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+1.

Having just read the most spot-on post I’ve seen yet about post-Cataclysm impressions, I can only encourage anyone who comes across this to do the same. It’s over at Raging Monkeys, and it’s well worth a look.

I could write more, but I’d essentially be repeating what was already said…so…I won’t. Go and see!

WTB Barkskin!

I need to grow a thicker skin.

This is something I’m working on anyway, but I have a feeling the process is going to be accelerated by playing my new little resto druid (Andi, introduced a couple of posts back). Healers, in terms of the social dynamic in PUGs, are doing it tough at the moment – everything, I discovered, was my fault. Of course, to be quite fair, some of it was; not only am I very inexperienced at healing (at least in WoW), but I didn’t discover until after leaving the instance with a sigh of relief that I’d been healing the whole thing in my kittycat outfit. So, yes, I do deserve some of that (I had to laugh…but I bet the tank wouldn’t have, if he’d realised).

The general atmosphere, however – even in low level instances like Deadmines, which is where I was – seems to be one of placing all the responsibility for the group squarely on the healer’s shoulders. Perhaps Deadmines itself exacerbates this at the moment, since it’s a familiarly named instance in a familiar place but with completely different trash and bosses, some of whom hit like the proverbial truck. This particular group (composed of a bear tank and his shaman friend from the same server, a mage and a hunter) certainly seemed to be of the opinion they could cruise through just like before; of course, we wiped. Multiple times. Sometimes more than once on the same trash pack.

As I said, part of this was undoubtedly my fault, and the tank had lots of suggestions for improving my healing (some of them actually grounded in fact). Some of the problems, however, I refuse to take responsibility for…including (but not limited to):

- A shaman with delusions of being a kangaroo, bouncing around in front of the tank and repeatedly pulling multiple mobs

- The hunter’s pet, which wandered through the mine at its own sweet pace, stopping to chat with trash packs along the way

- The tank in general, who I think may have been new to tanking, but who fully embraces the Wrath philosophy of ‘Chaaaaaarge!’ and seems unaware of any other approach. Let me set the scene…picture a group just outside the Mast Room doors, finishing off the two Oafs.

Ubertank and the DPS clear up the last of the trash. Ubertank bounces happily through the door behind Shamanboy.

Me: mana

Ubertank pulls the boss.

Me: (pops mana potion and tries desperately to heal with restraint and yet thoroughness; somehow, through blind luck, no one dies) Mana after this!

Ubertank bounds happily through door behind Shamanboy, runs around the corner and aggros a trash pack out of sight. Dies, closely followed by the shaman, then by the rest of us.

Ubertank: healer is n00b lol.

Shamanboy: yeh l2heal lol

Me (runs back from graveyard): Sorry, but if you pull a pack around the corner from me when I said I was out of mana, these things happen :)

Mage (also corpse running; has been quiet until now): no kidding.

Ubertank (newly resurrected): so you all ready then healer? for the difficult corners in this hard dungeon?

Shamanboy: lol n00b

A chorus of ‘r’ ensues.

Ubertank: btw u should use swiftmend

Me (watching prominent swiftmend cooldown like a hawk): yeah…thanks

And so it went. Like I said above, I certainly deserved some of it (and maybe I’ll remember another time to wear the right equipment; it’s amazing how much difference it makes, even at levels too low to actually have a second spec). Some of it, though, I shall just have to try and regard as practice in letting it all roll off me!

Part of the trouble, of course, is that when someone says that I’m not doing something well I tend to be very ready to believe them. Of course, they’re frequently right where WoW is concerned, too. I’m just getting into heroics now with Dhakeilh, and that’s an adventure all its own; as my guild’s only heroic-capable character so far and one of only a couple of 85s, I have the distinctly dubious privilege of running basically all my 80+ instances in PUGs. Some of those experiences have been good; most of them have been, well, interesting. I certainly understand the number of people I see writing in the blogosphere that they wouldn’t want to PUG heroics. Having no choice if I want to gear up, though, I’m taking a stab at it; so far I haven’t been in a group that’s managed to actually finish one, but I’m sure it’ll happen one of these days…if I’m very fortunate indeed!

The same culture of blame is certainly pervasive in the high level instances, though. I would say that tanks seem especially prone to it, except that I know when I’m tanking myself the antics of the rest of the group sometimes drive me completely batty, much more so than when I’m just DPSing. Really, I think it’s more that people are frustrated by the non-faceroll-ability* of the content and are wanting to beat the damn thing already and get their points of whichever type. Personally, I don’t mind multiple wipes on a heroic, even on the same boss; for me (never having raided), it seems like practice for the kind of attitudes I’m told you need to bring to progression raiding. Er, that is, the ‘OK, what went wrong, what should we try’ attitude – not the ‘WTF heals lol n00b’ attitude. I do hear a lot of ‘am I the only one interrupting’ and ‘move out of the damn fire’, not always with justification; it seems it’s even easier to get tunnel vision when the content is newish and everyone is focusing hard on what they have to do themselves and what’s not working.** But as I said, I don’t really mind wipes – as long as everyone stays cheerful. No, 42g repair bills aren’t fun, but thank goodness I’m not a plate wearer!

Now I feel slightly better, having vented some of that. Experiences like that one with Andi tend to make me very nervous of getting back on the horse, as it were, but I really do want to learn how to heal – and in spite of Dhak really sucking quite badly as kitty DPS right now, I’m determined to get her to the point of getting to see some content. So, WTB barkskin (or stoneskin)! Here’s to learning to listen to the good advice and let the random junk bounce off ;)

*It is a word. Really.

**Lest you think I’m all sweetness and light – I frequently think things along those lines. I’m just too shy to say them in party chat!

 

Cub Tanking

(Or, feral tanking up to level 20).

I’m one of those people who generally likes their characters to begin as they mean to go on. In WoW, this sometimes leads to less-recommended leveling specs, like subtlety rogues or holy paladins, but for me the challenge is a big part of the fun. Also, I find it’s a lot less intimidating to learn your class and spec from the ground up, rather than suddenly deciding at level 85 when all your PUGs are of the  ‘gogogo’ variety that your feral druid is really a frustrated tank. Mind you, I’m not saying I’d never change my mind at later levels (far from it!) – but if I’m planning an alt to be a tank or healer, I usually start that early on.

In the case of bear tanks, this decision is not usually met with universal approval by fellow PUGees. I’ve heard numerous comments along the lines of ‘low lvl bear tank ftl’ and ‘get a real tank’. This is especially true in the very first few levels, before bears have most of the tools in their arsenal; in particular, they’re still missing an interrupt, any AoE or silencing capability at all, and a way to pull at range without having Growl on cooldown for the next 8 seconds.

This post in no way claims to be an authoritative guide – it’s just a collection of the lessons I’ve learned so far (some from my own reading, many painfully taught by Druids of the Fang and Defias Pirates). Also, it doubles as a way to collect my own thoughts so that hopefully my tanking doesn’t degenerate into ‘hit buttons and pray’ mode quite so often. Hopefully, as Taj grows up and adds some more toys to her skill list, it will be followed by others…but we’ll see. At the moment, it stops at level 20, because that’s where she stops!

Firstly, and of course suggested in many places, it’s worth looking into a nameplate addon that shows your threat at a glance. I love and adore ThreatPlates, a plugin for the TidyPlates addon, but there are of course others out there. ThreatPlates has the advantage of changing both colour and size as you lose control of the mob – red spiky nameplates mean ‘save the healer’, whereas a neat circle of green bars surrounding you means you are, as usual, in control. Right?

Obviously (I hope it’s obvious), if you’re planning to tank as a general rule, you’re feral spec. This gives you the lovely high threat skill known as Mangle. Previously not available until you talented into it at around level 60, this now comes as part of the feral package deal. Although the bear version does have a 6 second cooldown, it’s still a fantastic tool for quickly building a lot of threat. I like using it as part of an opener – more on that in a bit.

By level 20, there are 6 talent points available to spend. Predatory Strikes is entirely a kittycat talent, so that makes the first tier fairly straightforward (even for me) – 4% extra dodge and a bit of free rage when shifting into bear form don’t go astray. I usually find myself taking a point in Primal Fury first in the second tier, just because I hate being rage-starved with a passion…particularly when the trash mobs are displaying their great affection for the healer.

Personally, I find single-target tanking as a bear orders of magnitude easier than AoE tanking, especially at this level. No matter what the healer or the DPS are doing, as long as I’m alive, I don’t find it hard to stay ahead of them on threat. This may change in later levels, I’m not sure, but until then most of my worries are caused by packs of trash. Pulling them…ah, yes, that’s a whole different kettle of deviate fish.

My usual strategy when pulling groups is to switch targets quickly right at the beginning. I normally Growl at the first mob while running toward the pack, then switch targets and Mangle one, then switch again and Maul (if I have enough rage by now). This largely depends on whether over-zealous DPS have already peeled them off me and therefore I’m not getting hit, but it also depends on me being quick and accurate with click-targeting. As mentioned above, I use highly visible nameplates, which does help with that (since they can also be clicked to target the mob).

I don’t actually care much for tab-targeting, though I’ve seen it recommended elsewhere, for two reasons. First, you have no control at all over exactly which mob it switches the target to, and trying vainly to Maul an NPC in the next pack 40 yards away wastes precious seconds and throws off your rhythm while you work out what the problem is and fix it. Second, I am somewhat suspicious of the whole thing, because half the time when I do try to use it I hit ‘tab’ and my target stubbornly remains on the same mob. Whether this is my computer or the game (or the user…ahem) I don’t know, but I tend to prefer click-targeting anyway for the ability to pick my prey more accurately.

Because it's pretty. And a good habitat for bears.

 

Once I (hopefully) have three mobs chewing on me, Mangle and/or Growl is usually back off cooldown or nearly so, and I can then use it to pick up any loose ends. If the pull is more than three, or if the DPS are keen to Slay the Foe in record time, it may be necessary to leave stray mobs hitting various group members for a few seconds while you build up rage. With a reasonable group, of course, you can just ask them to hold off for a few seconds while you do just that…but I’m sure we all understand our chances, realistically, of finding a group who’ll do that. I’m not always lily-white myself in that area when I take Dhak for a spin…Ravage crits are such satisfying openers *cough* In any case, good luck with that, but if the DPS open up the second you do, you might need to let them have their toys all to themselves for a moment while you build the rage to gather them again. Being naturally protective, I dislike it when the mobs are hitting anyone but me, but in that situation I would prioritize peeling them off the healer first (if necessary), and then move on to the DPS in approximate order of proximity and/or squishiness.

There isn’t a lot of crowd control available at such low levels, but it’s not greatly needed either. If you have a Sap-happy rogue who manages not to accidentally get caught, that can certainly be helpful on tricky pulls. So far, though, most of my runs have been basically CC-free zones. One thing that is worth doing ourselves, and that I keep forgetting, is to keep Demo Roar up whenever possible – it’s cheap and knocks 10% off the damage you take, which can ease the load on the healer a little bit.

Speaking of healers – if yours is struggling and you have the opportunity, it is certainly possible to throw up a quick heal on yourself. It does help to watch your timing a little bit, though – you lose all but 10 rage when you shift out of form, so try to time it for when you were nearly out anyway. Also, you’re naturally a lot squishier wearing clothes instead of fur, so right before the boss casts Hammer of Ultimate Doom is probably not the moment! If, on the other hand, your healer is healing you with ease (and your DPS are happy), it’s worth not pausing too long between pulls – that way you don’t lose the accumulated rage you worked so hard to maintain, which in turn helps to keep those unruly packs of trash in line from the get-go.

This is officially a wall of text! Well done if you made it this far. As I said above, this is in no way a definitive guide to doing anything (except perhaps frustrating your PUG members), but it’s helped me collect my thoughts…and after all, that is a major function of a blog.

Back to the altoholic nonsense next time, no doubt…

What’s Better than One Druid?

If you answered ‘two druids’, you’re half right!*

Anyone who’s troubled to look back to the beginning of this blog may have noticed that Dhakeilh is not actually the only character I had intended to feature here. Poor Aminyara, who really has been most shamefully neglected, was the victim of unfortunate circumstance; only a month or so after I actually started blogging properly, the regiment to which she belongs got put in indefinite hiatus due to real life issues with some of the other members. As she can’t level past where she is now and remain in the group, she has pretty much been on hold too, and I’ve been concentrating more on Dhak and various other baby alts.

Now that Cataclysm has dropped, however, I can finally do what I’ve been wanting to do for a while, that being start a second ‘main’ on an Oceanic server. In a BA shared topic back in October I got her name all picked out, but of course (being a worgen) she has perforce been waiting in the wings until now. Since I have finally given in to the inevitable and admitted that of all classes I much prefer druids, she is of course of the druidic persuasion. I’m quite excited about this – I’ve spent the last few months thinking ‘When I can finally make that new druid, I’ll…’

And here she is!

The yellow eyes are a particularly ferocious touch, of course.

 

Akhyataj, or Taj (as she almost immediately became) is intended to be my Alliance main for at least the duration of Cataclysm, and most likely longer. There are quite a few achievements that I’ve consciously ignored on Dhakeilh, although I love collecting them, with a view to creating a ‘real’ main character in an Oceanic time zone – things like mounts and pets that take a lot of grinding, and that sort of thing. She’s only level 20 at the moment, since I’ve been stomped by the Real Life boss this Christmas, but that will change…quickly, I hope. And, of course, there’s the all-important question of hair/druid form colour; I quite like black, but I haven’t really decided whether to settle on it yet or not. I suppose that’s what barber shops are for!

Then, of course, where there is Alliance there must be Horde (at least in my admittedly odd world view). Therefore, I would also like to introduce Andiyaba, who was not a part of my plan for Cataclysm, but who has settled herself into the collection of characters quite firmly already. Naturally, she is also a druid (what else?), but in a small departure from what I’ve done before, she will be resto rather than feral. Healing raises my blood pressure (just ask my poor, long-suffering guildies who get to listen to the complaints), but I haven’t yet tried it on a druid except in emergencies, and I’m looking forward to the challenge. So far I have yet to break myself of picking agility gear over intellect from quest rewards, though!

A druid in caster form is a new experience for me...

 

So there we have it, the ongoing projects that will hopefully last me for the foreseeable future (with, of course, plenty of other alts mixed in). I have a few ideas for writing projects based around the two of them, but that will largely depend on available time, and now is certainly not the moment to start anything new. In any case, just leveling two new druids should keep me out of mischief for a while…

Well, out of obvious mischief, anyway.

*Correct answer: More druids. Always, more druids.

Stays together!

Hey guys, it’s just me, Tarinae from A Healadin’s Tear bringing Sionel and all of her readers the Christmas gift of blogging goodness! Sadly, I will admit that I had not stumbled across this blog before but that is the best part in participating in events like Secret Santa, I always find more to add to that overflowing reader of mine! While I was sifting through the older posts to see how I wanted to approach this, I noticed a couple of topics kept reoccurring…guilds & PUGs.

Being a guildmaster brings a certain level of responsibility, you could call it expectations if you want; you have to ensure the solidarity of your guild the best you can. What I have discovered I revealed to you in the title…The guild that plays together, stays together.

I don’t mean that you only play with your guildmates or that every living moment you’re logged in, you are in the guild. But what I have noticed is that most people, trolls excluded, join a guild for the sense of community that develops within them and you cannot have this without trying to do things as a guild…together.

Learning content, wiping, succeeding, looting, achievements and so much more mean something different when you were working with friends and not “gogogo” or “zomg pull moar!” which is the type of scenario that Wrath birthed.

PUGs at the moment are on a unprecedented level…they’re challenging but the world is full of QQ, because 85% of the world doesn’t out-gear them yet; the debate rages on with the fact that a portion of the Azerothian population feel Wrath was too easy and want something new, but the remaining fraction still wishes that Cataclysm is a repeat of Wrath.

Wrath bred a new breed of WoW players that expect this game to be significantly easy, less challenging and leaves out the long-lost and long-loved mechanics like Crowd Control. But you can avoid this irritation; you can get what you want out of heroics or instances just by running with your guild…because they’re like-minded. They’re a community of people that see the same things in WoW that you do…that’s why you’re in it, right?

But it doesn’t even have to be the latest end-game content that you’re running; it doesn’t have to be a wipefest because… there is a whole world of expansions past that now offer guild achievements that you can run together. You don’t feel that heavy burden to PUG those last 2 two spots for Molten Core because your guild can handle it and your guild is going to have fun.

But hey, you don’t even have to run instances or raids to build a strong community of guildmates and friends. I am a strong believer in parties…Winter Veil parties…Hallow’s End parties…nothing is better than carting your guild over to Stormwind for caroling or see what your guildmates will show up in for a costume contest! Those are truly the days your guild will remember!

So now I must be off to do my guild-mastering stuff in-game, I have been on Holiday vacation, and as the end of 2010 comes near, I wish you all a Happy New Year (I’m sure that is somewhat politically correct!) and safe travels if you’re not in Azeroth that evening!

Sionel edit: Tarinae kindly provided this post well before New Year’s, but it hasn’t made it here until now. While I hadn’t come across her blog previously either, I completely agree that discovering new people to read is one of the nicest things about this kind of project. Thanks, Tarinae!

Playtime! New Toys…

Is quoting Meathook a bad thing?

Cataclysm, unfortunately, hit the world during a week where I was covering a colleague’s leave at my real job and also three days before I took an exam. In addition, my left wrist is currently in a brace, which means half of my typing is much as usual and the other half (i.e. the keybind half) is slow and awkward. Can we postpone all this for a couple of months, please?!

No, not really, of course. In spite of getting wiped by the real life boss and the fun of trying to play with an immobilised wrist, Dhak hit 85 early last week via Vashj’ir, Deepholm, Uldum and Twilight Highlands. So far it’s been fun, though I am suffering from a severe case of toomanythingstodoallatoncemustdoNOW; the tactic that seems most helpful is deep breathing and a firm resolve to stick to one goal at once!

Things I’ve loved so far:

- Pebble. I want! That is the most adorable little earth elemental ever spawned.

- The end of the Uldum quest line (the whole zone is fun, too, but the end made me go wow…no pun intended).

- Halls of Origination. Yes, it’s super long, but it’s original and interesting and you actually have to think about the fights.

- The Abyssal Seahorse, which I can’t use outside Vashj’ir… /cry

- Archaeology, which is quickly turning me into an addict who spends her time soaring around looking for dig sites instead of, oh, leveling jewelcrafting or actually gearing up. Because I needed another time sink…bad Blizzard!

- The shaman down inside the gullet in Twilight Highlands. I presume their chatter is different depending on your class, but it made me giggle repeatedly. ‘When was the last time you saw me turn into a wild beast…wait, never mind.’

- And, of course, the goblin and worgen starting zones. I love them both for equal and opposite reasons (which surprised me; I didn’t expect to enjoy the goblin zone, goblins being the kind of race I never usually play and have very little sympathy for). Fun!

Things I’ve disliked:

- The new Darkshore. Yes, there is much that is cool and interesting about it, I love the new pet, and I’m not arguing that it’s bad from a development or gameplay point of view; quite the opposite. But of all places in the world, this one just bowled me over when I saw what they did to Auberdine and the surrounds (being afraid of exactly that, I didn’t actually visit it after the Shattering until my new worgen reached that point). You can hardly walk ten yards before you have to climb over or around some new canyon or gorge, Auberdine is not just damaged but totally wrecked – and to add insult to injury, the first quest you complete there is going off to recover the survivors. This would be fair enough, except that the survivors are the old named NPCs from Auberdine…and you have to walk past the corpses of half the others, lying on the beach! Bad Blizzard (in the other sense, this time)! Of all the horrid things to do to players with fond memories of their early leveling days…anyway, that in particular definitely knocked me for six. Laird was my FRIEND. He sold me fishing recipes!*

- The amazing vanishing mining nodes (and herbs). Hopefully this bug will be looked at soon, unless of course the GMs are just getting too much amusement out of watching players trying to sneak up on obsidium nodes and mine them before they vanish. Puzzling at the beginning, this one becomes frustrating fast.

- Tol Barad, at the moment, though this may change when more people are 85. My experience with it so far has involved small groups and frustrating attempts to elude or distract the Horde gank squad long enough to capture a base only to lose it again, but since a) it’s new and b) I suck at PvP, this opinion is highly likely to be both ill-informed and invalid. On the other hand…it has a dragon as a reputation reward…which may reconcile me to its shortcomings.

- Lag in Stormwind and Orgrimmar, combined with roughly a billion dragons flapping their wings between you and whichever important quest NPC/vendor/flight master you’re trying hard to click on. Yes, people, we know you’re uber. You do not have to hover three feet off the ground on your Bronze Drake in the middle of the Trade District. Also, the lack of a common city for Alliance and Horde makes holiday achievements trickier!

All in all…yes, I’m having heaps of fun. No question of that. It’s been interesting too to see everyone’s gear level suddenly even out quite a bit; I’ve discovered that while I’m by no means good at my class, neither am I quite as abysmally awful at kitty dps as I had been thinking, which is a nice confidence booster. Also, I love the challenge and the need for actual thought in instances now. It remains to be seen whether I’ll ever dare to raid…

*Yes, I know. It hasn’t escaped me that this is exactly the reaction I’m sure Blizzard wants, and that they’ve done an excellent job with the expansion. But still. Bad Blizzard!

Day 2: Which is your favourite race, and why?

  

Here we are again on the 20 Days of Warcraft challenge, from Ama via Erinys. I’m not doing them on consecutive days, since time does not allow, but so far they’re interesting – so I shall keep plodding along at my own speed!

This one is a difficult question. I can name a couple who aren’t my favourite races – dwarves, whose fondness for ale and Scottish accents amuses but doesn’t really charm me, and humans (I am already a human. Do I need to play a computer game just in order to be one again?). Most of the others, though, have their redeeming factors:

  • Undead: Although they gross me out completely, some of their quotes when clicked on (and the underlying racial outlook on life) are rather fun. My personal favourite is ‘Remember, patience. Discipline.’ – closely followed by ‘What would you ask of Death?’. I suppose you could call it a morbid fascination…
  • Gnomes: Undeniably cute, but certainly sometimes a bit irritating as well. I love them when they’re sneaking and their death animation is endlessly amusing, but their laughter causes me to consider ways of bringing about their death as a race.
  • Goblins: Haven’t tried them yet (obviously) so it’s difficult to say. I’m guessing probably not, though, as I don’t really go for the whole profiteering thing. Plus, their voices tend to get on my nerves. That said, they clearly do have a well-developed sense of fun!
  • Worgen: Likewise, haven’t tried them yet. I would say, though, that they would be in there with a very strong chance. British accents instead of the endless American voices (no offense, I’m half American myself!), plus the whole changing into a wolf thing – and I’m strongly in sympathy with their desire to live their own lives and shut the rest of the world out, even though I don’t think it was the right thing to do.
  • Tauren: Definitely the gentle giants of Azeroth. Their culture is quite beautiful – certainly the pick of the Horde – and I think could be developed a bit more than it has been. That said, somehow my mental image of a cow doesn’t include a great deal of intelligence, so I perhaps don’t like them as well as I might otherwise.
  • Draenei: I love their devotion to the Light and their selflessness. They’re fun to look at, too (even if the girls’ posture makes me cringe – their backs must get terribly sore!), and they aren’t afraid to get involved in helping out when someone needs it. On the other hand, they’re also hugely popular, and I’ve never been all that fond of following the crowd.
  • Trolls: The embodiment of ‘cool’. They are fun and funky, and would also kill you or anyone else given half a chance. I quite like playing them, but you can never trust them not to do something horribly barbaric at any moment, which irks me a bit.
  • Orcs: Rather a divided race. My feelings about the orcs vary depending on whether we’re discussing the ‘Thrall’ type or the ‘Garrosh’ type. The former would probably place them up with my favourite races, for their honour and bravery; the latter would take them out of the running entirely!
  • Night elves: My main is a night elf, so I’ve probably spent longer looking at them than any other race (though, granted, she also is a cat most of the time. But an elven cat!). I like their connection with nature, but their arrogance and isolationism rather annoys me; I know, I said I sympathised with worgen for almost the same thing, but consistency is for the weak.
  • Blood elves: The ‘pretty’ race. Having pretty characters is fun, I can’t deny that (and I don’t play male characters, so I’m talking about the girls here). That said, as a race they really aren’t that pleasant, and no one could really describe them as team players.  But they are fun to dress up!

 

After all of that, with a short list of worgen, orcs and draenei, I think the eventual winner is the worgen. The orcs lose out due to the Garrosh factor, in the end – and even the draenei can’t quite compete with the turning-into-a-wolf bonus points the worgen get. Of course, I might change my mind after I play one – but I hope not, since the idea is that my new main will be Gilnean born and bred!

I got this topic from Erinys, who got it from Ama (topic-stealing ftw!). It looks fun, so I think I might try it! Though I don’t know that I’ll be making a post each day.

This is a question I’ve only just managed to answer to my own satisfaction, being incurably altoholic. To a large degree, my favourite class is the one I’m currently logged into – even warlocks are (sometimes) fun if that’s what I’m doing at the time. 

The one I can’t stay away from though, that wins in so many ways for me, is druid. I have…*cough* too many druids, mostly baby ones (though Dhak is of course of the feline persuasion), and I never get tired of them. And, of course, I’m on the edge of my seat waiting for first the Shattering and then Cataclysm, because then I get FOUR druid races! And I get to be a bat!

*clears throat* ahem, anyway.

Druids are just fun. For one thing, they change shape – a lot. Of course the change to resto, which shall be left silently aside, has reduced the entertainment value of that spec a bit (never having played a high level resto druid, I’m not so disappointed as those who do, but I do think it’s rather a shame and I had been looking forward to being a tree). Even so, though, by the time your pet druid reaches maximum level, s/he has no less than six (or seven, if you’re balance or resto – eight if you’re also a worgen!) different forms to play with. Some of those forms are actually considerably better looking than the original night elf or tauren forms; I know, elves are the ‘pretty’ races, but I don’t actually find night elves terribly attractive. I’d rather look at a graceful, purple cat than at the back of an elven head.

The other thing I love about druids is the utility. Any class that lets you gather herbs and quest items without actually landing on the ground gets lots of points from me (even though Dhak is a miner and therefore has to land anyway…sigh). Cat form, properly talented, lets you run faster even indoors; bear form, even if you’re kitty spec, has been known to save at least 5-man groups whose tank has developed a sudden affection for the floor. And, of course, being able to swim indefinitely and fly without the risk of being knocked off your mount are also very useful perks in some situations. It’s got to the point where, as a couple of my other characters climb up into the mid-levels, I’m starting to wonder how I’ll like playing alts without that kind of functionality. Methinks I might be a little bit spoilt…

As I mentioned in a previous post, I’m creating a new main come Cata – on an Oceanic realm, which is where I sensibly belong. Making her a worgen druid was basically a no-brainer, for all the above reasons (plus…werewolves!); the only thing I don’t like is that neither worgen nor druids really have as much use for mounts as anyone else! You see, I intend to go achievement-collecting on her, and what’s the good of having dragons or white tigers if you never get to look at them…?

That said, it’s perhaps a little early to be worrying about that (and it is, admittedly, a laughably trivial issue). Apart from the lack of diversity in steeds, though – druids all the way!

I suppose major changes like this to a world that people know and love are always going to provoke a lot of comment (and boy, is that an understatement. Have we heard anything but Cataclysm lately?). My feelings are rather mixed – so much so that, in fact, I’ve started this post no less than four times in different tones! I hesitate to apply the word ‘bittersweet’, because that might lend the whole thing a little too much gravitas, but I think that’s the term that best expresses the flavour of the moment.

I tried out the new troll starting area today (along with roughly ten million others, mostly playing druids). Having competed madly for quest mobs and listened to dialogue rendered meaningless by constant repetition as each of the ten million did the same quests, I quite liked it – but I think I’m going to wait a while to go back, since it was rather like being in pre-Shattering Dalaran. I shudder to think what Gilneas and the Lost Isles are going to be like! I also had a look at a few other places, including Dun Morogh (interesting), Stormwind (er…shattered) and Menethil (flooded), and ran around a bit to get a feel for Dustwallow Marsh.

I notice we now have new achievements as well, which has adjusted a few things one way or t’other. Of course, as we were warned, my characters have lost basically all their quest counts for old Azeroth (sigh). On the up side, the higher level ones seem to have gained the exploration achievements for nearly every zone, including ones they’ve never visited (Azshara, for instance!). I have a feeling that World Explorer, at least for pre-existing characters, has just got an awful lot quicker; I’m only missing 5 zones on Dhakeilh now. It was interesting to have a look at the achievements for the Cata raids and for archaeology, too – I’ve not been in the beta and have avoided hearing too much about the upcoming storylines, so I’m having fun speculating on where all the bosses come in.

The down side, of course, is the glaringly obvious. Deathwing has done his dastardly work and destroyed the world as we know it, and (since, as aforementioned, I’m beta-less) things keep taking me unawares. I trotted out the western gate of Razor Hill today and went splash into the Southfury River, somewhat to my surprise – and Orgrimmar looks so different that I have to keep looking at the map to find myself. I haven’t yet dared to visit Auberdine and Darkshore, and I’m not entirely sure I want to; I spent a lot of my early leveling time there on Dhak and on other characters, and in spite of its dreariness, I was quite fond of the place. I suppose I’ll have to go and have a look, though.

Common sense and experience with Blizzard both dictate that there will be plenty of new (or improved) areas that are just as beautiful and/or just as lovable as the ones that are now underwater or broken into bits. Likewise, in the grand scheme of things, an expansion that rearranges a computer game’s virtual world is not exactly an issue of major importance. Even knowing both of those things, though, I can’t quite evade a tendency to wail ‘But I wasn’t ready yet!’ when I see some newly devastated place. There were still things I should have got round to, screenshots I should have taken (why is it only now that I want to look at the statues in front of Stormwind as they were, when I could have done it any day for the last two months?), places I should have spent more time in, quest lines I really should have done…and so on, and so forth. I don’t think I realised, I suppose, that we’d be having the Shattering two weeks before Cata – but even with those extra two weeks, would I have felt ready? Probably not.

I have never been a person who really enjoys changes. Of course, I only started playing about a year ago, so there are still huge swathes of WoW that I haven’t touched. Unlike the majority, who were raid-ready as Wrath started or during its course and are now bored silly, there’s still heaps of content that would be plenty new and exciting (and difficult) for me. Probably that contributes to the mixing of my feelings – I’m not so desperate for something new to do as many others are, and all of the predictions about how Cataclysm will make everything far more difficult are worrying me a bit (I am quite dreadful enough as it is without adding more complications)! All in all, I’m looking forward to it – I think. But there is a level on which it feels rather like they’ve taken a good game that I was getting fond of and turned it back into a new game that I don’t know at all. Of course, I can only imagine how much more jarring the changes must be for those who’ve been playing years longer than me, too.

The title of this post should have served as a warning about its content! I really didn’t intend for this to turn into a whine about Cataclysm, because there are many things about it that I’m eagerly awaiting. Really, I think, it’s just the aftermath of seeing the destruction for the first time; when I get more used to it, and have got over the shock of seeing a few favourite places destroyed, I’ll find new spots to love and all will be sunshine again.

After all, who doesn’t love a new challenge?!

One of my pre-Cataclysm projects, that I’m enjoying far more than I thought I would, is to play through the quest lines in Eastern and Western Plaguelands before they all go away. I’d made a few brief forays up there for specific purposes and had thought the whole place very dreary and uninteresting (and full of disgusting ghouls and things), but I’ve gotten surprisingly caught up in the story since actually spending some time there. It isn’t so much the plaintive ghosts; uneasy dead are a dime a dozen in Azeroth, after all, and most of them seem to have something they want you to do to let them rest in peace. Nor is it the hordes of undead, who tend to evoke more disgust than pity in me; rather, it’s the land itself.

It’s clear to see, looking beyond the brown vegetation and dilapidated buildings, that the Plaguelands was once beautiful farmland with a string of charming towns dotted across it. I missed this entirely on first impression, as the general atmosphere of smoke and shambling abominations tends to catch the eye, but after spending more time and visiting places more than once, little details began to stand out. Andorhal, in particular, must once have been a delightful little town, with the lake close by and the hills overlooking it – but so must Darrowshire in its snug little valley and, for that matter, Hearthglen-of-the-marvellous-view (before the fanatics got quite so carried away).

Andorhal and its surrounding farms are the part that really got to me, though. I started off feeling a bit sad for it, but the more time I spend there, the angrier I feel at our friend Prince Arthas. The people of Andorhal never had a chance; first Arthas raises an army of Scourge and Lordaeron is destroyed (and Stratholme is corrupted – thus depriving them of their two nearest major cities). Then the Scarlet Crusade moves in and starts charging all over the countryside burning anything that looks at them funny, and all the while you have the Argent Dawn and their allies battling the Scourge up hill and down dale. No wonder no one lives there any more!

Not even the dogs…

It doesn’t seem fair, somehow.  I’m sure if I’d known what it was like before Arthas came to town I’d be even more indignant – but, of course, I don’t. Even so, having spent some time in the Plaguelands, I now have a much better perspective of why exactly the citizens of Azeroth want to hunt the Lich King down and slay him – besides the obvious. Villains seem to be rather common in Azeroth; you’ll find a marauding tribe of centaur or a restless minor deity under nearly every rock. Some of them, though, deserve death more than others.

What did you find made Wrath ‘personal’ for you (if anything?). I’m betting we all have some reason we’d love to kill Deathwing, or we will when we see what he does to the world; but I’m curious, what was the thing that motivated you to kill the LK?

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