Travels on the Timeless Isle

I hesitated to talk about the week so far, especially since I’ve been very fortunate. I was able to play, and I’ve succeeded at everything I set out to so.

I know that it’s nice to hear when a friend is very lucky, but if you’re stuck or frustrated, hearing someone else is having a great time doesn’t help.

I try to avoid “Oh wow look at how lucky I am!” posts, or “Ooh look at my new shiny loot!” announcements because, really, who cares? Did YOU get the loot? If not then grats, and then back to playing.

So why?

I’m going to talk about these first few days and how it’s been going, because I am the one who usually is in the middle of the loot cycle, the middle of the raid cycle, the outsider, the soloer, the alt gearing player or the pet battler.

I’m not the hardcore progression raider, and when I am having fun in the game, I’m paddling in the shallows and the ponds around the edges, not the flow of the mainstream. If you still hang around here, you probably know what I mean.

“I hear there is this awesome new raid, cool, but what is in this patch for ME?!”

First things first.

I do have my Legendary cloak.

It is on my Warlock, and I feel very fortunate to have it. I know I spent a lot of time on all of the preliminaries, but the end result is worth it.

The animation effect pops up frequently, and I love it. The DPS cloak reminds me of green-tinted Diablo Angel wings, and I really like seeing it.

Even better, the graphic spell effect appears even if the cloak is not displayed.

What that means is, if you have the cloak and don’t like your spell effect, you are in for a bad patch. You can’t turn it off. Also, being a Legendary, you cannot transmog your cloak to look like a different one. That doesn’t bother me, I never show cloaks, but if you do have a nice cloak transmog, prepare for disappointment.

I am very glad that I did a ton of exploring and wandering around the first night BEFORE I got the cloak.

I finally ended up at the top of a hill, high above the island, at the edge of a broken bridge. I looked across that gap, wondering how to reach that fascinating fortress on the other side.

I tried all sorts of different things, before getting distracted by a shiny looking treasure chest you reach by jumping across the tops of pillars. That was fun, I did it while mounted, and apparently my mounted speed was the perfect pace to jump/run/jump and boom, treasure!

The next day, I completed my 5000 timeless coins, enjoyed the storyline ending, and equipped my new Legendary Cloak. Shortly after arriving back on the isle, someone asked for more DPS to take down Ordos.
“I can do that now! Wahoo! But where to go?”

I didn’t ask anyone, and I didn’t request an invite. Instead, I assumed if I could get there, I could tag the boss too. And I remembered that broken bridge, and that mysterious fortress.

I made my way back up there, and once I reached the edge of that broken bridge and looked across, I was told my cloak activated something, and BOOM! Away I flew safely across the gap.

A short run, winding my way through the patrols of firey shaggy tauren and I was with the rest of the group, and able to fight Ordos with all the cool kids.

Just as if I were a special raider, too.

Ordos… what to say about Ordos. Lots of fire? The return of living bomb, and being blown up into the sky? I had put the standard parachute tinker on my new Legendary cloak by accident, and it came in extremely handy. It has a much shorter cooldown than the Goblin Glider, so I was able to use it to fall gently down multiple times in the fight rather than just one Glider shot. Plus, parachute goes straight down while the glider has forward momentum. When fighting Ordos on that tight little ledge, I’m thinking this is a good thing.

Still, fighting Ordos felt special. The fight itself was fairly simple, the tanks kited the boss out of the fire path when it got laid down, it was a massive DPS pile-on race, and the only other real thing was dealing with being blown up into the air by people with the living bomb that didn’t move away from you. It was quite simple, and less confusing than many world boss fights like Sha of Anger.

Fighting the four Celestials for that part of the quest. Sigh.

Not a fan, since in this first week, instead of cautious and planned groups my experience was more one of “zerg the boss, die and rez, zerg the boss, keep the streams of people coming.” I liked the fights themselves, the mechanics were a lot of fun once I get a group with a consistent tank and healer team, but I’d love to see them as a phased queue boss instead of the open world zerg it is now. I think the Celestials would have shone in that venue.

The island. Ah, the island.

I ran around and poked my nose into things. I bought keys and opened a few chests. I danced in the rigging of a pirate ship trying to reach the plunder hanging off the mast, and I rejoiced in having a mount that can race over open water.

I was, sadly, not a lone explorer in a new and facinating island paradise. I was indeed just one more faceless member of the unwashed horde that descended like locusts on this hidden land, intent to devour it’s secrets.

Still and all… pros and cons. Was it annoying to see dozens of people standing camping sole spawn points? Yes, but at least it wasn’t as bad as easter egg camping. Too much shit happening for a group of campers to bogart everything, and too many bosses you could share the tag on.

The new skulls to mark world bosses you can share tags on? They show on the minimap, and are a work of art.

Did you know they work on rare mobs elsewhere on Pandaria? True story! I was flying over Townlong Steppes last night, fighting tamers to level my Son of Animus for my Little Tommy all mechanical team, and I saw that familiar skull icon pop up on the minimap.

Sure as shit, there was a rare down there and I got the kill and goodies. As someone who NEVER farmed or found all the rares, this is a good thing and makes me even more excited to go back exploring the original Pandarian continent.

The tamer fights?

Ah, how sad we all are, amiright?

Let me be the first to sing this sad lament. Farmer Nishi has been buffed.

The Sunflower has a nuke, and uses it!

I had my leveling pet out, got a whack in, swapped in my Mirror Strider, and the Sunflower suddenly drops the bomb, uses a Solar beam nuke that CRIT, and in one shot my Mirror Strider was dead.

Of all the things that have happened in this patch, that was my one moment of literal jaw-dropping “WHAT THE FUCK WAS THAT!” shock. If I would have had coffee in my mouth at the time, my desk woulda been soaked.

It’s cool, just gotta plan accordingly, but that was a sign that some of the fights might be a teensy bit harder than before, and it took me a few hours to adapt.

After all, the Celestial Tournament is up, and this is the prime time in live to suddenly realize “OH SHIT I NEED THAT ONE PET AT 25 NAOW TO CHANGE MY TEAM”, and that is the least special moment to find out your pet leveling routine just got an axe to the wheel hub.

The Celestial Tournament.

Ah, yes.

Well, as you might have seen from my rush to trumpet my joy, I did defeat the Tournament on the first night of patch, and yes, I am just immature enough to run around EVERYWHERE with my new pet glowy tiger, with a Biscuit on it to be super-sized, AT ALL TIMES.

Because damnit, I worked hard for that, and almost everything I did was from my own strategies and pet team planning. I earned that kitty, and I’m proud of it. Plus, it’s so damn cute.

I did learn, in fighting in the Tournament, that I wish I had more than one Anubisath Idol. Or more than one nuking mechanical pet, in the case of Little Tommy. I have always relied on my Darkmoon Zeppelin and the Idol for heavy hitters, and when I put together my team to go after Yu’la, that shit didn’t cut it. I had the Flayer Youngling as a humanoid in there, and it was close to useless. Great avoidance, but splitting up the damage among a few slices meant nothing got through the green serpents’ armor/shield. It turns out I am weak in my Humanoid heavy hitting choices. But Pandaren Monk? That was a fine pet for Yu’la. That one worked well.

Of everything that has happened in the last few days, I couldn’t continue without talking about the epic BoA drops.

My friends at Blizzard, if any of you are reading, I want to go on record as saying thank you.

I know in the weeks and months to come, someone will surely begin to complain, or to have second thoughts.

I personally am truly grateful. It has been delightful to have drop after drop fall down that can be given to my alts, and there are SO MANY items that can drop that there is STILL more I wish I would see. It has caused excitement in leveling some abandoned characters, it has finally strengthened others I would have liked to do some Pandaren dailies with that just felt too miserable to contemplate (like my Shadow Priest), and in general has allowed us to get all of our alts to a point they can be comfortable running around in Pandaria without fear of dying every time any trash mob aggros on us. Quality of life in fighting on the farm has improved. Fatty Goat Steaks are no longer to be feared. Thank you.

Also, Cassie says they fall frequently enough she could build a healer offset. Damn.

Now, to the new raid.

Ah, the Raid on Orgrimmar.

I am the alternate (the dude on the bench) for Team Wanda, the Band of Misfits progression raid team, and last night I was tapped to join the team for our first foray into RoO normal 10 man.

We killed the first three bosses in about 2 hours (maybe a little less), and yes, I won some loot, and yes, I have quite a few thoughts about it.

The primary one being, “Holy crap it’s amazing to play in a raid with a well coordinated, smooth team of experts that get shit done and never, ever play the blame game. Ever.”

I think, considering the scope of the raid and how fun and different it is, I’ll talk about it in more detail in a follow on post. I know I do bearwalls, but this is getting a little bit much even for me.
So that being said, I’ll end this with one thought.

I may have been one more face in the crowd on the Timeless Isle, but somehow it never felt too crowded, and it never felt like I had run out of things to do or see or explore, and I never had to wait for someone else. I was free to find some trouble to get into all on my own, and considering the flood of players involved, that is simply amazing.

Well done, Blizzard. Well done.

Every Dog Has His Day

The next chapter of the World of Warcraft story is setting both ‘factions’, Horde and Alliance, to the task of invading Orgrimmar and slaying our own homegrown big bad, Garrosh.

We knew Garrosh from his days as an emo punk in Outlands, where we had to jolly him out of his funk and convince him that his dear old dad Grommash “Grom” Hellscream wasn’t really such a bad guy, for an orc that willingly drank the blood of a demon to gain the power to crush his foes, and inspired others to do the same.

Hold that thought.

Since those humble beginnings, we have seen Garrosh become the fiery hothead, rising as a trusted if impulsive hero in Northrend. One jarring note to his heroism, though, was the way he put his personal pride before duty to his people. When the threat of the Old Gods rose in Ulduar, it was Garrosh that refused to work together with any Alliance that held Varian Wrynn. All that lived might have been at risk of death and destruction, but Garrosh would not waver. He would rather die than join forces with Varian and the Alliance. Yes, even in the face of an Old God rising in Ulduar.

From this history, Garrosh has now risen as a fascist tyrant, expelling the ‘lesser’ races from his Horde.

It is his people that Garrosh sees as the only true Horde. The orcs are to be the masters, and all others are tools to serve his purpose, only to be cast aside once broken or useless to his needs.

To further his goal, he has even gone so far as to use the remains of an Old God to empower the orcs of the Horde.

Where his father drunk the blood of the demon Mannoroth to gain power for himself and his people, the son takes in the power of the Old Gods themselves.

When we were teaching Garrosh of the heroic history of his father, which was the lesson he learned?

Did he focus on what Thrall felt the heart of the story was, the redemption and freedom Grommash bought his people at the cost of his death, slaying Mannoroth?

Or did he instead focus on the goal of his father, the empowering of the Horde through supernatural means, and decide that the real problem was Grom chose the wrong source to gain his power from?

I know that there are ambivalent feelings concerning the story. First, once again we the players are not the core of the story driving it forward. We’re the bit players brought in to act for the protagonists. Also, the Alliance is not taking much of an active role in the story, we are merely helping out our new friends, the Trolls.

They’re not heavy, they be our bruddas.

It seems pretty reasonable to me. As horribly jarring as the bloodthirsty, impatient portrayal of Tyrande was in “A Little Patience”, the scenario went to great lengths to show Varian as a war leader who had finally learned to make a cold, clear assessment of what is best for his people, and act accordingly, putting personal feelings aside.

For the King we are introduced to in that scenario, and for the King who feels his incredible sorrow and rage at what happens to his son with the Divine Bell but manages to control his feelings, it makes sense.

For the Alliance, the smart thing is to seek allies, allow the Trolls and other cast-aside enemy races of the Horde to bear the brunt of the war, and be prepared to take advantage of how things play out, one way or another, without overcommitting his own people.

Will we see Varian the statesman emerge, ready to join with the Trolls and Tauren in the aftermath, help them rebuild? Extend the hand of friendship, help ease their pain?

Or will Varian take advantage of their moment of greatest weakness?

It doesn’t matter. This isn’t a story to highlight the personalities of the Alliance, we’ll see that when it’s all said and done in Orgrimmar.

This is all about the fracture within the Horde leadership, and what is driving it is the insecurity of the orcs within the Horde itself, es evidenced by the most insecure orc leader of them all, Garrosh.

When we the players stepped foot in Azeroth, the Horde were the underdogs, scratching out an existence and bound to each other for survival against the threat of the mighty Alliance who lay just over the horizon, ready to fall upon them in vast fleets and crush the life from their families, their children.

Each of the races of the Horde, individually, had to choose to hang together or surely they would fall apart.

The persecuted and the mongrels, yes. The unwanted, or the feared. But these underdogs weren’t laying down waiting for master to come and kick them. They were junkyard dogs ready to tear the throat out of anyone that came uninvited to their patch of dirt.

At the heart of this Horde, this band of misfits, were the orcs, a people who had been subjugated by the Burning Legion, uprooted from their homeland and dumped in a new world to slaughter and burn, and when the Burning Legion failed, were scattered and lost in Azeroth.

The remains of the fallen orcs were lost, on another world, without hope for the future, no chance to return home or ever know what became of families or kin. Existing without purpose or design, under the iron heel of the Alliance boot.

And then Thrall came, Thrall who had been a slave in the truest sense, treated not as an equal but as a dog that could be taught to do tricks and take scraps from the hand of the master.

Thrall proved that no man was his master, and his passion revived the orcs. He brought them hope, took them to a land they could try to make their own, with nothing but the strength in their backs and hope.

Hope that in this strange, alien world they could make a life for their families on their own terms, and be slaves to nobody and nothing ever again.

Not the Burning Legion, not the Alliance. Live free or die.

Look at where things have gone since that beginning.

Thrall took the Horde from being the underdogs, and made them a true equal with the Alliance. Equal enough to force a peace. One or the other faction may at times have held the upper hand in Alterac Valley, but in the end a balance was maintained.

Then Deathwing shattered the world, and Thrall left.

Thrall was a statesman. Passionate, full of grief and rage and loss, he still placed himself and his life in the service of the Horde as a collection of families, as a whole people, and directed his efforts towards safeguarding the future of these his adopted peoples and trying to accomodate all of their varied goals and needs.

When the world was threatened with destruction, Thrall left to do what he could, for if the world was destroyed so too would be the Horde. And sure, the Alliance too, so I guess he was saving them as well. But whatever, it’s not like he could only save the bits that he liked.

But what he did when he left was choose to place a fiery, passionate warrior in the position of Warchief of the Horde. He had others he trusted he could have chosen, but he chose a brother orc, one that was proven to be a hothead with a hatred for the Alliance who could inspire, and gave him an advisor with a cooler head to restrain his wilder impulses.

He chose someone that would never be satisfied with passive acceptance. He chose someone that would never sit idle under the watchful eye of the Alliance.

He chose someone that would push the Alliance, work to build stronger safeguards for the Horde, expand territory, protect borders, and lead with passion.

He chose someone to lead the Horde that was the exact opposite of what the orcs had been when interned in their concentration camps. Someone that would never, ever revert to that state once Thrall was gone.

Did Thrall choose Garrosh not because he trusted Garrosh more than the other leaders, but because he feared the effect passive leadership might have on his people? Does Thrall fear a return to the days of hopelessness and apathy?

Does Thrall, in his heart, think the orcs of Azeroth lack spirit and passion? Does he place greater faith in the passion and heart of the orcs who remained behind on Draenor?

Is that partly why he placed Garrosh in power as Warchief of the Horde, and found true love in an orc from Draenor who had never lived a life beyond the Dark Portal, lost and spiritless?

Thrall led the orcs of Azeroth, but did he fail, in his heart, to place his faith in them?

Now, the Horde have come full circle.

The Horde were founded by a band of refugees who formed alliances with a scattering of strong races, each outside of the human “Alliance”.

That has all changed. The orcs stand strong, proclaiming themselves as the only true Horde, full of pride and rage, determined to stand supreme, and their former allies are cast out and abused, treated as tools, nothing more.

Whatever else you may say about Garrosh, he has strengthed, inspired and expanded the orc empire in Kalimdor.

He has sought with an ever-growing frenzy to find some source of power to ensure the survival of the orcs and the Horde, a survival against a threat only Garrosh seems to see.

Has Garrosh done all this because he is still working from what he learned about the fate of his father?

Is the reason that Garrosh wants all of this power under his control, that he fears the one thing strong enough to kill his father, the return of the Burning Legion?

I wonder about why Garrosh is counting on all the armies of Azeroth coming to him, to kill him in Orgrimmar. Is he hoping to use the power of the Old Gods and his new allies to corrupt all the finest warriors of the world, place them under his command as the one who controls the Heart, and thereby prepare the planet for the arrival of the Burning Legion?

Or, maybe he’s just a crazy mo-fo, standing on top of the tallest hill in the junkyard, screaming at the world, “Come at me, bro!”