Growl’s Ding 70 Post

Yeah – my first 70 – go figure. Sure, most of you have had them for a while now – hell – I have friends that are on their 3rd or 4th. I guess what makes my first 70 so odd and yet so entirely gratifying is that he came from such humble and unexpected origins.

Skychaser at level 65

The Story of Skychaser

/cue dramatic music

::sound of needle dragging across a record::

Right – none of that. First off – Skychaser for anyone that knows his history was an accident – an experiment in level 19 shaman twinking – and a potion vendor for my more *serious* toons. The homely white cow started life out on Thorium Brotherhood as “Remember” and what I tend to “remember” from those days was that being a level 19 shaman in a warsong gulch full of twinked rogues and hunters was a pretty painful experience. So it’s probably not surprising that I put him away in favor of my more easily accessible twinks. He languished like this for a long time – churning out speed and free action pots for my main of the month and letting dust build up on his Twisted Chanters Staff. It wasn’t until I migrated off of Thorium B. and onto the newer RP server Moon Guard that Remember (renamed Skychaser after the server move) saw the light of day again.

I dusted Sky’ off and put him to work initially because I needed better potions. The surprising thing was that I really started to enjoy playing him. Like all good things, Sky required time and patience to really learn. Shammy – like druids – are hybrids and not quite as easily accessible as the average primary color toons that make up the most played classes in the game. One thing lead to another though and the levels really started to fly by. Once the great leveling patch came along, adding extra 30’s and 40’s quests and reducing the required experience to level and pumping up quest and mob-rewards things went even faster. In no time, Sky caught up with and passed – my name sake toon (Growl) and all of my original alliance characters.

At 60 – Sky emptied the banks of all my other characters and picked up epic mount training. A long Alterac Valley grind later brought him a Frost Wolf Howler and a Warlord’s Bludgeon. As a strict dps character, Sky’ was free from having to do anything in instances other than watch his aggro and support his tank. I started running instances with abandon and in no time I was absolutely hooked on the whole “progression” thing.

Over the Xmas holidays I found myself with more game time than usual and Mrs. Growl much more pleasant about me tromping off into Azeroth for hours at a time. Skychaser pounded his way through Hellfire Peninsula and Zangamarsh – grabbed up his heroic keys for both locations and moved on to Nagrand, Terrorkar and the Bone Wastes. Over a few particularly great gaming days, Sky’ cleared the Crypts, Mana-Tombs, and even Setthek Halls – picking up his Shadow Labyrinth key and swaddling himself in loot.

Skychaser in Blood Furnace

Around 67 and the Blades Edge Mountains, things started to get hard. I was enjoying the questing and enjoying my character, but I learned during the holidays that I was gaming on borrowed time. As an Army Reservist, I’m slotted to deploy early in the spring and this news cast a haze of immediacy over everything I did. While my guildies continued to play alts and cruise through levels on relaxed mode, I lit my afterburners and ground on. Finally – a day or so after Xmas, Sky was burning through one of the many kill quests in Shadowmoon Valley. I was burnt – toast – the drag from 68 to 69 had truly been a long one and I was getting tired. I literally dinged 70 on some random mob and didn’t even realize it for a few moments. It wasn’t until a guild-mate who had just logged on popped open her social interface panel and noticed.

“Wow Sky’ – grats on 70!” She said. I blinked a couple times and looked up to my unit frame…well I’ll be damned. A chorus of congratulatory “woots” rolled across my chat pane. I thanked everyone and promptly let myself get caught up in the excitement. The guild had a new 70 – the level grind was over – now for a taste of this vaunted “new” end game. Arena’s – more instances – the flying mount thing.

Well, it’s been a couple weeks since I dinged and things are…odd. First off – I think I pushed a bit too hard over the holiday to hit 70. All the play time and the sudden burning need to progress toasted me up a bit on the whole enhancement shammy thing. The bad part was that I figured this out after heading (under geared of course) into the 70’s battlegrounds. Wow. What a wake up call. After destroying all comers from 40-60 (the peak of enhancement shamanic power apparently) – I rolled into my first BG’s and watched as my vaunted crit % and old-ass 60 dps maces whiffed off of gladiator geared 70’s with more resilience than Sky had INT. I was target #1 for everyone – hit with every CC imaginable and dropped in seconds. Determined to do better (and tired of questing) I dedicated myself to the battlegrounds again and in a few days had my first piece of S1 gear. A few days later I had another piece – an expensive one too – the Gladiator’s Pummeler. Things were still going poorly though and the thought of getting drubbed for days on end to get even more gear just wasn’t all that appealing.

So I blew 5G and respecced.

Sky's crappy resto gear

To resto. What the hell – I was pretty much reduced to healing my way through BG’s anyway – I might as well be *good* at it. The respec went off just fine and the added heal-ly power (in crap-tastic gear I should add) was welcome. I put away all of my considerable enhancement goodies and built a lousy resto +healing set that had me sitting around +450 healing. Back into the BG’s I went.

Lasted about a week.

Don’t get me wrong – resto shammy rock. I healed my ass off. I saved countless lives. But I also got focus fired and annihilated over and over and over. I also got zero thanks – or damn near. Finally – after being abandoned to die by one too many noob rogues in a late night Eye of the Storm – I filled my guild chat with venom and headed off to Ogrimmar to respec. To hell with healing and to hell with my team-mates. It was time to nuke something.

Reality sinks in…Dude – your gear *sucks*. Even if you *do* respec you’re still going to be a gimped ass shaman in a mix of enhancement S1 epics and left over quest rewards from level 65. Either get back to instances and hope for some good drops…(more fighting with hunters for the odd mail piece that works for us both.) Or stay resto. Or try being a caster.

Ugh.

Kinless once said that he felt it was really obvious that Blizzard wanted Shaman to be either resto or elemental based on the quest rewards and drops they’d made available for them post 60. I have to agree with this. Short of the Aldor/Scryer stuff that is spec specific – the rest of the drops are full of +mp5 and spell damage and +healing. Still burnt on enhancement I did some reading and walked away with a 40/0/21 elemental pvp build. I’ve never been a caster folks – so this was serious weird water for me to be wading in. I shuffled some gear around – changed some basic enchants and queued up. It was different I have to say. Used to playing a melee class for so long – I went back to my hunter roots and remembered to get some stand-off distance and nuke. Kiting became important and I spent a few uncomfortable Arathi Basins getting my macros in place.

Things finally came together as my crew and I hit the Alliance flag room in Warsong Gulch. I rolled in at the back of the pack to see my team-mates already mixing it up heavy. Epic weapons were hacking out great carnage while our kick-ass paladins and healing priests kept the warrior up and the rogues from blowing away in red mist. I hit my cast cycle macro for the first chain lightning – a second later it arcs downrange and chains a series of lightning overload crits as it arcs from target to target – almost on top of it another lightning bolt fires downrange and crits the same plate-wearer – I get hit and suddenly clearcasting procs. I pop natures swiftness and elemental mastery and an instant cast chain-lightning rips into the mass of alliance, lightning overload procs again suddenly my screen is filled with “Killing Blow” – “Killing Blow” – two heavy targets drop to the ground – one of our pallies grab the flag and we’re back out the door, hauling ass for the horde side of the field.

I don’t remember much of that run – suffice it to say I healed a lot and dropped a lot of annoying totems to slow down pursuit and nuke the odd-passerby. We won the game (of course) and I logged off that night with the realization that spell damage truly does rock when it comes to dealing with nasty plate wearing brutes. Sure – the lightning overload crits were a bit of happy chance – but nothing quite lights my eyes up like scrolling combat text tossing those big numbers up in bright orange for me. I was hooked.

So – tonight I’m back at it. I have two full pieces of elemental gear so far and a third piece is on the way soon. I doubt I’ll be fully kitted out before I deploy – but I’m having fun and trying something new.

70 is cool – I wish it hadn’t taken me so long to get here.

Looking For Guild…

Skychaser at 60This weekend I came to a rather sad conclusion. The guild I’m in is going nowhere. They’re all great people, good pvp’ers and very helpful – but they’re going nowhere. By nowhere, I mean they’re not going to be progressing past the Outland 5 mans. Individuals in the guild might see Kara, but it will only be because at some point down the road, they’re going to attune themselves and jump to a different guild. Beyond that? Forget it. Right now – I have good money that says more than half of them will never hit 60 – much less 70.

Now in the past, this wouldn’t have bothered me in the slightest. For the two years or so that I have played this game I have been an unabashed master of ALTs. *Progression* was a dirty word for me and the skum-sucking bastards that left guilds in order to do more end-game were the worst sort of WoW-player imaginable. Now, after all this time and all the drama-dragons and end-game bashing I’ve experienced, I find myself in a particular quandary.

The coin has been flipped. My alts languish, my main levels at a dizzying rate. I want to raid.

Progression. I crave progression. I want to sheath my Warlord’s Bludgeon in the brain-pans of instance bosses, I want to breathe the rarefied air of the places only a small percentage of WoW players go, I want to be a champion of the naru and to stand, calm and proud in T6 gear while mongoose enchants flicker and spark off of paired epic battle-hammers.

Seriously though, I’d just be happy if I could get my guild-mates off of their alts long enough to get through Slave Pens.

I know the life of a raider isn’t what it’s all cracked up to be. The guild infighting, waiting for slots to open up in a run, gear drama, dkp, wipes, repair bills. Worse it probably also means that my enhancement Shaman will have to retire his matched battlehammers and replace his +STR and +AP gear with +Healing a shield and a kilt of flowery-heals. But I’m ready for it.

I’m sure a lot of it has to do with the fact that I’m in the military and that I’m going to deploy this year. I will spend a good 9-12 months with no WoW at all. This time constraint coupled with my ALT-itis going into remission seems to have galvanized me. I have goals – I want to run instances. I want to progress. This sudden focus has caused me to look at the game and the guild I’m in with new eyes.

The irony alone is enough to make anyone who knows me to /snork a little. Most of them know me from my time helping found and *build* an Alliance guild that is currently running two full time teams in Kara and progressing through Zul’Aman. They will progress further. It’s just a matter of time. I raided with this crew back in the pre-BC days and enjoyed it as much as someone that would rather be on their alt possibly could. In the end, I moved on – they were focused – I was not. If I were willing to go back to my Alliance toons and finish leveling them I know I’d have a raid slot on their B-team. I know the company would be good and the drama minimal.

But I’m Horde at heart. I’ve committed a lot of time and effort to leveling my Shaman and continue to chug along, my current guild tag still in place. Every night I try to schedule an instance. We have enough mid 60’s that we could be running a myriad of Outland’s plentiful 5-man dungeons – but we rarely do. My favorite druid healer has rediscovered her troll-hunter and is pew-pew-pewing in Alterac Valley. The rest of the guild are either folks that just can’t seem to get out of the 30-39 bracket, or they’ve shelved their higher level toons in favor of grinding battleground rewards in 10-19 Warsong Gulch. Our guild leader has been benched at 59 fully intent on gathering both warlord’s 1-H swords and the full epic pvp armor set before heading into Outlands. He’s been at it for about three weeks now. I fully expect him to start (another) alt either halfway through this work, or immediately upon achieving his goal. He’ll never tank or off-tank an instance with us.

The most bitter pill to swallow in all of this is that each of these players is me. They’re doing things I’ve already done. Just because I’m suddenly all bug-up-the-butt concerned with raiding and running instances doesn’t mean they need to change their game to suit me. It also means that I know how little luck I’m going to have in trying to get (any) of them to follow a schedule. I’ve tried. When go-time comes around the players that committed to the run are nowhere to be found. One or two show up late and are obviously hesitant when I shoot them an invite. No, no – our healer hasn’t logged in yet. Yeah – go ahead and play on your ALT – I’ll let you know when she logs on and we can go.

Normally, I end up pugging the instance – or having to forgo it altogether. The necessary team-members either never show up or show up so late that it’s obvious they never intended to go in the first place. Lately, when I try to schedule a run, my queries are met with silence. It’s that nasty silence – the kind you get when your newest level 15 recruit is crying on guild chat for someone to run them through Wailing Caverns. Everyone heard you – and everyone is feigning afk in hopes you’ll just go away.

Part of me figures I just need to relax. Spend the next few months finishing the drive to 70 (not much longer now) and play casually until the deployment hits. After all, the game will be here when I return and there are *other* things to do besides WoW. Another part of me wants to at least get a shot at running some regular instances with folks that know what they’re doing. I don’t need the perfect tabard and I’m not particularly worried about dkp. In fact – I can even forgive a really pretentious Latin guild name if it means that I can clear Underbog and Slave Pens together in one night.

So give me grief, call me a faithless guild jumping hypocrite that’s getting exactly what he deserves. Who knows, you might even be right. But until then, I’m looking for some guildies that know how to finish what they start and who can keep even the most minimal of schedules. I’ve been in plenty of fly-by-night “family friendly casual raiding guilds” and know that most of them (are) family friendly and (aren’t) raiding guilds. A the same time I doubt I can commit to the brutal schedules of the hard-corp raiders.

If you are:

  • Horde
  • Raid 3 nights a week between 8-12 CST
  • Not Ass-Hats
  • Need an enhancement shammy or even a (cough) resto shammy … Heck – I even have a 65 warrior that I could toss in on the bargain

Give me yell. We can tear stuff up together.

PUG Done Right

So I was in a good PUG the other day, awesome actually and I felt the need to share. First off “good” and “PUG” are two terms that aren’t often used together. Normally PUG = UGH or PUG = /facepalm.

Not this time.

Why? Because despite the fact it *was* a PUG – the people in it knew not only *what* they wanted – but knew how to go about looking for it.

Skychaser was hanging out in Thrallmar the other night and had been alternately questing and running Ramparts with pick up groups in order to build rep and snag gear. I’d already munged through on successful run with a miserable group that included a 70 warrior tank. Poor communication, completely incomprehensible target marking, and craptastic threat generation from the tank (amazing) were all highlights. We wiped at least three times in what I consider to be one of the easiest and most entertaining instances in Outland. The only thing that managed to pull the group through to the end was the fact that the tank had just an insane amount of health. He didn’t have to be good – he just had to survive. Too bad no one else tended to.

Well – I was still smarting after that run, but wanted to go back since I really hadn’t snagged anything useful. While I was grinding through a kill quest I saw the following pop up in general chat:

“Looking for more, Ramparts – Beast Master Hunter or Enhancement Shaman DPS”

A little more specific than I’m used to seeing in a /LFM. Intrigued, I sent a tell and volunteered. Moments later I got an invite – seconds after that I was summoned to the instance.

Nice…they were ready to go! (One point for the PUG – Preparation!)

Upon entering I looked at the group and was somewhat surprised by the composition. Normally – the average PUG run seems to be filled with shadow priests, fury warriors and hunters of indeterminate spec. Everyone wants to dps – no one wants to tank – and everyone expects everyone else to heal. Not here.

We had a holy priest…an Orc tank…a Tauren Fury warrior OT…a feral/resto hybrid spec druid – and me – an enhancement shammy. Roles were quickly delegated and I found myself cheerfully filling the the primary dps slot for the team. Once everyone else was sorted into a role, the druid took on the role of marking targets and explaining the precedence. This was nice, as it’s far easier to manage aggro when you and the tank are working on the same target.

With the basics out of the way, buffs done and loot agreed upon, we jumped into the first pulls and started killing. I tell you, a lot of folks complain about Ramparts and the ugly multi-pulls that come along with it, but our tank was allowed to initiate the fights and cement aggro with not only one target, but *all* targets. No one jumped in and started beating on stuff right away. By the time we did wade in, he already had a great head of steam going and could easily manage the odd onsee twosee that peeled away to go after the healer. If a dps class grabbed aggro for a moment, they immediately stopped pounding the target and allowed the tank to regain control. If he was unable to, the OT would move in and pick the target up and drag it back over to the tank for him to manage as time allowed. All the while our healer conserved mana and easily kept us alive.

I know this is pretty reasonable stuff that any competent group would do – but come on folks – this was a *pug*. Pug’s are famous for ZERO aggro management, poor healing, and spectacular wipes caused by poor aggro radius awareness. I was thrilled to say the least, but kept figuring that our progress thus far was a fluke…The PUG monster would obviously show its head at any moment.

So it was with a sense of excited anticipation that we cleared the first corner of Ramparts in order to create the battle-space for Watchkeeper Gargolmar and his pocket healers. Pulls were consistent and dps applied with precision as we tore down the packs of orcs that surrounded the area. With just enough time to rest and recover a little mana, the tank pulled Gargolmar and the rest of us went to work on his healers. In very, very short order the two clothies were dropped and our group focus fired on the boss. Moments later, the big guy is calling for his (absent) healers and shortly thereafter he’s on the floor.

Not bad.

The rest of the instance pans out in much the same way. Careful pulls, precision dps, and a superlative hybrid druid that always seemed to know when she should DPS and when she needed to pull out of cat (or bear) and help the priest with heals. Even those nasty rings of casters that normally wreck unprepared groups were rounded up and summarily executed. No runners – no unexpected tank death and no adds. The rest of the instance dropped as easily as the trash mobs. We scarred Omor up and took his stuff – and both Vazruden and Nazan were tanked and spanked with little to no fuss at all. Skychaser managed some boss loot and walked away with the nifty Garrote String Necklace, a nice change of pace for me as I rarely win contested loot rolls.

All in all I was just overwhelmed at how well the PUG had run. The players were obviously all well versed in group dynamics and it was a truly pleasant change of pace to see how all of us simply and almost instinctively knew how to support each other. I give the greatest part of this runs credit for success to the tank for knowing his business and to the druid who managed our group, the targeting, and her support role with aplomb. To be clear – everyone in the group knew their job – but the two stars were without a doubt this pair.

In a way, I almost hate that this run was *so* good. When you find a PUG that just clicks, it always leaves the hope that the next PUG you’re a part of will be just as good. Sadly, this is rarely the case. Like a junkie looking for a fix and hoping to get hooked up with “the good stuff”, Skychaser immediately jumped in with another PUG forming for the Blood Furnace. The crew looked good – an old school hunter in full pre-BC epics, a reasonable looking tank, a priest, a warlock and me. As we stood about the instance entrance, buffing and having a bite to eat, the priest suddenly went shadow and said:

“So, who’s healing?”

The New AV Makes Me Sad…

The “new” Alterac Valley sucks. It sucks Giant Eggs. It doesn’t suck because the Horde win or lose or because the Alliance have that spiffy bridge – or because of any of the myriad of exploits that pop up on one side of the other. No, in this long time players opinion it sucks because it just doesn’t matter any more.

<Start_Grandpa_Rant>

I hit exalted with Frostwolf on my first character a good long time ago. Back when games could literally take hours to play and where you *had* to pull out all the stops, gathering the meat and blood of your enemies, killing rams, upgrading your forces and summoning Lok’ to have any chance of breaking the Alliance turtle around Dun Baldar. There was an epic flavor to AV back in those days – the rush from graveyard to graveyard, the exultation at seeing Balinda go down and the Alliance towers in flames. There was the urgency to gather your shaman and summon the elemental, the need for fleet cheetah form druids that knew how to kite the Alliance druids when they tried to summon their tree. It was a dirty, cold, blood filled battleground where everyone had a place. Even protection warriors had part to play, stepping forward with honor as we began to pull Marshalls and eventually big Van’ himself.

AV back then was HUGE, intense, vital and marvelously flawed, and I loved it.

Strangely enough, it was the the PvE element and its intermixing with the PvP that I enjoyed the most. It was like world PvP almost – a small raid wheeling in around Stonehearth, fighting the Lieutenants and warding off assaults by Alliance players. I always felt that of all the battlegrounds, AV was the one that truly had the most to offer players looking for challenge on multiple levels. Sure it wasn’t as quick or as accessible as WSG or AB, but it wasn’t supposed to be. This was where the *real* war was. You had to be at the pinnacle of your characters leveling career to even gain entry and the reputation rewards were some of the most sought after.

Yes – games took too long. Yes AFK’ers and fisher-folk were rampant. But I loved it still.

I’ve lived through and appreciated most of the changes that have occurred since the death of the old PvP honor grind. After the great NPC nerf, AV became more of a race and the game seemed to benefit from a more rapid pace vs. the protracted battles of old. Sure you could still get into some stinkers from time to time, but at its heart, there were still Marshalls and Warmasters to worry about. Wandering Lieutenants to kill and the Captains of each faction, waiting in their respective halls. From time to time as the Alliance started getting better at AV (or their turtles more determined) – we actually had to pull out frosty Lok’ to finish games – or worse – we had to worry for our own general as Alliance zergs were making it into our village, burning our towers and capping our relief hut.

Win or lose though – the game retained much of its epic heart if not so much its epic length.

Then 2.3 came along and Blizzard claims that the battleground is now better than ever. Better at what? It’s fast – or at least the few games I’ve seen since the change have been. Strategy is slightly different as defense is more important and you can no longer simply throw bodies at a problem until one side cracks. The reinforcement aspect of the game is a good one I’ll grant and it makes players think differently about what they attack, who they attack with – and who’s healing. But that’s all. The battlespace seems a vast empty place now. Not only are the mobs that guard the towers and graveyards nerfed beyond all belief, but the Lieutenants are gone and the once hazard filled expanse between Dun Baldar and Frostwolf now a small empty place.

Sure you might say – you play Horde, it’s easy for you to miss the old AV – seeing as how you never used to *lose* back then. Maybe that’s true – but I’ve spent more than my fair share of time in the valley on Alliance toons as well. I’ve hit exalted on a night elf druid and won only a single game through the entire ordeal. I know about the valley – I know from both sides.

And still – I miss the old AV.

<End_Grandpa_Rant>

With my latest character, Skychaser now in the 50’s – I know that there is a fair amount of AV left for me to do before I enter Outlands. But unlike before, where the valley represented a true destination and a valid place to camp and grind honor and reputation, I don’t think Sky’ will last any longer than the time required to gather enough tokens for his Frostwolf Howler.

Sad.

Time will tell and perhaps the new AV will grow on me more as I spend more time there. But at the heart of it all, I miss my old PvE opponents the most. There was nothing quite like tanking Captain Galvanger from start to finish for the first time when my old Alliance guild took control of the raid and actually nearly won the game. Nor will I forget the mishappen shapes of the Horde constructs at Iceblood, the massive furball of each force meeting at that forward chokepoint and the desperate fight on both sides to win through. Some say that after 2.3, PvP has finally come to the valley – but in my opinion, it was always right there. Mixed and spiced with an epic (if perhaps sometimes too epic) PvE element that gave the battleground character.

Time will tell of course and the truth will be told in future patches.

Guild Bank Ninja’d

So it had to happen right? Great big bank – full of loot – it’s only a matter of time before someone decides to make off with it.

For members of a guild on Bleeding Hollow, not only was their guild bank ninja’d – but from the looks of it – Blizzard can’t or won’t tell them who the culprit was.

Over the Thanksgiving holiday, the guild leaders were doing a regular audit of the transaction logs for the bank. According to one of their members who posted the report on the Blizzard Customer Service Forums, the audit log detailed over 1500G worth of gold and items had been removed early on the morning of November 25th by a character named “unknown.” When the guild officers checked their bank log on the Armory, the name was reported as “null.”

The rank of the guild member was apparently that of an “officer” with full access to the bank tabs. Blizzard GM’s are reported to have confirmed the following in regards to the missing “name.”

The only way the name would be showing as “unknown or null” in the logs are if:

  • The character name was changed
  • The player switched servers
  • The character was deleted

Guild officers are continuing to contend with Blizzard over whether or not they can find out the identity of this mysterious thief. The members claim that the officers involved are all long time friends or dedicated and loyal players. They also claim that no one with the needed access had recently joined (or left) the guild.

While it is impossible to speculate how the banking system might be exploited from outside, most players are seeing the likely culprit to be a dishonest officer who decided to jack the bank and abuse one of Blizzards recent service offerings:

i.e. Paid server transfers and paid name changes….

It would have been fairly simple for an officer to invite an alt to the guild – promote that alt to the needed rank for bank access – and then proceed to ninja at leisure before buying $10-25 worth of anonymity.

While perhaps not a perfect crime it’s a pretty good one. Guild members are angry because Blizzard cannot provide a list of guild promotions during the time in question nor is Blizzard willing (or able) to give the guild members names of any characters that /gquit, transfered, or changed their name over the same time frame. While it’s pretty certain that the data is available in Blizzard server logs – the question of release to the guild impacts Blizzards need to protect the privacy of other customers.

No one from Blizzard has commented on fixes or changes to the guild bank in the future, but it’s safe to say that until they do – it’s important for guild leaders to think long and hard about who gets the keys to the guild vault.