A Good Weekend

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This past week was the week of seemlingly smooth and fast clears.  Wednesday night we worked on progression content, which mean’t that we spent the majority of the evening wiping to new and exciting things.  However the end result of that evening was that we downed Odyn and made a decent amount of progress on Guarm.  The only negative aspect of that is that it also means that none of us actually saw progress on the quest chain that haunts us.  We kicked around the notion of having an Emerald Nightmare clear night, that I ultimately decided would be Friday.  I set up a calendar invite and hoped, and then was pleasantly surprised at the number of folks that signed up.  In fact we technically had more than our normal raid nights, and other than some starts and stops while waiting on folks or dealing with disconnections…  it was a very smooth evening.  So smooth in fact that I seriously wonder if we could have cleared the entire place in an hour.  I mean because of the various time spent waiting… that was not a thing that happened however it seemed like we might have been on pace for it.  That general smoothness continued on last night with Karazhan, but so did the whole waiting business.  Thalen got sidelined with family stuff, and we had the option of either filling his slot or waiting.  It turned out we ended up getting started roughly an hour and a half late, but once again things went amazingly smoothly.  So much so that I think next week we are going to make a proper attempt at a Nightbane run.  We would have one shot every boss… were it not for the fact that we tried some madness for an achievement on Medivh.

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Another big part of my weekend was roaming around and exploring the Comet of Ahnket in the Rift Starfall Prophecy expansion.  At this point I am sitting around 66 1/3 and feel like I have barely scratched the surface of the Scatherran Forest zone.  Firstly I have to say this expansion is charming as hell so far, namely because of the two companions that follow you around at times… but also because it is a great example of environmental storytelling.  Every area is packed full of little things to be scene and experienced much in the same way the zones are built in Guild Wars 2.  Lots of things are happening in the background and all it takes is you sitting still long enough to experience them.  The best of these vignettes has to be the hedgehogs who are stuck in a ball rolling…  until one of them realizes that they can just let go of their feet to stop.  Similarly there is this adorable sequence where you are playing hide and seek with baby unicorns, and you have to go out and find them so that you can lead them back home.  The only negative so far is that I feel woefully undergeared for some of the content, and there is a bit of an uneven difficulty level happening.  There was an area full of spiders… and they seemed literally twice as tough as any of the other equivalent level 66 mobs.  I could take down entire packs of humanoids… but a single spider was a race to see if I could finish them off before they finished me off.  Getting a second spider meant absolute certain death.  All in all though I am really liking the expansion and it feels much more like Storm Legion did as far as content goes.

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Finally I spent a good deal of time playing Destiny this weekend and was able to push my Titan to the 385 barrier.  This is the point where you stop getting upgrades from legendary engrams, and are stuck relying on faction rewards that stop at 390… and exotic engrams that will take you all the way to 400.  This means I am hoping tomorrow starts a small arms week for the heroic strike list because I absolutely need to spend some time farming.  In theory I believe the Archon’s Forge will go up to 400 when it comes to end of event rewards, but not anything coming from an engram.  I spent some time working on my Hunter and Warlock and getting both of them through the Rise of Iron story so I can have three sets of world bounties to work on each week.  I realize they just reward engrams at this point… but if nothing else it can be infusion fodder to help work up additional weapons and armor.  I need to find the free time to try and sign up for one of the machine raids so I can see the content and get some more tasty gear.  However 385 is a completely respectable place to be, and in theory during the next iron banner I should be able to make a decent dent into pushing that number up into the 390s.  It was a great weekend and especially considering we have a short week ahead of me.

Karazhan Clear

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This weekend was a bit of an odd one, namely because of the extended holiday granted by veterans day.  It is also odd because it felt strange to go so long without a post after the recent outage in my blog.  Most everything is working as intended, but for whatever reason on the new hardware there is an artificially low upload limit which is causing me to have to shrink my images for a bit until I have that sorted out.  In truth I doubt most people will really notice that much given that my theme tended to scale them down a bit anyways.  The only real annoyance is I actually have to play which images I am going to use and shrink them down beforehand.  As far as gaming went I was all over the place… playing copious amounts of Destiny, World of Warcraft and even a little Guild Wars 2.  I also started Diablo II the December game of the month, in honor of the 20th anniversary.  The strangest thing about going back and playing that game is… just how amazingly well it still holds up.  Maybe I am viewing it through the haze of nostalgia… but other than some dodgy animations it mostly just “works”.  Sure I miss some of the more interesting abilities that Diablo 3 added in, but it is also making me appreciate the game we have more.  So instead of going on about a whole slew of topics, I am largely going to focus in on World of Warcraft.  Firstly on a crazy whim I decided to de-Worganize Belgrave my Deathknight.  He started out as a human and the more I played him in Worgen form the more I was annoyed at how small in general two-handers look on that model.  Both my Artifacts for Blood and Unholy felt like I was swinging a one-hander which just felt “wrong”.  Along with this shift however I managed to get into the groove of the Deathknight and in theory that is probably going to be my next 110.  While I need the rogue and the alchemy it provides…  I just struggle to get into a would be stealthy class.

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The core of this mornings post however is about Karazhan.  We managed to miss the first week because we were juggling trying to get attuned, with raiding and all sorts of other things… that by the time Sunday rolled around we didn’t have a permanent 5th player.  After we snagged Kylana we went in on week two and managed to make a significant amount of progress getting six of the eight bosses.  We made an attempt to pull together last Monday but scheduling conflicted with us as it was Ashgar’s On Call week.  From there we largely plotted our revenge throughout the week and in truth I was more amped about popping into Kara than I was about our super smooth clear of Emerald Nightmare.  I’ve talked before about that this is essentially what World of Warcraft was missing for me…  a tight group experience for a fixed limited number of players.  After Zul’Aman there really didn’t seem to exist a similar experience, and while 10 player raiding was essentially that… it just felt different.  Raiding feels like raiding no matter how many people you bring, and while I probably had more fun during wrath in the 10 player group…  it didn’t feel significantly different than the 25 player version I was already running regularly.  Doing both 10 and 25 watered down the experience, so that by the time we killed the Lich King on 25… it felt like old hat already since we had done it months earlier in the as a 10.  It also served to make me that much more frustrated when players seemed to struggle to grasp the mechanics… since they were exactly like the version I already knew like the back of my hand.

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What Karazhan provides more than anything else… is a unique experience that fits within certain confines.  This week we managed to clear significantly faster, but still a little bit behind the time we would need for a Nightbane run.  By the time we hit Opera we still had around two minutes and thirty seconds on the timer…  but the RP dialog before the event actually starts ate up roughly a minute of that time.  Essentially if we are going to do this we need to be chain pulling the place, and at some point I hope to get there.  For the time being however we have been working on getting stable kills.  Moroes was still a pain in the ass that we BARELY pushed across the finish line…  but a oneshot is a oneshot so we were happy with that.  We struggled a bit on a few other fights but at the 1 hour mark we were sitting halfway through the raid.  We made it up to the Mana Devourer and took a handful of tries before we managed to defeat it and start moving onto the final boss.  I am not going to lie here… it took us a solid hour of attempts on Viz’aduum the Watcher because that fight is less about damage output… and more about trying to time all of these stupid things from happening at the worst possible time…. while avoiding as much damage as is humanly possible.  This is absolutely the sort of fight where you can just end up getting screwed by RNG, and it reminds me of the stark difference between FFXIV raid design and WoW raid design.  The encounter as a whole has as many moving parts as Coil Turn 9 for example… but it is far more RNG dependent and far less successfully messaged.  However all of that said… we managed to finally get a good attempt where the stars shined upon us and managed to get our guilds very first clear of Karazhan.  Now just to speed up the process and get us a Nightbane as well.

AggroChat vs Karazhan

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For much of the last two weeks Karazhan has dominated my gaming life in one way or another.  Initially it was trying to get all of the mythics run needed for attunement, and trying to coordinate between the four fixed members of Team AggroChat that are still playing the game.  When the Karazhan raid was first announced we knew that the four of us…  Ashgar, Grace, Thalen and Myself would want to run it together if for no reason other than providing lots to talk about on the podcast.  Unfortunately that first week after the patch launched was insane and it ended up with several of us disconnected in the progression through the four Mythics.  As a result it took us a bit to get through all of them, and we had to grab more people at various points in the process…  and I am just realizing that I really should check to make sure they did in fact make it through the attunement process and if not help them out.  The goal was to try and get into Kara that first Sunday.  For almost two years I ran Karazhan every single Sunday and we used it as a way to pull up new characters and gear alts.  It seemed extremely fitting that we would be doing the new incarnation of Karazhan as a Sunday thing as well.  While we managed to get all four of us across the finish line, and attuned and ready to go…  we couldn’t find anyone that was not already locked to kara, or did not already have plans to run it elsewhere.  So we wound up running a Mythic Plus for the keystone and gave up on running the raid on the first week.

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Somewhere along the way this week, we found out that Kylana had not yet run the dungeon… and also had no plans on any sort of a static group.  We had checked with a few other people that had scheduling conflicts, but thankfully he was able to commit to the Sunday thing and from that point on… I simply didn’t think much about it other than knowing in the back of my head that I would finally get to experience the raid.  The only negative is that I never really use the calendar invite system in World of Warcraft, and since I am used to seeing in game time converted to my local time thanks to Titan Bar… I scheduled the raid thinking it was at 8 pm my time and that everyone else’s calendars would adjust accordingly.  However apparently that is a feature that I only dreamed up in my head, and I did in fact schedule the raid for 8 pm server, so an hour earlier than I had intended.  The truth is that this worked out just fine and I happened to be sitting at the keyboard ready to go an hour ahead of when I had intended.  Now in the days leading up to our run we had been hearing from guildies how rough the raid was, but in truth I think they were treating it as though it were another Mythic dungeon.  I fully expected to zone in and have to learn as we went, while clearing a brand new raid… rather than simply roflstomping our way through yet another mythic.  However the discussion of difficulty did prompt me to make sure I had plenty of food for buffs and flasks to get through the content.

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In so many ways the zone feels just like Karazhan used to feel.  What I mean there is that while it is functionally different in places… it is just as rough to get through as it was those first times.  I remember spending weeks working on various encounters, and being extremely proud the first time we downed Maiden of Virtue for example.  I am similarly proud of us for doing the same thing last night, as it took several tries for us to figure out the mechanics since we essentially went into this without planning.  I realize this is something that would frustrate most people, but over the years of raiding together in various games… we’ve developed a taste for going into encounters completely raw and then learning as we go and adjusting.  Tamrielo would have been proud because for the most part we talked Kylana into following us down this pathway to madness as well.  All in all we managed to drop Opera: Westfall Story, Maiden of Virtue, Moroes, Attumen, Curator, and Shade of Medivh.  We finished the night working on Mana Devourer but simply ran out of time for more attempts.  We ran from 8pm EST to Midnight EST, and I am certain that much of that will be sped up significantly next week.  We are talking about trying to pull things together tonight and give another poke and clearing the zone completely since we literally just have two bosses left.  It is going to be a long time before we can clear this fast enough to get Nightbane as the 9th optional boss.

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I have to say this is honestly some of the most fun I have had in World of Warcraft… since most likely I worked my way through the original Karazhan.  I am really hoping that this is not a one off encounter, and that we might see a revitalization of smaller scale raiding.  I realized a lot of that went by the wayside when Blizzard introduced the 10 player raid size, but really something has been missing since that point.  Karazhan, Zul’Gurub, AQ20, and Zul’Aman all held a niche that progression content never really did, and I am really hoping that this new 5 player raid content is going to bring that back.  After spending a night with my friends doing Kara, it definitely feels like it is…  I just want to make sure that this is not simply a fluke.  What I liked the most about this is that in truth we all had to perform to our best to make it through these fights.  Moroes was every bit of the challenge that it once was, and we just barely limped across the finish line on that fight.  In truth I am trying to figure out how we can do better next time, because garrote is just as brutal as we remembered it being.  The truth is that none of us really got much in the way of upgrades from any of the encounters, but the encounters themselves were reward enough.  That said I would not look down upon getting something awesome from one of the two bosses we have yet to defeat.  This raid… and the news from Blizzcon honestly have me more excited about the World of Warcraft franchise than I have been in years.