Light & Leafy

Archive for the ‘instances’ Category

Living on the coast in Southern New England generally exposes you to three types of snow: fluffy, sludgy, and Hallmark calendar perfect. Sludgy is the most common, with snow melting when it hits the ground and mixing with the mud and city grime to create a thoroughly icky experience. Fluffy snow usually happens in the beginning of the winter, with huge flake floating through the sky, but melting before they turn anything into sludge.  And the Hallmark snow? Well, it’s rare, but when it happens it turns everything into the cozy scenes you can find on most Christmas cards.

The only problem with that perfect looking snow is that it creates treacherous driving conditions.  Take yesterday afternoon, for example. A storm that was supposed to hit us the night before moved much slower than the forecasts had predicted. I bolted out of my office as soon as I saw that the giant flakes were sticking to the roads and didn’t show any signs of slowing down.  I managed to get home before it got really intense (dumping a good 7 inches).  While driving home, I did what I normally do on Tuesday commutes: I made a mental checklist of what I need to do before raid time. I was being continually interrupted, however, by the need to pay attention to my surroundings. Driving in the snow is a lot different, I find, that driving in any other kind of weather.

And that’s when it hit me like a slushy snowball to the face! Driving in the snow is actually a lot like raiding. And to drive successfully in the snow, you really need to remember a few simple rules:

1. Your car has more than one gear. And so does your raid team.  Some encounters you can rush in all willy-nilly and still manage to emerge unscathed. Others, you need to shift into low and slowly make your way through. As a great driver (or raid leader), you know which roads are safe and which need some extra attention.

2. Go the same speed as traffic.  Driving faster or much slower than everyone around you is a recipe for creating an accident, especially when visibility is poor.  Pushing your friends to go faster than they can may make them feel uncomfortable, especially if they’re having a rough time learning the fight. On the other hand, you really don’t want to spend 20 minutes explaining the precise details of each fight to a team of veterans who have all already experienced it.

3. The on and off ramps are the 2nd most dangerous part of your trip. Issues always seem to abound at the beginning and end of raids. There are too many people signed up, there are too few people signed up, there are problems with the loot system, there are problems with the strategy. Chances are, if you’re going to have a blowout, it’ll be when emotions are riding high (usually at the frustration of a late start or lack of people or after people have been wiping repeatedly).  The best way to avoid an accident, at least that I’ve found, is to always approach the beginning and ends of raids cheerfully and patiently.

4. The most dangerous part of your trip is your driveway. The reason driveways and back-roads are usually so hairy to travel in the winter is because they simply don’t see as much traffic as the main roads. They can be plowed just as often, but without the friction of tires melting the last bits of snow off the road, they’ll still feel 10 times worse to drive. In my mind, these are the fights your team barely sees  because you only get to them at the very end of the raid night. Because of the limited attempts you squeeze in each week, the encounters begin to feel impossible to defeat. And this is where I become grateful for alternate routes. Taking out farmed content is great for gear and badges, but when your team is crunched for time, it’s sometimes helpful to shake up the routine a bit and focus more on fights you normally leave aside for later.

5. Take corners slowly. Actually, I mean this literally in raids too. Funny example: A bunch of us went into Sunwell for the first time, and seeing as we were all level 80 BA’s, we could totally handle anything.   We were bouncing around, most of us not knowing where the hell we were going,  when we got to this room where the path spilt, kind of like the hallways leading to Lady Deathwhisper after Lord Marrowgar , but you could also just jump down into the lower part of the room blindly. A hunter decided he’d just go for it, thinking at worse there’d be a pack of 70 mobs he’d have to solo. He landed on top of the twins and got the first conflagration debuff while everyone was still grouped together. We downed them, but everyone but a tank, a ret pally and a tree were dead by the time we were looking at the loot.

6. There’s always a chance that underneath that fluffy snow is black ice. Just because you have an encounter on farm doesn’t mean it’s time to get sloppy. Raids are full of encounters that can make the RNG monster rear its ugly head and send you fishtailing into a snow bank.  Sure, Lady Deathwhisper is easy…until all of your healers are blacked out because no one took the time to dispel curses. And gunship is not a loot piñata when someone has disconnected while still on the horde’s ship, causing Saurfang Sr. to stack 19 of his special buff that you then have to heal a tank through.

7. Stay calm. I think this is the most important rule to follow. Tensing your shoulders and your neck and gripping on the steering wheel for dear life will not make you feel any calmer. In fact, you’re probably just contributing to your own panic. Raids work similarly; if you’re frustrated and you act upon your frustration, you’re going to influence the other team members. So relax, take a deep breath, and remember eventually you’re going to get home safe and sound.

I have a feeling all the sparkly dust will probably be melted by this weekend. But maybe I’ll stop driving long enough to appreciate the frost covered branches and saronite architecture.

While battling the Midweek Meeting Boss (fyi: we came thisclose to wiping), I noticed something very interesting about our Snottidin-esque raid member: every time she was making excuses for her (lack of) performance, she completely closes her eyes. It’s like adverting her gaze to the extreme. Because all I really do in this weekly encounter is sit in the back and wait for someone to call out for my limited dps, I had time to compare this unique behavioral tick to ones exhibited in another game I frequently play!

Of course there are levels to these ticks: how do I respond socially? Does my character display any of my ticks? Does my play style change? The answer to each of these questions is a resounding YES!

So, today, let’s  explore Character Ticks.

I can’t say I do this much on my paladin, though I think this solely rests on the fact that she’s not so geared yet that she can simply look at a health bar to make it green, but on each of my other characters, I bounce when I’m happy. And I’m not talking about the Night Elf idle motion.  My draeneis and my tree bounce in place. Eda bounces while she’s punching someone with in the back with prayer of mending. Sairyn bounces between chain heal casts, pretending she’s playing connect the dots with her team mates. Fluffikins bounces around the edges of fights, tossing out hot’s and giggling as she effectively emasculates the mobs. Sure, some of the constant motion comes from boredom, but honestly, it’s just way more fun to heal when you’re bouncy. I think the reason I excel at fights like Hodir and Keristrazsa is because somewhere it was seared onto my brain that bouncing is the path to winning.

Now, sometimes I need to stop bouncing. The pull might have gone a bit roughly (like last night in Ice Crown where we pulled the group on the side, the middle group, and set off one of the Bone Warder’s trap), or maybe I actually have reason to use a spell with a cast time. Or *gasp* I have someone talking to me (rare, I know). But, generally speaking, I’ll resume full-force bouncing unless I’m being a grouchy pants.

Now, character ticks are fascinating because you’re essentially breaking the barrier between yourself and your toon. You’ve developed muscle memories  and situational response mechanisms above and beyond the ones needed to successfully play the game (movement, spell keybindings, etc.). Do I need to bounce to heal people? Well, perhaps for a few specific fights, but generally speaking, no, bouncing will not regen mana, or make my hot’s heal people for more, or make people feel like they’re being lavished with hugs. Well, maybe that last one.

Originally this post was going to cover all three types of idiosyncrasies I outlined above, but then it just got too long. So, more tomorrow! Until then, what kind of physical idiosyncrasies do you catch yourself having in game?

This time Divine Illumination section has decided to take a well deserved vacation on a remote tropical island far, far away from the snows of Northrend. Think somewhere in the South Seas, only with less Bloodsail Bucaneers. At any rate, it’s not like there’s actually any healing done in this fight, but if you don’t get past it, you’ll never get into the rest of the instance!

Fear not! We’ll be back to our regularly scheduled program next time, but for now, let’s explore some vehicular machine-icide in the Flame Leviathan fight. FL is a fairly interesting fight, though its easy enough for most PuGs to get past. I know on my home server, there were a lot of groups going into Ulduar when it first came out just to down FL and get started on the tier 8 loots. Please note, this guide is for those looking to beat the first boss on his easiest mode. It can be used as a jumping off point for the other modes of this encounter, but we really won’t get into the detail of those specific fights.

 The Vehicles
In order to combat Flame Leviathan, you’ll have to either be riding in a vehicle or driving one.

Siege Engine Driver – Controls the movements of the siege engine. Has an interrupt with a 6 second cooldown, as well as a burst of speed which uses 1/2 of the steam power the siege engine is constantly regenerating (like rogue or kitty energy) and a ramming manuever to take down buildings.
Siege Engine Passenger -Mans the Anti-Air Turrets to kill the choppers found in the trash before FL and to take down the pyrite barrels which fuel the demolishers (can additionally be used to damage FL). Can use the cannon to damage FL directly. Also controls the shield that protects the siege engines.

Demolisher Driver -Launches passengers onto Flame Leviathan’s turrets, lobs regular cannonballs as well as special pyrite cannon balls that do massive damage with a stacking damage over time (stacks 10 times).
Demolisher Passenger – Can load themselves into the catapult to be launched on the back of Flame Leviathan, picks up pyrite to keep the demolisher driver’s ammunition stocked and controls a burst of speed to get the demolisher out of harm’s way. Also has mortar and anti-air rockets to do limited damage.

Motorcycle Driver – Can drop oil slicks on the ground which can be ignited. Picks up people who are tossed off of Flame Leviathan’s back, and can transport them or pyrite to nearby demolishers.
Motorcycle Passenger – Sits back and relaxes until they are put in a demolisher

Flame Leviathan’s Special Moves
Flame Vents – 10 second channel that does massive fire AoE around FL. Can, and must, be interrupted by siege drivers
Battering Ram – Knocks back melee-ranged vehicles and inflicts a debuff which increases damage taken by 100%
Gathering Speed – Speed increased by 5%. Can stack up to 20 times.

Basic Breakdown

Firstly, you’ll want to organize your vehicles before the encounter starts. In 10 man, a good jumping off place would be :
      -2 Siege Engine drivers
      -2 Siege Engine passengers
      -2 Demolisher drivers
      -2 Demolisher passengers (should be ranged dps, or dps who can target the additional turret should the other passenger die)
      -2 Motorcyle drivers
25 man gets a little more complicated, but the strategy my team found to work the best involved 2 teams of demolisher passengers:
      -3 Siege Engine Drivers
      -3 Siege Engine Passengers
      -5 Demolisher Drivers
      -9 Demolisher Passengers (1 demolisher permanently retains their passenger. The other 4 start with one passenger in the catapult and one in the passenger seat. After the first team of 4 turret destroyers are jetted off of FL’s back, the passengers who started in the passenger seat climb into the catapult so the first wave of turret destroyers can get back into the demolishers).
      -5 Motorcycle Drivers
 While clearing trash, it can be useful to have the 4 people who are going to be launched 2nd onto FL’s back to be riding in the empty passenger seats of the motorcycles so the demolisher drivers can still use all their moves).

At the start of the fight, Flame Leviathan will break down the far wall of the square courtyard in which you fight him.  He will immediately mark either a demolisher or a seige engine to chase after. That vehicle simply needs to kite Flame Leviathan around the courtyard, preferably in the largest path possibly. As soon as a vehicle is marked for following, the demolishers should launch their first passenger from the catapult. The demolishers should be launched one at a time to prevent missing the turrets (we found that if 2 people were launched at the same time, the encounter would try to put both players on the same turret, and one would end up falling to the ground and dying shortly there after). While the players on top destroy the turrets, the demolishers should be picking up pyrite and damaging Flame Leviathan, while the seige engine drivers should focus on interrupting the flame vents. Seige engine drivers should make sure there is enough pyrite on the ground. Stacking the pyrite dot on Flame Leviathan is the most effective way to burn down the boss. Also, keep in mind that Flame Leviathan will be gathering speed (which will be reset after his stun) and will be target changing about once every 15 seconds. Once all the turrets are destroyed, Flame Leviathan will be stunned and the players that were on turret duty will be ejected and need to be picked up by the motorcycles or by their demolisher partners if they are nearby. During the stun, Flame Leviathan will be taking increased damage, so it’s important to make sure that demolishers are stocked up on pyrite and are able to shoot their cannons (i.e. no one should be in the catapult). After the stun wears off in 10 man, the demo passengers should make sure the pyrite has been refilled then load themselves into the catapult. On 25 man, as soon as motorcycles bring the ejected players to their demolishers, the current passenger should load themselves into the catapult to allow the ejected players a spot in the passenger seat of the demolisher. Demolishers should then launch the catapult players onto FL’s back once more. Usually, this cycle repeats 3 times before the enrage timer is over. One last thing to note for any drivers – your vehicle’s health corresponds directly to your average item level. Therefore, if you are driving a vehicle you should put the highest level item gear you have on, as you will not actually be using any of your own spells. Passengers, especially those in demolishers, should wear their regular gear.

Tricks!
No good boss fight would be without some tricks, now would it? If you feel like you aren’t getting the pyrite refills you need as a demolisher, you might want to limit the amount of times you actually use the pyrite cannon. To keep the stacks from falling off, a good rotation can be something along the lines of *pyrite–cannonball-cannonball-cannonball-pyrite* This will keep the stacks rolling, but it should also help you conserve precious pyrite. Another tips is that ejected players will ALWAYS come down in front of Flame Leviathan. If your motorcycles aren’t there, during the stun phase it’s perfectly safe for demolishers to quickly grab their passengers before Flame Leviathan comes to life again. Another thing to consider is to mark demolishers with a raid icon so they stand out and so that motorcycles can find their passenger’s demolishers more easily.

Hardmodes –
The hardmodes get significantly more difficult with the more obstacles you add to the fight. On top of their own mischief, each tower gives Flame Leviathan 50% more health. It might be a good idea to try each of the towers by itself so you can get a feel for each of their challenges before you combine them.

Tower of Life (Freya’s Ward) – Decreases fire damage done to Flame Leviathan and spawns 1 large and 3-5 smaller adds which will attack vehicles. This can easily be killed if kited to a burning tar patch.
Tower of Frost (Hodir’s Fury) – Light blue beams which will follow vehicles around. If it catches a vehicle, it will stop moving and after a moment will call down a cascade of snow which will entomb the vehicle in ice, draining 1% of the vehicle’s health per second. The frost tomb can be broken by fire.
Tower of Storms (Thorim’s Hammer) – Flame Leviathan’s physical damage is increased by 25%. Once during the fight, Flame Leviathan will activate Thorim’s Hammer, causing pillars of light to appear which after a few seconds crash and deal AoE nature damage similar to Loken or Emalon’s lightning novas. If a player is directly upon one of these beams of light, the vehicle will take approximately 10% of its total health in damage, but because the beams are usually quite close to one another, it is easy to be hit by multiple beams and destroy your vehicle. Regardless of location, every vehicle will loose 1% of their vehicles health to each beam’s AoE damage, loosing about 20% of their health in total.
Tower of Flames (Mimiron’s Inferno) – Flame Leviathan’s fire damage is increased. Periodically will call down Mimiron’s Inferno which will cause fiery orbs to fall in a diamond shape path starting where Flame Leviathan enters the courtyard and moving clockwise, damaging everyone who is underneath it. The fire remains for a while, dealing damage to anyone crossing or standing in the flames.

Best of luck to those who attempt any of Flame Leviathan’s hardmodes! And let us know your favorite combinations of towers to have up!

Remember all those wonderful instances while leveling and questing through Northrend where Arthas’ was completely in your in face? I loved the ever looming threat Ice Crown Citadel imposed on the wary residents of Northrend, and I loved Arthas taunting me in various end quests, treating me as if I weren’t worthy to be acknowledged. He was a completely badass villain, and I was getting pumped to show him how I was a force to be reckoned with. We destroyed his bastion of plague, Naxxramas, and along with it some of his more pivotal aides. And then….we got sidetracked. With Old Gods. And lots of machines. And Ponies. Pretty, pretty ponies. See? We adventurers clearly have a case of ADD. Give us shiny epics, and we’ll completely forget that the fate of our world rests on top of a frozen thrown. Tonight, we’ll go back to “test our skills” in the Argent Tournament’s Trial of the Crusader, and the last boss will be thrown our way. It’s no surprise that we’ll be fighting Arthas’ re-risen Arachnid commander, Anub’arak, but I’m hoping for a surprise in the story line. I want Arthas to reappear, and show us that maybe our little faire in his backyard wasn’t such a good idea. I want him to remind me why he’s the end boss of this expansion, and why I want him to be finished once and for all.

And if at some point the dev’s want to tie in Ulduar with the Lich King as well, all the better. Fighting a rampant old God is worthwhile in any case, but if the Lich King manipulated us into killing Yogg’Saron for his own devices (say, control over the faceless or to force Yogg to relinquish any power Arthas might want for himself), that would be icing on the cake.

While hunters and pallies have been wanting my attention lately, I did take some time last week to try out the new heroic. Because I happened to be on her when I was ninja-invited, my druid got to be the first of my healers to step foot inside the completed coliseum.

A little tangent: I have grown to love the lore surrounding the coliseum; I originally thought it was kind of hokey to have a faire right outside Arthas’ doorstep, but at least the coliseum has more to do with Ice Crown than Ulduar seemingly did (I’m still waiting for them to make a giant “OH SNAP!” connection between Yoggi and the emo prince).

Entering the arena felt…epic. I thought it was a great flourish to have the factions cheer on their announced champions. I loved watching the hordies ride in with their banners waving on high. I can see how this might be incredibly boring the 2nd time you enter the instance, but for right now it still totally immerses me and reminds me how much fun roleplaying can be.

For the first battle, my confidence was pretty high. I’ve done the dailies mulitiple times; jousting doesn’t frighten me. The champions seem to hit a lot harder though, and it was more chaotic than I imagined it would be. It didn’t make me feel any better when the Orc champion completely glitched out and decided he’d rather jump on another wolf and mow down my un-mounted party than concide loosing. We all ran out to wait until Tirion whisked him off to the stands.

The second battle I was not prepared. I went into it blindly, but figured nothing really bad would happen : my group was made of rockstars who had seen the instance before. I was really kind of confused as to why were were fighting the 3 packs of mobs; they didn’t seem to have much to do there, and were randomly aggressive to our party. It’s not like Eadric the Pure was commanding them to attack us for practice. The inconsistency of fighting to train versus fighting aggressive mobs was one of my biggest complaints of the instance. The monks’ meditation spell did have a really pretty visual effect – it looked almost like kneeling power infusion. Eadric came out and was easily smushed. I’m not sure I even got to see all of his moves, but there was nothing particularly challenging of the encounter. I loved watching him ask to run away after being thoroughly wallopped.

The black knight. Oh, how I hate you. I hate that you’ve come back to rain on everyone’s parade. I hate that you spawn numerous ghouls from all directions, and attack healers so quickly that they have no idea what’s going on. I ESPECIALLY hate how you turn into the same model as those horrid ghosties found in instances everywhere. Those ghosties have been the death of me countless times. Sure, we killed you. But you’ll be back. After all, it was only a flesh wound.

>.>

Overall, I found it to be a slightly challenging, engaging experience. Sure, it has it’s kinks to work out, but where else can you get three pieces of Ulduar 10 level gear in less than thirty minutes?