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Sky Golem, Ho

Still herbing, still making bank.

Sargeras-US prices for the Sky Golem kept getting reset higher, with the latest scan showing them to be 250k apiece. Luckily, the prices were much lower on Auchindoun-US – around 100k – where I originally had all my gold (~320k). I had the Sky Golem pattern on one of my engineering alts, but still had 15 days to go, considering the daily profession cooldown that was necessary.

Then I saw it: Sky Golem on Auchindoun for 85k buyout. Do I wait two weeks and save X gold? Or do I purchase now?

Typically, I would hem and haw on this decision for ages, and likely end up with a crafted Sky Golem two weeks later. Or perhaps find out that I am bored with the game and stop playing two weeks later. In light of that possibility, I decided to go ahead and spend my pixels for fun now. And believe me, the Sky Golem makes random herbing so, so much more fun. Combined with the Legion Herbalism glove enchants, it takes literally 0.5 seconds to herb a node, and I never have to dismount.

Given the difficulty of herbing in Stormheim and Highmountain, I don’t actually consider the Sky Golem to be an “investment.” As in, I do not think the mount is going to pay for itself over the life of the expansion by increasing my herbing yield by X amount. I mean, at current herb prices, it’s the same as around two stacks of Starlight Rose or three stacks of the others. But what I do consider it and can vouch for is its investment in fun. It is so, so very satisfying to herb now.

In any case, this is my WoW time now. Log on, set up some Missions, complete the WQs that grant 835+ gear while hoping for a Titanforge proc, and slowly work through the Legion Pathfinder achievement while herbing at maximum possible speed. I have a Demon Hunter and a half dozen other alts potentially ready to go, but I have a hard time justifying playing anything else. Which, of course, is only going to make things worse for me later, considering that Artifact Knowledge isn’t rolling on alts. Yeah, the AK work orders will be completed faster eventually, but gating is gating.

The thought of taking 1-4 more alts through Friendly rep on every faction and cycling through WQs on all of them just gives me gas though.

Beginning of Endgame

I have been at the level 110 cap in Legion for about a week now. A lot of hit, and a little miss.

World Quests (WQ) are an interesting variation of the traditional WoW endgame daily quest grind. You get an “Emissary quest” every day (accumulating to three total), which gives you some general direction: complete four WQs of that specific faction, get bonus rep and a chest full of goodies.

What’s odd about the system are two things. First, the interface for this is all weird. Maybe an addon will solve this (Edit: there are several), but I find it awkward having to zoom into each individual zone and hover over the WQ icons to see the rewards. Don’t really care all that much about Artifact Power or gold at the moment, and a whole lot more for the free gear.

And that’s actually my second concern with WQs: it does weird things to incentives. Basically, some of your WQs are going to reward gear straight-up, and the relative quality of this gear increases as your average ilevel increases. I’m not sure of the limitations of this system, e.g. if every armor slot is open season, but you better believe I’m willing to click on some objects and/or kill X mobs for the equivalent of heroic dungeon gear. Then you sometimes get Mythic gear WQs for defeating dungeons at any difficulty. Which, yeah, provides a pretty big incentive to run dungeons.

Incidentally, my DPS dungeon queues the last few days have actually been 3 minutes. One time it was actually instant, which caused a moment of panic as I thought I accidentally queued as a tank. I think WQs are the same across regions, and that might be the reason why a given dungeon would have no queues. Or possibly more people are willing to be tanks, given how easy questing is as one.

Gold-wise, I broke 100,000g last night. All as a Gatherer mind you, as the AH continues to be throttled. I suppose the expansion is still new – and raids have just came out – but the prices of some of these goods is rather surprising. Either Blizzard has gotten the farming bot situation finally resolved, or everyone is still flush with gold from Garrisoncraft, because 70g 100g+ Foxflower is crazy. That herb in particular is not only easy to farm, it can proc a literal fox that runs around and drops 20-30 herbs. If I cared more about wanting more gold, I’d be doing that every night. Fjarnskaggl is also crazy, and Starlight Rose? 280g apiece.

Given the profitability of Herbalism, I went ahead and dropped Mining on my druid. I started up Alchemy, under the assumption that if herbs were so profitable, adding some labor in there might increase that profit margin. As it turns out, I understand now: Alchemy got hosed. Basically everything is gated through a half-dozen or more dungeon quests. Not just high-tier recipes either – you don’t get the Alchemy trinket or transmutes until the end of a long, multi-dungeon quest-line. Flasks are after heroic boss kills. Rank 2 recipes also drop from dungeon bosses.

And then you have recipes themselves, which require ridiculous shit even for cosmetic items. Skystep Potion requires four (4) Starlight Roses. To move at 150% speed for 8 seconds. At current prices, that’s over 1000g a potion. Yeah, herbs will probably be cheaper a year from now. But Starlight Rose in particular is an herb that can actually proc failures.

In any case, I am overall comfortably coasting right along at the endgame. I spent another WoW token to resub, and the general gameplay of collecting the easy WQ gear and herbing my way to 10,000g by the end of the session is satisfying. At some point I am going to check out Demon Hunters, and then take a look at my rogue and/or other alts. My other alts will be a problem though, I suspect: most are trapped pre-Draenor, and I never unlocked flying there.

We will just have to see how engaged I stay with the druid.

Legion Impressions: What’s New is Old Again

Legion is weird.

After all the dilemmas of two weeks ago, I bit the bullet and created a druid on Sargeras-US using my level 90 boost. With the help of some donated +300% potions during the Invasions, I hit 100 well ahead of the Legion launch. The plan? Level as Balance with Restoration as a 5-man backup.

My first impression is that druids might well have won this expansion, at least on paper. Mages might have portals baseline, but the Dreamway can take you damn near anywhere (old world, Wrath, etc), and it’s a pretty place to boot. Plus, any misgivings I might have had with Balance gameplay-wise was erased with the artifact ability. I smile every time I get to cast Full Moon and watch a goddamn moon crash into a bunch of mobs, usually hitting them for 50-90% of their HP with one spell.

Outside of the questing experience though – which is just as good as before – everything feels weird.

As Syp notes, the class order halls feel like a waste of space. Or, perhaps more accurately, a waste of time – just another set of loading screens on my way back to questing. Seriously, my recent routine is Dreamway –> Order Hall for missions –> Dalaran for any profession quests –> Stormwind to AH herbs/ore –> Dreamway –> Order Hall for Flight Point back to questing zone. I suppose there might be a more efficient route in there somewhere, but the point remains that we now have three entirely different hubs with Important Things in them.

Remind me again how this is better than people being stuck in their Garrisons?

Indeed, the whole Order Hall business as Garrison 2.0 is making me scratch my head. I get the fiction of Order Halls. And I even agree that it fits thematically with us being commanders, wielding the artifact weapons of our people. But… why? Why this Garrison business again? The system is a lot more streamlined than before, with only ~5 followers or whatever, and that’s good. But the “gameplay” of three clicks every 2/4/8 hours is a road to nowhere. So much so that Blizzard recently released a companion app that lets you make those three clicks while not even playing the game.

wow_yodawg

It’s a very useful app.

Don’t get me started on Professions. Catch-up mechanisms really needed to exist, lest new players be forever stuck behind old-world material walls. This new paradigm of only needing level 100 skill though (and even then only for World Quests)? Jesus, what’s the point? Skill level is immaterial, old-world recipes are immaterial (outside maybe transmog), old-world mats are immaterial… oh, but the entire design in predicated on being max-level and hitting high reputation levels with endgame factions, rendering crafting alts as functionally useless. Which might well have been the design. But it’s a dumb design, a design that explicitly punishes the very things that Blizzard has been adding to the game for more than half of it’s existence.

So… I dunno. Blizzard probably got a good year of subscription money from me back in Wrath by actually making alt characters useful and engaging. We have now reached the point at which we have the opposite philosophy from the last four expansions. Between that, the fact that Sargeras had 30-40 minutes queues on Tuesday, and that the AH continues to be throttled (presumably due to realm size), I am beginning to question why I spend time playing this game over, say, anything else.

Reckless Iteration

I was reading the 6.2 PTR patch notes for WoW the other day, and I was thinking to myself “hey, these are really good changes.” Like, really good. But after thinking about them for a little bit, I realized that they were so good because the mechanics they were changing were so bad. Like, really bad. Here are two of the items I’m talking about:

  • Players can no longer queue for Ashran while in a raid and are now automatically placed into a raid after entering.
  • Crafting the new upgrade items requires Felblight, a new reagent that can be obtained from Fishing, Herbalism, Mining, or Skinning in Tanaan Jungle.

I zoned into Ashran one day last week, and the experience was almost awful enough for me to stop playing altogether. Honestly, Ashran is just another failed iteration in pseudo-world PvP in a long list of them, but somehow the Blizzard devs made it worse.

Look at that first patch note. What happens right now when you zone into Ashran is: nothing. You grab some of the quests and then you storm out. But because you aren’t in a raid with everyone else, that means you get no buffs, no shared kill credit, no passive gains at all. While the LFG function can be used to find groups within Ashran, the only ones available when I zoned in were either farming specific races (for achievements, etc), or had some gear requirement, or were full. Which is fine on its own, go form your specialized groups, but we’ve had auto-raids for Wintergrasp and Tol Barad and it boggles my mind that this is just now being implemented.

On the other hand, I am not entirely sure how much this would actually help entice me back to Ashran. The “combat” is a one frame-per-second shitshow of lag and AoE spam where everyone charges up the middle lane. I guess there are events off the main lane sometimes? All I know is that if you aren’t a ranged class or a DK with Deathgrip, you are a waste of space and will die instantly the moment more than one person can tab-target you out of the crowd. Retribution paladin? GTFO. Compare that to Wintergrasp or Tol Barad, where even the worst-geared, worst-class player could make a difference in the battle’s outcome.

The second patch item listed above is what really drove things home though. For those that might not know, the hitherto endgame upgrade material was Savage Blood. For the crafted items in Warlords, there are four levels of upgrades, which can bring a level 91 2H Axe from already-beyond-heroic-dungeons power to current-raid power. The only realistic way to get Savage Blood? A level 3 Barn in your Garrison. It didn’t really matter what your professions were or where you farmed or anything at all to do with anything: you needed a Barn.

Which is precisely why the change highlights the absurdity of the current system. Blizzard all but killed every gathering profession this entire expansion. Every character has access to a Mine and Herb garden no matter what their professions were, and generally these resources were enough to fuel your required daily cooldowns. Which were largely the only reason you actually needed things like ore and such, since every profession was gated behind daily cooldown items. If I were to be optimal about things, I would have dropped at least one profession from every Warlords-level toon and made them Enchanters, strictly to sell their daily material (one of the few non-BoP versions).

Iteration is one of the cornerstones of game design, I know. But I can’t help but feel like Blizzard sometimes gets away with outrageous bullshit that would bankrupt any other MMO. Completely removing profession bonuses, followed up by rendering most professions functionally useless, on top of limiting how many pieces of crafted gear can be equipped? Then, a year later, saying “lol jk, I hope you didn’t drop Mining/Herbalism on every toon”? Just imagine something like that happening in Guild Wars 2 or WildStar or whatever.

I’m glad they are fixing terrible, broken game design. But who approved this shit in the first place? You already knew what worked three expansions ago!

Having read all these changes in the pipeline, I’m in a weird place now. Not just with the above, but there are also notes in there about how the mat cost of the crafted gear is being lowered, and the mat generation being increased. I have a bunch of alts that would be more than happy getting ilevel 640 gear the moment they ding 91. So… what? Do I go ahead and craft these items for them with the mats I have now, or wait until 6.2? Obviously if I’m going to keep playing WoW between now and then, it makes sense to craft them. On the other hand, I don’t have to keep playing. It’s not like I don’t got other shit to do. I feel like I’m in that Enthusiasm Tax trap of being better off if I enjoyed playing a game less.

Then again, that’s pretty much always been the case with WoW. And yet, here we are. Again.

How the fuck do they do it?

MoP Thus Far

It has been weeks, and I just hit level 88 on the paladin.

I have established a pretty stable routine based on daily profession cooldowns, which is a good sign to anyone that wishes me to continue logging in everyday. Scribe, Tailor, and then JC/Alchemy. I mentioned before that the AH on Auchindoun-US is pretty garbage, and things have not especially improved since that first impression. Instead, I have adapted. Glyphs, for example, were a market I avoided previously because the value for my time just was not there with the botting and the undercut wars. Now? The competition is basically one baron with a 699g fallback that I undercut by 100-200g depending on my mood. In fact, since I’m just using Auctionator instead of a more robust addon, I simply order all glyphs by highest price and use that as my guide for production.

By the way, many virtual tears were shed when I realized how utterly useless my 50 stacks of banked Twilight Jasmine and hundreds of other Cataclysm herbs became. The two dozen stacks of Pyrite Ore got prospected into gems which turned into rings which turned into nicely priced Enchanting materials. Blackfallow Ink, though? Good for only a single glyph… and Mysterious Fortune Cards. Better than vendoring the herbs, I suppose. I hope.

Something I always find interesting is how much Blizzard changes the paradigms with each expansion. After two straight expansions of alt-friendliness, Mists is the most alt-unfriendly expansion I have ever seen. The whole Spirit of Harmony thing in particular is maddening as someone with alts of every profession. Specialized crafting components being BoP is nothing new (Frozen Orbs say hi), but what is somewhat new is how early in the process they are required for goods. Level 85 blue Blacksmithing weapons requiring 2 Spirits at skill level 545? Why?

Speaking of crafting, I don’t know how I feel about its present trajectory. Blizzard has been simplifying the process for years, of course, but my return after a 1.5-year break makes the culmination stand out. Specifically: do people really like random-stat crafted gear? Or how Ghost Iron is basically the de facto resource for all Blacksmithing? Or completely interchangeable Enchanting ingredients? Some historical aspects of crafting were becoming increasingly obtuse as the game aged – Enchanting rods come to mind – but there is something to be said about requiring more than two moving parts and/or working towards a specific item. Hell, I was immensely relieved when I saw the level 90 crafted JC rings/necklaces were specific things with concrete stats.

Anyway, my immediate goal is to get the paladin to 90 so that I can unlock the farm. While that sentence was a bit depressing to type, it is more painful to me knowing that while I make it a point to log in daily for the profession cooldowns, I am continuously missing all the easy Spirits of Harmony (etc) that I could be gaining while I putz around looking for a new main. I have not tanked on the paladin yet – part of me rebels against the necessity of memorizing yet more mob/boss abilities – but I am definitely not a real fan of the Retribution rotation/kit anymore. At least compared to how fun/fast I was mowing down mobs as the warrior anyway.

Although… well, I did have a bit of a giggle Bubble-Hearthing away from two separate gank attempts. Just like old (TBC)  times.