There’s a new post up on our new site. What a coinkydink! You should totally go there and read it. And, you know, update your feeds and links since this old place is going to get empty pretty soon. ^^

We’ve moved! Massive thanks to everyone who commented and gave us feedback on the various hosting options available to us! In the end we’ve decided to go with a self-hosted option – please update your feed readers, links, blogrolls, favourites lists, or however it is you find and read us to aggromanagement.com. All new posts will now be posted there. :)

We should be back to our regular posting schedule shortly. :D

Just wanted to put a quick cap on my last on-topic post RE: Elwynn and my burning disappointment – particularly as You Know What drops You Know When and I imagine I will be terribly distracted for a little while moving forward.

I finished the map and moved on to Westfall, which is also now completed. Then I rolled an actual human to see if there’s any differences. My conclusion:

Elwynn = disappointing beyond measure compared to all the other maps I’ve played through. To be fair, they’ve streamlined the flow, given you shortcuts to questing areas and they don’t make you run the map anymore which is nice. Plus they’ve taken a couple obscure quests I almost always miss or forget to do and made them much more prominent. But that’s the extent of the changes. Seriously. It’s the same god-damned map, minus the slightest little shift to the end of the Hogger questline in order to make him a boss in the Stockades.

The disappointment. It burns.

Having said that…

Westfall completely makes up for it. Completely. I have never been so delighted with a map or a series of quests. Everything is updated – EVERYTHING. The quests range from hil-freaking-arious to exciting/serious. There’s a point at the end where Stoutmantle screams at you to run and go tell Varian and I was actually so flustered and panicked by the whole thing I wound up flying out to Moonbrook by accident. It was awesome.

My one complaint? Every boar I killed dropped their liver. I swear to God. You might think that’s great, given that the drop rate used to be one liver per eighty boars, but I regret / am pleased to inform you that that quest no longer exists.

So what the fuck am I supposed to do with all these livers?

So after much discussion, we’re considering switching from WordPress over to Blogger or Blogspot or whatever it’s called. The Google one. layteknight is a designer/coder type person, and the fact that she can’t mod certain pieces of the WordPress themes is driving her insane – plus, she has informed me that my “10,000 word posts” require a wider layout than WordPress can offer without making her whine and writhe and point at things on the screen she hates, but WordPress won’t let her touch.

I remain hesitatant because I have no idea what shifting addresses does to a blog. Has anyone out there ever done this before? Any advice? Any thoughts? Any way to either minimize layteknight’s pain here, or my pain if we move?

I suppose I should probably talk to savethefails too. I guess he kind of has a stake in this, eh?

UPDATE: Fuuuuuuu! This post posted before I was done editing it apparently and none of my changes too. :( Apologies if you get this twice on your feed readers – please read this version. It’s better. I swear.

Warning: This post is both image and spoiler heavy (for Dun Morogh, Loch Modan, Elwynn Forest, and the Wetlands).
 
Addendum to the warning: I’m a little over-excited right now, so I’m just going to assault you with some pictures until my thoughts can cohere into something resembling a respectable post. Cool? Cool.

This Just In: Gnomes Are Still Awesome

Exhibit A (for Awesome):

Exhibit B (for Better than you):

Exhibit C (for Class):

For what it’s worth, Bingles Blastenheimer is quite possibly my favouritest gnome ever (I mean, just look at him!). One of the many, many, many changes that I have been gorging myself on in the Dwarven Maps (Dun Morogh and Loch Modan, I mean – I’m not deep enough into the Wetlands yet to comment in depth) is that he apparently has a son now. Well, I suppose he had the son before since apparently the guy is a teenager already, but he just never talked about him. And I suppose, under the circumstances, I can’t blame him – the boy is actually fairly “normal”, given that he’s a gnome. His quests and dialogue are all well reasoned, not over-excited, and contained no made-up words that I remember (for shame, Ando! You are a lovely character, but you fail as a gnome!). I was almost concerned…and then this happened:

And then THIS happened:

And then this happened:

And my faith in the future of the Gnomish Race was restored.

In Other News: Dwarves Are Cranky

I know this isn’t new (Aggro Management Exclusive: they’re also drunk! Who knew?!), but it seems the Cataclysm has made the Dwarves crankier than usual, and I honestly found myself chortling gleefully at some of the acidic things they had to say to me and about each other:

Dwarves are cranky

Even their hats are out of joint (awesomely so, if I may be so bold):

The Combination Thereof

There’s honestly something about the combination of Dwarves and Gnomes that I adore. Dwarves are these stout, hardy, straightforward creatures, and their relationship with the Gnomes is genuinely heart-warming. Something in the way they work with and protect the eccentric, energetic little balls of light and creativity that are the Gnomes. They’re the original straight-man and clown. It’s terribly cute. The Dwarves bear the Gnomes’ out-there-ness with such dignity and stoicism and the Gnomes try SO FREAKING HARD to be helpful and useful. They give me the warm fuzzies.

There’s a point at the end of the Gnomeregan 1-5 starter zone where you successfully win a battle against Thermaplugg’s minion as part of a coalition of Gnomes and Dwarves. After the battle, when you hand in, Mekkatorque (fully voice acted, and positively jubilant) yells:

Razlo Crushcog is no more! The people of Ironforge and Gnomeregan speak with one voice this day. Hear us well, Thermaplugg. The day of your defeat approaches!

Beautiful.

Moving Right Along…

So to attempt to slap this post into some kind of coherency, let me just work my way around to what I actually intended to talk about before I got completely derailed by my renewed love of the short races of Azeroth (soon to be joined by the Goblins, who I already want to hug and pet and love forever).

My point is thus: I have played through the Dwarven/Gnomish starting maps, and started Elwynn (…as a Dwarf…don’t ask) and wish to provide my unsolicited opinion of them.

In general, may I just say, my love for this game has been rekindled to a degree I would previously have told you was not possible. The obvious caveat on this is I don’t know how long it will last. Sooner or later I will have played through these maps a froopopapillion times again and I’m sure I’ll go back to being sour and bored and developing a wandering eye for other games. But for now at least, I am intrigued and engaged and amused and thrilled and impressed and insanely happy all at the same time – except in Elwynn, but I’ll get to that.

Coldridge Valley, Gnomeregan, and Northshire

Coldridge Valley

Nicely done, overall. Nothing too stale or repetitive. Some interesting NPCs, good continuity in their dialogue and quests – though there was the one guy that totally hit on me (who can blame him? My Dwarven shaman is hot, and that is not even remotely sarcastic. She’s awesome) in one quest, but utterly failed at following up on it in the rest of the chain. I feel so rejected.

I like that the Frostmane trolls have been given a bit more meat in their motives and back story. The addition of the Soothsayers or whatever they were called was nice, but I can’t help but notice the quest chain went kind of like this:

Dwarf #1: Go in there and kill all the troll whelps.
Dwarf#2: Whoa, whoa, whoa, hold on a second. Let’s find out why they’re here before we just wipe them out.

Which I thought was really progressive, you know? Because before they were all: “look, there’s these trolls, see? And they’ve got these kids. Just go wipe them out. Don’t ask any questions, just wipe them out.” There was a brief moment when I picked up Dwarf #2’s quest where I really, honestly thought Blizz was going to let me off the hook WITHOUT murdering a bunch of troll children. Then I realized Dwarf #1 had given me a quest too – kill X troll babies.

All right, says I, maybe, after killing the babies and finding out the real reason the trolls are here, Dwarf #1 will feel bad about the homicide and tell me to go make peace with them or something.
So I headed out to where the babies were and began my wholesale slaughter, all under the watchful eyes of the adult Soothsayers who were busy waxing philosophical about their deal with the fire elemental while their young charges were being murdered.

I wouldn’t have thought it possible, but that quest is now even MORE awkward than it was before. Not only am I killing children, I’m apparently doing it with the approval of the adults watching me do it. Those adults have GREEN NAMES. They are FRIENDLY to me. Why? WTF? I don’t need this guilt!

But I comforted myself with the thought that there’s no way Blizzard would make this quest so awkward unless there was a peaceful resolution in the end, right? Right?!

So back I go to hand in both quests. After handing in the soothsayer one, Dwarf #2 sends me back to Dwarf #1 with the information we’ve found out, and I’m all: here we go! Remorse time baby! We are hideous murderers and it’s totally time to make up for it! Repent ye heathens!

And he said:

Dwarf #1: Oh. Well, whatevs. Go kill moar. Check the cave. I think you missed some back there.

I grumbled and sulked and stomped my way through the rest of the quest chain. But still – despite taking the awkward-factor to a whole new level, the quest IS actually better than it was before.

I don’t have any complaints about the rest of the quests. Troggs throwing priceless artefacts at me is…well…priceless. The initial quest-giver being stuck in his own personal FPS is amusing and adds a degree of urgency to the whole questline.

But the highlight for me, I think, was NOT having to go through that fucking trogg-infested cave at the end of it. Getting to fly OVER the mountain in a gyrocopter with a gnome filling me in on the political situation in Dun Morogh? Brilliant. Much better than slogging my way through a dank cave full of the single, most irritating sounds in the world. Also, I’m amused by the “go pack your things, because you’re not coming back here” quest that gets you a cloak, some food and alcohol, and a free bag. It’s a cute way of doing it. I’ve always thought it was kind of odd when quest givers just sort of hand you a bag for no reason that I can determine. It’s like you’re the last kid to run up to Santa, but he’s out of presents so he just sort of shrugs awkwardly at you and hands you a dirty old sack full of crushed hopes and dreams.

This bag had stuff in it.

TL;DR: Well done conversion. Fun to play through, but nothing super-epic.

Gnomeregan

Complete and utter love, for the following reasons:

  1. Nothing here is revised or reimagined – it’s completely new. The Gnomes have NEVER had their own starting area. They’ve always had to run through Coldridge Valley.
  2. It’s like the quests were created by Gnomes, for Gnomes. Nary a Dwarf to be seen until toward the end.
  3. All the usual jokes are in there, but there’s some degree of seriousness to it too. You can FEEL their longing to be home.
  4. It’s GNOMEREGAN. What’s not to love?
  5. Etc.

I don’t quite know why, but I’m enamoured of the idea that your Gnome character has been living in Gnomer since the “incident.” There’s something really exciting about working with your rescuers to get yourself out of Gnomer, de-radiated, and back out into the wide world. The little heroic flare they’ve added into the Gnomer theme doesn’t hurt either.

The area has a decent sense of momentum that’s maintained through the quests. Plus, it’s all about the Gnomes. It grounds your character in its own race, and does a much better job differentiating them from the Dwarves culturally and historically speaking. I just rolled a Troll (haven’t played it through very far yet) but I imagine it will be the same for them. When you share a starter map that belongs to another race, you kind of get lost under that other race. You’re not REALLY a Troll, you’re a tall Orc with fucked up hair. You’re not really a gnome, you’re a brightly coloured Dwarf with poor judgment. You never really get a good sense of your own race, which can make it challenging to try – from an RP/story standpoint – to place your character within it.

I also liked the introduction of a few more factions within the Gnomish race. There’s the heroic members of the Survivor Assistance Facilitation Expedition (S.A.F.E.), and the dedicated crew from Gnomeregan Covert Ops. They’re just stupid little additions to add some colour and flavour to the zone, but I really like them. They add a bit of depth to the race as a faction unto itself. They hint at the organization within the Gnomish government. They add a bit of legitimacy – by virtue of their existence, and in spite of their silly acronyms (of which I am a fan) – to a race that is often sorely lacking in legitimacy in terms of the way Blizzard handles it.

I should probably move on or I’m going to go into a rant here about the Gnomish Situation and how little attention it gets and how as much as I love the silliness and fun around the Gnomes I do wish Blizz would give them just a BIT more credit than they tend to.

TL;DR: Gnomer is as awesome as the Gnomes for which it is named. Roll a Gnome, Save our Home!

Northshire

So, I rolled a gnome and play through the Dwarven lands. Then I rolled a Dwarf and played through the 1-5 map and realized I’d already done the Dwarven lands and wanted to try something new, so I took my little shaman over to Elwynn, intending to start Northshire. I ran all the way up there and stared around in puzzlement, wondering where the quests were. I ran around the Abbey and inside the Abbey, and /begged at the quest givers but nobody would talk to me. Not one of them.

I ran around screaming: But there are Goblin Assassins, can’t you see them?! And Orcs! There are Orcs! Orcs in Elwynn! And the GODDAMNED VINYARD IS ON FIRE YOU OBVIOUSLY NEED HELP WHY WON’T YOU GIVE ME THE QUESTS?!

Because they’re racists bastards, that’s why.

TL;DR: Will apparently have to roll a human to be able to report anything beyond the fact that there are Goblins and Orcs and the Vineyard is on fire and I DON’T KNOW WHY.

Dun Morogh Proper / Elwynn Forest

Dun Morogh

Very well done questing experience. The quest hubs no longer send you running hither and thither like a chicken with your head cut off, only to send you thither and hither again once you’ve done them all. Things are grouped more efficiently and sensically. There is a lot of hand-holding in terms of transferring you from one quest hub to another. It’s a very linear experience, which I don’t think is necessarily bad. In fact, it’s probably nothing short of excellent for newbies who have no idea what anything is or where to find it and are too busy being overwhelmed by things to try to figure out where the Hell to go next. But I AM a little afraid that the linearity will cause things to get old faster than they would otherwise. Even if there were two quest hubs I was handed off to and I could pick what order I wish to do them in that would mitigate this to some extent, but ultimately: meh. It’s a non-issue for me until I get bored. It’ll be a huge issue then, but until then, I repeat: meh.

I like how Blizzard has taken more care to link one quest to another, and link events to quests to other events so that everything makes sense. I never found myself committing mass genocide and wondering in a distant sort of way why I was doing this outside of some vague justification given in a quest. The linkages are done well and the zone as a whole tells a much more solid story than it did previously. Most of the quests feel like they’re moving in the same direction and coming from the same place. I had a much stronger feeling of contributing to a larger effort or towards a solid goal, and less like I was being given a bunch of busy work by a few drunk dwarves too lazy to do it themselves.

I also like how, in between trying to give their storyline gravity and weight, they throw in the occasional thing to make fun of themselves – or of us as players. When I saw the rewards for this quest in Dun Morogh I cracked up:

And there’s this gem, later on in Loch Modan:

There are also tonnes of new rare-spawns, which is awesome because, honestly, rare spawns are like Christmas to me:

And they’ve given the old monsters new abilities, which for no apparent reason pleases me greatly. I think it’s because it adds to the uniqueness of otherwise boring mobs. This is a picture of Ol’ Sooty, but all bears have this ability now. It’s not a generic spell – it’s obviously specifically for bears. It’s just a nice example of attention to the little details that add a bit of colour to the world:

Alternatively, I am easily impressed. Let’s not rule this one out too quickly.

TL;DR: Dun Morogh is fun to play through; good storyline, lots of content, solid revisions to old quests and entirely new quests.

Elwynn Forest

Are you ready to be completely blown away by the AMAAAAZZZINNNGGG changes to Elwynn Forest?! I haven’t completed the map yet, but I’m half to three quarters of the way through (barring any new quest chains I just haven’t hit yet), and I just don’t know how to capture all of it. It’s just too big! Too incredible! Too cataclysmic!

I mean look at this quest! When will the craziness stop?!

And Princess has a bow now? A BOW? I can barely keep up with all the new and exciting changes!

And even though I’ve killed a hundred thousand boars to make Stonefield bake Maclure a hundred thousand pies so I can kill Goldtooth a hundred thousand times to get back her god damned necklace just ONE MORE TIME, it’s totally a million times better now because even though not so much as a period was changed in the entire quest chain, or in fact any of the quests involving Fargodeep Mine, they moved Goldtooth. He’s on top now. That makes all the difference in the
world:

Especially because they didn’t change his location on the map so I spawn-camped him in his old spot and got respawn-raped by six god damned kobolds TWICE IN A ROW before I googled it and found out he’d moved. Exciting stuff, folks, exciting stuff.

So far, I have found a single new quest. NOTHING ELSE appears to be edited, changed, or revised. Oh, except now when they send me to the opposite end of the map they give me a horse to get there. And there’s an FP at Eastvale now so I can fly back and forth. This is actually a very, very, very good thing, but I’m having trouble drumming up any enthusiasm when all it’s doing is getting me from one tedious old quest to another faster, and preventing me from farming mines and herbs along the way.

I heard they did something or other with Mankrik’s wife. When will Rolf and Malakai get some love, Blizz, huh?

Maybe it’s because I’m playing through on a Dwarf, or because I didn’t do Northshire so I’m missing a chain or two that extends from there. Sarcasm aside, there are a few changes I’ve noted – the thieves on the map are no longer Defias thieves, as referenced above Princess is now actually accessible without a three hour walk through the forest, and so on. But none of the quest text so far has been different or revised. All of the same quests are still there. You’d think by now, between the Scourge, the Burning Legion, and now the Cataclysm, the god damned Maclures and Stonefields would have put their feud behind them and moved on so Tommy Joe can stop skulking on the river bank, but no.

I will reserve my final judgement for when I finish the map and when I actually play it through on a human (in the vain hopes that that will give me additional quests I can’t access as a Dwarf), but so far I’ve seen absolutely nothing worth shouting about. To top it off, I played through the first chunk of Elwynn AFTER playing through Dun Morogh’s new experience. The sense of momentum and contribution that was there in Dun Morogh (which is new as of the Shattering) is, of course, not present in the pieces of Elwynn I’ve played through. Because they’re the same old pieces they’ve always been with a few token changes that barely merit a mention.

Sad protflashes is sad.

I maintain hope that something, somewhere, at some point will be different on this map (I hear Hogger is new and exciting? I haven’t gotten to him yet). Pre-shattering, this map was the worst one for me personally and the one I was MOST looking forward to being updated because of how many times I’ve run it – even more than the Gnome map, and that should tell you something! But I’m at least half way through and it doesn’t look like it. I was so dejected I logged out and rolled a Troll hoping the colours would cheer me up (they didn’t…but the baby raptors did).

TL;DR: Final judgement pending, but for the moment: Blizzard, I am disappoint.

But I’m holding out for Westfall.

TL;DR

Rapidly dwindling hopes for Elwynn Forest aside, I’m still terribly impressed with the “new” Azeroth and all that comes with it.

I’ve been having a blast the last few days, even with limited play time. I’m sure at some point the honeymoon will be over and I can look at everything a little more critically, but right now I’m still at the point where if it’s a change, it’s good, and I like it, and I’m going to leap and frolic and play like an idiot.

It’s kind of funny because the actual expansion drops next week, and as excited as I am about goblins and worgen and 80-85, they could announce that they’re pushing it back by another MONTH and I wouldn’t care. I’ve got plenty to do right now – more than I’ve had to do in forever. Almost too much, actually. I have more than once found myself paralyzed from having too many options for what to play. Or, you know, post about. In case the 3000 word post and 700 screenshots didn’t give it away. I think I’m actually a little overwhelmed, I can’t focus on anything for more than a second before the next shiny comes along and pulls me away.

But then again, it’s been so long since I had shinies to chase! It’s so nice to be back in the game.

I bit the bullet and started leveling an undead priest; this weekend, I got the 1 – 20 stretch done, which got me all the way through Silverpine and dropped me neatly at the start of Hillsbrad. Once I recover from the trip I will bravely continue forward, but for now, a bit of commentary on the experience:

Holy crap!

I don’t think I included any spoilers, so if you’re being cautious I think what follows should be safe for you to read.

In short, nearly everything has seen some degree of change. The maps are the same, but different; things look better (Stillwater Pond, for example, is really pretty now) individual areas have been remodeled, mob groups have been lightly redistributed, that sort of thing. Many of the NPCs that used to populate the 1 – 20 stretch are still around, but they’ve been moved to different quest hubs or shifted to occupy a new space in their original quest hub – some have even been given new gear, so they look a bit different than before (that’s neat, IMO). Seeing the same people/mobs helped me maintain a sense of familiarity which (ultimately) wound up making it easier for me to take in all the otherwise glaring physical & plot-based changes.

So much has been built. The Forsaken settlements are all styled like Northrend’s New Agamand (which I think is fantastic), and tons of buildings, blockades and outposts have been added or fortified. At first I didn’t quite know how to feel about it… Am I supposed to assume it always looked that way (i.e. retcon), or is all of that actually supposed to be new? I’m a bit confused about past V.S. present, and the quests aren’t entirely helpful; some quests are very similar to quests I remember from old-Azeroth (e.g. I’m pretty sure I remember Executor Zygand asking me to kill Captain Perrin before…but I guess he’s back now), while others are totally new and clearly show the world moving on past WotLK. Makes it really tough to tell what saw a retcon and what didn’t!

That aside – and taking into account the fact that I am woefully bad at keeping plots/events straight in my mind – it’s still enjoyable. The quests are way, way more linear than before. While that may not be some folks’ cup of tea, I certainly like it (please see what I just said about my ability to record events)! All quest text has been rewritten in order to provide new/more/updated context, and you’re never left wondering where to go next. Some of the original quest chains that were either quite long or straight up annoying have been clipped or removed entirely, and the new chains they put in are entertaining. Amusingly enough, all the quest rewards have changed as well! They look much nicer now (both on your character and the actual icons for each piece), which is always a plus; smart idea, too, given that the first 20 or 30 levels (or perhaps even the first 10) is when you want players to bond with their character & get hooked – and I’d think you’d be shooting yourself in the foot if they have to perpetually stare at ugly gear.

The Silverpine quest chains are of particular note; some of them are ‘directed’ like mini-movies. Those that revolve around Gilneas and the Forsaken’s efforts there are lots of fun to work through and give you a huge chunk of story. While I’m not super-keen on taking quest after quest from my faction leader (I can’t explain why, either – it’s like, if it’s not a raid quest, I don’t want to hear from you), I suppose I can accept it for the sake of getting a decent understanding of WTF is going on in the world. I was very pleased with the information I got from the variety of quests I did while in Silverpine; I now understand the Worgen and Gilneas and all that jazz far, far better than I did before. I even know who the new Shadowfang Keep bosses are and what they’re all about! I’m actually thankful for that, ’cause there’s nothing like running an instance or a raid without understanding a single thing about it.

Despite all the learning, there are some things I’m still confused about:

  • How many val’kyr does Sylvanas have, exactly?
  • The val’kyr can only raise humans? What?
  • This deal that Sylvanas has with the val’kyr – does it apply to all her val’kyr? Why would they agree to that?
  • Why oh why was the Royal Apothecary Society not disbanded after Wrathgate?
  • How did that Darnell fellow get so big?

Something else that jumped out at me? Rep gain. It’s massively increased (or, at least, it was in the undead 1 – 20 quests). I can remember 2 quests that got me 1000 rep with Undercity – that’s wild! Back in the old days, the most I remember being awarded for any single quest was 500 (e.g, the main Scarlet Monastery quest, though the rep gain there was faction-wide). That’s amazing! I wonder why that is, though… They added home-city tabards that allow you to collect rep from instances (any), so I’m curious to know why there’s a sudden push to get people to Exalted (I’m guessing) on presumably all home factions. Hmm.

On a side note: when next you roll an undead character, pay close attention to the language used in all the quest text. Notice a lot of questionable terms? I do. I’ve seen stuff like hell, god damn, bastard and bitch (this last one was even voice acted). Personally, I don’t care and I think the grit is great (especially for the undead, I dunno – it just fits), but…don’t kids play this game? Then again, I have no clue what’s considered acceptable language in media today, so perhaps that’s all OK. I did jump out at me, though.

There are a small number of quests that contain elements that are full-on Blizzard making fun of itself/its player base. For the most part, I think these are funny, but sometimes they sort of shatter the illusion (especially when it’s a joke quest as opposed to a joke element in a quest)… I’m torn. I feel as though they should almost only be used as ‘intermission’-style quests, where they don’t interfere with an actual (story) chain and are only there to provide you with a little break before you plunge into the next chain (e.g. the cute ‘be a quest giver’ quest you get right as you enter Hillsbrad). I suppose it really depends on your sense of humor.

Overall, I think the redo is impressive. We’ll have to see how quickly it gets old/what the replay value is on it all, but for now I’m more than satisfied.

I enjoyed the 1 – 20 experience enough that I rolled a new ‘lock in the same zone; now that I am familiar with it, I can go comb the new landscape and farm it to death. That’s neither here nor there, but…did you know that pet class characters can’t (fully) control their pet ’till level 10? Does anyone know why that is?  Has it always been like that and I just don’t remember?

Prot’s been excited about Cataclysm since its specifcs started popping up on the various websites she follows. For the last little while, she’s been telling me all about how this & that’s gonna change and how it’ll affect her enjoyment of the game. She’s been gushing about the new races and starting areas and how cool it’ll be to roll a new alt (or five…) in order to experience the new content. She’s even had a fit of premature tank rage over the fight mechanics on some great big flying genie-esque boss we saw in a PTR raid video – as though our tiny, most-folks-don’t-even-play-any-longer guild was in any sort of position to begin raiding in Cataclysm when the content opens up.

And that works for her. On Tuesday? I was happy to be in heroics. It’s not that I’m not interested or excited or that I don’t think all the Cataclysm changes (most of which were implemented this week) Prot told me about aren’t neat – it’s that they fill me with a weird breed of dread. Cataclysm is, I feel, a much bigger expansion than its predecessors and brings a ton of changes to many areas of the game. I feel a bit – no pun intended – shaken up by it, to be perfectly honest with you. As a result, all of the great news and neat stuff that Prot’s brought to my attention and that I’ve started seeing in-game since Tuesday has left me feeling more than a little overwhelmed.

There’s so much of it to see & discover…I don’t know where to start, or how best to approach it all. It’s like a gigantic mess; picking up that one Kleenex near the bed doesn’t really get you that far ahead. Since Tuesday, I’ve basically been staring at it from the door, taking it all in – but that’s inaccurate. I’ve been acknowledging it, I think. Yes – just acknowledging that all the strange, foreign stuff I see when I hit the ‘M’ key or watch the loading screen is my new WoW reality.

My mind has been working a mile a minute in a futile attempt to calculate the safest, quickest path through the onslaught of changes. Part of what makes new content of this magnitude so terrifying for me is that I am a profound lover of systems and order; in short, my new WoW reality is not my old WoW reality, and I am no longer master of my environment. That’s stressful. My brain is being petulant about it; it’s trying really hard to huffily turn its back on the fact that it’ll need to focus and re-learn everything – even if it knows it’ll probably enjoy the process. I’ve been craving a new game (or, more specifically, the act of learning a new game) for some time now, so there’s no reason for me to have frozen up the way I have this week.

That being said, it is what it is. I just have to power through it.

As a devout farmer, my first concern is the nodes and level ranges of the new map configuration. I used to know where to find each and every type of plant or ore, and I knew the level ranges of all mobs in any area – but not any more! Many maps have been re-tooled and Horde/Alliance levelling paths have changed, so I’ll need to run (I guess it’s more like ‘fly’ now, come to think of it – oh man, what if that turns all of Azeroth into Sholazar Basin, where the skies are darkened by hordes of ill-mannered protodrake-mounted farmers?!) out and survey the world to get all of that straight in my mind. I enjoy levelling professions, so knowing where to get things is paramount!

In the same vein, knowing that the profession cap will be raised in Cataclysm freaks me out as well. There’s nothing I can do about it right now, except maybe save up some mats to help finish up whatever professions haven’t reached 450 yet (they tend to put in these cheap little catch-up recipes after they raise the profession cap, which handily get you up to speed without need for any huge cash droppage, but I don’t know whether or not those recipes will require the use of old mats or new mats…hmm) and keep some gold stashed away for the initial upgrade cost and first few recipes. Getting my first profession to 450 in WotLK was quite the adventure; tons of cash and time (many, many thanks to all the guildies who sent – and still send – me mats, and to the one guildie who spent an entire morning killing undead in Icecrown for me) went into it, and I know it’ll be the same in Cataclysm.  Am I ready for that?

Weird, isn’t it? You sit at the top for a while and as soon as things change you’re uncomfortable and scrambling to get back up there. Thing is, I’m not entirely sure why it matters that I be ‘up there’… I enjoy the process of levelling, gathering, building, etc. far more than the ‘being up there’ part. It’s like any trip – I generally enjoy the journey more than whatever happens once we get to our destination. In WoW, I tend to pick a goal and then race towards it…only to get instantly bored again as soon as it’s over. I have time and time again threatened to wipe my entire character list and cried to Prot & Save about how I have nothing to work on or build or what have you and that I need a challenge, so why would the promise of new goals in Cataclysm appear so…unsexy to me?

Confusing, I tell you. Despite having repeatedly threatened to wipe my characters, I haven’t done so (yet – I will relapse, Prot, I promise you. It’s only a matter of time!). In fact, I was thinking that one way to cheap out on having to deal with all the new content would be to grab my main and just level her to 85 after Cataclysm comes out. That way I could ignore Azeroth entirely (save for wherever my hearth is; I could just choose a city that hasn’t seen any changes and pretend like it’s the good old days) and act like this is BC or Wrath and not all that much has changed. It’d be like a quarantine. A safe zone.

But it wouldn’t last. Alas…I fear I must come to terms with the new WoW, even if it’s just a bit at a time.

I rolled a lowbie Horde priest on a different server on Tuesday (we went to Brill last night, by the by. Did you know that it’s been fortified? Watch out, Scarlet dudes – the Forsaken are pimp now!). It’s the opposite strategy to the taking-my-main-to-85-with-blinders-on one I mentioned above. I figure I will subject myself to as many Azeroth changes as I can prior to December, so that I’ll at least be able to navigate the world when the expansion finally comes out. Reacquainting myself with the world map, I think, will be a good, strong step towards feeling confident again.

But you know what would be nice? If Blizz stopped resetting my talents. Please just stop. Stop. It’s driving me insane and making me curse the day dualspecs were implemented. Also, it’s not helping the whole stress thing; I keep rereading the shaman/priest/paladin trees each time and running back to my trainer, just in case something big’s happened. And I don’t even want to think about the whole 12% damage nerf to warlocks that I kinda quickly saw (and immediately looked away from) in the latest patch notes…I think it’s best that I permanently keep the blinders on for that one.

So it seems the key to retaining my sanity during this period is setting new goals for myself. I can do that:

  1. Get one of those awkward-looking camel mounts for my priest.
  2. Run the new AQ (I cannot explain to you how excited I am that Blizz kept this raid).
  3. See (just see – I’m not even going to think about actually running it) Uldum.

There. I think I can be happy again.

So, as you might have noticed from my general blogospheric absence, I have been in something of a slump in terms of WoW. I’ve played here and there, off and on over the summer and into the fall, but not with any kind of regularity. I kept up the PvP for the most part, right up until 4.0.1. We still have our regular five-man group once a week, and every now and then layte will rope me into a heroic PuG or two (which typically leave me a slavering mass of rage and hate). And we still hop onto our alts every now and then to muck around in the old world.

But that, I think, was a large part of the problem. The old world – and, in fact, the “new” worlds of BC and Wrath – is old. Like a nice, rock-hard chunk of stale bread, too far gone to even use for croutons. I know some people are still enamoured of its charms, and I will admit that even for me it has its moments, but the fact of the matter is I’ve been playing this game for almost the six years it’s been in existence. I have deleted more alts than most people have made. I grow more concerned by the 50-character cap as time goes on.

I have six 80s (five of them tanks, including one of every class that can tank – woo! At least one pre-Cataclysm goal achieved!). I can now officially say I’ve PvPed with some degree of seriousness. I’ve raided up into ICC, dungeoned, soloed. I’ve played every class in the game to at least level 40, and the vast majority of them up past 60, and a chunk up past 80 now. I’ve played all of the races (though I freely admit my tauren have never even made it to 20, poor bastards). There isn’t a map to be found that I haven’t beaten my face off of at least thrice. Certainly there are physical corners of the game I have not at least peeked into, which is to say a few of the old world and BC raids, but that’s it.

I’ve played this game. I’ve played it to death. If I have to make the run from Goldshire to the Eastvale Logging Camp one more time I am going to cry. For serious.

I’ve wished more times than I can count over the last few months that I could go back to my early WoW days – back when I thought Intellect was an awesome stat for warriors because it increased my weapon skill, and I would taunt monsters while soloing because why would they put it on my bar if I’m not suppose to use it maybe threat is a special kind of damage, and I thought add-ons were the devil because they were probably illegal and Blizzard would ban my account the instant I installed one and besides they would probably give me viruses and I could never figure out how to work them anyway.

I was so new back then, everything seemed so complex and vast and beautiful. I read my quest logs because I wanted to understand the world and what I was being asked to do; I studied my talent trees in deep, loving detail so that I could make the absolute wrong choice 100% of the time; I blundered about Azeroth flailing ineffectually at boars and gnolls and whelps and had a deep-seated phobia of murlocs and fell off a lot of cliffs and towers from whipping my camera around while auto-running to get a better look at some pretty tree or amazing sunset or cool looking mob. I left a lot of corpses around Azeroth, most of them mine.

For a long time now, I’ve been a long way away from that. I haven’t read a quest log in ages, because I know all my favourite quests off-by-heart and no longer care about the others. I know more about the lore than I ever thought I would. I throw my talents in where I’ve always put them, knowing full well it’ll be good enough until end game and when I get there I can compare against the cookie-cutter build then. I’m decked out in so many heirlooms and GB blues and epics that I don’t really die at low levels anymore, even if I manage a terrible pull or blunder into a camp of gnolls just as it respawns. I’m not afraid of anything in the game anymore. And neither am I constantly awed (though again, there are still moments). And neither am I very interested.

And then 4.0.1 hit and for a brief, blissful window, I was interested again. They’d completely revamped the talent trees, and in some cases the mechanics of the classes. I loaded up my 80 paladin and panicked, not understanding anything on his bar or how it worked, so instead I made layte roll a pally alt with me to re-learn the class from the ground up, rather than trying to figure it out at 80 with too full a toolbar. Forgiving the sheer OPness of the low levels right now (1-shotting three targets at level 10 with Avenger’s Shield…Jesus Christ…so awesome, and so not awesome at the same time), it’s been fun. Plus the new talent trees briefly allowed me to overlook how repetitive and boring and trivial heroics have been lately on my warrior because I wanted to try out my two new warrior builds.

Rend! On a prot warrior! Who’d’a thunk it?

(Aside: One of my warriors has a Blood and Thunder build, and the other doesn’t. Currently I’m leaning toward really liking the Blood and Thunder mechanic. I’ve always been kind of sad about rend. It was like this pretty little button I never pushed and severely neglected and it stared dolefully up at me from my toolbar, as though to say “why do you even have me here if you’re never going to push me? Relegate me to the Bar of Suck with Slam! Do it! You heartless monster!” Now Rend and I are totally BFFs. And it makes me push Thunder Clap more, which I should have been doing anyway. And then that makes me Shockwave more, which I was actually doing anyway, except now it’s more fun because it’s all synergized with TC. Buffs come up, buffs go down. I like it. Also, a DoT on all my targets is sort of useful, what with no one understanding that they’re supposed to actually kill the skull first, not last.)

But even that didn’t last long for me. Ultimately the warrior doesn’t have any sweeping changes to the feel or mechanics. Short of tapping rend at the start of a fight, my priority list is basically the same, the threat distribution is the same (there’s just less of it to go around), and both my warriors are already geared to the point where I don’t have to stretch my brain too hard on gear choices yet (which means I actually haven’t adjusted to the lack of DEF yet and probably won’t ’till Cata). The baby-pallies remain fun and new in terms of mechanics, but ultimately they’re running back and forth across Elwynn. Which I’ve only done a hundred thousand times.

I clung to it as long as I could though and it got me through to yesterday. 4.0.3.

I was beside myself with hope and excitement and eagerness all day. Then layte sent me an e-mail and told me the servers weren’t expected back up until at least 8PM our time. Kill me. Seriously. I had already plotted out half my new alts with the class/race combos and which zones I wanted to play in and so on. Then, around 6:30, I idly opened the remote AH to check my auctions, forgetting I can’t do that when the servers are down, except the servers weren’t down and I’d made 33g 52s on auctions.

Back up the stairs we went to log in. I rolled a baby undead hunter and gleefully watched the totally new opening narration for it and exulted in every single difference I found. I didn’t know where anything was, I couldn’t find the quest givers, I was an undead hunter. It was new! Everything! All of it!

IT WAS NEW!

And then, fifteen blissful minutes later, I had to log off and log onto my warrior (not even the one who gets to push Rend) for our regular guild 5-man dungeon-run. Of Northrend dungeons. Which I have run a hundred thousand times and see in my sleep. And have absolutely nothing new about them as a result of this patch.

Insert the sound of me chafing and banging my head on my keyboard and biting at the chomp.

Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy those runs and that group, but there was new stuff out there! And it wasn’t to be found on my 700th run of DTK! /cry

But I did manage some time running around and gawking at Orgrimmar. Cue OCD-raging at Garrosh because he’s standing where my bank is supposed to be, and running in circles around the new zep tower and flight master unable to find my way down.

Did you know there are flight masters now at all the little towns and quest hubs? Holy shit. I don’t know why this wows me as much as it does, but it does, it so does. I right-clicked the new FM in Razor Hill, got the “You have discovered a new flight path!” message, and just stared at him in awe for a moment.

After our dungeon runs were done, I logged onto my little 40ish hunter and – after consulting a vastly different Zones By Level list than I’m used to – ran down to the Bulwark and into the Plaguelands. Which have, you know, farms and shit – like actual farms where they grow things that are not the Plague. And like…living bears. And foxes and flowers and grass! And Koltira is there and he’s all emo and I guess that’s not really new, but he’s in the Plaguelands now! And they’re not level 60! And Andorhal didn’t chew me up and spit me out! And I tamed a Mastiff! And I looted like three hundred Blindweed which isn’t new but it kind of is because they didn’t used to grow there! And ALL THE QUESTS WERE DIFFERENT! And when you click on a quest in your log it shows you a picture of the person you’re supposed to kill! AND I KILLED THE RAVENIAN FOR THE TWELVE HUNDRETH TIME ONLY THIS TIME HE WAS IN A TOWER IN ANDORHAL INSTEAD OF IN SCHOLO!

The whole damn zone is basically a level bracket below mine (I’m supposed to be in EPL, not WPL) but I just couldn’t bring myself to leave even though the gear was all crappy for me BECAUSE IT WAS NEW and there were chain quests I’d never done before and I was actually READING MY QUEST LOG. What if there were quest chains that spilled over into the EPL?! How could I start the EPL when I didn’t know what happened in the WPL?! I actually DIDN’T KNOW what happened in the WPL!

Apologies for the rampant abuse of CAPS, but I think I may actually be getting excited about WoW again. From a mere forty-five minutes worth of play in a single zone on a character that is far from my favourite.

Fuck raiding. Fuck heroics. Fuck Northrend and Outland*.

Oh Azeroth! I’m home!

*With apologies to Northrend and Outland, both of whom gave me many, many, many hours of joy – probably more joy than angst, whatever else I may say – up until they got as stale as Elwynn.

Well I took my first crack at all of the healing trees.  I don’t mean to say I’ve played them all but from my experience I know what I like to choose and what I don’t like to choose.  To be honest I really don’t do a lot of experimentation with my talents.  I would love to hear what differences you may have made although with even fewer points to spread around and some new limitations on spreading your points out, they may be minimal.

To begin, I’d like to go over a few of the general guidelines I like to use.

Gameplay
I don’t PvP so this is definitely not one of my considerations.  Although I do solo in order to level my characters, I don’t have a special spec for leveling.  I’ve actually found it quite safe and cozy to level in my healing spec since it is fairly hard for a non-elite mob to take down a healer. Besides, with the invention of dual specs I can just use a DPS class if I’m in a hurry. So the target here is dungeons (I haven’t been raiding in awhile).

Passive Abilities
So yeah, I’m lazy.  Anything that helps me without me having to take action, take advantage of a proc or think about it in anyway is awesome.  I wouldn’t say that I have tunnel vision but I don’t have Dominos or any other mods that let me move everything around. On top of that, I like watching the Healbot bars go up and dowm (the former more so than the latter).

Extra Spells or Enhancements
I do like having more tools in my toolkit. You may think this contradicts my laziness but a whole new spell is nice and I like it when the spells do more without any extra effort from me.  I will also put free haste and crit into this category.

Taking Aggro and Being Attacked
Um, no. That’s protflashes job and I don’t PvP.  If for some strange and unimaginable reason I do die then I stay quiet and let protflashes take the blame.  She so readily likes to say she’s sorry, even if it was my fault. :)

DPS
Despite Blizzard’s attempt to push healers to DPS, I still don’t want to. I mean I tried doing some of that with my Shaman but I much prefer to be ready for the unexpected. That means not being mid-cast on a lightning spell. I don’t mind doing the occasional shock (interrupts are cool because they save me healing time) and a hex here or there (once again, one less dude doing damage that I don’t have to heal). But DPS for the sake of DPS doesn’t really suit me and that’s why I play a healer.

That’s the short and sweet of my guidelines.  As much as I love to be meticulous and detailed, I really don’t fret over every last point. Now for some screenshot from Wowhead.

Druid

Druid - Resto

There seemed to be a lot of places to put points in the resto tree. Anyway, I’m still a little sour at losing my tree form and didn’t see a lot of benefit yet in increasing the effects from my shapeshifting (especially since I’ll probably forget to go into tree form at all). The shapeshifting isn’t so passive anymore. I also left out points for a few damage items (dealing and taking).

Paladin

Paladin - Holy

Again, I left out the Exorcism points right off the bat. Although I had Divine Protection and Hand of Sacrifice configured in Healbot, I never really used them so I also left out “Paragon of Virtue”. And I’m not getting hit so I left out Blessed Life. I do like the idea of a free heal with the new Word of Glory spell and I tried it a few times (not in a dungeon but just roaming around) and I think it will suit me fine.

Just a side note before I continue. Do me a favour and read the text for Conviction and imagine a crazy healadin running into to combat with the other paladins. I can’t help but laugh as I see my little dwarf up there in melee swinging his mace like a madman.

Shaman

Shaman - Resto

The paladin and shaman are beginning to look more and more alike. One of the things that leads me to this conclusion is the push to use shocks. I left the points out of Focused Insight just because I liked the looks of Elemental Weapons and Improved Shields. I might change this around sometime in the future though. The remaining items were all damage related. I also really like the idea of an Ancestral Awakening. Sounds pretty cool and means I can heal people without even knowing it. :) Bonus!

Okay, I saved the priest for last because I did both trees.

Priest – Discipline

Priest - Disco

There were a few tough decisions here. Moving around a little faster with Inner Sanctum good be advantageous but I was never that bad at positioning. I did, however, have a hard time with Loken at first and may respec for that dungeon but I’m pretty sure I got it now! Rapture also seemed quite useful but then I remembered my obsessiveness in never letting the shield just die out; I usually have the thing renewed with a couple seconds left. After those decisions, the rest was easy.

Priest – Holy

Priest - Holy

I felt a little weird not taking any points from the Holy tree when I did up the Discipline tree so I tried not to borrow here too. I would say that Mental Agility may have been useful but I did end up taking a few points in Twin Disciplines for a base healing bonus. I also left points out of Test of Faith but that is because of my ego…..when do I ever let people get under 50% health. Come on!

Anyway, the trees have changed since I picked my original specs (at least I noticed changes to the druid and paladin trees) so these may not be final. Nothing is after all. I would like to hear your opinions because I don’t play nearly enough attention to notice the differences.

Well, well, well.

I’ve been reviewing my trees and have pretty much settled on the specs for all my healer toons. I’m not really sure what to think yet.

The only char I’ve healed with in any capacity since the update was my shaman. It went smoothly. I avoided the shock and lightning bolt talents. After discovering that I couldn’t oom even if I tried, I was happy with those choices. I’m sure things will be different in the 80+ dungeons though.

I was really disappointed with the fact that I won’t be seeing my tree form as much on my druid. Can I even call her my tree anymore? I haven’t loaded up this char yet but I can say that it will take some getting used to. I won’t recognize the sprite for the first little while because I rarely had the char in Tauren form. Oh well. I understand the forms are buzzing so maybe Blizzard will change their minds yet; I hope they do.

I still need to try out my other chars but here’s hoping they feel just as good as my shammy.

Savethefails

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