The Warcraft Alt Dilemma: Alts yesterday, alts tomorrow, but never alts today

Anyone else been intrigued to try the dungeon finder for lower level alts?

I haven’t had much time to play around with lower level instances myself but the few experiences I’ve had have been pretty positive.

I ran an old level 15 draenei  mage created at the beginning of TBC through Ragefire Chasm (previously rather inaccessible to alliance) – it was chaotic but polite and the group were vaguely respectful of the paladin tank who said at the start that it was his/her first time. I did notice immediately that my mage felt very useful. Whenever the pull got out of control, which happened a lot, I could drop a frost nova and run back to give the tank time to grab the mobs. I’m quite sure it was more fun than spamming AE-of-choice in level 80 heroics.

So the thought of levelling a new alt and making generous use of the dungeon finder at the same time is very alluring. There is a problem with this picture. The Cataclysm in the room. In only a few months time, there will be a host of new class/ race options in the game, and a whole new levelling experience to try out. Is there really much point levelling an alt right now just to mess around with the dungeon finder when that goblin rogue, worgen warrior, tauren paladin, dwarf shaman, troll druid and so on are just around the corner?

Plus there is the issue of limited character slots on servers.

This means I’m going to get my low level dungeoneering fix from existing alts, of which I have abandoned many along my current path to greatness. Looking through the list, I was reminded again of my old priest. The first character I ever raided on, her incarnation ended after a messy guild break-up at the beginning of TBC. After which I took a long break from WoW. I seem to also remember that this was an era where paladin healers were crazy overpowered and no one else could keep up with them, which broke my will to play at the time.

Anyway, that’s all in the past. I was curious to check out the Alliance Wrath questlines and the dungeon finder turns out to be just the motivation I need to bring my sole alliance level 70 out of dustballs.  Fortunately, she just about had enough cash on her still to cash in on dual specs.

One thing I realised immediately in instance runs. Lower level healers have very limited mana pools and mana regen compared to my comfortably overgeared resto druid. And you know what? I’m enjoying the challenge immensely. The lower level instances are everything that the zergfest 80 heroics are not.

So far I’ve somehow gotten my way through Utgarde Keep (which was actually really tough to heal, or maybe that was just the tank) and Nexus (which was much more manageable). Shadow is much improved since I last tried it, and priests still feel to me like the Rolls Royce of WoW healers to actually play. (ie. smooth, well engineered, runs like a dream once you get it onto the road.)

I’m quite sure that it is the challenge of the lower level instances on a non-overgeared toon which is making them interesting to me at the moment. It will be interesting to see how long that lasts. Also, thumbs up to the Howling Fjord quests for Alliance, they’ve been good fun so far.

Blast from the Past


Speaking of my old priestess, I dug out this ancient screenshot.

I’m sure any old hands won’t have any trouble identifying where she is, what she’s doing, and … maybe even what robe and staff she is using. They were iconic in their day.

You can even see that I have friendly nameplates turned on to help with healing since I wasn’t in a group or raid at the time. Ah, those were the days.

Raid Updates, Cash Counting, Goblin Naming

I’ve never been more glad to not be a raid leader in WoW than I am right now. We’re suffering an embarrassment of riches at the moment, and there are plenty of hard modes that we could attempt, but scheduling and keeping raiders’ eyes on the ball has never been trickier.

I’m sure other raids are in this situation also.

  • You’ve cleared the Coliseum on normal mode and can sweep through it in about an hour, all being well. The loot is still good upgrades for a lot of people.
  • You cleared Onyxia last week. That’s not an issue, she wasn’t supposed to be a progression raid – they just gave her progression type loot so you don’t really want to skip her.
  • You’ve either cleared Ulduar on normal mode or still have one of the last two bosses left. In either case, in order to get to those guys you need to schedule an evening for clearing Ulduar and that probably means clearing on normal mode because if you waste too much time on wiping then you won’t get to Yogg Saron. Also most of the normal mode loot isn’t as desired as the other raids.

So on the one side you have the hard mode encounters which will involve lots of wipes. On the other hand, you have raids which still give loot that people need. And some of your progression fights are at the end of an instance that people aren’t so keen to go to any more. Plus you have limited time and some of your raiders are already bored of the Coliseum and complain about having to clear it on normal mode.

Normally (and I use that word in the widest sense), if it was me, I would let the bored guys bring alts to the normal modes, assuming they’re properly geared for it. Then they could switch to their mains for hard modes. But then you have to sort out your loot priorities (I consider it unfair to let someone take part in a raid and not allow them a share of the loot, regardless of whether it’s an alt or main), deal with everyone else who wants to bring their undergeared alt too, and still try to put together a raid that is competent to clear the instance.

For myself, I’m still enjoying the actual raids themselves. I like Ulduar and would love to go back there – but Coliseum has been good with the tank loot and I have most of the things I wanted from normal mode already. So I feel as though when it is a choice, I pick the instance which is prettier and more fun. When it isn’t a choice (ie. need gear) then I prefer to go where the gear is.

If you assume most raiders take a similar point of view, then we’re going to be in the Coliseum for awhile. And hopefully people will still remember the Ulduar fights when we get back to it. I don’t actually hate the Coliseum fights though – our raid group has been particularly good at learning the Faction Champions so even that fight is feeling more fun and less of a hassle these days.

Our initial try at the hard mode beasts was quite promising too. I may be the only person in the raid who thinks this, but I’m sure we could take them now on hard mode. It just needs everyone to be very on top of their game, and some insane healing in phase 1. (Like most raid groups, we have some insane healers so that’s probably fine.)

My Money Making Tips

Alchemy and Blacksmithing are not usually among the top money makers in trade professions. But now is THAT time. (Did I mention that my main is a blacksmith and my alt is an alchemist? Fight the expansion-tradeskill tyranny of jewelcrafting and inscription!!)

Runed orbs are coming way down in price and I’ve been able to sell a couple of Indestructible Plate Girdles, the pattern I picked up in Ulduar many moons ago. Belt buckles are also selling well – I suspect the new arena season, new belts on the triumph badge vendor, and drops in the Coliseum feed into this.

With the alchemist, note that transmuting metagems is not on a cooldown and that Onyxia drops are mostly … hats with metagem sockets. Everyone and their dog is currently killing Onyxia, and I’ve been selling metagems as fast as I can make them.

More news about Cataclysm

The hype train for Cataclysm is still going full steam ahead and this month’s PC Gamer has an interview with Blizzard about the new Cataclysm racial starting zones. sums the information up – and much as I hate overpriced PC magazines that obsess about shooters I don’t want to play, I’ll pick up a copy later to see what they missed.

As for the goblins, you start on Kezan as a pretty high level (society-wise, not game mechanics) executive, successful and rich, with a hot secretary. When Kezan begins to fall apart, you give your life savings to a Trade Prince who promises you safe passage to the mainland. Instead, he captures you and tries to sell into slavery.

If I wanted to play a goblin before, I want to play it doubly much now! So I do need to think of a name and all that jazz.

Maybe I’ll think about that while zoning through normal mode Coliseum this week!

Onyxia vs The Argent Coliseum

I know, I know. We’d all love to see Onyxia swoop down and engulf the entire Argent Coliseum in flames. If any Blizz developers are reading by the way, we would love you forever if anything like that was part of the revamped Onyxia encounter.

But that’s not what I was planning to talk about today. Point is, Onyxia is a raid encounter based in a single room. Granted there’s a long tunnel through which you have to go to reach it, but her cave is probably the same size as the interior of the Coliseum. For sure, she’s a three stage fight that was considered complex at the time, but the Coliseum has several bosses, some of whom are also multi-phase fights.

So why does everyone love Onyxia, but hate the Coliseum?

I’m making lists this week, so just for the record, this is why Onyxia was considered such a big deal by more longstanding players.

  1. She’s a dragon. Onyxia was actually the first real dragon that players encountered in Warcraft, anything you saw prior to that was dragonkin or a drake which is not the same. Dragons in fantasy games are always awesome, even if they appear in Tier 1 public quests. It’s a kind of rule of the genre. Onyxia set some of the standard expectations for WoW dragon encounters also – the fiery breath, the tail swipe, the fear, etc.
  2. Woven deeply into the lore from level 1. Onyxia turns out to be behind a lot of the problems you encounter when levelling as Alliance. With hindsight, we might wish that the Alliance had realised that she had a genius for practical politicking and annointed her queen rather than fetching the chin back from exile. Right back to the defias bandits in the starting zone.
  3. Handcrafted instance all about her. This part is true for the Coliseum also. But you interact more with Onyxia’s lair. You have to keep out of the whelp caves – whelps fly out of them in phase 2 and need to be controlled. You have to mind the gaps in the floor that flare up with fire in phase 3. You have to watch the flying dragon in phase 2 and make sure you’re at the right side of the room. The Coliseum on the other hand is just a room.
  4. Long keying quest chain with storyline attached. Some people love gating, others hate it, but making players do a long and involved quest chain certainly focusses the mind and makes the end boss feel more meaningful. (Anyone for jailbreak?)
  5. First multiphase boss encounter. I’m relying on my memory here but I know that Onyxia was the first boss encounter that I had seen that ran in several phases.
  6. Deep Breaths. Ah the legendary deep breaths in phase 2 that wiped half the raid if they weren’t paying attention. Were they really random or did you get them more often if you had two retridins and a moonkin in the raid? Who knows? But guaranteed after every patch, people would ask whether Onyxia was breathing more often. It was one of the first WoW raiding memes.
  7. See where she flies! Flying dragons that breathe fire onto the raid are cool. Also, need more dots.
  8. The loot. Everyone knows that dragons love to hoard epics and back in the day, Onyxia kept hold of the Tier 2 hats. Back when Tier 2 was associated with the hardcore magical mystery realm of Blackwing Lair, this was quite exciting. She was also tied in even further because in order to make cloaks that could withstand the last boss of BWL, you needed Onyxia’s scales.

Now, I have no idea if a revamped encounter can capture the magic. What it all adds up to is a sense of great excitement when you and your (40 man) raid first zoned into her lair. You’d all completed a long key chain and were on the verge of fighting your first ever dragon. Now it’s all old hat,  we all chat to dragons on a regular basis and even helped kill an aspect. Multi-phase fights are the norm rather than the outlier, and our tanks can probably grab adds in their sleep. But I’d still rather fight Onyxia than the Argent Coliseum.

My personal gripe at the moment is that it scales badly for 10 man. We noticed this particularly with the first encounter, and the snakes. When only one person has the burning bile debuff that’s needed to counter the poison debuff and they just died … well, you’re in trouble. In 25 man, you have some extra debuff carriers which provides the raid with more redundancy.

Also, Faction Champions. PvP = ugh.

The sixth sheik’s sixth screenshot…

So I’ve been tagged by Tarsus to post my sixth screenshot. And this one is a real blast from the past (I hadn’t even figured out how to hide the UI).

Aside from the fact that the UI and raid frames fill up most of the screen, you’ll see that there are 40 people in that raid. And a dead dragon’s head in the background.

This is a screenshot of the first time my old (first) raid guild killed Onyxia, and it was taken in 2006. I was playing a human priest at the time – I don’t remember what the staff was (I did later upgrade it to Benediction, like everyone else) but the robe was Tier 0 and I was very proud of it. It dropped from the last boss of Upper Blackrock Spire.

The screenshot itself is very nostalgic for me.

I remember all the names from the raid frames. The guild was called New Dawn and had only just formed on Moonglade EU. I also know that some months or even years later, after all the inevitable raid drama, many of them ended up either in different raid guilds or different servers or just leaving the game. For those who stayed, we did end up dipping our toes into Naxx before TBC, and then split up a few months after the first expansion came out. But when this screenshot was taken, the guild was very new and we were all very excited just to be there.

Sic transit gloria mundi

And I will tag some more bloggers with this meme too! If I tag you, post the 6th screenshot in the screenshot folder of your game of choice:

Arbitrary at Nerf the Cat

Esri at Gaming Granny

Syp @ Waaagh!

Ysharros at Stylish Corpse

Pixelated Executioner

And Copra at BullCopra