Did somebody say... Thunderfury, Blessed Blade of the Windseeker?

I've previously talked about how I ended up being a social member of a raiding guild on my Horde characters in WoW Classic. I'll also be honest and admit that I have wondered occasionally whether I wouldn't be better off in a more casual levelling guild, especially after the friends that had originally rolled characters with me all quit and I was nothing but a lonely leveller in a guild of raiders. But inertia is a powerful force, and ever since I hit 60 I have occasionally benefitted from things like being invited to super smooth guild dungeon runs.

This Tuesday though was one of those evenings where being in a raiding guild definitely paid off.

You see, a couple of weeks ago the guild's main tank had acquired his second Binding of the Windseeker, meaning that he was now in possession of both of the rare drops from Molten Core needed to craft Thunderfury, Classic's legendary (in more than one way) sword.

It wasn't quite that straightforward though, as there are also a lot of expensive crafting materials involved, and those couldn't just be conjured on the spot. The tank didn't explicitly ask anyone to give him stuff, but he did comment that there were still a lot of Arcanite Bars to go and that he'd appreciate any help, so I instantly mailed him my three recently acquired Arcanite Crystals free of charge, even as a part of my brain was quietly screaming: "What are you doing? Those are worth like 150 gold and you still don't even have an epic mount!"

But things are just different in Classic. It takes a village to raise a child and it takes a guild to get someone a Thunderfury. You just know this and take pride in being able to contribute, even as a social member.

After that I definitely wanted to be there for the final forging though, so I made sure to keep a close eye on the guild's Discord from then on, in order not to miss the point when material gathering was complete and the tank would want to assemble a raid to challenge Prince Thunderaan for his weapon (who is also a raid boss, if not a "proper" one, so you do need extra warm bodies to finish the quest).

And Tuesday night was the night! The note said that it was going to happen once the Molten Core pug organised by the guild was finished - fortunately the guild leader was streaming the run, so I opened the stream in a secondary tab to keep an eye on their progress while doing something else, and once they'd downed Raggy I logged back on my hunter and made a beeline for the Crystal Vale in Silithus.

I was so excited that I recorded the whole thing:

Even including time for summons and so on, the whole shebang was over in less than ten minutes, but that didn't make it any less memorable to me. It's just not an event that most players will take part in more than once, if ever, so I was happy to be there, kill a boss the size of a small tower and feel epic. It was definitely worth it too, and seeing everyone else's excitement and happiness for the tank just gave me warm fuzzies. What's not to love?


Dungeon Milestones

Something that I've been thinking about while levelling my alts in Classic is just how important dungeons are to me, and have been ever since I first encountered them as a concept back in 2005. I mean, I've known for a long time that I like this sort of small group content, but I'd never really paused to think about just how much it influences the way I play, both in WoW and in other MMOs that I've played over the years and that have similar types of content.

To summarise it in a simple example: I can't imagine levelling an Alliance character and not taking them to the Deadmines around level 20. Running that place is just way too enjoyable and rewarding, so that while levelling any character through their teens the goal of "running the Deadmines" serves as a beacon for me the entire time: get x more levels from regular quests, start gathering up the various dungeon quests around level 18, then start looking for a group while doing some more regular quests in the area.

Then I rinse and repeat the whole process for every single dungeon in the game (more or less). In a way it makes me much more resilient against the drop-off in interest that many people seem to experience in the forties as quests become more sparse, as there's no lack of dungeons at any level range, always giving me something interesting to work towards.

You might wonder how well this system works in other MMOs that I don't already know inside out the way I do Classic - after all, I can't really use dungeons to plan my levelling when I don't know what dungeons there are, right? This is correct, but at the same time modern MMOs tend to make it much easier to get into this content than Classic does. Usually you can simply open a dedicated interface that will show you what group content is available at your level and you can just queue up for automated group formation, without having to spend time manually looking for a group or hunting down dungeon quests.

That said, my "obsession" with dungeons has its own pitfalls too. It's just a different sort of routine and has its own vulnerabilities to getting disrupted that can cause my progression to stall or even halt completely.

For example, many modern MMOs are designed around the idea that you don't actually need to do a lot of the available content to get to the level cap - which is fine in principle, but feels bad to me when the available "content chunks" don't slot into each other in an organic manner. For example I was not pleased when in post-Cataclysm WoW, basically doing any dungeon whatsoever would quickly cause you to outlevel whatever zone you were questing in, making it hard to meaningfully combine the two types of content. During my first stint in Neverwinter, one of the reasons I lost interest was that I accidentally outlevelled a skirmish while doing some quests, and there was no way of going back to see that content once you'd left the eligible level bracket. It may seem a bit silly to get upset over something like that, but the point is that it can really disrupt my flow and therefore lessen my enjoyment of the game.

Even in Classic itself I can run into issues when I feel that I "ought to" be doing a certain dungeon but it's hard to get a group for it for example. What got me thinking about this whole thing was that after doing BFD, the Stockades and Gnomer on my nelf hunter, I thought about Razorfen Kraul as my next potential destination and how hard it was going to be to find a group for that as Alliance - not to mention that I was enjoying a blast of nostalgia doing more or less all the quests in Ashenvale at the time. So I made the conscious decision to give myself "permission" to skip that one, and any later ones as well if I just don't feel like doing them at the time.

It does require a conscious effort for me to think like that though, because my default is simply to always make a beeline for the next piece of group content.


Classic AV Continues To Entertain

Over the course of the past several weeks I've returned to AV for a few afternoons and evenings to farm some more reputation. I've made it up to revered, which netted me a nice new quiver.

That said, queues have been a pain. And to think I complained about having to wait twenty minutes for a match two months ago! Nowadays the wait times for Horde are easily double that if not more. That does have the advantage that forty minutes are enough time to actually do something other than sit in the queue, such as fish or farm, but if playing AV was all you really wanted to do that play session it still sucks.

Ultimately this wait has largely meant that I haven't actually played that many matches, but just based on the ones I did get into it has been interesting to watch the evolving meta. As Kring already mentioned in the comments on my last post, the instant queues for Alliance meant that they were trying to organise a lot of pre-mades, which was great for the people in those pre-mades and pretty awful for everyone else. For Horde, it resulted in pretty hit-and-miss matches for a while, depending on whether you ended up facing a pre-made or not.

The situation was exacerbated when Alliance players started to drop out as soon as it became clear that not enough members of their pre-made had made it into the match, and apparently there was something wrong with the backfilling mechanism as well, which meant that some matches would start with only ten Alliance players vs. forty Horde. Let me tell you, I felt bad for those guys... but after waiting in the queue for half an hour or more the Hordies were in no mood to make it quick and painless, instead taking their time to bring down every single bunker, kill every NPC that gives honour, and even engaging in silly fun like summoning Lokholar the Ice Lord just because they could.

Blizzard actually felt the need to step in there, fixing the issue of matches starting with one team half empty, and also removing the little number indicator for the battleground, which pre-mades could previously use to co-ordinate which match to enter.

This served to further increase queue times, but I have to admit that the matches I do get into lately have been very fun, with Horde winning most of the time despite of the perceived Alliance bias of the battleground.

It's been very interesting to observe the evolving meta as well: Early on, most of the matches I won had about half the Horde raid splitting off to defend Galv and wipe the Alliance assault there, which would force them to reorganise and buy us the extra time needed to kill Vann before they could get to Drek. It still tended to be a relatively close thing though.

In my more recent matches though, the Horde has been a lot more confident and living up to its name - no more hiding in Galv's shadow and trying to defend. Instead people fan out across the Field of Strife (the joke used to be that it's a misnomer because nobody fights there and people just ride past each other), ping where the Alliance assault is approaching, and then we just form a sort of battering ram and charge right into them. The advantage of taking the initiative aside, I'm still not sure why this works as well as it does.

Not only do we usually wipe out the initial assault, but we then proceed to cap Stonehearth Graveyard - remember when that used to be a meme? When people hated anyone doing that because they wanted the Alliance to have a respawn point that would allow them to keep advancing instead of clogging up the roads on their half of the map? Well, no more of that - in the current meta, the Horde wants to pen the Alliance in and farm them for a while.

The Horde holding Stonehearth Graveyard until both Stonehearth and Icewing Bunker have been destroyed causes the Alliance to trickle back down only slowly, making it easy to defend against them. After collecting a number of the drops from trade-ins, some people will start to recall to Frostwolf Village to do hand-ins, and things like the Icelord summon may well happen for fun.

The final push tends to be hard because the Alliance forces are concentrated in their base by that point, but at the same time they'll be yearning to break out, so eventually the defense disperses a bit, and by that point it doesn't matter anymore if they make a try at assaulting the Horde base, because we're already in their base, killing their dudes. So the long wait tends to pay off with a match that lasts about half an hour and brings with it insane honour and reputation gains for Horde - good times if you can stand the wait.

We'll see how things continue to evolve and whether the Alliance comes up with a proper counter to the currently prevailing Horde strategy any time soon.


Love Is In My Bags

I'd forgotten just how chock-full of seasonal holidays WoW is this time of year, even in its Classic incarnation. After just wrapping up the Lunar Festival, we transitioned straight into WoW's version of Valentine's Day, called "Love Is In The Air".

I have to confess that I had little to no memories of this particular holiday, so my first reaction upon talking to an innkeeper about the event was confusion. I proceeded to Wowhead, where they had a guide up as usual. This alleviated my confusion somewhat, but still left me with a feeling of: "Really? That is it?"

I proceeded to dig through this blog's archives to check whether I'd had anything to say about this holiday in the past and found this post, which was written during Wrath but before the holiday had undergone its first major revamp, and in which I described it with the words: "card collections and poetry collections and food collections and bracelets and candy hearts and rose petals and aaaargh", which sounds about right.

In short, it's a holiday dominated by temporary "fun" items and buffs. The buffs aren't bad (I presume) if you're a raider for example, and make sure to buff yourself just before the start of a raid (Classic buffs are very powerful), but for someone like me, who's more casual and quite likely to lose a lot of any given buff's duration to idling around in town it's not that exciting.

And all the "fun" collectibles that you're supposed to gather from the NPCs are just bad when bag space is such a scarce resource. I seem to remember that even back in the day I tended to chuck anything and everything that wasn't immediately useful because I didn't want to put up with this much junk.

So I think I'll largely pass on this one for being too annoying and not sufficiently rewarding to me. That said, I feel a certain admiration for the way old Blizzard really tried to make every holiday feel different back in the day, even if this one is a bit of a miss for me personally. I can't say I ultimately preferred the way they later homogenised them all to be about gathering a currency to buy rewards and killing a special boss once a day.

Also, I do love watching people unironically ask in general chat whether anyone can cure their heartbreak, and gaining buffs like "The Power of Friendship". If nothing else I feel vaguely compelled to always make sure to have some Unbestowed Friendship Bracelets at hand, just so that I can mend any broken hearts I might come across. It's an interesting dynamic, NPCs making your character sad and fellow players cheering you up. It certainly gives the event a unique atmosphere.


Don't Click Anything!

The more often I run Blackfathom Deeps in Classic, the more I love it. It's an instance that I've been fond of for a very long time, partially due to its atmosphere and partially due to nostalgia, but in Classic I've also come to realise that it really brings out both the best and the worst in people... and the game.

My nelf hunter had already done it once, in a run that had been very smooth and perfectly enjoyable, but despite of the group being very thorough and killing almost every mob in the instance, I still finished with 7 out of 8 naga brains and 8 out of 10 Twilight Pendants in terms of quest progress.

Now, the former I would have been able to get from the mobs outside the instance as well, but the latter were a lot trickier, so I really just wanted to join another run to ensure that I'd be able to complete both quests. So I did get another group on Saturday... eventually. I'm learning that group assembly can take a lot longer on Hydraxian Waterlords than on Pyrewood Village.

The party was led by a male rogue and a female paladin who gave me couple vibes. At least the rogue also gave the impression of someone who'd returned to the game after a long absence, as he clearly had some knowledge of the dungeon but was fuzzy on a lot of details.

Our tank was a male paladin who was actually a very good tank but by his own admission didn't really know the instance. The group was rounded out by a second hunter, this one a male dwarf.

Things started out smoothly enough, though the other hunter forgot to breathe at one point while we were fighting in the water and drowned himself.

When we got to the murloc room, I warned that the murlocs had a habit of running and aggroing the entire room. The tank went in, murlocs ran, we aggroed the entire room. And wiped of course. The tank apologised as we made the corpse run, but I told him it was fine and at least now he knew just what could happen. The second time around he made sure to pull back a bit more and things went fine.

The next interesting moment occurred as we entered the cavern leading up to the temple. We ended up with a pull that was way too big and only barely scraped by. Then just as we breathed a sigh of relief at having come through after all, I saw the rogue back into yet another group. Nooo...! People died and I did that shameful thing where instead of fighting I grabbed my loot first, because at that moment I wasn't sure things were going to work out and I really wanted to get my last pendant, okay?

But after I had it, both the tank and the other hunter were still alive, so I joined them in fighting. It was super manic, with mobs and pets going everywhere and the tank bubbling himself with only a sliver of health left, but somehow we made it through so that the other two could be resed and didn't have to make another corpse run.

In front of the temple the dwarf randomly fell off the walkway, couldn't find his way up again and died. By that point I had started to file him away under "a bit of a dork".

As soon as Kelris was dead I made sure to put into chat that people shouldn't click on the braziers because they would summon mobs and we could only fight one group at a time. As soon as I had typed this though, the tank went up to one brazier to click, while the dorky dwarf went up to another. Both me and the rogue went "nooo" in chat but it was too late.

I declared it a wipe and dived around a corner like the coward that I am because I wasn't actually in combat, didn't have Feign Death yet and really didn't fancy another corpse run. The others tried to fight but died very quickly, with the rogue only just managing to vanish in time.

Once the dead had made it back, we finished the rest of the dungeon just fine, but the whole situation with people running up to click things right as I was telling them not to do that very thing reminded me eerily of this UberDanger video, which still makes me break into giggles upon rewatching (it should start at the relevant point in time, but the whole thing is worth watching really - just be aware there's swearing):


(By the way, you can now also follow this blog on Bloglovin.)


Level 40 the 2nd

Lest you think that I've been spending all my time playing Alliance, another milestone I've reached recently has been my druid hitting level 40, being only my second character to do so. And she got her first mount too!

What was interesting about that was that unlike on my hunter, I didn't feel nearly as much pressure to earn mount money, not least because I now have a level 60 main that could potentially chip in and help out where needed.

As it happened though, the druid ended up earning the 90 gold all by herself anyway. Once again I noticed that she was tantalisingly close already as she approached 40, so I held off on training some of my spell upgrades and gathered up some fish and herbs to sell on the auction house, which was enough to get her over the line.

I guess alchemy being less of a money drain while levelling than pretty much any other crafting profession probably helped, but it also feels easier to me to make a bit of extra money while levelling now that the economy has matured a little. With more and more characters accumulating at the level cap, there are fewer players harvesting low- to mid-level resources, plus those higher level characters have more gold at their disposal to just buy things off the auction house.

Mind you, Pyrewood Village is still insanely busy and sometimes those max-level characters will still go out to farm their own stuff: While questing in the Badlands for example I was quite taken aback by the sheer amount of high-level Alliance characters that were constantly swooping in to pick flowers right in front of my nose or kill certain mobs that I needed for my quests. Then again, that's something I should really be used to at this point, but it certainly adds to the appeal of the (relative) quiet on Hydraxian Waterlords.


More Nelf Huntering

I continue to work on my nelf hunter because playing Alliance again makes for a nice change of pace. She's up to level 24 now.

I spent a lot of time doing pretty much every single quest in Darkshore. Now there's a zone where I'll fully admit that I'm blinded by nostalgia, because I always remember it so fondly from my early days in the game... yet on redoing it I can't get over the stupendous amount of running up and down the road you have to do. I swear it's worse than the Barrens.

I guess I didn't mind so much back in the day because I was too utterly enchanted by the world to worry about things like efficiency, and I had friends levelling with me that I could chat with during our time on the road. Nowadays it's just tiring.

I also made the trip to Stormwind to do the Deadmines. Doing the pre-quests for that was an interesting reminder of all the little details that private servers get wrong: When I got to the step where I had to hunt down the Defias Messenger, I found him right away, but unlike the last time I met him on a private server, the little bugger was actually running and I couldn't catch him!

Eventually he dived into a whole cave full of Defias, including the notorious Pillagers, and I had to hit the brakes to clear out some room for myself. Then I waited until he had finished his business inside the cave and foolishly came strolling out again, thinking he was safe. That felt like a little mini-adventure of its own.

The actual Deadmines run after that was relatively uneventful, though I think it's noteworthy that our tank was a retribution paladin and that setup actually worked surprisingly well. Of course it helped that she was the highest level in the group and we were all very well-behaved, always letting her pull and giving her a chance to get aggro.

At 19 my hunter was actually the highest level damage dealer at the time, what with the other two being casters who were only level... 16? 17? I forget exactly, but I was definitely worried that we'd struggle to kill the last boss. Struggle we did, by wiping once, but we did get him down in the end. Things did get very slow towards the boat though, as the casters faced a lot of resists and it basically came down to me slowly shooting things to death by myself.

This meant that despite of having started with a full quiver, I noticed that I was almost out of arrows by the end, and decided to start preserving ammo by meleeing things on the easier trash pulls, to make sure I wouldn't suddenly run out at a point where it actually mattered. Being the seemingly dumb hunter meleeing things felt very old-school.

One interesting note related to grouping in general is that I've found the LFG channel on Hydraxian Waterlords to be pretty whack. On Pyrewood Village it's rare that people try to hold off-topic conversations in there, and if it happens it usually doesn't last long, not least because the channel is always very busy with actual LFG requests that would make it hard to have an unrelated chat.

On HW though, people are almost always chattering away about some nonsense in LFG, as if there weren't enough other channels for that. Last night they were on politics when I joined and talked about the taste of human flesh by the time I left for the evening. And here I thought people on roleplaying servers were supposed to be the sensible ones.

Finally, another piece of hunter-specific news: I couldn't quite get the idea of getting a unique cat skin for my pet out of my head, and became somewhat infatuated with the idea of taming Humar the Pridelord, who has a distinctive look that literally isn't shared by a single other mob in the game.

Undeterred by the many Wowhead comments about how he only spawns every eight hours or so and tends to be camped to hell and back, I jogged down to Ratchet to check under his special tree, and what do you know: He was right there, the very first time I looked.

So now I have two cats. I didn't plan to level two pets on this character, particularly two pets of the same family, but I'm feeling strangely attached to Spotty the saber and am not sure I'll be able to part with her. Then again, this is an RP server - maybe I can be a crazy cat lady?