Monday, January 26, 2015

Solo Black Temple

Last night I decided that it was time to head back to the Black Temple and finally attempt to pickup Illidan's headpiece. It was extremely easy 30 levels over all the bosses and they only progressed to phase 2 where it was required by the boss.

Since I'd never ran Black Temple at level, I found this quick video by Nobble extremely helpful. He points out an easy order for killing the bosses so that you can get into see Illidan. (counter clock wise). It was more helpful for me to simply find the best path between bosses. As I've stated before, it's SO EASY to get lost in these places!?! :)

It's funny running through this as a raid, after seeing it as the warlock scenario to get green fire. Many of the same bosses are here, except the warlock scenario starts at the front door and Akama takes us straight for the Essence of Anguish.

To get there, I took the portal.. Yep. Back to Panderia, taxi'd to Temple, then portal to Shatratth. I've now set my hearthstone back to the Panderia temple so can have easy access to all the major cities.

Finishing Black Temple also netted my account "Outland Raider" achievements, so woohoo. On top of boss loot, I also picked up tier tokens for chest, legs and shoulders, a bunch of cloth that my warlock can use leveling up tailoring, and a handful of BOE drops that I'll try selling as transmog gear.

Discovery raiment with Curse

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Status Check, Where Druids run Dungeons.

One more to 100...

The other night, I got my guardian druid, Esha, up to 100. Happily was in the middle of the Nagrand quest chain, dropping traps and gathering leathery animals. As with Elk, I ran the proving grounds and got my 610 staff. I was able to one-shot it, because of a mechanics difference. As a tank, if you don't finish the last mob before the timer, it lets you slide... As long as your healer doesn't die, you're good. I haven't tried running Silver yet as I still don't have the 610 to get into Heroics, so no hurry. Looking at Arielle's video, it looks more than do-able. 

I managed to get into a random Everbloom. What a mess. Problem number one, IMO, the DPS didn't know the fights. Sure, it was my first run as tank, but still. On spider boss, DPS was leaving the Pale One alone, he'd inhale the goo, enrage and then start attacking. Spider boss gets a big tasty snack! Mages we pulled while healer was OOM. On Yalnu, we had tons of flower heads not stomped on, mages entangled and I was wrangling up huge packs of those flowerlings.. Wipe after wipe after wipe. It probably didn't help that we had two melee dps (rogue, paladin), in addition to me as tank all right up in Yalnu's gut, but come on... Good thing I have a repair mammoth.

Speaking of Proving Grounds...

Elk tried the DPS Silver proving grounds again last night. At 622 iLevel, it was much easier. I was easily getting to round 4-5 running with the imp (unenchanted, un-gemmed gear). My biggest issue so far has been the darn bunny rabbits. I'll miss one of the small ones. I am loving the AOE chaos bolt caused by Charred Remains and Fire and Brimestone. This combo does nicely kill off the bunnies, I just need to make sure I have enough embers. I think with a few more tries, Silver is mine!

To tailor or not to tailor... 

So far, Elkagorasa hasn't given up on Herbalism. I don't want to level a profession up again!? 700 is still 700. Esha is working on leveling up leatherworking using Draenor patterns and it's going dreadfully slow. At this point she's only 66:700 points, and only getting +1 skill and +4 mats when doing the burnished leather daily. At this rate it will take her 25 days (assuming 100% mats) in order to create a single crafted item (and that's only going to bring her to 93 leatherworking.. Sigh..) Not enough skill level to see more than +4 burnished leather generated...  I am seriously considering of taking some of that questing gold and buying the mats and level the old fashioned method. With that in mind, I am seriously hesitant about having to level up another alt's profession...

Ready to Raid.

I am now in a predicament. I have a bunch of guildies that WANT TO RAID!?!? Even more, they want me to be their to tank. (Maybe been too busy bringing co-workers back into the game?). It's been 2+ years since I've had to schedule time on the computer, so I could play Warcraft. I've been simply running LFR and playing it casual with LFR and the various dailies. End of Panda, I even started using OQueue and Blizzard's Improved Group Finder to run normals as DPS. Celestials, Ordos, Garrosh, all 'solo'd' (aka no guild). Flowers, and maybe a dinner out are in my future to sweet-talk my wife that this is a good idea... Several guildies live locally, maybe we all bring the game 'home'.. :) 


I haven't been able to play my priest, Eride. She's decently geared in her 540 SoO LFR gear, so she's playable, but... Questing as a healer is painful. I am not quite comfortable with the Shadow rotation (yet) so I feel squishy. I am AFRAID of failing at disc healing in dungeons. When you watch something like Preach Gaming's comparison of healers... 

It makes me think Atonement Disc is dead. Do I learn to heal as Holy? It doesn't look too hard; pick a stance, throw renews and healing something another.. No PW:shield, no smite, no penance. Could be nice.. I think I need to find some guildies who won't mind dying while I learn..

Eride's Mad Skills
Either way, if I don't swap Elk to tailoring, Eride is my defacto tailor. She's already max skill level, so it would save me a LOT of time leveling up.. If I could only get her garrison unlocked.. The door is open, just no one working there..

UPDATE:: 1/14/15 10am - Did you see that 6.1 will include the new Heirloom tab? Along with the heirloom tab, WowHead has found that there is also a way to upgrade your gear so that it will level all the way to 100!.

Back to the Black Temple - Druid XMog

Between the Looking For Group video and that shaman from the starting area of WoD, I want Esha to get Illidan's helm. I am growing tired of the ninja mask and the leather scarf I had been running.

I am liking this change BECAUSE guardian druids never shows their gear. I think having a blindfold on would be homage to the fact that you can't see her eyes while she's in form. Elk's horns have re-grown back, Esha needs her blindfold so she can't see that. :D  Plus with a 17% drop rate, it gives me hope...

At 90 it was possible, at 100 it should be cake... Off to Panderia so I can take portal to old Shattrath..

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Why Should I be a Herbalist in Warlords?

Since the beginning of time, Elkagorasa has been an alchemist and herbalist. This meant he would always pick his own materials for alchemy potions. Want one more healing pot? Go fly out and grab some of the herb he needed.. Done. In Cataclysm, I even spent half of a level just flying around and grabbing plants. This gave the XP required to jump up to the next level, plus level up his alchemy.

With Warlords, I have a level 3 garrison farm. I've talked to the tender, and asked him to only plant Frostweed plants, so now I am making all the Frostweed I would ever need for my alchemy needs. I am only picking plants out in the wild now, because I happen to be standing on top of it. "oh, look pretty..".

Now that I am trying to gear up for raiding, I am starting to think that herbalism may be a dead art in Warlords. My warlock no longer needs to compete with druids in flight form to pick those rare spawn herbs all over the realm. No longer do I need to fly for hours, looking for that one golden lotus needed to craft another item for the AH. I just queue up the just go into my dark, dank cave and pull poseys.

Tailoring, that's what I need. I want epic i640 crafted cloth gear! I want BOE epics that I can send over to my priest to wear when she reaches 100. My druid has a barn started and could easily 'farm' fur from the beasts right outside my horde garrison. It would be a great way to level up both of their professions right away..

What to drop? Honestly, I am thinking the Salvage Yard. At this point, I've seen a dozen or so, green, "transmog" items, and about equal numbers of follower upgrade tokens. I've almost already gotten more follower upgrade tokens by starting work orders (aka giving garrison resources) at my War Mill.

Of course, as with any choice, it has it's consequences. By running LFR, I could replace all my quest/dungeon gear with 640 gear in a few more runs. I may be out geared before I finish leveling or trying to create the required mats for my first item.

I am seriously considering it. Maybe I'll wait until after I go through Highmaul one more time. See if anything else drops.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Kotaku links to Bellular's Guide to Gold In WoD

Kotaku highlighted a video recently linked to a video by Bellular Gaming that highlights his 'easy' method for making gold; soloing classic raids.


He solo'd 3 Cata raids using a 600+ geared hunter. Bastion of Twilight, Blackwing Decent, and Firelands. He mentions also DE'ing a lot of the items then selling that on the AH, but didn't get into that for the video.

BOT: 19 minutes
BWD: 15 minutes
Firelands: 30 minutes

I'd be curious about running BOT as a warlock. With void-tank, it should be fairly do-able. The raid is not too far from the portal spawn point and I've actually seen most of this raid already first hand. If truely 20 minutes per run, I could finally start upgrading those garrison buildings to level 3! Yeah!

Monday, December 29, 2014

10th Anniversary Achievements Complete...

Over the weekend, I finally completed both the Molten Core LFR and the Southshore PVP. With good timing, both of these went rather easy.

Not Elkagorasa
This was actually my first run of Molten Core, so I was actually quite surprised on the number of bosses in this raid. Yes, I am also not very familiar with running a full raid, but only the divvied up 4-boss portions in LFR. The full run took approximately 3 hours to complete. We had about 7 wipes in all, and mostly on trash. Unlike regular LFR, there was no spawning at the last major boss, but all the way at the front entrance.. sigh (am I spoiled or what??). I now have a fiery new helm and fancy new mount.

Southshore is all about the group. The only objective is to get more honorable kills than the other faction. 300 or best of 20 minutes(?). We started off strong and never let the Alliance take over. Positioning just a little south of the tower mid-way, we managed to maintain about a 100 kill lead and ran out the timer before reaching 300 hk.

Next up Proving Grounds: Take 3 and Highmaul.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Watching LFG Documentary

Sitting here in the office, watching the "Looking for Group" documentary on Youtube.

I think it's funny with the background of the Gates of AQ (24m17s) comments then compare the results of what I think happened with the Draenor release...

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

I Hate the Proving Grounds...

Elkagorasa has reached a point in his gearing, that I think Heroics are in order. I've ran a number of normal dungeons and gotten a number of gear items. According to the armory, he's at a 607 gear score equipped with 613 looted (or in bags).

The proving grounds, introduced back in MoP, are a series of 8 fights in increasing difficulty that are supposed to test your raid worthiness. The start with basic single target fights (do you know the class rotation) in bronze, with multi-target aoe fights and cc requirements (stop the healer!) in silver. Basically DPS down all illusionary npcs, before the timer runs out.
In Warlords they were implemented as a bar to pass before entrance.

Heroic Garrison Quest.
The Tavern in my garrison is only adding to the frustration with all the heroic quests that keep popping up. "Go get this item from UBRS" but it forgets to tell you that it only shows on Heroic. (Note skull in quest log for heroic dungeons quests).

My frustration with the proving grounds is two-fold. First off, the proving grounds still use mechanics introduced with MoP. I doubt we'll see amber-weavers in any Warlords content. They cast a ball of amber that is to be avoided. If used correctly, it stuns a npc for a short time so they do not cast. Amber-weaver vs healer, amber-weaver vs amber-weaver. Sure, I get it. If you can kite the amber glob, you win.

Second, the proving grounds only prove that I can successfully warlock in extreme situations. Typically in a dungeon, we have 3 dps. I don't need to worry about an illusionary enrage timer in dungeons. The fights can last 30 seconds to 2 minutes. No harm, no foul. In the proving grounds, if you don't do the fight exactly perfect, you are likely going to run out of time and need to start over. Completely over, silver fight 1/8. Sigh...

To-date, I've seen the last fight once. I had a rare opportunity where I was going along and doing everything absolutely perfect, until the last fight. Wham-o. I wasn't ready for what was to come and I was stunned in amber globs two times in a row. Time out, game over, start back at fight 1.

Sure, there are how-to's. I've watched this one a few times and it seems sound. (fear, chaos bolt, repeat.) I might try that, but it means new talents, different pet, changing glyphs, basically everything needs to change about my warlock. I don't like it. This isn't proving anything other than I can do research about how to pass this requirement.

One saving grace I've found in my research. Maybe Elk isn't geared enough. His 607 actual gear score may be too low. The proving grounds will scale up/down to match your gear score, but WowHead suggests a low item level score of 615. With this, I found, as an Alchemist, that I could easily make the Draenic Philosopher's Stone. This replaced the 520 trinket from the Badlands quest chain. In addition, I got a rare upgrade on a quest neck item replacing a 585 green quest neck. Nice bump to 614 average score.. WoWhead guide with a number of other options.

Here's hoping for success. Try again when I have more patience for losing..

Monday, December 1, 2014

Status Check

3 weeks into the expansion. I've reached 100 on Elkagorasa. He's now working to gear up for raids. I have managed to reach 604 by running dungeons and a little bit of questing in Nagrand.

At the moment, he's gone through a 2 of the level 100 dungeons, Everbloom and Shadowmoon Burial Grounds. Both of these dungeons had bosses that required a bit of team-work. Everbloom's last boss, Witherbark, spawns a lot of adds. If they are not managed correctly (via the local mages) your tank can quickly be overwhelmed. This means as ranged DPS, I am running around and trampling flower heads and AOE the little flower pets that spawn. The tank is making sure that the mage attacks hit all of the other adds. We went through 4 tanks before one had his part mastered and we completed the dungeon. For Shadowmoon Burial Grounds, the very first boss was our crux, Sadana Bloodfury. Our biggest issue was Dark Communion. If the boss consumes the spirit, they are healed and do more damage. Wipe. This also took a few wipes before we had the pattern down. As a helpful note, DO stand in the Necrotic Pitch (during Bonemaw's Inhale). This will stick you to the ground and keep you from being eaten.

With my garrison tavern, I have a number of quests spawning. Both dungeons have provided me with with a few upgrades. This has been nice, now that the dungeons only give gold for successfully completing them. It was a major consolation after dying so many times on both dungeons to get a nice 615 item.

I've invested in the treasure map for for all my alts. As Elk runs around for the various assaults and hunting rares, he's now treasure hunting. I've picked up the wiggling egg yesterday. It's fun on how Blizzard has hidden these 'eggs'. One I've had buried underground and surrounded by beasts. Kill the beasts and the item is uncovered. Another was a giant clam that you 'fished' and it gave up it's treasure. On twitter, someone pointed out the add-on Draenor Treasures which will allow me to treasure hunt WHILE questing and not after the zone is done.. AWESOME!

Friday night, I started leveling up my druid. This toon is co-leveling with a warrior, warlock and mage. The others are returning players who haven't played since early MoP. It's kind of nice to show them around all of the changes in WoD. The rares and treasures are a nice addition. We've managed to play for a few hours, open up our garrison, purge the ogres from Bladspire and ding 91. We all took the flight path to Ashran and then went to bed, 2am local. The one oddity was the boosted warrior. He had boosted from level 70, but the boost removed all his skills. Upon coming into the starting area, he only had a few abilities. He had to do the first several quests before all his level 90 abilities opened up. I hadn't remembered any of this with my boosted druid.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Garrison Growth

I've reached level 2 with my garrison, and would like to start growing my professions buildings (alchemy, herbalism). I've also realized that the Tailoring hut probably won't benefit me any and should be replaced. I want to start a salvage yard.

Here is the research materials I found:

  1. Ask Mr Robot has compiled a great list of each garrison resource.  Based on their suggestion, I am going to start an enchanting hut for my third small plot. This will allow me to DE all my drops, instead of just vendoring them.
  2. WoWJuJu has compiled a great list for garrison followers. From here, I found out that the blueprint vendor is in my garrison and he sells them for around 1000g. I was looking at the vendor in Ashran and thought he was the only one. In addition, you can only assign a follower to a level 2 building. 
  3. WoWHead breaks down when and where blueprints come available. Through this I realized that I am probably about to get the plans for all my small plots soon as I think I am about done in Talador, maybe, ah who knows. As an alchemist, I'd really like to upgrade my farm. For dungeon/raiding, I'd really like a level 2 salvage yard. 
Blizzard, I hope you realize, this better move with me.. I am spending a lot more time and resources than I imagined on this place. 

Monday, November 17, 2014

In Response to Blizzard's Release Day Issues

Blizzard has been taking a beating over this recent launch. Clients worldwide are getting hit with long queue times, slow response from the game servers and even disconnected randomly. As an Information Technology professional for 15+ years, I can totally sympathize with them.

I work for a large public sector agency on a team responsible for supporting email services for close to 100,000 employees. I am responsible for the design, deployment and day-to-day operation of the computers hosting the email services. For comparison purposes, I would suspect that I am responsible for approximately 3 medium-pop realms worth of users on WoW. This is my attempt at explaining a technical environment and it's issue in as user-friendly of terms as possible.

Design: If I were to design a 'realm', I would want to mirror what we do with our email environment. It meets the needs of a high-demand environment, where the clients are using a fat client to connect and requires pretty much 24x7 access.

First off there would be resiliency. This means multiple computers that are supporting active clients

and exact-copy (passive) servers that are simply waiting for something to go wrong with the first (active) set. This allows my team to do minor repairs on the 'passive' servers while clients are actively working. This "cluster" of active & passive computers work together sharing information for that inevitable moment when everything goes haywire. As my population grows and shrinks, you can add/remove members to a cluster or you can spawn new clusters (i.e. add new realms).

Second would be security. Imagine your current residence (home, apartment, condo, etc.). Would you rather have all of your stuff simply out in the open, laying out on the lawn? Or would you want some walls, a door, locks and maybe even a high-end security system protecting your valuables? Our accounts, our characters and the entire virtual world are our valuables. Protecting that realm would involve perimeter security surrounding the entire server cluster, possibly around all clusters (i.e. region of US, EU, etc.). There would be a single point of entrance into this area for all connections to the cluster. I would likely place a high-end security device that could monitor the traffic going in, and turn away bad traffic. It's easy to manage. I won't need a millions of Internet connections (or IP addresses)

The alternative is placing each and every server directly on the Internet (i.e. out on the lawn). Doing this would open up each and every server to all sorts of malware, hacks and malicious intent. We would see a LOT more issues if this configuration was used. Anyone driving by our property could simply come by our 'place' and pickup something of value.

Day-to-Day: Blizzard grew to over 11 million players, then shrunk back down to 7 million.
This left Blizzard in a lurch with their investors as the cost of maintaining 100+ realms, but not the subscriptions to support a cluster of 6-10 high-end servers, and back-end infrastructure (backups, power, data center floor space, etc.. ). These costs don't go down. In order to reduce costs, Blizzard had to decrease their footprint on that data center floor. This is why Malfurion and Trollbane joined forces. Malfurion had shrunk, so we were migrated to Trollbane's clusters. We kept our realm info, but we've all been consolidated onto Trollbane's hardware. The beauty is lower cost of ownership on the equipment, same level of user satisfaction (in fact no to low pop servers come back to life!) and Blizzard doesn't have to raise subscription costs! The drawback would be if everyone logged in at the same time, there possibly won't be enough processing power to support the entire user base at once.

Diagnosis: There are two things I think went on. Based on the twitter feeds of several individuals, I don't think I am far off.

First off, the DDOS attack was focused on the front door of the datacenter. That front door was absolutely bombarded with millions of connections coming from both legitimate and illegitimate connections. Imagine a huge line of door-to-door salesmen ringing your doorbell at the same time your guests are arriving for a GIGANTIC party. The bouncer at the door needs to check with each person and see why they're there. We still got into the party, but the line was out the door, around the block a few times and then into the surrounding neighborhood. Even if 1:1000 people were these annoying salesmen, the bouncer is going to have a lot of extra work to do when there are several million people coming to your party. You have people scan the crowd for people carrying briefcases, or wearing suits. You ask them what the party is for and or ask questions about the host. It all takes time at that gate. Unfortunately, most of the time you simply have to ride it out.

Now, realize that these "salesmen" are not the only people hammering on the front door. The attacks could also be you and me. (wait... keep reading) At my RL job, we've had legitimate users, too chatty with our environment and take down servers. For example, Apple regularly releases a new iPhone OS and many people immediately update their devices. These updates are not always well tuned for our email servers and may require us to patch them or Apple may have a bug that needs fixed. Every once in awhile, their phone finds a corrupted calendar entry and asks 100,000 (an hour) for an update to that entry. This chattiness prevents anyone else from pulling their calendar updates. Now, with each major expansion, Blizzard often changes access interfaces on the game. These changes break add-ons. Add-ons that people come to love and rely on. Add-ons that they'll run even if outdated warning comes up. To stop the traffic, we end up blocking this user's access to their email until they fix their phone. Blizzard cannot do this for 1 million customers (easily).

Secondly, over commitment. I think Blizzard was a bit surprised in the number of concurrent users.
Now that the clusters had been shrunk to avoid additional costs, when our sudden flash mob hit the door, many of us overwhelmed the capacity. Blizzard had to put population quotas on the servers on the highest pop realms until they could add back capacity. ((This likely cost them a bunch of $$ to grab servers that quickly "here take my credit card and go buy whatever you need!!")). Like the Gym after New Years, aka "New Years Resolute-rs", the spike in traffic was there release day, then will slowly taper off. Me taking vacation time on Thursday and Friday, threw off the predicted connection patterns that they designed for. Sorry. My fault. I don't think I'll be taking the next expac release day off.

Going forward: Blizzard has gotten over the hump. The erratic release-week traffic has died down; I am back at the office now. We are already starting to see max-level 100s on the realms; saw 2 last night. Blizzard plays their cards right, we'll continue to see old players come-back to the game for about a year. After that, I would anticipate drop off of subscriptions if another expansion doesn't drop. They just need to make sure realm-performance maintains.

Thanks for the time Blizzard,