Friday, July 17, 2009

Principles of Farming

Since I spent my last article bashing the gold guides as neigh much else than farming guides, except far behind in upgrades, I thought I best also give something back in exchange to what I bashed. Farming is also one of the jobs I myself enjoy doing the most, or at least compared to the other means of making gold.

The principles of farming are very simple; go out, kill or gather materials that other people wish to buy. Essentially, you are providing a service to the many thousands of people who are not keen on having the patience to farm and gather the things they need and instead, they buy them. The only thing remaining is to know what the materials are that people are willing to pay for.

The gold guides usually always enjoy the talking about rare blues, pets, and other items that randomly, but share the common factor of having an extremely low drop rate. Take the Tiny Crimson Whelpling for example. It drops from mobs in the Wetlands, with a drop rate of one in a thousand kills. These are what I call sexy targets because they make people oogle and oooh but in truth you can spend hours upon hours killing the mobs and not see this item drop.

To me, this is marketing trick, letting people think there is an easy 1,000 gold to be had if you do it this way. Instead, you will probably only waste a day trying to get the item. I much prefer to farm for materials, rather than specific objects. Materials have the benefit of being universal, always needed for both old and new products.

Mining is a great profession to have because of this, as people will always need even the simplest of ores, copper, bronze, iron to level their blacksmithing and jewelcrafting. It is no coincidence that the one, most produced item in the game is the saronite bar. Of course, other gathering skills also deserve a mentioning, herbalism and skinning, both which can be used to gather valuable goods.

Combined with a useful crafting profession, say herbalism and inscription, you can also gather the materials, turn them into specific goods and then sell them. One of the most powerful selling items, at the moment, are the darkmoon cards, some which can sell from one thousand to five or even six thousand gold.

The possibilities are endless and in my personal view, a lot more meaningful then spending a day farming for an item that you might or might not get. It all simply depends on how aware you are and is a matter of trial and error. Observe the auction house, try to find items that seem to sell for decent prices, then go out and check wowhead, wowwiki, and thottbot where you can best find them and go out hunting.

As always, it all depends on yourself. Nothing ever comes for free and as you start out, it will require research and effort to get you going. But the rewards are good and guarantees that you need to a) not buy gold from sellers and b) never feel wanting. Trust me, this is a way with which people spend tens of thousands on flying choppers and traveling mammoths.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Exposing Gold Guides

Gold continues to plague a lot of World of Warcraft gamers, particularly new and less experienced players. This of course, has spawned a series of gold guides, many which are easily available and read on discussion forums but another series can be found on private web sites and sold for real cash prices. These usually come in the form of digital documents, like pdf (readable with Adobe Acrobat), although some are nothing more than text files done with doc or rtf files.

The guides often advertise each other with colorful, long single page sites, giving anything between 20 to 50 reason why the guide signifies nothing less but the end of your financial problems in-game, not far removed from hail mary.

If you have ever tuned on the TV-shop channel, you should have a good idea what to expect when venturing to these sites.

This morning, browsing the mmo-champion forums, I can across a poster inquiring about this very topic: are the gold guides worth it?

On this, I can speak with some level of experience, for this was actually one of the first topics I had in mind for this blog. Back in the first days of playing, when it began to dawn on me just how much gold it takes to play this game effectively, I also bought a gold guide, with another two at a later date for testing purposes.

So let me share you a valuable lesson from those days; no, the gold guides are not worth it.

The simple reason is, you do not need their help and in actuality, they are not real guides, but inventories of valuable items and materials. While that might sound like useful information, it is not because the guides are all hopelessly behind in time. Some have not been upgraded since the TBC and a majority of what you buy will be useless, alas the merchandice moves ahead with each patch. What was valuable yesterday, has now become absolete.

In the end you will goes through your guide, page by page and by the time you finally get to the back cover, you realize there was hardly anything worth-while inside. Certainly nothing you could not have figured out for yourself, and definitely nothing worth 30 dollars.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Argent Daily Guide - Part 2

As you fly from the west, land immediately in 12 by 28. The area is riddled with targettable, small trees, the source of lumber for the Argent Tournament. Yes, you will anger some treehuggers, as you chop them down but they are just a small irritation. Usually I see people just going from one tree to the other and not even kill the guardians.

If you got the Sewer Stew cooking daily, follow the river east to around 28 by 39 and start picking carrots. You need four and if you were smart, bringing the chilled meat with you, the daily can be cooked on site.

If you got the Shifting Sun Curio jewelrycrafting daily, head just slightly north, beyond Crusaders' Pinnacle and lay waste to some scourge there until they yeld you a Scourge Curio. Easy and quick.

Chipping Stone
No rest for the hero, as we mount once again and fly to the Storm Peaks. If you do not have an epic flyer, I suggest you port to Dalaran and take a flight path to Frosthold. It will be quicker, but otherwise, just fly over yourself.

Your objective is the valley that hosts the Engine of the Makers, where you will see odd pieces of architecture laying around in the snow, just like discarded rock from bigger assemblies that look like they broke off from somewhere a century ago. Blow them up and pick 15 stone blocks for your goblin employer.

The great thing about this spot is that it is a dream for jewelrycrafters, since half of our dailies can be completed here. There are proto dragons flying around 44 by 59 for Intricate Bone Figurine, revenants at 41 by 61 for Bright Armor Relic and plenty of iron dwarves at 37 by 64 for Wicked Sun Brooch. There are additional iron dwarves in 27 by 67 and the cave there.

From there, simply head back to the tournament grounds and collect your bounties. If you choose all cash rewards, you are looking at around 120g for line of dailies that take barely half an hour to complete. I do these quests almost everyday, simply because they are so rewarding and take so little effort to complete.

Of course, remember to also return the jewelrycrafting and cooking dailies to Dalaran. If you are feeling enterprising, do not take the flight path, but fly there yourself, following the mounts on Icecrown's eastern border, for they are riddled with saronite. You will pass two valleys on your way, both sitting on your western side, all good spots as well, so circle around and pick easy materials.

I usually also pass through Crusaders' Pinnacle on my way, because the valley there, controlled by the scourge, has a high concentration of saronite nodes, and of course, any saronite node can also spawn a titanium node. I almost never run out of titanium by just simply doing these small rounds on my way to from A to B.

That ends the guide this time. Naturally, if you have a question or comment, leave a note and I will elaborate on any parts that were unclear.

Argent Daily Guide

Surprisingly, I have been giving tips about completing the Argent Tournament dailies to a few people in the past couple of days. The biggest problems seem to be the jousting fights, against both the scourge and champions, with many wondering what the good tactics are. So, instead of repeating myself, figured it was worth typing it down. Here, I will give you a brief tour of my morning daily run, however, remember that it assumes you are both a miner, jewelrycrafter, and of course able to do the champion dailies. So, if you are not, just skip those parts.

Journey starts at Dalaran, where I quickly pick up my jewelrycrafter and cooking dailies - with luck, it is a quest I can complete on the way. Next I hitch a ride to the tournament grounds where I pick up the following daily quests:
First things first, arm your lance, pick up a steed, and head to The Ring of Champions. The simple rules of jousting is to knock your opponent's shield down with throwing spears, while keeping your own up. Once he is down to one or less, charge him. Of course, never start a fight without full health and your own shields up to maximum.

If you are used to fighting valiants, know that against champions you have to maneuver a lot more. They are faster and hit harder, but the same pattern still exists. Essentially, they will give you chase, periodically breaking off to a distance, from which they will throw spears and quickly charge you. However, they are slower than you, so keep your distance before they break off, evade and throw your spears a couple of times. This should bring their shields down and you can charge yourself, either when they prepare for their own, or before.

The best tactic is actually charge them right before them and remain in close quarters, while buffing your shield and preventing them from charging at all. Couple of seconds after, they will abandon their tactic and give chase again. Repeat four times and your first daily is done.

The Dead Dragon
Next, mount your gryphon and head west, to around 45 by 31, near the Shadow Vault. Follow the mountain range towards the location and pick up any ore that you happen across. The mountains have a lot of nodes, so do not discard it. On site, you will take down the flying, undead dragon. This can actually be soloed, if you have some gifted gear, though if you are unsure, do a quick shoutout in General chat, you should rarily have trouble finding a friend or two who are on the same quest.

In a group, you do not need a tank, or healer. Just two DPS can engage the dragon and burn him, and his henchmen, down. When soloing, I briefly buff with some food, blow my Horn of Winter, and as the dragon is coming from around the corner, summon my Army of the Dead. Do not be ashamed to burn cooldowns, it is what they are for, and in the end, the fight is very brief.

Paladins should have no trouble soloing the quest with their bubbles and healing spells. I have also heard of non-plate wearers being able to do it, including shadow priests and mages, but since they are not my forte, cannot provide help how to accomplish it, and like I said, if you are unsure, get a group. It is a social game after all.

From there, head south to 45 by 49. You will see ghostly, humanoid enemies here, moving in packs and under the leadership of scourge spellcasters. Engage them and quickly dispatch 15 of them, and you will have complete both Threat from Above and Taking Battle to the Enemy.

The Citadel
The next battlefield will be just south of Corp'rethar. This time, follow the eastern mountain slope south on your way, because there are several spawn points near each other. You will find a small Argent Crusade post just after the horrow gate, so equip your lance and grab a horse, it is time to lay waste to the enemy. Kill the flying gargoyles on your left and right as you ride south. You will need to spear them from the air, however do not bother with a shield; they will knock it down and still do almost no damage.

Next, you will see death knights, both commanders and lieutenants, on a slightly sloping ground. I highly advice to fight them one by one, although the lieutenants are the easiest. Do not even think about the foot soldiers. They will fall if you as much as cough in their direction. As always, engage with a full shield and health. Anything less, is probably stupid.

The lieutenants go down fairly easily; begin the fight with a charge and immediately escape to a distance before they can react. Be aware not to run into additional forces, or you will be overwhelmed. Quick turn, throw spear and continue to evade him. Repeat and after a couple of spears, the lieutenant goes down.

The commanders are tougher and unlike the last one, start off with your spear, at max range. Before the spear lands, retreat from him, keeping at a distance, running back and around him. Turn and throw another spear as soon as possible and charge when his shield is in one or less. The fight is faster phased than the champions and you are best simply evading him. Do not bother to buff your shield in between throws. You might even aggro a scout, but do not panic.

I have had three scouts on me and still being able to burn the commander down. Simply evade and charge him. When you are not charging, you should be throwing spears, always on the move. In the end, the fight should go smoothly after some practice. You need to kill one commander, five lieutenants, and ten scouts, before you can call it a day.

By now, you have completed all the quests that reward champions seals. So, if you have no cooking or jewelrycrafting dailies, nor felt like taking the goblin tasks, you can now fly back to the tournament and return the quests. For me, the journey continues to the Crystalsong Forest.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Missed Opportunities

One thing I always had to lament, is the fact that I came to the raid scene behind most people that I now spend my time raiding with. Actually, when I began to play World of Warcraft, I did not even care about raiding; just too many bad stories and stupid people that you have to deal with, if you wish to do good on that field. But then, as often happens, circumstances change and I found myself gearing up, but now, I was seriously behind.

As Ulduar came out, I was still doing casual raids in Naxxramas and while that was a whole load of fun, it did mean that I began to miss on a lot of content. Now I have made it to Ulduar, in a guild I like very much, that raids often and does so with some amazing people. However, I still have not done all that they have and naturally, it is really difficult to persuade them come along for "old" content.

One such is Sartharion, which I can happily report, went down with the one drake just the other. Most of you who have done, know it as a very easy fight, which it is but surprisingly a lot do not succeed at it. Many casual guilds, despite being able to run most of 25-man Naxxramas, cannot succeed at bringing Sartharion down with any additional drakes and the same goes for PuGs. So imagine my joy when I ended in one, extremely proficient group that brought the wyrms down with the first, flawless go.

The only real tactical difference to dealing with the drakes, is the position of Sartharion and having an extra tank. Yes, it can be done with two tanks, but in my opinion, it is simply less grief if you go with three tanks; one tanks Sartharion, one tanks the drake, and the third keeps the adds in check, while the dps burns the drake down. As always, all should the fire walls and burn cooldowns as quick as possible, for healing three tanks does take its toll on the healers.

The drake should go down fairly quickly, after which dps should move to kill the adds and then continue the encounter as ever before. If you can bring the drake down and control the small drakes, you are home free. There is nothing else to the encounter.

Another encounter, a real boogyman for many, is Emalon in the Vault of Archavon, perceived to many as a difficult fight, when in actuality the battle is extremely simple. Long story short, the tanks pull the mobs and Emalon himself apart from each other. One to the right and the other to the left side of the room. Initially DPS should head for the boss and wait for two primary abilities; Lightning Nova and Overcharge.

When he begins casting lightning nova, DPS should head out of range. On 10-man version, only has an effective 20-yard range. On 25-man it cannot be outranged, but distance mitigates the damage done. If you are melee, you will probably only barely make it back to the boss, hit a couple of times before Overcharge comes and at that point, you should head to the adds. If you have DBM, the addon will mark the add that has been overcharged and it needs to be killed in 20 seconds or the raid will wipe.

From there the encounter just goes around and around until the boss dies. However, you need good dps to bring the add down in 20 seconds and it is often the part that scares people. However, last night on 25-man, we beat it easily with only a handful of dps between 3k and rest below, so the encounter is a lot less merciless than given credit. Most DPS who can do 25-man Naxxramas, or has even good 10-man gear from the same instance, should be able to do it.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Get Started with Gear

It isn't a rare case when I meet people who are stuck in their gearing phase, desperate to make a break into raiding but are hindered by others when they do not have whatever achievement or are not all glad in sexy purples. It is a vicious cycle, there is no doubt about it, since you cannot get the gear and achievements without raiding,and cannot get into the raids without the goods.

Those of you who read my blog regularly (yes, amazing isn't it? *grin*) know how I feel about this so I will not bother to reiterate my disgust, but instead of ranting I decided to put together a small guide of how I personally solved the issue.

First of all, do not bother with progression guilds. Yes, they might take you in and might even gear you up, but personally I would feel like a bag and most still will not bother with you. This is understandable, so don't take it personally; a player with such outstandard gear and experience just simply does not bring anything to a guild so far ahead.

Casual guilds however, they should be your first home. You will find other people in very similar situations and a lot more opportunities to evolve than you would anywhere else. Yes, it is not sexy the way progression guilds are, but if you're poor, can't drive a jaguar. Casual guilds are good places to make friends and get people, who are willing to over-look your lack of awesomeness, and get into doing heroics.

Start from the easiest and work your way up, developing your skills and getting experience. It may not feel like it now, but some heroics are in fact harder than a full naxx10 clear. Also, get yourself the Atlasloot addon and browse all possible drops. I did this back in the day, with the help of notepad to remember what pieces I wanted from whichever boss.

While on it, you will have a chance to earn a lot of emblems and also reputation with various factions and these are actually extremely important. You should aim to get exalted with all major factions in northrend, for they all sell valuable gear and enchants that you will continue to use, even after heroics. So visit the emblem vendors in dalaran, write down the pieces you need and get the tabards for the faction you wish to start with.

Here are a list of the faction quartermasters and the respected list of goods they offer:
Rules for grinding reputation are very simple; a) always wear their tabard (if available) to heroic dungeons, b) do all normal quests associated with that faction, and c) continue with any daily quests that become available. It takes a lot of hard work and you will be doing the dailies once a day, everyday, but it pays off.

Another good place to find good gear is the Argent Tournament. Get in there, earn the rank of a Champion and you will be able to use your racial quartermaster, on site, for some exciting blues, or even purples. Plus the Crusader titles look good on anyone *wink*

Next place to get good gear, is to actually craft it. Here again the presence of a good guild pays off, because your guildies will likely have the designs and plans needed, so you only need to get the materials. To find available pieces, ask and look around what the various armor pieces have; titansteel for plate armor, arctic fur for leather, and frostweave for tailors. There are craftables for everyone, so look them up.

At this point, a lot of people tell me they cannot afford to craft the items, costs too much. While it is true that a frozen orb can cost up 80g, a titansteel bar up to 100g, making gold at max level is extremely easy. The best gold comes from quests, so you should make a nice buck just by grinding your reputation. Next off, search for daily quests. Doing 20 or more of then a day, can earn you an easy 300g a day. Practice selling the materials you collect on the way, or go out of your way to farm them, can make you two or three times that.

But it all takes the effort and you will not find anything for free. World of Warcraft is a game you need to spend time playing and there are very few short cuts along the way. The more you spend earning your success, the more people will infact respect you. It is a mark of a good and dedicated player when they know how to enchant and gem their gear, when they have factions on exalted, and display the experience of working through content and not just jump from first heroic to Naxxramas.

Trial of the Crusader

The first reports are coming in from the new instance in the Argent Coliseum and we can finally begin to form a picture of the challenges within. We already had a sneak peek before, in the form of some data mining but we all know just how reliable that is.

The first and most surprising news, for me, is that the rewards within the instance are on par with those from a 10-man Naxxramas run. The authors have graced us with some solid data and even screenshots of the rewarded items. Items are on level 200, which is consistent with naxx10 and seems they are fitting a nice niche, left by Naxxramas itself.

For one, any plate wearer dps, from warrior to paladin and to death knight, will be pleased to learn that getting an epic helm is no longer so difficult. Personally, I tried in vein to hunt for the tier 7 helm, never ever winning the role if it came up for grabs, and I ended up running all the way to Ulduar before a suitable replacement for my Tempered Titansteel Helm dropped. But now, we have a newcomer, Mask of the Violent Fray and it looks great.

The test crew reported the challenges to have been very easy for them, in fully geared tier 8 sets, so the encounters are, in all likelyhood designed for that same level, naxx10, which on itself of course makes sense. Would be very silly otherwise. Both the report and item gallery are available, so if you're curious, suggest you take a look.

I cannot wait to get a crack at it.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Gear Check

I came across this very interesting blog post today, from my fellow World of Warcraft blogger, titled The Crash Test Dummy is Me. It was interesting because I have been struggling with a very similar problem and the sheer frustration that emanates from her post struck a cord with me.

How many times do you see people in your guild or in the general chat asking if this or that is good for them, or whether item A is better than item B? My first thought, a lot, and it is no wonder. It takes quite a lot of dedication and literally many hours worth of embedded studing to get the hang of the math engine that works under the hood of the game. So far, and will probably continue to, despite improvements in patch 3.2, use an addon called Ratingbuster. It is a simple enough addon, on your item's tooltip, displays the changes that would occur if you swap the item for an old one.

It shows all the changes in a very easy to read formula but still, it is a juggle to keep up if an item truly improves something. It depends on your spec, your role and game style and often you are stuck on situations where you actually, cannot benefit from an item until you get another. This is most evident to me in tanking gear, which still continues to amaze me.

Unlike dps with hit rating, tanks cannot let our defense fall below uncrittable, which can happen a lot easier than you realize. For instance, I did the math on the tier 8 gear and the deal is, I must first get the specific pieces first, namely the ones with the defense stats and yellow gems, so I can maximize my defense before getting the pieces without either and have my defense blummet.

After all, new leggings might be a really nice improvement, but wearing them takes you below uncrittable, they are next to useless. So let me take this moment to say, I understand and feel your pain Sylly. The game continues to test us all, especially with the upcoming changes in patch 3.2. We just have to quicken our stride and pretend we're keeping up.

Services Rendered

Although I cannot claim to have been around during vanilla WoW, I think I have played long enough to remember the days when you did not have to worry about paying outrageous fees to whatever crafter you found on trade to, perhaps enchant your new gloves, or to create some belt buckles. This is probably, once again, one of those that depends heavily on the server you play but the first time it happened to me, I was quite honestly stunned.

That astonishment quite quickly turned to annoyance and admittedly was fairly rude to the enchanter, but with an excellent point. I have since held firmly to my principle, never to charge for my services rendered, which by this time include tailoring, jewelrycrafting, enchanting, and mining. Mining is a special case, as titansteel bars are on a 24 hour cooldown and usually the fellow player expresses his will to pay all on his own.

It isn't that I do not see why people wish to be paid for their services, it is the size of their fees that they throw at you. One enchanter was calculating his prices to me, based on the level required to make them, although that made absolutely no difference concerning his part; which is, receive materials, open trade window once or twice and hit a couple of mouse clicks. The total size for just one such enchant was 120g, the total sum ranging to nearly 300g.

After you, the customer already spent nearly or more than that on materials to make the transaction possible, it gives you little incentive to pay the same amount again for a greedy bastard. Now, whenever I offer my services to whomever needs them, should they ask (which they almost always do nowadays) how much I charge, I call them daft and just tell them to tip me with whatever they feel appriopriate and it's settled.

I know I am probably quite an odd bird at this aspect and I certainly could go down the same road but my morals and principles simply will not let me. It is one thing to expect a tip, it's only polite, and if they want you to provide the materials, of course they pay for them, but for 2-3 mouse clicks and five minutes of their time, I say no, I refuse.

Yes, it is only virtual gold and yes, most of us can carry thousands of it in our pockets, but where I come from the fact that you're rich does not mean you should be stupid. The fact that you have cash, a lot or a little, does not mean it needs to be spent. But here I go again with my silly little common sense again.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

The Essence of a Guild

People who know me are aware that I expect a lot out of my guilds and I have a strict criteria of what kind of a guild I want to a part of. If a guild is unable to live up to my par, after repeated attempts of trying to improve it, I will usually leave for elsewhere. However, I do not really think of myself as a knit picker, and so I decided to put together a small view of what a guild means to me in the World of Warcraft.

Well, of course, has to do raiding, on the level of progression that I myself am at that moment in time. This is obvious, since I love to raid. It does not necessarily have to be a progression guild, but will not hurt. I have so much experience with casual guilds and watching them struggle with putting good raids together.

But the two most defining elements of any guild, in my opinion, are the guild leader and the raid leader, in my mind, two distinct people. These are two guild members who have the most impact into the nature and success of a guild. They set the tone and atmosphere in their respected repartments and are responsible for the most essential functions. Usually, the raid leader is also the guild's main tank, though this is not always the case.

I believe in a guild with a clear vision of what it wants to do and the guild's leader should embody this aspect. He should know exactly how many and what kind of members are apart of the guild, with a healthy firmness of rules. Does not mean rules have to be absolute or so strict you choke on them, but make sure everybody follows them and no one should get preferential treatment.

For the raid leader, the responsibility is to schedule and make sure the raids run smoothly. Same rules apply, to make sure bad apples are weeded out and everyone comes both prepared and follows the set rules. If either of the above mentioned, is a bastard, unqualified or unable to follow (or even set proper rules), it quickly reflects on the guild's performance and will eventually break it apart.

One huge mistake I see many new guilds do, particularly casual guilds that are based largely around close-friends, is at the beginning, reward seniorship by making their friends officers, as somehow as a sign of prestige or priviledge. I have seen it so many times and it is never anything but a recipe for disaster. This might work when the guild only has 15 members, but once they push to 30 and 40, it ends up with 10 arrogant officers who do nothing to contribute to their position as leaders, but simply reap the benefits, often getting priority on raid spots, what they are allowed from the guild vault, and distributed loot.
"There are no bad crews, only bad leaders."
Essentially, the guild simply continues to revolve around the senior members, with the rest viewed mainly as a space holding force to fill the gaps for 25-man raids, and worse, have no voice at all in anything that the guild does. Understandibly, the leadership makes the final calls, but it is the most common and obvious sign of a bad leader, if they are incapable of taking input from other members without referring to their status for confirmation about their qualifications.

For me, I don't see how a guild ever needs more than a couple of officers. Even a guild doing 25-man raids, only need a 2-3. If it is a particularly large guild, signing officers for various subgroups, tank, dps, and healers is appropriate. But still it is no sign that they are more "important" than anyone else. They simply are there to manage their departments.

If you now find yourself thinking to yourself that as an officer, of course you deserve more than non-officers, think about this; without those "lesser beings" you would be managing empty air, you would not have full raid groups, and if you truly and honestly feel you you deserve better rewards then they, does that sound like you're thinking about the guild's best interest, or your personal greed?

Because so far, I have not found evidence of a single guild that succeeded in good progression by only looking after a select elite and leaving others behind. The more division in gear and skill there is between members of a guild, the worse the it will do on the long run.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Reporting Live from 3.2

I must confess, I did not always play World of Warcraft the way I play it today; looking under the hood, bothering to understand its mechanics, or with progression in mind when entering dungeons. As such, I never actually bothered with the thought of PTR, but now, with 3.2 patch in the horizon and indeed available for testing, I told myself I was crazy as a boot if I did not give it a go.

So here I am now, flying over Icecrown, wearing a full tier 8 suit, looking around and marveling at all the interesting changes. As odd as it might seem, changes do not just jump at you from behind a corner. You have to look for 'em and I knew exactly where to go for my first one; the Argent Tournament.

The place has changed quite a bit since the last we saw it, importantly, the coliseum has been finished and dominates the landscape. The old tents and npcs are still on their familiar places, practice rings of valiants and the challenge arena for champion, but there are some new features as well. One of them is a place, just north up the slope from the grounds where the scourge has setup a fortified position, seemingly ready to assault the tournament. I have no doubt there are quests that lets us investigate it further, but I could not yet find them. I suspect, it is for crusaders only.

The emblem of triumph vendors are in place and their goods, as one might guess, look very appetising. From death knight's perspective, nice ones include the two new sigils; Insolence and Virulence. Another update that blizzard has done, concerning item tooltips, is that it provides the same function as the Ratingbuster addon, which is provide easy to read information how the change between the new and old item, would affect your stats.

Next interesting update comes from Cartier & Co. Fine Jewelry, a location familiar to all my fellow jewelcrafters. Firstly, what we have all been waiting for, epic gems, which include stones like Cardinal Ruby (convertable to e.g. Bold Cardinal Ruby) and Dreadstone (convertable to e.g. Balanced Dreadstone) are available for between 10 to 20 emblems of heroism.

Along with the new gems, the dragon's eye gems have been upgraded as well. Just as we were told, they are now restricted to their respected color sockets, but in turn, the stats have been increased, even if only in a small measure; currently, the Rigid Dragon's Eye provides a +27 hit rate bonus, while the new version provides a +34 hit rate bonus. These numbers are reflected throughout the spectrum.

I always found it extremely annoying, how slow and painful it was to collect Dalaran jewelcrafter's tokens. Now, we finally have a new way to earn them. Mind you, it is not cheap but easily worth it, in my opinion; Timothy Jones now has a new, repeatable quest, in which you turn in Titanium Powder. The powder, can be prospected from titanium ore. Not only will it increase the competition for titanium nodes, but probably revitalize the titanium ore market.

There are plenty of more very nice updates, but too many to list here now, and so our peak into the 3.2 patch ends with a shot of the much desired druid bear skin. A fellow alliance druid, deep in his thoughts near the landing platform, was happy to volunteer as unsuspecting photo candidate.

Server Cultures

I have done my share of server hopping, on a variety of characters, and although I do not mostly like to do it, it is an eyeopening experience. One does not automatically consider it, until you have experienced it, but servers across the World of Warcraft space are very culture driven. Many vary greatly from each other, in both the nature and level of players. They have their unique habits and odd quirks.

For one, the EU server of Blade's Edge, has a strange habit to promote the use of PvP gear, in PvE playing. I have written about this before and I still cannot understand where that comes from, but they do it a lot. It was never an odd sight to go into a heroic dungeon, have a look at your fellow gamers' gear and see just stacks of useless PvP gear.

On the Aerie Peak server, the current realm that I occupy, has shown me another extremely strange habit; the PuG demanding to show your achievements before you can join up, and today reading on I realized this is not just an Aerie Peak quirk, but a habit that spans a lot of different servers.

The authors at, and the subsequent bloggers that they read upon, are just as baffled by this rediculous trend as I am. What they demand is that, e.g. to join a Naxx10 group, you have to link your [Epic] or [Fall of Naxxramas] achievements. The same is for even stupidly easy raids like Vault of Archavon. In essence, you are asking that you only want people who are stupidly outgeared for the instance, in hopes for a quick and smooth run.

This sort of behaviour only truly makes sense if you are PuG'ing particularly difficult encounters, like Emalon or Sartharion with drakes on board. In fact, it is a sound theory that this is where it all started from, but has since grown out of control. Monkey see, monkey do, usually only leading to its own downfall because any experienced player (with a head to draw sense from) knows that achievements can be completed and epics acquired, without actually having any skill.

And skill is the key. I have witnessed, time and time again that the people you want on your side, are the people who can get really good results, even in the worst gear. Completing Naxxramas in blue gear, enduring obstacles and performing against all odds, can only be accomplished by having the skill to play. Yes, achievements and gear are good indicators towards it, but are far from reliable.

All you, really, end up doing is recycling the same dirty laundry, since you are recruiting people with the achievements and/or gear over those without it, ending up with the same bad apples as last time, and the time before that. How many times do you see people die on silly mistakes, doing e.g. Heigan or Thaddius? The answer is, everytime, whether they have completed it before or not.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Union of the Three Towers

It is no secret that summer is a bane for raiding guilds, for most of a guild's roster will not be available for majority of the raids and they rather go on holidays, camping, out and just generally spend their time with family and friends. However, this is no reason to stop a guild's progress. you can get away with a lot, even under difficult circumstances.

We almost did not get a raid together last night, but what first started as a walk in the park, just killing time, taking down easy bosses like Malygos, actually turned into a progression. Naturally, I was happy as a cucumber because I finally got my Malygos kill. From there, we were just suppose to take down Flame Leviathan on easy mode and call it the night.

Thanks to Maaki, our resident imbalanced mage, the suggestion circulated that we should go wild and try it with three towers. I had never done it with more than one and the guild had never done it with more than two. But heck, browse some and after a 15 minutes of talking tactics, we were ready.

What we did was settle on simplified tactics. We only had one choppa for the encounter and my demolisher was the only one dedicated to throwing dps on the boss. Usually tactics say you need two on the boss, but we only needed one at a time. The first dps loaded into my catapult just before the fight started and my first button was #6.

We would then rotate the two in my demolisher; open up with pyros before first overload, reload before it came and again open up with everything once the overload came. As the choppa picked the dps up, my second passanger got on the catapult and the moment overload ended, he was already on the boss.

For the towers, we chose to leave out Life, for it has to be the hardest one, mitigating damage that the boss take and constantly summoning adds that you have to deal with. So keeping storm, flame, and frost we had to constantly dodge the various light pillars and constantly moving fire aoe but it was all surprisingly easy. The trick is to a) always empty you pyros on the boss when an overload comes b) do not take unnecessary damage from the elements, and c) do not let the boss hit you.

When driving a demolisher, always try to move to a vicinity of the falling pyros that both demolisher should be constantly shooting down. Your passanger should give you a boost for a quick getaway, if and when the Flame Leviathan chooses to come after you.

In the end, you will get a glowing achievement bar for your trouble and believe me, it feels really good ;-)

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Guilds and Specs

A week's worth of raiding in my new guild is behind me and it is time to look back for a bit. Those of you who regularly read this blog had, without a doubt noticed the guild change. Suffice to say, I was not as happy in my previous guild, as I would have preferred. Differences in views, between me and many other, especially senior members drove me to decide to leave.

Instead, I now find myself in a finnish guild, as per my own national and so far the experience has been superb. I have always had a theory about one-national guilds, that they have to, by their nature do and manage better than a multi-national guild; simply because they have a smaller pool of people to recruit from, thus, have to by average for better.

The summer of course means that there are fewer of us online and available for raids, which makes it ideal for me, giving me a lot of raid time, with the past week having easily passed by exploring Ulduar for the first time. Aye, was the first time I ever went beyond Flame Leviathan, shocking to some people I know but the simply reason was, I had rather spent my time first gearing and clearing raids like OS and Naxxramas. For my take on Ulduar, have a read at my earlier post, Ulduar Breakdown.

The biggest change, since my guild shift, was the redesign of my dps spec. I had been testing an unholy dual-wield spec for my death knight and it did not quite seem up to par in my new guild. Of course, being a raiding guild, opinions were quite frank and straight forward, so to lay the issue at rest, I have thus put my experiment on hold.

I now play a 53/18 blood spec. It uses a two-hander weapon, fresh from Ulduar, Relentless Edge and is all about producing very high damage through Obliterate and Heart Strike, in that order. Dancing Rune Weapon and Hysteria providing valuable cooldowns, and with Blood Tap and Empower Rune Weapon, provide as many hits with obliterate as possible.

I also found another build, a 51/2/18 blood spec. Naturally, a two-hander build but because it lacks Annihilation, it uses Death Strike in its rotation. This produces less damage per hit than obliterate but compensates with extra output from diseases and auto attacks. I had no chance to test test this one but having looked at it, and the fact that it is one of main specs that Ensidia death knights use, I have no doubt it is a very good option in the right hands.

Just remember to arm yourself with the proper glyphs, respectively.

Ulduar Breakdown

Ulduar is, in every way, a step up from Naxxramas. Of course, your gear has to be much better than what you could venture into Naxxramas. It is designed for full naxx10 gear, but having bits from the 25-man instance helps a lot. The fights are now much more complex, and in my opinion, more unforgiving. I remember people complaining about the nuances of defeating the Four Horsemen or Kel'Thuzad, but I think it is safe to say, Ulduar takes it all much further.

Looking at the first four bosses, they are by far the simplest on the complexity scale, on par with the toughest in Naxxramas, but if you are geared and know the tactics, they should not constitute a huge problem. In fact, the same way that arachnid- and plague quarters in Naxxramas, the first four of Ulduar can easily become the farm bosses for most guilds that venture in.

From there, the fights quickly begin to get tougher. From the antechamber, both Kologarn and Hodir were quite fun for me. True, the new guys (me being one of them) struggled a bit on Hodir but after a couple of takes, dodging the flash freeze and falling rock became quite fun. The one annoying boss, was Auriaya and her two cats. I am by nature a tank, even if I spend most of my time as DPS, and as such I like fights that I can control. If there is chaos on the battlefield, it puts me off and the two cats are an epitome of chaos. The quicker you take them down, the better you will be off.

When you get to the keepers, you are truly inside Ulduar. Tougher than anything you have seen in WotLK, by far (not counting Sartharion with three drakes). We took down Thorim fairly easily, thanks to the fact that we had some experienced people on board but both Mimiron and especially Freya, were a bane. Both bosses share the fact that there are a lot of things to keep track of on the screen and it takes quite a lot out of you, whether it is avoiding mines, dodging shotgun shots, looking for the healing tree, or coordinating to kill lashers. And in middle of all that, you should also do some decent dps.

It is difficult to explain how hard we tried to take Freya down. We did it eventually, with a near flawless performance in the end but I have to say, it was an undertaking. People say that many of the fights in Ulduar are strictly a gear check, like XT-002. While that might be true, Freya on the other hand, is a check on team work. Everyone has to pitch in; to kill the trees, aoe the plants, kill the three children at the same time, and free rooted compared. After my experience, I am a firm believer that until your group can really work as a team, you will fail on Freya.

From there, the next two bosses are naturally only General Vezax and the old god himself, Yogg-Saron. I could not make the last raid so I was only there for two attempts on Vezax but the fights do continue quite complicated. For me, as a death knight, Vezax is very easy because I am unaffected by his most frustrating ability; Aura of Despair which prevents almost all mana regeneration. Healers especially however are at the receiving end of that fight though, without a doubt always running out of mana and having to dodge in and out of green puddles.

Yogg-Saron will be an interesting fight and I cannot wait to get a chance to face him on next lockdown. Research has promised an interesting battle of wills; as another fight with multiple phases and many small nuances. As a whole, I have come to enjoy Ulduar very much. The fights are interesting and very colorful. There are a myriad of challenges and there is much to look forward to, and not not in only killing Yogg-Saron but gearing up for the hard modes and beginning a spree for a bucket load of achievements.