Story time – I came, I Saw, I ran like hell

We own a home in a nice, quiet suburb in the midwest.

It is more than just the American dream, it was always a dream of mine. All my life as a child, my family never owned property. Even after my parents divorced, neither side owned a home, a place to call their own while I lived with them.

One thing that holds true; no matter how nice the place you are living, if you’re just renting space there, then you know any month could see you looking for a new place to call home.

Emotionally, they are less a home than what George Carlin called them; a place for your stuff. The bigger the place, the more stuff you can stick in them. If you move from a larger place to a smaller, you gotta get rid of some stuff… or find an extra place for a bit of your stuff.

I internalized that message at an early age. I remember, several months into living in one rental apartment, showing my stepmother how I’d arranged my room, and proudly showing her how I’d managed to unpack just enough stuff to do schoolwork and move around while leaving the remainder neatly packed and ready to go.

I was proud, without any irony at all, to be able to show her that I was prepared to leave at a moments notice with a minimum of effort if that was what the family had to do.

Life in the Marines didn’t exactly require a lot of preparation when it came to traveling light and living out of a seabag. I even kept all of my comic books in a nice, reinforced steamer trunk so it could be moved as one piece of furniture. Ah, the old steamer trunk o’ comics. I miss that trunk.

But I’m an adult now, and one thing I always wanted for the family that I would someday have was that sense of permanence, of community, of being of fixed address that home ownership would surely bring.

Yeah, so I was delusional.

In hindsight, of course you can be a part of a stable and vital community with friends and good relationships with your neighbors while renting a house or apartment.

And home ownership doesn’t magically transport you to a land of block parties and sharing cups of sugar, and lazy Sunday grilling and beer with the neighbors while a bonfire roars into the sky.

In fact, you can be isolated as hell owning a home, especially when your neighbors are dicks that like to let their dogs out to snarl and bark and chase your kids along the fenceline every time you go outside in your own yard to play. In fact, it can be ever so much worse because if you’re renting and your neighbors are selfish dicks, you can always move. When you own a house? Ah, that’s when your thoughts turn to homicide. I mean, so I suppose. I’d imagine. I really wouldn’t know.

But I wanted a house. My wife wanted a house. We both had visions of the perfect house, and the perfect yard, and the perfect kids, all in the perfect quiet little suburban community the perfect distance from work and the perfect distance from the inlaws.

Be careful what you wish for.

Well, we got a house, and it’s got a yard.

That means I’ve got yard work. FUCK.

Being in the midwest, we get snow, we get rain, we get heavy leaves falling in a blanket of gorgeous colors in the fall.

What these translate to is we get a driveway covered in snow and ice for me to shovel, a driveway that the snowplow truck buries in hardened mounds of snow, ice and rocks at 4 AM in the fucking morning AFTER I’ve cleared the driveway, rains that flood the yard a foot deep and come pouring through the basement windows like leaky portholes in a submarine, and leaves that choke the gutters so that if I don’t get up there and clear the gutters by hand a couple times of year I get gutters filled with rotting vegetable matter that stinks to high heaven.

Oh yeah, and in the spring, that much lauded and delightful time of year when the birds sing, the flowers bloom, and the air is fresh and warm?

Yeah, that time of year is when shit starts growing like plants versus zombies on crack, and you need a machete to beat your lawn into submission.

My personal favorite time of year is the first bloom of summer, when the lawn has been beaten until it’s quietly moaning and is afraid to grow too fast because I’ve got power tools motherfucker, and the pollen hasn’t exploded just yet because I’ve got poison to dump on the lawn and kill the weeds, eat hot death cottonwoods, and the torrential rains have eased up so I can stop bailing the basement like our house is an ark and we’re trying to take the cats to the first new dry land.

This story? This is about all of that. The joys of home ownership, yard work, and my favorite time of year.

The hot mad sex of spring was finally over, and everything that was going to grow had worn itself out. The weeds got poisoned early on, and the Sun was getting a tad hot so the lawn only needed to be slaughtered a few times a week. Memorial Day weekend was upon us.

During this lull in the eternal battle of the great outdoors, I needed to take advantage of my opponent’s momentary weakness.

One of my targets of opportunity were the trees that like to grow along the fenceline.

One of the many miracles of spring is that a single sprout, invisible to the naked eye in the fall, can somehow grow in ONE SPRING into a ten foot sapling with a two inch diameter tree trunk and deep, branching roots that somehow grow into, around and through the chain links of the fence as if to say, ” You can take my leaves, but you will never take my ROOT SYSTEM.”

Those trees only think they’ve won.

As I said. I’ve got power tools.

This, by the way, is how a religion gets founded. It takes the inspiration of a great leader, a charismatic voice that people will truly believe in.

Like Tim Allen. I believe in Tim Allen, and I follow his commandments. Well, commandment. there’s really just the one.

The religion of Tim Allen can basically be boiled down to this; There is no problem, however large, that cannot be solved by the application of a powerful enough tool.

If the tool you are using isn’t working, it’s simply not powerful enough. Step it up, heretic.

Also a mark of faith among the believers of the Church of Tim Allen is the knowledge that explosives are, in fact, tools, and fire is a legitimate power source. If you light a fuse or activate an electrical detonator on explosives you are using power tools. Accepting that fact makes a lot of other things in your life simpler and happier.

So I’ve got trees that grew over the course of one fucking season from a two inch tall sprout lost among the grass to towering pieces of green and brown shit over ten feet high, thinking just because they’re part of my steel fence there ain’t a damn thing I can do about it.

Hah!

See, I’ve got a Sawzall, which is the tool version of Kleenex. Sawzall is really the brand name for a reciprocating saw like a jigsaw but bigger, stronger, beefier. Much more powerful. They’re generally called a sawzall but mine is in fact a Tiger Saw.

Depending on what blade you put on this thing, you can cut through trees, ceramic pipe, steel struts, sheetrock, you name it. If it’s less than three inches thick, you can probably cut through it.

If you can’t, well, there’s always the cutting torch.

On this particular day in early summer, battle was joined as man and tree faced off. The tree had a strong defense in place, being in de fence as it were, but I was armed with my Tiger Saw and a nice wood cutting blade that would slice through those branches like they were warm butter.

One of the nice things about a sawzall is that you can use that sucker to go after the roots of small trees even when they’re deep in the ground. You just start at the base of the tree and take that thing down and the reciprocating blade will churn into the soil and throw dirt like crazy, letting you chop up bits of roots and stringy grasping vines with ease.

I made my way around the fenceline, and you could see where I had been by the wreckage I left behind. Dead limbs torn from the trunks lay scattered around the lawn, leaves torn from branches, the clean lines of exposed chain link gleaming in the sunshine.

The scent of the sap flowing sluggishly down the torn bark smelled like… victory.

I cleared the field of battle, and looked over the work that I had done, and I saw that it was good.

The yard was returned once more to a state that could be easily maintained by frequent use of the deadly torture device known as the lawn mower, and it’s smaller kin the fence patrolling weed whacker.

I turned from the fence and examined the foundations of the house itself, where weeds and such liked to grow where the mower lacked reach to grab and slice.

As I surveyed the foundation, I found that I had missed a tree.

This one was tall and strong, and the son of a bitch hadn’t been there the year before. And it had chosen a particularly cunning location to make it’s stand.

It had grown in the center of, and directly underneath, my outside gas meter, where the city natural gas line runs from the street and under my lawn to the side of my house, up to an explosed meter so the city can see how wasteful I am of my natural resources and fine me accordingly, and then the solid metal gas line descends once more into the earth, to head deep underground and be routed into my house to provide warmth to the air, hot water for our baths, and heat to cook bacon, all vital functions to survival. Especially that cooking bacon part.

Oh really?

I approached the tree, standing tall and defiant, it’s roots clearly grown so large in one spring that the damn thing was about ready to start moving my underground gas pipes. Yeah, that’s ALL that I needed. A fucking tree breaking a gas line.

The more I thought about it, the more I had to admire the revenge. I had cut down it’s arborial brothers and sisters, and it would exact revenge by tearing my gas line asunder and blowing my whole damn house down. And what could I do about it? It was already too big to simply grab and pull out by the roots, it wasn’t a weed, it was a damn tree.

Well, I wasn’t going to try and pull it out, I can recognize an exercise in utter futility when I see one. I’ve played a warlock for years.

So instead, I took a quick look over the gas meter and the pipes heading into the ground, checked to make sure everything looked nice and solid, and without engaging any actual sense at all to THINK about what I was about to do, I went after that tree with the sawzall, chopping it down and getting good and deep into the roots in the soil.

It was about right then that the blade encountered resistance. A fierce knot held firm against the assault and deflected the blade, right over against one of the gas pipes.

Surprisingly, once you get under the actual ground, what I found out was the gas line wasn’t steel pipe any more. It was, in fact, a rather small, thin gauge of rubber sheathing over very thin copper tubing. The whole underground pipe was not much more than three quarters of an inch in diameter.

Now, you may be curious just how much protection a thin rubber wall provides for a copper tube when attacked by a determined sawzall.

Let me assure you that it does not in fact provide any protection whatsoever.

You may also wonder just what, exactly, you do when you’ve just cut the main gas line running from the city street to your house in half.

Well, it turns out that there isn’t actually a cutoff to shut that gas off when you cut that main line.

In fact, that’s kind of the point of the gas meter. The gas line goes to the meter, and you can shut it off FROM the meter TO your house.

If you somehow manage to cut that line BEFORE it reaches the meter, why, it’s quite impressive. But then what fucking idiot would do something so incredibly stupid?

So, my saw took a bad hop, it’s advances rebuffed by a determined knot. Sliced RIGHT through the main gas line to the house.

Oh my.

Hmmm.

I had one moment where I looked at that cut line down in the churned up soil, and I said to myself, “You’ve just gone and completely fucked that up, haven’t you?”

And a little voice in the back of my head channeled from the movie Spaced Invaders replied, quite clearly, “Ain’t life a bitch?”

I have to admit, I never really appreciated before just how MUCH pressure that natural gas has behind it when it reaches your gas meter with it’s built in regulator. It doesn’t just ease through that pipe, it doesn’t simply hiss a bit, it explodes out of that hose like a fire fighter working a four alarm.

Speaking of fire fighters….

I stopped running the sawzall, took it to the outlet I had it plugged into, unplugged it and set it down. There, no source of spark immediately available outside.

Then I ran inside and explained to the lovely and talented Mrs Bear that yes dear, I have in fact managed to arrange for some excitement in an otherwise dull day by causing a situation that could lead to our house, you know, kind of exploding. Could we all please go outside, maybe?

Yes, in fact I do mean now, and perhaps we should bring a cell phone with us because there may not be a house to go back into later.

Do I know the number for the city public works department off the top of my head? Unfortunately I do not.

However, 911 comes trippingly to the tongue. Why don’t I give those rascals a call and let them know that yes, why thank you dispatcher yes it is a fine day, and could you please let those nice fire fighters know that we have a severed gas main at my house that cannot be shut off and is JUST waiting for any spark or source of fire anywhere to ignite the stream of pressurized gas that is flooding the entire neighborhood at a stunning rate of many hundreds of cubic meters per second?

Thanks, I’ll hold.

Oh, did I happen to realize that today was not only Sunday, but was in fact the Sunday of a three day holiday memorial day weekend?

Yes, yes I did happen to notice this, it is in fact why I was out doing lawn work.

Yes, I am aware that it’s quite inconvenient to have done this on the Sunday of a holiday weekend when city public works, union workers all, are at home drinking beers and grilling. And of course yes I do understand that the fire and police departments are mostly out and about at community parks doing meet and greets and letting young kids like mine bounce on the seats of their squad cars and fire trucks.

I am so sorry, I truly am, you have no idea how sorry I am that I didn’t schedule this particular emergency for normal working hours during the Monday – Friday work week. I promise the next time I have an emergency I’ll do my best to be more considerate.

Just this once though, since I am rather new at this whole ‘accidentally blowing up a house’ thing, do you think you could try to send someone over that knows how to shut the main off at the street? Thanks, you’re the best.

As we stood out at the street watching our home and clearly hearing the roaring of the natural gas pouring out of the pipe even from forty feet away, the lovely and talented Mrs Bear says, “You need to go warn the neighbors that their houses might blow up.”

Oh shit, do I really have to? I hate those fuckers and their damn dog.

Okay, okay, you don’t have to give me the look, shit, I’m going.

Shit.

There are few things in this life that are quite as distinctive to the memory as that moment when you have to knock on your neighbor’s door, the neighbor that has the angry vicious dog that they let out every single time your son tries to use the swing set in your yard that you built with your own two hands (and power tools), that neighbor that you think of as a true piece of shit, and tell them that you fucked up on such a grand scale that their house might very well blow up.

That right there, that moment’s a keeper. That’s one you just have to look forward to recalling when you’re old and fading away in the nursing home, wondering where your life went wrong, because you were going to live forever and getting old only happens to other people.

Of course, a few more moves like that one and I’ll certainly not have to worry about making it to the nursing home.

Such a lovely sight it was on the fine Sunday afternoon, as the fire trucks came roaring around the corner to stop in front of our home, and the police came to see if they could blame anyone for anything and write a ticket or two, and then a truck from the public works department came by, and then two more trucks from public works came by, and there before you knew it was a block party!

What followed of course were over a dozen police and fire crew standing around watching the public works guys dig a hole.

Rock on.

In only a few hours, a massive hole was dug, a hole big enough for two men to stand in, and the entire gas meter was ripped out and replaced with a new one, along with the gas lines, which they replaced with some nice stout looking pipes. Why, they even filled in the hole!

And shortly thereafter we received the bill.

Oh my.

I’d have to ask Cassie, but I want to say that after I negotiated with the city, and then begged with the city, and then tried a little crawling and sniveling, that it only took, what, two years to pay off that lovely little memorial day mishap?

Sigh.

Fine.

Let the record show, the score stands at Tree: 1, Bear: 0.

Well played, tree. Well played.

I know what went wrong.

I brought what I thought was a big enough tool for the job.

But the tree? The tree brought the gas main. And thus the one with the bigger tool won.

Although, if you were to ask Cassie, I imagine she’d say I was the biggest tool she ever saw.

The End Draws Near

I wanted to let everyone who visits my blog here know that this Friday the 13th will be the last full day this website exists.

This Saturday the 14th my self-run WordPress website will be shut down, and all of the content on it will be placed in my archives.

Itsokay

I wanted to let you know now, so that if there were any posts that you wanted to copy before they’re gone you have some time to get it done. And of course you have my express permission to copy and save anything of mine from this website for your own personal use (as a dart board target, cat litter pan liner, whatever you like) that you’d like. You can even share it with others, as long as you make sure you note it came from me. If you’d like, you can think of it as making sure people know who to blame. Just don’t reprint or republish anything of mine somewhere out there and claim it as your own work. Don’t be a dick.

It is possible that I will continue to maintain a blog in some form, administered through a WordPress free site that my thebigbearbutt.com domain would be tied to.

If I do continue with a blog, I do not specifically plan on having any of my existing content carried over.

However.

HOWEVER.

If there are any of my previous posts over the years (good lord HOW many years?) you would want to see carried over to a brand new site, any posts that would be like a condensed super teeny time capsule of what you think should be saved, please let me know exactly which ones in the comments to this post. It is possible to export them and even save pictures.

As I said, I don’t rightly know that there WILL be a blog past this Saturday. If there is, I will make sure to save any posts you wanted preserved before it goes.

I will see you all again for a proper farewell this Friday the 13th.

Until then, take care and God bless each and every one of you for being here with me.

The Alt Zone

So you’ve been playing Warlords of Draenor for a bit now, and you’ve discovered that the alt game is a dangerous time sink.

They aren’t daily quests, oh no. You have absolute power over your actions.

But.

The temptation to log into those alts. It’s strong. Like an itch in the veins, just below the skin.

Jut a few minutes each day to do the follower missions, then the profession dailies, then set up work orders, and finally the bonus round of harvesting herbs and ore. You don’t really need those mats, not anymore, but at the same time, you might. You might.

Oh, and then trapping beasts for the Barn, and stockpiling materials for the trading post work orders.

And the ultimate gambler’s rush that comes from opening the salvage yard crates. Is it a 665 BoE today? Is it? IS IT?!?!

Yeah. You don’t have to do it. You don’t!

You just have to possess the willpower to push yourself away from the table.

Okay, now for the rest of you that are still here with me, let’s talk about where to go with our alts.

If you’re anything like me, you had one or two ‘main’ characters you wanted to play and level and get going into he land of the big 100.

Then there were all those OTHER characters. You know the ones. The characters you leveled in Mists of Pandaria when you were bored off your ass, and now you like but not in that special way. You’ve pushed them into the friend zone, um, I mean the alt zone. They’re good enough to go fetch you things and do your chores, but not good enough to take to the prom.

They do have some useful professions though, don’t they just?

S you might have taken them JUST FAR enough into the game to hit garrison level 2 and have profession buildings on site.

For me, I leveled my Warlock and Druid to 100, and I pushed my Rogue, Priest, Death Knight and Hunter into the alt zone with level 2 Garrisons for professions.

It’s been a while since launch. And what have we learned, class?

We’ve learned that our low level alts have mighty fine garrisons and can make damn near anything with their professions, don’t have to leave home to harvest herbs or ore, they can just sit there and log in every day and level professions to max and craft sweet gear. And your higher level characters can feed them the Savage Blood they need to make epics.

All well and good.

If it weren’t for those piddly little follower teams, it might just be perfect.

Followers. Aye, that’s the rub.

My alts have shit for followers.

Quality is good, it’s the quantity that is for crap.

After the last few months since launch, my alts have leveled their followers to epic 100s. No problem.

There’s just only so much you can do with 4 or 6 followers, damnit! If you ain’t out there questing, you ain’t out there recruiting!

So what do we do now?

What I’m starting to do is change their shit up.

They’ve been sitting there hoarding Garrison resources and nursing their trading posts for so long, they’ve got 6000 or 7000 built up. So fine, time to dump that trading post or lumber mill and get me an Inn.

Now I’m taking my alts into Gorgrond and completing that Outpost quest chain. At the end, you get your Outpost Construction Manual, and you can use it to upgrade your Inn blueprint to level 2.

Viola! Or perhaps a nice cello.

Suddenly, after one night in bangkok I can retire my alt once more, but now every week they can visit the Inn and recruit a new follower to add to the team. Over time those alts will finally have their full load out of Followers, all at epic, and I won’t have had to step another foot out of the house. I mean Garrison.

followerboard

You know what our Garrison needs for our alts? A basement.

I need to be able to have a basement in my Garrison my alts can hang out in, so I can sit in a basement and control a character in a videogame that sits in a basement and controls followers and sends them out on missions in a game.

Because I’m all about the irony.

Seriously though, it’s time for that next level alt zone stuff. Put ‘em to work!

WoW Insider – the Omega and the Alpha

This sucks.

Sure and nothing lasts forever, but some things should.

WoW Insider as a collective of outspoken positive voices writing about World of Warcraft is absolutely one of those things that should be eternal.

WoW Insider will be shut down by their parent company, along with all of the other websites in the Joystiq network, on Monday or Tuesday or thereabouts, February 2ndish.

It’s one of those weird things, you know? It’s a website devoted to World of Warcraft, but at the same time it’s a business to make money from ad revenue, and someone else gets to pull the plug if they decide it’s not performing well enough… and the parent company gets to decide what ‘well enough’ means.

There are so many websites out there scrambling for advertiser money, doing anything and everything to get a click from someone running a browser without an adblocker on it. Many of them, and I’ll be blunt, suck. Vultures. Clickbait artists.

WoW Insider was and is different. Yes, the writers on the website get paid for their articles. It’s a job. But all you have to do is actually read the articles and you can see the love and the positive spirits that drive those articles.

Yes, it’s a job, in the best sense of that word. As your guidance counselors like to parrot at you, “Find something you love, and then find someone willing to pay you to do it.”

The writers of WoW Insider love the game and love to write about it, and that comes through in everything they write and create. Always has, from the very beginning.

I’m really going to miss WoW Insider, for the wonderful people and the varied points of view, and always for the great writing. It’s easy to single out the Know Your Lore and Tinfoil Hat articles because of how well written and imaginative they are, but all of the articles have served to do something amazing.

WoW Insider has provided a centralized location for everything going on in the WoW community. It is where you could always go to count on finding a discussion you could join about whatever was the latest thing, and a place showcasing everything going on in the community. Fan created WoW movies, comic strips, articles, crafts and even cooking recipes were found and had the spotlight shown on them, and it did a hell of a lot more than make somebody internet famous for an hour.

What WoW Insider always did was show you that you were not alone in loving World of Warcraft. Every time you visited, the main theme was “Hey look at these cool things other people just like you that love the game did, and here we are sharing them with you, isn’t that freaking cool? Check this out, isn’t it cool? Isn’t this game special and awesome and OMG I love this place.”

It’s going to be hard to imagine the World of Warcraft game meaning as much as it does without the usual suspects.

For a very brief time, back when dinosaurs still roamed the earth, I wrote a few articles that WoW Insider posted about the Druid class. Dan O’Halloran gave me a chance oh so long ago, and I will always thank him for that. I got to meet the people behind the writing (virtually, but still) and found that they really were as nice as they seemed. It’s not often you get to say that about people in the public eye, but it’s true. They’re a bunch of great people. I’m not saying they specifically hire nice people to write at WoW Insider, but hey. Maybe they do.

I’m really going to miss you folks. There is going to be a big gaping wound where the heart of the WoW community used to be, and as I said in the beginning of this, it sucks. But what can you do?

Hey. Maybe there IS something you can do!

It’s been whispered by some of the writers that come February 3rd, there just might be something coming that you can throw your support behind.

An attempt, just maybe, to keep the spirit of WoW Insider alive by forming a new name, a new brand, but having (mosty of) the same writers, and maybe they can do this by a show of crowdfunding support.

Our support.

I don’t know any specifics, but the best thing I think we can all hope for is that this isn’t just the end of something great, but the birth of something to come that will grow into something even better.

Would you support it? When you think of the role WoW Insider has played through the years in trumpeting our fandom to the heavens, is it something that you’d be willing to actually drop dime on to help keep it going?

If so… I have some folks I’d suggest you follow on Twitter so you can stay informed of what might come next.

Fare thee well, WoW Insider. I hope the winds carry your sails to new and exciting shores. Damn it, I’m going to miss you.

Warlords of Draenor – The Everlasting Story

Watch your back, Crowler. Cause I am.

Who do I have to kill to get that cloak?

One of the most amazing things I’m enjoying in Warlords of Draenor so far is the continuously evolving story, as told through Garrison Campaign Quests.

Garrison Campaign Quests, despite the name, aren’t actually quests to advance your garrison or are even entirely focused on your garrison. The name just reflects that you get them while IN your Garrison. The quests themselves advance your story a little bit more each week.

In order to get your first Garrison Campaign Quest, you have to be level 100 with a Garrison that is upgraded to level 2. Once you’ve done that, the first Garrison campaign Quest will be available to you, and consists of a chain of quests that tell one section of story.

So far, another set of Garrison Campaign Quests has been released at the reset each week. So from day 1, each week there has been a new chapter to the story of Warlords of Draenor released for us to play through.

If you think about what’s happening here, I think it’s very exciting. Like ‘OMG squee holy shit’ levels of exciting, not just right now but for the future of the game.

Think about how the story of this expansion has been told to us so far.

We’ve always had the leveling quests through each zone, quests that we can complete as much of or as little as we’d like while we level. We can progress at our own pace through them, and they set us up for the lore of the world, the people, and the reason we’re doing raids. Same as we’re used to, right?

Normally, the story stops there until the next major content patch. If you are the kind of person that blows through content day 1 to be the first max level in your neighborhood, that’s it until the next patch.

I know that I have always tried to savor those quests. They’re a gift, and once you’ve done them they’re gone and the story, such as it is, is over.

Ah! But wait, there’s more! Now there are these new quests, the Garrison Campaign Quests.

Now the story doesn’t end just because the leveling does! These quests get offered to you each reset, advancing the story a little more each time. They take you all over the world, they cause you to meet people and gain different rewards, and they’ve been unveiling more of the actual story every week.

I completed the Garrison Quest “Primal Fury” last night, and no I won’t reveal spoilers but it was the one that is supposed to add a new Follower to your garrison team, and not the Legendary Garona. In my case as Alliance it is Thisalee Crow. Horde are supposed to get Choluna. I also got some other Follower-related rewards that were truly epic. When you do complete it (if you haven’t already), well, yeah. Yummy rewards. The end of the quest clearly set up some really cool stuff that will continue in patch 6.1.

*Sadly, at the time of this writing that quest is bugged and I didn’t actually get Thisalee as a Follower. Crithto has posted in the forums that after a realm reset that will be fixed.If this happens to you, don’t panic, you’ll just have to be patient.

The key thing here is that these Garrison Campaign Quests adds something truly new to the game.

They are similar in concept to what we had with the unveiling of the Isle of Thunder in Mists of Pandaria. The Isle of Thunder had us unlock new areas over time by completing solo scenarios. As each phase became available, we had a new solo instance offered to us, and before we could proceed we had to do it.

That was cool, but it had its problems. Remember how annoying and/or challenging that became once everything was unlocked and you brought a new alt to the Isle? Suddenly you had 5 or 6 solo instances to plow through before you could do anything on the island. Also, we didn’t have them as quickly as once a week because it certainly takes a long time to build a custom scenario like that from scratch.

The Garrison Campaign Quests have been similar to those, but instead of a solo instance each time it’s a short series of quests, and nothing is gated behind these quests except the next quests in the chain.

New quests every week, serving to advance the overall story of the game BEYOND the leveling quests in each zone.

That’s just freaking cool.

And there is no reason to believe they’re going to stop them.

To quote a blue post from Bashiok on January 13th, “It’s a weekly campaign that unlocks over time and is intended to continue through future updates, not too dissimilar to the 5.1: Landfall content, but this is a bigger and more sweeping story that sends you out to the various level 100 areas across Draenor. The first 8 weeks offer quests somewhat randomly, and then the four after those are a set story progression TO BE CONTINUED IN FUTURE PATCH RELEASES.” (My emphasis on that last bit).

Yes, I reached the end of the 6.0 Garrison Quests and got the achievement for it. Presumably, I won’t be offered more until patch 6.1 comes out.

But 6.1 is coming on us fast… Blackrock Foundry will be unveiled in early February, and while Blizzard has said that 6.1 will NOT be tied to the raid and can come later, it might not be that much later. The way things are going, I wouldn’t be surprised it if came out at the end of February. That seems plenty fast enough to me.

Plenty of opportunity there for everyone to get all caught up in the story.

This is just… OMG seriously?

This is, to me, the single best thing of this entire expansion. new, fresh weekly content.

The one thing I think has been a note of constant complaint over the years is how, once the leveling quests are completed, the story is over until next content patch, and it’s all unleashed at once at our pace. And mostly it comes in new raids, or scenarios or dungeons. Not just a new series of fully accessible quests.

The Garrison Campaign Quests give us something new to do, even if it’s only for an hour or two each week. Each time a little more of the shape of the story is revealed to us. The ending for Primal Fury certainly set up some interesting things to look forward to, things that are coming in the next patch.

This is I think what we’ve all been waiting for in the game. That extra something that helps us feel that the game is growing and changing all the time, not just when a major patch comes out. Even in the shape its in right now it’s great.

I hope that Blizzard likes how the Garrison Campaign Quests are working, and decide to invest ever more resources into it. The feature hasn’t gotten a lot of attention yet, but they have had a huge impact on how this expansion feels to me. I can truly say that I have never felt this expansion release was ‘completed’ because there was always something new popping up on reset. And that something has never felt overwhelming to me. It could maybe be a little more each week, but it’s certainly not too much.

Just… so happy with this expansion. So many moving parts, all contributing to the overall game and nothing feeling like the only focus.

By the way… I hear that the next tier design is going to be a departure from what we’re used to. I think I can honestly say that if it’s a departure from tentacle staves flipping my raid team off, it might just be both a good thing and a bad thing. How about more designs like from Burning Crusade? I really loved the aesthetics of Burning Crusade. Ursinerate, what do you think of that?

Oh yeah? Well same to you, buddy!

Oh yeah? Well same to you, buddy!

Garrison Choices I Wish I’d Made

Alternate Title: Suggestions for People Who Haven’t Played Yet That Will Only Be Read By People Who’ve Played.

Off Broadway Title: A Garrison for Algernon

Vaudeville Title: The Amazing Bearwallzini

I love the Warlords of Draenor expansion. It’s holding my interest, keeping me moving, and I’m still so addicted to Followers that I’m logging in morning, noon and night to manage my Garrison missions.

Last time something had me this wrapped up in the game was my obsession to ‘catch ‘em all’ with Non Combat Pets, camping rare spawns and checking at all hours for that rare white elk to appear. “OMG, a Fel Flame, RUN!!! It’s 2 AM and I gotta beat the nine other people here camping it to tame it first!”

Okay, so I might be a bit deranged.

Side note, with our Garrisons and the pet building, I love that our favorited Non Combat Pets wander around on their own. Sometimes one will come on over and follow me for a bit, clearly happy to see me. Seeing my Fel Flame pet, named “Jackpot”, wandering around as I move from building to building brings back all those memories. I really like that.

I’ve leveled my raiding Warlock and my Feral Druid to 100, and my Rogue is just about there. I might have seven other alts with level 2 Garrisons, just for the different profession buildings and daily profession cooldowns/resource generation. I’ve learned a thing or too since launch.

Along the way, I’ve made mistakes with my Garrison. I’ve made a LOT of mistakes with my garrisons across characters. I’ve constructed more pylons, I mean erected buildings only to tear them down because damnit I should have done something else first.

I’ve barely scratched the surface of what is out there, but I’ve learned a lot I wish I’d known the first time around.

Some of the things that I do with alts now I do not for efficient resource management, but simply because it’s fun and different. Can’t beat a new feeling when playing alts, right?

My friend James suggested he was considering coming back for Warlords of Draenor, maybe, possibly, probably not. Since he’s been away for a little bit, I started thinking about what I would have wished I’d known before I’d really started playing the expansion.

It comes down to a lot of little things that are between the lines. Not any of the guide stuff, the wonderful nuts and bolts dataz that sites like Wowhead and Icy Veins have already covered so well. Those sites have in depth guides for the what, the who, and the “where do I find it?”

I can do my own research through the database sites and get a ton out of reading Perculia’s hard work. And Tritox, whoever that is who wrote their Follower guide on Wowhead that is the ultimate to-die-for guide.

But I would have loved to have known, well… the stuff I’m going to write about here.

It’s going to be one hell of a long bearwall. Why? Well, why not? I’m not into clickbait and this isn’t a business for money. Why break it all up into a dozen little pages spread out over two weeks? I want to write it so here it is. If it’s too long to wade through, I understand. I sympathize! But I also don’t care. Wade on in and if it’s too many words for you, stay in the kiddie pool or drown.

Level 2 Garrisons

The VERY first thing I’ve learned is that you can get your level 2 Garrison quicker than you might expect. Once you’ve got your level 1 Garrison and can begin questing in your faction starter zone, there is a specific series of quests that are considered ‘core’ Garrison quests for the zone. If you run through those and only those without side questing, you will quickly reach a point where you get the breadcrumb to go back to your Garrison and unlock level 2.

All zones are like this. There are many side quests, but there will be one core Garrison or Outpost quest chain that you can focus on moving through to reach the reward. In the starting zone, that reward is a level 2 Garrison. In later zones, the reward is usually a new Follower and a book that you can turn in for a free Garrison building blueprint of your choice which you can immediately use to upgrade a building. These are precious rewards, so they are worth pursuing quickly on alts.

A level 2 Garrison gives you more plots to build on, including an extra profession plot, so it’s excellent for all of your alts even if you’re not actively playing them to level.

Side note: Professions. I personally leveled blacksmith and tailor alts just so I could craft weapon and armor upgrades. You do NOT need to have more than level 1 in a profession to use that profession with a small profession building in your Garrison, either. You can’t get any of the rewards associated with that profession except for the Warlords of Draenor stuff, and some things like the Leatherworking wolf mount require max level in a profession to craft it, but for most Warlords gear you can craft it JUST with the profession building, and craft it faster if you have at least skill 1 in the profession for the daily mats cooldown. I know, it sounds crazy. I know! But it’s true. Professions JUST for gear is optional. Professions just speed it up, and unlock cooler stuff if you have them.

So unlocking your Garrison. If you check the quests on Wowhead, you should be able to nail down which ones are core for garrison progression pretty easily. Once you know which to do, you can unlock level 2 long before reaching 92, even with rested XP. I know that for your first playthrough on your main, you’ll want to enjoy everything and have fun exploring. On your alts, you can focus on just the core quests and unlock the upgrades fast. It is NOT gated by level, my Priest is level 91 with a level 2 Garrison.

The bible of guides for everything Garrison buildings is of course on Wowhead.

What Buildings to Choose First? SO MANY CHOICES!

The next thing I’ve learned is some Garrison Buildings are great for early leveling, and others are only truly useful at end game.

The first one that bit me on the butt was the Stables. Who doesn’t want the Stables? It promises the ability to capture, tame and train a wide variety of new mounts native to Draenor, including an awesome looking wolf. I was eager to make one, and since the mounts are all Bind to Account now, it doesn’t matter which character of mine had a Stables or did the quests. Right?

The answer to that, of course, is that it does matter. Because the majority of quests take you into the final leveling zone, Nagrand, and have you fight high level mobs that are in remote areas. To actually complete the mount training quests and get your new mount, you’re going to most likely want to be level 100 when you start. You don’t have to be, no. You can certainly fight to make your way to each of these locations, and you can complete the quests with other people, including ungrouped strangers. If you really, really wanted to complete these quests as a level 92 character, it seems possible, especially if you can stealth and have vast patience and wait for other people to attack the quest mobs before you join in.

But it also sounds like a lot of pain and wasted time every day for no good reason. Much better to wait until you are level 100 to create a Stables, and then begin the quests.

Wish I’d known that before I made a Stables on my level 92 Hunter that I have yet to do anything with. Wasted time, wasted resources.

Before I move on, the other thing to know about the Stables is that there are two additional bonus mounts you can get from achievements. There are two items you can carry in your bags (you don’t equip them), and while carrying one of those items and doing the daily quest, you are nerfed by 25% DPS/healing/Health or by 50% depending on the item. If you defeat each of a certain list of enemy bosses once while riding each mount and carrying the item, you get a bonus mount for finishing it.

Let me try and be clear. You pick up an item at the Stables, lying on some hay. Say, the Black Claw. While you are on your whistle-summoned training mount fighting a boss and carrying that item, you are nerfed by either 25% or 50%. You have to defeat each of a certain number of bosses, while carrying the item, and riding every single mount. There are six bosses, six mounts, so you’ve got 36 fights ahead of you per item.

You CAN choose to just pick up the item and carry it with you all the time while doing daily quests right from the beginning. UGH, hell no. A better solution is to do them all at once. For example, for the Black Claw achieve, the very first time you have all mount daily quest whistles available go do it. You see, while on a daily quest, you can use a summons whistle as often as you like. And you can chain kill the same boss over and over, they have a super fast respawn. AND, you get credit for the achieve even if other people are helping you kill it.

So, as soon as you unlock all daily mount quests and can summon all six mounts, you can track the achievement, visit each of the bosses in sequence, and kill that boss six times in a row, summon mount, kill boss, get off mount and summon different mount, kill boss, get off mount, etc. The Black Claw achieve can be completed before ever getting the first regular quest mount unlocked.

The second achieve can only be done once you unlock the 50% nerf item, which only happens once you’ve earned all the daily quest mounts. So it takes a little longer.

But there is no reason to fear the mount achieve. Just get the item and all your whistles and go have a fun afternoon chain killing bosses. Bring a friend! Your friend doesn’t even have to be on a mount to chip in and help kill them. Seriously, go do it and end up with all eight mounts and have fun. The hard decision comes after you’ve got all eight mounts. Keep the Stables or replace it with something else? it does take a Large building slot…

So, the Stables. A Large building that sounds wonderful, MUST have, want those mounts… but you should have patience. Leave that one for when you’re level 100 and have a level 3 Garrison with more room. maybe for when you get that second unlocked Large plot and want to put something there. You could use it for a Stables, burn through all the mount quests, then replace it with something else. Just a thought.

Okay, so what buildings do I recommend you start with, then?

Your level 2 Garrison will have one Large plot, one Medium plot and two Small plots.

The first one I recommend is that you keep your Barracks, the first Large building the game makes you build. The Barracks is lovely for two reasons. First, at level 2 you can assign a Follower with the Bodyguard ability to it so you’ve got a leveling buddy all the time. You can’t possibly get that one until level 94, but it’s so fun. At level 3, it lets you have 25 Followers active instead of only 20.

“So what”, you ask? Level 94 is a long way down the road, and ditto to having a level 3 Barracks in the future. But wait, there’s more!

Artillery Strike Incoming

Okay, so people have reminded me that the following ain’t true. I got the idea that you needed the Barracks to have the Call to Arms ability from beta, but you don’t. It comes from your Outpost choices, and as far as I can tell you just get it in your starter zone. I have a Barracks for everyone right now so I don’t have anything rubbing my nose in the way it really works.

So! You get a new action button in Warlords of Draenor and it doesn’t have shit to do with a Barracks. It’s related to your Outpost choices, and has nothing to do with your class and spec. And it’s cool! It’s also oh so easy to forget you have it.

I’m talking about the Call to Arms ability, an action button that dues something different depending on what Draenor zone you are in. In every Draenor zone after your starting one, you build a little Outpost, and you are given a choice between two buildings. Each building can give you different benefits, access to different quests, different Follower rewards and a different ‘Call to Arms’ oh shit ability.

The Outpost choices can bite you on the butt, too. Are you a leatherworker? Do you have a Barn building and want to assign a Follower to it so you get more resources each time? Then for Alliance choose the brewery in Spires of Arak for your Outpost, because the Follower you eventually get from it is a Skinner to be put in the Barn. Complicated, right?

Well, WoWhead has a wonderful guide to all Followers, what they can do, where they can go, how you can find them. One read through of that and every question is answered. So, it’s not that bad. Oh, I suggested you go read a guide on Wowhead? You’re shocked, I know.

The Call to Arms ability. This is so easy to forget to use, but it is a game changer if you use it. Fighting a rare mob in the world? About to die? Hit that button and have a shot and living to tell the tale of how, um, someone else totally saved your ass.

As an example, for Alliance trying to complete the quest to unlock Protector Illona, an awesome Protection Paladin tank Bodyguard Follower, you have to defeat two spirits that are pretty powerful. Just one killed my butt when I tried it on my Rogue. Ah, but then I remembered that Call to Arms ability, and the next attempt I made I used that to call in an Artillery Strike on the two mobs and cleaned their clock. Just, destroyed them. It’s really very powerful and useful in a tough fight. And oh so incredibly easy to forget you have it.

So that’s Call to Arms. Nothing to do with the Barracks, just something to love. A special little snowflake of an ability.

back to the Barracks. That was supposedly what i was talking about and explaining why I recommend taking it while leveling. Having the Barracks gives you special Patrol Follower missions. You can tell which ones they are in the mission list, they have the picture of a Spyglass next to them. Doing a bunch of those is how you unlock the level 3 Barracks blueprint. Patrol missions typically give better XP bonuses than regular missions, so yeah. YUM.

Barracks, what’s not to love?

Bodyguards

The second answer to why to have a Barracks while leveling is Bodyguards. There are several Followers that have the Bodyguard trait built in, five at the time of this writing but next patch who knows, one of which you unlock immediately after upgrading your Garrison to level 2.

You want that Bodyguard? Yeah, not so fast chum! You can’t assign a Follower to your Barracks until it is level 2, and you can’t upgrade Large buildings until you reach level 100, OR level 94 and use the Outpost quest chain reward from Talador.

That’s right, there is a way to get it at level 94! One of your rewards for completing each leveling zone Outpost quest chain after the starter zone is a book that you can turn in for the Garrison Building blueprint of your choice. Completing Gorgrond gives you a book for smaller buildings, but completing the Outpost quest chain in Talador (and being level 94) gets you a book you can use to upgrade a Large building. Like your Barracks.

So, if you keep your Barracks and you use your Comprehensive Outpost Construction Guide from Talador on the Barracks to reach level 2, then at character level 94 you can immediately assign someone to be your companion, your Bodyguard, your buddy in the foxholes of life.

This is a freaking game changer for any class that ain’t a tank or doesn’t have a tank pet. HOLY SHITSKI.

Bodyguard Followers are NOT all tanks. Don’t let the term bodyguard fool you, they are really your companions. Some of them serve as threat-generating tanks, but others are DPS or healers.

As an example, I have been playing my Rogue a lot since my Warlock and Druid reached max. I intentionally set out to get the Barracks to level 2 and get Protector Illona as my tank at level 94.

Having Illona as a tank while you are a DPS class is amazing. It’s just… there are no words. Especially if you remember to call for Artillery when you’re about to get overwhelmed.

Does a Bodyguard sometimes get overwhelmed? Sure. Do they sometimes pull things you perhaps might have left unbothered? Unfortunately. But usually, if the situation is dire enough taht your bodyguard is about to die, you were gonna be hosed regardless. As a Rogue, I was delighted to learn that when I enter stealth, bodyguards do also. I also found out that if your stealthed bodyguard walks over a mob, the mob notices and attacks. You have to pay attention to where your bodyguard is if you’re stealthing all over the place. But the feel of stealthing into a camp and then unleashing a tank in the midst of them, OMG, so fun.

No, really.

Remember, not all bodyguards are tanks. Some are healers or DPS as well. I love my bodyguards on my Warlock as well, but I use Tormmok, an optional Follower from Gorgrond anyone can obtain. Tormmok is a straight up melee DPS, and he’s very powerful. Bodyguards scale with your level, so don’t worry about what level they are when sending them on missions. As your bodyguard, they are not only the same level as you in the field, but they also scale in power with your ilevel.

When I’m questing on my Destruction Warlock, I prefer to have my Grimoire of Supremacy Abyssal pet out as my AoE tank, and Tormmok as my single target melee DPS. That way I can control my tank pet with the extra DPS Tormmok gives me. Also, having two giant companions with me everywhere I go is an experience all to itself.

If you prefer leveling and playing as a tank, there are Healing bodyguards as well.

You’ve got options in bodyguards to match your playstyle. Maybe managing them and where they are and what they will aggro is an added challenge… but if you’re gonna whine about having Tormmok aggro something once in a while, not much I can say to that except shit happens, lead your forces better maybe?

FOLLOWER MISSIONS

Third, and the REALLY biggie for the Barracks is it increases the likelihood you will succeed with your Follower missions by increasing your pool of talent.

If you don’t really raid, or hell even if you do, a MAJOR source of gear upgrades comes from your Follower missions. It’s really quite amazing the amount of gear you will get thrown at you in these missions. My Druid had an almost full set of 615 gear just from missions by the time I was level 100.

One of the keys to completing Follower missions is to have a variety of Followers with a wide range of abilities that can counter mission objectives. The more Followers you have available to you, the more mission objectives you are capable of countering perfectly, and the more missions you can have active at once.

Follower missions frequently come up with 8 or 10 hour durations that award iLevel 615 or 630 loot, and higher. Each Follower of green or blue quality can counter one mission objective. Epic quality Followers can counter TWO at the same time. And whatever rarity your Followers are, once they are leveled to 100 all XP they gain is applied to improve their rarity. Eventually, if you keep sending them on missions, they will ALL be Epic.

Trust me on this. Right now I have 30 Epic Followers at level 100, all at 645 ilevel or higher. Only 25 are active, but maybe they’ll increase that cap someday? Maybe?

I like leveling Followers, but every time I want to level one I have to temporarily deactivate one of my epics. It’s horrible. Who to choose? How can I be asked to make Sophie’s Choice? I love them like my own children! Well, I love them like I would my own children if Alex ever brought me back some epic loot. Maybe I love them better. Just saying. Kid needs to step it up. I might have to send him to Clean the Latrine. perhaps he can bring me the epic Donut of Coffee Absorption.

The point is, if you send your Followers on missions as often as possible, they will continue to level. Once they are 100 and Epic, each one can counter two different objectives. Once you’ve got several to 100 and Epic, then the chance you can perfectly match ALL of a high level reward mission’s objectives goes way up. And the more of those that you get at high item levels, the better your chance to max out your best loot missions with 100% chances.

So you want many active Followers, you want to level them by sending them on MANY missions, and you want to be able to upgrade their armor and weapons a lot.

Which leads me away from the Barracks and on to the next Large building… the Dwarven Bunker/War Mill.

Dwarven Bunker/War Mill

The Dwarven Bunker is another great building, and a direct competitor with the Barracks for that lone leveling Large Building plot.

Why have the Barracks while leveling? All those answers I gave up there.

Why replace it with a Dwarven Bunker instead?

First, maybe you don’t want a Bodyguard. Maybe you want to keep ALL of your Followers away on missions and leveling as you quest so they’re all at max and epic and useful as soon as possible.

Also, maybe you know that you can wait for that increased Follower cap to go to 25, that as you level your character in the game 20 Follower spots are enough all the way through to Nagrand. Sure, you’re not doing high XP Patrol missions and moving towards unlocking the level 3 blueprint until later, but maybe you are okay with that…

Because with a Dwarven Bunker, and upgraded to level 2 as soon as you hit level 94 in Talador, you can spend Garrison Resources on work orders to frequently get armor and weapon upgrades for your Followers.

That’s right. The trick with the Dwarven Bunker is to get it to level 2, and dump Garrison Resources into it to get Follower gear upgrade tokens. The higher your Followers ilevels, the better the gear rewards you get offered from some Follower missions. They start at ilevel 600, and the cutoffs for gear missions are 600, 615, 630 and 645. Oh, and all the Followers sent on a mission have to have the minimum ilevel for that mission or that follower doesn’t even count towards it.

So yay! Not only do you want Followers to be level 100 and epic, but you also really want to push the ones with a good variety of talents to ilevel 645 as fast as you can.

Cassie is still working on this. She gets her highmaul raid missions with only a 78% chance of success. When the reward is a piece of 645 loot, that SUCKS. She has the followers, she is still working on the ilevels.

It’s a hard choice to make, which to do first. Both have advantages and benefits to choosing it.

I personally chose the Dwarven Bunker when I started out on my main, and the Barracks for all the others. I know that, compared to every other character I’m playing, it’s made a HUGE impact to my Follower ilevels. Like I said, my main has 30+ at epic and 645. Hell, most are above 650 now. None of my other characters have a team of followers that high in ilevel.

But the downside to having a Dwarven bunker was, I was ALWAYS starved for Garrison Resources. I spent so many resources on leveling buildings, sending all of my Followers on every mission that was ever offered, and buying Dwarven Bunker work orders that every day saw me desperate for new sources of Resources. It sucked.

I got to the point, I think I mentioned it in a previous post, that I went out searching for every single treasure in every zone, because many of them reward Garrison Resources. I also hunted down and killed every rare because they also reward some resources when killed. There are treasure maps you can buy which show where treasures are, but you can only get them after completing the zone’s quests. I finally just started using an addon that shows them all regardless of quest status. What addon? I did say I mentioned it in a previous post. You read that one, right?

In hindsight I wish I would have started with the Barracks while questing, got my bodyguard, and waited until level 100 to add the Dwarven Bunker. I think it would have been more fun having a bodyguard, and I would have been less stressed about Garrison Resources. But on the other hand, shit, I like having a 100% success rate for every mission in my log, and sending them out in waves to bring me back my gold and loot to disenchant. And the need for resouces DID serve to spur me on to finding every treasure and rare mob in every zone. That was really fun having that need driving me on.

There is one other way to get these Follower upgrades other than as mission rewards; a Small building;

The Salvage Yard.

All I can really say about the Salvage Yard is, it uses a small profession plot, and you don’t unlock it until midway through Spires of Arak, your level 96 – 98 questing zone. So it’s up to you if you fill both of your small plots early with profession buildings/Storehouse and wait until level 100 to add a Salvage Yard, or if you burn your way through Spires of Arak and try to build it right at 96/97.

Why the rush?

The Salvage Yard is another of those buildings that seems like a must-have.

If you have a Salvage Yard, every Follower Mission has a chance to give you a bag (or box) of random shit. Scraps. Trash. Vendor junk.

With a level 2 Salvage Yard, those bags have a chance to have Follower upgrade items JUST like the Dwarven Bunker/War Mill work order… and also a chance to have ilevel 610 gear for your class and spec, transmog items that sell well, and even ilevel 655 BoE gear that sells for thousands of gold if you’re lucky to get one! I’ve only gotten one of those, but I sold it for enough to buy a 655 BoE off hand weapon, so I count myself DAMN lucky.

So an upgraded Salvage Yard gives you even more Follower Upgrade items, to get them up there and ready to bring you back that raid loot! And it costs you nothing, you get the bags and boxes from missions you would have sent your Followers on anyway.

Of course, it’s also another incentive besides XP to send your Followers on every mission you’ve got, flood the mission log with them, don’t save your missions because every mission completed is a chance for a Follower upgrade from salvage.

Resource Management

So, why was I so starved in my resources? Shit, do you have to wonder? Everything I’ve done on my main involved spending Garrison Resources like I was trying to fill up a flock of seagulls with bread. You will never have enough bread, man.

Fortunately, your level 2 Garrison has a Medium building plot on it, and there are two Medium buildings you can choose from to build that can give you extra resources each day.

The two that give you resources every day are the Trading Post and the Lumber Mill. I strongly advise you get one of these as your starter Medium building.

Don’t do what I did and get an Inn because it sounded so cool, like the Stables. The Inn is another of those buildings that sounds awesome at first, but only really shines at end game.

The Lumber Mill requires you to go out and gather some wood from trees in the world, come back and use it to start work orders. You only get 20 resources per work order, unless you assign a Follower to help and then you get 30.

The Trading Post also gives you Garrison Resources, and each work order is worth the full 30. No Follower required. Sounds like a good deal, right? Why choose a Lumber Mill over a Trading Post?

It all depends on where you are in the leveling game.

A Lumber Mill uses lumber you gather in the world to fill the work orders. Once you have a level 3 Lumber Mill, you can unlock a new Follower, a really cool tree dude that you can then assign to the Lumber Mill to get more resources per work order… or to just keep forever.

A Trading Post has a faction reputation associated with it, and at level 3 increases your reputation gains by 20%. Very cool. It also has a vendor you can SPEND your Garrison Resources on to buy crafting mats. Always have too many Garrison Resources on your alts? Blow them on the Trading Post for useful crafting stuff like Draenic Dust!

BUT, to get your work orders at a Trading Post filled, each day it asks for a random material. Usually a raw crafting item like cloth, enchanting dust, a specific herb, ore, that kind of thing.

So, a Lumber Mill is great if you are brand new and have no resources. You can gather Lumber for free while questing and get Garrison Resources to spend immediately on missions and building upgrades. You can be working towards getting your tree Follower, too.

Once you’re max level and have the tree Follower though, hell, you’ve probably got plenty of ore and herbs coming from the mine and herb garden on your Garrison. You’ve got resources coming out your ears. NOW you can consider switching to a Trading Post so you have a place to spend extra crafting mats and Garrison Resources for useful stuff, and get that 20% reputation buff.

With all the ore and herbs my characters gather every day, I have personally switched to Trading Posts on everyone. It just makes sense. It gives me a use for excess herbs and ore, and since you can start more work orders at a time than will complete in one day, if they ask for a crafting material I don’t want to spend, I can usually just wait until the next day to file more orders. Odds are they’ll want an herb or ore before I run out of my last batch.

Inn Due Time

once you reach level 100, upgrade your Garrison to level 3 and unlock that second Medium building, I strongly recommend you build an Inn.

The Inn is a medium building that is vying for your attention amidst other cool sounding buildings. The barn is awesome for leather and cloth, offers a pet (The Pygmy Cow, so cute!) and at max level you can get some epic item crafting mats out of it. But if you can, go for the Inn at first. You can always change it later.

Why?

Because the Inn is another building like the Stables you don’t necessarily have to keep forever.

At level 1, you unlock Inn/Tavern missions. Miss Dungeons and Dragons much? Yeah, how many adventures start in a bar? Same thing.

Every day, there will be two random quests available at your level 1 Inn… quests to be completed inside normal and heroic dungeons. these quests reward things like toys, a Follower, some transmog gear and other stuff. The biggest reward to crave though is Avianas Feather. This item, in a Draenor outdoor zone, throws you miles into the air and then let’s you glide like you’re on a goblin glider for, shit, across over half the damn zone. I am NOT joking. It’s brilliant, and if you don’t have it this item alone is reason enough to get an Inn. Seriously.

So get the Inn at level 100, because you can’t really get any use out of it until you can run dungeons.

upgrade it to level 2, and once a week you can recruit a new Follower. A brand new, crude, unleveled 90 Follower. Why want a level 90 Follower? To shore up those gaps in your mission objectives that we talked about earlier. Once you are level 100 and pretty much have your 20 Followers, you can see which mission objectives you lack coverage in, and use the Inn to recruit some help. Also, you can just choose to recruit Scavangers and Epic mount Followers to level to epic and cut down on your mission turnaround time.

At level 3… you unlock treasure missions. Like the Barracks Patrol missions, these special missions are only offered to you if you have a level 3 Inn/Tavern, and the missions reward you with gold. A decent amount of gold. Like, hundreds of gold a day if you’re doing the missions all the time like clockwork.

But wait! What about all these other buildings? What about those? Who the hell wants to have some same old same old cookie cutter building layout?

Exactly. And that is why some of these buildings are brilliant. Like the Stables. yes, there is an advantage to having it at level 3, but you can live without it if you want to. Or keep the mount speed increase with a clear conscience. And the Inn. Yes, gold missions are nice, but once you have all the dungeon quests done and don’t need more Followers, it’s only gold. Why not try the Gladiator’s Sanctum and have some fun?

And as far as a Stables or Trading Post, you don’t even HAVE to have either of those. You can only stack up to 10,000 Garrison Resources and you get more every day. If you get that high up, and you’re happy with your building choices, why not dump them both to mess around with something else? You can! YOU ARE FREE TO DO IT ALL!

But something things help you a lot more in the early days and early weeks of leveling and then reaching level 100 than others.

FISHWRAP TIME

It’s funny, but if you look at this post, none of it is about questing, or raiding, or playing characters. It’s all about having fun with and increasing the power and usefulness of your Followers.

I think that says a lot about what I’m finding the most engaging and rewarding of all the content in the game. The treasure scattered throughout all of the zones, the many, MANY rares, the wonderful world bosses that drop mounts, the Outposts and the way they help add in more quest variety, all of the other available buildings… it’s all wonderful.

But the Follower and mission system has captured my love and my imagination. That is what I’m thinking about now, and where my interests lie.

Well, that, and soloing old raids for transmog gear and mounts. My Rogue looks dead sexy, yo. And my Druid be looking mighty fine, mighty fine. Too bad you can’t see it as feral when I’m eating your face. You don’t know this, but while I was chewing your arm off I was looking pretty sexy. You’ll have to take it on faith.

I haven’t even scratched the surface of what’s possible. I left out most of the buildings, for the love of Elune! It’s crazy.

That just tells you, this is only MY point of view. The buildings I wish I’d built the first time around so I didn’t waste thousands of resources and gold tearing them down to build something else. The ones I did build the first time and why I’m grateful.

There are so many other possibilities, and I just know lots of people are using buildings that do other things I haven’t even tried yet, things that may be even more fun.

Still, James, if you’re reading this… I can promise you one thing, if you get sucked back in, you’ll find it’ll take a while before you run out of things to do THIS time.

At this time, reading over the post, I see I’ve hit 6000 words.

So.

Fuckit, if you went this far, BONUS ROUND.

Things I think are cool as shit I didn’t mention above.

Bodyguard Followers have their own buddy rep with you. You can level them and retire them and bring them back out and level some more, you never lose rep with one. There are only three ranks of rep, so it’s not bad, and if you can AoE tank (like, say, Bears or Warlocks with an Abyssal pet) then at level 100 walk around the corner from your Garrison (or fly across the continent my poor Horde friends) to Gloomshade Grove in Shadowmoon Valley and make some sweeps through the podlings. It took me less than an hour to complete max level with Tormmok using this method. Plus, revenge on podlings. Little pricks. At max rep level, each bodyguard has some kind of extra quest to do that unlocks their final form. For Tormmok, he gets a brand new badass evil looking sword. SO damn cool. Defender Illona gets a total revamp of her armor. So awesome.

When you use the Call to Arms Barracks extra action button, there are different things it does in different zones. In Gorgrond, the shredder lets you drive a functional goblin shredder… and it has rockets and can fly! So nice for getting to hard to reach areas sometimes. IF you remember to use it.

The Small Profession buildings can have a Follower assigned to them at level 2. Most Followers have some kind of special thing they can do for you, if you just ask them. Inscription Followers can make you some invoices that you can try to combine for extra gold.

The BEST extra Follower profession perk, to my mind, is that the Enchanting Follower will offer to put a glow illusion on your weapon. This is so cool. There is a long list of enchants, including having the appearance of NO enchant on your weapons. I actually have an Enchanting Building with assigned Follower for my Rogue for no other reason than that I want a matching enchant for my transmog, and I’m TOO DAMN LAZY to ask a friend to let me visit their garrison. I am getting serious about my Rogue transmogs. As you can see from the following picture, a bright glowing red dagger just would not do! I’m sneaky. I needed sneaky colored enchants.

Kittiana-businesstime

Okay, I like that. I love the new wolf mounts, too. Like, really love.

Kittiana-wolfie

There is treasure in every zone, and if you get low you can go out and find some that gives you Garrison Resources. I spent many hours scouring the world for Garrison Resources, and I consider it time well spent. It was a lot of fun getting into all the nooks and crannies. That addon I mentioned before to help find treasures? Just kidding, you don’t have to look at my old posts. It’s called HandyNotes and HandyNotes_DraenorTreasures. They’re on Curse. Well worth your time.

On the subject of addons, I also really love Master Plan for managing follower missions. Also, thanks be to friends on Twitter, I now use SavedInstances to help me track all my raid lockouts across all my characters, because I lose track of who did Firelands and which difficulty.

Finally… thank you to everyone that has been reading this blog for all these years, or who have only checked it out once or twice. Your feedback and chatting with me in comments, on Twitter or in the game has always been the biggest joy I’ve had from it. As much as I like writing, the best thing about the entire blogging experience has been meeting folks, talking with you and paying with you. Whether it was in ICC, Firelands or the occasional run in anything it’s been a delight. Thank you, all of you.

Feral Druid – Playing with Claws of Shirvallah

ClawsofShirvallah-femalenightelfcomparison

Let’s talk about this awesome new level 100 Feral Druid talent, Claws of Shirvallah.

I’m going to start with telling you something you probably already know; some classes get different level 100 Talents offered to them depending on what specialization they are.

Non-Beastmaster Hunters, for example, get offered the Lone Wolf Talent which increases damage done by 30% when you don’t have a pet out. That Talent is not offered to Beastmasters, they get Adaptation instead which gives your active pet both DPS and survivability spells.

Not all classes get offered different Talent choices based on spec at level 100. Mages get a few different ones, Warlocks also. Some classes get only one choice that changes, others get two.

Druids? Every Druid spec has it’s own completely different set of three Talent choices at level 100.

Thank you to Blizzard for taking the time to add so many choices. I think we’re all aware of how much work goes into these kinds of options. Every new Talent they add has it’s own ramifications and balancing implications. To create 12 new level 100 Talents just for Druids, so each Druid spec has three relevant ones to choose from… it’s humbling. Really, thank you.

None of what follows is me complaining or bitching about Claws of Shirvallah. The amazing thing is not how well it’s done, but that it was done at all. I’m grateful for what it is exactly as it is. Can I suggest things that might improve the aesthetics? Sure. Is it fair of me to expect more than the awesomeness we already got? Not really, no.

So, all that said, if you haven’t been playing a Feral Druid, there is a lot you might have missed at level 100.

The single biggest thing that still blows my mind are our Talent choices at level 100, all relevant to our kitty interests.

Lunar Inspiration lets you add Moonfire to your kitty repertoire. I haven’t played with that because it doesn’t ignite my imagination, but I can see advantages to adding a ranged attack to Kitty without having to switch forms. Or shall I say, an effective ranged attack. Especially for, oh, such critically important tasks as soloing legacy Battle for Mount Hyjal raids. I’m looking at you, Gargoyles in the backfield munching on Trolls.

Bloodtalons is an intriguing option. Your Healing Touch spell causes your next two melee attacks to deal +30% additional damage.

If you read my earlier Feral Druid post, you might have seen how free Healing Touch casts procced by your normal DPS finishing moves means you will be frequently getting free Healing Touch instants during a fight.

What intrigues me about Bloodtalons is the fact that an instant cast Healing Touch from a finishing move doesn’t have to be cast instantly when you get it. Conceivably, you could save that proc for a few seconds until you build up five more charges, then cast Healing Touch and instantly follow that up with a finishing move to get it at the +30% damage buff. I haven’t played with it on a training dummy yet, but I suspect to make it work reliably I’ll need to make a Healing Touch cast macro that includes a /stopattack afterwards so I can make sure I cast my finishing move directly afterwards and don’t let a melee autoattack use up both +30% charges.

Sorry, I didn’t mean to digress into Bloodtalons, I think that even if you don’t try to micro-manage the +30% buff it will still be a nice DPS boost. Just remember to keep using your Healing Touch procs whenever available, that’s all.

But my real interest is in this third Talent Feral Druids are offered, Claws of Shirvallah.

Let me get the one bad thing out of the way first; there is no female version of the form. As you can see from the side-by-side comparison, my female Night Elf when in cat form with Claws of Shirvallah becomes distinctly NON-female in appearance, especially when compared to the difference between male and female Worgen forms. This makes me a sad kitty.

There are four colors/fur patterns depending on your race right now, and obviously it’s based on the Saberons who as NPCs don’t have females. We do have Celestalon saying they hope to expand on the Claws of Shirvallah form in the future, so let’s leave it at being an optimitic happy kitty, all right?

The other appearance-related issue I don’t like is that the /dance emote doesn’t work, it just causes you to stand up as you can see in the comparison photo. The normal ‘standing around’ appearance is the one with the cat down in the Worgen travel form running stance.

ClawsofShirvallah-normal

Finally, and this is just a super small ‘aw shucks’ thing, but when using Claws of Shirvallah, it replaces your cat form. If you like to use Burning Seeds to become a Druid of the Flame (cindercat!), they do NOT work with Claws of Shirvallah. Burning Seeds replace the cat form appearance, and the Claws of Shirvallah do not register as a cat form to the Burning Seed effect.

So, that is all the sad bits. I can’t find it in me to complain though, because what I’m basically sad about is that Blizzard did not take the time to make this one Talent out of 12 for Druids a complete new character race. I mean, that is what we’re talking about, having different appearances for male and female, having special animations like /dance, etc. When put that way, it would have been awesome if they did it, but it’s pretty great that they did what they did.

Totally unrelated, but I do think that having female forms for all races, NPC or playable alike should be baseline, but I know that has been talked about often enough to walk away from it feeling like I have nothing of valuable to add to that conversation. It’s really hard to walk away from that topic, but it’s been addressed in the community so many times in the past and nothing has changed yet, so bah.

Now for the good stuff. And it’s really good.

The Talent tooltip for Claws of Shirvallah tell you about a 5% Versatility increase in the form. What that translates to is a flat +5% damage and healing boost, and incoming damage is reduced by 2.5%. Not bad, right? With our focus on high burst and long term free self-healing this is a great addition.

ClawsofShirvallah-text

The tooltip also mentions casting non-traditional cat spells. So far the spells that have made an immediate difference to me in PvE is the ability to Remove Corruption and pop Entangling Roots without dropping forms, both very nice.

What the tooltip doesn’t mention but that you can find when mousing over the buff in game is that you also get a +30% movement increase. That movement increase is from Claws of Shirvallah, and doesn’t include the +15% from the Feline Swiftness Talent.

ClawsofShirvallah-mouseovertooltip

No, I’m an idiot, I forgot to test whether the +30% and +15% from the two Talents are additive. I intend to do that later tonight. I will say that you feel damn speedy in Shirvallah form.

In my defense, I was having too much fun soloing Firelands to remember to stop and check speed differences with Talents enabled and disabled.

And yes, you CAN taste the 5% Versatility when soloing at-level mobs.

As a quick anecdotal test, I decided to go solo some of the Ironhide Bulls needed for the level 3 Barn leather traps. They are elites in Nagrand and can be a bit finicky to kill without kiting if you’re undergeared.

My Feral Druid was freshly minted, in less than iLevel 505 gear, and I did NOT bring a bodyguard from the Inn with me.

I did not kite, I did not pop any kind of defensive cooldown like Survival Instincts. All I did was test the effectiveness of standing and burning down using the standard DPS attacks, finishing moves, instant Healing Touch procs and Rejuvenation.

No problem. Burned the Ironhide Bulls down, dropped trap, and then endured the damage incoming while waiting for the trap to trigger. Burst damage in particular is amazing.

My next test was to take the same Druid into Firelands as i said above, to see what it was like to solo through there. I’ve done it as a ranged Hunter and Warlock many times, but not generally as melee DPS.

Firelands was AWESOME! Swipe and Maul on all the packs of adds, the massive speed buff, two temporary speed boosts with Dash and Stampeding Roar, all of it makes for insane trash clearing speeds. And energy regen is pretty good, too, even at low gear levels.

All in all, I’m scared. I hesitate to even begin to invest hope in my Druid again. it’s been so long, and so much pain. I’m afraid to be hurt again. What if I go all in on Feral once again, and they take all these toys away or nerf the heck out of it?

This is everything I ever liked as a Feral Druid, just without the versatile tanking bits, but hey, self-healing! Super fast playstyle and movement, hopping around like a lunatic toying with my prey.

So right now, my review of Claws of Shirvallah would be a cautiously optimistic 4 out of 5 stars. Feels fun as hell to play, looks great if you love super beefy guy cats, lots of good tools in the toolbox, effective in the field in multiple environments, whether legacy raiding or questing in the modern world. Only downsides are the lack of a female version of the form and a fleshed-out range of emotes.

Cautious because I feel like we need to whisper our love of anything in this game for fear we will draw attention to the supreme funcrushing overlords. maybe if I just whisper it?

Psst. hey, you. Feral Druid is 4 fite.

Claws of Shirvallah, in one sentence; unstoppable death on itty, bitty furry paws.