Monday, May 26, 2008

Ding 57, 58... hello Outland!

I did some testing and went back to a tried-and-true formula in order to finish up the Scholomance farming. The elemental shaman as a level 70 tank for the mid-50s group worked pretty well, though it slowed the pace even more than normal, which is already pretty slow. It was enough to get them to level 57, though, and that was fine. Then I changed the talents for the paladin to Protection and the priest to Shadow, in the hopes of trying out the conventional setup I plan to use in Outland instances. But that didn't work, because if I limited the shaman to healing, the overall DPS was slow enough that his heals would eventually generate too much aggro. Using him to provide DPS led to the same problem, he would take aggro from the paladin, this time very quickly.

So I decided to spec my shaman back to enhancement long enough to grind out to level 58. Thanks to recent changes, the shaman is dual-wielding two Wicked Edge of the Planes. With the group at full rested experience for the entire level, it took a full clear of Scholomance and another room or two of respawns to get them to level 58. From there, I got them over to the Swamp of Sorrows and headed to the Dark Portal. There I got the starter quest that takes them through the portal and into Hellfire Peninsula. Going through that series of quests generated around 13,000 experience for them. Thanks to the recent changes which lowered the experience requirements for levels 30-to-60, they only need around 165,000 experience to get to level 59. Getting nearly 10% of a level simply for clicking on a few NPCs is pretty nice.

Having made it to Thrallmar, I took the three quests that are available there. Monday morning is Memorial Day here, and I was off from work, so I took the opportunity to get up early and see about questing with the group. To be honest, while I am leery of having the group ganked while questing outside, I am generally more concerned with horde characters. I try to keep as low a profile as I can in order to reduce the amount of interaction with gawkers and idiots. Thankfully, my experiences on Bonechewer have been pretty positive overall. As I was questing, one person rode up and watched us for a moment before moving on. The only other horde I saw out there was apparently dual-boxing as well, and we stayed out of each others' way without a word.

I completed three quests, and the group has a couple of upgrades as well as being nearly halfway through level 58. The Bonechewer Blood quest will prove to be a bit of a grind, but the upgrades will be useful for the characters and it isn't a difficult quest. The mobs you need to kill are very close to Thrallmar and they respawn quickly. Collection quests are the bane of multiboxers, since the number of items to collect is multiplied by the number of accounts. In my case, I am not trying to collect 12 Bonechewer Blood-- I'm trying to collect 48. And the drop rate seems to be about 30-40%. Ugh. Some collection quests are not so bad, such as the quest to collect metal and wood from the ground. There are lots of the items on the ground and the mobs you must kill to get to them are the ones you are killing for the blood quest. Still, it was 64 items to collect...

Other quests, such as this one, are very easy to complete. As long as one character performs the action and the others are within range, they all get credit for it. It was easy to complete and came with some nice rewards for the group. It was on the 'alliance side' of the Path of Glory, but there was only one alliance character there and she appeared to be busy gathering herbs. And of course, quests that require you to kill a specific mob or number of mobs are very easy to complete for the same reason-- each member of the group gets credit for each kill, thus there are no multiples involved. And the faster you can work through a quest, the better. Even with the group bonus and rested exp, the experience from killing non-elite mobs is not very good. But the quest reward exp is very good, and the bonus experience from quests in Outland was increased recently.

However, questing outdoors really isn't the reason that I formed the group. Running instances is what I want to do. My approach to questing with the group will be to find quests that provide rewards that are worthwhile to the group, and skipping the rest. I will probably complete most of the quests in HFP and Zangarmarsh before getting to level 70, since those quests will not provide much of a gold bonus at that point. Otherwise, I will save most of their questing for level 70, so as to reimburse the costs of leveling them this way (primarily, the costs related to their mounts, which will be around 1700 gold each by the time they have their 225 riding skill).

Other than that, I will be running instances as often as possible. I still want to try and run Stratholme with the group in its more traditional setup. But it may simply be easier to whip through the zone behind the shaman instead. With the large bonuses to experience from the early quests in HFP, they will be level 60 very soon and have the gear they need to get started in Hellfire Ramparts, the first Outland instanced zone. At that point I will switch them over to their proper roles, with the priest as Shadow spec and the shaman as a healer, even if it means that progress will be very slow. That's where the fun really begins. :)

Friday, May 16, 2008

Ding 56, and a new challenge...

The group is level 56 and they are halfway to 57. I did a full Scholomance clear and that got them about half of a level, part of that being rested exp. It may be time to head to Stratholme finally, or make another attempt at Dire Maul North, perhaps a tribute run this time. 57 is a bit of a highlight for the group, as they have quite a few level 57 drops from Scholomance. There will be some upgrading done! And it will be necessary, for a change.

My guildmates asked me to join one of their arena teams as an elemental spec. I agreed to join, though my elemental gear isn't very good and my PvP skills are even less so. But if we are able to reach or maintain a 1600-1700 rating or better I will be able to get most of the season 4 gear. Otherwise I can still upgrade with mostly season 3 gear and a few season 2 items. In any event, to avoid lots of respec'ing, I figured I will try running the alts as elemental spec. This means using the shaman as more of a 'pure' tank and less as a DPS machine.

That may very well work out. The shaman has almost 11,000 hit points and around 10,400 armor in his elemental PvP setup, along with 222 resilience. Against the level 55-60 elites, this should provide a significant amount of damage reduction, and the DPS from my shocks will still be enough to hold aggro. Meanwhile, I can continue to use the group to DPS down the mobs I am tanking. When the shaman is enhance spec I didn't really push the rest of the group's DPS, so the shaman was responsible for about 89-90% of total damage. This will be an opportunity to see just how much I can push the group's DPS. It'll also be a good test for later, since my plan at 60 is to move to Outland instances and have the paladin tank them. Becoming more efficient at pushing out DPS will be important.

I will probably get a chance to try this out this weekend, but I will be busy with arenas, battlegrounds, and possibly raids. The alt group will always come in second to those activities, but I still may get them to 57 this weekend, and then I guess it'll be time to try out Stratholme...

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Ding 53, 54, 55 and heading north!

Dire Maul North, that is.

A quick note here: It's been a month since the last update. I'm normally pretty lazy about updating as it is, and I didn't play much WoW at all for about three weeks. Partly burnout, partly finding other things to keep me busy, partly boredom, partly... whatever else. I very rarely grind my way through MMORPGs, so whenever I feel bored or that the game is becoming a chore, I just stop for a while. Anyway...

I got to 53 and 54 mostly in Scholomance, at which point I was able to take two quests for Dire Maul East. One required me to kill the imp that is near the entrance to DM East, the other required me to kill Lethtendris, one of the easiest level 55+ bosses to kill. Completing this left the alts within shouting distance of level 55, and at this point I decided I'd give DM North a try.

As expected, the going was a bit rough. DM North has groups of four elite mobs in some areas, and they hit hard enough to kill my alts very quickly. They also hit hard enough that they can drop my shaman's health dangerously low if I hold off on heals in order to avoid aggro. In places like Scholomance, I'm usually facing groups of up to three mobs, and their combined DPS is not enough to require a heal before I kill all but one. Once I'm on the last one, my own DPS guarantees that I'll hold aggro and the priest and paladin may heal me without concern. This was not going to work in DM North, and an early wipe was followed by the deaths of the priest and mage on separate occasions. A bit more work and adaptation was called for.

First up- Blessing of Salvation. I usually just buffed the group with Kings, but the buff didn't matter until now because the group didn't take much part in the fights, aside from an occasional heal. But with aggro becoming an issue, every bit would help. The shaman got Kings as per normal, and everyone else got a 30% aggro reduction. Next up, crowd control...

I reached the area that has many groups with warriors who do relatively high DPS, and warlocks with their pets (reddish winged demons). The pets are non-elites. The groups will have some combination of warriors and warlocks/pets. One warrior and one warlock, two warriors, two warlocks, etc. The warriors charge in and attack, the pets do as well, while the warlocks will cast from a distance (including a targeted AE fire spell). Upon reaching the first group (a warrior, warlock, and pet) I targeted the warlock and had the mage select it as her target. Then I targeted the warlock's pet and had my warlock select it as her target. I bound the mage's sheep and the warlock's banish spells to a single key, and started the pull.

This worked out pretty well. I was able to clear through the zone all the way up to Captain Kromcrush with little effort, even though the crowd control did not always stick, since the elites were usually level 57-to-59 and the pets were level 58-60 and my mage/warlock were level 55 by this time, having hit their new levels earlier in the run. But it worked often enough to make the groups quite manageable. Without the crowd control the trip would've been much more painful. As it was, judicious use of my shaman's earth and fire elementals saved the group on a couple of occasions.

Kromcrush himself was not too bad. I had only ever fought him once prior to this trip (we normally did the tribute run with the ogre suit) and all I remembered was that he could hit pretty hard. So when his health dropped to 75% and two ogre warriors came running out of nowhere, it was a bit of a shock, to say the least! My shaman died shortly after Kromcrush did, so I used an ankh and whittled the two reavers down while my paladin furiously cast heals. My priest was unable to do so, seeing as she had been flattened by the reavers shortly after I died. Annoyingly, the end result of this fight was a Mugger's Belt. Oh well, better luck next time.

After this it was just a relatively short clear and then I'd have to deal with King Gordoth and his lackey Cho'Rush the Observer. One mistake I made was having my timing wrong when attempting to AE a pack of dogs. Unlike the bugs and scorpions in other parts of the zone, these mobs require a lot more damage to kill (approximately 3,600 versus 1,000). They chewed their way through my mage, warlock, and paladin before I managed to finish them off. After that I was much more cautious and the path to the King was clear.

King Gordoth was not as tough as I'd feared. I couldn't use my old standby of keeping the group out of combat range, since I would want their DPS and need their heals. Using my earth elemental to keep Cho'Rush busy for a few seconds, I started beating on Gordoth. He did not do his knockback effect on me, or perhaps I resisted it. He did charge one of the group members, but I got his attention back on the shaman quickly. Once the earth elemental was down, Cho'Rush began casting fire spells at my healers, but I just healed them with the shaman to balance out aggro. Gordoth went down without much problem, and I was preparing to target and attack Cho'Rush, when he suddenly de-aggroed, ran off, and sat down.

I had forgotten that if you kill the King, Cho'Rush will proclaim you the new king of the ogres and become quite cooperative. At this point another ogre appears, and when you speak with him he gives you the buff that turns the rest of the zone friendly and summons the tribute chest. Since we had slaughtered our way through the zone, there were no extra goodies inside. I may try a tribute run in the future, but since the goal of these trips is mostly experience, it really doesn't matter. I do plan to hit DM North at least once more. And I may wait for level 57 or 58 before venturing into Stratholme, as it would be nice to have fewer resists and better survivability when I head there, with it's large groups of elites and non-elites.