Happy Halloween

Lady Luck and the Wickerman

Lady Luck seems to favour Druids.

My Druid got her reins and a sinister squashling in the same bag. Mr Harpy got the mount on his druid too and out of the other four Druids in my guild, so far three of them have received the horse. Of course, my Priest, the character on which I’m collecting mounts only gets evil squashes with legs in her bags.

Hallows End remains my favourite festival. From the swarms of bats fluttering around, to the Headless Horseman attempting to burn down Brill every ten minutes it has far more personality than a lot of more recently added holidays. However much to my surprise, it turns out there is an element of Hallow’s End that I wasn’t aware of.

I was hanging out in Dalaran making netherweave bags when I noticed a conversation taking place between two of the Bloodelf Commoners.  When they weren’t trying to scare each other with their male draenei masks, they were talking about the Wickerman Festival and how it begins at 20.00. Now having crashed it a couple of times on various Alliance characters, I knew it existed but I really didn’t know much more than that. Every time I’d been it was either already burning or like the picture below, not yet in flames.

A quick port to Undercity later and I was outside the walls looking up at the giant statue. At the 19.30 mark and then again at 19.45, I noticed that Darkcaller Yanka would announce that the party would soon be starting.

(The time in the log is local time not game time).

Then suddenly at 20.00 on the dot, there was a flash of light and much to my surprise the Dark Lady herself appeared. It turns out that the Banshee Queen lights the fire every night, basically burning Arthas and quite possibly everyone else who isn’t Forsaken in effigy for the duration of the Festival. I can’t help wondering if next year, it’ll be a wicker Garrosh up there with the flames licking at his boots.

Once the fire is lit, piles of embers appear all around and when you loot one you receive the Invocation of the Wickerman.

Whilst I’m not sure how rubbing your face in burning embers should increase your reputation with any given faction, it does and that includes reputation gained from quest hand ins.

This was my first proper visit to the Wickerman Festival but it won’t be my last. If you haven’t been to witness it yourself, it’s definitely worth going to see, even if you are Alliance. If you play an Undead and you haven’t been, shame on you!

Questing Favourites: Kalimdor

The fact that you can’t move without falling over some scrap of information about Cataclysm has made me rather nostalgic about the world in it’s current incarnation. I’m currently running around trying to do all the bits and pieces that I love for one last time before they are gone for ever. Questing has always been one of my favourite activities in game. I much prefer it to running instances for level, primarily because I find dungeons, unless your party is truly awful to be boring once you’ve run them a handful of times. I end up on auto pilot, dps dps dps, loot, dps, dps, dps, loot, dps boss, dps boss almost hoping for some drama to unfold as we go. Which brings me to this post and my favourite all time quests. Some are sad, some make me smile and some are just plain silly but I recommend every single one of them. So if you’re looking for something to do before the world changes beneath our feet, go questing. After all, the dungeons (with the exception of ZG) will still be there tomorrow, these quests won’t be.

Alliance

Tears of the Moon – This has to be one of my all time favourite low level quests.

Lady Sathrah was once beloved of Elune. Graceful and pure, the spider spun her silver threads through the moonlight, catching the evening mist. The silvery dew had strong healing powers and was kept here in the temple.

But of late, Sathrah has descended into madness. Her future generations are now threatened as well.

You have to kill her and bring her spinnerets to the Temple of the Moon to redeem her. Once you put them in the moonwell, her ghost appears and walks around the statue. On my original character, this was the first sad quest I encountered and that memory has always stuck with me. Now I make a point of redeeming her on every Alliance character I make.

Sprite Darter Hatchling chain which begins with Freedom for All Creatures. This is another chain that I’ve completed on every single Alliance character I’ve ever levelled. Sure, it takes you all over the place but I love the rp feel of it. You help your little pet grow up by looking after it’s egg, that’s a far more rewarding feeling that just killing X number of it’s brethren. I’m also a secret fan of the traipse half way around the world quests. Perhaps because when I first started playing, it was those epic chains that run you through three or four zones which helped me explore.

Take Down Tethyr! – From the beginning of this chain, which starts with This Old Lighthouse the atmosphere builds up as bit by bit you learn that there really are sea monsters lurking off the coast of Theramore and that they have a thing for bright lights. Shame you just farmed some oil to relight the Lighthouse isn’t it. The fact that when Tethyr appears the weather goes from calm and bright to dark and stormy in a heartbeat is just icing on the cake.

Smilin Jim quest chain – I’ve talked about this one before but it touches my heart in a way I didn’t expect a game like WoW to be capable of. I want to avenge his family, I want to be able to comfort the guy and I wish there was some way we could attempt to break through his madness at the end.

I want to be  a furbolg aka the Raene’s Cleansing chain in Ashenvale. I have to admit part of the reason I love this chain is the rod of transformation and apart from one character (my priest) I’ve never actually finished the whole questline. Instead I prefer to keep the rod and keep turning into a furbolg.

The Howling Vale – Another epic chain which sends you half away across the globe. This was my first introduction to the Worgen and I have to say I didn’t like them very much.

To the north, near the Felwood border, the ruined shrine of Mel’Thandris has been overtaken by mysterious wolf-men. Their chilling calls have led the area to be known as the Howling Vale.

Following in the footsteps of a long vanished Elf, with each stop you learn a little piece of the puzzle.

Horde

A Dip in the Moonwell – There is just something cheeky about jumping into a moonwell with a dirty, dusty, rusty little robot right under a bunch of Nightelf noses.

Kyle’s Gone Missing – Finding the lost dog in Mulgore. I try and do this quest on all my Horde characters not just because of the sad story behind it, but because even without that aspect, how could you resist helping someone find their missing puppy?

The Alien Egg chain

I fear she may be stalking Cairne Bloodhoof; too much Tauren lore has changed, and I fear this has angered Arikara. Move quickly before all is lost

I love the idea of a wind serpent as a harbinger of death, stalking the Taurens for their acceptance of the culture of others.

A Test of Faith – I swear every time I do this, I expect to go falling to my death. One day, I’m not going to get ported to safety, instead my body will come crashing down in pieces onto the hard red rock.

Many facets make up a being: the spirit, the body, the mind. Some of these can be measured by a culture’s traditions. Others we can only hope exist within ourselves. If you agree, I shall test some of the facets within you.
If you pass, then you shall become stronger. If you fail, then you will realize the vastness of the Nether.
The first is a Test of Faith.

What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger or so it seems.

Both

Tooga’s escort quest – Now in general I have mixed feelings about escort quests and I admit this is one slow tortoise but the dialogue at the end when he’s reunited with his wife makes trailing across Tanaris all worthwhile.

I’m sure there are other amazing quests out there in Kalimdor but these are the ones which sprang straight into my mind when a guildmate asked “So what are your favourite quests?”.

Water Water Everywhere

As you might have guessed, I’m in love with the new water effects. My one nit picky issue is that regardless of the weather, there are no waves, but other than that, I think it looks amazing.

Lightwell and Loving it

I’ve been experimenting with Lightwell. This expansion I’m determined that my guild will not only use it but come to love it (that way I can use Chakra lolsmite more).

We’ve managed to get it down to a three button press. In those three clicks you target the lightwell, use it and then return to your current target. You don’t need to see the Lightwell or know where it is, if it’s in range this will work. Whilst it’s not the most elegant solution it deals with a couple of Lightwell issues. Dps don’t have to waste time running around looking for it and neither do they have to try and target it through a seething mass of bodies.

First of all you need to make two macros.

Macro A, which I boringly called LightwellA

/target Lightwell

and then Macro B, equally boringly named LightwellB

/targetlasttarget

Then you need to go into the Blizzard key bindings (the ones accessed through Escape) and set a key for “interact with target” which can be found in the “targeting functions”.

Once you’ve done that, put the two macros on your bars and keybind them to something. Personally I don’t use the arrow keys on my keyboard, so I’ve used the left arrow with macro A, the down arrow with “interact with target” and right arrow with macro B. That allows me to roll over the keys in sequence, as easy as A, B, C (The order always has to be Macro A then whatever you bound “interact with target” and then finally Macro B). Our feral druid can do it so fast you don’t actually see him target the Lightwell, he’s just mysteriously got the hot on.

In addition I’m going to make an announce macro when I drop it so they have no excuse. Now all I need to do is make the rest of my guildmates make the macros and put them somewhere…

Unwrapping your Chakras

Holy Priests got an early Christmas present this patch in the form of Chakras. However like most of my Christmas gifts it’s taking a bit of getting used to. Puce Argyll sweaters hand knitted by a Great Aunt anyone?

A Brief Overview

Chakra is a new talent in the Holy Priest tree.

As you can see from the tooltip there are four different Chakra states. Within the Holy tree there are also a couple of other talents which benefit your Chakras. The most important of these is Revelations as it adds more spells to your healing arsenal.

Holy Word: Chastise is the new class defining spell that all Holy Priests receive at level 10 for picking the Holy tree. Besides Revelations, you can also spend two points to shorten the cooldown of your Holy Words (Tome of Light) and a further two points to help you prolong your Chakra states (State of Mind). Personally, I would recommend picking up both State of Mind and Tome of Light if you’re speccing for Chakra and I can’t really see a Holy Priest not picking up Chakras right now.

Our mastery also works with all three Holy Word: heal spells. You get full benefit from Sanctuary and Serenity whilst only the upfront portion of Aspire provides the hot (just like Divine Touch portion of Renew).

How to use your Chakras

First of all, Chakra doesn’t trigger a global cooldown so you can easily make macros for each of the four possible states.

/cast Chakra

/cast Prayer of Healing

Being an example (don’t forget to remove the extra line).

Once you have picked your Chakra you need to cast the relevant spell before you can use Holy Word: Chastise. For example, if I want to use Holy Word: Serenity, I need to cast a heal first. Without that heal, you just get the message “invalid target”. Besides making it easier to use, this is another reason why macroing Chakra to each spell is possibly the simplest thing to do.

To Clarify you have to cast either a renew, prayer of healing or heal before you can use the corresponding Holy Word: Chastise.

It might seem as if that’s a lot of new spells to find room for, but it’s not too bad because when it comes to adding the Revelations components to something like Clique/Vuhdo etc, you just have to add Holy Word: Chastise. Whilst your tool-tip on your interface might change, the actual spell name that Blizzard uses to track it doesn’t.  At the moment I’m using Vudho because Grid and Blizzard’s own UI drove me crazy in the first few hours of post patch madness and here is a screenshot from my setup.

I selected mousewheel up for my Holy Word spells and now as long as I’m in one of the three healing Chakras, it casts the appropriate one whenever I roll my mouse up over my raid UI.

When to use your Chakras

Whenever you feel like it. Personally I’m working on the principle that our class is probably balanced around it and was having great fun in an Alterac Valley zerg using Prayer of Healing, Circle of Healing and Holy Word: Sanctuary. I could easily get used to that many green numbers floating around my screen. For five mans, I tend to default towards Chakra Heal because most of the time I’m only healing one person but in raids (although I haven’t had a huge amount of time to test yet), it’s on a fight by fight basis. As we learn new fights in Cataclysm, it should be easy enough to decide which phase of which fight suits which Chakra best. However get used to using them now because I doubt very much that they will be going anywhere.

Maintaining your Chakras

At the moment Prayer of Healing is the easiest to keep up as potentially you have five times four seconds added on each time you cast it (four seconds for each person that the PoH hits if you have two points in State of Mind). Heal is in my opinion the most annoying to keep up. I did my dailies as Holy this morning and managed to stay in Chakra Smite the whole time, using Body and Soul to zip between mobs. In fact until my guild’s Shadow Priest started talking about his target dummy numbers, I actually felt like a real dpser.

Is Holy Word: Chastise any good by it’s self?

Yes, yes, yes, yes!

Coupled with Body & Soul, it provides a handy escape tool from melee. The only issue I have is that you have to be facing your target to cast it which can be a bit of a pain. Use it as an interrupt or just to buy a bit of time to escape. Remember you can use in it dungeons too to help out with the crowd control or interrupting.

Chakra: Smite also boosts the damage it does and because it’s a disorient it doesn’t break on damage either. Add in the short cooldown and it provides a panic button that Holy didn’t really have before.

What does the future hold for Chakras?

In the current beta build, the cooldown has been reduced to 30 seconds which I think will really help us switch from one to another easily. That’s definitely a step in the right direction. However, I have my concerns about the mana costs. People are already complaining about struggling to keep up Renew Chakra in Icecrown with the decent mana regen we have now, what that’s going to be like at 85 in a proper raid environment still remains to be seen.

Our tier 11 set bonus is also geared around us being in a Chakra state as much of the time as is humanly possible. 540 spirit for the duration of a Chakra given the intended Cataclysm model of mana starvation is not to be sneezed at. Obviously a shortened cooldown would help us maintain it easier so we’ll just have to hope that goes live. (Apart from the helm, I think I’m one of the few people who actually likes the Priest tier 11 set. I think the colours are amazing, far better than puce.)

I’ve seen a quite a few posts on the forums complaining about the clunkiness of the whole Chakra system however I remain fairly positive. Healing has always been about understanding the fight and knowing which spell to use when. The whole Chakra system plays on that. If you know that there will be massive amounts of AoE damage incoming two minutes into the fight then you make sure you’re set up for that.

Aligned Chakras and Post Patch PvP Pains

First of all, I have to say I love Holy. The chakras are fun, easy to keep up and the whole tree feels like it has synergy. Power Word: Chastise is useful on it’s own and great when working with the chakras. I ended up speccing like this.

Since Holy has so few choices, I’ll talk briefly about the points I avoided rather than those I took.

  • No Spirit of Redemption – I’ve always hated this talent and have only taken it for the last few years because of the extra spirit it provided. Not only is it part of the reason that the myth of extra squishy priests who die all the time exist (because addons like recount count 2 deaths for every one you actually have), if you die just before a boss and are masquerading as a fail angel, you don’t get credit for the boss kill which is particularly annoying for first kills as you watch the rest of your raid spam their achievements.
  • No Desperate Prayer – In PvE I have plenty of self healing options already.
  • Blessed Resilience – It’s current version is actually fairly tempting but the top of holy is too full of other crucial stuff to make it worthwhile.

Yes, I took Lightwell. Cataclysm is going to be the expansion in which I “persuade ” people to use it.

Then the first problem reared it’s head when I realised that the alt self cast function wasn’t working properly. Instead of letting you heal yourself regardless of whom you were targeting (as it was yesterday), now it only worked if you were targeting an enemy. Now because I don’t tend to use clique on myself in PvP (I prefer just using alt + keybind because I find it works better on the move) this was a bit of a problem. One which I worked around by making macros for every spell.

#showtooltip

/cast [mod:alt,target=player] Flash Heal

/cast [nomod] Flash Heal

(Remove the spaces between each line and replace flash heal with whatever spell you want).

That problem solved, all excited and happy I agreed to do a few battlegrounds with some guildmates. Mind blast, solar beam, starsurge, splat… it didn’t matter what I did, not only was I struggling to stay alive, I couldn’t keep anyone else up for long either. The win went to the team fielding the most boomkins, mages, warlocks and shadowpriests. Luckily this varied a bit, but frustrating doesn’t fully explain it. The feeling of going from pre-patch happiness when it took two or three people playing properly to kill you, to being regularly hit for upwards of 12k whilst stunned in a solar beam.

That said, as the battlegrounds progressed and we managed to get our raid frames to stop jumping around all over the place, they did get easier. Perhaps all the really nastily geared people went to bed or something but by the last game I think I only died once which was a huge improvement on the slaughter of the first few. I ended up preferring Holy for PvP which surprised me. A combination of chastise with body and soul was great for escaping, especially since we can remove poisons from ourselves. Racing to get to your flag to hand in before they pick up, chastise the guy chasing and shield the flag carrier. For a proper PvP build I’d pick up Blessed Resilience and Desperate Prayer but I’m definitely planning on trying a Holy build at 85.

The other thing I managed to do was run around looking at the water effects which having inspected in a variety of locations, I decided I liked a lot.

All in all, I’m fairly positive about the patch and the next two months. Blizzard have already posted saying that the classes I was struggling with are doing too much damage, so I wasn’t necessarily doing anything wrong. Whilst I have mixed feelings about Disc, I think Holy feels amazing but then I’ve always had mixed feelings about Disc so nothing has really changed there.

Shared Topic – Azeroth’s Hidden Gems

Over at Blog Azeroth, the shared topic this week is:

The secrets of the World of Warcraft

Suggested by Syl of Raging Monkeys.

I love this topic so much, I’m going to share a couple of my favourite hidden things with you. First of all, the best location in the whole of Azeroth. Up high, where the mountains touch the sky, you can sit, relax and look down on the world spread out beneath you. When I first started playing, I was so in awe of this world, I talked to every NPC I could find. Some with better results than others, for example Sergra Darkthorn really wasn’t happy to see my little human warlock wandering through Crossroads looking for polite conversation.

We were heading through Feralas on our way to Feathermoon Stronghold for the very first time, I think so I could learn the next alchemy recipes when we spotted this female nightelf standing by the way side.

Being the type of heroes who rush to the rescue of people in distress, we naturally left the path to ensure she was alright. However instead of asking us to retrieve her lost luggage or kill some marauding bears for food, she wanted to send us up a mountain. A little dubious as there were no ladders or any other visible means of ascending, we accepted her quest. Whoosh, one minute we were standing with both feet firmly on the ground and the next… it was as if some whirlwind had picked us up.

The land of Feralas has been through much, human. The earth, the trees, the creatures; they are all changing what Feralas is and will be.

The Twin Colossals above us remain constant, though, throughout all that has happened here…”

 

The perfect picnic spot

 

Here I am sitting at the top by the pool and watching the sky. Once you are up there, the only way is down but you don’t just have to hurtle to your death, unless you want to of course. A nightelf gentleman will sell you a parachute for a few silver, however don’t deploy it too soon as it doesn’t last long at all and those rocks hurt if you hit them head on. For mages, priests and engineers you can descend at your own pace taking in the view.

 

The Colossus in all it's glory

 

Trust me, that’s a long way down. Also if you hit the rocks half way up, it can be tricky to resurrect without someone else managing to land next to you to res you or taking res sickness, so be careful.

Possibly my favourite disguise is that of a Dark Iron Dwarf which comes from the best watering hole in the Eastern Kingdoms, The Grim Guzzler itself. Home to Coren Direbrew (some of the year), some of the best bar snacks in Azeroth (all the time) as well as the Tauren Chieftans, I love the bar. Especially now I have my direbrew remote, it’s my hangout spot of choice whilst forum reading. Whilst I’ve never managed to play a Dwarf beyond lv 5, I love their animations and so this is my substitute.

Standing at the back of the Bar is a gentleman called the Dark Iron Brewer. He’s neutral to both factions and has a couple of pages of dialogue for you  to work through.

Once you’ve read it all, he drops a flagon of beer on the ground. Drink it and you become a Dwarf. Unfortunately they don’t stack so you’re limited to one in your bags at once but you drink one and pick another up for later. The disguise doesn’t last after death either. From a spot of experimentation, it seems as if the Dwarf you become is down to armour specialisation rather than anything else. For example every caster I’ve tried, regardless of class and faction ends up looking like my Priest above.

Druids and I think rogues get this model and so on.

Finally, my favourite item of clothing tends to be a bit of a secret too, at least if you only play the Alliance. The sleeveless t-shirt only drops from Alliance corpses (includes players) inside Alterac Valley. The flavour text reads “On the inside collar it reads, “Inspected by Earl Z. Moade.” All my characters wear them with pride even though they’ve been around since the early days of AV, when you could argue that the Horde possibly had a slight advance over the Alliance as they could jump into the Dun Baldar bunkers and their choke point was considerably more choking than the Alliance version.

Here you see my Priest modelling a sleeveless T-shirt and a ripped ogre loin cloth. I’m guessing there must be a lot of safety pins around the back holding it together as there is a bit of a size difference between a Bloodelf and an Ogre.

This is one of the reasons I’m really looking forwards to Cataclysm. Exploring and hunting down new quirky things is up there with killing a boss for the very first time.

Saturday Screenshots – Selected entirely at Random

Dead People

Please don't leave me!

Alterac looking towards Silverpine

Blog Azeroth Shared Topic: What’s in a name?

The shared topic this week is all about names.

How did you decide upon the name for your character(s)? Did you delve into Norse, Greek, or Roman mythology? Did you choose a name from one of your family members? Did you mash the “Random” name generator button in vain until you stumbled upon something you liked? Is your name a play on aspects of your class, using spells or other traits? Did you play around with syllables, vowels, and consonants until you found something that you loved?

suggested by Llani of Pocket Heals.

I’ve always had trouble picking the perfect name for each of my characters. It has to be something which suits the personality of the character, without being too silly, obscene or full of íntéréstíng accents. I learnt the latter the hard way, after deciding to call my Undead Priest Dornröschen. What seemed like a good idea at lv 1 was actually exceedingly annoying for friends by lv 70. Although it did cut down on gold selling whispers, so I suppose every cloud has a  silver lining. As W.H Auden wrote “Proper names are poetry in the raw” and thus the choosing of cannot be taken lightly.

The very first character I made all by myself was a warlock. So when I went searching for suitable names I wanted something which I felt suited this slightly evil creature who liked playing with demons. At the same time I was reading the Illiad as part of my course work and when I came across this:

And he prayed aloud, looking up to the wide heaven: “Be Zeus before all witness, highest and best of the gods, and Earth, and Sun, and Erinyes, who under earth take vengeance upon men

and

but it is not I who am the cause, but Zeus and Destiny and Erinys that walketh in the darkness, who put into my soul fierce madness

I knew I had to call her Erinys and when I rerolled with friends on another server, my new main, a Priest ended up being called Erinys as well. I had intended the Priest would melt faces but since back then it was spec holy/disc or watch your guild raid without you, that didn’t last long. Despite having had the opportunity to name change whilst server and faction transfering, she just is Erinys now. Calling her anything else would be a crime.

My second and third warlocks are both called Teasel after the prickly plant which grew along the river bank near my Grandmother’s when I was a little girl. Plant names tend to be my fall back if I can’t find any suitable mythological names. Besides I couldn’t help but think that my warlocks suit being named after a very beautiful, although not in the classical sense plant which comes with lots of little spikes. It’s not a far leap of the imagination to go from a death of a thousand little spines to dying slowly covered in dots.

The third category of names I use are place names. My mage Clova for example is named after Glen Clova. We drove past the signpost for the Glen when I was frantically trying to think of a name and so it was obviously fate.

I was hoping to call my new gnome priest Bubblensqueak but unfortunately Blizzard are a bit mean with their character allowance and Bublensqueak or Bubblensquek or any variation there of just look wrong. That’s probably a good thing though.

One of my favourite resources for names can be found here. Failing that, road maps, atlases and gardening books have all proven very useful in the past. I have to say I loved reading everyone else’s responses though, perhaps more so than any other topic so far. Names are so personal and seeing a touch of other people’s thought processes has been fascinating.

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