My Classic TBC Plans

It may seem a bit early to make detailed plans for Burning Crusade Classic when we don't even have a release date for it yet, but there's a lot of context to this already and I thought I might as well commit my thoughts to writing. If nothing else, they will be interesting to look back on in a few months' time to see how many of my plans actually panned out.

I've explained in the past why Burning Crusade was my favourite expansion, and even when work on Classic had only just started I was already dreaming of a Classic Crusade.

In the run-up to Classic's launch, there was a lot of sneering from many corners of the internet about how Classic fans were all just blinded by nostalgia, how the game was actually pretty bad and people just viewed it through rose-tinted glasses because they associated it with a time when they were younger and more carefree. I already knew that this definitely wasn't true for me, as my experience on private servers had reminded me that vanilla WoW was indeed simply a damn good game and an extremely enjoyable virtual world to spend time in.

However... I have to admit that I had some doubts about Burning Crusade Classic at certain points last year. Sure, WoW's first expansion objectively expanded the game world and improved class balance in major ways, but at the same time all the things I really loved about it back in 2007 were heavily tied up with meeting people, playing with friends and overcoming challenges as a group. Around the time when I felt at my lowest and loneliest in Classic, I was starting to doubt what a Classic Crusade could really offer me. Just questing through Outland on my own and maybe running a few dungeons with pugs was unlikely to be all that thrilling.

Of course, then I got recruited into a guild and that changed everything, including my outlook on Classic BC. Now that I will have a friendly group of people to run dungeons and raid with, I'm ecstatic. Sure, it won't be exactly the same as it was back in the day, but I do expect the content to still be as fun, and with some good company (even if it's different company) I'm likely to have an excellent time.

This shift in focus also means that I'll be approaching the expansion's launch in quite a different way compared to Classic. While I did binge a bit on Classic at launch and spent some time playing with my friends (even if they didn't hang around for long), my focus was largely on exploring the world and re-familiarising myself with its quests. Comparatively, Outland is more like a giant puzzle waiting to be unlocked with all its reputations and attunement quest chains. The land mass is much smaller and all relevant to endgame to some degree anyway, so there isn't as much of an incentive for me to slowly enjoy my journey through Zangarmarsh or whatever, because I'll continue to spend time there at max level anyway.

So I'll be going what you could call the min-maxer's route to puzzle-solving, by focusing on running dungeons with my guildies to maximise my early reputation gains and avoid the literal hell that is going to be Hellfire Peninsula on launch day. (Even with layering, Classic's many starting zones were packed at launch - now picture all of those people piled into a single zone instead...)

This wasn't my own idea, mind you... my guild's main bear tank just happens to be an absolute TBC junkie, and many months ago already it came up during a half-joking conversation that some of us should form a levelling group once Classic BC comes out. That half-joke eventually turned serious and I was like: Sure, why not? Let's do it. Though with no launch date we obviously haven't been able to hash out all the details in regards to time investment etc.

I'm planning to level my hunter first, who'll go from being a middle-of-the-pack class with underwhelming profession choices for Classic to a top dps with almost perfectly min-maxed skills. I expect to do a lot of hipster-style complaining about how I was a hunter/leatherworker before it was cool. I also expect that chasing various attunement and profession goals will keep me busy for a while, but should I need a break from all that grinding at some point, I'll probably be levelling my pally and my druid (who should hit 60 before the expansion's release) next - perhaps in a less min-maxed manner, but we'll see how I'll feel about that closer to the time.

Wish me luck! And if you're playing Classic yourself, have you given any thought yet to how you're going to spend your time come Burning Crusade?


Building My Legacy

From what I understand it was extremely uncommon back in Vanilla to have more than one max-level character, what with how long it took both to level and to get things done in max-level dungeons and raids.

This is another area in which Classic is very different - while you still get people who just don't like levelling much or simply prefer concentrating all their efforts into a single character to make that one the best it can be, I think it's far more common for players to have more than one character at the level cap after one and a half years of Classic than it ever was back in the day.

While I've been playing since launch as well and have been levelling characters at what I feel is a decent clip for a casual player, the fact that I started on Horde side and then switched to Alliance on a different server has made me feel somewhat behind compared to my guildies. I have to admit I'm rather in awe of the alt stables that some of them have.

Especially when it comes to professions, having multiple max-level characters is a significant boon in Classic, as characters will need the services of most professions at some point, and many professions rely on materials provided by other professions, so having all of that unified under your own roof so to speak allows for an impressive degree of independence. There are limitations of course: For example an enchanter can only enchant their own gear and that of other players; there is no way to transfer an enchant to an alt character. On the whole though, there are a lot of synergies.

This really hit me when I got into raiding properly and started to require a steady supply of certain consumables, mostly potions and crafted arrows. For the arrows, you need a close-to-max-level engineer with a rare-ish schematic or you'll have to buy them on the auction house every time. Fortunately the hunter class leader's rogue alt is an engineer and he offered me early on that I could just mail him the materials and he'd craft the ammo for me for free.

Potions and elixirs make for an even bigger expense and highlighted my dependencies even more as it seemed like absolutely everyone had at least a herbalism alt. Grousing about the prices of potions on the auction house would pretty much inevitably get me the reply that I should just gather my own herbs and send them to a friendly alchemist - as if everyone automatically has that option!

If I sound a bit envious that's because I am, but at the same time the goal of strengthening my own alt stable has become a major motivator for me, even more so with an eye on TBC. Having my paladin at max level has allowed me to do my own mining at least, netting me ore, stone and the occasional Arcane Crystal without having to buy it from the auction house. And part of why I've been so enthusiastic about getting my druid levelled up has been the fact that she's a herbalist and alchemist. She's level 47 now but already has both of her primary professions maxed out. I just need to get her a few more levels before she's able to visit zones where she can pick her own Dreamfoil and I'll be close to having gained independence of the auction house for my potions as well.

My mage who is a tailor and enchanter isn't too far behind at level 44, and while enchanting is a major pain to level she hasn't been doing too badly on that front either. I like the idea of being able to craft my own bags come TBC, and if I want to create my own enchanting materials she'll need to be levelled up too. In Classic you can disenchant gear of any level with an enchanting skill of 1, but in TBC they introduced skill requirements for disenchanting different levels of gear as well, so once again, that's going to come in handy.

I guess if you really dislike professions all of this could be seen as a lot of annoying busywork, but I really like the way this slow and steady investment of time and money really pays off after a while. There are still reasons to go to other players for certain rare or specialist recipes, but being able to cover a lot of ground via DIY is nonetheless extremely valuable.


Shadowlands Systems in a Nutshell

This isn't apropos of anything in specific, just something I first thought of after completing the Shadowlands levelling process, and for some reason it came back to me the other day.


Throughout the main Shadowlands story you learn that there are all these different afterlives for different people, depending on whether in life they were virtuous, naughty or something else, and each one has its own faction attached to it. You are introduced to all of them in an organic way, and at the end of your introductory tour, when a big threat to all is revealed, it's suggested that you should join one of the covenants to be able to benefit from their powers in the battles to come.

This process is super-streamlined, because when the time comes to make your choice, there's a representative from each covenant nearby to show and tell you about anything and everything that might even be remotely relevant to your choice: what sorts of mounts they ride, what kind of armour you'll earn there, you can even take the covenant abilities for another spin if you're unsure how you felt about those the first time around. Five star design, would choose a covenant again.


Throughout your questing you also learn that anima is the sort of universal fuel powering everything in the Shadowlands and that there's been a shortage of it for a while. Some of the exact mechanics of how this works are a bit fuzzy, because sometimes it sounds like everything's made of anima, while other times you need to seek out some pretty specific sources of it... but the gist of it is clear enough. Your covenant tasks you with helping them collect anima to restore their particular slice of the afterlife to its former glory after the drought.

And I've been okay with that! The scale of it can be a bit annoying sometimes (e.g. one world quest awarding you 35 anima when you need 5000 for your next covenant upgrade) but I suppose that's what you get when a resource is supposed to be scarce. Good system, makes sense.


One of the early Kyrian side quests has you deliver a flower from one Kyrian to another and the recipient's like "ooh, this means so-and-so wants to become my soulbind" and it honestly feels a bit like a marriage proposal or something. Then you get to the bit after choosing your covenant where they introduce you to the soulbind system and...

Basically, someone just flat out tells me that I'm going to soulbind with this guy whom I helped in one of the earliest Kyrian quests and not even all the Kyrians in the room agree whether he's the best choice, but all I can think of is that earlier side quest with the marriage vibes and I'm wondering with some distress why nobody's asking my opinion. Later two other people also become my soulbinds so maybe the marriage comparison was off from the beginning, but I can never quite shake the feeling that it's all wrong somehow...


After you get your first soulbind, there's this brief comment about how you'll become more powerful as your connection with your soulbind deepens, and then they show you some talent tree-like thing with empty spaces where you can slot items called conduits which drop out in the world and randomly enhance some of your spells and... what does any of this have to do with anything? No, thanks.

Let's just say I don't think it's a coincidence that I'm digging my covenant and am happy to gather anima but have never quite warmed up to the soulbind system and its conduits...


A Naxxramas New Year

I rarely make posts just to promote other people's work but I can't believe this video only has 25k views three days after being posted... it's the best WoW machinima I've seen in a long time and made me both laugh out loud and tear up. Particularly relevant to Naxx raiders but I'm sure most people with some knowledge of WoW can enjoy it. I'll never hurt Mr Bigglesworth again!


My Shadowlands Situation

I haven't really talked about it much, but I'm still casually playing retail with the husband. We dip in and out for short play sessions during the week, mostly to do our callings, and when we have a bit more time we also run the weekly dungeons (only on heroic level, and yes, I've given in and agreed to queue for pugs for these), do dailies in the Maw and run Torghast once or twice a week.

As a strange side effect of this, I've grown incredibly tired of WoW fan content, which is very odd. Even during the years when I was unsubscribed from retail, I generally still enjoyed reading blog posts and watching videos about it to some degree. You'd think that now that I'm getting some first-hand experience of what they're actually talking about I would enjoy them more, but for some reason the opposite is the case.

I don't know if it is because I can only stomach so much retail WoW each week and actually playing it myself means that reading or watching content about it would be too much, or because there's such a disconnect between the way I play and the audience that most WoW content seems to be targeted at. I mean, I see all this talk about class balance on my feed, about how people feel forced into certain covenant choices, about chasing gear upgrades or transmogs and crafting legendaries... and none of it has any relevance to the way I play whatsoever.

I chose my covenant based on what I thought would fit my monk's personality best, even though I don't like the Kyrian covenant abilities much and keep forgetting to use them. We upgraded our covenant gear as far as the game would let us and don't really have much left to work on in that regard unless we wanted to raid, PvP or run Mythic+ dungeons. We haven't crafted any legendaries because to a casual solo player some of the materials required are prohibitively expensive so we only run Torghast for fun. (I think we're up to layer seven of the normal mode and have cleared the first two layers of the twisting corridors.) We also enjoy slowly increasing our Renown week by week for some personal rewards, as well as chipping away at our sanctum upgrades at a snail's pace.

I suspect that without the gear grind we'd eventually run out of things to do, but I'm sure patch 9.1 will be around and offer some new activities before that has time to become a problem. It's just strange to me that even while I'm having some fun in retail again, I continue to feel alienated from much of the player base and the way most outspoken players seem to approach the game.