20/01/2022

Pessimism About Classic Wrath of the Lich King

I'm in a bit of a funny place with Classic right now, in the sense that I'm having a lot of fun with it, but it feels very much like all of that is happening inside a very fragile bubble. In general, Classic doesn't seem to be in the best of places. The killing off of my old home server Hydraxian Waterlords was only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to server population issues for example, as people are using paid transfers to slowly depopulate smaller servers and making the faction balance on PvP servers (which are the majority) more and more lop-sided to the point where things can become unplayable for the smaller faction.

At the same time people are already talking about Classic Wrath of the Lich King, which - while nothing has officially been announced - seems guaranteed to be released either by the end of the year or early next year. And I'm not looking forward to that either, as I also said to Redbeard in a comment on one of his recent posts.

Wrath may have been many people's favourite expansion, but as I've previously stated on this blog, for me it was very much a mixed bag. It contained some good content, but it was also the first time in my time playing WoW that some changes and additions started to look genuinely unappealing to me. And what good there was, I already played for all it's worth back in the day - I ran something like 1500 five-man dungeons during original WotLK, for Christ's sake! Even if I obviously had fun with that to some degree, do I really want to farm those badges all over again? I think not. Personal taste in expansions aside, I also have a fairly gloomy outlook on the overall situation as far as Blizzard's handling of Classic goes and looking at the way the community has been developing.

I wasn't as put off as some by the introduction of the paid boost and store mount for Classic BC, but it was definitely a sign that the thumbscrews had come out in terms of monetisation, and I expect Wrath to be ten times worse, as original WotLK was when Blizzard first introduced store mounts - meaning they are part of the "legitimate" Classic experience and Blizz have no reason whatsoever to hold back. There also seems to be a general lack of care for the Classic experience in evidence already - I mean, how many months has that succubus death pose bug been in game now?

And as for the community... it's a complex topic, because it's one thing to talk about something like a server's community, but "the Classic community" is vast and diverse. Still, I feel that in general there's been a lot of complaining from the start about not liking certain features of Classic and vocal demands for convenience updates, which just makes me want to scream: you knew exactly what you were getting with this, if it bothers you so much, why are you even playing?! It can be frustrating to watch people claim to love Classic while also asking for it to be more like retail.

At the same time there's been a lot of over the top min-maxing going on as well as people seemingly treating the game like a checklist of chores, the sheer degree of which has honestly been quite shocking to me. I knew that this was already happening in OG Classic, but it seemed more contained then and not as wide-spread as it became with BC. Even if things have mellowed out now, as those who were the most guilty of this are either burnt out or "done" and have no more reason to log in, the way in which this transformed even people I like and consider friends into relentless grinding machines at the start of BC will remain with me for a long time and that's not something I want to go through a second time. Again, with the introduction of achievements and the additional streamlining that came with Wrath, I only expect this to get ten times worse.

Combine this with all the things I remember not liking all that much about WotLK the first time around, and I think everything will come together to make Wrath Classic a grade A shitshow:

  • With dungeons actively designed for easy AoE grinding and the introduction of the dungeon finder, people will feel the need to chain-queue for instances 24/7, leading to even faster burnout than people experienced in BC. The dungeon finder will also eliminate any remaining incentive to make connections or to group up with guildies for anything other than raids, unless you're literally already best friends and doing everything together anyway.
  • Everyone seems to forget that the majority of Wrath's first raid tier was Discount Naxx, which made sense at the time because hardly anyone had seen the original, but considering how many guilds cleared the real deal in Classic only a year ago, people will be bored with the nerfed version within a week.
  • The death knight meta will cause chaos... everyone always just seems to remember how much they personally liked the death knight play style, forgetting that there'll be thousands of other people wanting to be just as OP at the same time. There'll be all-death knight dungeon runs and battlegrounds, competition for raid spots will be fierce, and people will be thoroughly sick of everyone else playing the class in short order.

All this and more is why I don't think I'll really want to play a Wrath Classic... but the sad thing is, I'm considering it even so. And you know why? Because of my guild. The whole server transfer shenanigans highlighted to me that I've made some strong connections there that are not so easily let go, and I could see myself giving it at least a try for other people's sake... but I'm not optimistic that it will result in lasting enjoyment.

17/01/2022

I'm the Tank! Or Am I?

My druid got her swift flight form this weekend, and originally I meant to make this a post about the awesomeness of the quest chain required to unlock it. However, after a quick search of the blog archives, I found that I already made a post to that effect almost twelve years ago. This was during Wrath, when you could already get the skill directly from the trainer if you wanted, but the quest chain was still in game as a piece of optional content.

My druid has been getting all my love lately as she's my most recent character to 70, and as my paladin is approaching the point of being as kitted out as she's going to get outside of progression raids, focusing on the druid seemed like the next logical step. She's also still a tank, so I've been doing a fair amount of bear tanking (though there've also been some dungeons where I got to tag along as cat).

On Saturday I took her to our weekly community Gruul/Mag run for the first time and it was pretty fun, even if I didn't get any loot. I was the least geared of the three tanks, so it made sense that I was given the easy jobs... but on High King Maulgar the main tank died and it was up to me to taunt him and save the raid!

To top it off, something similar happened on Magtheridon afterwards: One of the much better geared paladins in attendance was supposed to tank him, and I was told to only build some threat "just in case" (as sudden tank death is not uncommon on this boss due to how hard he hits). I did as I was told, happily mangling away at one of his legs and trying to stay ahead of the dps on threat but not really expecting it to be important, when suddenly the tank went squish here as well, and I found myself yelling for people to heal me on voice while I was trying to manoeuvrer Mags away from the cube I'd stood next to. I then proceeded to tank him for the rest of the fight and felt very proud.

Of course, in case that got my ego too inflated, I tanked heroic Sethekk Halls for my flight form quest right after and I must have died five or six times in that (and only about half of those were wipes). That put things into perspective for sure.

As a result of all this, I've found myself thinking about tanking a lot. In WoW at least, it's something that's been tied to a lot of anxiety for as long as I can remember... both for the people actually playing the role and those complaining that they can never find a tank. It's never been my main focus, but I did do a fair amount of it over the years... yet I could remember little of how I felt about it.

Consulting the blog archives for past me's thoughts was certainly enlightening... and not just because it was like slowly watching a frog boil, as my standards for what I expected of my group mates declined over time. It's funny to look at posts like this one from 2010 for example, titled "An exemplary UP pug", in which I excitedly recount the tale of wiping twice in heroic Utgarde Pinnacle without anyone rage-quitting and only one guy insulting me a bit! The height of positive social interactions in an MMO, everyone!

On the subject of tanking in specific, I found this quote from a post about tanking in early Cata enlightening: "I was a pretty decent tank in late Burning Crusade, but two years of racing through Wrath heroics while AoEing everything and calling that tanking has left its mark on me." So I was a decent tank in late BC, eh? I do remember kind of liking tanking on my feral druid, though I seem to have little evidence of it other than old screenshots demonstrating how hard it can be to see anything while tanking certain bosses...

Exhibit A, dated October 2008.

My feeling right now is that I do like tanking in BC in a similar way to the way I like healing. With the lack of AoE aggro generating abilities, it's not dissimilar to the whack-a-mole of healing in dungeons. Use mangle on this mob, taunt a second, stun a third... whatever's needed to keep them all off the squishy people. What makes it more demanding is mainly that it's not a direct UI interaction, but that you have to actually operate in three-dimensional space, making sure you're in range for a taunt, at just the right distance for a charge, and so on and so forth. Plus there's a general expectation for the tank to take the lead and do the marking and kill order/CC assignments - which again, I don't really mind, but it does require additional mental effort that results in me feeling tired more quickly after spending some time tanking dungeons.

Oddly though, the thing that bothers me the most about tanking right now is that I'm always at the mercy of people who might not care. For me, both tanking and healing are caring roles in the sense that they are about helping and protecting the rest of your party, and the more I care about them and they care about me, the more satisfying it is. (I know it's kind of a cliché that healers are more caring and therefore favoured by women and blah de blah... I'm not speaking for anyone else, just how it works for me.)

The thing is, in our little group of "dungeon regulars", almost everyone has a tanking alt, but I'm the only person who's willing to heal. This means that whenever I'm tanking, the healer will have to come from the outside. Sometimes it's a guildie and it's generally okay (though it can still be a bit anxiety-inducing if I don't know the person that well and they behave in - to me - erratic ways, such as the priest who absent-mindedly decided to wander ahead of me into the last room in heroic Slave Pens, body-pulling both groups of crabs and nearly wiping us), but pugs can be completely hit and miss.

The priest healing us through heroic Sethekk Halls for example was a pug and clearly not impressed. He died on the first pull when a big heal got him aggro on a mob and it hit him before I could taunt it back, something for which I immediately apologised, because even though he was a stranger, I cared and felt bad. But all the subsequent times I died (and I mean when it happened to only me, and the rest of the group survived just fine), he seemed more annoyed with me than anything. I mean, I may well be projecting - I know it's a tough dungeon to heal, and didn't want to complain. But I certainly didn't feel the love when I slowly watched my health bar deplete sometimes with no incoming heals for what felt like ages, just to go splat yet again and then see the rest of the group finish off the pull or boss without me.

So I'm kind of torn about staying a bear on my druid... I like having a tanking alt available when needed, and I do quite enjoy tanking in some ways, but there's also a big part of me that's considering simply going tree so that I can focus on healing people I like, and not having to entrust my (virtual) life to strangers all the time. Plus in one of those "that's just typical" situations, my attempts at gearing my druid have coincided with several other people suddenly deciding that they want to work on their tanking alts now, so that we'll have e.g. four tank sign-ups for Kara and no healers. It's just awkward all around.

13/01/2022

One Dead Elf

I've never been as fond of the Kael'thas fight as of his counterpart Vashj. I find the encounter a bit gimmicky (more so than Vashj's core mechanic that is), and I remember everyone always being bored while having to wait for him to go through his whole RP routine on every pull, and for all the advisors to become active.

That said, he was one of Burning Crusade's big bads, and I'll always remember that missing out on my guild's first kill of the encounter back in summer 2008 actually made me cry. It seems so silly now to care that much about a boss kill, but this was at the height of my emotional investment in WoW and it was clearly important to me... or else I wouldn't still remember the whole experience so vividly almost fourteen years later, from having to sub in another shadow priest because of my suboptimally built custom PC shutting down from running too hot, to me curling up on the sofa in tears while also feeling somewhat ashamed of myself. Most of all I remember the friend from the guild who caught on to my distress and found just the right words to comfort me after.

I couldn't help but remember all that when I looked at the sign-up sheet for Monday's raid to Tempest Keep and considered that I was still only supposed to be a back-up. The initial sign-up numbers for the raid looked like I wasn't going to be needed and might therefore miss out on the guild first kill... which made me ponder that while these things don't bother me nearly as much on this re-run of the content, I did care and would at least prefer to be there. As it happened, a few people dropped out and I got to go after all, and I decided to use this opportunity to finally admit to wanting to re-join the raid team properly.

There are still some things that I'm feeling a bit conflicted about, but ultimately I've been showing up loyally for almost two months despite of not being part of the team "officially" and it's been nice. And as I said previously, I'd like to see Hyjal and Black Temple again, and get some shiny loot in the process too.

On our way to Kael I whispered the current hunter class leader (who is different from the hunter class leader I sometimes referred to in my pre-BC Classic posts) and said that I was going to talk to one of the officers after the raid about rejoining the raid team properly. "Or I can just do this!" he replied and immediately set my rank in the guild roster back to raider. I felt slightly embarrassed to be honest because I'd meant not to make a fuss about it, but with everyone quietly prepping for the next trash pull, the promotion popping up in guild chat was very noticeable and elicited some congratulatory comments. So there we have it. For the time being, I'm back in.

Our first attempt on Kael that evening wasn't too bad, even if I was struggling to find my feet a little, not having been there for any of the guild's previous tries. As the evening progressed, I have to admit I wasn't too hopeful that we were going to kill him that night after all, as things still seemed to descend into a bit too much headless chicken mode whenever all the advisors came back to life. A guildie whispered me to say that he was also thinking that things didn't look too good... but then we managed to get the boss down on what would have had to be the last pull of the evening anyway. I will say that it was more exciting than the Vashj kill at least!

In a turn of events that felt very symbolic, I also ended up winning the tier five chest right after my official return to raider, which is my fourth piece of the set, meaning that I could finally shed my Beast Lord gear to slip straight into the full tier five set bonus, which resulted in my huntress undergoing a noticeable visual transformation as well. A couple more weeks of farming SSC and TK, and then soon, Mount Hyjal awaits.

07/01/2022

All Heroics Completed!

One of my vague goals for Classic Burning Crusade was to play through all the heroic dungeons again, even the unpopular ones. I'm something like 99% sure that I did them all back in the day as well, but I have no clear recollection or record of it, so I wanted to do it all again to refresh my memory. Last week I managed to complete this goal by finally being able to tick heroic Mana Tombs off the list, the last heroic I had yet to complete in Classic. (Not counting Magister's Terrace, which won't be out for a while yet.)

With that done, I wanted to write down some thoughts on each heroic.

Hellfire Citadel

Hellfire Ramparts

This is a very easy heroic and I kind of wonder why people don't do it for badges more often, considering that it's quite short as well. I mean, there are some trash pulls that are a bit tricky to get right, but I wouldn't expect that to be a huge issue? I can only guess that the lack of other incentives is the reason why it isn't more popular (no regular quests send you there and none of the loot seems particularly exciting).

The Blood Furnace

This one seems to be an unpopular one, seemingly based on many people having bad experiences with it early in the expansion and then being like "never again". For me however, it was the heroic that kicked off our little dungeon troupe running things just for fun and I'll always remember it fondly for that.

Standing at attention to hear our fearless leader's plan.

We've run it a few more times since then and it's always been a blast. Most of it isn't too hard anyway; it's just that cage event before the second boss that's challenging, but if you're there with friends even that's a good thing in my eyes, because it's challenging in a way that encourages you to make a plan and stick to it, and if everyone executes their part correctly, nobody dies and you all get to feel good about yourselves at the end of it. The felguards just before the last boss occasionally one-shotting dps players is just a bit of extra comedy.

The Shattered Halls

This is probably the most hated heroic that people still run anyway, mostly because both the quest for the Nightbane urn and the Tempest Keep attunement (now not needed anymore, but still gives a title) require you to come here. And to be fair, I kind of get it. It's a bunch of straight hallways full of trash in a way that makes it impossible to skip anything except some of those gladiators near the end, and there are many pulls that are just too big for a non-paladin tank to effectively hold aggro on. Doesn't matter how geared they are or whether they're the best player in the world, Swipe only hits three targets and Thunder Clap up to four - if there are more enemies than that and you can't CC them, you need to hit them individually and that just takes time that you might not have before they decide to go after the healer.

I've only tanked it on normal myself and on some pulls the mobs were definitely all over the place - it's just that on normal this won't wipe you. My heroic runs with non-paladin tanks have always involved a lot of frantic running around and I can't blame any tank for finding it stressful that one missed attack at the wrong moment might result in a dps - or worse, the healer - getting one-shot. Basically you need a team where everyone really works together and is willing to take some responsibility by using cooldowns, slows etc. on almost every pull and that's just a lot to ask. That said, as a non-tank I really don't mind it.

Coilfang Reservoir

The Slave Pens

Easily the most popular heroic by a mile. It's relatively easy and therefore pretty beginner-friendly, but that doesn't explain why people prefer it quite so much over e.g. Ramparts which is very similar in that regard. My guess is that it's got something to do with the SSC attunement quest requiring at least two visits of the dungeon (once to pick up the quest and then a second time to hand it in) and the last boss actually dropping some pretty good loot, not least a trinket that's pre-raid best in slot for many casters. Also, you can skip huge amounts of trash and I get the impression that people enjoy being able to do that even if it doesn't reduce the duration of the dungeon significantly when compared to other short instances.

Three frost mages and their pets is almost like having six damage dealers... who aren't very good.

The Underbog

If Shattered Halls is the most hated heroic that people do anyway, this is probably the easiest heroic that nobody ever does. Nothing except the timing of some trash pulls near the end is really hard and there's a lot of skinning and herbing to be done for those with either gathering skill. However, like Ramparts it has no quests telling you to go there while also being somewhat longer than the latter, so I guess that's why people rarely bother.

The Steamvault 

This is another fairly popular destination as you can skip a lot of trash and what remains is on a similar level to Slave Pens. The bosses are perhaps slightly tougher, especially the first one, but it's nothing too dramatic.

Auchindoun

Mana Tombs

Nobody ever wants to go to Mana Tombs, which is why it was the last heroic I got to check off my list, and it took a lot of convincing to get enough of my friends and guildies to go along with it. The common refrain seemed to be that the first boss required shadow resistance gear on the tank, which I didn't remember being an issue back in the day so I handwaved it away.

Now, strictly speaking I was correct as we did kill him without resist gear, but we were fairly well geared and we still wiped about half a dozen times before getting him down, mostly as everybody needed to learn to be disciplined with stopping dps whenever the damage reflection shield went up as otherwise people would just kill themselves within the blink of an eye. I was healing on that run and I also just barely managed to keep the tank alive with non-stop Holy Light spam and with the boss dying just in time for me to be completely OOM.

The other two bosses were a relative cakewalk after that, even the last one with the add summons that I recalled being somewhat of a pain back in the day.

"Successfully healed through heroic Mana Tombs" flex.

Auchenai Crypts

There are some good drops for several physical dps classes in this one, plus a valuable enchanting recipe drops from the trash as well. Combine that with how short it is (having only two bosses), which makes it a quick four badges on days when it's the daily heroic, and I'd say this is a reasonably popular heroic. Not a favourite, but people do run it with decent frequency.

Sethekk Halls

Sethekk Halls can be pretty rough on heroic, with a lot of trash for a place that only has two bosses by default, and with many mobs having some pretty disruptive abilities, from knockbacks and mind-control totems to silences and fears. Both bosses are pretty tough on the healer as well - but there are two powerful incentives to go anyway: It's the other heroic needed to acquire the urn to summon Nightbane, and every druid who wants to get epic flight form needs to complete it at least once as well. The latter also involves summoning the bonus boss Anzu, who can drop himself as a super rare mount, which is something that always holds a certain appeal.

Shadow Labyrinth 

This is another one that's not very popular but people do it anyway, if only for the Tempest Keep attunement/Champion of the Naaru title. Reasons to dislike it are that it's on the long side and that there's a lot of unskippable trash, and like in Shattered Halls there are some huge pulls. While these are at least limited to the second boss's room, they are in some way even worse than Shattered Halls because even a well-geared paladin tank can't just AoE tank it all due to the enemy shadow priest mobs just melting people in seconds if uncontrolled. I remember on my first run of this, our dps group consisted of a hunter (me), a shadow priest and a dps warrior and we both wiped a lot and had to get quite creative with our crowd control plans in the end. That said, I do like a challenge.

Caverns of Time

Old Hillsbrad Foothills

This was the penultimate heroic I struggled to complete before Mana Tombs, also because hardly anyone ever wants to run it. The first time I heard someone talk about it, they said something like this (I'm paraphrasing a bit): "Heroic Old Hillsbrad? We tried that once, but the adds before the last boss kept one-shotting our tank. And we were already raid-geared at that point! Never again."

Still, for me tales of how impossible a dungeon is only serve to spur me on to want to see for myself - I guess because I always assume that people must have been doing it wrong and that I can do better (conceited, I know...) and in the end I ended up running it twice within a week or so, once on my hunter and once on my mage.

The first run with my hunter was quite a memorable adventure with a lot of mishaps along the way, though we interestingly managed to one-shot the encounter with the last boss. It sure was a fight to remember though... our tank did indeed also die on the second wave of adds, but we kept muddling through by using CC to the best of our ability, letting Thrall off-tank and so on. There is a short break before the boss himself engages, during which we could get the tank resed and healed up to start the main fight at full strength - and things did seem to go okay for a bit, until suddenly everyone was dead and I was the last person standing. "Feign death and let him tank!" yelled my levelling buddy over voice (referring to Thrall), which I did and which subsequently allowed me to finish off the boss. He did manage to put a deadly DoT on me just before dying, which I only just out-healed by immediately sitting down as soon as combat ended and stuffing my face with mage food. What a fight though!

I only remembered to take a screenshot of the carnage after I'd survived the DoT.

On the second run we did better during the first half of the instance but then wiped on the last encounter half a dozen times due to the adds always killing our tank, the healer, or both, but eventually we got it down as well.

The Black Morass

The Black Morass is another not very popular destination, but in a different way than places like Shattered Halls or Shadow Labs. There are a couple of good loot drops here that incentivise tanks and physical dps to return, and it's probably the easiest heroic to tank, seeing how all you need to do is pick up the big mob by each portal and try to cleave the adds to some extent.

The problem is that the dps requirements for a smooth run are very high, and it's very easy for a mistake to spiral out of control, at which point it's most likely a wipe and due to the timed nature of the instance the whole run's probably a bust (unless you were already on the last boss, in which case you have just enough time to run back and re-try him once).

I've had some runs with guildies that were super smooth and made the whole instance look easy, and I've had ones where my healer was constantly getting hit in the face by adds and we were falling behind on portals to the point that the next one was already opening just as we were engaging the current one. I also had one run which was super smooth until we popped a beacon on one of the portals which caused the tank to ignore the main mob (as it was being tanked by the summoned dragon), but then the beacon ran out before said mob was dead and it ran around killing half the group, nearly wiping us - just to illustrate my point about things being able to go south incredibly quickly. It's a weird dungeon, is what I'm saying.

Tempest Keep

The Mechanar

The Mechanar is another one of the heroics that's considered relatively easy and fast, though e.g. the fire lady can honestly be quite deadly! I guess the fact that the last boss drops a nice tanking sword adds to the appeal. Also, the robot guy is I think the only boss in all of BC's heroics that has completely different mechanics on heroic compared to normal (the Thaddeus-like charges vs. damage reflection shields on normal), which is quite peculiar now that I think about it.

The Botanica

The Botanica is a bit of an odd heroic in that most of it is not at all hard (with the exception of a few very disruptive trash mobs - but if you know what to look out for they are easy enough to handle), but quite long. At the same time though, it offers five badges for the effort, so the length is somewhat justified... I've found that people aren't overly fond of running this one normally, but when it's the daily there'll be a decent amount of groups, probably because a total of seven badges for an about hour-long run of an instance that isn't too challenging is not a bad payout.

The Arcatraz

The Arcatraz possibly rivals Shattered Halls in terms of unpopularity while still making people feel like they "have" to do it for the TK attunement chain/title. I do think that the difficulty is somewhat overrated though, because a lot of the trash consists of mobs that can be pulled as singles, meaning it's really not that challenging to handle. I'd say it's mostly the last boss that's rough, even if you're not worried about keeping Millhouse alive for the quest (but most of the time people do need that).

Beleaguered raid tank taking people through heroic Arca for their quest for the umpteenth time.

The biggest surprise to me here was the first boss, whom I remember doing an absolute ton of shadow damage, to the point that people recommended resist gear for him back in the day, yet he's never caused the groups I've been in any particular issues. This is an interesting contrast to the first boss of Mana Tombs, whom I don't remember being as bad as he is. I even have written evidence of that - I started this blog back in 2009, when Wrath of the Lich King was the current expansion, but BC was still in the fairly recent past back then, and one of my first posts was about rating the difficulty of BC heroic dungeon bosses.

In summary

I will say that Burning Crusade heroics are every bit as fun as I remember them being back in the day, and I plan to continue running them for as long as the expansion is around. I really love how much they defy brute force - though I'm not sure I want to say they are hard, exactly. Considering that I'm a woman rapidly approaching 40 who clicks most of her abilities, you don't really need to be a pro gamer to beat this content... but every boss and trash pull is a challenge that asks you to think about how to approach it, what to interrupt, what crowd control to use and when, and so on and so forth, and if you keep making bad decisions, there are consequences in the form of deaths and wipes.

Most importantly, everyone is part of that decision-making progress, and it really creates a feeling of working together. When I cast a heal at just the right time, when the tank taunts the mob just before it can hit me, when a rogue stuns the mob before it can fire off its most devastating ability, all of these things contribute to things coming together, and it just feels so good to me! Wrath of the Lich King felt very disappointing in comparison when everything descended into AoE fests where little seemed to matter other than running fast enough to keep up with your tank.

31/12/2021

Classic WoW & Me in 2021

When I wrote this year in review post last year, I ended it by saying, "for all we know Classic Burning Crusade could already be out and maybe I'll be raiding Karazhan on a brand-new Draenei shaman!" While that particular prediction did not come true exactly (Classic BC did come out and I've been raiding in it, but not on a shaman and to be honest Karazhan is already old hat by now), it has certainly been another eventful year in game.

From our drama-tastic clear of Naxx just before the BC pre-patch to the struggles and shifts that came with the expansion, to almost wanting to quit to finding love again (or something), just to then have Blizzard mess it up by emptying out my server... but ultimately, I am still here, and have been able to enjoy the Classic BC content with some lovely friends.

Tirr, Champion of the Naaru

  • Level 70 Hunter
  • 54 days, 9 hours played
  • 375 Skinning, 375 (Dragonscale) Leatherworking, 375 Cooking, 375 Fishing, 375 First Aid

I guess it's somewhat surprising to me that my hunter is still my main, considering that I still tend to think of myself as someone who mains healers most of the time. But I guess the hunter identity in this version of WoW does suit me as well in a way. It's an easy job that doesn't put too much pressure on you even in environments like progression raiding, because if things go wrong, you can often just feign death and don't even have a repair bill to be annoyed about, which makes it easy to maintain a friendly and laid-back attitude at all times. Plus hunters are generally perceived as a bunch of goofballs, so that mess-ups like accidental pet pulls are easily brushed off as just part of the role. On the other hand, if you do make yourself useful by misdirecting things without needing to be asked or showing skill with using your traps, people will appreciate you all the more.

I did get that Beast Lord set bonus eventually (I think the helm dropped on my 14th or 15th run), and I'm still wearing it until I can get my fourth piece of tier five. I even respecced to Beast Mastery, a spec which I actually rather dislike (odd one out as I seem to be in that regard), just to be able to bring a bit more dps to the raids. I'm looking forward to getting attuned for Mount Hyjal and Black Temple. Tirr had to gain an exrtra r in her name as part of the server transfer, but she's still here.

Jehna, Champion of the Naaru

  • Level 70 Mage
  • 17 days, 20 hours played
  • 375 Enchanting, 375 (Shadoweave) Tailoring, 375 Cooking, 315 Fishing, 375 First Aid

I wrote about the oddness of my main alt also being a dps before, so I'm not going to repeat all of that. It is worth noting though that since then I even bothered to spend the time and resources to max out both her tailoring and enchanting, which was no mean feat. I do love being able to be useful by providing (dis)enchanting services, feeding thirsty paladins and providing portals after a sucessful dungeon run.

Sarell

  • Level 70 Paladin
  • 26 days, 23 hours played
  • 375 Mining, 361 Weaponsmithing (Mace spec), 375 Cooking, 330 Fishing, 375 First Aid

My third character to 70, my little pally has been reminding me of how much I do love healing, even if it brings out my bossy side a bit. I even scraped the money together to make her my first alt with epic flying. She's also been doing well in Karazhan in terms of loot (healers always seem to) and even got her Light's Justice only last night. I have yet to replace my dragon shield from BWL, but I guess it makes for a rather unique look...

Faly

  • Level 70 Druid
  • 13 days, 17 hours played
  • 375 Herbalism, 368 Alchemy (Elixir Master), 375 Cooking, 256 Fishing, 368 First Aid

I'm not quite sure yet where I'll be going with this one in the long run as I don't enjoy tanking as much as healing, but I also don't mind doing it every now and then. Mostly I'm glad to have a tank at 70 now just to be able to provide tanking services when they are needed. Of course I won't always have the time or be in the mood to tank dungeons for other people... but I do want to help where I can. I want to be what I wished for more tanks in the guild to do when I only had my dps character to work with.

Shintar

  • Level 45 Priest
  • 3 days, 4 hours played
  • 219 Mining, 209 (Gnomish) Engineering, 225 Cooking, 173 Fishing, 240 First Aid

Been making slow progress on this one, but the increased levelling speed in the old world that was introduced with BC keeps throwing me off. I know most people have cited it as a positive change, but I've been used to a certain rhythm of alternating solo questing and dungeons, but now I always end up outlevelling the dungeons before I got all the quests for them and it throws me off. Recently I've been motivated to work on her more though, as all my previous level 60 characters are at 70 now, so she's the obvious next choice to work on getting up there as well.

Razorr

  • Level 34 Warrior
  • 2 days, 5 hours played
  • 154 Mining, 225 Skinning, 168 Cooking, 57 Fishing, 196 First Aid
My little warrior is still there and still little. She did gain a few levels since a year ago, but not many as warrior still isn't really my cup of tea, and to be honest I kind of use her as a semi-bank alt for food storage. Getting sweeping strikes at level 30 was fun though.

Shintri

  • Level 30 Shaman
  • 1 day, 12 hours played
  • 127 Mining, 130 Jewelcrafting, 167 Cooking, 24 Fishing, 180 First Aid

I made a shaman when the pre-patch came out and levelled her through the Draenei starter experience... and then just kind of stopped because my focus was on other things, which was honestly pretty much what I expected to happen. Recently she's seen a bit of renewed attention though as I've been doing some of questing on her with my levelling buddy's shaman. I do kind of like the idea of making her resto and eventually having a second healer at the level cap one day.

Kanni

  • Level 12 Paladin
  • 7 hours played
  • 74 Mining, 43 Blacksmithing, 12 Cooking, no Fishing yet, 19 First Aid

This is the little paladin I originally made on Nethergarde Keep when I thought I wasn't going to server transfer but wanted to stay in touch with my guild. Why a second paladin? To make her a tank, perhaps? But it's early days and with all my "proper" characters transferred now, she hasn't got much love.

It's not worth saying anything about Horde, because I haven't played my Horde characters at all last year. Alliance is simply where it's at now.

As for predictions of where I'll be this time next year... who knows? Blizzard seems to want to push us through all the phases pretty quickly, so I reckon we'll either be in Sunwell or might even already be loooking at a Classic Wrath of the Lich King by the end of the year. And what I'll do when that happens, I genuinely don't know. That subject will warrant its own post whenever it actually gets announced.

16/12/2021

Naga and Nerfs

I've been spending a considerable amount of time in Serpentshrine Cavern and The Eye over the past few weeks, especially considering that I haven't actually returned to core raider rank. The guild has managed to find some promising new recruits on Nethergarde Keep, but with several people having to sign as absent for real life reasons every night, there was usually still a spot for me. And in my head it still matters that I haven't committed to being there - I just happened to have time.

SSC in particular has felt like a good place to be. Practising the Lady Vashj fight reminded me of how much I loved it back in the day too - I generally like fights where a lot of players have to fulfill different jobs, and where a certain degree of unpredictability forces people to communicate. Back in the day my shadow priest was one of the people burning down striders; this time my hunter was the dedicated elemental hunter for the southern side of the boss's platform. I enjoyed myself either way.

We'd gotten to the point where we could make it through phase two reasonably smoothly, but then things tended to fall apart quickly during phase three once the unstoppable mind controls kicked in (affected targets receive a huge buff to their damage done and couldn't be crowd controlled, only tanked). A few weeks ago there was talk from Blizzard about nerfing this slightly so that the mind controlled characters could at least be CC-ed, but they quickly backpedalled on that particular suggestion for reasons unknown to me. Instead they decided to wait a little longer and then apply one massive nerf bat all at once, with the associated changes going live yesterday.

Going into SSC after this nerf felt very weird. The trash absolutely melted. Lurker died in half the usual time. Morogrim Tidewalker's murloc adds, which had previously been a tight AoE dps check, were reduced to about a quarter of their previous health and our warlocks struggled to get even two Seeds of Corruption off before they were all dead. When we got to Vashj herself, we one-shot her, and the cheers on Discord were very subdued. Where her third phase had previously been a crescendo of chaos after an already challenging phase two, it was now just another tank and spank similar to phase one, making the fight conclude with a whimper instead of a bang.

I found myself remembering the day we killed the final bosses of tier 11 back in Cataclysm, as well as the massive Black Temple nerfs hitting just after my BC guild had killed Mother Shahraz (something I also discuss in the linked post). In hindsight, I was right that none of those post-nerf kills were ultimately very memorable to me, as I can recall virtually nothing about any of the mentioned bosses that I first killed in their post-nerf state.

I can't help but find myself wishing that Blizzard hadn't decided to push us forward quite so hard. Trawling my way through old patch notes, it was interesting to see how targeted and gradual their raid nerfs were originally: remove a trash mechanic here, tone down the damage of an ability there. The aforementioned mind control mechanic on Vashj for example was initially changed to allow players to be crowd controlled after all, and only removed entirely much later. And I think the big nerfs to mob hitpoints didn't actually come until the Wrath pre-patch back in the day. Seeing it all applied at once was honestly a shock to the system as it just changed everything so much.

Yet at the same time I can't claim to not understand their intent behind this. With BC's attunements, there is some sense in doing everything to ensure people could kill Kael and Vashj in time, as this is required to be able to enter Mount Hyjal and Black Temple at all - and people expect those raids to open early in the new year. Might as well make sure that players have the appropriate gear and that all raiders can get attuned in time. And I'm not going to lie - I'm looking forward to seeing Hyjal again! It was another BC raid that I really enjoyed - Black Temple was more of an "eh" from me.

Monday will be the guild's last progression raid before the Christmas break, and they're planning to clear Tempest Keep (I'll be busy elsewhere). I'm thinking that might still be a bit ambitious, because as far as I'm aware they haven't had a chance to practice Kael at all and he's still got a lot of mechanics to wrap one's head around. But even if he doesn't die before Christmas, I'm sure we'll get him down in the new year for sure.

I suppose I'm just feeling a little melancholy about how much Classic has turned into just another rat race. I mean, I've kind of known this for a while, but nothing drives the message home like Blizzard nerfing the content hard to make sure you move on already, damn it. My original dream of Classic being this evergreen MMO that we'd all be happy to come back to now and then on a casual basic is pretty dead at this point. However, I'll try to enjoy what's there while it lasts, because looking at the Classic era servers I don't expect Classic BC to have much of a future in the long run either.

12/12/2021

Notes from Nethergarde Keep

Many Classic players may be familiar with ironforge.pro, a website that tracks WoW server populations by combining data from combat logs and arena tables to calculate the number of active max-level characters per faction on each server. By its very nature its data is of course always going to be incomplete, but it does do a good job of painting a general picture of a server's overall situation.

In the week immediately following the opening of free server transfers off Hydraxian Waterlords, the site showed a population drop of about 20%, and I honestly thought that was going to be that, which is part of why I thought that staying behind was still going to be viable. However, as it turns out the server's depopulation was far from complete. The week after, the active endgame character count dropped from about a thousand to fifty. The week after that, it was ten. Considering that it's always said that the majority of MMO players don't pay attention to things going on outside of the game itself, I did not expect the exodus from Hydraxian Waterlords to be so absolute. It's still kind of shocking to me to be honest.

On the plus side, the guild with the friend that I had left behind packed up their bags too and followed us to Nethergarde Keep, so the dungeon gang is back together, yeah!

Life on Nethergarde Keep has been alright so far. Picking Terocone, especially without epic flying, is pretty impossible, but other types of gathering have turned out to be surprisingly okay. While the endgame population may be four to five times of what it used to be Hydraxian Waterlords, I reckon that a lot of those characters just log on to do instanced content at this point and generally aren't all competing for resources in the open world.

The number of new character and guild names has been somewhat overwhelming to deal with at times, even if it's nice to get quicker responses to LFM requests in the LFG channel. Interestingly, I've noticed that the whole situation has brought me closer to some people/guilds that moved with us from Hydraxian Waterlords but with whom I didn't really interact much before. In this sea of strangers, any familiar guild name is an island of refuge, and something to cling to while trying to get to grips with the wider server population in this new place.

That said, the server "culture" as a whole seems less different than I expected it to be, at least so far. Now, unlike some I was never worried about people on a regular PvE server not being nice enough or anything, because I never had an issue with that when I was playing Horde on Pyrewood either, but it is a commonly cited cliché that there's a certain je ne sais quoi to the sort of community that chooses to play on an RP server.

However, in a funny reversal of those expectations, we ported home to Shattrath after a raid on our new home one night to find a load of druids engaging in some sort of flash mob around A'dal - not something I'd ever seen on Hydraxian Waterlords in all my time there! Also, we used to joke about how many hunters on HW were boring min-maxers who all just had ravager pets called "Ravager", while here I've seen them bring everything from carrion birds to wolves to dungeons already.

Druids on parade

In general, things have been feeling invigorated. I hit level seventy on my paladin shortly after transferring, and the other day I got there on my druid as well. My previous discomfort with the viability of holy paladins and bear druids in the current climate slowly dissipated while doing dungeons with my levelling buddy, because knowing that someone's got your back no matter what can make up for a lot of shortcomings in a class.

And we've been running a lot of dungeons... after all the anxiety I had about not getting into groups early in the expansion it feels almost shockingly easy now. My mage got revered with all the factions to unlock heroics with relatively little effort, is attuned to SSC and only one heroic SL and Mag run away from being a Champion of the Naaru just like my hunter. My pally is already attuned for all the heroics bar Lower City as well and has healed her way through exciting destinations such as heroic Blood Furnace and heroic Black Morass. Being my newest alt to seventy, the druid hasn't done much yet, though she did ding while tanking a normal Botanica.

The end of another "just for fun" heroic Blood Furnace, this time with me healing. And again, no wipes!

And the best thing is, friends and guildies are in the same boat and gearing their own alts at this point, meaning that we can mix and match characters to put all kinds of guild runs together and it's just been a blast. The fun and banter is absolutely worth not always getting your first choice of destination or bringing your favourite character - plus we take turns to help people achieve different goals, so it all evens out in the end.

This is the Burning Crusade that I remember being so much fun back in the day and what I wanted from my Classic experience. Considering how close I came to quitting altogether back in September, I'm still a bit incredulous that it all just came together now after all. One Shadow Labyrinth pug to get me talking to my levelling buddy again... one bit of guild drama resulting in an unexpectedly long chat with a friend... always at the mercy of those butterfly wingbeats.