Crucible of Storms: A Peep into Crucible

Yesterday: Micromantica -> Crucible of Storms (obviously).

I must say that this piece of raid is something amazing. I have expected nothing special from it, and yet.

It is hard to articulate the source of my extreme satisfaction. Surely these are not the hardest bosses, like we’ve never seen before. We’ve had our share of wipes and stacking determination before – most notably with the infamous eredar generals, Archimonde and Kil’jaeden in WoD and Legion.

And yet the bosses are somehow unique. And I think the reason is the encounters’ design.

Usually the hardest LFR bosses have a lot of things to be processed simultaneously, and/or the battlefield turns into a mess sooner or later – metaphorically and literally. The doom comes from the shit that slowly multiplies and eventually engulfs everything: debuff stacks, shit on the floor, unbearable amount of adds etc. The perfect example could be G’huun. By the end of its encounter everyone’s debuffed alright, and the floor reminds of an exploded Petri dish.

And here comes the meaning of determination stacks: it helps you to burn through phases quicker before the multiplying mess swamps and overwhelms you.

Not this time. The encounters require a cold head and an absolute control from the beginning till the very end. In fact, you could spend some time in a stalemate, with neither the boss receiving damage enough to push to the next phase, nor the fight turning into a shower of shit that swallows you and causes a wipe. You require knowledge of what to do, and only executing mechanics will take you forward – not overgear and squeezing the best out of your arsenal.

Restless Cabal was executed in three attempts. We had two insta-wipes due to the bubble cause, then when we figured out that everyone needs to step in, the tentacle guys went down. I even tanked our third try! It was extremely fun and unique to be a tanking mage :) My part was executed perfectly, I kept Zaxasj exactly at the required relic spots around the circle. By all means I’m tanking it with all my ranged DPS from now on.

Uu’nat required 4 attempts. Obviously the first try was not good. I took the crown, died to the beams, no one picked it up, and it got consumed by the void circle, so it was a wipe afterwards. I decided I don’t take the crown. On our second try we went better, but got caught in the add phase. Uu’nat got stuck around 30k health, it was neither in nor out, and we wasted all our dps on adds. Stalemate.

On our third try the trident shit killed us, plus the crown guy messed it up… and both tanks left after. Mind you, it was not a rage quit – they said hearty goodbyes, they just had to leave due to IRL issues. Mr.Sandman invited me to bed as well, but two new tanks popped up, and I decided to give it another try. And it was a decisive victory!

uunat

The lessons learned were these:

  • Determination DPS doesn’t help a lot – it won’t provide you victory.
  • Fuck the Trident. Tanks should just ignore this item in LFR – it hurts more than helps.
  • Mind the beams – in fact, stop all damage and focus on crossing them properly, with a 5-sec interval. Remember: dead DPS don’t bite!
  • The Crown guy’s execution is vital for success – as is stopping DPS when Guardians are about 20-25% health.
  • Mind your cleaves with “hostile” players around.

Lorewise, I liked the raid a lot. Although the Tentacle guys are an old story, Uu’nat had a unique model, and a glimpse of N’Zoth was precious. Surely it’s not the Old God itself, but we felt its might. Now I know we can’t just frostbolt him. Even a trace of his power was but a bit too much for a common hero. We will need powerful artifacts, machinery, magic and legendary beings – anything to cope with this Old God. His power is simply overwhelming. Now I wonder how it will happen :) The idea of Azeroth the Titan hatched and kill it off while we fight its minions seems to be valid.

We’ve spent 2 hours in the raid, and it was nothing like LFR as I felt it. Probably not the fun place to farm while picking your nose, but I’d replay it with pleasure. Just excellent.

Crucible-Achievement

P.S. The new transmogs are a healer-only staff, and a 2H polearm.

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It’s a Monk!

First thing in the morning Micromantica, already parked in embassy, completed the Kul Tiran storyline, and here they are – the lovable fatties :)

I’ve immediately created four trial characters with random silly names – a monk, a druid, a rogue and a hunter. The routine was to play through class introduction scenario, switch between specs and also see the possible transmogs just in case.

Druid went off very quickly – I realised I’m not a current Balance fan, and there’s no option I pick a shapeshifting spec. The druid forms are amazing though, and I can’t wait to see them in game fighting alongside me.

Rogue was crossed out as well. Outlaw is certainly flashy and light-speed, but I’m not fond of its rotation and idea. And as much as I like Assassination with all its poisons, it requires some insane amounts of haste not to feel like a tea-time. I’ve recalled how replacing a single haste item to crit or mastery or whatever turned an assassin into a turtle-speed, so I pass.

Hunter – in Survival – has just stunning animations and vibe. Problem is, it feels awesome in earlier levels, but in the endgame you feel like there’s too much going on: you are overwhelmed with stuff coming off cooldowns, so it’s a piano play. Changing talents to calm down rotation didn’t help much. Otherwise, it’s an awesome spec and class for a Kul Tiran – I may even consider another alt later :)

Monk – I’ve cringed at the thought of having to play the scenario as a Kul Tiran Windwalker… but it appeared to be the coolest option ever! You’d never believe that a Kul Tiran could be so plastic and agile. It’s just awesome – and the most awesome thing is, while I’m planning to make her a tanking character, I could switch to Windwalker to speed leveling or questing and feel GREAT about it.

So yes, here she is – my new toon in her Vanilla level 20 outfit :)

Kul-Tiran-Monk

The awkward thing is the race size and forms of course. You may find it hard to pick the right face and transmog at a first glance. But for all of my trial toons I’ve picked almost random haircuts and faces, and they all appeared to be actually awesome. Transmog here is an interesting game to play: like with clothes IRL, you need to mask the drawbacks and bring out the good stuff – challenging, but extremely satisfying.

The other challenge is a name of course. I think I want to go with something utterly British – probably following my pattern of picking not a name, but a surname which is more likely to be free. The other options could be tying her to a monk/oriental thing, or a beer reference. Currently this trial toon is named Buxendale – a reference to Helen Baxendale, an actress who played one of Ross’ girlfriends in Friends.

This post is spoiler-free on purpose – I will describe my thoughts the Kul Tiran and Magni questline later today.

Current mood: happy!

Battle of Dazar’Alor: A Peep into Might of the Alliance / Victory or Death

The last wing of Dazar’Alor went live, and I completed it on both Alliance and Horde sides.

I think I got used to racial changes in the raid. Turning my Micromantica into a goblin was not that bad – even though I was offered a pretty ugly face option, or whatever I could detect through the helmet. It is funny that my pioneer this time was Kargash – the fresh allied toon, because lorewise it’s Horde’s story, and because she’s the only ranged dps among my Horde toons.

There are little changes with storytelling between factions, unlike the second wing. There was a no name human who has a couple of replies to add on the Alliance side in the docks. There was a great intermission with captain Zadari and Talanji on the Horde side. Finally, the Horde asks Nathanos to go home after Jaina’s encounter, teleporting to raid entrance, while the Alliance is teleported to Anduin’s ship, and the king says that they will mend Jaina’s wounds.

What should be mentioned in the aftermath is the overall mood of the raid and how it changes across the wings. Obviously the first wing is tense and serious, because the Horde has yet to discover the scale of the invasion, and the Alliance is not sure how it all plays out. The second wing is grim dark, Rastakhan may not be the brightest lamp in the gallery of Warcraft authorities, but he’s not an asshole either, quite a lovely guy. Killing him feels bad for both factions, spiced up with Bwonsamdi’s ruthless betrayal and the king realizing that his bargain with the loa was bad in every sense.

And then comes the third wing which is almost… festive. I could compare it to Stromgarde warfront: while Darkshore is a fierce battle for mutual eradication, Arathi gives this excellent feeling of an equal rival match. The Alliance’s retreat is a happy hour – the rarest thing in the raids ever, even more so with final bosses. The Horde finally has an opportunity to cross swords with Kul Tiran and the Alliance’s regular forces, including the intriguing leaders. The Alliance witnesses the valor of High Tinker, the might of their new allies – the tidesages, and the badass Jaina Proudmoore in her prime.

So, on to encounters.

High Tinker Mekkatorque is obviously a fun fight, like most of the gnome content. Exploding sheep, amusing robots, and the key feature – actual tinkering! Note that  affected players DO NOT shrink! The gnome devices change the size of THE WHOLE AZEROTH around you so you feel little – that’s how it works :) Remember “The Day when Deathwing Came” quests in Badlands? Or the famous rocket mount that spins Azeroth underneath rather than fly?

The key goal in LFR is not standing in the fire – in fact, this is the major rule for all the encounters here. You see a circle on the ground, you run out, and you’re good. Before incoming slowly walking robots overwhelm you, the ‘shrunk’ players should mount any robot in their vicinity, and do some tinkering. As complex as it seems, it’s actually not. When mounted, you see a colored mark over your head. You should only tap the action bar of the same color, do it several times (as the color changes), and a robot goes down, bringing some AoE relief to your allies.

Defeated, High Tinker is evacuated in his escape mod – have fun listening to Gallywix in rage why he doesn’t have one.

The encounter is quite simple, and even if most robots are functioning, it could be pulled out without wipes.

Stormwall Blockade is another split-the-group-in-two encounter in the raid. From the end of the pier you take a pterrodax to one of the two ships. Like with Opulence, tanks, healers and dps should be roughly equal on each ship.

The couple of tidesages try to summon some shapeless mostrosity out of the depths, so the first phase is coping with them. It’s nothing but a tank-and-spank thing, the only trouble being nasty AoE which you should avoid and interrupting a long, rare cast. When either of the groups defeats their tidesage, you use an on-ship teleport to help the other, and then you fight the monstrosity itself back to the pier.

Laminaria is also a tank-and-spank – stay out of the ground AoE and kill an occasional slow elemental. I can’t see a wipe option here, unless players are too slow to move out of the fire (well, water).

Lady Jaina Proudmoore is a multi-phase fight, but once understood, it’s completed in a breeze. The first phase is also about moving out of AoE and using catapults against the approaching Kul Tiran ships – quite a lazy one.

When Jaina freezes the boat still, the things go south. AoE are still in place, but in much variety – showing us the true arsenal of the best frost mage in the world. Besides, how cool is her father’s ghostly flagship? She not only unleashes the multiple hailstorms of ice, she also manages to levitate a GIANT VESSEL over your heads at the same time and launch arcane missiles from it!

The climax is the killer phase – once she teleports in the center and starts casting an expanding circle, everyone shoud hero and beat the wall of ice to hide in a small passage to avoid it. The core strategy is assembling all of the raid by the wall in advance to save running time. Once you’re through, free Nathanos (well, I’d rather leave him there), taunt a water elemental outside, and burn through the last 20k to end the encounter.

===

Like all Draenor raids taught you to cope with adds, Battle for Dazar’Alor is teaching you positioning in many, many ways. Most of the encounters winning strategy is this: get out of the bad, and live to tank and spank. Like everyone who survived WoD raiding is switching to adds without thinking, hopefully after Battle of Dazar’Alor the ground pools will imprint in the spine as ‘bad news’.

The encounters themselves are diverse and fun, as are the raid bosses appearances and lore. While the idea of a faction change is not exactly new (considering Caverns of Time), it definitely feels fresh in raid environment and is an interesting way to deliver the climactic story.

As I’ve already said, the mood swings are unique to the raid as well. Normally we go from dark to darker places progressing through a raid. This time it delivered an emotinally heavy climax in the middle only to be followed by an uplifting experience of the last three bosses. And yes, in the sea expansion we finally had a sea fight!

The last, but not the least is the BfA’s approach to deliver thematic transmogs for armor type, not the class. If you think about it, we had class armors as far as Vanilla raids. This significantly cuts my raiding time and doesn’t let the raid wear thin, to puking re-run limits.

All in all, this is a strong experience in lore, in mechanics and in the whole atmosphere. Now to farm the hell out of it :)

Jaina-World-First

Roleplay: Exploring the Evil Side

I’ve been thinking about the place my new toons could have in my character roster. Just leveling them for achievement sakes is definitely fun in the process, especially during lull. But leveling what would be a THIRD cap level fire mage and deleting it afterwards ultimately feels like like a waste.

I’ve found the answer in roleplay. It struck me hard as a sledgehammer: I’ve always been extremely enjoying the NPC parties, banded up from completely different individuals. They are of a different race, class and everything. It is important that they are individuals: not the Twilight Hammer mooks, but characters having a name. We will have this kind of boss in Dazar’Alor: I believe it’s a monk and a fire mage (an orc and a blood elf for the Horde side).

When I come across this kind of a party in the wilds or in dungeons, it always intrigues me to learn their backgrounds. How did they meet, what are their goals, how they started to cooperate – the presumably hostile, suspicious and egoistic persons from different factions?

I thought it’s a great idea to roleplay my three under-120 toons as this kind of party!

Let me remind you about them:

Melaris – the Havoc Demon Hunter (110)

Melaris

Jagda – the Elemental Shaman (60)

Jagda

Kargash – the Fire Mage (33)

Kargash

I haven’t woven their common story yet (this happens on the shores of Kul Tiras and Zandalar), and not even their individual stories yet. I’m carving their ways on the surface of Azeroth, and only starting to think of their backgrounds and what led them to evil.

My major alt roster is generally good. This means that they support their faction efforts (more or less willingly depending on the toon), eager to fight the big bad to save the planet.

But this. This would be the ruthless trio, pursuing their own goals, loyal only to themselves and their band mates. They will never ever work for greater good, seeing the big bad and faction war mess only as means to make themselves rich and powerul. Ambushes, betrayals, deserting, assasinations – everything necessary, the goals justifies the means.

I’m pretty excited about leveling them and weave this kind of story into my experience :)

The binding theme for all the three is flame. Fire mage orc, fel fire demon hunter, and a naturally attuned dark iron lava shaman. This calls for a badass name, and I’m excited to think of it too :)

See, hype doesn’t come only from the game itself, but comes from inside your head too :) I am hyped. On to the speedy leveling!

Make Loh Go – All Puzzle Solutions

‘Make Loh Go’ is one of the few Tortollan quests and my absolute favorite. It’s somehow similar to Legion’s mage puzzles (remember the magic cube?), yet it’s not a memory game.

It’s relatively easy to solve. Yet for those who find it challenging, here are the solutions for all the puzzles.

There are four ‘Make Loh Go’ puzzles in total: in Vol’dun, Zuldazar, Stormsong Valley, and Tiragarde Sound. The patterns do not vary, so it is safe to use the following solves.

Enough chatting, let’s make Loh go :)

Make Loh Go – Vol’dun

Original puzzle:

Make-Loh-Go-Vol'dun

Solution:

Make-Loh-Go-Vol'dun-Solution

Make Loh Go – Zuldazar

Original puzzle:

Make-Loh-Go-Zuldazar

Solution:

Make-Loh-Go-Zuldazar-Solution

Make Loh Go – Stormsong Valley

Original puzzle:

Make-Loh-Go-Stormsong-Valley

Solution:

Make-Loh-Go-Stormsong-Valley-Solution

Make Loh Go – Tiragarde Sound

Original puzzle:

Make-Loh-Go-Tiragarde

Solution:

Make-Loh-Go-Tiragarde-Solution

Have fun! :)

 

Battle for Azeroth: Story Development and Next Expansion

I’ve commented about this in several blogs already, and I think my speculation deserves a special post.

Alliance-last-troops.png

Remember how Genn said to Anduin in the latest Saurfang cinematic that these were the last troops? They would be recruiting farmers – farmers, and the war has barely started.

They would waste their fleets – and even their new shining Kul Tiran/Zandalari fleets – during the upcoming Siege of Zandalar. There are two warfronts – Darkshore and Arathi. We are running out of manpower. All of us – both Alliance and Horde.

Not only us, but all the people of Azeroth may be wondering why are we fighting now.

The war may be senseless for people, but not in the eyes of the Old Gods.

I think we will see that it was the Old Gods who whispered Vol’jin to make Sylvanas a warchief.

She is a warmongering bitch, and they simply knew that she she will immediately start a war. It was meant to be a senseless, brutal and devastating war to weaken both factions. Because when both factions work together – they bring down the Old Gods, two examples already – C’thun and Yogg-Saron.

And that is why Blizzard wants us to wait and see. We do not understand why we’re fighting, but we’re engulfed in rage and hatred – from Teldrassil, loss of honor, mutual casualties. We just won’t stop. And we’ve been played with.

And that is why the war makes perfect sense in the long run.

We are just puppets. Deal with it.

Like it or not, us and our feelings are part of the plot, of the grand scheme.

Let’s play our role, would we?

What of the next expansion? 

Sylvanas is seeing her last expansion as a warchief, that’s crystal clear. But I don’t think that we will kill her or explore the Void/Light theme further, nor travel to another planets. Not yet.

We are looking into the revival of the Death and Ice themes.

Death Knights have seen Bolvar in Legion, and he’s not your sacrificial nice guy which we left at the Frozen Throne. He’s already quite menacing and definitely not kind.

We’ve been introduced to Bwonsamdi, who claims he has another entity for a death boss. We have Gorak Tul and Thros – a local death dimension, but it’s a death dimension. We know that Helya is not dead. There’s Kalia Menethil, Arthas’ sister, now undead priest of Light.

Have we got enough lead-ins? Well, here’s one more.

Christie Golden was not being vain describing the talk of Anduin and Genn about his probable mate. Anduin stated that he does not simply need a noble match, it must be someone he would love.

*drumroll*

In BfA Blizzard has introduced Taelia Fordragon – an action girl, a perfect match for the king. What is more important, they leave to talk after the Alliance campaign – presumably about her father, but it’s perfectly possible that some feelings will grow from this. Surely it would be awesome to end the grim expansion on a positive note – like wedding :)

Taelia

The most important thing is: Taelia is Bolvar’s daughter.

It’s not a Chekhov’s gun, it’s a Chekhov’s bazooka now hanging from the wall.

And what could make more drama and epicness than the new Lich King and the new Queen of the Alliance clashed in a fight of all good vs all evil?

I’m thrilled to see it.

Trivia: Digging, Digging Hole

Yeah, I know you love my spreadsheets :)

Nov7

1. My reps now range between Honored (blue) and Revered (purple), and I’m starting to hit Exalted. Micromantica has bought a couple of Exalted steeds, and these horsies are gorgeous:

Proudmoore-Horse

2. War Campaign depends on rep, so it’s just there for the sake of why not. Not the thing I should be tracking.

3. I’ve covered Exploration on every alt and opened every flight point.

4. I’ve decided to complete Jaina/Vol’jin questlines on every alt. Jaina requires a couple more Siege of Boralus runs, and Vol’jin’s questline, besides normal questing, requires completing 1 dungeon and killing G’huun on any difficulty. Waiting for the raid reset which is tonight.

5. Speaking of raids, I’ve been busy during weekend and carried a heap of transmogs out of Uldir. More to go, and no complete sets yet, plus weapons.

6. I’ve been clearing the quest logs, and some of my toons can boast with almost empty ones.

7. Speaking of quests, there is an interesting Ruin Has Come questline available both to Horde and Alliance – check the starting note in Brennadam/Warfang Hold, the quest also visible on a major map. It drives you to the island by the Shrine of the Storm. After you do the initiate quests, there is a new one after a while – I haven’t detected yet what are the conditions – is it time-gated, or rep-based, or both?

The next and quite new quest, Trinkets and Baubles, requires clearing the same caves in the island. The questgiver says dark things about sanity, resolve and being prepared. It’s clearly a build-up for the upcoming 2-boss raid here, linked to the Old Gods and Azshara – we’ll see how this unrolls further, I hope it won’t be about clearing the same caves again and again.