I am not prepared for Shadowlands.
Given how I only restarted playing WoW on a whim after a two year lapse, it is debatable how prepared I should be at this point. And yet I have been playing daily since then. Know what I have been doing? Perhaps leveling up on the Horde side? Leveling my characters to 50? Deciding on which character is my (new) main?
Nope. I was working on unlocking flying in BfA. Because that’s a priority… for some reason.
Like so many things, I started with good intentions. I created a Horde druid to experience BfA from the other side and to unlock Vulpera eventually. Thing is, the lack of mobility is a huge drag, especially with the way the main Horde hub is set up. Since I was on a new server, I did not have spare gold to even purchase Goblin Glider kits. “This would be a better experience with flying.” So off I went back to the Alliance Demon Hunter, the only level 50 I had.
In fairness, I did get at least two other classes to 50 in the meantime. But most of my playtime has been emptying banks full of outdated crafting material at bargain-basement prices and doing Tortollan and Champion of Azeroth dailies, as I did two years ago. I think the fact that all the necessary reps were already into Honored territory lulled me in a false sense of security that I could achieve the Achievement in a reasonable amount of time. Which I did!
…Pathfinder Part 1, anyway.
Alas, even though Blizzard’s philosophy has changed in Shadowlands, they decided not to drop reputation requirements to BfA flying. At least, not yet. So after spending a few weeks grinding one set of reputations, I unlocked the need to grind two more, right before the release of an expansion that makes it all moot anyway. All for what? The ease to experience quest text at slightly faster pace? I try to optimize many things in the course of playing videogames, but I recognize that sometimes it spins me off in absurd directions.
Or perhaps I was just subconsciously rebelling against the fundamental task. I am referring to experiencing the Horde side of things, but it might very well be playing an MMO casually at all. Think about how many polished single-player games I could have experienced in that same amount of time.
On the other hand, IRL work has picked up significantly and sometimes I just want to turn my mind off and plow through some meaningless but achievable, repetitive tasks. And there ain’t many things better than WoW for those.
Also, I’ll be paying for Shadowlands and another two months of gametime (if necessary) exclusively via WoW Tokens. There really isn’t a better time to make bank than the release of a new expansion, so I kinda don’t want to miss that. You know, setting up for the expansion after this one.
One of the little WoW goals I had been thinking about doing was leveling a character on the other faction. The last time I had characters on multiple factions in any serious way was back in Wrath. At the time, I do vaguely recall there being some worthwhile differences in questing and general lore. For example, I remember it being a cool experience bringing the Taunka into the Horde fold and seeing that process. Also, I think there was something way different with Horde Death Knights compared to the Alliance experience.
Having said that, I don’t want to go too crazy here. My Horde toon would be completely divorced from my Alliance gold/material stockpile and otherwise have to rough it through life. I have done the beginning experiences of WoD and Mists on Horde but nothing further than maybe two dozen quests.
So… think there’s something worth seeing on the other side? I’m sure 90% of it is the same crap regardless, but if I’m going to do something silly like unlock Vulperas or something, I may as well check out a new (to me) zone along the way.
Mere days after I derided FFXIV for offering four days of free play, Blizzard offered the same thing… and I took it. Looking at my payment history, it appears that it had been almost exactly two years since I last had a subscription.
The returning WoW experience was a bit jarring, to say the least.
The level squish resulted in a roster of level 45s. At first, I was perturbed, thinking there had been some mistake. Did I not have a bunch of toons at the prior level cap? As it turns out, not so much. In fact, I had just the one Demon Hunter at the cap. Really shows how little I cared for Battle for Azeroth.
So the first order of business was taking my erstwhile Legion main (a druid) from 45 to 50. And I did so… in Redridge Mountains. Such is the power of Chromie Time. On a practical level, it makes every mob scale to your level, and all quest rewards likewise. I have lived through multiple expansion transitions, but seeing white gear with a vendor price of 66g and almost being better than your current equipment in a traditionally beginner zone is something else. I carried on, primarily because War Mode offered a 25% XP bonus and the odds I would encounter Horde in Redridge of all places was quite low.
That finished, I decided to take stock of my stock. And vendored 90% of it. My old goblin self would be spinning in his hypothetical grave, but he’s dead for a reason. I did toss a bunch on the AH and actually walk away with 10,000g, but I’m not about to chase that dragon again. At least, not the degree in which I’m crafting Cataclysm potions and other bizarre crap that somehow still sells on occasion. Flying around TBC zones trying to mine Khorium which sells for 400g+ per ore? That’s a bit more likely. Especially since every resource node is about 1/4th of a quest in terms of XP gain in Chromie Time. You can hardly afford not to, right?
As for other goals… we shall see. The four days have since expired and I could pop the WoW Token sitting in my bags at any time. There is a current pre-expansion event going on, but in looking at the rewards, it doesn’t seem worth much. Certainly nothing like the Wrath events, which offered Haunted Memento, which still sell for tens of thousands of gold all these years later. Capping all of my toons would be a reasonably achievable goal. Aside from that? Maybe unlocking the Allied Races?
I could also just continue doing what I had been doing until I heard about the free trial. Which, admittedly, wasn’t exactly much more than grinding out meaningless shit in other games. I really should be doing anything else.
It’s also been 2020 all fucking year, so maybe I’ll just do whatever I want.
At one point in time, I might have had an opinion or angle in talking about the pending (re?)release of WoW Classic. Something snarky about how damn near everyone is gravitating towards the classes that were actually functional back in the day – a tacit admission on how broken the design was back then – or general glee at the thought of rose-colored glasses being smashed with the brick of reality.
But you know what? You do you. Go have fun.
I didn’t have any fun three years ago, but I joined the WoW deathmarch in TBC, so maybe things would be different if… nah. What made WoW great for me was the time in which I played. Real life sucked, my IRL friends were scattered the four winds, and this virtual world offered the perfect escape vehicle to a kill an afternoon, a weekend, or entire years. I couldn’t tell you what else I was doing back in 2009, other than apparently uploading Naxx and Ulduar guild kill montages.
If you can log into Classic in 2019 and have the same fun you did more than a decade ago… well, I wish you the best. Much like Blizzard’s decision to actually go through with this release, I imagine that it will eventually be a Win-Win-Win for everyone. Whether it will keep veterans’ attention for years, or lead to nostalgic crashing and burning, or somewhere inbetween, at least the option exists.
That ain’t nothin’.
Syp has a post up about how Battle for Azeroth really isn’t that bad.
[…] I had left last October after burning out a couple months into the new expansion, feeling both overwhelmed at the grind and underwhelmed by the direction and features. I think I needed that, as I had been playing more or less nonstop for two-and-a-half years before that point.
And with a somewhat negative exit alongside of many others who were very vocal with expressing their displeasure over the expansion, it kind of got cemented into my mind that BFA is terrible. Coming back, I can’t say that’s the case, and while it’s trendy to bash BFA these days, I’m also seeing that it’s not as bad as some of the hysterics have made it out to be. It’s no Cataclysm, and it’s not suffering the content drought of Draenor, that’s for sure.
As I commented over there, I find it kind of glib to suggest that an expansion that has had almost 11 months worth of time to be fixed, including two major content patches, is “not as bad as some of the hysterics have made it out to be.” Indeed, the two initial points Syp brings up – overwhelming grind, underwhelming features – have not, to my knowledge, actually been fixed. We may not still be in the situation of needing to grind out Azerite Power to unlock abilities we already had before upgrading a piece of gear, but the very fact that Ion and the rest of the clownshow at Blizz HQ thought it deserved to make it off the whiteboard is embarrassing. Or how Titanforging makes it so that you are never actually done with gearing, ever, with zero possibility of being “complete” save for the sweet release of death (or subscription lapse). Or how you never gained anything from level from 110 to 120, and only grew weaker against the same mobs you had been fighting all along.
Suppose those things had been fixed though. I stopped playing mid-October of last year, so maybe they even have. Could that mean Beta for Azeroth was actually a good expansion?
The question seems nonsensical. It was clearly a terrible expansion for me and tens of thousands of others. It was a terrible expansion for Syp who identified the precise flaws and quit too. I can understand being able to “come back” and revisit the experience with a fresh pair of eyes and expectations. But is it even the same game? Is Syp playing it in the same way? Can an MMO expansion be “good” if the limited PvE content is fun, but everything else about its design suffocates long-term play?
Less than two months ago, I wrote a post called Bygones in which I talked about how holding game grudges doesn’t always make sense. If someone asks about Diablo 3 these days, bringing up the Real Money Auction House is basically a non sequitur. No Man’s Sky’s original release state might give you some perspective about its developers, but… actually, it wouldn’t, because the current difference is night and day.
Should Beta Battle for Azeroth receive the same courtesy?
Maybe. Perhaps some grudges take deeper root when it feels personal. The last time I played WoW was a whole baby ago, so maybe everything feels improved. Nevermind the fact that it does matter what sort of experience you are looking for in the first place – an endgame being crap shouldn’t concern a tourist just looking for leveling thrills and some plot.
And yet… nah. I won’t begrudge Syp’s fun anymore, but I do take BFA’s design almost personally. I wasn’t a big subscriber to the whole A Team vs B Team thing, but there isn’t a whole lot of explanation as for why BFA released in the state it did on the tail end of Legion, which got so many things right. When you look back, it goes BFA (bad), Legion (good), WoD (terrible), MoP (good), Cata (awful), Wrath (amazing), TBC (eh), vanilla (supposedly good). This probably bodes well for whatever comes after BFA.
No matter the dire economic news surrounding Activision Blizzard, one thing always keeps me grounded: when there’s a WoW “sale.” Then it’s made clear they aren’t hurting enough.
Stock price of ATVI was $83.19 in September 2018, and it closed $42.92 Monday. That’s damn near half the value in six months.
Now, obviously, cutting prices for (apparently) extremely lucrative services will cut into profits, but it nevertheless boggles my mind that twenty-one dollars ($21) is the sale price of this sort of thing. Or that moving servers – which is a cell on a data table somewhere – costs seventeen fifty ($17.50) on a discount. Especially when you can buy an entirely new copy of same goddamn game for $40. And that comes with all the expansions, 30-days of game time, and a level 110-character boost.
Blizzard has gotten a bit clever over the years though, as it says “new account required.” It used to be that you could buy another box and basically merge them under one account, thus netting you a level 110 boost token for the sale price of a box instead of the $60 or whatever nonsense they sell it for in-game. Maybe it still works that way? Regardless, the process is obfuscated enough to likely dissuade most from realizing it.
As for me, it’s a bit of a moot point. Even if the BfA expansion was any good at all – it isn’t – I have less than zero desire to head back to WoW at the moment. Seeing the naked hubris of “sales” like this though, only reinforces my resolve to stay away from a game in which people are so invested that these prices “make sense.”
My WoW subscription expires in two days, and I think I’ll let it.
This isn’t particularly Big News or anything, but experiencing the internal process has been interesting to me. I have been cashing out my gold for the past several weeks, to the point where I keep around 200k liquid gold, one WoW Token in the bags, and applying Blizzard Balance to the rest. Even now I could just right-click the WoW Token and be good for another month.
But what am I even doing?
Well, making gold. I still make Hexweave Bags because they still sell for 1400g despite current-expansion 30-slot bags go for 800g. I still do the MoP farm on one character, because those mats sell daily for around ~1500g. I herb whenever I run around on the Demon Hunter doing dailies (towards unlocking Pathfinder, Part 1), and that pulls in a couple extra grand. All told, I log in every day to the tune of 5k-10k a day. Peanuts to any serious goblin, but since I’m not seriously doing anything, getting paid $30-$45/month to play WoW seems pretty good. Especially when there is a spike in demand when the Warfront Contributions come around.
But… that’s it. There’s a bit more involved than the Garrison days, but I’m essentially logging in to collect my gold, muck around a bit to see if there are new markets to explore, and then logging off. That was good enough to justify things last month. Not so sure it still holds up this month.
Yeah, it’s probably for the best to let things lapse. I’ll check back in patch 8.1. Maybe. Fallout 76 beta should be in the next three weeks, so who knows.
When I came back into WoW during Legion, I had two long-term goals:
- Getting (mythic) Living Wood Spaulders
- Getting Tunic of Unwavering Devotion, or Skimpy Demonleather Tunic
Having finally gotten both items after some trial and error (and weeks of RNG), here is a mini-guide in case you want to follow in my footsteps:
Living Wood Spaulders
Why: the mythic version of these druid-exclusive shoulders have insect-like wings that are animated. While they will only be visible on Boomkin (with the Astral glyph) or Resto druids, the effect is rather striking.
How: Living Wood Spaulders drop from mythic Operator Thogar in the Blackrock Foundry raid from Warlords of Draenor. You will have the best chance of getting this item if you are at least level 111, as that triggers “Legacy Loot” and you’ll get ~5 pieces instead of just one.
That said, the first step is getting to the raid site. Garrison Hearth and then take a Flight Path to Gorgand. Fly or mount up to the raid entrance, which looks like this:
Be sure that the raid difficulty is set to Mythic. Once inside, avoid the trash and head to the right.
Before you can access Operator Thogar, you will have to kill Beastlord Darmac. This fight is relatively easy as a level 111 Boomkin, with one enormous caveat: you must avoid Pin Down. Periodically during the fight, there will be a faint horn sound and a small, swirling cloud graphic will appear. Within 2-3 seconds, a spear will hit the ground at that spot and, if hit, will render you unable to move or take action, permanently. If you manage to cast a persistent AoE (e.g. Starfall) right before getting pinned, there’s a small chance the damage will be enough to kill the spear and free you. Otherwise, you will have to wait several minutes while you slowly and helplessly get killed.
The second complicating factor in this fight is when Beastlord Darmac mounts Dreadwing, which is the dragon-looking beast in the back. Dreadwing has the Conflagration ability, which will essentially disorient you for ~10 seconds at a time. You can (and will) get CC’d by this ability and then be unable to move away from the Pin Down ability, which will (eventually) kill you. It’s exactly as frustrating as it sounds. Sometimes you might get lucky and the timing will be off (e.g. the Pin Down happens first), but you cannot rely on that all the time. Thus, I recommend starting the fight with Beastlord Darmac towards the rear of the room, closest to Dreadwing, so that he mounts Dreadwing first, and you won’t waste time beating the other beasts before seeing if you’ll survive the encounter.
Operator Thogar is a relatively more simple encounter at these levels. DoT him up, run out of the flames/electricity, AoE adds, and avoid being hit by the trains. You’ll be able to tell which tracks are safe by watching the train doors at either end of the room. Things were a bit more dicey in Legion, but if you get to level 111 and equip at least the crafted 225 ilevel gear in your slots, you should not have too many problems.
As mentioned, I completed the above as a level 111 Boomkin with ~225 ilevel gear. I recommend picking up Restoration Affinity over the other options, as I found Swiftmend (instant heal on 30-second cooldown) to be extremely useful if I accidentally took a lot of damage, like getting hit by a train. I cannot speak for whether Guardian or Feral would have been easier specs to farm this item.
Tunic of Unwavering Devotion
Why: this item is an incredibly risque leather chestpiece. Like, whoa.
How: There are technically three sources for this particular armor model. The first is the Demon Hunter PvP set for Legion. If you have X Marks of Honor, you can buy the entire armor set and be done with it. Note: you will only be able to transmog the set on your Demon Hunter.
The second source is the Legion world boss Ana-Mouz. This boss cannot be solo-farmed by any leather-wearing class that I know of, specifically because she will periodically cast a spell which will Mind-Control you after ~5 seconds. Now that I think about it, you might be able to pull it off if you switch to a healing spec and dispel yourself. Regardless, world bosses are on like a 12-week rotation, so it’s incredibly unreliable to farm her anyway.
The third, confirmed soloable method is killing Trilliax, the 3rd raid boss in Nighthold. My druid is still low-level, so I actually went in as a fresh, level 120 Demon Hunter with an average ilevel of 290. Make sure the raid is set to Normal, and you purchased some of those extra-roll coins!
Where is the entrance to Nighthold? Here are some pictures:
Zone in, clear/avoid trash until you get to the first boss, Skorpyron. This encounter took a while, but was completed with relative ease as DPS Demon Hunter. Make sure to save a few of your AoE spells for when the adds are activated. Also note that there will be a short burst window when the boss takes a lot of extra damage. Save your DPS cooldowns for then.
The second boss is Chronomatic Anomaly. This boss has an instant-kill debuff you would normally have to worry about, but there’s a trick to avoiding it. DPS the boss as normal, avoiding damage as best you can, until the add spawns. Run over and kill the adds, including the smaller ones that appear, but do not click the orb. The boss will essentially channel an AoE with stacking damage until the orb is used, but he otherwise doesn’t stack the debuff. So, basically, kill him during the channel. The level difference will allow you to survive 20+ stacks of the increasing damage, and you should be able to kill him before you’re whittled down. You might able to use the orb to buy yourself some more time, but I didn’t have a problem at ilevel 290.
Finally, there is Trilliax. Change to tank-spec for this fight. Trilliax will cast Arcane Slash periodically, which will give you a stacking debuff to damage taken, and I was not able to kite him long enough for the debuff to fall off. In tank-spec, your only real worry is the Enrage timer. To this end, make sure you maximize DPS as much as you can. For example, I took Abyssal Strike + Flame Crash, which gave me two additional uses of Sigil of Flame. Every DPS gain you can eek out is necessary! There’s nothing more frustrating than dying to Enrage timers when the boss is at 5%.
As mentioned, I completed the above as a new, level 120 Demon Hunter with an average ilevel of 290. I cannot speak to how a Druid, Rogue, or Monk might fair in these same fights.
What a joke.
Yesterday, I was talking about the Gearing Deadzone that exists between ~295 and 320 average ilevel. I had been receiving a few lucky drops from heroic dungeons, so I was quite far along in my quest to queue into Warfronts by that point, when I stumbled upon some easy “upgrades.”
First, Plundered gear. These are mostly “transmog” weapons that occasionally drop from Island Expeditions. The thing is, they are actual 325 ilevel weapons that sell for as low as 12,000g on the AH. The Agility 1-handed weapons are quite a bit more (around 20k), and you really want two of them, but it’s possible that this is an avenue to get you past the deadzone. If you have ilevel 300 weapons already, each Plundered upgrade will give you another +1.56 average ilevel.
Second, and I can’t believe this still works, just having BoE gear in your bag counts. Remember how I was saying that the DPS Darkmoon trinket cost 70k and that’s not worth the +3.75 ilevel bump? Well, I purchased the tanking Darkmoon trinket for 12k with the expectation of “I might potentially tank on this character someday anyway”… and then queued for Warfronts without equipping it. Because the 320 gate doesn’t care about equipped gear apparently. If I can sell it for the same price that I bought it, I’d only be out like 600g. That’s like four herb nodes.
So, I queued for Warfronts. Spent the entire battle wandering around, trying to figure out how to chop trees. Killed some mobs. Then got ilevel 340 gloves and ilevel 370 helm after about half an hour.
Again, what a joke.
I’m not the sort of person that participates in the “log in, loot epix” criticisms of WoW. Using gear as the metric of achievement or skill always seemed asinine to me, because the drops are random. We all know (or have been) someone that cleared a raid a half dozen times with zero drops before. Having the whole set meant you were either lucky, or grinded out the RNG for months and months. Is that somehow more admirable than the person standing next to you, with the same Achievement unlocked, dealing comparable DPS in lesser gear because they rolled low?
The whole thing is silly, has been silly since the very beginning, and is especially silly in a world where Mythic Uldir gear is likely to be transmogged into gear sets from a decade ago the minute it’s equipped. Gear’s only relevance is to indicate how sloppy you can be and probably still complete content, or otherwise used as an artificial gating mechanism.
Having said that, what is ridiculous and poorly designed is precisely this dumb gap between the end of leveling gear (290) and free loot raining from the sky (320). I understand the mechanics behind why the system is designed this way. Specifically, if Warfronts only rewarded 325 gear or whatever, then no raiders or Mythic+ players would participate, and it’d be dead content the entire expansion. Meanwhile, the 320 gate was slapped on so as to not invalidate dungeons altogether with fresh level-capped players getting fulls suits of 340.
But, seriously, man. After checking last night, the Warfront is actually going to be active for another day or two. Which means I’ll be chain-queueing that and turning in lumber until I have 340 gear in every slot. Then I’ll be running around tagging Arathi rares for every more loot and toys until it goes away for 2-3 weeks. The cycle will then repeat itself, possibly at a higher ilevel.
And that’s fine… if it were consistent with the rest of the level-cap experience, which it’s not. You ding and either cheese the 320 gate via gold/guildies, or slog through a bunch of dungeon content for hours and hours. Then, at 320, it’s free loot for the rest of the expansion. “Luckily,” by the time 8.1 rolls around, new alts will probably not have to endure this awkward phase at all and jump straight into Warfronts as soon as they hit level 120 via Profession BoE gear.
Fake Edit: In one, long Tuesday evening of playing, I queued five times for Warfronts and received 5 additional pieces of 340 gear. Not sure if it’s luck that I haven’t received any duplicates, but I almost cannot even stand to queue for it again. I see why people AFK through it – it’s not engaging.
Never thought I’d be in this place again, but I spent the weekend chain-running dungeons in WoW.
My for-now main is a Demon Hunter, and I had been relatively satisfied with the ilevel ~290ish gear she had. Mobs scale up with ilevel now, and I’m not doing regular raids, so who cares? The thing is… character progression is nice. Also, I found that there must be breakpoints at which World Quests just refuse to grant higher-level gear. My understanding is that if you are at 290, you should see some 295 gear, presumably until you reach 295, at which point you’ll see 300, and so on. After 3-4 days of WQs, that did not appear to be the case.
Plus, the Alliance Warfront was active this past week, and that apparently hands out 340 gear every 20 minutes you chain-run it, with an extra 370 piece once a cycle. The catch is that you need to have 320 to queue for it. Also, you need 320 to queue for Raid Finder. So, how the hell are you supposed to hit 320?
Chain-run dungeons like a chump, apparently.
The experience has not actually been that bad, at the moment. I queued for some normal dungeons at the beginning, so I could hit the 305 breakpoint to queue for heroic dungeons. That took around two dungeons’ worth of drops. Then I ran about four heroics in a row, with about ~15 minutes of queue times inbetween them. Heroic dungeons drop 325 gear, which is nice, if a little weird considering how that’s 20 ilevels above the minimum.
During this process, I was very tempted to solve my situation with gold. First, by buying BoE epics from the AH. The DPS Darkmoon deck is 355, for example, and there were some BoE wrists that drop from Uldir too. Before committing, I decided to do the ilevel math myself to see how much of a bump that might give me. Going from a 295 trinket to 355 should be a big boost right? Well…
5016 (total ilevel) + 60 = 5076 / 16 = 317.25. Or +3.75 average ilevel.
While that ain’t nothin’, it also isn’t 320. Plus, the Fathoms deck is 70,000g at the moment. While I was poking around the AH, there were a couple of advertisements in Trade chat from people doing Mythic dungeon carries. I was very, very tempted to check up on the prices of that, out of curiosity if nothing else. Then I saw one being advertised for… 350k. Even that started to sound a bit reasonable as the Warfront window is rapidly to drawing to a close. Gold it meant to be used, right?
What brought me back to reality was Blizzard’s own intrusion into the real world. Specifically, WoW tokens. Current prices are 107k gold for $15, which meant I was about to pay $49 to get to 320 ilevel. That doesn’t seem all that good. There is often an argument to be made regarding how much time I am going to spend running heroics (etc) instead, and how I could just “work another hour of overtime” instead of spending 3+ hours doing something I don’t expressly enjoy.
First, I don’t have a job where I can just magically get overtime – that shit has to be approved on two different management levels. Second, there is a wide gulf between a distasteful or boring task in a videogame, played at home, in a comfortable chair, with a refreshing beverage, than there is with another hour spent at work. My job is relatively easy and stress-free, but I’d still rather be doing damn near anything else, including nothing, if given the chance.
Anyway, the decision is likely already made for me, as the Warfront window closes soon. I’ll continue to casually run heroic dungeons until I hit 320, so I can unlock LFR, which will give me a steady stream of gear for the rest of the expansion. This initial hump is extremely awkward though, as it’s likely to be pole-vaulted beyond for anyone playing in 8.1 given the next tier of crafted gear coming out.
I’m fine with Blizzard wanting there to be some sort of hazing phase where they want everyone doing 5-man content before “graduating” into raiding. I just think it’s weird to have Warfronts dropping 340 gear like candy for something that, by all accounts, is significantly easier than even 5-man normal dungeons. Finally getting over that 320 gear deadzone will apparently set you up for easy gear the rest of the expansion, and that’s just a strange sort of design decision.