Monday, July 28, 2008

Two down, one to go...

My little group has killed Watchkeeper Gargolmar about seven times now, and he has dropped the hunter leggings four times. Sigh. I did get the paladin breastplate though, and that was an item I was keen on getting my hands on. Getting the paladin properly geared will help a lot going forward. In the meantime, the clears have gotten easier and quicker as I got my keybindings in order and got used to working with a diverse group. The hunter still does the most overall damage, in large part because he is doing steady DPS with auto shot while the casters require a keypress for each of their abilities. However, I'm becoming more efficient and they are catching up.

However, with the hunter having reached level 62 he has pulled ahead again, but that's fine. He is an engineer, and is able to wear Surestrike Goggles v2.0 now. He is also able to make and use Adamantite Shell Machines. Each one creates 1000 bullets that provide an additional 43 DPS, up from 26 that his Fel Iron Shells provided. Engineering is a nice profession for a hunter!

Yesterday I reached Omor the Unscarred. Omor is leashed to one spot in his area and will not move around, and in that he is ideal for a multiboxer to deal with. Among his abilities are a debuff that causes the target to AE the area around him, and thus it is best for the group to stay far apart from each other. He also summons felhounds which will drain a character's health and transfer it to Omor. Omor has other abilities, including shadowbolts and an ability where he tosses you in the air and bounces you around a few times, but those did not seem to be a major concern.

There were two problems on my first attempt, which ended in a wipe. One, I did not spread the group far enough apart. Two, I tried to kill the felhounds as they spawned. For my second attempt, I carefully spread the group far apart from each other (Omor's aggro range is very short, and this is pretty easy to do). When he summoned his felhounds, I'd make sure that the paladin had Consecration active, which would aggro them to him and keep them in one spot. This allowed me to focus DPS on Omor and focus heals on the tank. His shadowbolts were not a problem, and he only used his air-toss on the paladin. The second try was the charm and he went down, dropping a two-handed mace that is useless for my group. Oh well, there will be more attempts.

Sadly, I did not get a screenshot. I remembered that I wanted one as I was heading out of his area, and quickly ran back, but as I was positioning the team, his corpse poofed.

Next up were the team of Vazruden and his dragon steed Nazan. This is a fight that is very challenging for a multiboxer. You have very limited options on pre-fight positioning, since you need to kill two guards in order to summon him from the sky to join the fight. The guards will respawn immediately if you pull them even a short distance away (apparently this change was incorporated in order to keep players from exploiting the fight mechanic). Thus you need to fight them almost right where they stand. Second, you need to keep the whole group moving constantly, and that is a problem for a multiboxer. While you are fighting Vazruden on the ground, Nazan circles above, dropping fireballs on the group. The fireballs do direct damage when they land and additional damage-over-time. And he drops them at a pretty fast pace.

When Vazruden's health drops to 20%, Nazan lands and attacks the party. He now produces a frontal AE fire attack that does a fair amount of damage. Your tank needs to grab Nazan quickly, and the group must DPS Vazruden down fast and then turn to Nazan. All this while remaining mobile in order to avoid the fireballs and the spots on the ground that continue to burn. I tried this fight about four or five times before deciding to stop. While it's a bit frustrating, it's also a much better challenge than the first two bosses, who I have killed about 8 times total with only one wipe. Dealing with Vazruden and Nazan will help me sharpen my skills at multiboxing and hey... if it was always easy, there wouldn't be much fun in it.

At the moment the group is partway through level 61, with the exception of the hunter, who is 62. I will spend this week running the quest The Assassin for the group members. The hunter and paladin completed it already, and the others will complete it next. Not only is it a ridiculously easy quest to complete (it requires only some running back-and-forth, nothing more), with the recent experience reward changes it provides a total of around 65,000 experience (66,000 if you have not discovered Mag'har Post yet) and an item that will probably be an upgrade for my characters. I did manage to kill and loot Vazruden on one of my attempts, and thus I have the quest that requires that they loot orc blood in the Blood Furnace. But I want to remain in Ramparts until I can kill both Vazruden and Nazan. I can farm the other two bosses in the meantime, and then I'll be on my merry way to BF.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Watchkeeper Gargolmar... DOWN!

The kids and their trophy.

This zone really helped me see just how much work I have ahead of me. The trash packs were a constant problem, mostly because I was still working out keybindings for the individual characters. I may further simplify them in the future, but for now I seem to finally have a working set of about 16 keys that trigger only the abilities I want, and do not have some sort of side effect (such as causing the healer to select the wrong target... argh).

I now have a set of keys that correspond to each member of the party. Pressing that member's key will cause the priest to cast a heal and the paladin and mage to attempt to decurse that party member. I will probably change the priest's macro to cast Renew instead. This allows me to quickly shift attention to an affected member momentarily then get back to the primary task on hand.

By the time I was ready to pull Gargolmar, I had everything working and had realized that the best use for the Focus command was to set up a CC target, which I did on my mage. Watchkeeper Gargolmar has two adds, level 59 NPCs that will heal him during the fight. Thus the strategy for taking him down is to DPS down the adds first, then concentrate on killing Gargolmar. I set one of the adds as the mage's focus target, and modified her Polymorph macro accordingly, then set about pulling the group. I targeted the other add so that the group could assist me, then the paladin targeted Gargolmar and stayed on him while the group burned down the add. When that one died, I targeted the other one, assisted the paladin, and switched him back to the boss while the group took down the other add. Then I turned their full attention to the boss and finished him off. It went pretty much perfectly.

He dropped the Pauldrons of Arcane Rage, which was mildly disappointing. I was hoping to get the plate BP for the paladin first. Gearing him up is critical for me, the better he gets at taking a sustained beating, the easier it will become to run instances with him. My healer will definitely be grateful for that!

Anyway, there is a lot of practice yet to come, and two more bosses to down in this zone. I'm sure I'll continue to learn and get better as I go, with plenty of deaths to mark my progress (as it were). But all in all I'm pretty happy with the results, and am looking forward to clearing my first instance with a level-appropriate multiboxed group!

Sunday, July 20, 2008

It's like riding a bicycle...

...for the first time. Without training wheels. On a steep incline. With a bed of gravel at the bottom.

Well okay, it wasn't that bad. I knew I would have it rough at the start because until now, my instance groups consisted of my level 70 Kara-geared enhancement shaman plowing his way through old-world elites with the support of two healers and two DPS. Most of the time the only participation from the group was having the paladin and priest drop a coordinated heal on the shaman. Aggro was a non-issue; mobs simply didn't live long enough once the shaman had them targeted, and his high DPS and health allowed him to generate more aggro than the group could.

My original plan was to have the paladin take the lead as the tank, and have the shaman relegated to a healing role. The shaman had excellent healing gear and his level would allow him to better deal with healing aggro. But now that I had a group of only moderately well geared 60s instead, it would be a completely new experience for me. DPS would be much lower now. My tank would be facing mobs at his level range. Aggro would be a concern, and my cloth characters would not have the health to handle a beating for long. But hey, this was exactly what I was signing up for those many months ago when I started leveling these guys!

In any event, I did some scribbling on a pad to get my keybindings in order and make sure that I knew which keys to press in order to get the group doing what I wanted. I made sure I had the necessary items (reagents for buffs, ammo, pet food, etc). I entered the Hellfire Ramparts, buffed up, positioned the group, took a deep breath, and pulled the first two mobs. Oh great, I got the roaming add as well. Terrific, no one is attacking and no one is casting heals! This would be a wipe right off the bat, just as I'd feared. But somehow, the paladin held on long enough for me to get things in order and kill the three mobs. Very nice!

The first half-dozen groups went down without much fuss. The paladin only lost aggro once or twice, and when he did the mob was at low health and died before it could cause any trouble. targeting was working fine, focus fire was... enough to kill the mobs before they killed anyone in the group. The warlock's felguard and the hunter's pet both died twice, which was not a good thing. I pulled out the warlock's imp instead. I moved further along and now I saw mobs in groups of four instead of three. Here is where I hit my first snag, mostly due to having DPS too low to kill the beastmaster before he could summon adds. The group wiped.

I ran the paladin back, rezzed the group, re-buffed, and continued on my way. The groups of four and five mobs proved to be difficult, and it seemed in large part because I simply didn't have my keybindings in order, and it seems as if some of my macros were not working right and thus the mage often stood in one spot, casting nothing at all. As she is a very good source of DPS, this would lead to long fights and the priest would eventually get aggro and die, after which the group followed. After four or five such wipes I hearthed the group out and decided to prepare a bit more carefully.

I created a chart to keep track of my keybindings and simplified my macros. I am using few macros now, and will rely on key sequences (ie, first I press F1 to get one action, then F2 for the next action, etc... as opposed to using a castsequence macro and pressing F1 over and over). This will all but eliminate the possibility that an improperly-written macro will short-circuit any of the characters during a battle. I also created a simple set of heal/decurse macros, one that targets each party member and tied to the same set of keys for each character that can heal or remove debuffs. Thus, when I need to, I can press a key corresponding to a target character, and the priest will cast a heal, the mage will cast Remove Lesser Curse, and the paladin will cast Cleanse. The priest also has a separate button tied to Dispel for the paladin when he is main tanking.

With everything in much better order, I plan to try again today or next weekend. While I quit before getting to the first boss of the zone (and I was just two or three trash packs from getting there) I was also encouraged at how quickly I got through the first few packs of mobs. I didn't have to be so precise in my keybinds and macros before now, and had a level 70 as a safety net. Mistakes and sloppy play will cost me now, as will slowness in execution. But I should have it down to a science pretty quickly, and will chart my progress here, so you'll know if I have succeeded or not.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Back in the saddle

Soon, anyway. Soon.

With the paladin at level 60 and spec'ed for protection, I figured that I would try a few instance runs to see how efficient he was at powerleveling alts as compared to the enhancement shaman. Having read about multiboxed hunter groups on the Dual Box forums, I figured I'd try a group of three hunters and a druid. Why the druid? Partly for the sake of just having a druid, partly because his thorns would add to the damage that the paladin could do to a crowd of mobs. The first instance that horde characters can run is Ragefire Chasm, which requires a minimum level of eight to enter. So off I went to level my new characters to eight.

The druid was mildly interesting to level and got to eight pretty quickly. How much I liked or disliked the class was not supposed to be an issue-- he would really just be a support class for me. But I started to think that a group of four hunters might be preferable. Ah well, I could cross that bridge once I got to it. Now on to the hunters...

Leveling the hunters was a bit more fun but just as uneventful. Having gotten the third one to level eight, I was struck by the desire to get him to level ten to see what it would be like to have a pet. So I ground out the next two levels, which felt awfully tedious and slightly frustrating. The hunter is a ranged class, and until I had a pet, my attack pattern was to try and dump as much damage onto a mob as I could before it got to within melee range, and pray that I didn't get any adds. Finally, my little hunter was level ten. I did the quests and ran out and tamed my first pet.


I don't know if there is as big a change in how much fun a class is, as there is with the hunter class after you get your first pet. Teach the pet the Growl skill, and you are now free to stand back and wreak havoc on mobs while they try to whittle down your pet's health. It's no wonder this is considered the easiest class to level. It was also a whole lot of fun, because it was such a difference from the rogue and shaman that I'd leveled to 70.

So I logged in the first hunter, slogged through the tedium of levels 9 and 10, got my pet, and went about leveling her to 12. Logged in the second hunter and did the same, trying a different pet. Came back to the third hunter and about three weeks later, he is level 60. The druid? Erm... I think I deleted him.


Now that the hunter is 60, I'm going to try to multibox him with the regular crew. The paladin will remain protection spec'ed, but the priest (whom I'd spec'ed to shadow in anticipation of having the shaman provide heals) will spec holy and be the group's healer. The hunter, mage, and warlock will provide DPS. No more powerleveling with the 70 shaman! And with my limited experience with all but the hunter, the early going in Hellfire Ramparts is certain to be a painful experience at the start, but I'm sure that before long I'll have that instance cleared and be getting ready for the Blood Furnace.

Unless I decide to level those other hunters...