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.

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