Out of the Mouths of, well, You Know

Blizzard was kind enough to send out some “Recruit a Friend” emails to long-time players recently, invites that allowed you to give someone else 30 days of full free gameplay, unrestricted, in World of Warcraft with Burning Crusade.

I was quite pleased to get one, because with this invite, you can give someone else the full experience, with trading, chat, grouping, all that sort of thing.

I created an account for my son, who is eight years old, and got his computer set up to play.

Today, he played, and I mean truly played, World of Warcraft for the first time. He’s dabbled on my account before, but this time he was on his own personal computer, and I was able to be online in the game at the same time.

He created a Draenei Warrior, tried that for a bit, and decided that the Rage mechanic sucks. Hey, I didn’t influence him at all.

Then he created a Dwarf Rogue, with flaming orange beard, and gave that a go.

Around about level 3, I flew down to the dwarven starter area in dragon form, and took him for a ride around the frosty dwarven homeland.

I brought him up the valley, and I let him get off the dragon and chase a little boy down, and purchase his own pet bunny rabbit. Cassie taught him how to make the pet bunny his friend, and bring him out into the world to hop around and follow him everywhere he goes.

I gave him some gold, taught him how to buy upgrades from the vendors, train skills, and then set him loose once again on the starting area. I’m in the same room with him as he plays, his computer is in my office.

He reached level 5 before the evening was done, and as we tucked him into bed, he had some very revealing things to say about the game. He had few preconceived ideas, nothing to get in the way of his imagination, he had played for a bit, but he knew nothing of what was possible or what limitations the game held. Everything was possible to him, or could be, and he had no way of knowing unless he asked.

This is what he asked us and told us as we tucked him into bed tonight;

“My pet bunny is level 1, does that mean I can teach him to do tricks, and level him up? Can I teach him to attack? That would be so cool!”

We explained that the cute little pets like the bunny don’t fight, or ever level up. They’re friends to travel with you, and they can never be hurt like your character can. But, we said, there is another class where you can have your own pet that fights with you, and that class is a Hunter. And you can have cats, and bears, and wolves, and when you get even more powerful, you can tame dinosaurs to be your pets!

“Can you have a moose as a pet?”

Sigh. No, I’m afraid you can’t have a moose, sweetie. Ghostcrawler promised us a moose, but we still don’t have one yet. I’m sorry.

“Oh.”

“Well, if I go in the water, can I have a shark for a pet?”

No, I’m afraid not. You’re right, that’s a brilliant idea, whoever would have come up with that idea when Vash’jir was released was a genius, but no, you can’t have a shark for a pet underwater. But Hunters CAN have your normal pets, and they will swim along with you and fight underwater just fine.

“Well, what about a goldfish?”

A goldfish? What, as a friend or as a pet that fights for you?

“A goldfish to fight with you! He could be in a fishbowl and everything.”

Okay, the goldfish would be in a fishbowl. I guess the fishbowl would protect him like armor, I can see that… How would he move around?

“The fishbowl would have legs! And the goldfish could charge forward in the fishbowl and attack things!”

O.o

Okay, Blizzard, here’s the deal.

I haven’t asked you for much, but this time, it’s for reals. I challenge you to match the imagination of a child.

We don’t have moose combat pets, and we don’t have water-combat pets like sharks, but this…. this you can do. You know you can do eet.

You can make an Engineering-crafted Goldfish Assault Bowl on little mechanical legs, with little external saw blade and arc-welder waldo arms. The goldfish, genetically enhanced of course, can ride inside the little fishbowl with his head sticking out the top to see, and drive the bowl into battle.

When I imagine a Gnome Hunter, that’s now what I’m seeing for his pet.

I beg of you, at least think about making a Bad Guy Gnome boss that is like this. You’ve got Gnomeregan, the Gnomes are going to truly assault that place and wrap that storyline up some day, give the players a boss that will truly scare the hell out of them with the horror of a gnome mind unleashed.

Failing that, you’ve got the engineering goggles, you’ve got all this awesome Hunter stuff built into the engineering profession… just let your mind run riot, man. Let the Hunter Engineers make their own combat pets.

Now, I know it may seem over the top, maybe you’d be tempted to let it go with something sensible, like a mechanical dino-raptor. Don’t give in. Unleash your inner Steve Martin. Be some wild and crazy guys and gals, and give us the Goldfish Assault Bowl. Something about it just sings in my head and won’t let go.

The only way this could be better, would be if some great artist like Tish Tosh Tesh* drew up some stylized sketch of it poised for action.

I can see it now, walking into BlizzCon wearing a shirt showing the crazed face of a goldfish driving this over-the-top goldfish bowl war machine, shit-eating grin on his (or her) fishy face, with the words “Hunter + Mad Science = I Don’t Know What It Is, But It’s Got Aggro” written around it.

I can see it, I swear I can. It’s right there. And someday, in some role playing game somewhere, I am going to USE that idea. See if I don’t.

Challenging assumptions, making impressions

I’ve attended a few raids now on my Hunter. My Druid is distracted by shinies, gathering non-combat pets and studying Archaeology on far-off planets, so my Hunter is getting all the raid face time.

I hope to improve my Druid to be raid ready someday, but it’s hard to prioritize when you’ve got one character already set and ready to go. I acquired epics while raiding with my guild, so I should put them to use in progression when they ask, isn’t that how it works?

What I want to talk about comes from who I am, and where this blog comes from.

I spend my free time doing what I find enjoyable. Playing World of Warcraft is a big part of my free time, and an integral part of my enjoyment in WoW is playing how I like to play. 

My blog is called the Big Bear Butt, and it began with my adventures as a feral Druid, because feral Druids weren’t cool so there was some stuff to talk about. Blizzard didn’t approve of us for serious things. Old ground, won’t go over it again, if you’re not sure what I mean, check out the Tier itemization for Druids in Molten Core. Those feral pieces are pretty awesome… oh wait, there weren’t any. Druids were supposed to stand back, shut up, and heal.

I didn’t play a feral Druid to be cool or fill a niche, or to be a rebel. Nobody wanted me and there was no support for me. What I did was in spite of the mechanics, not because of them. I played feral because I loved it. I loved transforming from a person to a sleek panther to chew the faces off my adversaries, I liked transforming into a massive bear to maul all those that would challenge my authority.

I especially liked figuring out ways to use what WAS implemented in the game, the gear and the mechanics, to work out how to come as close as possible to being a ‘real’ tank. I loved being a furry bear tank, plain and simple. It wasn’t pixelicious, it was a big old furry bear butt filling my screen, and it was great. The day when furry Bear tanks stormed Karazhan successfully was a wonderful day for me.

I thought that I could write a blog sharing some of the stuff I’d done so others with the same wacky mindset could have the same fun bear tanking and loving it. That’s all. I also like to rant and ramble a bit. 🙂

Blizzard has long since taken bear tanking mainstream, it’s a recognized aspect of the class, and they work hard at balancing the class function with other tanks. How well they succeed or not isn’t the point; the point is, bear tanks have gone mainstream, but even if Blizzard announced they really were serious about the Druids only allowed to heal thing, I’d still be a feral Druid. Nerf ’em to the ground, I’d be unhappy, but I’m not going to change my preference. I have played tree healing and like it, but that’s not why I roll or HOW I roll. It’s just a fun bonus.

All of this is a long winded way of saying that I play my Hunter as a Beastmaster because I love the concept of the Beastmaster. That concept was what drew me to the class, and it is my concept of the class, the things about it that excites my imagination, that are the reasons I keep loving it.

The core of my love for Beastmaster is that it is the spec that fulfills the dream I had at the beginning; you and your pet, together against the world, fighting side by side, each a valued team member.

Over the years, Beastmaster has undergone a lot of changes. Sometimes it has been weak, other times strong, most often right in the middle. During most of Wrath, it was pretty weak in raids in comparison to the other two specs.

A lot of people dutifully followed the DPS, looking for maximized raid performance. There were a lot of arguments back and forth, and valid points were made. Do you go on a raid with what is known to be a spec that does not perform as well as, or does not have the same potential as, another spec? If you do, regardless of how you are performing, if there is potential that is lost, aren’t you screwing the rest of the raid?

It’s a big discussion.

With my Hunter, I’m the same as with my Druid. If my blog wasn’t Big Bear Butt, it could have been “From BM with Love”. I am a Beastmaster. I’ve always been a Beastmaster, and I imagine I always will be.

I am also someone that likes to do the best I can with what I have when in groups with other people.

What that means is, if I have chosen to play as a Beastmaster to satisfy my own need for fun, and if I choose to bring the pet that I want to bring for my own fun, then that leaves me responsible to do everything else I can to drag the most performance out of Beastmaster when I’m grouped.

With that in mind, I read the wonderful BM Hunter thread at Elitist Jerks, where I was delighted as always to see that there are other freaks like me that love Beastmaster and are sticking with it. I used Zeherah’s Hunter DPS Analyzer (the online updated version of Shandara’s DPS Spreadsheet), I spent LOTS of time on Ask Mr. Robot disagreeing with optimizing results but studying the gear recommendations, and in general delved into all that study we love so much.

World of Warcraft. For some, a game. For others, a replacement for our doctoral thesis. You ever hear the joke, God invented whiskey to keep the Irish from ruling the world? Yeah, the modern version should read God created MMOs to keep geeks from ruling the world

Oh, what was my bone of contention with Ask Mr. Robot? Mr. Robot seems to think that Mastery as a stat comes far below everything else. Everything. I tried some tests, and I swear if there was Mastery on something, it wanted it gone. On the other hand, Elitist Jerks seemed to think that Mastery was somewhat on par with Haste, and a little below Crit. I’ve always been a fan of a teeny bit of balance, so having any gear with Mastery on it thrown out the ranking window felt, to me, to be twisting the recommendations a bit. Then again, I modified things my own way and I’m happy with it, and isn’t that JUST what we love to do? Read everything everybody else recommends, study up, analyze, and then in the end do our own damn thing regardless?

At least that’s better than MaxDPS.com, who still hasn’t bothered to update their BM or Marksman settings for Cataclysm. If I was a newly 85 Hunter and went by that, I’d assume Survival was the only possible way to go.

Well, so here I am. Raiding on a Beastmaster Hunter.

Beastmaster Hunters got shit on a lot in Wrath of the Lich King, in terms of raid performance and reputation. It seemed like every other tweak, Survival got top, then Marksman, then Survival again, but no matter which was the chosen one, BM got a rock. 

The trade off, I think, was the Exotic pets. It was like Blizzard was saying, if you get to have the Exotic pets, then you can’t expect to do good DPS too, otherwise why would anyone play anything else?

My answer to that, of course, is why design things so the only reason you play a spec is because that’s the one with the biggest numbers, or because you bribe them with pretty toys? You should play a spec because you like the playstyle or core concept first and foremost, not because you’re a numbers whore.

But fine, if that was the tradeoff, I took it quite happily. Spirit Beast Bears, and Devilsaurs, and Core Hounds, oh my.

I’ve done a few randoms with my pet Devilsaur in heroics in Cataclysm. You know what reception I get?

I’ve had more than a few BMlolz, Huntard lrn2MM, Moron, and, I’ll admit, a few “lol love the pet name” for AnnCoulter.

I don’t play for accolades from the pug group, but I’m quite happy that my DPS is consistently in the 16k range now, plus I’ve got my CC trapping and my Misdirection. It tends to shut up the “BMlolz” crap. Very few people continue to talk shit when their DPS is less than yours. There are still some, though, there are still some.

I’ve been to guild raids, and I don’t feel that my DPS is holding anyone back. My IGNORANCE may be holding the guild back, but not my DPS.

The most telling thing for me, though, is how often I hear the following after a run, both after guild raids and from random heroic pugs.

“Wow, I’m amazed at the DPS you can get out of BM, that’s amazing.”

It’s a nice thing to hear as a player, but I hate what it continues to say about Beastmaster.

Thanks to Wrath of the Lich King, a large portion of the player base has the assumption that BM damage inherently sucks, and even this late into Cataclysm, over 6 months now, the characterization is still going strong.

Most people do not want to bring a sub-optimal spec to raids, of course. If the perception is that BM is bad, then people won’t bother trying it. They’ll wait for Frostheim to tell them what his results are, and that will be that. Or read up about it on Elitist Jerks, of course.

Until something comes along to challenge the assumptions, the legacy of Wrath of the Lich King is going to linger like a bad cheese. If you don’t suck, people will be surprised. If you have a fancy pet, people will assume you don’t raid, or are on your off spec.

That’s pretty sad.

Me, I’m happy exactly where I am. Maybe my DPS would be higher if I was Marksman or Survival, but then again I probably wouldn’t handle the flow right and my DPS would drop. My own preconceptions would get in the way.

Maybe I’m screwing my buddies every time I zone into a raid as BM, and deny them an extra potential 500 DPS.

Maybe.

But I’m doing all right, and when the Firelands hit, I know that while everyone else is polishing their guns and bows, I’m gonna be hunting those 8 new exotic BM only pets, hunting them down and taming them, and having a wild old time.

Whatever assumptions other people make about BM, whatever impression people have of our DPS potential, whatever attitude people want to have about BMlolz, when it comes to awesome exotic pet fun, this expansion is OURS!

The time of the Beastmaster is come, and woe unto those that love cool pets that forsake it!

How Bear got his groove back

Last night, hold onto your bacon folks, last night Beartrap ran… a heroic instance!

Crazy, cats, simply craaaazy.

My first heroic instance since the expansion shipped!

Well, the first one I did where the group finished the run, and my first attempt to join one in over four months, so it still qualifies. I think.

What made me do something that out of character?

Why, having friends to play with, of course!

Beartrap the mighty hunter ventured forth, set to wage war in partnership with Hedwig and Matheo, because… well, because they felt like doing a heroic and asked me along.

What, you expected something more? Sorry, they wanted to play and I think I’m finally heroic ready, so I went with ’em.

Picture this, if you will. Beartrap the Beastmaster Hunter enters the random queue for a heroic with Matheo the Bear Tank and Hedwig the Healing Priest.

*I* get to follow along and watch a Bear Tank lead through a heroic. A heroic where two other players, NOT the tank or healer, are pugged in.

This has all the possibilities needed for postworthy drama, don’t it?

Where we ended up was Vortex Pinnacle.

I’d like to say that if other instances are anything like Vortex Pinnacle, I am going to have myself a mighty fun time in WoW from now on.

Vortex Pinnacle, under the talented paws of Matheo and with good healing from Hedwig, called to mind all the best memories I have of running heroic instances from both Burning Crusade AND Wrath of the Lich King.

Bold words, I know, but lemme explain.

When I think of Burning Crusade heroic instances at level, what memories do I call forth?

One thing that I loved was that the intelligent use of crowd control was not just an option, but an understood necessity. Not just that CC was needed, but that the group walked in KNOWING that it would be needed, and worked together accordingly.

I liked that because I felt more involved as part of the team when I went as DPS, that I had to be prepared to bring the Ice Trap skillz.

Likewise on having things that needed to be removed, such as curses. Having Static Cling on the final boss fight in Vortex Pinnacle, and needing it to be cleansed off so I could move again made me VERY aware of how much we needed Hedwig in the fight, and not just as a healbot.

I liked that feeling in Vortex Pinnacle. We had mobs marked for traps, I was given the go ahead to trap ’em, and boy howdy did I! We also had a tank that used Skulls and Xes and Squares to mark mobs, and I always love seeing that in a run.

Another thing I liked was the architecture provided plenty of opportunity for line of sight pulls, and they were taken advantage of. That was great fun as well.

There was tension, there were mobs off the aggro table running around as a free for all, there were interesting boss fights, it had it all.

But what it also had was the shortness of Wrath of the Lich King heroic instances.

Even with the CC and mechanics, and the hopping from tornado to tornado, it only took a half hour to complete the instance.

I loved how short Wrath of the Lich King instances were, but I felt that they achieved that by being straight line runs from group to group with little in the way of tactical variety. Charge in, AoE, burn fast, next group, rinse and repeat. The uber-heroics in ICC were an improvement, but groups had been trained out of how to play by that point. Why look, the unfun!

What we had last night had the complexity and teamwork requirements of Burning Crusade, the interesting variety and lessons learned from both expansions, and the quickness of Wrath of the Lich King.

There was just one more element that was needed for me to feel rejuvenated and eager to begin playing group content again, and I got it;

An entertaining conversation with friends over Ventrilo.

Nothing is more fun to me than chatting with friends about the fights AS you are doing them.

Where else do you get the opportunity for such awesomeness as saying, “Wow Mat, you almost bit it on that pull”, and having Hedwig reply, “Oh, I wasn’t really paying attention on healing him.”

When you’re having such a good time chatting that you forget how to play, you know you’re doing it right.

I know that the heroic instances have a reputation for being incredibly long, so I’m not assuming that a sample size of one represents anything.

Vortex Pinnacle may have been great, but heroic Deadmines, Shadowfang Keep or Zul’Aman may be three hour slugfests for all I know.

But that’s all right. What I know is, I had a lot of fun in a group last night, and I didn’t expect to see that happen again. Even if the other heroics suck in comparison, if the fun in group is there, if the great conversation with friends is there… why, we’ll have fun despite it all.

Oh yeah, and tank aggro with the changes to Swipe? Much, much smoother response time on grabbing large groups. Matheo reported enjoying life a lot more than before as a tank. 

Geez, if I keep having friends to play with, the next thing you know I’m going to transfer my Druid over and start tanking for groups again!

Of course, if I did that, then I’d have to start developing gear lists, and I’d have to work out the math on stat priorities…. on second thought, maybe I’d be better off taking a hammer to my hard drive now and just going fishing.

The urge to tank is strong with this one

Playing a Beastmaster Hunter is so much fun when you’re leveling.

Along with the normal joys of picking what you want your companion to look like, naming him or her, and getting to choose what buff you’d like to run with, you get to keep your eyes peeled for those ‘gotta catch em all’ rares to tame.

You long time PvP enthusiasts also know the joys of having so many control options you can easily lose track.

Of all the times that I’ve played a Hunter, I know I’ve never really scratched the surface.

I’ve never gone into PvP with a carefuly planned out spec or pet, or practised all those situational player control and escape techniques.

I’ve also never really tried to build a spec and use a pet as a tank for content that was specifically designed with tanks in mind.

Molten Core is on my mind lately. I have soloed it with my Fury Warrior, but my Hunter is climbing the levels. Can I solo it with her as well?

Can I solo it even easier?

I decided to begin working on answering that tanking question for myself. I’m sure other people can do it; other people can solo two Cataclysm raid bosses. Other people have crazy mad skills.

I’m not other people, I want to know if I can do it.

It turns out I’m in a wonderful place to begin.

I’m in Dragonblight.

For those fortunates among you that don’t know what Dragonblight is like from playing characters through there 10 times, Dragonblight is a zone in Northrend for characters around levels 73-75, and it is famous for having a lot of “Gather a group of friends and go kill wandering boss X” style quests.

Just off the top of my head, there are these group kill quests;

  • An emerald bird boss (that I wish I could tame)
  • A Wolvar Shaman you have to knock off surrounded by some friends that come when you call.
  • A Scarlet Crusade General in a cathedral of worshippers
  • Another Scarlet Crusade Captain (or some such) standing at the top of a lonely watchtower still under construction.
  • A massive behemoth named Kreug Oathbreaker that wanders around in the middle of undead territory and LOVES to fear attackers.
  • An entire chain of Magnataur wandering bosses to take down, 5 in all if I remember right, maybe 6.

 I think there are others in the zone as well, I’m just kinda blanking right now.

That’s a real great zone to start thinking about having your pet tank this stuff for you. I mean, really tank it.

What I did was set a baseline. I took my kitty pet, Munchkin, and went after the emerald bird boss. I remember that one as a particular bitch to solo without heals.

Birdbrain has over 100,000 health, and although we gave it a good run, I couldn’t keep the pet alive and get the birt below 25,000 health on my first try.

Remember, the goal wasn’t to keep trying in a myriad of ways to do it; the goal was to set a baseline. “Here’s where I am with a kitty pet.”

I then went to Petopia to browse unfamiliar territory; the Tenacity Pets category.

My first instinct, of course, is to have a Bear. I’ve run with Bear pets before, they’re lots of fun. Not since the new patch revamp, though.

What I looked for were the pet skills. If I was going with a pet for tanking of group content, I wanted skills that would aid the pets survivability or mitigation, not do more damage. It’s MY job to control my aggro and stay under the pet. The pet has to live for me to win.

Perusing the list of pet skills, I was struck by how, of all of the Tenacity pets, only Beetles, Turtles and Bears had an actual damage mitigation or avoidance skill. Bears have Demoralyzing Roar to reduce enemy damage output by 10% for 15 seconds (with a 10 second cooldown, effectively up all the time), while Beetles and Turtles have a 50% damage reduction lasting 12 seconds, with a 42 second cooldown (in BM spec).

Decisions. A Bear with an always-on 10% damage reduction, or a Beetle or Turtle with a 50% reduction for burst use?

I decided to come out of my shell and try a Turtle. 🙂

I originally trained a sand-colored Turtle on the western shores of Borean Tundra to test the Talent Spec out, and once I knew I kinda liked the spiky little guy, I went to Dustwallow Marsh, where I tamed a very attractive Grey Turtle, the ones with a coral hue to their shell trim.

I leveled the pet up a little (can’t wait for the patch to remove THAT pain in the butt) and then went to the same Emerald Birdie, to test my new pet out.

My BM spec stayed the same, I just specced the Turtle into increased Dodge, Armor, Health and Growl to improve health and happiness.

I also shut off Cower.

I don’t run with Cower on my kitty, because I’m switching targets on the run ALL the time and don’t ever feel I need the damage reduction. Cower slows your pet down a LOT.

I wanted the test to be fair. In actual boss tanking, I would have Cower on auto for that 40% damage reduction for 6 seconds at a 45 second cooldown (costs no Focus), and I’d trigger Shell Shield to fire immediately after instead of overlapping. 

Anyway, my test on the Emerald Birdie.

I’d like to build it up to something impressive, but I can’t. It was no contest. My new buddy Koopa the Turtle was still at 100% full health when the Big Green Bird died. 

I’ve also gone and taken down a few of the magnataurs, the Scarlet Crusade Captain up on top of his watchtower, that sort of thing. No worries.

My next test is going to be Kreug. I’m looking forward to working out a way to handle those fears. 🙂

I’m pretty impressed. I messed around with a Bear pet back in the old days, but it seems to me there wasn’t such a sharp difference in performance back then.

Now, with the pet Talent trees, Shell Shield, all these customization choices, it’s pretty sweet.

What next? Dare I go into Karazhan and Molten Core for reals, me and Koopa?

If soloing with a Hunter Pet is your thing, can you tell me what kind of challenges at the 85 level you’ve had fun working out?

Moving the story forward

Things are moving along nicely, my friends.

In the game, my Hunter is already level 74. Isn’t that crazy?

I have decided to set for myself a new goal. It’s a stupid goal, but it’s one that can’t be ground out, it’s pure luck; to forge a Legendary.

To that end, I’m going to solo Molten Core each week to shoot for either the Eye or the Bindings.

Considering how many times I ran that place in the old days without seeing any of them drop, ever, I’m not all that worried about not getting them.

It’s just fun to have that sense of “Maybe this time? Could be!”

I ran it on my Worgen Warrior this last weekend, and soloed everything in my blues and greens except for Ragnaros himself. Just couldn’t keep myself alive solo. I’m apparently a fail Warrior, I made it to the first submerge and the adds ate me. 😦

I had to ask Matheo to step in and heal me… and he said I really am a fail tank, he ran outta mana keeping me alive.

I told him that the reason was probably that I wasn’t in defense stance or tank gear… I was pure Fury Warrior spec and gear. /facepalm.

On the plus side, in one run I almost got all the Cores and Dark Iron I need to craft Sulfuras, and I got the bar and bought the recipe to craft it. My Warrior is a Blacksmith, so it’s fun to think that, no matter who ever eventually gets an Eye, I’ll be able to craft the hammer for it. 

I really wanted to craft one for Fal back in the day, and if I ever do see the Eye, I’ll be thinking of him when it happens.

What kind of impossible or long term goals do you set for yourself? Do you find having some kind of big goal helps keep you interested?

Or do you prefer not having something planned that would be like an itch you couldn’t scratch? Do you like being able to shut the game off and walk away without ever caring that you didn’t finish X goal in your game life?

On the personal side, I don’t have any announcements or anything, but Cassie and I are working on improving and editing Converging Forces, bringing it out of the very rough cut state and turning it into a novel. It’s going to take some more time, but I’m really very pleased with how far we’ve gone already. I’m also learning a lot about writing in the process, Cassie is teaching me a great deal.

She worries that I’m going to get defensive when she shows me things I’m doing wrong in my writing, but the fact is, I’m loving it. It’s wonderful to have someone that I love and trust looking at the story, and telling me “This part is good, but this phrase is unclear, I don’t know what this word is, and what you do to apostrophes is an offense against God and nature. Stop it.”

Seriously, its very positive for me.

The first thing I hear that she tells me is, “This part is good.” I don’t ignore that to obsess about what’s wrong. 

I hear what she’s telling me, that I have things I need to correct to improve my writing. I may have lots of bad writing habits to break, but the core of a story is in there. The most important thing I want to start with is a story that is going in an interesting direction, and characters that you come to care about. I can learn how to fix the rest.

Playing with the Big Leagues

As I continue leveling my Hunter on Azuremyst, it’s certainly giving me a perspective on the game I haven’t had before, or at least in a very long time.

My Hunter dinged level 60 last weekend, and with only a little messing with the Auction House, I had 1007 gold at the moment that little Achievement spam lit up.

That seemed pretty amazing to me, because I had that gold even after paying to learn all the recipes for Jewelcrafting and Mining up to the max levels you could reach before hitting 65.

More than that, though, was running and gunning through old Azeroth without a sugar daddy, or Heirlooms, or any other support except the emotional support I had from my new guildies.

That… and also the benefits of being in a high level guild.

I’ll touch on that again in a bit, but for now I wanted to say that once I hit Outlands, everything changed.

I do not like leveling in Outlands. Northrend will be bearable, but even so, too many alts too recently. Just, do not want.

I’ve reached the point where I have a system that has worked like clockwork to minimize my time in zones I hate.

I do 100% of Hellfire, which is usually good enough to reach level 63. I go to Zangarmarsh, and go directly to Orebor Harbor, where I do every quest that gives Kurenai rep. That should get me to Friendly, and once Friendly and 64 you can get a quest introducing you to the Kurenai in Nagrand. If I’m not quite 64 yet, I’ll go putz around in Terokkar Forest just long enough to ding, and then it’s back to get the Intro to Nagrand quest, and off to Nagrand.

From there, I milk Nagrand for all it’s worth. It’s the only zone in all of Outlands that I still like. In fact, I’ll find myself just hanging out there, tooling around and seeing the wonderful lush scenery.

Blizzard I think could benefit by taking a poll of players concerning our favorite zones… based not just on quest flow or story, but also on mood. On appearance. I’m sure I do NOT represent all or even most WoW players, but I much prefer playing in zones that feel comfortable and healthy. Zones that have a warm and inviting lighting scheme and a feeling of welcome.

Nagrand fits that bill, as does Un’goro Crater and Northern Stranglethorn. Even Duskwood, to a certain extent, is nice once in a while for that dark emo vibe. The wastelands and deserts and plague-ridden marshes, not so much. Again, that’s just me. I’m curious what the results of a poll like that would be.

Anyway, I hit Nagrand and take my time through it, and then it’s time for the tough choices. I’ve done Blades Edge, Netherstorm and Shadowmoon Valley too damn many times. No matter where I go, it’s gonna be a drag.

I think this time I might go to Shadowmoon as soon as I can, and see if I can grind a Drake. I haven’t done that on anyone except my Druid Main during the early days of BC. I haven’t walloped a peon with a Booterang in a long, long time.

Too long.

Getting back to my point, when I hit 60, everything changed.

I didn’t want to grind through Outlands or Northrend. So, I server transferred my 85 warrior over to Azuremyst. Along with him came… yeah, my Hunter Heirlooms. The shoulders, vest, bow, two daggers with Agi enchants, the works. That’s certainly sped things up.

I’m now level 65, and I’m in trouble, because Nagrand is starting to feel tiresome. If I lose my enthusiasm for Nagrand, that doesn’t bode well for any more alts in my future, yo.

Here’s the biggest strange change I’ve had in my playstyle, though.

The guild I’m in on Azuremyst, Band of Misfits, is a very large guild.

Like, large. They’ve got three 10-person raid teams on three different schedules. Some are more aggressive on the calendar than others, but all of them are very successful. The guild is a hair’s breadth away from dinging the last boss kill they need to get the Cata Raiding mount.

They’re also guild level 21. They might even be 22 by now, I was pretty sick last night.

I… I feel strange being in such a high level guild.

On the one hand, the rewards, even if you’re only Neutral on a level 1, are very helpful to you.

If you’re dead, your spirit moves it’s ass. That’s very nice. You’re hearth has a 15 minute cooldown. That’s pretty sweet. You get a bonus 10% XP gain, which I might have liked to have been able to turn off in the old Azeroth world, but that I’m loving now.

Even more… you get +10% to Reputation gains.

Therin probably lies the secret behind my relatively painless Exalted with both Stormwind and Darnassus.

Potentially cooler, if I get in a party somewhere with another guildie, we could summon each other to where we are. I haven’t tested it, maybe there are level limits preventing a guildie in Northrend from joining group with me and summoning my level 65 butt there, but hey… that’s still pretty cool. It’s not just for raiding.

So, lots of nice rewards just for being in the guild and leveling, right?

The thing is, I haven’t done anything to deserve any of these benefits. I still haven’t played with anyone in the guild, I’ve been leveling solo. Sure, someday I will, but not yet. And if I were to leave the guild before I reach 85 and run with them, I’ll have gotten something for nothing.

On the surface, it seems like a strange system.

It does make sense, of course. The benefits help a low level character level up faster, gain rep for rewards needed for raiding faster, and move where needed quicker so as to get in the groove with the other, long established guild members.

The neat stuff that doesn’t actually work to get you into the upper levels faster or help in raids like a quick run speed while dead, things like pets and mounts, require rep with the guild.

What it leaves me wondering, though, are two things.

First, if it’s divided amongst what gets you to the raiding level, and what is a fine but essentially useless perk, then why do the guild-only Heirlooms require guild rep? By the time my Hunter will be able to buy them, she won’t need them. Maybe they’re specifically for your alts in the guild, and alts only. But then why the built-in 10% XP bonus available without guild rep? It’s just wierd. But that’s cool, I can’t afford them anyway, I gotta save for fast flight.

The second thing is, it really does feel as if it’s been solidly thought out for raiding guilds to advance… but for leveling guilds, and friend and family guilds, I can’t really see why the system chokes the guild rep gain so badly based on level. 

I know intellectually that Blizzard has had comments published before, stating that the point is to be part of a large community. To be in big guilds, to take part in what makes the game “Massive”.

I get that.

I also know that there are plenty of folks that don’t WANT that.

What WoW has excelled at, for me, is being a cooperative game.

Sure, I’ve felt a huge thrill at big raids, at the Massive element. I still remember with fondness 40 person raids on Onyxia and Molten Core. Raids so big, in such an early age of the game, that it was nearly impossible to tell who was doing what, or in some cases… who to blame for that massive screw up that wiped the raid.

Moar dots? Whelps? Many whelps? DEAL WITH IT!

But to counterbalance that feeling is the more frequent pleasure of having a game world that you can play in cooperatively, just you and a few friends, or with the significant other in your life.

When you think of WoW, is your mental picture of the game about something that you play with huge gobs of people, is it a solo experience in a huge world, or is it a cooperative game?

For me, when I think of it, the draw has never been to play with gobs of people (gob = new word of the day. It pays to enrich your goofy word power.) It’s been to have a deep, rich, engaging game world to explore cooperatively with my friends and significant other.

Some programs Blizzard has implemented has seemed to reflect an understanding of that. Recruit-a-friend, for example. Come to glorious Azeroth, and bring a friend to play with you!

As much as I like the guild leveling concept, and the rewards are neat, and all that… it makes me sad to feel that the people who play the game in a purely cooperative way with a limited number of friends, friends who may have limited playtime, will never get the chance to experience those rewards.

Guild Levels have been out for a while. I imagine most folks have already made their decision. They’ve chosen to either stay with their small guild and accept no rewards because they don’t raid or play enough, or split and join a larger guild.

I don’t feel that I’ve made that decision, myself. I’ve still got my main characters in our small guild, just Cassie and I. These are new characters in a new land, and I’m doing what Blizzard seemed to want; meeting new people, developing new friendships. All that good stuff.

I’ve never been opposed to meeting new people, making new friends, or being part of a large group. It’s been a lot of fun. Blackbear the Warrior (no, really, I’m serious), Matheo, Hedwig and Crosshair all seem like really nice folks, and I’ve been getting to know some others as well.

I just think it’s unfortunate that when making your decision, it comes down to saying, “You don’t HAVE to join a big guild… but then again, we don’t HAVE to give smaller guilds any benefits, either.”

If this seems particularly unreadable… I am sicker than hell at the moment. It feels like my head is going to explode. And I’m holding crisis at work together as I write this in spurts, so I can’t just leave. I apologize for the blargh.

WoW is just so damn awesome!

I’ve been having just the most incredibly fun time on Azuremyst with my new alts.

Wait, how is that possible? I’ve been playing WoW for years and years and years. How can it still be fun? No, scratch that, how could it possibly be awesome?

Haven’t I heard? All the cool kids are sneering at WoW and going off to play other games that are newer and cooler and better and stuffs!

I had heard a bit of that going around, but I do strongly believe that attitude matters. If you walk around looking for an excuse to feel pissed off, seems to me it doesn’t take long to accomplish that goal.

I’ve never been what you could call pissed off at WoW. I’ve just been adrift, trying to find my center. My happy thought.

I can’t fly if I don’t have my happy thought, damn it.

Well, I’m flying now, baby. Figuratively.

The first thing I’m finding is that I really missed the challenge of being broke. Of being on my own without a big sugar daddy supporting my low level adventures.

I made a Death Knight on Azuremyst, but I got so into my Druid that I never leveled him to 60 to get flying. Just having too much fun, you know? I’m sure glad I didn’t now!

Having only the money that I make myself on low level characters by playing the auction house and gathering has added a degree of challenge that has been long missing, and I’m loving it.

Selling that stack of copper ore for 19 gold 24 silver really feels like I scored! It’s the little things.

The second thing I’m loving is I finally have a clear set of goals.

On my normal server, I’ve got 10 characters, and half the time when I log in, I’d be staring at the list, trying to figure out who to play. Too many characters, too many levels, too much damn history.

On Azuremyst, I’ve got a Fury Warrior that I retired as being too bloody easy to level (sorry, but he is), I’ve got my Feral Druid that is just a gas, and I’ve got this up and coming Hunter that I’m really rocking the place with.

Two characters I’m enjoying… and almost as though it’s a second chance to play the game for the very first time, I’m playing them… but I’m doing it up right this time.

My Druid was the first one to go down the road of “Hey, why don’t I…”.

They added this new (to me) kitty mount to Darnassus Rep a while back; the Striped Dawnsaber. I love that mount. I’ve lusted after it for a low level character ever since Cassie bought one for her Night Elf Druid when we started playing Mage/Druid together.

I never had a chance at that mount for any of MY Night Elf characters when leveling. By the time it was added, my Hunter had the Mammoth and my Druid had the chicken mount from Sethekk Halls.

Now, I can finally have that chance. Even better, mounts scale with your Riding skill, so I can have that land mount I love, and keep using it all the way to 85!

Adding to the fun, neither my Druid nor my Hunter are Night Elves. To get that mount… I need to get my Darnassus rep to Exalted. So if I really want that mount early enough to be fun… I gotta work for it.

What’s that, a challenge? Well, aw shucks.

Having that goal made the game even more interesting for the last week. After all, I have to find two different ways to get that rep, or I’ll burn out doing the same zone quests twice in a row.

I’ve almost nailed that challenge on BOTH.

What I did was, I went back to Teldrassil on my Worgen Druid, and played through all of the quests. I’m in the early stages of Ashenvale, and I’m already halfway through Revered with Darnassus. No problem.

Once I got to that point and knew that my Druid was right in the bullseye, I switched over to my Hunter.

My Human Hunter, having the advantage of Human rep bonuses, didn’t go to Teldrassil right away. Instead, after I got the Darnassus tabard, I started doing Stormwind related zones to get my Stormwind rep to Exalted.

I kept at it until I hit Exalted with Stormwind doing quests… and along the way, the shared rep with the Alliance factions got me 1 point away from Honored with everyone else. I also ran some random instances in PUGs, getting rep from the tabard.

By the time I entered Teldrassil on my Hunter, I was well on my way to Revered, and this evening I had barely set foot in Ashenvale when I dinged Exalted. I got it on my third quest in the zone.

Isn’t she pretty?

I really love the looks of that kitty.

Having this extra challenge I set for myself has really been great. It’s been so exciting to see what it would take to get there, without ruining the quests my Druid is doing.

Speaking of kitties, there was that other thing about my Hunter…

Cassie came through. Well, of course she did.

After one hellaciously long run at level 16 through Stranglethorn getting flight points along the way to Booty Bay and the boat to Ratchet, I made my way over land to that infamous den of mindless PvP, Crossroads.

There, Cassie summoned me a pet that I’ve been proud to have by my side ever since.

Say hello to… Moonshine. 🙂

It feels very rewarding to play the game this way. I’m not just questing through the zones, I’m using my knowledge of the game, of the zones, of how reputation works, of what rewards are available and what pets are where, to do what I would have loved to do when I first started playing the game years and years ago.

I have a level 31 Human Hunter riding a Darnassus cat with Echeyakee for a pet. It doesn’t get more gigglicious than that.

Yes, that’s a word now. Shush.

What I’m really looking forward to now are the quest zones I have yet to see.

My Hunter and Druid are both poised to quest in zones I’ve never set foot in since the Cataclysm.

Mu Hunter is heading to Hinterlands, and will do the Hinterlands – Western Plaguelands – Eastern Plaguelands – Badlands sequence. I understand that Badlands, in particular, rocks.

My Druid is going to finish out Ashenvale and move further on down Kalimdor, seeing how the land was sundered. I hope there is lots of fun for Alliance to have in Thousand Needles. South Barrens looks crazy!

Honestly, it’s a brave new world. I’ve limited my character options, removed the safety net of lots of max level characters, no longer have Cassie there to “run me through” something on her main if I just want to knock out a quick instance for quests, and have to earn every silver piece I get, for a given WoW value of “earn”.

It’s just like playing a brand new game… fresh and exciting. Except I, like… already know all the secrets and tricks and where everything can be found, and where resources are on the web.

As a side note, and I know this will seem very sudden to some people, but I can no longer be found in the guild Eff the Ineffable.

The folks there are wonderful folks who went out of their way to try and make me feel right at home, and I am very grateful to them for the invitation that brought me out of my Kael’thas shell to try something new. Please don’t believe that I have anything aganst them in any way. I don’t.

But a guild has to be a good fit for both the guild and the people in it, and while the people are great, their goals and mine within the game just aren’t the same.

I hadn’t realized going into it that they had formed the guild as a new place to make a solid go of raiding, and that there had been a lot of worry and sadness recently over what to do to get a guild of people focused on raiding. They are working very hard to get everything right, and from everything I’ve seen a re doing great.

I had been invited by nice folks I knew through Twitter, and I was very glad to go and spend time with friendly people, but in the end, the fact is I’m not a raider. That’s not my focus in the game. It’s not where my cheese is to be found.

I had lots of fun lurking in the guild chat channel… but I wasn’t a contributor to the success of the guild, and I knew that I never would be. I’d be that guy that dings 85, and then moves on to a new alt. Just when I could finally start pulling my weight in the guild and help them do what they want to be doing, I’d be moving on to another alt.  

I know that I could have stayed and been very welcome, and I’m sure nobody would have ever said anything to me about it… but I have to feel that if I am part of something, I am actually a contributing part of it. I have to feel I’m pulling my weight. 

It just wasn’t going to happen. That was, honestly, the single biggest reason I knew it wasn’t going to work out. I’d been thinking about it all week. I did have some minor issues with one person earlier in the day, but it had nothing whatsoever to do with my decision to leave. I’d been thinking about what I should do from the moment I read up about the guild and how it was formed, and realized they were a raiding guild, and meant it.

So, I said my goodbyes and left.

I’ve got some other friends on the server, I’ve been around long enough that I think I know someone on darn near every server in the US at this point. Hedwig and Matheo have invited me to hang out with Band of Misfits, a more casually-oriented guild on the server. They still raid, a LOT, word is they’ve got three raiding teams, and do so very well from what I understand… but from everything I’ve been told, it’s very casual friendly. I’ll be able to contribute to the guild by running light content in 5 person instances, and questing together with folks, or by being an occasional fill-in if someone needs a hand. That’s something I think I can handle. Plus, I won’t have that feeling that if I’m not raiding and helping the guild push through new content, that I’m not doing my part.

There are a lot of very, very nice people in Eff the Ineffable. They’re going to be pretty big stars on the raiding scene, because they have everything they need; a great GM, wonderful guild members, a mature, adult attitude and a determination to succeed. If raiding with good people is what you’re looking for, people who will actually come prepared, looking to succeed or get a punch to the crotch, then Effs’ the guild for you.

I owe the people of Eff the Ineffable a huge debt of gratitude. I may not be a raider at heart, but they brought me in and put me in a situation where I was able to rediscover all the things I love about WoW, and get my gaming groove back on.

When I get home from work now, I’m really looking forward to what I’m going to do when I log in. I’m thinking of the challenges ahead, and of what kind of neat stuff I can get up to in the world of Azeroth. That’s something that was missing for a while, and I knew I had to get an attitude adjustment to find it. I’m glad I’m back in the game.

If you’ve read this far, thank you all very much for your patience, and have a great week.

My own worst enemy

I was reading the latest post by Faeldray at Petaholics Anonymous, and enjoying it immensely, when it occured to me that I hadn’t mentioned one of the key things that had brought back some of my enthusiasm for WoW… and which was also one of the things that had originally killed some of my WoW fun.

And it all had to do with being a petaholic.

I think I mentioned it at the time, that when patch 4.0 came out right before Cataclysm was released, Cassie and I both rolled Human Hunters to enjoy the new quest revamps and changed world.

We also simultaneously rolled Horde characters, both Trolls, to try that new quest zone out and explore the flip side of the coin.

Well, we got ourselves up in level on our Hunters enough that I was struck by a funny thought.

“With both lowbie Horde in Barrens, and lowbie Human Hunters on Alliance, wouldn’t it be neat if our Trolls took turns completing the quest that summons Echeyakee the gorgeous White Lion, and let both Human Hunters tame him? We could be the only level 16s running around in Elwynn with white lions. That would be pretty cool.”

We did that thing. Both our Hunters journeyed to storied Northern Barrens, and we took turns summoning Echeyakee for each other.

I loved that cat. I quested through all of Westfall, Redridge, Duskthingieborezone and ALL of Stranglethorn with that cat on my new Hunter.

I really enjoyed the character in all ways.

But there’s a but. On this blog, how could there not be? A really big one.

When Cataclysm was finally released, it was my level 80 Hunter I leveled first. All the way to 85, and then ran things and got geared, and had a great time.

Along the way, leveling professions and all that jazz, doing the reputation chains… I had a hard time imagining ever leveling the second hunter, what with all of my other level 80s clamoring for leveling attention.

For a few months, the low level Hunter sat, untouched and alone.

I’ve long had every slot on Kael’thas filled, to the point that anything I want to make that is new is gonna end up with a level 50 something dying first.

I wanted to try a Goblin Warlock. I’d never leveled a Goblin yet, hadn’t seen the zone all the way through. Somebody had to go.

The Human Hunter, my only doubled class (except for my Troll Druid on the Horde side) was, logically, the one that had to go.

I deleted my Hunter, and in the process the cat I loved was gone.

After the Hunter was deleted, I realized that the white lion represented more to me than just a pretty pet. It was a constant reminder of a wonderful moment where Cassie and I worked together to accomplish something that had absolutely no effect on being more powerful, or better geared, or higher level… it was something we did just for fun and because we love playing Hunters and we love the looks of that cat, and it was something that was impossible for either of us to do without the other.

It took a week or so to really feel it, but killing that Hunter also killed a good bit of my enjoyment of the game itself.

Well, when I created a few new alts on Azuremyst, one of the things I’ve done is create a new Human Hunter. Different name, slightly different appearance, but in general the same character.

And Cassie, without my saying anything, surprised me this afternoon by telling me she created a Horde character on Azuremyst for the express purpose of leveling to the point that she can summon Echeyakee for me.

So, can lightning strike twice? Will I fall in love with a kitty all over again?

I think so.

I know people have some strong feelings that WoW has changed recently, that it’s no longer fun to play.

For myself, I can’t blame WoW. I blame myself, for bone-headed moves like deleting a character that had, in a short time, come to mean a lot to me.

Blizzard didn’t do that, I did. And if I hadn’t made the Goblin and acted sooner, Blizzard probably could have done something about getting the character back, kitty and all.

Has anyone else out there ever done something like that? Specifically, done something for practical reasons that you later really regretted for emotional reasons?

Hunters and Druids and Fun, oh my! redux

Thank you very much for the wonderful folks that all emailed in so fast to give me a copy of my lost post, which is included below. I dearly appreciate it. Thank you specifically to Mee, Gregory L, Beefeater, Grimmtooth the Great, Bhal the awesome, Adamonius, Darth Solo, Dan M, Steven W and Ben O, the fastest emailers out there.

Again, thank you all very much.

~~~~~

I got an email this morning from one of my favoritest friends in or out of the game, whose name shall remain undivulged because I want to use a cool sounding pseudonym for him. Something like “Deep Throat”, but without the… interesting connotations.

I think I’ll henceforth call him…. “The Admiral”.

Anyway, so The Admiral had sent me an email, and while reading it, I was inspired to write this here post. Because what The Admiral wrote me about was a friend of his that had lost interest in playing his Hunter after the mechanics changes, and instead had found a new love… playing a Druid.

Playing a Feral Druid in Cataclysm

I can completely understand the fascination with a Feral Druid. Especially right now, if you are fortunate enough to start in the ‘right’ zone.

I am playing two characters through the new level 80+ content, my Druid and my Hunter.

I chose, completely arbitrarily, to start my Druid in Vashj’ir, and my Hunter in Mount Hyjal. I didn’t really know anything going into it, intentionally.

I’ve completed both zones now, and in hindsight, I’m insanely happy I chose to set them apart that way.

In Vashj’ir, it’s a Druid’s wet dream. Ahem.

The advantage to both mechanics and feel of having a character with instant cast swimming form in Vashj’ir cannot be overstated.

I never, ever used the seahorse mount in Vashj’ir. There was no point. With the press of a button I instantly become a svelte beastie of destruction, powering through the depths.

Herbing? Let me talk to you about herbing.

I leveled to 525 Herbalism just swimming superfast routes in the last zone of Vashj’ir, swoop in, herb and swoop off. Lots of times, I’d aggro things on the way to the Herb and not care, because I could scarf up that herb and be off before they got to me. 

Being able to fly around and Herb without leaving form in normal zones is nice, but it just feels like awesome to the tenth power to do it in swimming form. As a Druid, the water environment isn’t your enemy, it’s your advantage.

Of course, it need not be reiterated how awesome Bear Bouncing on the sea floor is. 🙂

Vashj’ir just feels like a Druid dominated zone to me. The other classes may visit, but we own it.

I started messing around in Vashj’ir on my Enhancement Shaman, and while I love the look of the seahorsie, it’s just not the same. Not even close. What, I have to actually dismount to pick something up? Really?

How quaint.

The Hunter side of things.

On the flip side, my Hunter has finished Mount Hyjal, and had a wonderful time doing it.

When the massive class changes came out, I really didn’t play any of my level 80s.  left them alone in favor of new race/class combinations. My single biggest pleasure was leveling a new Human Hunter.

I know a lot of players are dissatisfied with the changes that were made to Hunter mechanics, but I’m not one of them.

I have only ever been a Beastmaster, so of course I can only speak from my limited experience with only one spec. Also, I never really was much of a raider, so the performance at the upper echelons is not something I am familiar with. Please, don’t take this as a “there’s nothing wrong with Hunters so shush” commentary, it’s a statement that ”there’s nothing but awesome for my particular style of gameplay, but your mileage may vary.”

For my Hunter, the single biggest change, to me, wasn’t shifting from Mana to Focus.

It was nice, since I was able to empty my bags of worthless pots and mana food, and I’d never, ever have to worry about forgetting to switch from Viper back to Hawk again. But it wasn’t the biggest change for me.

No, the biggest change was putting the timing of pet threat control directly in my hands, finally.

Kill Command is wonderful.

Before the changes to mechanics, when I sent in my pet to attack, Growl was on auto-cast. In the old days, it served as a Taunt, automatically placing the pet highest on the mob’s threat list when it was cast, just like every player tank Taunt ability. Then, the mechanic of pet Growl was changed to be a hugh threat generating ability, rather than a true Taunt.

I’m sure the idea was, take the power of Taunting off of tanks away from Hunters in random pugs.

How many times did you as a tank experience that? “Could you please take your pet off Growl, he’s taunting off of me. It’s annoying.”

So, a good change. But not the best change. It only went halfway for me.

My core issue with the pet Growl mechanic had always been, the power was taken out of your hands, and placed on an autocast with a cooldown timer, OR you had to leave it shut off and activate it manually. Either a full loaf, or none at all.

Then the new patch changed the mechanics of Kill Command for me.

Now, I can leave Growl on all the time on autocast. It generates high threat for my pet every time it activates, which helps my pet generate more threat than I do over the course of a fight.

But I ALSO have Kill Command at my control, and when I use it, my pet does one hellacious instant CHOMP on the enemy, right when I want him to.

I have yet to see my pet not immediately grab aggro from the mob away from me when I give the command to Kill. And I love it.

I find that, WITH Kill Command, I never, ever use Intimidation. It’s superfluous for my solo play. Kill Command is where it’s at for me.

I don’t even wait for the pet to get to the mob anymore. I use Kill Command and timing to manuever the mob to die where I want it to.

I shoot the mob at range to get it to move towards me, use my send pet/mark target macro to get the pet moving, timed to intercept the mob at the appropriate point, and then at the precise point I want the mob to stop dead in it’s tracks, I pop Kill Command.

The feeling of control over the battlefield this gives me is a pleasure all on it’s own. It’s an illusion, of course, I’m not really in control, mobs could respawn, others cold charge in, etc, but it feels like it.

Even better, my Ferocity pets all seem to have enough health to hold their own JUST FINE against 3 to 4 mobs.

I now use my pets to pave the way clear before me as I race to an objective. You know, like an ore node deep in a cave.

As I went Ore farming in Hyjal, there’s this one cave full of ogres that always seems to have tons of ore.

It’s bloody well infested with ogres, though. I’d say the best solution is to roll in some canisters of VX and drop a boulder over the entrance, but what the heck. I’ll go in. Why not? My pet is badass.

I take that cave at a dead run. 

I’d run in and send the pet after the first mob in front of me to eat some face. I’d keep going, leaving my pet behind, and as I approach the next mob, I’d send my pet after that one as well. My pet would leave the first mob behind and go heading after mob two, and once in range, boom, Kill Command. I’d just keep going.

Four mobs in, and my pet has brought all four mobs to me, I’ve never been hit more than two or three times, I mine the node unbothered by interruptions, and then turn around and help my pet burn all four down to the ground.

No muss, no fuss. Plenty of health to endure.  

Seriously, I’m having a blast. My Hunter is better than ever for me, specifically because I feel that, win or lose, I have all the tools I could possibly want to control the flow of the battle, and keep myself out of trouble.

And don’t even get me started on Trap Launchers and new pets and more pet slots!

Play at your own pace

The new zones I’ve played in, Vashj’ir and Hyjal, are great. They’re very immersive, and have wonderful variation in quests. I liked them both.

I know that folks have been very concerned with the phasing, and how it may affect future replayability on alts. There is a worry out there that, on alts trying to level through the content fast, or on multiple characters that you want different experiences with, that the having the content be phased and require 100% conpletion of the previous quest hub before being able to move to the next will force everyone to have to do everything, all the time.

I can see it, but only time will tell how I feel about it.

What I am enjoying is how much fun, and I’ll be honest, how cute some of the quests are, especially in Hyjal.

I’ve been taking the game at my own pace, exactly as I said I would, and as a result my Druid is barely level 83, my Hunter is level 82, and both are at 0% in Deepholm.

Both are maxed at their gathering professions, but I am taking my time and enjoying the questing.

When I got to the forest fire part of Hyjal, being sent out to save bunnies and squirrels, I was delighted. But those little bastards can MOVE, man.

Then I got to go rescue three Fawns from the flames, and escort them back.

Tell you the truth?

I rescued more Fawns than I had to. And I didn’t revive a Fawn and then mount up and fly like hell back, forcing the little fawn to run like hell through fire to keep up, either. I carefully planned routes to keep the poor little woodland creature out of the fire and away from danger.

I really enjoyed that quest.

Then I encountered the Chuck A Bear quest.

Look, can I take a moment to ask wtf Blizzard is trying to say about me?

First, I run into the ‘go gather bear brains’ quest in Duskwood. Go out, kill bears, and bring back their brains.

Okay, that’s insulting, but then you loot a bear skull, and the tagline says, “This was a bear of very little brain.”

Now they’re sending me up in trees to throw bear cubs at a trampoline. I’m sure it’s perfectly safe.

I’m beginning to detect a trend. Ahem.

Okay, I’m just jealous, I’ll admit it. I wish the type of bear you were sent to kill to harvest brains in Duskwood also dropped flanks of big bear butt, just to make it clear who the bear of very little brain happened to be. That would make me very happy. 🙂

My point is, I’m taking my time, reading the quest text, and in some cases, I’m simply role playing my way through the quests. I’m not going for number of quests completed in the shortest time, I’m having fun at my own pace and enjoying the game. 

Along the way, I’m having a blast. It’s such a great game, and if there is fault, it’s simply that there is so MUCH I want to do, and I want to do it all right now.

Am I the only one?

How about you? Are you really enjoying the content of the game, exploring the world and the stories within it, taking your time?

Or are you really excited about reaching max level, getting geared up and taking on the end game group challenges together with your guild or your friends?

Or is it somewhere in between?