Caroling in Ulduar

Tis the Season

It is that time of the year when we naturally reflect upon what was good and not so good from the previous year.  I myself am planning a post like this in the not so distant future.  However this blurb is not about that at all.  Yesterday the amazing Queen of Faff, Alternative Chat posted her very on audible review of the previous year.  It is most definitely worth a listen, but then again everything she does is worth a listen.  I have to say that while I knew of her before this year, it was a few months ago that I first listened to her podcast.  I have to say I am truly thankful for discovering it, because now along with several other podcasts I look forward to hearing each episode.

She brings a deeply thought out quality to the air that reminds me in many ways of NPR.  I am very much an NPR junkie so I think this soft spoken and rehearsed manner suits me very well.  In the podcast she has declared that 2014 will be the “Year of Faff”, and I wholly support this notion.  Before her I tended to view “faffing about” as a generally negative thing.  Now I have embraced my inner faffitude and find myself doing odd little things on a regular basis.  I look forward to seeing what directionless madness comes form this new venture.

Caroling in Ulduar

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Early in the week my good friend Rylacus, and the warden of House Stalwart while I was away… asked me if I would be willing to do an Ulduar run.  He needed a single meta achievement to get his 25 man proto drake.  I told him initially that I was not sure if I would be around, but if I was most certainly I would help out.  I have had both the 10 and 25 man versions of the drake for quite some time, but as I know the achievements pretty well I am always willing to help out.  Since last night ushered in yet another icebound weekend here in Oklahoma, I was most definitely available for faffing about in Ulduar.

My only requirement was that we try and get EVERYONE that came along their drakes.  No one seemed to mind and as a result we filled the ranks with tons of folks hopefully seeking their own.  Additionally we managed to knock out Algalon, who’s room is pictured above.  Most of the achievements quite honestly were pretty easy at 90, or at least easy if you knew what you were needing to do.  Yog’Saron of course takes a few tries mainly to remember exactly what we need to do.  The three of us that went into the portal went insane because we could not remember how to exit.  We then proceeded to murder everyone else in the raid.

After that little set back we pushed forward and got him on the next try earning everyone on their drakes.  Currently the only really annoying meta achievement is the “kill 25 dwarves with razorscale” one.  Initially we had this idea of just gathering up all of the dwarves and letting Razorscale enrage…  theoretically killing them all.  This would in theory kill us all, but we should have also gotten the achievement at the same time.  Two things we found out… firstly the enraged flame breath is still not enough to kill a dwarf that is sitting at full health.  Secondly we can easily survive the enraged form and ended up going four rounds after that in order to get all the dwarves.

Desperately Seeking Weapon

While I managed to walk away with some really cool transmoggy bits and two pieces of the tier 8 set, I did not further my overarching mission of finding some weapons for my shaman.  Granted I didn’t really expect to do so in Ulduar, but the Heroic Scenario that we ran beforehand proved both painful and fruitless.  My hope is today that I can finish running Siege of Orgrimmar and that the loot gods will smile on me and let me win the axe that can drop in the final part.  If this continues to prove futile I may just run Throne of Thunder as well.  I need to farm up the magical happy luck coins so I can turn them into extra roll chances for Siege, but I do not have the stockpile on my Shaman that I have on my other characters.  Other than this… I am going to try my best to stay warm and hopefully continue having power since the entire world outside is coated in an inch of ice.

What About Wildstar?



It as been roughly ten days since Zenimax announced the official PC/Mac release date of Elder Scrolls Online.  In doing so they either knowingly or unknowingly threw down the gauntlet to the other developers with their own tentative release dates.  The success and fail of an MMO has become so much more than whether or not it is a good game, but instead how distracted the gaming populous is at any given moment.  I remember a time in the not too distant past where major PC releases were truly few and far between.  However it currently seems like there is always something bigger looming on the near horizon.  Like it or not every single one of these releases is competing for the same relatively small pool of players, subscribers, and even money in general.

Yesterday Massively voted The Elder Scrolls Online… the MMO most likely to flop in the coming year.  While I personally think this is deeply cynical and maybe even more than a tiny bit inflammatory, I think more than anything it is short sighted.  Quite frankly the success and failure of Elder Scrolls Online has nothing to do with the PC gamer, and that is more than a tiny bit humbling.  We will no longer be the king makers for these online games.  With ESO and games like it, that torch is being passed from PC Gaming to the much larger pool of console gamers.  I have to say the console market is rabidly waiting for a new Elder Scrolls Experience, and especially a multiplayer one at that .  I think it might be a bitter pill to swallow to realize that the success and failure of these titles may very well be out of the hands of the “PC Gaming Master Race”.



Being the master tacticians that they are, yesterday Blizzard announced the release date for the Diablo 3 Reaper of Souls expansion.  With this they are releasing roughly four weeks ahead of Elder Scrolls Online, and as a result giving themselves plenty of time with the sole attention of the PC Gaming market.  Similarly however they are also hungrily eyeing the console market, and you can bet that they will be timing the release of the PS3/PS4/Xbox360/XBone release against the June release of Elder Scrolls Online to the next gen consoles.  I feel like a four week buffer is more than safe and should play well to the gamers that may not have the ability to purchase every title they want.  I know I am personally amped about this version of the game, because it fixes a lot of the loot problems I had with the initial release.  Additionally I am holding out hope beyond hope that they manage to roll in the console “controller” features as well.

There is no way to look at this release date as anything other than business strategy.  Elder Scrolls started this ball in motion, and now each game company will have to decide when the most opportune time is to deploy their own “forces” on the game board.  While the Diablo 3 demographic is not exactly the same as the Elder Scrolls demographic… there is more than enough overlap to have caused issues for either game.  As a result two major juggernauts have been placed on the “game board” and as a result the new year is less open than it was.  Now the launches of so many titles will have be strategized to figure out when the most opportune time to release will be.

Warlords of Draenor


Since the title Blizzard announced was the release of Diablo 3 for the tail end of the first quarter, my assumption is that Warlord of Draenor was simply not close enough to ready to be able to launch against Elder Scrolls Online.  As a result I am guessing this means that WoD will be another last quarter of 2014 release much like a few other World of Warcraft expansion launches.  If this is the case that bookends the year up pretty nicely.  Diablo 3 first quarter, Elder Scrolls Online second quarter and Warlords of Draenor closing out the year.  You can already see the 2014 release calendar starting to tighten a bit and this will make it increasingly difficult for game companies to find a “clear window” to release against.  I personally thought I had written off the WoW franchise completely, but nostalgic can be a pain sometimes.

As a result I imagine there will be a lot of players that either intentionally or un-intentionally come back for the release of Warlords.  The lifespan of a WoW expansion rush seems to be roughly three months, so an end of the year release will also make the 2015 schedule some what slippery as well.  The problem is there are lots more pieces to be placed on the board.  Games like Titanfall and Destiny will also be chipping away at the pool of players that would h

ave normally played an MMO.  Additionally we still have EQ Landmark and EQ Next that have not committed to any release schedule and will likely be just as large of a force on the Calendar as the games that have already been confirmed.

What About Wildstar?


I will be the first to admit… I am actually not that excited about Wildstar at all.  By all rights I should be, but for whatever reason there I have not followed it.  I do however have a lot of friends who have, and as a result I want it to be a success for their sake as much as anything else.  Up until this point we have heard a tentative “spring 2014” release.  As I have just outlined however the “spring” timeframe is extremely packed as it is.  Wildstar is in a really precarious place right now, and I do not envy them.  They are launching a new MMO, with a subscription model into a world that seems to have fallen out of love with subscriptions.  Additionally it is an unproven IP, and there are additional issues on selling a new player on “the vision” for this world.  Finally it is releasing against some really powerful forces.

The safe bet will be to release Wildstar in the July/August timeframe.  As much as I myself hate it, the players who are likely to leave a game will have done so by the time three months have passed.  July would be the beginning of a window where generally the “locusts”, a group I have been a member of so many times in the past… will have consumed what there is to consume with ESO and be looking for a new target to move to.  Plotting a course for this opening in the schedule seems like the safe choice for them.  However all it would take to make this more treacherous, is for the other pieces that are unplaced to fall into this window.  Releasing against EQ Landmark would be enough to make the fate of Wildstar uncertain, and we have yet to even discuss the potential for the upcoming and as of yet unnamed Rift expansion. 

My money is still on Wildstar penciling in a July release date, and EQ Next as a game being a spring of 2015 release.  I just don’t see Carbine being confident enough to release Wildstar without a good opening in the schedule.  They are in a much more tentative position than Zenimax, since the entirety of their fate rests upon the shoulders of the PC Gaming market.  Elder Scrolls Online could realistically release against another big game, since they will be gaining a bunch of “new to genre” players coming in from the console market.  Additionally they have a well established and well loved IP… and even if folks are not completely sold on the game… they are likely to at least dip their toes in the water for awhile.  I find myself caring far more about the people at the companies… than the companies and games themselves.  With several friends in the “industry” I honestly hope that they can stack the schedule in a way so that all of these titles fine at least limited success.  If we see another crop of relative failures, I think this year might be the last hurrah of the triple A MMO market.

Richer Than You Think

A Patch Awoken

Monday evening the Final Fantasy XIV servers were down to deliver the brand new 2.1 patch.  This is the one that everyone had been waiting for, that was supposed to deliver a ton of new content.  At one point I was anxiously looking forward to this update, because it held the promise of player housing as well as new dungeons to run to collect what we lovingly refer to as “bookrocks” aka Tomestones.  Now that the patch is live, I find that I can’t seem to be bothered to actually patch the game up.  Tuesday and Wednesday night I spent a bit of time hanging out in mumble with my friends who are still playing it, and they seem extremely excited about it overall.  The video below shows all the reported changes, and I will admit it seems pretty staggering.


However several of these things seemed to be tarnished by somewhat bad design.  The biggest of these that I have heard of is the housing system.  Currently it is oppressively expensive,  the day it was released I saw a tweet (that I seem to be unable to find at this moment) stating that they gained the first million gil towards their house… only 99 more to go.  That apparently is cheap… here is a listing of the housing prices on the various servers.  We are in group three, on Cactuar so right now it would cost 125 million gil to purchase the largest home… aka the one suitable for a guild house.  Considering prior to 2.1 there really was no way to make money at 50 other than crafting…  this seems insane.  The highest I have ever gotten with my character was 200,000 gil, and repair bills and components for my artifact weapon whittled that down to around 75,000 gil the last I checked in on the game.

Supposedly they have added in a bunch of new ways to earn money, which I guess is a positive.  However it does seem silly to roll out such an expansive and impressive system…  that no one can actually use on day one.  Supposedly over time the housing prices will fall, but that still puts the large house at 100 million gil at the absolute cheapest possible price.  Listening to my friends, they seem to be enjoying the new content.  The new dungeon Pharos Sirius seems to be genuinely difficult and to the best of my knowledge they have not beat the final encounter.  That was one of the interesting things about FFXIV dungeons, is that they had a 2 hour timer to get through them.  I feel like I should be excited about the prospects of the patch, but I just fine myself not caring at all.  Whatever magic I felt towards FFXIV seems to be gone for me, in the same way it has flickered away for so many other games.

Richer Than You Think

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This morning I achieved a personal goal… too bad it comes 2 expansions too late to be terribly impressive.  I have never been extremely successful at making money in MMOs.  I guess in the grand scheme of things it just has never really been a priority.  As a result I have always thought that I was broke, or at did not have a ton of liquid assets in game.  While I am still not anywhere near some of my guild members, I am was apparently doing better than I ever thought.  Awhile back I installed Titan Panel again, to help organize a lot of my informational gadgets in one place.  In trying to keep track where I was with all of my tokens I installed a Currency addon.  Interesting thing about it… is that it started to keep track of all of the money spread across all of my characters.

As of last night it showed that I had 25,000 gold distributed among all of my alts… five of which are 90 and in various stages of “raid ready”.  No character had more than 5,000 gold on them specifically, but spread out among all of the characters it added up.  Because of this I decided to realize something that had long been a goal for me.  With Wrath of the Lich king they added what has been ubiquitously referred to as the “Repair Mount”.  Since I do a lot of random killing out in the world, and solo farming of dungeons/raids… I find myself constantly searching for a repair vendor.  So many times I have thought to myself “man it would be awesome to have that mount”, but even with faction and guild discounts it was still 14,000 gold… which seemed like an insane amount.

I never would have purchased this back in the days before account-wide mounts… but the idea that I just gave every single alt the ability to repair whenever they hell they felt like it?  Sure 14,000 seemed like a reasonable price, especially considering I have branched out onto a second account of characters.  So this morning before sitting down to write my blog entry I shifted back and forth between all of my characters and began pooling my money on Belgrave to make the purchase.  I knew for certain he was exalted with Kirin Tor, the faction the mount vendor is sold on.  I have to say… I am freaked out a little that I just spent all that gold on a single mount, but within a few days that will pass and I will be happy with my decision.  There really is very little I want to purchase in the game at this point that my army of alt crafters cannot eventually make.  So I figure thanks to the mount I will be able to farm up more goodies to fill the coffers again.

Lucky Streak

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Most of the yesterday evening I spent working my way through Siege of Orgrimmar.  The first section of the dungeon went extremely smoothly and the loot gods seemed to be smiling upon me.  I managed to get a usable drop off three of the four bosses there.  Of course the first drop of the evening was a neckpiece… after purchasing the one with honor last night.  That seems like it is always the way however… when you upgrade a piece, you end up getting a better one almost instantly.  The second part of Siege however went extremely slowly as I had to complete it in two passes.  I was on the second boss of the first pass when my wife came home last night and needed my assistance.  After killing Iron Juggernaut I bailed from the LFR and did what she needed for a bit.

After coming back that meant sitting through another 30-60 minute queue and repeating the first two encounters without loot.  However that second run went far more smoothly than the first, and we had no wipes at all until folks lost focus during the Nazgrim fight.  That is not the type of fight that you can “burn down at the end”, since the not dealing with the adds means he very rapidly heals back all of the damage you are dealing to him.  During the second attempt however, folks stayed focused on the adds and we managed to defeat him in near record time.  My hope is tonight to come back and finish out the last two parts.  At 11pm I attempted to queue for the third, and it looked like roughly an hour queue so I gave up and went to bed.  Still no love for a weapon, but this next segment has the chance of dropping a weapon I believe.  So between it and my nightly habit of running a Heroic Scenario… I might have a chance.

Hole In Itemization

Just Too Good to be True

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I set out on a mission to attempt to earn a 498 pvp weapon last night through the justice point to honor conversion.  For the most part it went easy enough, and while there were plenty of mouthy folks in LFG the instance runs themselves were smooth enough.  I just kept my mouth shut and did my job as dps and pushed through it.  It is amazing how much it defuses a troll when no one at all in the party responds.  They make a few comments then quiet down themselves because no one is feeding them ammo.  For awhile last night I was thinking that this was really going to be an awesome way to earn starter weapons.  Unfortunately like so many great ideas this one had a massive flaw, that comes from the fact that I do not PVP… nor I understand how the PVP systems in any game work.

First flaw in the plan was the listed conversion rate was not 375 Justice Points to 250 Honor, but instead 500 Justice Points to 250 Honor.  This was manageable but basically meant that you had to earn 3500 JP to be able to get a weapon.  I did that last night without any real issue in a matter of hours.  Second flaw… and this one is the fatal one.  Apparently in order to purchase weapons with honor points, you have to have PVPed enough during the current season to earn 7500 honor.  Since I have not PVPed at all on any of my characters during this expansion, let alone the current season I simply cannot purchase weapons.  I have no desire to PVP enough to gain 7500 honor, which would be roughly 30 battleground wins.  In fact that sounds like just about the worst possible way to spend my time I could imagine.

Jewelry Is Nice

WoW-64 2013-12-18 06-18-07-16Since I had already taken the hit converting 3500 Justice to 1750 honor… I really had no desire to take the hit again and convert 1750 honor back to 875 Justice.  Other than weapons I have had a few glaring holes in my gear.  I was still using a crafted 450 necklace and a 450 ring.  While the weapons all require honor earned during the season to purchase, the gear however does not appear to have a similar requirement.  As a result I picked out a fairly decent neckpiece from the vendor for I believe 1250 honor.  This got me one step closer to my overall goal of being able to queue for Siege of Orgrimmar.

WoW-64 2013-12-18 06-24-20-30At this point I flew out to the Shadowpan Assault quartermaster in Townlong.  Sure enough they had a decent ring as well.  After plugging these two holes in my itemization and after picking up a slightly better weapon in the heroics I ran to get the stockpile of honor, I am now finally able to queue for Siege of Orgrimmar.  While I didn’t necessarily get what I wanted out of the nights activity…  I actually still got what I needed.  Maybe the rolling stones were right all along.

Hole In Itemization

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So after all of this, I return to the original thought process that there is a massive whole in itemization, at least from the standard late expansion “catch players up” mentality.  I got into a bit of a discussion of an aspect of this yesterday over on Twitter.  In previous expansions, there existed higher tiers of heroic level content.  The prime example of this was Trial of the Champion that helped catch players up in gear, both on normal and heroic modes.  Then later in the expansion you had the three instance story arc of Forge of Souls, Pit of Saron, and Halls of Reflection that ratcheted up the difficulty level as well as the rewards.  I can remember Halls of Reflection heroic still being a significant challenge in Icecrown raid gear.

While I love the concept of the Timeless Isle, and the whole explore to find nifty things ideas… they are quite literally giving us epics in the process.  This is extremely friendly to altaholics like myself, and has allowed me to gear out an army of 90s…  but I feel little to know sense of accomplishment from doing so.  The Wrath era sequence was probably my ideal for gearing. It felt significant gearing from heroic, to the trial 5 man and then finally being able to queue for the Icecrown 5 mans.  Additionally the gearing seemed far more complete, since each 5 man tier dropped a complete set of gear including workable weapons.

Now it feels very much like, “Gratz on 90, here is your epic gear” but while you can queue for these raids…  without having a way to get a decent weapon you become an instant drain on any group that ends up getting you.  There are weapons you can get on the Timeless Isle, but like I said yesterday they are cost prohibitive (20,000 coins for a one-hander, 40,000 for a two-hander) and at 476 they are simply not worth the effort and do not provide enough of a bump over 463 crafted/heroic weapons to make it worth your time.  Now that I can queue for Siege however I will hopefully get lucky enough to pick up a weapon that way.  Additionally I will continue to run my nightly Heroic Scenario, as the potential 516 weapon would be well worth the time spent.  Additionally these scenarios when run with a guild group put money in the guild coffers and count towards the weekly.

Crafting Hates Enhancement

My general theory is that this glaring hole was intentional… and by making it they did not want to devalue completely the 502 crafted weapons.  I have my own opinions on the whole “crafting should be best” line of thinking, but I can see why they would want this.  The problem however with this line of thinking is that there are simply not weapons available for every itemization.  For enhance… they tend to favor slow weapons… so that rules out the daggers.  That leaves Fist, Mace and Axe that are all usually 2.6 speed.  In the 502 weapon itemization there is not a Fist, Mace or Axe that is agility based.  The “rogue” weapon that is craft-able is a sword, which shaman simply cannot use. 

I know in the past this has happened with Druids and other “weird hybrid classes”, but the fact that other players can nod and say “I know that feel bro” doesn’t really make it any better to try and work around.  At this point I will start queuing my way through Siege LFR each week and hopefully in the process I will luck my way into a weapon.  If not hopefully one of my nightly guild heroic scenarios will pay off and I will get one or more 516 random stat weapons.  No matter which path I take however, my shamans fate is now in the hands of the random loot gods, which is never really a fun place to be.




Quick… type Unicorns if you want to live!  I had to share this picture as it was pretty much my favorite thing from yesterday.  Typing of the Dead was one of the most quirky Dreamcast games I owned, so I was super shocked to see that there was a newer version available on steam.  I have no real interest in playing it to be honest, but this image particularly caused me several chuckles throughout the day.  I am using it this morning as a crutch to get me started typing.  So far this morning I have overslept, and since I really did not do a whole lot of gaming last night, I feel fairly empty of ideas.

My last night was spent with my wife, taking her shopping.  I feel overall it is a noble if not maddening pursuit, but since she would be in teacher conferences tonight and Wednesday night… I figured it was a needed one.  At least I got a good meal out of the ordeal.  She has decided she wants to look more “put together”, and stop wearing so many neutral colors.  As an art major, I keep getting called in to coordinate color palettes for her.  If left to her own devices she tends to try and match everything, instead of pick a simple but coordinated group of colors.  Hopefully overtime she will pick up what I am doing and I will no longer be quite so needed in the process.  However for now I am her shopping buddy…  but in truth I always really have been.

The Quest For Weapons

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I really like my dwarfy elemental shaman, and I pretty much play him whenever I have the chance.  Right now I am on a mad quest to get him a couple of decent weapons.  He currently is using two matched blue weapons, and I have been pestering the guild to run nightly heroic scenarios on the hopes that I will actually luck out like I did on the paladin.  I feel like even one weapon swapped would be enough to get me into Siege of Orgrimmar LFR, which is ultimately my goal.  The problem that I have mentioned before is that there are really no good weapons you can get for characters.  The weapons out on the Timeless Isle are 20,000 timeless coins for a onehander, which involves quite a significant amount of grinding.  The problem with them is that they are only 476 ilevel which is not really that much better than heroic blue/crafted 463.

I might be insane, but I really do not see that it is worth the copious amount of grinding that it would take to knock one of these weapons out… to wind up slightly better but still very much undergeared to do the latest content.  Another option generally are the 502 living steel weapons that are remakes of the weapon specialist items from burning crusade.  Two problems here, firstly they take a month of Living Steel transmutes to get.  Secondly there is nothing agility based that a shaman can use, the only agility weapon is a sword.  Lastly there is the option that I have been avoiding like the plague, PVP.

PVP Gear without PVPing

I am not a PVP player at all, and I believe the last time I did any PVP was Baradin’s Hold.  Even then it was an extreme rarity that I participated in that unless I also had a bunch of guild members backing me up.  PVP is the worst sort of treadmill to me, and each time I do it I feel like a hamster as I quickly run back from the grave yard only to be sent back again.  There may be a loophole I can exploit however.  It seems you can convert 375 justice points into 250 honor through a vendor.  So that means I need to get 2625 justice points per weapon that I can comfortably grind out in heroics.  That would get me a 498 Axe or more likely the Fist weapon, as I seem to prefer those on my shaman.

This is something I can likely do, as I can probably even convince guild members to “roflstomp” some heroics with me to fill the guild bank with money.  We did some the other night to bump me across the threshold of being able to buy the heirloom axe for my orc warrior.  This seems to be the stopping place for all of the alts in the guild, we simply cannot get decent weapons.  I could probably even organize some group effort of running heroics to get people the pvp weapons.  The stats are not ideal, as it has that nasty resilience stat on them… but overall just the damage alone makes it worth it.  They would be more than viable for Siege and would let people get their weapons up enough to do quite a lot of other things.  Granted these are not as good as the 516 ilevel weapons from heroic scenarios…  however it is something you can actually work towards without having to rely entirely on that mean on random number generator.

Faffing Overload

Holy Faffing

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I had every intent Sunday to work on the various characters that I needed to run through LFR, however when other opportunities were presented I seized hold with both hands.  A few members of the guild were running instances for transmog outfits, so I joined in the fun.  The likelihood that I will play my little disc priest was just massively improved.  Of all the priest sets, my favorite is absolution the Tier 6 outfit from Black Temple/Hyjal.  Since I was the only cloth wearer along and the only other person on my class set did not need it… I managed to soak up an entire set of Absolution gear in the run.  I also managed to get a pretty spiffy staff, that I remember all the priests desperately wanted back in the day.

I of course had to transmog to the gear immediately, even though I am only 80 and wearing a mishmash of quested greens.  My hope is I can maintain the outfit as I level through all of the cataclysm content.  I am sure there is a crafted set that will likely hold me much like the crafted gear has on my rogue.  Belglorian my priest is also my tailor so hopefully he can take care of that as I level.  I hope to get this character up to Pandaria level since I am stalled out 5 points away from maximum.

Twilight Faffing

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While we were out and about our monk healer mentioned that he had a severe absence of flying mounts.  Immediately we all thought about the three drakes achievement for Sartharion with its guaranteed mount drop.  So very shortly we wandered our way over to Wyrmrest Temple in Dragonblight and formed up a quick group to do 10 man three drakes.  It was insane just how fast we were able to kill it at level 90.  It was pretty easy to do at 85, but Sarth just absolutely exploded with our current epic gear.  We all passed on the mount drop, and let the healer pick it up unattested. 

However since we all had an army of alts, we figured we would swap around a bit and go ahead and knock out the 25 man version as well.  Several of us were missing that mount, so the monk healer said for us to roll on it as well.  While not as much of a cakewalk as the first one, especially since we were all on alts…  it was still rather easy.  As you can tell by the image I am now the proud owner of a new twilight drake mount.  For whatever reason I never managed to get this one in all the times we did three drakes after Icecrown raids during Wrath, so I was happy to knock out yet another mount.

Utgarde Faffing

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We did a quick heroic Ruby Sanctum since one of the folks had a quest still active from the Wrath era, and with that most of us had hit our instance lock. I however still had one more to go before I hit it, so I logged back over to my Paladin who I had logged out at Wyrmrest.  Since I was so close, I decided to fly over to Utgarde Pinnacle on a whim.  I have run this place on heroic so many times chasing the mount, but each and every time I have walked away empty handed.  Yesterday however, I was completely shocked to see a brand new Blue Protodrake mount in my loot window.  I have always liked running the zone, and to some extent I am a bit sad I have no real reason to ever return.

While I cannot get the black or plagued protodrakes, this completes the set other than the Time-lost protodrake.  I simply do not think I have the patience for that camp.  Each time I am in Northrend I buzz through Storm Peaks just in case it is up, but so far all I have seen is the place holder and the time-lost corpse a few times.  Similarly I make a trip to Deepholme every now and then and fly the circuit, but again I don’t really expect to ever find that stone drake up either.  Both camps are extremely tedious things and I simply do not want the mount bad enough to go through it.  I figure I will get my share of camping done when I start collecting spirit beasts on my hunter.

Faffing Overload

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One of my really good friends Ashgar came back to the game this weekend, and similar to what I do he spent a lot of time running old raid content for fun.  We had talked about going and doing Blackwing Lair earlier in the day, but it never really materialized until shortly after I had gotten the blue protodrake above.  He was struggling to solo Razorgore, and I knew I very much could not do it on my paladin…  but there were two items I really wanted desperately from there.  The first is the Untamed Blade, that I am now modeling in the above screenshot.  The second is a proper set of Judgment.  While I love the blue/brown set from the opening of Northrend event, simply because it is super rare…  I have always wanted a set of the red/gold judgment, that matches the untamed blade.  To me that is the archetypal paladin look, and I will not be completely happy until I at least have that as an option.

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Needless to say I managed to get the Untamed Blade, but over the course of the dungeon only a single piece of judgment gear dropped.  We did however see every single pet, so at this point I am only missing Broodlord Lashlayer, as I managed to pick up mini Razorgore and mini Chromaggus.  After we made quick work of Blackwing Lair we decided to wander over to AQ40, since thanks to Twin Emperors it is annoying to solo.  There we did not have quite as much luck, but I did manage to pick up the mini Skeram pet, and Ashgar managed to get one of the other ones along the way.  The highlight of the run for me however is that moments from joining up the Red Qiraji Resonating Crystal dropped.


The various colors of Resonating Crystals were a source of so much drama for our raid back in the day.  We formed “teams” based on the color of mount we managed to get to drop.  This was egged on by the fact that one of the raid leaders was strongly opposed to any color that was not “gold”, and as such tried to get as many people on his team as possible.  My hunter was a member of this strike team…  and we vehemently argued when someone called us “yellow”.  The above screenshot was from the first time we saw a Red mount.  Prior to that moment the mount war had reached a fever pitch, with various people not willing to accept the “wrong” color of mount.  After a point the raid leader just started force-looting people various colors just so they would stop slowing down the raid.

However the moment we all saw the “red one” the mount war dissolved just as fast as it had begun.  No one cared about the green, blue or “gold” teams… we were all somehow lacking because we were not riding around on a red mount.  During our entire time raiding Ahn’qiraj I think we only actually saw two red mounts drop.  The screenshot above was from the night we first saw it… we all lined up to pay homage to the new “red leader”.  Lleandryn will always have the distinction of being the man who brought an end to the “mount wars”.  I joke about it these days, but very seriously… the animosity over the color of mount we were using had really reached a point of ridiculousness.  Lots of hurt feelings were happening over having the wrong color, so the fact that the Red mount “saved” us made looting one yesterday all the sweeter.  Now if only blizzard would stop being a pain in the ass and let us ride them everywhere.

Without Burdens

Of Holiday Parties

This morning I am slowly eating my oatmeal and trying to make my head stop throbbing.  I feel like I have a “hangover” but I didn’t even drink last night.  I think this means I am now officially “old”.  Last night was the Christmas party for my group at work.  I think I said it yesterday, but we are the only group that actually likes each other enough to hold a party.  It has been years since I have felt the way about a group of people that I do about these people.  Quite honestly I probably never have felt exactly the same, but my very first work environment was a similar “family” feel.

The highlight of the evening was dirty santa, which for folks who do not know what that means.  Gift exchange with the ability to steal from others.  The best gift was…  a large thing of crown royal, a pair of captain america underoos, and a package of fake moustaches.  I cannot and nor do I really want to picture the scenario that was planned with that combination of items…  but it was needless to say hillarious.  Even better… someone had inadvertedly brought a Captain America mask and shield…  the underoos were donated to the winner for the full effect.  I brought some legos, and they were hotly contested… as were the call of duty mega blocks that were brought.

Probably the coolest item of the night was one I ended up winning initially but then was quickly stolen from me.  The “Boozequet” was a floral bouquet made up of individual shots.  The creator had hot glued the individually sealed shot drinks onto floral wire and then arranged all of them in a bouquet.  Extremely clever, I told the creator that she should market it and I am sure during this time of the year she would get a lot of business.  She even made a cute little “drunk santa” tub for the base of the arrangement.  The whole night was pretty amazing.  I go through this “I don’t want to go” phase right before any party, because my body rejects being around lots of people.  However when I actually do go I have a blast.’

Without Burdens

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I really do not have a lot of gaming news today.  When you have a big event going on in the evening the entirety of the day tends to be dominated by planning and preparing for it.  My day yesterday was either planning or waiting to play for the holiday party.  As a result I didn’t get into anything that I could not rapidly exit if needed.  That meant my only real options were LFR.  After some moving stuff around I managed to get my ilevel high enough to queue for Vale of the Eternal Spring, the first section of Siege of Orgrimmar. In fact currently I am sitting at 502 with a 450 ring still equipped that I have not been able to replace.  I am proud of myself because I got there on this alt without “actual raiding” and without leaning on Burden of Eternity gear at all.

Why does this matter?  Well a Burden of Eternity is one of those things from the timeless isle that is either a super rare drop, or super costly (50,000 timeless coins).  When you apply it to the gear tokens that drop from the island it transforms what would have been a 496 ilevel item to a 535 ilevel item.  The problem is, just like the normal tokens there is no control whatsoever on what stat package you will get.  This creates a lot of odd situations like tanking items with no avoidance stats on them.  I personally find the burden gear to be a bit of a crutch, and what I mean by that is… I cannot seem to make my brain ignore the fact that it is higher ilevel and instead evaluate the stats of an item.  Many 502 items will be better for your character than these 535 items just because of the particular stat distribution and the inclusion of gem slots.

Having these extremely high ilevel but not very optimized items just confuses the mix for me.  I have or have had quite a few of these on Belgrave my main, and in each case I find it really hard to make myself abandon them for a better itemized but lower ilevel item.  This is the double edged sword of ilevel after all… the number does not adequately represent how well a player is geared.  I could have a bunch of extremely high ilevel items equipped that are functionally useless for my class.  On my shaman I admit that I equipped a healing trinket that I got from a random loot bag… just to get my ilevel up high enough to be able to run Vale of the Eternal spring.  I am sure there are lots of other people out there doing the same.  I like the feeling of seeing my gear score going up incrementally, but I feel like as a gauge of quality it has never really been valid.

A Quiet Day

This has to be the slowest I have taken to eat my oatmeal in the morning.  I blame the multiple directions my head seems to be spinning right now.  As a result of my present state… I am hoping for an extremely quiet day.  Far as I know we don’t really have much of anything to do today, so my hope is that other than doing laundry I can pretty much sit on my comfy couch and relax.  Said relaxation is probably going to involve a lot of LFR for a shot at shiny shiny loot drops.  Now that my paladin can queue for Siege I want to get him all the way through to Downfall.  I also should run my shaman, dk and druid through as well.  Who knows how much I will actually get accomplished but needless to say I will be enjoying my day today.

Mentorship Matters

Hot BBQ Sauce

This is one of those mornings where I have consumed breakfast and am really struggling to get started on the whole writing thing.  At least when I was doing NaNoWriMo there was a clear point to begin with again.  However in the case of thinking thoughts about things…  I don’t have the clear starting place.  It is still cold as hell here in Oklahoma.  I really wish that my Canadian friends would take this weather back.  Cyfer one of the many Canadians in my life said it was an early Christmas present… and no re-gifting.  I keep wondering what the postage is on a tornado.

Today is a bit messed up and I think that might be part of the problem.  We have my group at work’s Christmas party tonight.  It is a minor miracle that we actually like each other enough to have annual get-togethers like this.  I am pretty  certain we are the only group in our department that has one.  Since that is looming over my head it makes everything else I do today feel like I can’t really get involved in much of anything.  I had to wake up relatively early this morning and handle raw pork so that they could have pulled pork this evening.  Nothing says cold like handing meat fresh from the refrigerator.

Actually doing something potentially cool this year.  We got a 3 mini crock pot thingy with individual temperature settings.  Since I prefer my pulled pork with hot bbq sauce, it bums me out a bit when I have to shoot down the middle and go for a mild and sweet sauce when I am making it for guests.  So this time I am using our biggest crockpot to cook the pork and then am going to divide it up into the smaller pots.  Will have one flavored with hot, one with regular and one with hickory bbq sauce for a variety.  This way each of us can have a flavor of our choice, and it will let the timid easily experiment without committing to too much heat.

Mentorship Matters

Yesterday in the comments of the blog one of my good friends Scarybooster made an excellent suggestion, and then later Athelia added some tweaks.  In raid guilds it is common to have class officers that see to the tutelage of new members of that class to make sure they are doing things as they should.  This works great in the case of a raid guild, because winning is generally the ultimate goal.  However in the case of House Stalwart, a social guild this paradigm doesn’t exactly work.  Most of our members don’t want someone telling them how to play their class, and for good reason.  However I still see a specific need for someone to turn to that is able to answer core questions about their spec.

So I took the ideas they provided and spun it around a bit.  Last night I introduced the Mentor Program on the forums.  For those without Stalwart Online forum accounts, I will preface it here.

How to Qualify

  • Be a Member of House Stalwart of at least Stalwart rank or higher.
  • Be maximum level in a given spec (this is currently level 90 in World of Warcraft)
  • Be willing to answer questions from players and explain the inner workings of your class and spec in simple terms
  • Be willing to provide outside resources that the players can study
  • Be extremely patient

What Benefits do You Get?

  • A Sense of Accomplishment From Watching Players Improve In Your Chosen Spec
  • Admiration and Respect of Your Guild Members for Giving of Your Time
  • A Special Mentor Rank (pending you are not already of higher rank)

I have taken what is normally a hierarchy system in raid guilds and turned it into an opt in service.  As a result the mentors get recognized easily by the special guild rank, and in the guild note it would say what specific spec they are a mentor for.  Ultimately my whole goal with a lot of my changes is to encourage engagement between the members of the guild.  The more engaged a player is the more involved they are in the guild as a whole.

Looking for Scribes

Additionally yesterday I announced that we were looking for guild scribes.  I can’t be everywhere all of the time.  As a result I have requested help in keeping the guild front page updated with nifty things that people are doing.  Doesn’t matter if it is a raid victory, random farming of world bosses, soloing a raid, or hosting an in game event.  If House Stalwart members are involved I want to know about it.  My hope is that folks will write a paragraph or two blurb and send along with it some screenshots that I can then use to adorn the frontpage.

One of our newer members Gueraloca has been helping me out with trying to gather up a census of our guild.  When you have almost 900 characters in the guild, everything becomes daunting.  As a result Guera is helping me connect the dots between alts and mains.  If you are a member of Stalwart please check out her thread on the forums and fill in the alt/main information.  The final goal of this process is to have neatly organized guild notes.  That in itself will be a pretty massive undertaking, but the goal is to build them in a way so the addons that link alts and mains can work off of them.

Viva La Artisan

Rebuilding the Core

Last night I tackled one of the harder aspects of getting a guild back on its feet, at least as far as infrastructure is concerned.  Stalwart of course had been trucking along without much of a formal structure, but there were signs of stress as many fractures had formed over the years I had been gone.  One of my first steps in trying to right the ship was trying to build a coalition of officers representing different parts of the guild and pulling them together into one team.  Essentially I was looking for the players that were already reaching out and engaging other guild members.  At the same time I was looking for individuals with keen insight and a level head.

After much consternation about my choices, I finally developed a strategy.  Essentially in House Stalwart there are two major raid groups that represent the thrust of where the guild is going.  Unfortunately many times these two teams are going in completely opposite directions.  My hope was to find a way to represent both forces equally on this officers council of sort that I was building.  From Team “Nothing Can Go Wrong” I have tagged Athelia and Arria, both of which are extremely positive forces in the guild.  Additionally both have shown a level head and extremely excellent judgment skills.  They are constantly engaging other players and the wealth of their game experience is something we can always use.

Then from Team “Leftovers” I brought in Gamad and Shorty.  Shorty and I have a long history together, and he has always been one of those players that is willing to give the shirt off his own back to help someone out.  Additionally he is a whizkid with the auction house and will be helping liquidate some of our overstuffed guild bank to help buffer our repair money.  Gamad is relatively new to the guild, in the grand scheme of things, but in that time I have seen her continued to grow and reach out to new players.  She has always been willing to step in and help when help is needed.  Additionally I have seen that she is a peacemaker and mediator, and will help out greatly in smoothing over the rough spots.

Finally you have myself and Rylacus the person who so valiantly “kept the lights on” over the last year or so.  Together we represent the legacy player, the folks who have been around since vanilla and most of them in House Stalwart since that time or at least Burning Crusade.  We are the ones who remember the way things used to be, and have the roadmap to return us to glory.  This mix of newer voices and older voices should mesh together to create something greater than the individual parts.  There is still a lot more work to be done, but I feel more confident in moving forward now that I have the key pieces in place.  There is another one of these “legacy” officers that I still need to talk to, to gauge if they still want to fill that role or not.  But last night made me quite a bit more confident about the total outcome of these changes.

Viva La Artisan

Another big change that I am wanting to implement in the next few days is the Artisan rank.  At one point I had one of these, but it never really worked out quite like I had wanted it to.  Essentially back then I would choose a single crafter for each profession, but that process ended up ignoring a lot of people who want to contribute to the guild.  My plan is to make the entire process much more transparent and open this time around.  My goal is to create an application process through our forums that allows individuals to sign up to fill the duty of “crafting for the guild”.  What I mean by this is that they would have expanded access to the guild crafting coffers, but have the responsibility of filling in the gaps when someone needs gear.  The artisan rank would make it clear to identify just who could craft gear for players.

The other major responsibility that comes with the rank is to create a “shop” of sorts on the forums.  It will be the responsibility of guild crafters to create a post outlining the major things they can create with their professions.  Additionally I expect these Artisans to watch the forums for any item requests and then respond back in a timely fashion as to whether or not they can provide the service.  I am going to have to figure out the logistics of this whole program, but over the years I have had more guild members wanting to know how they can help out.  Buffering the leveling process by providing new gear, especially as someone reaches the level cap is a massively valuable service.  I know Shorty for example already provides new players “care packages” of things like bags… and this has been entirely of his own initiative.  I can only imagine what could come of a more organized system.

Bring on the Warband

Finally I am wanting to work out the details of organizing the raid groups within the guild.  I am staunchly against a “raider” rank, because singling someone out just because they raid as somehow better just feels morally wrong.  What I do want to create however is transparency in who is actually organizing and leading the raids.  As a result one of the various guild ranks will be turned into a “Raid Leader” designation.  This serves two very simple purposes.  Firstly it will control access to the raid materials tab in the guild bank.  However more importantly this will clearly identify who a guild member can approach about joining in the raid.  Additionally I would like to get someone from each raid to maintain a thread on the forums outlining what the raid does, when they raid, who exactly someone can talk to about joining.

Additionally I want there to be a clear “you must be this tall” line drawn for each group.  Item level is a double edged razor, but with it you can size up some basic requirements as to how well geared someone needs to be to be able to compete in the content.  I am by no means saying that there needs to be an automatic system of entry.  I do not want to get into the business of determining who can raid and who can not.  I do however want the raid groups within House Stalwart to be much more transparent on how one gains entry.  Additionally  I feel as though if you enter one of the raid groups in good faith that you should remain loyal to that team. 

There has been some bad blood in the past as various individuals have transitioned between the teams without adequately informing the leadership of their previous team.  I want this to stop, we are one guild with a shared mission of trying to make the game a better place for all of us.  My hope is that by exposing the raid groups and the processes for entry, that it will be extremely clear how transitions should work.  Additionally I would like to see rosters posted of the current members of each raid, that way there can be no doubt in when someone is encroaching on the domain of the other raid.  I am not saying there can be no transfers of lineup… I just want the entire process to work more transparently.

And Then I Actually Played…


I won’t lie… most of my night last night was spent dealing with various guild business in trying to create this new vision.  Additionally I spent more than a bit of my time counseling players and trying to smooth over rough spots.  Shortly after I had talked to Arria and brought him into he council he designed to run a heroic scenario.  I took a break from leveling Gloam to do so, as my Paladin still had not finished the quest that guarantees a 500+ epic of some sort.  The biggest struggle in gearing my alts has been on trying to get a weapon.  I had heard from many friends that weapons DO actually drop from the loot bag you get from your daily heroic scenario.  Problem is so far in all of the scenarios I had run I had not actually seen this happen.

So I went into the run expecting to get a few valor points, but not really expecting much from it.  I am so thankful I took the break from my rogue because I walked out with a shiny Immaculate Pandaren Hammer of the Earthshaker.  This actually is about the ideal weapon for a retribution Paladin, so I can finally stop sucking it up with my 450 weapon in LFR.  It was a fun little run but I failed miserably at tanking the pirate boss with the saber.  I had never actually used it, and I was trying to move out of the fire while hitting the cooldown and just got oneshot.  On my deathknight I never use the saber and simply move out of range.  So we missed the bonus by a few seconds, and I feel bad about it… but everyone that was with me was fine with it.  They were happy to see I managed to pull a weapon.  Now I just need to get the same success with my shaman… twice.

Faffing Pays Off



As part of my return to the leadership of House Stalwart, there is a ton of base level clean-up that I need to do.  One of the first pieces I decided to tackle was shifting any character that has not been online in the last year to “retired” status.  So many guilds kick the inactive, but I have never really liked that concept.  It feels harsh since in my experience so many people renew their subscription on a whim.  Logging back in to a friendly guild that has missed them, is a much more enjoyable experience than finding out they have been booted out into the cold.

This is compounded now by the concept of guild faction, that was added in with Cataclysm.  Booting a character from a guild has serious repercussions for the player.  It takes awhile to get to exalted with a guild, especially at maximum level…  so punting folks out and making them potentially redo all that faction work just seems cruel.  Setting them to retired rank seems like a good solution, since I have stripped that rank of all bank privileges to protect the guild from someone getting hacked, but if someone does return for a length of time I can bump them back up to an active rank. 

I had originally planned on doing this for anyone that had been gone for over 6 months… but ended up calling it quits after finishing with the “1 year” folks.  It took me what felt like an hour to get that far through the list.  I can only imagine what it is going to be line when I redo every single one of the almost 900 characters guild notes.  One of my goals is to do a guild census of sorts… get to know every single person that is in the guild that joined during my 2 year absence.  Part of this is to set accurate guild notes that follow a pattern so that you can use addons like Prat to merge the two in chat.

WoW Bucket List

One of the concepts that I have latched on over the last few weeks is the idea of a WoW Bucket List.  The first time I had actually seen this in a formalized form was over on Cuppyville, where she proudly lists her WoW Bucket List in the top menu of her site.  I don’t quite have my formalized enough for that, but I have started a Google Docs Spreadsheet and as I think of things have begun adding them to it.  Always in the past when I have left WoW, it has been because I “ran out of things to do”.  I say that in quotes, because really that was never the case in actuality.  There are far too many things to do to have ever been “done” with the game.

What happened instead is I got frustrated and lost sight of the things I wanted to do once upon a time… but have long forgotten about.  My theory is that in keeping this bucket list, I will be able to pick things off of it on those rainy days when I can’t think of anything worth doing.  Now several of them do require lots of people to complete, like finishing off my Glory of the Icecrown Raider achievements that I am missing only a couple of sub achievements on.  But I had a conversation with a guild member last night and we talked about having some sort of a rotating raid achievement night for old school content.  I love ticking off these things, and its even better when you can help a whole group full of people check those goals off as well.

Some examples from mine are…

Bucket List Saves Day


One of the most amazing bloggers/podcasters@AlternativeChat constantly extolls the virtues of “Faffing about”, that is doing the piddly little things that only really matter to you.  After my hour of wrestling with the guild roster, I was not really in the mood to focus on anything much.  I had originally planned on working on questing my way through Hyjal on Gloam, but as I logged in to do just that everything felt “hazy”.  Normally this might have been one of those times that I logged out frustrated with not feeling like making “real progress”.  However It was at this point my WoW Bucket List paid off.   I looked at my long list of objectives and decided that last night would be a mount farming night, as I could chat freely while doing it.

Soloing old content is one of my biggest enjoyments in any game.  There is so much nostalgia wrapped up in making your way through content that used to require a large group.  You feel epic as you trounce monsters that used to trounce you regularly.  Had I not raided every last bit of this content, I doubt I would have the massive shot of nostalgia that this gives me…  but it almost always guarantees a smile on my face.  As a result I started the evening in Tempest Keep, as a friend of mine and I made a contest of it over on our Mumble server.  We started at roughly the same time and tried to see who could clear the dungeon first.  Neither of us managed to get the fabled Ashes of Al’ar to drop… but last week another guild member did so it has renewed our interests.

From there I took a trip over to Utgarde Pinnacle to battle my old nemesis Skadi the Rutheless.  Across the board the protodrake model is one of my favorite mount designs, and to the best of my knowledge the only two that are still available that I am missing… are the blue and yellow.  While the concept of the Time-Lost Proto Drake intrigues me… and every time I have occasion to be in the area I fly the circuit of spawn points “just in case”… I do not have the fortitude to farm it.  Instead I battle my old nemesis in an attempt to steal his mount whenever I have downtime.  I both love and hate the fact that it is heroic, because it limits the amount of grinding I can realistically do in one sitting.

Faffing Pays Off


Upon failing once again to walk away with that ever elusive proto drake, I moved on to the next target which was The Stonecore.  The second boss of the instance, Slabhide has an equal chance of dropping Reins of the Vitreous Stone Drake on both Heroic and Normal.  As a result I tend to farm this mount resetting the instance over and over until I reach the instance lockout timer.  Honestly this is one of the least frustrating farms I have done in a game, as there is a warp gate immediately after the boss that can take you right back to the instance.  So you clear your way down, fight Slabhide and warp back up to the start, zoning out and resetting it.  It was on my fourth clear of the night that luck smiled upon me and I got to tick something off of my Bucket List.


  Here is a gratuitous shot of me riding my new prize immediately after exiting The Stonecore.  This is my very first of the “stone drake” mounts, as I never managed to complete the heroic achievement for Cataclysm.  I ended up leaving only a few months into the expansion, and at that point achievements were just not a priority.  I have quite a few of the things ticked off however, so it is on my bucket list of things to finish up.  I have to say… the Stone Drake model may give the Proto Drake a run for its money.  My absolute least favorite however is the Cloud Serpent model, which has seriously harmed my progress on all of the Pandaria achievements. 

The moment I got my drake I had to tweet @AlternativeChat to share my moment of faffing paying off.  My hope is that tonight I can return to progressing on Gloam, but if not I am sure I will just grab another thing from the list.  Tuesday I had every intent to work on gloam as well but instead wound up running around the world with a pack of guildies farming the Zandalari Warbringers for an attempt at their mount.  So to be honest… my primary plan is to work on Gloam, but I will as always be open to suggestions of alternative paths.  Whatever option we end up choosing is completely fine by me, so long as we have fun doing it.