Sunday, January 25, 2009

Level 66? Check. Ring of Blood?


I ran the group through Auchenai Crypts, a zone I did not remember well at all, since I had run that zone only two or three times. I do remember that the first boss could be a real pain to deal with. What I didn't remember was the mechanics of the trash mobs. When you aggro a group of trash mobs they will summon one or two additional mobs. This didn't cause me much concern until the second pull, when my hunter found himself mind-controlled. Things didn't go as badly as they could have-- he spent his time meleeing his pet (/facepalm, good AI there Blizz) while the mobs killed most of the group.

As it turns out, one of the mobs that the groups can summon are Phantasmal Possessors, which effectively sacrifice themselves in order to mind-control a party member. They have very little health (around 1,280 hit points) and if you spot them when they spawn they are easily dispatched. But it was a rude surprise.

Overall, the run was short and uneventful. But there sure is a lot of trash in that zone, considering that there are only two bosses, and both are a pain to deal with as a five-man team (at least, at normal levels for the zone). It's no wonder that I didn't see much of that zone in the past. I consider it a rarity in WoW, a zone designed so badly that you really wouldn't want to return. Anyway, I think I'm done with that zone and Mana Tombs. Neither seem worth the time spent.

This morning I installed Jamba, an add-on designed specifically for multiboxing. It deals with a number of minor inconveniences, such as forming a group, handling quests and flight paths, and similar actions. You still have to do a fair share of clicking-- anything more than what Jamba provides would probably require automation, and that's a no-no. But it really does help to relieve a bit of the tedium that multiboxers have to deal with. I consider that I've only scratched the add-on's surface, and I'm very pleased with it. The first task that I tested it with was the Ring of Blood quests in Nagrand.

The Ring of Blood is a series of quests that take place in an outdoors setting in the northern part of Nagrand. You speak with an NPC, and he summons an elite boss mob for your group to fight. If you defeat the boss, you go back to the quest NPC and collect some very nice experience rewards (lots of exp, lots of gold, an item or two, such as health/mana potions). Then you speak to him again to summon the next boss in the chain. Do this successfully six times, and you also get a rare-quality weapon as a quest reward. With everyone moving on to the new expansion (which has its own version of the Ring of Blood, in Zul'Drak) this area is no longer a constant hotbed of activity, and I only saw one other player the whole time that I was there.

To make a long story short, the bosses from one through five were easily dispatched (they are basic tank-and-spank affairs), and the last boss went down without any deaths, thanks to timely application of the priest's Prayer of Healing, to counteract the rather nasty chain lightning spell that the boss would cast at the group every few seconds. And so my paladin and priest each wield a fancy new Mogor's Anointing Club, and the mage and warlock are carrying around their very own Battle Mage's Batons. Along the way, the priest dinged 66 and the rest of the group was just a couple of percentage points short. So I waltzed into Mana Tombs and cleared enough mobs to get them all to 66. This included killing the first boss, who yielded a Voidfire Wand that my warlock looted.

All in all a good day's work. I still need to work on smoothing out their DPS rotations in order to make them more efficient. The healing setup is pretty good, but it's a good thing the pet handles a beating as well as he does, because he doesn't do such a great job of managing aggro on multiple mobs. It may be time to look into taming a gorilla, since they have an AE threat-generating ability that might be the ticket. The rhino has an effective AE with knockback, but the knockback can have unwanted consequences and so I have it turned off most of the time. And with me dragging the group through the levels quickly, they're not very well geared to handle more than a couple of seconds of aggro.

As for the guild, forming my own guild did turn out to be a good thing. It has ended the "plz join mai guild thnx" annoyance (though I have had to deal with one request to join the guild, heh). But it has also allowed me to consolidate and organize the items that I gather as I am playing the game. I still do play my shaman and rogue solo for leveling, and I still play the hunter solo to complete daily quests and farm profession materials. Being able to put everything into one large tabbed vault has been great. It definitely beats mailing items around and having to log in multiple characters just to figure out who has what. And it allows me to pool my gold as well. The guild has just hit the 6,000 gold mark, which seems great until you realize that in order to train the four sub-70 characters for flight, fast-flight, and cold-weather flight, I will need approximately 27,600 gold. Or just an additional 21,600!

What's really scary is that it doesn't even seem as if it'll be all that difficult to get 27,600 gold. Blizzard has made it pretty trivial to accumulate gold just through questing and dailies. And since I have all of the professions covered, I can also make gold via professions as well. And I have an alt all set up with Auctioneer to track trends and locate bargains and opportunities for quick cash. All in all, I can generate 500-1500 gold in a day without making much of an effort. So my kids will be riding some fast birdies, most likely when they hit 77.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Update: 65 and counting!

Just a quick recap of the last week or so:

1- I ran the group through the Slave Pens and Underbog, twice each. Then I ran them through Mana Tombs once. They are all around 35-40% into level 65.

2- I am at the point where I will be mapping out their abilities once again, so as to be ready to have them react to situations as they occur. I lost one or more members of the group a few times in Mana Tombs because I didn't have any healing mapped to anyone except the hunter's pet. The group's DPS is also not as efficient as it could be, although this isn't an issue with the hunter power-leveling the group. Still, it's as good a time as any to get the attack rotations down.

3- Now that they are level 65, I took the opportunity to train the alts for Grand Master in any professions that they have. The only professions I was unable to train were leatherworking and inscription. The paladin's leatherworking is only at 329. The Underbog provided lots of mobs for him to skin, and this allowed him to raise that profession from 314 to 329. Still, he needs 21 more points before he can train the next tier. The priest began leveling Inscription only recently, and is at 185/225 right now. The only delay there is in gathering the herbs for the mid-level recipes, but that isn't so bad.

4- Gear drops have been "meh" so far, with fair amounts of DPS mail and leather drops, as well as DPS weapons. Running a group that consists primarily of a tank and three cloth casters has its disadvantages, I guess.

5- I am still kicking myself for procrastinating so long in making a Zapthrottle Mote Extractor. It's an engineering device that can extract motes of [element] from small roving clouds in Outland zones, as well as crystallized [element] from clouds in Northrend zones. This makes it a cinch to farm these items in relatively large amounts. For example, if I am mining, I can probably get 4-6 crystallized fire in 30-60 minutes, depending on how lucky I am at locating Titanium veins. In that same time, I can farm ten times that amount (no exaggeration) by using the Mote Extractor on the numerous steam/fire clouds in Sholozar Basin. Same with primal air in Nagrand.

6- I created my own guild! While it's really nice to have a guild bank for easy access and trading of items between characters (and I've already bought four tabs, sigh), the real reason was to stop the continual requests to join a guild. Thanks to the ease with which anyone can create a guild in WoW, I found myself constantly being asked to either help create a guild or join someone's freshly-created guild. Pitches such as "wanna join? We have a level 73, four 70s, three 60s, and a couple of 30s!" are apparently supposed to get me to want to join your guild? Ugh.

Aside from that was the simple "wanna join my guild?" or "looking for a guild?" whispers that I'd get. Look, I don't mind being asked, and many of them were polite. It's just that I'd get asked every day... often by the same people I'd already turned down two or three times! And let's be honest-- does anyone really want to join a guild that recruits in this manner? I don't. If you're sniffing around for people to add to your guild, you're building a guild that has very little chance of getting anything done. If that's the guild you want, that's great... I'm not really interested in being a part of it. Not the first time you ask, and not the ninth time you ask.

Anyway... for next weekend I'm considering trying the Ring of Blood in Nagrand, seeing as the area (and in fact, the entire zone) was practically empty at prime time last Sunday. In the meantime, the alts soak up rested exp, so that they can continue to get about a third of a level per instance run.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Blood Furnace complete x3!

Well, that turned out to be easier than I had anticipated. And I'd anticipated it being pretty easy.

There's really not much to report. Blood Furnace is a cakewalk, even easier and quicker to clear than Hellfire Ramparts. The zone is short and linear and there aren't any large groups along the way. A level-appropriate group need only take care in splitting and pulling groups in a couple of areas in order to avoid roamers who can create an aggro chain that would bring an additional group (which would make for a hilariously disastrous wipe... the first time, anyway). The only other concern is the stealthed rogue NPCs who wander short distances and can creep up behind an unwary group and drop a cloth-wearer before anyone realizes what is happening.

Neither of these are a problem for a level 80. You can see the stealthed NPC from a good distance, and can deal with groups without aggroing other groups, even if you fight them where they stand (assuming, of course, that your pet and its current target do not suddenly start the "positioning waltz" across a room). There are relatively few trash groups to clear, and many of the mobs are casters, which means lots of resists thanks to the pet's naturally higher-than-normal resist ratings. This means that he needs almost no heals and I can pull with no downtime aside from my own generally slow pace.

The boss fights are generally straightforward, although Broggok (the second boss) would have been a very real challenge for me to multibox at the appropriate level, since he is part of an event where you deal with four waves of mobs that come in quick succession before you engage the boss. In fact, the boss himself is a pushover, it's getting to him that can be a problem. For a level 80 hunter the only concern is making sure to grab all of the mobs in each wave before they pound a party member into mush. I am using a rhino as a pet, and they have an ability that affects multiple mobs, which makes this event even easier still.

I ran it three times for the group over the weekend. Each run took about 50 minutes from start to finish. If I was concentrating on finishing as quickly as possible, I could probably shave 15-20 minutes from that. Which is pretty good, considering that a full clear is worth about a third of a level for the alts (rested) at level 63. They got through level 62 and are 2/3rds of the way to 64 now. The only downside (and it's not really a downside) is that the loot drops have been a bit underwhelming-- two paladin librams and a few other items that I had to sell (no DE available to the group yet) such as a bow. There have been some upgrades, though. And with the changes to spell power, items that would have otherwise been vendor-fodder are still useful. Broggok drops a trinket that used to have +healing on it, and now has +spell power. So when a second one dropped, the mage or warlock was able to use it.

So... another quick trip or two and they'll be level 64 and at that point my options increase a good bit. I can continue to run BF a few times, or see how it goes in the Slave Pens, or the Underbog, or the Mana Tombs, or the Auchenai Crypts. For a short time I considered doing world quests for some gear and to pick up the quests that direct you to the instanced dungeons, but that would probably take a lot longer than just clearing them repeatedly. So that is my plan for the time being.

During the week I spent a few hours running some of the available daily quests for my hunter, as well as working on tradeskills for him and the shaman. The dailies provide reputation gains that lead to gear upgrades, as well as quite a bit of extra gold. Most dailies provide 13 gold and 23 silver, and you can do most of them in bunches of two or three. Which means that it doesn't take very long to complete ~16 dailies and walk away with more than 200 gold each day. And there are still plenty of normal quests that also provide good cash rewards at level 80 (since the experience reward gets converted to gold). 300 to 600 gold is not out of reach and not as onerous as it would seem. There will be more than enough cash to get the alts their necessary spells and their flying mounts/riding skill at level 70. In time there could even be enough to get each of them their "fast" flying riding skill, though I cringe at the thought of spending 20,000 gold all at once. But the game has made it awfully easy to accumulate gold, while at the same time making it less and less necessary to spend it! This is even more evident for a multiboxer like me-- I have every tradeskill covered by my team, so I can farm the materials and make the items I need, and sell the excess.

My plans remain just a tiny bit murky once the group is 70. With the shaman being an enchanter, she will likely be the healer for the group, leaving the priest out in the cold. But I do intend to do some outdoors questing for the group in Northrend, to help gear them up for instancing, and the priest will be the one who goes along for that. So she will level up with the group and get gear and experience from questing, while the shaman goes on instance runs. This works out in more ways than just being able to DE items. With the priest out of the group, there is less competition for cloth drops. And mail drops (even the DPS ones) would go mostly to the shaman, since the hunter is 80. In the meantime, I plan to work through Outland instances to get the team to 70 and gear them up. If the experience rate holds, it won't take very long to get them to 70.

Monday, January 05, 2009

Hellfire Ramparts, complete!

I admit I must not have been paying any attention to the group's experience levels when I left them off before I took my break. Or maybe I just figured I'd get them their level "next time." As it turns out, both the paladin and the mage were in the same boat as the warlock... a single experience point short of level 62. The priest was around 500 experience points short. In other words, the group had been a single kill from level 62 for more than two months! That was quickly rectified, then it was time to pick up where I'd left off... kinda.

The hunter is now level 80, and his stats are more than enough to deal with level 60 instanced zones. He has around 14,000 health, 7,600 mana, ~2,750 attack power, and his pet's health ranges from 8,800 to 10,200 depending on which pet I have out (the former being a level 75 cat, the latter a level 79 rhino). This is considered under-geared for the new expansion, as it seems typical for a moderately-geared hunter (ie, pre-raid gear) to have around 17,000 health and 10,000 mana. My goal with the hunter is to continue to quest with him to build up his gold (currently just under 1,100 gold, mostly due to having purchased all of his flying skills during the leveling-up period) and work on daily quests to get his gear upgrades via reputation items. But I will also be working the multiboxed team as well, looking for quests that help them get some easy rewards, as well as continuing to get them through instanced zones for most of their exp and gear.

With the hunter at 80, it makes the early Outland instances a breeze, and I decided it was time to finish up Hellfire Ramparts (see my post below on how that had gone, to date). Watchkeeper Gargolmar was an easy kill, and Omor the Unscarred was just as trivial. Vazruden and Nazan went down quickly as well, though I lost the rest of the group because I wasn't moving/healing quickly enough (actually, I was healing quickly enough, but Vazruden decided to put an end to that by quickly dispatching the priest. The rest of the group succumbed to the fireballs from Nazan). I got the group rezzed and back in time to get their final quest item and complete the "Weaken the Ramparts" quest. It's a cheap victory, but I want to get through Outland as quickly as I can, and at my pace that is going to take a while even with a level 80 hunter leading the way.

As for the priest/shaman question, for the time being I will level the priest with the group and continue to level the shaman on her own. I'm still not sure what I'll do once I'm ready for Northrend instances, though I may go with the shaman out of convenience. She'll be 80, which will make the group a bit lopsided at first (running sub-80 instances with two level 80s) but she is my only enchanter and so she'll probably be a lot more useful in instances over the long run, at least from that perspective. But it's still a bridge that I don't have to cross for a while.

Next up is the Blood Furnace! We'll see how it goes...