Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Northrend gives you wings!

At level 77, that is (unless you utilize the new option that allows your flight-capable character to purchase account-bound flying tomes for your alts). The group is level 78 now and using their 150% flying speed mounts now. The change in flight speed for the "slow" flying mount is a welcome one. The slower mount is tolerable for flying from one location to another, unlike the painfully slow 60% increase that you used to get. Most of my gathering characters have the 280% mounts, so I may not bother to get the faster speed training for the group.

It is possible that I will do so anyway, simply because there's little for the group to spend any gold on. Aside from updating spells and abilities, the costs for training flight skills were the last "need" item for them. The guild bank has close to 21,000 gold now, and a few minutes spent at the auction house each day adds between 100 and 750 gold each week. After training their level 77 skills, purchasing the cold weather flying ability, and training for level 78, the group members have between 1,500 and 1,800 gold each. The exception is the shaman, who has around 650 gold, having spent 1,000 to activate her dual-spec ability. Another exception was that I spent something like 200 or 300 gold on heavy borean leather, for reasons I'll explain below. It was probably an unnecessary expense, but it was small enough that I didn't worry about it.

I did this because I decided to run the quest line that begins when you loot a necklace near the Ebon Watch camp in Zul'Drak. Because of the nature of the quests (where you wear a disguise that will periodically drop) and the fact that they're pretty simple (and quick) to complete, I decided I would run it solo with each character. Since they are level 78, the quests are even easier and faster than they would normally be. At level 78 your aggro range is much smaller in that area, and being able to fly also saves you a lot of time. The final reward is a good upgrade for the hunters, and is not easily replaced via outdoors questing. I must admit that the quests are also a lot of fun, especially the ones where you mind-control an NPC and set it against an elite.

Anyway, the initial quest in the line requires killing some mobs the traditional way, and the resto shaman was doing so in customarily slow fashion (or at least, relatively slow compared to the hunters). Since I want to keep open the option of running a multi-shaman group in the future, getting the dual spec for her would have probably happened at some point anyway. And from now on if I want to solo her for any reason, she has an effective DPS spec for doing so, without even needing to swap out any gear.

Thus the group, with the exception of the paladin, has completed the quest line and received their rewards. I may complete the quest line with the paladin next, or wait for a later time, as his current necklace is pretty good for his tanking role. Also, running the quests on the others has brought them much closer to him in terms of experience gained, which means the group will hit their next two levels within a shorter amount of time. That probably shouldn't matter to me, but it bugs me nonetheless. However, I've been taking it a bit easier lately so I'm not sure what I'll do.

I don't think it's burnout, though I did play a lot recently as I made the push from level 75 to level 78. I used the paladin to create several pieces of crafted mail for the hunters. A number of the pieces have resilience on them, which is useless for my group. But they also contain a good amount of agility, intellect, and crit rating. This has allowed the hunters to get into the 3,000+ range in attack power and a bit more than 27% in critical strike rating. By replacing leather armor with mail armor that has intellect, they increased their mana from ~6,100 to just over 10,000. This has provided the group with a nice increase in both burst and sustained DPS. The paladin has also been using crafted tanking gear and is at ~22,000 health and just over 20,000 armor when buffed.

I even ventured to Utgarde Keep and finally completed the quest to down the first boss. This was trivial at the group's level and gear, and the boss died on the first attempt with the loss of one of the hunters, which served as a reminder to polish my healing macros. With my expenses taken care of and just two levels to go, I may start hitting the dungeons more often, mostly to clear up quests. If a usable upgrade also happens to drop, that's great too, but won't likely happen in the lower-level dungeons.

Monday, August 03, 2009

Update: Level 76, saved UC, etc etc

The team is level 76 now and still questing its way through Northrend. They completed the quest chain that leads to the quest The Battle For The Undercity. It's a very easy event to complete, since you are given massive boosts in health and damage, and as long as you stay close enough to Thrall and Sylvanas, you also get super-charged health and mana regen. As long as you do that and do not aggro any of the three bosses before Thrall engages them, you won't be at a risk of death. The bosses hit for ridiculously large amounts of damage and will flatten you in one shot. This is mostly a problem for AoE classes, which are the likeliest to inadvertently aggro a boss when it first appears on the scene.

In any event, it went off without a hitch and the group had a nice experience boost and some new boots (from one of the pre-quests) and pants.

Since then I've gone on to Grizzly Hills. I did the quests at Conquest Hold so that the group would have access to the series of ring events there, which ends when you help to kill the local commander. I have not completed the series, but I did get through the first four bosses without a wipe. The third boss had wiped my mixed group twice back when I had tried it, but he went down easy this time, as did the next one. I intend to finish those up very soon.

Grizzly Hills has a number of quest lines that end in mini-boss fights that reward you with rare-quality gear. The ring event at Conquest Hold is the first of at least three. I expect the group to level through to 78 in this zone, or very close to it. And then it's on to Zul'Drak or Sholazar Basin. I actually went to Zul'Drak to complete one quest, the one where you have to kill Ragemane, a large sea lion in a small body of water. The rewards included a selection of rare-quality tanking weapons, and my paladin walked away with a Crescent of Brooding Fury. It was a good upgrade to the common-quality axes and maces he had been using until now.

I've also been slowly raising the trade skills of the guild. This means hopping on to the earlier group's characters most of the time, but it's relatively quick. I have all of the gathering skills at maximum level. Engineering is max'ed on my blood elf hunter. My level 80 shaman has blacksmithing at 445 and enchanting at 430. Bonuss is at 425 in leatherworking. Xannee is at 421 in alchemy (and raising it by doing titanium transmutes). Cannee is at 410 in jewel crafting, and she will level the slowest because I typically only make gems as needed. But she can do the Dalaran daily and that will allow her to make some money in the meantime. Zannee is at 409 tailoring and 427 inscription. Tailoring is inevitable, as all cloth drops go to the guild bank so that she can use them. At 410 she can make Frostweave bags, which are 20-slot bags. Since most of the guild is using 16 or 18 slot bags, the Frostweave bags are a slight upgrade. So far, Zannee is the only tradeskiller who is a money drain, as both tailoring and inscription require vendor-sold materials in order to skill up. The sale of inscriptions can make that up and then some, but for the moment I only make what I need for skill ups and for the characters to use. I may take the time to do a bit of research so that she can profit from her otherwise costly tradeskill...

But other than Zannee's expenses, the guild is doing well. I rarely spend gold outside of things like repairs, spell upgrades, and riding skills. Because I have all of the tradeskills covered, I often have a diverse selection of spare materials to auction. I also have an auction alt in Orgrimmar who, armed with Auctioneer and 100 gold, has generated 4,500 gold over the last month or so. In part she's made it by auctioning items that I had been allowing to accumulate in the guild bank, and in part by buying up items listed at extremely low bids or buyouts and re-listing them at normal rates. Aside from the usual source of bargains (players who simply want to be rid of excess inventory with minimal fuss) there are a number of players who have taken to implementing an interesting strategy. They place an item (say, a stack of copper bars) up for auction with an extremely low starting bid and a buyout cost that is about 10% higher than the norm. My guess is that more often than not, these create a bidding war that ends with someone buying them out simply to spite the other bidders, unaware that he has spent more than he would have if he'd bought out one of the more "conventional" listings.

I generally bid on those once or twice, then forget about them. I am outbid on nearly all of them, of course, but enough of them filter through to make this a worthwhile way to make a small but steady profit. I know that some people's Moral Outrage Meter (MOM) will sound an alarm at the idea of re-listing items, but the opportunity is there for anyone to do it. I spend as little as 5-30 minutes a day running a quick scan, then bidding and buying and listing and re-listing. Most days the time spent is about 10 minutes. I could do this even more quickly, but I'd make less money because there are people who take advantage of careless users of Auctioneer by listing common vendor-sold items (like low level arrows, for example) at very high prices. They do not sell, of course, but an Auctioneer scan does not know this, and so the price range for these items becomes very skewed. Thus, when you do a scan to check for items that are bargains, these items show up as extremely good deals even though in reality they are grossly overpriced and will never sell. If you don't pay attention, you can get burned.

I'm making pretty good money from Titansteel bars and Frost Lotus. I had built up a small cache of them and was hoarding them as I tend to do with lots of tradeskill items. But reading the Greedy Goblin's blog reminded me that one way to "lose" money is to skip the opportunity to make more now than you would spend later. Titansteel bars are currently trading at around 130-150 gold per bar, which is way down from even a couple of months ago. By the time I would actually need a Titansteel bar, I could probably buy them from the AH for half of that. Or if I desperately needed them, I could simply create them myself again. This is even more true for the Frost Lotus, which is used in flasks that are best for raiding, which I doubt I'll be doing anytime soon. In the meantime, the bars that I have are generating a nice cash flow instead of just sitting in the bank and taking up space. I've started doing the same with other items, which is why I'm a few thousand richer with only a small additional time investment.

In any event, cash is not a problem. Each member of the current group has between 2,400 and 2,600 gold from outdoors questing. They have not bought any of their flying skills or mounts, as I continue to wait for the next patch, which will lower the costs. The guild bank recently passed the 18,000 gold mark. I can't see where I'll be spending any money aside from spell upgrades as they level and the occasional gear item from a rep vendor. I guess the lesson is that the best time to stockpile gold is when you have nothing to spend it on. Instead of scrambling to build up my funds in an emergency, I hardly even notice that it is accumulating. Each day the auction alt makes anywhere from 25-500 gold, and the group members make a few dozen from quest rewards. Or as the saying goes, a few gold here and a few gold there, and pretty soon you're talking real (fake) money.

Edit: I just checked, and the amount of money the auction alt has made is closer to 6,000 gold over a bit less than a month's time. Not a bad haul for the relatively small time investment.