I can summarize last week with the following three phrases: World Explorer effort; Dungeon queues; Alt mania.
World Explorer Effort
Since I’ve decided that the Mage is my main, I figured that I wanted at least a few of the achievements I had been pretty happy about getting on the Warrior, most notably among them the World Explorer achievement for uncovering all of the world map. I did it organically with the Warrior, uncovering lots of the zones on foot as I quested through them and then later after I was past level 60 I did the entirety of Eastern Kingdoms and Kalimdor the hard way: On land mount. It was pre-Cataclysm so it was the only option. But it took forever.
Getting this achievement with a flying mount is decidedly less satisfying although so much less annoying that I wouldn’t ever want to do it the old way again. Even now it’s aggravating to traverse the whole zone and realize as you get to the last uncharted segment that there is actually this one little spot way back on the other side of the zone that you missed and have to spend all of two minutes flying back over there to get it. When I did this on foot, those two minutes were something like 15-20.
But don’t let me fool you into thinking it’s going 10 times quicker this time around. If it had simply been a matter of getting the achievement(s), I probably would have procrastinated on the whole scene for a while longer. However, I had a couple of projects I wanted to work on that happened to fall in line with flying around the game world for days on end. One was that I wanted to collect a stack (20 each) of every gatherable herb in the game. There is no achievement for this, which is probably part of why I wanted to do it, and no real practical reason to do it either since the effort put into such an endeavor would mean I’d be so reluctant to actually use those herbs for anything that if the need arose for any of them, I’d end up going out and re-farming the mats. Still, it’s the kind of insane self-set goal that predates official achievements and the kind of thing that I used to do all the time in video games so I liked the randomness of it so much that it simply had to be done.
In a related self-assignment I did some research and decided I wanted to try and collect all the Alchemy recipes in the game. Now many of them are random world drops which means in some cases heavy farming of particular mobs and that’s not really intriguing to me right now. But there are a bunch that are sold by vendors scattered around Azeroth and Outland which I figured would be easy enough to work on while I did the Explorer thing. It actually turns out that this isn’t as simple as it sounds because there are only a rare few vendors who always offer unique recipes for sale. Some of them (like this one jerk in Feralas) do sell the recipes but do so on a mysterious internal cooldown so basically you have to just keep checking back with them to see if they have the one copy at that particular moment. It seems like many of the non-trainer recipes have been culled from the game at this point but of those that remain a remarkable number of them—especially from Burning Crusade and beyond—are faction recipes which mean you have to rep grind with the faction to get to some specific level before the vendor will sell you the item. Now eventually I’d like to work on reputation with all the older factions but right now it’s more pertinent to focus on Cataclysm factions which offer me more than just novelty low-level recipes and vanity items.
The other reason for exploring the world was so I could get started with Archaeology because I’m foolish enough to tempt the RNG deity to try to get the Recipe: Vial of the Sands. It’s such a ridiculous thing: You have to build Archaeology up until you can create Canopic Jars, which are randomly generated from creating Tol’Vir artifacts (along with six other possible common items and six rares… I can’t find any numbers for this but if you figure the seven commons make up 94% of the creates and the rares are 1% each that gives you about a 13% chance of getting the Jar). Then the jar itself drops the recipe only 3% of the time at which point you still have to collect the mats to make the Vial itself: No mere trifle since it involves 12 of the one-per-day Truegold plus eight vendor-sold Sands of Time which run (base amount) 3,000g each and a Pyrium-Laced Crystalline Vial going for 5,000g. That’s not even counting the easy part, which is 16 material-intensive Flasks and eight Deepstone Oil.
But, oh, what that foolishness can bring.
So the plan was, fly around, uncover the map, gather herbs, pick up recipes where possible and hit all the Archaeology dig sites. Oh, and stay in the queue as much as possible. By the end of the week I’d finished Northrend, Outland and Kalimdor and had a load of herbs and about 100 skill points in Archaeology. I also picked up a few of the missing Alchemy recipes but not as many as I’d hoped. Still, pretty good I felt for a week’s work.
I’ve been focusing on Heroic dungeons now that I’m building my confidence in them. At the end of the week I only had The Stonecore, The Vortex Pinacle and The Deadmines left to run through which has awarded me some good reputation and Valor points (arguably the whole point of Heroics) but I’ve been disappointed in the drops so far. I did get Blinders of the Follower on my first trip through Shadowfang Keep which was a minor upgrade to my Helm of the Typhonic Beast which I had picked up in Halls of Origination on regular. It even has the same model so it was literally just a small stats boost (and a bit of a money sink since I had to re-buy the faction enchant from Hyjal and pick up new gems for the sockets).
I actually don’t mind so much that the drops have been weak because I like I said, it’s all VP for core upgrades now but I do wish that Throne of the Tides would come up more often because it’s the only place to get a non-raid drop ranged slot item (a wand in the case of a Mage) that isn’t total pants. Even the alternate dungeon drop from Grim Batol (which at least has a non-Heroic 85 variant) isn’t really good for Mages since it’s heavy on Spirit and Mastery, neither of which are that great for me. There is one in Deadmines I could use, but that hasn’t even come up yet. I could live with no drops for two weeks as long as when I do queue into The Deadmines or TotT I get a chance to roll on an upgrade. I’m sick of my wand being my last ucommon holdout. Bleh.
A quick trek through the new Heroics:
- Shadowfang Keep: I like the non-heroic version okay but I realized this time through that SFK is too cramped for my liking. All the narrow corridors keep me from zooming out to a comfortable level and as a result I struggle with the camera which affects my DPS. Heroic felt very similar to the regular with more health on everyone and a few mandatory interrupts thrown in. Mostly I felt it was memorable for the loot drop I received.
- Grim Batol: Still one of my favorite dungeons even after I’ve run it dozens of times on two different toons. Heroic bosses in GB are much more exciting than on regular: Forgemaster Throngus’ sheild weapon select is brutal as opposed to merely annoying and the tension trying to get both Faceless Guardians down after Erudax casts Shadow Gale is great fun. Too bad this is the only Heroic at the moment that has zero best 5-man drops for my class.
- Lost City of Tol’Vir: The more I run this instance the less I really enjoy it. To me it just doesn’t have the same dynamic flavor of Grim Batol or even Halls of Origination. It’s not terrible, it’s just “meh” which I think I could find it easier to forgive if parts of it didn’t feel so arbitrarily extended. For example, the Lockmaw and Augh fight seems very out of place in the context of the rest of the run so it’s like they just tossed a random crocolisk boss in for no real reason. The High Prohpet Barim fight likewise seems faked with the shadow realm intermission and then there’s Siamat who you can’t even really fight until you’ve hacked through a few trash adds before the battle even really commences. Plus the trash packs are all yawn-inducing and there’s not enough interesting lore to even make it worthwhile from a role-playing standpoint. All in all, I kind of curl my lip when it comes up in the queue.
I remembered this week as I began work on a small cross section of alts what had really prompted me to begin in earnest with the Mage. I mean, I could easily have just bucked the expectations and focused on being a really good Fury Warrior but in addition to wanting something new and a ranged DPS I also wanted the two new profession slots. Because there is nothing as great as being your own stable of professionals, and I mean that sincerely.
Currently I’m working on my Troll Restoration Shaman who I intend to be my healer alt, a Blood Elf Paladin and my oft-neglected Tauren Hunter. The Shaman is an Enchanter/Tailor which I figured would work because I intend to level him from 15 on almost exclusively through the Dungeon Finder because I have very little interest in loping around and questing through Kalimdor on both the Hunter and the Shaman at the same time. The Hunter has long been a Skinner/Leatherworker and I do want to do a questing run through Kalimdor with him because I did almost exclusively Eastern Kingdoms as I was going 1-60 on the Mage. That kind of leaves the Paladin out in the cold, although I do know that her professional destiny is Inscription and Jewelcrafting, mostly because it gives me something to do with all those herbs I picked and I have a 525 miner that can feed mats for JC, something that will save me a lot of gold in the long run. I may decide to make her a healer/tank just so I can do the queue thing quickly with her as well because ideally I don’t want to have to spend a lot of time at once on any of these characters. I did also roll a Death Knight because there is some appeal to starting at level 55 and just doing expansion content but I’m giving the Pally a shot. If she gets on my nerves (and so far she shows signs that she may) I’d consider switching.
By the end of the week I was up to level 14 with the Shaman but paused in leveling to get my rested XP built back up and because I found a system for leveling Enchanting and Tailoring fairly quickly. Sadly I do need to build my actual level at some point or the trainer stops letting me advance but I hope that I’ll be able to handle the heals well enough to not get booted out of any instances and I can ride that train to quick queue times up the ladder. So far I’m liking the Shaman pretty well, I do wish though that I’d rolled him as an Orc instead. The Trolls are just so silly looking to me. It would probably take a lot for me to seriously consider doing a race change on the toon but if it turned out I really liked healing and ended up getting him pretty high up level wise, it wouldn’t necessarily be out of the question. In fact, if I hadn’t chosen such a Troll-y sounding name to begin with I might be more inclined to do it; as it is I’d probably want to also do a name change and the grand total for paid services that amount to not just vanity but digital vanity is $35. That’s an awful lot of real money to spend on something fake.