Seven Days In – Thoughts on Warlords

So seven days have gone flying by since we passed beneath the portal…  Despite all the server “issues”, Mr Harpy and I arrived at the level cap on Sunday which I must admit surprised us both, especially since he was working Thursday and Friday. We’ve got level 3 Garrisons, ticked off the Silver Proving Grounds achievements for our respective specs and are planning to head into dungeons in pursuit of gold, gear and toys courtesy of the Garrison Inn quests at the weekend. In the meantime though I’d thought I’d talk about my over all feelings towards the expansion as a whole.

The Good

The whole leveling experience itself. At least from the Alliance perspective, the quest chains were powerful, interesting and used cut scenes to convey emotions and show things which wouldn’t have worked in cold hard quest text. Compared to say Uldum and it’s cutscenes where I found myself reaching for the ESC button the second Harrison Jones appeared, this time around, it’s a completely different story.

Yrel as a character also surprised me. I don’t think Blizzard fell into any of the myriad traps they could have with her. Yes, she starts out unsure of herself as a leader, but everyone has to start somewhere and as you progress through the zones, she’s not the weak annoying character she could have become. Her voice does grate slightly though.

The sheer quantity of pets and toy items to be discovered hiding around the world.

Garrisons (when they choose to work). On paper at least, I wasn’t a fan but now I have this quiet corner of Shadowmoon Valley which is mine and mine alone, my feelings have changed. Already I have my own little hideaway where I can sit, watching guildchat go scrolling by.


The Bad

We hit 100 and were left looking at each other. We have five dungeons on normal if you could Skyreach which we’d already run for the legendary ring quest and the proving grounds quest in our Garrisons but there didn’t seem to be a clear path towards better gear. Yes, there are level 100 elites who have a chance of dropping something, you can buy things with Apexis crystals and of course make things if you have the relevant profession but we essentially stumbled our way into these things. Perhaps a bill board in the Garrison suggesting where to look would have helped, instead of pushing people to search the internet themselves.

The Ugly

Ashran. From everything I’ve read on the forums, every Ashran seems horribly unbalanced. On our server, there is around 100-150 Horde plus a large rock guy sitting in the Alliance base slaughtering the 15 or so Alliance brave enough to enter. I don’t understand why they didn’t follow on from the Tol Barad method where numbers are capped, for example if there are 20 of one faction, the other faction can only have 30 players to at least give tactical play a chance. If Mr Harpy and I had any intent of PvPing seriously this expansion we would have to server transfer to ensure we weren’t miles behind when the area season starts and that to me is just wrong.


All in all, I’m having the most fun I’ve had in WoW in a long time. Yes, the launch wasn’t brilliant and I admit I had a minor rant to Mr Harpy who develops software for a living, pointing out that if his work went live so prone to falling over, he’d be out of a job by now. His rational and reasonable response was simple, 10 million people aren’t all trying to use his software at once and should they do so, no doubt it would be a disaster. Plus, apart from the odd queue last weekend and one or two sticky episodes where my Garrison’s gravity trapped me for an hour or two, we didn’t have many issues.


On the ease of Leveling: Worgens, Whining and Warriors

It took a while but I finally found a hook to make me enjoy leveling my little Worgen Druid.


Ever since level 40 ish, we’ve been running every single dungeon  as a two person group and so far, 32 levels later it’s been a blast. Not only has this helped me feel a lot more comfortable playing Balance (a spec I haven’t touched since Wrath) but I think this has helped crystallize my feelings towards the intended Proving Grounds change. Dungeons whilst leveling are too easy by far. We’re running a Prot Warrior and Balance Druid combo and haven’t had any issues even when I’ve accidentally thrown mobs at other packs whilst trying to pour a drink one handed. I know that I’ve played a Druid since vanilla and yes, Mr Harpy has tanked on a Warrior since Molten Core including 25 man heroic progression fights in the past but this isn’t about ability to play, we couldn’t fail if we wanted to. I’m not saying that will continue all the way to level 90 but we know that we can two man the first Pandaria dungeons because we’ve already done it at the right level albeit on different classes.  Yes, it’s leveling but that is meant to be where you learn to play, having to expand your toolbox usage with every new spell you get and personally I don’t think it’s fair to set the bar so low below the level cap and then suddenly force players to jump through hoops in order to essentially run the same 5 man content just tuned harder.

The game should be progressive, every 10 levels or so everything should get harder so you have to think about what you’re doing. However we know that with the ability to buy level 90s,  if anything the lower levels will get easier not harder which is going to contribute to the issues we already face in group content. If you can either faceroll your way to 90 or hand over your credit card then yes that does mean that there will be some people who struggle in 5 mans either as new players or on new classes but them having obtained silver in test which can be learnt by rote without the random input of players is pointless.  Without a challenge, there is no purpose… but that challenge should not be artificially inserted 99 levels too late and worse input in such a way that it doesn’t fully reflect on what you’ll actually be asked to do in a heroic dungeon. Why not just tune the normals correctly so that they require some thought  and quite possibly some crowd control and then limit entry to the heroic versions to people who have completed the majority of the normals*. That way people will be familiar with said dungeons, will have obtained loot which will help them run the heroics and more importantly will have played with real people.

On our road to Northrend, we also took a brief detour to Karazhan to see how that had changed, given that Mr Harpy tanked him way back in the first few weeks of the Burning Crusade on a warrior with similar health to his new alt.


Yep, a picture is worth a thousand words. The only thing which hasn’t changed is the lack of a mount in the loot. In fact I suspect whilst we stopped here and went back to doing 5 man content, the only fight we might found painful would have been Chess but since that is soloable even that would doable.

On a slightly less whiny note, I’d forgotten how beautiful the Old Kingdom dungeons were. Who needs a Garrison, I’m planning on living here.


*I would have said every one but the random dungeon queue adds an annoyance factor to that.

Proving a Point – Thoughts on the Proving Grounds

  • You will need a Silver Proving Grounds medal in a given role in order to queue for random matchmaking for a HeroicWarlords dungeon. If you form a premade group, you can zone in regardless and no such requirement applies.

From here.

To begin, I’m not knee-jerkingly against this nor am I super excited. I don’t (unlike a fair number of WoW Insider’s readers) think that the sky is falling but I’m not convinced that it’s the correct way to fix the cesspit which random encounters can often be. I do on the other hand enjoy doing the Proving Grounds but that’s because I find it interesting to try and push my characters.


This is a tricky one, especially at the start of an expansion when everyone is essentially under-geared and adjusting to new spells and talents. I know from talking to guildmates that most of them have faith that if Blizzard put importance on this aspect of the game, that they will ensure that it’s balanced but I look at the Arena ladders and find myself questioning this.  To quote from the Godmother:

What I really don’t understand is why the whining has to start even now, because according to ‘people’ the Proving Ground mechanic is broken and ineffective for many classes. When I hear this, I must admit I find myself thinking one of two things:

1. You need to try harder.
2. You need to play better.

Now I fully subscribe to the principle behind this comment, there is always room for improvement and certainly on a personal level I’m far harder on myself than anyone else but the truth tends to be that certain classes perform better than others in certain situations and trying harder will only get you so far. I imagine it will be possible to get silver on every class and spec in-game but the skill cap is likely to be higher on some than others, remember for example at the start of TBC when Paladin tanks made the Shattered Halls seem trivial compared to the other tanks. Then there is the discrepancy between specs within a class and their scaling potential. Mr Harpy only plays fire on his Mage (long story don’t ask) and admits that despite having easily obtained gold on his dps monk that he would find it well nigh impossible to repeat that feat on his Fire Mage because Fire needs a far higher item level to come into it’s own than the capped Proving Grounds. Should he however give in to the cold side, I suspect he could tick it off on his Mage. My Priest is Holy, I’d rather play Shadow than Disc but it’s likely that when we’re newly dinged, one of my available healing specs will be easier to hit the mark than the other simply because of the nature of the game. This perhaps becomes more of an issue as the game progresses through an expansion. By the time we’re two or three patches down the line, class balance will have changed especially to factor in how some perform with the max item level available and it’s here we might start seeing the real casualties of this change when newly dinged players on a class which scales too well with gear start trying a gear capped encounter. It really depends where the bar is set.

Learning Curve:

Does the Proving Grounds teach you to play? As it currently stands, my answer would have to be yes, it does to a degree. Certainly the Healer challenge requires you to prioritize targets and perhaps more importantly think about your toolbox as a whole, i.e crowd control and interrupts if your class has them however I’d also argue that the activity displayed in the screenshot below teaches the exact same thing in a far more fun and random fashion:


However in most of the Heroics I have been dragged through, I haven’t needed to cc anything unless I was two manning it as a tank and healer combo (whilst it was current content of course). I’d also say that the Healing one focuses too much on mana control, something which is not needed to such an extent in any other aspect of the game.

People need to be invested in doing something for the right reasons otherwise the game becomes a chore and massively frustrating. I’d also say that people have to be in the right and receptive frame of mind to learn the proving grounds lessons, otherwise it’s nothing more than a paper exercise. You learn the required answers, you tick them off and promptly forget them. There is also the argument that it’s only the really challenging lessons which teach you anything and therefore if Silver is tuned too easily then it’s pointless for 99 percent of the community. Of course the opposite then runs the risk of being impossible for far too many of the player base but then there are ways around that, like playing with guildmates.

Character basis or Account-wide:

Silver needs to be required on every character you wish to queue with, at least until part way through the expansion in my book. Enchantments and gems are a big part of the problem in random content, people are focused on the fact that they will get better, shinier, purpler stuff so don’t bother with the entry gear and this is part of the mindset which needs breaking and rebuilding. The armory provides a list of what is missing as a sort of mini audit of your character and you shouldn’t be able to queue to the proving grounds making sure the basics are covered.

There is also difference between classes, even when covering the same roll and this is especially true of melee versus caster dps. I’m far better at playing casters than I am melee dps and certainly I imagine that getting silver on say a Mage or a Warlock would be considerably easier for me than doing so on a Rogue or Warrior. Therefore I should have to prove my mettle as a bare minimum on the type of dpser I wish to queue to random Heroics on but ideally on a character by character basis.


If your guildmates can carry you regardless and there is no bar to entering any other form of content, I question what’s the point. 5 mans are indeed a part of the game and I know from most “normal” people, that they encompass a large part of said game but if we’re trying to tackle the obnoxious, the lazy and the “don’t give a damn” brigade then surely this needs to go further. That’s before we even look at the potential for cheating this. Back in Vanilla with the Hunter quests, one of my Guild’s hunter’s completed the quest chain for alts, random Hunters on the server and pretty much anyone willing to supply their log-in details and pay his often fluctuating price. The cynic in me could easily see this happening again if it’s hard enough to be worthwhile. I know Mr Harpy and of course the seller of so many bows didn’t have an issue completing said quest but so many others did.

In conclusion:

All of this is semantics really because I don’t do Heroic Dungeons as I’m too scared that there will  angry people who will blame me rather than looking inward if we can’t stampede the whole place in three seconds flat but I feel that Proving Grounds whilst fun shouldn’t be linked so much to getting gear. The biggest issue I feel with random group activities is the rage you often find there and this won’t do anything to fix that, in fact people might actually be worse because they feel that as Blizzard have effectively “gated” content that everyone should be able to play better. Perhaps a more productive use of Blizzard’s time would be make leveling require a bit of thought, even if it’s only between levels 90 and 100 so that people hit the level cap with an understanding of what their class is capable of and more importantly that overwhelming desire to be the best they can be.

Day 11: A Screenshot A Day

Day 11 – What I did today


I had a go or two at Gold but fell short at the final hurdle. I think I need to focus a bit more and relax rather than start panicking. I suppose I should think of it as PvP rather than PvE.

I also paid the Timeless Isle a visit and picked up a bunch of coins, killed some rares and looted some upgrades for various characters. I still haven’t made up my mind about the Isle yet. As much as I hate dailies, I do like having something to focus on rather than riding around looking for shinies.