Multitasking with Lowbies

October 22, 2014

Ok, so my brain is something of a train wreck. I was wanting to work on leveling up some pets. So why not just go do it? Because my brain doesn’t work that way. Here’s how it does work…

First, I thought, “Well, you may as well do the battles on a toon that isn’t 90 yet to get some character XP, too.” So, I did. And guess what? Toons are getting some pretty crazy character XP from pet battling, especially with level 25-ish pet battles. I’m talking about 10-14K XP per battle at levels 85-89 (for comparison, a quest is worth 12-16K at that level). I don’t know if this scaling for pet XP is intended, or how long it will last if it wasn’t. That said, it made it past the first round of post-patch hotfixes unscathed, so who knows?

Anyway, I was pretty happy with my scheme except for one little thing: I’m nearly out of level 85-89 toons to work on. So, then I thought, “Well, maybe you should see if the crazy XP scaling still works on lowbies.” So, I did. Crazily enough, it works pretty well. I was completely surprised *how* well it worked. I took my then-level-36 (now 38) pally out there to test the waters and what I found was that it’s completely viable to level up this way. I’ve been getting 3,700, 4,200 XP per battle (which is about 8% of a level on average). It is perhaps not as efficient as doing dungeons and quests at your level or in appropriate zones, but it does have the added bonus of killing two birds with one stone: you’re leveling a toon and a battle pet. Also, it’s a little something different to do, or at least to add into the mix.

Still not convinced? Bear with me.

Ok, so I know what you’re thinking. It’s the first thing Askevar asked me, and believe me, it was the first thing I was worried about myself. “Won’t you die horribly the second you step out into the world?” Shockingly, no.

One of the strangest things about the stat squish is that even at level 36-37 my little prot pally can take a couple hits from level 85-90 mobs and survive. Now, granted, he’s a tank, so he’s a little sturdier than most, and admittedly he wouldn’t ever be able to kill the creature attacking him, but you do have a few hits worth of time to run away or find help (guards, friendly players, etc.). Yes, you will still have an enormous agro radius, but it could be worse.

Ok, so your chances of survival aren’t as abysmal as you expected, but how about getting around? Isn’t that terrible, too? Actually, not as bad as you’d think.

Granted, toons below 85 will need help getting to Pandaria. I know that a mage portal does the trick. A warlock summon (or instance summoning stone) may work, but I haven’t tried it, so I can’t vouch for those. At a guess I’d say probably yes to warlock, no to instance, unless they’re a big enough level that they are able to walk into the instance, but again, that’s just a guess.

Once you’re there, though, you have a variety of options near flight paths to do your pet battling. Having a toon with a 2-seater mount fly you around to get the flight paths makes traveling between the spots I mention quick and easy. Once you have them, you’ll be self-sufficient, even on a baby toon.

  • The first is obviously Halfhill. Halfhill, and the bulk of the farming lands across from it, are free from hostile mobs, making it easily the largest safe zone for your lowbie. There is a single pack of wolves that will agro on you if you’re little, but if you kite them into the town, the Halfhill guards kill them for you, giving you an easy passage into the safe zone beyond. As long as you don’t stray too far in any direction, you’ll be fine, and there are plenty of little packs of critters to fight. And I do mean critters. You’ll be facing mostly critters with a few aquatic thrown in. Any beast with Devour (most cats have it) will tear through critters quickly and Devour will keep him healed to full. Simply have a carry pet strong enough to survive a single attack in your first slot, then swap out to the cat to finish them off. Rinse and Repeat.
  • The second is Tavern in the Mists (near the Black Market Auction House). There aren’t as many critters, here, and the zone isn’t quite as large, but there’s still plenty of space to move around. You can actually roam around anywhere from the foot of the big stone staircase in the Valley to the grassy ledges toward the cave separating the Veiled Stair from Kun’lai. Exactly how far you can roam at the top depends on your level, but even on an extreme lowbie there are quite a few pets scattered around. Although not quite as many as there are near Halfhill, they are usually *all* critters, meaning you won’t waste a round swapping to a flyer or doing sub-optimal damage. (The difference isn’t enough to completely make up for the increased travel time, but it helps.)
  • The third is the small pond near the legendary pet No-No in the Vale of Eternal Blossoms. Unlike the first 2, this one is not near an inn, although he is near a flight path. You can reach him by using the flight path to Serpent’s Spine, and then jumping down off the wall and riding around to No-No. The pets here are mostly aquatic, so you’ll want to counter with a strong flying pet with self-healing. Chi-Chi, Hatchling of Chi-Ji fits the bill nicely, as does the wild pet Flamering Moth. Any strong flyer will work if you don’t have those, but you’ll need some other way to counteract low health in your workhorse pet. You could swap out for a similar pet (moths and birds are plentiful) if you have them leveled, or you could simply use pet bandages to fill the gaps in between your free 8-minute-CD heal.
  • Let me just say up front that, unlike the others, the final spot is not easily accessible. The spot is on the ledge in the Dread Wastes where the legendary pet Gorespine resides. Because it isn’t near a flight path, you’ll need to be dropped off with a 2-seater mount (or else you’ll be doing a ton of corpsewalking) and because it also isn’t near a flightpath, you won’t be wanting to move once you’re parked there. It’s strictly a “get there and camp out” option if you’re a lowbie. I only mention it because the pets gathered around Gorespine are beasts (see tip 2 below for why that is important). Counter beasts with mechanical pets.


A few tips:

  • Don’t forget to click your Safari Hat, if you have one. The item is no longer worn. You click it to give you a buff that increases pet battle XP by 10% (for your pets, not you). The buff doesn’t appear to have a time limit, and it doesn’t seem to go away when you log out, but if you should happen to die, be sure to check for the buff and refresh it if needed.
  • Wild pet battles have a chance (admittedly low) of randomly rewarding you a flawless battle-stone that allows you to improve one of your pets to blue quality. These are almost always of a specific type (ex: Critter, Beast, Aquatic, etc.) and the type you get is almost always the type of pets you’re battling (i.e. critters give you critter stones, beasts give you beast stones, etc.). This is why I mentioned the Gorespine spot. Critters and Beasts are the most common types, so they will require the most stones to maximize your collection.
  • To travel between Halfhill and Tavern in the Mists you’ll need 3 flight paths learned: the one at Halfhill, The Grassy Cline (at the foot of the big stone stairs), and Tavern in the Mists.
  • To travel between Halfhill and No-No, you’ll need 3 flight paths learned: Halfhill, your faction’s Shrine in the Vale, and Serpent’s Spine.

Flurry of Alts

October 18, 2014

Lacking much of anything else to do with the impending end of the patch, I’ve been working on some alts. I finished off leveling my monk for Askevar’s guild and used the free boost from the expansion purchase to level a shaman for her server, too. I also finished getting my horde priest to 90, making a grand total of 21 level 90s.

Pre-Patch Madness

October 15, 2014

Initial Thoughts on the 6.0.2 Pre-patch:

  • Reagents stack to 200, now. Yes!!!! So much yes.
  • Nothing else does.  WTF? Flasks, Potions, Food, Bandages, Flares, and other consumables need to stack higher, Blizz. They should go at least to 50, but 100 or 200 would be better. You  know this, you’ve been told this. No excuses.
  • Reagents Tab: Good, but not perfect. It’s great that reagents go into the tab, but a bit annoying that other stuff doesn’t. If it went into a profession bag, it ought to go into your profession tab in your bank.
  • Toybox: still a lot of things that are very obviously toys that aren’t marked as such yet. Magic Banana, Ra’Sha’s Sacrificial Dagger, I’m looking at you.
  • Class Changes: hit or miss. Some still feel okay (ele/resto shammies), but some feel absolutely gutted (fury warrior has like 3 buttons). Condensed Travel Form is still terrible, but after about a thousand posts of nearly-unanimous hatred for the change during the beta, Blizzard doesn’t seem to care what druids think.
  • Healing Changes: could be the level/gear thing, but mana is no issue whatsoever. I can spam flash heal all day and not drop below 75% mana. That said, throughput is ridiculously low. Even overgearing LFR by 40 ilvls, people died to lack of throughput. I lost a tank while spamming Healing Surge on him, and yes, he had Riptide and Earth Shield up on him while standing in Healing Rain. Even if I was the only one healing him at the time (and I don’t thinn I was), that shouldn’t happen in LFR. Overall, healing is left with a feeling of being sluggish and boring.
  • Healing Changes, ctd.: The “choices” you are expected to make seem obvious and pointless. Healing Surge and Healing Wave are my only two options to heal single-target. They heal for exactly the same amount per cast. The only difference? One takes ~0.5 seconds longer to cast and costs about twice the mana. Literally the only “decision” I ever have to make is “will my target die in the next 2 seconds if I don’t use Surge?” Considering that damage is supposed to be slowing down in the upcoming expansion, I’m not sure that will crop up all that often. Even if it does, because of my mechanics, I get 2 hasted Healing Waves after a Riptide, so the speed difference between them is closer to ~0.1 seconds most of the time. There are exceedingly few situations where I will ever even have to make a decision between those two heals. Maybe other classes have it better, but so far, Resto Shammy changes seem ridiculous and bad. In fact, it looks like Blizzard has finally succeeded in forcing a healer into having an actual rotation: Riptide, HW, HW, [filler] for single target, Riptide, CH, CH, [filler] for AoE healing. Filler is where you would refresh Healing Rain, Earth Shield, Healing Stream Totem, etc.
  • I am loving the new quest and map interfaces. Very nice upgrades, there.
  • New pets? Yes, please.
  • Re-Learning how to play 11 classes, on top of organizing dozens of toons’ bags and banks? *sigh* Really, Blizz? Every fricking expansion? Stop trying to reinvent the wheel. Make changes where needed, sure, but stop mucking things up just to say you made it different. There’s a point when your fight against stagnation just becomes change for change’s sake and does more harm than good. You’re so far past that line it’s hard to see it in the rearview mirror. Just slow your roll.


October 5, 2014

We finished up the Challenge Modes today and got our mounts. 2 more weeks until we get the remaining 3 and all 4 go account-wide. In the meantime, aren’t they lovely?


We were all pretty happy to get them. After all was said and done, the one that had me most worried was the one we didn’t struggle with at all. In fairness, it was, in many ways, the most frustrating to me, personally. Thanks to a display error, the whole group thought I was at full mana and we kept chugging along. Meanwhile, I was actually sitting at 10-20% mana and blowing every CD I had trying to keep people alive on the fumes I had left in the ol’ blue fuel tank and sneaking a few seconds of drinking between pulls as often as I could (which wasn’t often). Several times I was tempted to ask for a mana break, but I was so flustered I was afraid I couldn’t ask nicely (translation: I’d have sounded like a pissed-off honey badger) so I just knuckled down and powered through, absolutely shocked that we actually made it out alive.

It all came out in the end, though, and other than my mana bar, nobody else seemed to be struggling at all in that one. I only recall 2 deaths in Siege, and both were in the hallway of death at the start, so they just ran back in while we mopped up. We’ve really gotten pretty good at saving what should have been a wipe. When all was said and done, we were just 12 seconds shy of having 5 minutes to spare. In fact, you can almost see our learning curve in our times. Many of the harder instances we did were actually closer to the gold time than the earlier/easier ones. Gate was the first and easiest we did, at 4:28 away from gold time, but Stormstout was probably the 2nd hardest (behind Scarlet Monastery) and our time on that one was 4:32 away from gold. Only 4 seconds difference is astounding considering the difficulty level of each of them. We came a long way in a few short weeks.

Overall, though, the night didn’t give us too much trouble. Stormstout was the hardest of the evening, but it still didn’t take us too long or too many attempts. The hammers really make all the difference on that 2nd boss of SSB and the trash gauntlet before it.

At any rate, it was a great experience, a load of fun, and I can’t wait to do them next expansion. You may recall that Challenge Modes was one of the features I was most excited about seeing in MoP. While I’m somewhat disappointed that I didn’t really get to push for golds, I’m very pleased that I at least got to see them. They were a ton of fun, even at Silver difficulty.

Many thanks go out to my outstanding teammates. Askevar (tank), Venoym (dps), Tallaver (dps), and my sister, Sheepdog (dps) truly made this a fun experience. Thank you all. Extra special thanks to Tall, for stepping up and filling in on literally a moment’s notice. You were awesome, and your off-heals helped a ton.

Up next week: We’ll see if we can’t knock out a gold mode or two. Thankfully, we have nothing better to do next week. ;)

Final Week of Challenge Modes

October 2, 2014

3 Challenge Modes left on the schedule, and only 2 weeks left to do them. With any luck, we’ll only need the 1 weekend, but hey, it’s nice to have the safety net. Due up this week are Mogu’Shan Palace, Stormstout Brewery, and Siege of Niuzao Temple. After reviewing all the videos and cranking out a quick outline/guide for our game plan, I have to say that of the 3, the one that has me most worried is Siege.

I’ve seen a lot of people express their fear/respect for Stormstout Brewery, and I was a bit worried about it at first. However, upon taking a closer look at the challenges faced, I think that most of the difficulty in SSB comes from a very tight timer on gold and the initial massive kiting pull, both of which will be largely negated by our 9 extra minutes. It’s still not a particularly generous timer, so we’ll need to be brisk, but as long as we execute at the level we have been doing, then I think we’ll be ok. Perhaps not a one-shot level of easy, but I think we can do it without too much trouble.

Mogu’Shan Palace shouldn’t be too much of a worry, either. It is by far the easiest of those we have left and I’ve altered the usual invisibility run to make it even easier. There are no jumps and only one turn, it’s situated in such a way that if somebody fails the rest of the group can just pop back and help (unlike Scarlet Monastery, where the stairs cut you off), and the only real issue should be playing too fast and loose with agro radius, which shouldn’t be too much of an issue. The only real possible roadblock is the final boss, wherein we must all focus on staying out of the numerous ground hazards while burning down the boss, but it should only take a minute or so to kill him. I’ll just have to work extra hard at getting myself out of the bad and trusting others to do the same instead of focusing so much on health bars.

Siege is a bit more of a special case. Siege is more of a control/finesse instance. Things like controlling your enemies’ positioning and movement and controlling your own dps and positioning are more important than they are in a straight-up nuke/get out of the bad style instance. For example, on some trash packs, the mobs explode upon death and it can’t be avoided by stuns. Because of this, you don’t just burn them all down ASAP, you stagger their deaths so the damage is healable. It will also require a much more aggressive pace than we have been taking to take full advantage of the bonus-damage buffs in the place. I think we can certainly do it. Of the 3 major guides I based my strategies off of, none of them rank Siege (or SSB, for that matter) as being as hard as Scarlet Monastery. I’m pretty sure we can do it, I’m only concerned about time. Mogu’Shan and Siege are both fairly lengthy instances, so minimizing mistakes and/or the damage they cause will be critical.

On the plus side, I’ve made a few discoveries and refinements that should, once again, help to speed up and improve our runs. Did you know that any member of a 5-man party can mark targets with the raid markers or ground markers? After spending the last few weeks wishing there were some way to allow two folks to do this, I was embarrassed (but pleased) to discover that the leader/assist restriction only applies to raids. I’ve only been playing for what – 6 years, now? I guess there’s always more to learn. This should allow me to assist Askevar with target marking, but more importantly, it should also make explaining invisibility runs, stacking points, etc. much easier. I’ve also made a few changes to my HealBot/UI that should make debuffs easier to see, markers easier to apply,  and allow me to spend more time watching the environment instead of health bars. Ven’s request for a bio break turned out so well last week that I’m just going to put it out there for everyone. If you’re feeling frazzled, just ask for 5 minutes and we’ll all step AFK to collect ourselves, no questions asked and no hard feelings. Finally, since these last few have so many technical issues with placement, I’m going to give a rundown before we start with reminders as we go, and we’ll push forward no matter how poorly we are doing so that we can all at least see the expected strategy play out once until the end. Hopefully this well help prevent, or at least alleviate, late-run issues that require a reset.

2-Minute Warning

September 30, 2014

Well, ok, it’s actually 2 weeks, but I had to fudge it for the football reference. Anyhoo, we got the 2 week warning to the end of the arena season today, as expected.

This means that we definitely have an extra weekend after this one if something truly unfortunate should happen. That being said, none of the Challenge Modes this week worry me quite as much Scarlet Monastery did.

Stormstout Brewery is supposed to be tough, but a big chunk of that comes from the very tightly-tuned timer. I expect that it will probably be the toughest of those left, but I’m fairly confident we can do it, especially considering the extra 9 minutes we get because we’re not worried about gold.

Siege of Niuzao is a potential time sink, because the toughest pull comes fairly late in the instance. That said, I think there’s enough wiggle room on the tough pulls that we can either split the tough pull up into 2 pulls or else just absorb a wipe as long as we get some of the trash down in the first attempt (it doesn’t respawn).

I’m not expecting too much out of Mogu’Shan Palace, either. According to most people it’s roughly the same as Temple of the Jade Serpent in difficulty and we curbstomped that one. I’m also changing the aggressive/challenging invisibility run into a simpler one. The only caveat is that the simpler run is at the very end of the dungeon, making it a potential time sink if anyone fumbles it. The only part that worries me at all is the final boss. I’m just going to have to work on keeping a better eye on my surroundings instead of staring at the health bars waiting for spike damage.

I don’t necessarily expect to breeze through them like we did last week, but I don’t foresee too much trouble, either. However you slice it, it’s nice to have a safety net in the form of that extra week, just in case disaster should strike.

6 Down, 3 to Go

September 28, 2014

Week 2 went really well. The first 2 dungeons went better than I could ever possibly have expected. The first two dungeons took us less than 30 minutes each (not counting travel time between dungeons or bio breaks).

First up, Temple of the Jade Serpent. One-shot? Yeah. One shot. No wipes, despite the fact that I somehow managed to die not once, but twice on Wise Mari. Seriously, how did I do that? I mean, WTF? Anyway, spanked it and took away it’s birthday. The trend once again continues: we are pulling easier because we only need Silver, but by being a little more aggressive we could totally get Gold.

Next up, Shado-Pan Monastery. We flubbed the first pull, because some mobs didn’t behave the way I thought they did, but after a quick reset and a change of tactics, we stormed through that zone, too. We cut the timer closer than I intended, but we also stopped to explain tactics before several parts, too. Going back a 2nd time without having to pause for tactics and maybe one or two more aggressive pulls and we could have Gold on this one.

Finally, Scarlet Monastery. This one actually did give us a bit of trouble, taking us almost 2 hours. It took us several attempts to figure out the best way to do the first challenging hallway pack, but eventually we settled on Army of the Dead and some stuns and that worked really well. We CCed half of the pack to start off with, but between the stuns and the ghouls taunting, we would probably have been ok pulling it all. At any rate, we had the time to burn on CC, so we burned it. After we sorted that pack out, it gave us no more problems. Oddly, it almost became easy, once we found that tactic that worked for us.

The next obstacle was the invisibility run immediately after those trash packs. After taking turns having the mobs see through the invisibility (I think some of us were taking 1-2 steps too many toward the mobs before popping the potion), we took a bio break and when we came back, we finally got that sorted out. As it turned out, it was a great idea to take a break at that point, and I’m really glad Ven mentioned it. A few minutes away from the keyboard was just what everyone needed to soothe their frazzled nerves and regroup. It was fresh from coming back from that bio break that we decided to try out Army on that pull, and it really just made things click.

We had one good attempt in which our ele shaman got caught, and we had him reincarnate and run as close to the waterfall as he could before he died again. Rezzing from the end of the decorative overhang by the stairs allowed us to “port” him past the trash. We didn’t end up having quite enough time to finish off the run on that one, but I was pretty proud of it anyway. Seeing the group adjust and adapt and think on its feet was pretty fun, even when it didn’t quite pan out. After that attempt, we reset again, and were on a record pace when I accidentally strafed too close to the monks on the fountain. Argh! If I hadn’t messed that one up we would have had a real shot at Gold. We were steamrolling on that attempt.

Anyway, it didn’t take us too long after that to finally knock it down. Our successful run wasn’t our fastest pace through the front end of the zone, but we managed to speed it up at the end and get the boss, anyway. The way the group kept adjusting made me really proud of them, and honored to be a part of the group. I need to work on looking away from the health bars a little more often (which may help me stay out of the bad a bit better), but sometimes the spike damage is scary high in challenge modes. There were a few times that I poured everything I had into somebody and they still just melted. Still, the successful run did have an epic save in it. After I unfortunately lost Askevar to spike damage (those purifying flames are *nasty* I tell you),  Askevar had the awareness to prompt me to use Earth Elemental, which I did and it worked great. Between CC and the elemental, we managed to save the pull, finishing 2 men down (I also lost my sister on the pull before getting the elemental out). A quick rez, some aggressive pulls and we were the proud owners of another Silver medal. It’s the sort of thing that, if used *proactively* could have helped to shave time and prevent deaths. Hey, you learn as you go.

At the end of the night, I felt really good about it all. Once again, everyone was kind and courteous, even when tensions got high from wipes. Once again, the group kept adjusting our tactics and getting a little bit further each time. More often than not, it was a simple matter of a learning curve. There were a few “oops” wipes, where one of us just executed something poorly (facepull, caught out of invisibility, etc.) but not that many, and mostly we took turns doing it (I may have taken a few of Askevar’s turns, because I’m selfish that way, and besides, she wasn’t using ‘em, anyway). Mostly, though, once we figured out how to do something, it didn’t trip us up again, and we got a little better/faster at doing it each time. Overall, I was extremely proud of this group. There were some epic saves, clutch rezzes, and taunts so quick it would scare a quick-draw artist. It was just a really great night, with some really good runs, and I had a wonderful time doing it. There’s not a single member of the group that I would hesitate to run with again. (Although I died so many times I’m not sure why they’d want to run with me.)

Much like last week, I felt good coming out of them. I’m feeling more certain than ever that we’ll get our mounts and I’m so excited about that. Screen shots/gloating (hopefully) incoming next week. According to Wowhead’s guide, the ones we did this week were 4, 5, and 9 in difficulty, leaving us with 6, 7, and 8 next week. According to Aftermath’s guides, the ones we did this week were 5, 7, and 9, leaving us with 4, 6, and 8 next week. Either way you look at it, the worst of it should be behind us (both guides place Scarlet Monastery as the hardest CM). At any rate, for me Scarlet Monastery was the litmus test, and IMO, we passed.

However you rank them, next week is Mogu’Shan Palace, Siege of Niuzao Temple, and Stormstout Brewery. I think we have what it takes to down them and claim our mounts. After the run, I talked to Askevar and she agreed that, come next expansion, we should start working on challenge modes earlier in the cycle. I wouldn’t mind pushing for golds next time around, making it a “one dungeon per week” sort of pace as opposed to 3 per week, as we’re doing now.


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