Feb 15, 2008

Two Free Chests

I had been waiting to post about last Wednesday night since I took some great photos, but I keep forgetting to send them to my journaling location. Anyways, after a 2 week hiatus from Zul'Aman, I was able to rejoin the Gold Team as we went for timed chests and hoped to take down Jan'Alai. We started on time and completely tore through Nalorakk and Akil'zon both with time to spare. We got some cool loot from the timed chests and I walked away with Shadowcaster's Drape. I don't have many haste items, but this is the start of my haste set.

After Nalorakk and Akil'zon, we hurried to Halazzi, but ran out of time. It is rumored that in Karazhan gear, you should be able to get 2 timed chests and it takes Serpentshrine Cavern and Black Temple gear to get 3 timed chests. We will keep pushing it though to see if we can pull it off. I certainly would love to see the Mana Attuned Band from the third chest.

Even though we ran out of time, we quickly one shot Halazzi which gave us a lot of time to learn the Jan'Alai fight. We got in 6 tries (reset him quite a bunch, so it didn't take too long), but ran out of time in the end. However, on our last try, we completely cleared out one side of eggs and about 1/4 of the other side before we lost our tank and had to run out. I am confident that if we can keep our tank up, we can balance the DPS on Jan'Alai and take out the eggs in a timely manner. Next week he should go down. After that, we can begin working on Hex Lord Malacrass who drops the amazingly magnificent Hood of Hexing and sometime after that, take down Zul'Jin and clear the place out.

The thing is, last Wednesday, I genuinely had fun running with our Gold Team. We enjoy ourselves on vent, we have time to joke around - even during timed boss fights - and there's never any loot drama. The only real drama we have is people refusing to take items...Contrast that to last Sunday when I ventured into SSC with 24 other people. We wiped countless times on one boss, took an inordinate amount of time discussing strategies and other minutiae, and it just was too long. And as I go back and re-read my post on that subject, I just wonder how much more I can take in there. I know it takes time and sacrifice to progress, but I personally feel, that until we can take down Gruul and Magtheridon (there's a reason they were pre-requisites for Serpentshrine Cavern attunement), we have no business inside that place. And I'm not willing to waste 5 hours of my Sunday wiping over and over. I will probably give it a few more weeks, but will notify the leaders that they should look for a replacement mage and replace me when possible.

For my future reference, WowWebStats from 2/13 Zul'Aman: http://wowtid.com/wws/wws-20080213-1854

Feb 12, 2008

Are Daily Quests Leaving Casuals Behind?

With the new patch coming out soon, a post at WoW Insider.com asks if the daily quests are leaving casuals behind. I left a long comment, but thought I would explain my daily questing rationale.

To begin, I usually log out in Shattrath - mainly due to the fact that I can port for free back there and then just start whatever I need when I log on and I can usually sell some enchants while standing around at the start or end of the day.

Since I'm in Shattrath, I'll pick up the daily cooking quest and check the daily battleground. If it's AV, I'll queue. If not, I'll evaluate my options based on the daily cooking quest.

If it's Kaliri Stew, I head to Skettis to get a Kaliri Wing while bombing and searching for the prisoner. If I don't find the prisoner while bombing, I don't do the escort quest. If it's Demon Broiled Surprise, I'll head to Skettis and do the bombing run and look for the prisoner. After bombing, I'll then take a free ride to Blade's Edge and finish the cooking quest while doing the four daily quests there. If the quest is Spiritual Soup, I'll again head to Skettis and bomb while searchinging for the prisoner and then head to Netherwing Ledge. While there, I'll pick up the quest to disrupt the twilight portal. I'll then head to Nagrand and cook up the soup and kill the 20 agents.

With Skettis finished and Blade's Edge done in one, I'll then head back to the Netherwing Ledge as the most money can be made there. I'll pick up all the daily quests there then head directly into the mine. Doing the two quests in there are the best way to start your farming - awarding 30g for a relatively small time requirement. Plus, the greys that drop from the mobs there usually vendor at the end for 4-5 more gold. Add to that the mobs frequently drop greens, blues, and I've also seen two purple BOE's (one pair of Leggings of Beast Mastery I found sold for 1000g on auction).

After that, it's a toss up as to what to do next. I might fly around a bit and booterang some mobs, if I haven't done Blade's Edge dailies, I might fly up there and complete those. More often than not, I'll gather Netherwing Relics as the mobs that drop them also supply me with netherweave or I'll head up to Netherstorm to collect mana berries if that is he daily cooking quest.

But once the Sunwell Plateau is opened to visitors, I will be spending the bulk of my time there working on rep and earning money through dailies.

Feb 11, 2008

First Foray into SSC


Yesterday was our first official visit to SSC with a set group of people that we plan on raiding with each Sunday. We spent a few hours learning the Hydross fight and while we were unable to get him down, we did learn a bit about the fight. It was the first time seeing SSC for most people in the raid and while we were able to handle the trash without problems, the first boss gave us lots of issues.

Basically, Hydross debuffs everyone in the raid so they take more damage depending on which stage he is in. Every 15 seconds the buff goes from 10% more damage to 25, 50, 100 and 250. So you have about a minute before you need to transition him to his other form. Each time you transition him though, he spawns four elementals. So the key is you need enough DPS to kill the spawns before you need to transition again and spawn four more. Our problem was we were unable to kill the spawns in a timely manner each time. Another problem we had is that when transitioning from one tank to the other, he drops all aggro. So if a DOT goes off or an arrow hits him at the wrong time, you can pull him back causing another transition and with 8 elementals, there is a wipe.

When you first engage Hydross, you have a chance to do maximum DPS as there are no elementals to worry about. During this first phase, the raid should be able to get him to about 80%. However, we were unable to do that. I didn't watch it as closely as I probably should have, but I think our best might have been 85-86%. The problem I have is that I can do a lot of burst damage and I get too close to the tank's threat. This is mitigated with invisibility as I shouldn't reach the tank's threat again through the fight, but that causes downtime as well. Either way, the problem is we couldn't get enough initial DPS on him. DPS will also be an issue later on...

After the first transition, he spawns the elementals and the warlocks are banishing one while the druid tank picks up two and another is tanked by an off-warrior tank. The DPS needs to be coordinated and work on the same elementals one after another. I've also heard that these can be AOE'd down, but I think that might just take a little too much coordination for our group at this time. As elementals went down, I switched to get an occasional fireball off at Hydross as a poorly timed fireball that hits after the elemental is dead would be completely pointless. There was also some time in there where I could get some scorches stacked while an elemental was banished, but usually, after we got the four spawns down, I was unable to do any real DPS as another transition was happening.

So where'd we go wrong? I'm still not sure what exactly was going wrong as we were all brand new to the instance and learning how the fight worked and what our responsibilities were. At first glance, I'd say we didn't have enough DPS. Towards the end of the night, I started logging the fights and I analyzed them with WowWebStats. Here's our third to last attempt. Sustained DPS numbers are off as there's downtime at the start where the tank builds aggro, but you can just see that there's a top tier of DPS and then a huge drop off. I'm 82% present since I did nothing at the start while the tank built aggro. I could have been helping with the initial elementals, but they only have 8k DPS, so if I had used my mana to kill them, I don't think it would have been efficient so I got ready to let loose on Hydross when we were ready.

Going on from there, we had our second to last attempt. Again, you see a top tier and then some dropoff in DPS. I'm again only present for 92% of the time as I'm waiting for the tank to grab aggro rather than working on the small elementals. For the last attempt, I started in on the elementals to try and help out a little this time, but an errant hunter arrow during the transition wiped us. Either way, there wasn't enough DPS being done and not enough coordination during the spawns to really get everything working correctly.

While the saying "practice makes perfect" is true, I feel that there's a point at which you're just banging your head against a wall and nothing is being accomplished. After 4 hours of trying to down him, I'm not sure how much more "practice" people can take. After seeing it 4-5 times, I think that's about as much as you should attempt in one night. Maybe more if you have soulstones and can quickly attempt it again. But after a certain time, you need to call it a night, have people do some homework, and have people work towards the next week.

When it comes to DPS and healing, these are what make or break a raid. DPS and healing not only comes from skill, but also from gear. According to Bosskillers.com, this is what you should expect gear-wise.

Gear must be extremely high quality. Every member should be able to look through their equipment and be able to say to themselves "I only need a few more upgrades from Karazhan or Gruul's lair."

Melee DPS: Karazhan quality weapons, lvl70 blue armor or better
Healers: Mix of Karazhan quality blue/purple armor or better

The problem here is I don't think we're adequately geared for this instance. If we don't have the DPS to down Gruul, let alone Magtheridon (not even attempted yet), how are we supposed to progress? I've spent thousands of gold on patterns, gems and enchants to ensure that I have the best gear possible and to ensure that I can output the most DPS. I've spent hours reading forums, learning about he mechanics of a mage and even though my talents are cookie-cutter, they do more damage than anyone else.

The problem is, I can't say that everyone else has done the same. I raid in full epic gear except for the Scryer's Bloodgem which I only use on bosses for the +hit. There were people in our raid last night that were in greens and blues. If we are going to be seriously attempting 25 man tier 5 instances, we need to make sure everyone is geared. Bosskillers recommends Karazhan quality gear. This means mostly purples, some blues, and there should not be any greens. Also, it means PVE spec and PVE gear. There's always going to be some PVP gear that just outshines any PVE alternative at this level, but for the most part, if you have resilience, you are wasting stats. Looking through the armory profiles, it appears many people are adequately geared, so it may just be a matter of looking at specs and spell/melee rotations. Also, while you may be wearing purples, if you don't have the necessary +hit or expertise to hit on a consistent basis, you are just wasting damage. Also, a quick browsing of profiles shows people with green gems in sockets and *gasp* EMPTY sockets. That is unacceptable for raiding. Go run 4 dailies and you can buy any blue gem you need. I think this was a last-minute fill in that I saw, but still, how can you be running around with green gems and empty sockets?

Another thing that really upset me while we were waiting to attempt the boss is the lack of self-applied buffs. According to BossKillers, these are the MINIMUM, requirements:

Melee DPS use a Flask of Relentless Assault, Fel Strength Elixir, Elixir of Major Agility, Winterfall Firewater, DPS food, and any other damage increasing consumable. Poisons do not work on this fight: bring Adamantite Sharpening Stones.

Ranged DPS use Flask of Firepower, Adept's Elixir, Elixir of Major Fire/Frost/Shadow Power, and any other damage increasing consumable.

Tanks use Flask of Fortification, Defense Potion, Elixir of Mastery, stamina increasing food; anything that will increase HP or mitigation. Note: Stoneshield-type potions are useless because all "melee" damage is elemental (resistance gear check, not armor).

Healers use Flask of Mighty Restoration, Mana Regeneration Potion, Elixir of Healing Power; anything that will increase your healing efficiency or the amount of mana you have.

I brought a Flask of Pure Death, multiple Superior Wizard Oil and two full stacks of +spell damage food and even some +30 stamina food in case I needed an HP boost. On top of that, I was also prepared with more +stamina gear in case an encounter called for stamina over +damage. While clicking from person to person, I rarely saw food buffs and even worse, rarely, if ever saw flasks or potions. The reason I brought the flask of pure death is because it persists through death. Had I known we were spending 4+ hours in there, I would have brought two. Either way, for the first two hours of attempts on Hydross, I had my flask. I always had a +spell damage food buff and I always had Wizard Oil applied to my weapon. I was prepared. Most others weren't.

If this is going to be a serious raid, that requires that you spend time grinding for stuff you need. Take the money you get from a day of dailies and buy two flasks. Those will last you 4 hours and persist through death. Buy the food you need or ask someone if they can make it for you. And I believe everyone has oils, stones, or poisons that can be applied to weapons. They should ALWAYS be applied. I also came with 10 mana pots and 10 healing pots, but didn't use many, but if I had needed them, they were there. I also had a stack of bandages I could use in a pinch as well. I was prepared. Most everyone else wasn't. I realize we're more of a casual raid group, but farming these items doesn't take much time. Put the work in and we'll have more success. Don't put the work in and we'll continue to bang our head against a wall for weeks on end.

I guess in the end it just comes down to how serious about this everyone is. Do we really want to progress or are we just in there to have some fun and kill some time? Why should I put in over 100g to two flasks of death when I could just slack off and not use any pots? Why should I put over 700g into my new pair of boots when I could just use a blue? Why spend so much on different sets of helms and pants including the best enchants and best gems available when I could just put cheap enchants and cheap gems in them? Well, yes, I like doing the most damage. And it's not by pure luck that I do so on most raids I attend. It's because I've put the time and effort into making this one character the best he can be. I know my role and I do it to the best of my ability. Sure there's probably areas where I could improve my DPS, but the raid as a whole needs to be improved in my opinion before we can take Hydross down on a consistent basis.

Last night we managed to get him down to the mid 70% range a couple times I think during our best attempts. We we able to get up to 4 or 5 transitions at most before a tank went down or aggro was pulled back across the transition line. It's still a work in progress, but while I would like to share the same optimism of our raid leader, until we are able to take Gruul down on a consistent basis - after all, you just really need pure DPS there and you just really need DPS on Hydross - I'm not sure if we have a chance. I'll be there next Sunday and I'll come prepared, but until we get everyone Kara and Gruul geared, there's a limit as to what the raid can accomplish.