Today I got into the Christmas spirit by hunting down a slippery zero-deaths frost mage in Battle for Gilneas, finally putting them to a gasping end in the back corner of the Waterworks while snugly encased in their own spellstolen Ice Barrier. And a happy new year to you too.
Cataclysm! Great, isn’t it? I mean it’s just done so sumptuously well. I’m finding it basically impossible to even try to be pessimistic about any aspect of the new game simply because the apples of Cataclysm to the oranges of Wrath-and-before are so so well conceived and executed as to make any actual problems seem pretty trivial in comparison.
Problems, however, there are. Obviously there are still a lot of buggy new mechanics and quests, but the mechanics and quests are so fun that it’s hard to resent the bugs. PvPers the world over are already afloat on their own sea of tears shed over the horrible capture mechanics of Tol Barad, but the zone itself is so well done in other respects it’s difficult to be frustrated for more than a few minutes after you lose yet another attacking battle. And so it goes.
I levelled Chayah’s Leatherworking to 525 last week. I consider this little short of unbelievable. See, eventually I caved in and started buying materials, but just about bankrupted my shaman while still many skillpoints off 525, and then the farming began again. And oh, the farming. I suppose the idea is to create a market for skinners and to prevent too many people levelling to max in a short time, but I mean what the hell? For example, to get from 500 to 510, I had to craft Cloaks of Beasts and/or Cloaks of War. The first few give you multiple skillups, which is lovely. But then they go yellow at 505 and there’s nothing for it but to craft 5 more and hope you get 5 skillpoints off it. Oh, and the cheapest one to craft requires sixty blackened dragonscales. Sixty. They’re a 1/3 drop off level 85 black dragons. Sixty for a skillpoint. That’s three hundred for five skillpoints. One of my crafts did not, in fact, generate a skillpoint. I died a little inside because it meant requiring the deaths of another one hundred and eighty black dragons, for a total of 360 scales. Hollywood would have us believe that somewhat fewer than 360 Spartans were able to hold off tens of thousands of Persians wearing nothing but red loincloths and manly stubble (the Spartans, not the Persians), so why does it take 360 bits of black dragon skin to make a few rare-quality level 83 cloaks that don’t even generate skill points reliably?
Life is cruel.
After that it takes 10 heavy savage leather for each recipe you use, which are only good for 6 skillpoints before they go yellow, and each craft requires a further 10 heavy savage leather. HSL is created by weaving together 5 savage leathers, which drop from skinned level 80-85 mobs, and only higher level mobs are guaranteed not to drop mere scraps. So 10 HSL is equivalent to fifty denuded corpses of the Earthmother’s beautiful creatures. My shaman enjoys leatherworking because it makes her feel connected to the earth and the cycle of life and stuff, but I’m not sure she’s into the wholesale slaughter of entire species. She herself is somewhat less sure because she recently undertook just such a slaughter and is worried she may even have begun to enjoy it. After all my old hunter, Zamir, spent most of his life at level 60 farming elite black dragons in the Burning Steppes. I mean hey, that’s what hunters do.
Then there were the Jewelcrafting dailies that required you to kill 50 elementals before a merciful hotfix or alternatively asked you to cut 3 of a gem that costs HUNDREDS OF GOLD EACH and had a chance of being rendered worthless by the “perfect cut” mechanic before a different hotfix, but I’m all ranted out now.
Healing though, I’ve not got a bad word to say about it. Except maybe “tiring”, but it’s always been tiring doing new content while undergeared, especially as a healer. I love the triage model and the changes to our various healing toolkits, as well as the changes which support this model – like the renewed emphasis on control abilities and careful attention to fight mechanics. Unfortunately as my gear gets better I find myself reverting to the old habit of trying to keep everyone at 100% health all the time, but partly I think that’s paranoia over the vastly lower HPS relative to health pool sizes leading to some nasty deaths on fights that have gone bad. This is heroic dungeons I’m talking about, by the way – not done any raiding yet and probably won’t for another month or so.
Again, the new dungeons are generally a lot of fun and most are really challenging in places. The thing that most stands out to mention in writing, actually, is Vortex Pinnacle – that fantastic musical score, the watercolour surroundings, the puffs of air and even orbs to collect for the achievement – none of it particularly hard but just a joy to play through. Fun fights, too. Oh, and it reminds me a little of Ulduar for some reason.
I shouldn’t like Blackrock Caverns because it uses the visual scheme of places I’ve traditionally found aesthetically tedious, but it’s interesting enough as a healer to get me past such concerns and perhaps even appreciate the place. I need to gently tell our tank to use more CC next time we go though, as some of those pulls are really brutal to a sleepy blue-geared healer in elemental-reforged kit.
Shadowfang Keep also stands out because of that Commander Springvale fight. First time I saw it was either my first or second heroic, and it took our semi-PUG four or five wipes to figure out and successfully execute a strategy. The next time we went, again in a semi-PUG, we pulled it off in a single attempt. As a shaman I appreciate these sorts of fights because we get to use more than just our heals: Springvale works for us because I can interrupt one of the adds, we don’t have trouble kiting on the last boss of BRC because I can drop Earthbind in the middle of the room, and there are plenty of fights where I can help CC an add or two with Hex/Bind Elemental.
My mage is also level 85 (I really love the painlessly brief 80-85 stretch, which is a lot of fun and short enough that you can appreciate it – she did the areas Chayah didn’t), though her gear is mostly PvP-orientated, and I’ve gone to a few heroics on her as PvE-frost. Again, I love having a reason to use the full range of tools – roots, snares, silences, sheeps (in my case, Cats and Turtles – hey, a mage has to take pride in her work!), stuns, even a simple decurse here and there – it’s the chance to use all that inbuilt versatility which got me interested in PvP, so to see it in non-gimmicky PvE is lovely.
Yes, since early 2010, my mage has become an arcane PvP monster. I’ve got a draft in my WordPress Dashboard featuring the words “It all started with the pants”, but regretfully that is a story for another time. The proportionally bigger healthpools of Cataclysm as compared to the amount of damage or healing a player can put out seems to have been fantastic for group and duel PvP, because you have much more time and much more need to execute strategy. It also means that someone can call for help and actually make a reasonable attempt to survive long enough for help to get there, which has changed the dynamic of some battlegrounds in subtle ways – the AB I played today, for example, featured about a quarter of the usual number of node-swaps that I’m used to, and I only died once on a map I’m notorious for Heroic (read: silly) Sacrifices on.
The changes to how PvP gear is acquired are also most welcome, though I think that presently the system of honor/conquest points gain is a bit out of whack. You have to grind battlegrounds for days just to get a fraction of the whacked-out, old-and-sad unter-tier of PvP gear. While you do that, you probably want to invest in the crafted starter PvP blues, which can easily set you back 1k gold a piece unless you know a friendly crafter. Alternatively, you can waltz into a double handful of comedy 2v2 arena losses and equip yourself in the delicious New Hotness gear. Hmm! But in principle, the new system is a huge improvement and has potential to eliminate most of the frustrations of (often PvE-aggravated) gear imbalance in PvP, with resilience successfully ensuring that the same-ilevel PvP gear isn’t desirable above PvE gear for PvE or vice versa.
I mentioned Tol Barad and Battle for Gilneas. I won’t say any more about TB (there’s enough bandwidth devoted to it already, with some excellent analyses that I hope may result in changes), but Battle for Gilneas is just lovely. It’s set on that dreary sort of Skegness-in-the-rain Gilnean (duh) coastline which I do appreciate even though it’s not my favourite environment, but for some reason it really works as a small 10v10 AB-style PvP space to the point I actually (gasp) like it. The terrain itself is also a pleasure to fight through, with a nice mixture of open space and fiddly LoS bits, interesting paths between bases, and an overall feeling of being the perfect sort of size for what it is.
Also did I mention it’s lovely not to be bursted down in the space of a Garotte by rogues using ICC25 weapons? Man, 4.0.1 PvP was horrible.
Oh, speaking of burst damage. Arcane PvP was, years ago, derided for being basically about pushing a button every 3 minutes to destroy everyone then being useless until it was back up again. Much has changed since then but that burst-on-demand design feature is not totally gone. When I started playing early this year it was very much a sort of plink-plink-plink-BOOM spec, where you dance around using low-damage stuff and then finally unleash the full force of your cooldowns when the opportunity arises. Well, in Cataclysm and at my gear level, the burst potential is even lower, especially with most classes having a way to disrupt your 4-stacks-of-AB nuking session. But I’ve discovered that there’s still that delicious potential for controlled destruction at just the right time, if you set it up properly – a discovery I shared with a poor, startled resto druid the other day in Tol Barad who thought it hilarious to stand there watching me nuke him while calmly keeping his HoTs ticking. Hilarious for him until he realised he was a puddle of atoms on the floor, at which point it became distinctly hilarious for me.
(Sorry resto druids, I don’t hate you really.)
Anyway, I was trying to say, the Cataclysm style of PvP seems to really support this plink-plink style of play while balancing it off the fact that there’s a good risk your enemy will simply escape if you don’t commit to a more serious effort, and yet adding plenty of risk and conditionals to any attempts to unleash a serious burst too. Except arms warriors, who are I suppose compensated for spending most of their lives chasing smug idiots like me by the big numbers they see for that split second of every minute or so that I spend actually in their melee range.
I almost forgot about this. I’m not doing much elemental play because of our present shortage of healers, but it’s fairly enjoyable when I do and seems very competitive in instances. I kinda think it needs refinement though. The shared shock CD really seems, at this stage, a relic of a long-distant age that just needs to be given a nice going away present – maybe some slippers or a nice tie – and gently retired. I’ve no idea what it’s like in PvP but look, I don’t think having an extra 4k instant every 5 seconds is going to cause much concern to a 100k+ HP opponent. It doesn’t just impact on our DPS rotation, it also directly affects our utility at a time when the game has intentionally shifted towards utility spell usage in PvE. Utility-wise, my shaman feels weaker in her elemental spec than she ever has before. We’ve gained no new utility (OK, bind elemental, but, shush) but effectively lost Frost Shock and our healing spells – though very valuable when employed in the new triage model – are too weak and too expensive to be employed for long. Everything else is on quite a long cooldown, even when glyphed.
Right, so maybe that’s an excessive amount of QQ for simply wanting to be free to FROST SHOCK stuff at will, but frost shock is very important to me. Also it really is a genuine annoyance in our single target rotation to constantly be juggling Earth Shock and Flame Shock’s linked cooldowns. Most of the time I seem to do OK but when EM (which is awesome now, by the way, plz blizz NEVER CHANGE THIS SPELL, thanks) or Heroism are up it becomes a nightmare.
Also: Searing Totem. Dude. I love you, I do. But can you please learn to discern when something is fighting me and perhaps toss a searing bolt at it now and then. You can tell because Flame Shock is up and it’s beating our tank over the head for thousands of damages. Thanks.
Oh, and bad guys? Leave my fire elemental the hell alone. Seriously. He’s developing a complex because every time he comes out you’re all “lol no” and smack his totem and send him back into the — well, whereever it is he lives in the vast swathes of time between his brief and futile appearances in encounters with the likes of you. I mean sure we’re trying to kill you but there’s no need to be a jerk about it.
Insert suitable wall-breaker here
Well, it’s getting late and there’s probably enough text above to fill a moderately sized wall (an excellent choice if you are considering redecorating), so instead of launching into some thoughts on 80+ questing I’ll just say Merry Christmas/Happy Holidays/have a nice weekend all! May you find some time to relax and enjoy the season and, perhaps, the game if that’s your thing, and may the new year bring you many happy, uh, things.
(Seriously though, no touchy on the fire elemental totem, thanks.)