I went back to the old world to finish up the last level-and-a-half that the group needed in order to get level 60. In doing so, I may make yet another minor change in my approach, at least for another couple of play sessions, anyway.
Last weekend I went to Scholomance, and cleared a few rooms worth of trash in order to get them to level 59, then left them in Undercity to soak up some more rested experience. I figured another Scholomance run, or some combination of Scholo and Dire Maul would get them to 60, then I could leave the old world behind and move on to better things (ie, Outland). But I was itching to give Stratholme a try. I'd been lazy until now, because the trips to Scholomance and Dire Maul are relatively short and relatively safe (as regards mobs, anyway). I figured it was time to get the flight path at Light's Hope Chapel and pay Baron Rivendare a visit. As it happens, in spite of the fact that I ran Stratholme more times than I can remember, I had not completed the quest to bring Rivendare's head to the quest NPC at Light's Hope (well, not on my shaman, my rogue had completed it long ago).
Yesterday, I rode my warlock and mage over to Light's Hope Chapel, made sure to get the flight path, then logged them out there. This morning, I flew my shaman over there, formed up the group, summoned the paladin and priest, grabbed up five quests (including one for Scholomance) and rode on over to Stratholme. I had some concerns because the groups of mobs in Stratholme are often larger than the ones I'd been dealing with in Scholomance or DM, and some of them could hit quite hard. But as it turned out, the groups of undead (usually three elites and three to five non-elites) weren't very difficult at all and I was working my way through the zone at a consistent, if typically slow, pace.
I entered via the main entrance, mostly because that would make it easier to get the group set up. The side entrance has a gate very close to the first group of mobs, which makes for an awkward initial pull, and I figured for my first attempt at multiboxing there, I'd take the more predictable route. My shaman was still enhance spec, and my plan was the usual-- let him do the bulk of the work, with the paladin and priest tossing an occasional heal and the mage and warlock contributing DPS on boss mobs. This worked out nicely, and I cleared my way through the undead in the "live" side, including Fras Siabi in order to complete the quest for the alts. While I was clearing through this area, I also killed an NPC that dropped three keys, which would open various mailboxes throughout the zone.
Working my way through the live side wasn't bad, though I did have one party wipe when a mob got to low health and ran far enough to aggro another group. Every now and then, a wipe like that reminds me not to get sloppy and pull certain areas carefully. As in many other instances that I've run, the trash has posed more of a risk than the bosses did, although I did have to work a bit harder in some cases. For instance, Balnazzar can mind control a group member during the battle against him, and that can be disastrous if the shaman is the target. So I went with a tried and true formula, keeping the group out of combat range so that Balnazzar treated it as a solo attack. This worked, but the shaman had to stop and heal himself a few times. It almost went badly right at the end. Balnazzar feared the shaman, who ran right to the group. He was casting his mind control spell just as he died.
The final victim on the live side was Cannon Master Willey. There is a slight twist to this fight. During the battle, ranged attackers will begin to spawn at a distance from the boss and shoot at the party. The party members can grab nearby cannonballs and use the cannons to kill them. I wasn't going to be able to do that effectively (if at all) with the group, and I also knew I couldn't leave the group behind, or they'd be the first thing that the ranged attackers aggro. So I left them on auto-follow as I charged in on Willey and fired a frost shock as I got within range, to keep him from aggroing the group. I circled once within the cubbyhole that Willey is in, in the hopes of shielding the group as best I could, and then went to town on Willey. He went down without too much trouble, after which I quickly grabbed a cannonball and finished the job. Live side down!
One interesting note... while clearing the live side, I killed The Unforgiven. He is a typical loot-dropping boss in the zone. After my slow clear of the live side, as I was making my way towards the "undead" side, I passed through his spawn point and to my surprise, he had re-spawned! I'm not sure if this was intended or not, most loot-dropping bosses in instanced zones will not re-spawn the way trash does. But thanks for the extra shard!
With that out of the way, I reached the undead side of Stratholme. Since I had come through the live side entrance, I would be able to pull Magistrate Barthilas first (if you enter via the side gate, he races off before you can reach him). I aggro'ed him before the rest of the group was past the gate at the end of the short tunnel we were in, and they wound up left on the other side when it suddenly slammed shut, which meant that I was on my own against Barthilas. Not a problem, a couple of self heals and he was down, and my paladin had himself a Key to the City. From there I cleared the two groups of mobs and opened the mailbox there with one of the keys I'd gotten earlier. This was the last of the three, and by now I was used to seeing three mobs spawn whenever I opened a mailbox. I was surprised, however, to see that this time, they were accompanied by Postmaster Malown! Having battled him once in the past (our groups used to skip the NPC who dropped the mailbox keys) I knew he wasn't a pushover. So I summoned my earth elemental and went to town, taking out the adds first, while making sure the elemental didn't die too soon. Normally the earth elemental can hang in there with a group of mobs for quite a while, but some bosses can really lay into him-- Malown is one of them. But he stayed alive long enough for me to take down the adds and get some DPS in on Malown, and the fight went without a hitch.
From there it was a pretty slow grind as I worked my way through the zone, killing trash, killing mini-bosses at the pyramids, and opening every crate in order to complete the Houses of the Holy quest. As with Balnazzar, I kept the group out of combat range when I killed Baroness Anastari, because part of her fight includes having a group member get mind controlled. Since I had a searing totem down, she actually did mind control me, but as soon as the totem was destroyed, I regained control of my character. The best part was that the mind control phase healed my shaman back to full!
The courtyard in front of Rivendare's room turned out to be a bit of an adventure. The initial portion, where you kill the abominations as they slowly make their way towards your group, went pretty cleanly. Once they were done, I was getting ready to AoE the group of skeletons and zombies that try to swarm the group, but as it turns out, first you need to kill Ramstein the Gorger. No problem, I figured-- the group was at full health and mana, and I had time to get set up for him.
Well, one problem... I was unaware that Ramstein will occasionally stun the tank and make a bee-line for the rest of the group. Hey, it had been a LOOOONG time since I'd run Stratholme! And I still haven't had much practice with certain things, such as remembering my macro setup for healing party members that aren't the leader. Argh. Anyway, he chewed his way through the priest and mage before I finally dropped him. And here I was, with two dead party members, and a swarm of non-elites on the way. I had no choice but to drop my fire elemental and let him handle the AoE. He did just fine, but I had intended to save him for the fight against Baron Rivendare. Sigh...
In any event, the rest went quite smoothly. After the AoE pack is down, a group of five elite undead will emerge from Rivendare's room. My earth elemental kept them busy while I whittled them down one at a time, and then I marched the group (which were 60 by this time) into the Baron's quarters. The fight with the Baron was fairly anti-climactic, I used a Holy Water (that the shaman had looted after the alts had completed the quest) and then manually set the mage and warlock to use their AoE "rain" spells for the next group, and shortly after that he went down. Since I had cleared the live side, I had the Medallion of Faith, and I used it to get the quest "Aurius' Reckoning." With this quest, I was able to complete five quests for each of the alts. The benefits of this aren't minor-- these quests provide a reward of 14,300 experience now, which meant that each character got a nice bonus of 71,500 experience shortly after getting to level 60! Since the levels from 60-70 require a lot more experience than the levels prior, it was a nice start for them.
And now they have at least one quest for Scholomance and another quest or two that they can complete in Stratholme. With the experience rewards being so nice, and with the other benefits of running those zones, I may run them a few more times before I head to Outland for good. The runs through those zones are painless (though not quick, this run took me five hours!), the enchanting materials provide some nice extra gold, and I can continue to stockpile runecloth. I'm very close to exalted with the Darkspear Trolls, and I figure it'll be nice to get one of the non-PvP raptor mounts. It may finally be time to change the group's roles in order to make the paladin the lead character, which is what he will be when I start hitting Outland instances. Easing my way into it could make the initial runs through Hellfire Ramparts less painful by far.