Patch 5.0.4 – Thoughts So Far

Anne Stickney and I hang out in Dalaran

Tuesday night I get a series of frantic Twitter messages and IMs inbetween my computer having a gigantic hissy fit.

“Oh my gosh, GET ON WOW!” 

So I hop on and get told to come to Dalaran, where I promptly get /hug and /love spammed by a friend of mine who now is on “my” server via cross-realm zoning.

I know y’all have been the recipients of “Navispamming” but I think I might be one of the first people to get “Annespammed.

The Good

So far, Patch 5.0.4 has been more surprises in a good way than in a bad way and I for one am happy about this. Every time a patch comes around, I often feel like the incredible amount of bugs, lag, and complaining outweighs the good, but surprisingly this hasn’t been the case this week. I’ve found that most of my experiences so far have been relatively pleasant, pain-free and actually enjoyable.

Mage mechanics for fire seem to be relatively stable and honestly take the spec from something I already loved despite its flaws straight into nearly flaw-free. I know that I might have more complex feelings once I hit level 90 and have access to Rune of Power (which takes our mobility down some, by design) but for right now, it is a fairly nice experience. Inferno Blast fixed a lot of the problems that I had with streakiness between Hot Streak procs and Impact. Inferno Blast solves the gamble of procs and gives you a concrete choice for your gameplay: do I a) spread my DoTs b) do I make Hot Streak happen or my favorite, c) do I do both at the same time? I’m still learning how to signal myself when Inferno Blast is off cooldown, but that is a UI/add-on solution. On top of IB being amazing, Combustion is also rather fool-proof. Rather than the cooldown that fell into a black hole of optimization and “perfect use” that it was, it is now a fairly simple to use. A lot of this has to do with the fact that it resets the cooldown on Inferno Blast, meaning any time you want to use Combustion and spread it to multiple mobs, you now have a free Inferno Blast to do so. Easy DPS, if I do say so myself. It takes a lot of the intense finesse that fire mages had to work with out of the equation and gives us concrete, solid choices to make over our own DPS. I can’t see this as anything but amazing.

The talent system seem spare, but in the case of my mage, it seems rather useful in giving me utility, mobility and fun elements to my play, regardless of my spec. I like having a slightly different spec than other fire mages. I’m still not used to us having Arcane/Frost talents as baseline (I am still struggling to use Deep Freeze, well, ever) but it is really interesting to Blizzard back on my bars and getting Chilled on mobs. Counterspell having a silence attached is nice as well. Their design to bring all of us closer together as mages rather than divided by our intrinsic natures is awesome.

Shared achievements aren’t perfect, necessarily, but I am still loving them all the same. Having my alts all have access to my efforts on my main has been a lot of fun. Level 22 riding around on an Amani Warbear? Okay, sure. Let’s do that. My druid having “Guardian of Cenarius” title? Totally amazeballs. EVERY ALT HAVING THE INSANE TITLE? EVEN BETTER THAN AMAZEBALLS.

New Scholomance and Scarlet Monastery are beyond amazing. I took a tour of them on my mage (so I wouldn’t die staring at the ceilings) and I’ll be doing a blog tomorrow or next week about my findings. They are just the right mixture of new design, old bosses, streamlining and storytelling. I’m exceptionally pleased with the all-new lighting rigs, textures and music. Oh my gosh, the music. So moody and just…right.

Mages didn’t get as many vanity glyphs as every other class, but I can’t help but love having an extra “transformation item“:

Using Glyph of Illusion to duplicate how Shade looks.

“It’s me, but with a legendary I’ll never have!”

Everyone in my guild has been having a lot of fun with their various class abilities, talents, and glyphs but I think the top winner of “most fun” goes to Glyph of the Stag:

Guildmate rides me as a stag across Westfall.

So far, most of the 5.0.4 changes have been really fun, even without things like pet battles in the game yet.

The Neutral

I figured “neutral” was a better way of illuminating things I have mixed feelings about rather than “bad” which is a less objective way of framing things.

Cross-realm zones have obvious appeal to them: it was really a wonderful bright spot midst bugs and broken add-ons to get to hug someone that I’ve never “met” in-game before. Stuff like cross-realm zones brings the idea of a server community outwards a bit (there’s already been “Hello to/from Cenarion Circle!” threads popping up) but it also does tend to increase the amount of people you will bump into. Prior to this, I was mostly used to running into one set of people fighting me for nodes, or rares. Now it’s a whole other larger set and I’m not sure how I feel about it. I’m sure overall it is good for most people, but I tend to be a fairly solitary person when it comes to questing and doing things out in the wilderness.

Goldshire is also cross-realm. Think about that one a while.

Re-learning every single class that I play in-game is something that’s going to take me a long time, if not most of the time we have left until Pandaria. Most of my experience with a class is leveling them and now everything has changed. I have a hard enough time grasping a class I’ve played for seven years (I looked at my arcane spec and had no actual idea what I should be doing) let alone an alt I don’t play every day. The process of going through every alt I have and learning glyphs, picking talents, updating keybinds and learning rotation is something I’ll have to mete out in doses. I’m too overwhelmed right now. I have six 85s, with a seventh on the way, all of various specs. I’m in the process of levelling another three toons in various places. Some are duplicates of classes I already have but are different specs. It’s just a mess right now.

Have Group, Will Travel being gone is also a pain in the ass for two reasons: it’s harder to get people random, out of the way places (like Blackwing Lair) and harder to throw together cross-realm raids. However, the bigger pain in the ass is that everyone forgot how to go places. Maybe it is just because I’m from vanilla-era WoW and am used to hoofing it everywhere, but the amount of people being unable to get to a raid I’ve seen is staggering. It takes a couple extra minutes, but going from Stormwind to Icecrown Citadel is do-able. So is getting to Dragon Soul (I’ve done it almost every week I’ve raided it on normal). So is going anywhere, really. This might be a good time to learn how to get places on foot (or wing, or mount) as we’re going to have to be running places in Pandaria without it.

Pally auras and shaman totems being changed or gone is weird as fuck, just going to toss this out right now.

The Ugly

I swear to Christ, update MogIt and no one gets hurt.

 

Anyways, hope everyone is finding 5.0.4 as enjoyable as I am.

 

 

 

Remembering Scholomance and Caer Darrow

The Headmaster's room in Scholomance. I think I’m getting on my WoW-years because I’m spending less time reading and looking forward to Mists of Pandaria and today, on the literal day of patch 5.0.4, looking back at the things that have changed. I thought I’d be okay; it wasn’t like Cataclysm where everything was being destroyed. However, I find myself being a little verklempt at even the smallest things. It hit me as I was running in and out of Scholomance five times an hour to try for a Sawbones Shirt.

This place wasn’t going to be the same anymore.

Any time change creeps up on me, I get caught out a bit. Old dungeons that I remember doing fondly in Vanilla are obviously no exception to this. The fact that stuff like the Tabard of the Scarlet Crusade, Whitemane’s Chapeau just vanishing into the air because their bosses are too is weirding me out. The more this stuff fades into the sands of time, the more I feel myself wanting to snatch grains of it out of the air to keep safe.

Scholomance may had not been the quintessential dungeon that Scarlet Monastery has been, but I have fond memories of the place. It was long and unforgiving even after it was taken down from a raid instance to a 5-person dungeon. It had many, many secrets and quests tucked within.

The Secrets Long Past

It is unfortunate that most of the really, truly neat things about Scholo were removed with Cataclysm.

Easily the most interesting part of Scholomance back in Vanilla was the quests associated with the place and the island. The quest to kill the boss Kirtonos the Herald netted you a Spectral Essence, which was necessary to see all of the ghosts that wandered around the island, including vendors that had rare patterns. The vendor is visible now but a lot of NPCs are lost to players because the Spectral Essence is no longer obtainable in the game. The quest that originally rewarded it, “Kirtonos the Herald” no longer gives it as a reward. (It also doesn’t require you to kill a succubus for a vial of Kirtonos’ blood to summon him with the brazier.)

The Spectral Essence was key to a lot of other quests on the island that were only given out or turned in to ghosts in Caer Darrow. One of these ghosts was Magistrate Marduke, who gave you the quest for Ras Frostwhisper. It was a 5-part chain that sent you packing to Arathi to search all over Stromgarde for a book tucked away in a random fireplace. I spent at least 3 or 4 hours looking. I’m not kidding you. It also required you to go into Stratholme with the book to draw out Ras’ soul so you could eventually turn the lich inside the dungeon to a mortal and kill him. Stuff like this was secretive, meandering and full of lore. Definitely not the caliber some quests have today, but definitely not easy to finish.

You also completed one of the quests in the Tirion Fordring quest chain that was in Eastern Plaguelands (before the revamp) from an artist on the island.

The hardest quest associated with Scholomance was definitely the key quest, however. A lot of the end-game dungeons in Vanilla, like UBRS, had key quests so it could further alienate people who didn’t feel like doing them. (My boyfriend when I brought this up to him – “Fuck that key quest, I didn’t do it. You could die and walk through the door that way.”) I dutifully did the Scholomance key quest because I was a level 60 in my guild who came to it late and wasn’t really taken on raids. After proving yourself with some Andorhal quests, you were set to create a skeleton key, literally. After killing skeletons for fragments, you had to travel to Gadgetzan to get a mold made, paying 15G of your hard-earned cash (having 100G back in Vanilla was the same as having 10,000 nowadays). Then you had to take the mold to a volcano. Then you had to gather a GROUP of people to take down the lich Araj the Summoner for his scarab pendant. Then you finally got a key.

Remind people that this is what they look fondly back on when they talk about “vanilla being the best expansion.”

Not everything that was hidden about Scholomance was something on the outside though – many of the secrets lay inside the actual instance. The one that really threw me for a loop was the secret torch. Despite being someone who spent the better part of her level 60 existence crawling through this dungeon, I had no idea about this until this year when a guildmate (or a friend, I cannot remember) pointed it out to me.

There was an executable torch in Jandice Barov’s mortuary room, to the right of her alcove. Turning it unlocked a gate in the Viewing Room, which held a chest.

It only ever really held greens, but the idea that Blizzard stuck something this hidden inside was just fascinating to me, a veteran like me. Who goes around clicking on walls to see if torches work? But it makes sense for the atmosphere of the place. Why wouldn’t a hugely corrupt and rich family keep things tucked away in a hidden locale?

Memories

I think one of my reasons for being so persistent about collecting items from places like this when they change is because, like in real life, sometimes memories and emotions are all you have. In a video game, your experiences someplace are reduced to screenshots and remembrances shared over voice chat. The ability to go and take a “tangible” reminder of what something was like “back in the day” is something you aren’t really afforded in real life, usually. Scholomance was one of the places I remember best from Vanilla and it is sad to see it change.

I remember:

  • Helping at least 6 or 7 paladins from Northrend Commonwealth get their paladin charger in the finale of the quest chain.
  • Doing a run at 3 AM and my bags being full so I left without looting my Magister’s Crown and having to ticket a GM.
  • Accidentally pulling the summoners in the Summoning room because I counterspelled them thinking they were attacking us. Turns out I was just being anachronistic.
  • Being able to climb out of Kirtonos’ room to explore instanced Caer Darrow.
  • Those horrible magic resist skeletons.
  • Being terrible at fighting the monsters that you got locked in a room with during the Gandling fight.
  • Someone being really excited about Robe of the Void pattern dropping.
  • Dark Runes, the ultimate in trickery for RP.
  • Farming for Ichor of Undeath for Greater Water Breathing potions.
  • Seeing the Headmaster’s Charge drop twice (Didn’t win it either time.)
  • Learning how to expertly polymorph mobs in the packs in the middle rooms.
  • Making flasks at the alchemy table in Ras Frostwhisper’s room. (The only other one was inside of Blackwing Lair.)
  • Coming back in later expansions to farm Skins of Shadow for my Insane grind.

I know that nothing is going to take away those things from me, but part of me still tried to race up there and codge a shirt out of Rastinov all the same. New Scholomance, with the hints of the Lilian Voss storyline and smoother redesign will be better for everyone, I know this. But part of me still misses the confusing and punishing complexity of the former dark arts school.

WoW Mobile App Goes Free: A Lil’ XT Pet For You!

Apple Cider cheers at Lil' XT

Since Blizzard announced yesterday that their Remote app went completely free for all extra features (including mobile armory, and guild chat), it means that those of us who had been paying up until this point (me) got a free 7 days added to their account, as well as a thank you present of a Lil’ XT code. Since I already have a Lil’ XT, this means that I get to do my first-ever giveaway!

Lil’ XT is a valuable pet and steadfast companion. Not only does it do cute little mechanical idle animations, but it also has a very helpful mechanical wrecking feature. This means other mechanical pets as well as train sets, without needing to plunk down 200G for a Train Wrecker. And it is infinitely reusable. Talk about a bargain! Lil’ XT is also a Mechanical class pet, which means when pet battles come out, it has extra damage towards Beasts. It is a very strong choice for your first Pet Battle team since most of the first fights you encounter are against Beasts!

Just leave a comment below with what your favorite pet to battle with in 5.0.4 will be and I’ll pick a winner this weekend and announce it on Monday as part of my 5.0.4 post. Best of luck!