The Leveling Game

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Buckling Some Swash

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Since the 7.0.3 patch landed in World of Warcraft, I have been more than a little obsessed with relearning classes given the significant changes to the bevy of talent trees.  On my rogue I have more or less always been combat, other than a brief flirtation with subtlety during vanilla thanks to knowing a few insane “sub” rogues.  If one thing should be certain by now is that I am not a huge fan of stealth mechanics, and my ideal “rogue” is that of a pirate or swashbuckler rather than assassin or thief.  As a result it feels like Outlaw the rebranded combat is essentially tailor made for me.  The spec itself is made up largely of huge sword slash moves and pistol shots, making it feel a lot to me like the Witch Hunter from Warhammer Online.  The core of the gameplay focuses around either a melee slash builder or short range pistol shot builder, coupled with a slashing combo dump and a long range combo dump that also happens to stun the target… but is on a rather long cooldown.  Other than these there is an additional combo dump called Roll the Bones which gives your character one or more buffs from a list of available buffs.  For those who raided during Wrath of the Lich King, it reminds me quite a bit of the way Deathbringer’s Will felt.  Completely unpredictable but when the buff is up it always does something interesting.  When the patch landed my rogue was sitting at level 91 and had barely seen anything past the Garrison.  As of yesterday I dinged 100 and have begun gearing him to at least do some basic content like LFR.

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Not to be undone by the new school rogue experience, I opted to start working on my druid again which I generally play as feral.  Feral mostly feels the same as it always has, which now represents the way combat rogue largely previously felt.  In some ways I am grateful that it didn’t change a whole lot, but in other ways I admit I am a little disappointed.  So many classes with Outlaw Rogue and Survival Hunter feel new and different and shiny…  that the ones like Feral Druid and Protection Warrior that stayed largely the same feel a little diminished.  Belgarou had been my character of choice for leveling during the AggroChat podcast for awhile now, and I had made slow and prodding progress.  However last night I made a serious push and went from just shy of 96 to 100 in a single evening.  Traditionally when I level characters I follow a basic pattern which will make completionists cringe.  I tend to say in Shadowmoon Valley until 92, and then immediately drop those quests and swap to Gorgrond until 94.  From Gorgrond I jump to Terrokar, and then again to Spires of Arak at 96.  Finally I reach Nagrand at 98 and continue there until I ding, with the theory that spending the maximum amount of time in that zone will mean I will have the best gear to start angling for the 620 item level that unlocks that first LFR.  The end result is a quick succession of zones each one giving me the maximum experience for my level and getting me to the level cap as soon as possible.

The Stable Fills

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I am by no means the fastest at leveling characters, but I am doing largely okay when I can actually stick with a game for any given period of time.  At this point I have eight level 100s, but that is nothing even vaguely close to the number that Grace has and hers span multiple servers.  In theory the next closest to 100 would be Belglorian my priest, but honestly I am not super enthused about leveling it.  At some point I want to try out the new Shadow with its Old God based lore, but I am in no real rush.  I mean it would be awesome to have my tailor at max level when Legion lands, but I am thinking it might be too “finger wiggly” for me at the moment.  There is of course my monk who is still sitting at level 53, but that means a return to more leather.  I am kinda getting tired of wearing leather, since I just finished off my rogue and druid back to back.  Also there is the problem that for whatever reason I have never been able to get into the flow of a monk.  I really enjoy playing pugilist in Final Fantasy XIV, and I had a Monk in Everquest II… but for whatever reason the World of Warcraft version doesn’t feel as interesting.  For me at least it feels very much like another dual wielding class, since I went the dpsy version.  Brewmaster tanking felt odd, and “Fistweaving” I have heard is no longer a thing… so more than likely that means I will always be a sorta rogue on that class.

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As a result it seems like my next leveling target is going to be the Warlock, because it is just finger wiggly enough for me to be able to enjoy it.  Additionally all that time I spent leveling my Arcanist in Final Fantasy XIV has taught me a greater respect for damage over time classes.  Generally speaking I have always been a demonology player, because I like running around with giant demon pets.  However I might branch out a bit and try something new, it all depends on if I can get the swing of the new changes.  In any case I am not exactly sure why I have been on this marathon leveling session, but I am mostly just going with the flow.  I think part of it is also my attempt to catch them all as far as appearances go.  I have added so many items to my wardrobe that it isn’t even funny.  The hope is that in doing this push I will get at least one leather and one cloth class that I actually enjoy playing, that I can run old world content with for those cloth and leather pieces that I seem to be missing.  I have a huge stash of plate and chain, because those are all classes that I play pretty frequently.  The worst seems to be the finger wigglers, so I am hoping that I can make the Warlock into a soloing beast to farm up awesome transmog sets with.  In any case… this has been my recent obsession and I thought I would share it with you.


Flowers for Garou


More Flora


It feels really strange to follow up yesterdays post.  Those were a bunch of things that I felt like I needed to get out there, and to be honest about the doubt that I had been struggling with.  As it stands right now I am for certain taking a break over Memorial Day weekend rather than either pre-writing posts or arranging for guest posts.  I am also contemplating starting to make weekends optional.  Sunday is really the day that becomes madness for me because I am also scurrying around that morning trying to wrap up the various stuff required for posting an episode of aggrochat.  As far as this weekend, it was honestly one without a ton of gaming.  Instead I spent a large amount of time hanging out in the backyard.  Scope creep is a term we use in development when a project has gone beyond its boundaries in the number of features the user is requesting.  Our backyard has long since entered scope creep territory and that’s okay.  The original goal was just to make it more livable, and this has involved a whole sequence of smaller steps leading up to where we are today.  Once again I took a panorama of the progress, and you can see the larger version here.

We have now kept the original batch of flowers alive and actually thriving for two weeks now… so of course we doubled down on the proposition.  We spent a bit of Saturday afternoon tracking down more of the shepherds hooks so that we could have matching ones to the ones we had picked up at ALDI a few weeks back.  The other night while walking with a friend, my wife saw a hanging basket at a near by pop up nursery that she really liked.  We also happened to have a coupon from that same pop-up that if we spent $20 we could get a free hanging basket, so the end result is us adopting the purple, yellow and white hanging baskets and adding them to my “flower babies” as I have taken to calling them.  The only big things left are to wait on the grass to finish filling in where the weed treatments left barren patches… and so far it has started.  Then there is of course the idea kicking around about replacing the table we have with something that sits a little lower to the ground and that we could use our pseudo-Adirondack chairs with.  Then I am contemplating getting another of the umbrellas we found on sale to go in a post on the far deck side of the pool to add a little shade there from within the pool.  Like I said…. scope creep abounds.

The most interesting piece of scope creep over the last week however is the fact that we have entered the realm of bird stewardship.  I’ve not been able to take a great shot of them but we have soooo many birds.  In the panoramic shot you can see on the right side that I have a feeder hanging in among the tree that is really an overgrown hedge.  I’ve begun feeding fairly regularly, a first a blend from the Audubon soceity and later a bulk blend we got from Sam’s that fairly closely matched the nutritional mix of the first one.  Sunday morning while watering the flowers I filled the feeder up to roughly the halfway mark because it was ultimately what was left in the 40 pound bag after dumping the rest into a tightly sealed container.  This was at roughly 9 am… by the time we were out in the yard after my wife got home from church around 11 am… the feeder was completely empty again.  There have been times I have counted a dozen tiny sparrows feeding at the same time, with a bunch of cardinals, bluejays, and various sundry other birds that I cannot yet identify roaming around.  We have a couple that look like doves of some sort, and another couple that look like pidgeons.  Basically the entire time we have lived here I have wanted birds to hang out in the backyard and in the evenings I have been able to watch the baby sparrows hop and play around on the deck.  Unfortunately they are all pretty skittish at the moment, except for the Robins… they seem more than happy to roam within close distance of us looking for worms.  In any case… this is the non-gaming activity that is taking up a good chunk of my time.  On the weekends and evenings we tend to eat outdoors hanging out in our rockers watching the flora and fauna.  Yup… I am officially old, but not minding a minute of it.

Surprising Whim

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Most of my weekend gaming was spent in Diablo 3, doing various things…  and largely without purpose.  I managed to get my stash tab on Friday, and from this point on everything else is gravy in Season 6.  For awhile now even before the season, Diablo was the game I played when I didn’t know what else to play… and I spent a huge chunk of the weekend not knowing what else to play.  Normally Destiny would fill this niche but I didn’t really want to hang out upstairs when the couch was so damned comfy.  During the weekend I found out that my good friends Chestnut and Chaide from Wildstar have decided to re-up World of Warcraft, and the glory that is our collective community managed to recruit them to hang out on Argent Dawn Alliance with us.  I ended up logging in to do some invites last night and wound up sticking around and playing my Druid.  There was a part of me that thought… wouldn’t it be glorious if I could somehow ride into Legion with a full army of level 100 characters.  The actual leveling game of World of Warcraft is something that I have enjoyed greatly… it is just the Garrison busywork that ends up getting me down and making me no longer want to play.

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So the idea is simple… if I can focus heavily on leveling and or gearing my characters I might be able to get back into the game for a bit.  While watching my Sunday night shows, I managed to push from 91 to 93 and make a big dent in Shadowmoon Valley.  Normally speaking I take this abbreviated path around Draenor, jumping each time a new zone opens up to me.  This time around however I think I am going to just focus on the questing, because that is the thing that seems to be able to hold my focus even when the rush to end game doesn’t.  I mean with this character I am not pushing to get anywhere, and Hellfire Citadel feels stifling at the moment so I am in no rush to get back there with LFR.  As it stands I have my Druid, Priest, Rogue, Mage, Warlock and Monk to level… and I am sure that this current burst of interest in World of Warcraft won’t probably sustain my way through all of them, but I might be able to at least springboard this into a renewed interest in MMOs as a whole.  The absolute hardest for me is going to be the Mage because… really I could care less about finger wigglers and the least is always the pure finger wigglers.  I can pretend the Discipline Priest is a cloth tank, and I can focus on the awesome demon pets on the Warlock.  However with that mage… all I am left with is the fact that I am slinging spells which never really feels amazing.  Anyways who knows how long I will be around for, but I enjoyed myself last night.

Winter and Yeti

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Winter Arrives at Casa Belghast


So something I am realizing yet again is how badly I need a schedule to function.  During the work week, I am on super tight time constraints.  I get up at 5:30, make coffee, pack my wife’s lunch, and then am usually upstairs sitting at my keyboard by just a little after 6.  Then I bang out a blog post, feed the animals… play with the ferrets because they are begging to be picked up… and then am out the door at around 7 am.  On the weekends however….  and on this holiday break…  I am completely all over the place with my blogging.  When I know there is no real time constraints…  I feel free to screw around in the morning.  I’ve been reading twitter and blogs for the last two hours…  and finally it is getting to the point where it is kinda embarrassing that it is 11:30 and I have yet to produce a blog post.  While I complain about stress, I am also apparently one of those people who thinks most clearly when the shit is hitting the fan…  or at least I am bumping up against a deadline.  It is like my creativity flows more freely when I know there is something riding on the line.  I know that at pretty much I can start writing and come up with a post…  and because of that… it means when there is no deadline I keep putting it off.  I am the king of procrastination…  and among the list of things that need to do today is book my hotel room for Pax South…  which is only a few weeks away.

As you can see in the above image, Winter has finally arrived in Casa del Belghast.  For most of the Christmas break so far it has been windy as hell, but still pretty warm.  On Saturday, it started raining, but between the showers… it was still nice and warm outside.  The thermostat started to turn down yesterday, and overnight the constant rain turned to ice, and eventually as of this morning snow.  The Monday morning commute was apparently hell, based on conversations with the folks holding down the fort.  This is one of those moments when I am damned happy that I still have essentially another week to go before I have to worry about it, and by then I am hoping that we have returned to the balmy conditions we have been in recently.  I am perfectly fine with not having a “real winter” here in Oklahoma, because our normal Ice Storms suck.  If we got fluffy and happy snow like the rest of the world seems to, I would be perfectly fine with winter.  Instead we get ice… and lots of it… that usually starts out as sleet and then eventually becomes glaze ice that freezes to anything it hits…  high means power lines.  Why the hell we have above ground powerlines still boggles me… because the ice can snap the aerials like very brittle twigs.  Thankfully from what it seems, this is going to be our major day of ice and snow… and then it will warm back up shortly after.

Mission Yeti: Accomplished

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I told Lodur last night, that he would have to hold down the fort without me… because I am officially out of the Team 360 No Mount business.  I’ve talked over the last few days of my Christmas gift that required a little work.  A really good friend of mine read my commentary about the struggle to get the holiday Yeti mount, and when she managed to get two of them…  pinged me that she had a gift for me.  The gotcha of course was that it was on a server that I have zero characters, so I rolled a level 1 druid and have been leveling like crazy over the last few days.  It took me roughly two days of marathoning Star Wars movies to go from 1 to 40 and last night I wrapped it up getting the final two thirds of a level in Feralas.  I stopped what I was doing as soon as I dinged and made my way to Orgrimmar to learn Journeyman Riding, and of course learn the mount.  From there I fiddled around and got to an interesting vantage point to take a few screenshots.  I am super happy to have the mount, but also really enjoyed the “Catte Durid” leveling process.  The only problem is… that this character is now stranded on a server that I am not sure if I will play much on.

I talked a bit about the general toxic environment I encountered while leveling the character, which does not give me warm fuzzies about staying there.  That said this is the only server that my friend really has characters on.  The frustrating part is that to move a character it is $25 each, which seems like a lot of money when you are looking at an army of alts.  Considering that at this point moving a character is a scripted process, and requires zero manual intervention…  the game as a whole would be a happier place if they just adopted the Rift system of server transfers.  In that game you can move one character per week for free, pending that character is in good standing and above the level of 15.  That means over time you can move servers with your characters, and sure you have to wait a week per… but it lets you get out of bad situations without being taxed into oblivion for doing it.  There are many times that players end up getting stuck on a server that they literally do not know anyone playing the game anymore.  So it seems like insult to the injury of losing their friends…. to ask them to cough up another $25 per character to move off of the bad environment.  Sure you can always group with but there is something you miss by not having access to the friendly green spam of guild chat… and all the while I was leveling this druid… I felt the pangs of not having access to my friends.  At some point I will likely delete the druid I have on The Scryers and move this character to that server, but in the meantime it will serve as a sort of hiding out alt…  which is largely why I have not mentioned the server name yet.



Week in Gaming 12/27/2015

Ace of Spades Acquired

Holiday Lagged

There are some mornings when trying to think is a struggle…  this is one of those mornings.  Last night I suffered from a pretty bad bout of insomnia, and instead of just sitting in bed and hoping for sleep to find me… I got up and played PS4.  At which point I realized it was 2:30 in the morning and I really needed to try and sort out how to sleep.  The day as a whole today is rainy and nasty and the antithesis of just how delightful the holiday was here in Oklahoma.  On Christmas day I was running around in a short sleeved shirt, and were it not for the wind I wouldn’t have needed my hoodie.  We were warned however that just after the holiday the temperature would drop, and from the sounds of it the panhandle of the state is now getting lots of ice.  Thusfar it has been only rain…. but so much of it that sitting upstairs in my office it actually drowned out the sound of all of the various machines whirring away.  I finally got up around 8:30 and attempted to start the day, but the problem being…  that I have largely just been staring at the screen unable to get a post started.  Then suddenly I remembered….  it’s Sunday… the day I have a crutch to fall back on in the form of the week in review posts.  So I am hobbling along on this crutch for all that is sacred in the world… otherwise I have no clue what I would write about.

Return of Destiny

MIDA In Action

I guess Bungie got the message that it sucks when Xur does not have a weapon option during the Friday festivities.  The last four or five weeks he has brought some new weapon each time…. and this week was no different with the newly Year-2-ized version of the MIDA Multitool.  During this month he has also brought the Monte Carlo, Hardlight, and Telesto.  The only problem here is Friday I have to make a decision… do I care enough about getting this weapon to grind out the 23 strange coins needed to purchase it.  The Monte Carlo was a no brainer, because I have heard so many good things about this gun… that I just had to play with one myself.  Telesto was similarly a no brainer, because I have gotten two of these to drop… so had no need for it.  MIDA and Hardlight however I was left with the decision if it was really worth the needed grinding to pick it up.  With the Hardlight I decided… that I already have a lot of Auto Rifles that I really like… between my love of the Zarinaea-D, Zhalo Supercell, Monte Carlo and the newly improved Fabian Strategy…  I had no real use for a new Auto Rifle to add to the mix.  For the MIDA however I crowd sourced my opinion and got messages back from Sig and Squirrel both saying to pick it up… that it was both amazing in PVE and PVP.  So far I am liking it, but I am having to get used to using a Scout Rifle again.  I have largely just been using Auto and Pulse Rifles for awhile now, so it is taking some adjusting.  The truth is… for the most part there are very few weapons that I don’t like in Destiny.

Warlock Movement Again

Last night while dealing with Insomnia I decided to cast aside the Hunter and Titan briefly and instead focus on the Warlock who still need to hit the level cap of 40.  I realize I could be leveling through doing the Taken King content, but instead I just ended up clearing out my bounty log.  I am finally reaching the point where my Stranger’s Rifle is beginning to show its age, as I finally got some weapon drops that are technically higher than it is.  The problem is… I am so damned used to using the Stranger’s Rifle… and the whole fully automatic pulse rifle thing is so overpowered… that I am probably going to keep at it until I hit 40, or at least until I get a purple weapon to replace it with.  In the meantime I am left with the decision… do I grind my way to 40 like I am doing in a super chill and enjoyable way… or do I actually start with the quests.  On my Hunter I largely waited to do quests until I was at the level cap, so I could revel in the sweet sweet engram drops that seem to happen like candy during missions.  I still have all of the House of Wolves and Dark Beyond quests as well… and those in theory won’t be nearly as beneficial gear wise.  So I might just start on doing those and see how close to 40 I can get.

Ace of Spades Acquired
Ace of Spades Acquired

Another thing I did this week was get my Ace of Spades exotic on the hunter.  I am currently on the First Curse of the step of the Gunsmith quest on my Titan… and I have to say I am simply not looking forward to doing all of the bullshit you have to do to get it.  The only problem with Ace of Spades is just how crap hand cannons seem to be right now.  I am not sure which I dislike more… the absolute potato range of them… or just how small the magazine and ammunition pool is in general with them.  I run out of ammunition while using a hand cannon faster than almost anything else…  and I never seem to get enough normal ammo drops to be able to use these in strikes.  So instead every now and then I break them out while doing bounties when things don’t matter quite so much.  The positive of Ace of Spades however is that it just look bad ass.  So in theory it might get some use, but not really likely given all of the other exotics that I have and legendaries that are also equally well stated.

World of Warcraft

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Catte Druid in the Forest

The other day I posted about my mission that level a Cat Druid to 40 all so that I could leave the 360NoMount club… and add the Christmas Yeti mount to my collection.  It has been two days and I am now getting close to the goal.  As of last night when I finally reached the point where I thought it was probably time to attempt going to sleep… I was roughly 2/3rds of a level from 40 and was just now starting Feralas.  It has been a fun ride pushing up a new Cow Druid, and went a lot faster than I might had expected.  I took a slightly different route than I did with my Warlock and the end result feels like I got a lot more straight forward Kill Ten type quests which I can burn  through insanely quickly.  The other thing that helped is the fact that my druid is a skinner… and I was constantly jumping random leather bearing animals along the way to level that.  Back the in the day all of the leveling guides used to tell you to always be engaged in killing something… like if there was a mob on your way to your objective to always kill it no matter what.  Having done that on the Druid and not so much on the Warlock… I have to say that yes in fact that is the superior way to level especially with all of the experience boosted heirlooms that I am wearing.  The question is… now that I have almost achieved my goal… do I hit 40 and quit… or do I keep pushing up the druid.  I am not a big fan of the server cluster I am on, and the people seem to be insanely rude compared to Argent Dawn so at some point I may transfer the druid over once I finish it.  I realize I can cross realm group…  but man…  some of the stuff I have encountered here I have never run into on AD.  That is saying a lot given that I used to always think of Argent Dawn as a pretty horrific place.

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Me and my Blueberry

The other activity that I spent time this week doing was leveling my Warlock.  Basically playing her was my reward for completing my holiday dailies…  and in part the only reason why I made so much progress on the druid so quickly, is that I completely started ignoring that holiday dailies existed.  At some point I need to go through all of my characters and loot the presents in Orgrimmar and Ironforge before they poof, but I think once I get to 40 on the druid I am going to switch back to playing the Warlock.  It is funny how isolating it can be playing on a different server even though you have access to BNet and your friends list.  Facepull is just friendly and somewhat active green spam and I love having it around.  It is my hope that at some point soon we will get the rumored battlenet channels, which will hopefully let us have guild like chat spanning across multiple games.  If there was an addon that existed that gave me access to slack while playing World of Warcraft… I would be in a perfect place.




Trolls of Thunder

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Yesterday went pretty much as I had intended it.  I hung out around the house and ran first my Paladin and then my Shaman through a bunch of LFR.  Things went a bit slower than intended since I kept getting in on the end of a run and having to queue again to catch the first boss or two.  I managed to get both characters up into the 480ish range.  Still no real luck with the weapon drops, which seem to be the issue with catching characters up enough to be able to do Siege of Orgrimmar.  As a result my warrior, paladin and shaman are all using 450 level weapons still, and I have not really had much luck with getting spirits of harmony on the smith to be able to bump those up to 463.

Of the options I have at my disposal for weapons, none of them really seem palatable.  I could queue for heroic dungeons and have a random chance of getting the dungeon that drops a weapon… and a random chance on top of that of getting the weapon to drop.  This would only take me to 463, so not really great in the grand scheme of things.  I could farm timeless isle coins, but it takes 10,000-20,000 to be able to purchase a weapon…  and in those cases the weapon is only 476 which really doesn’t help that much.  So the best option still seems to be to queue for Throne of Thunder each week and hope, all the while trying to accumulate Spirits of Harmony for the smith.


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With all of my crafters going, I have really felt the lack of my alchemist.  There are some pretty sweet items you can make as a blacksmith that are 502 ilvl but they require lots and lots of Living Steel.  Once again the only way to get living steel is to get it transmuted by an alchemist.  As a result I have been directing my extra effort towards leveling Gloam my rogue high enough to be able to raise his way through the Pandaria alchemy.  Currently he is capped out at 450 and cannot progress again until I level 75.  As a result I have been working on quests out in Borean Tundra and I almost have him up to 72.  Thinking about just making a serious push to try and get him to 90.

Rogues are way squishier than I remember, and while they have recuperate it doesn’t seem to offer the level of survival I am used to with my other characters.  As a result leveling the rogue has been less than enjoyable.  I am not really a stealthy person, and I have always played my rogues more like a swashbuckler than an assassin.  However the only time combat goes really smoothly is if I make sure I stealth up and get my opening attack.  Hopefully with time I will get back into the swing of playing one, as in the past… burning crusade especially my rogue was my favorite alt.

The thing I find most humorous is that Paladins now kinda play like rogues.  I have been doing a lot of Retribution paladin, and the mechanics are almost exactly like a rogue.  Thing is in many ways it works better.  Instead of everything being based on 5 combo points, all of the attacks seem to be based on 3 even though your bar can fill to 5.  I keep thinking that rogues as a whole would benefit if most of the combo point dumpers capped at 3 as well.  I think this is why I enjoyed my warrior in rift so much as opposed to my rogue.  The three mechanic just seemed to work better, it made the game play feel more “in the moment”.

Too Many Choices

Right now I feel absolutely deluged with choices anytime I play the game.  At this point i have yet to run Siege of Orgrimmar LFR on Belgrave or Belgarou my two best geared characters.  I am 4 coins away from getting all of my sigils of power and wisdom, so I would not mind finishing that off so I can continue down the legendary cloak line.   I have not even begun to work on Belghast, so in theory I could get his gear in order and start doing heart of fear or something like that to get him high enough to queue for Throne of Thunder.  Additionally I really do want to get my rogue up so I can have a transmute spec person again.  I spent a good amount of last night prior to our 10 man catching his herbalism up so he can now at least harvest whatever I come across in northrend.

In the past when I have quit the game I feel like it has been because I lost sight of the things I wanted to complete.  I feel like I almost need to create a World of Warcraft Bucket List.  There are so many little things that I forget about that I do want to complete.  There are so many pets and mounts that I could be spending my time farming.  The entirety of all of this is really almost overwhelming.  I have never completely loremaster for example, and that’s a thing I have always wanted to do.  I doubt I will ever work on the Insane title like Rylacus, but I am sure there are hundred of other little bullet points that I would actually enjoy.  I feel as though if I had a list of these all, it would be much harder for me to lose sight of the progress I am making towards the total.

As a result I think I am going to add a new section to my site, similar to my beta list for my WoW Bucket list.  As I think of more items I will add them to the list and then as I complete them…  I will check them off the list.  Probably will keep it as a google spreadsheet for ease of use.  I’ve seen a few other players with these and I thought they were pretty cool.  All I know for certain is that I am having a blast with all the players that seem to be back from their own hiatus.  It is wierd to see my battletag/realid lighting up with players I have not seen in years.  At the end of the day, this game really is about the people you play it with.


Battle of Cards

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I am getting around super late this morning to make a blog post.  On a whim I decided to take Friday off, since for my wife it was her fall break.  I figured the two of us could hang out around the house or do whatever.  Then over night I noticed a rather frantic message from my boss.  It seems like after 5 his boss had requested something by noon today… that would involve a lot of feedback and information from us worker bees.  So as a result I got up around 8 am, got dressed, went out and grabbed breakfast and have been remote into work for the last hour working on the list of information.  As a result… my normal early morning post is delayed.

Yesterday I was extremely pumped to get home, because over night I seemed to have received an email from Blizzard saying that my account had finally been flagged for the Hearthstone beta process.  Since everyone and their brother is live streaming this on Twitch… I am assuming there is no actual NDA going on… or at least not one currently enforced.  So as a result I snapped multiple pictures last night as I played and will be weaving them in here and there.  I have to admit I went into this a bit skeptical… not really sure if I would like it or not.  From the video I had seen, everything about the game feels rushed much like a LFG dungeon group.  Even though you rarely think more than one round ahead… there is still a lot of strategy going on.

The Education


Day[9] has a really good series of videos walking through his first experience with the game, and I highly suggest you watch it if you are curious about how you get into the game.  Basically Blizzard has done an amazing job of user education, in that to get started in the game you HAVE to play through a tutorial.  Fortunately it does a really good job of slowly introducing you into the various mechanics, and as a result you can pick up the strategy of the game extremely quickly.  You play through a series of NPC card fights…starting with Hogger and finishing with an Azerothian Super Villain that I won’t spoil for now.

Once you have finished with the tutorial it has taught you basically everything there is to know about the Mage deck.  Essentially the decks are all themed after one of the World of Warcraft classes.  I notice that Deathknight is conspicuously absent… so they must be intending to add that in as an expansion opportunity.   For those who are familiar with the Duel of the Planeswalkers series of MTG games for consoles and steam… you will be used to the way you progress from here.  Now you can take your mage deck and challenge the other classes, by defeating them you unlock the ability to play as that class.

The Sticky-ness

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The biggest surprise for me is just how sticky this game was.  I got home around 5 pm and started playing around 5:30.  I ended up playing this game without pause until around 9:30.. and only then because some guild members needed me to tank a FFXIV dungeon run.  I have to say that is fairly unheard of for me, when it comes to card games.  I have copies of all of the Duel of the Planeswalker games that have been released, but have maybe logged 50 hours total among ALL of them.  There was just something about the physical card game experience that never quite translated to the online version.

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Last night over the course of the evening, I managed to unlock all of the different class decks.  At various points through the evening I was rewarded with either gold or actual packs of cards.  The game uses a quest like system to give you little goals to work towards.  If you look above you can see that in the screenshot I have 2 of the 3 wins needed to earn 10 gold.  There was another quest I had to level one of the classes to 10, and in doing so I unlocked a pack of cards.  Essentially it seems like there are two kinds of cards you can get… Basic cards that are unlocked through completing quests and scenarios and leveling… and Expert cards that are unlocked through either purchasing or winning packs of cards.

The Money

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Since this game is free to play, you have to be asking yourself… where do they make money.  Well like always with any card game it is in the packs.  I took a screenshot of the current store interface.  You will notice that the packs that be bought with either in game gold currency that you earn by completing achievements or be purchased with real world currency.  You can purchase a single pack with 100 gold, 2 packs for $2.99 ($1.49 each), 7 packs for $9.99 ($1.42 each), 15 packs for $19.99 ($1.32 each) or 40 packs for $49.99 ($1.24 each).  So as you can see in buying in bulk like you would expect you keep getting more and more of a discount on the per pack price.

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Through the course of play last night I earned 5 packs of cards either through a combination of gold or actually winning the packs outright.  I have to say the sound design and animation are amazing… and really capture the same excitement of opening a real pack of cards.  You can double click the pack to open it… or for a more tactile experience drag it open.  Similarly all five cards in a pack come flying out onto the screen… but do so face down.  This allows you to flip them over one by one similar to sifting through a physical pack of cards.  They know their audience well and have put in a number of tactile hooks to increase the sense of suspense to see if you have something good or not.

Versus Players

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Currently you have the option of playing progressively harder NPC decks, or setting out and playing some physical players.  Quite honestly I have found playing players a bit easier than playing the expert decks.  There are two PVP modes of play… the first of which is simply building a custom deck and then taking it on the road to fight against other players.  The second of which is the Arena, which serves as this games “draft” mode, giving both a more random experience but also potentially a more balanced one.

I am not sure if this regenerates but you get at least one free Arena token, after that it appears to either cost 150 in game gold or $1.99 to unlock additional tokens.  In the Arena you choose a class and then are presented with a series of three cards.  The card you keep goes into your arena deck, and the other two are discarded.  This continues on until you have chosen 30 cards for your deck.  An Arena deck lasts until you have lost three times.  At the end of the match you are rewarded based on how well you did.  For me I got 2 sacks of gold 2 packs of cards and a rare paladin card for playing.  I won three times and lost three times.

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The interesting thing about the Arena is the fact that you don’t have to play it all in one sitting.  So long as you have not lost your three matches you can continue playing arena.  There is some bar of gems that fills up each time you win, but I am not 100% certain how that works.  You might get punted out of the Arena if you win too often as well.  Last night I played through a single arena match and then was off playing custom games with players.  My little hunter deck seems to be doing pretty well, so I will likely return to doing some of that today.  I have to say I am very pleasantly surprised in just how good of a game Hearthstone is.