Human Heritage

From my understanding, heritage armour quests were first introduced at the end of Legion, presumably to add a bit more context/lore to the newly added allied races, seeing how they didn't have dedicated starter zones of their own. However, they turned out to be so popular with players that people started clamouring for similar quest chains for the existing races, and Blizzard has slowly been adding more of them over time. (If I'm wrong about any of this and you were playing at the time, please do correct me.)

In an earlier Dragonflight patch, Blizzard added a heritage armour quest for humans, which recently came to my attention as I've been playing more, and both my monk and my hunter are human. As I didn't want a repeat of my struggle with the Worgen heritage quest (as mentioned in this post), I decided to do the chain on my monk first. She still had pretty good gear from the end of Shadowlands, and I figured that would make combat a breeze and allow me to focus on the story instead of every trash mob becoming a life-or-death battle. (It worked.) And I was quite impressed!

If you'd asked me beforehand what I expected the human heritage quest to be about, what I consider to be the quintessential experience of being a human in WoW, I would have thought of zones like Elwynn Forest, Westfall, Stormwind, and plots like that of the Defias. And what do you know, all of these feature.

The lore around these things has evolved over time, perhaps not always in optimal ways, such as the old Deadmines getting replaced with an updated version in Cataclysm in which the end boss is no longer angry stonemason Edwin Van Cleef but his vengeful teenage daughter Vanessa.

I don't really want to spoil the actual content of the quest chain in detail, but I was impressed by how it wove old and new lore together in a pretty convincing way. After Cataclysm, I never expected to see the old showdown with Onyxia in the Stormwind throne room to ever make a comeback in retail, even if it's in the form of a cut scene cinematic (which illustrates Spymaster Mathias Shaw telling you the story of the Drakefire Amulet). Apparently there are some little variations here as well if your character actually did the Ony attunement back in the day - not that this is something I could test myself, as I didn't have a high-level human back then.

I also liked the bit where you return to Ragged John in the Burning Steppes and his dialogue throws heavy shade at the way the lore around Onyxia's exposure and death has been retconned in the past.

All in all, it was a really nice quest chain with a lot of callbacks to some pretty nostalgic moments that also portrayed the way current generation of characters have to deal with the past with a surprising degree of sensitivity. More of this kind of thing please, Blizz.


Patch 10.1.5 Goodness

However you may feel about Dragonflight, it's hard to deny that Blizzard has been knocking it out of the park in terms of patch cadence this expansion. Every time I find myself thinking that I'm kinda done with the latest content and that I should maybe take a bit of a step back from retail for a while - boom, there comes a new patch. They were right on time with 10.1.5 as well, with it releasing literally the week after I hit Renown 20 with the Loamm Niffen.

I really like these medium-sized intermediate patches. They don't contain that much new content, but it's something new to check out and log in for, and then you might as well keep playing since you're there already.

The (in my opinion) main event of 10.1.5 is a new public event called Time Rifts. Blizzard seems to be leaning really heavily into public events with this expansion, something that hasn't really been WoW's focus traditionally. Mostly I've been quite enjoying them, but I do worry that in the long run, the concept might not be compatible with Blizzard's M.O. of always pushing everyone towards the newest content and away from the old, as it means that older events end up being deserted and quickly become hard to impossible to complete successfully. Zaralek Cavern for example (the patch 10.1 zone) has already gone from being a place where you'd blink and miss a rare or event if you didn't join in fast enough, to rares and events being up seemingly 24/7 because nobody wants to do them anymore (and many of them are hard to impossible to solo at this point).

Anyway, Time Rifts: the idea is that once an hour, an alternate timeline starts leaking into Thaldraszus and the bronze dragons ask you to help out with cleaning it up. In gameplay terms, it's kind of a mix between the community feast and a massive world boss, in the sense that everyone is given individualised tasks to complete (either to kill some mobs or to do something involving clicking on stuff) but a lot of people will end up with the same task anyway, meaning that you're spending a lot of time running around in a massive crowd AoEing things.

At the end you go through the rift to kill the anomaly, which manifests as a boss that usually dies really quickly because of the massive number of players joining the fight. The first few times I did this part, the lag was insane and I could hardly any get any abilities off. This was particularly funny when the fight in the alternate timeline involved an Arthas lookalike that cast Defile while everyone was lagging so hard that they couldn't even move. I was one of the ones who died as the whole platform seemed to get covered in deadly black goo, but somehow the boss still died, so... 🤷‍♀️

Either way, I've found these rifts quite enjoyable and they're a nice source of catch-up gear for alts.

There's also this new whelp daycare... thing where you do time-gated quests to help hatch eggs and raise dragon whelps that eventually become your pets. It's very cutesy.

Finally, there's a new mega-dungeon which is only available in mythic difficulty. My guildies and I gave it a go last weekend, wiped on the first boss about half a dozen times and then gave up. Clearly not intended for players of our skill at this point.

There are also some other new features I haven't really looked into, such as a new spec for evokers (something I really didn't expect them to add mid-expansion), and new race options for warlocks. I just think it's nice that they keep adding all this stuff in smaller chunks to keep things fresh between the major content patches.


A Year of Playing on Classic Era

Exactly a year ago today, I made my first post on here about quitting Burning Crusade Classic in favour of going back to the Vanilla Classic servers. And wow, it's sure been a year!

I remember the loneliness of those first few weeks, when I would sometimes be the only person in any given zone, nobody talked in LFG chat, and the auction house was almost empty. Yet even then, I managed to find a guild (or rather, the guild found me!), I joined them for raids, and quickly became part of a community. It was largely what I'd hoped for: a chill, safe haven for people who just wanted to hang out and not always chase the latest patch.

I remember a funny conversation where one of the officers told a newcomer that things were slower on era, and he said something like that playing here was more like riding a sail boat than a high-speed train, and I chimed in to say that era wasn't even a boat; it was like sitting in a deck chair - just people relaxing and not going anywhere.

I figured that's just how things were going to continue to be - little did I know that a bunch of YouTubers would make Classic era go viral a few months later. Even with most of the focus being on the PvP cluster, my PvE home got a nice boost from the publicity as well and for two consecutive months we saw exponential growth, with the numbers recorded by my census addon doubling each month. It was pretty nuts to see all these new guilds pop up out of nowhere.

After that I stopped running scans as regularly, but my impression has been that activity more or less plateaued after we hit medium population, as the hype kind of died down. Still, things have remained stable, so I'm hopeful that we'll continue to see a more "normal" influx of players as the months go by. Classic era is still a niche game mode, but now at least one that people in the wider niche (WoW players, MMO enthusiasts) are somewhat aware of.

Ironically, for as delighted as I've been to see this development, I myself have actually been spending less time on Classic era in recent months. Part of that has been due to wanting to prioritise the seasonal content in SWTOR, but another is just that it feels kind of... okay to not be online as much. While the guild was struggling to fill raids, it felt important to me to join in whenever I could, even if I was late to arrive, because getting one step closer to having a full 40 people increased the raid's chances of success. When every raid gets 50+ sign-ups on the other hand, it's just not the same. I'm happy that the guild's seeing success, but I'm also happy to let others have my raid spot if they're keen, because I'm here for the long haul and not in any kind of rush. Or maybe I'm just a horrible hipster and era has become less interesting to me as it's become more popular; who knows.

Anyway, point is, I still log in almost every day, even if it's just to check my mail and auctions, and I usually attend one or two raids a week, so it's not as if I'm not around at all. It's just more of a background routine now, which I think is totally fine. Not feeling any kind of pressure to keep up is part of the appeal of era after all. I'm curious to see how things will develop over the next few months with the addition of the official hardcore server(s) and regular Classic potentially continuing into Cataclysm.


Viscidus Victory

Viscidus in AQ40 is probably Vanilla's weirdest raid boss. He's kind of out of the way and therefore optional, doesn't drop anything particularly exciting to most players, and he's very oddly designed in the sense that he requires a whole special set of gear to kill, a silly amount of consumables, and can't be overpowered with world buffs. The Forks only ever killed him once... we did go back and tried a couple more times after that, but we weren't particularly enthused to keep trying when we didn't immediately succeed.

With the Warriors of Sunlight, I never got to kill Viscidus either. When I joined, I was told that they'd done him in the past but didn't find the amount of consumables required to be worth the hassle of revisiting him, which seemed fair enough.

However, there was one member in particular, an undead warlock, who was obsessed with killing Viscidus for some reason. In specific, he was after the Sharpened Silithid Femur - again, it's not entirely clear to me why, considering that there are better caster weapons in Naxx, but chasing after certain rare items just seems to be this guy's thing. When I first joined the guild, he was on an epic crusade to acquire Pattern: Rich Purple Silk Shirt for example.

It basically became a well-known meme that he'd always ask to do Viscidus and we'd never even try. I remember waking up early on Christmas Day and having a quick look at my phone while still in bed, just to be greeted by this "Christmas card" made by him on the guild Discord:

It gave me a good chuckle! (Seal of the Archmagus is another meme within the guild...)

My own feeling on the matter was that I didn't really care one way or the other, though I did feel vaguely bad for the warlock as I did get the impression after a while that for all the memery, the whole thing was genuinely important to him and he was starting to feel let down by the fact that so many months had passed without a single Viscidus kill.

In terms of gear and consumables, I wasn't really ready to fight Viscidus myself. In the Forks, I had been required to assemble a full set of nature resist gear before even setting foot into AQ40 (something that caused me a certain degree of anxiety at the time). I only learned much later that it was apparently a bit of an oddity that we never had enough people playing melee characters and therefore needed the hunters to help with soaking damage on Huhuran. In the Warriors of Sunlight, it didn't matter that my hunter didn't have any gear since we never did Viscidus and had plenty of melee to soak on Huhu.

I did farm up a pair of Coldrage Daggers at one point when it had sounded like we might finally have a go at Viscidus soon, but then that didn't end up going anywhere.

Needless to say, I was quite surprised when one of the raid leaders pinged everyone a few hours before raid start today to announce that we were going to kill Viscidus tonight and that we were to come prepared. I immediately confessed to my utter unpreparedness and that it would make complete sense to take someone who actually had nature resist gear, but somehow I ended up on the roster anyway.

Fortunately the guild bank provided a lot of consumables, and in the end, we actually did it. It took us five attempts, but we got there in the end! I've got to say, for all of Visci's awkwardness, Horde have it comparatively easy with shamans and their cleansing totems, as there was almost no need for poison cleanse consumables, the main thing that made the fight so prohibitively demanding on Alliance side. I just had to keep an eye on the shaman in my group and stay near him.

Even though it wasn't a guild first or anything, it was the guild's first kill in over a year, so it still felt pretty good to get the boss down. And even better, he did actually drop the Femur for our warlock friend! So yay for him!

The only downside is that we might now decide to revisit him more often, which means that I really need to get onto that nature resist gear. Ugh...


Winds of Sanctuary

I've seen a fair amount of talk about Classic Wrath's Joyous Journeys XP buff, but of course retail does this kind of thing even more often - I've just never really cared about it, seeing how levelling in retail is ridiculously fast nowadays anyway. It only came to my attention this time around when I logged into my Worgen rogue on a whim, started doing a couple of quests and gained two levels in less than ten minutes, which seemed abnormally fast even by modern retail standards. When I looked it up, I learned that the "Winds of Sanctuary" buff had in fact already been active for a week and was meant to last until the 11th of July.

Much to my own surprise, I actually felt inspired to make use of it, getting my Lightforged Draenei priest to 70, and pushing two of my lower-level alts to 60.

One of those lower level alts was the aforementioned Worgen rogue - I actually posted about it on the blog when I created her last year. After leaving Gilneas, she'd quested through Thousand Needles and Feralas before opting for Cataclysm Chromie Time and making her way through Mount Hyjal. I think I got about halfway through the zone back then, maybe two thirds, before I lost interest. She was the character I was playing when I became aware of the XP buff, and ultimately all it took to level her from the high thirties to 60 was doing a few more quests in Hyjal and visiting a few Midsummer Festival fires. In the end I didn't even finish Hyjal... I basically just did that section where you pretend to be a Twilight cultist and that was enough to get me there most of the way.

I mentioned it before, but lack of gear upgrades while speeding through the levels is a real problem if you're questing, as you get weaker and weaker relative to the constantly scaling mobs and after a while even killing a single normal mob can become a life-or-death battle. At some point I picked up a quest that turned out to be the Heritage Armour chain for Worgen and it was an absolute wipe fest. I was honestly pretty proud of myself for completing it successfully despite of that; it was just incredibly hard while wearing gear meant for levels 20-30 (I think) at 50+.

The other low-level character that got a good chunk of levelling done was the human hunter I originally created during Cataclysm. I'd picked her up at some point after returning to retail and levelled her up to the low thirties by questing through Westfall and Stranglethorn, but it hadn't been super satisfying. I decided to use Chromie Time to go to Northrend a do a bit of questing there, but again, thanks to the buff I didn't even complete all of Borean Tundra before hitting 60 and getting ejected again.

I will say that Blizzard has made one nice change here in that they at least give you a bit more warning... I always thought the one-minute timer that starts counting down the moment you hit 60 (or previously 50) was stupid, because what are the odds that you'll be able to finish what you wanted to do in 60 seconds? Now at least you get a quest pop-up at 59 that tells you that you're needed in the present and that you should finish up your business in the past "soon". That way you at least know it's coming and have a bit more time to finish things up before you get teleported back to Stormwind.

I was really kind of surprised that this double XP incentive actually worked on me, considering that I generally prefer slower levelling, but I think partially I was simply fascinated by the novelty of just how obscenely fast it was, partially it's that I think levelling in retail is kind of too messed up to properly enjoy nowadays anyway. When the level squish was introduced in the Shadowlands pre-patch, I was on board with the concept and liked the idea of Chromie Time in theory, to avoid the disjointed levelling experience of hopping from one expansion to the next while barely doing anything in each one, but the truth is, you don't end up fully enjoying a single expansion with Chromie Time either - you still level up too fast to get even close to finishing the story of any given expansion (even without the XP buff), so it's still a disjointed experience. The only difference is that you end up with a character who hasn't really been anywhere except for a couple of zones in a single expansion and who has no flight paths unlocked.

It seems to me that at this point, if you do want to enjoy more of the older, lower-level content that retail WoW has to offer, your best bet is to simply level to cap and then go back afterwards. Sure, combat will be boring/non-existent as you'll just one-shot everything, but if you have goals like wanting to see the story, working on a profession or maxing out a reputation, trying to do any of these things "naturally" during the extremely truncated levelling experience is just a futile endeavour anyway.


Official Hardcore Rules

I always feel a bit conflicted talking about hardcore because I've previously established that it's not my cup of tea, and I feel that one shouldn't be too opinionated on forms of entertainment one has no personal stake in. On the other hand though, it is the biggest thing currently happening to WoW Classic era, so I'm curious to see how it will shake out.

Official hardcore logo

With that said, I thought it was worth mentioning that Blizzard announced the rule-set for official hardcore servers last week, and they opened up the hardcore test realm as well.

The unofficial hardcore addon has a lot of rules beyond permadeath, and there was much debate around how many of them should be incorporated into the official game mode. As it turns out, Blizzard did make a few more changes to this new realm type beyond making death permanent, but they kept it relatively light touch overall.

Above anything else, there seemed to be a focus on preventing griefing, something that was apparently a pretty popular activity on the unofficial hardcore servers, whether it involved high-level mobs getting kited into low-level zones and wiping out the lowbies, or various ways of tricking people into flagging themselves for PvP so that they could be killed. While I don't condone griefing, I've got to admit that some of these got quite creative. I remember seeing a video on reddit of a bunch of troll players that were pretending to be mobs in a cave in Dun Morogh... I didn't even realise what I was watching at first glance until I read the explanation underneath; that's how convincing their "roleplay" was.

Anyway, none of that will be possible on the official hardcore realm(s) as no quests will auto-flag you for PvP, and accidental attacking will also be impossible as you'll only be able to flag yourself by typing /pvp or attacking opposite faction NPCs. Mobs will also have tighter leashes to prevent people from kiting high-level enemies into low-level zones.

PvP in general won't really be a thing, with battlegrounds and battlemasters getting removed. If people want to take part in any kind of organised PvP, they can do so, but death will still be permanent and there'll be no honour to be earned. The only sort of semi-supported form of PvP will be the newly added option to duel to the death, with the winner earning a cosmetic buff called "string of ears" that shows how many people they've bested this way. I thought that was kind of a neat touch actually.

There'll be no restrictions on grouping or trading; level 60s just won't be able to group with lower-level players to prevent boosting, and while levelling, characters will also be prevented from doing more than one dungeon every 24 hours to keep people out in the open world. I get the idea behind that one but I wonder how it'll work out in terms of finding groups...

That abilities like a shaman's reincarnation or a warlock's soulstone will be disabled was to be expected, but I was kind of surprised to also see them officially disable the paladin's ability to bubble-hearth, considering that many max-level hardcore players apparently achieve a similar effect on all classes by using certain consumables, but okay.

Should your character die, you can still log in as a ghost to chat, and you won't have to delete the character - there'll be a free transfer to a non-hardcore realm available. That's another nice touch and I wonder how many people will choose to take that option. I assume that the Pyrewood cluster will be the target destination for these in Europe.

Either way, like I said before - while this isn't really my thing, I'm very curious to see how it will play out.


Aberrus LFR

After my pretty positive experience with Vault of the Incarnates in LFR, I thought I might as well continue seeing Dragonflight's raids in LFR while they are the current tier. I did hold off on Aberrus just a little bit initially, partially because I wanted all the wings to be out so that I'd have the option to do the whole raid in one go if time permitted, partially because I knew that doing a whole raid in LFR was still going to be a pretty significant time commitment and I needed to not have anything else more urgent going on for a few hours.

Well, this Saturday I finally did it! I got up reasonably early, queued up for LFR once I'd taken care of a couple of things, and managed to get the achievement for raid completion by about lunch time.

It felt to me that the bosses were somewhat more varied than in Vault of the Incarnates, as there was more than one boss that made me go "huh, that's actually kind of interesting mechanically". I liked how it felt very organic to have the raid split in half for the Zaqali Assault for example, and on Rashok I wondered what kind of plan people must be coming up with on the higher difficulties to deal with the Lava Vortices. Echo of Neltharion's gimmick with splitting the room was also kind of intriguing. I felt pleased with myself when at one point a warlock cried in chat that they'd been trapped and I was able to pull them out with my Rescue ability - I think I did that successfully at least... it's not like I could actually see properly amidst all the spell effects going off.

On Magmorax, I looked at the boss abilites in the adventure guide and thought that the handling of the Magma Puddles would surely be interesting, but then it turned out that in LFR they don't matter at all as they disappear mere seconds after being dropped! I'd heard that this raid tier was one of the easiest ones in years, and this simplicity also seemed to be reflected in LFR. We one-shot all the bosses, with zero explanations, no wipes and very few deaths.

Until we got to Sarkareth that is. We did pretty well on him as well at first, with the raid eventually wiping to attrition as his health got lower, but I figured hey, it's the last boss, it's okay for him to be a bit harder. However, somehow, things only got worse on the next few attempts, with people occasionally blowing up the whole raid with Void Bombs for example. Interestingly, nobody felt the need to explain the mechanic despite those wipes... instead there was just endless complaining about someone using Bloodlust too early. Some people started to drop out and we stood around for quite a while waiting for replacements. At one point we had to wait twelve minutes to fill a single dps slot.

"What have I just joined?" a dps asked after looking at our four stacks of Determination.

"You have no idea," sighed the pally tank.

However, on the fifth attempt we did finally get the boss down, though it was an extremely close thing yet again, with only the two tanks and a rogue left standing for the last five percent or so. Good thing that tanks have such overpowered self-healing nowadays...

I myself did pretty terrible on all attempts to be honest, never getting the "hide behind a rock" one-shot mechanic quite right. I knew what I was supposed to do in principle, but I didn't immediately twig that I wasn't supposed to hide from the boss, plus the position of the rocks was often awkward and on at least one occasion the "wind" sweeping across the platform pushed me off the edge while I was trying to squeeze into the small space between a rock and the edge. My only comfort was that I was far from the only one this happened to, as the bodies of all who fell to their deaths got teleported back to the middle of the platform, and we had quite a "pile of shame" going at some points.

Either way, despite all of that it was quite a fun experience again. Sarkareth is perhaps a bit overtuned for this mode, but for the other bosses I fully support making them this easy in LFR. If you have a difficulty setting that's meant to be a dedicated tourist mode, there isn't really any point in making people wipe that many times.