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Iron Man Challenge: Winterspring Edition

I just started reading Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin and the first thing that popped into my head upon stepping foot into Winterspring was, “Winter is coming.”

The snow was a welcome change from the Tanaris desert. I have decided to hit up all of the level 55ish zones in order to level up past 60, so that when I hit Outland I’m not quite so low level. It seems prudent to me not to step into Hellfire at level 58. I could end up dead. And dead is bad.

Winterspring is first on the list. I always loved this zone. It’s quite breathtaking.

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Much of the zone’s core quests remain the same. We still massacred countless furbolg for spirit beads. I remember grinding them endlessly for rep years ago.

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This furbolg camp was no less busy now than it used to be years ago. It’s still overrun with reputation-seeking high level folk who think nothing of bullying low level players out of their way. I’m glad the quests here did not include “kill X amount of furbolg” because I would still be there trying to finish it.

Aside from fuzzy thong-wearing bear people, we also slaughtered a number of ghostly remnants of ancient elvish people. The lake in the center of the zone was full of them and their long-forgotten temples.

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There was also the customary yeti killing, as expected.

PEEKABOO!

PEEKABOO!

Or rather, Rex killed yetis and I ran away screaming. Either way.

Food for thought: all those yetis live in one cave together. I never saw any toilets. That cave must stink.

Winterspring might be pretty, but its quests could use a little variation. The majority of them were the “kill a lot of this type of animal” quests, which I found very boring. It’s a real shame Iarann isn’t a skinner. We killed enough bears to fashion clothing for every NPC in Stormwind.

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Part of my goal in taking all of these screenshots is to find things most people don’t see when they’re blazing through a zone. One of those things is this grotto, located in the north of the zone, accessible by a cave. None of my quests lead me here. I had to go find it all on my own. It’s kind of pretty, though there’s nothing really interesting here except a few owlkin and a very lost fox.

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We made a trip up north to kill some frostsabers. This is where people used to spend months grinding rep for the frostsaber mount. I remember back in the early days of WoW there was a large cat (or two) who made his home beneath this rock. He was damn hard to kill. I don’t remember why I was trying to kill him, but my warlock couldn’t manage it.

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Nowadays the place is mostly deserted, as the quests have changed and the old tiger I remember is now a rare spawn. He wasn’t there, or I might have tamed him to teach him a lesson.

The southern reaches of the zone are infested with elementals and owlkin. We had to kill a lot of both. Owlkin are some of my favorite mobs in the game. I think I read some piece of lore that stated that they were created by Elune to guard her most sacred areas. Supposedly they are very intelligent and serene, but a lot of them got corrupted and that’s why they attack us now.

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I love the new elemental models they introduced in Cataclysm. I always thought they looked pretty, and slightly creepy.

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It’s one of the Others.

By the time we were done in Winterspring, Iarann was level 59. We left the snow and the cold behind and traveled south to warmer climates. I have a feeling we will miss the cold very soon.

Bye bye, Winterfell. I mean, Winterspring.

Bye bye, Winterfell. I mean, Winterspring.

 

PS: You know the rule I have about not tabbing out or leaving the desk while working on the Iron Man Challenge? I broke that rule when someone knocked at my front door and left Iarann standing helplessly in the middle of a bunch of chimera. When I came back, all of two minutes later, Rex was dead and it’s a bloody miracle Iarann wasn’t dead too. Don’t leave your Iron Man character unattended!

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Iron Man Challenge: Tanaris Edition

I think Tanaris gets an unfair rep as being “ugly”. I’m going to disagree, and I hope my screenshots support my argument.

Tanaris isn’t ugly. It’s actually quite a stunning landscape, made even more so by the events of the Cataclysm. A lot of people think of Tanaris and they think of this:

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Endless sand, without definition or interest, stretching forever beneath an unremarkable sky.

When I took Iarann to Tanaris to quest it wasn’t because I thought it would be visually stunning. Mostly I just wanted to quest out another level or two in relative safety, as I outlevel the zone by quite a bit. But when I got there I decided that a bunch of screenshots of sand would be boring. I decided to try to find the beauty in the zone, to find those rare little spots that people miss when they’re blazing through the quests at the speed of light.

Our journey started in Gadgetzan, which is its self a sort of chaotic and cacophonous place to begin.

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There were goblins aplenty, gnomes galore, and a grumpy Horde flightmaster that I was very keen not to accidentally click. In the center of it all was the Thunderdome, which is sort of like a low level Ring of Blood. I decided to avoid it despite outleveling its bosses, principally due to my fear of dying. To come this far only to die in a cage match just didn’t suit me. We pressed on.

Tanaris presented its self a beautiful and glimmering world of sand and sea, gold and blue. The beaches are where it really shines. If Tanaris was a real place, I would vacation there. Its beaches are a pure, crystalline turquoise blue like the finest resorts in Fiji and the Bahamas. If Iarann had a beach towel and an umbrella in her bags we would have set up camp with a coconut full of Malibu and never left.

This gnome did just that.

This gnome did just that.

 

Tanaris might be a giant sandbox to some people, but to me it’s a lot more than that. It’s a land of harsh sun and blazing winds and gorgeous coastlines forever changed by a devastating flood.

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It’s monstrous skeletons lying half-buried in centuries of sand.

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It’s pirate fortresses under siege by cannon and fire.

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It’s enigmatic caverns where time twists and bends and adventurers can relive the past.

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It’s twisting spires of enormous cacti reaching spiny fingers to the sky.

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And it’s ancient troll empires sinking slowly beneath the weight of the sands.

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There’s nothing quite like Tanaris. It’s an old world that time forgot. It’s the seat of the mysteries of Uldum, if you’re brave enough to go digging for them.

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And a gateway to another world entirely for those who dare tread its path.

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Uldum its self lies beyond these towering stone walls, but I was too afraid to go any further south for fear of meeting my death. Someday our adventure will lead us to Uldum, but not this day. This day we filled our adventures with plenty of sandy Tanaris hijinks.

We slaughtered pirates and set their bunk houses on fire, then settled in for a little well-earned luxury.

Aaah...this is the life.

Aaah…this is the life.

We helped a number of our vertically-challenged friends in their war against the Silithid, too. It’s safe to say we didn’t know what we were getting in to until a gnome mind controlled a silithid, strapped a couple of pounds of explosives to its back, and asked us to pilot it to its doom!

BOOM!

BOOM!

And this should have been enough for us, but we next found ourselves being blasted half way across the damn zone with a rocket attached to our ass. Does that sound Iron-Man Challenge friendly to you?

AAAAAAHHOLYSHITAAAAAH!

AAAAAAHHOLYSHITAAAAAH!

I’m done playing with goblins and gnomes. They can fix their own damn problems!

We ended our adventure on the very southernmost shores of Tanaris on a long-forgotten beach, toes (hooves?) in the sand, watching the distant shoreline of Uldum shimmer like a mirage on the horizon.

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If we live that long, we’ll find our way there. And we hope you’ll come along for the ride.

Iron Man Challenge: Thousand Needles Edition

Though I originally wrote Thousand Needles off as being boring and bland, I decided to give it a second shot. Lo and behold, it turned out to be more entertaining and scenic than I had expected.

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Let’s get this out of the way first: I almost died like three times in Thousand Needles. ALMOST.

First, do you remember that helpful list of survival tips I posted a while back? I broke rule number 23. I thought, hey! I can jump off this absurdly high cliff and land safely in the water below as a shortcut! So I jumped. And I landed on a little lip sticking out of the bottom of the cliff at 2% health.

Never ever ever EVER for any reason jump off of anything ever. Got it?

Second, I didn’t read the quest text and went stumbling into combat with several elites I was actually meant to kill via disguise and assassination. I managed to kill them, barely, and only realized afterwards that I could have spared myself the risk by donning the disguise. Whoops.

Moral of the story is, if you’re doing the Iron Man Challenge, don’t be a dope.

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Near-death experiences aside, I enjoyed Thousand Needles. Coming from the forests of Feralas, it was quite a change in scenery. The Cataclysm virtually obliterated everything familiar about the zone: the dusty valley floor is now a vast maze of ocean and mesa pillars, the old quest lines have been retooled to different designs, and pirates have taken over where centaur once roamed.

Our first stop was the speed barge run by Fizzle and Pozzik.

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It was a lively place full of very short people, a lot of small explosions, and long lines to the bathroom.

They periodically got into brawls over who cut in from of whom.

They periodically got into brawls over who cut in from of whom.

Nobody seemed to realize that they were on a boat, and all you have to do if you have to pee is hop over the edge for a few moments. Iarann did just that – albeit for a quest and not at the insistence of her bladder – and was met by some very inquisitive triangle fish.

Not tropical fish, mind you. Triangle fish.

NEMO TOUCHED THE BUTT.

Apparently the flooding triggered by the Cataclysm was substantial enough to drag in a whale shark the size of Teldrassil.

Itty bitty draenei in the foreground for scale.

Itty bitty draenei in the foreground for scale.

After blowing up a bunch of pirates and attempting to trick a tribe of centaur, we were dispatched to the mesa-top tauren villages now under siege by Magatha’s people. We slaughtered dozens of tauren invaders, took out their leaders, burned their weapons, and challenged their demi-god. Have I mentioned how much I love tauren culture?

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I took a screenshot of this dream catcher because I may actually try to make one just like it someday.

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I managed to worm my way through killing several elite quest mobs by catching a ride on the coat-tails of a particularly well-geared level 40-something paladin. The mobs in questions gave quest credit to anyone who tapped them, so I was able to complete the quests without dying horribly. I decided that this was better than standing around waiting for the respawns, which were taking longer than I would have liked.

After stabbing a few tauren leaders in the face, we took a boat ride to the wyvern’s nesting grounds.

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This place used to be way high up. It just shows how far the water has risen since Cataclysm. We fought, we ran, we rescued countless adorable baby wyverns, and we hitched a ride on their big papa to go kill the stupid twilight guy who was causing all this unnecessary ruckus.

They look cute now, but they tore a heavily armored grown man apart in about 10 seconds.

They look cute now, but they tore a heavily armored grown man apart in about 10 seconds.

 

Finally, after much questing, we reached the part I was secretly excited about: we found Magatha Grimtotem. I mentioned before how much I love her and this time was no exception. Despite the fact that I had killed a bunch of her tribe in other zones, she seemed perfectly willing to work with me. Or, more accurately, make me work for her.

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So I ransacked the twilight camps up on the bluffs, killing lackies, freeing captives, subduing the out of control elements. Anything for you, Magatha.

Pictured: ominous Twilight structures.  Not pictured: me nearly dying.

Pictured: ominous Twilight structures.
Not pictured: me nearly dying.

 

This is where I ended up nearly dead more than once because I decided I was too cool to read quest texts. Derp. Pro tip: read the quest text!

This is about where our Thousand Needles adventure wrapped its self up in a neat little package. It ended up being a lot more photogenic than I had expected. As always, click on the screenshots to see a larger, better version.

We’ll pick up next time in Felwood. Here, have another screenshot before I go.

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Iron Man Challenge: Feralas Edition

Did you think I had forgotten about my Iron Man progression? Well, I did. But I remembered, so here’s the next post!

 

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After tromping around in a fetid swamp for what felt like forever, the lush, open forests of Feralas seemed like a welcomed vacation, all things considered. There was no grand battle against the Horde, no swarm of orcs to defeat, and no Alliance generals barking orders. It was quiet. Mostly.

Our first quest lead us like a breadcrumb trail off to the Feathermoon Stronghold on the western shores of the zone. Years ago before Deathwing threw a temper tantrum, the Stronghold was located on an island out in the bay. The elves lost control of that island to the naga, and had to rebuild.

Before...

Before…

After!

After!

The quests really haven’t changed that much since the Cataclysm, much like the zone its self. There’s still the usual “kill yetis, kill ogres, kill gnolls” quest progression, along with a bevy of sea giants that like to fart bubbles and pop them for their own amusement.

This time, though, the zone has a few new arrivals. Satyrs made a brief appearance shortly before they ran away from a volley of arrows flung by an archer in a very odd mish-mash of gear…

This is a satyr...um...altar?

This is a satyr…um…altar?

The Green Dragonflight also has a more pronounced appearance here, with some hullabaloo about the Emerald Nightmare overflowing into Feralas and causing a lot of issues with local wildlife. Thanks to Iarann’s immaculate archery skills, however, a lot of the corrupted fauna has been put to rest. I loved seeing the dream portal in the northern part of the zone featured in a few quests.

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This particular plot culminated in a face-off with a very large corrupt green dragon who was suspiciously squishy for being elite. Apparently killing him has freed Feralas from the Nightmare, allowing it to heal. Yay!

 

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Also new to the zone are the ogre plot lines since Cataclysm. And if we’re going to talk about ogres, we of course have to talk about Cho’gall. He made an appearance long enough for Iarann to sink a few well-placed arrows into his eyes.

AAAGH! He's looking right at me! ...I think...

AAAGH! He’s looking right at me! …I think…

No lie, I was apprehensive about taking him down. I was promised the full support of the night elf army in Feralas, but I received approximately three eleven warriors and one elven archer. Five puny mortals plinking away at the ankles of a massive, all-powerful ogre demi-god. Thank Elune he had an Achilles heel or something, because he threw a fit at 80% health and ported away.

He left his minions behind though.

I'm not really sure what was going on here, but Cho'gall was yelling a lot.

I’m not really sure what was going on here, but Cho’gall was yelling a lot.

Feralas is a gorgeous zone. It’s dark and shady and cool and full of hippogryphs and faerie dragons. It’s easy to see why long-lost elven societies called it home.

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The ruins of these ancient civilizations are now being colonized by less-than-lovely creatures. Harpies took over the ruins in the north:

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While ogres have been squatting in various other ruined cities. Dire Maul, once the wondrous elven city of Eldre’Thalas, has been turned in to an ogre community. It probably stinks to high heaven now, but it’s still pretty.

Around every corner, a pile of ogre shit.

Around every corner, a pile of ogre shit.

However, some of these ancient cities are still populated by the Highborne…dead ones, anyway. Iarann’s misadventures lead her to the marshy ruins of a temple high atop a hill in central Feralas where she was duped into helping the spectre of a malicious long-dead demon corrupt the poor elven spirits further. Oops. After killing ghosts and digging through the mud, Iarann was told to “take this thing to the dead tree at the northern edge of the ruins”. All of the trees were dead. It took me several minutes of running around using the item before I finally found which “dead” tree I was supposed to use it on. Oy.

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I see dead people.

Our travels took us deep into the heart of an ancient, unchanged paradise. Quests and mobs were as green to us as the foliage, but I think that is probably to our advantage. Usually I leave a zone once the quests turn green regardless of if I have completed it, but I thought it best to stay not only for the story but for the easy experience. Despite being decked out in crappy level 30ish vendor trash gear, Iarann is mowing through mobs just as easily as if she were in full heirlooms.

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Our journey through Feralas came to a wrap with the slaughtering of a few dozen silithid pests. I have always been slightly put off by silithid hives. They move on their own. They pulse. They’re full of chirping, hissing, humming, buzzing insects. They have long, finger-like protrusions above ground that twitch and flex. Are they alive? Are the hives the slowly-decaying corpses of massive, ancient bugs?

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I decided I really didn’t care to find out. We killed our share of bugs but, just as we were about to high-tail it out of the hive, something pretty and blue and flappy appeared on the screen. So I tamed it. Meet our new friend Honeycomb (named, of course, after a character from My Little Pony).

I like flowers and sunshine and stabbing people in the face with my butt.

I like flowers and sunshine and stabbing people in the face with my butt.

That’s about it for the Feralas edition. With Honeycomb in tow Iarann and I headed for the next zone and the next adventure. Where will it be this time? I’m still deciding. I might trade the lush comfort of Feralas for the arid beauty of Thousand Needles, or I might find myself trekking through the putrid forests of Felwood. Find out next time! And don’t forget to stop and admire the scenery once in a while.

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Iron Man Challenge: Southern Barrens Edition

Last time we left off right at the entrance to the contested Southern Barrens. If I was sick of the Horde in Stonetalon, the Barrens had a surprise for me: more Horde!

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My first quest in the Barrens had me defending the Alliance bases from a Horde onslaught along the coast. I remember when the Barrens were all about stabbing animals in the face and stealing their body parts. Ah, memories.

At least the scenery has improved a bit. The oases were always rather pretty but ever since the Cataclysm, they’ve been put on steroids.

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After killing a bunch of Horde infantry, I was sent off to investigate the strange power that turned the little oases from little bursts of green into a massive, sprawling jungle. If you look closely enough, there are a lot of interesting things tucked away in the corners of the Barrens. Like the raptor dens.

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If I recall correctly, raptors in Warcraft are supremely intelligent creatures with a complex social structure. I might be recalling that from fan fiction, but whatever. There’s evidence enough in WoW to support it, if you look closely. These quests in the Barrens have you tracking down a den of raptors who ambushed a supply caravan and stole (!) the supplies. Not only are they coordinated enough to ambush a caravan successfully, but they have the brain power to recognize the value of Alliance supplies (which they have likely not seen before) and the ability to coordinate themselves enough to take those supplies back home. Damn.

They also appear intelligent enough to build homes instead of nests (pictured) and decorate them. Let’s take a second to understand the significance of that. Any introductory anthropology class will tell you that one of the things that separates humans from the rest of the social beasts is that we have art. We decorate things. We add adornment to our bodies and to our homes. Apparently so do raptors. Look closely and you’ll see feathers tied to the structures above. Those feathers had to come from somewhere. They didn’t fall off a raptor and get stuck. They didn’t magically appear. They were tied to the sticks on purpose. Raptors, apparently, are smart enough to say, “This is my home, and I want it to look nice.” They can also, apparently, climb trees to hangĀ  surprisingly intricate ornaments up around the perimeter of their den, much like many native human tribes do to mark territory.

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How the hell did they get it up there?

The icing on the cake is that raptors on Azeroth wear feather armbands. It’s highly unlikely that a passing troll decided to bedeck every raptor forearm he saw. That means that raptors adorn each other, a practice seen almost exclusively among humans. Kinda interesting, I thought.

After taking back the supplies from the raptors, I came across a tauren burial site. I’ve mentioned before that I love tauren, and this is one of the many tiny details I love about them. If you take the time to look, this game has so many little tidbits of lore hiding in plain site. I love how the developers thought to give the tauren their own burial rituals. This site was tauren-only, but there are other grave sites in the Barrens that display all the Horde races, and each one has a unique way of burying their dead. Fascinating.

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I reached the cool, shady boughs of the overgrown oasis in the middle of the Barrens. It’s a far cry from the small, lush pools that used to dot the landscape. Thanks in no small part to Naralex and his meddling, the Barrens’ ecosystem is out of control. And thanks to some timely intervention by yours truly, it’s on the mend. Have a picture of flowers.

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The Barrens’ lighting makes taking well-lit screen shots rather difficult. Outside of the oasis it was bright and sunny but inside everything had this sickly yellow, late-evening sunlight sort of thing going on. Still, it was pretty, if a little forbidding.

Deep inside the brambles Iarann and I met with a tribe of quillboar who could not be persuaded to act rationally. So we slaughtered them. Amidst the carnage, I noticed that the local quillboar had taken to using unwary travelers as building materials.

I think it was an orc.

I think it was an orc.

Back at the base camp among the thorns, I ran in to this guy. His name was Ol’ Durty Pete and I highly recommend you stop by and speak to him next time you’re in the area. His stories are pretty funny, not what you’d expect of some random low level NPC.

"When the grog ran out, that's when we had the knife fight. For sport."

“When the grog ran out, that’s when we had the knife fight. For sport.”

We left the shade of the oasis behindĀ  (after a strongly worded reprimand to Naralex for, you know, screwing everything up) and rode south to continue the fight against the Horde. So tired of Horde. So tired. But the Alliance needed me. So I went.

We passed the burning husk of Camp Taurajo, where I had spent so much time back in the day leveling Horde characters. It’s part of a great quest line now where you learn just how far the Alliance is – and isn’t – willing to go in this war. When Taurajo was attacked, defenseless civilians died, and the quest text tells you that the Alliance General responsible didn’t want it to go that way. Honor amid chaos. Garrosh could learn a thing or two.

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The passage in to Mulgore is blocked now by a very impressive set of gates, and I don’t really blame the Tauren for building them.

Someone might be compensating for something, here.

Someone might be compensating for something, here.

Onward further south, Iarann and I joined in the Alliance battle against the Horde. I’m not really sure how helpful we were, but we didn’t die, and that’s good. The same cannot be said for the good general who tried to make right by the civilians he killed. Rest in peace, sir.

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Finally, finally, we left the battlefields behind. I dunno about you, but I’m tired of the Horde and tired of the conflict. I just want to shoot things with my crappy bow, take pretty screenshots, and try not to die. We found some dwarves and tried to help them, and somehow managed to set an entire stone bunker on fire (it was not our fault, I swear). We killed some more quillboar. And at long last, we waved farewell to the dusty, war-torn Barrens and hiked down into the fetid, mossy swamps of Dustwallow.

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We’ll catch you next time for the Dustwallow chapter!

Iron Man Challenge: Ashenvale Edition

Last time, we left off just as I was beginning to quest in Ashenvale. Today, I’m gonna ramble about my questing experience there and show you some random pictures, too. As before, click the screenshots to view a high-res version. They might even make a good desktop background!

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Ashenvale is gorgeous. It is one of the first zones I quested in back in classic WoW on Sylvestris, so it holds some sentimental value to me. Of course, it’s no longer the same after Cataclysm, but the peaceful green and blue woods and aura of night elfishness are familiar all the same.

Their lush boughs and verdant vales are a little deceptive, as I found out while trying to level my little hunter. On more than one occasion I found myself beating a hasty retreat from ravenous furbolgs and elite druids in bear form. The Horde is also to be handled delicately if you’re running as under-equipped as I am. About half way through the zone quests, I ran in to a tauren NPC kneeling beneath a tree. I cautiously crept closer to see what he was doing there, realized he was an elite level ?? guard, and ran away screaming. Good times.

Ashenvale is home to many threats. This includes but is not limited to wayward fire elementals:

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Invading Horde armies:

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And legions of demons:

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I recall two near-death experiences. One while completing the quest chain where you acquire Dartol’s Rod and help the friendly furbolg, and the other while trying to grab said rod out of a cave guarded by an elite bear patrol. Obviously I didn’t die or this post would be titled “Iron Man Challenge: Cue The Sad Trombone”. Heh.

There was so much more to Ashenvale than just fighting the Horde. I took some time to thoroughly explore the zone (my goal is to get both the exploration achievement and the questing achievement for every zone I participate in before moving on) and found some pretty little things tucked away in corners people don’t visit anymore.

Like this moonwell. Gosh I love moonwells.

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And these creepy trees tucked away in a demon camp in the south. I always loved the contrast between the gorgeous greens of the forest and the dead grey demon hollows hidden away out of sight. Near these particular trees I found a rare spawn demon and two flanking demonic guards. I killed all three without any hassle, I’m proud to say.

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Bashiok? Is that you…?

I think the size of this fallen, half buried statue really gives you some idea of how massive the elvish empire was before it crumbled during the invasion by the Burning Legion (thanks a lot, Azshara). I can only just imagine how incredibly large that statue must have been before it was toppled.

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I made a point of visiting Bough Song while I was in eastern Ashenvale. When I was a new player, I died here a few times to the elite dragons. Now that these dragons aren’t elite anymore, I took my revenge and slaughtered as many of them as I could, including some of the larger drakes that came out of the portal.

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I also paid my respects to the monument left in honor of Grom Hellscream. It’s a shame his son has done nothing worth honoring.

Mouse-over text reads: "Here lies Grommash Hellscream, Chieftain of the Warsong Clan. In many ways, the curse of our people began and ended with Grom. His name meant "Giant's Heart" in our ancient tongue. He earned that name a hundred fold as he stood alone against the demon Mannoroth - and won our freedom with his blood. Lok'Tar Ogar, Big Brother. May the Warsong never fade. -Thrall, Warchief of the Horde"

Mouse-over text reads: “Here lies Grommash Hellscream, Chieftain of the Warsong Clan. In many ways, the curse of our people began and ended with Grom. His name meant “Giant’s Heart” in our ancient tongue. He earned that name a hundred fold as he stood alone against the demon Mannoroth – and won our freedom with his blood. Lok’Tar Ogar, Big Brother. May the Warsong never fade. -Thrall, Warchief of the Horde”

Exploring Ashenvale and completing all of the quests got me to level 29. So far I haven’t had much of an issue surviving as long as I can keep my battles one-vs-one. And now that I have Freezing Trap, I can take care of any battles that aren’t in my favor. I’m keeping myself entertained by shooting screenshots and switching out my active minipet every level as a reward.

I have decided not to pet battle as I level up, because pet battles allow you to gain experience without any real risk of death, and that doesn’t seem to be in the proper spirit of the Iron Man Challenge.

Finally, Fluttershy my ever-loyal moth got an upgrade to a prettier model today. I exchanged the starter moth that draenei hunters come with for one of the blue moths found on Bloodmyst Isle.

WoWScrnShot_121913_204603

Wish me luck as I head into Stonetalon for the next set of quests!

Lunar Festival Fun

I feel like there’s very little to be excited about in WoW right now. I log in, poke a few buttons, snoop on the auction house, and then lose interest and log back out. What might pique my interest in this game? What might make me want to play?

Oh, I know. Add a couple of new pets!

The Lunar Festival got a few nice updates this year, notably the two new pet lanterns that popped up for sale for 50 coins each. Because I never partook in the celebrations in earlier years (at least not once I got all the achievements and the title) I didn’t have a stockpile of coins in my bank, so I had to start over this year. I visited every elder in Kalimdor and Eastern Kingdoms including the Horde capital elders. I was in and out so fast (dirty joke goes here) the guards didn’t even have time to shoot me. I hit a few dungeons to round out my coin collection and then blew it all (we’re full of dirty euphemisms today) on a pretty new floaty companion pet.

Not satisfied with one lantern when I could have two, I hijacked my fiance’s account and took over his newly minted Horde death knight and continued the rampage across the world. Only this time it was very painful. Over the course of the last few days I crawled, died, rezzed, died, and crawled again more times than I care to count. I corpse-hopped through Ironforge, I evaded ancient treebeards in Darnassus, and I ran screaming through Zul’Farak with 90% of the troll population salivating at my heels. It wasn’t pretty. It’s wasnt fun. But 40,000 deaths* later and irreparable damage to my gear (no, really, I can’t afford to repair it) I finally have 50 coins and a shiny Horde-only pet to send to my main. It was worth the effort.

If you’re like me and cannot stand to let a pet pass you by when you could roll a low level alt and get the snot beat out of you, here are some tips.

  • You don’t need to have flying to be able to gather coins, but it does help (a lot).
  • Being at least level 58, such as a new death knight, will open up all of Azeroth’s flight paths for you which makes flying around to collect coins much easier.
  • I recommend making a new death knight of the opposite faction in order to attain the other lantern. It takes about an hour to finish the starting zone and pledge allegiance to your faction.
  • Most of the dungeon elders are off limits. If you’re level 60ish you can get to the Zul’Farak elder, but don’t count on getting to the Stratholme or Blackrock elders without some means of stealth or a helpful high level friend.
  • You can get to the Stormwind elder very easily. He’s not even in the city, and getting to him won’t flag you if you’re Horde.
  • Ironforge is a pain in the ass. Avoid it if you’re Alliance. The corpse run is not worth it for one coin.
  • Use graveyards and spirit healers to your advantage. I was able to get into Darnassus easy because I died close enough inside that my ghost popped up in Dolanaar.
  • You can ghost run across the ocean from Lor’danel to Rut’theran village if you don’t have flying (for Horde).
  • You don’t have to be level 70 to chug on out to Northrend. There are several elders there well within reach of a low level character. I was able to nab 3 or 4 without dying. They are located mostly within cities or camps so you don’t have to brave the wilds too much.
  • You won’t be able to get to 90% of the Cataclysm elders without flying, but if you’re desperate for your last few coins I recommend trying to grab Elder Menkhaf in Uldum, as he is closest to the entry point. You might also have luck running into the Twilight Highlands from the Wetlands and grabbing the elders there. I didn’t attempt these so I don’t know.
  • Finally, here is a helpful macro for those of you who are having trouble with the guards. I kept getting to an elder only to be shot down in one hit, which made it impossible to interact with the elder and complete the quest. If you right click the elder and then spam this macro really fast, it will auto-complete the quest for you.

/script SelectGossipAvailableQuest(1)
/script CompleteQuest()
/script GetQuestReward()

And finally, I scored on the auction house and grabbed myself the crimson whelpling for 6 grand. I don’t feel ashamed. I spent countless hours farming for him, so I did put the effort in. Besides, the world will be a better place without whelpling genocide.

Here’s to 167 pets! Hooray!

*possible exaggeration

Druid Leveling Guide 4.1 — 80-85

Here’s the game plan for the following five levels:

I am going to run each dungeon once. I’m going to focus on questing because I am jonesing for guild rep. I am going to hit Hyjal, then Deepholm, then head right to Twilight Highlands when I hit 84.

I’m going to continue to address each level as I earn them, but a lot of what is contained in this section of the guide won’t pertain to individual levels. I’m going to do my best to address issues such as item level requirements, dungeon running, and Mastery as they pertain to a first-time druid. This guide was never designed to be a comprehensive look at stat values or rotations or anything raid-worthy, so if you feel you’ve mastered yourself well enough to be needing that kind of info, I will include links at the bottom of this post to direct you to some of that information.

Without further ado, let us start our journey to level 85.

First on the agenda:

Mastery and You: A Beginner’s Guide to the Stat

What is mastery?

Mastery is a stat, like crit or hit, that directly affects your character’s DPS or healing output, or their ability to tank. You’ll find mastery on Cataclysm level gear.

Do I need mastery?

Sure. It’s always a good thing to have. Unlike stats like hit, which only help those who actually do damage, mastery helps all classes, all specs, and all roles.

How good is mastery for a druid?

Mastery is a “good” stat for any druid. However, where it ranks among other good stats different between the specs.

For resto druids in end-level raiding gear, mastery edges out haste for the top stat. For a newly level 80 to 85 resto druid, though, you will want to take haste over mastery until you have hit the haste cap (which is beyond the scope of this guide, see links below for more info).

For a balance druid, mastery increases the damage you do while in an eclipsed state, so of course that makes mastery a useful stat for you. However, don’t neglect haste or crit, because you only spend about 80% of your total rotation in an eclipsed state.

Feral druids have two different masteries that will benefit either the cat or the bear. For the bear, mastery increases the amount of damage you can absorb when Savage Defense procs. Because bears do not have shields and thus cannot block, nor can they parry, dodge and absorbs are the bear’s biggest ways to mitigate incoming damage. This makes mastery a fine tool for surviving bigger hits. For the cat, mastery is a direct DPS increase. Much of a cat’s DPS is tied up in bleeds, and mastery increases bleed damage.

So is mastery a good stat? Yes. It seems to be. Take it where you can but don’t neglect your other stats.

Cataclysm Instances: Not the Same as Wrath Instances

I feel I need to do a public-service type announcement here real quick. I don’t want to contribute to the number of whiny, screaming babies already in the dungeon queue after all. Having just come from Wrath-level dungeons, I am well aware how nearly every pull is an AoE-fest with no regard for kill order or anything of that sort. It works because everyone overpowers the content due to guild perks or heirlooms or what have you. This does not work in Cataclysm. It worked for a little while at the beginning because people were stepping out of Icecrown Citadel in epic gear and could muscle through the content, but it doesn’t work that way anymore. Your average person now is coming fresh out of questing in Storm Peaks and Icecrown, and are bedecked in quest greens from Hyjal and Vashj’ir.

It is at this point where you really need to learn to understand your class and how it functions within a group. You cant just sit and spam Wrath or Mangle or pick your nose and expect to still see things die. You will have to get your rotation down and at the same time be aware of things like crowd control, which I’m guessing you havent used thus far. You’ll also have to figure out how not to die from environmental hazards on bosses, which adds a whole other level to being aware.

With a decent group, Blackrock Caverns and Throne of Tides can be pretty gentle in the initiation of a new level 80 druid, but don’t expect the same treatment in later dungeons. Here are a few tips for a beginning druid to keep in mind while dungeon crawling in Cataclysm:

  • Crowd control is king, and you have a lot of it. Roots are excellent against melee mobs (poor against ranged or casters), Hibernate can take care of dragons or beasts, and cyclone is there if something goes wrong. Don’t let over confident people bully you into running sloppy dungeons. Speak up if you feel CC needs to be used, especially if you’re the healer.
  • A feral cat is still capable of tanking should the need arise. If your tanks dies, don’t hesitate to pop into bear and taunt wayward mobs. You just might save the day.
  • Never stand in anything on the ground ever. If you didnt put it there, get the heck out.
  • If you’re not using your Innervate, give it to a healer. They’ll love you long time.
  • Get used to focusing fire on one mob. AoE is still viable on some pulls, but most of the time (with a competent group, anyway) you’ll be working around CC’d mobs that you really dont want to break. Single target attacks only.
  • If you’re tanking, remember that glyphed Maul hits two targets, which means it can and totally will break CC. This is my biggest issue as a bear tank. I maul the sheep all the time and it makes me sad.
  • Learn to watch your own crowd control timers. Nothing says incompetence like letting a mob’s CC run in the middle of battle and having it wipe the group. There are add ons that can help here but honestly I find just setting my CC target as a focus target and keeping an eye on the debuff works, too.
  • You can and should be interrupting any spell cast you see. Not just heals, either. Some trash mobs and bosses have immensely powerful AoE or other attacks that need to be interrupted quickly, which is a skill you must have in order to tackle heroics.

Now let’s take a quick look at the two starting level 80 zones. Ultimately whichever one you choose to quest in is up to you, and most people end up doing both for the achievements.

Hyjal:

Hyjal is my pick, especially since I’m a druid. It’s doubly important if you ever want to get into the Firelands quest chains and dailies, since you must do a majority of the Hyjal quest line to unlock them. Hyjal also seems to go quicker, in my opinion at least. I love the scenery and I love the fact that everyone there is a druid, or allied with druids, or helping the druids. Druids! Zone bonus: a non combat pet, awarded from the jousting quests.

Vashj’ir:

The underwater zone is one of my favorites, though I think I’m in the minority here. Many people seem to be irritated by the underwater mechanics, and I have to admit they annoy me too at times. The zone is also vast, and multidimensional, which confuses me sometimes when I dont know exactly where that stupid ? is on my map. The underwater topography is often difficult to navigate, but the scenery with the massive reefs couldnt be more splendid. Overall though the quests get tedious and there is one point where you swim back and forth across the zone several times in a row for quests and I always dread that part. Don’t let me dissaude you though; Vashj’ir is fun too. Zone bonus: a seahorse mount awarded at the start of the zone.

And now, on with the leveling.

Level 81:

I’m getting my ass kicked out here in Hyjal. My spells barely dent the mobs and I get pummeled half to death each time I pull something. Always nice to be humbled, I guess. I have found that I need to work Roots into my rotation as well as Typhoon to keep mobs off me. If you’re getting your face bashed in, you might try it as well. You will be awarded Thrash at this level, which ramps up your ability to obtain and keep multi-target threat as a tank. Use it on cooldown.

Level 82:

Another talent point, another level. I’m in far better shape than I was at level 82, much thanks to replacing Wrath-level quest crap with Cataclysm-level quest crap. It’s annoying how little my healing spells help now. If I’m in trouble I’ve learned to just Dash away instead of trying to heal myself.

Level 83:

Toodling around Deepholm, one of my least favorite zones. I think it’s all the monotony of rock. A miner’s paradise, though. I have made a crap ton of gold in just a few days, nearly doubling my coin purse. It’s almost sad, really. My baby project druid almost has as much money as my main druid. Then again, my main druid just spent 29,000 gold on something. Something. We’ll talk about that later. Anyway.

I recommend Deepholm, in case you were somehow thinking you’d skip it. You have to do it anyway to unlock the Therazane faction and the only source of shoulder enchants for non-scribes. Just get it over with.

You get Stampeding Roar here. I…don’t know what to say about Stampeding Roar. It feels so lackluster for a level 83 skill. I want to poke it with a sharp stick just to see if it’s hiding something better inside. It’s just a roar that increases movement speed of party/raid members around you for a few seconds. Possible applications: moving your group’s slow ass out of the fire/lava/ice/thunder/whatever. Okay, sure. But when fire starts spewing everywhere, are you really going to have the presence of mind to hit a button? Probably not. You’ll probably just be running. And the chances that more than one person are within SR’s tiny range is also small. It may be nice in PvP, such as in arenas, but I don’t PvP so I dont know.

Know where I use it the most? When the group wipes are we’re running back through the dungeons. Yeah.

Level 84:

I hit Twilight Highlands immediately upon reaching 84. The gear iLevel is higher which means it gets you closer to running level 85 dungeons and heroics. That said, I thought the opening quests for the Horde side of TwiHi were a lot more fun than Alliance. Even so, the Dragonmaw’s…er…architecture makes me very sad. Dead and dismembered dragons everywhere. Just pushing my way towards 85 as best I can. TwiHi is your best bet if you’re trying to get into heroics right away. The end quests all award iLevel 333 gear. You should also be hitting up Lost City, Halls of Origination, and Grim Batol for gear.

Level 85:

You’ll finally get your Wild Mushrooms here. They’re a huge part of the Balance druid’s DPS, so don’t forget to lay them out every time.

You’re eligible for heroics now, though I doubt you have the iLevel required to queue for them. To rectify that, I would recommend grabbing up the Cataclysm faction rep tabards and running the three dungeons I mentioned above until exalted to purchase gear. Check every rep vendor available to you for upgrades. Get yourself over to the Hero’s Call board in your capital city and pick up the quest to begin your Molten Front assault. The dailies will provide a massive amount of guild rep plus access to high level vendors for gear. If you didn’t play through Hyjal at level 80, you’ll need to go back and do so now if you wish to participate in the Firelands dailies.

Further Reading

I did not intend this guide to include strategy and advice for level 85 druids. It was meant solely as a leveling guide for those unfamiliar with the class. Given that, I’m not going to discuss gearing, gemming, rotations or anything like that here. There is already a plethora of good information around the internet, and I’d feel like I was only regurgitating it. If you feel like you’ve mastered the basics and are ready to truly test yourself, here are some related readings for the heroic-ready druid.

Ah! Bears! Cataclysm Tanking — a stickied thread on the official forums that I use as my go-to reference for everything bear.

Restokin — a druid healing blog with a ton of great guides and information. If you heal, check it out.

Syrco Owl — another druid blog, this time for moonkins.

Shifting Perspectives — always a wealth of information for all of the druid’s roles.

Elitist Jerks — if you have an appetite for numbers and min/maxing, EJ has everything you require to push yourself.

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So that’s it folks. We’ve gone from level 1 to level 85. It took some time and a lot of effort on my part, but for what it’s worth I’m glad to have another level 85 druid. I am going to write a “brief” wrap-up sort of post reflecting on my little adventure here in the next few days, and that will conclude our druidy adventures here. I have a lot more up my sleeve for the future so if you even remotely enjoyed the druid guide, hang around. As always, thanks for reading.

 

A Look Back on the Firelands Dailies

I’m a few days behind, but I finally finished the Molten Front dailies and the Leyara quest chain.

It was worth the effort.

Speaking of effort, I had to dual-box the majority of my time in the Firelands, because The Boy refused to allow himself to fall behind on dailies while he was gone for two weeks. So for two weeks I ran around with his toon on follow and got him all his achievements and marks. I don’t recommend it. It wasnt fun. I got burned out and didnt do them at all for 3 days, hence being behind. Go ahead and insert another few paragraphs of grouchy rambling here, because I’m too lazy to type it.

Moving on.

The Molten Front dailies provided some of the best fun I’ve had in WoW in a long while. I love achievements, so as soon as I saw all the achievements available to me there I went a little nuts. Speaking of achievements, I have a guide coming up on how to earn them all, so stick around.

The quests were especially gratifying as a druid. I felt like I was really a part of something that an old druid like Sylv would be a part of. I felt like I was really involved in the war against Ragnaros. Maybe not on the front lines, but it was nice to still be in on the action. I’ll likely never see the Firelands raid, so this was a nice touch for me.

I loved the druidy quests and the flame druids and the druid everything-ness of the Firelands. I would kill to get Staghelm’s polearm thing that turns kitties into fire kitties. There is nothing more badass than a fire kitty.

The quests themselves were fun (albeit repetitive, but that’s kinda defined in the word “daily”, right?) and engaging. I loved all the voice artists and the fun cut scenes and such.

I especially liked how the mobs operated for the quests in regards to tagging and quest credit. I can’t imagine how horrid those quests would be if mobs grayed-out upon being tagged. Ugh. It was nice to be able to kill things in mob fashion without having to actually group with people. Mad props to the developers who realized they should do it this way.

I only have two achievements left for my title, and even then I’m only missing a few things from each achievement. I’m certainly going to continue doing these dailies every day as often as possible. One because the gold is pretty good, and also because I want marks so I can by the cache off the vendor. I want that little fire pet! The Boy also has a few days left to finish his dailies (he wanted to get the achievements -I- earned him for himself…grumble…) so I’ll be doing them with him anyway.

So overall I really enjoyed this bit of content. Am I going to do it again on another character? Heck yes. I just don’t know who yet.

Druid Leveling 4.1 — 70-80

Northrend, for some reason, was never really one of my favorite areas to quest. I suppose it may be due to the fact that I leveled the majority of my alts to the cap in Wrath, so I saw every zone at minimum six times. Regardless, I’m putting my effort into questing now because my guild has a lot of rewards for the well-liked, and sitting at neutral just won’t do. Additionally, I’m having trouble locating acceptable caster leather and as such am wearing more cloth than I’d like. I’ve limited myself to just one run per dungeon right now so that I have time to quest thoroughly before departing. Guild rep is my focus for now.

Dungeons will once again award tabard rep, so if you’re still short you can make up for it here.

Regardless of your attitude towards Northrend, know that your stay here will be brief. Perhaps too much so. Heirloom pieces and guild perks etc. will make your time in the snowy mountains quick and relatively painless. Even without heirlooms I’m bombing along faster than I thought I would. Remember that you cannot begin Cataclysm level content until level 80, so you may as well enjoy your stay.

Level 71:

Talent point.

Level 72:

Nothing here, unfortunately.

Level 73:

A talent point.

Level 74:

Cyclone is a crowd control ability that, while short-lived, renders its target incapacitated. I find more use for this in PvP (where you can be horrendously annoying if you want to) but it’s also handy in PvE if you need to quickly get a mob out of your face. It is also one of the few forms of CC that cannot be broken via damage because the target is immune for the duration.

Level 75:

You unlock the last set of glyph spots.

Level 76:

Savage Roar is going to become one of the cat druid’s most important skills. It’s similar to Slice and Dice for rogues: you’ll want to keep it active as close to 100% of the time as possible. I use Mangle to establish one combo point (or two, as the case may be) then Roar to consume them, then get one with my normal rotation. Don’t bother if you’re just out questing, but if you’re in a dungeon or killing elites, it’s a good boost to your damage.

Level 77:

Talent point.

Level 78:

You finally get Healing Touch, the resto druid’s largest heal. It’s slow and it’s expensive and won’t take the place of Nourish for general healing purposes, but if you combine it with Nature’s Swiftness you’ll have a nice “oh shit” button for tough situations.

Level 79:

Talent point.

Level 80:

Congrats! You’re 5 levels away from end game content. You’ve earned the right to benefit from Mastery, which we’ll discuss in the next segment. You’ll want to leave Northrend behind now, because any questing you do there from here on out is not going to net you enough reward to be worth your time. Head to your faction’s capital to get started on your journey into the Cataclysm zones, and good luck.