Wednesday, December 15, 2010

I dinged 85 and went straight to Naxx

So, I reached 85 the other night. The first thing I did was to train my new mage toy, the godsend Time Warp. Of course. But do you know what I did next?

I went straight to Naxxramas. Yes, the same old pyramid that has been hanging over Northrend the last two years. It hasn’t’ been tweaked or upgraded, there isn’t any new surprise boss in there. And yet, there I found myself at a date with Patchwerk.

How come? Well, it turned out that it was the weekly raid quest. And you might not be aware of it, but that quest gives a decent 138 justice points for just a couple of minutes of effort. Not bad for a point- and gear-thirsty freshly dinged 85. It felt weird to say the least, and in a couple of weeks I don’t think it would be worth it. But as it is now, it’s not bad. After all a normal LFD dungeon only gives you half of it.

Talking about patchwork, with an “o”, that is what this post will be: some random observations about Cataclysm that I wanted to share before I take a break from Azeroth for a couple of weeks.

Item level – the new Gearscore?
There have been a couple of things that have been bubbling around in my mind. One is the issue of Item level. I’ve never been obsessing over Gearscore before, but I find myself way more interested in the average item level number that Blizzard provides you with in game. I learned that I needed to reach 329 to be let into a heroic instance and suddenly that became a goal per se. I looked for whatever upgrade I could get – through justice points or at AH and then I equipped it and waited eagerly to see if my average level had raised enough to reach the magical number. “Oh, noes, only 328, bugger! I need something more”

I wouldn’t go as far as to equip a completely irrelevant, useless item just because it has a higher level number, in order to play tricks on the system. But can certainly see the temptation.

I wonder if this development is for the good. We’ve discussed the pros and cons of Gearscore to death, and I’ve heard several commenters saying that you certainly need a simple evaluation tool, but that Gearscore is too dumb to make the work properly. In its place they recommend more advanced addons such as Elitist group. However, with the arrival and emphasis on item level, Blizzard might take us in a different direction. It’s way dumber for sorting purposes than Gearscore, since it doesn’t say anything about the usefulness of the gear or whether you’ve done anything about it, using enchants or gems. However, I’ve already seen it in practice as someone was announcing in /2, looking for a group to make some dungeon achievements. The requirement to join the group was to have an average gear level of 340 or more. It remains to see if this was a unique event or a beginning of an unfortunate trend.

A Very Manly Staff
While we’re talking about gear I have to mention the Very Manly Staff that I got from the new ring of blood-quest in Twilight Highlands. I’ve had a lot of weapons over the years, and I don’t remember anything about most of them. They all look the same to me; there are only so many ways you can design a gnome dagger. But this weapon will no doubt become one of those that stick in my memory. It can’t be missed.

For one thing, it’s huge. Especially on a gnome. I’ve always thought that my mage has some kind of back problem, since she’s sort of crouching as she runs. Now I know why. I would have that too if I was supposed to carry around such a burden. Oversized? Yep, you bet.

The second feature is that it moves. It’s got some kind of mechanism with spikes that randomly are folded in and out for no apparent reason.

And then there’s this name. Very Manly Staff. I don’t know exactly what it is in it that makes it so manly, but I suspect that the devs just wanted to bring the e-peen measuring to a new level with a wry smile. So far I haven’t noticed any beard growth or other changes to Larísa. Well, apart from that bad back then.

Just looking at the staff makes me a little giddy. There’s something irresistible about a pink pigtailed gnome running around with a Very Manly Staff, as if she was showing the finger to players who think that only a Big Bad Guy can kill a Big Bad Monster. Or carry a Very Manly Staff.

Painful quest
If you think about getting it for yourself, I recommend you strongly to not try it at anywhere near peak time on your server. I’m on a PvE server myself, but the competition around the quest giver, buried under a mountain of mounted players, was so fierce that it felt more like PvP. Some players amused themselves (or was stupid enough to not know better) by snatching the target from other groups who just had started the event. This resulted in repeatedly failed quests and prolonged waiting times – for everyone. If people would just have queued up nicely and taken the quests in order, it would have gone ten times quicker. But WoW players just don’t do that, unless they’re technically forced into a queue like when they’re logging in.

So to put it shortly: this quest is currently a pain in the ass unless you do it at 6 am in the morning. And I think Blizzard should think it over, if they couldn’t put it up somehow differently, through phasing, instancing or some other solution.

Raiding 5-mans
And a final note: I’ve dipped my toe into my first heroic dungeon. It felt like a raid. A raid where I’m constantly active – sheeping, throwing orbs, putting up rings of frost, counterspelling, decursing, you name it.

It was long time since it was as fun to play a mage. I lost count on how many corpse runs I did. But I did them with a smile.

Edit: Tarnop pointed out in a comment that the Manly staff probably is named after a player in Elitist Jerks called - yes, you guessed it - Manly! If you check out his armory he's currently wearing it, even though I don't doubt that it soon will be upgraded. Thanks for the heads-up!


NaturalGamerGirl said...

I thought the same thing about Item Level when it was put in. I guess I have mixed feelings on the whole GS/Ilevel issue. Sometimes it is used by players who just want to steamroll something, hoping that better geared players will be more powerful. Sometimes it is used to filter out inexperienced players who might volunteer, but are clearly not ready for the content. Either way, it never reflects the players ability and has limited effectiveness.

The one thing I do like about it is that you know exactly where you stand as you try to gear up for heroics. I had quite a few alts that, at 80, had to play trial-and-error, swapping gear around and seeing if I queue for a random heroic with my guildies.

SpiritusRex said...

Gratz on 85! Still a little behind you, but almost there myself. I think, like most things, that the GS/ilevel is conceptually a good idea. However, what we are dealing with is a bunch of gamers. As such, the worst thing to do for gamers is to give them an incentive to "game" the system. Fortunately, I only think the GS/ilevel issue will only become a problem in PuGs - where too many problems happen anyways. Enjoy your time off.

spinksville said...

Congrats on 85 and the heroic :) Enjoy! It feels a bit to me as though this expansion was designed around ranged CC classes.

Anonymous said...

One of the people I was doing the quest with thought it would be funny to flag himself PvP and stand directly next to the quest mob. It resulted in some incredibly funny and fun PvP action on our normally PvE server. We'd clear the field of Alliance, run through one or two bosses, then they'd come surging back in and wipe us while we were killing something, so we'd have to res and come back and wait for them to be half-dead. We all got out of phase with one another, so we ended up killing the same bosses multiple times.

Every caster and healer in my guild has that Very Manly Staff. I, too, ponder just what it is that makes it so manly.

35yards said...

The whole item level thing has been kind of bizarre, even the fact they are now listing it on every gear you see. As I've been leveling my shaman, I can't help but have the urge to upgrade according to item level and then realized how poor the statistics on the item are. Even on my now-80 hunter it seems I can't get into any of the Icecrown instances because my item level isn't high enough.

I think it's a poor way of filtering out undergeared people because sometimes they can perform just as well as others. In fact, perhaps these people have the most to gain from the rewards of running these instances. Blizzard's method of quantifying expertise in content boggles my mind sometimes.

Congratulations on 85!


Weatherlight said...

It was strange no DE'ing some greens just because they had higher ilvl than my current, better itemized, gear just because they were a few ilvl higher. I suppose that will be a 1 month issue as soon every main will get to 85 and start choosing gear for its real value and not its ilvl. As for PUGs and GS it would be the same as it was since GS came out.

Enjoy your time-out.

Iapetes said...

You can buy items that you'd never wear and just keep them in your bags to raise your ilvl. That's what I did, there was no way I was going to rely on random drops to gain a few ilvls in gear on boring normal mode dungeons.

Oestrus said...

Just to clarify, you only need an iLevel of 329 to queue for Heroics in the Dungeon Finder.

If you form a group on your own, say with guildies and you physically fly/walk yourself into the instance, you don't need that iLevel to walk in. The instance portal will still let you in just fine.

I confirmed this with several sources on Twitter and other bloggers that I relate to and trust.

I agree that the issue of iLevel is sort of controversial right now and I'm not a fan of it - particularly when I hear horror stories of people stuffing their bags with loot that they can't use to sneak past the iLevel rating.

I guess I don't mind being judged on the gear that I'm currently wearing, but I don't feel that anything in my bank/bags should be included in the process.

Wait, did I just say I don't mind being judged, based on my iLevel? *shudder*


Carra said...

Ah yes, did the quest at 00:15 at night. Figured we would be alone. Guess twice, about 3 other groups were constantly trying to do the quest.

As for heroics. I had some fun dps'ing and tanking a few. They're quite the challenge at the moment. Although the last run both the tank & healer were already in an almost complete ilvl 346 blue set. Where to people get all the time to do that?

And of course having an ilvl 329 does not mean that you are competent. One group had a paladin DPS who attacked from the front which made him eat cleave after cleave. Even after I told him to attack from behind.

Redbeard said...

Congrats on 85, Larisa!

I've a feeling that by the time I get to L85, the Raid of the Week will be switched over to something else. Just a hunch, however.

Saga said...

We did our first Heroic tonight (having waited for some stragglers to get those last points of item level) and I agree that it feels a bit like a mini-raid.

You actually wipe on bosses until you get the tactics down. On some bosses at least. Some you wipe on more than others. It was fun, and frustrating all at the same time :)

Perdissa said...

Just tried heroic throne of the tides last night. It's supposed to be one of the easier heroics, but I need to admit we wiped like crazy, even with my guild group where everyone more or less know what s/he's doing.

Partially I suppose it's because several of us are still undergeared, with 1 or 2 greens and lower level blues. (I can confirm that you can bypass the 329lvl requirement if you go to the zone and summon)

Overall, I think it was fun, but took a bit too long for a fairly experienced group. To be fair, it will probably take a lot less time if we run the same instance again. But I shudder to think what will happen to less experienced groups.

Talarian said...

Even on semi-experienced groups I've been taking about 1.5 to 2 hours to run a heroic (and we're talking only 5 or 6 wipes total). The pulls are pretty brutal, but honestly I've been having an absolute blast as a healer. It's interesting to see that you get 70 JP per boss on heroics! Heroic Halls of Origination is worth 490 JP alone, not including if its your second or later random heroic! I'll be out of JP gear on my healer to buy before I've gotten all my reps to maximum, it's kind of a refreshing feeling. Grinding heroics won't be a thing of the past, but I think we'll have to grind a whole lot less of them.

Jen said...

Thanks for the tip! I'm gonna check out the weekly since I still need some JP for that last elusive item to get my score from 328 to 389...

As for the Ring of Blood, wow. It was nowhere near that bad on my server. We're medium-population I guess, and I did it on a weekend morning with no one but me and my guildies in sight. Guess population does matter a lot, the craziness seemed to die down pretty fast on my realm (from 50 people spamming AoE on Cinder-guy to 5 waiting in line politely).

Larísa said...

@Natural Gamer Girl: Yes, there is something very seductive about that clean, simple number, isn’t it? 328. A no-no. 329. The world is open to you. In a complicated world we’re looking for that kind of unquestionable, digital truths.

: Thanks! Yeah, I’m not one of those that demands that Gearscore and such should be banned. I can see the use for it. But it’s a little sad when the tools get dumber and dumber.

: Thank you! Actually we never finished my first heroic. But I got a ton of fun out of it – and a neat wand. So I don’t complain.

: As long as the PvP was funny and fun that’s OK! But when it’s about bugged out bosses and standing in a pile on the NPC it’s not quite a sufn.

@Loronar: Thanks! The item level label is indeed misleading at times. I used that lovely trinket from ToC for the longest. It had the item level of 245 but was far better than many trinkets of higher levels.

: I hope it’s temporary too. But we’ll see.

@Iapetes: Oh, the bag trick works? This is indeed a nonsense thing.

@Oestrus: Aye, that’s true. As we formed a guild group we had to do just that since one in the party didn’t meet the requirements to use the LFD tool. However there’s a downside with it. Not only that you have to travel manually there and can’t get the reward from picking a random instance. You also can’t use the quick teleport out that you can use with the LFD tool. So there are very good incentives to strive for the 329 cap, either you’re in a guild or not.

@Carra: Yeah. I was a bit astonished that someone already required 340 gear and wanted to do all the achievements. I reckon that’s possible if you’re either unemployed or if you’ve been able to take a week off from work/studies.

: Thank you!

@Saga: Yes, it’s very enjoyable, even though I’m a little worried about how to be able to gear up in time for our first official raids in January.

: I honestly don’t think the heroics are puggable as it is right now. Eventually I guess they’ll be.

: It will be less of a grind but I don’t know. From what I’ve seen I suspect my gearing up will be very slow. Still I’m kind of thrilled at it and I hope they won’t nerf it.

@Jen: It’s 329, so just one more point for you to go. My server used to be medium populated, but that ring has been cramped. It was bad when I did it, but the following night when another guild party went in, it was even worse. I think it took them two hours to complete it, and it was incredibly frustrating judging from what I heard on vent.

Tarnop said...

The staff is named after Manly, a mage in Elitist Jerks. This follows the trend of naming Ring of Blood items and NPCs after EJ members (Gurgthock, Wodin etc)

Larísa said...

Holy crap Tarnop! I think you're right. I had no idea; I never really pay that much attention to the names of the writers at EJ.

He even carries it! I'd better update this post.

Redbeard said...

So when are we going to see 'Larisa's Pulverizing Pendant of Power'??

Grainger said...

I also tried my first unsuccesful heroic, though it was quite fun. We wiped 4 times (PuG group) before we bailed, but did get one boss down. I see a few areas I need to improve, but I think I have settled in nicely with my mage as my new main. iLevel is 335 and I think for now, I am going to continue chain running randoms and filling the wait time with dailies to get my reps up.

I am impatient, but I also like that heroics are not "walk in with quest greens" this time around.

timefortincan said...

Thanks for the weeklyraid quest tip - it was useful for us. We'd all forgotten about it.