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Star Struck

I thought I’d head in to Pandaria tonight to get some transmog stuff from the raids. Part of me felt almost guilty for not farming Ulduar, ToC, and Icecrown for the four hundredth time for pets…it’s a waste to farm raids that don’t have pets, I told myself. What are you even doing out here? There’s no point in running the Pandaria stuff!

Yeah. About that.

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Not a waste of time at all.

Post-Blizzcon Reactions

A few days ago I made a prediction post. I then bought myself a virtual ticket (worth the money, in my honest opinion), hooked the laptop up to our flatscreen, and geeked out for a few days.

First off, I would love to attend Blizzcon in person some day. I don’t live all that far from Anaheim, but the cost of the physical tickets is a limiting factor for me. Add on cost of gas, cost of lodging and food and it gets a little out of my price range…by several hundred bucks. Some day. Some day.

Even watching the online feed, I was enamored of the entire event. So many people wandering around that had the same interests that I did. So many excited folks who loved the game I loved. Costumes! Such amazing cosplayers. Did you catch the costume contest the first day? The guy dressed as the practice dummy got my vote for the grand prize, but everyone had such wonderful costumes it was hard to pick!

The vibe of the whole event was just so infectious. Everyone there loved Blizzard games. No one (I hope) would pay that much for a ticket just to go there and hate everything they saw. So it was a gathering of super passionate gamers all excited for new announcements. It’s the kind of atmosphere I sorely miss around the internet, where so many people are critical and negative and sometimes downright nasty little trolls. It’s sometimes hard to stay positive about a game when so many people are screaming negativity all around you. Blizzcon was just stuffed full of happy, smiling, excited people who cheered every little announcement and laughed at every silly joke and I loved it. It was refreshing.

Watching Blizzcon got me super pumped for the next expansion, even if it is still a long ways off. And seeing all of these announcements with my own eyes helped me make my own opinions about them, rather than reading about them second-hand from a fan site and picking up the author or columnist’s opinions. No matter how hard we try, we infuse everything we write with our own feelings, and I wanted to see these new features without having someone else’s opinion taint my own. The result? I’m psyched.

But moving on. I made some predictions. Let’s see how I did.

A New Race
Nope. Not in this expansion, apparently. I’m sort of surprised, and sort of not. We are going to Draenor and their two major races are already playable. But wouldn’t it be cool to see arakkoa or another indigenous race made playable? Then again, these aren’t the arakkoa we knew in Outland…regardless, I’m sad that we will see neither a new race nor a new class this expansion, because I love the possibilities they bring to the game play.

Ten New Levels
Spot on! Though we can all agree that was pretty obvious. I’m happy to see ten levels instead of five, maybe just for the nostalgia of Wrath and Burning Crusade eras.

A New Planet
Called it! So super excited to see Draenor in it’s prime before it was shattered. The art for the new zones looked incredible and I cannot wait to see them in person.

A Return to Old Lore
I wanted to see some of Azeroth’s already established names come back into play and I got it. So many orcs. Blackhand, Durotan, omg. So excited. I love orcs, no matter how many of them we keep running in to. The only orc I don’t like is Garrosh.

A New Profession
Nothing here. It was wishful thinking anyway. Then again, much of the expansion has yet to be announced. Maybe we will see a new secondary profession, or major overhauls to old ones?

Mobile Pet Battles
With everything that has been introduced with Warlord’s of Draenor, I have to admit what I was most looking forward to was something about a mobile version of our pet battle system. I was disappointed that there wasn’t an exclusively pet battles panel (and very much aware of why that wouldn’t happen) but somewhere towards the end of the second day, a fan asked a question that mirrored my own heart: what about mobile pet battles? And Cory Stockton, my favoritest person ever, gave the best answer he possibly could: we think it would be awesome, we want to do it and we’re looking in to it, but it’s not in the works yet. Rest assured that if this ever makes it off the drawing board and to an iPad near you, I will be the happiest person alive.

An Updated Transmog System
Another fan asked this question, and while I can’t find it right now for a quote the answer was basically that they’re looking for better ways to do the transmog system in WoW, and they almost announced it at Blizzcon but didn’t want another Dance Studio debacle should they be forced to scrap those plans. I am begging on bended knee for a system like the upcoming Diablo 3 system.

New Character Models
There really was no chance this wasn’t going to be announced. It’s a major draw for many people. One of my friends who quit WoW back in Cata saw the new models and announced she wanted to play again (for reasons more numerous than that, but it was a factor). I watched the art panel with my jaw on the floor. The new art for the character models is astonishing, folks. If you haven’t seen it for yourself yet, Google it. Now. Only a few races got the full preview at Blizzcon but the art panel revealed a bit of artwork for several other races. Undead males look terrifyingly awesome and male tauren, always one of my favorites, just look incredible. I’m hopeful that male night elves will blow me away as well, because after so many years playing a blobby, muscle-bound mutant with Christmas hams for thighs and hips like a prepubescent boy, I’d love a change.

The Return of the Legion
Doesn’t look like they’re involved in this expansion, but that’s alright. Orc clans make me just as happy.

Stuff I Didn’t Predict
Player housing was one of those features I didn’t think we’d ever see. The farm at Halfhill was a step in the right direction but seemed to be so lacking I figured it would be a long time before we ever saw anything close to real housing. And I was wrong. Garrisons look like the most intriguing feature so far in this new expansion and I can’t wait to get my hands on them and start building, tinkering, and generally spending far too much time improving my own little plot of land. I’m also excited to poke at the pet battle portion of the garrison, which was touched on briefly during the panels. Breeding my own battle pets? Alright, I’ll bite. That could be fun.

As we learn more about Warlords of Draenor over the coming months, I’m certain this excitement won’t wane. But I feel it is important to remember that we’re still playing Mists of Pandaria, and we ought to be enjoying what is in front of us just as much. So I’m gonna hop back in to the beautiful world we have to play in right now and get started on all the things I want to get done before Warlords launches. See you guys in Azeroth!

PS: I yelled obscenities at the TV screen when they announced that Garrosh would escape before his trial and flee to Draenor. I’m not ashamed of it. That fucker should have been beheaded, end of story.

Dinosaurs!

I have been woefully absent from the game lately. I got sucked into Skyrim; my bad!

But I did get a chance to check out the new patch content. I finished grinding to exalted with my remaining Pandaria factions (August Celestials, Shieldwall, and Shado-Pan), which earned me the Pandaren kite mount and the 55 exalted reputations achievement. That felt good. I really do dislike the emphasis on daily quests so far in this expansion, but I thought the way Shieldwall and Dominance Offensive handled daily progression was well done. I hope this becomes the norm, with dailies giving way to storyline quests at certain reputation intervals.

I also liked the changes to reputation gains this patch. The work orders at the farm and the reputation gains for daily dungeons and scenarios was a welcomed change from simply doing a truckload of dailies every day. I wish I could just slap on a tabard and run dungeons to my heart’s content (the lack of rep gains has been a primary factor in my lack of interest in dungeon running this expansion) but this is a step in the right direction.

I ran a bunch of scenarios on Saturday with the ret paladin and got the Scenaturday achievement. We ran really close to running out of time, but we squeaked by and now we have an awkward title to show for it. Speaking of titles, I earned “the Relic Hunter” a week or two ago for finding 20 rare treasures in Pandaria. That was a lot of fun. It netted me a lot of BoA weapons to ferry between my alts, too, so that is a bonus. Next title on the list is “the Seeker of Knowledge”…whenever I get back into archaeology. I’m about half way through the achievement.

I made my first trip to the Isle of Giants this morning. I went on my hunter, who is poorly geared, because while my druid is decently geared he has no real damage output and I anticipated it would make killing elite dinosaurs a long, tedious pain in the ass. Even on my hunter, who does acceptable damage for her ilevel, killing a dinosaur is a matter of popping every cool down twice, spamming mend pet, and praying. Also some swearing.

I will have to find a group later, I think, and take the island by storm. Doing it alone is slow and not very exciting, and given my timidity I haven’t seen anything beyond the beaches of the island. I heard that the drop rate of the little raptor pets was very high, but it was hotfixed and I have no idea how hard they nerfed it. I killed maybe 10 dinosaurs and saw nothing but bones. No pets, no eggs. Sadness.

I tried running around on the Isle of Thunder killing rares for pets, but had no luck there either. In fact, thanks to a wonderful bug, I was unable to loot all but two rares I killed out of a total of, again, around 10. How a bug like that got past the PTR and onto live realms amazes me. Sometimes I wonder if quality control is a concept at Blizzard. It’s been fixed though (a week later…) so I may go back and resume my rampage. Running amok with fifty other people swarming rares is pretty fun. Not having to deal with CRZ is also a nice change, since I find the island crowded enough as it is with just my server to contend with.

For now, I think I will take a break from Azeroth and go outside. It’s a beautiful sunny day and there’s no excuse for wasting it. Enjoy the patch folks 🙂

Battle Pet Spotlight: Silkbead Snail

If you’re searching for a dedicated tank pet that can absorb large amounts of damage, avoid incoming attacks, and heal its self while dealing damage, look no further. While a snail is a somewhat, ah, inglorious pet, the Silkbead Snail has more than earned its spot in my battle pet hall of fame. The Silkbead snail, and snails in general, are not flashy or powerful. Rather, their utility comes from their ability to whittle down the opponent while simultaneously healing themselves. Keeping Shell Shield up will reduce damage from all incoming attacks, so much so that some attacks (like DoTs, which hit for very little) are entirely blocked. Absorb will keep your snail’s health from dipping dangerously low, and Dive can be timed to avoid the most devastating attacks. The snail’s motto is, “Slow and steady wins the race!”.

I keep my snail armed with Absorb, Shell Shield, and Dive at all times. Ooze Touch is nice, but I find that the snail really does need the healing from Absorb to win against hard-hitting enemies like the Earth Elemental. Similarly, the damage reduction of Shell Shield is simply invaluable. I never use Acidic Goo. Likewise, Headbutt just isn’t worth using when Dive can avoid incoming attacks. With this setup, my little snail can pulverize any of the Pandarian elemental tamer’s elemental pets. I use him whenever a stubborn elemental proves to be too much for my Eternal Strider (hard hitter, but he’s got no defenses).

The only issue I can raise about the snail is Dive’s miss chance. With Dive being the snail’s only true attack (Absorb doesn’t hit hard at all, and can be easily mitigated by any heal over time effects such as those from the wind elemental pet) it can be devastating if Dive misses. I don’t know if the miss chance is currently bugged on live realms, but it feels like my pets miss far too often. If Dive misses more than once, I’m in serious trouble.

Even so, the snail is my first choice for the Pandarian elemental tamers. Being a critter, he laughs in the face of Earth’s Crystal Prison attack and shrugs off elemental attacks in general. It’s a good combination.

Where to find it: The Silkbead Snail is readily available all over the Jade Forest in Pandaria.

Breed ID: I feel like a broken record, but speed isn’t necessary here either. There are only two breeds available, 3/13 and 9/19. They both prioritize health and attack, and are both just fine.

Pets with similar skill sets: If you can’t find a Silkbead, or a rare eludes you, you’re in luck! All snails and whelks have the exact same skills. If you have any one of them, you’re good to go. Take note though that Scooter the Snail is uncommon by default, and should be upgraded via a stone to rare before tossing him in with the big boys. The following are snails with identical abilities to the Silkbead: Scooter the Snail (Children’s Week quest reward), Shimmershell Snail (Darkshore), Rusty Snail (Ashenvale), and the Rapana Whelk (Dread Wastes).

Pair it with: I’m stumped. My little snail doesn’t seem to have need of any true pairing, although I am certain he could be used together with another pet for maximum domination. Got an idea? Leave it in the comments.

Rare Pet Watch: Infested Bear Cub

One of the most unfortunate, heart-wrenching little pets out there, this little undead bear cub is infested with spider eggs. It’s unique, kind of gross, and really sad, but it’s not easy to get. Undead pets are hard to find at low levels, especially if you don’t have store-bought pets to fall back on, so this little cub is highly sought after. It spawns in Hillsbrad near the mine where it frolics with it’s equally infested mother. If you’re after this little guy, be prepared to spend some time camping and killing before you see a rare.

Where?

The INfested Bear Cub spawns in western Hillsbrad south of the South Point Gate and all around the Azureload Mine. They spawn anywhere the Infested Bears spawn, which means anywhere encircling the mine. It’s not a large area, but there are quite a few bears, and you can use this to your advantage.

When?

These pets are not tied to any weather conditions or time of day. You can find them at any time. They have a respawn rate of about 10 minutes.

How?

The cubs are actually part of “mother bear” system with the larger bears in the area. Each of these larger bears has a chance to be a “mother bear”. Only mother bears will spawn cubs, but here’s the good news: they will spawn cubs continually, over and over, for as long as they are alive. This is why these cubs have a reputation for being really rare. This area and the bears in it are part of a quest, so they see a lot of turn over. Players questing through the area kill the bears, which means they are killing mother bears too. If you just casually check the place once or twice for a cub, you could very well never see one. Furthermore, the high volume of traffic in this area means that any questing player who is also keeping up with pet battles is also in a prime spot to swipe any cubs that do spawn right out from under you.

Your first move should be to come here during the off hours when little or no people are present. If you don’t have to deal with the random players killing the bears, finding a cub is going to be much easier. Here’s how it works. When you arrive, take note of which bears have a cub already spawned. These are mother bears. I used a raid marker to keep track of them. Put a mark on them, and then kill any bear in the area that does not have a cub. When those bears respawn, take another look at them. If any of them pop up with a cub, mark those too and kill the rest. If you can do this consistently (and no one is wandering around killing your mama bears) then you can conceivably make every bear on the map a mother bear, and greatly increase the number of cub spawns running around. If you want a rare cub, and you don’t get super lucky the first try, this is how to do it.

It took me several hours to finally get a rare. Sometimes I couldn’t keep more than one mama bear alive at a time, thanks to overzealous questers and misinformed pet hunters. Sometimes there were so many mama bears up I ran out of markers to keep track of them. If you run in to the issue of people killing the bears trying to force pets to spawn, it might be worth your while to politely educate them how this actually works. You’re much better off keeping the mother bears alive and waiting for the pets to spawn than you are killing everything and hoping for the right bears to pop back up. I’m willing to bet that a couple of courteous players in a group could get a lot more done here than a bunch of jerks running around killing everything and competing for spawns. Just something to think about.

And finally, make sure not to accidentally right click the mama bears when you go in to nab the pet. The babies like to walk right underneath the mothers, which makes targeting difficult. I made a targeting macro and then set my interact function to a hotkey so I wouldn’t accidentally kill the bears.

Fun tip: this method can also be used to farm the Diemetradon Hatchlings in Un’Goro Crater, as they use the exact same “mother and baby” spawning technique as the cubs.

Pet Battles: An Overview

Pet Battles are my favorite addition to WoW, as they feed both my long-lost love of the Pokemon “catch and battle” system and my addiction to collecting WoW pets in general. Whether you’re a casual collector picking up one or two favorites or a die-hard fanatic eager to collect every rare, there’s a lot of room in pet battles for individual tastes. It seems highly unlikely to ever fall out of fashion, as each patch adds more new pets to collect and obtain. As such, even the most accomplished collections are never fully “complete”. With over 500 pets obtainable in game it’s hard to know where to begin, so I’ve compiled what I hope is a useful overview guide of resources and tips. Later, I’ll be posting some on the finer points of battling and collecting hard-to-find pets. Without further ado:

Getting Started:

It’s hard to imagine that people still don’t know where to start this late in the expansion, but here it is anyway. If you’re Horde, go find Varzok up on the mesas in Orgrimmar by the flight master. Alliance members should go pester Audrey Burnhep in Stromwind by the Cataclysm portals. Train your character in the elite art of pet battling, and you’re good to go.

Again, I would be shocked to hear someone say they didn’t have one single pet to begin battles with, but if that’s you, these trainers also sell battle pets. Which pet they sell is tied to your race. Now that you have a pet to send into battle, we’ll talk about which pet and why.

Battle Pets

Each pet has a family type, and which type they are directly influences their effectiveness in battle. If you played Pokemon, you understand this concept. If you didn’t, it works like this: each pet has a family type. That type is strong against certain types and weak against others. Flying pets will demolish aquatic ones, but be demolished by magic ones for example. Knowing what type your pet is and what its strengths and weaknesses are is half the battle.

However, pets that belong to one family may have attacks that belong to another. Each attack has its own family too, so a beast type pet may have beast type attacks and attacks of another type. These combinations can make or break a pet battle, because (to stick with our previous example) sending a flying type pet with no flying type moves in against an aquatic pet isn’t going to go too well. It’s worth knowing these combinations if you plan on being successful.

Pet Quality

Battle pets come in qualities just like other items in the game. Poor, common, uncommon, and rare. Poor and common pets are not suitable to battle with. Uncommon pets are fine until you start dealing with master and grand master trainers, and then their lesser stats become an issue. In my opinion, the only pets worth leveling and battling with are rares. Lesser qualities pets are fine to fill out your collection, but I wouldn’t waste my time battling with them.

Lesser quality pets can be upgraded to rare with a Battle Pet Stone. These are items found in daily bags after defeating grand master tamers in Azeroth, Outland, Northrend and Pandaria. The lowest level tamer is 18, so your pets will need to be at least that to take them on. If you get lucky and get a stone in the daily bags, I would suggest using it on a pet that cannot be found rare in the wild, such as pets from quests or vendors.

Battle pets also have something called a breed ID. This is a number that represents its stat allotment. If you just want to casually collect, this means nothing to you. If you’re hardcore in to pet battling, it means a great deal. Battle pets have 3 stats: health, attack power, and speed. The breed ID simply designates which of these stats have the most in them. Some pets have only one ID, and thus only come in one “flavor” of stats. Many pets have several IDs, meaning you can hunt around to find one with the stats you like. Some will have higher speed, higher attack, balanced stats…it all depends on the ID. It may be worth it to find a lesser quality pets with the ID you want and then upgrade it with a stone if that pet happens to be a very hard to find pet.

Get Out There

The best way to figure all of this out is simply to get out into the world and start pet battling. Battle pet levels progress with zone levels, so level one pets will be found in starting zones and so on. A good starter team will consist of one beast pet, one flying pet, and one magic pet. These will be strong against the majority of pets your encounter in the wild for a good while.

Pet Battle Resources

There are a lot of websites out there that will help you while you battle your way across the world. Here are a few of my favorites.

Warcraft Pets. Hands down the best pet-related website out there. Includes info on where pets can be caught, what level they are in the wild, what their attacks are, and so on. Helpful forums for troubleshooting and trading pets. They even have a guild on Madoran (US, Horde) for the pet enthusiast.

Wowhead. Their interactive pet battle maps can help you determine where pets spawn in each zone. The comments section of each battle pet’s page are a gold mine of info if you get stuck. I go here often when hunting elusive pets to see what tips and tricks others have shared.

Pet Breed Database. This website has all the pet breed IDs listed for your perusal. Useful if you’re hardcore in to breed IDs and finding the perfect one for each pet (I’m not) and for determining if a lesser-quality pet is worth upgrading with a stone because if the breed (I am).

Add-ons

PetBattle Teams. Available on Curse. This allows you to create and save teams of pets, so you can swap them easily instead of manually dragging and dropping. Useful especially at max level when you face the daily tamers.

Daily Tamer Check. Also from Curse, this one keeps track of which of the daily grand master pet tamers you have defeated. It’s useful again at max level, though not so much before then.

Pet Breed IDs. From Curse. Tells you a pet’s breed ID. Best for those who are searching for the absolute best breed for each pet.

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That’s about it. Pet battling is best learned by doing, I find. Enjoy yourself. If you get frustrated, take a break. If  a pet isn’t working out, swap it. If a tamer is kicking your butt, get a few more levels and come back. It should be fun, not a chore, so don’t turn it in to one.

Next time I’ll post something about how to find a rare pet or two.