Where the view is always better.


Zero to Hero with Dark Days

About a week and a half ago, I entered a Firelands progression raid for the first time. I had been there before for trash farming (without much success other than getting my reputation to Honored with Avengers of Hyjal). At that point, I had come back after three months without playing, so I wasn’t sure about my raid awareness from being away for so long.

Incredibly, our ragtag group of ten members, most of whom had not raided together previously, were able to kill every single boss leading up to Fandral Staghelm. Five out of seven on our first raid night together? I’d say that’s pretty impressive. After some discussion at the end of the night, we decided to return the following day to try our hand at Staghelm and Ragnaros. We killed Staghelm on our second attempt after becoming familiar with the mechanics the previous night. Ragnaros? Well, we killed him on our eighth attempt. Firelands cleared in one week!

So let’s back up a bit. How was this possible? It’s all thanks to the leadership of an acquaintance, whom I met earlier in the expansion, in a newly formed guild called Dark Days. Previously, my guild Near Death had become stagnant for quite some time, after our guild leader (who was also a raid leader) disappeared, leaving much disarray in our rosters as well as our progression. After several months of piggybacking off several guilds’ progression raids (during which I got my Defender of a Shattered World title), I decided to take a leap of faith and change my guild for a permanent spot.

This wasn’t the first time I’ve had to deal with guild frustration. If you were a reader of this blog during Burning Crusade, you may remember my frustration with tier 5 content. One thing I’ve learned all these years is to stop becoming too attached to the guild I am in if it stifles my personal progression and enjoyment. On Friday, we went back to Firelands for my first 25-man raid since Black Temple. Of course it was chaotic, but it was also very nostalgic to think back to 25-man raiding in Outland.

Although we only managed to kill Beth’tilac and Shannox this time, it was a nice change of pace from the 10-man raiding we’ve all become accustomed to. The difficult part in transitioning into 25-man raiding is giving instructions to twice as many people, and we are still learning how to keep everyone under control in Ventrilo. However, having a raid leader who can push my progression limit is very rewarding; I’m happy with the transition that I’ve made.

I myself am surprised that I can still compete for the top DPS with an item level of only 366 when some others are already above 370. I’ve decided to take a break from Marksmanship for a bit and go Survival. It’s been serving me well.

Dark Days is recruiting experienced DPS classes of all types, though our highest priority are ranged casters. We are going to continue with 25-man raiding from here on. If you are on US-Eredar, Alliance side, or are looking to transfer a character, feel free to drop me a word (here or in-game), and I will send you to the person to speak with.

We’re already getting a lot of attention for our success, and we’ll try our best not to disappoint.


Updates from the Front

It looks like the pre-reset daily reset was indeed a bug. I was still able to gain a few extra marks on Wednesday night, but no longer on Thursday. Blizzard probably admits among themselves they made a mistake on this bug, but reverting tames and Marks on the numerous people who unknowingly stumbled upon this bug would cause a giant mess.

It is no longer possible to complete some daily quests more than once a day by turning them in during a small window before the standard reset time.

When I returned to the Molten Front the afternoon after I got in early, I went back to see which beasts were still up. Skarr had respawned, and Deth’tilac seemed to have been tamed. However, I returned again about an hour before the rush began when everyone would arrive at the Front. Immediately, someone beckons me over to the Forlorn Spire area, where Deth’tilac had respawned. Initially, I was hesitant to take the effort to kite him for so long in order to tame him, but when I started, it seems that person called over his friends to help me kite the spider. What ensued was 10 minutes back and forth with Deth’tilac, getting rooted, trapped, etc.

I’m still waiting on Karkin to spawn whenever I’m at the Front, but I think having three of the five spiders is enough. I don’t have room in my stable anymore.

Firelands has been fun, though I’ve only been doing trash runs and not bosses. Last night, I managed to hit honored with the Avengers of Hyjal, so a nifty new cloak and belt were in order for me. No epics have dropped from trash for me yet, though.

If you have not already, you should try getting to the top of this spider hill. This is probably one of the most fun achievements in the game right now. I bet you could even make some sort of game out of this.

How have the Molten Front and Firelands been treating you?

PTR 4.2: Firelands and Baradin Hold

Firelands was opened for testing yesterday for approximately 2 hours on the Public Test Realms. Beth’tilac, a lava spider boss, was the subject of the test, and Blizzard made it easier for eager testers to experience the encounter by removing all trash mobs from the raid area. About an hour prior to the raid’s opening, I joined Matticus and his guildmates from Conquest to prepare for a tour of Firelands and the new Baradin Hold encounter.

The raid environment of Firelands is very new and different from what we’ve all seen in Molten Core. From the lava pools to the fiery spider webs, the texture of the landscape was visually refreshing. Beth’tilac has a mechanic somewhat reminiscent of Magmaw, except with tiny spiders instead of maggots. We were able to learn that these spiders have predefined spawn points near tiny eggs around the edge of the room. Unfortunately, she wasn’t able to be killed before a server shutdown was initiated.

You can find more details about the encounter at Wowhead News.

Eager adventurers await the opening of Firelands in front of Sulfuron Spire.

Firelands has a very innovative environment and is very different from the Molten Core we are all familiar with.

Beth tilac, the first encounter of Firelands, will probably serve as a gear check for this raid and has some very new mechanics.

After Firelands was closed for testing for the day, we dashed toward Baradin Hold before a server shutdown to dip our feet in the Occu’thar encounter. (You will notice its name is quite similar to Immol’thar in Dire Maul.) Its 54 million HP, which is more than Beth’tilac, can make you buckle in your knees. We still do not know much about how to defeat it, except that it spawns eyes and void zones. Our last attempt had us try the mechanic used against Theralion when dealing with void zones.

Not much is currently known about Occu thar, the new boss within Baradin Hold. However, unlike Argaloth, it is not to be taken lightly with 54 million HP.

It’s definitely a refreshing experience to enter raids blind, not knowing what abilities bosses have. Each attempt is a learning experience, and we definitely were tested in our ability to be aware of the raid environment and learn from previous encounters as well.

Later today, we will go back to the PTR to have a try at Lord Rhyolith. If you would like to have a glance at the encounter, join us on Conquest’s live stream at 6:30 p.m. Eastern (3:30 p.m. Pacific).

Breaking the Heroic Ceiling

Despite the seemingly lack of hunters (and hunter bloggers), the hunterdom environment is actually quite the opposite from what I have observed. In my realm of Eredar, there is an abundance of hunters walking about Stormwind.  As I pass by the streets of the Dwarven District, I see numerous pets out and hunters in their level 85 gear. You could say that being a hunter has never been more attractive with the slate of new abilities and pets made available.

Why then is it so hard to break the heroic ceiling and enter raids? On Eredar, there are a few guilds who are searching for good hunters to fill their core raid spots. Does this indicate a lack of hunters? No, it indicates a lack of raiding hunters.

Yesterday, a guildmate mentioned that raiding content in Cataclysm lacks hierarchy, which I found true after some consideration. Compare the three raid instances available now to the first tier raiding content in the previous three installations of the game. Molten Core, Karazhan, and Naxxramas were all massive instances with a dozen or so bosses. Now we have instances with two, four, and six bosses. Did you notice that the total number of encounters is still a dozen?

One would think that spreading out raids like this will allow more players to break the heroic ceiling because shorter instances seem less daunting. However, it appears this might be the contrary. Previously, players are required to go through the predefined progression set by Blizzard in raiding instances. There was a linearity in raiding. Currently, players can explore different raid encounters and achieve “progression” without having to enter the same instance over and over again. This is the irony of Cataclysm, the expansion that many have complained as being too linear.

Having reached the heroic ceiling, players find themselves unable to determine which path is the best to enter the raiding scene. After having put through a series of linear zones, they are thrown into the chaotic world of raiding where three instances mean four initial encounters to learn at the same time: Magmaw and Omnotron in Blackwing Descent, Halfus in the Bastion of Twilight, and the Conclave of the Winds. The task seems daunting, and even heroic gear does not seem sufficient to meet this challenge.

The key to break the ceiling, then, is focus. Make a decision in which instance you will make your initial progression in raiding. While linearity in questing is something new we have learned to dislike, linearity and hierarchy in raiding is something we are familiar with. By focusing on your personal progression, you will soon enter the “club” of players with item level 350 and above.

Remember that it is more important to be a competent player in a raid than to be a player who can pull big damage but disregards instructions. Strengthen your raid competency and you will soon find yourself in the raiding scene with raid leaders who are more than willing to explain the encounters to you.

Stifling Progression or Sustaining Progress?

Within the first week of Cataclysm‘s release, bloggers and podcasters alike have been raising a topic that no one would have seen coming in the days of Burning Crusade and vanilla. It seems Blizzard now has a tendency to put a cap on one’s ability to move forward within the game, whether it be high-end dungeons or guild leveling.

Larísa at The Pink Pigtail Inn raised the issue of using Item Level to prevent players from entering high-end dungeons. I first noticed this when I hit level 80 on the hunter and yet was not able to use Random Dungeon to enter the Icecrown Citadel 5-man dungeons because my average Item Level was too low. While I understand Blizzard is using this to control the number of undergeared players from ruining others’ experience in high-end content, I believe the absolute Item Level threshold is somewhat unreasonable. A player’s skill cannot be judged by the Item Level he or she wears. An undergeared player may also have the most to gain from the rewards of these dungeons.

At the most recent All Things Azeroth podcast, Shade revisited the method of “gating” to one’s progression in dungeons and equated this to the current system of guild leveling and guild reputation. She estimated that for the most active guilds, players would reach exalted status at the same time that their guilds reach level 25, which amounts to over 4 months. Before we knew it, we were playing on Blizzard’s schedule instead of our own schedule.

One could speculate two ways as to why this is occurring. The first is that Blizzard wants to ensure that players go through as much content as possible before progressing instead of skipping around, giving way to content linearity. The second is that Blizzard is trying to sustain its player base instead of seeing people finishing as much content as possible in the least time possible, especially for those players who are accustomed to the becoming the “world firsts”, and then moving on to a different game. This is very possible in light of revelations that the subscriber base during Wrath never really moved much from the 11.5 million mark. New players roughly equaled outgoing players in the 25-month period of that expansion. I could even see this in the mass exodus of bloggers who had started writing in late 2008 only to quit the game by middle of the following year. Only on the eve of Cataclysm did the number finally break 12 million.

We may never know what is Blizzard’s true intention, but it is likely that these changes are here to stay until a newer system can take its place. Whether it is for better or for worse we have yet to find out.

Oh, and if you have not heard, Marksmanship has been dethroned; Survival is king now. We’ll talk hunters more another time.