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Archive for the ‘Levelling’ Category

Once upon a time – ok, Monday night – a crazed gnome warlock (Invariant) and an even more crazed gnome mage (Profusion) queued up in dungeon finder. Then they went and killed lava spiders for a while. About 900 spiders later, the BRD loading screen popped up. Since they were questing in Searing Gorge, this saved them a whole five minutes of running to the stupid instance, a nice convenience. Which would only make graveyard runs more annoying later. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Our gnomish heroes were greeted by a shaman healer and a night elf rogue. “Hi,” they replied back, as Invariant checked the cooldown on her soulstone and told the shaman it’d be ready in ten minutes, only to have the shaman run away from her. Was it her felguard pet? No, it was the heretofore overlooked gnome warrior who had charged the first pack of dwarves he saw and was bashing them with his axe. With a sigh at the impetuousness of plate wearers, our heroes got to work.

Profusion cast Blizzards and Fire Blasts. Invariant – after checking that the healer was solid and had a good mana pool – followed her instincts, ran into combat, and started trying to Hellfire herself to death. Fortunately the healer was better at keeping her alive than she was at killing herself, and things proceeded at a fast pace. The tank seemed to know where he was going. He charged down halls, into packs, around corners, all the way to the Ring of Law, through it, out the other side, over the bridge, jumped down, attacked the Fire Boss, and started heading for the room full of dwarvish crafters and giant statues when something seemed to bother him.

“LOL, [Bracers with Spirit]?” he asked. “noob”.

It took our heroes a moment to realize he was speaking to the rogue. This rogue had been a pleasant companion and kept up very nicely, and he had indeed recently equipped some bracers with spirit as well as stamina on them.

Profusion began to defend the rogue, pointing out that when you are levelling, sometimes you wear inappropriate gear. He didn’t mention all the times his max level characters have worn inappropriate gear, such as the Lovely Dress spotted on his hunter just a few weeks previously, as this was irrelevant to the conversation at hand.

Invariant asked whether the tank had not ever been tempted to equip pally plate. “lol not I’m not a noob” he said. Invariant pointed out that sometimes it’s still an upgrade. The tank said something obnoxious. Meanwhile, the rogue left the party without a word.

“Good l2p noobs shouldn’t play this game” said the tank.

“Yes,” Invariant agreed. “No one should play this game until they have mastered it.”

“The real noobs are the ones who are qq’ing about stats in a level 52 dungeon run,” Profusion said.

At this point, the tank began using truly foul language. Invariant was a bit surprised, as she runs with the profanity filter for a reason, then realized that this person was actually using special characters to get around the filters. After dropping the two most foul words he possibly could, he dropped group in the middle of a fight. Invariant’s loyal minion tanked the rest.

“Good, that saves us from having to kick him,” we agreed, and waited.

After a few rounds of shuffling players, they started off again, lost the healer, finally getting another warrior and a druid to perhaps finish the instance. They went along merrily. At some point, the third tank disappeared. Invariant, being impatient, had her minion try to tank a group only to have everyone go horribly squish.

“Sorry,” the druid said. “I couldn’t click on your pet fast enough.”

“Do you have a healing mod that’s set to show pets?” Invariant asked, her inner healer instincts coming to the fore.

“No, I don’t use mods,” the healer replied.

“Ah, but you should try Vuhdo! It makes healing a lot easier.”

They arrived at the instance again as another tank joined the party and the healer – a truly excellent druid, mod-avoidance-issues notwithstanding – tried to settle the argument with an appeal to authority:

argument from irrelevant authority
Unfortunately Invariant knew to counter the “argument to irrelevant authority” debate tactic by showing it for what it was.

The new tank charged merrily along to the Ring of Law, then stopped in the middle. “We already did that,” they explained. “Come on.” Our heroes went upstairs to go find the statue and gain the key to the city. But the tank did not join them, and suddenly his picture went to the unhappy “disconnected” logo. With a sigh, our heroes waited, then booted him.

Finally a new tank appeared, a white knight in shining armor, wielding the power of virtue and light. This paladin, this paragon of holiness, lead the way courageously through the now largely empty instance as our heroes explained that they really had cleared most of it.

The following conversation was mysteriously retrieved and is displayed for your edification. This is the last we know of what became of our brave adventures.

Into the Fire, Pinky!

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Only made four levels on the noobs yesterday, even with triple XP. I thought I’d take a post and explain a few points about Recruit-a-Friend leveling with regards to established paired players, but first, our story:

Over lunch we made two levels in Darkshire killing some skeletons. Reversion works really close to the house so we can get forty minutes of playtime in if I’ve got lunch ready to go when he gets home. Usually we run an instance; right now, it’s easy to get a level or two on our RAF noobies. Run around, nom some food, ding. It’s that easy.

About four o’clock in the afternoon the power went out for a second. It does that around here kind of a lot. One of the many reasons that the power company may be my most despised utility. They have to beat out the internet provider and that’s a daily competition. Whose commercials do I hear more on the radio that day? Do I have to call up and yell at the internet guys that no, we don’t have cable tv, we don’t want cable tv, I don’t care if it’s only $5 more, go away and die. Or… do we get stupid unexplained power outages.

I get up, check all the parts of our network, turn my computer back on (I know, I need a UPS. Bleah) and wait… there’s a blinking yellow light on the new Airport Express that runs the gaming rigs’ half of the network. Ugh. I find the tool I want on Reversion’s Mac (we’re a mixed marriage; Catholic Mac fan to Presbyterian Windows user) and try restoring settings. It doesn’t work, I decide I’ll leave it and just play with the Nomster. She’s cuter anyway.

Reversion gets home, we set the network back up. He logs into WoW as I try to figure out why my machine isn’t getting a connection. I plug some  cables back into the switch. The network goes down.

We spend the next hour or more trying to figure out why, now, we can’t see the devices we could see before. Finally in the midst of brainstorming, Reversion looks at the switch… where I’ve plugged both ends of one cable in. Making a loop. This is a Bad Thing. I know it’s a Bad Thing. I have a masters degree in Computer Science. In grad school, I was a systems admin for our department. Go ahead, point and laugh.

Evening’s pretty much shot but we log on for 45 minutes, get two levels, pick up some flight points, and chat a little with folks that are on in SAN. It’s really cool saying Hi to people you know from blogs. Way more fun leveling up over there.

Anyway. The actual content of this post is about RaF leveling in pairs. First, a warning. Please don’t get your girlfriend an RaF account and nag her into playing WoW with you. Leveling goes too darn fast. She’s likely to end up with a level 60 character she has no idea how to play, a whirlwind trip across half of Azeroth, and a bad taste in her mouth. Honestly the best approach there is to let her develop an interest in the game and then use RaF to power level a character she wants to play, if you’re determined to use RaF at all.

Ok, that out of the way, RaF is great for pairs who play together and want to power level some alts. Decide who gets the new account and who is the ‘veteran’ player. The Veteran will get the loot (sweet rocket ride) so you may have to do this twice to make sure nobody gets left out ;-) Anyway the Veteran emails an invitation to the other member of the pair, who clicks the link in the email to create a linked account.

You can have this linked account on the same Battle.net account as your real WoW account. You just have to be on a separate Battle.net account from the Veteran account.

Now, this new account is a trial account. It can’t level past 20, or trade, or join a guild, or whisper people, or invite to groups. Thank your friendly neighborhood gold sellers for this one. If you are doing this to get the mount, what you do next is buy two game time cards or time card codes – these you can buy from Blizzard’s online store – activate your account as a real account, and apply the time cards. Now you have an active account with three months of playtime on it. When you add the first month of playtime, the Veteran account receives one month free playtime. When you add the second month, the Veteran gets the rocket mount.

The rocket can only go to one character on the Veteran account. You select which from the RaF website showing what rewards you’ve received, and the character gets the rocket in in-game mail.

A note about upgrading from a trial account to a real one: the leveling restriction is removed right away but the other restrictions may take a while. I upgraded mine around noon Saturday and did not get an email saying that the upgrade was complete until late Sunday. Meanwhile, I’d dinged 25 and was seriously hurting for cash.

Thanks to triple XP leveling speed, you need to train all the darn time and you have to do so little questing, you just don’t have money.  For this reason you might want to make the new characters on a server where you have friends or other characters who can loan you cash. Don’t bother taking gather skills and trying to mine your way to gold; you level way too fast for that. Fortunately we had a hundred gold or so on Argent Dawn already thanks to our previous time in SAN.

More RAF details: you have to be grouped together to get the bonus XP, and fairly close . Watch carefully, you don’t want to miss any of that precious precious XP! Pick up the “Kill Ten X” quests and not so much the “Bring me 18 tongues” quests. Takes too long. Plan ahead and pick up quests for instances, then run the instance and do all the quests. You’ll probably only go once before it’s not worth it for XP.  We did Stockades with the full set of 6 quests. By the time we could even get the Wetlands quest, some of them were green. Between running Stocks and turning in, we got four levels.

Strategize: once per hour each of you can summon the other to where you are. Set your hearthstones in different locations and use it as a quick travel method. (One at the trainer, one at the quest hub works nicely). Train every fourth level, or you’ll be running back to the trainer all the time. And look for quests that reward gear…

The newbie character can grant levels to a character on the veteran account, one level per every two that the newbie has. So if the newbie runs a character up to 60, he can grant 30 levels to a veteran character. To do this you have to be in the same location so it’s same server only.

You also gain a little more reputation than otherwise, I think it’s 10% extra. Just FYI.

So why would you want to do this? There’s the mount, of course. There’s having some level 60 characters fast – nice for figuring out if you actually like a playstyle, since many characters don’t really handle like they will at endgame until at least 40 if not 60. If you want a stable of alts on another server, this works well.

Cost: $20 for the new account plus $30 game time if you’re doing the two months = $50. If you’re paying for the veteran account from the same budget, subtract the $15 of free time the veteran receives = $35.  Any characters you transfer off of the newbie account are $25. I’ll probably just abandon mine  and we’ll RaF again so I can get a mount and permanent characters.

So far: our characters are level 34 and our /played time is something like 16 hours, and that includes leaving WoW logged in and walking away.

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Alts X 2

Because it is not possible to have too many alts, and because the rocket is too freaking cool, we have recruit-a-friend going right now. We had been planning to do it since the rocket announcement and were just waiting until after kid’s weeks. So now Approximate has a new two person flying mount and we are grinding up soon noobies in Singal Abstract Noun.
Profusion and Invariant (mk2) are the pair, a mage and a lock. The times I tried a mage they always felt too squishy in contrast to my hunter. Dying a lot gets old. It helps to have the levels fly past with the RAF bonuses though. Still, we did find out the hard way on Sunday that that this pair simply can’t AOE level mobs 3 levels higher. Our last leveling pairs have been bear/tree, pally/boomkin and warrior/priest so we got a bit spoiled. Still, we are finding the right pace for two glass cannons.
We just dinged 26 over lunch. The plan this time is to grind to 60 just about every class we don’t already have alts. It will probably take a second RAF pair (getting Analogue the rocket too) in order to get them all. But we do have it for 3 months so we might as well make the most of it.
Last time we did RAF was with our druid pair (Reversion and Analogue). That time we were too pumped druiding to go back and use RAF on any other pairs. This time we will do better and get the most out of it. I am still not sure which classes I will use level granting and which I will actually grind.
Fortunatly on the SAN server we had already leveled a few characters to between 7 and 14. That is not much, but by using gather professions and a good auction addon we already had 50 or 100 gold (not sure how much. She keeps the checkbook).
Getting all the new 60s to 80 will be a chore. We certainly will not do them all at once and we are sure to be more sick of the Outlands than ever before. At least the instances anyway. The warrior I most recently ran though there only actually did something like 26 quests in the whole place. That was without even running Slabs, Dark Portal, any of the tempest keep 5 mans or magister’s terrace.
It goes pretty fast if you don’t grind without rested. With multiple alts at 60 that should be easy.

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This weekend it was time for some BC dungeon pugs with my disc priest and Reversion’s warrior. Thursday afternoon I had run around and gotten us attuned for Old Hillsbrad so we tried queuing specifically for that and got a party right away, to our pleasant surprise.  There was a paladin, a hunter, and a shadow priest. Reversion and I hopped on the dragon, the shadow priest right behind us, and took off. As we start in on the first guards at the gate the hunter says “We can’t make the dragon work”. So we tell them to get a new pack of bombs first and they make their way to us. I glance at the paladin and hunter – same server, different guilds, but I was betting they were friends or relatives in RL. Sometimes you can get that vibe.

We start clearing stuff, I ask the shadow priest for some tips on a face-melt rotation (thanks! It worked, I killed quest mobs most painfully) and then I notice something odd. When we’re fighting, Reversion is the only one in melee. The hunter and priest are staying back, as they should, but so is the paladin. And he’s… casting… Exorcism?

Yes, we had just encountered the melee hunter’s opposite number; the ranged Ret pally.

I let it slide. He’d occasionally run in and consecrate, and he seemed a bit awkward at the game. When we made it to the keep to get Thrall, he could not find the basement and the hunter reminded us that he wasn’t there yet before starting the escort phase; I was more convinced than ever that they were a dad and kid, or something similar. The paladin said nothing the whole run. His exorcisms hit pretty hard, actually, and things died well. So it didn’t matter.

Next there was an Auchenai Crypts run, not notable except that we got three hunters as our dps. It’s bad enough trying to convince one hunter that his pet is growling; trying to track down and identify which two out of three are doing it, especially when two are white corehounds, is just not fun.

That was Friday; Saturday morning we queued up and got Steam Vaults. I was thrilled; I’ve been in there perhaps twice before. It’s great fun running instances you don’t really know. We got a mage, a DK, and a hunter. We fought our way to the gnome mekgineer boss – then were stumped. Where was the other boss we had to kill? We backtracked and started clearing. Suddenly the mage said “I was right we just need a key” and takes off for the other side of the instance where the locked door is that the final boss is waiting behind. We ignore him since Reversion has already said he’s pretty sure we need to kill the boss over up the ramp from where we are.

“Guys I gtg” the DK says suddenly, and leaves. The mage follows suit without a word, and we queue for dps. We finish clearing trash and we’re still waiting, having found the naga lady boss and her elemental pets.

After six or so minutes in the queue we agree we have nothing to lose by trying, so we start in three man and wipe. No problem; I identify two things I did wrong, we note boss mechanics and discuss strategy as we run back. Reversion is explaining to the hunter how he wants to have the hunter use Distracting Shot and freeze trap one of the adds on one side of the room. As we’re plotting strategy we get just a tiny bit too close to the boss – oops. The hunter goes down fast, Reversion and I try until I get silenced, and we wipe again.

Back again, and we’re ready to try. Reversion charges in. The hunter pulls out an add, but it resists the trap. Reversion taunts it back, and then the hunter pulls it out again. They ping pong it for a few rounds as they’re dpsing down the other add. For an ad-hoc strategy it works great. They kill the first add then focus on the second one. I’m healing away – she keeps silencing me so I have to play catch up rather than dps – and then suddenly I notice my combat text: “Berrysnatcher has died”.

Berrysnatcher? Is that the hunter’s pet? Nope! In the middle of the fight we’d received our two new dps friends, a rogue and a shaman, who commendably had run straight into the fight and gotten creamed. Vuhdo, like most raid frame addons, can’t update during combat and I had not even noticed the two new guys were here before they died.

We took the boss down, I rezzed and apologized to the new folks, and we ran to the end boss and killed him down fast. It was great fun – I love strategizing kills rather than just brute forcing them.

And then after lunch and some baby play time (Nomster dinged one yesterday and I guess she’s not really a baby any more!) we queue again and get Sethikk Halls. Ah, yes…

So we get a hunter, a mage, and a dk. The mage is very “go-go-go” but I’m having mana problems so Reversion takes things at my speed. The hunter has to be told twice to take his pet off growl. He’s not very good and he keeps a constant stream of banter going that tells us he’s probably about 12. In fact, after some particularly inane comments, I ask him if he’s twelve and he eventually after some “lol” and “guess”  says he’s 11. Well, we’re warned.

We get all the way to the end and on the final boss wipe; I got polymorphed and couldn’t get around the pillar in time to avoid the arcane explosion. The mage says something rude and drops group; the rest of us run back and a nice shaman joins us halfway through. “Oh, that boss,” she says when we explain what happened. “Ugh. But why drop now?” Exactly my thought. I share the instance quests with her even though she can’t complete them since we’ve killed a boss she needs, but now she’s got them, and she thanks me. We drop the boss. The hunter dies; I don’t think he understands the need to hide behind the pillars even though we told him so. Reversion’s been whispering with the shaman, who wants to know if we’ll re-queue with her once the others drop. We agree and wait. The dk drops – and the hunter starts popping up the “requeue” screen. We decline and decline and decline. “Come on pick a role” he says. “You’re not very good at taking hints are you?” I ask. Finally, since we’re not getting rid of him, we take the queue.

Of course the last slot is a dk. He sets out immediately proving that he is less mature than the hunter; death gripping mobs to himself, being a jerk in chat, and finally bragging “Wow! I’m getting 1k death strikes!” which makes us all notice that his damage is, in fact, abyssmal. We point this out – he’s doing 125 dps. The idiot hunter is managing close to 500 – and he gets abusive, so we kick him.

His replacement is a paladin. A paladin who apparently thinks he is the tank. “Go go go” he says. I explain again that Reversion is catering to my mana. He doesn’t think much of this. He keeps over-pulling, grabbing other groups – and finally he runs into a room, aggros everything, I am sitting and drinking and we just decide to let him die. We end up wiping since he pulled three groups and didn’t kill anything before he died and on the way back from the graveyard he starts giving me crap about “you need to say something if you’re afk”.

I explain that I was not afk, I just wasn’t putting up  with that sort of behavior, and he tries to vote kick me. Reversion laughs at him and says “good luck with that, since I’m married to her, no way”. Apparently he tried again several times and then he tried to kick Reversion, with the same luck.

Unfortunately since we kicked the dk, we cannot kick this idiot, so I tell the shaman not to heal when he does his nonsense. Sure enough when we get back he tries it again. We ignore him, Reversion tanks the mobs he was planning to pull, I heal people who aren’t the paladin, the paladin dies, we clean up, and we leave him lying dead on the floor and head in to kill the boss.

The guy didn’t bother releasing. Why do that when you can pile invective on peoples’ heads? I guess low level instances are srs bznz and that my job as the healer is to heal people regardless of whether they are doing their job or trying to get me killed. Also I guess things like “doing what the tank says” or “paying attention to healer mana” are overrated.

Anyway, great weekend. I learned a valuable lesson about the difference between jerkwad behavior and “I’m 11″ behavior. I’ll put up with 11 year olds but people who are just annoying and mean get to suffer.

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Maybe you’re like me; totally psyched for Cataclysm, starting to be a bit bored with current content, wanting one last run through Old Azeroth before it becomes New And Improved Azeroth (Now with 500% more Lava!). And you’ve rolled, or are thinking of rolling, a class that can heal. Let’s say you’ve never healed before. Does the prospect seem daunting?

It definitely can, especially at low levels when you don’t have as many healing abilities. Team that up with low level tanks not having all their mitigation abilities and low level dps being no better than top level ones at not getting face stomped and a pug of RFC or Stockades suddenly approaches the difficulty and pain of a Blood Princes encounter.

The first thing you have to do is start thinking like a healer, and I think the most important skill there is triage. It’s a term referring to what battlefield medics or ER staff do; assess the injury status of patients in such a way as to save as many lives as possible.

For triage in WoW to work, you need to know what your abilities are and what they do. Even at low levels most healing classes will have at least a long slow big heal and a short fast small heal. Some classes already have hots or shields or other ways of preventing or healing damage. Make a mental inventory of all these.

Next, assess your party makeup. I’ll assume a classic five man group; fewer than five man and the problem gets easier. Our imaginary party will be a young Warrior tank, a hunter and his pet turtle Bessy, a frost mage, a rogue, and you, a priest (translate this to whatever healing class is appropriate; the priest is a good one for this scenario).

Notice that I set up this party so that other than the hunter’s Mend Pet ability, nobody else has healing spells. We’ll assume the rogue can bandage and likes to do so. Everything else is up to you.

Now set up a priority queue in your mind. It goes like this:

You
Tank
Whatever DPS has done the least to make your life miserable or you are romantically involved with
The other dps
The pet
The DPSer you are romantically involved with if he forgot that your birthday was last week

This is the “keep them alive” priority and not the “heal them” priority. What’s the difference? The “keep them alive” priority stays static the whole time; it doesn’t change unless someone annoys you enough to move down the ladder, or brings you chocolate and wine and moves up the queue. The “Heal them” priority queue changes every second of the fight. Here’s how it work.

You engage a small patrol. The tank picks up aggro and starts taking damage. You throw him a Power Word: Shield and a Renew and he stops taking damage while the shield is up. When it wears off, he starts taking some damage again. The Renew is a Heal Over Time spell and mends some of that damage, but he’s down about a quarter of his hit points and the mobs are still hitting him, so you start casting a Heal. (Assume you don’t yet have Greater Heal). Now he’s got his health back. You refresh the Renew, the mobs die, and everyone’s happy.

That one was easy! Only the tank needed healing. You adjusted your heals based on what he needed to keep his health bar full, didn’t waste mana, and nothing got scary.

Now on to the next pull. This one has more mobs and some of them are ranged. As you throw a Renew and Shield on the tank, it causes you to get aggro from one of the casters, who starts throwing ice bolts at you. You immediately put a shield on yourself and since you don’t have much damage, a Renew. Then the mage gets attention from one of the mobs, who wanders over and starts hitting him. The mage panics and runs over to you and then frost novas and runs away, leaving the mob right next to you. The mob decides that you look tasty and starts biting you. Meanwhile the tank just got critted and is at 50% health and falling.

Summary: You and the tank are both being actively hit
The mage is not being actively hit
You are at 70% life. The tank is at 50% life. The mage is at 30% life.
What do you do?

Well, whatever you do, you’ve got to get the mob off you. Take a few steps toward the tank. While the frost nova holds the mob can’t bite you. When it wears off, it will have to come toward the tank to get you. At the same time, refresh the Renew that’s on yourself. Now pay attention to the tank! If you can shield him again, do that. If the Renew is gone, refresh it. Then cast your fast quick heal, Flash Heal. It doesn’t do as much, but your tank is hurting bad and you need to get some breathing room. Often a couple of quick fast heals will get you enough breathing room to have time to cast your long slow top-them-up heal.

Now the tank is at 70%, you’re at 85%, and the mage is still hurting. If you can spare time, drop a Renew on him and let him stew. If you eventually have the time and mana, Flash Heal him to about 80%. More than that is a waste of your global cool downs and mana. He should have learned his lesson and not pull the mobs again this fight. A few missing health points is a good lesson.

Oops, mobs still not dead. The tank has them all now, but the hunter, who has been afk, finally wakes up and sends in his pet, who growls at one mob and gets it to turn and fight him. Bossy the Turtle takes some damage. You can choose to heal it, or not; the hunter ought to Mend Pet on it and he was stupid to have its Growl on, but the pet is doing good dps and if you can spare the mana, give it some love.

And the rogue is taking a little aoe damage. He bandaged himself earlier when things were messy, so now you drop a shield and a Renew on him, and then turn your attention back to the tank who is in need of more Flash Heals.

Oh, dear – you guys just aggroed the boss who was wandering around, and he runs in and throws a big AOE that damages you all pretty badly. What do you do now?

Throw a shield on yourself and the tank (if you were a druid you’d be dropping more HOTs on you both here) and then cast your AOE heal. Sorry paladins, you don’t have an AOE heal, but the other three classes do and this is where to use them; you’ve got at least three people hurt and the tank is not taking so much damage that your heal can’t keep up.

Now you’re all at manageable health. Go back to the tank, keep him alive, and – oh dear. You’re out of mana. This will be fun.

Warn everyone “OOM!” and hope they get the message. No matter how much damage is flying around, do not spend mana on heals for anyone except you and the tank, and mostly the tank. If he drops you’re all dead, whereas if you keep him alive you might survive this.

Every time you have enough mana, cast your Flash Heal. It’s the fastest cast you have and so will get you back into mana regen mode as fast as possible (takes five seconds after the end of your last cast for your mana regen to start actually doing much).

Now let’s talk about what happens when things really go haywire; multiple groups of mobs, aggro everywhere, tank getting low, mage getting squishy, and your own special set of ravenous admirers.

First off, don’t panic. Easier said than done, but don’t panic. If you do, things will get worse. The worst outcome here is a wipe. Nothing can be worse than that. Your goal, once things start going turnip-shaped, is to keep yourself alive at the end. Everyone else is a means to that end. Remember, you have the magic res fingers!

If you are to stay alive, that means someone has to kill the mobs that want to eat you. Probably that means keep the tank and some dps alive. Sometimes it means all the dps die really fast and you and the tank slug it out slowly with the last few mobs.

start with keeping yourself alive. That might mean moving instead of healing; go over to the tank and hope he pulls the mobs off rather than trying to heal through the bites. You are not the tank. Don’t act like one. If you have damage mitigation cooldowns, use them. A druid should throw a hot on herself, throw Barkskin, and go to the tank. A priest should shield herself. A Paladin can use Hand of Salvation or Divine Protection (use HoS on yourself, Divine Protection on the tank, and gain some breathing room).

Next, if the tank is getting low, throw heals at him while you scan everyone else. Is there someone who is very low but not actively taking damage? Throw a hot or shield or Flash of Flight/Flash Heal at him to give him more breathing room. Someone who is low and actively taking damage, and not the tank, is probably going to die no matter what in a “ah crap” situation. Don’t waste mana and GCDs on a mage who has three mobs on him. He will die and his friends will come eat you next. It is his job to ice block at this point and avoid death, not your job to save him.

Heal the most likely to survive; this is why it’s triage. You decide who lives, who dies. Who is stable or could be stable with minimal intervention? Did the hunter just have his pet growl mobs off of you? Heal that pet, unless the hunter is about to die, in which cast that’s wasted mana.

Keep an eye out for environmental issues that affect you; fire on the ground, curses. Moving cuts down on your heals but so does being dead. Some curses can be ignored or healed through. If you have a curse that makes your casts take 50% longer and it can be removed, remove it! The one GCD and minimal mana you spend there pays for itself almost instantly. On the other hand, if it’s a curse that makes you have 100 less skill at Bows, like in SFK sometimes, ignore it.

Avoid tunnel vision at all costs. I think this is the number one cause of healer death; you’re too busy staring at the health bars to notice the gnolls eating your spleen. One of the best tools for preventing tunnel vision (and sometimes for causing it) is a good raid healing frame mod. Healbot and Grid + clique are both popular setups; my personal favorite is Vuhdo which I think combines the flexibility of Grid with the ease of setup of Healbot. Other sites have done far better rundowns of how to install and tweak these; if you’re stuck for ideas, I recommend visiting the http://www.PlusHeal.com forums and their UI and Mods subforum to see screenshots and suggestions of Healer UIs. Sometimes though healing frames can make tunnel vision worse, when all you focus on is the part of your screen with little boxes and icons. I suggest moving the frames somewhere near the middle of your screen and forcing yourself to see other areas.

Other than that it’s about practice, practice, practice. Going into battlegrounds can be good practice at getting a UI with raid frames set up to where you can concentrate on the frames but still watch your environment. Pug some dungeons – and please don’t wait til you’re 80 to start. It is harder to jump in at top level because your gear will be lagging compared to what people expect. But if you did just dual spec to Holy and you’re 80, go ahead and start! Don’t take stupid comments personally, just have fun.

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The secret to getting the most out of leveling with someone else is in understanding exactly what your class brings to the duo. For a pure dps class, one with no pet and the survivability of a cloth-wearing snowball in hell, the mage can be a powerful addition to a pair.

First, the obvious utility spells. Conjured food and water mean you can avoid spending gold on these. Time between fights is reduced when you can recharge your mana-batteries quickly and easily. The portals you won’t get until 40, at which point you can get from Kalimdor to the Eastern Kingdoms a lot faster than a group with no mage, making Fedex quests a breeze. Dampen and Amplify Magic are almost totally useless spells – unless you’re leveling with a warrior and receiving no healing anyway, in which case reducing the magical damage you might take is great. And Feather Fall is situationally useful.

Second, crowd control. These days nobody uses it at high levels but you can and should use it as you level up. Convince your partner to let you sheep things at the start of a pull. Frost nova and blink away from mobs. Use frost bolts to slow things down. You’re more likely to survive when one of the six gnolls that want your spleen is suddenly a fluffy sheep and the rest are struggling across frozen ground while pelted with shards of ice.

Third, sheer firepower. It’s hard to match a mage for damage as you’re leveling up, and if you’re leveling with someone specced into healing especially you’re going to be doing the lion’s share of the killing. Just remember that especially in the first fifteen levels you are going to pull aggro off your partner even if you’re teamed up with a tank class, and be ready for it.

Tips for Leveling

First, do not spec Arcane. Arcane is not viable until you get Arcane Blast at level 64. Your choices are to level Fire or Frost. A mage who is planning to do a lot of soloing should level Frost. This is also a good spec if you are leveling with a healer or with some other squishy dps class. You can slow things down and kite them while taking little damage yourself.

However, if you’re leveling with a tanky class, you might spec Fire instead. Let your meat shield pick up aggro while you lob balls of fire at the kobolds’ heads. There are plenty of sites out there with leveling mage builds and I won’t replicate that here, but here’s a fire and here’s a frost that are pretty cookie cutter.

You and Your Partner

If you are paired with a warrior, hunter, enhancement shaman, ret paladin (at early levels, or prot later) or feral druid: Spec fire, let your partner or partner’s pet keep aggro on the mobs. Kill things. Don’t pull aggro; cast fireballs and pyroblasts at one mob as a time as long as the tank isn’t dying. This can work with a warlock with a voidwalker out too but warlocks and mages are bad pairs. One second you’re questing, the next second you’ve destroyed two or three countries and your hair is missing.

If you are paired with a priest, balance/resto druid, some sort of shaman that isn’t enhancement (I don’t think they’re doing it right. Unless she’s a resto shaman and you’re doing a lot of LFD), holy pally, or rogue: Spec frost. Plan your pulls carefully. Sheep things, then use frost nova to trap them, empowered blizzard to slow them. Kite ‘em, shoot frostbolts, don’t let them near your partner if he’s healing you.

Either way, things are now dead. Sit down and have some conjured bread and water. Steal the kobold’s candle. Profit.

Other things to consider: Try to get your partner to role a class that does not wear cloth. If you’re teamed with a warlock or shadow priest, you’ll be fighting over gear. You aren’t likely to find a wand until level 15 or so, unless you get lucky, so you might have an enchanter make you a low level wand (the mats are pretty darn cheap). You’ll want a wand; at low levels your mana can disappear fast and leave you no way to kill the mostly-burned-to-death boar that suddenly isn’t dying. Do a little research as you level up to learn real details; this is supposed to give you a feel for the flavor and fun that a mage brings to a pair.

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Did a lot of different stuff in WoW this weekend, mostly on my 60 Draeni priest and my 25 Tauren shaman. Healing on both, even though the shaman is supposedly leveling Enhancement. More on her another time, this is about Hellfire and damnation. Or death knights, anyway.

Anyone who’s run dungeons in the low 60s level range know how many dks seem to be lurking there just waiting for you. I needed two levels on Verdandi, the priest, to catch up to Reversion’s warrior gnome so I queued her up and got Hellfire Ramparts. The good news is that you have a pretty fast queue as a healer; all the dks waiting to be healed make things snappy.

This group had two dks, a mage, and a balance druid. DK tank starts out by overpulling and I heal like crazy, then sit and drink (this group was very good about letting me drink and the mage thoughtfully made me water that was better than the stuff my still 59 priest was forced to use). Meanwhile I checked the dk tank… level 59, wearing the starter gear, all the points in frost, in frost presence. I mentioned that if he put a couple points in the other trees he could get really nice talents that would make him a little less fragile. No response.

Another pull and we barely survive, thanks to the druid going bear and growling things off the mage and the dps dk tanking two creatures.  We asked why the tank wasn’t using Death and Decay. “Dont have it”, he said, and I later looked up and saw that you train it at level 60. Which means he was trying to keep aggro with… not much of anything for tools.

The next pull we wipe. We run back in, I rez the dps dk who has been making suggestions to the tank dk. The mage has been complaining about how bad dk tanks are at this level and how you should level a warrior or paladin as a tank first, not switch right from hunter.  It probably annoyed the tank dk but since he said nothing, I don’t know.

We wipe again, and again, and we kick the tank. Sorry, maybe you didn’t have all the tools yet but that’s a good reason not to queue as a tank. The other dk offers to try tanking for a while and we get a rogue. All goes well up to the first boss. We down him – and then the rogue stealths forward and manages to pull three packs of mobs. We wipe, the rogue drops group. Now we get another dk, this one level 64 when the rest of us are barely 60, so we ask him to tank since our tank dk can’t hold threat off him. He launches into a lecture to our dk about not queueing as tank if you’re not willing to tank – we cut him off with agreement but add a “Dude, you have no clue what we’ve been through”. We finish the place off and drop group with relief.

Now Reversion gets on and will tank for me, we get Hellfire again and this time a dps dk of the “Death Grip is leet funz!” type. First four pulls he grips a mob out of the pack to him and stands there and dpses it. Reversion gives him the “You yank it you tank it” warning after pull 1.  The first few times, the other dpsers help him. Then I think they noticed that he wasn’t getting heals and the tank wasn’t taunting it off him, and realized what we were doing. The next time he came close to dying. “I’m not taunting it off you if you Death Grip it over there,” Reversion says, and I add “and I don’t heal anyone who is making the tank’s life harder.”

Oddly, he got the message… and I didn’t even have to let him die. He slipped up once or twice but his health bar going to 30% seemed to keep him on the straight and narrow.

The next three dks we got all knocked our socks off! Every one showed knowledge of when to use DG. They’d pull casters into the melee and let Reversion get them, and one even pulled back a runner that was about to aggro the patrolling boss! We gave each of them kudos. Is there something in the water?

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I love heirlooms. They make leveling alts so much more fun, I considered the chest and shoulders mandatory for an alt and a weapon almost mandatory, until we rolled alts over on Argent Dawn to join Single Abstract Noun. Now I know that heirlooms are threatening the game and need nerfing, fast.

Why do I say that? It’s not the XP boost, actually; I miss it dreadfully but I can live with the only-slightly-less breakneck pace of leveling that we have these days. Let me relate a little story first.

Analogue the Druid went into Deadmines with three others from SAN; Reversion the Rogue, and a warlock and druid. The other druid wanted to heal so in the interest of a fast queue, I signed in as a tank. I had never bear tanked before (except dropping into bear to growl quest mobs off other people) but I’m a pretty good tank these days, so I didn’t think it would be too hard.

As expected, we wiped a lot; we were low level for the instance and lost three random dpsers before we finally decided to just to finish 4 man. I kept aggro, mostly, things died, mostly, I stayed alive, mostly. All four of us were on a pretty similar level for gear and power, and we had fun. It ended with most of us dead, Van Cleef dead, and too many respawns to run back for his head, but oh well.

After that I got on Annalogue the Paladin, who like Analogue the Druid was 17, and queued up to tank. The first run was a Ragefire Chasm ten minute affair that left a bad taste in my mouth due to a jerk of a hunter who tried to wipe us twice and then took the tank sword from the boss, so I queued again and got Wailing Caverns and the Twinks of Doom.

A Rogue and a Priest (the healer) both four levels higher than me and wearing at least five heirlooms each (priest had both trinkets, rogue had two daggers). And so began my hour and a half of being useless.

It didn’t help that I don’t know that instance; I had to let the priest take the lead. But even when it came to fights, I could not hold or get aggo. The rogue did – literally – close to three times as much damage as I did. I didn’t have any aoes yet, which was bad enough, but the priest kept running over and aggroing more groups and bringing them to us to kill. And I couldn’t call the pair out over this behavior, because their gear allowed them to act with impunity. The healer stopped to drink twice. We wiped once, when someone else aggroed a group and we got too many sleeps cast on the healer. The rogue ended up doing over 50% of the overall damage. I relegated myself to keeping whatever mobs he wasn’t killing off the healer, occasionally taunting off him just to keep my hand in.

If I didn’t already have a max level paladin it would have been even worse. Those two could probably have two-manned the instance alone, and they knew it, and they let us know they knew it. The rest of us, dressed in quest rewards and random drops, were peons to their royalty.

If we could mail heirlooms across servers, I wouldn’t have had that problem, but what about brand new players, or anyone without a max level character to grind badges on? I don’t even remember what the other two players in that pug were, because they mattered so little. We were frustrated, useless, and bored. It’s not a good thing.

Blizzard needs to reduce the stats on heirlooms a lot. They should be fractionally better than the gear you’d naturally have at that level, not 3 times as good. Doing 10% more damage than anyone else? Fine. Doing triple damage? Not so good.

I will add that the level ranges for those dungeons doesn’t help; I was 17 and one of the other guys there was, I think, 25; hard to keep aggro off him at the best of times. But even so, it was the level 21 rogue in heirlooms that made life impossible for me.

This is not QQ; this is to point out a flaw that will only get worse as the game ages more. If Blizzard has given up on getting real new subscriptions, then it’s fine. Otherwise I think heirlooms may become a serious problem..

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As mentioned previously, Reversion and I have rolled alts on Argent Dawn to be part of Single Abstract Noun, the blogger guild. I started a druid, and he started a gnome rogue, and as we levelled 1-10 in separate zones, we  started having similar complaints.

“Where’s the quests? I’m level 6 and all the mobs are level 8.”

“I know I need to go here next, but there’s no quest telling me that.”

“All the quest stuff is filling up my one bag”

“Wow, you die easy without heirlooms.”

It had been a while since we had levelled without heirlooms, or not together, or not as draeni, and while it was not really difficult, it got us talking. So this morning I rolled a draeni paladin and compared the experiences I had with my night elf druid and my draeni paladin.

Parameters:

Classes I know well

No heirlooms, no help beyond my addons (no quest help beside the built in quest helper)

Same level range

Darnassus versus Azuremyst Isle

Experience:

Both zones start off with a “kill some of these critters” quest. Nice and easy – the critters are right there and Blizzard puts your abilities right on the action bar. After that you get a few more quests. I found the Azuremyst quests very nicely sequence, where I could complete all the quests I could pick up at the same time. On the other hand, the Darnassus quests often had me covering the same ground three or more times.

Equipment: in the first five levels, my draeni quests gave me a four slot bag and a fishing pole. I know they’ve increased the drop rate on small bags, and in fact both my alts have full sets of 6 slot bags, but awarding one as a quest reward is a nice touch, and the fishing pole was awesome.

Where to go next:  Azuremyst led me by the hand. Darnassus took figuring out.

Mobs: All critters in the 1-5 area are now yellow.  The first red mob for my draeni was at the fishing quest when a murloc popped out! I could see a complete newbiew being very surprised by this. Darnassus has several spots where the mob respawn rate seemed bugged and I was hard pressed to get out.

The Cave: All the 1-10 zones seem to have one or two cave complexes where you’ll go in, kill a named guy,  and come out. In Darnassus you have a cave full of demons where you kill a guy who turns into a cat, and a barrow where you wander around for eight years looking for four relics. In Azuremyst you have  a  cave full of nagas where you kill the boss, and a cave full of furbolgs where you kill the named boss, 9 others, and the Kraken hound. The Azuremyst versions were considerably easier and less frustrating. I never did finish the Darnassus version.

Quest rewards: About the same, slightly better (and better named!) gear in Azuremyst

Professions: Most professions could be learned at Azure Watch. About the same for the Darnassus hub, There’s no ore in Darnassus of course, while you can learn anything at Azure Watch.

Summing up:  a brand new player is going to have a much easier time in the draeni area compared to old world zones. I had some guild members talk about Azuremyst being “hand holding” or “spoonfeeding” and they’re right, but I think Blizzard has realized just how many players come to the game with NO previous MMO experience, heck, often no game experience at all. Before WoW, my major game experience was in Civ II. Not hardly the same. I’d have had a much easier time if the draeni area had been there.

In fact I think they need to make the first ten levels even more user friendly. If you’re still getting used to cameras, looting, and using your abilities, there are a number of things that can be annoying. Even experienced players can miss things when they roll a new class. For instance, we ran with a player last night who didn’t have her paladin res; there’s a quest you have to do at 12 to get it, and if you don’t know that, it’s easy to miss the quest.

After I get to 20 on both alts, I’m going to come back and finish comparing the two sequences. I don’t think it’s as drastic but I do have some really nasty things to say about Loch Modan, designers, and getting eaten by many many mobs at once.

(My two alts are Analogue the druid, and Annalogue the paladin, both on Argent Dawn-US)

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Need More Alts!

Or something. Like my last brief post, Rev and I rolled on Argent Dawn (US) to join Single Abstract Noun and after some pondering, I rolled a druid. I’ve levelled enough classes since my druid that it’s really interesting to be a lowbie druid again. I’m managing some stuff I could never have done the first time because I know what my abilities do, cold.

Rev and I did our first ten levels separate; he rolled a gnome rogue and I was in night elf land, and we both discovered that those zones have some really bad cases where you just aren’t sure where to be questing next; you’re level 7 and all the quest mobs are level 10 and want to eat your brain. And then you randomly wander across some dude on the mountain with a quest to kill a yeti in a cave. Our recent alts have either been run as pairs, where you don’t notice that it’s sort of hard to level a new character when the mobs are three levels higher than you and you only have two abilities, or we were in the draeni zone which is far better organized and laid out. Hopefully Blizz will clean up the early leveling experience even more in Cataclysm, because I can see why some people give up after five levels.

We’ve grabbed gather professions and I have a goal of getting all riding skills on time and being able to buy dual spec at the point where I can actually use it, without having to spend hardly any time grinding.  I’m personally convinced that buying gold is stupid and absolutely unnecessary and I want to demonstrate it yet again. We have no high level alts on this server. I have already accepted one “help” though; the guild’s bank vault had a number of 6 and 8 slot bags there for new members to take. Since they don’t soulbind, you can put them back as soon as you’ve got better ones, and I’ve already picked up one random pouch to add back, but it makes carrying stacks of herbs and fur much easier.

Haven’t seen any RP yet but I have been told to avoid Goldshire in the evenings…

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