Archive for Levelling

Level 80

Hitting level 80 on Stormshaper was easy. No, really, it was simple. Also, she hit 80 despite doing no quests in Zul Drak, Grizzly Hills or Scholozar Basin. So there are still swathes of Northrend for her to explore still. Nor did she do anything in K3, so the enormous Sons of Hodir quest chain is still to come.

At 78, Halls of Stone opens up for you in the random dungeon feature, and Stormshaper did several runs of this dungeon which added a fair bit of XP as well as getting her a few Relics of Ulduar for the Sons of Hodir rep grind. At 79, Halls of Lightning and Utgarde Pinnacle are available, and the random dungeon feature is where your XP gain goes through the roof.

I continued questing in Icecrown and, at queued in the dungeon finder, teleporting into dungeons when the groups were ready, then when complete, returning. Doing this, the XP required to go from 79 to 80 simply vanished.

As soon as Stormshaper reached 80, I tried to queue in the random heroic and was presented with heroic Utgarde Pinnacle (after running it on normal four times previously). The step up between normal and heroic is huge – especially if you’re in blues – but the group I was in were welcoming and didn’t seem phased that this ‘scrub’ (to use the current parlance) was being ‘carried’ through the dungeon. What a nice, refreshing attitude to see.

In the end, I didn’t finish bottom of the DPS meters. I’m not really a fan of those creations, but it was nice to see that Stormshaper could handle her own in a heroic run. Sadly no gear drops at all. Everything that dropped was plate/tank related – but that’s okay. Gear will come for Stormshaper – it’s just a matter of grinding out the heroics, gathering the emblems of frost and triumph and spending them wisely.

I can’t really compare levelling Stormshaper with my other characters. The game, with the addition of the random dungeon feature and nerfed dungeons is considerably easier now than it was when the expansion first came out. And, remember WoTLK 5 man instances are in turn considerably easier than the 5 man runs in Burning Crusade.

In previous times, you really required a guild so that your character could run instances with so that you could get gear and progress. With the random dungeon feature, this is no longer a requirement, and indeed, I levelled Stormshaper all the way to level 80 without ever joining a guild. Being guildless allowed me to focus entirely on levelling Stormshaper and learning about playing the Shaman class. I can say for absolute certainty being guildless definitely helped me level Stormshaper quicker than being in a guild and having to contend with the myriad distractions that gives you.

I’m not saying being in a guild is bad – it absolutely isn’t – but they can present you with distractions, especially if you join a “social” guild or a guild that’s “fun”. Invariably this means the guild is packed with low level characters who want a “boost” from higher characters. Nothing in it for the higher character, the lower character runs along behind you, as you kill everything before them. You don’t need any of the drops, so they fill their bags with low level greens, cloth and food and they get the boss drops.

I’m all for helping people, but in World of Warcraft today, you don’t need to “boost” anyone. As long as they meet the requirements of the dungeon, they can queue in the random dungeon finder and find a group in next to no time. Sadly, in my experience this isn’t the case. People don’t want to quest to get to level 16 and start running Dead Mines, Blackfathom Deeps, Shadowfang Keep or Wailing Caverns. They want to be dragged through at level 10. This will continue all the way through their levelling process, until you either level them all the way up to an acceptable level, and they then leave the guild, or, they leave the guild as they don’t get their own way.

Stormshaper didn’t have any of these issues to contend with. I basically played a zone until I had done all the quests available, and moved on to the next zone and the next, and the next. The random dungeon feature ensured that I played all the dungeons at the right level. I had some dreadful experiences, but I also had some good laughs.

Now Stormshaper is 80, and I basically have to learn how to play the class all over again.

I have subscribed to a number of shaman forums, blogs and various other sources of valid information so that I can learn from other people’s experiences. I have checked out Stormshaper’s talent trees, and already I can see some things that need to be adjusted, but bearing in mind I was selecting her talents without any reference, I don’t think I did too badly.

This is Stormshaper’s current talent tree spread (16/55/0): http://www.wowhead.com/?talent#hVbhqZhxxIoxdIhuoRuVo

I’m going to adjust the talent tree slightly so that this will be the new talent spread (8/58/0): http://www.wowhead.com/?talent#hV0hZhxxIoxdIhusRuVo

Once I’ve run a couple of heroics with the new talent build, I’ll get a better feel for how much it has increased Stormshaper’s DPS.

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Level 77

Stormshaper has reached level 77. She’s done this despite not yet visiting Sholozar Basin, or indeed completing many of the quests still available in Dragonblight.

At level 77, the game switches into overdrive. You are now into end game raiding and Icecrown is your destination.

On Krasus’ Landing in Dalaran, there is an NPC called Officer Van Rossum who will offer you a quest to fly you to the Skybreaker, the enormous alliance airship flying high above Icecrown. The Skybreaker serves as a quest hub to get you started in Icecrown. There are an astonishing number of quests here, all geared to telling you about Arthas and his legions of undead. Truly it is an astonishing storyline and immersion into the end game raiding quests that lead you ultimately to Icecrown Citadel is incredible.

But – to quest here you need, at the very least, cold weather flying. This will set you back 1000g. You cannot quest in Icecrown without it as everything is up on mountainsides. You should be able to get the money back soon enough doing quests, gathering materials for tradeskills, and of course, doing instances.

Also at level 77, you are eligible to fly to the Argent Tournament grounds and start to do the entry-level daily quests there, which, if you persist with them, will replenish your gold reserves in no time at all. Again, on Krasus’ Landing in Dalaran, there is an NPC from he Argent Dawn sat on an argent griffon who, if you speak to him offers you a flight to the Argent Tournament.

Stormshaper has completed all the early quests, learning to joust – these are easy – I’ve done it before on other characters who are all argent champions and all have city titles. You just have to stick at it. The gold is reward enough, and there are some really nice entry-level blue items that you can get from quartermasters at the Argent Tournament. Not to mention pets, mounts, and other assorted bits and bobs.

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Shopping for Bargains

Stormshaper hit level 76 today, questing in Dragonblight. With only four levels to go before she hits the level cap I thought it would be prudent to try and get some level 80 gear for her so that she can stand half a chance in the heroic runs she’ll embark on.

Now, the auction house is very server dependent. I’ve played on some servers where the prices in the auction house are simply crazy. The auction house of my realm, Darkmoon Faire isn’t too bad. There are some high prices for items, but nothing outlandish. Also, from time to time, there are some absolute bargains to be had.

Using my bank character, I have been scanning the available auctions looking for things that can aid Stormshaper once she hits 80, and I have managed to buy all the following items for less than 500g.

Belt of Tassled Lanterns – 11g
Grips of the Warming Heart – 9g
Aviary Guardsman’s Hauberk – 22g
Helm of the Lightning Halls – 15g
Ice Striker’s Cloak – 50g
Revenants Treads – 80g
Bracers of the Smothering Inferno 300g

A lot of these items are BOE drops from 5 man heroics which obviously are very common. The low prices I paid for the hands, waist, chest and helmet slots means that I really don’t mind if I replace them very soon after equipping them.

The bracers are a BOE drop from Ulduar which is still some way off for Stormshaper at the moment (if I ever go in there with Stormshaper because I have come to loathe that raid so much). 300g for something that will tide her over for a good few heroics is a decent investment. The only real upgrades for her will come from badge gear and/or drops from Pit of Saron and Halls of Reflection.

If you’re levelling your character and it’s getting towards the late 70’s for you, I’d advise having a quick scout around the auction house for bargains like this. Each item I’ve got will give me a considerable DPS boost over the blues and drops available from the regular quests and 5 man dungeons Stormshaper is ploughing through at the moment, so hopefully she won’t be on the end of too much nerd rage as she steps her first tentative foot into WoTLK heroics.

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Black Temple

Tonight, I logged on with the full intention of completing a few more quests in Borean Tundra. However, I noticed that there’s a run to Black Temple being advertised in the trade channel. I chance my arm and whisper the organiser. It’s full of 80’s so they might have been a bit funny to “lower levels”, but I got an invite to the run. It’s purely for the achievement from their point of view, but from Stormshaper’s point of view, it’s a chance of some decent Outlands loot. And – if the instance went to plan, she will have defeated Illidan Stormrage. She will have completed Outlands! I’ve never done this on my main Hunter or on the Death Knight!

What a scoop!

Anyway, the run went very, very smoothly considering it was a pug. Of course, it should go smoothly with a number of 80’s in the raid, but this was organised and marshalled superbly from start to finish. At each boss tactics were discussed by the raid leader, and followed almost to the letter. We had one wipe on the Ilidari Council and two wipes on Ilidan himself but apart from that, it went very smoothly.

In total there were between 20 and 23 players at various times. Of course, being level 71 and running around in greens, Stormshaper wasn’t going to register on the DPS monitors, so there was no point in fretting about it. I knew what I was there for. I bring buffs to the raid with the totems and with Heroic Presence. Just by standing there looking gorgeous the raid is buffed! Yay! Go Draenei!

I died a few times on trash mobs. I found it difficult to get in the right place at the right time – there were so many melee DPS’ers smashing down mobs. I was caught two or three times by AoE damage which meant I spent far too long out of action. However, I managed to overcome this by carefully skipping around the very edge of the melee and standing back behind the Death Knights and fighting from the very edge of melee range.

So, we do all the bosses one by one and I roll need on a couple of decent items. As luck would have it, Stormshaper won Rising Tide which dropped off High Warlord Naj’entus.
When Black Temple was end game raiding for the select few leading guilds, this was deemed to be one of the best off-hand weapons for an Enhancement Shaman (outside Sunwell). Big win!

She also rolled on and won Bands of the Coming Storm from Supremus. Considering she was in pre-outlands wrists before this, these are a major, major upgrade for her!

A couple more items dropped that would have been nice to have, but those rolls went elsewhere. I wasn’t too bothered to be honest. Two items like that, two major upgrades were more than sufficient for Stormshaper and soon she will return to Northrend to press on in Borean Tundra.

Oh, I nearly forgot – as Stormshaper was heading back to Shattrath, she found and killed the rare mob Ambassador Jerrikar in Shadowmoon Valley and gained the achievement Medium Rare. A nice bonus to a great evenings entertainment!

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Level 70!

Yay! Go Stormshaper, you’ve reached level 70. Woot!

Stormshaper reached the old, historical landmark level late last night, but she did it in a roundabout way. Basically, I really wanted to stay the Outlands route. I quested and quested moving out of zones only when the achievement was reached. Stormshaper was doing quests in and around Alerian Stronghold in Terokkar Forest, but the experience on offer from the starter quests in Northrend is massive in comparision to those she was doing in Outlands. The conundrum was this: Why quest for an hour in Outlands when you can receive the same amount of experience from doing two quests in Northrend?

I hadn’t realised it at the time, but the WoTLK expansion really did kill Outlands and all those amazing instances stone dead, and that saddens me so much.

Today, I went to Karazhan to start the quests to get the key to that fabled instance. I queued for Setthek Halls, for the first part of the key fragment and two hours later, I logged out, still waiting for a group. Basically there are no players doing Burning Crusade heroics any more. Everyone is frantically farming Emblems of Triumph and Emblems of Frost so that they can get to Ice Crown Citadel and defeat Arthas.

Brilliant.

Except I find the long, drawn-out demise of Arthas to be mind numbingly boring. I farmed ToTC to death on my hunter. In fact, it only took my old guild three visits to clear the place. Before that, we farmed Ulduar to death. Before that, we cleared Naxxramas. Over, and over and over.

When Ice Crown Citadel opened up and Blizzard introduced the Ashen Verdict reputation grind, my heart sank. I was bored beyond belief and for them to throw this out there didn’t inspire me at all, in fact, it made me want to give up. Which is why Stormshaper was created.

Okay, I could go and start on the hardmodes for various instances, but I’ve done them to death. They were fun and enjoyable and new, but I’m not a hardmode player. I don’t have the setup to do myself justice in hardmodes, I play WoW on a laptop that is four years old and I connect via wi-fi, and those two environmental issues are an instant performance inhibitor right off the bat.

Actually saying that about the hard modes, my old guild did Ulduar hardmode and I complained that Flame Leviathan with the towers up and all the crazy-assed AoE shit that was going on was made “hard mode” because of the random number generator. Random events, random missiles, random AoE damage….random, random, random. People who do it, fantastic reflexes, incredible spatial awareness, but throwing out more random stuff isn’t what I like. I already know the lore of the instance, the kind of mobs to face, my role in the raid, the tactics of the fights. I know this because I have researched it and I’ve learned to play it with my raiding party. Changing that by simply throwing out extra random AoE shit to make your progress harder doesn’t interest me.

I can be quite effective in raids. My hunter chucks out 5K-6K DPS, the Death Knight is about the same, perhaps a little more. But in hardmode instances, your DPS output is only part of the story. Faster responses are required. A solid, perferably hard-wired connection, a decent graphics card, a faster CPU. I could perform in the hard modes, certainly, but I don’t think I could do myself ultimate justice. For me, hard modes are like arenas. I know they’re part of the game, but I have zero interest in them. If I win the lottery, my interest may change, as I’d spoil myself with a system to die for, but until then….

So, it seems that my intention to turn off Stormshaper’s experience gain at 70 will be futile. She can remain 70 for a good, long time, but if no-one else is interested in the BC heroics, or Karazhan, Zul’Aman or Serpentshrine Cavern, then she’ll be a very lonely shaman, sat, looking for companions in some inn in Shattrath for a good long time.

With Cataclysm just around the corner, it looks like she’ll be doing the same as every other alt in the game, and staying in Northrend, waiting for someone to finally put Arthas out of his misery.

The one good thing about the Northrend quests – they are very, very difficult for Stormshaper. Each pull requires a bit of thought. Perhaps because she is quite undergeared. Remember she only got as far as Zangermarsh in Outlands, so, to go from there to Northrend is a mighty step up in terms of gear. In fact, that’s the one guarantee I can make, any quest reward item is going to be at least twice as powerful as what Stormshaper currently has equipped.

So far, she’s replaced a mace, her necklace, a cloak and her gemmed and enchanted leggings she won in Hellfire Ramparts with a basic Northrend green item that doubled every stat!

Another thing I have noticed is that as I have replaced her Outlands gear (she’s still in pre-Outlands bracers), her MP5 has dropped like a stone, so after a couple of fights, she’s out of mana completely regardless of mana spring totems or anything else. This, in a perverse way, means that while I’m sad for the demise of Outlands and all that amazing content, there is something for me to try and strategise in terms of questing in Northrend to get her gear that can bring her up to an acceptable performance level.

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68 Reached and I Take a Northrend Item to Outlands

As Stormshaper completed the quest that gave her the Mysteries of the Marsh achievement, she also reached level 68. There are still a few quests for her to do in Zangermarsh, for the sporelings of Sporregar. Some of those quests will send her into Underbog as well. At 68, she’s probably a bit too high for Underbog. Certainly there’s not much gear there for her. As a result, I am thinking seriously about inhibiting her experience gain so that I can at least try and do BC heroic dungeons.

However, it has to be said, I did take advantage of the fact that she can quest in Northrend. I sailed to Valance Keep, ran a few starter quests and received the Solidier’s Spiked Mace as a reward. I ran an item comparison between it and Storm’s other mace using Wowhead’s Item Comparison tool – and while it’s not a very fair comparision, it does show you just how overpowered the Northrend items where when they became available.

Now a part of me could quite happily exploit the fact that Northrend is available and I can complete quests around the starter areas and pick up gear that is massively greater than anything available in Outlands for Stormshaper’s level. At least until she starts running heroic or 10 man instances. I don’t know if that’s the moral thing to do – but then, saying that, Stormshaper has been in BoA gear from level 6, so morality hasn’t played that much of a role in her levelling as yet. I took the mace back to Outlands and used it to devastating effect in Terokkar Forest. It made something easy so much easier!

Levelling in Outlands has been an absolute blast truth be told. I’ve completed just two zones (I regard receiving the zone achievement as completion of the zone), and I’m about 10% of the way through Terokkar Forest and Stormshaper is already 69 and on her way to 70. I can recall just how long it took my hunter to move from 69 to 70 back in the day, questing hard in Area 52. With Storm and her XP gain, she’s just blasting through content.

I ran a few dungeons today, just to break up the levelling grind and was lucky enough to meet a nice group of people. Isn’t there a tragic irony that good groups don’t get a mention? Anyway, this group was fine. We had a paladin tank, a druid healer, a hunter, warrior and me as DPS. (No death knights – WIN!).

We ran through Setthek Halls twice and Auchenai Crypts without a single wipe and I think, only one death. Brilliant! Some quests were completed in each instance, gear was passed around fairly and we all received our bags of helpful goods. I got three rings from the three runs, each one miles worse than the rings already equipped. So much for “helpful”. Still, its a few gold from a vendor, so better than nothing I suppose.

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Northrend or Outlands? Turn off Experience Gain or Press On?

Stormshaper quested her hooves off last night and reached level 67, while still in Zangermarsh! She’s now five levels above the content she’s questing in, such is the increased reputation you can get from the BoA items. I didn’t run any further instances last night, I want to try and complete the whole Zangermarsh area and move to Nagrand, but I think she’ll hit 68 before leaving the beautiful, serene marshlands.

So the question is, do I immediately leave Outlands and follow the throng to Northrend? I can remember as The Burning Crusade was nearing the end of its life, and the Scourge Invasion envent was upon us, people talked about Northrend greens being better than Tier 4 gear available from Karazhan, Maggy and Gruul’s Lair.

Of course, the reality was somewhat different. My Hunter, decked out head to toe in Tier 4 gear (I never got further than SSC in BC on him) was able to progress to somewhere near level 76 before he finally replaced all his gear with stuff from Outlands, and even then, some of that was the entry-level crafted gear.

So I’m not sure what to do. I could turn off Stormshaper’s experience gain when she hits 70, which won’t be long at this rate, but then I’m at the mercy of “fun runs” to Karazhan and Gruul’s. No-one ever tries to go to Zul Aman any more because there’s no war bear mount to be had, and, well, its pretty damned difficult. I’ve never seen a fun run to SSC – do people even know it exists? Black Temple and Sunwell? People at 80 can’t do those raids, and I doubt Stormshaper would get an invite – I saw a level 80 Death Knight trade recently refusing to allow level 70 players join their raid to Gruul’s as they didn’t want too many “low levels” along.

If I turn off her experience gain, I could be a long time waiting for people to go to visit the BC raid instances, and I’m really not sure anyone would do BC heroic five man runs. Well, maybe Magister’s Terrace, but I can’t see anyone wanting to run heroic Hellfire Ramparts, for example.

I am torn. I could be stuck at 70 for a long, long time. It would give me a chance to perfect my rotation at 70 of course, but the second I turn the experience gain back on, I have to re-learn new talents…..At the moment, I’m really not sure what to do.

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