Classic WoW has made me think about guilds a lot: what I value about them, when I want to be in one vs. when I don't and why. I mentioned that I felt somewhat lonely after being kicked from my Horde guild for inactivity after two weeks of not logging in, despite of only ever having had quite limited interactions with the people there. While I know this isn't necessarily the modus operandi for most guilds, I still wasn't sure whether I even wanted to join another guild at all. More recently I started mulling over the idea of maybe trying to find a casual guild with people interested in doing five-mans, since I still feel I know way too little about so many of the Classic endgame dungeons.

One morning I was standing at the Ironforge auction house with the intent to just re-list some expired auctions before work, when someone whispered me to ask if I was an alt of someone with a similar name. I politely replied that I wasn't. The other person (who I realised was a paladin in Judgement gear actually standing next to me) proceeded to ask why I wasn't in a guild. I answered truthfully that my last guild on another server had kicked me for inactivity after two weeks and I wasn't sure I wanted to get invested again just yet.

Next thing I knew we were chatting about his guild and mere minutes later I had accepted a guild invite. I briefly responded to the friendly welcome messages in guild chat before politely bowing out since I had to log off for work. All I could think was: What the hell just happened?

Contrary to my earlier considerations, "Order of the Holy Fork" is another raiding guild, if casual. In hindsight, I think the recruiter might have been looking to recruit me as a raider (all that ZG gear probably made me look way more competent than I actually am), though I was happily accepted as a social member instead. The thing that sold me was that he described their approach to raiding as "not going for speed runs or anything like that; it's more about having fun. I mean, look at me: I'm a holy paladin in full plate!"

I soon got my paladin alt invited too, but then wondered how I was going to make myself feel at home in a raiding guild - again - without actually being a raider. I figured that since I had been actively recruited, they might at least be a bit more interested in playing with me than the Horde guild had been, where I had been "that person that got invited because her friend was a new recruit but then her friend quit and she just stuck around despite of not knowing anyone".

One thing that came to my aid was the fact that the chatter in guild and on the guild's Discord was all about farming elite silithids to help a member of the guild become a Scarab Lord. That sounded like something I should be able to help with even as a casual member. I asked how the whole thing worked and there was some amusing confusion as I was told that I "needed to get the item from Damaazz" and I kept trying to find an NPC with that name until I realised it was another player, namely the prospective Scarab Lord. After I had been deputised to collect silithid carapace fragments, I joined farming groups for two evenings that week. My contributions weren't great (not least because I kept getting horribly distracted wanting to skin all the things) but my willingness to immediately make myself useful seemed to be well-received.

A few days later the required amount of silithid fragments had been achieved and now the prospective Scarab Lord needed help with other tasks. I missed out on the farming of demons in the Blasted Lands but managed to join in for the same thing happening in Winterspring just in time to see the item drop.

What next? Damaazz said that he didn't think we had enough people to try the world boss he needed, but that we could go raid Undercity instead. I thought he was joking until people started seriously talking about how to best get there and I realised he actually needed to steal an item from there for his quest as well. Oh, those Vanilla quest designers!

We flew up to the Western Plaguelands and rode up to the Undercity sewers where we assembled like some sort of guerilla strike team. I had joined their Discord voice chat to make sure I didn't miss anything, and just as we started to ride in someone put on the soundtrack from Apocalypse Now - it was so absurd that I couldn't stop laughing for several minutes and recorded the whole thing (my laughing not included):

The mission was very successful in that we were in and out in less than five minutes and nobody died, though thanks to an overzealous mage we ended up with four dishonourable kills (a mark you get for killing low-level civilian NPCs and that affects you negatively if you want to rank up in PvP). On a PvP server that kind of thing would have caused some serious drama I think, but as it was people just jokingly agonised about the awfulness of their characters having killed innocent civilians. (RP server, remember.)

At this point we had a couple more people join in and decided to try the world boss on Alcaz Island after all. I had never been there in Vanilla and it was another interesting experience. We wiped once as there was an issue with the tank swapping, but got him down on the second try, though it was still a bit of a close call. I even got to make myself useful by using Scare Beast on one of the druid tanks when he got mind-controlled.

I missed out on the quest steps that involved actual raiding, but was back in business when it came to helping out with farming elite dragonkin around the Emerald Dream portals in Ashenvale and Hinterlands. I never knew those buggers had such insane amounts of health! We got lucky and got the drops in both areas pretty quickly, which delighted the guild mistress a great deal as she claimed that other guilds had supposedly spent whole days farming these without getting anywhere.

Finally I managed to snag a summon just in time to join in the fight against Eranikus himself in Moonglade, which is apparently quite an event and involved us teaming up with another guild for mutual benefit. The funniest thing about that was some random person walking in - with all the RP going on and shades spawning everywhere - and exclaimed something like: "I just wanted to hand in a quest! What the hell did I just walk into?", followed by frantic attempts by some people to quickly shoo them to safety (not entirely for altruistic reasons, as people dying during the event apparently empower the enemy).

With that Damaazz acquired everything he needs to ring the gong when the gates are ready to open. It's all been a bit of a whirlwind, joining a guild completely out of the blue and immediately getting roped into the grand adventure of making someone a Scarab Lord. I'm not complaining though.


Happy Birthday to Classic

Today WoW Classic turns one year old. It feels weird to think back to the mania of launch night - on the one hand it doesn't feel like that was that long ago, but on the other it feels like it happened in a completely different world. 

And how have these last twelve months played out for Classic? Personally I've stayed subscribed for the entire year, though my activity levels did drop quite significantly after the first three months or so. I did drop down from subbing for three months at a time to one month the other day, as I keep thinking about taking a break and I'd rather not be stuck with months of unused subscription time if that does end up happening, but we'll see how things go in the next couple of months. I still enjoy Classic for sure, but my self-imposed rule of keeping it casual means that it's always competing for the secondary spot in my MMO roster and there are only so many hours in the day to play games.

Anyway, how has Classic done on a wider level? The big launch rush came and went, and I did find it very noticeable that most friends and bloggers dropped the game after a couple of months, but thanks to layering that didn't immediately make the servers any less busy. My own prediction for Classic's trajectory of success was that after the initial launch spike and inevitable drop-off, it would stabilise and then maybe even slowly gain population again. This did actually end up happening, causing Blizzard to have to deal with population problems in April - though since this was largely caused by the Coronavirus and millions of people suddenly staying at home I'm not sure it counts towards proving my prediction right.

It's a bit hard to say what the population is like now. Anecdotally, even the "medium" server I play on seems very busy at all times, but as the saying goes, the plural of anecdotes is not data. Blizzard stopped releasing sub numbers years ago, and even if they still did we wouldn't know how many of those subs can be attributed to Classic vs. retail. I do consider it telling though that Classic was called out positively in three out of four of their last quarterly earnings calls. Q1 2020 was the only one where they didn't specifically mention Classic, though they still noted that the number of active WoW players altogether had continued to grow, and I find it hard to imagine that Classic was tanking while BfA was soaring during that time.

Equally telling perhaps is the number of active servers. Blizzard introduced a technology called "connected realms" to retail in 2013, which - as far as I can tell - is basically the same as merging servers, only that the names of all the "origin" servers are preserved, people can keep their character names, and Blizzard avoids the bad PR associated with merging servers due to low population. The process is also slightly obfuscated in game as you can't easily tell which servers are tied to which other servers. To see the true picture you have to go to the forums, where connected realms share a single bullet point in the realm forums list.

On EU, you can see that what were once 95 different English-speaking servers back in 2013 (or possibly more, as there are several "et al."s on the list, seemingly implying that a few more were swallowed up that weren't even worth mentioning) have been merged down to 46 connected realms, with more mergers apparently on the way as more servers have reached critically low populations. On US, 242 realms have been pared down to 117 so far.

That is still a huge number of servers and I'm not saying retail is dead or anything, but I find it interesting to compare it to the number of Classic servers, which is 39 for the US and 23 (English-speaking ones) for the EU, of which only five and three respectively are considered as having a low population. This would indicate that about a third of WoW's total population are Classic players at this point, even 12 months later.

From a community point of view, I have to say it's my impression that the game has followed a similar trajectory as most post-original-WoW MMOs, which is to say that everyone who doesn't either play it themselves or follows MMO news very closely has already forgotten that it still exists. If you type "is wow classic" into Google, one of the first suggestions will be "dead", like for pretty much every other game.

It has its bittervets who quit early on because Blizzard made waaay too many changes compared to Vanilla (launching with layering, WTF), and it has its bittervets that still play while complaining that it's all very boring and Blizzard should really just make some changes already to keep them entertained.

At max level it has a bizarre hardcore culture revolving around speed-running and timely accumulation of world buffs that some people would like you to think is ubiquitous, but based on my own experiences there are plenty of people who don't play that way. Maybe it varies a lot from server to server too. Likewise, some complain about low-level gameplay being dead as everyone just levels alts by boosting now, but again your mileage may vary.

Of course, a year isn't such a long time, especially when you consider that Classic has been burning through the content releases much faster than expected. I found this article from September last year where the author speculated that phase 3 would be released this summer - in reality we're already up to phase 5, with only Naxxramas left to go. Things will definitely change on the high end once Blizzard runs out of content to add to Classic and people can "only" look forward to the release of Classic Burning Crusade.

As long as it always remains a place to level yet another alt through the wondrous world of original Azeroth though, I for one will be happy.


Professional Hunter of Trolls

I said in my post from a week ago that my highly successful Zul'Gurub pug really made me want to go again, so it shouldn't surprise you to hear that I spoke up when I saw the very same warlock forming another group early on Saturday afternoon. It's interesting how much more confident I immediately felt, now that I had a clue what was going on. On Hakkar I even did the fetching of the sons - not exactly voluntarily, but nobody spoke up when the raid leader asked for volunteers, at which point they asked me personally and I agreed.

I did okay on it too - on our first attempt my timings were a bit off in that I pulled them too soon and they ended up whacking people for a bit before we killed them. Several people said this shouldn't have been an issue as they don't hit that hard but I couldn't disagree that it wasn't optimal (though it wasn't what caused lots of people to die, forcing us to reset the fight once again). Still, on the next attempt I was pretty much spot on and everything else went much more smoothly too. I only died once during the entire run and that wasn't really my fault as I got the Mark of Arlokk and got mauled to death by approximately a million panthers.

I also got insanely lucky with loot again, upgrading no less than seven gear slots this time around. Max-level loot in Classic can be a bit unintuitive, which is how you end up with things like warriors wearing leather to optimise their dps, but I didn't need a best-in-slot guide to know that everything I got was a huge upgrade from the green levelling gear I was still sporting. Specifically I got:

Blooddrenched Mask from Arlokk - I'm generally not a fan of wearing leather instead of mail, but this was just such an insanely obvious upgrade that I didn't feel bad for rolling on it, especially as the only other person I figured might have wanted it was a reasonably well-geared gnome rogue.

Eye of Hakkar - not sure why you'd make a necklace out of an eye... but I wasn't going to say no to 40 attack power and one percent extra crit, especially when what I was wearing at the time was some blue levelling neck that only had some intellect on it (I'm not 100% sure now but I think it was this one from an Uldaman quest)

Might of the Tribe - from Thekal, again just a nice upgrade from some crappy old green

Zandalar Predator's Bracers - ok, so these weren't a drop, but the run as a whole raised my reputation from neutral to friendly, meaning I could finally hand in the bracer token I won last time to equip these lovely bindings. Before that I was still wearing Ironaya's Bracers from Uldaman.

Belt of Shriveled Heads - this was a quest reward from a one-time quest to kill all five of Hakkar's priests (and which I had missed before). I was a bit torn whether to choose this or the leather version, which seemed quite good with its extra hit too, but in the end I couldn't abide the idea of wearing a belt with that much strength on it.

Bloodstained Legplates - these dropped from Jin'do, and I was sure they were going to be mine as the only other hunter already had better, so I was very surprised when I lost the roll to a warrior. Was that agility and crit really so good for a warrior that it made up for the amount of the stat budget lost to (useless) intellect? It seemed a bit dumb, but I figured that I really shouldn't complain considering that I'd already won three items before that. As it happened though, the warrior who won them approached me on the way to Hakkar and traded me the legs after all, saying in whispers that he had misread the stats when rolling. Win!

Mandokir's Sting - this was a lovely surprise as I had actually browsed the overall Zul'Gurub loot table on Wowhead beforehand and thought that the only ranged weapon upgrade that I might be able to get was going to be the gun from Hakkar. I don't know how I managed to miss this lovely bow, but the fact that it dropped and I won it was easily the highlight of the run for me. What an upgrade from my Thornflinger!

It's been a long time since I got this excited about loot, but getting all these massive upgrades for what ultimately felt like relatively little effort (besides the initial mental hurdle of daring to join a pug for a raid despite of my limited experience and lack of preparedness) has just been one huge sugar rush to be honest. And all this on a character that hasn't actually done a single one of the level 60 five-man dungeons yet!


AQ Gate Opening Event on Pyrewood Village - EU

I noted in my last post about the war effort that Pyrewood Village was close to being done, and sure thing, the next time I checked, the coffers were full and the NPCs were just counting down the days to the actual opening event. Consulting the server Discord allowed me to narrow it down further: apparently the gong was going to be rung at 20:35 server time on Sunday. Not a bad time to join in for a fun world event!

I made sure to take my tauren hunter down to Silithus in advance to beat the inevitable crowds. This seemed to have paid off when I logged in with about half an hour to go and watched a pile of horribly lagging wind riders pile up on the wind rider master, seemingly unable to land.

As I hadn't been removed from my old guild's Discord and I could see that lots of them were online and in voice chat, I hopped on to listen to what they were talking about. Apparently the raid leader had his own sceptre ready to bang the gong and there was much excitement, though they were also talking about people forcibly getting teleported out of Silithus due to overpopulation. As it turned out my own hubris about having been clever enough to log out in Cenarion Hold before was also about to be punished with an appropriate fall, as I suddenly found myself among a pile of other people teleported to the graveyard in Thousand Needles.

We rode to the nearest flightmaster in a giant train and flew back. The wind rider pile in Silithus was still laggy but it did land people eventually. Acutely aware that I was likely to get teleported out again (apparently only sceptre bearers were immune - or something like that) I mounted up and ran south to have a look at the gate itself. The crowds were real. The game clearly couldn't cope and would basically show me a blank landscape in any direction unless I stared at it intently for a few seconds, which would then result in more and more people loading in as time went on.

The next time the dreaded loading screen appeared, I found myself with a pile of similarly afflicted people in Ratchet for a change. Again we were off to the flight master and flew right back. Again I rode south to mingle with the crowds, hoping that maybe I'd be able to hang in there until the big event, but I got ported out for a third time at half past, once again to Thousand Needles. Others on Discord reported landing in Un'goro Crater and Tanaris.

I flew back a third time and my wind rider was just approaching Cenarion Hold again when the broadcast text went out that the first person to ring the gong had been an Alliance warrior called Moatty. Once again I rode back down south, hoping to see some of the Qiraj invaders, and I did! There were a whole bunch of giant Anubisaths about, but everything was so laggy that they didn't even seem to move. I did see people fight them, but again as far as my game was concerned, players were mostly running on the spot. I observed this for a while, until I once again got teleported out to Thousand Needles.

People on my old guild's Discord were now talking about trying to find some invaders in other zones. The crystals apparently spawn in zones all over southern Kalimdor, so there were people hunting elite silithid even in the Barrens (though the mobs were levelled down appropriately for each zone and also dropped lower level loot accordingly). Listening to my guildies on voice and reading chat channels however, things weren't quite so simple in other zones either. I made my way over to Feralas and asked if there were any groups hunting Anubisaths, just to be told flatly that they had all been wiped out within seconds.

I rode back into Thousand Needles, remembering that I had seen an Anubisath from the back of my wind rider earlier, and found a seemingly untouched crystal with lots of mobs around it - I soloed them down for the heck of it. Then I rode on and found some more crystals - it was only at this point that I realised that the mobs did respawn, just on a timer. One crystal I encountered looked abandoned and then all its silithid spawns repopped at once just as I was about to ride past. I killed a few more there but quickly got bored. Health potions and greens may be useful drops, but not so much when scaled down to the thirties (plus my bags on that character were already full too), and I didn't really care that much about getting Brood of Nozdormu reputation in increments of five.

On my way down to Gadgetzan I saw huge groups of players camp more crystals in the Shimmering Flats, I'm guessing because the mobs spawned there were at least in the fourties and therefore dropped slightly better loot.

And thus, the gates on Pyrewood Village are open. I still plan to see the event on Hydraxian Waterlords as well if I get the chance - at least now I'll have a bit of an idea of what to expect. Blizzard seems to have found a workaround to prevent the servers from crashing I guess, but I can't say that getting teleported out of the zone every fifteen minutes because it's considered too busy makes for the most fun experience as a player either. I'll concede though that I don't really know what else they could have done if the servers just can't take that many people in the same spot, even in 2020.


My First Classic Raid

I didn't join Classic with the intent to raid. When I ended up as a social member of a casual raiding guild at launch, I figured that I might possibly get to tag along to MC at some point, but surely that would be it. In the end, even that never actually ended up happening (I don't count the one UBRS run to which I came along because well, it's UBRS), and I was eventually kicked for inactivity when I started to spend more time playing my Alliance alts on Hydraxian Waterlords. I figured that now I definitely wasn't going to raid, ever.

Cue me playing on my paladin again on Tuesday evening and watching the LFG channel. There's a certain warlock that's chattering away in there all the time - I swear they were even the first person to talk when I joined the channel for the very first time when my nelf hunter was still questing in Westfall. So it wasn't unusual that they were at it again, building a pug for Zul'Gurub this time. I'd noticed that they'd been doing that a lot recently.

I kept questing while occasionally paying attention to their LFM pitch. They're not the sort of person who just spams the same boring message over and over but rather change it up every time in an attempt to slowly soften you up. I noticed with some amusement that they were specifically asking for moonkins, ret pallies and shadow priests - the "meme specs" of Classic that aren't really considered raid viable. To me as a casual player, that sounded simultaneously extremely confident (we can take anyone and still succeed) and like they weren't taking the whole thing too seriously. They were really desperate for more dps! ZG doesn't have an attunement, right? And I didn't have any other commitments that evening, hmm...

So I logged over to my hunter and whispered them to ask if there were any gear requirements for coming along. "My policy is don't ask, don't tell", they replied. I had a brief chuckle at that and asked for an invite, hoping that surely most of the group was going to be much better geared than my hunter and could probably carry little old me.

I made my way to Stranglethorn Vale and waited at the instance entrance. Everyone else I saw, both in my group and other people that were just standing around, were indeed a lot better geared than me. However, I noted with some relief that there didn't seem to be an overabundance of buffs - some characters had the dragonslayer buff after just having come from Stormwind, but that was pretty much it. For how easy raiding in Classic is supposed to be, I know that some people are pretty hardcore about collecting world buffs to prepare for raids in a way that I find somewhat intimidating.

Nonetheless, I was becoming acutely aware of just how little of a clue I had about what I was getting myself into. I remembered ZG's overall layout well enough from doing the 5-man version quite a few times in Cata, and I had also run the original version a couple of times in small groups when we were already over-levelled for it, but my memory was very fuzzy. At this point I should probably point out that I currently also don't have a single add-on installed, not even something like damage meters or a boss mod.

I was kind of impressed that the updated default UI allowed for people to be designated as tanks, which automatically highlighted them in the UI and showed their target-of-target for easy focus fire. While the raid leader was sorting out final questions, I opened a guide on my second monitor and gave myself a refresher of what I needed to do on each boss. It sounded more complicated than I remembered to be honest.

We hadn't even reached the first boss yet when I suffered my first death, and the first death of the raid. I had hung back a bit to skin a dead animal when someone who was even more behind ran past me and aggroed a group of trash that we had skipped. I figured it was a good idea to catch up with the rest of the group since we were in combat now, when it turned out that one of the aggroed mobs was one of those spinning axe-throwers... and I found myself stun-locked until dead.

I felt quite embarrassed by that, but fortunately for me the trash leading up to the bat boss would soon claim some other victims, so I didn't have to feel like a complete noob for dying on trash. High Priestess Jeklik herself died really quickly (or at least it felt that way to me) and I don't think I even saw half of the mechanics that had been described in the guide. I also watched one of the casters in the raid just stand still in a firebomb that had been dropped on their head until they died, which made me feel a bit better about my own performance in a petty sort of way.

On Venoxis it was my turn to die again, when I got one-shot by an ability that I didn't even remember reading about in the guide. On the plus side, it took out about five other people as well, so again, it wasn't just me who was messing up.

The next four bosses were all pretty uneventful. I got yelled at on Mandokir because my pet was attacking the wrong target (again, they were doing it differently from what I had read in the guide!), at which point I apologised to the raid leader in whispers and admitted to how green I was. Interestingly, they started giving brief explanations for each boss after that - before then, not a single word had been said and it was just assumed that everyone knew what to do. I also got no less than four pieces of loot: a blue axe and a blue pair of boots that nobody else wanted, a purple ring which I won with a lucky roll, and one of those bracer tokens, again because nobody else wanted it - I can't even use that one yet because you need to be at least friendly with the Zandalari to be able to hand it in I think.

We had one full wipe, which was on the trash leading up to Jin'do. It was kind of funny because one of the tanks said that he needed to be AFK for a minute, but we pulled a group anyway... and apparently accidentally managed to aggro a patrol at the same time, so it was mobs everywhere and eventually we died. People in raid chat went "death" when the first characters started dropping and then "mega death" when it became clear that it was a wipe. When the tank came back while we were corpse-running he commented: "I was only away for two minutes!"

On Hakkar things went awry once as well, but it wasn't a full wipe as those of us still alive just jumped off and reset the fight. The next try we killed him just fine. In general I noted that all the bosses seemed to die extremely quickly compared to my expectations - I guess everyone just does that much more dps these days.

I finished the run by winning the roll for the Heart of Hakkar, which gives you a nice trinket when you hand it in, but it also triggers a world buff so I felt compelled to seek out the co-ordination Discord for my server so I could let people know when to be in STV if they wanted the buff as well. I picked a time in the evening since that's when all the raiders are usually looking for buffs and didn't expect much when I logged in at the designated time two days later, but I was pleasantly surprised to find the island absolutely packed. For all I know it could have just been a coincidence, but it sure made me feel important.

I also wrote a brief message to the raid leader at the end to thank them for letting me come along - I just felt that grateful. Now I kind of want to go again some time - how else am I going to reach friendly reputation to be able to hand in those bracers?


Adventures in Redridge

This post is a sort of part two to my epic paladin adventure from Saturday, because it was followed by more (if slightly less epic) adventures on Sunday.

It started with me wanting to test my new Verigan's Fist against the gnolls in Redridge that had given me some trouble before and realising to my chagrin that it had been a while since I'd last wielded a two-handed mace as my attacks kept missing completely. Fortunately it only took a couple of gnolls to level up to a more useful skill rank, at which point the low-level gnolls started to melt before me like snow in the sun.

I wasn't content with this and proceeded to the area with higher-level gnolls east of town, where I had the quest to kill Lieutenant Fangore. Alas, while I could take on two same- or slightly higher-level gnolls with ease now, they were just too tightly packed in that area (Fangore himself came with something like three or four adds as well), so after several aborted attempts that always ended with me either running away or dying, I had to admit that my newfound strength had made me a bit cocky.

Fortunately a distraction awaited in general chat, where someone was looking for more to do the elite quests in the orc keep. I love that place! We ended up with a full group of five, and after a couple of pulls I just kind of slipped into the tanking role while the other pally in the group focused on healing, without us having had any formal discussion about it. The other three players in the group were all squishy clothies (a warlock and two mages), so it just made sense, you know?

We had a wipe or two at the entrance to the keep (it's easy to overpull there, and sometimes other mobs in the area that you might have killed earlier will start to respawn unexpectedly) but we didn't let it get our spirits down. I made sure to pull more carefully from then on and we cleared the place out.

Only problem for me: I only had one of the three quests for the area and the other two weren't shareable. I'd only really noticed after joining the group and didn't mind running the place twice. Typically, I was given the two missing quests as soon as I handed in what I had after the first run. Fortunately, another group was forming up already, so I volunteered again. One of the mages came with me as she'd had the same issue with the quests. "Fancy seeing you again," I joked.

In this run we were only four and had a dps warrior taking on the tanking role. The fourth person was another paladin, and this time around there was some confusion about who should be healing. The other paladin seemed very keen on healing people to full after every combat so I thought I'd leave her to it, but then I noticed that she rarely paused to cast heals while in combat and in fact her mana bar barely moved at all... but we made do. We had a few more wipes around the entrance with this group, presumably due to having been a man down but also because the warrior had issues not getting too many mobs out of the keep at once, and eventually I volunteered to make the pulls since I already had experience (/flex).

In both groups we continued to run around and kill things together for a bit even after finishing the keep, easily getting Fangore down and even doing the quest in the easternmost tower, which I couldn't remember doing before.

All of this took quite some time, so once the second group had finished, I needed a bit of a break. I logged back on in the evening to finish off the northern area with the orcs and the escort there. To my disappointment, nobody responded to my inquiry in general chat, but I just started slowly killing orcs by myself and suddenly the warrior from earlier zoomed past me into the cave with Corporal Keeshan. I asked if he was here for the escort as well and he replied in the affirmative so I threw him a group invite.

With the two of us, we were unstoppable. In fact, I slacked off a bit and wandered off to mine an ore node here and there while my warrior friend killed things, just pausing to top his health bar back up every so often. By myself, things had been slow, but together we were a whirling ball of death. The warrior also confessed that he'd tried to solo the escort earlier and had failed, but with the two of us AoEing things together and me keeping both of us topped up we didn't even break a sweat. It was a great finish to my weekend of WoWing.

I keep hearing comments from people saying that levelling content is dead and that it's hard to find groups for things, but that's definitely not my experience on Hydraxian Waterlords, even a year after launch.


An Epic Paladin Adventure

Amusingly, after complaining in my last post that my paladin alt just didn't seem to click with me, I naturally ended up playing her for hours and hours this weekend and had an absolute blast.

It started with me rejoining the LFG channel at level 19 to look for a group for Deadmines. This was a bit of an epiphany for me as I realised just how much I had missed being social and engaging with the server community in the past few weeks and months. There's something comforting even about simply sitting in the LFG channel and watching the mix of acronyms and inane chatter scroll by - it just makes the world feel so much more alive, and I'd missed that in my recent time spent doing almost nothing but solo.

The actual grouping experience itself was as entertaining as ever as well. I ended up finding a DM group pretty quickly, and while it was a relatively uneventful run in the grand scheme of things, it easily could have provided material for a whole blog post of its own. The group makeup was just so on point, it was almost like something out of a comedy skit: the tank was the competent straight man, the healer the self-professed noob, and the other two damage dealers were a night elf warrior driven by what I can only guess must have been an overexcited thirteen-year-old (based on the amount of bouncing around and typing in caps he did) and a quiet rogue who later turned out to be Spanish.

At one point the healer noticed a chest and pointed it out to the rest of us, just to then go ahead and loot it himself while the rest of us were doing our /rolls. I was incredibly amused by this, remembering that I had done that exact same thing during my first DM run back in the day, so I typed in complete earnestness: "It's customary to do a /roll for who gets to loot a chest :)", which I thought was perfectly polite, but the nelf warrior felt the need to follow it up with a "SAVAGE!!!" of his own, which I think changed people's perception of my intent somewhat and made the poor noob all defensive.

Later on, we did an accidental overpull on the boat and jumped on the wheel to evade it - all except the healer, who just stood there with a baffled look and let himself slowly get beaten to death while typing: "I don't get it." Also, the first time we pulled the boss, the tank went down without getting a single heal because the healer had been busy talking to the rogue about trading the parrot cage the latter had picked up from trash earlier. Good times all around.

Anyway, I dinged level 20 during this run and it suddenly hit me that it was time to start the quest for Verigan's Fist. I remembered it being quite epic when I did it on my paladin on Kronos, but since I struggled to get a group for Shadowfang Keep back then and wasn't particularly fussed about completing the quest, I didn't actually finish it until I was level 32. I also remembered Rohan writing about getting the Fist for his own pally the other day and talking about how satisfying it had felt. I decided to make it my new goal to get my own Verigan's Fist as soon as possible this time around.

I started with the ore shipment in Loch Modan, though I promptly got distracted by some other quests in the zone. (I finished the timed one to kill six buzzards with only seconds left on the clock because the area was annoyingly busy.) When I saw someone looking for more to do the two elite quests in the ogre area I happily volunteered. I knew that the ore was there as well, and while you didn't necessarily need a group to pick it up, I figured I could kill two birds with one stone.

Unfortunately it turned out that the ore requires you to first get a "sub-quest" in Thelsamar, which I'd forgotten to pick up, an embarrassment that I had to confess when we reached the broken cart with the ore and the other pally in the group tried to helpfully nudge me into picking it up. Fortunately he then had the brilliant idea to try sharing the sub-quest and it worked! So I got that done alongside the two ogre-killing quests.

We were chatting a bit during the whole thing - as you do - and on the subject of the paladin class quest I mentioned that I thought getting the hammer from SFK was the most annoying part as few Alliance players ever want to go there. My fellow pally noted that it was technically soloable, which I conceded while insisting that it was quite a pain to do so. "Well, we could do it together after this if you like!" he offered cheerfully. I couldn't believe my luck and happily agreed.

I just went to clear out my bags a bit while the paladin's player was meant to get some food, but he soon returned saying that he was feeling too ill to eat. He had been going on about having the mother of all hangovers earlier already. So we got going.

We did the orc quest in the mountain pass and actually managed to wipe on it, though we had a good laugh about the absolutely insane number of orcs we'd managed to aggro in the process. We detoured to Menethil Harbour to pick up the flight path there and then proceeded through Arathi and Hillsbrad.

We chatted a bit on the way, again as you do - he kept going on about his hangover and I had to laugh when he said that he usually hated the simplicity of Classic paladin gameplay but in his current state he was glad that it wasn't more demanding. We talked about retail and how neither of us had played it in years, and how you didn't get the sort of adventure there anymore that we were having right in that moment, trekking across half the continent on foot together. There were quiet times as well, when we put on auto-run and looked at something else for a bit, but it never felt uncomfortable.

Eventually, after a journey that seemingly took forever (though I hadn't been bored enough to ever look at the clock) we reached Silverpine Forest and the keep. We didn't have any trouble dispatching the early trash one careful pull at a time, though we got a bit too many on our first attempt at the boss. I died, but my comrade managed to make it out alive and was able to give me a res when he came back in. After that we were able to proceed to the stables without further incident, where we grabbed Jordan's Smithing Hammer and then hearthed out. We thanked each other for the company and logged off.

Later in the day I decided to log back on for the Purified Kor Gem. I was happy to just solo that one as I was a bit low to join a full BFD run anyway, plus I'd picked up the quest for brain stems from the naga outside the instance to go with it. I actually got the gem after only a few kills but then felt compelled to hang around to finish the other quest too.

I'd started my farming pretty buffed up as there'd been a head drop in Stormwind before I left, but annoyingly I then died from a cocky mistake, which meant that finishing off the remainder of the quest suddenly became that much harder without the buff. I'd just come back after my second corpse run when I spotted the same paladin that had run to SFK with me at the entrance of the cavern. We briefly reunited and killed some more naga and satyrs together (much easier as a duo!) until I had all my brain stems and he had his own Kor Gem. Then we said our farewells and hearthed again.

I figured that I probably wasn't going to get my DM run done on that same day as it was getting pretty late by that point, but when it was closing in on midnight I saw a group LFM dps in chat, and since it was a Saturday I thought eh, what the heck.

This run ended up being fun as well, though in a different way. We started with a warrior tank, a druid healer, two paladins and a hunter. The warrior offered that I could tank since I was higher level but I happily declined. I was doubly glad I did so because the hunter was constantly pulling for the tank and if that had been me it would have driven me utterly bonkers. Fortunately our warrior seemed to be much more patient, and even gave the hunter some of his own bullets when the latter realised that he was running low on ammo (how very authentic).

I think it was shortly after the first boss when the druid healer suddenly disconnected and never came back, so I whipped out my healing dress (no good paladin should leave the house without one) and took over the healer role for the remainder of the run. We did just fine four-manning, though it was a bit slow and the hunter started meleeing towards the end to "conserve ammo" which once again gave me flashbacks to me having an eerily similar experience on my own nelf hunter.

I know the way I'm describing this it sounds as if the hunter was quite annoying, but in reality we just had a good time. People got loot and there was silliness and banter. I made a gif out of the hunter trapping a mob and then accidentally hurling himself off the boat, which was the sort of thing I just found hilarious at half one in the morning:

Anyway, I got my lumber and returned to Ironforge so that Jordan Stillwell could craft my new hammer for me. I was pleased as punch that I had achieved my goal by level 23 and it had been one hell of a day.


AQ and Paladin Update

It's been about ten days since the war effort started and as I predicted, the rate of progression slowed down a lot after the first day on both of the servers that I play on. If it had stayed the same, Pyrewood Village would have been done after four days and Hydraxian Waterlords after seven. Needless to say, neither server is actually there yet.

We get all these headlines about how some streamer/super hardcore server got everything done within hours but I'd be highly dubious of any claims that this is the sort of pace at which the average player experiences the game. Things may go faster than they did back in the day, but I suspect that most people who choose to play Classic still play at a much more casual/old-school pace than those reports would have you believe.

Anyway, I plugged the numbers into my percentage calculation spreadsheet, and as it stands Pyrewood Village is three quarters of the way towards being done, while Hydraxian Waterlords is almost halfway there. I like that the two servers' progression rates are so different, as it means that I'll have not one but two chances at potentially seeing the gate opening event!

One thing that was interesting to note was that despite the faction imbalance on both servers, the war effort progression percentages are now almost identical for both factions. Since both servers are PvE, I wouldn't be surprised if some Alliance raiders had made an effort to even things out a bit - it's not like it's difficult to roll up a Horde alt and farm some wool cloth in the Barrens (or transfer things via the neutral auction house if you want to be more organised I guess).

In terms of material progress, the low-level hand-ins continue to be the bottlenecks, with linen and wool bandages sitting at 18 and 31% completion respectively on Hydraxian Waterlords. On Pyrewood Village it seems like someone made a concerted effort to get bandages up - while they still have a long way to go, they are not the least provided items anymore. That honour now goes to light leather on Alliance side and Peacebloom on Horde. Alliance is actually 100% finished with herbs, well done!

All the extra demand for low-level materials actually makes this a really good time to play lowbie alts, because you'll get a lot more bang for your buck than usual when putting stacks of linen and the like up on the auction house. This inspired me to spend some more time playing on my human pally, but for some reason it's just not clicking this time and I don't know why. Everything just feels so slow and I keep dying! 

Which is all the more ridiculous considering that when I levelled my pally on Kronos (which was supposedly much higher tuned than Classic), she didn't even die once until a Defias Pillager got her in a cave in Westfall. Though now that I just went back and looked at that post in its entirety again, I did mention dying a lot around that level range too. Anyway, in one play session about a month ago I died so many times to fireballing dragon whelps in Redridge that I eventually just logged off and didn't log that character again in weeks. This time around things have felt a bit better, but casters are still a major pain and I just feel weak. I fear that levelling two easymode hunters in a row may have spoiled me a bit for difficulty.