What’s the new hangout spot for MoP?

It’s been a week since Mists of Pandaria has been released and a good number of people have leveled through the content and hit level 90.  As with every expansion, there is a new hub of activity to set your hearthstone to.  For MoP, this is the Shrine of Seven Stars for the Alliance or Shrine of Two Moons for the Horde.  But…it doesn’t feel like the other hub cities in the past.  It’s not a sanctuary city like Dalaran and Shattrah, and there is good reason for that.  War is coming so that wouldn’t make sense.  But this isn’t new, we hung out in separate cities in Vanilla WoW and during Cataclysm, so why does it feel bad this time round?

As a hub city the VoEB Shrines have the essentials; portals to other capitals, banks, crafting stations and training dummies along with the essential inn.  What it doesn’t have is a reason for players to hang out there.  There isn’t an auction house (unless you are an engineer) and there are few daily quests.  The daily quest hubs are far busier with tons of people in the Cloud Serpent training area and a crowd at Halfhill.  Right now, if you want to show off that expensive Grand Expedition Yak or stride around in your Jeweled Panther, there is no where to do it at the Shrine.  You would have better luck hanging out in Halfhill.

It’s still early in the expansion, so I can be hopeful that things will change but right now, the Shrines are just a place to hearth and log.  There isn’t even a Justice point and Valor vendor in the city.  Blizzard wanted people to be out in the world and if this was their intention, they have succeeded.  But it comes at the cost of the community feel of the cities.

Your leveling gameplan for Mists of Pandaria

As I write this post, its less than 24 hrs before Mists of Pandaria is unleashed.  If you have been distracted playing other great releases from last week like Borderlands 2 or Torchlight 2, you may have forgotten to prepare for release day tomorrow.  This is not a post about going for a realm first achievement, but about simple preparations to ensure you have a smooth and enjoyable launch.

Pre-game plans

Here are some things you can do before the launch:

  1. Log into the game early – There is no need to relog when Mists of Pandaria launches, so its important to log in early to avoid log in troubles right at the launch.
  2. Make sure your addons are updated and working –  There will be no patch for the launch, so make sure you have all your favorite addons ready to go.
  3. Clear out your bank and bags –  You are going to need lots of space while leveling, so now is the time to clear out any junk you won’t need.  Sift through all your gear and put anything you like into the bank or void storage and vendor the rest.  Toss out off-set gear if you don’t plan to level with that spec.  That gear will be obsolete by the time you hit level 90.  Other candidate for the trash are old food, bandages and potions which will be outclassed very quickly.
  4. Respec for leveling – Leveling talents and glyphs are often very different for leveling.  Self heals and speed boosts are little things that will make leveling smoother.  You won’t be doing 6 minute boss fights so short cooldowns will be more useful than a more powerful long CD ability.

Launch plans

As soon as MoP launches, the temptation will be to rush off to the new land, but here are a few things worth doing right before that:

  1. Visit your profession trainers and learn the new Zen level of each profession – You don’t want to waste potential skill points when leveling through Pandaria when skinning a mob or mining a node because you forgot to train.
  2. Use cataclysm materials to gain skill points – For most professions, you can get a few more skill points from cataclysm recipes, which could be cheaper than using the new MoP materials.
  3. Turn in any completed daily quests you may have saved up – Its not going to be a huge XP boost, but every bit helps.
  4. Learn Pet Training – While most of the tameable critters in Pandaria will be lvl 24 or higher, its nice to have the skill for a quick diversion when leveling.

End of the day plans

At the end of the first day, there are a few more things you can do to make your next session more efficient:

  1. Mail off all materials you aren’t going to use immediately – Keeping your bag space free means a quicker start in your next session.  Mail off greens to your enchanter, cloth to your tailor and everything thing else to a alt.
  2. Travel to the Shrine in the Vale of Eternal Blossoms – Its just a quick 10 – 15 min trip to ride to the Shrine in the Vale.  It is the new hub city for the expansion and contains a bank, inn and portals to all major cities, the best place to set your new hearthstone.
  3. Bonus: Start farming at Halfhill – Leveling cooking will take lots of vegetables gained from farming, you can start as early as 85 with just four plots.  Worth the effort if you have time.

I hope you found something useful to add to your MoP launch gameplan.  Above all else remember to have a good time and be ready to adapt to any unforeseen server outages or gameplay quirks.

Ding! :Spending Valor in MoP

Having stayed a way from the Beta for the last few weeks, I finally patched up and finished leveling Nemain, my fury warrior up to 90.  While I had read about the changes to Justice and Valor point gear in various fansites, I was not prepared for the shock of not finding a Valor vendor in the Alliance shrine in the Vale of Eternal Blossoms.  Valor points can be redeemed on reputation vendors for ilvl 489 epics, requiring Revered reputation to purchase.

The pieces that offered by faction are as follows:

Golden Lotus: Shoulder, Chest, Finger
Shado-Pan: Head, Back, Trinket
Klaxxi: Neck, Legs, Waist
The August Celestials: Wrist, Hands, Feet

What this means is that hitting 90 doesn’t mean switching from quests to dungeon grinding immediately.  Instead you will want to balance out dungeon runs with daily quests from the faction of your choice and also work on finishing any quest lines with those factions which give you rep.  For example, Completing the entire Kalaxxi quest line (which is basically the entire Dread Wastes zone) will take you well through honored and just a few days of dailies away from Revered.

Nemain – Hitting 85!

It has been a week since Cataclysm launched and what an awesome week it has been.  I started out leveling my Warrior, Nemain as I had mentioned in the last post and leveling with my Rogue friend hit 85 in four days.  We didn’t rush much and took time to read all the quests text going through.  However, in the chaotic frenzy of the first few days, having a small group to work on kill quests and save your ass with the insane respawn rate made leveling a lot quicker.

Camping a named Quest Mob in Vashj'ir

Camping a named Quest Mob in Vashj'ir

I really liked how the leveling through questing experience has really been refined this expansion.  The flow from quest to quest is consistent.  There are numerous scripted cutscenes that show rather than tell us how the story progresses and there are a liberal amount of “blue” item rewards peppered throughout the quest chains.  The instant quest complete window that shows when you finish some tasks help to reduce the time needed to go back to the quest giver to turn in the quests.  For some quests like the new Crucible of Carnage chain, the Cataclysm version of Ring of Blood, it prevents a lot of the anguish of not completing the quest before the next round begins.

There is also a nice ramp up in normal creature difficulty which builds a foundation for dungeon grouping.  From the start at 80, the health pools of the creatures triple from the 10.6k health from Icecrown mobs to about 30k.  This truly lets you work more of a rotation in before they fall over.  By the end gear levels in WOTLK, even heroic dungeon mobs were dropping like flies, giving the game an almost Diablo 2 zerg mentality.  By the time you hit Deepholm at 82-83 mobs start using abilities that were previously exclusive to dungeon bosses.  you’ll see mobs that use void zones, spells that should be interrupted, and spells that can be avoided by moving.  All important for the dungeons.

Naga Visions Chain

Naga Visions Chain

Speaking of dungeons, they are now much harder.  No more watching the Daily Show on the second monitor while you faceroll heroics.  Forget heroics, even the new dungeons are challenging.  All of the creatures have deadly abilities to be aware of.  The general rule of thumb is this; If your class can use crowd control, you need to know what it can be used on and have them on your action bar in a easy to use spot or if you can find the place for it, keybinded.  If there is a spell with a long cast time (more than 2 secs) that can be interrupted, interrupt it if you can.  In most cases, the longer the cast time, the worse its going to be when it gets off.  Finally, if you see pools of stuff on the floor don’t let the mobs stand on it and if its on fire, you should get off it too.

In what must be training for raiding, dungeon bosses are more complicated than ever and in lieu of voice communication requires everyone to know the fight mechanics and some planning.  A sure sign of a bad group is one in which the tank just charges into the boss without a ready check and the dps charges pass him after the first taunt on the boss.  Most bosses use modified mechanics from WOTLK raid bosses, so veteran raiders will have an advantage.  For example, General Umbriss from Grim Batol uses Blitz, an attack similar to Icehowl’s charge attack from the Argent Tournament.  They also use new unusual mechanics like needing to position yourself up wind of Altairus the new dragon boss in Vortex Pinnacle.  The key to learning the dungeons is to read up on them on other websites and also to check your combat log when you die to figure out what killed you.  If WOTLK was defined by the mantra, “stay out of the fire”, Cataclysm is going to be the expansion of “stay out of the fire that follows you.”

Ragnaros Awaits...

Ragnaros Awaits...

So finally at 85 what is there left to do?  Lots!  There is a great sense of elation upon hitting 85.  But its also like climbing to the top of a long flight of stairs to see a huge chasm with another flight of stairs beyond it.  Unlike what many experienced in Wrath, hitting the terminal level does not mean its time to start doing heroics, rather, you’ll need to gear up in regular dungeons to get your gear up to snuff before doing heroics.  As a consequence of the new stat system, it has never been clearer how much better or worse an item is.  Items of the same level with have identical primary stats.  So if you are a warrior like I am, any blue level quality 333 ilevel chest will have the same amount of strength and stamina.  The only variation will be which two secondary stats are included from the list of critical strike rating, hit rating, expertise rating, haste rating and the new boy in town, mastery rating.  You’ll notice your health climbing rapidly as you replace your precious purples from WOTLK.

Level 80 gear will match ilvl 251 gear for stats if you have epic gems and enchants.  Once you get to level 82 greens, they will completely overshadow 2264 gear from ICC 25.  They only reason to keep those would be for an awesome 2-piece set bonus.  By level 83 greens you’ll want to switch, mainly for the raw increase in primary stats. you’ll start having 50-60k of health by this point and it only goes up.  A fresh 80 in quest greens and blues will have about 80-90k health and when you are ready for heroics, 100k and more.  This applies for dps and healer classes too, not just tanks.  Even with this massive stat and corresponding health increase, you will notice your dps drop as you level.  This is painfully true for Fury Warriors.  The stat formula changes each time you level, requiring larger and larger amounts of the secondary stats like hit, crit and haste to give the same percentage increase in accuracy, critical hit chance and speed they once provided.  As a fury warrior it amounts to about 5-6% hit lost per level if you do not increase your hit rating.  It is a noticeable lost of rage generation.  Basically with upgrades, you will hit harder, but hit and crit far less often.  If you use a dps meter, it means your dps stays mostly the same or for warriors, slighty lower than what you were doing at 80.

So sitting at level 85 now, I am slowing down slighty, taking time to level my professions, do the dailies for reputation and finish questing in Twilight Highlands.

PS.  The picture above comes from standing in the fire in Twilight Highlands for the Deathwing achievement.

PSS.  Amusingly I hit 85 doing the uncovering the conspiracy quest in Stormwind as part of the chain for the call to arms to Twilight Highlands.

Preparing for Cataclysm

With less than a week to the Cataclysm launch, what steps are you taking to prepare yourself for the expansion?  I’ve taken the time to prepare both in-game and out of the game for the expansion.  How does your checklist compare to mine?  Find out after the break.

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Shockwaves – Slow down and enjoy the view

Shockwaves is a column focusing on editorials on upcoming changes to WoW especially but not exclusively related to the upcoming expansion Cataclysm.

Updated: Whoops I was pretty tired when the change hit and completely mis-read the change.  I had assumed that xp from both dungeon quests and dungeon mob xp was being reduced.  As I now realize in the light of day.  It was only the dungeon quest’s xp that was reduced.  It makes a lot of what I wrote below irrelevant.  But rather than edit the article and pretend I didn’t make the mistake I am just going to leave it with this update to clarify things.

The numerous rerolls woke up to a rude awakening today with the announced hotfix reducing the amount of xp level 1-60 quests and dungeons would give.  While initially, it seems like a huge nerf, having leveled from 20+ since patch 4.01 I must say that the amount of experience from dungeons seemed excessive.  There was no real reason to level with quests when the dungeon queues were so short and xp rewards so great.  However, I haven’t tried the dungeons after they reduced the damage output in 4.03 and wonder if the one-two punch of reduced damage and xp will make dungeons a bad choice for leveling.

One of Blizzard’s goals with this change is to get players out of dungeons and back to questing and enjoying all that new content they worked on.  It’s a goal I can agree with.  When I started Maruk I did so to experience the Horde side of quests, but with the amount of dungeons I ran, I skipped most of the content while leveling and even had trouble leveling my gathering professions like mining and skinning at the same pace as my character.

Surprisingly, most of the comments for the blue post announcing this change were overwhelmingly positive.  After reading comments from posters like Karmaze who said “I went in Scholomance about half way through lvl 40, and I left 43.”  It’s easy to see how much xp was being gained.

While a true altoholic has done all the content over several times, don’t forget to see all the new content for old Azeroth, take time to smell the flowers and snag a Singing Sunflower.

The Blues – Dungeon Quest Experience Reduction

The Blues highlights important “blue” posts from the World of Warcraft official forums.

We are applying a hotfix today to all level 1-60 dungeon quests for Kalimdor and Eastern Kingdoms dungeons which will significantly reduce the amount of experience they award.

While dungeons should remain integral to our evolving storylines, and great places to collect gear in cooperative environments, we need to make sure each player’s questing progress remains relevant as dungeon quests are completed. In many cases we’re seeing players enter dungeons to complete quests, only to come out ahead of the leveling curve for the zones they’re in.

This change should allow players the opportunity to reap the benefits of running dungeons, while not outpacing the leveling flow from levels 1-60. At this time there are no plans for making any adjustments to dungeon quest experience for Outland, Northrend, and level 80+ Cataclysm dungeons.

You can find a list of all of the latest hotfixes here: http://us.battle.net/wow/en/blog/1232869

Shockwaves – Making Travel Plans

Deeprun Tram Loading Screen

Deeprun Tram Loading Screen

Shockwaves is a column focusing on editorials on upcoming changes to WoW especially but not exclusively related to the upcoming expansion Cataclysm.

While I worte a quick column about post Shattering travel yesterday I realize after experiencing it myself that there is alot left unsaid.  So here is a quick breakdown of my travel plans for working quests in both Northrend, Outlands and Azeroth on all my characters.  Hopefully this will give you some ideas when planning travel for the next week:

Nemain (Warrior)

Hearth : Set in Stormwind
To Northrend: Dalaran Ring
To Outland : SW Mage district portal

Paia (Mage)

Hearth: Set in Dalaran
To Everywhere: Teleport. (It’s cheating I know.)

Phryne (Rogue, Engineer)

Hearth : Set in Stormwind
To Northrend: Northrend wormhole generator.  (plan ahead with the 4hr timer)
To Outland: SW Mage district portal

Antagonist(Paladin)

Hearth : Set in Stormwind
To Northrend: Boat to Borean Tundra from SW Harbor
To Outland : SW Mage district portal

Gaia (Druid)

Hearth : Set in Dalaran
To Darnassus: Moonglade hearth -> Free flight to Darnassis
To Stormwind: Take boat from Darnassus
To Outland: Darnassus Temple of the Moon portal

Glissa (Hunter, Engineer)

Hearth : Set in Stormwind
To Northrend: Northrend wormhole generator.  (plan ahead with the 4hr timer)
To Outland: SW Mage district portal

Kaysa (Shaman)

Hearth: Set in Stormwind (exploit using Hearthstone and Astral Recall.  Glyph it was even more travel options.)
To Northrend: Boat to Borean Tundra from SW Harbor
To Outland: SW Mage district portal

Atropos (Deathknight)

Hearth: Set in Dalaran
To Ironforge: Deathgate portal and fly from there.
To Outland: Ironforge Mage district portal.

Alyx (Warlock)

Hearth: Set in Stormwind
To Northrend: Boat to Borean Tundra from SW Harbor
To Outland: SW Mage district portal

Candrix (Priest, Scribe)

Hearth: Set in Stormwind (Keep some extra scrolls of recall in case you need the extra hearth.)
To Northrend: Boat to Borean Tundra from SW Harbor
To Outland: SW Mage district portal

A few other conditional shortcuts not mentioned above:

– Portal to Caverns of Time from Dalaran.

– Using the Archmage shortcut to Sholazar Basin when traveling from Dalaran to Borean Tundra to catch the boat.

– Often forgotten Deeprun tram between Stormwind and Ironforge.

Turning a Profit – Profiting from Disaster

Orgrimmar Burning from the Elemental Invasion

Orgrimmar Burning from the Elemental Invasion

Turning a profit is a column focused on making gold in WoW, through farming materials, working professions and the Auction House.

Its 15 days to Cataclysm and its the riskiest time to be working the auction house, but if you have a clear crystal ball, deals made in the next two weeks could pad your wallet and give you money for the large expenditures that will surely come with the Cataclysm expansion.  Everyone will want to maximize the amount of money going into the expansion, as there will be a crazy period right after the expansion hits.  Auction prices will be all over the place as markets are tested and prices are normalized.  The best way to work the market is to make best effort guesses to how the market will shift.  Lets look at the different types of players we’ll see now and in the expansion and how to profit off these difference playstyles.  More after the break…

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Touching down in Northrend

 

Maruk in BRD

Maruk in BRD

Ah its been a long time since I updated Maruk’s adventures, so here’s a quick recap:

Level 40. A big jump since I last posted and honestly the quick leveling surprised me.  After my Haitus from playing WoW, Maruk was one of the more comforting characters to play.  At the lower levels there was no pressure to top dps charts or embarrassment of failing at your class in a raid.  40 was also a landmark as you could train up to Expert 100% speed ground mount riding.

Level 54. Its a bit like hitting a wall getting to 54.  I remembered it being the same way in Vanilla WoW although thanks to the nerfed xp needed it didn’t last as long.  The main problem is how spread out the quests were and how little dungeon variety there was until reaching lvl 60 dungeons.  The dungeons get longer and Black Rock Depths feels like the only dungeon popping up for several levels.

Level 58. Heading into Outland was another milestone.  Flying!  Nice how cheap flying has become.  It makes all those quest alot easier and its great to mount up and fly to safety if you are surrounded.  Gear got a huge bump in dps and stamina.  So rather than relying purely on the dungeon finder, which worked great, I did some of the early quests in Hellfire to gain quick upgrades.

Level 63. After some decent upgrades from Hellfire Ramparts, I started getting some of the good stuff from the dungeons.  I am surprised at how zergable the instances are at this point.  I remember having to CC pulls in Slave Pens and now we are zerging two packs at once.  As fun as it is being overpowered, the game loses some of its charm when you don’ really see the mechanics of the boss fights and it gives players a bad template to build on when they eventually start doing endgame instances.  A nice trick

Level 68. I admit it it was a quick grind to 68, I was looking forward to WOTLK again but from a Horde prespective.  I was impressed with Warsong Hold and its impressive visuals.  I loved the epic feel of docking in the structure and the forge area with the lava heated walls.  Sadly the queue times at the borderline 68-70 range is long with 15 min waits not uncommon so I am doing quests to fill the tme.  In a nice change, the quest npcs for the dungeons now appear in the dungeon offering the quest so you don’t have to hunt them down.  Unfortunatety you still have to return the quest at the original locations.

Another welcome surprise was the reduction in price of dual specs to 100g from 1000g.  It means that you can more easily experiment with other specs or if you are a tank of healer learn a good dps spec for leveling and yet keep the other spec for dungeons.  Sepaking about costs.  The cost of cold weather flying was halved as well to 500g and you can now purchase it directly at 68 rather than requiring a higher lvl 80 alt to purchase it for you.  Unfortunately Artisan flying (280%) is still 4k and out of my reach.