Bodyguards, Wild and Untamed

One of the things carried over from Warlords of Draenor is the concept of NPC bodyguards.

As your artifact missions unfold and you increase in levels, you unlock more followers.

Unlike Garrisons, the number of followers you have access to in Legion are much more limited. The cap at max level that you can possibly have active is only five.

What’s more, at least so far anyway my Hunter shows that there are only eight possible followers to find and unlock. Big change from Draenor, and it’s yet another indication of how Blizzard liked aspects of the Garrisons but wants to limit how much we have to micromanage now.

Five active followers means fewer of your champions can be out on a mission at any given time. There are troops that you can train up/hire that take the place of a follower/champion, but they’re just… troops. No name, no backstory, each one representing a small group of trackers or elementals or whatever.

One thing that hasn’t changed is that your followers have special abilities to counter mission objectives. Some of them also have special abilities that take effect when you assign one to be your combat ally in the Broken Isles.

They did this in a pretty neat way.

You might assume that when you assign a follower to be your combat ally, they would automatically be your bodyguard out in the world, just as they were in Draenor.

Instead, some of your followers when assigned give you a special spell/action you can use that has a cooldown.

Cassie is playing her Enhancement Shaman, and one of her followers when assigned gave her a pretty badass self heal.

For myself, I’m playing my Hunter and one of my followers, Emmarel Shadewarden, gives me an AoE attack if I assign her to be my combat ally.

emmarel

Emmarel’s Assault gives you an extra action button that is the AoE attack spell, and casting it summons her to your side, where she briefly engages your targeted enemy with her attack before vanishing into cooldown land.

Pretty damn neat, right?

Fear not, however, for there are traditional bodyguard followers to stand at your side through thick and thin as well.

Me, I was given the option of having the legendary hero Rexxar by my side.

Rexxar, at least in Legion, is a Survival Hunter with twin battle axes. He used to be a Beastmaster in lore until apparently he decided to switch specs like any flavor of the month player. But hey, he’s half Orc and half Ogre… so what can you expect, right? Next thing you know he’ll go from being the hero of the Barrens to talking smack in Barrens Chat.

rexxar

Still and all, if you have read your WoW lore, what wandering Pandaren if given the chance wouldn’t want to be escorted by Rexxar for an adventure or two?

Everything was great in the beginning. Rexxar does decent damage, pitches in on a fight, and didn’t even seem to aggro things when I snuck along in Camouflage.

Also, how badass is it to be a hunter with a Bear pet fighting side by side with Rexxar as he calls Misha to his aid? Huh? Huh? Fuck yes.

Then came the moment of truth when I realized this savage barbarian had worn out his welcome in my base camp.

I’m currently adventuring in the beautiful zone of Val’sharah, land of the Druids and ‘the closest thing to the Emerald Dream’s beauty we will find in the waking world.’

Lots of beautiful critters here, including some very nice owls and stags that my Beast Lore spell tells me are tamable.

I’m sure they are, too, if only I didn’t have this damn Survival Hunter noob by my side.

I dismiss my bear so I can tame a gorgeous stag, and guess what axe-wielding son-of-a-bitch not only attacks the stag, but apparently has a taunt so I can’t keep it’s attention for the tame?

The worse bit is, you can’t control your bodyguard. You can’t even dismiss him in disgust. All you can do is watch in horror as the miserable brute butchers a wonderful stag right there before your eyes, and then just looks at you like, “Wut? Lolumadbearbro?”

Oh, would you like to be able to tame creatures in the wild? Tough titty, then you don’t get a bodyguard. Bear up and solo it.

Or, well, play it smart.

You can dismiss your bodyguard, of course you can. You just have to carry your happy fur-covered butt back to Trueshot Lodge, which is the only place you can unassign your bodyguards from within the game.

Ah ah ah! There is another way, though. For the impatient among us, you can also assign and unassign Champions as bodyguards / combat allies directly from within the Blizzard Legion mobile app.

If you have an Android or Apple smart phone or tablet, you can log out of WoW, log into the app and unassign or reassign the follower there without having to make the trek back to your class hall.

legionapp1

This takes my level of dissatisfaction at Rexxar down a few notches.

The first time this happened, I got all cranky, hearthed, flew back to Trueshot Lodge, told Rexxar to GTFO and went back out to tame a pretty stag.

I felt like Oxhorn, I swear I did. Muttering to myself the entire flight back.

Ah, but my attitude has brightened up, now that I know I merely have to take a break logged out for a few minutes to make the change on the app and log back in to tame a new friend.

Ugh. Seriously, was it that hard to add in a ‘tell a bodyguard to go the fuck home’ button?

Still and all, Rexxar. Mah buddy. Yup. Me and him, we be mates.

abearandhisrexxar

Have you played around with one of your Champions as a bodyguard or with their spells if they give you an ability? Do you have a favorite Champion based on lore or what they can do for you?

All the classes get their own special class Champions, so I have no bloody idea who all the rest of you get to choose from. I bet some of them have to be pretty sweet, though.

Red Snappah, so tasty!

The Dreamgrove Comes Alive

I have some refreshing news, some wonderful warm wishes to share with everyone today.
This is pretty awesome.
I’m delighted to share the news that Phaelia, the former author of Resto4Life has returned both to World of Warcraft AND to blogging!
Before I ramble on about what Phaelia meant to me because who gives a toss what I think, let me tell you that her new blog and website can be found at The Dreamgrove.
How’s that for the ultimate Druid website name! She’s clearly providing all of us a place to come home to at last.
dreamgroveheader
Go ahead, go on, go visit her, I’ll still be here.
As those of you still around know all too well, I may be an old blogger but Phaelia is, alongside Big Red Kitty, one of the two spiritual parents of all WoW bloggers that have ever lifted finger to key to share our thoughts about the game.
phaeliaPhaelia and her website Resto4Life was, at least for me, one of the most treasured blogs and resource websites for Druids around. Always written from the heart with love and genuine warmth, just the memory of Resto4Life as a website brings a smile to my face.
It’s kinda like sitting down and thinking back to that one warm, sunny day where you took a blanket and a picnic basket to the beach, and the breeze was just right, and everybody actually had a good time, and nobody got sand packed up the crack of their bathing suit, and the sandwiches didn’t get wet before you ate them, and your kid had fun and didn’t step on a jellyfish or cut his foot on a sharp seashell.
You know, one of those few truly wonderful, heartwarming memories that remind you that the rest of the internet may be a shitshow but daggonit it’s not ALL like that.
She represented the best of us and made me feel that maybe, just maybe after a long day of Trade Chat there was still at least one ray of hope. One.
As many of you might remember, Phaelia announced she was retiring from blogging a while back due to the approaching birth of her son and her desire to spend some true, solid, focused time with her little one.
Shortly after that Blizzard added the perfect item to the game in her honor, Phaelia’s Vestments of the Sprouting Seed, an extremely appropriately well-named leather chestpiece.

While she’s been gone for a while now, I’m sure I’m not the only one that is going to be excited to see her return!

Phaelia, I’m delighted that you’re back, and to hear that you’re super enthusiastic to get back to writing. Or blogging. Or whatever the heck it is we do. I missed you.

Elune bless you and shine upon you that you may grow in light or darkness, no matter what the seasons may bring.

Welcome home.

Beastmaster No More!

When I first started World of Warcraft, this set the tone for everything that came after;

What is the first thing you see when you hit the 38 second mark?

A Hunter, out in the harsh winter wilderness, alone but for his bear friend and companion. From 38 seconds to 1:08, the Blizzard cinematic team introduced me to something I had never seen in gaming outside of tabletop role playing games; the concept of a Hunter and his pet adventuring together in a wild, crazy world.

Immediately after that, of course, was the Night Elf Druid, shapeshifting in the wild on the fly to race towards danger.

Funny thing is, up to that point, those two classes were the only two I ever preferred to play myself in AD&D. A Ranger with animal companion, or a shape-shifting Druid.

When it came time to play World of Warcraft for the first time, I had a hell of a time choosing which I’d play first. I’d play both of course, but which first?

In the end I chose a Druid, but it was a near run thing.

The cinematic helped cement in my imagination the idea that in World of Warcraft, a Beastmaster Hunter was about a Hunter and his (or her!) pet, alone against the world.

Survival was all about them traps, and Marksmanship was all about those stings, but Beastmaster was all about dat pet.

So I was Beastmaster. So it was, so it is, so it shall ever be.

Fast forward to the end of Warlords of Draenor and ten years of class changes slowly accreting around that core idea like the layers of a pearl.

I was vaguely dissatisfied with the whole damn thing, though I would have been hard put to explain why.

But with the Legion artifact quests it all came home to me; Beastmaster was no longer a duo, it was a symphony.

Nothing shows that better than an artifact that permanently gives you a second pet.

Over time, the Beastmaster class has changed from the idea of a Hunter and his single badass pet to more of a, well, a BEASTMASTER. Someone who is the master of all pets found in the wild.

This should not have come as a surprise. I mean, seriously, this was my generation after all;

The Beastmaster Hunter is pulled from the concept of the original movie; seeing through the eyes of an eagle, running fast as the panther, having tons of pets to do your bidding… not just one.

So it’s a perception issue for me. I’m not into a Beastmaster / literal master of all beasts (Ranger) class to play in the game.

Apparently, I’m more wanting my pet to be the Claude Rains to my Humphrey Bogart.

Oh come on, you know the reference.

You may be getting the idea that I’m having fun writing this post. It’s not everyone who gets to put together an article referencing both Vanilla WoW cinematics and Casablanca. This is why I don’t do this as a job; nobody would pay me to do this. And with good reason.

Believe it or not, there is a point to all this.

I chose Beastmaster to play as a part of a beautiful friendship, only to wake up ten years later with a Titanic weapon throbbing in my hands as part of a mènage á trois.

Queue the dancing bears!

Okay, so I didn’t want to do the Beastmaster artifact first. I didn’t WANT a permanent second pet. Heck, the gun and second pet was actually the least of it, especially after I found out at max level you can complete a special process that lets you have your spirit pet take on the outward shape of any other pet you’d like, so you’re not stuck with a wolf forever.

No, the core issue was all of my abilities summoned more pets, temporarily, to go after the enemy.

Over the years I loved the addition of each and every one of these cool spells / attacks.

I admit it. The scope that shot a woodchuck at the enemy was delightful in it’s place.

Taken all at once in their final form, in any given combat the legitimate question could be asked, “Hey, have you seen my pet around? Is he in there? I can’t tell amid the flying snakes, stampede of rhinos, flock of crows and various random environmental critters mobbing that poor murloc.”

“What, there’s a murloc in there?”

“Supposedly.”

I didn’t want to play a Beastmaster anymore. I just wanted it to be me, my weapon of choice, and my best friend.

This may be my favorite post ever. I’m just saying. Now I’m bringing in Walken bouncing off the walls. Heck yes!

So now what? I’ve identified the source of my problem; I don’t want an army of pets.

But I’m a Beastmaster, ten years strong. What the heck else could I possibly be?

I did queue the dancing bears earlier, right?

Survival is right out, because melee. A cute idea and I’ll certainly mess with it someday, but seriously. If I have issues about tons of pets, can you imagine how freaked I’d be if I played a Hunter without a ranged weapon? I mean seriously.

So this Marksmanship thing… like, what’s that all about man?

I heard you don’t even get to HAVE a pet if you go Marks, man. No pet? I gotta have a pet. I mean hunter, pet, that’s a thing, man.

markspet

That’s kind of a deal breaker.

I read all about it on Icy Veins.

And then I promptly switched to Marksmanship and I’ve never looked back. Not once.

See, here’s the thing. Before I can pick something, I have to know what I want.

I want to be a rugged individualist.

I want a pet, ONE pet, my bestest friend ever, because friendship is magic, damnit.

friendshipmagic

I’m getting to the point already, sheesh!

I want a weapon, a ranged weapon, that shoots projectiles. Maybe it shoots hot loads, hot magic loads, I don’t care but what I don’t want it to do is shoot squirrels, snakes or other assorted living creatures downrange because seriously WTF is up with that?

Is that really so much to ask?

From what I read on Icy Veins, yes, YES when you are in a raid or an instance Marskmanship is strongest when you’re running the Lone Wolf Talent without an active pet. So they recommend the whole no pet thing while running in groups.

Sue me, bitch.

It’s not mandatory. I mean, it’s not like I’m raiding. They don’t make you sign a waiver swearing you’ll never sneak out and quest with a pet, no not even that cute little foxy… fox… that you got in the Eastern Kingdoms two expansions ago.

For all non-raiding general questing have fun poking my nose into shit that doesn’t concern me, having Steady Focus and an active pet works just fine.

All my usual misdirection shenanigans are good to go, for example. Pets still get Talent specs like tank, they can still Growl, they’re still, ya’know, pets.

So if for example I went Marksmanship, and for Talents I took Steady Focus, Lock and Load, Posthaste, Patient Sniper, Binding Shot, Barrage and Trick Shot, what I’d end up with is a build that has me, my weapon that hastes me so I move faster, my tanky bear pet that I can misdirect Barrage to like a BADASS, and not a single other extra from Marlin Perkins’ Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom.

No, no link to that. There are some lengths I’m not willing to go for a sight gag.

“And now let’s watch as Jim goes down the river and wrestles a rhinoceros in heat. Be careful there, Jim. He looks horny!”

Oh, who the hell am I kidding.

Sorry about that pun. No, no I’m not.

So what I have now is a rotation something like this.

I have a misdirect macro to my pet, of course. So I’ll run up to a large group of monsters because Barrage and Multi-Shot so fuck it, pull ’em all, let Blizz sort ’em out.

I misdirect to my pet, often while in camouflage since it doesn’t break stealth, then Barrage a whole group to dump aggro into my bear.

Then I’ll pump a few multi-shots into the group until my Hunter’s Mark proc lights up the multi-shot and arcane shot icons, indicating my next casting of either spell will dump a Hunter’s Mark on all affected targets, setting them up for a big boom.

Then, with Hunter’s Mark on them, my Marked Shot icon lights up. This attack is both single target and multi-shot. However many targets you lit up with a Hunter’s Mark on your last shot, the Marked Shot attack will hit them all. So if you’re single targeting, then you’re doing Arcane Shot and Marked Shot. If you’re firing into a group, it’s Multi-shot and Marked Shot. It’s not rocket science here.

When Marked Shot goes off, it clears the Hunter’s Mark, BUT it applies a Vulnerable debuff that lets your ‘stand-in-one-place’ Aimed Shot do more damage.

And that sets you up for squeezing off two Aimed Shots before the Vulnerable wears off.

Once Vulnerable is gone from your target, return to misdirecting, Barraging, and multi-shot / arcane shotting until you get another Hunter’s Mark proc.

Really, that’s it.

The only real other change is your artifact has a powerful single target attack that you can cast whenever it’s up, but once you gain a few levels of artifact power you can choose an ability that lets the artifact attack directly apply the Vulnerable debuff. So no need to wait specifically for that whole ‘arcane shot lit up shoot it now Marked Shot now Aimed Shot Aimed Shot’ sequence.

Instead, you can Misdirect, Barrage, Windburst (the artifact ability), Aimed Shot, Aimed Shot, then Arcane Shot fillers until shits off cooldown or you get a Hunter’s Mark proc.

Now does that sound complicated?

No seriously, does Barrage, Windburst, Aimed Shot, Aimed Shot, Arcane Shot x3 to refill focus sound that bad of an opening sequence?

And wonder of wonders, it perfectly fulfills my desire to play as an adventurous wanderer making my way through the world, my rifle on my shoulder and my trusted companion by my side.

Come at me, world. Bring it.

beartrap4life

Artifacts of a Lost Age

Since the theme of the Legion expansion seems to be artifacts, let’s go with it.

The Marskmanship Hunter artifact is a bow, a really sweet looking weapon that has an ornamental quiver that appears on your back. It’s a really nice touch that I admire.

At least I would if I didn’t transmog the bow to look like the Wolfslayer Sniper Rifle.

Still, that’s not the point.

The point is I mentioned this really cool visual appearance to Cassie as I tried to convince her why she should give Marksmanship a try.

“It’s really cool, you’d love it on your Orc. The quiver is very attractive.”

She looks at me and replies, “I already have a quiver. It still has stacks of ammunition in it.”

… lolwut

Oh yeah. She does.

She still has in her bank inventory a quiver with stacks of ammunition.

It’s the Quickdraw Quiver, and it shows that once upon a time she crafted it herself.

quickdraw

You know, that’s pretty awesome. How many years has it been since we had quivers or ammo pouches? How long since you had guildies group up in front of Karazhan for serious raiding, only to inevitably have someone announce they needed a Warlock summon ready because they had to hearth to get ammo, they were out.

Or of course the reality of paying a Hunter, being in the middle of a guild raid boss fight and being reduced to smacking the boss in the ankles with your stick because you ran out of ammo mid-fight.

I suppose these days the equivalent is chain dying so much without repairs that your weapon is broken mid-fight?

“I may not be doing any dps, but at least I’m not afk like Frank, damnit!” <smack smack>

I stared at my wife for a moment in admiration for a moment, and she upped the ante by announcing she still had Ankhs, too.

I had her go through her bags. She has more obsolete dead gear, and suddenly I understand why she always complains about being out of bag space. Even after account wide transmog!

Ankhs, quivers and stacks of arrows, all sorts of cool “hey I forgot about those!” pieces of history.

It made me wonder… well frankly it made me wonder if it represented sweet sentimentality over a fun time in the game, or the tip of the hoarder iceberg.

But really, do you have a few items like that in  your bags or the bank, something that was a thing back in the day but is now so dead and dated that you can barely remember when they were live and used?

I know what I’ve got in that category…

My Rogue still has the Brazier of Invocation, the Extra-Dimensional Ghost Revealer and the users manual for the Brazier! All items long dead when they removed the Class Dungeon Set 2 epic gear questlines from the old world.

brazier-user-manual

I mean, how can you ever get rid of something that unique? Especially when you can use it to establish your old skool street cred for wearing that slick Rogue gear set that anyone with some time at the Darkmoon Faire can have now. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

kitty

Don’t those artifact weapons look awesome? Oh wait…

How about you? What do you have lurking in the dark, ghost-fart haunted recesses of your vault?

And is it there because it reminds you of wonderful times, or is it that you can’t bear to clean even a virtual room!

Summoners War – My Other Obsession

summonerswar2

Aside from World of Warcraft, the other game I’ve been obsessing about for the last 8 months or more is Summoners War, a tablet/mobile only free to play game.

I began playing this game in direct response to every other ‘free to play’ game I’ve ever tried. Basically, I got sick of every damn thing I ever tried to do in a F2P game being stuck behind paywalls, especially duration avoidance paywalls.

“Oh, do you want to do x quest? Well start it and check back in eight hours when it’s complete for your reward! Or complete it immediately for only 30 crystals! Oh, need crystals? You can buy 100 crystals for only $5.00 dollars!”

Um no. HELL no. LOLZ NO WTFDIAFBBQ.

I tried mobile F2P games. I did. The short list includes Transformers Earth Wars, Soul Seeker, Loot & Legends, Soul Hunters – Assassin’s Age, Star Wars Uprising, Transformers Battle Tactics, Marvel Contest of Champions, Star Wars Commander, Marvel Puzzle Quest, Puzzle & Dragons, Spirit Stones, Terra Battle, Marvel Avengers Academy, Puzzle Forge II, Slingshot Braves, Heroes of Dragon Age and Clash of Clans.

Of them all, only Marvel Puzzle Quest kept me coming back for a game that had some game in there without a truly horrendous paywall. The others were just a nightmare after a while. Granted, some are worse than others, but after the last one I almost quit entirely and settled on Solitaire.

FYI my son likes Cut The Rope. But there isn’t enough game there for me for long.

Then I did an internet search along the lines of ‘a mobile free2play game that doesn’t try to screw you out of a bazillion dollars every freaking day.’

Okay, the search may not have been phrased in quite that way.

Oh who am I kidding, of course it was.

What I came up with was Summoners War. It seemed to be a game that not only had a lot of folks saying it was a great game that allowed you to play extensively without having to pay, but the more I looked into it the more I found it has a massive online community. Wiki sites, Youtube videos, Twitch streams, Reddit, it’s a game with a ton of excited, engaged players writing about it…

And theorycrafting about it.

Ding ding ding!

What has WoW taught me?

If a game is good enough to attract a very large online presence that can find enough meat on the bones to develop thousands of fan written pages of theorycrafting suggestions, strategy guides, how to videos and leveling plans, then there is something there worth checking out.

So I tried it because hey, what have I got to lose?

I love this game. In fact I would love to give them money every month just to reward them for giving me a game I can play without feeling like I have to give them money.

Counter intuitive, I know.

Now don’t get me wrong. The game loves to pop up ads for their other games on the screen as you log in. It’s also how they notify you of new special events going on. They also frequently post ads for in game goodies you can buy when you transition from one part of the game to another. Not often enough to be annoying, just enough to remind you they would like some money.

But the difference here is you don’t have to watch out of game ads to do anything. You don’t actually have to buy anything.

No, I really mean it. I’ve been playing this thing for a pretty long time now. Every day. Hours a day sometimes depending on what content I’m doing.

If I’m farming Faimon Hell level 1 with my Dagora water element Warbear to shepherd low level monsters to get xp, you get mana and energy back at such a high rate that I have played, literally, for HOURS before I ran out of energy.

Other times, if I want to run a Hall of Magic dungeon repeatedly to farm a particular element to Awaken a monster to it’s final form, well I can blow through all of my current energy in about 20 minutes.

You randomly draw monsters from scrolls, and there are five grades (stars) of monsters that can spawn, with a max star ranking of 6. So of course the weakest monsters are one star, and the most powerful are the ‘natural five star’.

The common scrolls summon monsters from 1 to 3 stars in power, Mystic Scrolls can summon monsters that are guaranteed three stars or better, and there are Legendary Scrolls you can buy or earn through competing hard content that give you a four or five star on use.

But it’s not just a simple ‘buy our expensive scrolls to get good monsters’ thing as you’d expect.

In fact, if you apply yourself and do a little study and theorycraft monsters to accomplish specific tasks like clearing the very hardest levels of the Giants dungeon or the Dragons dungeon, what you find out is that there are some naturally occurring two and three star monsters that are some of the baddest mofos in the game, useful damn near anywhere.

That if you’re careful in your study, research a list of highly useful monsters for specific tasks, and know what to save to level up and what is safe to get rid of (feed) to other monsters to level them up or improve their skills you can go as far as you want in the game.

You can play every bloody thing in this entire game without ever spending a dime, and that is the truth.

But you have to accept that you’re in it for a long term game. It’s all about building the right monsters for the right goals and assembling a team composition that succeeds based on synergistic abilities modified by the custom runes that you equip to enhance aspects of abilities.

Yeah, it sounds like bullshit, but since I don’t raid anymore, this game scratches my theorycrafting itch.

For example, data research shows that up until the last patch at least the highest return on xp coupled with mana value in salable items and usable random monster drops as treasure came from killing Faimon level 1 in Hell difficulty, with one maxed out monster that can solo it carrying three other monsters that you’re leveling.

So I studied that dungeon, found that it was all fire monsters. Fire is vulnerable as hell to water based monsters, so I wanted a water based monster with a reliable self-heal that could deal sustained damage. A monster I could get myself instead of buying scrolls and praying for a lucky drop.

What I came up with was the water warbear Dagora.

The water warbear drops randomly from any of the Mount White Ragon dungeons, so early content you can do at low levels with a starter team. It’s a three star monster, but once leveled to 6 star and awakened and tricked out with Energy runes (mine is all energy +HP% runes so it boosts hit points as much as possible) it becomes a soloing badass. See, its special abilities are to do damage based on your max HP, heal yourself for 30% of your max HP pus get a defense buff for a few turns, and once every six turns be able to resurrect yourself if you die with 30% of your HP.

I mean, shit man. You just pound away at foes, automatically healing yourself periodically, and if you get a really bad run of luck and get bumped off, you self rez.

I’ve had a 100% success rate since I built Dagora at a very early point in the game, and being able to 100% solo Faimon Hell 1 means I can be carrying three other baby monsters for XP all day long AND getting other rewards like mana and monsters while I’m doing it.

So now I can level other stuff quick and reliably with goo energy rates of return. Suddenly, that opens up the rest of the game to seeking out specific monsters and leveling them up.

I ain’t saying you’d like it. I’m saying *I* like it. I find it endlessly enjoyable to have multiple monsters I’m leveling, teams for specific dungeon goals I’m building, strategies I’m trying out.

And now that I’ve built a big team of three star monsters, why, guess what? I am able to run higher level content that drops tons of resources, and that allows me to do stuff that awards tons of the premium in-game currency every week.

That lets me, for zero actual money, get in-game currency by the ton to buy the premium in game scrolls.

And that lets me do the GOOD summons, a lot, and heck if four star and five-star monsters don’t start showing up.

Some four star monsters are considered better than natural five stars simply because of their skills and where they are useful.

I’m at the point where I have a couple of natural five-star quality monsters, a BIG stable of really good natural four stars, I’ve leveled and upgraded a bunch of monsters to max 6 star badass quality. I’m able to 100% clear Giants B10 for sweet rewards, I get very good world boss kills every week, decent rank on world PvP, and I’m doing well enough in guild wars each week to have built tw five star monsters from guild rewards.

Oh, and did I mention that if your luck is just horrendous you have the options of saving low-level monsters that can be fused together to build higher rank monsters, some of which are must haves? Like the dark Ifrit, Veromos. He’s a badass used everywhere… and any free to play player with patience can plan which monsters you need to save to be able to eventually fuse him together.

I guess what I’d say to wrap up is, Summoners War is as massive a multiplayer game as WoW, with as rich and deep a gameplay mechanic as I have ever heard of, but with a level of entry that takes you as deep as you want to go.

It also has a ton of PVE if you want to do that and never play against other people. It has live one on one PVP, live multi-player raids at end game for three people to take on a Hydra, and weekly ranked guild battles, and on and on and on.

I also personally like the graphics. I find the design engaging. I love this natural 5 star dragon design for example (and no I do not have this dragon. It’s one of those rare maybe someday things like hens teeth).

summonerswar_zaiross

And finally, the thing that probably sells me on it the most. They have events all the time. Events with really sweet in-game rewards including their premium currency. If you play the damn game, they actually give you good stuff to encourage you to keep playing.

All I can figure is, they have figured out that if they hit a sweet spot and stay extremely active, with so many people playing they’re going to have a ton of whales supporting it.

Whatever it is, it’s amazing. There is always, ALWAYS something new to do, some new form of progression that feels like an attainable challenge that just takes time, patience and careful research.

One of my favorite things at this point eight or more months in is that I’ll be planning my next leveling / upgrading path for a goal based on what monsters I have or can fuse together, and halfway through it one of the great rewards I frequently get for being able to do hard stuff will drop a game changing monster that throws all my plans out the window because BADASS ALERT and now I want to change my strategy to accommodate the new monster.

Do you see? There isn’t just one way to achieve a goal. There isn’t even a best way to get there! There is your way, built on what monsters you have or can get or get from a drop or choose to farm, and how you gear them up with equippable runes.

Maybe someone else has a team to clear Dragons B10, but their team uses mostly four star monsters or even five stars, and yeah, you don’t have them and at early stages figure you never will.

But that’s okay, because if you search for Dragons B10 farm teams that can be built using easily obtained or farmed three star monsters or fused monsters like Veromos, why, that’s out there. Doable. Damn straight.

Like I said, I haven’t dropped money on the game. BUt I have a team I’ve built that has a 100% success rate at farming Giants B10, the highest level of the ten level Giants dungeon, which can drop some of the best grade runes as well as scrolls and other stuff.

For players just reading to see what I screwed up in describing this game, my Giants B10 auto 100% team is formed of Veromos as leader, with Ahman built as Violent with 100% crit rate, Belladeon not-Violent, Shannon and Bernard. Tried and true foundation of most starter teams for Giants B10, all six starred because I like to hit start on the run and go do other stuff, then glance down after a few minutes and see my rewards.

giantsb10

I had been working on a Dragons B10 team at the same time as building a Trial of Ascension 100th floor team at the same time, with Sigmarus, Veromos, Belladeon, Mikene and Ahman as my planned Dragons team, and Beretta, Veromos, Bernard, Belladeon and Spectra for a TOA 100 team. Just had Spectra drop for me last week, and I was super excited because I’d had the fire griffon once before but like a dumbass I fed it to a different monster because I didn’t understand how good its third ability really was. Once I started looking at Trial of Ascension I was seriously kicking myself for throwing away one of the most powerful monsters I could hope to have for it… because I didn’t know any better.🙂

I say those were the teams I was building… and both those teams would be viable and farmable or fusible for any player.

But then I opened some scrolls last night that I bought in the 750 gem/11 scroll premium pack (bought with event rewards and world boss winnings and your best buy for the gem price) and got three of the most powerful monsters in the game for those events, Chandra Verdehile and Hwa.

Damnit. Hwa with Verdehile are game changers useful damn near everywhere including pvp.

Welp. So there go those plans. Time to fall back and research some more. Because what those monsters can do can change my strategy from building a longevity and endure/outlast team that takes four minutes and replaces it with a speed kill team focusing on.. well, speed kills.

The long view.

Your mileage may vary. You may try it, and without a feeling of instant gratification or progression hate it with a passion. Or maybe you’ll see the massive amount of things that can be done that you simply can’t do yet until you’ve built the start of some good monsters and get overwhelmed.

But maybe you’ll try it and think, “Damn, here’s a game I can pop on my phone and play during breaks or anytime I’ve got 15 minutes to kill, and always have something to do, and always be improving just a little bit.”

A game that rewards careful planning, strategy and research.

And maybe you’ll look me up in-game as a friend, I’m Bigbearbutt. If you send me a friend invite, you’ll have access to use my monster once a day. It can farm Faimon Hell 1, so hey, you’ll have 1 run a day where you can let your other monsters be carried. It’s not much, but every little bit counts.

And be sure to say hi!

Unconventional Means

To start the Legion expansion, you have to pick what spec you’ll play as, since that determines your Artifact.

Once you reach 102, you can pick up a quest at your class order hall that sends you off to complete the story paths for the other two… should you wish to do so.

artifact-chains

Now, obviously the intent here is that you change your spec to the one for the new artifact, and try it out. Learn how to use it. That sort of thing. And it makes sense. Why stagnate? Why not try something new?

Scaling has been added to the Broken Isles quest zones, so no matter where you are your opponents will be around your level. The Artifact quests are no different. Whenever you choose to face them, they will remain around your level in difficulty.

Of course, we don’t know exactly how they’re coded to scale, do we? Are they level based only?

Do they care about iLevel, and will scale at 110 to ramp up to your new fancy raider iLevels? Do they compensate if you try to do them with, say, a different spec than intended and a leveled up Artifact already in your greedy little fingers?

Interesting questions.

I can tell you this. If you want to try to complete your other Artifacts using your primary favorite spec, don’t hesitate to give it a solid shot.

For my Hunter, I chose in Legion to go completely freaking crazy. For the first time in over ten years of playing Hunters, I chose something other than Beastmaster; I went Marksmanship.

Mayhap I’ll go over my reasons in a future blog post if anyone cares, but it’s not relevant to this discussion. What is, is that when I decided to go after the Beastmaster Artifact Titanstrike, I did so as a Marksmanship Hunter and wielding my spiffy artifact bow.

It was zero problem. In fact, having done the Hunter Titanstrike artifact quests in Beta as a Beastmaster, I’d say it was far easier this go around as a 106 Marks Hunter, and I attribute that completely to having a partially leveled artifact already in my possession. Also, when solo Marks I roll with my Bear pet out and proud and Misdirect to him frequently, so it’s not as if I was without a pet.

Okay, so DPS to DPS, fine. Big surprise there.

But what about DPS to something else?

Allow me to use as anecdotal evidence the strange case of the Cassie and the Enhancement Shaman.

My wife, who has hit 110 long before I did and as I write this is complaining that she still has two whole zones she hasn’t explored yet and the game has thrown a million new things at her since dinging 110 and is bitching about pacing, has completed all three of her Artifact stories.

Not leveling, just the stories.

And she did all three as… an Enhancement Shaman.

Yes. Yes she did.

No, I do not know what possesses someone to look at a healing Artifact story and think, “Meh, I’ll do it as Enhancement. How bad can it be.”

But she did.

She did the Elemental one first, and said it was fine, no problems at all.

The Restoration Shaman Artifact, she had the gall to complain that she almost dies once and it took a long time to finish as Enhance.

Really? Sigh.

But she did it, and I guess that proves something.

I’m not sure what. That if you’re really and truly crazy, you can find a way?

I mean love can find a way. That’s what I meant.

Still, I see it as inspiration. I still have yet to attempt the Hunter Survival Artifact.

Dare I try it as Marksmanship and see if it can be done by a ranged Hunter?

Yes. Yes, I think I shall.

Here goes nothing!

Updated on 9/18 – success!

They say a every pictures tells a story…

talonclaw

It turned out completing this on Marksmanship was easy, but gave me a few moments. I had to use Flare… wait, that’s on my bar, right? Oh yes, there it is!

And then they asked me to lay a trap, and quest completion required me to lay a trap. Oh shit, I don’t have traps! Am I going to have to switch specs to Survival just so I can get traps?

Nope.

The trap icon on the ground allowed me to interact with it directly, placing a trap just by clicking on it. Mission accomplished, panic averted.🙂

The spear Talonclaw is cool, and I am glad to have it. I definitely intend to try out the melee Hunter Survival spec at some point and see what it feels like.

Until then though, it’s Marksmanship Hunter and Guardian Druid all the way!

Artifact and Artifiction

We’ve barely started on our journey through this Warcraft expansion, but I’ve already developed a love / hate relationship with the artifacts.

 

The artifacts have class AND spec specific stories tied to them. Love it.

The artifacts give us something to build on throughout the expansion. Leveling them, expanding capabilities, becoming more powerful over time. Growing as we grow. Love it.

The artifacts give us new challenges to figure out and collect to unlock colors and styles. Love it.

The artifacts replace our weapons for the entire expansion. Hate it.

Sorry, it is what it is.

At this point I’ve done the artifact quests for the Frost Mage, Marksmanship Hunter, Guardian (tank) Druid, Outlaw Rogue and Retribution Paladin.

I loved them all. Each and every one was so much fun! I honestly don’t want to play through leveling so much as see ‘what awesome new and exclusive story will THIS share with me?’

Aside from the unique stories, the other thing I love is how each artifact spec story requires you to use various class specific abilities. In some cases, abilities I’ve never bothered having on my bar before because, hey, didn’t do anything to bosses in raids so why bother, amiright?

I’m not going to spoil any of the specifics, but let’s just say that there were a few times when I found myself at a loss until I remembered that the class or spec could do something.

The worst was definitely a challenge that I found impossible to overcome, until I remembered that Mages could, you know, Spellsteal. Once I tried that and stole a boss buff, OMG I felt like such a ditz.

I really like the way each one is designed to make you use abilities. I don’t know, but I’d imagine new players to a class that applied a level 100 token would experience it as a good training ground for the basics.

Frustrating as hell maybe, but then again maybe not.

The one class and spec I was least familiar with was the Outlaw Rogue. I mean shoot, they didn’t even exist before, so how COULD I be familiar with them?

And yet that was one of the easiest for me to complete, possibly because the spec was so new to me that I went through every ability, every optional Talent and figured out rotations and proc triggers before I went in. So I had it fresh in mind that I could Bribe humanoid NPCs. Protip; again, LOVED IT in the artifact mission.

But I hate the way artifacts clash with ALL of my transmogs.

It’s the one thing I wish were implemented differently.

Every character that has an artifact weapon has it transmogged to something else. Even my Druid has the fist weapons transmogged to better fit my favorite appearance like so;

bbb-legionmog

Not one single character uses the default artifact appearance.

I’m sure in time someone will unlock one of the alternate weapon appearances to something I like, but so far not yet.

But there is one artifact that takes it a different way, and I wish it were the standard.

Shocker, it’s the Druid.

The Druid artifact doesn’t just have a weapon appearance; it replaces your default form too.

And it’s marvelous.

bearform_bliss

This is so wonderful. He looks magnificent.

And, just like the other artifacts, there are different colors and appearances you can unlock!

This is the direction I wish all the other artifacts had gone. Not as a weapon, a trinket we carry, but as something that changes our appearance at a fundamental level to reflect the changes taking place from our choices and increasing growth.

If the artifacts changed every character appearance in terms of skin color, adding horns or other minor superficial modifications, applied glows or similar weapon enchant style effects, maybe added thorns and vines growing from or winding around/under skin, mecha skins, ice/faceted skin or fel/red/purple flames, hell you know exactly what I mean, right?

If that was done for all artifacts, then every player would have a truly innate difference in appearance from the artifact that implied how powerful YOU were becoming, a change that would still allow all transmog items including weapons to matter.

It’s the only thing about artifacts that I personally don’t like. I mean sure, the weapons themselves are badass, Ashbringer and Doomhammer, right? How can that not feel iconic and epic and engaging.

But I feel like if I’m the new wielder of Ashbringer, I have a responsibility to walk around, you know, wielding Ashbringer. Or the Doomhammer.

I don’t want to. I especially don’t want to be one of a dozen wielders of the Ashbringer in a raid.

It’s so cliche but it’s true, straight from Syndrome, once everyone wields Ashbringer, nobody does. Not really. They’re just cheap Holodeck replicas.

There can only ever be one real Ashbringer, and the five of us in this raid are just swinging a memory.

It recalls something I saw in the recent Marvel Secret Wars event, and was reflected again in Fantastic Four with the Council of Reeds. There were multiple Infinity Gauntlets, and maybe the intention was to up the feeling of godlike power but instead for me felt like it made Infinity Gauntlets a dime a dozen trinket. Having more than one cheapened the hell out of the impact.

It’s something that, again, helps limit my desire to hit max level. The single player artifact stories and questing are wonderful, but the suspension of disbelief gets stretched as more Ashbringers join an end game raid.

Druids have it going on. Artifact transmog doesn’t matter because your gear has never been displayed in forms, but now we do get a transmog. It’s called choosing various artifact themes and colors so your form feels a little more different, even beyond our normal hair color choices.

Can you imagine playing a Gnome mage that had as just one choice an artifact appearance that made you look like a mechagnome for mechanical Hunters? Or a leper Gnome for Warlocks?

Or a Dwarven Elemental Shaman that could have the stone Dwarf form appearance all the time, or fire or water for that matter?

I have one hope.

Just as I saw the farm in Pandaria and hoped that someday we’d see what became Garrisons in Draenor as the tech was developed, so too do I hope that once we retire our artifacts at the beginning of the next expansion we will get a new, expanded artifact system where we ourselves become imbued with the artifact power system and that we DO get to have dozens of skins or glows effects to seek out, apply and play with.

It could happen. Right?