Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Level 80 Recap for 2009

Last year, Dougal, Velocity and Khitsune all made level 80... but I never got around to posting an update, so here it is.

When I switched Dougal to BM, I originally had been thinking it would be neat to have a (solo PVE) hunter without a tenacity pet, I guess mainly to see if it could work. I tried speccing a silithid to fill the role of tank, and things went well enough until I started solo'ing Stratholme; I was repeating the 45 minute Baron run in hopes of getting Rivendare's Deathcharger, and so I wanted to be able to take down as many mobs as possible in one go... well, my silithid and SB were fine for maybe 5-10 mobs, but that was about it, unless I was being super careful. So I finally decided to give in to tradition and get myself a tenacity pet.

Enter Tremor the cthulhoid nightmare worm from Northrend - as an exotic he fit with the rest of Dougal's stable of uber-animals since I'd dropped Frenzy the purple hyena (SB, chimaera and silithid), and not having tried a worm before it was a nice opportunity to acquire one.

Returned to Strat for more grinding and sure enough, I was now able to solo twice as many mobs as before thanks to the worm's toughness and especially thanks to its thunderstomp... lesson learned! After that, the Baron runs went a lot faster, and within a few days I had myself a nice new skeletal nightmare steed to complete Dougal's Tim Burtonesque spook theme.

Velocity was upgraded to dual spec when patch 3.3 introduced the new spirit beast Arcturis, and I got him last month. Velocity has since leveled Cloud up to 80; I speced him to be as close to tenacity as a ferocity pet can get (charge and boar's swiftness are fine but I refuse to get him dash, just seems goofy to have it on something that big).

When trying to decide on a good lore backdrop for Cloud, I checked out Native American mythology and found an interesting bit pertaining to bears - in some NI cultures it was believed that when a bear hibernates, its spirit leaves its body to wander the woods during the winter months... so I decided Cloud was an unusually curious and precocious bear who lost track of time and wandered too far - by the time Spring came, he had forgotten where his body was, and it died before he could find his way back to it, leaving him stuck in spirit form, wandering mournfully until he was taken in by a kindly night elf with an affinity for spirit beings...

Velocity's other notable achievement was to acquire a pet voidwalker - during a hiatus in Dalaran she gradually located the various tomes of arcane magic tucked away in bookshelves around the city, and from their pages, pieced together the incantation that would teleport her to the study of Archmage Vargoth, who rewarded her with a Kirin Tor Familiar.

The Familiar is quite large for a noncombat pet, and IMO looks pretty cool alongside her frosty themed gorilla Wendigo...

Nowadays Velocity is staying at Brunnildar Village doing the daily for Reins of the White Polar Bear - after trying this for the better part of a year I have a lifetime supply of yeti cheese and snowballs but no reins. Try, try again...

Last but certainly not least we have Khitsune; I have spent more time on her than any other single character, and as a result she ended up with some pretty decent gear and achievements; after making exalted with Argent Crusade she received the epic chest gear, a pony for her Argent squire, and gained access to the heirloom vendor at the Argent Tournament, and after some rep grinding in Stratholme (having a portable bank came in handy there!) she pushed her rep with Argent dawn up to exalted as well, gaining her the Argent Champion title.

She also made exalted with Oracles, gaining herself an epic grinding trinket (she no longer runs out of mana unless I try really hard to make it happen), and as a final bonus she was lucky enough to get the Reins of the Green Proto-Drake on the second try!

Since then I have been continuing to do the Argent dailies with Khitsune when I can get around to it; my hope is to build up enough badges to equip a new generation of toons with self-scaling twink gear when Cataclysm comes out; currently I've reserved names for a goblin hunter and a tauren paladin.
Continue reading

Monday, January 11, 2010

Taming The Beast

Early last month patch 3.3 hit, and with it came the latest spirit beast Arcturis. Since Worba, Khitsune and Dougal all had a spirit beast, I set up my two remaining high level hunters Bofors and Velocity with dual spec and sent them down to Grizzly Hills to camp the latest ghostly critter; this took just about every last copper on their respective servers, but as with the previous spirit beasts I didn't want to pass on the opportunity only to stumble across the thing when I was unprepared (e.g. forced to choose between abandoning a valued pet or taking the risk of popping over to the stables and back only to find another hunter taming it, or of discovering it on a non-hunter, etc etc - a lot of my decisions are motivated more by what I'm afraid of missing out on that by what I'm most keenly interested in accomplishing...).

As it happened, Velocity saw him first, and happily returned to her Storm Peaks dailies with her new pet druid... which left Bofors with dual SV/BM spec, but no beastmastery pets to show for it - something had to be done. Even though I'd originally done it this way just to maximize my odds, that second spec was burning a hole in my pocket... so I sat down and gave it some thought.

Hmm, what exotic pet A) do I not yet have on any toon, and B) would look good standing next to a red themed dwarf... and I realized nothing made so much sense as a red core hound. On any other race, the core hound is shorter than its master and loses the full impact of its original looming perspective... but on a dwarf, now that's another matter!

That being decided I started researching how the heck I was going to get one of these bad boys - I already knew they were found only in dungeons, but that was about it; some time later I determined they could be found in 1) Molten Core, an old world raid instance and 2) UBRS as a dungeon boss. The green version of course was super easy to obtain out in Shadowmoon Valley, but I just wasn't able to get that interested in the green look, when the red one would go with Bofors so much better... same deal with the fluffy white "Omen" version.

Having already spent a good chunk of time aimlessly wandering around the various Blackrock instances picking up vanity pets, doing odd achievements and quests, I was already pretty familiar with the area, and at level 75 was able to solo it without any trouble - and best of all I didn't need to be grouped with anyone to get in, like I did for MC (of course, it takes about 30-40m to get to The Beast in UBRS, whereas the core hounds in MC can be reached in perhaps a couple minutes from the videos I've seen, but for me being able to do it totally solo is preferable).

Now began about two weeks of fumbling, stumbling and armor repairs as I repeatedly tried and failed - I quickly discovered that solo killing The Beast with a placeholder pet is quite a lot different than trying to make it all the way through a 15-20 second tame (uninterrupted) with him. I knew to keep my back to a wall so as to avoid the big knockbacks, and I knew to hop the line of bonfires if my FD got resisted, and I only ever saw him cast fear once... but no matter what I did, I couldn't seem to get more than halfway through the tame before being interrupted.

At one point in sheer desperation, I got a paladin to help me with heals... unfortunately that did more harm than good - his heals would aggro the monster and break the tame as surely as a knockdown... and for some reason crossing the bonfire line did not pry it off my unfortunate helper either... I paid the fellow 50 gold for his time and armor repairs, and decided to take a break from the tame attempts. I realized that building up aggro first with a placeholder pet would have enabled me to hold aggro through a few heals, but the larger problem of how to make it through the full tame cast without interruption remained, and I didn't want to make another person wait while I tried to figure it out with trial and error.

A few days later after making lvl 76, I decided to have another try - but this time I had an idea. From reading Krush tame posts I saw it was possible to use The Beast Within to fend off interrupts during a tame, and I was itchin' to try it in UBRS. I knew it required careful macro setup, and would still be no piece of cake - The Beast seems to have 2 different attacks with knockback effects, each (seemingly) on its own 10 sec CD... and with Bestial Wrath/TBW now on a 10 second duration instead of the old 15 second, the margin for error would be nill, but still - better than nothing. I am nothing if not persistent...

I loaded up once more on Imperial Manta Steak, scrolls of Stamina, speed potions and all the +haste/+sta gear in my bank (one of the rare times it pays to be a packrat!), a stack of crystal restores from Ye Olde Ungoro Crator, and headed out. I had a little over 15k health, and about 10-11% haste, both of which were a little below recommended minimums on Thottbot/Wowhead/etc, but were the best I could do after nearly bankrupting myself on that dual spec...

Finally, the day before Christmas, with The Better Half angrily waiting for me to finish my gift wrapping and head out for the evening church service, I made my way back to the The Beast's lair with my placeholder pet... fail. FD'd, ran back out, tamed a scorpid, back in before the instance timer reset and tried again... closer but was still fumbling with the new macro, and failed again - my new approach was to wait for a knockdown, and then trigger my macro - with haste gear, buffs, potion and trinket I had my total tame cast down to about 15 seconds, which meant I had to time it so that those last 5 seconds after TBW ended, fell somewhere between The Beast's knockbacks.

Ran outside, grabbed a red worg, back in and tried one more time... pulled with scorpid sting... waited for the first knockdown... slammed down my macro button, and crossed my fingers... at about second 8 he tried the next knockdown, but that sweet, sweet talent kept my channel bar going even though poor Bofors was being smacked around like a well loved chewtoy... TBW ended and now the home stretch... never has 5 seconds seemed so long... finally, with my HP bar all but empty and my toon lit up with fire DoTs like a BBQ chicken leg sauteed in cheap vodka and the next knockback probably 1 second away, came that wonderful blue flash of completion - SUCCESS!

Never having tried King Krush, this was the only tame that I really had to work for - in the past, the only difficulty I encountered during tames was self inflicted e.g. not bothering to clear nearby trash before blindly attempting to tame some rare spawn... and now that I've got him, I have to say I value Magma even above my spirit beasts. It's without a doubt one of my biggest solo achievements - nice to know that some rewards still require major effort!

When Cataclysm comes out, I'm sure red core hounds will become available out in the wild, to every level 60 Tom, Dick and Harry... but for now at least, Bofors has one very cool "trophy" pet to take into battle... and even when Cataclysm hits, how many red core hounds will display "(BOSS)/skull" on mouseover? :)
Continue reading

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

WoW Profiles - Worba at 80

Spec: Beast Master
Profs: Skinning/leatherworking
Achievements: Headless Horseman Mount, Exalted with Cenarion Circle, Cenarion Expedition and Thunder Bluff, Brazier of Dancing Flames, Ice Mammoth mount, tamed Sapphire Hive Queen and Skoll.
Pets: Turtle ("Brick"), Wasp ("Kali"), Spirit Beast ("Fenris") and Devilsaur ("Diablo")
Themes: Red/orange/fiery, spiky/toothy
Worba is the second character I ever rolled, way back in the misty pre-dawn era of WoW, and was capped at 60 well before BC came out. Most of that was spent solo'ing, and he has had a number of different pets at different times including Takk the Leaper (back when he had a faster run speed than other pets) and Spiteflayer (back when he had a faster attack speed than other pets)... but probably the part that stood out most most among that time was his guild membership.

I don't normally do PuGs let alone raids, as the only time I generally can expect to play without interruption is late at night - the "standard" raid start time of 6pm PST (9pm for me) means that even if everyone shows up on time and is ready to go immediately, you aren't going to be logging off until midnight (earliest), and often will be at it till 1am or 2am.

But back then I hadn't found this out yet, so I went along for a bunch of AQ raids, and with a good deal of solo grinding Cenarion Circle rep on the side, was eventually able to make exalted and score a set of epic hunter gear - I held onto the AQ set all the way into WotLK (and even then, it's worth noting that the +3% pet dmg set bonus is the one thing I've yet seen that can boost "vehicle" mounts in Northrend...).

Shortly thereafter, BC came out, the level cap went up to 70, everyone else in the guild outleveled me, and after a while of feeling lame for not keeping up, finally opted to leave The Wanderers - on good terms though, and I'd definitely recommend them to anyone looking for a solid Horde guild on Uther.

One thing notably absent from this toon is a backstory or pretty much any sort of RP material; I've always thought of Worba as the proto-typical orc, big, burly, rude, crude, etc - and of course most in his element when taming or directing big, nasty beasts.

His time in BC was pretty unexceptional; I replaced all of his former pets, slowly gathered the materials for a suit of epic dragonscale chainmail, and finally just before WotLK came out, managed to craft him a Khorium Destroyer on my protection warrior.

The turtle was the first pet I really took to - after trying many others, I found the shell shield, orc racial and general tenacity/beastmaster setup to be a "keeper"; there is really nothing else that tough, and it makes solo'ing heavy elites a pleasure. The name "Brick" seemed fitting.

The devilsaur came next; I chose a red model who I named "Diablo", after a character from the old "Primal Rage" game for the Playstation. Although devilsaurs had some initial problems with their post-tame walk animation, that was eventually fixed... and their growth from Monstrous Bite plus Bestial Wrath is something to see.

When WotLK opened up, Worba was the first of my toons to check it out; by then he was a little overdressed for solo'ing, and I plodded from lvl 70-72 trying and mostly failing to find something interesting to do... was just getting ready to put Worb back in hibernation when I read on Petopia of a certain unique level 78 wasp that was due to become untamable in a few weeks.

So I decided to pull out all the stops and try to make 78 beforehand - squeezing in as much WoW time as I could manage, staying up a couple hours later every night and otherwise fusing myself to the PC, I was able to just pull it off - as it happened I tamed the Hive Queen at about 1am, the morning of the patch that made her untamable! I named her "Kali", after the Indian death goddess - I wanted something epic, matriarchal and ideally which also said something about the big orange bug's 6 cleaver/stabber appendages, and this seemed to fit the bill nicely.

After that, finding myself now at lvl 78, I slowed down a bit and decided Worba would look good atop an Ice Mammoth, so (at a much more leisurely pace) I began doing dailies for the Sons of Hodir; this took me to 80, and also netted me a nice belt, and a lifetime supply of shoulder inscriptions...

Around that time, they came out with the Argent Tournament, and I headed over for some jousting; the epic rifle looked nice, and also it was an opportunity to improve some of his "old world" reps - back when Worba was doing all of his quests for Orgrimmar, Dark Spear etc, you got just 100 rep per quest, causing him to be way behind most of my other characters in reputation. To date Worb has made "champion" with all factions save the blood elves - he's also made exalted with TB, in order to get access to a kodo mount, although he quit riding it and the mammoth once the Halloween event opened - but I get ahead of myself...

Meanwhile patch 3.2 came out and kicked off a new tradition of releasing a new spirit beast with each patch - and Skoll the electrified wolf was added to the game. Having already tamed Loque and Gondria on other hunters I decided to go after Skoll with Worba. This was not something I decided lightly, as Uther is one of the oldest servers and so the competition was going to be fierce.

But I rolled up my sleeves and did what I always do when trying for the rare tames - patrol the spawn areas, log off, and try again later in between playing other toons - I make a point of not sitting around "camping" as it's incredibly boring, except when other players come along and try to harass you and start a "turf war", and then all sorts of magical stupidity ensues.

Sure enough, there were plenty of other hunters flying around or just squatting on the spawn points like deranged shotgun slingin' gold prospectors all giving eachother the stink eye...

After a few weeks of fruitless fly-bys, I took a break from the "Skoll Patrol", and just spent some time solo'ing Steamvaults with my trusty turtle, to bring my rep to exalted with Cenarion Expedition, and claim the Guardian of Cenarius achievement - a nice way of leveraging my old pre-TBC gains with Cenarion Circle into a nifty new title.

Right around that time they dropped the price of epic mounts by way of subjecting them to reputation discount, and I was just able to afford an armored wyvern, and all of its associated costs.

Outfitted with a much faster means of getting around, I returned to Storm Peaks and resumed my flyovers in search of the elusive Skoll - at 280% speed I could now check all of his spawn points without it seeming to take forever.

Finally in mid Sept, about a month and a half after 3.2 came out, I got lucky and spotted the crackling canine in Bor's Breath - would have mistaken him for a Stormcrest Eaglet on my beast tracking if my targeting macro hadn't dutifully chimed a warning (I don't use NPC_Scan or anything like it - although undeniably useful for this sort of thing, I feel it cheapens the game a bit too much for my taste). Landed, dismissed my placeholder Jormungar, dropped a freeze trap and tamed without any of the crazed panicking that characterized my last spirit beast tame, and Skoll was mine. Just like that.

After a good deal of thought I finally decided to name him Fenris, after the "Doomsday Wolf" prophesied to kill Odin at Ragnarok (and also not incidentally the sire of the original Skoll in Nordic myth). Nowadays I focus mostly just on Brick, Kali and Fenris - I miss playing Diablo but find I have trouble keeping my interest when playing more than 2 pets of the same family (and that's pushing it).

More recently, I decided to do the Halloween Event with Worba. While I was only realistically hoping to get the DPS ring, the thought was in the back of my mind that of all my level 75-80 toons, Worba was the only one without a "special" flying mount (my night elves ride a Cenarion Griffin and a Netherdrake, my blood elf rides a Green Proto-Drake, and my dwarf rides a Turbocharged Gyrocopter), and so I figured if the Reins of the Headless Horseman were to drop (ha ha, as if), it would be Worba who I'd most want to be playing.

Last year and the year before I'd done the event many times on several different toons, but never once saw the reins drop, so this was really just a pipe dream...

Anyway, so Worb finds a group, and using his wasp Kali actually manages to do some good DPS, vying for top spot the whole way through and doing something like 2/3 more DPS than I ever managed vs target dummies (this actually put him a smidge higher than the best my (much better geared) MM hunter has ever managed (I'm still not clear on how that happened but am guessing it's probably a combination of trinket procs, crits and "reactionary moves"), and things are going along well - and the DPS ring drops. No one else wants it so I scoop it up and think "at least I'll have something to show for it now". Broom drops like 3 times but I lose the roll on all of them, and I shrug - this looks familiar...

Then a few kills later, the reins drop. Everyone rolls need except the warrior who already has them... dazed, I go ahead and select "need" as well, fully prepared to lose the roll as I pretty much always have in the past, when trying for anything I really really wanted... and lo and behold... I won! Two of the others offered to buy it from me, paying as much as 1500g, but I politely declined - I wouldn't have sold it for any amount. After all, aside from being one of the coolest (if not THE coolest) mount in the game so far, just about anything you could buy with cash would be eclipsed by starter greens as soon as the next expansion hit, whereas this mount not only flies but scales with your riding skill.

With the acquisition of this fiery green horse, and the electrified blue wolf, it seems Worba's beast taming skills have advanced to the point of affecting spirit entities with only the most tenuous connection to the animal world...

So feeling pretty lightheaded, I keep on mostly just because I owed it to the other group members to stay and help with the rest of their daily summons... a few more brooms drop but now I figure it would be churlish of me to even try for them, so I pass... well next thing I know, the Baleful Horseman's Blade drops, and you guessed it... I won that too. There was a shocked silence, and one of the other players quietly disconnected. I suppose I can't blame him.

Needless to say, that more than makes up for all of the missed rolls on past loot. I guess sometimes things just go your way...
Continue reading

Monday, July 27, 2009

WoW Profiles - Bofors at 78

Spec: Survival / BM
Profs: Mining/Engineering
Achievements: Tamed The Beast from UBRS at 76, exalted with Stormwind, Ironforge, Exodar, Gnomeregan and Darnassus, Magical Crawdad.
Pets: Core Hound ("Magma"), Hyena (“Red”), crab (“Vise”) and spider (“Slag”)
Themes: Alan Quatermain, tinker, red/orange, fire
Years ago, having recently finished playing a 1-70 marathon session with Velocity the night elf and looking to start a new hunter, I decided this time I'd try a dwarf – I was looking forward to playing a hunter who even the youngest/shortest pet would look “large” next to!

I drew a lot of inspiration from the character of Hemet Nesingwary – the idea of a larger than life Big Game Hunter of Legend seemed to have a lot of potential; something with a vague 19th/early 20th century feel. Along those lines I named him “Bofors”, which was the name of the Swedish manufacturer of the famous “Bofors Gun” back in the WWI-WWII period.

For professions, I went with mining/engineering; being mostly a solo player, I wanted access to superior (or at least decent) firearms that didn't require quests, dungeons, PVP etc. I figured the dwarf’s extensive experience with field stripping firearms plus a somewhat eccentric nature would have produced an inclination to explore the mechanical mysteries and create contraptions that would aid him “on the hunt” or provide amusement and “lift morale at camp”.

Further in keeping with his image as a jungle explorer, I decided he should ride an elephant rather than the standard dwarven ram – by now I’d become determined to get my characters cross faction mounts, a precious source of motivation during the otherwise very bleak and repetitive old world areas (back when Bofors was leveling, you still needed to make lvl 40 just to attain regular riding skill).

So this shaped his itinerary up through level 40; I methodically went around doing every Alliance faction quest I could find, and finally by I think level 37 had reached exalted with everyone except Gnomeregan – this had made for a spectacularly dull run since most of the time it meant he was doing gray quests... but having a purple elekk mount to ride at lvl 40 was a bright spot at the end of the tunnel, and made for a nice pick-me-up when I finally "arrived" at lvl 40...

Then patch 3.0 came out; all of a sudden hunters and their pets received a sweeping upgrade, and there were new specs and pets to try, so I planned out a major revamp for Bofors; previously he'd been an uninteresting mish-mash of MM and SV, so after some thought I decided on a full survival spec, and some pets that would (hopefully) help keep enemies at range while I pounded them with explosive shot, steady, auto and whatever else I could throw at them; this looked like a setup that would capitalize on a good chunk of the new 3.0 goodies.

First off I tamed a Scarlet Hound at the Scarlet Monastery, who I named “Red” – for Bofors I wanted pet names that were simple, preferably monosyllabic. This was a gruff outdoorsman after all and not someone who'd be seen running about with a cat named "Silvermyst"! I'd always thought the red hyenas were cool looking but not enough to justify the bother of taming something that was just a stripped down wolf - but with the addition of Tendon Rip that became another story.

A crab seemed the perfect choice for a tenacity pet, with its new Pin ability combined with the innate toughness that would hopefully see it through a few applications of Misdirection - and next to a dwarf, it would still look respectably large. I took a trip to the shores of Durotar and tamed a red crab, which I named “Vise” (it was nice for once to watch a new tame grow instead of shrink).

I now had myself a tenacity and ferocity pet, and did some leveling with them – the new arrangement seemed to work pretty well, and I found myself enjoying this character once more, and before long I was high enough level to tame the last pet on my wishlist; a lava spider from Searing Gorge.

Like the scarlet hyena, the lava spider was an interesting looking beast that I hadn't quite been able to justify taming on account of its lack of special ability, and like the hyena, this creature became a much more attractive choice in 3.0, now that it had Web to tie enemies up. “Slag” proved to be a nice addition and to complete the ruddy colored theme I sent Bofors to the new barbershop to become a redhead...

By the time I made 60, I’d raised my Gnomeregan rep to exalted as well, and decided that his epic mount would be the culmination of his years as an engineer – the venerable elekk was put out to pasture (savannah?) and replaced with a clockwork ostrich, aka mechanostrider. Back then, mechanostriders could only be ridden by gnomes and dwarves, so it seemed a nice fit and helped keep things interesting as I zoomed around Outlands on my new whirring, clanking mount.

While the quest rewards in Outlands were certainly very nice (getting Hemet's Elekk Gun at lvl 65 was cool but shortly to be replaced by a Northrend green), it was the new skill 301-375 engineering recipes that really stood out for me, and I made sure to take periodic detours from my questing to farm engineering mats and keep his skills up; having engineering had pretty much always ensured I had a rifle that was at least adequate, but now I was getting access to some really nice stuff – the adamantite shell machine for one gave me a way of producing ammo whose DPS was just shy of the sort not normally available until level 75, but which I could use from level 62 thanks to engineering.

In addition there were the teleportation trinkets which let me hop back and forth more or less freely between Old World and Outland along with the occasional amusing side effect… I also got the epic chainmail goggles which he still uses a dozen levels later, and last but not least a turbo-gyrocopter.

At level 68 I moved Bofors over to Northrend; as with Outland, nice quest rewards, awesome engineering recipes – flexweave underlay lets you avoid having to keep a parachute cloak in your bags, the hand mounted pyro rocket in addition to having a cool looking effect actually does a decent amount of DPS and CD is (just) short enough to make it a factor in regular combat… but
the hands down coolest item (so far!) is the Mark S Boomstick, which I’ve been using from level 73 - engineer only, and slightly better than the rep reward firearms not available until lvl 78.

Long ago I’d gotten Bofors’ fishing skill up to 229 or so before giving up on it – back then a failed attempt simply resulted in the annoying “Your Fish Got Away” message… and no chance of skillup, e.g. you either stayed in the same low level fishing area from 1-375, or else you advanced as skill permitted, with frequent, wasted casts (i.e. a lot more time spent).

Recently however Blizzard had overhauled the fishing process to A) allow at least a minimal chance of success in any area even for skill 1 and B) failed casts now result in an 18 cp junk item – but remain eligible for skillup. So I decided to give this another try; I've wanted a Magical Crawdad for some time, and thinking one would look nice alongside Bofors’ red crab, I sent him back to Terrokar Forest to try his luck at the Highland Fishing Schools.

Having found a likely looking area, I settled in expecting a long wait for my number to come up; according to wowhead, you first had to get Mr. Pinchy, which was rare to begin with, but then once received you had to hope that one of his three wishes returned the vanity pet.

On the last cast of my first Highland school, the Mr Pinchy achievement suddenly flashed on my screen (!), and slightly dumbstruck I right clicked on the icon… to find a Magical Crawdad in my inventory (!!). Feeling a bit dizzy, I happily made my way back to Northrend… while I've certainly done plenty of long (sometimes fruitless) grinds, things like this definitely restore one's faith that the odds do tend to balance themselves out... sooner or later. Nice!

This now meant I had one very cool vanity pet to go with my crab, and a couple of comparatively boring ones to go with my hyena and spider. A trip to Blackrock Spire and a bit of puttering in the workshop fixed that - now I had a color changing worg pup to accompany Red, and a smoke belching robot to accent Slag's fiery nature (and his master's engineering skill); although I don't usually put this much work into getting vanity pets, I felt Bofors could use a little spicing up to offset his lack of flashy Northrend combat pets (and as with combat pets, vanity pets look bigger next to a dwarf as well - always a plus!).

But the most noteworthy outcome of Bofors' time in the Blackrock dungeons (if not his entire career...) was his new core hound, aka The Beast. Taming this creature was quite the adventure and which will be covered in a separate post, but suffice to say I couldn't be happier to have him - and it's always nice to have at least one "trophy pet" on your hunter!
Continue reading

Saturday, July 25, 2009

WoW Profiles - Khitsune at 76

Level: 76
Spec: (Spec 1) Marksman / (Spec 2) Beastmaster
Profs: Inscription/Herbalism
Achievements: Flame Keeper, Sea Turtle Mount, Exalted with Kalu'ak, Orgrimmar, Darkspear Trolls, Undercity, Silvermoon, and Thunderbluff, tamed Loque'nahak and Aotona.
Pets: Boar ("Tanuki"), spider ("Jorogumo"), wolf ("Kabuki"), spirit beast ("Raiju")
Theme: Shinto, trickster
Khitsune has made the past 5 levels mostly in Howling Fjord and Grizzly Hills, those being zones I haven’t frequented as much previously – while I like Borean Tundra and Dragonblight, I have to say HF and GH seem to have a more uniform/distinctive feel to them, with all the focus on the native Vyrkul and related lore.

At level 74 she replaced her moth with a fiery Vargul Blighthound, named “Kabuki”, after the animal’s vague resemblance to the traditional costume worn in these performances; he is a trickster spirit who has befriended Khitsune and the others, finding them quite amusing. I’ve been planning on doing this ever since my moth’s “summoning animation” green glow was removed and leaving it a comparatively drab creature; going from a moth to a wolf actually isn’t a huge shift in tactics, since both are ferocity pets who use a combat buff; obviously the moth will be a bit more of a tank while the wolf is for DPS, but this is not a big deal given that I have a tenacity pet for the tough fights.

After that, the Midsummer Fire Festival got underway, and I decided to get Khit a Spirit of Summer to go with her new wolf… by the time I’d achieved that I’d gotten to thinking it might be nice to have the title, too… and so I went whole hog and did everything. Although I’ve dabbled in previous Midsummer events, this is the first time I “did it all”.

I made sure to keep up with the Midsummer dailies, finding that like riding a bicycle, torch juggling skills always come back…

The bonfires were time consuming but not difficult thanks to epic land mount + humanoid tracking + aspect of the beast + small amount of luck; I got the Outland bonfires out of the way first so as to avoid getting barnstormed by players on epic flyers, and then slowly worked my way through the Old World bonfires, stopping along the way to grab flames from the enemy capitals.

Darnassus and Stormwind went the smoothest with only one death each, while Exodar and Ironforge required a bit of “corpse hopping” to pull it off, due to their more difficult city layout/bonfire placement.

Stormwind was the only city where I encountered any real resistance from enemy players, and even there I was able to grab the flame before they and the guards took me out – after that, I returned to find 2-3 players camping my corpse, but I managed to “outfox” them by simply resurrecting at the bottom of the canal behind them, and used my turtle mount and Kalu’ak fishing pole to submarine my way out to the docks - a quick hop overland past a few guards and then from there along the coast to Westfall safely underwater once more – while I haven’t had many opportunities to use my turtle and fishing pole since I got them back at lvl 71, they came in very handy here.

Total gear repair bill from city deaths: a few silver, as I was wearing lvl 10 vendor chainmail…

The Dalaran juggling achievement was do-able with 15 torches and a hotkey, although it took a couple tries and left me feeling like a human jackhammer.

The hardest part of the Ahune event was simply finding a group; the actual fight proved to be a total breeze thanks to the level 80s (and I’m glad I did it this year because Blizzard has announced plans to bump Ahune up to 80 for next Summer), netting me an achievement, a Tabard of Summer Flames, and a bunch of burning blossoms.

And finally after three days’ work, I had my title! (I must say I think the fire theme and Midsummer outfit ties in pretty well with Khit’s supernatural/fey/fox nature but maybe that’s just me)

The event had netted me perhaps 300-400 gold and about a level of exp; after some more time in Grizzly Hills I made level 76 and started thinking about getting some new pets.

First off I traveled to the Argent Vanguard at Icecrown, and replaced my red spider with a Carrion Fleshstripper; this spider model is extremely cool looking and not commonly seen (can’t recall ever seeing another player with one in fact), so it was a sweet upgrade – gave it the same name of “Jorogumo” and it was ready to go; I figured this would represent “Jo Jo” maturing into a more demonic spider form…

Next up I decided to go after Loque’nahak; of all my hunters in the end game, Khit seemed like the best fit for this particular pet, and so I went about getting her dual spec and setting up a BM51 offspec – this kind of wreaked havoc on my macros and took some major getting used to, but after a little while I’d adjusted everything to work and was ready to head over to Scholazar Basin.

The thing I found about dual spec with BM51, is that you have to swap pets at a stablemaster immediately after switching specs – and reserving each pet for use with just one spec. Otherwise, your pet’s talents keep getting reset every time you switch specs, which gets old real fast.

Over in Scholazar, it took me some two days or so of herb gathering before I finally located the elusive prowler, during which time I kept a placeholder rhino pet and got Khit’s inscription raised by some 30-40 points or so (that place has a ton of resources); I’d also stumbled across Aotona and parked her in my stables – she should work well as a dedicated cunning pet for BM spec.

When I found Loque, I had to move pretty quick as I was being trailed by a swarm of angry giant wasps, and ended up wasting my freeze trap on one before I FD’ed… but happily after that the tame went pretty smoothly and I had my very own Ghostsaber 2.0 (he did take off a chunk of my HP, but fortunately his DPS seemed to taper off once I was down to 30-40%); while I subsequently tamed Gondria on my BM nelf hunter, I have to say that I think Loque looks cooler – among other things Loque has an (almost) unique look reserved just for himself and a cat goddess… whilst Gondria actually uses a “standard” cat model + ghost overlay effect (check out the undead gryphon riders in SE dragonblight and you’ll see what I mean).

After some research I named him “Raiju”, which is the name of the pet/sidekick belonging to the Shinto thunder god Raiden; the classic description of this creature fits spirit beasts to a “T” (“Its body is composed of either lightning or fire and may be in the shape of a cat, tanuki, monkey, or weasel”), and I wouldn’t be surprised if this was in fact part of the inspiration for spirit beasts. I decided that Raiju would have been sent as a reward for the “Faithful pursuit of good deeds beyond the terms of the heavenly sentence” and a general mark of favor from his master Raiden, who perhaps also felt his pet was spending too much time sleeping and needed some exercise.
Continue reading

WoW Profiles - Dougal at 77

Level: 77
Spec: Beastmaster (“Shooty”)
Profs: Mining/Herbalism
Achievements: Exalted with Kurenai and Cenarion Expedition, Cenarion War Hippogryph, tamed Nuramoc and Gondria
Pets: Chimaera (“Nightmare”), silithid (“Lurk”), hyena (“Frenzy”), spirit beast ("Aurora")
Theme: Purple, creepy
As planned, Dougal leveled from 74-77 mostly in Zul'Drak and so now he's about 1/3 of the way through honored with Argent Crusade, and on track for getting a Zombie Sweeper Shotgun by 80; in the meantime he has the K3 Pachyderm Prevention Device from Storm Peaks, which is just way-cool looking in addition to having respectable DPS (even if it looks a bit like a super soaker...).

To help with the firepower, at 77 Dougal finished off 3/3 Improved Arcane Shot, which works well with Ferocious Inspiration (combined total of +24% dmg with arcane shot) and helps to achieve my overall goal of making him more of a "shooty" BM spec; although I wanted to take it earlier, things like Careful Aim and Mortal Shots seemed to provide a more reliable DPS boost, so it had to be pushed back until now.

More notably though as of level 77 he gets access to Cold Weather Flying, and so finally he can ride that pretty Cenarion War Hippogryph I’d worked so hard on acquiring back in his early Northrend career. This makes him only my second character able to fly in Northrend, and the first to do so with an epic mount - after all this time immersed in WotLK lvl 68-76, I'd almost forgotten what it was like to jet around at top speed, bypassing pesky ground mobs and otherwise feeling like Snoopy on his flying doghouse... although sk 225 flying mounts will soon enjoy a very nice boost with upcoming patch 3.2 (60% to 150%), there's still no substitute for the 280% full monty (not counting the achievement or PVP mounts, anyway).

Then last but certainly not least there is Gondria...

I have to say, when the spirit beasts first came out I wasn't too crazy about taming them; I thought they were just a little "too hip" and anyways, I figured, once you're a 51 pt BM spec, doesn't every pet become a "super pet",for the most part? But over time I got to thinking "what if I ran across Loque or Gondria and actually had the opportunity to tame it - would I still feel so blase about it, and if not, would I be willing to dismiss my current pet… or what if I just ran into it on a non-hunter (d’oh)?" While the majority of my high level toons are still in the 67-75 bracket, sooner or later I knew I'd be spending more time in Zul'Drak and Scholazar, and it would be just my luck to skip those tames only to run into Loque on my warrior or something.

So I decided to make spirit beasts the new priority - after managing to get Loque for Khitsune, I now had to get Dougal up to 77 and then see if I could track down the other “glowie kitteh”...I thought Gondria would work pretty well on Dougal - being a BM spec he wouldn't need to worry about fancy dual spec arrangements like Khit did, and a spirit beast ought to fit in reasonably well with his travelling menagerie of purplish nightmare beasts, so off I went on my new epic flyer to see if I could pull it off...

Got her on my first run.

I complain about my luck sometimes but things like this remind me that I really have no right to - having just got done taming a "placeholder pet" and setting up a "Gondria macro", I was flying around at mach 1, enjoying my new epic mount and thinking "well, I'll probably get to know this area pretty well by the time I see that cat", and all of a sudden up comes the raid warning and my adrenaline pegs the gauges.

Now, while I think I did a not-terrible job of taming Loque (got him on first try, no deaths or retries), it was another story with Gondria - instead of say, using my placeholder bear to clear the nearby mobs, I hurriedly abandoned him and proceeded to try taming Gondria right on the spot, tunnel vision raging... well, as it happened the nearby mobs displayed truly amazing timing, appearing from nowhere to trip my freeze trap a millisecond or so before Gondria got around to putting her dainty paws on it (spirit beasts hit hard, fyi), and then breaking out to pop me below zero HP when my tame bar was down to 0.001% or 0.002%. If there had been another hunter there, the only thing preventing him from swiping the tame would be if he was laughing too hard to work his keyboard.

Finally on like my 3rd or so corpse run I cooled off enough to form a semi-coherent strategy, and this time dragged her over to a quiet corner where I was able to complete the tame with Gondria frozen and sans interruptions...

Moral of story: if you're trying to tame a rare, do yourself the favor of taking the extra 10-20 seconds to scope out the local situation and make a plan, rather than allowing panic to set the agenda ("oh noes the competition must be RIGHT. ON. MY. HEELS"), because honestly you are going to be wasting much more time on corpse runs if you don't - this much I know.

Still - got her. After some research I decided to name her “Aurora”; since I’d been unable to come up with a decent name that fit with the theme of his other pets, and this seemed appropriate for a glowing spirit creature from an arctic land.

So, yay - now I can get back to playing all my toons with no worries of spirit beasts and bad timing... at least until they add the electrified wolf in 3.2...
Continue reading

Friday, July 24, 2009

Mend Pet SPCA Charity Drive

I sometimes get so caught up in the phenomenon of World of Warcraft that I miss the things that actually... matter.

I'm referring to the place called "Real Life", whose troubles seem so far away when we're off slaying gnolls, doing dailies and otherwise running about with our virtual beast companions (well if you're a hunter fan like myself anyway - it's one of the 3 most popular classes in the game, about even with paladins and behind death knights).

But what makes hunters so popular? For some it's the mechanics of the class; which shots are best for what situation and in what order... but for myself and I suspect plenty others, it's the animals - virtual, yes, and rather too big, spikey and all around deadly to want to encounter IRL under any circumstances... but even as virtual animals, hunter pets do resonate somewhat with a love for animals in the world at large.

It doesn't matter if you're on an RP server or not; personally my interest in roleplaying extends no farther than dreaming up a character background (which never gets shared except here!) - I play PVE servers all the way, and while I try not to sound unintelligent I am guilty of occasionally using things like "lol j/k :)" etc, sorry to say. Nonetheless, I still feel attached to my hunter pets on some level.

And that's because I love animals IRL - my personal weapon of choice is the cat, but pretty much anything that A) won't eat me and B) can show happiness and affection is cool in my book. Always have, always will - and that's why it burns me up when I hear about animal abuse or neglect.

So, when I found out about Brajana's Mend Pet SPCA Charity Drive, I decided I had to get off my tail and help out somehow. Having recently already committed to $18/mo over at www.aspca.org, I didn't have the means to make a financial contribution so I decided to do the next best thing and try to help get the word out. Took me a couple weeks to get around to doing this (sorry!), but there's still a week or so before 7/31 to head over to Mend Pet; please check out Brajana's charity drive and help in any way you can.

Also a big thank you to Mania at Petopia for making us aware of this - and sorry it took me so long to get on the ball. ;)
Continue reading