Wednesday, 30 September 2015

Tol Barad mastered

When I came back in Mists, Tol Barad was one of the things I had to play catch up on. With the help of a couple of my guildies I got almost all of the Master of Tol Barad meta completed. Fortunately, unlike Wintergrasp, the meta only requires 25 wins and not 100 (my GM is still trying to get WG completed). However the Tol Barad Saboteur achievement appeared bugged, as I couldn't get credit for killing siege engines no matter how I did it, and comments on Wowhead confirmed the problem, so I abandoned it for the time.

I've recently headed back to TB by myself to finish it off, and there is basically no-one there now. I've seen the odd horde player but only once encountered any alliance resistance. So to get that last achievement I had to get creative, using my alliance rogue.

Firstly, horde had to be defending. To pilot a siege engine, you need an honorable kill, so I had to get my rogue to kill my shaman. There were a couple of hurdles of course:
  1. They are both on the same account so I had to work around timeouts to get the hk.
  2. My rogue was fresh and not well geared so couldn't kill my shaman before it timed out.
  3. Whenever you enter/relog, you get ported to either the entrance or the centre tower depending on whether you are attacking or defending. And you lose the buff gained to pilot siege engines when you switch over.
So the process went like this:
  1. On shaman, run to entrance and take off all gear.
  2. Alt F4 and log onto rogue quickly.
  3. Kill shaman, pilot and position siege
  4. Alt F4 and log onto shaman.
  5. Resurrect, put gear back on, run to tower, pop cooldowns and kill siege.
  6. Repeat.
The first time I did this I only managed 2 siege kills before TB completed. However on subsequent tries I positioned 2 sieges each time, and allowed a tower to be killed to get an extra 5 minutes. This allowed me to get at least 5 siege kills per TB, and I was done in no time.

I was not done with the dailies however. There are a lot of goodies to buy using the Tol Barad Commendation currency: 2 mounts, 2 pets, a toy, a battle standard and a tabard. 745 commendations if you wanted everything today.

Unfortunately before my guild died in Cata, I'm pretty sure I bought a Stump of Time for 125, which in hindsight was not well spent. But, the battle standard is no longer useful, the tabard isn't really useful given TB's proximity to Orgrimmar via portal, and my good friend gave me a Fox Kit, which eased the burden a lot.

The Fox Kit was originally not available on the vendor, only on an extremely low drop chance from killing foxes around the island. You can still get them as drops, as I got into the habit of killing any foxes I saw and was lucky enough to get a second one recently.

I'm glad to say I've finally finished, getting the last item I needed on Tuesday. It was a bit of a chore, but it's mainly because it is irrelevant and empty - there are things to like about the place when looking at some of the issues Ashran is having, and seeing good old content sit dormant is disappointing. These are topics for another day though.

Tuesday, 22 September 2015

Raining trinkets

A big turnaround in fortune and a fantastic week in WoW.

At the start of the week, I was still using mythic Blackiron Micro Crucible along with the Chipped Soul Prism from Kazzak.

First up, we hit Iskar and while we still haven't had it drop, I coined a socketed Unblinking Gaze of Sethe. Nice.

Completing the mythic dungeon weekly, I wasn't expecting anything but was rather fortunate to get a warforged Prophecy of Fear.

Now all that was remaining was the class trinket. I've obviously made enough noise about wanting it, and about my lack of luck using personal loot, that my guildies tried to wind me up about it. But we went with master loot after 6 kills using personal, so finally I got a Core of the Primal Elements.

The trinket makes flame shock much more powerful and changes the talent selection and priorities a bit. It might take a few days to get used to, particularly not automatically flame shocking when switching back to a target after killing an add. I'm hoping it will improve my results on some of the earlier bosses, in particular Hellfire Council, where last week Warcraft Logs had me at 75% overall, but only 9% within my bracket, presumably down to the missing trinket. However I think we've reached the point where no-one needs those bosses and they may just get skipped.

I was also fortunate to have a Cursed Demonchain Belt drop from trash, and again socketed. With this and the trinkets, I don't really need anything before Heroic Archimonde, and as we are not doing mythic, all that's really left for me is the kill. After spending 2 hours on him, the only major hurdle left seems to be separating the infernals. Once we get better at that, they should die a lot quicker and we should see him defeated.

A funny moment on normal, I switched to the Void Star because it looked like we wouldn't get out in time to ignore it. I was wrong, everyone else got out, leaving me to eat the Void Star - but I landed on a little ledge off the edge and didn't die. I couldn't get back up, and eventually the Nether Storm surrounded me and killed me, but it was pretty amusing.

To top off my good week with loot, I also knocked off a couple of big ticket items on my to-do list. Firstly, a Highmaul Coliseum group helped me get the Lord of War title and Warlord's Flag of Victory, something I'd long since given up on doing solo. Secondly, the amount of rep you get from mythic dungeons is superb, and both Auchindoun and Everbloom give Laughing Skull rep, so 5-6 runs later I finally got exalted, saving me many, many trips to The Pit and Everbloom Wilds. Finally, I also got wave 30 endless proving grounds on my hunter. I set out to do it on my shaman, but gave up and went and did it on my hunter, as I did in Mists, because it is still so much easier.

Thursday, 10 September 2015

PvP pet battle levelling

I had been planning to level my warlock and mage, so that I could max out Herbalism and Tailoring, to complete Grand Master of All. I had put this off until we could fly in Draenor.

A guildy had been grinding out 2000 pet battles for the Draenor Pet Brawler achievement/garrison monument, and noted that progress was account wide. As pet battles give experience, he was able to level a character while doing this grind. He battled the pets outside the garrison in Frostfire. It wasn't an efficient way to level, but it killed two birds with one stone.

I thought it was worth investigating, which lead to the discovery that PvP pet battles also count. Imagine that, being able to level a character, progress on the garrison monument, AND make progress on:
So I dipped into it to see if it were feasible. I quickly found that not many people queue at this stage. There were times when it seemed no-one was queuing, and others where I'd just encounter the same opponent or two. This leads to the next problem, strength of teams. Those who are queuing seem to be mostly experienced battlers, using some powerful teams that unless you have an equally strong team and know what you are doing, or get lucky with a hard counter, you will not defeat.

An example team I encountered was Fragment of Anger, Graves and Zomstrok. I tried a few combinations of aquatic type and critter attack pets that I had, but he'd do massive damage to my back line pets. After 6 or so losses, I figured he needed to die quickly, and without evasive type manoeuvres, I could use Iron Starlette to nuke him, with aquatic back line pets to minimise damage taken. I scored 2 wins - but this was a hard counter that would fail against other teams. I stopped queuing at this point, somewhat satisfied that I managed to get a couple of wins, but dismayed with how.

I've done enough PvE battles to have a decent stable (105 level 25 pets), but am still overwhelmed at the number of pets/moves and possible teams/counters. I couldn't tell you what the strong teams are, or what the current metagame is. I try to maintain my own notes on what works but I'm just not invested enough to learn it all the hard way. That leaves two realistic options - look up strong teams and FOTM counters, and/or copy other strong teams I encounter along the way.

This will first require work on my collection, as a lot of the pets I might need either aren't levelled, or I don't have. For example, the Fiendish Imp looks like a good candidate (I ran Karazhan and killed Illhoof so many times trying to get that pet that I got sick of it and just bought it off the AH, but it remains at level 1). I'll have to make do without pets like Murkalot, as I don't do Blizzcon tickets or collector's editions.

Initial impressions are that it probably isn't feasible. My primary interest is not getting the PvP battle achievements, so between the queue times, and the investment required to make it work, I'd imagine I'll either give up, or make sufficient progress on the monument just working on my collection, such that I won't end up doing many PvP battles. A realistic goal would be completing the 250 wins for Brutal Pet Brawler to get a Stunted Direhorn.

Sunday, 6 September 2015

Goodbye multistrike?

After the Legion announcement, with the talk about how specs would be differentiated, I had been wondering about multistrike. Elemental's mastery was essentially multistrike until it was made into a stat and given to everyone, and as a result elemental lost a unique characteristic. So I was thinking about people's reaction if that was to be reversed, and today we learn that in Legion multistrike is actually being removed. This surprised me; most people, if asked what stat should be removed, would name versatility. I like multi, but that is primarily because it's our best stat. I have a few reasons to dislike it as well:
  1. As it was elemental's mastery, we needed a new one and got molten earth, which is conceptually cool, but weak in practice, with mastery our worst stat as a result.
  2. It has a reduced effectiveness in PvP, so specs that are attuned to that stat suffer comparatively.
  3. It's a percentage chance for an attack to do more damage - so it is very similar to crit, but on a separate damage event.
  4. It contributes to 'spam' - lots of little combat numbers as opposed to fewer, bigger numbers, more spell effects/sounds.
  5. It's not great for resto, for when I switch specs.
So I won't be too sad to see it go, as long as elemental gets back a unique multistrike element akin to our old Elemental Overload mastery. Moving away from it completely could be quite harmful to the spec's already weak popularity.

Blizzard also needs to find some way to keep secondary stats interesting. Removal of multistrike with no other additions would leave 4 stats for DPS classes - haste, mastery, crit and versatility. If each piece of gear has 2 secondary stats on it, that would reduce the number of possible combinations to 6. This would be good for getting the optimal stats from random stat rolls, but would this simplify gearing too far?

Tanks and healers each have another stat, in bonus armor and spirit, that can be found on rings, necklaces, cloaks, and trinkets. I think spirit works well as it gives some options in gearing that players can utilise depending on the fight, but bonus armor is the best stat for all tanks, so it doesn't provide any options. And DPS have nothing equivalent - perhaps this is in an area for improvement.

Leech, avoidance and speed (tertiary stats?) are completely inconsequential. They currently function as a bonus, but their effect is minimal, and attaining them is unreliable. These stats could become permanent secondary stats rather than random chances at a bonus, but their effect would probably need to become a bit more pronounced to make them valuable, as it is hard to find any worth in them at their current levels.

Wednesday, 2 September 2015

Ashran mercenary

Ashran has received a lot of hate, and I have to admit some of it is warranted. I spent a lot of time in there in 6.1 and it was premade dominated. Getting in one was great, I often acted as leader, and given control of the Ancient Artifact, you didn't lose. But if I entered solo, I'd just encounter instances where alliance were controlling, presumably with a premade group, creating a feedback loop where both sides needed to join one to have any lasting success. Due to the reward structure the dominant side would usually farm events leaving the other to kill the general or farm mobs - two balanced teams rarely clashed.

It's obvious a change was needed. After the 6.2 changes, when both sides are relatively balanced, and teams are coordinating, it actually works really well - events are often competed, with the losing side able to pull out and progress the main road while the winner completes the event, often culminating in a big clash at the base defence. No aspect of Ashran seemed underutilized, and there seemed less downtime as well.

However, more often than not (at least during the week), the sides aren't balanced and therefore it doesn't work well. This seems to be a result of the PvP population imbalance. Looking over the fact that, as a whole, alliance may now have more geared, skilled players, more importantly they also have large queues. This has the tendency to weed out the less dedicated, and once they get in, they stick at it. Horde players on the other hand, enter Ashran, see we are not winning, and leave immediately.

As a result, the typical horde Ashran has high turnover, creating a numbers deficiency, and many just stand around not contributing, rather than trying and inevitably dying. Eventually, a leader may be able to entice players to group up, and the invisible balance buff turns the tides - but mostly it is an uncoordinated mess.

All of these problems seem to come down to population imbalance. That's why I'm looking forward to seeing if mercenary mode has a positive effect. Whilst I don't expect we will be able to use it, as we are on the underpopulated side, I'm not a roleplayer, so I don't have any qualms about playing with undercover alliance players. It depends a lot on at what threshold it becomes available, and whether it only impacts queue times, or whether it has a flow on effect to balance aspects as well. If it turns out that alliance queuing mercenary just enter a losing instance, they won't be likely to do it.

But I think players from both sides would be willing to trade-off queue times for balance and hopefully a better PvP experience all round.