Things I Learned in Classic

Wilhelm posted some reflections about his Classic experience two days ago, and that finally nudged me into writing this post as well (something I'd already been thinking about for a while).

I suppose I'm slightly unusual in that Classic wasn't this big nostalgia trip for me, or a revelation that the game still holds up surprisingly well two decades later, simply because I already went through all of those things during my time on private servers a few years ago. Sure, they were a less accurate representation of Vanilla than Classic is, but it was close enough.

I did learn oodles about the endgame in Classic though. Having originally started WoW in October 2006, I never touched on the original endgame very much. I remember getting lost in BRD a few times, but never actually making it to the Emperor until we came back in TBC with our characters having significantly grown in power. I wiped in Strat and Scholo a few times, plus there was that one time I got invited to AQ20, but that was pretty much it.

You can tell we had done at least the first few zones in Outland when this was taken due to both me and my warlock friend wearing the full set of TBC starter clown gear.

While I didn't have plans to raid, getting to know the vanilla dungeons a bit better was definitely a goal of mine in Classic, and one at which I ultimately succeeded. I still get lost in Blackrock Spire sometimes because I don't deal with the verticality well, but I can find my way around BRD with some confidence for example.

The main thing I learned was that the old vanilla dungeons had a lot going on. I remember back in my first Classic guild Group Therapy, being on voice chat with them once when a druid was talking about "going fishing for Jed". I wasn't confident enough to simply ask what that meant, but I kept mulling it over and over in my head trying to make sense of it. It was obvious that she wasn't talking about literal fishing since she was in Blackrock Mountain at the time, but I didn't know of any boss called Jed, and I still wasn't sure how you would "fish" for a mob anyway. Maybe stealth up to him and try to tag him before someone else?

I didn't get my answer until  much later, once I'd joined the Forks. The Jed in question is Jed Runewatcher, a rare mob in UBRS that drops an amazing healing trinket and a shadow resistance wand (relevant for warlocks wanting to tank Twin Emps in AQ40). And "fishing" for him means trying to find an instance ID in which he is up. You do this by stealthing far enough into the instance to be able to target him if he's there, and going out again and resetting it if he's not.

That's just one example and basically the vanilla instances are full of stuff like that. And while it's much better documented nowadays than it was fifteen years ago, the way everything fits together is still hard to wrap your head around. At least as far as I'm aware, nobody's written or recorded a guide to "all the weird things you can do in Blackrock Spire" for example, if you get what I mean. A lot of it you still learn by doing or through word of mouth.

I also got to experience both the opening of the Gates of Ahn'qiraj (twice!) and the Naxxramas Scourge invasion, both of which were really cool. Here's the short video I made of the gate opening event on Hydraxian Waterlords - it was just an all-around amazing day for me that I'll remember forever, ridiculous server lag and all:

And well, I got to raid, saw two Thunderfuries made and even killed Kel'Thuzad, none of which was part of my original plan for Classic. I got to experience the wonders of what it means to be in a 40-man raid, and after having done so I'm actually a bit sad about the downscaling that will come with TBC, even knowing that it'll be a big relief for the officers having to organise it all (and I wouldn't want to be in their shoes).

Seeing the endgame was also interesting on an intellectual level though, as it placed a lot of what I experienced back in the day in a new context. For example I remember at original TBC launch, thinking how cool that new armour was that many of the quest NPCs in Hellfire were wearing, or that Blizzard added those new spider models in places like Bloodmyst Isle. Now I know of course that they weren't new at all, they were tier three armour and recolours of spider wing mobs respectively, but at the time a lot of stuff from Naxx just wasn't commonly known or seen!

It was also interesting to me how Blizzard changed the acquisition of tier gear over time. In Molten Core and Blackwing Lair it just drops off bosses like other pieces of loot, but in AQ40 they first introduced shared class tokens, probably because raid leads were frustrated with constantly having to shard drops for certain classes that weren't highly represented in the raid. They also added requirements for extra items to turn in with the tokens though (idols and scarabs) and I still wonder what that was supposed to be about. My best guess is that it was supposed to encourage guild loyalty, since you couldn't just grab a drop and run, but had to request those extra items from the guild coffers, and depending on your loot luck might even find yourself going on a waiting list for a bit.

The Naxx tier requirements for rare crafting materials such as Arcanite bars, cured hides and Mooncloth at least made a bit more sense to me as an attempt to throw crafting professions a bone at a time when demand for those rare materials was stagnating (or in the case of the hides, had never really been there - signed, a leatherworker).

I will say though, that the whole thing did give me an appreciation for how certain things have been streamlined over time. We may poke fun at Blizzard for constantly filling the game with new and convoluted systems nowadays (and rightly so!), but frankly, having everything be items that go into your bags and then having to use those items for "quests" that aren't really quests was not a good way of doing things either. The amount of space that Zul'Gurub coins and bijous can take up on their own is already ridiculous! More importantly though, I remember finding it very frustrating as a casual player back in the day to get to a place like Cenarion Hold or Light's Hope Chapel, get excited by all the exclamation marks, and then be let down by the fact that most of them weren't actually real quests at all, just raid or reputation trade-ins, and with no easy way of telling what's what.

I've already talked about the weirdness of all raids continuing to have value, even as the next tier was released and dropped better loot. I'm still not entirely sure how I feel about that now, but if it was Blizzard's design goal back then to keep everyone doing all the content, they definitely achieved it.

I'm curious to see how Classic BC will change my views on that expansion. I did play pretty hardcore back in those days and did do most of the content, but I was also clueless and not very good at the game to start with, so we'll see how that colours my perceptions of the Classic experience.


Legion, Years Later

Meanwhile, in retail... the husband and I have been running out of things (we both want) to do in Shadowlands even with our ultra casual play style. Our main staple used to be to do the callings every three days at least, but we're at the point now where we've maxed out all the reputations and got all possible conduits out of the reward bags, so we were basically just doing dailies for vendor trash at this point. While gold still has some value in retail, this was obviously not the most satisfying of setups. I suppose we could always have continued to grind anima until kingdom come, but seriously, who does that?

After some discussion about what to do next, we agreed to roll up a pair of alts, specifically a set of demon hunters, as it's a class I'd never played and I also had zero first-hand experience with the Legion expansion in general.

The demon hunter starting experience was a great story with neat cinematics and some very interesting moments. Five stars, would play again. (Even if the once-famous Blizzard polish is definitely not a thing anymore. I got very confused by the game repeatedly throwing level-up messages at me that claimed I had gained this or that ability, but the cited spells were nowhere to be found. Only later on did I learn that skill acquisition for demon hunters in the early levels is actually tied to completing certain quests, not levelling up, so who knows why they did that...)

I knew from a post by Wilhelm that the demon hunter experience segues straight into the regular Legion expansion content, so that wasn't unexpected. As with our previous characters, we absolutely flew through the levels. After about two of the zones, we were already level 45 and mobs stopped scaling with us. (I keep having to refer back to Wilhelm's chart about this because the way levels work in different expansions now is just confusing to me.)

We jumped into the Chromie time version of Legion and also used this opportunity to do a few dungeons. With that and about another half a zone worth of quests, we both hit level 50. I know I'm not the first one to say this, but boy, does Blizzard not want you to hang around in old content. The moment each of us dinged, we got a shout-out from Chromie about being needed in the future and a one-minute timer started counting down before we were ejected from Chromie time. You better hope you're not in the middle of a quest chain that takes longer than a minute to complete, or else you'll have to manually make your way back to the unscaled version of the same zone. Who cares about silly things like seeing the end of a storyline anyway? Just go to Shadowlands already!

The husband and I refused the call and just returned to the unscaled version of the Legion zones, where everything was now grey to us and died within one or two hits. We've continued questing there for little to no reward, even if it's a bit disheartening to not receive significant gear or XP rewards anymore. But why would we want to immediately go back to the expansion we just left behind, and intentionally at that?

As of now we've more or less finished the base expansion zones and are currently working our way through the Suramar campaign. I can only imagine how incredibly epic (though potentially also annoying) all this content must have felt at the time when it was current. Even with the city guards posing no threat to us anymore, hearing phrases like "something's not quite right" whenever your disguise is about to be blown still makes me want to scream sometimes.

Then there's also patch content left to tackle, such as the Broken Shore (?) and Argus, but playing through this stuff now as a latecomer it's a bit hard to know what's what to be honest, as the quest NPCs throw everything at you at once, without any indication of what order these storylines are supposed to happen in or sometimes even that you're dealing with a major storyline at all (until you're further along already), which can result in chaos like conflicting phases for the same area of Dalaran and things like that.

The other thing that's stood out to me so far is that professions were super weird in Legion. All this play time and I'm nowhere near maxing out my mining skill for example, something that is usually extremely easy to do, and further jewelcrafting progress seems to be tied to me completing some dungeon quests first. It's as if Blizzard looked at professions in Legion and concluded that they needed spicing up, but for some reason decided that the best way to spice up these non-combat activities was to add more combat (the mobs that keep popping up whenever I do any archaeology on the Broken Isles are another prime example).

We'll see how long we'll keep working on this particular project. Achieving the old pathfinder, even if it doesn't serve any purpose anymore, seems like a reasonable goalpost that should result in us seeing most of what Legion has to offer (or what's left of it at least). At some point we can also move on to Shadowlands to see a different covenant campaign or something I guess, but I don't think we're ready for that just yet...


Happy Pre-Patch Day

Today marked the split of WoW Classic into the permanent "Classic era" and Burning Crusade Classic. I was rather bemused watching some of my guildies go nuts on Discord as Blizzard kept extending the maintenance window for the EU servers one hour at a time - personally I was busy with work anyway, so not too fussed about the exact go-live time.

Once I was done for the day however, I was excited to log in. I moved all my characters on to Burning Crusade Classic and then spent quite some time simply sorting out their inventories and re-assigning talent points. I'd actually forgotten that we got an additional row of bank slots in BC; that was very welcome! I also enjoyed vendoring some of my main's old gear with abandon to free up bag space... if I ever feel nostalgic about seeing her in tier two again, I can simply log into her clone after all. Before the Dark Portal opens, even more things will have to go though... need that bag space for all things Outland!

Comparatively, assigning talent points was a fairly quick affair. While I know that some people put a lot of thought into this, I've never been a fan of re-speccing so I just worked myself along the tree rather spontaneously, going "yeah, that looks good" or "eh, not so much" while plopping points into whatever seemed reasonable at the time. At level 70 I'll probably want to change things around again anyway. And it's not like I can't make adjustments even sooner if anything turns out to have been a really bad choice.

Once that was done I paid up to clone my hunter main to the Classic era. I almost cloned the wrong character by accident since for some reason, the order of my characters on the character selection screen was different on the Classic era server than it used to be. While I already have more MMOs on my plate than is reasonable, I do kind of like the idea of being able to go back and play a bit in OG Classic if the mood strikes me.

I will say though that seeing Ironforge - and the whole server - as empty as it was made me kind of sad. I knew it was going to be very quiet, with most of the population choosing to move on to BC for sure, but I didn't expect to find only 32 people online on the entire server when doing a /who. Blizzard already connected a lot of OG Classic servers in anticipation of this, but old Hydraxian Waterlords hasn't been connected to anything because it's the EU's only English-speaking RP-PvE server, so who do you connect it to? RP-PvP is an obvious no-go. Connecting to RP-PvE servers in other languages would also cause issues. And connecting to regular PvE is of course an option, but then what happens to the RP aspect... I wonder how that's going to pan out in the long run.

Finally, I went back to the Burning Crusade server and rolled up a draenei shaman - I almost said "because everybody's doing it" but the truth is I've always loved the draenei and their starting zone. I don't know how much I'll play this one, but I figured I might as well join in for the launch day fun. I expected Azuremyst Isle to be absolute crazy town, but it honestly wasn't too bad. I mean, yes, it was very busy, and there were some bottlenecks in terms of questing, but nothing that was a major roadblock if you were willing to wait a little bit and/or group up with people. I completed the basic starter zone and then moved on to the Exodar to learn jewelcrafting before logging out.

I'm actually not sure how I'm going to spend the next two weeks in Classic. The original plan from the guild's side was to still do some raiding to see how things work with the new talents, but there doesn't seem to be enough enthusiasm for that based on the sign-up sheets so far. At the same time I'm not too fussed about pushing more alts up in levels just now, when I already have three to four characters ready to go through the Dark Portal anyway. We shall see.


The Power of Friendship

With mere days left to go until "snapshot day" (when our characters' state will be locked in for any future cloning to a different game mode) and the Burning Crusade pre-patch, I actually managed to get a third Alliance character to level 60. Somewhat to my surprise, it didn't end up being my druid, who had been my favoured candidate for this for a long time. (Though she's currently level 55, mind you, so not too far behind.)

No, the dubious honour of becoming my second max-level alt on Hydraxian Waterlords went to my human mage Jehna. When I last mentioned her in my year-in-review post at the end of December, I noted that I found mage quite enjoyable to play in group content and was thinking about replacing her in a guild levelling group that was still kinda-sorta meant to be going on at the time. That... didn't actually happen. The group was already floundering at the time of me writing that post, and was more or less officially dissolved shortly afterwards.

However, late one evening - I think it must have been after a raid - I noticed the rogue class leader (who was also the tank leader and one of our raid leaders... aka the guy who rage-quit the raid on Sapphiron on Monday - he's worn a lot of different hats over time) on his druid alt in Desolace. As that was my mage's next destination as well, I whispered him to ask if he fancied doing some quests together. His response was something along the lines of sure, why not.

And we had a very good time that evening! Our approaches to questing seemed compatible enough (we both agreed to stay well away from the centaur reputation quests for example), and feral druid and frost mage had good synergy, as he could go bear to ensure mobs stayed away from me, while my frostbolts helped to make things die much more quickly than they would have if he had been questing on his own. Plus the universal rule of grouping applied of course, meaning that things like accidental overpulls in densely packed areas largely ceased to be threatening.

I instantly knew that I wanted more of that and suggested at the end of the evening that we should do something like this again soon. He seemed to concur, but he may have simply taken it as a polite turn of phrase at the time, considering that he returned to Desolace on his own a few days later to finish what quests we had left over, but that didn't stop me from pushing. Maybe we could do another zone together? Where else had he not done any quests yet?

So we met up again some time later, clearing out the elite quests in Alterac while quite under-levelled for the area, and doing some quests in Arathi, where we duoed our way right into the heart of Stromgarde Keep, though we had to resign ourselves to being unable to kill Otto and Falconcrest with just the two of us. We quickly developed little routines, with me sheeping whichever mob he wasn't focusing, or him dodging out of melee range when mobs were rooted or frozen to heal himself back up when needed.

I also encouraged him to come along to dungeons with me. Just because my dungeon levelling group had died, that didn't mean that I didn't want to do them anymore, even if it meant going with some pugs! The more guildies the merrier though, and him being willing to go bear and tank was a boon to group formation as everybody knows that finding a tank is usually the trickiest part. We started by running Scarlet Monastery with two guildies and one pug, and then hit every instance on the way as our levelling journey continued.

Luckily we seemed to be reasonably in sync in terms of investment in levelling our alts, with neither party tempted to pull ahead too much. Like me, he works a desk job so couldn't play much on weekdays during day time, and evenings were often taken up by raids, so there was only a set amount of time available to focus on alt play - for both of us.

Slowly but surely we went from me being the one to ask him if and when he'd feel like playing again to him seeking me out, and at a higher frequency as well. His eagerness hit a peak around the time we were getting ready for Sunken Temple, as I remember him pushing for us to go "tomorrow evening" (whenever that was) and I was pushing back because I didn't feel ready for Sunken Temple yet because I was still missing quite a few quests for it, including my class quest. He was not to be deterred though and basically instructed me to just follow him, as he ploughed a path through several zones in a row in an attempt to get me through all the required pre-quest chains asap. For my class quest in Azshara he even logged his max-level warlock and laid waste to scores of naga and elves to speed up my quest progress for me. I think it was 2 am in the morning or something when we finished, and I felt both slightly delirious and incredibly amused. Ironically, we were then unable to go to Sunken Temple that night anyway, but for other reasons.

We also ended up forging new bonds/improving our relationships with other guildies that had alts in the right level range. For example there was the dps warrior main on his paladin alt, struggling with how slow everything was, who was grateful for every bit of assistance that would make things go a bit faster. Or the tank main who was happy to try out healing on his druid.

My favourite instance of this was when we were questing just outside Jaedenar in Felwood when we ran into a warrior killing some mobs in the same area. This person whispered me to ask what quests we were on and whether we were interested in grouping up, and I just remember slowly staring at his guild tag and level, when it was as if a light bulb had suddenly gone off in my head and I remembered that one of our regular community raiders from another guild had been levelling a warrior alt that was supposedly in our level range... "Leyland, is that you?" I whispered him, and I was right. Of course we threw him a group invite and then laid waste to the rest of Felwood as a trio in short order.

And well... last night our mage-and-druid team's journey finally came to its natural end. Our characters had never been completely in sync, so I dinged 60 just as we finished up business in Winterspring, while we had to then do a few more quests in Western Plaguelands to get him his ding as well. After several months of questing together (which, incidentally, was very efficient by my standards ... my mage's /played was only a little over seven days), we had reached our final destination - for now, that is. After all, the level cap will go up again in a little over two weeks.

In a way, this experience of levelling with a friend has been more quintessentially Classic to me than anything else. Raiding has been fun, but wasn't anything I had really planned for. And while exploring the world solo had its appeal too, it was limited in terms of longevity. But questing with a friend in the original World of Warcraft is still something that I can do all day long.

I'd also tried repeatedly to level with other people before, but it always fell apart for one of two reasons: either the other person would lose interest in playing (that character) altogether, or they would be so much more engaged and put in so much more time than me that they quickly out-paced me and simply left me behind. It's been nice to be able to make it work this once at least. I couldn't really have asked for a better capstone to my Classic experience.


A Night to Remember

The Classic Crusade cometh... for sure now, on the 1st of June. The announcement about the release date, accompanied by the news that we'd only have two weeks of pre-patch, filled me with a mix of excitement and anxiety. Less than a month's notice meant that I pretty much had to say goodbye to my dreams of booking a whole week off to binge on Classic BC, but also, my guild still hadn't killed Kel'Thuzad, the last boss in Naxxramas.

We did actually kill Sapphiron a week ago, after some strategic readjustments. After several nights of wiping and making (what felt to me like) very little progress, I was chatting to one of the raid leaders one day and we both independently came up with the thought that being the hopeless casuals that we are, we clearly needed more micromanagement, as the problem was always that people started running around like headless chickens during air phase, with everyone trying to dodge out of everyone else's way at the same time. We had been given vague positions in the form of a dedicated "slice" of the room, the way many guilds do it on C'thun as well, but clearly that wasn't enough. We would need to be assigned spots within each slice as well.

Once that plan was hatched, we spent some time discussing it in the Four Horsemen's room the next Monday, and it ended up working like a charm. It still took us a few tries to iron out the last few kinks of course, but it immediately went much, much better. The "Chronobooner" (as our druid class leader likes to call it) was a huge help as well, as it allowed us to stow our world buffs away while we were learning, and then unleash them once we were reasonably confident in what we were doing for that extra bit of "oomph". The kill vid I recorded makes it all look surprisingly easy, not once betraying the huge amount of predetermined co-ordination involved. (And yeah, I was healing on my pally again on that one:)

We only had enough time left for one try on KT that night, but we were so excited to even be there that we agreed to put in an extra raid day on Tuesday in hopes of killing him before the reset. Sapphiron had felt so tough, more than one of us was probably worried whether we'd even be able to kill him a second time. That extra raid night on KT was interesting and did teach us a few things, but we didn't get him down.

The farm raid on Wednesday was a bit meh after that. The previous week we'd set a new personal record by clearing out twelve bosses in a single night, but that evening was a lot less good and we only ended up killing ten, meaning that we had Loatheb, Gothik and 4H left to do this Monday before we'd even get to attempt Sapph and KT again.

The Monday raid was off to a good enough start with Loatheb and Gothik going down quickly and smoothly, but the Horsemen were quite a mess. I was killed by an early meteor and then accidentally released spirit, so I didn't even see what was happening other than that more and more people were showing as dead in the raid frames and I was sure it was going to be a wipe, but somehow they managed to eke out a win with the last few people standing.

Then it was time for Sapphiron. More core healers had shown up that evening than on any previous night, so I was hopeful that maybe I'd get to dps the fight for a change, but I got conflicting responses from different officers. Eventually it was settled that I could stay on the hunter, but there was clearly still some confusion going on among the leadership as I found myself moved back and forth around the raid repeatedly, and there was vocal disagreement about who should be standing where and whether we should immediately use frost protection potions or not.

We'd stored our world buffs away in the chronos again, which was good as the first try was quite messy, with some people in the raid who hadn't been there on the kill night and were therefore not yet familiar with the tactics, and others maybe just not being properly focused yet.

In guild chat, our bard said that he'd managed to lose his mini map and asked what the keybind was to restore it. "Alt+F4," replied our mage class lead, which was immediately followed by a notification about our bard going offline. People howled with laughter, barely able to believe what had just happened. A minute later our bard came back online and was asked whether restoring his mini map had worked. "Yeah, but isn't there a less drastic way than restarting the game?"

Everything seemed to be going well enough except for some continued confusion about the exact group setups (while the hunter class leader had tried to prepare them in advance, our actual raid comp on the night deviated from the plan and that was causing chaos). Suddenly the raid leader said: "Sorry, I have to go" and started hearthing out. As I've come to consider him a good friend, I was instantly filled with concern. Had something bad happened to him IRL?

But then he continued, saying something about how he was the raid leader and people should accept his calls, but that the other officers continued to argue with him regardless. He logged off moments later, leaving us all in that befuddled and slightly concerned state you experience when that sort of drama occurs and you're not quite sure what just happened. I'd not seen a proper rage-quit like that in years!

The other members of the leadership team were clearly taken aback, but quickly recovered and tried to keep things going. We had one more "dry run" on Sapph, which went quite well despite of being two people down, and then took a brief break to fill those two empty slots. Fortunately there were people available, though after what felt like an eternity of waiting, they both arrived in Sapphiron's Lair realising that they'd forgotten their frost resist gear. "Whatever, let's get out those world buffs and go," was pretty much the reaction from leadership, so we pulled him with two people wearing zero FR gear but killed him just fine anyway.

Then it was on to KT once more. We re-bottled our world buffs and had one attempt without them that was kind of "eh", as we didn't even make it to phase three. Then again, we'd already established that KT is a much more forgiving fight than Sapph, one where you can still win even with half the raid dead. As we realised that we only had about fifteen minutes of raid time left, it was agreed to get the buffs out again and just go for it.

The result was an absolutely glorious mess, but we powered through somehow. I have yet to review the video footage but I think I got mind controlled twice and wasn't crowd controlled once (I ended up killing one of our priests too). Once the guardians spawned, they seemed to be all over the place. More and more people went down, including me, with just a sliver of health left on the boss... and then he died, with eleven people left standing (mostly paladins, unkillable bastards that they are).

The coveted crossbow dropped and went to the hunter class leader, but aside from that I didn't even pay much attention to the loot. We'd beaten Classic in time for the pre-patch, and that was all that mattered. I just wish our raid leader could have been there too; he certainly would have deserved to be part of it with how much work he put into herding these cats week after week.

All in all though, it was a night to remember with a little bit of everything that makes Classic Classic: guildies trolling each other, drama, near-wipes and an exciting first kill of the last boss of a raid (and in this case, also the whole of Classic). (Edit: I also made a kill vid eventually.)


Time Waits for No Man... Or Does It?

Even though we still don't have a release date, the Classic Crusade looms ever closer. Last week's patch added a big badge to the character selection screen to make sure players who don't follow outside news sources wouldn't be caught by surprise by what's coming.

It also was a big patch in another way though, in the sense that after one and a half years of (mostly) #nochanges it introduced what I consider the first big deviation from Vanilla to Classic by adding the Chronoboon Displacer to the game, an item intended to address the worst issues with the world buff meta.

It's a consumable that's available for purchase from Chromie in Andorhal at ten gold a pop (if you've done the quests for her), and what it does is bottle up any world buffs you have on you at the time of using it and safely preserves them in an item inside your bags. For PvP servers, this means no more griefing by dispelling or otherwise causing people to lose their lovingly gathered world buffs, and for us PvE carebears it simply means that we're freed of the pressure of having to plan so much of our play time around just when to pick up which buff and then making sure to stay logged out until raid start. Now we are able to pick them up early in the week even, bottle them up, and then go about our business grinding, running dungeons or what have you, without having to worry about losing buff duration. Once we're actually ready to pull the first boss, the buffs can be unleashed with the click of a button and we're good to go.

The thing is, I really don't know how I feel about it. I've written about my changing relationship with the world buff meta, and honestly from a practical point of view I absolutely love this change. Especially since I often used to gather buffs on both my hunter and paladin, just to watch one character's go to waste if that one wasn't actually needed (much) on the night. Now I can just pick up the buffs whenever it's convenient and then just not worry about them anymore until they are actually needed. I don't even need to get fidgety about wasted buff time anymore if the raid leaders get caught up in some sort of discussion at raid start. The ten gold price is worth it but simultaneously encourages you to think about when you want to use it, so you don't just mindlessly capture and release buffs all the time.

On the other hand though... this is a pretty big change. I've mostly been on board with the #nochanges movement, never mind things like tweaking the spawn rate of herbs to adjust for larger server populations. This item didn't exist in Vanilla and it introduces a whole new level of gameplay for raiders. Sure, it feels good now, but I've been playing these games for long enough to know that there are always long-term consequences that may result in the final experience not being quite as expected. For example I've started picking up the songflower buff now, when previously I usually didn't bother since it was the shortest, most fickle and most out of the way of all the world buffs. If I can pick it up at my convenience and then bottle it instantly until I'm actually at the boss though... there's no real excuse not to get it now, is there?

It also changes the way raids can approach certain bosses. People might argue about when they think it's best to use or preserve their buffs. A friend got quite cross when he died and lost his own buffs in Naxx after pulling aggro from the main tank, who'd quietly decided to bottle his own buffs after Patchwerk and was therefore suddenly generating a lot less threat. On the other hand, the very same friend was able to stow his buffs away before Vael in BWL, correctly predicting that he was going to die from the boss's unavoidable kill mechanic, and could then whip them out again for the later bosses.

Our last Naxx farm night we managed to hit a new personal record by clearing twelve bosses in one night, largely due to the Chronoboon Displacer allowing us to use a different kill order and strategy. Usually we'd start fully buffed at Patchwerk and then just keep going, with more and more people losing their buffs to deaths etc. as we continued, so that we had to save Loatheb for the next night or else we wouldn't be able to approach him sufficiently buffed. This time around we banked our buffs safely, started by doing Noth and Heigan without them (so we wouldn't randomly lose them to dancing fails) and then got them out for Loatheb and proceeded to Patchwerk right afterwards.

New buff release animation

It just feels a bit like the end of an era, as it's Blizzard more or less acknowledging that purity of vision and accurate preservation of how Vanilla used to work is less important to Classic now than keeping the game fun for the current player base, which simply isn't approaching WoW the same way as people did back in Vanilla. I'm not saying that's wrong, but it does make you wonder where they'll draw the line, and what other changes may end up being implemented later on. Retail-style connected servers seem almost inevitable already, considering that the game keeps trying to add the server name to character names whenever you whisper or mail people since the patch (e.g. "Shintar-HydraxianWaterlords" instead of just Shintar). I just don't want to watch history repeat itself.