The Final Nail

I don’t like to admit defeat, but there comes a time when I just have to face reality and accept it: my rogue leveling project is virtually dead. Other than a brief one-night stand with my rogue on Jubei’thos, I haven’t logged into either project rogue in weeks. I have too much going on and not enough free time to dedicate to the project. The free time I do have has once again been stolen by something else, something major, something worth setting aside the project for … Cataclysm.

It was two weeks ago today that I was logged in on my death knight smelting a metric ton of cobalt for my rogue when I received an email notifier on my phone. At first I thought it was merely a phishing scheme because surely I wasn’t going to be getting into the Cataclysm beta. No way. No how. That is, until I decided to check the validity of the email by opening up my browser and manually entering Battle.Net’s URL into the navigation bar.

Do not be alarmed, it's just a place-holder login screen.

Wait. No. This can’t be. I’m in the … beta … ?!?

After the shock wore off I came to realize that my rogue leveling project as I intended it was dead. It was at that moment that I almost began cursing Blizzard for tossing me an invite that I couldn’t ignore, I was going to get a taste of Cataclysm and become absorbed in it.

Thankfully before I lamented too heavily on being lured away from the live servers, I came to another realization: I could level a worgen rogue on the beta servers … and that’s just what I set out to do. But before I could actually create my worgen rogue, I had to download the beta client and that meant making room for it by uninstalling the Final Fantasy XIV open beta client.

Oh SquEnix, I wanted to like XIV … too bad it’s too much like XI.

Being rather impatient, I decided to give the streaming downloading client a good … testing by loading the game prior to a full install. I knew I was going to be met with a less-than-desirable experience upon the initial load, but why wait? I could play NOW and there was nothing that was going to stop me.  Fortunately for me the client is rather smart by prioritizing the information you need rather than locking you down until it decides to download it.

Fear the stylishness of flexing in a top hat.

Thus the worgen rogue, Nevikjames, was born. No, I wasn’t able to get Nevik on the beta servers and I was rather annoyed by that fact. So if you happen to have a toon named Nevik on Lost Isles, would you kindly rename yourself with a re-customization? ^^;

I’ll save my in-depth impressions of the worgen starting experience for another entry, partially because it’s now been 2 weeks so it isn’t all that clear and I’m probably going to start another worgen rogue for comparison sakes. Suffice to say I am very impressed with the immersion and story-telling with the starting zones. By the end of worgen starting experience I found myself in an odd position, I actually hated Sylvanas!

What? How is that even possible?

I know, crazy right? I have to give Blizzard props on what they’ve accomplished with just the worgen starting experience. I was so enthralled and taken by the story that the shock of what Sylvanas pulls made me immediately create an undead hunter to get our side of the story. I haven’t gotten the hunter into Silverpine yet, but now that I got my worgen rogue running wild I’ll probably spend some time on the hunter when I get the chance.

Anyhoo, I’ll close out this entry with a thought and slight concern about my general feel of the new assassination rogue leveling experience: Mutilate is sooooooooooo incredibly OP at level 10. Most encounters last 2 seconds: ambush, mutilate, dead mob.

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And Then the Next Thing I Knew …

… it was 4 am in the morning and I had successfully managed to pull wife aggro. Erp!

Yes folks, it can happen to you too if you manage to consume 12 beers in one evening. It’s been quite awhile since the last time I had an all-night WoW-bender and not for a lack of enthusiasm for the game. It’s just that I’m getting older and I value sleeeeeeeeeep all that much more now that my daughter is in kindergarten and has adopted a new “up at 8am, or earlier” routine, even on the weekends.

That and I’ve found a more reasonable sense of balance in the time that I dedicate to the game, to my wife and daughter, and my other assorted projects. So needless to say, pulling a WoW-bender just doesn’t occur all that often anymore. Sure there are plenty of times where I might think I want to forgo enough sleep to get something done in-game, but as I said, I’m getting older and those thoughts are usually dismissed quickly when I think of my comfy bed and pillow.

Okay, so what got in to me?

Well, it all started earlier in the week when I received a DM from Fimlys asking me if I would like to be interviewed for episode #101 of the Twisted Nether Blogcast. Needless to say I was honored, excited and just a wee-bit nervous. Okay, okay! Yes, actually I was extremely nervous and knew that I was going to need some liquid courage to take that edge off so I could relax and be myself on the podcast.

Things went along swimmingly during the interview (other than Comcast HSI hiccuping once) and I managed to safely keep my beer inside of its container throughout the show. Sorry Ril … you really will never live that down. It was after the interview was finished where things started to go awry.

It started off slow, but after watching some Avatar: The Last Airbender before bed with the wifey, I wasn’t quite ready to retire for the evening thanks to having a sour stomach from all the ‘za and beer I had consumed. So off I went to my cave and proceeded to log in to WoW for a quick jaunt through a dungeon or two with my troll rogue on Jubei’thos.

Two dungeons became four, which then became six and so did the number of beers fueling this crazed gaming-bender. My grasp on time faded completely and it wasn’t until my poor pregnant wife came in around 4 am that I realized what I had done. With egg on my face, I managed to quickly finish out the last dungeon run I was in and avoid further aggravation before retiring for the night.

My night ended on a high note, aside from the mild wife-aggro, with an incredible run through the Blackfathom Deeps with some friendly quality players. Being as drunk as I was, it wasn’t hard to strike up a conversation and share my euphoria from being on the Twisted Nether.  At the end of the night we all parted as friends and I promised to blog about the experience.

Well unfortunately I was just a tad too inebriated to recall much, but at least I did take a couple of screenshots so I wouldn’t forget their names … but unfortunately most of them were poorly framed ^^;

Our bear tank, Blackcow from Chromaggus, was pure win and would always move through the mob packs so that they would turn their backs for my benefit. Other than myself filling the role of DPS, we had Bárnabyjones from Saurfang laying out some great warlock dps and ParalizeJr from Jubei’thos providing AoE-hotness as a mage can. Last, but definitely not least, we had MiseryQT also from Jubei’thos making sure no one died on our run.

Thanks to this collection of fine folks my faith in the Vengeance battlegroup has been restored. I can get great groups and have a blast in the dungeon finder tool. Now if only I could spend more time on Jubei’thos to continue dinging my troll rogue. Oh! That reminds me, I probably have some unspent talent points to distribute … ^^;

Trouble in Paradise

Perhaps I’ve been having rotten luck, but my experiences with the dungeon finder tool on Jubei’thos haven’t been all that pleasant. Besides the problem of disconnects by random party members, it seems I’m always running into your a-typical PUG player. You know the kind, the arrogant and impatient know-it-all that clearly can’t be bothered with the hint of any adversity. They’ll jump ship at the first sign of trouble even though we pull through in the end. Nope, they want to be carried and don’t want to take the time to explain fights, mechanics, etc to the greener players in the group.

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not trying to label the Vengeance battlegroup as horrifically awful when it comes to pugs, but I have had a string of painful dungeon runs with my troll rogue. It’s made finding the motivation to hop onto Jub Jub difficult. It’s becoming apparent that I may have to backtrack on the recent decision to level almost exclusively through the dungeon finder tool. Yet, it hasn’t been all that bad, just frustrating.

Countering the negativity, my troll rogue has been fairly lucky with drops and has successfully run Wailing Caverns a couple of times nearly completing the leather armor set. There’s just one little hiccup with the armor of the fang: my troll is not female. ^^;  Running around with my sides exposed in purple leather armor is not exactly … y’know … masculine. Sure if I were running around with a blood elf it would be perfect. (Note: I purposely didn’t specify gender, but now that I’ve spelled out the joke …)

Hi there level 20, I would love to be able to use a mount and poisons.

Another positive thing to come out of dungeon running is how quickly I burn through rested XP. Well I suppose that isn’t completely all that great since it usually only takes a dungeon or two to burn through it all, making dungeon running feel a bit grindy. So maybe in the end I will end up rethinking the exclusivity of leveling via dungeons. I’m particularly not looking forward to when my troll ends up having to run the graveyard wing of the Scarlet Monastery over and over and over …

But before I close out this entry, I just want to share a small piece of advice to all aspiring tanks out there: leave your dancing shoes at home. Since my troll rogue is leveling subtlety his damage is reliant on being positioned behind the enemy. If your tank decides he wants to try out his new dance moves you’re going to be in for a rough time. Yesterday I ran into Killurfamily from the Akama server and boy did he have happy feet.

I tried a couple of times to get him to cool his feet, but I suppose he just couldn’t contain his excitement for the Deadmines. I guess I can understand that. We did make it through the instance without a single wipe, and other than losing two healers to the disconnect monster (suspiciously I might add) the run was rather uneventful. My rogue happened to ding 21 during the run and picked up a nice OH dagger from Sneed’s Shredder.

So all in all, not too bad. Now if only I could speed up the leveling process to decrease the disparity between my dwarf and my troll.

215 Bottles of Dwarven Ale …

I try my best, but it seems even with a focused topic to blog about I’m still vulnerable to the gaps in posts that has always plagued my blog. Yadda, yadda, ya between work, miscellaneous projects and having a youngin’ that has started her academic career in Kindergarten, I haven’t quite had a balanced sense of energy to devote to each direction my fickle interests take me in.

Blame it on the “jack of all trades, master if none” trait of my astrological sign, or just the fact that I’ve been getting a little too much into roleplaying a dwarf outside of the game to remember to set aside some time to jot down some words for you to read. Sorry about that. At least here I am, sitting and typing words for ye. So let’s get on with it …

I remember when I first envisioned this grandiose plan to record my experiences with leveling two rogues of varying spec that I would do so with a decent amount of balance. As you might recall in my last entry my troll rogue was trailing behind and I had planned on ditching questing with him and focus on chain-running dungeons with the LFD tool. Yah, that was the plan but somehow when I logged in to the game, instinctually I’d hop on my dwarf.

Naturally my interest was higher in playing the dwarf as I’ve only ever quested through the Alliance quests once before with my draenei mage so everything still felt new to me. Fair enough you would think so as long as I didn’t complete neglect my troll right? Well that was back when the disparity between the two was only eight levels, now it is sixteen. Yikes! Once I left Redridge for Duskwood I was done for.

Despite many of the quests in Duskwood had me traversing the landscape over and over and over and … er, well you get the idea … I couldn’t stop myself from spending all of my time completing quests for the folks in Darkshire. It also helped tremendously that I had gotten over the rogue hump and had access to almost all of the abilities I’ve come to love and rely on. I was decimating stuff even running around with daggers, an ambush here, a rupture there and with vanish at my disposal I had everything I needed to stop dying.

You see, there’s this funny thing called godliness when you pull shit off that you shouldn’t otherwise be able to. It’s quite addictive and when you get a taste for it, it’s hard to stop craving it. Mind you that neither of my rogues are decked out in heirloom gear, though an occasional run through an instance to obtain blue quality gear does help. I almost was able to solo Gath’Ilzogg (level 26 elite) and his pet Singe (level 24 elite) at level 24 with every trick I had. Had my rogue had access to the heirloom daggers with crusader I would have surely been able to …

Anyhoo, like I said it’s hard for me to stop myself when I’m on a roll and this little boulder of a dwarf was a’rolling. There was no way I was going to stand in front of it in some vain attempt to stop it. No, I would have been squished … metaphorically you could say. No, I was aboard the USS Nevïk and the only way I was going to be able to get off was to wait for it come to a stop. Fortunately near the end of Duskwood things did slow down and as you might surmise, things have stopped at least temporarily as I work on catching up with herbalism after dropping mining.

HERBALISM?!?

Yes, really. Herbalism. It’s something that I initially overlooked since I’m so familiar with mining and for some reason thought that mining was the better way to go for income. I don’t know how I didn’t think of herbalism to begin with as it is also quite a money-maker and has the added benefit of Lifeblood, a heal-over-time ability which covers an inherit weakness in the early rogue leveling career. I can only reflect on what could have been when attempting to solo Gath’Ilzogg had my dwarf been able to lifeblood …

Okay, well with that it’s time for me to put my little one in bed and call it a wrap for this update. And oh yah, my dwarf is now level 32, running around Westfall … picking flowers. Good times.

It’s a Love/Hate Relationship

I’m horde through and through and even though I’m not an alliance-hater, it feels a little weird playing my dwarf rogue. Sure, I have a draenei mage still over on Whisperwind and even had a human death knight there for some time before a faction/server change, but those were toons I created to have on the server my sister played on. It felt alien to me to play as the other side and after my sister decided to stop playing, I found very little motivation to keep playing those toons.

Yet, this time around with my dwarf my horde-centric mindset is faltering and I’m finding myself embracing my dwarf. Perhaps it’s just the aspect of playing as a dwarf that has resonated with me, but I’ve actually found myself cursing hordies ganking and griefing my alliance brethren on Winterhoof. Those DIRTY blood elves!

*Gasp* Did I …? Yes, I did.

Well, come to think of it, I have never really been all that fond of blood elves if only because their introduction brought the kiddies to the horde. I kid, I kid. Sure they are pretty, even the males, and while I love my tankadin, there’s something off about having a blood elf amongst my trolls, orcs, tauren, and undead. But I digress …

My dwarf has been spending a lot of time among the human lands in an attempt to level through lands my draenei didn’t touch. As such he’s been questing through the Redridge Mountains and has made steady progress with the tasks asked of him from the folks of the sleepy town of Lakeshire. He’s gotten his fill of gnolls, orcs, and murlocs (oh my!) but there’s still much to be done.

Fortunately my dwarf’s skill with killing and not being killed has steadily increased with the addition of dismantle and rupture. Dismantle has given my dwarf another tool to deal with armed enemies, especially when adds are unavoidable and rupture has proven invaluable with runners when being unable to get the jump on them with a garrote. Ambushing green enemies for 70-90% of their health on a crit makes me cackle with glee every time.

There’s been a lot of back n’ forth between Lakeshire and Stormwind and even though it is a lot less painful with a mount, it’s still painful. Stormwind is a gorgeous capital city, but the layout of the city is excruciatingly frustrating. To think that I used to have a hard time getting around in Undercity is humorous to me compared against the difficulties I’ve had acclimating to Stormwind.

Talk to this dwarf for an aerial tour of Stormwind's harbor.

Despite Stormwind proving to be a labyrinth to me, I love the look of the city. In a lot of ways it reminds me of Fantasyland in Disneyland with all of the little nooks and paths it has. I’m really looking forward to being able to fly over the city as it’ll negate the annoyances of the canals, but for the time being you can get a glimpse of the harbor from the air by talking to a dwarf named Thargold Ironwing in the harbor.

Unfortunately the aerial tour is limited to the harbor, but it is definitely worth experiencing it as it’ll take you on a fly-by of the lighthouse. I never would have discovered this tour had it not been for Skolnick’s Warcraft Less Traveled segment on All Things Azeroth. I have yet to check out the other lesser known areas in Stormwind, mainly because I keep getting lost, but I’m making it a goal to see them as well as the other easter eggs scattered throughout Azeroth as highlighted by Skolknick. I need to get the music that he uses, it’s so serene.

Anyhoo, I’m going to have a lot of catching up to do with my troll rogue since he’s being neglected and has only hit level 16 whereas my dwarf dinged 22 just last night. Chain-running instances with my troll might just be on the docket for the next couple of days. That’ll surely give me plenty to blog about, or not. ^^;

For the stabby stab!

Playing with Others

I promise that I’m not trying to get all savant-like with this rogue leveling project, but there are pointers that I feel I should share along the way. I should also mention that I’m waning a little on my laurels to not go crazy with the dungeon finder tool. I don’t have a ton of free-time and attempting to level via questing with two rogues is proving to be a bit … painful.

Fret not, I only plan on abusing the dungeon finder tool with my troll rogue and not with my dwarf. I’ve done the horde leveling experience numerous times, so I don’t feel obligated to trudge through quest after quest with him. This change will also allow me to blog not only about the differences in rogues specs, but entirely different leveling methods as well.

Anyhoo, I figured that since my troll will be spending more time in dungeons that I should expound upon some more tools at the rogue’s disposal, limited as they might be.

While you might feel like your sole job is to deal as much damage as possible, it isn’t the only thing you bring to a party. By the time you’re able to utilize the dungeon finder tool you’ll have three secondary utility abilities at your disposal: sap, kick, and gouge. You’ll get more useful abilities down the road, but for now I’ll focus on kick and gouge since I’ve pretty much covered sap.

It's hard to get a good screen of kick ;_;

Kick is very easy to understand: it interrupts spell-casting and can silence if you put points into improved kick. It’s straight-forward and you should use this as much as possible, especially against enemy casters attempting to heal. Kick can also interrupt certain boss abilities/spells so keep that in mind.

Gouge serves a very similar purpose as it can interrupt spell casts, but it can incapacitate any enemy for a very short duration. There’s only two down-sides to gouge which cause it to be overlooked: it costs 45 energy and the enemy needs to be facing you. While enemies shouldn’t be facing your rogue, a smart rogue will quickly dart in front to gouge and interrupt a cast when kick is on cooldown.

This only leaves the 45 energy cost as a potential limiting factor for being able to use this ability in a pinch. Rogues that are able to successful utilize gouge are generally employing a technique known as energy pooling.

You may have heard of energy pooling before, but if you haven’t it’s not a complicated technique to describe. At the most basic level energy pooling is only using energy when you need to and not as it becomes available.

Huh? Why wouldn’t I want to use my abilities as soon as I can spend the energy to use them?

There are times when it is more beneficial to store your energy and to release it when it is the most beneficial. This could be to keep enough energy to kick/gouge spellcasts, or to wait until your SND is about to drop off to refresh it with 1/2 combo points (as opposed to 3/4) and then expend your energy quickly afterwards.

It might seem complicated, but it isn’t really. There’s only one thing to keep in mind if you’re going to be pooling your energy: don’t let it cap out. Anytime your energy caps out you are losing DPS on abilities that you could have used and you’ll look just as noob’sh as the rouge constantly energy-starved.

Sometimes it will be impossible to prevent your energy capping out, especially if you get knocked down, controlled, etcetera but generally you should always be spending your energy with purpose, not mindlessly. In other words, sometimes it can be more beneficial to spend your energy for utility and not damage.

Okay, but what are some situations where utility trumps damage?

Interrupting spell-casts is the easy answer, but there are many different flavors of this basic situation. It could be to prevent an enemy healer from landing a heal, or to prevent a nasty spell/ability from going off. Generally you would rather interrupt a heal over a damage spell, but there are times where preventing damage can be more important. However, there is one situation early in your dungeoneering where your ability to interrupt will be invaluable: druids of the fang casting slumber in Wailing Caverns. There’s nothing worse than being nullified as a factor for 10 seconds in a fight, so make interrupting their slumber spells a high priority if you’re unlucky enough to get WC.

And with that may you always spend your energy with purpose.

Troggs, Troggs, Troggs

If there’s one word to describe my questing experience in Loch Modan it would be: troggs. They were everywhere and everyone needed them to be exterminated and by the end of it all, I really hoped I’d get some quests to scavenge through boar poop instead of being sent out to kill more troggs.

As you can see troggs are exceptionally ugly. Ugly enough that I’m sure their own mothers wouldn’t love them. But worse than just being ugly, they’re damned scaredy uggs and flee when they sense their end is nigh. This wouldn’t be such a hassle in of itself, but troggs like to congregate en masse, so unless you’re able to kill them quickly after they bolt you get to deal with their friends.

At the end of an exceptionally painful string of trogg-killing quests at the southern end of Loch Modan, I was tasked to deal with 3 named troggs: Brawler, Gnasher and Grawmug. “No problem” I thought until I realized that the trio happened to be +2/3 levels higher than my poor dwarf rogue was. Undeterred he strode in to the cave, managed to get a sap off and was able to down Brawler before being overwhelmed by not only the other two, but a wandering skullthumper who happened to be in the right place at the right time.

A quick trip back from the spirit healer and Gnasher and Grawmug got to share in their brethren’s admiration of the rocky cave floor. Success! After the ensuing trip back to the bunker my dwarf was sporting some stylish pants and headed eastward to deal with another problem at an excavation site; more troggs. Oids!

After regaining my composure after some choice words in troggish, (after being among them for so long, you tend to pick up on their slang) I remembered that there was an elvish structure further east that would hopefully offer oodles of quests to fill my dwarf’s sparsely-filled quest log. Unfortunately it appeared that the inhabitants of this inn provided little in the way of work and once again my dwarf set off in hopes of tasks he was well-suited to fulfill.

I did come across a gnome-pilot that had crashed near the lake’s edge and he tasked my dwarf with finding his missing belongings that, you guessed it, fell into TROGG camps on the northern island. Seriously Blizzard?! More troggs? Seriously? Of course this gnome’s tools fell onto an island teaming with troggs with the dead-set precision to be in the middle of four different trogg camps.

Seriously Blizzard?!

Fortunately for my sanity, the troggs on this island were either lower leveled, or even with my dwarf after slaughtering so many troggs. What are a few dozen more? Despite my growing hatred towards all troggs everywhere, I did enjoy the ease at which my rogue was systematically dismembering the troggs within the camps. But once I was done with that, I had run out of enough quests to keep trudging along in Loch Modan no longer worthwhile.

That’s when the idea struck me.

I had forgotten that after hitting level 15, I could queue for a random dungeon and earn a satchel of useful goods! Eureka! So I placed my dwarf into the queue and toddled off back to Ironforge since he had a couple of breadcrumb quests leading him to Stormwind via the tram of debauchery. Tell me, do my fingers look infected to you?

Following a lengthy sterilizing of everything, I was just barely able to make it to “The Shiv” before being prompted to join a dungeon group. “Finally I’ll get to see the Stockades” I thought. Nope, DENIED. Boringfire Chasm. Ragefire Chasm is a weird little jaunt where the “final” boss is the first you meet and therefore NO ONE ever bothers to finish the rest of the instance.

Oh well, better than killing more troggs … I suppose.

Anyhoo, my first experience with an Alliance pug went well enough that I decided to jump into the queue once more as I painstakingly ran across Elwynn Forest on my way to the Redridge Mountains. Sure enough I got another prompt and as if Blizzard was mocking me, once again it happened to be RFC.

/facedesk

After back-to-back RFC runs you’d think I’d stay away from the dungeon finder tool, and I did … until I got to Lakeshire. That itch needed to be scratched and I wanted to see the Stockades so badly that I compulsively queued up again. I picked up a few quests and unexpectedly I was prompted to join another dungeon, this time … Wailing Labyrinth.

If you’ve never run Wailing Caverns before it is an expansive instance with twisting maze-like tunnels spanning multiple levels, bosses up the wahzoo, and capped off with a role-playing event where you have to escort Naralex from the BEGINNING of the instance to a water-filled cavern in the middle.

Remember kids, skills are NOT bind-on-pickup.

This instance is usually a pug-killer because very seldom does anyone know where they’re going, what they need to do, and it takes FOREVER to finish the darn thing to get credit. Hell, even if you run through the instance with your level 80 it still takes forever because it is so easy to get lost and lose track of who you need to kill to unlock the event with Naralex.

But back to my dwarf.

I joined the dungeon part-way through where the group had just made it to the first large cavern after what appeared to be a wipe. Oids. Eventually the group was ready to go again and we eventually stumbled our way into an accidental boss pull while we were still working on a group leading up to the boss.

I can’t really explain it, but after NOT wiping and falling apart after the first boss we managed to limp our way through the rest of the instance. I suppose the group was just as much into sado-masochism as I am (blame it on my beta-testing background) and we survived two complete wipes without anyone nerd-rage quitting the group. I even managed to score some sweet blue-quality shoulders for my dwarf and I repaid everyone’s efforts with some sharp wit during the RP event with Naralex.

What can I say? Maybe I’m the glue that held that rag-tag team together. At least we finished the marathon of a dungeon and had some laughs in the end even if they were from delirium. I’m just glad that my dwarf has a metric-ton of quests to complete in the Redridge Mountains to keep me away from WC for awhile.