A guide to corpse-running in Outland and Northrend

When I sifted through search terms that led to my blog, I also found a couple that I considered interesting enough to dedicate a whole post to them: "corpse run" for steamvaults, entrance gundrak, finding oculus, gundrak where is entrence, instance door blood furnace. Of course, with the way the dungeon finder works these days, people can end up in instances without even knowing in which part of the world they are, not to speak of things like how to get from the closest graveyard back to the instance portal. Since I consider this an interesting subject I'll take a break from my usual opiniated blathering and write an actually helpful post for a change.


Hellfire Citadel: Hellfire Ramparts, The Blood Furnace, The Shattered Halls

All of these instances are located in the Hellfire Citadel in the centre of Hellfire Peninsula. If you die in there, your spirit will end up north-east of the fortress at the Thrallmar graveyard if you're Horde, or south-east of it at Honor Hold if you're Alliance. The Ramparts entrance is easy to find, just go back towards the citadel, over the bridge on your side and it's right there. If you're coming across the northern bridge, there's also a ramp leading up to your right and to the entrance of Shattered Halls.

The Blood Furnace entrance is physically close to the others but unfortunately requires you to take a completely different route to get there. Go to the southern "Alliance half" of the zone, and from the bridge that crosses over to the citadel, go west and follow the rampart. Eventually you'll see some stairs leading up to its top, go up there and then just follow the slightly winding path to the instance portal.

Incidentally, the raid instance Magtheridon's Lair is located in the Hellfire Citadel as well and also has an entrance that can be easy to miss if you've never been there. You have to go down to Hellfire Basin west of the citadel and then from there to the bottom of the southern wall.

Coilfang Reservoir: The Slave Pens, The Underbog, The Steamvault

If you've never been there before, dying in the Coilfang Reservoir can be bewildering. You'll resurrect at a graveyard on the shore of a lake in Zangarmarsh, and your corpse is supposedly right in the middle of said body of water. Run into that direction on the water, and when you see pipes going underwater, dive down. There's a pipe opening there, enter it from the south and swim north until you get out inside a cavern. As you come in, the tunnel to the very left leads to the Slave Pens, the one to the very right to the Underbog, and the second tunnel from the left leads to the Steamvault. The big waterfall in the middle hides the entrance to the Serpentshrine Cavern raid, incidentally.

Auchindoun: Mana-Tombs, Auchenai Crypts, Sethekk Halls, Shadow Labyrinth

This one is easy and very straightforward. Your spirit appears on a graveyard a bit south of the structure in Terokkar Forest, just run north into its centre and then towards the appropriate tunnel: the western entrance leads to the Auchenai Crypts, the northern one to Mana-Tombs, the eastern one to Sethekk Halls and the southern one to the Shadow Labyrinth.

Tempest Keep: The Mechanar, The Botanica, The Arcatraz

These instances in Netherstorm are special as they are located inside floating buildings and if you die and release, you'll resurrect at full health at a graveyard on the ground. Since you're alive, you can just use the dungeon finder's teleportation function to get back in! Handy, eh? For the curious, the southernmost floaty thing in front of you is the Mechanar, the northern one closer to ground level is the Botanica and the one a bit higher up than the others is the Arcatraz. The big one in the centre is the raid to the Eye.

Magister's Terrace

Welcome to the Isle of Quel'Danas! Just follow the road towards the "your dead body is here" icon on the minimap. Easy peasy.


Utgarde Keep: Utgarde Keep, Utgarde Pinnacle

Dying in either of those instances will land you at a graveyard very closeby and you should have no trouble getting back in. Just rememeber, to get to the entrance of the keep you go down into the tunnels below, while the portal to the Pinnacle is on a platform on the west side of the building to which you have to go up.

The Nexus: The Nexus, The Oculus

Now, the run back to the Nexus is very straightforward, but the fact that there are three instance portals right on top of each other in there can lead to confusion for the inexperienced, seeing how the mini-map is only two-dimensional. You'll res right outside the building and if you go straight in and down you'll end up in the Nexus instance. To get back into the Oculus however, you have to walk along the inside walls until you get to a bride across to another portal, which is located right above the Nexus one. If you go up yet another level you'll find the entrance to Malygos's lair.

Azjol-Nerub: Azjol-Nerub, Ahn'kahet: The Old Kingdom

Run west from the graveyard and jump down into the hole. The entrance to Azjol-Nerub is the one straight down south with the friendly Nerubians right next to it, and if you turn east from there you'll see the tunnel leading down to the Old Kingdom.

Draktharon Keep

Your ghost will appear at a graveyard in Grizzly Hills, just south of the Keep. Simply run up the stairs into the tunnel and you'll see the instance entrance to your left.


Now Gundrak is a slightly tricky one because it actually has two entrances, one of which is usually the wrong one for your purposes. Basically your ghost will appear at a graveyard in the north-eastern end of the zone and you'll see the "your corpse is here" icon and an instance entrance almost right next to you. But beware! This will lead you inside the instance, but at what most people would consider the wrong end, as you'll land on a ramp that leads down to Moorabi's room. Even if your party already killed Moorabi before you died, they might not have cleared all the trash mobs in front of the door as they are skippable when you're coming in from the other side and you could find yourself cut off. Getting back to the "correct" entrance involves running into a north-western direction from the graveyard until you see the summoning stone for the instance, which marks the door. This will take you back to the instance start.

If you had a wipe and end up with the party split across both ends of the instance after they ran back in, the smart thing to do is to have the ones on Moorabi's end leave and have them use the teleport function to get back in, which will reunite you at the start. Insisting that the ones in Slad'rans room should make their way to the back is cumbersome if there are trash mobs in the way as the teleport won't work that way, so their only option would be to teleport out and then make their way from wherever they were before the instance start to Zul'drak and Gundrak's back door, which could take a while.

The Violet Hold

Finding your way from the Dalaran graveyard back to the Violet Hold shouldn't pose a problem to anyone as it's very straightforward.

Ulduar: Halls of Stone, Halls of Lightning

If you've been levelling mostly by instancing, dying in one of these instances in the Storm Peaks might be the first time you find your ghost on the back of a ghostly gryphon. Fly west to get back to the Halls of Stone and north-east to return to the Halls of Lightning. Up and north will lead you to the entrance of the Ulduar raid.

Trial of the Champion

Another very easy and straightforward corpse-run. Just go west and enter the Coliseum through its northern entrance. Since it's such a short distance it's usually faster to run back on your own if you die during the jousting bit or early in a boss fight than to wait for a resurrection, even if you were the only one who died.

Icecrown Citadel: The Forge of Souls, Pit of Saron, Halls of Reflection

Now this is another fairly difficult one, and it's not unusual that you'll have to res fallen party members who simply got lost during the run back. I have a lot of sympathy for their plight since it took me a long time to learn the correct route myself. Especially if you're playing with low graphics settings, trying to find your way through Icecrown's fogs can be a considerable challenge.

Basically what you have to do is fly south towards Icecrown Citadel and then loop around the structure to the right from the main entrance. Make sure that your mini map is sufficiently zoomed out and keep an eye on it. You should quickly see something that looks like a vaguely Y-shaped piece of rampart. Fly towards it and up, as it has two identical levels. The entrance to the five-man instances is on the right "prong" of the Y-shape on the top level. Good luck!

Caverns of Time

Old Hillsbrad Foothills, The Black Morass, The Culling of Stratholme

The Caverns of Time aren't actually located in Outland or Northrend, but since the instances in there are for level sixty-six and up it's logical to include them here. Your ghost will land at an underground graveyard in Tanaris, just follow the arrow towards the main cavern area and from there to the correct entrance. The lush tunnel with a small keep that looks like the one in Hillsbrad leads to Old Hillsbrad, unsurprisingly. The swampy area with the crocolisks marks the entrance to the Black Morass, the cheerily decorated street shows the city of Stratholme before the culling and the winding green tunnel with trees leads to the Battle for Mount Hyjal raid.

I might post something similar for the old world instances if I get around to it.

One of those search term posts

A lot of bloggers I know occasionally post about funny search terms that brought visitors to their site, and I have to admit that even if they sometimes go slightly off-topic, I love those posts. Vidyala's interpretation of "you've got mail sfk" was an instant classic for example. So I went to Google Analytics and had a look at what brought people to my own blog. Unfortunately most of it was pretty boring in fact - who'd have thought that people would look for information about priests, healing and paladin tanking here? Crazy. There were a few search terms that I considered funny or interesting though, so without further ado:

arthas jokes - Why did Arthas cross the road? To cull the people on the other side of course. Sorry, I was never good at telling jokes. Let me know if you've got any good ones!

azshara how to get back up the cliffs - I guess that's a question that all of us have asked ourselves at one point or another. I don't know, maybe there are some secret paths somewhere, but if there are I never found them myself either. My personal recommendation is that if you fall off in the southern part of the zone, swim around to the Bay of Storms and get on the beach there. There are a couple of paths up through the naga-infested ruins. If you fall down somewhere up north, the slope at the eastern tip of that part of the landmass is quite gentle, so you can walk back up there, or you can swim into the bay as well.

azshara instances - Alas, there aren't any. Not as of now anyway, who knows what Cataclysm might bring. There are a couple of instance portals right now, but they don't work. The ones in the southern half of the zone were supposedly meant to lead to a battleground that never actually went live, and there's a mysterious portal to the Timbermaw Hold up north as well. When I was an ickle noob I was told that it would be a raid one day, but considering you become friendly with the furbolgs it could have been meant to become a city too I guess.

don't understand the ending of the arthas fight - If you've ever run Halls of Reflection and actually listened to the long intro with Jaina or Sylvanas, one of the things that Uther's ghost says is that there'll always have to be a Lich King. So that's why, uh... that stuff happens at the end of the fight. And that weird flamey dude? That's Bolvar Fordragon, who used to be an important Alliance NPC and then got poisoned and roasted at the Wrathgate (if you remember the video), though it seems he got better. If you actually know all this but still think that it makes no sense in context... let me just tell you that you're not alone.

i love the oculus - I don't really, but I don't mind it either these days, and I think a lot of people have softened up in their attitude towards the instance after it was nerfed so many times. Either way you're not alone, I even had a guildie or two who were in love with the instance from day one - though we all considered them weirdos at the time.

where will everyone afk in cataclysm - Good question. I don't know if they'll make a new Dalaran in the sense of a new city with lots of portals to everywhere. Generally I guess people will hang out in whichever major city ends up being closest to the new raids and dailies.

who killed the lich king - I did! So did a lot of other people though, and you can kill him too if you work hard enough. The Lich King is for everyone.

why did pally cross the road - To get to the Uther side? Nah, still suck at jokes.


Dps signing up to tank isn't always bad

So today's daily heroic for my mage took me to Halls of Lightning. We buffed up and made the first pull. I got about two arcane blasts off before both mobs fell over and died simultaneously. Okay, clearly we had some very overpowered dps in this group. On the next pull I threw a glance at the damage meter and... holy moly, a warrior doing over eight thousand dps! Well, that explained it - except, hang on, I thought we had only one warrior in this party? The tank!

I inspected him and found that he was indeed in full fury spec, kitted out in ICC25 heroic gear, dual-wielding Shadowmourne and a heroic Cryptmaker. I expressed some amusement about this fact and he smiled. Nobody else minded. And you know what? It didn't matter because he tanked just fine. Nobody else was doing even half his dps so we stood no chance at stealing aggro from him, and that aside everything was dying so quickly that it didn't make a difference either way. On most AoE pulls everything was dead before I'd even finished my first channeling of Blizzard (six seconds). General Bjarngrim died after twenty-four seconds, Volkhan after eighteen, Loken after twenty, before he could even cast his first lightning nova. Ionar only survived for forty-one seconds because we couldn't do damage to him while he was dispersed.

We only had one wipe when our tank charged into the first boss while he was empowered and standing in the middle of a group of trash mobs. Our little warrior went splat before anyone could even blink, but everyone just laughed it off and the tank himself summed it up very accurately with "lol pwned". After that he pulled more carefully.

I think it's definitely a sign of the current heroic system being broken when people are practically encouraged to run them like this, but fact of the matter is that it was the sensible thing to do. Even in full dps gear our tank had over 35k health, and with the damage he was doing no pug tank would have been able to keep aggro off him anyway. So why not embrace the fact that you're producing massive threat and can survive a few hits and just sign up for the role you're going to play anyway, whether you want it or not? I thought it was clever. In fact, other massively overgeared dps plate wearers and cat druids who still want to run the daily heroic for some reason should probably take a leaf out of this guy's book if you ask me. Long live the dps tanks! Until Cataclysm anyway.


Only in Outland...

Yes, I know we've all been there, done that, worn the Deadly Borer Leggings... but still I don't think I'll ever cease to be amazed by the absolutely fugly outfit combinations that you can end up with while levelling through Outland.

I nearly jumped out of my chair with fright when I logged in to this image today, since I had forgot that this was the last character I played last night. That hat! Those shoulders! It's just... too much for words.


Pit of Saron sure is buggy

Just when you think you might be growing tired of running the same instances over and over again, one of them bugs out and thereby creates an exciting new experience.

Last night I was in normal Pit of Saron with my night elf priest. It had been a smooth run until we got to Scourgelord Tyrannus. Have you ever thought that it's stupid how he jumps down to melee people when he could just stay on the back of his giant dragon and blast everyone into oblivion from a completely safe position? Well, apparently Tyrannus suddenly had the same thought and immediately jumped back up after holding his speech and dismounting. Then he continued to circle us and ordered Rimefang to blast ice at us every so often, while we milled around on the ground feeling slightly lost. The following conversation went something like this:

"Bah, stupid bug!"
"Yeah, I heard about that. Apparently it's got something to do with attacking him too early."
"So, what do we do? Can we reset him without wiping up?"
"I don't know, I've never had it happen before."
"Maybe if we can hit him from down here."

So people started to run around and clamber onto nearby rocks to see if they could get in range. As it turns out, they couldn't get into range of Tyrannus himself (though apparently he could be hit with multi-target abilities that were targetting Rimefang) but yeah, Rimefang himself came close enough to have a dot put on him every so often if you timed it right. I commented that Rimefang had over three million health and that we should probably just wipe up, but people persisted and I would have felt bad letting them die so I kept healing them as well. (Though there wasn't a lot of damage to go around anyway. I guess that's why the Scourgelord usually comes down, because he knows that Rimefang's damage is pants.)

After about ten minutes the tank asked if we shouldn't wipe up after all, against which I protested by then, proud that we had already shaved off a million of his health. I continued to dot him and our two elemental shamans and our hunter did the same by casting one flame shock/serpent sting at a time whenever he got in range.

As we worked our way through the last million of his health I got excited and already started to picture us posing proudly in front of Rimefang's corpse. As if he was reading my thoughts and wanted to disagree, one of the shamans asked if we were all ready for the inevitable anticlimax. We laughed and said yes. Good that we were, because as it turned out Rimefang can be brought down to exactly one health but no further, which effectively renders him unkillable. Boo.

Somewhat disappointed, people hurled themselves at the skeletons fighting the NPCs to commit suicide, and I levitated off the platform to see how far I'd have to run to make him reset. When I reached Garfrost's area and was still in combat I shadowmelded, and fortunately that was enough to do the trick. DBM announced helpfully that combat against Scourgelord Tyrannus had ended after thirty-one minutes and eight seconds.

Fighting Tyrannus the proper way afterwards felt almost ridiculously easy after we had just spent half an hour taking down Rimefang's three million health one dot at a time. Is that the pure antithesis to efficient badge farming? I guess I was fortunate that the other people in the party also valued the idea of trying something new over ruthless but boring efficiency.

That said, bugs aren't always fun. I tried to run the same instance on heroic right afterwards and it bugged out again, but in a slightly different way. Our somewhat inexperienced tank struggled with gathering up all the skeletons in the tunnel so we wiped just as we got to the top, though one person apparently still ran far enough to aggro the boss as well. Again he ended up riding around on Rimefang's back the whole time, but this time with the additional problem that we couldn't get up the tunnel anymore because the mobs that usually keep the NPCs busy had already spawned and were blocking our way. (There are a lot of them and they can gib anyone within a second.) Oh, and since dying did not work to reset the encounter this time, we just had to give up and call it a night. Though at least the bug had once again got us talking, and despite of the defeat we disbanded the party in high spirits. Players really do shine most when faced with true adversity.

I want epics to be epic again

Last night I came across a post in my own archives in which I casually mentioned how epics had become the new shiny fish scales, and that made me think. While we're making Cataclysm wish lists, I'd like to wish for epics to be epic again - even if it's unlikely that my pleas on that subject will be heard.

Now, before anyone gets the wrong idea, this isn't about restricting all the good gear to hardcore raiders again or whatever. It's got nothing to do with the stats on the gear, it's purely a matter of nomenclature or coloration, as it were.

We're so used to referring to items by the colour of their names - greens, blues, purples - that it's easy to forget that those colours are actually supposed to be an indicator of rarity. Greens are uncommon, blues are rare and purples are epic. According to dictionary.com, epic means "heroic, majestic, impressively great, of unusually great size or extent" (when it's not referring to poetry). The keyword here is "unusual", and while it's debatable how much of a step up that is from uncommon and rare, I'm pretty sure that the one thing that something called epic is not supposed to be is common. Unfortunately however that's exactly what epic quality items have become, in this expansion more so than ever before. The bosses in normal instances have them as guaranteed drops; Dalaran is chock-full of vendors that sell nothing but epics, for the low price of running a couple of heroics for emblems; hell, even the emblems themselves are apparently epic. Go around Dalaran and inspect a bunch of random people. How many greens do they wear, how many blues and how many purples? I bet you that epic quality loot will actually be the most common type of gear among level eighties, and that's just silly. I don't care how cool it looks or how much stamina it's got on it, if everyone and their Mum's wearing it it's simply not epic.

What I'd like to see in Cataclysm then would be a monetary reform for gear so to speak, to give the label "epic" some value again.

- Emblems and tokens should never be epic, as they are guaranteed drops by their very definition. They should be rare at best, maybe even uncommon.

- Five-man instances shouldn't have epics as guaranteed boss drops, neither on normal nor on heroic difficulty. Having a few epics as really rare drops along the lines of the battered hilt would be okay though.

- Stuff that's available from vendors shouldn't be epic either, unless the requirements for getting it are severely limiting, like a high arena or battleground rating for PvP gear, or some heroic mode token for the highest level of tier gear. Everything else should be blue at best, including tier items if they are simply available for a bunch of emblems. If we want some items, like the tier sets, to stand out a bit more they could be coloured pale orange like the heirloom items or a different colour.

- Raids would drop a mix of blues and purples, depending on the boss's difficulty and place in the instance. The first boss would always only drop blue quality items, the last one only epics and everything else would be somewhere in-between.

Just to reiterate, this wouldn't actually change anything about the quality of the gear. A new tier of blues would generally be better than the previous tier of epics, as they were. Everything would just be marked more appropriately, so that something that can be bought from a vendor in endless amounts doesn't appear to be as "impressively great" as a drop from a tough raid boss anymore. After all, the colour system is supposed to be an indicator of rarity instead of pure quality: Raptor Hunter Tunic may be green but it's still better than Blackened Defias Armor. I'd really like to have that back at endgame level as well, instead of the muddied down version we have right now where everything above ilevel 200 is simply epic regardless of where it came from and how common it actually is.


My stance on GearScore

There's been some discussion about GearScore in the blogosphere lately (again), and I feel that I finally have something to add on the subject. I never felt like I was in a position to comment when it came up previously because I simply never had to deal with it. Yes, on my server that blasted addon is blissfully underused. People know it of course and I'm guessing that quite a few players have it installed as well, but GearScore number values are generally not used as an entry requirement for pugs. People might ask for achievements sometimes, sure, but as far as gear goes most pug advertisements that I see in general chat still just ask for a gear check in front of the north bank or something similar, which has the added advantage of being a test to see whether the potential pug applicant is actually interested enough to put more effort in than just sending a whisper.

Now on the server where I recently levelled my two old Alliance characters to eighty, things are entirely different. I remember feeling bewildered when I first saw all these pug adverts asking for arbitrary numbers, but I still wasn't curious enough to actually install the addon just to find out what the numbers actually meant. Then an article on wow.com led me to wtfismygearscore.com, a nice way of getting at least a rough idea of how GearScore works without actually having to support the addon yourself. So I found out that my freshly dinged eighties were barely above 3000, while my fully ICC25-geared priest had surpassed 6000, and my TotC10-geared hunter sat at 5000. Using that as a guideline, I found that almost all the numbers that people asked for were fairly unreasonable, like 5000+ for a TotC10 run, which pretty much implied that you were only welcome if you didn't want any drops from there anymore. I just shrugged it off however, since I didn't intend to raid with my alts on that server anyway.

But then... I somehow still ended up doing VoA with my priest, killed Flame Leviathan and Malygos for the weekly, and even cleared the first wing of ICC with no real trouble. And that even though her GearScore only just hit 4600 with two new items from ICC. The thing was, as I was wandering around Dalaran going about my business, I occasionally spotted pug adverts in trade that didn't ask for achievements and GearScore numbers. And even though I don't like the addon myself, I couldn't help but wonder about them initially, because if everyone on the server uses it for pugs, what's up with the people who don't? Are they such noobs that they don't know what achievements and GearScore are all about? Or utterly desperate because they can't find anyone else? Well, the latter is sometimes true for runs in progress, but otherwise I noticed that the ones starting pug raids without any silly linking requirements are usually simply people who don't like GearScore either and are so confident in their own abilities that they aren't that worried about other people's performance. And oddly enough that attracts people with a similar mindset and you end up with fairly competent raids anyway. (Though you usually also get at least one guy who has absolutely no clue, makes blatant mistakes and then dies halfway through the fight.)

Larísa compared raiding and GearScore to relationships in her last post, saying that demanding a high number from a pugger was akin to only wanting to check out the really hot people on the dancefloor while you're out clubbing or whatever. I think that's a pretty apt comparison. Like that kind of dating, GearScore is very superficial. As someone who's never been superficially attractive in real life and struggled with that for a couple of years as well, this is something that I dislike. In all fairness though, it's not the end of the world either. If you don't want to be judged like that, you don't have to - not to date in real life and not to pug raids in WoW. Simply seek out people with a similar mindset. In real life I found internet forums about subjects that interested me and met great people there. In the same vein, if GearScore mania in the game bothers you, you can transfer off to a server where it's not as rampant (because it's certainly not the same everywhere) or generally keep your eye out for runs that don't bother with it. Trust me, they are there even on the most GS-crazy servers; you just have to be attentive to the wording of the adverts.

On a sidenote, doing the first wing of ICC as Alliance for a change was vaguely amusing. When we made our way to the gunship I couldn't help feeling slightly confused by how we were going the "wrong" way, and why were we killing the friendly Horde NPCs? Oh wait... During the gunship battle my boyfriend looked over my shoulder and made funny noises whenever Saurfang yelled at his axe throwers to "hurl faster". Then when we got to Saurfang the younger I got ready for a brief break during the endless speech, but as it turns out on Alliance side Muradin Bronzebeard basically just goes "charge" and Saurfang goes "lol dwarves" and then combat starts. They have a longer NPC roleplay at the end to make up for it, but at least that one's easy to skip if you've already seen it twelve thousand times. I'm not a big fan of Blizzard playing up the conflict between the Horde and Alliance, but having even slightly different content for both sides definitely adds something interesting to the mix.


Strangely enough, being squishy is fun!

I got my seventh character to eighty the other day, a draenei mage. After briefly testing the waters in a couple of normal mode runs I decided that my 2-2.5k average dps in a mix of greens and levelling blues should be enough to not draw anyone's ire in heroics, even more so as the average skill level seemed to be pretty low across the board in that battlegroup (that is to say, I saw people in full tier nine doing about as much damage as me and nobody complained).
So I jumped into a couple of heroic runs... and hilarity ensued! Why, you ask? Well, mages can be all kinds of awesome if the person behind the character knows what they are doing, like that guy who made all the "funny mage tricks" videos, or Euripides. However, if the player is not that good at being a mage (like me), the class really lives up to its reputation of being a glass cannon.

The scene: Halls of Lightning. Having struggled with healing the Loken fight often enough, I knew that I didn't stand a snowball's chance in hell of surviving the lightning nova with my piddly 14k fully buffed health, but I didn't quite trust myself to run out properly anymore either, so I thought I'd be clever - put on mage armour for some nature resistance, ice block through the first nova, throw up a mana shield before the second, and again for the third (yes, our overall dps was so low that we got *gasp* three novas) but I died on the third one anyway. Boo.

The scene: Utgarde Keep. We start the second fight, I run close to avoid getting charged (but not close enough as it turns out), have just enough time to shoot about three arcane blasts at Dalronn the Controller when Skarvald charges me for 11k damage and then instantly melees me for another 7k. Mage go splat! I whinged about that one a bit because I'm still not sure what happened. The charge is one thing, but I don't know why he started to melee me afterwards when I hadn't even touched him.

The scene: Gundrak. I knew that it was a run in progress when I accepted the popup, but what I didn't expect was to land right in front of Gal'darah, with the tank being the only person still alive. "Uh, not the best moment to join in," I commented and the rest of the party chuckled in agreement. I tried to go invisible but got slashed by his whirlwind before I could get out of range, so it broke and I died with everyone else.

On our next attempt I blew all my cooldowns right at the start and did great dps... then I got impaled. I didn't get any heals from our visibly struggling healer (who said that it was her first heroic) but figured that I should be able to survive the dot anyway... except that the moment I got thrown off, the boss decided to add a 30k damage crushing blow to my face. Yay for getting aggro while incapacitated! They still managed to kill him without me though.

Now, all this might sound more bitter than amused, but I actually had a ton of fun, (though I'm not even sure why). I guess I like the whole glass cannon concept and that it works both ways. I can't help giggling out of sheer surprise when something unexpectedly one-shots me. Not to mention that being so extremely squishy actually forces you to pay attention and play sensibly again because you simply can't survive being sloppy (pulling aggro, standing in the AoE). Or maybe it's just that seeing my mage dead on the floor cracks me up every time, seeing how female draenei have this rather silly death pose which makes them look like they just tripped and fell flat on their faces.

D'oh, fell over my own hooves again!

I was almost disappointed when I made it through my last instance for the night, heroic Old Kingdom, without even dying once. Though I have yet to figure out the best way to deal with the evil clones on the last boss as a mage - when I used my mirror images I could kill them easily, but without them I just spent the whole time flailing about and being unable to kill anything, only staying alive due to repeatedly spellstealing the tree's lifeblooms.


Looking back at Wrath raiding as a healer

On Monday Larísa made what I thought was a very interesting post ranking the WOTLK raid bosses by difficulty. I immediately thought about how I would rank them myself, since I experienced a lot of them in quite a different way from everyone's favourite pigtailed gnome. From a healer's point of view I couldn't believe that she ranked Festergut as one of the easiest bosses of the expansion for example... However, after thinking about it some more I realised that me making such a list would be a bit long and full of boring repetition, seeing how my likes and dislikes in regards to raid bosses are mostly the same across the board, whether we're talking about Naxxramas or ICC. So I decided that I would rather make a general post about mechanics and fights in this expansion that I thought were fun to heal and ones that weren't.

Making choices: Yes, please.

Let's start with the good stuff, with encounters that I thought were both challenging and fun to heal. One feature that I liked a lot was that of being forced to make intelligent choices while healing: using different spells throughout the fight, timing large heals and cooldowns properly, choosing the right targets. Examples of this kind of thinking were Loatheb in Naxxramas, Ignis and Mimiron in Ulduar to an extent and Lord Jaraxxus in Trial of the Crusader. In ICC Deathbringer Saurfang, Professor Putricide and the Lich King offered some interesting challenges in terms of choosing the right spells for the job.

The only sad thing is that this is something that has to be pointed out as special at all. Unfortunately some of our healing spells have become too smart for our own good in this expansion. Yes, Circle of Healing and Wild Growth, I'm looking at you. Has Chain Heal always been raidwide too? I didn't know much about shamans before WOTLK. Anyway, if multiple people in the raid are taking damage these days it's almost a no-brainer to use one of these spells, just target someone and everyone will get healed (or at least as many people as you can heal at once). It's great to be powerful, but it's also kind of boring. I want to have to pay more attention to who needs healing and when, and switch between different spells more often. Supposedly Cataclysm is going back to that; let's hope that it's true.

Do split the party!

A mechanic that wasn't exactly new in Wrath but that I saw used more often than in BC anyway was that of "splitting the party" - that is to say physically forcing the raid apart into smaller groups that have to tackle tasks independently. Prime examples of this were Gothik the Harvester and the Four Horsemen in Naxxramas, Thorim and Yogg-Saron in Ulduar (and to a lesser extent the Assembly of Iron), the Twin Val'kyr in TotC if you did them "properly" with two tanks, and in a way Valithria Dreamwalker in ICC.

I like this mechanic because it enforces a certain personal responsibility (the healers in the arena can't help you in Thorim's gauntlet, you have to be able to do it yourself) without relying on gimmick abilities that require fast reactions or you'll wipe the raid (coughdefilecough). Splitting the raid in different groups than the traditional tanks, melee, ranged and healers also increases overall group cohesion and encourages you to pay more attention to what part people in other roles than your own are playing. Or in other words, it allows you to work with a small team while still facing off against the boss as a large raid, which is a nice way of allowing everyone's contributions to be acknowledged while preserving the epic feel of bigger numbers.

I'm not just a healbot, you know.

When I'm a healer I want to focus on healing and not on dpsing, but nonetheless the way some fights won't let me do anything but spam healing spells non-stop can get kind of boring at times. Kudos to the few fights that let me use other spells on my bars on occasion by having periods where raid damage is low and I can make myself useful by dispelling debuffs or casting a holy fire or smite during a dps race. Examples of this include Loatheb's aura, Razorscale's ground phase, Deconstructor's heart phase, and Yogg-Saron's phase two where I pretty much always did more dispelling and tentacle-smiting than actual healing.

Environmental awareness: a double-edged sword

As Tobold has been complaining for a long time, WOTLK raids are very focused on generic environment-related tasks like moving out of the fire instead of class-related skills. I'm actually not sure how I feel about that as a healer. On the one hand it's nice to be pulled out of my world of green bars occasionally and be forced to pay attention to what the boss is actually doing, and mastering the art of keeping an eye on everyone's health while also moving to the right place is an achievement to be proud of. On the other hand I feel that some fights in this expansion have been pushing things a bit too far. Sindragosa and the Lich King in particular are quite movement-intensive and extremely unforgiving of even one person standing a few feet too far to the left or whatever. Which is hard enough for your regular old dpser, but as a healer I sometimes feel like I'm about to go cross-eyed, trying to keep an eye on my position at all times while also dishing out heals and monitoring debuffs at all times. Give me a break.

Undecided: vehicle fights

People have talked about vehicle fights until they were blue in the face, but what always perturbed me a little was the way they often defy the usual role distribution. In Malygos's phase three, anyone can switch between dealing damage or healing at the drop of a hat. On Flame Leviathan there are no healers at all - or dedicated tanks for that matter. Switching to a different role can be fun I guess, and FL is probably the most popular weekly raid ever since you can make a raid out of ten people of any spec and class. But on the other hand... I like being a healer, damn it, and I don't appreciate being shoehorned into another role just like that. (Don't view that as a contradiction to what I said before about wanting to do more than cast healing spells by the way. I want to be able to use as many different abilities as possible, but within the boundaries of my chosen role.)

Oh, and speaking of shoehorning, enough of every other boss fight being tuned for a different number of healers. I thought dual-spec was meant to liberate us, not force us to maintain two gear sets because everyone expects us to be able to fulfill another role on a whim. If I sign up to heal a raid then healing is what I want to do.

Spam spam spammedy spam

The one thing that has been typical for WOTLK raids from a healer's point of view more than anything else is how many fights are designed with the idea that healers should be casting spells non-stop. Cataclysm is supposed to move away from that model again by bringing mana regeneration back into play, but we'll see how well that pans out. Either way I'd appreciate simply not casting a spell for a few seconds being a valid option again, because at the moment it simply isn't in raids. With a nearly inexhaustible mana pool, what's the worst that can happen if you keep casting non-stop? You'll do a lot of overhealing, but that's no skin off your back. What's the worst that can happen if you do stop casting because the tank appears to be at full health anyway? His health suddenly plummets so quickly that you don't even have time to think about starting to cast again. Non-stop healing it is then! Meh.

What's this? I'm taking damage?

Somewhat related to this is how Blizzard has started to use "massive indiscriminate raid damage" as a way of making fights harder, as it can only be healed through by spamming non-stop. You won't even have to worry about overheal a lot of the time. And I dislike it.

At first it was just Sapphiron in Naxxramas giving me nightmares. In Ulduar already a lot of fights had the whole raid taking damage, if not always all the time: Ignis's flame jets, Deconstructor's tantrums, Kologarn's shockwave, Steelbreaker's high voltage, Hodir's frozen blows, Mimiron's heat wave. Then we got the Twin Valk'yr in TotC, whose raid damage output made everyone's eyes bulge at first; same again in Anub'arak's phase three. And in ICC we finally got gems such as Festergut, Blood Queen Lana'thel and Sindragosa with their insane damage auras that more or less last throughout the entire fight.

They make things difficult, but not interesting - only frustrating. I remember needing a break from raiding for a week after nearly losing it during some Festergut attempts during which I was one of only two raid healers for a raid of twenty-five. There isn't even enough time to make conscious decisions when targetting a different group with your AoE heal every time. You either get it right every time, instinctively or due to sheer luck, or people will die and you wipe.

And what's worse in a way: It trains everyone else in the raid to not pay attention to their own health bar. When you have just a particularly damage-heavy phase during a fight, you can at least ask people to save their survival cooldowns for that, but if the damage is there all the time... it might as well not be there at all in the eyes of the dps, because there's nothing they can do about it anyway. They pretty much have to completely let go of all responsibility for their own health and trust their healers to take care of it all on their own. Which is kind of flattering in a way I suppose... but it also creates a certain rift between the healers and everyone else. I remember when we first went for the Blood Queen and our raid leader explained all her core abilities, such as the whole vampire thing. Guess what nobody even mentioned? Shroud of sorrow. 'cause you know, scoff, that's just a healer thing, they'll take care of it. When people died over and over again because the healers just couldn't keep up initially, everyone else was just bewildered.

"Taking damage" should never be the default state of a boss fight, because it breeds bad habits and makes healers cry. That is all.


The Silence of the Pugs

Vidyala made a post in which she talked about how now that she's running heroics at eighty she misses the friendly chatter she got used to in her levelling pugs, as everyone's so quiet. This got me thinking: A few days after the introduction of the dungeon finder I, too, complained about the lack of communication in many pugs, but since then I've actually become a pretty silent pugger myself.

I still like chatting to my fellow party members and creating a sense of cameraderie and adventure, but the dungeon finder has robbed me of a lot of opportunities to get talking. I mean, what do you usually talk about with other WoW players?

1. Logistics

"Okay, there's nobody in LFG, could everyone ask in their guild if anyone from there wants to join us?" "I'm on my way to the summoning stone, is anybody else going?" Oh wait, all of that has become redundant. Not to say that I miss having to organise all this stuff myself, but it used to give people a reason to start talking if nothing else. Nowadays the most exciting thing that might happen is that some newbie needs to repair and hasn't quite grasped the dungeon finder's teleportation function yet, which will then give you an excuse to explain how it works.

2. Tactics

"So, what does this boss do?" might be a question people still ask in levelling dungeons, but if you're doing heroic modes everyone will pretty much expect you to already know the fights. (Or if you don't, maybe you're scared of admitting it and being branded as "noob", so you stay quiet anyway.) Not to mention that with how badly people overgear level eighty heroics these days, what little tactics there might be can often be ignored anyway.

3. Loot

A useful drop is almost always worth mentioning. "Yay, finally! I've been trying to get that for months." "Grats on the boots, I see they are a great upgrade for you!" Unfortunately the availability of superior emblem gear for almost every gear slot has made this kind of thing quite rare these days as well. And in those instances where the gear is so good that you can't get anything better with emblems, conversation about the drops is just as likely to get hostile if you've got several people competing for the same item. After all, they can buy a full set of tier nine after a few days, how dare people suggest they should run an instance for weeks just to wait for one item to drop again? It must be mine now!

4. Impressions of the instance

I love running with people who have never done an instance before because seeing them express their amazement always makes me smile. I still remember the first time I did Azjol-Nerub, at the time with a full guild group. We were all a bit wary of the hole in the ground after Hadronox, but when we finally dared to jump we were all in awe at the countless layers of nerubian architecture zooming by. Problem is, this isn't really something you can recreate once you know the place inside out.

One thing you can do and which works reasonably well as a conversation starter is to express a general opinion on the instance or a boss (and one of the commenters on Vid's post mentioned this as well). "Oh god, not Halls of Stone again, third day in a row that it's my daily and I'm so tired of it!" "Yay, I love the Oculus, easy emblems and a bunch of extra goodies!" But frankly, after a dozen times you'll likely feel a bit silly repeating that every time. You may be meeting new people on each run, but you're still talking about the same subject repeatedly. I may not like Halls of Stone much, but on the other hand I also don't dislike it enough to actually want to complain about it to every group I run with.

5. Impressions of the other players

"Nice tanking!" This is the kind of thing I'm still most likely to bring up in a pug, whether it's about a player's performance, a rare piece of gear they are wearing or an unusual title. However, this too is becoming more and more difficult as of late as everyone is decked out in the same damn emblem gear, and the instances have become so easy that it's hard for anyone's performance to stand out.

6. General WoW stuff

"Have you seen the new Cataclysm screenshots yet?" "Finally, I've been waiting for that instance popup for hours, questing in Borean Tundra was getting boring." This kind of thing works great if it comes naturally... but it only really works if you actually do have some great piece of news to talk about or have been doing something interesting just before the group formed.

7. Real life

I'm sure all of us have at some point or another been grouped with someone who just loved talking about their real life non-stop, whether they were going on about what they were eating at the time or telling you all about their girlfriend. This isn't everyone's cup of tea though. I find it too personal to start talking about real life matters with a bunch of people I only just met myself, so I simply don't do it out of principle.

So where does that leave us? It leaves us with the rest being silence.

I'm looking forward to using the dungeon finder in early Cataclysm though. The new content and other expansion-related changes should give people enough to talk about for quite a while.


More Outland instances revisited

I'm very fickle with my WoW playing right now. An instance run here, a raid there, some questing on an alt on another server... nothing can hold my attention for very long. Today I decided that I felt like playing my level seventy night elf druid once again and that I wanted to run a couple of BC dungeons.

I was quite surprised by how quickly I managed to get into groups each time. At level seventy the dungeon finder is practically trying to push you into Northrend, with "random Northrend dungeon" being the default option and "random Outland dungeon" not even being available anymore, but for some reason there are still enough people who actually bother to join for the old level seventy instances to get a full party together every now and then. I guess running nothing but Utgarde Keep and the Nexus for several levels gets old after a while.

First I tanked Shattered Halls. I had found a quest for it that I couldn't remember doing before (though I probably did), which intrigued me. Other than that however, it was pretty damn boring. Shattered Halls was never the most exciting of dungeons, but back in BC the large pulls were at least challenging. Nowadays you can just run from one end of each hallway to the next while spamming swipe the entire time. /yawn. Several people in the party said that they had never done the instance before and asked me to tell them if there was anything special that they should know about, but there simply wasn't anything worth mentioning. Except for the assassins that spawn in front of the stairs leading up to Kargath Bladefist's little area and massacre anyone who stays there after you engage him, but I had forgot about those myself, so our healer got mauled. We finished just fine without him though. At level! We're all just stupidly overpowered compared to even one expansion ago.

I requeued right away and ended up healing an Arcatraz run, tanked by the death knight that had been doing dps in Shattered Halls with me only a few minutes ago. I was the only one who knew the instance, but everyone had a blast. We laughed at Dalliah and Soccothrates bickering at each other, we laughed at a stealthed succubus almost ganking us, we laughed at Millhouse Manastorm. At the end of the run people agreed that "this dungeon was awesome". I had to concur, but at the same time I was slightly bewildered because I remember the Arcatraz being one of the less popular instances back in BC (not counting runs that had people making a beeline for the third Karazhan key fragment without killing any bosses). Probably because the key requirement used to put people off, and because it was really hard on heroic. Zereketh was a nightmare if your tank didn't have shadow resist gear from Black Temple and Skyriss was nigh impossible as well until he got nerfed. I remember spending hours in there, wiping over and over... but looking at it now - yeah, it is an awesome dungeon.

I started to do some quests in Nagrand but soon joined the queue again. This time I had to wait a bit longer until I got a popup asking me to heal the Steamvault. Woohoo! I accepted but told the group that I needed a second as my bags were bursting with rubbish from questing. One dps dropped from the group almost immediately, and the tank decided to start pulling without a healer. I managed to reach him just in time to save him from certain death, but even as I did so another dps dropped without saying a word. The tank continued to pull even with two dps down, got feared into a patrol, and as I frantically spammed heals to keep him alive I hardly noticed the fact that he was running towards the door... then the group got disbanded completely and I got beaten to death by the loose mobs as everyone else ported out, leaving me to corpse-run all by myself. I still don't have the faintest idea what was up with that. A copper for people's thoughts when they pull crap like that...

After repairing and selling my rubbish I tried once more and got an offer to tank Magisters' Terrace this time. As it turned out, that instance is still hard even in times of AoE tanking. Yes, you don't need the crowd control anymore, but it will hurt and some of the pulls are still annoying. We wiped twice on the bridge right after the entrance alone, first because I had forgot about the patrol, they aggroed onto the priest healer and she feared them into another group, then again because the balance druid's treants decided to pull another pack just as our healer was suffering from a brief DC. Then we wiped again when I tried to pull some of Selin Fireheart's trash and got too close to him. I felt like a complete noob.

Surprisingly the next couple of bosses went well. I pondered whether to discuss strategy for Vexallus but couldn't actually remember off the top of my head what all the stuff with his adds was about anyway, so I just pulled. In the end I killed all the flares on my own and grew to massive size. Go go giant bears! We had one big overpull on the way to Delrissa as the dps warrior didn't pay attention to where he was going, but somehow we managed to survive. The priestess and her entourage went down on the first attempt much to my surprise, though we managed to wipe on the last big pull in Kael'thas' room right after. The healer scolded me for standing in an anti-magic zone; I apologised and we tried again. I did tell people what to do on Kael, but just after I pulled, the balance druid DCed and the other two dpsers weren't doing so well on those phoenixes, so we wiped again. At this point the priest dropped group and I had to go as well since I was running late for my raid - as much as I hated leaving an instance run unfinished. I'll get you next time, Kael'thas! Not sure I'd want to come back repeatedly though, as the dungeon felt a lot more annoying than I remembered it - but then that might have been due to the people I was grouped with as well, as none of them made for particularly pleasant company.


A grudge against Prince Keleseth

That's what I'm afraid I've developed on my paladin. I didn't really have any issues with the Blood Prince Council while learning the fight as a healer - it was a pretty confusing encounter at first, and keeping the tanks alive was a considerable challenge initially, but there wasn't anything that I absolutely hated about it.

Then, one day, I went up against them with my pally's pretty casual ten-man group. Until then, I had never seen Prince Keleseth, aka "the caster boss", get tanked by anything other than a caster, usually a warlock. However, that night we had a warlock who really didn't want to be burdened with the job and insisted that I should be doing it instead. Supposedly the protection paladin in his main's raid group always did it and made it look really easy, so I should have no problem with it either. Rrright. Suffice to say that I failed pretty hard, and people's vague pieces of advice didn't really help either. "Just taunt the orbs!" I was told for example, but whenever I taunted them I just got an immune message and they ignored me. So much for that. I felt kind of crappy about my failure, especially as the warlock kept emphasising how easy it was supposed to be, but I wasn't the only one messing things up so it wasn't too bad. We never got the princes down that night though.

Fast forward a few months and I've joined a more progression-focused ten-man group. My little paladin gets to see a lot of new bosses for the first time, but I know the fights well enough from a healer's point of view so it's not too difficult to figure out what I have to do as a tank. Except when we get to the Blood Princes and I'm once again expected to tank Keleseth. I warn them that I had a really hard time the last time I tried, but they push me into doing it anyway. One rogue in particular keeps whispering me saying that it's a piece of cake, he does it on his druid all the time and so on and so forth. Once again I fail. The rogue's whispers become harassing enough that I eventually put him on ignore. In the end we swap roles and the warrior tank does a really amazing job at juggling the orbs while I just tank the other two dudes. Still, I feel bad for letting people down.

This week we went back in there again and I immediately started to sweat as we got to the blood wing. We only had one caster that night, a mage, and were going to try heroic mode to boot. Guess who was asked to tank Keleseth again, despite of the repeated failures? Yeah. In fairness, I think I actually did a lot better than on my previous attempts, but I still died to massive empowered shadow lances every time as I couldn't keep myself surrounded by a stable number of shadow balloons. Eventually we switched tanking assignments back around again and just did it on normal mode. Nobody ragged on me this time and the raid leader even made a point of saying that acknowledging that I wasn't good at this wasn't the same as saying "I suck", but I still felt bad about it anyway.

Tam did some musing not long ago about how sometimes when you fail very badly at a boss fight you become more and more panicked with every new attempt and eventually the sheer terror of messing up again becomes worse than any actual lack of skill. I think I'm in that place now. Part of me almost wishes myself back to the other group - they weren't as good, but that also meant that failing myself didn't make me feel nearly as terrible. When you're in a ten-man group with a bunch of twenty-five-man raiders on their mains who are tapping their feet because they want to get past the farm boss, being the noob who wipes the raid over and over because she hasn't got the hang of her role in that fight yet is particularly painful, so I don't blame them for quickly looking for alternative solutions. On the other hand I have no way of actually getting better that way, and the more often I kill the Blood Princes the more embarrassing it becomes to come back to them and have to admit that I can't handle the task people expect me to fulfil.

The thing is, after tonight's attempts tanking Keleseth as a protection paladin actually felt more doable to me than ever before, but I think I'd still need a couple more tries to actually get it right. (I remember when we were first learning the fight, the ranged orb tanks needed some time to get into the groove as well, but I'm too late to the party to be given the benefit of patience at this point.) I wish this was something you could practise outside of an actual raid!

For the record, these are the observations I have made on tanking Keleseth as a protection paladin so far:

-While he's not empowered, it's fairly easy to generate aggro at range by using Hammer of Wrath on cooldown. Once his health goes up things become more difficult however, as just standing still to whack him isn't really an option and I can only throw the occasional judgement on him. Not sure what else I could do.

-Hand of Reckoning does work on the orbs, but in a somewhat finicky manner. If an orb doesn't currently have a target and you hit it with this taunt, it will do its holy damage and get the orb's attention. If it already does have a target however, say because it was attracted to someone else's healing aggro, then it looks like it won't even do damage, and since it's immune to taunting the only thing you can do to get its attention is to actually hit it with a proper attack. Le suck.

-Just gathering up enough orbs is the part where I failed and I'm not even sure why. I'd get four or five by the time Keleseth got empowered, but as I looked around for more they'd suddenly be gone all at once and I'd die to a massive empowered shadow lance. I can't help but wonder if some of them weren't killed by accident or even pulled off me by someone else - I was repeatedly told that this never happens but I have seen it happen in the past. That said, once I had a couple of orbs on me I also found it hard to spot the newly spawned ones in the big mass of identical-looking balloons, as I couldn't really tell at a glance which ones I already had aggro on and on which I didn't, so maybe I was just too slow there.

If anyone's got any tips for this particular task (and no, "this is so easy", "how can you fail at that", "l2p noob" and the like don't count), your advice is welcome.


The good, the bad and the puggee

Let's talk about a couple of pugs I had as of late. None of them were interesting enough to deserve a whole post of their own really, but there were still a couple of noteworthy occurrences.

Heroic Pit of Saron on my night elf priest

I had been running this repeatedly in hopes of getting the Surgeon's Needle to drop. And it did! A warlock rolled against me and I won. As we made our way to the next pull he whispered me to suggest that I should give the weapon to him because I "already had an epic". I compared our old weapons: I had the staff from normal Forge of Souls; he had an ilevel 200 blue heroic drop, I think it was this staff from heroic UP; so item name colour aside, the difference in quality wasn't really that massive. I'm all for treating your fellow puggers fairly, giving main spec priority over off spec, taking into consideration whether certain items might be more suited for some classes/specs than others and so on, but nonetheless there is a point where it simply comes down to straight rolling. The dagger was a considerable upgrade for both of us, we rolled off and I won. I wouldn't have said anything if he had won it... and I didn't respond to his whisper either, because I was afraid of getting into an argument no matter what I said. I still felt vaguely guilty however because I'm easily manipulated like that. Is it so hard to sometimes just let someone else enjoy their good luck?

Normal Gundrak on my draenei mage

The second we zoned in, our druid tank hit a macro to inform us that her computer overheated sometimes but that she would be back within a few minutes and asked us to not kick her please. As it turned out she was fairly new to tanking and completely new to the instance, taking it all in with great interest. "Are they fighting to the death?" she wondered about a couple of Drakkari Earthshakers, and on the last boss she squealed with delight as I got impaled, wanting to ride the rhino too. I thought it was absolutely adorable - there's nothing quite like the wide-eyed amazement of a newbie.

Her threat generation was a bit dodgy however, and I and all the other dps bit the dust repeatedly before we even made it through the second room. I didn't complain though - I'm old-school enough to consider my threat my own responsibility, so even if I feel that a tank isn't putting out as much as she should, I should still be able to adjust. I felt nothing but vague embarrassment about my own noobishness as the resto shaman scraped me off the floor for the third time.

In the second room we accidentally ended up getting three groups of mobs at once and only survived barely, at which point the healer sat down and declared that she was going to leave because the tank couldn't hold aggro and took too much damage. No shit, she just tanked nine mobs at once while being on the lower end of the level range for the instance, of course she's taking lots of damage! I didn't actually say that though, because I hadn't really been watching the tank's health myself and wasn't entirely sure whether the healer didn't have a point. Still, I couldn't help feeling that leaving like that was a bit of a dickish move, especially as the other two dps dropped group as well just as our tank begged people not to leave. It felt like watching people kick a puppy.

Fortunately we got replacements really quickly, one of them a female dwarf rogue. With an eye patch! I expressed massive amazement at the sight of such a rare creature, and she was very amused.

The rest of the instance continued to be amusingly bizarre. Our tank ordered people to give her more time to get aggro, "or I'll be a fail tank!" I've never seen anyone refer to themselves as a fail tank before while managing to make it sound like a threat. Do as I say... or I'll be a fail tank! Dun dun dun! One of the dps claimed that we didn't have time to wait for three swipes... erm, why not? We had a wipe on the Drakkari Colossus and the other dps told our tank that she had to work a bit harder, use taunt and so on. She took it gracefully and did great on the next try, and people commented positively on that too. Constructive criticism and some patience to teach do so much more than just saying "you fail" and dropping the group.

Heroic Pit of Saron on my tauren druid

Inspired by my night elf's luck I decided to try for the Surgeon's Needle on my druid as well (it had been eluding me for months) and it finally dropped for her too. Hurrah! The rest of the run wasn't as fun though, as it never ceases to amaze me to what lengths people will go to avoid one more trash pull, even if it frequently leads to wipes. Pit of Saron is already infamous in that regard, with people riding up the ramp before the first two packs on it have fully spawned and hugging the wall to skip the group right after that too.

What I got to see last night however was new to me, as our tank left several Geist Ambushers alive and then snuck along the edge of the ramp to pull Ick and Krick without having killed any of his trash. We got two of them as adds, and as I frantically tried to find a piece of ground to stand on that wasn't covered in exploding orbs or toxic waste spewed by Ick and the trash adds, I apparently stumbled too close to the remaining geists and we wiped. (I'm still not entirely sure about that as everyone was all over the place and one of the hunters said it was his fault, but the tank blamed it on me.)

Why is there never enough time to kill that extra trash pack but always enough time to wipe and run back?

Normal Pit of Saron on my night elf priest

Are you tired of Pit of Saron yet? I know I am, but it's got some amazing loot drops and some of the most interesting pug oddities. In this case we had a death knight tank and a draenei shaman who, even though they clearly didn't know each other and weren't on the same server, had somehow figured out within the first few seconds of the run that they were both Dutch. The shaman was of the "gogogo" variety, the tank was annoyed by people pulling for him, and within minutes they started to argue both in Dutch and in English. It got worse when the tank rolled need on some dps plate and the shaman disapproved. They kept calling each other juvenile and dumb throughout the entire run - and yet... we never broke our stride and at no point did either of them try to vote-kick the other. I'm not sure whether to consider the ability to patiently run a whole instance while trading insults impressive or stupid.


Playing alone

My night elf priest hit the level cap two weeks ago and since then I've been playing her more than any of my other characters in an effort to gear her up. (She won't really need the gear for anything, but I just liked the idea of getting her a set of tier nine.) Today I even got her into a VoA run and killed Flame Leviathan in Ulduar just for the weekly raid quest. Afterwards I couldn't help feeling vaguely dirty however... generally I avoid VoA like the plague and on my home server I've passed on the weekly raid quest week after week simply because I think it's kind of stupid. Why the sudden change of heart?

After a bit of thinking I realised that I'm approaching the game with a very different attitude on this character. Generally I play WoW as a very social game, making sure that all my alts are in the same guild, chatting with my friends, focusing on group content that we can do together as a guild and so on. I still engage in various solo activities as well, but most of them would feel meaningless if I didn't have the guild to share them with.

However, my night elf is different. Any friends I used to have on my old Alliance server have long stopped playing and I don't know anyone there anymore. I have a guild tag, but the place only serves as somewhere to collect my alts; effectively I play alone. For a long time that put me off coming back to this server at all, because not knowing anyone put a firm barrier in front of the most rewarding and interesting content. However, the changes Blizzard has made this expansion have made it incredibly easy even for a solo player to get into groups and get things done. The next batch of emblems is only a click on the dungeon finder away.

In addition real life is currently presenting me with a couple of issues that make me feel less sociable than usual, and I'm looking for things that can keep me distracted without forcing me to interact with other people. Oddly enough, for as much as I usually enjoy the social aspect of WoW, I'm only now coming to realise that it works as a single player game just as well. Just set yourself a relatively easily achievable goal (like say, full tier nine for your newest level eighty alt) and then keep plodding away at that, ignoring everyone around you as much as you can. Suddenly not knowing anyone to talk to doesn't matter. Suddenly VoA and the weekly raid quest are perfect things to do - simple activities that offer great rewards for what still only requires minimal social interaction.

Though even as I enjoy my virtual escape, I'm already longing for company and more social ways of playing again. Still, this temporary foray into WoW as a single player game has definitely made me wonder just how many people play it that way all the time?