Sunday, March 6, 2011

Hunter PvE Gear

When I was working toward level 80, my friends used to say "the game starts at 80." Bah, I thought. This is the game, doing quests and dungeons, leveling my hunters and all my alts. What are they talking about?

Now I know! Only now it's 85, and things have gotten even more complex. There's a lot of scope for getting better gear at 85, and it's not trivial to figure out where to put your time and effort to get the best gear available.

To get started, I studied some gear guides:

I also got a lot of advice from my nephew, Sean Simpson, for which I'm very grateful.

In early February put together a spreadsheet of gear items from the guides above, along with their agility, hit, crit, and other stats, and the currency or reputation necessary to get each item. I analyzed all of the items - this took some thinking - and created a list of priorities, to help me decide what to work on getting for each slot.

Although the guides above listed a number of really sweet items that were drops from bosses in dungeons (and particularly heroics), I decided to leave them out of my strategy, since it's impossible to plan for them. If a great item drops, great, I'll use it - and if it's better than whatever I've planned for that slot, even better. One less item to earn. But meanwhile, I'll proceed with the plan.

This is what I came up with:
Wildhammer Revered for Windhome Helm
Ramkahen Revered for helm enchant

3k gold for Brazen Elementium Medallion

1650 Justice Points for Wrap of the Valley Glades (fourth best JP item)
Therazane Exalted for Greater Inscription of Shattered Crystal (shoulder enchant)

Earthen Ring Revered for Softwind Cape

2200 Honor Points for Bloodthirsty Gladiator's Wristguards of Accuracy

2200 JP for Vest of the True Companion (second best JP item)
2200 Valor Points for Lightning-Charged Tunic

1650 JP for Gloves of the Passing Night (third best JP item)

5k gold for Corded Viper Belt

2200 JP for Hillside Striders (best JP item)

Guardians of Hyjal Exalted for Treads of Malorne

Therazane Revered for Terrath's Signet of Balance
Earthen Ring Exalted for Signet of the Elder Council

129 Tol Barad Commendations for Unsolvable Riddle
1650 Valor Points for Fluid Death (this will take a while)

Main Hand
85 Tol Barad Commendations, Tol Barad Revered for Spear of the Trailing Shadows

85 Tol Barad Commendations, Tol Barad Revered for Sky Piercer
To look at it another way, here are the reputations and their rewards, in an approximate order of priority:

Tol Barad     Revered  Spear of Trailing Shadows, Sky Piercer
Hyjal         Exalted  Treads of Malorne
Wildhammer    Revered  Windhome Helm**
Ramkahen      Revered* Arcanum of the Ramkahen (helm enchant)
Therazane     Revered  Terrath's Signet of Balance
Earthen Ring  Revered  Softwind Cape
Earthen Ring  Exalted  Signet of the Elders (ring)
Therazane     Exalted  Greater Inscription of Shattered Crystal (shoulder enchant)
Tol Barad     Exalted  PvP Head & Shoulder Enchants

*Don't need Exalted for Agility
**use Arcanum of Ramkahen on helm

Justice Points
And here are the items you can buy with Justice Points, in order of priority, based on cost vs. gains in agility and secondary stats:

Justice Points
2200    Hillside Striders
2200    Vest of the True Companion
1650    Gloves of the Passing Night
1650    Wrap of the Valley Glades

If you're a jewelcrafter, you can equip three Delicate Chimera's Eyes. Otherwise, the Delicate Inferno Ruby is the gem of choice, unless you have a slot that gives a +20 agility bonus for matching the socket color. In that case:

if +20 Agil socket bonus:
 - yellow socket:
Deadly Ember Topaz (+20 agil, +20 crit; orange)
 - blue socket:
Glinting Demonseye (+20 agil, +20 hit; purple) if below 6% hit cap
Shifting Demonseye (+20 agil, +30 stamina; purple) if not below hit cap

The Process
Having all the above targets really helped me focus on the tasks I needed to do to get the best item I could for each slot.

I was lucky that I was able to buy several Bloodied Dragonscale items (head, shoulders, chest, hands, and waist) on the auction house on my server for about 3k gold. Although this is PvP gear, it was still better for questing and dungeons than anything I had or could easily get, and helped me a great deal on my way toward the above goals.

I did quests in Hyjal until I could get the tabard for the Guardians of Hyjal, and then did dungeons to get the reputation, while also doing the rest of the Hyjal quests. This got me the marvelous Treads of Malorne.

Doing dungeons also earned me Justice Points, which I used to buy the various Justice Points items in the list above.

I have been following the same strategy for the other factions, and also have been doing Tol Barad dailies for the weapons and enchants. As of now, early March, I've got all my target gear items and am working on the last of the exalted reputations that I need for some enchants.

The New Armory
I've discovered a very useful tool to help me with this process. On the official World of Warcraft site, you can search for a character on a specific server like this: Alaurai@Velen. This takes you right to that character's information. Not only is this useful for looking at other peoples' gear, stats, and so forth, it also allows you to see what gems and enchants you're missing.

What's Next?

I've got a set of goals for PvP gear, but I don't enjoy PvP as much as PvE, so I'm happy to keep PvP equipment on the back burner for now. If and when I get into doing battlegrounds a lot more, I'll work toward a full set of Bloodthirsty Gladiator gear.

In the meantime, I have a few pieces of PvP gear, one of which, Bloodthirsty Gladiator's Wristguards of Accuracy, is still the best available to me for its slot, even for PvE.

Those, along with the Bloodied Dragonscale items I used for my starter gear, give me a reasonable set of PvP gear for whenever I am feeling masochistic enough to try to help my faction take back Tol Barad from the rotten and despicable Horde. :)

As for PvE, next up are items that require Valor Points, and those will take a lot longer, because that means doing a lot of heroic dungeons - and Cataclysm heroics are hard! But now I've got the best gear I could earn to prepare for them.

Friday, February 4, 2011


After a month of doing Argent Tournament dailies, Alaurai is now - finally - a Crusader! Woo hoo!!

Dungeons vs. Questing
I've enjoyed seeing more of northern Northrend while doing the Argent quests. Last November, about three weeks before Cataclysm hit, I had almost reached level 78. With the encouragement of a player who I'd flown to Dalaran on my rocket, I stopped questing and ran dungeons. I wanted to make it the rest of the way to level 80 before the Shattering.

I had spent many weeks questing in Northrend, leveling from 69 to 77, but I blew through those last couple of levels in a weekend. There's no doubt in my mind that you level much more quickly doing dungeons as opposed to questing.

Still, I'm glad I spent the time I did questing, for a couple of reasons. Questing let me explore the countryside, which in a lot of zones is quite beautiful. I'm a person who needs to know where I am located physically in order to feel grounded. Getting to know my way around the world of Azeroth was very important to me - as well as a lot of fun.

Also, all that questing helped me develop my skills and improve my grasp of the game. I had tried a few dungeons earlier, mostly on lower level alts, but they were just too intense. Too much happening at the same time in a small space, and I often couldn't understand what had happened to me, or to the other members of the team. I needed time to integrate the game mechanics into my thinking, and get a lot of my responses to be more nearly automatic.

Soloing Dungeons and Dragons, and Other Fun Things
Last week, looking for city reputation, I started soloing dungeons for the first time. I ran the Stockade (took about five minutes), then a level 60ish dungeon (can't even remember which one), and then soloed Utgarde Pinnacle. I killed all the bosses without dying once - but I made a mistake on a pull of four trash mobs when a couple of roving guards were too close, and the six of them all aggroed at once and took me down. I went back and killed them all, naturally.

Now I'm running Cataclysm heroics (with PuGs, not solo!) and I'm still learning - and still making mistakes. But the mistakes are fewer, and I usually know right away when I've made one and what it was. And I have moments when I do a lot of things right, and when I do, it's very satisfying. The other day I was the top damage dealer in a regular Cata dungeon, dealing an average of over 8000 DPS throughout the entire run. That was immensely gratifying!

But as a result of my switch to dungeons, I missed out on exploring the higher level zones in Northrend. During the past month, doing the Argent Valiant and Champion dailies, I've seen a lot of Icecrown, Zul'drak, and the Storm Peaks. These are really gorgeous zones, beautifully done. I especially love the majestic stone structures in Zul'drak, with all the magnificent buildings and the wonderful elevated viaduct system bringing water to the crops.

Most of the Argent daily quests are quite easy and fun when you are level 85. Even the three-person group quest - where you have to kill a huge flying skeletal dragon named Chillmaw and her bombardiers - is easily soloable by me and my kitty. As to the rest, I can one- or two-shot most of the mobs, and in one particularly enjoyable quest, I can bring down a half dozen of them at a time with a couple of volleys of Multi-Shot on Rapid Fire. Such fun!

Sadly, that was a Valiant quest, and now that I'm a Crusader I don't get to do it any more.

There are exceptions to the fun, however. Mainly the jousting quests. At first I hated these. Riding on a special-vehicle horse (or cat, or mechanostrider, or whatever) and learning the unique jousting tactics was a real pain. Also, since your performance is determined by your mount's capabilities, it doesn't matter that you are level 85. Your mount still has the same damage dealing and health as if you were level 80. So you really have to learn how to fight with a lance and shield.

After a while I got the maneuvers down. Get three shields up, launch the opponent, and start hammering the Shield Breaker button. As soon as that flies, start hammering the Charge button. As soon as you've made contact, circle around to face the opponent while hammering the Shield Breaker button again. If you do it right, you'll get three big hits in and take down all her shields.

After you've circled back to face her, as soon as you engage in close combat, hit the Shield button to bring yours back up to three, if you've lost any, and spam the lance until she rides off for another charge. Repeat the above cycle until she yields. With this technique, I can win the Valient matches in a minute or so, and the Champion matches take just a little longer.

Sometimes, especially in the Champion area, the opponents will ride off outside the ring, and if you follow them, you'll get disqualified and have to start over. So I've learned to stay in the ring and toss Shield Breakers at them, and then ride to the other end of the ring and wait for them to come to me. When they get in range, I do a Charge and re-engage. This makes me more vulnerable to their Shield Breaker and/or Charge, but that's better than getting disqualified. And once I've kited them back into the ring, I resume my normal strategy and can usually take them down quite quickly.

These techniques also work out in the field, against the Boneguard Lieutenants, although since they don't ride away, it's hard to get multiple Charges in. I do one Charge, ride in a circle around the Lieutenant to trample his assistants, and just stand there hammering away until he goes down.

The Boneguard Commanders are a different matter. If it were just them and their footmen, I could handle them. But those stupid gargoyles flying around always seem to want to join the fun. No matter how many I take out before taking on a Commander, more pop up. And by the time I've taken out a couple of them, my shields are down and the Commander's taken a big chunk out of my health.

I found this quest so annoying and frustrating that I just stopped doing it. It isn't necessary for the Crusader title; it just earns you a couple Champion's Seals, which you can use to buy heirlooms. But there are much faster ways to earn those seals. Given the time it takes to kill three of these bastards - and their gargoyles - it's not worth doing, at least for me.

For the Crusader title - and the privilege of buying heirloom gear for your alts, you have to do five days' worth of dailies for each of the five major cities, for a total of twenty-five days. In addition to all the dailies, you have to get to Exalted reputation with all five cities and the Argent Crusade. For the city rep, you can either do quests - which by now are low level - or you can wear a city tabard and do dungeons. I was already Exalted with Stormwind, but I ran a lot of dungeons getting my reputation up with the other cities.

At the end I realized it was actually faster to do the low-level quests. On the day I completed the last of the dailies, I wound up doing really low level quests in Dun Morogh for Ironforge rep, and quests in Icecrown and Zul'drak for Argent rep.

I ran out of steam that evening before I made it to Exalted with Ironforge and the Argent Crusade, so I ended up doing more quests in Loch Modan and Zul'drak the next day.

I loved getting to know Loch Modan a little better. I discovered that even at level 85, level 5 quests can be fun. No need to roll a gnome to experience the new starting area quests. Then I went to Zul'drak and did Troll Patrol, including that annoying Alchemist Finklestein quest, in under twenty minutes.

How satisfying it was to hand in Troll Patrol and Congratulations and see that Crusader achievement come up!
Travel Tools
And even more satisfying to fly up to the tournament grounds and buy that Argent Crusader's Tabard!

This tabard is fantastic. It acts like a second hearthstone, teleporting you to the Argent Tournament Grounds, which is only a 90 second flight from Dalaran. And it's got a half hour cooldown, just like a hearthstone.

I bought the Baradin's Wardens Tabard the same day. This works the same as the Argent tabard; equip it, click on it, and it teleports you to Tol Barad, which of course is just a quick portal away from Stormwind.

Now I can have my hearthstone in Stormwind, or anywhere I want, and use the two tabards to get to Northrend or the Eastern Kingdoms in seconds. And with the portal hub and various other portals in Stormwind I can get to just about anywhere in Azeroth in less than four minutes.

For a travel junkie, this is glorious! LOL!

Cataclysm Travel Guide
By the way, for more details about traveling in WoW, see the Cataclysm Travel Guide at Wowpedia. I started writing this guide in December, a week or so after Cata hit. People were moaning and crying in the Trade chat about the removal of the portal hubs in Dalaran. The atmosphere was quite pathetic, really.

At first I created the guide just to try to cut down on the complaining - and howling for mage portals - but over time, as I added more and more of what I was learning about traveling around the world, it grew into something that even I find to be a very useful reference.

Apparently other people do too, because the guide is now well into the top 1% of all pages on Wowpedia, with almost 9000 hits as of this writing.

The latest additions include a section about the Dalaran Commute, which tells you how to get between Dalaran and Stormwind (or Orgrimmar) in five minutes or less, using only existing portals and your flying mount.

Also new is an expanded section about where to set your heartsthone, given your current level.

New Goals
After I reached level 85, for a while I found myself at a loss as to what to do next. I'd been questing for months, leveling up, and now that goal was gone. The Argent Crusader title, and the ability to buy the Argent Crusader's Tabard and heirloom gear, gave me a new goal.

But now that this is accomplished, I'm at a bit of a loss again. I've been doing battlegrounds in Tol Barad - and hating it. I did one battleground in Wintergrasp, but there were only about five players engaged. I really regret not having done Wintergrasp before Cata hit, when there were a lot of people and I could have gotten an idea of what PvP combat was like there.

But the nastiness that I've encountered from players of the opposing faction during and after battlegrounds has motivated me to get better gear. In fact, I've realized that the acquisition of better gear really is the equivalent of leveling once you reach level 85. Before Cata, level 80's were always telling me that "the game begins when you reach level 80." I had no idea what they meant.

Now I'm beginning to get an inkling. At the level cap (now 85) the PvE endgame consists of getting better and better gear so you can move on from regular dungeons to heroics, and then to raids. The old GearScore addon has been more or less supplanted by the new in-game Item Level, but either way your goal has become to keep getting better and better gear, much like you used to have the goal of leveling up.

The PvP side of the endgame is much the same, except you are looking for gear with resilience, which lets you stay alive a little longer when a crowd of players from the opposing faction is pounding on you. And you do battlegrounds and eventually arenas. Since I don't like battlegrounds very much, and I don't really like PvE arenas either, it seems unlikely right now that I will be experiencing much of the PvP aspects of the endgame.

A Wonderful Guild
I'm lucky to belong to a relatively young guild called Guardians of the Fallen, which is learning and growing at the same time I am. There's great camaraderie in the guild, which is led by a wonderfully supportive woman with a very adventurous spirit. (Caprica, you had me at Ragefire Caverns - and the zeppelin ride!)

We do a lot of level 70-80ish dungeons and raids, and have started doing regular level 81-85 dungeons, and even some heroics. As a guild, we aren't as effective in the higher level dungeons as we might be; we seem to wipe more often than I've come to expect while doing the same dungeons in PuGs, even in regular dungeons, never mind heroics.

But the spirit of adventure is priceless. I feel that by doing these dungeons we are improving our skills and learning to work together as a team. It feels great to be a part of this process.

I imagine that by the time I'm ready to do level 85 raids, the guild will be too. And I hope I'll be able to contribute to the continuing growth of the team.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011


I've been using Gatherer and GathererDB to help me find ore and herbs. Unfortunately the authors blew away all the data in GathererDB because of all the changes in Cataclysm - and they've since released only one update, way back in mid December, when very little data was available.

However, another fellow has begun extracting the WoWHead data and putting it into a new GathererDB database. Here are some links:

Lloydpick's GathererDB WoWHead Updates - Here you can download a more up-to-date GathererDB database.

GathererDB on WoWHead - This is the comments section where I found out about the above download.

I Installed Lloyd's updates this morning and, while the density of nodes is nowhere near what it was with the old, pre-Cata database, there does seem to be quite a few new ones. I think it's worth doing the update.

Back up your WTF folder first, though, just in case!

Gold farming on an RP server

I've found it more difficult to make gold by auctioning recipes on Kirin Tor than I have on the other servers I've played on. Zul'jin in particular turned out to be very fertile; my highest level toon there is only 23 but in a few weeks I accumulated over 3500 gold. Proudmore gave returns at a similar rate.

I think this is because these servers have been around a long time, and their populations have matured. There are a lot of players with high level characters and a lot of gold, and when they level alts they don't mind paying good money for their profession recipes and patterns.

Velen, where I've played most, is newer (2007) so there is not as much gold floating around, and its active population is smaller, but it has still been fairly easy to farm gold through recipe reselling.

By contrast, Kirin Tor is an older server than Velen, but it's an RP server and its active population is noticeably lower than any of the other servers I've played, at least judging by auction house activity. I tried my strategy of buying (mostly cooking) recipes in remote areas and putting them on the AH. This strategy worked great on the other servers but hasn't worked as well on KT.

Part of the reason is that until yesterday I didn't farm recipes in as diverse locations on KT as I had on the other servers; I mostly bought recipes in Zangarmarsh, Hellfire Peninsula, and Terokkar Forest. Yesterday I went out to Nagrand and then toured Kalimdor and Stranglethorn, farming a much broader selection of recipes.

I'm already seeing good payback, with a lot more sales this morning than I've had in several weeks of auctioning only Outland recipes.

Death Knights

I rolled a Death Knight on Ashuntrah's server, Kirin Tor, a few weeks ago. I leveled through the DK starting zone to 58 and then went to Outland and got her up to 60.

I have to say this is possibly the creepiest and most distressing experience I've had in WoW. Death Knights start out as servants of the Lich King, and you have to go around murdering unarmed civilians who are cowering in their homes and the streets of their towns, shaking like leaves as they plead with you to spare them because they have children to take care of. And the cowering animations are really convincing, too.

I suppose some people may enjoy playing the bad guy once in a while, but for me this was really awful. I have been discouraged lately about the very slow progress of recovering my health, and I play WoW to escape from these feelings, but I have to say that being an entry-level DK was a really rotten escape! I was never quite in tears, but I got close.

OTOH, I appreciated starting out at level 55. The four 12-slot Deathweave bags and the First Aid skills were also nice. It didn't take long to reach level 60 and be able to fly. Ashuntrah very generously loaned me enough gold to get Expert riding and a Flight Master's License, which makes it a lot easier to get around for questing, profession leveling, and my technique of gold farming by recipe reselling.

The programmed dramatic sequence at the end of the Death Knight starting zone redeems your character somewhat, and it was reasonably entertaining. But the whole DK starting experience left me with a fairly unpleasant association with that character, and it's taking some time for it to fade.

Before Ashuntrah explained the way rolling a DK works to me, I was not aware of the fact that once you've reached level 55 on any server, you can roll a DK on any of five servers.

Had I realized this, I might have rolled one on Zul'jin instead of slogging through from level 1. Unfortunately I lost momentum at about level 23. This happened on Proudmoore too, and I've "mothballed" my characters on both servers for now. I seem to stay engaged a lot better when I'm playing with someone.

Anyway, now that I know that a DK is an option whenever I want to start playing on a different server, maybe I'll roll one on another server at some point. Once the memory of those creepy DK starting zone quests fades a little more.

Cataclysm endgame puzzles

I reached level 85 with Alaurai last week. A thousand thanks to Sthenia for hanging in there with me through the long journey!

Also, thanks to Dingbata for playing with me the past few weeks. We've leveled our toons from 30ish to 61, and we're now in Outland. Flying is the best landmark in the game. It was really awesome flying around the Eastern Kingdoms with my bro!

I'm finding that I am enjoying playing my rogue, Sandrainne, now that I've spent enough time with her to start to understand how. Thanks to Sthenia for her tips on this.

Now that we've reached the endgame (again!) Sthenia and I are puzzling over what to do. I'm finding the Tol Barad dailies to be, ah, somewhat less than enthralling, and the mobs there are really mean and nasty. Ashuntrah says they hit harder than any other normal mobs in the game.

I'm also not too sure about how I feel about PvP. I've done a few battlegrounds, and enjoyed some of them, but they are really intense and demanding, and not good for me to do on days when I'm not feeling well.

Ashuntrah suggested working on getting Heirloom gear for my alts, and I've been looking into this, but I must say that the whole Crusader/Valiant/Arena/Honor Points/Exalted Reputation thing seems very complex, and I don't really understand it all yet. Maybe with a little more research I'll get a handle on it.

But the fact that you have to trek all the way out to northern Icecrown to do the dailies puts a damper on this, especially if you're also trying to do the Tol Barad dailies and the Stormwind cooking and fishing dailies at the same time. And you don't get the Argent Crusader Tabard - which lets you portal out there to the Icecrown boonies - until you've finished the process!