How I made 1,000,000 gold in World of Warcraft

June 27, 2011

Actually, this is more of a look back at Tier 11, but don’t worry, I will cover the gold making enterprise towards the end.

Playing a paladin healer in Cataclysm has felt like a constant race with the nerf bat.  At launch, Paladins were just too damn good, so over the course of a few weeks our healing model got changed just about every week.  In that sense it was good that I hit 85 within 2 days, and was chain running heroic 5 mans on the 3rd day, because getting some gear early made the later nerfs mcuh easier to live with.  Usually through a tier of content you watch your mana pool increasing, I had a time when it was decreasing with every patch and hotfix.  Coming in with Tier 12 is another raft of changes, which will mean that once again I will have to retune all my reflexes and change rotation priorities.

Tier 11 gear sucked: I often /inspect other Holy Paladins when idling in downtown Orgrimmar and I have not seen a single holy paladin in tier gear.  It is embarrassing when your secondary spec is fully equipped first. And what is it with placing all the healing maces on end zone bosses?

 The new zones

Mt Hyjal remains a favourite for levelling … because the underwater zone of Vashj’ir is painful.  While Vash has its moments, the 3D environment is painful to maneuver around, and its just too big.  I think they would have done better to have taken half the ideas and saved them for a future patch/expansion.  Deepholm was fine, although its frustrating with alts in that you outlevel the zone well before you actually unlock the faction vendor there.  Uldum was a disaster with pretty scenerey, the Harrison Jones joke is a bit old, the none-too-subtle nazi references were lame, and it was slow death by a thousand cut scenes.  Twilight Highlands was good the first time through, but as my alts ding 85 I run out of enthusiasm to finish the zone, and they retire to watch the fires outside the Auction House.

Content difficulty

5 mans: much, much harder than Wrath. Guild groups vastly preferable to pugging.  I have not pugged since patch 4.1 (the Call to Arms random loot satchel does not tempt me).  My gut feeling, is that even in close to full raid gear, its much harder to heal a random group of strangers than the Wrath instances were.

Most-hated new instance: Stonecore.  Even post-nerf I still hate it.

Most-liked  new instance: Deadmines.  A little long, but a lot of thought went into making the fights interesting.

Raids: pretty good for 2 nights per week in the casual scene, but only if you have a solid team. As an introductory raid, much harder than Tier 7.  It would have been pretty hard to have gone 12/12 hard modes on two nights a week.  If half of my guild’s raid group had not quit in February, resetting our progress for almost two months, I think we would have reached 4-5 hard modes.  As it is, getting all 14 raiders a full 12/12 clear in the last month still felt like a good achievement for us.

Most-hated Encounter: Lip Boss in the Nefarian fight.  If I wanted to play a platform game, I’d play a platform game.

Most-liked encounter: Atramedes, once you got the hang of the sound mechanic, it was quite a fun fight for a healer.

Epic Fail: Throne of the Four Winds, random loot is random, and unloved.  I think we sharded almost everything bar the tier drops from Al’Akir.

Levelling: trivial, and very much a solitary experience now that pvp/instancing via LFG/randoms exists and most of the non-instanced group quests were eliminated.  Even without heirloom gear’s boosted xp, its very hard to actually complete all of a zone’s quests before you outlevel the zones.  Some of the old zones had a great makeover, and the new stories were fun, but I am not really tempted to go back through them all again.

Cancelling the rift sub

I canceled over something relatively trivial.  My Level 34 character was unable to buy water to recover from damage quickly, because all the vendors in zone only sold water that worked for Level 35+ characters.  But I also quit because the game was too much like WoW, in that in order to access the end game content I would have had to have devoted 500+ hours to grinding reputations/gear.  bad enough to do that in WoW, I’m not really tempted by doing it in a second fantasy theme park game.

If this had been my first MMORPG, I probably would have continued to Level 50.  After all, when I started WoW I levelled a Holy spec paladin to Level 60 thinking I was playing a DPS class!  But five years later, I am simply not willing to continue in frustrating play, when I have more rewarding experiences available elsewhere.  No one else in my WoW guild managed to make it past Level 20-25 before the sameness of the content got to them, and they too cancelled their subscriptions.

Key Play Decisions

I was offered a position in one of the hardcore raiding guilds on my server.  I turned it down.  Carpe Jugulum is a guild on my level

No pugging.  I have stuck largely with guild raids, bar a few Baradin Hold runs for the Loot Pinata Boss.

Only gearing one character (for raids, 5 mans, reputation, achievements, etc) not 2-5 characters.

Stepping up to be Raid Leader after the mass guild quit was worth it.  I helped recruit replacements, and then led the Guild to virtual glory.  Good times.  For my next trick, making sure they can do the same without me.

A Million Gold

I started with around 300,000 gold.  I spent about 100,000 gold levelling professions after launch.  In the next six months I made 900,000 gold.  This took about two hours a day of AFK/AH time.  Sorry if you are looking for an “I Win” button, but my success came as a result of:

First, having invested the time to get five characters with fully developed professions in Mining, Herbing, Enchanting, Blacksmith, Tailoring, Alchemy, Inscription and Jewelcrafting. Thats about a thousand hour investment.

Second, identifying niche markets that were profitable.  Reading Gold Blogs was helpful, but not necessary.  The most important tool here is actually the add-on “Auctionator”, which saves time by compressing price/quantity information displays for rapid viewing, and having quick AH list/cancel functions.

Third, relentlessly pushing those markets every day.

My most profitable market was JC, where I went long and purchased all the 5 token meta-gem cuts, ignoring the rings altogether and only later buying the 3 token gem cuts.  I also spent around 10k gold on each rare BOE meta-gem pattern or enchanting formulae that turne dup on the AH.  When the mats cost me 45 gold, and the gem sold for 299g I made a lot of money – anywhere up to 10,000 per day.

My second market was enchanting scrolls.  Slow steady earnings.  A few coins from rare enchants for BOA gear, but not a big earner.  However, because I have all the patterns, I don’t bleed money here.  Disenchanting has been curiously profitable too.

My third market was BOE shields, which was a good earner due to the BOP nature of Chaos orbs.  When other smiths were selling their orbs for 100g in trade chat, I was making 1,000 gold off them on the AH.  The smith also makes looose change from enchanting rods.

The silly earner is Primal Might, which takes me about ten minutes to farm, and sells for 500 gold on my server.  Not bad for something from two expansions back.

The Tailor makes spare change from making bags and spellthread.  I don’t use the scribe much, the inscription market is broken (it has prohibitive entry costs, and its impossible to make gold without addons, a small army of alts and a willingness to cancel and relist thosands of auctions a day).  I switched the scribe’s herbing profession to JC, and I’m making a long bet that epic gems will require daily mission tokens, so I have 58 of those stockpiled.

Things I don’t do for gold:

1) spam trade chat

2) snatch vanity items, hoping to flip them, everything I sell is something I make

3) farm and sell raw materials, I leave that to the bots

4) sell anything where I am making less than a 10 gold profit per sale.

Looking Ahead to 4.2 ‘the Firelands’

I will gear a second character for heroic 5 mans, purely for the farming efficency to get the iLevel 378 BoEs.  The lower weekly VP cap creates a strong incentive to reduce playing time of main characters by about 25%, but it will be much harder for hybrid gear sets to be completed.

Will the new tier work with just seven bosses?  Most of the ones I have raided in have had 12.  A lot of things are still frustratingly unclear.  With only seven bosses is the loot table larger or just more random?  Its also not clear how some of the crafting materials are acquired, although 25 man raids will get more of them than 10 man raids.  Maybe its a signal that the bosses will all be significantly harder than in Tier 11.

T12 gear for holy paladins is an improvement, mostly.  Well, it would have been hard for it to be worse.  Kurn has a pretty good breakdown at: http://kurn.apotheosis-now.com/?cat=90

At some stage I will try healing Cataclysm 5 mans in Tier 2 gear.  I’ll post screenshots!

The new healing paradigm gets some discussion here: http://wow.joystiq.com/2011/06/26/the-light-and-how-to-swing-it-balancing-holys-heals/#continued, and some number crunching takes place here: http://us.battle.net/wow/en/forum/topic/2593008994.  While I’m not thrilled about the changes, I expect I’ll adjust after a week or two.

The guild goal for Tier 12, is to do some hard modes, and make sure at least one of our RDPS gets the legendary staff.  Thats going to require some work…


WoW Cataclysm: the Grind

January 2, 2011

The Grind: the period after the level cap when you do the same thing over and over in order to get ready for raiding, whether its farming resources, running instances for gear, or doing daily quests for faction reputation.  So, my impressions of how the grind is going.

Healing
 
Five minute duration of Beacon of Light: every boss fight in a 5 man should be finished in less than 5 minutes (most seem to take 3-4 minutes, a far cry from durations in WotLK where we were down to sub-20 seconds for most and where I think early expansion fight durations where around 2 minutes), its when DPS die early that fight durations extend over 5 minutes.
 
Steady state attrition: minor amounts of damage (10-20k per tick), covered with Holy Light, or Holy Shock.  In a relative sense, incoming damage is often much less than Wrath, often when a tank dies it takes a minute for the boss to wipe the survivors, compared to the 10-20 seconds to do so in Wrath. So its a change from hard and fast to hard and slow damage.
 
Standing in flames: (30k per tick) can be healed, but requires cooldowns, so cannot always be done or done for long periods of time.  On a trash pull it means the healer has to waste a minute after the fight on mana regen.  On a boss fight it means the healer may go OOm before the Boss dies.
 
Tank spike: (30-50k) can be healed, but requires mana inefficient nukes (Flash of Light, or Divine Light).  This may make avoidance more useful than stamina, as a fat mana bar is just a big mana sponge.  Tank hitting zero health is usually mechanic fail, tank pulling too many mobs or pulling too soon or healer incorrect decision on type of heal to use. I seem to start Divine Light casts too often when the Tank is low health, and Flash of Light might be better because its faster.
 
Insta-gib: attacks that do > full health bar, cannot be healed (use SS or Brez), attacks that do 500,000 will not be outgeared until the next expansion (at the earliest).  There are not too many of these, but where they exist, you can’t carry someone who fails on the mechanic.
 
Soulstones are better on tank for learning new fights.  Reason: lack of mana after a healer resurrects, means the fight may be a soft enrage wipe.
 
Mana management: the more things everyone else does right, the easier it is for a Paladin to judge, which makes for less downtime between pulls.  When I have to Always-Be-Casting heals, mana regen stops.  Ability to cope with AoE heals/damage spikes depends on part on ability to maintain stacks of 2-3 holy power for as long as possible (and this is pure RNG, can be 1 stack/18 seconds or a continuous stack for the same period).
 
Brainlock: all the healthbars are orange/red – use Holy Radiance, Lay on Hands or triage (having 1-2 DPS die makes all future healing decisions much simpler for a Paladin).
 
Midline concept: if a health bar is on 50+% mid-fight, that’s okay, as health bars dip below 50% the intensity of healing output needs to be scaled up with bigger/faster heals and cooldowns.

Problem: if holy power is zero and tank health redlines, there are very few options for healing – LoH or 2-3 quick FoLs followed by WoG.
 
Game Economy
 
Far more bottlenecks than in Wrath, which will drive up the cost of raiding, as people can extract rents from sitting on the bottleneck.  Some crafting materials (Dreamcloth, Chaos Orbs) are bind on pickup, so a lot of gear is hard to acquire – you can’t just pick up the materials from the Auction House, you have to find a crafter with them who is willing to sell, and you have to take the price they want or walk away.  Mat sinks for vendor patterns (means patterns currently cost several hundred gold, not 10g, also means people do not acquire all patterns at once, which reduces ability to supply, e.g. I can only craft a few patterns my healadin can use, plus belt buckles).  Higher vendor value for mats, increases minimum price, which increases AH price, and gold lost to AH cut.  Enchants: BIS require raid only mats (not obtainable from 5 mans like in Wrath.
 
Gear Grind
 
Justice Points pile up fast, due to the 4k starting bank after less than ten heroics I am out of main spec JP gear that is a strong/BIS upgrade.  In Wrath  the Tier 7 shoulders took 60 kills to obtain, in Cataclysm the JP Shoulders only take 24 kills to obtain (but not equivalent Tier 11 equivalent, 13 iLevel difference).  So faster grinding, but dual specs means acquiring two sets of gear, and being subject to two sets of RNG for slots that do not have JP purchase options.

Its not that bad really.  If you do all the quests in the levelling zones, you should be able to enter directly into heroics.  By the time you hit exalted with all the dungeon factions, combined with Tol Barad dailies and rewards, you should be more than ready to raid.


WoW Cataclysm First Impressions

December 11, 2010

The launch was not as smooth as I would have liked. It took a few minutes for experience gain to be turned on, so I wasted most of my pre-completed daily quests. Of the two starter zones, I went down Mt Hyjal. This is essentially a very long valley, with a couple of dead end branches. It starts with a ‘hold and defend’ feel, before switching into counterattack and save the cute furry animals. One quest had you climbing trees to save bear cubs by bouncing them down to a trampoline. The zone ends well with a nice attack on the evil cultists. Quest I most enjoyed was, as an infiltrator, giving a speech to a group of cultists, where I had to interpret the crowd emotes and pick a dialogue option accordingly.

I played for 24 hours after release, which took me to level 84, and I finshed the grind to 85 the following day.  Similar to flying across the international dateline in terms of effort.  After hitting 85 I went back to the other starter zone, Vashji, is an underwater zone, so presents a 3D challenge. The questline is very restricted, like a tube, where you are forced to go from one air filled cave to another, all the way down the chain. Individual quests and scenes were excellent, and the cthulhoid influences were very nice, but a couple of bugged quests were frustrating.

I liked Deepholme, visually very pretty depiction of a wide space underground.  The quests were a bit less linear, and I did not mind all the running around as there was a lot of mining to do en route.  This is where ‘green is the new purple’  kicked in, and Wrath gear began to be replaced by quest items.  Uldum is very much ancient Egypt + Indiana Jones + Cat People.  Its also a very open space, which is a nice change after the constrained enclosed feeling of the earlier zones.  Twilight Highlands is more Scotland + Pachendale + Dragons.  This is the zone where the tweaks and improvements in NPC AI really kick in (as they kill you over and over again).  NPCs are much smarter than they used to be, Wizards do the occasional aoe spell which will force stealthers to delurk, and Dwarves (who’d have thunk) can aggro from a mile away f you smash one of their beer kegs open.

There is much greater use of cut scenes in the game, there are dozens of little video clips compared to the one cut scene in Wrath.  Most of these are good, and do well to signal the challenges ahead.

I have only done three dungeon runs so far, but this is what stands out to me:

* Tanks are still in the habit of chain pulling, and I don’t have the mana to do more than two trash packs in a row in a normal 85 and the second pull can wipe fast if adds turn up
* DPS are still focused on maximising DPS, not survivability, but if the first two DPS die when the boss is on 95% health, I can heal the remaining three people to a kill
* Quest/rep gear is perfectly up to the job

More specific to Healadins, I feel positioning for Light of Dawn is crucial. I now have a macro to use at the start of instances telling ranged DPS that if they want to survive, they need to stand between me and the melee/tank. I’m trying to think more proactively about my positioning so I don’t waste time mid-pull moving around.

I’m still just getting used to Holy Radiance, but as a tool for dealing with spike damage I think I will macro my on use trinkets into it. I stuck my last two talent points into Blessed Life as I expect to spend a lot of time in Tol Barad over the next two months. Healing Tol Barad was a lot more fun than Wintergrasp (I died once in 30 minutes, and I suspect I was the only healer present among 30 players).

I have had some interesting triage moments, where four out of five health bars were on sub-30% and holy power was zero. I deliberately chose to heal the one DPS who had not peeled a mob off the tank, and I watched as the other two DPS slowly died as I restored the tanks health bar back towards 50%. That feels right for this stage of gear, I should not be able to heal through sub-optimal play on new content.

I’m feeling pretty good about it all.  I achieved my personal goals of have fun doing an all nighter, followed by being first in guild to 85, and by jumping straight into healing.

Hi mom!


Cataclysm Trailer

November 9, 2010

Just an excuse to test video embedding.


The care and feeding of mages

November 9, 2010

My cliff notes on the role Mages will play in raiding in Cataclysm.  I know Fire/Arcane the best, so I may have it all wrong for frost.

General Buffs

Time Warp at Level 85, a 30% haste buff for 40 seconds.  Arcane Brilliance, mana and spellpower boost.

Arcane
The Good: Arcane mages bring steady single target DPS and a phenomenal burst DPS that can be deployed in a bosses moment of weakness to make them QQ warlock tears. They bring a single target +3% crit bonus, and a raid-wide +3% to damage done.

The Bad: If they screw up their evocation, they lose a major component of their burst DPS.

How to spot a good Arcane mage: they have Mage armour equipped and glyphed and keep their mana at 85-100% until evocation/mana gem come off cooldown, then they pop the gem and go nuts on DPS for 10-20 seconds, then back to maintaining 85-100% mana.

Fire
The Good: a fun spec with good single target DPS and the potential for amazing AoE damage. Even stronger when the boss is below 35% health, just in case you were wondering who deserved the battle rez. Provides +5% spell crit chance for the raid.  Cauterise gives amazing survivability, and improved mobility will increase contact time. Better yet, you can go OOM and still do damage with a combination of mana free Scorch and mana free Pyroblast.

The Bad: Ignite is still buggy, and the spec is very dependent on crit (and luck) for damage. Living bomb only hits up to 3 targets, can be accidentally overwritten for major DPS loss and interacts with Impact procs in counterintuitive ways (impact spreads damage to adjacent mobs, see the 3 target limit for why this is a problem).

How to spot a good Fire mage: it’s all in the use of the Combustion cooldown, which combines all existing DOTs into one mega-dot, so a good fire mage will wait for all three of their DOTs to be rolling on a target before pushing this cooldown.

Frost
The Good: a permanent pet! Mana replenishment for the raid. Competitive PvE dps for the first time since A’lar in Tempest Keep.

The Bad: Frostburn can be too bursty, so some threat generation issues on pulls (yes, thats right, frost mages can now do too much damage, inconceivable!). Almost no useful off-spec talents to spend points on. Pet is so awesome it may have mana issues from doing too much damage…

How to spot a good Frost mage – they cast in the following priority list:
1.Frostfire Orb, if cooldown is up.
2.Deep Freeze, if cooldown is up and Fingers of Frost is active.
3.Frostfire Bolt, if Brain Freeze is active and Fingers of Frost is active.
4.Ice Lance if Finger of Frost is active.
5.Freeze, if cooldown is up, Deep Freeze cooldown is up, and Finger of Frost is not active.
6.Frostbolt.