Quitting raiding and not quitting raiding

I’ve decided that I’m done with raiding in Legion. At least, srs bsns raiding. And for once, it isn’t due to drama!

This all came about because I am super bored of Antorus, and if I never have to step foot in there again, it will be too soon. I’m also frustrated with healing, of feeling like I never measure up to the other healers in the raid. Finally, I just want my Monday and Tuesday nights back.

When the raid leaders announced on Monday that we were teaming with the guild Light Brigade to try mythic Antorus, and that everyone interested should sign up, my reaction was just…. ughhhh. Matt was gung-ho about it, though, so I felt like I should want to do it. And as a healer, I feel a little bit more dedicated to showing up to these things than I was when I was maining a dps. (Although LB has plenty of healers of their own, so there’s no real shortage). I had some internal conflict about this, but wiping all night on Felhounds (we’d already downed Garothi) sounded about as much fun as cutting my eyes out with a spork, so that decided me.

So I spent much of Tuesday night journaling and writing, and Matt spent it wiping on mythic Garothi and Felhounds. I’m fine with this division of labor.

All that said? Monday night’s raid, before I’d made my decision, was pretty great. We decided to do a “role reversal” raid, where everyone was asked to play a role they don’t usually play. Since I most commonly heal or do ranged dps, I brought my druid Wodehouse as tank, with the other tank being Gylm/Malefic on his druid Elwindar. Matt came as Aulfilde, his monk, in healing spec instead of tank, and Mel (who usually heals) came on her mage Menw. Zal was back, playing his warlock (!!!), and other folks mixed it up as appropriate. Then we jumped into normal Antorus.

It was… a little anxiety provoking, at first? I kept apologizing for everything. When we wiped on normal Garothi (due to too many healers down and light dps), I blamed myself, even though I had almost nothing to do with it.

But I warmed to the role by the time raid time ended, and in total we ended up clearing through Imonar.

Some observations:

On Garothi, I’ve learned why it is that the tanks always go out of range just when they most need healing (Fel Bombardment)! I was a little worried, but hey, Frenzied Regeneration was maaaade for that.

“Do tanks run out for Eradication?”
Gylm: “Yes.”
Zal: “No.”
… well, okay, then.

The two of us, in bear form, are standing on the hill above Felhounds. Gylm’s got whatever artifact appearance makes him red and surrounded in bone armor; I’ve got the blue-ish tint of the baseline artifact appearance.
“I call Not It on fire dog,” I say.
“Well, I was going to suggest we go by coloration, anyway.”

It was good to have another druid tank; we could compare notes on many things. “Just for reference, do you use Rage of the Sleeper to avoid the fire dog fear?”

Soooo many bosses that cleave. Never realized how much I would have to be aware of that taunt asterisk and gtfo to avoid getting stacks of something or other. Fucked this up a couple of times on High Command and Imonar, I’m sure. Also discovered the fun bug whereby sometimes taunt doesn’t work on the High Command bosses.

Just in general, I feel like tanking requires a whole different level of awareness. For example, I have terrible awareness of where on the game map everyone is; as a healer or dps, mostly I just need to know if stuff is in or out of range. But I actually need to be aware of the other tank’s position quite a bit of the time.

Crossing between Imonar’s platforms is so much easier when you’re not stuck at the back of the pack, dispelling everyone who was hapless enough to step in a trap!
“When’s the taunt swap on phase 3?”
“There isn’t one. You taunt when I die.”

“I don’t bother fixing my mogs when I’m in bear form all the time,” I say, “But:” *shift out of bear form, shift from worgen to human*
Bree looks at my mog — which includes things like leather straps across my chest and big furry paws for the Claws of Ursoc — and says, “Oh, Sil,” with a tone of dismay.
“That’s not even that bad,” Matt points out. “You got rid of the booty shorts.”
Gylm points out, “But Sil, don’t you know that a good mog improves your tanking ability?”

When we’re wiping on Portal Keeper, and only the tanks remain:
“Shadowmeld, shadowmeld!” Zal yells.
“Not a night elf,” I remind him.
“Oh yeah, you’re that smelly wet dog.”

Ultimately? It was fun to try this new twist on something I’ve done a zillion times. But I’m still going to step away until BfA comes out.

My thoughts on the leveling changes in WoW 7.3.5

On Tuesday, WoW rolled out a huge game-changing feature — most zones now scale to the player.

To be a little bit more precise:

The vanilla zones generally scale from whatever their original starting level was to 60. (So Duskwood, instead of being 20-30, is now 20-60). Starter zones like Elwynn Forest or Bloodmyst Isle scale to 20.

At 60, you can choose to go to either Outland or Northrend, or a mix of both — all these zones scale from 60-80.

At 80, you can choose to do Cataclysm or Pandaria content — all these zones scale from 80-90.

The Draenor zones scale 90-100.

The Broken Isles still scale 100-110 exactly like they did before.

(More details on Icy Veins).

The less-anticipated part of this change was: the amount of XP required for each level was increased, and the health of mobs was increased to 300-400% that of the player. Heirloom gear was made less powerful (in terms of primary and secondary stats), and playing Random Dungeon Roulette through the group finder is no longer the fastest way to level.

As you might imagine, player reaction to these changes is all over the map. Some people are convinced this makes it impossible to reach “the real game” (i.e. endgame, what you do at 110); that this is a scheme by evil Blizzard to get people to buy character boosts. And then on the exact opposite end, some folks like how it hearkens back to classic, where leveling was occasionally challenging! Where players communicated with each other! Where you learned how to play, because not everything fell over when you looked at it! Where people used CC and didn’t pull the entire dungeon at once! Where the men were men and the sheep were all Defias bandits…

… er, I lost track of that metaphor somewhere.

ANYWAY. All this prompted me to do my own research. I only have three characters at max level, so there are a goodly number of classes I still need to level. My “research” was done on two different characters. Both are decked out in heirlooms (I even have the fishing tournament ring!) Previous to 7.3.5, they leveled largely by doing random dungeons through the LFG tool; after the change, exclusively via quests.

(I appreciate this is not exactly comparing apples to apples, but by all accounts leveling in dungeons is no longer the fastest way to level).

My first “research assignment”

… was a fire mage who was 47 when the changes rolled out. I had leveled her to about 20 through questing, and after that with a mix of quests and dungeons, when I could get them (queues being what they are for dps classes). Honestly most of her playtime has been sitting in Stormwind disenchanting stuff for my other toons!

When 7.3.5 rolled out, I started by heading to Eastern Plaguelands grabbing one of the Fiona caravan quests. Along the way I run into plaguebats… who are my level, and who no longer melt as soon as I look at them. I used to be able to kill these guys with a single Fireball and Fire Blast. Now? I pretty much have to unload my whole arsenal into them — and if I grab more than one, things get hairy.

I’m soon perfecting the Fireball-from-max-range, Fireball, Frost Nova, Blink and turn, Fireball, Dragon’s Breath for the disorient, Fireball (plus hope for a crit, Fire Blast, Pyroblast) rotation. Which… is basically fire mage right there. (Though… with not really enough crit to make it work properly).

So I guess you could say that I’m learning my rotation better than I did when it was “what spells can I cast before this thing dies?” And I like that. I like feeling like leveling has danger.

I also like that I’m experiencing the story of EPL before I level out of it. I am making a point of reading the quest descriptions, of listening to the banter between Fiona and Gidwin and Taeranar. I’m eager to see where this blood elf/dwarf paladin bromance will go. This feels like how the zones were intended to be experienced — as a story, with a beginning, middle, and end, rather than a story that cuts off in the middle when you realize you’re not getting any XP from mob kills any more. I imagine if I’d done this a million times before, I’d feel differently, but given my odd playing history, I’ve never gotten to finish post-Cata EPL before!

But… at the end of the day, it’s just slower. I don’t have precise numbers for this character, but I played for several hours and still didn’t get her to 50, which was my goal. (So that she could at least learn the next level of enchanting!) So that was disappointing — like suddenly I’m leveling through molasses, when yesterday I was zipping around.

As an aside, I played more during vanilla than I did at any other time in the history of WoW. As a result I recall exactly what vanilla was like, and I have very little nostalgia for it. And this? This feels like vanilla soloing as a clothie.

(Granted, with the benefit of a lot of the conveniences that have been introduced since then, i.e. better quest placement, better drop rates, more than one graveyard per zone, a toy that gives you all the flight paths, more bag space, etc).

More research was necessary

My next character, a prot pally, was 45 when the changes hit. I play her beside my husband’s second monk (pandaren, not dwarf, this time). I had soloed her through the draenei starting zones up until 15; then we had pretty much chain-queued random dungeons as a tank and healer up until 45. After 7.3.5, we decided to hit up Duskwood, since I remembered liking that zone in vanilla, and I hadn’t done more than a few quests there since Cata.

First of all, this was easier than leveling my fire mage — because I had twice the damage thanks to my pocket monk, and because melee damage tends to be front-loaded. By the time slow pally catches up to less-slow monk, a single Avenger’s Shield and Judgment was usually enough to finish things off.

Second thing I noticed — Darkshire was inhabited again.

Like there were people of all levels wandering about.

Questing. In the world.

Not endlessly queuing random dungeons.

This is so bloody rare in this era of the game. The only time I remember running into other players when I was leveling my last 110 was in Outland, which still retained a lot of this feel, even pre-7.3.5. (And which was miiiiiiiserable). Some random dude actually messaged my husband to ask how he had the monk class mount (that is awarded at the end of the Legionfall campaign, at 110) on his level 45 monk. (At which he had to explain his main is monk, too).

However… the slowness of eeeeeeverything was starting to wear on me here. I wanted to read the Legend of Stalvan quest text; I remembered it being really neat in vanilla, and it apparently didn’t change much in Cata. But my eyes would just keep glazing over and honestly I couldn’t tell you anything about it today except that there were some slashed letters in a worgen camp.

And if they are going to return to the classic speed of leveling? By god, they need to fix the drop rates on some of these quests. I did not need to spend an hour searching for six Dusky Lumps. (Although without this we might not have started singing “my lovely spider lumps,” to the tune of a certain Black Eyed Peas song. Which, yanno, is Something).

As for a more objective assessment: when I hit 46 after turning in a bunch of quests at the end of the evening, my /played time for that character was 11.5 hours, with one hour of that being at level 45. My fast and loose napkin math (assuming all levels take equal time, which isn’t entirely accurate) is that leveling time has increased from 14 mins per level to one hour per level.

Four times slower. That’s… a bit absurd.

In conclusion

Leveling unquestionably takes much longer now, and I don’t know how I feel about it. Sometimes it feels fun and yet challenging; sometimes it’s just tedious. I imagine for new players, it may be more compelling, but for more experienced players who want another 110, Right Now, it will be annoying. I’m not hurting for cash, so if I really need another character to be 110 Right the Hell Now, I suspect it’s a problem I will throw $60 at. Maybe that’s intentional.

Also I will like this change SO MUCH MORE when I get to 60 and realize I never ever have to see Outland ever again.

I also suspect that this will be tuned in some way. There’s another big maintenance coming tomorrow; maybe some changes will roll out with that. At the very least maybe I will stop dying in raid due to Portal Keeper Hasabel’s endlessly flashing beam of death.

KOTN does Antorus the Burning Throne

The new WoW raid tier — the final raid in Legion, unless Blizz does a bamboozle — came out last week, and my guild (Knights of the Night, US-Duskwood/Bloodhoof-Alliance) was there!

Right now we’ve downed everything on Normal difficulty but Argus the Unmaker (the final boss); we probably would have gotten him this week if we extended our lockout. But our philosophy right now is kinda “after this there’s probably going to be a content drought until the next expansion,” so we’re in no particular hurry.

So, observations:

– We got the server-first kill of Garothi Worldbreaker (the first boss) on Normal. This is not a particularly notable accomplishment; it just reflects that we raid on Tuesday night. We have since been surpassed by most of the heroic raiding guilds that update their stats to warcraftlogs (and the one mythic raiding guild on our server).

– On Felhounds of Sargeras, this exchange happened:

“They’re good dogs, Illidan.”
“But are these puppers, doggos, or woofers?”
“The purple one is a doggo, and the other one is a woofer, clearly”
“Apologies for asking such an obvious question.”

– Also the Felhounds make noises that remind me of the hounds in Don’t Starve.

– I wonder how many groups have wiped to the SURPRISE BOSS that spawns right in front of a teleporter.

– Eonar’s tower defense game is kinda fun. “Did she just invite us to walk through her legs to her grove?”

– Our tanks haaaaate Varimathras — since basically their job is to STAND ABSOLUTELY STILL, occasionally taunt, and become unhealable for 7 seconds at a time. We had a few awkward wipes at first, as they worked to get the positioning right; now it’s just a boring tank and spank.

(I didn’t believe the Fatboss guides when they called it a “Patchwerk-style fight”; those don’t exist any more, really. But while it does have SOME mechanics, if you’re not a tank your job is basically to move between two spots on the floor and heal or dps. If you’re not a melee dps, that’s pretty much all you need to worry about on Normal).

– “I guess we’re all just disappointed that Varimathras wasn’t Jaina.” “So Blizz made this fight even more disappointing?”

– On the contrary, our tanks looooove the Aggramar fight, mostly due to the wacky Taeshalach maneuver.

– Compared to Mistress Sasszine’s fishy death laser in Tomb, Hasabel’s distinctly non-fishy death laser is inferior.

– The Torment of Norgannon in the Coven of Shivarra fight has been dubbed “creepy old man wall.”

Almost Glorious: Notes on a Nearly-Irrelevant Legion Raid Achievement

This post was penned over the course of the last few months. Most of these achievements were done before the Tomb of Sargeras raid came out, which trivialized a lot of these. But we just completed the Krosus and Gul’dan ones this week, so I decided to finish this post, in case there’s anyone out there who still hasn’t done it.

While we were waiting for Tomb to come out, my WoW guild (Knights of the Night, US Duskwood/Bloodhoof – Alliance), began trying for the Glory of the Legion Raider achievement, which involves doing several finicky things during various boss fights in the Emerald Nightmare and Nighthold raids.

For some background, this was largely done by KoTN’s heroic raiding group, which raids Mon/Tues and usually fields 10-15 raiders. We’re not terrible at this (there’s a guild name, right there), but we’re also not hardcore progression, either — we only just downed heroic Kil’jaeden last week, and we spend more time making terrible puns than we do reading strategy guides. We did this over several sessions, with a varying group each time; speaking for myself, most achievements were done pre-Tomb, and the final two (Krosus and Gul’dan in NH) were done post-Tomb.

Emerald Nightmare

Most of these were done over the course of one Monday raid night. We skipped some parts because we already had them; i.e. everyone had the Ursoc achievement, and a lot of people had the Cenarius one or most of it.

Nythendra, “Buggy Fight.” Here you have squish fifteen of these glowing gold bugs that pop up only during the Heart of the Swarm phase (where she sucks up all the poison she’s thrown down). There are only four bugs per phase, which means you need there to be four Heart of the Swarmp phases — possibly five, if you happen to miss one of the bugs. (Which we did).

The hardest part, for a heroic NH-geared guild, was keeping her alive long enough to get five phases, without hitting her enrage timer. We literally had twenty seconds after the fifth Heart of the Swarm to kill her before she enraged. Fun!

Ironically, the other afflic lock and I were like, “Wait, we need to do less damage? Okay, I’m switching to destro for this fight.” I dunno about my pal Malefic, but I haven’t been Destro since just after 7.1.5, and at that point I hadn’t even upgraded my Destro artifact for 7.2, so it was… entertaining.

Ursoc, “Scare Bear.” We’d all done the achievement before, so we skipped it this time. It involves rescuing an NPC and keeping him alive for the whole Ursoc fight.

Dragons of Nightmare, “Imagined Dragons World Tour.” This one is kind of fussy, but in a fun way. Every member of your raid needs to go through EVERY one of the four portals to different parts of the world and pick up a buff from glowing green wisps. You then have to kill the dragons while everyone has all four buffs.

It really helps to have three tanks here — two do the normal tank-swap mechanic, and one to run through the portals with everyone else. The runner then swaps in as the first two tanks need to pick up the buff. Unfortunately, one of our usual tanks was away for this, so we had one main tank (my husband Matt’s pally, Marrais), a druid who usually heals but at least had her Guardian artifact (Bree), and a frost DK with a taunt (Anieros). It was super messy. Mar ended up asleep due to the stacking debuffs. But we overgear it enough it didn’t matter, and we got the achiev.

Next up, everyone’s favorite spiderbird, Elerethe Renferal, with “Webbing Crashers.” This one was a PAIN in the ASS — but at least a pain in the ass that we resolved in two tries. Basically you need to break seven “pulsating egg sacs” during the fight.

Easy enough, right? Except most of the eggs are in hard to get to places; at least two are on platforms you can only get to with the feathers Spiderbird drops in her bird form — and that there’s no safe return from.

Oh, and if you accidentally break an egg before the fight? You have to pull, wipe, and reset.

We would have loved a demon hunter here, for Glide; instead we had feathers, failed Demonic Circles, and suicidal DKs who saved the day. (How thematically appropriate).

At the end, only two people were up — Matt, and the other afflic lock. “Don’t worry,” someone pointed out. “Malefic does more dps alone than we did when we first took down this boss.”

And indeed, we managed.

Il’gynoth, aka spooky tentacle tree, was up next, with “Took the Red Eye Down.” You have to kill twenty slimes within a small period of time on top of the eye. I was concerned about afflic lock cleave from Soulflame killing the slimes before we’d gathered twenty, but it didn’t turn out to be much of a problem. The hardest part was counting them!

Cenarius, “Use the Force(s).” The achievement can’t be done in one go; you have to NOT cleanse each potential group of adds. We all looked at our achievement progress and it seemed like the only group we hadn’t gotten already was the wisps. (Because fuck those Twisted Sisters).

So we pulled Cenarius to the back of the room, where there was NO CHANCE of anyone accidentally voting to cleanse the wisps, and then fought whatever else came out. (I think we got cleansed dragons). It went super fast. There wasn’t even time for a tank swap in the second phase.

Xavius, “I Attack the Darkness.” Ahahahaha. This achievement. It was a mess. Remember how I said we didn’t have any DHs in the group? Yeah. That was relevant.

So what you basically have to do is: in every one of Xavius’ three phases, someone has to wander off into the darkness, find an invisible add, pull it back to the group, and kill it. The video we watched ahead of time joked that the way you do this achievement is, you start on your main, wander around in the darkness finding nothing, then give up. Then you pop on your demon hunter, use Spectral Sight to find it, attack it with Throw Glaive, and pull it back to the group.

Literally. You need a demon hunter for this. A hunter’s Flare doesn’t work, or any of the other abilities you think might. As our druid healer Tyrwll (my pal Mel) said, “Well… I guess this is the demon hunter expansion.”

Luckily Matt has a demon hunter tank, too — though massively undergeared, never having seen the inside of a raid or M+ dungeon. So he logged on Syladia, his DH.

First problem. Throw Glaive no longer works to grab the add. You have to use your taunt. Which is on a cooldown. It took us a good long time to figure that out, all the while our other tank going insane.

That got us through the first two phases. Then… the third phase. It should work the same, but see, phase three is when those Nightmare Tentacles come out, spewing poison throughout the room. The DoT kept breaking him out of Spectral Sight.

Yeah, we wiped a lot there, because it was basically impossible for him to grab the add, and everyone else was going insane…

So then we decided that if one demon hunter wasn’t enough, two was better. Our other afflic lock logged on with his, and about that time, our other main tank — who happens to main a demon hunter! — showed up. Three! Three demon hunters, did the trick.

(Though really, Matt claims, finding the add before the Nightmare Tentacles spawned was the trick).

So yeah, that was a trash fire, but we got it done.

One thing I will say is: I learned a lot about the mechanics of the various fights, doing these crazy Emerald Nightmare achievements. I came to Legion late, and only saw a bit of EN before Nighthold came out, so there were a lot of fights where I only had the vaguest idea of what was going on. I don’t think I’d fully understood, say, how voting for the cleansed adds on Cenarius worked before, or what spawned Il’gynoth’s slimes, or what you were supposed to do with killing the adds in Xavius phase two (apparently you have to soak the nightmare goo when they die, or they respawn?)


Then we moved on to Nighthold achievements! (Because Mel/Tyrwll, who was leading the achievements run, decided she would rather punch herself in the face repeatedly than do the ToV achievements, especially the Guarm one, and they’re not needed for Glory of the Legion Raider anyway). Here’s how these went.

Skorpyron, “Cage Match.” You have to kill him while staying within the ring at the center of the room. (Not the tiny inner one; the larger outer one). This means no one can fuck up Shockwave and get thrown back into the adds. Also you have to be careful which crystals you stand behind for Shockwave, because some spawn outside this area. But other than that, it was not too hard, and we got it on the first try.

Chronomatic Anomaly, “Grand Opening.” This one is, oddly enough, an achievement that you probably want to do in heroic. Remember those Time Bombs that you don’t want to explode in melee?

Yeah. Now you want to explode them in melee.

Specifically, you want to explode a Time Bomb on every one of the blue circles along the boss’ path. When you successfully do this, it gets a little hard-to-see spotlight effect to show that it’s done.

The reason for doing this in heroic is because you just get more Time Bombs to work with before you hit his enrage timer. We weren’t able to complete this until we tried it on heroic.

Trilliax, “Gluten Free.” I would wager everyone has this already. It involves not eating the Toxic Slices he throws around the room, so pretty much every group probably has this already from their first derpy try at the boss. I know we did.

Spellblade Aluriel, “A Change in Scenery.” This one requires three kills, at least. Being one of the few bosses that can be kited out of her usual spot in the instance, this achievement involves killing Aluriel in different remote places in the dungeon — specifically Star Augur Etraeus’ tower, Krosus’ bridge, and Botanist Telarn’s garden.

The first part is easy — as soon as you step into the building where Star Augur is (next to Aluriel’s patrol path), you’re considered to be in Astromancer’s Rise. So you can just clear the trash and pull her a short distance. That one is only difficult because it’s an enclosed area, and finding a spot to stand that is not detonating arcane orbs and not in front of Annihilate can be tough.

Killing her on Krosus’ bridge is tough for a different reason. It’s distant, which is a pain — part of the achievement is you have to kill Aluriel within two minutes of engaging her. Also when you drop down to Krosus’ bridge, you can’t get back up without killing him. But after you’ve killed him, there won’t be much bridge left to fight Aluriel on.

The way we solved this is to have everybody but the locks (we have two) and one other person jump down, kill the summoner trash before Krosus, and then have the locks summon a tank and a healer back up. The tank and the healer go grab the boss — we picked our most mobile tank (DH) and healer (druid). (Or post-Tomb, just let a healer and a tank hang around upstairs while trash is cleared).

Of course the annoying bit was that it’s very possible for the healer to get Mark of Frost and die to umpteen stacks of Frostbitten right before reaching the bridge. Buuut aside from that hurried battle rez, it went pretty smoothly.

Oh, also, be careful with Searing Brand, lest it kick you back into Krosus’ toxic pee.

Next you have to kill Aluriel in Botanist’s arboretum. Distance is the biggest obstacle here, too, as well as the LOADS AND LOADS of trash to clear along the way. (We joked that many of the Nighthold achievements came down to KILL ALL THE TRASH). You can just kill Botanist normally and then pull Aluriel back to his doom-tree-under-glass. Again our healer got Marked, but this time we were ready for it, and avoided any premature deaths.

Star Augur Etraeus, “Elementalry!” This perhaps one of the most entertaining ones. Remember how at the back of Aluriel’s courtyard, there’s an imprisoned nether elemental? (That you probably killed once, and then never bothered with again, because why would you?) You have to free that guy, drag him up to Astromancer’s Rise (yes, all the way, this time), and then have him survive to the third phase of the Star Augur fight. When the elemental’s nameplate turns to “Well-Traveled Nether Elemental,” then it’s safe to kill him.

The hard part here is cleave: warlocks do cleave that they can’t turn off (Soulflame), DH tanking has a lot of cleave, and our DK cries when he can’t use Breath of Sindragosa. Basically we ended up having to keep the elemental banished throughout the whole fight.

In the process we learned: I suck at banish rotations.

(The second time we did this — on our way to do the Krosus and Gul’dan achievs — I just let Malefic handle the banishing. And our DK is now a fire mage, so 😉 )

But! We finished, and got the achievement.

Krosus, “Burning Bridges.” We didn’t get this one on our first trip — it involves letting fifteen of the Burning Pitch elementals die by dropping off the edge of the bridge when Krosus does his Slam. We only had eight raiders on achievement night, and since the number of Burning Pitch is dependent on the size of the raid, there just weren’t enough elementals to get that.

Also keeping those things alive hurts, even on normal. Tyr’s comment, trying to heal through that, was “Well, that was bracing.”

When we finally did this, we had 15 or so raiders, and we did it on heroic (where a minimum of six Burning Pitch will spawn each time). We also kept a couple of folks at the back killing the elementals that would never get dropped off the bridge. We also had like five healers, and were heroic Tomb-geared.

Tichondrius, “Not For You.” This is a personal achievement — it involves not taking any damage from Echoes of the Void, i.e. actually standing behind the pillars during this ability. During our initial run, everyone already had the achievement; when we went back there post-Tomb, we attempted to get it for the one person who didn’t have it (my husband on Mar), but we forgot that whole thing where each pillar only takes so much damage before it’s destroyed, and he ended up failing it. Womp womp. But another simple run through should be enough…

Elisande, “Infinitesimal.” This achievement is trivially easy — assuming someone in your raid has the Infinite Whelpling pet from Caverns of Time. You summon it during the fight, and eventually Elisande turns it against you (being the mistress of all things time-magic-related, I guess) and you have to kill it. As it turns out, two of our raiders had the pet, so we had two infinite whelplings betraying us!

Botanist Tel’arn, “The Fruit of All Evil.” This one was done as part of a separate alt run. It involves every member of the raid eating one of the “mysterious fruits” lying on the ground in his arboretum. (Continuing the trend for NH achievements, you have to clear a lot of trash in order to get to enough fruit to feed your raid). You then have to keep the debuff from the fruit on you through the end of the encounter, i.e. no one can die during the encounter.

These fruits do one of three weird effects every so often — a stun, a knockback, or summoning a hallucinatory beast that only you can see and attack. So yeah, imagine the craziness of the Botanist fight, only with 100% more wackiness.

The hardest part was surviving the fight with everyone alive, especially given that we were carrying a lot of undergeared toons for this run. We had a few wipes to reset it, but eventually succeeded.

Gul’dan, “I’ve Got My Eyes on You.” Kill sixteen Eyes of Gul’Dan within three seconds? HAHAHAHA NOPE.

Or at least that was what we said until we were sufficiently Tomb-geared, i.e. last week. We tried it first on heroic — because you get four eyes per phase on heroic instead of two, so you need to hold out for fewer replications — but the healing was too intense there, even with our shiny 920-ish gear. Also having dreadlords occasionally dropping from the sky makes things a bit tougher.

Finally we did it on normal, letting it replicate WAY MORE TIMES than we actually needed before saying “go!” Then we annihilated them.

As a note, we found we didn’t need to weaken the eyes beforehand, as there was enough unavoidable cleave going out in our party. Your mileage may vary, based on your raid team.

And that’s it! I now have the Grove Defiler pet, which is an evil moose that disappointingly does not fly:

Credit: Hilox on Wowhead

We were kinda prepared: KotN does Black Temple timewalking

Credit: Wowhead

This week in WoW was Burning Crusade Timewalking — that event where we all go back in time and do those dungeons we haven’t done in years, for updated loot and badges to buy cool stuff. And recently they introduced a new feature to BC timewalking: timewalking Black Temple!

For those of you who don’t remember May 2007, Black Temple was probably the most famous raid of WoW’s first expansion, The Burning Crusade. Much of the expansion revolved around Illidan Stormrage’s betrayal of the Alliance and Horde, siding with demons of the Burning Legion. This plot culminated with fighting him as the final boss in Black Temple.

… okay, okay, you could also say it culminated in Sunwell, which was the final raid of the xpac, but thematically? I’d say BT was much more where it was at. Let’s not forget that the catchphrase for the entire expansion was Illidan’s “YOU ARE NOT PREPARED” line from his Black Temple RP.

(WoW’s most recent expansion, Legion, has attempted to redeem Illidan and make him a hero again. Apparently he was in deep cover, and honestly, he did it all for the Greater Good ™, guys? Many fans remain unconvinced; regardless, this is why we have a demon hunter class now, and it’s also why Illidan’s hanging around on the Broken Shore helping the PCs and having unbelievable UST with Maiev).

For a little personal history, in 2007 I had come back to WoW for the second time, transferred from Proudmoore to Thrall, and did some suuuuuuuuper casual raiding — we cleared Karazhan, but that was about all. (Keep in mind, this was in the days before flex raids, when you needed exactly X number of people, where X was usually 20 or 40). Then there was guild drama and I quit again for a while.

The long and short was, I never saw BT while it was current content. Actually, I never saw it at all until a couple of weeks ago, when I decided I needed some Malefic (warlock tier 6) pieces to go with my Diabolic (warlock T20) pieces, since they are similar models.

So! When they announced you could go back and do BT as timewalking content, with re-tuned encounters and gear (because no one has shadow resist any more, everyone has artifact weapons, and tanks can be one of six different classes now) I was SO EXCITE, guys. I was even more excited when our raid leads announced that instead of progressing current content on Tuesday, we’d be doing BT.

(Obligatory shoutout to my guild: Knights of the Night, Alliance, US Duskwood/Bloodhoof! Which, lbr, is mostly composed of my real life friends at this point).

We had a larger group than usual on Tuesday. The TW version of BT introduced an achievement you could get if you a) already had the Warglaives of Azzinoth legendaries from BT, b) had a demon hunter, c) defeated Illidan in TW BT. This achievement apparently unlocks the ability to use the Warglaives for transmog purposes, which everyone wanted. As a result, we brought along several folks that don’t normally raid with us — in addition to our usual DH raid lead and tank, Zallak, well-known Illidan fanboy.

(My pal Pickle, raiding with us on his boomkin Morfessa, commented to this effect: “It’s nice to see so many Illidari who recognize their master is off his rocker and something needs to be done about him.”)

(For strategies for the re-tuned bosses, we pretty much used this guide, complete with silly art)

Some random quotes and moments:

Fighting Naj’entus
“We’re in dark days of encounter design here… no tank swaps, no movement, just tank and spank.”
“Did we all install our threat meters?”
“Remember to wait for five Sunder Armors, guys.” (Even better because we had no warriors!)

In Supremus‘ courtyard, Zallak says, “Hey Mar… are your taunts working?”
My husband Matt (who was actually playing his monk Aulfilde, not his pally Marrais for once) replies with, “Noooooooope.”
Me: “It’s because neither of you existed back then.”
Zallak: “Hey, I existed, I was just on the wrong side!”

Then our mage Magos (formerly known as our DK Anieros) pointed out that maaaaybe taunts weren’t working was because the tanks weren’t hit-capped — spell hit was a big Thing back in TBC. I… would not be surprised if this was the case. (Incidentally a lot of our interrupts just weren’t working, even on abilities that seemed like they should be interruptable).

Shade of Akama. We wipe and have to reset the encounter because someone (probably not on Discord) started it before we were ready. “What part of DON’T TALK TO AKAMA did you miss?”

Teron Gorefiend… “The original death knight!”

Pickle reminded us all that there used to be a Flash game where you could practice the Shadow of Death mechanic without wiping the raid.

“So literally… you have to kill him before he kills your entire raid.”

“This boss destroyed guilds…”

Reliquary of Souls, phase two…
“Just do slow and steady damage” (because he does damage proportional to how much damage you do)
“I’m an afflic lock, slow and steady is all I do.”

We compared notes about how old we were when TBC came out and what we were playing. Zallak was probably the youngest of us — he was twelve at the time. “Twelve and raiding Sunwell… what the hell was I doing?” Then he concluded, “Oh, who am I kidding? I was a resto shaman; I had a guaranteed spot, and all I had to do was spam Chain Heal.”

Gurtogg Bloodboil… my pal Mel, on her resto druid Tyrwll, excitedly points out to our tanks, “Look, there’s a TANK SWAP, guys!”

Remember when trash sucked?… I’m not convinced they did much to re-tune the trash in here. The Sisters of Pain and Pleasure before Mother Shahraz could basically one-shot our melee dps, because their reflect of an auto-attack swing was their entire scaled-to-70 health pool.

Very disappointed to see that the Den of Mortal Delights was lacking an exotic gnome concubine. Elisande has one up on Illi-chan, there.

We take a break before Mother Shahraz; people pull out toys. I use my Orb of a Sin’dorei and suddenly my gnome is transformed into a blood elf who looks like he just discovered facial hair. “Hey, my fake blood elf has the world’s tiniest soul patch!”

Mel: “But why are you a dude?”
Me: “… because my toon is a dude? Like yours?”
Mel: “Oh, right. Dammit, all gnomes look alike.”
Someone else: “Dude, that’s racist.”

Illidari Council. “And the guy on the left, the rogue… I guess he does nothing special.”
“He’s a rogue? He looks like a confused shirtless warlock to me.”

Pausing outside of Illidan’s room:
“Okay, let’s explain this fight.”
“But I thought we were supposed to not be prepared?”

Waiting for our DH contingent to take screenshots with Illi-chan before started the encounter. Gnomes jumping up and down in front of Zallak to ruin his screenshot.

Zallak doing the /sorry emote before starting the encounter.

Illidan ends his RP with “You are not prepared!” and Mel squeals, “HE SAID THE THING HE SAID THE THING.”

Two wipes when one of the Flames of Azzinoth decided to just switch targets randomly, move from the glaives, and enrage.

Finally got him on the third try. No warglaives, but he drops [Stormrage Signet Ring] for Zallak. Pickle says, “Hey Zallak…. sempai noticed you.”

My overall impression? Timewalking BT was a weird blend of old and new mechanics, with a heavy frosting of nostalgia. I was so hyped and full of love for my guildies afterwards that I couldn’t get to sleep for another hour. Highly recommended.

… also now I kind of wish they would do the same thing for Icecrown Citadel in Northrend, another raid I didn’t get to see when it was current.

I Returned to Azeroth and All I Was This Soul-Reaping Scythe

As I alluded to elseweb, ESO became unfun.

To be precise, with the rollout of the Dark Brotherhood expansion the combat design team basically decided to double down on the “party roles? who needs ’em!” design strategy. While some people may think “wow, cool, they’re trying to break up the holy trinity of tank/heals/dps, how innovative,” the upshot in actual play was that being a build that was focused on anything BUT DPS pretty much sucked, because every fight was a dps race. I was grumbly because I never got to heal, Matt was VERY GRUMBLY because tanks were basically irrelevant, and rather than continue to piss uphill, he decided to disengage. I continued to play for a while, but ultimately it’s not as much fun without him. (Though I do miss my awesome ESO guildies).

We both puttered around with non-MMO games for a while. I built and played around a bit with my Giant Modded Skyrim game, and spent a bunch of time with Sunless Sea. Matt sampled Beyond Earth and Stellaris.

But at the end of the day, we like playing together and with a team, and MMOs are really the only games that allow us to do that.

This past month, Legion, the newest expansion to World of Warcraft, came out. I’d been hearing a lot of good things from my friends who still play. In particular, my pal who works at Blizzard, Skye, made the comment that they had done some really innovative things and that now was a better time to come back than ever.

As some of you will recall, I played WoW in YESTERYEAR — basically from release in 2004 until Wrath of the Lich King, in 2009. I’ve, at times, had some horrid experiences; I left in 2009 because of harassment in a raiding guild I was in.

I’ve also had a lot of fun and good memories — usually my real-life friends are involved in those stories.

At one point I was sure I’d never play again, largely because I wasn’t convinced I could control how much I played. It was no exaggeration to say I was addicted at one point in time.

Of course, in the intervening years I’ve played SWTOR and ESO, two other MMOs which have many of the same addictive aspects, and managed to maintain the veneer of a responsible adult 🙂 I even went back to WoW for a period of time during Mists of Pandaria (2013?), for about a month or so, before getting bored again leveling through Cataclysm content. Combined, this led me to believe I could play responsibly again. So when I suggested, “maybe we should go back to WoW,” I wasn’t half-joking.

When I started playing, I opted to transfer my old main, gnome warlock Silbuns, from Aegwynn (a PvP server, where we had moved during our 2013 stint) to Duskwood, following Mel and Will, who are probably some of my most hardcore WoW fanatic friends. Matt followed suit, copying over Marrais, his old paladin.

When last we left them, Sil and Marrais were level 82 and stuck in Deepholm, one of the Cataclysm zones. I needed to pick up from there, and learn to play an Affliction lock again.

I probably looked something like this

My god, the game has changed. I mean, I thought it had changed when I played briefly in Pandaria. Transmog, pet battles, new races, the new starting zones… those were all new to me at the time. I didn’t even play long enough to get used to them! Now there are garrisons, even faster flying mounts, a new class, yet another stat retooling, and TWO DALARANS to worry about.

(I mean, one Dalaran was already excessive, unless you really liked mages and sharp cheese).

So I started small. Very small, with a level 1 dwarf shaman (dwarves can be shamans now! hooray!) named Terbodhna (thanks, random name generator!) Matt made a dwarf monk to go with. Together we tooled around the Eastern Kingdoms together — right now we’re in the mid-40s and in EPL.

But eventually I had to go back to Silbuns. I started by taking everything off his ability bars and just putting it back on again, basically in the order I would have received those abilities if I were leveling him from 1 as an Affliction lock. When I played in 2013, I still found there to be too many abilities, even given how they had been limited by talent specialization. It seems like they’ve simplified it even further since then. Now I have a hard time even filling my main ability bar with abilities I’ll use frequently.

I played Afflic pretty much up until I hit max level, but decided recently to switch to Destruction, since it seems like Destro is a better spec for endgame content. (And man, is switching specs SO EASY these days — you can pretty much do it anywhere, any time, free of charge). I now can say I’ve got the hang of both specs, although I still fat-finger things occasionally. (Er, or more than occasionally).

Anyway! Here are my ten second reviews of all the expacs I’ve seen along the way (and a slightly longer take on Legion):

Cataclysm (levels 80-85). I only saw Mt. Hyjal and Deepholm before I hit 90 and decided to move on. But overall, I was not impressed. (The stuff Cata did for the lower levels, like the new starting zones, and changed geography? Much more interesting, I think).

The guiding design principle of Cata seemed to be, “Hey, everyone has flying mounts now, let’s make everything THREE DIMENSIONAL.” And… that just breaks my brain. I was constantly lost. Matt, who had done this content days before with his since-deleted draenei pally, was rushing ahead, and I had no idea where to go and what to do and I kept forgetting to pick shit up and now I have to fly over here to floating ship oh no Matt’s veered off to mine for fish, what do ahhhhh. So yes, my dominant impression of Cata is BEING LOST.

Mists of Pandaria (levels 85-90). Mostly just Jade Forest, Valley of the Four Winds, and a teeny bit of Krasarang Wilds. For all that I rolled my eyes at the pandaren starting zone when I played briefly in 2013 (more poop quests, augh), I actually liked the 85-89 zones a lot better. There was just a lot of the… lightheartedness I associate with vanilla WoW, without it falling into being juvenile. I loved the terrible agricultural puns. I loved the ridiculous quests that have you doing things like painting turnips orange, collecting disgusting pond water, and rolling lazy pandaren across a field. Overall it was enjoyable and I was sad to leave.

Warlords of Draenor (levels 90-100). I very much enjoyed the extended adventure that brings you to past-era Draenor, i.e. the setting for Warcraft 1 and 2. I also liked the cinematic aspect of that first extended quest, where you see the legends of Warcraft lore with their names flashing up on the screen.

My reaction upon seeing Khadgar was, “I was lied to! He has no whiskers at all!”

I like many of the mechanics they added with WoD. I like the “bonus objectives” on the map, that present side quests without cluttering up your quest log. I like the addition of star markers on your map for rare spawns. I like that the difficulty of the rare spawn monsters is actually, you know. Somewhat challenging. (Or at least it was when I was 90-99 — less so at 110, of course).

Most importantly, I loooooooved building, improving, and upgrading a garrison. Even though my travels don’t often take me to Draenor any more, I still check in with it, sending my followers out on missions, collecting resources, picking herbs and mining, and doing seasonal dailies. It appeals a ton to the sim/4X gamer in me.

I really only saw Shadowmoon Valley, Gorgrond, and Talador before it was time to move on to Legion content, but I’m trying to finish up the other zones and get the Draenor Pathfinder achievement to unlock flying in Draenor.

Legion (levels 100-110): I LOVE SO MANY THINGS ABOUT LEGION. They made some smart design decisions here, really iterating on their improvements from WoD.

For example, instead of a garrison, in Legion you have your order hall. This acts a little like a garrison, but isn’t nearly so isolated or self-sufficient. In WoD, you were kind of incentivized to spend 18 months holed up there, and that soured a lot of people on the expansion, I guess?

So, consider order halls the enhanced version of garrisons. You can upgrade them, recruit followers and send them on missions, and improve your artifact there (more on artifacts in a moment), but by no means do you spend all your time there. When you leave your order hall, too, you are in the heart of (new) Dalaran, which is a pretty happening place (and has portals to everywhere else you could possibly want to go).

I really like the stories that go along with the orders, too. Basically each class has a reason why this group of them is working together. For the warlocks, their order is called the Black Harvest, and the warlock campaign starts when you are recruited for this daaaaangerous demonic summoning ritual. It of course goes poorly, and you have to save the day.

And then somewhere in there a demonic Dobby shows up.

But the best thing about the warlock order hall is this:

Yep. A big comfy bed, right in the middle of a blasted extradimensional hellscape. Nooope, nobody’s having sex with demons here. Ignore the succubi standing by.

Artifacts are another great thing added by Legion — basically, when you start your class campaign, you get a mission to retrieve a legendary-quality weapon unique to your talent spec. It grants a special power you can use so long as you are wielding it. You can also “upgrade” your weapon with artifact power token you find in your travels around the Broken Isles — which end up mostly being upgrades to your abilities.

Did you miss the talent trees from pre-Cata WoW? Well, now they’re back, only for artifacts.

Since I was affliction-specced when I started Legion, my first artifact was Ulthalesh the Deadwind Harvester, which looks like a typical Grim Reaper-style scythe. It “reaps souls” from every mob you kill, storing up to 12 of them. You then use its special ability to gain a damage buff.


You know what the most badass thing about Ulthalesh was, though? When you kill an enemy, their ghost sticks around until you consume the soul. The first time this effect happened, I was literally at my garrison picking flowers when a podling popped up. I killed it, like you do, and then couldn’t figure out why a spectral podling was haunting me.

(It can be somewhat annoying, though — i.e. “why is there a giant ghostly dragon keeping me from tracing this rune on the floor?” with a certain quest in Azsuna)

Now that I am Destro specced I have the Sceptor of Sargeras, which has some cool lore behind it (Sargeras being the Big Bad Demon behind Legion), but isn’t nearly so badass as Ulthalesh. Its power is to open a dimensional rift through which demonic energies will assault your target. It does look pretty neat, but is not as viscerally satisfying as BEING HAUNTED BY THE ONES YOU’VE KILLED.

Either way, being a warlock is metal as hell.

And see, that’s the thing. When I first heard about artifacts, I had a moment of, “oh, psh, handing out legendaries to everybody. Everyone’s going to be walking around with them like they’re the sole savior of the world, and it’ll be lame.” But see, it’s not. I know every other warlock has an artifact, and I don’t even care, because I still have a MOTHERFUCKING SCYTHE THAT REAPS SOULS.

(And, thankfully, there are alternate appearances for the artifacts — and you can still transmog it — so at a glance over my order hall, it doesn’t look like every warlock is carrying the same weapon).

In brief, the artifacts are really good at making players feel like their characters are badass — even if they never step foot in a raid. And really, that’s all you want when you run a game aimed at fantasy-loving nerds and based on a monthly subscription, isn’t it?

And the actual leveling content for Legion? Is pretty damn good, too. I especially liked the quests in Azsuna and Suramar, because I do love me some doomed sad elves (the shal’dorei/nightfallen). That said, getting around in those zones is sometimes absolutely miserable; I really did not need to start Suramar with an extended phasing sequence where I couldn’t have my pet pally (i.e. Matt) along, and I’m convinced no one would miss the Oceanus Cove sub-zone of Azsuna if you completely removed it from the game.

I liked Stormheim, too, for many reasons — posh murlock archaelogists, the quest-giver we call Not!Odin, the two goblins pulling a racket on you, and the grappling mini-game among them.

Highmountain and Val’sharah kind of left me cold, though each had their entertaining moments.

Probably the best thing about leveling, though, is the fact that the Broken Isles zones level to you — so you can do the zones in any order you please. More precisely, rather than the content being leveled to your group leader (as it is in ESO), it is leveled to you, individually, regardless of the item level of your gear. How the combat stats work out when you’re a level 104 and your pocket pally is four levels ahead of you, I leave as an exercise to the reader. But it does seem to generally work.

I even did my first dungeons since WotLK — normal Halls of Valor, Violet Hold (like the WotLK version, only with undead instead of dragons!), and Black Rook Hold. I didn’t suck? I think?

When it all gets to be too much? I do pet battles — a mini-game which is about as complex as a 8-bit RPG. Or seasonal stuff (Brewfest and Hallow’s End, so far), which basically haven’t changed since 2009. Or I work on crafting. (I’m a tailor/jewelcrafter, which is a very poor combination).

The advantage of WoW being a very mature game is that there are about a billion minigames you can be doing at any given time.

The things I miss the most from ESO?

I miss being able to travel quickly anywhere in the world by porting to a friend or guildie. It can still take a long time to get some places in WoW if you don’t happen to have the right combination of hearthstones ready. I find it amusing and occasionally infuriating how much easier it is to get from new Dalaran to old Dalaran than it is to get from Stormwind to Ironforge.

I miss dynamic combat. Funny, considering I started this post by bitching about ESO’s combat design. I mean more on a tactical level. I still occasionally find myself double-tapping a movement key to dodge, and let me tell you, it doesn’t work in WoW 🙂 I can’t block, or interrupt, or do any of that stuff without a specific ability to do so. And I miss that.

I miss having infinite bank space for crafting mats! And yes, that was added to ESO right before I left. The reagents bank is a nice addition to WoW since I last played, but it isn’t enough.

And man, do I miss having guild memberships being account-bound, because I hate having to add all my alts individually 🙁

But hey, occasionally someone in guild is playing Skyrim Special Edition on PS4 while chatting in guild chat, and I can be an ES nerd here, too 😉

Oh, speaking of guilds, I am in a guild called Knights of the Night, which is peopled in large part with folks from the RPI LARP crowd — as well as many people I don’t actually know. They are mostly busy with raids and mythic+ dungeons and whatnot, which I hope to someday do, too, but it’s nice to have another way to keep in touch with these folks who I don’t always see.

I could probably natter more, but that’s about the State of Lise Playing WoW Again. Most importantly for me, I seem to be okay putting it aside for periods of time and doing meaningful stuff like TRYING TO FIND THE END OF THIS NOVEL I’M WRITING. (Still no luck).

Executive summary: there’s a lot of new, fun stuff in the game, which is impressive for a game which is now 12 years old. It’s still confusing for me sometimes, but that confusion is also part of its depth.