Short and Long Game

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Last night is a perfect example of why Legion is working so well for me.  When I first got home I piddled around for a bit doing the few world quests that actually had upgrades for me.  I managed to pull out another 835 trinket, and a 830 Iron Relic which combined with a 830 necklace that I got much later in the evening takes my overall item level to 834.  For the most part every single night I am doing two things.  Firstly I am knocking out the four quests that are required to get me the emissary chest with whatever faction is highlighted.  After that I check World Quest Tracker to see which rewards might be upgrades, because as my gear level has gone up… the sorts of rewards available to me has also increased.  For example when I checked a few minutes ago before sitting down to write this blog post I had an epic chestpiece somewhere in Azuna with roughly 20 hours left on it.  For those not familiar with the addon, it gives players a similar view to the mobile app in game and allows for the tracking of individual world quests.  This is super handy because when you are tracking one… it then also shows up on your flight map so you can see pretty easily which location is the closest to the quest you are trying to finish.  It also color codes the quests so you can see which ones are expiring soon.  This way if you are trying to complete every possible quest, you can make sure you get those with a short timer on them done so you don’t risk them expiring.

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After hopping on voice chat we organized into a group, because in part we were looking for something to do with Tam who has been working on a Monk healer.  I needed a quest for enchanting from Halls of Valor… because even though I have done this place five times now the staggering of quests meant I kept needing something from it.  The positive is that we could run a dungeon with him… the negative is that because of his “just boosted” gear score we had to zone in manually.  What was awesome about the run last night though is that Grace has done quite a bit of healing on the Monk, so Tam and her talks about which abilities work for which fights as we went through the dungeon.  By the end Tam was Mistwalkering like a pro, and I went from having to largely keep myself alive with Ignore Pain to not really even getting close to dying at all.  The other thing we noticed is just how ridiculous the range on the Monk healing statue is.  It seems to be most of an instance worth of distance… and I am not entirely certain that when it finally stopped healing… that it was due to range and not due to line of sight.  We finished the dungeon successfully and it broke up the logjam that seemed to be my enchanting progression.  After completing that one quest I got four other quests that unlocked a series of endgame neck enchants.  Grace and I were talking a bit about this problem last night, that while I really enjoy the quests… it is going to make tradeskilling on alts a pure nightmare.

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After the dungeon run, the group broke up as Mor and Ashgar needed to go off to bed… or whatever it was that they actually did.  From there Grace and I decided to work on some of the Gold Dragon Wardens quests.  These show up on your map with the traditional elite boss seal around them, and represent tougher group content.  Sometimes these are reasonable to solo… other times they simply hit too hard or have too much life to be reasonable.  While they are not often soloable, they generally speaking can be duo’d with my protection warrior and her mage.  I can keep myself alive mostly long enough for her to burn it down and more often than not when we actually get to a given location… there is already a group starting the fight that we just hop in on.  So I started the post with a statement about last night being a perfect example of why Legion is working so well for me, and all of these examples are why.  I started off the evening soloing, then pulled together a group and ran a dungeon… then continued the grouping in a much smaller scale with tracking down a bunch of elite world quests.  I went from solo, to group, to duoing… all in the same night and it felt seamless and largely effortless to find some objective that felt valuable to do in all of those cases.  Eventually I am sure raiding will be added in to that mix giving me a whole new level of things to do with friends, all the while constantly feeling like I am moving the needle forward.  Legion is doing an excellent job of giving me small term gains, but still keeping extremely long term goals present and making me feel like I am constantly inching forward towards them.  Now I just want them to keep this  up for the rest of the expansion and continue this feeling into the next.

Begrudging Enjoyment

Even More Clarifications!

Starting to get really amped because two days in we have like two pages worth of signups on the forum thread.  Since I guess I am the grandmaster of ceremonies, I am getting random questions and have been doing my best to assuage fears.  When those questions seem general enough that someone else might have them… I have taken to dumping them in the intro to a morning blog post to help clarify for anyone else reading that might be interested.  One of the interesting questions that I had yesterday was if folks could mix things up a bit.  Since I am opening the door to vlogging, it was wondered if you could do a mix of the two.  The short answer is absolutely!  The long answer is just make sure you post your video embedded in a blog post, and advertise it on the Blaugust Nook with what day it was for, just to make my life less hell when it comes to tracking and tabulating this madness.

Next question is what happens if a given blogger is obligated to be posting every so often on another site?  Do they have to also post something new for that day on their personal blog?  The easy answer here is yes…  but with an asterisk.  If you are posting a bigger entry somewhere else, it is absolutely cool to post a stub on your own blog linking to the bigger post.  Just do a quick synopsis of the post and let folks click through if they want to read more about it.  This way you technically have your daily post, but also are linking to the article that you spent the bulk of your daily writing time working on.  This is maybe a strange case, but I know that several of our bloggers do the occasional long form article for another source.  The important thing is that we need it tracked through the Blaugust Nook so I can give you appropriate credit.

Night of Alex

ffxiv_dx11 2015-07-22 21-41-38-05 Pretty much since its inception I have been helping out with the Wednesday night static in our free company.  Initially I had intended it to simply be something that I filled in on, but as I dropped my World of Warcraft raiding… I found that I had time to commit to it more seriously.  So presently with the Monday night crew we are working through Final Coil of Bahamut, and on Wednesday nights we have been working on Normal mode Alexander.  Last night we had every intention of getting through all four wings, but we struggled a bit with turn two due to some changes in how we were dealing with the adds.  As soon as we went back to the way we had previously defeated it, things clicked back into place and we pushed through it fairly easily.  That took us to turn three, a fight that I had not actually seen yet.  Thanks to the expert tutelage of Wulf or as “Wul” as his friends call him…  I was caught up to speed and after the second attempt it started to feel pretty natural.

From here it was just learning this particular dance and getting our dps up high enough to burn through it before we hit the hard enrage.  Right now that seems to be a problem in general with what we are trying to do.  We struggled with the dps check on Bismarck, and struggled again on turn three.  As a  Warrior I am personally swapping to Deliverance stance every single time I am not in the main tank role so I can push a little more dps and also trying to keep up Storm’s Eye as often as possible… largely when I don’t actually need the damage reduction effect of Storm’s Path.  If we can somehow solve the problems we are having on the DPS end however I think we are ready to rock higher content.  The dance part seems to come pretty naturally, however there were still several points last night where folks stood in damage that could have been avoided.  Part of this is learning, but part of this is trying desperately to avoid tunnel vision.

Begrudging Enjoyment

Skyforge 2015-07-22 22-22-05-86 I’ve gone through a strange evolution with SkyForge of having some vague interest, but finding the game play largely unsatisfying for my first few play sessions.  Now that I have unlocked the core abilities of the Paladin, I am actually finding it rather enjoyable.  I think this game suffers from what so many games suffer from…  rationing of abilities.  I know Final Fantasy XIV has this problem where most classes don’t really feel like they should until you are around level 40.  SkyForge for the most part has this problem until you have unlocked your base abilities.  Had I taken the time to really spend much time in the virtual matrix thing that lets you test every class, I would have realized that the rabbit hole was so much deeper than I was giving it credit for.  Another interesting side note… if you finish the training on a given class you unlock the ability to permanently use its class costume.

Skyforge 2015-07-22 23-22-31-75 I booted up SkyForge after the raid last night, with every intention of just poking my head in and then logging right out.  Instead I wound up unlocking three costumes and completing a really cool dungeon like mission on an island full of undead Virds.  With all of my abilities unlocked the fights started feel more purposeful in design, and less about simply repeating the same attack over and over.  There was a boss that required me to intersect one type of beam while avoiding taking the other… and actually dragging the boss into the path of it so that it would take the damage.  This felt fresh and enjoyable, so maybe I simply had not seen the “real” game yet.  This is ultimately the frustration of designs that doll out abilities one at a time, is that you can’t really see what the final result is going to be like until you have invested a serious amount of effort into the game.  Granted this game DID give me an avenue to see how a Paladin or Knight would play…  but I simply did not spend much time doing it.  Tonight I plan on trying to unlock a few more of these class costumes, so I can get a feel for how some of the other options play.  Right now this is shaping up to be an MMO with MOBA character design… and I think I dig this.

Learning to Fly

Coerthas Distractions

ffxiv_dx11 2015-06-19 08-15-59-02 All I really wanted yesterday was to sit in one spot and play Final Fantasy XIV all day long.  While that did not happen as I had originally envisioned I did still manage to get a fair amount of play time.  The biggest interruption came early on when I was trying to work on my blog post, and the air conditioning company called to tell me they were on their way over.  Firstly I had completely forgotten that I had scheduled our twice a year maintenance for Friday thinking I would be off from work anyways.  Secondly…  the guy who came over seemed relatively new and manage to take an hour and a half doing what normally takes the guy fifteen minutes to finish.  So that was ultimately why I ended up posting so late.  By the time that finished we needed to run a few errands, and I spent until roughly two doing that.  Finally when I got home however I had a solid block of play time and also a mission set out in front of me.

ffxiv_dx11 2015-06-19 16-03-31-09 Tam had apparently been playing since quite literally the servers went life at 2 am pst.  As a result he was anxiously waiting on us to catch up so that he could run the very first dungeon.   While Dusk Vigil is not entirely gated by the main story, it does require you to have gotten far enough into the story to unlock a specific camp of NPCs.  Previously I was getting easily distracted by every single FATE I came across…  which was pretty much an endless feedback loop since at any given moment there are a dozen different FATEs up in Western Coerthas.  Instead I had to shift to being laser focused on completing the quests.  This batch of storyline however deserves some time to slow down and savor it a bit as you quest through it.  They have done something that no other MMO has done…  picked up the storyline moments after the last quest of the previous expansion.  Over the course of “A Realm Reborn” they learned how to extremely effectively tell compelling story, and this expansion just continues that trend.  I feel like I am only a little ways in and they have already dropped several big bombshells on me.

Dusk Vigil

ffxiv_dx11 2015-06-19 21-48-23-26 Normally I would have told them to go with another tank to Dusk Vigil… even though I love the act of clearing a dungeon that very first time.  Problem being at the moment I am the highest progressed tank in the guild and likely the only one who has unlocked it.  Around 8:30 last night my wife and I decided to go for a walk down to the local shaved ice place, and I told them that I would run the dungeon when I got back.  Upon coming back the new renters across the street were out in the yard and it felt awkward not to go over and say hello.  People think it is strange that we don’t really know anyone in our neighborhood…  but I have to say this is 0 for 2 when it comes to introducing ourselves to new people.  This new one is just as insane seeming and clingy as the last one…  now the positive is that there was an Xbox 360 set up on the living room floor with Lord of the Rings movies and Dragon Age Inquisition scattered around it.  So maybe just maybe they are going to be cool people?  After making them wait half the night we eventually go away from the neighbor and I went upstairs to fight the login boss and get back in game.

ffxiv_dx11 2015-06-19 22-19-25-94 Surprisingly I managed to log in immediately and get straight into the server, and got my group invite and we were up and running.  The big take away from the dungeon is that much like the overworld…  the mobs hit extremely hard.  I am an ilevel 128 Warrior, and that first trash pack I pulled was a bit of a wakeup call.  The coolest thing about the dungeon however were the bosses which were in essence a remix of mechanics we have seen in some of the raids, but assembled in a manner that felt fresh.  I imagine at some point we will have a gear level where we can ignore the mechanics but for the time being…  folks have to pay attention.  The layout of the dungeon was extremely cool as well and had both a Coerthas flavor and a stone vigil flavor the deeper you got into it.  The background music and boss music were both amazing as well… with the zone music sounding like a remix of the Heavensward theme with Snowcloak.  The dungeon also dropped some really nice level 110 items that had unique graphics, so I hope to pop back in and try and collect more of it.

Learning to Fly

ffxiv_dx11 2015-06-19 23-32-49-86 I have no clue how far a Yalm is, but over the course of yesterday I think I travelled thousands of them hunting down Aether Currents.  For the uninitiated Final Fantasy XIV gives you a brand new Black Chocobo just a few quests into the Heavensward Storyline.  Also for the uninitiated Black Chocobos old a special place in the Final Fantasy pantheon of being the only breed of Chocobo that can actually fly, and while they often look more purple than black…  the one you get in Heavensward is officially a jet black chocobo with pretty cool barding.  When you get yours you also get this device called an Aether Compass.  In order to fly in a zone you need to track down a certain number of the Aether Currents, and in Western Coerthas this is 10 scattered throughout the zone and 5 that you get from doing quests.  If you have ever played a game that has a tracking system the compass works pretty much like this.  You click the item and it tells you the direction and distance away the next Aether Current is located.  This appears in your quest items tab, but I highly suggest moving it to a hotbar because you will be clicking this thing constantly.

ffxiv_dx11 2015-06-20 00-19-29-65 As a result you have to not only try and figure out how to traverse a zone that is extremely difficult to traverse do to some extreme elevation changes, you have to do this while interpreting messages like “381 Yalms to the South East”.  Most of the Aether Currents are found as a result of some jumping puzzles, that can either be extremely difficult to get to…  or relatively simply if you figure out the path they intended you to take.  The worst feeling is jumping down off something and seeing an Aether Current on the way down… that you could have gotten if only you know it was there ahead of time.  Once you have gathered up all of the currents you can fly around the zone on your Black Chocobo… and I have to say it feels amazing to finally be able to do this.  Sure the whole Aether Current thing is frustrating, but it did an amazing job of teaching me the layout of the zone and it is really the sort of thing that I did not finish until I was already MOSTLY finished with a zone.  This is a great compromise for allowing players to fly, but not feeling like you are somehow cheapening the content in the process.  Other games should really take note of this system going forward, because it feels like you are really earning your ability to fly each time.

Delving the Sewers

Bloody Happy Place

ARCHEAGE 2015-06-14 01-03-43-47 Last night we were down a handful of people with Thalen and Grace being gone, but by that same token it is mostly a cast of original AggroChat folks.  Kodra is back from his traveling and it was awesome to get to spend the night hanging out with him again.  We have all been spending quite a bit of time in ArcheAge as we have been taking a break from Final Fantasy XIV right before the launch of Heavensward.  We talk about our further impressions of the game, and Kodra talks about his since he quite literally just started today.  From there we talk about our expectations for the coming launch of Heavensward and how Ashgar and I apparently have enough faith in the release of this expansion to have taken the day off work.  From there we meander into talk about the upcoming Four Job Fiesta, and how all of our listeners should really take Ashgar’s money, since he has put up $5 for every AggroChat listener to defeat the game during the event.  There was talk of Wildstar and Tam injuring himself, but we had a grand time just chatting about the games we had been playing.

As promised in the show I also posted a picture of the absolutely amazing Fred from Scooby Doo cosplay by Kodra over on AggroChat so you should totally check that out.  The title of the show comes from the fact that I am apparently a sick and twisted bastard.  One of the happiest moments I have in video games is when I am zoned out and just mindlessly slaughtering stuff for loot and prizes.  This is the reason why I have always been able to grind up levels in video games so effectively and why I so insanely over leveled the various JRPGs I have played.  Last night while recording the podcast I found myself cheerfully wrecking undead for a good hour of the time we recorded.  I slip into this mode from time to time and just got lost in the motion of combat, and as a result I end up over leveled almost all of the time.  It is a happy place…  just a very bloody happy place.

Beach Racing

ARCHEAGE 2015-06-13 14-13-28-18 ArcheAge is this collection of really strange systems, and I feel like I have only scratched the surface of figuring them out.  Yesterday my friends and I took a trip to Mirage Island, which is this strange second life esc showroom allowing you to buy crafting patterns for all sorts of random stuff.  The awesome thing about it however is that you can test drive most of them.  So Tamrielo and I went off on a tour of the island on the roadsters.  The only problem you have a very limited around of time to use it….  and we did not realize that before running off out into the ocean.  There is a giant track around the island… and part of it is a sandbar that cuts out into the middle of hte ocean.  The problem is…. this island is really freaking huge.  I crashed out of the game that apparently dropped me out of Mirage Island, but poor Tam I don’t think he made it around the sandbar before it despawned the roadster.  Luckily we had mounts so at least we didn’t have to walk back home if we got stranded.

The biggest problem I am having with ArcheAge is it seems like there are dozens of currencies that I am accumulating but I have no clue where to spend them.  I thought maybe Mirage Island would give me some idea, but I didn’t really find any traditional vendors.  Some of the kiosks required various currencies that I had not found yet, but I didn’t find any that took any of the ones I actually had.  The takeaway is that ArcheAge is a really strange game.  I am still liking it but I don’t feel any closer to actually understanding it.  The system I want to try and figure out how is that supposedly you can tame named bosses in the world and turn them into combat pets.  There is a tiger in one of the zones I have encountered and I am kinda hoping I can figure out how to trap it.  I remember in alpha I got some sort of a fox pet as a drop and it was insanely fun to run around with.  Not that it was sturdy enough to tank for me, but it did add some additional damage.  Who doesn’t like additional damage right?

Delving the Sewers

ARCHEAGE 2015-06-13 18-12-38-83 A few days ago I stumbled into the first dungeon of the game in the sewers under the City of Towers.  I managed to sneak my way through the dungeon, carefully pulling mobs and cleared my way to the first boss…  only to get my face rocked.  However the trash leading up to that boss dropped some really nice items.  Since I have massively out leveled my friends I figured I would revisit the dungeon when some of them got closer to my level.  So last night after the podcast we thought we would give the place another shot.  Unfortunately after getting Kodra and Tam out there, it looks like the 3 man dungeon had a minimum level requirement of 18.  So at this point I was sitting at 27, and Tam at 20… so we decided to try and work our way through it.  The first room or so was pretty easy because both of us are dual wielding blenders.  The first boss however…. ended up to be just as much of a challenge with the two of us as it was solo.  We managed to make it through it however with both of us extremely low in health.

The second boss was significantly easier mechanically, but involved me running around like a madman and kiting him for a bit while Tam finished him off.  Then we got to the final boss… and quite frankly it rocked our worlds.  It took lots of rethinking the situation and a series of I think ten attempts before we finally just barely managed to defeat the encounter.  Quite honestly I have no clue how someone would manage to do this dungeon at 18 with three people, when we technically over leveled the hell out of it.  This makes me super anxious however to try the next dungeon, because it was an awesome challenge.  The dungeon design like much of the game reminds me of an older era of MMOs.  There were moments when I was taken back to the mob density and layout of the dungeons in Dark Age of Camelot.  We had to very carefully pick our way through the targets and use line of sight to pull things back in order to make sure we only got the one target we needed.  The game is far better than I gave it credit for… and I am hoping to piddle around on the side for awhile.

Ruins of Kel Voreth

One More Day

Tomorrow has a fairly significant sequence of events happening.  Firstly my wife is flying back into town from the first conference of the summer, and secondly she is doing so on my birthday.  Currently I care far more about the first part of that statement than the second.  These conferences are always rough especially when they straddle my birthday.  There have been times in the past when I was all alone for the occasion and it is really hard to keep from disconnecting from the world.  However tomorrow when I ding 38 I will have my wife back home, and I hope her trip is safe and expedient.  The flight back home from this event in past years has been riddled with downtime and layovers… and I hope she actually arrives on time this year.

As far as the birthday part of tomorrow, I really have no clue what I will be doing.  I took the day off from work mostly because she would be flying in and I would need to get to the airport and pick her up without really knowing an exact time based on past years experience.  I figure I will likely either play Wildstar or something on the PS4 while waiting.  Past that I have no real big plans, as I won’t likely get together with family until the weekend.  I always have a sort of contest to see which automated bot wishes me a happy birthday first.  So I am curious who will win that race this year.  Its funny when we live in a time when that is a “thing” and I take a perverse sense of pleasure in it.

I just hope that I will be breathing tomorrow.  For the last several days my allergies have been going haywire and this morning it finally hit my lungs.  I woke up today struggling to breathe, and am contemplating taking a breathing treatment.  If it stays too bad even after the treatment I am not sure if I will be able to go to work in this condition.  Having asthma and allergies is a blast…  and right now the cottonwood is blowing hard outside.  I wish I could find wherever the cottonwood tree is and remove it… because it seriously makes my life miserable every year.  However I guess were it not for the cottonwood… the would be something else to take its place in the making my life miserable department.

Buying Rapidfire

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As of yesterday morning I was sitting outside the Fire Powered Ship sequence that ultimately leads to the fire crystal.  I had been assigned the Geomancer for my fire job, and having had it in the past…  I knew I really wanted no part of it.  As a result I ended up using Gilgabot’s Job Fair to buy my way to freedom.  If you end up with an assignment that you really do not like for whatever reason, you can donate more money to charity to “buy” the class you really wanted.  As a result I ended up picking up the ranger for my fire crystal, though it might have been interesting to see what it would be like with a ninja instead.  The ranger gives me access to rapidfire, probably the most overpowered melee-friendly secondary ability in the game.  With the knight it will likely be an i-win button against a few of the later fights.

Last night I played through the Fire Powered Ship, collapsing Karnak Castle and the Ancient Library in rapid succession.  I continued on to Jachol and Cresent Island and now have officially gained my Ranger crystal.  Tonight I will play through the Ancient Desert which should be interesting to say the least.  Not sure if I will steam roll the sandworm or get steamrolled to be honest.  I would really like to get through Soul Cannon tonight if I can and pick up my earth crystal.  I went ahead and requested this yesterday when I picked up the fire crystal just so I would know whether or not I wanted to buy my way to freedom again.  I was given the Dragoon which honestly I am fine with.  I’ve always loved the dragoon in the Final Fantasy games that have had them, so actually looking forward to finishing with it.  Maybe it is that I have just recently played through this much of the game already during our draft game, but it seems like it is going so much faster for me.

Ruins of Kel Voreth

Belghast.140616.221241 Last night at some point during the night I had muted Teamspeak, and not realized it.  So while I had wondered why everyone was being quiet I didn’t really think much about it until Tam messaged me asking what I was up to.  I guess they were pulling together a dungeon run, and while I had considered going to sleep… I opted to stay and dps the run since Shandrah would be tanking.  I have to say the Wildstar dungeon experience is kinda amazing.  I know I have said this about other games, but Wildstar dungeons really do feel like World of Warcraft raids.  We would have likely wiped over and over were it not for the fact that Shanbot has been running the dungeons with pugs since she often plays during a west coast timeframe host often.  As a result she knew exactly what to do on each of the boss strategies, and we managed to make it through the instance without much in the way of wipes.

Belghast.140616.233202 As the dungeon went on the encounters ramped up significantly.  One of the things i liked was that there seemed to be a bit of randomness to the dungeon itself.  One of my friends mentioned that when they had been in the dungeon the quests they were given were completely different.  The final encounter was something that could only be described as “Bullet Hell MMO”.  As a fan of the Bullet Hell shooter, I found the encounter really interesting.  We wiped the first time because it had bugged out and we managed to get phases one and two happening at the same time.  Without this bug occurring the encounter was actually rather manageable.  I am honestly amazed that any pugs are able to get through this dungeon, let alone do so in a timely manner.  Now I find myself really looking forward to running it again.

Belghast.140616.235401 The big change for me last night was that I had literally just finished setting up a DPS build in my second slot.  I had been slogging through content since about level 20 as a full tank, and honestly I thought I might have an easier time dpsing my way through the encounters.  It was fortuitous that at that moment almost exactly, Tam got ahold of me to dps the dungeon.  Now I feel like I have both hotbars set up and ready to go if I need to do this again.  I really liked dpsing as an engineer and might have to install damage meters just to see if I am even vaguely close to the other dps in performance.  I feel like I am lagging behind, but maybe that is just because I am not used to doing it.  A lot of the engineer dps abilities are tightly targeted and it is hard trying to lay them down in a way that the mobs won’t move out of them until the effect fades.  I look forward to giving it another try another night… and increasing my performance.

Wildstar PVP

Tonight ZeliBeli has scheduled a PVP night in Wildstar, so I will be doing that along with some FF5.  If you are on Evindra Dominion you should totally check out the anook event if you are interested.  I have not even touched PVP so far in the game, so I look forward to getting my feet wet with friends.  As it stands right now, since tomorrow is my Birthday I do not have a Elder Scrolls Online night scheduled, because really I have no clue what tomorrow evening might bring.  Here is hoping that my wife is back home and that all of her flights were successful.  In the meantime, going to beat things up with the guildies in Walatiki Temple.

#Wildstar #FF5 #FourJobFiesta #RuinsofKelVoreth

Tanking Tamriel

A Shift in Tanking

Screenshot_20140403_214617 I had a conversation the other morning about Dragon Knight tanking, and what abilities I use.  As a result I thought it might be a useful blog post in waiting.  The big thing about Elder Scrolls Online is that as a tank we have to throw a lot of our preconceived notions away.  In previous games our mission in life has been to generate as much threat on as many targets as possible, and somehow through the grace of your healer manage to stay vertical.  This is very much not business as usual in the Elder Scrolls.  The moment I stepped into a dungeon I admit that I tried to do this, and found that my healer simply could not handle keeping me alive.  There really are no AOE “threat” tools, nor is there really even a concept of threat as we know it in other games.

Instead of focusing all of the healing on a single player, the ESO method is more to try and spread the damage out among multiple targets at the same time evenly.  As a tank you still play a crucial role as you can handle the hardest hitting targets while the healers/dps deal with the squishier targets.  It takes some getting used to, but when it works it just works seamlessly.  The group make up is far less important than it has been in other games.  We’ve managed to make dual healers, and dual tanks work… which would have been a recipe for disaster in other games.  The biggest thing is that the ESO dungeons require you to play in a much more fluid manner than before.  Since a lot of the mob interactions are not static, you need to be able to adjust to changes as they happen.

Tanking Tamriel

Screenshot_20140403_064618 I thought I would start off by talking a bit about the abilities that I use while tanking dungeons.  Please note, that Belghast Sternblade my main is an Imperial Dragon Knight, and I have focused on Sword and Shield and Heavy Armor obsessively.  I don’t even have an alternate weapon loadout because I have been purely focused on this one thing that I like doing.   Here I am going to walk you through my hotbar, and some of the choices I have made to support being “tanky”.

1 – Fiery Grip

This is the most archetypal Dragon Knight ability and generally one that people take immediately when they get their first skill point.  I used to do this but now end up taking it as a second pick due to reasons I will explain later.  Who does not love Deathgrip and feeling like Scorpion from Mortal Combat.  This will become the most crucial ability you have in that you can use it to gank mobs away from squishier targets and will use it to pull with.  I have not spent any points on morphing the ability, and at present I am leaning towards Extended Chains, the morph that increases distance.

2 – Ransack

This ability morphs from Puncture, and is literally the first thing I always choose when I am building a tanky DK.  The reasoning behind the first pick is that whatever you pick first… will ultimately be the ability you are able to morph first since skills begin leveling the moment you place them on your hotbar.  This is the bread and butter tanking ability.  Ransack taunts the target for 15 seconds, deals damage, decreases the targets armor, and buffs your armor by the amount decreased.  As a result this will literally be your most useful key to press ever since it does four different things at once and increases your survival while doing it.

3 – Stone Giant

Stone Giant is a morph of the ability Stone Fist from the Earthen Heart tree.  At face value it is an extremely useful ability because it knocks the target down for a short period of time.  This will allow you to interrupt abilities that normally could not be interrupted.  Additionally it has a slightly longer than melee range allowing you to knock a target down and reduce damage on someone else.  When you morph it however you get a short term armor buff after casting it allowing it to also function as somewhat of a survival ability as well.

4 – Dark Talons

This ability allows you to lock a number of targets down by encasing them in a cage of bone.  While at face value this does not make a ton of sense for a tank build, since you are going to be up close and personal anyways… it does when you realize that it is a short term CC allowing you to control the flow of the mobs at the beginning of an encounter.  I tend to hang back and as the first group of mobs comes running in, case this locking down most of them and giving the healer and dps time to acquire targets.

5 – Razor Armor

This ability is my one size fits all damage reduction buff morphed from Spiked Armor.  I try my best to keep this on me at all times during a fight, or at least during the times when I am tanking the heaviest of hitters.  Namely this ability increases your armor for 20 seconds and deals damage to your attacker while doing so.  The morph makes it so you get an additional 25% armor increase for the 2.5 seconds.  This is more in the line of pre-emptive triage when you know you are going to be taking more damage.

The Passives

That is my toolbox abilities and pretty much the only ones I use other than swapping in a view situational abilities.  If I know we are going to be fighting Daedra or Undead I tend to swap in Silver Bolts for Stone Giant, since the effectiveness of that ability greatly eclipses the minimal survival you get.  If I am soloing, I swap out Dark Talons for Shield Charge, because I like ping ponging around the map and I don’t generally need to lock down targets.  Occasionally I will swap in Consuming Trap if I know I will need healing after combat.  For the most part these are the only active abilities I have, and I am completely fine with that.

What I do focus on instead are the passives.  I take the opinion that I would rather be awesome all of the time than some of the time.  If you look at the heavy armor, racial, and sword and shield trees… there are a number of amazing abilities that passively increase your resistance and general sturdiness.  Essentially if it passively improves my ability to survive, I want it, and I will prioritize it over picking up an active ability since you can only use five at any given time.  Were I rebuilding my level 16 character, I would have gotten the five abilities above and simply not touched another ability period until I had soaked up all of the passives.

The Pull

Setting up the pull for the fight is likely where you will have the most trouble adapting to the way Elder Scrolls Online works.  Generally speaking I gank a priority target over to the group using Fiery Grip.  In doing so you want to make sure no one else in the party touches anything else.  A large group of mobs will run at you, but if you take the time to notice not all of them will be attacking your group.  In fact if you are fighting humanoids some of them will stand back like a crowd in a Kung Fu movie and cheer the combatants on.  It is important to be able to evaluate the situation and deal with only the targets that are actually engaged in combat.  If you accidentally hit one of the more passive opponents they will engage and give you one more add to deal with.

This is why I feel that abilities like Dark Talons are so important.  As the tank I hang back after ganking that first target to me and see who comes running up after the squishies.  As that pack of mobs comes into combat range, I tap Dark Talons locking them in place and giving my group time to figure out what the kill order will be.  All of this is of course improved by having access to voice chat, but in theory each dungeon is going to have certain priority targets.  Healers mainly will be the thing you need to focus down first, then likely Evokers or other mage types as they can do a large amount of AOE ground effect damage making it harder to stay out of the fire.  As a tank you will focus on the harder hitting melee targets.  If it has heavy armor, it is going to try and tank down your healer… stop them from doing that.

The above video is of us running Fungal Grotto, and it was shortly after starting this dungeon… after running several other dungeons… that we made the connection to how the mob behavior is working.  My friends and I are learning this from scratch just like you guys are, so I do not claim to understand everything about the pull behavior.  That said I feel confident that our working theory is going to test out.  Fungal Grotto was immensely easier thanks to our wait and see stance on the pulls, and adjusting to only the mobs that actually decided to attack us.  It is tank instinct to charge into the fight and try and make everything angry at once…  this instinct will get you killed rapidly.  This is a thing I have had to stop doing myself, and as much as I hate to admit it… we are far better off for this change in my personal behavior.

Combat Tactician

Screenshot_20140331_195315 The most crucial skill we have noticed yet is the need to be able to adjust to things as they are happening.  The problem with the way mob packs are designed, is it is damned near impossible to determine what mobs are going to aggro and engage at any given time.  Similarly you have to be able to shift focus to pick up new high priority targets as they engage the battlefield.  You might be fighting five trash mobs, and when you take one down… the boss of the encounter might engage even before the rest of the trash is finishes.  It is crucial to be able to calmly shift focus to what just became the new highest priority for you as the tank.  This involves a lot of faith in your team mates, that they will also similarly adjust.

Another instinct that you will have to completely obliterate is the “burn down” mentality of hopping on the boss and damaging it at all costs.  Generally speaking this is always the wrong answer.  Dungeons in the Elder Scrolls are for the most part about mitigating the amount of damage incoming to the party, and in a big pull the easiest way to do this is to knock out a hard hitting but squishy target.  In fact I would say that more than likely damaging the boss is always your LAST priority.  You want to try your best to clear all adds before you focus on the boss at all.  Think raid encounter, and prioritize the things that can kill you and your friends over the big thing that hopefully the tank is going to deal with.  Additionally as the tank make sure you are doing everything you can to reduce the amount of damage you are taking.  This means juggling cool downs, and making sure you block, dodge and interrupt everything that you can.

The Elder Scrolls is already one of the more difficult tanking experiences I have encountered in an MMO.  That said it is also one of the most empowering.  I am no longer a big dumb meat shield that’s entire purpose is to piss off everything equally and somehow survive.  I became just as valuable and tactical as other party members because what I choose to taunt, and choose to stun matters greatly in the overall success of the dungeon.  My decisions matter, and not in a ham handed tank all the things way any longer.  If you are familiar with MOBAs, this style of tanking will feel similar.  As tank you are essentially there to direct the flow of combat, and interrupt whatever it is that the enemies are trying to do.  If you master it, the dungeons will become far easier.  I am so far from mastery at this point, but I feel like I am at least stepping down on the right path.

#ElderScrollsOnline #TESO #Tanking #Dungeons #DragonKnight

The Messy Breakup

Winter Wonderland

Over the night we got another dusting of snow, and as a result I had to once again dig my jeep out before coming to work.  Firstly… Cold is not one of those things that Belghasts do best… especially a 70 lb lighter Belghast.  This morning as I was getting ready the weatherman said something to the effect that it has been over 150 hours since we had been above freezing.  As I was clearing my vehicle it was 20* outside with a wind chill of significantly less.  I realize this is nothing like the –27* that my Canadian friends have been experiencing this week, but still…  it is in the realm of “effing cold”.  I have been wearing a fleece jacket and then a big winter coat on top of that.

All of the car clearing caused me to get up and around significantly later than I had planned, and as a result I am getting this started significantly later.  Supposedly we will experience some melt this afternoon as temperatures finally go above freezing.  Thursday is supposed to be in the 40s… which seriously feels like short and t-shirt weather as compared to this.  There is no way I could actually survive in a Winter climate.  The irony is… as much as I dislike snow in real life, I tend to love zones that have a winter theme in games.  I love Winterspring, Icecrown and Storm Peaks.  I feel like I would enjoy snow if it were not for that whole cold thing.

The Messy Breakup

The other day I talked about how I may have been wrong to avoid the looking for group tool and pugging in general.  From 71 to 80 I had a really great run of 26 dungeons without much issue at all.  It was a clean and efficient way to level.  However upon entering the Cataclysm dungeon queue system that all changed.  The first group I got was Blackrock Caverns.  Everyone seemed to know what they were doing, and was more than geared enough for the content.  As a result it went quickly and smoothly and I thought that maybe just maybe my luck would hold until I was able to level into the Pandaria content.  This however was not the case, or at least not the case for very long.

My next queue was Throne of the Tides, and within moments of stepping through the doors we began a horrific wipe fest that ended with most of the party rage quitting after the tank failed miserably at the first boss encounter.  As a rogue I ended up tanking most of the adds, and was able to pop cooldowns and all that wonderful stuff to at least down both of the casters.  However the tank just seemed to lack the hitpoints and avoidance/mitigation to survive in the instance.  It was not until the third, fourth and fifth bad queue of Throne of the Tides that I started to notice a pattern.  They were all wearing the 1-80 Heirloom gear.

Public Service Announcement

2013-12-10 07_30_58-Item Comparison Tool - World of Warcraft

Simply put… the heirloom gear that caps out at level 80 is simply not viable for tanking the cataclysm instances.  The problem is that Heirloom gear is itemized for the previous expansion.  At 80 it is itemized like it is a low ilevel Wrath of the Lich King blue, which is significantly worse than the lowest ilevel Cataclysm green.  Essentially the quested gear you get early on will be better than anything but epic gear from Wrath, and even then on most of my characters I was changing put purples for greens left and right, especially for tanking where the stamina matters so much.  The above image shows the Polished Breastplate of Valor as compared to Hardened Obsidium Breastplate.

Taking away the fact that the Valor breastplate contains zero tanking stats, it has 391 less armor and 100 less stamina than a Cataclysm tanking green.  The tanks that I see rolling into the level 80 dungeons wearing full heirloom gear simply do not have enough hit points to survive the level of damage that is being dealt by the encounters.  That is even with getting out of all the things they are supposed to be getting out of.  Essentially if you are reading this blog and leveling an up and coming tank, please god do not queue as a tank until you have switched out your level 80 heirloom gear with green quest gear at a minimum.  Granted I am generally more diligent than the average player, and I did not queue at all for ANY dungeons until I had swapped my heirlooms out for quested items. 

Gear Changing

To be truthful I logged in my leatherworker and crafted a full set of gear, and logged in my smith and made two blue axes…  but that is probably going above and beyond what anyone should be expected to do.  However in each expansion, that first zone gives you a complete set of gear including weapons and trinkets within the first few quests.  Over the course of the evening you can go from relatively crappy gear to greens that are better than most of the raid content gear from the previous expansion.  You can maybe limp by as a dps, but especially as a tank, the Cataclysm content is brutal on anyone who has not shifted out their entire set of items. 

I seriously doubt that any of the offending tanks I ran into will actually read my blog, but here is hoping that maybe I catch a few people who simply did not realize that heirlooms are not itemized as the new expansion until you ding 61/71/81/86 etc.  This is the problem with the “mudflation” that has set into blizzards system, there is always a massive jump in stats between expansions, and in the case of Wrath to Cataclysm… it is simply not sustainable for dungeon running.  Hopefully in the post “Item Squish” world the change between expansions will not be nearly as traumatic to the player base.  I am hoping once I managed to get to the next tier of dungeons this problem will for the most part go away, and I can once again return to leveling through instances.  However in the meantime… I am questing my way through Hyjal for what feels like the billionth time.

Matter of Perspective

Unexpected Route

Yesterday I set out with the mission of running the rest of my characters through LFR, but after some frustrations with a couple of bad tanks… I decided to retreat into the comfort of leveling.  The problem is…  leveling through Wrath content feels extremely slow.  The way they lay quests out just is not conducive to burning through them.  I began the day at 71 and after a  few hours I had finally dinged 72, so I figured I would take a break and run a dungeon.  Apparently somewhere along the way I had forgotten just how good Wrath era dungeon experience was.  I quickly shifted from questing my way across north rend to chain running dungeons.

Wow-64 2013-12-07 19-35-42-79 

I am generally the most anti-pug person you could imagine, but for whatever reason as I said the other day… if I am dpsing I have the patience of a saint generally.  What I found surprising however was just how painless the whole event was.  We had one tank rage quit because we did not clear the optimal number of mobs, and someone aggro’d one pack too many.  After calling us all noobs and leaving we got another tank within seconds and completely the dungeon without issues.  We had another tank that did not know which way he was going in Gundrak and after going swimming with the angry fishes for an extended period of time several of the people afk’d out of the dungeon, and I joined them.  Other than those two instances… I had 26 instances of success.

At times the group was chatty, other times they were utterly silent.  In all cases however we succeeded without much effort.  It feels like they have nerfed the dungeons to the point at which anyone can run them without much thought.  As a rogue I pretty much spammed Fan of Knives as we pulled huge packs of mobs.  I found it surprising how quickly I hit 80.  Thanks to the handy dandy statistics inside of World of Warcraft I know I ran exactly 26 dungeons to get from 72 to 80, which was the better part of a day.  However this is definitely the express elevator through wrath content, and I feel like I will do this with pretty much all of my alts that have yet to clear that hurdle.  In fact I am considering today once I have gotten a bit of gear, to do the same with the 80-85 climb.

Matter of Perspective

Maybe my fear and loathing of pugs is unfounded?  Maybe it really is a simple and efficient way to level?  Maybe chain running LFR has just given me a perspective on what I should expect from others?   In any case it was not nearly the traumatic experience I had expected.  I figured I could stomach anything for a single group, however I found the experience rather refreshing.  It may simply be that at this point everyone knows the wrath instances like the back of their hand, and can pretty much run them on autopilot.  In any case I might have to revise my opinion of pick-up groups.  That’s one of my good traits however is that none of my opinions are so intractable that they cannot be changed.  After all I had sworn off World of Warcraft for years, and now find myself enjoying the hell out of it again.  Just like everything in life, I feel that it is all a matter of perspective.