Desire

I am now at a very weird intersection in my leveling process: I want it to slow down. And I'm not even sure that I can slow it down, either.

Well, let me clarify things a bit: the reason why I want to slow the leveling down is because I'd prefer to get flying right as I ding 70, and my preferred leveling process appears to be working against me for that.


When I arrived in Outland, Brig had 40 gold in her pocket. 

That's right: 40. Not 400.

I don't have a toon that has all my gold, either. Until Brig came along, Card has the most gold of all my toons at roughly 50-100 gold depending on which day of the week it was. Naxx put a gigantic crimp on my ability to earn gold, as I spent a lot of time farming mats so I could attend the Naxx raids. And for those who would say to just farm herbs to sell on the Auction House, I was doing that until the cost of the potions and/or raw materials on the AH outstripped my ability to sell the herbs I was farming. And once the price of Firefin spiked, well.... I grabbed my fishing pole and hit the shores of Wetlands.* It was only in the final few weeks of Naxx that my gold situation began to trend upward as we wiped (and I died) less and less in Naxx itself.

One more point: I did get world (or BoE) drops that I would try to sell on the AH, but I rarely was able to pull that off. I mean, I even got the Disgusting Oozling as a drop in Western Plaguelands, and even putting it up at less than half of the price of the other sellers I couldn't get any takers. Go figure. It's only now, with the new expac out there, that I'm getting some takers on the greens and Enchanting mats I've been putting up.

Still, the leveling of 1 to 60 was an exercise in speed, not wealth generation, even though the only things I bought were food and water.


Until a Shaman gets Water Shield around L62, they are a huge water hog. 

And I do mean huge.

I'd be slowly gaining ground on gold while leveling, and two things would happen: I'd ding and have to go get trained, and the price of water kept going up. I'd have a couple of stacks of water on me when I'd go out into the field, and every time I came back in to sell junk and get more water, the overall fluctuation would be such that I'd net a lot less than I thought. And once I hit the range for the L45 water.... I'd net zero.

The obvious answer was to get a friendly Mage to give me some water, but I was in such a hurry (and on at weird enough hours) that the alternate method of finding a random player, create a group, switch to Card, add Card, and have Card make and distribute water. I did that once, and afterward I thought "This is stupid. All this work for a couple of stacks of water." It may have been free, but as every other goblin in game will tell you, "Time is money, friend." And I didn't have that much time to sit around and do that on a regular basis.**

So, I did what any other slightly insane leveling Shaman would do: switch to L35 water and change my rotation to minimize spellcasting.

It may have been rough at times, but in the end it did help me become a better Shaman because of one thing: Enhancement Shamans are supposed to be masters of White Damage (aka the 'regular' non-magic damage). So I learned to be patient and let my White Damage attacks do their job and only cast when I'd get maximum impact from something. It stretched out my mana use, and it also helped me manage totems (when I used them) better.

And getting Water Shield has been a godsend. I rarely drink when out in the field, and when I group with people for quests or instances I typically get some water given to me as a courtesy.

You know, just like how it used to be.


Back to the original point of this post, getting to Outland has been a gold boon for me, but like I alluded to last week the gold demands are higher. My need for water has lessened, but repairs have gone up. 

And the training costs....

Blowing 30+ gold per level on training hurts. A lot. And the way the Shaman's toolkit is designed, I can't not skip some training in favor of others.

All of this has added up to the reality that I'm sitting at L69, partway through the level, and I'm about 500 gold short of the total cost of flying (skill + mount). 

So I'm doing other things rather than questing: working on my Skinning skill, which will (eventually) net me some gold on the AH, helping other players level, and running instances that are on the lower end of the scale (the first two SSC and HC instances, respectively) to help out lower level toons get leveled.

Still, I think it likely that I'll have to ding L70 to gain access to the excess gold gained by having no more XP to accumulate. It'll be a blow to my pride, but I can wait on getting to the Tempest Keep instances. 


One final note....

I have decided to honor my commitment to the Raid Lead team through Phase 1, but I will re-evaluate things after Phase 2 is announced. While I'd like to think things will improve, I believe it highly likely I'll want to go back to where I was and leave the guild. To do that will require me to give up my Raid Lead position, and I'm fine with that. I will have given things a fair shot, and if it's not working out for me it's not working out. 

And I do have options, so it's not like I'm giving up on WoW Classic.

*Other people liked Stranglethorn Vale, but I preferred Wetlands due to the lack of competition.

**Before you ask, no, I didn't ask any of the other Mages in guild. They were all busy running instances and leveling since the Dark Portal had opened. Some of them had friends from their old days join them in guild, and they've been running with them as much as they can. So why bother them?

Friday, June 18, 2021

Friday Thoughts: TBC Classic Edition

By the time this posts, I will most likely be sitting at L66, somewhere between 1/2 and 2/3 of the way through the Terrokar quests, and will have gathered enough playing time to get a better feel for TBC Classic. It still feels distinctly weird to see a crowd in Shattrath City* or at the Inn at Honor Hold, but I'm getting used to it.

So without further ado, here are my thoughts about The Burning Crusade Classic, 18 days after launch.


It takes a lot of effort to NOT level in Outland.


I get it, I get it. This is kind of my thing.


Running instances will net you XP. Questing will net you XP. Exploring will net you XP. And all of that adds up.

Quests back in the Old World? Yes, you get XP for them. I actually got 4 bars' worth of XP just going back and forth, finishing up about 5-6 old questlines still in my quest pile. So even if you do NOT go to Outland but instead pick up, say, Silithus quests at L60, you can get a surprising amount of XP. 

About the only thing that does not net you XP are the gathering professions, but you end up with "surprise" XP simply because you have to kill the occasional mob standing on top of a gathering node.

So the fact that I'm almost L66 means that I've been logging in and actually doing things in game. It may sound like a lot, given that I'm 7 days into Outland by now, but really it isn't.


TBC Classic brought in quite a few retail players, and it shows.

The most obvious flag that you've encountered a retail player is their casual disregard for politeness when out questing. You see, in retail, as long as you get a hit in, that enemy counts for you as well as anybody else. In WoW and TBC Classic, that ain't the case. Here, it's "first hit gets the reward." And since the Retail crossovers frequently can't be bothered to discover those little quirks of the system, they come across as colossal jerks. Especially when you politely whisper about grouping up to take down mobs. 

I recently was questing in Zangarmarsh when an Ally toon ran past me and pulled about 6 Naga in the surrounding area, and once they DPSed the large pack down the toon threw me an invite. I honestly don't know what the fuck that player was thinking --maybe that I'd be grateful that I'd have such a badass that I'd be grouping with-- but I immediately turned it down. A few minutes later, I met up with a Mage who suggested we group together to finish the quest we were both on, and for the next 15 minutes we had a pleasant time, talking about Magecraft while killing Naga.

In fact, I received more assistance at times from Horde toons out farming/questing than my Alliance counterparts, such as just this morning when a Horde Warlock and I each traded turns killing Torgos over on the western edge of the Bone Wastes. Since the quest is a 2-person one, he went first and pulled aggro, then I came on and helped. On my turn, we reversed the order but after initial aggro I let the Lock's Felguard take aggro from me, as it's a more natural tank. I had to do it twice as Brig pulled aggro back and died, but that's the breaks. And the Horde Lock stuck around while I had to go get another bloodied kill to lure Torgos in, which is more than some of my fellow Alliance players would have done.


Gold does come quicker in Outland, but never quick enough.

If you're like me, who was gold poor due to the constant need to farm for mats for Naxxramas, heading to Outland was like Mana from Heaven.

Within 2 days I had over 100 gold, enough to splurge and buy a pair of Fist of Reckoning maces off of the Auction House, which should last me through most of my leveling time in Outland. 

But in spite of the influx of gold into my bank account, the amount of gold needed for Fast Ground Riding remains just out of reach. I now have just enough for the riding skill itself, but I'd also need enough for a mount and the wait has been annoying the crap out of me.

Oh, and repairs cost quite a bit more than before, too. So my first (and so far only) foray into Slave Pens and Underbog netted me a nasty repair bill, higher than any I experienced in Naxxramas on Cardwyn.

So more gold != flush with cash.


While not everybody is following the Meta, enough are that it will have an impact on Auction House prices for quite a while.

One of the "side bonuses" of following the Meta of spam running dungeons for rep is that you'll get to L70 with a lot more quests to run. And instead of XP, those quests will yield extra gold instead. This has been the case with the original WoW Classic, so it's not a big surprise. People are using the extra gold to try to get Epic Flying trained (at the cost of 5000 gold), but there will be enough extra gold pumped into the WoW economy that it will impact prices on the Auction House.

People can afford the higher prices, particularly on items they need for professions or raiding, so they'll pay more. And that will keep the prices higher, just like how inflation works in the real world. Eventually all that gold will get depleted, but it will take quite a while for that to happen. And it may not happen at all, depending on just how many alts people will take into Outland. So if you're not following the Meta, maybe it's time to go into farming some mats to help out your gold situation.


Respawns are hell.

I can't tell you how many times I've killed a mob only to have it immediately respawn and attack. I'd say about 4/5 of the time it's not a big deal, but if you kind of really need to drink or take a short break, that instant respawn is a major problem. Most of the times that I died when I was out questing an instant respawn was to blame.


I am outleveling zones.

I still don't understand why she didn't just
kick me into the next county.


As I mentioned I'm somewhere between 1/2 and 2/3 of the way through the Terrokar Forest's quests, and it was the first zone where I entered it being slightly overleveled for the zone. I have since caught up in quests to level appropriate ones (~L65 or so), but when I move on to Nagrand (probably Saturday at this rate) I'll be slightly over the targeted level for over half of the zone itself. And at this rate I'll likely ding L70 somewhere in Blade's Edge Mountains.

That has good effects (access to better spells and gear) and bad ones (finding said gear).


I should probably look into doing a few more dungeons.

As of this writing, I've run 9 dungeons.


Compare and contrast those who used the Meta, who likely saw the inside of 9 dungeons in less than 2 days in Outland. 

In my case, over half of the dungeons were Hellfire Ramparts, with a full breakdown as follows:

Hellfire Ramparts: 5
Blood Furnace: 2
Slave Pens: 1
Underbog: 1

I ran Ramparts 4 times that Sunday after I arrived in Outland, not because of the Meta but because I was hoping that the Bracers of Finesse would drop. (They did, once, and the Hunter won the roll.)

While I don't feel like I'm missing out here, I ought to run them just for the chance at improving my gear set, which hasn't budged much in the past couple of days. However, most of the LFG entries I've been observing have been for the "endgame" and "attunement" 5-person dungeons, which don't help me at all. With the current state of things, I expect that by the time I'd be ready for, say, the Tempest Keep instances a lot of people would have moved on to Heroics.


I have not forgotten what it took to get to Outland, and I still carry a lot of resentment.

I mean, there's a reason why I've
been on Neve quite a bit. Also,
Farstriders FTW!


As you may have noticed from the previous musing, I have been utilizing the in-game LFG channel for a lot of my dungeon running. 

That is not an accident.

While two of the Leveling Shamans and I have been to Blood Furnace, Slave Pens, and Underbog together, I have been taking advantage of LFG where I could. I've pugged most of my MMO career, so unlike other people who dislike pugs I actually prefer them.

Plus, I've some issues right now that will take quite a while to work their way out of my system. If ever.

The other day there was a post in the Guild's Discord LFG channel, asking if people were still leveling at all. That brought a pretty swift response from Guild Leadership, pointing out that many of the Shamans are still leveling, and the Healers are way behind too. Normally I'd have ignored that exchange, but for some reason it incensed me. The total lack of awareness that a significant number of people --all of whom are critical for the 25-person raids-- were still leveling in Outland made me get up from my work and take a short walk to cool off.

To add fuel to the fire, it's only now, after people have gotten themselves leveled to L70, attuned, and have entered into Karazhan, that I've started to see posts on guild Discord saying that they can help by running instances with people. 

Thank you, Dana Carvey.
I was thinking the exact same thing.

Right now, I'm not certain whether this altruism is motivated by a desire to help or the reality that these people finally have reached the point where they actually need the rest of us, but either way I'm planning on taking a hard pass on any of these offers. If they weren't around when we needed them, how can I count on them helping out if a better offer comes along?

The current set of guild dynamics reminds me a lot of the old Twilight Zone episode, The Shelter**. A family is hosting a dinner party when it is interrupted by news of what looks like an impending nuclear attack. The family hosting the dinner party goes to the shelter they'd built in their backyard, while the other families, none of whom had built a shelter, try to claw their way in by any means possible. Just as the other families manage to pry open the shelter door, the news calls off the alarm, saying that it wasn't a nuclear attack at all. The other families try to return to a semblance of normalcy, saying "hey, let's hold a block party so that we can get back to normal." But the husband doesn't think so:

Jerry Harlowe: Hey that's a great idea, block party, anything to get back to normal, huh?

Dr. Bill Stockton: Normal? I don't know. I don't know what normal is. I thought I did once. I don't anymore.

Jerry Harlowe: I told you we'd pay for the damages, Bill.

Dr. Bill Stockton: Damages? I wonder. I wonder if anyone of us has any idea what those damages really are. Maybe one of them is finding out what we're really like when we're normal; the kind of people we are just underneath the skin. I mean all of us: a bunch of naked wild animals, who put such a price on staying alive that they'd claw their neighbors to death just for the privilege. We were spared a bomb tonight, but I wonder if we weren't destroyed even without it.

I don't think anybody will know the true long term effect from what happened after the Dark Portal opened, but I do think a lot of people won't like it in the end. 

As for me, I will honor my immediate commitment, but I also will take a long hard look at whether I want to continue raiding in this situation. Knowing that I am less valued for me and more valued for the body I bring to the raid has been eye opening for me.


There are people in game who do read my blog, but I also know that there are very few in guild who do so. I've kept my blogging quiet because I don't want to necessarily draw attention to myself, but there are a few guildies I have mentioned to --in a private manner-- that I do blog. 

However, I do know that of those people who I have confided in, only one actually reads Parallel Context. 

How do I know? Because nobody else has mentioned to me about the content of the TBC Classic posts. And believe me, my opinions would generate a bit of heat right about now.

*Yes, I have finally arrived in Shattrath, taken the tour, and selected Aldor. I passed through a couple of times when helping my leveling buddy with a quest chain that yielded a nice piece for her, but I never considered it an actual "arrival". I still haven't taken the portals back to the Old World yet, either, preferring instead to leave via the Dark Portal; but that's because I'm thumbing my nose at the expectations surrounding the expac.

**In his book Danse Macabre, Stephen King has a very insightful view of The Shelter, as "rarely has any television program dared to present human nature in such an ugly, revealing light as that used in 'The Shelter', in which a number of suburban neighbors along Your Street, USA, are reduced to animals squabbling over a fallout sheltere during a nuclear crisis." Thanks to Twilight Zone Vortex for jogging  my memory about both the King book and the quote. I'd forgotten I'd read the book, and that was before I saw the Twilight Zone episode itself. Only much later did I realize the connection.


EtA: Fixed a few grammatical mistakes. That's what I get for writing/editing while sleepy.

Thursday, June 17, 2021

Same As It Ever Was

The previous post derailed Brig's leveling adventures a bit*, so I figured I'd catch up on how things are going. (Or not going. Whatever.)

On Saturday morning, I got up early to help my wife get out the door to her job, then I settled in front of my computer after some breakfast.


Perhaps I should back up a bit.


I believe that I mentioned back here about how we really didn't have the parts to build a new PC, and there were "ongoing negotiations" as to how I was going to proceed with using the PC for leveling and general use. All that was true, especially due to the ongoing issues with the graphics card shortage. I would have preferred to build my own PC, but the parts simply weren't available.

However, I did consider the pre-built options that I had, and based on my previous experiences with pre-builts (mainly HP and Dell) I dismissed the idea. When you get down to it, their options aren't that great, particularly with the bloatware they both put on, and there's also the issue with proprietary parts (mostly Dell here). I wanted an option that was more in line with the "boutique" builders, such as Origin PC, but without the inflated costs.

Microcenter, however, does have their own "house" brand of pre-built PCs, called PowerSpec, and after I perused their options I began to feel pretty good about them. They use LianLi cases, off the shelf parts (ASRock motherboards, Corsair water cooling, etc.), and the cost was better than that of the boutique builders. 

And they actually had current gen graphics cards from AMD and Nvidia. 

So the afternoon of Memorial Day my son and I took a trip to Microcenter to check a couple of the systems out.

I was... surprisingly impressed. 

I remember when the Microcenter house brand (eMachines) was pretty bad and contained non-customizable bare bones systems. But these systems were the real deal, and actually looked halfway decent. I mean, they came with RGB, which I didn't need, but they were really nice in their layout and cable management. I talked to the salesperson there for a bit, kicked the tires, and decided that this was going to be my best option for quite a while.

So my son and I brought back home a new PC and a nice, new monitor.

Now, I may have bought the thing, but I needed to clear space to use it, so I spent the next few days working on the piles of crap that I had on the table I use as my work space, and finally set the entire thing up by the weekend.** So yes, Red has a new machine for the first time since 2012. And here's hoping this machine lasts as long.


All that didn't matter last Saturday, as I finally got the chance to do what I wanted: walk across the Dark Portal on my terms. 

There was almost nobody on from the guild, which was perfect. That meant nobody noticed when Briganaa took care of clearing out bags, repaired her gear, and flew out to Nethergarde Keep.

I ran from the Keep down to the slope leading to the Dark Portal. Brig was passed a few times by some toons hurrying into and out of the Portal, but I paid no attention to them. At the slope, I RP walked down to collect the "Go to Outland" quest, and walked up and through.***

Totally worth the wait.


Briganaa was back home.

I set about working on getting to Honor Hold, collecting those first few quests, and seeing just how hard it would be for me to take down these initial mobs.

And saying hello to the true owner of
Stromgarde. Apparently he hadn't heard the news.

It didn't take me long to discover that I had to be very careful around these initial mobs.

I died a few times to those Wargs + Fel Orcs, but that first piece of gear. Oh, that first piece of gear....

You have NO idea. Okay, maybe a little.

The piece that I selected:

Not much to write home about
in Outland, right?

Replaced this piece:

From the Lord Shalzaru
questline in Feralas.

I practically wept from seeing gear that would actually improve my set.

And that's how my first hour in Outland went.


After a little bit of time, one of the other Leveling Shamans still behind in the Old World logged in. He was at L56, and needed two more to go to Hellfire Peninsual.

I kept my promise and grouped up with him for the next hour or two, finishing up quests with him and making sure he was on much better footing. When I logged from TBC Classic to run some errands he'd gone up 1.5 levels, bringing him within easy striking distance of L58.****

That evening, when I had a chance to get back on, I discovered my leveling buddy was in a Hellfire Ramparts run, and as they finished up she asked me if I wanted in. A couple of other guildies were in here, she told me, so it was (practically) a guild run anyway.

"Sure," I replied, and got a summons to a place I'd not been in since.... 2012? 2013?

And, as it turns out, I remembered more about Ramps than I guessed I would.


The weekend pretty much passed that way, with me becoming acquainted with Hellfire Peninsula, replacing my crappy mid-30s/40s greens with baseline L58 Outland greens, and running Hellfire Ramparts about 4-5 times total. I wasn't running it for the rep, as by the time I got into my second Hellfire Ramparts run I was already Friendly with Honor Hold, but I got the chance to relearn how the BC instances were going to be going forward: shorter, more intense, and requiring more tactical thinking than "I hit it with my axe".

There was one disconcerting moment, however, which occurred early Sunday morning.

I'd logged in to enjoy a little bit of time questing and I got a call out in Guild Chat. "Hey Card, you want to switch over to Cardwyn to run [one of the Steamvault or Auchindoun instances]?"

"Uh," I replied, "I could but I'd be turned into pulp."

"Oh, Card isn't your main anymore?"

"No, she's not set foot in Outland."


That, to me, highlighted something that has been happening with quite a few guild interactions ever since Pre-patch dropped: people somehow never read the official raid lists and realized that I wasn't going to be on Card, but Briganaa the Shaman. Even members of Guild Leadership, who should have known, were surprised by that revelation. 

Of course, that only served to heighten my resolve to keep Card retired even longer than I originally intended. But to be fair, TBC Classic is feeling more and more like it is Brig's time to shine. Taking Card to Outland just doesn't feel right, and I've grown increasingly reluctant to login as her.


I have pulled Card out of the garage, however, but just not in TBC Classic.

Yes, in the Classic Era server I copied her to.

I haven't done any dungeons or raids or anything, just wandered around a bit, enjoying the way how things were before Pre-patch dropped. Sure, the server is dead, as everybody and their Grandmother is in Outland, but after people finish gorging themselves on the Outland content they'll likely wander back to the Classic Era a bit more often. I didn't think I'd like the Classic Era servers that much, but the lack of crowds along with the lack of pressure to push hard with raids means I get the time to just relax and go fishing or something for a while and enjoy the spoils of Azeroth as it was.

*And I felt that those comments about the state of TBC Classic a couple of weeks in were important enough to not wait.

**Yes, I was busy leveling Brig the entire time. And working, too, so all this may have contributed to my feelings of being overwhelmed at the leveling task before me.

***I recorded it just because.

****Throughout this entire time I was experiencing network issues, so I'd be there with him for about 15-20 minutes and then I'd be knocked offline for about a few minutes. At least I provided unintentional comic relief.

Monday, June 14, 2021

To Have or Have Not

I kept my promise to take the day off from WoW this past Friday.

For the most part.

Oh, I didn't login to the game or anything, and I didn't read any WoW related Discord servers. However, there were discussions among the leveling Shamans that went on, and I grew concerned enough that I decided to reach out to my team's Raid Lead, who was also a member of Guild Leadership. I informed her of the current state of morale among the leveling Shamans, and after a short conversation that I won't repeat, she took the matter to the rest of Guild Leadership.

The net effect was that I began receiving Discord messages at 4 - 4:30 AM EST about how the leveling Shamans were finally starting to get some love. (That was great and all, but I kind of wanted to sleep.)

Over the weekend there have been some small changes here and there, and an announcement post highlighting the issues both the leveling Shamans and the Healers are having in getting to 70 and attuned.

Long term? I'm not certain how it'll play out, but I feel that at least we're moving in the right direction.


Yes, I was being intentionally vague with a lot of that first part, because outside of some general stuff it's pretty much internal and private discussion.

But I ought to mention that this problem, whether it the leveling Shamans, Healers, or people rushing to L70 while others aren't, well.....

Let's just say this is not a problem limited to my guild.

Shintar has highlighted her early forays into Outland, and how FOMO is real for even those already in Outland, but she's also highlighted how the new expac is changing her own guild.

I've discovered similar things, where people I've never seen before suddenly showing up in the Guild, and others not showing up at all. And we're not talking 2-3 people, but like 10 or more in each category.

But for me, in discussion among friends on the server who are part of other guilds, the biggest takeaway is that the current min-max Meta strategy for "Winning BC" (my term) is creating a big divide of Haves and Have Nots.

On the one side, you have the Haves, those who took the week off from work* and followed the Meta to the letter and now found themselves at Max level, attuned, and ready to jump into Karazhan. A lot of these have already started leveling their alts through Outland, focusing on the same Meta strategy, but without as much free time as before.

On the other, you have the Have Nots, those who didn't do all the stuff that the Haves did, for various reasons, and have found themselves lagging behind the rest. This includes people like the leveling Shamans**, Healers, people who had vacations or whatnot planned before Blizz announced the June 1st TBC release, graduations, family reunions, etc. This also includes people who are following the Meta, but simply don't have the time to devote to it that the Haves did.

Among a wide range of guilds on Myzrael, these two divides are creating internal tension. The Haves want to raid Karazhan and 25-person content NOW, while the Have Nots are looking at the Haves and saying "Hey, Kara isn't going anywhere, and it's not like Wrath of the Lich King Classic is dropping in December, so what's the rush? Why not help us get to L70 and attuned if you're so eager to raid?"***

I've heard from more than one friend that there's been posts in their guild's Discord about how "we're all in this together", and "we raid as a team". That sounds great, but I suspect more than one guild will be rent asunder by the internal tension as the Haves split for guilds that will let them raid as soon as possible.****


But for me, my answer always is more of a long term one: what's the point of the rush?

You binge on Kara now, and you'll be sick of it in a couple of months. And guess what? The people or alts who will need to get into Kara won't find anybody in guild wanting to run it. 

The same thing will happen --and likely is already happening-- with 5-person content. You binge on it so much, you get sick of it, and you never volunteer to help out a guildie who needs it. And I'm here to tell you that except for the raids, the only additional multiplayer content that drops in TBC Classic is Magister's Terrace. And that's it. So if you want to experience "more" TBC Classic, you're going to have to raid, and the Have Nots will not forget how they were treated by the Haves when they finally get to the 25-person stage.


From what I've heard from people who were there, when the original TBC was released, all of this wasn't quite as much of an issue. People weren't rushing to endgame with a ready made Meta, as they were still trying to figure the damn thing out. Guild issues were still there --as people will be people-- and scaling down from 40 person raids to 25 person raids is frequently an exercise in eating shards of glass. And the concept of leveling a Shaman to be ready when the Dark Portal opened was non-existent, as you couldn't roll a Shaman (Ally side) or Paladin (Horde side) until TBC released.

But now, years later, I think that the Meta is just the latest attempt to apply Retail WoW "sensibilities" to TBC Classic, which is something it really wasn't designed for. 

And I have to wonder how much longer before we see the dreaded "I'm Bored" in Trade or LFG chat.

*Or were insane like me and devoted almost every non-working moment to WoW.

**Another side effect of the power leveling I did on Brig is that Brig is poor. I mean, "I could barely afford basic riding at L58" poor. Card was already poor due to the dynamics of keeping supplied with all of the Naxx consumables on twice a week basis, so my crack about Briganaa selling weed was only half joking.

***Depending on your guild, there may be profanity involved.

****I do know of one that kind of blew up when about half the guild just up and split to create their own version of their Retail guild on Myz. Not exactly the same, because it highlights tensions in place prior to TBC launching, but I'm sure I'll hear of more soon enough.

Saturday, June 12, 2021

I Can't Carry It For You, But....

Three levels a day. 

That was my goal.

Some days, that was easy. Some days, not.

The higher my levels climbed, the greater emphasis I placed on the XP gained on quests and the less on whatever gear I might get. My ability to get mobs down began to nosedive once I hit the mid-50s; I was wearing a green chestpiece that was a quest reward in Feralas, for example, and nothing I encountered in my singular pursuit of leveling changed that. I replaced my last piece of Deadmines clothing in the upper 40s (the cloak, in case you're curious) with another green that was a random drop. My daggers --the newest of which dropped from Amennar the Coldbringer in Razorfen Downs-- were in dire need of an upgrade, so I broke down and bought a cheap green mace on the Auction House that I could use in the low 50s to pair with a drop from Un'goro Crater*.

But I kept going.

Blizzard's Ode to Legend of Zelda.


And it felt disorienting that I would be in Western Plaguelands on Monday, seeing the levels of the Scourge in Andorhal and avoiding the place like it had the... Well, you know... And then two days later I'd be back to discover that it was I who who outleveled them.

One of the few times that I've ever done
this quest line. It gives a better understanding
of Ol' Emma and why she's in Stormwind.


I began Wednesday at L55, and after earning a quick ding from turning in quests, I settled into a long, demanding grind in the Plaguelands and Winterspring. Around midnight I got that second level, and the only thing that stood between me and L58 --the level everybody else goes to Outland-- was a lot of traveling and a lot of involved quests in WPL. I sighed and kept going.

Then the stars aligned.

"Anybody for Alas, Andorhal?" was the call out by a Warrior in Gen Chat.

Oh hell yes.

"Sure," I replied, "but if you can share the quest I'd appreciate it."

"Did you do the Watchtower quest?" 

"Yes, but I didn't pick up Alas, Andorhal because I didn't think I'd find a group for it."

"lol yeah. I'll send you an invite." 

So that is how I knocked out that nice, juicy quest.

And then a bit later, I knew about the one quest in WPL giver near the tower whose mobs drop the Crusader enchant, and so I headed out there only to discover the person who set up the group from earlier in the evening. 

"Killing the Scarlets?" he asked.


So he sent me another invite, and we spent a half an hour killing mobs and turning in quests.

"How far are you?" he asked.

"I've got a couple of bars to L58 left, but I'm planning on going to Outland on L60."

"How come?"

"Because I want to experience TBC the way it was intended, and I was cheated out of that by being min-maxed through Hellfire when I got there in 2009."

"Oh cool. I get that."**

We turned in all the quests, and I was.... 60 XP short of a level.

I cursed a bit in group chat, but the other guy was perfectly happy to kill one last mob. And that was that. 

The Warrior cheered, wished me luck in Outland when I got there, and split for the night.

And so did I.


Even though I wasn't going to Outland, I literally felt a weight taken off of my shoulders. 

I could relax.

Although I suppose I could have left for Outlands right then, the person I'd be cheating was myself. So I stuck to my guns and said to myself that I'd grind out the last two levels on Thursday and then take Friday off.

"Two levels instead of three? Oh, I've got this," I said to myself as I logged for the night.


By noon on Thursday I was starting to get worried. The initial quests from Tirion Fordring's quest line weren't that hard on paper, but the drop rate for one of the quests was so abysmal that I felt I was never going to complete that questline. By early evening, however, I finally got those quests knocked out and rushed around Azeroth, completing some long outstanding quest runs to get to L59. 

It always pays to be polite to a powerful
Water Elemental. Another quest line I rarely finished.

Then it was off to my least favorite zone in the Old World, Silithus.

The place doesn't exactly lend itself well to solo questing. Back in Vanilla Classic, a lot of the mobs were elites, and you had to have enough gear plus a high enough level to even solo some of the mobs, and others.... Well, let's just say I never bothered with a lot of the Silithus quests. 

This time, however, I had an ace in the hole.

A friend of mine had just brought her Bear tank to Outland, but was having difficulty killing mobs there. She needed a leveling buddy.

And guess who was sitting at L59.  

I didn't mind being a leveling buddy, since it makes the time pass by more enjoyably, but I was kind of aware of my lack of gear. "My gear is made of cardboard and held together with baling wire," is how I've described it before.

"We'll work on that," I was told.***

So she hopped back to the Old World, headed over to Silithus, and met me while I was killing Sand Dredgers.

Almost immediately she handed me a piece of Blue gear, some Ravager Dogs and.... a fish.

"You gave me a gray fish?" I asked.

I could almost hear her snort in reply. "Yes, you can vendor it for 6 gold."

My jaw dropped. That would be the equivalent of about 4-5 good vendored items in the Old World. And then I saw the rejuvenation rate from the Ravager Dogs, as well as the buff.

"Is Outland Texas or something? They say 'Everything is bigger in Texas'..."

She laughed. "I like Texas."

"Thank you, but I don't know what to say. Keep this up and you're going to make an old man cry."


We continued to kill mobs. "Did you pick up this elite quest?" she asked when we were down south. 


"Well, that was silly."

I rolled my eyes, realizing I was implying her tanking skills weren't up to the task. "I know that now." 

The next hour or two passed by pleasantly, because if you're in Silithus, soloing things, saying the word "pleasant" would get your head examined.

And the banter was totally worth it. 

"We need to get you a fast mount in the worst sort of way," she said. "Do you regret getting it on Card?"

"No, because she got it as the Alterac Valley rep reward, so it was cheap."

"We may have to do that for Brig."

"Uh... That's a long rep grind. I'm sorry I'm so poor in game."

"We'll get that corrected."

"Well, I suppose that I could sell weed."

We zeroed in on the quests that were a) easily doable and b) would net the most XP per turn in. Once we completed a bunch that seemed like it would be enough, we headed back to Cenarion Hold and she hopped onto her main, so that she could congratulate me on reaching L60.

I turned the quests in and....

"I'm half a bar short," I sighed. "I'll go do the other quest in NW of the zone."

"You need a hand with that?"

"No, I can handle that one. I'll let you know when I'm on the way back."


"And if you get into a dungeon run, that's fine too."


I rode up to the northwest corner of Silithus, known more colloquially as the place you go to finish the Thunderfury quest line, and set about picking up Twilight tablets. There were a ton more air elementals nearby, as I guess the invasion portion of Silithus --the one you rarely saw while Silithus was being used for AQ20/AQ40 as well as regular farming-- was in full swing. But hey, I didn't get this far without knowing when to run like hell.

"I'm on my way back," I told her, and bolted for the Hold.

At one point I looked behind me and saw a huge trail of air elementals following behind me, and I began to laugh. Then I got knocked off my mount by a Silithd.

Oh shit, I thought, but switched to Ghost Wolf and kept on going.

"Don't die here, don't die here, don't die here...."

My health bar kept going down. 


"Dad, are you okay?" my oldest asked, coming over.

"Yeah yeah yeah," I replied in a calmer tone once the air elementals finally gave up the chase with me sitting on about 1/4 to 1/3 health left. "I'm okay. It's that it's almost all done."

"Oh, you're about to ding? Cool!" She sat down in the chair next to me.

I reached Cenarion Hold and made it to the quest giver. "I'm here now," I told my questing buddy. "Ready?"


I turned in the quest and dinged.

I was slow to do a screencap of the ding itself.
I was a bit loopy at the time as well as relieved.


"It's done! At long last!!" I exclaimed to my leveling buddy.

"Yay Dad!" my daughter exclaimed, hugging me.

Guild chat erupted with congratulations.

"Gratz Cardwyn!"

"Yay Card!"

"Way to go Brig!"


"Thanks," I replied multiple times, then took a deep breath. "And now I'm gonna go blow my gold on training, and.... go to bed."


As I alluded to before, there were a few people who reached out to check on me while I was mired in the worst of this leveling hell. For those people, a big thank you. You kept me going. For those who came out and were my leveling buddy, especially when I needed it most, thank you. For those in our group who crossed the line ahead of me yet kept in contact to keep me going, thank you. 

A special thank you to my leveling buddy on Thursday. Were it not for her, I'd have never have crossed the finish line when I did. When it was all finally over and the kids had let me alone, I might have cried a few tears of relief. (It could have been someone cutting onions, but you never know.)

And for those leveling Shamans for the raid still out there, I see you and I'm gonna help you get across the line too.  

I owe you that much.

*Or was it Tanaris? It all blends together after a while.

**That's the usual reaction I've gotten when I bring up my reasons why I wanted to delay my trip to Outland until L60: the initial puzzlement, followed by the "Oh!" and "How cool!" moments. Typically followed by "Hey, have fun when you get there!" But for some reason, a minority of people can't not min-max things, I suppose.

***Again, these are approximate conversations. I didn't record the whole thing, mind you, so I put what I could remember. I was a bit loopy at the time.


EtA: Corrected 'stupid' with 'silly'. I was informed by the questing buddy I got that part wrong.

Tuesday, June 8, 2021

A Bit of Catharsis

Sunday's post generated more introspection --and more explicit commentary-- than usual for a post here. I guess given it's content, that's to be expected. When I hit 'Publish' and posted it, I felt that I needed to get the full extent of my feelings out there, and even then I missed a few points.* But putting my feeling into words helped somewhat, because that process forced me to articulate exactly why I felt the way I did.

Last night, several of the members of the Left Behind Club joined with one of our ex-members, who'd made it to Outland and volunteered to tank for us, and we headed for Sunken Temple. 

I won't provide many details about that instance run, but it felt good to be with people who were experiencing the same feelings I was about a wide swath of issues. And it felt good to laugh for a while and enjoy the camaraderie and the (strong) opinions on things from leveling to plunging into the Outlands grind to getting geared up for the upcoming raids. There were a few things I had to self censor, because of that raid lead stuff, but I knew where everybody was coming from and how the long slog had affected them. 

The quote one of the others made that I can share, and one we were all in agreement about, was that "Nobody else in guild will ever understand what we went through to get to Outland."

And that's the truth.


While I enjoyed the run a lot, I wouldn't have called it 'fun' in the traditional sense. It was more cathartic than fun, I suppose, to release those pent up feelings about the hand we'd been dealt among people who truly understood. 

We're also not leaving anybody behind. One member of the Left Behind Club is going on vacation now, and when she gets back we're going to help her all we can to cross the finish line and get her to Outland. I don't even need to take Brig for that: I mean, I've got undergeard (Linna) and overgeared (Card) toons ready to assist for that final push.

Here's to hoping the end comes out better than the first two parts.

*Such as that the min-maxing at the major WoW Classic websites that just about everybody and their grandmother are following to how to 'do Outlands correctly.'

Sunday, June 6, 2021

On The Outside

It comes as no surprise that I've been busy these past seven days.

I finished all of the work surrounding graduations and moving on Sunday, and instead of logging onto Classic I promptly zonked out for about 13 hours. Waking up on early Monday, I said "oh crap" and resolved to start work immediately on leveling Briganaa.

So if you're looking for a report on how things were when the Dark Portal opened, you're in the wrong place. I've not set foot in Outland on any toon, but instead had a steady diet of leveling a Shaman. When the Dark Portal opened, I was in Hillsbrad, grinding gnolls and naga.

However, I was not unaware of things, because Guild Chat was all about the Dark Portal and what lay beyond. And about five minutes after the portal opened, I saw people in the /who in guild in Hellfire Ramparts. And then Blood Furnace.

And other instances.

I also saw the numerous requests for groups, and tons of "grats!" on leveling.

And I was still in an empty world, slogging away.

Yeah, it probably doesn't help that I was on
a 90s kick. And if you think Cake was
appropriate, you can guess what's coming later.


I will not lie. The FOMO --the Fear of Missing Out-- is very real.

And for those of us left behind, leveling Shamans, it remains real. 

It is hard to watch, so I decided to ignore the Guild Chat tab as much as I could from Monday onward. 

Every "Ding!", every gear drop post, every "Look at all the levels!", every "Isn't it great we're all leveling together!", all it served was to remind me that I was not there, where I wanted to be.

I even dropped Mage Chat, because it became too much.

All of it is unintentional, but it is also completely tone deaf.

And I am not the only one left behind who thinks that way.

I've chatted with a few of the others left behind, and they all have agreed that it is hard to watch, that the FOMO is real for them. And the occasional "gratz" thrown our way does absolutely nothing to ease the raw deal that we're under. 

 If you guessed Beck, you were correct.


The guild does have Shamans in Outland, by the way. 

Those who had a free couple of weeks were able to grind (or instance boost) their way to being Outland ready, and they're out with the rest, having fun.

But those of us who had real life, such as graduations, vacations, and whatnot, didn't have that luxury. 


That past week has taught me a few things about empathy.

First, that I'm glad that I was not greedy.

If I were a bit greedier about wanting to play Card, someone else would be in my place. And I sure as hell would not want that at all. It's bad enough to be here, but if I knew I sentenced someone else to doing this.... I would have a hard time dealing with the guilt.

Second, that you learn who your friends are.

I've had a few people reach out to me, checking in to see if I'm doing okay, and I'm grateful for that.* Those interactions mean a helluva lot more to me than every occasional "gratz" I got after a level. And I won't lie, in those 'Dark Night of the Soul' moments, they kept me going. 

I can't possibly begin to count how many times I've thought about quitting this past week; quitting the grind, quitting the lead position, quitting the guild, and either faction changing or quitting the game entirely. But at each critical juncture, there has been one person who reached out at exactly the right time to check in on me with more than just a "hey, gratz" but a "Hey, are you doing okay? You've been quiet and I wanted to check on you."

For those people, you kept me sane and kept me going. And for that I'm eternally grateful. And words can't express that enough.

Third, that if you feel like you've been left to your fate, reach out to the rest in the same situation and form your own bonds. Shared experience forges friendships and camaraderies like no other, and I've reached out to the rest of the leveling Shamans to keep everybody's spirits up, to keep people going. And the others have responded in kind. All of this has made me resolve that I am not going to leave anybody behind when I get to 60.


I suppose I ought to get this out now: I am NOT going to Outland at L58.

Back in 2009 I did that and bought the t-shirt. It did not end well; as even as a (then Holy) Paladin I was far too squishy for those first quests. And Hellfire Ramparts? Don't make me laugh. The only thing that saved me from double digit deaths was that the tank --the person who got me into WoW in the first place-- was already roughly 67-68 at the time (I think) and could easily handle all sorts of aggro. I'll be heading to Outland in meh --at best-- green gear with the occasional blue thrown in, and I'll need al the BC Clown Gear drops I can get.

And it goes without saying that if people start asking me to join Ramparts runs at L57, saying they'll port me over, no thanks. I'm doing this the right way, and that means L60 onward.

Furthermore, I'm not going to go the "spam instances until Honored and then go questing" route. I am going to do things my way in Outland, and that means questing until I need to go to an instance. Then I'll do the instance. I'll have gotten to L60 doing things my way, and I'm not going to change that.

Which reminds me, I ought to train riding. With the Ghost Wolf form, I haven't needed to train riding at all. Sure, it's only a 40% mount, but it's just enough to keep me from spending the gold on riding. And believe me, I need all the gold I can get. 


Brig sits at L48 as of this writing, and I've been shooting for 3 levels per day. (I've done 2 so far, so I'm going to login and get that last level soon.) So by the time the week is out, I ought to be at L60.

Catch ya on the flip side.

*I have insisted, however, that I not get any instance boosts. I need to learn to play my class, and that does absolutely nothing for me. Yesterday I was in a true at-level Razorfen Downs group, and a Zul'Farrak group that consisted of all at-level except for the tank, who was a friend of mine who isn't taking this toon to Outland until I reach it. So we were close enough in level that it wasn't a boost so much as an actual instance run with a really good tank; we were able to get a chance to use our abilities and work our way through them as much as we could.

Wednesday, June 2, 2021

Threading the Needle

I was perusing May's posts when I realized that my May 2021 has been an eventful month. The blog posts alone show a ton of activity, where I went from just another raider who preferred his independence as much as possible to being part of a raid lead team on a guild I had no real intention of joining when May began.

And that doesn't even touch on the personal events that took place this past month, such as the oldest mini-Red's Senior Recital and university graduation, and the youngest mini-Red's high school graduation and commitment to attend the University of Louisville to study Music Therapy.* 

Or my son's official decision to major in History.** 

The emotional roller coaster that was May extended into June as I took stock of the reality of my leveling situation, I gritted my teeth, and plunged into the twin purposes of grinding out levels as quickly as I could but at the same time learn how to play a class I only had vague recollections of when I played Retail. 


The thing about the WoW Classic leveling experience is that you get your abilities piecemeal, so you can learn to integrate them into your playstyle. Once you get those abilities internalized, you then add more. Oh, and your older abilities get newer skill ranks, so you can customize your playing strategy as needed. I'd call it elegant, but by the time that Wrath came around the talent tree system was pretty clunky and in dire need of an overhaul. Still, in both Classic and BC the system worked well enough to prepare a player for instances as well as end-game raiding. 

Unless, of course, you defeat the system by bypassing it entirely.

One of my favorite instances, and one that prepares people for end game instances and raiding without their realizing it, is the Scarlet Monastery: Cathedral instance. A player learns about tactical pulls, enemies with various abilities that need to be countered, and multi-stage boss fights. Sure, the instance can take a while to clear, but when you're done with Cath you know how to handle pulls that become useful in Blackrock Spire and Blackwing Lair, Molten Core, Dire Maul, and all sorts of other group content. Another favorite, The Deadmines, teaches low level players the basics of group content in a single path instance that somehow manages to entertain and educate at the same time.***

But what if you skip those instances? How will you learn such nuances of group content? Well, you get to learn more about group content later, in the instances you didn't skip.

And if you skipped them all? Well....

That is the dilemma of boosting.


Boosting has its place.

It is a leveling shortcut for people who want to get a toon (relatively) quickly up to the level cap. Hey, if you've leveled a Warrior already, and you want another, then great. Boosting is for you. 

But if you've never played a particular class?

Before you shrug and say "how hard can THAT be?" I'd argue that learning your class appears easy until it becomes hard. 

It is easy to get the basics of a class down: for a Mage, spam Scorch and then switch to Fireball, hitting Scorch periodically to keep fire vulnerability up or keeping an Ignite going. But knowing the details? That's not so easy. 

Such as knowing that Ignites no longer share a stack among mages in TBC Classic. Or when to sheep someone. Or when to recognize that you'd better bust your ass in close to a boss to handle a Decurse.

Reliance upon the DBM addon or the Raid Lead to tell you when to do things is, well, not a good strategy in the long run. DBM can break, and DBM or the Raid Lead doesn't necessarily understand all the details involved in playing a class.

It's not so much the first 70% of playing a class, it's that last 30% that distinguishes an okay player from a good one. To be blunt about it, that 30% comes from experience, whether it is done in instances, in questing, or in raids.


And now we come to it: I have to level fast, and I have to learn to play a class I've never played before. One is the pro-boosting argument, the other, an anti.

Personal feelings about boosting aside --and boy do I have them-- this is my dilemma.

If I am to be leading a raid, I have to get up there and leveled on my Shaman quickly. But if I'm also to be leading a raid, I'd better freaking know my class and can play it at a high level.

Or as I put it to someone the other day, "I don't want to be learning how to Shaman in group content on the first pull in Karazhan."

"Well, that's not gonna happen, Red," I can hear people say. "You'll get your chance to learn in group content."

When, exactly?

Briganaa sits at L33 right now, up from L24 just two days ago. With the exception of two instance boosts in Scarlet Monastery, those nine levels since I started leveling in earnest came from grinding it out in the field. Typically with me pushing myself, attacking enemies 2-4 levels higher than my own, or trying to handle a mob of 3 or so at 1-2 levels higher than my own. I recognize that leveling speed will slow down the higher I get, so that means that boosting becomes more tempting.**** 

So let's say that by some miracle I get to L58 by the end of next week, which is the same two week pre-patch period that other new toons had.

By then, I expect most of the raid team that didn't switch mains to be at (or very close to) max level, because they're going to basically be running dungeons until they level cap.

So, to catch up to them, I'd then need boosting in TBC instances too. 

And the idea is to have people having run Karazhan a few weeks before we start running 25-person Gruul and Magtheridon, which in turn means if I want to make it to the late July expected 25-person start date, I'd have to be Karazhan-ready by the end of June. Not just attuned, which is gonna be a chore, but actually Kara-ready, gear wise.

And remember, Karazhan has a weekly lockout, not a 3-day one, so that means I'd get only about 2-3 cracks at Karazhan itself before we start up the 25-person content. Additionally, Kara being a 10 person raid means I have less margin for error in getting my playing skill up to snuff. Carrying one person in a 25 or 40 person raid? No big deal. But in a 10 person raid? Very big deal.

So when, exactly, do I get to figure out how to play a Shaman in group content?

In that last week or so before I roll into Karazhan. 

And that's if everything goes right.

Call me skeptical, but I'd be surprised if everything did go right.

*Yes, two college trained musicians in the house.

**At his university the students only commit to a major during their sophomore year. A chip off the ol' block, as I minored in History when I attended university.

***All it takes is for one person to forget about the packs that come from behind after boss fights....

****There's also the problem that the people doing the boosting, those in TBC Classic right now, will quickly get to max level, so they're actually going farther away from my own level the longer they stay in Classic. That level disparity will make boosting even less effective than it ordinarily would be.