Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Apply Poisons Liberally, then Stab Away

One more quick tip from recent low level instance runs - if you're a rogue, and you are over level 20, please put poisons on both of your weapons. Yep. Main hand and off hand. Just regular old instant poison is fine. It doesn't matter what spec you are. It doesn't matter if you're using swords or daggers. It no longer matters if you've done the class quest or not (although please, go do the class quest - it rocks!). Just put it on and use it. It lasts for a whole hour, so you don't even have to refresh it that often.

Not much progress on the leveling front to report this week. I headed to Hilton Head Island for an extended long-weekend vacation with my family that had me WoW-less from Thursday through Monday. I did manage to get my shadow priest up to level 44 before we left, but other than that, not much progress to report. I'll be picking up the mage for a couple of days after the servers come back up today, so we'll see how far I can get her and then will switch back to the shammy for more Stormstrike fun later in the week. Right now I've got my four remaining toons in a four day rotation to maximize their rested xp - and I'm sticking to those four days regardless of whether I end up playing on all of them.

I still haven't decided whether to switch back to a one at a time approach, but I'm leaning towards giving it a few more weeks before deciding. I'll see how the numbers look through mid-April, but right now, barring some unbelieveable leveling spasm over the next two days, March's numbers will be abysmal compared to January and February.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Back to One At A Time?

So after hitting 80 on my paladin last month, I've switched to working on my remaining four toons just a little bit at a time. My original thought was that this would be the most efficient way of leveling because I'd be maximizing the rested xp for all of them, but the strange thing is that it seems to have significantly slowed me down on all of these toons.

Part of it could be that I've been somewhat distracted working on other things as well. I've certainly been enjoying leveling my new alliance warlock, Joàr, over on Argent Dawn with Single Abstract Noun. Managed to get him to level 27 over the weekend. So, I guess if you factor in those levels, I haven't slowed down at all. But I just don't seem to be making much progress on the other toons.

I do tend to miss out on the feeling of accomplishment that comes from blazing through levels when you're focused on just one toon. Inching forward a bit at a time on four different toons just doesn't feel quite the same. That being said, I'm not willing to completely abandon the experiment just yet. So I will like continue with the way that I'm doing it at least through the end of March or maybe even the middle of April, just to see how it goes.

So here's where we stand on the various toons:

Mograwn - Enhancement Shammy - level 43
Zinjar - Shadow Priest - level 42
Joara - Frost Mage - level 41
Joarstab - Combat Rogue - level 31

I'm going to be rotating onto the Shadow Priest next for the next few days. I may focus on just questing for him since I've found running instances on the Shadow Priest to be a little disappointing. While I can absolutely crank on a boss fight, the lack of a decent AoE makes some of the big trash pulls that are popular these days a little less fun. Of course, a well timed mind-flay helps a lot with the runners that you get, so we'll see.

And, in my continuing series of lessons from the PUG, a few pearls of wisdom that I thought I'd pass along:

  • While I've come across quite a few decent retribution spec'd paladin tanks at lower levels, cloth spellpower gear probably isn't going to be a big help in that department. You probably don't need to be rolling need on that.
  • Thanks to all of you hunters out there equipping shields. Since you seem to love to pull before the tank, that extra block value is obviously a huge help (Hopefully your sarcasm settings were appropriately adjusted for that)
  • I'm really starting to like paladin tanks at low levels just because they have to stop and drink - huge help to the healer and caster dps.
  • Another simple tank/healer lesson - you can't be healed if you're around in a corner or in a different room. Be aware of where your healer is.
  • Deadmines is PUG death. I can't even count the number of times that I've been with a group that has half wiped on the way up the last set of ramps to the boat. Two people jumped off onto ledges escaping death, but the rest of the group has to do the huge run-back then figure out how to get back to the boat through tons of patrols in between.
  • Warlocks - ah, my beloved original class. First, at level 20, get ritual of summoning, and learn how to use it. No, you can't use a Soulstone to summon. No, it doesn't help the group that you've soulstoned yourself. Keep a full bag of shards at all times. Put your voidwalker away, and get out an imp instead. If you've got Hellfire or Searing Pain on your cast bar, please remove them.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Low Level Mage Specs for LFD

I spent some time this weekend running instances on my mage as part of my leveling efforts. I've been leveling as frost and have always been really pleased with the amount of dps I've been able to generate in instances. There's always been a little bit of a tickle at the back of my mind about what I'd be able to do with a fire build rather than frost. After all, fire is about throwing these huge fireballs at mobs that crit for enormous amounts of damage, so it should be a lot better, right?

What I found is on an overall basis, it didn't seem to make a whole lot of difference. While I was in fact throwing enormous fireballs in the mobs direction, and they were critting for a lot more than my frostbolts ever do, I wasn't doing it nearly as fast as I do with my frostbolts, and I was running out of mana much faster.

Here are the fire talents that I was picking up at level 41:

Improved Fireball 5/5
Incineration 2/3 (note, this probably wouldn't be in an endgame fire build, but both fireblast and scorch are good parts of my rotation at this level, so extra crit here is a good thing0
Ignite 5/5
World in Flames 2/3 - I originally took these talents because I was expecting big things from my Pyroblast - after all - huge ball of fiery death sounds so call. What a disapointment you were, Pyroblast. A 6 1/2 week cast time, and you don't do as much damage as my trusty firebolt. If I was redoing this, I'd probably put these talents elsewhere.
Pyroblast 1/1
Improved Scorch 3/3
Master of Elements 2/3
Playing with Fire 3/3
Critical Mass 3/3
Fire Power 5/5
Combustion 1/1

Now combusion is pretty cool - increases my crit chance and damage, stacking three times. The thing that annoyed me about this talent is that I have a somewhat similar talent in frost - Winter's Chill. It increases my crit chance, but not the damage. It stacks 5 times, but I don't have to push a button to get it going - it happens automatically. Plus, even my favorite AoE, Blizzard, will get that one going. On top of that, Ice Shards, on the second tier of the frost tree, provides a 100% bonus to frost crits with all three points - and again - no button to push and no cooldown.

So, after experimenting for most of the day, I decided to go back to my good old dependable frost build. While seeing huge fireball crits is a lot of fun, the frost build is so much more effective for leveling while you're waiting for than next dungeon to pop, that I think, at least for me, I'm better off staying there.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Stormstrike FTW!

I finally managed to hit level 41 on my shaman yesterday and picked up Stormstrike to top off my new dual-wielding, mail wearing self. This has just added a whole enormous new layer of fun to my shaman that is hard to even describe. I just love watching those maces go flailing around. It's even more satisfying on a giant Tauren, because he seems to be covering entire city blocks while he's waving those maces at whatever enemy he's got on his mind.

Then bang, both maces come down at once, lightning crackles. And shit dies. Big fun! This is clearly going to keep my attention for a while.

I also managed to get my mage to level 39, primarily because I felt bad for her. It's very strange really. Frost mages seem to be incredibly easy to level, do fantastic dps in instances courtesy of blizzard and some huge frostbolt crits. And somehow, still less fun than either the shaman or the rogue. Maybe I've just played a caster too long. Or maybe I just don't give enough of a crap about dps meters anymore that I'd rather play for fun than for trying to top the charts.

Over the weekend, my son and I basically abandoned our priests and began leveling our warlocks over with Single Abstract Noun. The thrill of shadowform only lasted for about two instance runs for us. Long enough to get the priests to level 42, but not long enough to keep us playing them long-term. So we spent a ton of time on the warlocks and managed to get them to level 23.

I'm of course leveling as destro, because you're not supposed to. But hey, guess what. My voidwalker still holds aggro, and fast giant shadow bolt crits make mobs dead really fast. Yeah, the crits will pull the occasional mob of the voidwalker, but they're dead then, so I don't really care.

The more I keep leveling these various toons, the more I realize I'm going to hit my goal of 9 toons from different classes to 80 long before Cataclysm comes out. Even with the distraction of leveling the warlock and the reduction in levels per day that's caused (because that doesn't count toward my goal, since I've already leveled a warlock) I'm still on pace to hit my goal by mid-July.

I'm thinking the answer to this problem is to start an alliance warrior over with Single Abstract Noun. That way, I can see the alliance side content before it all changes post-Cataclysm. I figure, at my normal rate of leveling, even adding a 10th toon to level from scratch, I should get to 10 toons at 80, one from each class, by mid-September. Which still feels like it's going to be before Cataclysm.

So here's where we stand today for the non-80's in the group:

Zinjar - Troll Priest - level 42
Mograwn - Tauren Shaman - level 41
Joara - Blood Elf Mage - level 39
Joarstab - Undead Rogue - level 29

and on the alliance side:

Joar - Gnome Warlock - level 23
Joar?? - Night Elf Warrior maybe? - level 0.

The puts me at 0.93 levels per day if you don't count dabbling with the new warlock or an average of 1.42 levels per day since the beginning of the year and on track for all 9 to 80 by July 13th. If you add in the warlock, I'm at 2.47 levels per day for March and 1.73 on average for the year, but that doesn't really seem right to add my "dabbles". If that rate was sustainable (which it's not) I'd have all 9 toons to 80 by June 21st.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Frostwyrm Vanquisher Cavalry....Charge!

On Friday night, I logged onto my new gnome warlock, Joar, over on Argent Dawn-US, to see what was up with my favorite new blogging community guild - Single Abstract Noun. Started working on leveling my little buddy, when I heard we were having a guild event that evening. We were all going to be rolling up fresh new Death Knights and charging the starting zone as a group.

We ended up with about 20 of us starting off and all spent the next hour or two plowing through the Death Knight starting area. I'll have to admit, I haven't had that much fun in-game in a really long time.

At one point, we had about 15 of us mounted up and ready to attack New Hearthglen on our Frostwyrm Vanquishers. Needless to say, those poor Scarlet Crusade guys went down fast and hard. We almost defeated the forces of the Argent Dawn at the battle of Light's Hope Chapel, but lighter heads prevailed and we decided to let up a bit on poor Tirion before we changed the course of history.

In any case, the new guild is distracting me greatly from leveling my Horde toons over on my old server. My warlock is now sitting comfortably at level 21 and having a blast!

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Single Abstract Noun

My heartfelt thanks go out to Tamarind at Righteous Orbs for taking what must have been a really nasty experience for him personally and turning it into something really interesting. I think he's created something of lasting value - something that could add just a little bit of extra magic to that no-mans land until the next expansion comes out. For those of you that live in the virtual equivalent of a cave in a distant corner of the blogosphere, the short version of what happened is that Tam was kicked from his guild over something he wrote in his blog.

This led to the creation of a guild for the blogging community - whether you're a blog writer, or just an avid reader - called Single Abstract Noun - over on Argent Dawn-EU. A "sister" guild of the same name was started over on the US side of things on Argent Dawn-EU. (Thanks to Miss Medicina for that!)

So anyway, having read quite a few posts about this new guild, and finding out about the US side equivalent, I set up out to start a toon over on Argent Dawn and get myself a guild invite (woo hoo! a new alt!)

And so was born Joàr, Gnome Warlock. Unfortunately, the unaccented version of my name was unavailable, so I was forced to go the special character route. I've been in some fairly social guilds with a few of my alts, but I've never seen anything quite like this. It's amazing the level of interaction and conversation that occurs in this guild. It feels a lot like home because a lot of the people that you see in guild chat are people that you feel like you already know.

I've been enjoying leveling a warlock again. Joar the undead warlock was the very first toon that I got past level 10, and I'm pretty sure I didn't fully understand what I was doing on that toon until about level 68 or so. I seem to remember hitting things with my stick a lot at early levels, and found the process much more satisfying now that I'm not trying to hit things with my stick at all.

It's also been a little bit of a shock to be a lone toon on a new server and not have some rich father figure providing me with a bit of start up cash and a full sweet of Frostweave Bags. But it's been very satisfying to have to "work" to provide myself with a little bit of financial freedom at early levels.

So, Joar the gnome is now level 9 and is likely going to distract me from leveling my other toons for a while because I'm just enjoying the level of interaction over on Argent Dawn way too much.

On other fronts, I've continued to level my rogue, shaman and mage somewhat simultaneously rather than focusing on one particular toon at a time. While I'm not sure it's making much difference in my overall leveling speed, I'm enjoying the process. Joarstab the undead rogue hit 29 yesterday, and my shaman, Mograwn (who I still need to rename - is Joartotem too ridiculous?) is now sitting at 40, happily dual wielding and sporting some shiny new mail.

A few observations from leveling these toons. Leveling a combat rogue provides you with a ton of flexibility and lots of fun - it's relatively easy to quest - surprised how survivable I am even when pulling multiple mobs. Finally figured out what Evasion tanking means. And, if it gets too hairy, vanish and slink off, then come back and slit their throats again. It also seems to be a very viable spec for both PvP and running dungeons on the LFD tool. So I'd rate the rogue highest for sheer fun at this point. Definitely a toon I could see myself continuing to do stuff with at 80.

The shaman has gotten more fun the closer he's gotten to 40. Enhancement seems to get more and more viable the higher level I've gotten, and I'm sure will be even more so with the addition of dual wield, and soon Stormstrike.

The mage is great just for the fun bag of tricks. Zeppelins. We don't need no stinking zeppelins. Can't imagine how much /played time portals saves. I've found the "make your own beverages" trick to be a little overrated as what you can buy from the local inn at your level tends to replenish your mana quite a bit faster than what you can make yourself. Still, the mage is big fun. And an absolute monster in instances through LFD in the AoE fest world we seem to live in these days.

So that's it for the Joar family of toons this week. Things are calming down at work a bit, so should be able to post more often.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Shadow Priest DPS and Leveling Update

So my son and I continued to work on leveling our shadow priests together over the weekend. We managed to both hit 40 and get shadowform over the course of the weekend. We were both amazingly surprised by how good our single target dps was in instances. Shadow priests still suffer a bit on trash due to a lack of any AoE abilities that won't be taken care of until Mind Sear at level 75.

Still, we were both top of the dps charts on almost every boss fights, rocking about 200 dps at level 40. Very pleasantly surprised. Leveling as a shadow priest pair continues to be a breeze.

So, in terms of a February leveling update, I managed to get my Shaman up to level 36 via resto instance leveling, got my rogue all the way up to level 25, and got the mage to level 35. I've really been enjoying the rogue a lot. I've been pleasantly surprised with how competitive his dps is in instances, even in my combat leveling spec. I've been toying with the idea of switching to assassination just to see if I can boost it a little bit, but I'm not totally sure if that would be worth it until I've got enough talent points to pick up mutilate.

So my total leveling progress for the month of February was 42 levels (including getting those last 10 levels on my Paladin to 80 - which are painfully slow) over 28 days, so exactly 1.5 levels per day. Averaging that pace with January, it still puts me on pace to hit my goal of 9 toons to 80 by the end of June.

Since it doesn't look very likely that Cataclysm will be getitng released anywhere even close to that timeframe, I may slow down the leveling pace just a little bit and do some more PvP on my existing 80's. I think I'm reaching the conclusion that the PvP world is really best suited for me in terms of gearing up my end-game toons.

My schedule and attitude just doesn't lend itself very well to raiding. I'm not able to raid enough to be part of a really serious raiding guild, but I find being with a guild that doesn't take it seriously enough to be very frustrating. Raids starting one or two hours later than scheduled and then being giant wipefests because people don't understand the fights. Just not my thing.

Also, through leveling the rogue, the shaman and mage, I've also been able to get some more data on xp per hour rates through questing versus instancing at low levels. Interestingly enough, the xp per hour at low levels is significantly higher in dungeons than it is questing. For the rogue for example, I was typically running in the 15-20K per hour range while questing, but could get it boosted to as high as 50K per hour doing instances. The percentage difference seemed to contract a little bit in the mid-30's level-wise, but was still significantly more.

The challenge now will be to figure out where that crosses over and stops being true. I'm guessing it's somewhere in Outland, but it'll require some testing to figure out for sure.

Dawntrail Progress

Since last week's update, I finished the MSQ for Dawntrail and have unlocked all of the expert dungeons so I can start running expert ro...