Mists of Pandaria: First Week Impressions

October 2, 2012


I took Tuesday off work, as well as the following week.  I had a nice brunch in town, and did some book shopping.  By 5pm I was home and logged in, mucking around.  There were frivolous shenanigans going on outside the Warchief’s Hall, and I took part in an impromptu display of Azure Netherwing Drake mounts, while someone mounted on a scorpion rode back and forth making inspirational speeches.

Eight minutes to the hour of seven, Mists went live, the quest popping up earlier than expected.  I quickly trained my professions, handed in 20 daily quests, then took the zeppelin to Pandaria.

The next few hours was like a D-Day movie.  Intense action based quests, zeppelin crashes, wiping out an Alliance stronghold, then the breakthrough and penetration into the Jade Forest … where all the locals were nice and friendly.  Quite a change in tone from the starter zones of Cataclysm and The Burning Crusade, more like the Wrath of the Lich King zones.

Skipping the instances, I relentlessly ground through the quests and harvested as much Ghost iron ore as I could grab.  then I pushed on into the Valley of Four Winds (Level 86), where quests and following the lure of yellow gold dots on the mini-map took me over a cliff edge and into a jungle.  Then I headed north into the mountains of Kun-Lai Summit (Level 87), which was an endless wasteland of quest hub after quest hub, going ever higher into the mountains as the sun rose outside my bedroom window.

From the top of the mountains I headed down into the Townlong Steppes (Level 88), which ends up in a peninsula island chain (the islands will probably end up as content hubs in future content patches).  I hit Level 89 here, managed to solo one of the rare elite mobs that drop useful loot, and found one of the random grey vendor relics that is worth 100g (and 300k xp) while exploring some caves.  That’s when it really struck me how different Mists was from Cataclysm.  While the quests provided direction, it was not the linear freight train of most of the Cataclysm zones, and there was just so many interesting caves and pathways to explore.


A bit before midnight on Wednesday I hit Level 90 in the Dread Wastes, as I was freeing one of the insectoid Klaxxi Paragons from being trapped in Amber.  My flatmate with his Warlock beat me by about four hours. I chatted with my flatmates for 20 minutes, then fell asleep after 30 hours of gameplay, and 41 hours up in the waking world.


I was amazed at what Blizzard have pulled off here.  While WOW is starting to look dated compared to new games (e.g. SWTOR) in terms of graphics, they have built a beuatiful landscape that is recognisably oriental in themes and still a continuation of WoW.  The zones are nicely different, with the established motif of corruption being veiwable in the landscape as elements of Sha corruption turn the ground soil black.  Perhpas the only tiring zone is Kun-Lai summit, which has a lot of dreary brown landscape before you hit the snow white mountain peaks.

Some of the monsters look like liquid smoke, very cool, and some monsters have spray attacks which look very liquid as well, and a side effect of the changes is that “force” can be exerted on characters , e.g. wind/water currents, pushing the character around.

There is a lot of audio in the game too, the audio team has expanded from 3 to 40 people, and it shows. The insectoid Klaxxi sound a lot like the insect race in the prequel Star Wars movies, full of clicks and humms in their speech.

Cut scenes are much improved over Uldum.  They are used sparingly, and to great effect.

The Pandaren character models are beautiful, and make the vanilla models look crude.  I hope the pull off a revamp of the older model skins someday.  Monks in action are also very cool, lots of soothing green animations.


Both Horde and Alliance tell the story of “The other side got here first, we got here accidentally, then pushed them back and established a defensive position”.  Sounds a lot like the propaganda element of a casus bellum.  After the Jade Forest entry zone the Horde/Alliance conflict takes a back seat to learning more about Pandaria.  You meet the various peoples and learn about their history and culture.  Some of the quests and dialogue are laugh out loud funny, others are heartbreaking – one quest chain dealing with a death in childbirth brought tears to my eyes.  Anyhow, current bad guys appear to be the Sha, the Klaxxi, and ourselves.

To start getting a handle on the Sha menace, the dungeons help bring it out.  Its a focus on inner feelings of a negative nature: fear, hatred, anger, violence, and these show up in the fights.  One fight in ShadoPan Monastery has a Hatred meter, the more you do in the fight the more Hatred you build up, until you take a time out ad chill down options (or go crazy, I decided not to let the Hatred bar max out…)

As a bonus for finding a lot of lore objects, you can buy the nifty flying disc (see picture above). It makes a windy swish swish sound as you fly around.

The Monk starting island was good, but very linear.  Just follow the story to its end, then wave goodbye to the island forever.


On the whole, I am a huge fan of the “less is more” approach to the new Talent system.  A lot of bloat and useless decision-making has been eliminated, and I expect future iterations of the talent system to make it stronger.

Hardest boss is still the Elevator Boss, every freaking time!

Paladin DPS: having more holy power generation made leveling much easier, as self-healing was stronger.

Holy Paladin: healing has changed, and damage in dungeons has changed.  People either take almost no damage (say a 20k hit off a 300-400k healthbar) or they get hit like trucks (usually on trash pulls gone wrong). Debuffs that need cleansing also suck the mana bar dry.  I have healed all the “heroic” 5 mans, and the difficulty bar is much, much lower than in Cataclysm.  A few wipes here and there, but a few instances I managed without the mana bar going below 75%. Absolutely nothing is like the hell that was Heroic Stonecore.  That said, Blizzard has given us the tools for the job, but its built around our free heals.  Because the free heals are free, the heals that cost mana really hurt to cast.   Today I got asked if I wanted to raid with another guild, based on my healing with a pug group I chain ran three instances with.  A nice compliment!

Blood DK: I started with Unholy spec for leveling (perma pet has its uses in grabbing herb nodes) but switched to Blood spec – its just so much more stronger a solo spec in terms of its self-heal ability (I can self-heal about 80% of my 200k health at level 87 using two DK powers and the 60k heal of the Life Spirit that drops from Herb nodes).  Tanked the first two normal dungeons easily enough.

Warlock: I found Affliction too complicated for me, Destruction was better, I like the Ember resource system. Load up on trash, drop four nukes at thet start of the boss fight, rebuilt during the fight, drop four nukes at the end of the fight.  My flatmate in 463 gear and glyphed for +20% health runs around with 500k health in 5 mans, often 100k more than the tanks…

Gearing for dungeons: completing the quest chains in Dread Wastes should reward in three iLevel 450 blues, then do the Arena quest from Monastery of the White Toger for a 450 weapon, and you should be in dungeons a few minutes later.  A hotfix has also made Justice Point gear much more reasonable to obtain (seriously, Exalted rep for JP gear, what was with that!?!)

Note the Dalek on the shoulders… I’m liking the look of this armour set very much.

Reputation Grind

Hoo boy.  There are a lot of reputations, and some have to be completed to exalted before the next one in the chain starts. Very gated … but as there is no longer a limit on daily quests, I think it will help stop people over exterting themselves in the game.  Still, the quests are new, and many of them are fun.  I like the fact it won’t all be done in three months. A lot of opportunity cost decisions, so I’m sorry Tillers, but Farmville in WOW will have to wait a few months.

Crafting Professions

Getting your skill to 600 is easy.  The hard part is that a lot of the good patterns require exalted reputation, sometimes with two factions.  Its going to be harder to make gold from Alts.  Blacksmithing is an exception here, most of the patterns are obtainable after you complete Dreadwastes in exchange for Kyparite ore (easily mined). Possibly this was done to make it easier to gear tanks.   The primary block to mass crafting is all the good stuff requires Spirits of Harmony, which are bind-on-pickup and mainly drop from mobs.  When doing a full round of dailies you might get one.  Most of the crafted epics requires 5-8 of them.  So I managed to finish some epic gloves for my Paladin yesterday, but its likely to be another week before I make another.

I was worried that the JC metagem cuts, which are BOP world drops, would be hard to get, but they are dropping like hot cakes, my Level 86 Warlock already has half-a-dozen cuts.  JC used to require a huge time commitment to daily quests to learn cuts.  The new research model speeds up cut acquisition by a factor of three to five times, so I’m expecting medium term gem prices to be low (just as soon as the price of Golden Lotus drops to allow cheap rare gem transmutation).

Archaeology was surprisingly useful: its pulled up three 463 BOA items (Healer off-hand, Agility Polearm, and Mastery trinket) which I have put to immediate good use.

A big change is that Darkmoon Faire cards require a Scroll of Wisdom, which has a 24 hour cooldown.  This means by the end of the first Faire, most scribes will have made less than 20 cards.  So the old technique of make 60 cards and hope to get the eight card deck you were after is not going to work.  people are going to trade, haggle, and then finally scream and pay thousands of gold for the cards they need to complete their sets on time.  Wish me luck!

Auction House

The Black Market – boring.  So far it only has 2-3 items listed, and they are pets or PVP gear.

AH prices are all over the place. Green gems selling for 3-300g, blue gems for 100-500g, metagems for 1000-3000g.  I’m selling healer/tank shields at a steady rate and a few metagems, and a bit of spare change from the new glyphs.  My flatmate has done well selling cloth PVP gear.  Mats are cheap as cloth is dropping at a much greater rate than in Cataclysm or Wrath, and a lot of people are buying the PVP gear.  I just don’t feel like parting with the Spirits of Harmony required to learn the PVP patterns.

I blew 120k on mounts (see picture below), but have made around 70k from questing and the AH.  Totally worth spending the big bucks on the vanity mount as it is now  account bound.  The Reforger on the Yak is a nice quality of life feature. Finish a 5 man, hop on the mount, and reforge your new gear on the spot!

Well, that is enough for now.  Back to work tomorrow, but its been a fun week.

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…

How I Heal with a Paladin

April 19, 2011

Paladins have a lot of situational cooldown tools, no real need to explain most of them here. What I will focus on, is my bread & butter healing rotation/priority system.

Before an encounter, I will be attempting to use holy shock to generate and maintain a three stack of holy power. During an encounter, maintaining a three stack of holy power is always a “nice to have”. I use Holy Power for two things:
(1) Word of Glory (WoG): mana free instant heal
(2) Light of Dawn (LoD): cone AoE heal that hits five (6 if glyphed) targets

(1) gets a lot of use in 5 mans, (2) gets more use in raids, because if it hits 4.5+ targets, it carries more effective healing through to the Beacon of Light (BoL) target (which is usually a tank). I tend to use the glyph that allows a mana free (but not GCD free) switch of BoL, as this is handy in tank swap fights or if *cough* a tank dies. The alternative glyph is the one that boosts mana return from Divine Plea (which I will use on long mana intensive fights). Divine Plea reduces my healing by 50%, which is why I macro’d some party/raid text to its use (telling people that my heals will suck).

I have two ways to generate Holy Power: (A) from using Holy Shock (an instant heal) or (B) casting Divine Light or Flash of Light (FoL) on my Beacon Target. Divine Light is my most mana effective spell in terms of healing per minute, but its slow. FoL is fast, but burns mana. I have talents that allow me to keep one point of holy power after using a holy power spell, and a chance of keeping a full three stack after a WoG cast. Note: in a 25 man raid a Paladin healer would almost never cast WoG, they rely exclusively on LoD which can be almost always gauranteed to hit six targets.

If I have nothing better to do when healing, and I have high mana, I will cast Holy Light, the cheap heal, partly to fish for a proc that will let me cast two Holy Shocks in a row. I do this more often in 5 mans than in raids as raid damage is usually a bit more than Holy Light can cope with.

So as a rough priority I cast:
(1) Holy Shock on cooldown
(2) Divine Light on Beacon target
(3) Holy Light

The major addition to this is Judgement, which does no healing, but returns four percent of my base mana. Judging on cooldown is crucial to mana longevity in fights.  So when mana is below 95% and I can use it, I will, unless the situation requires constant healing.  One reason why fights go wrong for me, is that if I have to do a long period of healing to keep everyone alive, and there is no space to insert a judgement, then two minutes later at the tail end of the fight I can run dry.

My major “oh crap” button is Holy Radiance, an AoE heal that is centred on me. It also boosts my run speed for four seconds. Unlike other AoE heals, it moves with me when I move. I hit this when everyone in the party has taken damage, or if tanks are low and I have to move when holy shock is still on cooldown and I have no holy power to use. HR can be boosted by using other cooldowns (wings for +20%, and divine favour for more haste ticks and +20% crit). This and LoD are my only spells that heal more than two targets at once – Paladins are still very much single target healers.

Lay on hands is not quite as awesome as it once was, as it does not heal the Beacon target. I prefer to avoid using this if possible, although some fights do require it. Its also an emergency mana restorer, and I do at times blow it on full health healers who are OOM.

The last force multiplier that I have is Divine Guardian, which boosts the next five single target heals I do. This changes my normal priority/rotation, as I just want to cast five Divine Lights in a row. Doing this plus other cooldowns can allow me to do about 600k healing in under ten seconds. Yes, Holy Paladins are filled with win.

Target selection is another issue. I don’t heal pets much. They get healing love when no one else is hurting. Raids are quite different from 5 mans. In raids, a large amount of damage is predictable … or at least the expected damage spikes are known in advance when everyone is good at minimising avoidable damage. Five mans are a bit more chaotic (or at least my pugs are) as there is a wider mix of experience and gear, and its pretty common to see DPS peel mobs off the tank.
I pick my targets looking at my raidframes (Vuhdo), and the big health bars I have in it, which I set to colour code based on how low health is.  It also displays important debuffs (diseases and magic effects) and buffs (my beacon) and puts nice red hash marks around anyone holding threat on a hostile target.  So I look at how healthy people are and I choose:

Small amount of damage to one target – use holy light in next break in rotation (where holy shock is on cooldown, and I already have a three stack of holy power)
Big amount of damage to one target – use the big WoG I have been hoarding
Small to medium damage everywhere – pop Holy Radiance as a preventative measure to keep health pools up and/or use LoD

Where a DPS takes, and continues to take big chunks of damage (because they got aggro or like shiny fire), their survival if its left up to me is dependent on how lucky I get with holy power generation … I can sometimes get a 100k of healing off in 3-5 GCDs at low mana cost. If, however, I don’t have holy power … the DPS is in trouble. Maybe I can hand of protection them, or use lay on hands, but if they are on cooldown then its a choice between:

(a) Flash of light – fast, mana burner
(b) Holy Light – slow, cheap
(c) Divine Light – slower, biggest heal

I actually tend to go for (c), because if it works, the DPS is taken out of the danger zone. If it doesn’t, I still have mana left for the other three people. I almost never go for (a) as while I might keep someone up they can burn me dry of mana in about a dozen GCDs, and I kinda feel like I should save some mana for the people paying attention to the fight mechanics. When I do use (b), its usually because my hand just twitched on the left mouse button. 

Finally, to state the obvious, if I have to choose between saving a tank and saving a DPS, I save the tank.  Sometimes this means I do not heal a low health DPS toon for a long time.  Once the tank is out of the danger zone, then I can help the DPS out.  The risk in trying to heal the dps, is that if they die before my heal lands, there is no transfer to the beacon target (the tank), so when tank health is low, I always try to switch back to direct healing the tank.