Finishing up BoD – Might of the Alliance

I’m back after a crazy month IRL! Finally I got around to editing and posting the last bit of footage from our Battle of Dazar’alor clear on Normal difficulty. While the Jaina fight stole the show for me, another standout fight is definitely Mekkatorque. The neat mechanic there is when he uses his Gnomish shrink ray on three random players, who then have to communicate in order to deactivate robots that shrunk players can take control of.

I love how this expansion has really been show-casing Jaina’s powers and showing the extent of her Frost Mage abilities. She left her home of Kul’tiras to study at Dalaran, the city of mages, and was apprentice to the late Antonidas. Her story in Battle for Azeroth has been one of my favorite parts of the expansion, and I’m looking forward to seeing her make that ship fly again!

After the Mekkatorque fight, we see him escape in an ejected pod into an unclear fate. He is apparently being kept alive in a machine with magics the likes of which even Jaina hasn’t seen, so it’s probably a big deal. My guess is that it’s going to serve as a lead in to Mechagon in 8.2. For this last wing of the raid, Alliance players were turned into Horde in order to play out the story of how the Horde defeated Mekkatorque, Stormwall, and Jaina. Blizzard has made quests like this in the past, where a quest-giver is telling a story that you participate in, in order to see the ending. Being on the opposing side of Jaina was awesome because we fought her at full force (and she gets away at the end), whereas with Mekkatorque it was sad because we don’t know yet if he survives.

A huge part of this expansion is the story, told through cinematics and quests to get the point across. This raid is no exception, as it’s the next step in a progression of battles in this expansion. The Battle of Dazar’alor, with it’s beautiful design and music, fits right in with the “Battle for Azeroth” theme. While I have issues with how this expansion began and think the whole war theme was forced upon both Horde and Alliance, I do really enjoy this raid and think that Blizzard did a great job creating a raid which carries that theme.

Crucible of Storms Unlocks Today!

Deep beneath Stormsong Valley, and hidden underneath the Shrine of the Storms, an ancient and powerful evil has rested. Waiting for the right moment to reemerge after countless millennia. N’zoth has been described as the lesser of the Old Gods in terms of power, yet what he lacks in other areas he makes up for in cunning. The God of the Deep has been planning something, and making deals with some very powerful individuals. The most well-known is Queen Azshara, who originally made a deal with the Old God after the Well of Eternity imploded and drowned the queen herself and much of the remaining Highborne. Queen Azshara and her Highborne were transformed into the monstrous Naga, where they rebuilt their city and boded their time for 10,000 years… But another entity has taken the forefront recently, one that players who have finished the little intro questline for the Crucible of Storms raid will recognize.

Patiently waiting…

Courtesy of Baernklaw

Xal’atath, Blade of the Black Empire

Xal’atath is the mysterious artifact weapon that Shadow Priests wielded to fight the Legion during last expansion. After the wound appeared in Silithus, players used the remaining power in all their artifact weapons to stabilize the world and we assumed Xal’atath was lost as well. Surprise, surprise, the dagger winds up in Stormsong Valley in the hands of the Naga. Wielders of Xal’atath knew that the blade occasionally whispered to you, just like Old Gods love to do. That, and the fact that the Black Empire was a vast Old God civilization on Azeroth before the Titans brought order, tells us that Xal’atath is an Old God-like creature. Is she an actual Old God? Does she fight for the same team as them? Who is Xal’atath? We don’t have the answers yet. But this questline, in which we accidentally help and free her, helps to provide answers while giving me a whole lot more questions!

Xal’atath and her vessel

She is clearly a creature of void and very old, if her whispering is to be believed. After the player collects the three artifacts used for a gigantic storm ritual, they are lured to the bottom of the Crucible of Storms for a meeting with N’zoth himself. After Xal’atath delivers the three artifacts and you, “the Opener”, she strikes a deal with the Old God to set her free from her imprisonment. So, was she merely a herald for N’zoth who struck a bargain in exchange for greater power? Was her allegiance to N’zoth only as far as securing her freedom from the dagger? I think that the story is hinting to something else, and that Xal’atath has some big plans of her own. Now that she has been freed, there’s nothing stopping her from doing as she pleases. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if we see her again soon, because she tells us as much before she departs the Crucible. I have just finished the raid myself which might give us some answers, but really just a lot more questions.

The Crucible of Storms

This is a two boss mini-raid that serves as a good bridge between the faction war of 8.1 and the Naga and Old God-themed story in 8.2. Over the course of the expansion we have received hints and tidbits of Old Gods, just knowing that it’ll be a much bigger deal in the story. In fact, I believe that the faction war is laced with Old God influence and the disorder on the surface of Azeroth is ultimately helping the Old Gods regain power. This raid is excited more than just for the reason of story shift. Crucible of Storms is important because it is N’zoth. After wondering where a gigantic kraken-like Old God could possibly be located, we finally found him resting in the deepest part of the ocean off of Stormsong Valley. It’s fitting that he’s been hiding under a giant stone statue of a kraken, but I guess I thought it a little too obvious. But it’s from the Crucible of Storms that he’s been planning something that he says will change the world. And I believe him.

As we enter his “sanctum” (room with the largest Old God eyeball) and fight the final boss, he tells us that we show promise. That we are going to serve him well and help him achieve whatever his goal is. It’s almost as if he has been waiting for us there, and expected that we’d kill one of his most faithful servants. Uu’nat, Harbinger of the Void, serves N’zoth’s will. What if his ultimate purpose was to be slain by us, the Opener? And then, after the fight, we notice the Blade of the Black Empire is missing. When we alert King Anduin, he expresses concern that Sylvanas has somehow stolen the dagger. With that, she could cause even more damage and keep the faction war going. And what’s the deal with players receiving N’zoth’s gift? Are we walking around Azeroth cursed by the void, unaware that we are the reason for N’zoth’s arrival? The future is uncertain, except that Azeroth might never be the same. And what is the circle of stars?

What did I see?
Stylish

Clearing BoD – Empire’s Fall

This wing was super fun! I had to cut out a lot of footage for both Opulence and King Rastakhan, both of which were long fights and it took us a while to figure out mechanics (Opulence wiped the floor with us for a while). We did actually defeat Conclave in two pulls, which is funny to me because my guild just cleared them on Heroic and it’s a totally different story. Conclave is one of those fights with a lot of things happening at once, and as time progresses in the fight it seems like it gets easier to mess up or miss a step.

It’s hard to remember that this raid opened at the end of January and that some of my thoughts about certain bosses have changed in all that time. Opulence is definitely one of those bosses. I was really excited to fight him because of the preview we get during the Alliance war campaign where we sneak into the Dazar’alor treasure vault. That, and he drops a golden crown which I am the proud owner of! Opulence is a two-phase fight, with the first phase splitting up the raid in order to defeat two mini-bosses before getting to Opulence. It’s completely possible to skip the two mini-bosses and head straight for Opulence, but then you’d have a ridiculously hard fight against the main boss and two mini-bosses that each have their own sets of mechanics. Although, the phase one bosses were nerfed so it’s easier to imagine people attempting this now.

Anyways, figuring out the logistics of the fight and how to divide the raid for phase one is challenging but Opulence itself isn’t very difficult. I was discouraged by phase one for a while but once we learned the fight and were taking down Opulence like pros, I was having a blast. Now it’s one of my favorite fights and I look forward to it every time we start a fresh run. I thought I liked Conclave at first, but then I just realized that’s because we defeated them pretty easily (on Normal). Compared to Opulence and Rastakhan, Conclave just doesn’t stand out to me.

Rastakhan is a good mix of difficulty and fun. Watching this little story unfold between Bwonsamdi and Rastakhan is still really cool to me, while at the same time the fight has a good difficulty level that fits the two characters. There’s a lot going on in this fight, and getting sucked into the death realm by Bwonsamdi is tricky, but it’s presented in a good way that allowed us to make good progress during each pull. After defeating King Rastakhan, and feeling a bit sad, we all felt like we had fought an epic fight. Onto the third and final wing of Battle of Dazar’alor and, more importantly, the Jaina Proudmoore fight!

Clearing BoD – Siege of Dazar’alor

Siege of Dazar’alor, or wing 1, consists of the first three bosses out of this nine boss raid, and I recorded most of the footage from our first full clear. This video was from the raid’s opening day, January 22nd, and we have since cleared the raid on Normal and are currently making our way through Heroic. I’m getting excited for the mini-raid Crucible of Storms that’s coming out in less than two weeks, and to shift gears into Naga invasions and more story progression.

This wing doesn’t have any of my favorite boss fights, but the one I most liked from this video were the Jadefire Masters. It’s definitely much harder on Heroic and I just can’t seem to successfully execute the Multi-sided Strike mechanic, but I did like the maze during the intermission part of the fight. Having everyone quit fighting to run around a maze while avoiding fireballs is interesting, but the change of pace can also kill you if you aren’t careful. I can’t wait to talk about the video for wing 2, which I’m sure will focus heavily on Opulence and how challenging that was…

My Revelation

Lately, every time I logged into WoW things have felt off. Something was missing for me, or, more specifically, for Aurashot. For years I’ve had a deep fascination with Night Elf history and culture, but therein lies the problem.

Trolls, as you may know, are one of the oldest races on Azeroth. They pre-date Night Elves, who were originally a group of Trolls who settled near the Well of Eternity. So in order to honor Aurashot’s ancestors, I have changed her from a Night Elf of the Alliance to a Troll of the Horde!

Yeah, mon!

I feel so much better now that I’m being true to myself, and experiencing a part of Night Elf culture that I haven’t embraced before. Anduin was a little unhappy, but I had to do what was best for me.

Adjusting to life with tusks and as a member of the Horde has been challenging, but rewarding. Reimagining Aurashot as one of her ancient ancestors was fun, and I have a lot to learn about being a Troll.

Look who I met!!

For now, I still have to get used to navigating an unfamiliar capital city and befriending my fellow Horde. I can’t wait to share my next update with you!

Hati’s Back!

The long awaited quest to find and save Hati after the events in Silithus last expansion finally went live on March 12th, and I wasted no time. The quest-line was short but sweet, and the little cinematic at the end was no exception.

Titanstrike

Beast Mastery Hunters first meet Hati during their artifact acquisition quest where he’s a normal wolf until the very end, when Hati sacrifices himself to save the player. The Titan Thorim recognizes Hati’s heroism and imbues your newly acquired artifact weapon, Titanstrike, with Hati’s spirit. Once a normal white wolf, he is reforged in thunder and remains a loyal companion so long as the Hunter keeps Titanstrike equipped. At the end of the expansion players use up all the power left in their artifact weapons to help heal Azeroth after Sargeras plunges his sword into Silithus in a desperate final attempt. This meant that all those Beast Mastery Hunters who spent the better part of two years with their beloved Hati suddenly found themselves without his companionship, and without a proper goodbye.

A Disturbance in the Force…

Apparently Hati’s story has the same impact at Blizzard, and they added in a new quest in BfA to find him again! Mirmiron tells the player that he has come across some strange power fluctuations and, after some studying, he thinks that it’s Hati. It seems that after using up our artifact weapons in Silithus, Hati’s spirit split up and scattered into the Nether. We team up with a familiar dwarf, Grif Wildheart, to track down the two halves of Hati’s enraged spirit, calm him down, and fuse him together again.

I love being a Hunter

When we get Hati back Mirmiron sends us over to Thorim, where we learn we can change Hati’s appearance and buy some cool Hati-specific toys. It was really cool to see so many hunters who were also doing the quest at the same time, even if the amount of Hunters there made the quests buggy!

So many good boys

But Wait, There’s More!

Because it wasn’t enough just to get one of the most beloved Hunter pets back, there’s a vendor right next to Thorim where you can buy neat toys to interact with Hati. These include a rubber ball, a fez, an item that turns Hati into a mount for a while, and an item that enhances the visuals on his thunder abilities.

The Hati quest was the first thing I got excited for in patch 8.1.5, and I think that it was really well done. It’s amazing how people can invest so much emotion in something like this, and I think that’s exactly what Blizzard wanted. I was heartbroken when Hati disappeared, but now we can explore the rest of what 8.1.5 has to offer together!

Visiting Sunsong Ranch

One of the first things that come to mind when I think of Mists of Pandaria is Halfhill, the bustling farmer’s market town where the clueless Farmer Yoon resides. The story behind acquiring his farm, Sunsong Ranch, is familiar to anyone who loved Harvest Moon games like me. Basically Yoon was looking for someone to help out on the farm while also showing members of The Tillers that it’s worth keeping. From there, it’s up to you to grow crops used in Pandarian recipes and upgrade the farm little by little. It’s by far my favorite thing from the expansion, and the closest players would get to their own instanced “housing” until Warlords of Draenor brought us Garrisons.

Making New Friends

The picture above shows the fully upgraded farm, with the best tools, most plots of soil, and farm animals, but starting out on the farm is completely different. Beginning the quest-line reveals that Halfhill plans to demolish Yoon’s farm for more space, and so the player sets out with the task of making sure everyone in the Tillers Union votes in favor of keeping the farm. Mists of Pandaria introduced separate reputation bars for NPCs and my goal here was to raise everyone’s reputation to “best friend” status while also getting to exalted with The Tillers, the farming group in Halfhill.

Halfhill’s central hub

Earning the trust of each farmer was a slow and steady process. Reputation, or friendship, was earned by doing quests or finding rare items scattered around Valley of the Four Winds which could then be gifted. The gifts were important because after the main story-line quests were over, my only other way of gaining friendship was through daily quests which were random each day. Each farmer had a favorite gift which would earn more friendship with that particular farmer, which added another layer of tedium to this whole ordeal. I remember spending hours flying around the zone using an add-on that scanned for the little dirt piles that hid the gifts. But what is exactly the point of becoming best friends with everyone?

The Power of Friendship

Best friend status has its own perks, the most important of which being that you have convinced them that Sunsong Ranch shouldn’t be demolished. Each farmer also gives you an addition to the farm, like animals or furniture for your little house. Lastly, you can ask any of your new besties to help you out on the farm. I think they’re actually supposed to help out with crops and stuff, but I haven’t noticed anything useful. Each farmer has their own expertise and will appear in different locations if asked to tend your farm. Chee Chee is my favorite (he’s just awesome) and his expertise happens to be sheep, so he hangs out with the sheep on my farm.

Chee Chee takes good care of the sheep

Helping out each farmer with their problems and surprising them with gifts was heartwarming, and the conclusion of the quest-line with all of us banding together to save the farm was just awesome. The whole thing was very reminiscent of Harvest Moon or similar games, which is why I think it continues to be one of my favorite things in the game ever. I still return from time to time, like I just did to take these pictures, and it always gives me the same warm fuzzy feeling that truly impactful stories do. Even so, I haven’t gotten to the best part of the farm…

I Love Dog

Yes, you read that right. Sunsong Ranch is home to the original good boy, a dog named Dog. I don’t remember quite how the story goes with him, but at some point while questing around Valley of the Four Winds you run into a dog with no home. If you choose to complete the quest (just look at that face), you befriend Dog and he comes to live with you on the farm. And from then on every day you log in to tend the farm Dog will be there to greet you. That’s really the little detail that tipped Sunsong Ranch over the edge into “completely amazing” territory.

The best part about Dog is that my reaction to him is the same for many people, in that he is a constant joy in a strange land full of Pandas. Luckily Dog makes his return in Warlords of Draenor when you unlock the herb garden in your Garrison, and in Legion he’s hanging out in Dalaran with Breanni in the pet shop. However, in Legion there’s a little secret players need to work out in order to get him to appear in the pet shop. I’m still not sure if he appears in BfA but I have hope!

Dog!
Dog’s love transcends time and space!
Dog boosts morale in the midst of the Legion invasion

Dazar’alor Progress and… Island Expeditions?

Since BfA’s second raid came out at the end of January I’ve been having a blast running through it for the first time. The bosses are fun (for the most part) and challenging, and definitely aren’t simple fights. When I think about Battle for Dazar’alor the first thing that pops into my head is Opulence. I would think about Opulence for different reasons, depending on if we had faced it or not yet. Before fighting the giant magical golem made out of the riches of Zandalari kings, I was excited to get my hands on a very specific item from its loot table. Players first meet Opulence at the end of the war campaign leasing up to the raid’s opening, where you raid Dazar’alor’s treasure vault. To be honest I loved the idea and model design for Opulence, a monster made out of loot. Finally we succeeded in defeating Opulence and, on our second Opulence defeat, I got the shiny golden crown that I coveted so much. That isn’t to say there weren’t challenges with this boss, because for about two weeks after the raid opened, we were determined to best him.

We still have two bosses left until we clear the whole raid for the first time, but part of the fun (and frustration) has been learning each fight. It’s fun to watch as we make mistakes and learn from them, and it makes getting loot at the end of it that much better. I’ve watched videos on the Jaina fight and I can’t wait to experience it firsthand.

Like Uldir, Dazar’alor is visually awesome, and the music in the background is epic. It really gets me into the faction-warring spirit, even if the whole thing is just an Old God ploy…

Conclave of the Chosen
Queen Aurashot at Rastakhan’s Throne
Mech Battle in the sky

As the last picture above shows, we became Horde! This raid is unique, and confusing, in that Horde and Alliance fight different bosses in different orders. For example, both factions face Grong, but Alliance face an undead Grong once the Horde have already defeated him and Bwonsamdi reanimates him. Since the picture was taken we have defeated Mekkatorque, who narrowly escapes at the end via escape pod built into his mech suit. Mekkatorque is a cool guy, which makes Gnomes somewhat ok (I guess), so I did not like fighting him and it’s still unclear whether or not he ends up surviving the fight. His fight, however, was super cool. Jaina mentions that he’s being kept alive in a machine with magic beyond her understanding, could this be a tie in to Mechagon coming in 8.2?

Discovering Major Expansion Content

Ever since BfA came out, I had avoided Island Expeditions. I had heard that they were a disappointment and not fun, and I was distracted by other things. I kept watching from the sidelines as Blizzard added more perks to the islands – pets, mounts, and toys. Aside from the fact that you get tons of Azerite, the vanity items were more than worth it to me. This past week I tried Expeditions for the first time and I had fun. I didn’t have as much fun as I do in the raid, but I am a simple Hunter with simple needs. These cute little island scenarios chock full of enemies helped fulfill that need of running around and Multishot-ing everything in the area. I even got a little crab pet that has a pirate hat, identical to the one from that Tortollan shell matching game! I was ecstatic, and I was exciting for reset day so I could try out a new set of islands. I laughed out loud when the Horde Paladin NPC bubbled and started running away at low health. As long as it makes me laugh and wanting more, then I count that as fun content.

Trying out a new Transmog

Demonology Warlocks are Better Beast Mastery Hunters

While I’ve been having a lot of fun progressing through Dazar’alor with my guild in the past couple weeks, I’ve also re-discovered my love for a forgotten class: the Warlock. I’ve had a Warlock alt for years and have had varying degrees of fun playing her, most notably around Cataclysm with the Destruction specialization. I hadn’t gone with Demonology for a long time because Blizzard has changed it so much throughout the years, and it’s always seemed kind of boring or weird to me. I didn’t like the whole thing with Metamorphosis where the Warlock changes into a demon for a little while so I stuck with Destruction. I gave Demonology another shot when I decided I wanted a change from my main, a Beast Mastery Hunter.

At first with Demonology I was overwhelmed with the amount of spells and buttons I had to keep track of. I am, after all, spoiled with the simplicity of Beast Mastery, but I did learn quickly which abilities were most important. The power of a Demonology Warlock is in how many demons I can summon, which is a lot. When combat begins damage is a slow build-up until I start summoning demons, and then starts increasing rapidly from there. It’s just a blast to see how many demons I can get out until the enemy dies, which usually isn’t very long. While playing my Warlock I can’t help but compare her to my Hunter, and see a missed opportunity with Beast Mastery. During Legion, Hunters could call on multiple beasts in battle sort of like summoning demons. Hunters never had the choice of which types of beasts to call, or anywhere close to the quantity as Warlocks. To that end, playing my Warlock helps to bridge some gaps.

Fwoosh!

Best of all, Demonology Warlocks feel powerful and very different from what I’m used to playing. As much as I love Hunters and they’ll always be my favorite, it’s nice to take a break and play another class that is super fun.

Speaking of Hunters, Aurashot can now tame those blood beasts from Nazmir! It dropped randomly during my last time in Uldir and I was very surprised. Right now I’m running around with a Blood Crawg, which has the Tenacity pet specialization. Blood beasts have a special ability called Blood Bolt, which they cast on cooldown if the Hunter allows it. I’ll probably have my Blood Crawg until patch 8.1.5 comes out and I finish the quest to tame Hati!

Adorable

For those who don’t play Hunters or, more specifically, Beast Mastery Hunters, Hati is a special pet that is tied to the Beast Mastery Artifact weapon Titanstrike from Legion. During the quest-line to obtain Titanstrike Hati is sadly slain in battle, but his spirit is bonded to the weapon. So for two years I quested and adventured with my main pet, and Hati. I and many others were sad when at the end of Legion we used our weapons’ power to save Azeroth, and Hati went away. I don’t know much about the quest-line to tame Hati, only that you get him as a pet at the end. But for now, I’ll be bringing my Crawg along to raid Dazar’alor! As for my Demonology Warlock, I still have to level her up and see how the spec changes after I hit level 120.

Good Times in Uldir

With BfA’s second raid, Battle for Dazar’alor, opening tomorrow I took the time to compile some footage of some of my experiences in its first raid. I both loved and was frustrated by Uldir, for the right reasons. The fact that the entire raid took place in an ancient Titan testing facility with amazing architecture was awesome, and it had some great boss fights. Among my favorites were Taloc, MOTHER, and Zul. I didn’t consider Zul one of my favorites until relatively recently when I finally understood the fight. That’s where the frustration comes in. After dying countless times without realizing why, I finally understood that the entire first phase of the fight should be focused on the adds that are with him at the start of the fight. There are so many little things going on that seem really complicated if you don’t make a list of what you should be attacking first. Unfortunately Zul is one of the bosses that I don’t have any footage for, so I couldn’t include myself dying hilariously many times. Man, I wish I recorded the first time Zul cast Death Wish on me and forced me to run and jump off the platform. That made me laugh. Deaths, however, are a common occurrence in the video anyways!

I look forward to the next raid, where we get to fight exciting creatures such as Opulence, a golem made out of gold coins and riches, and Jaina Proudmoore. I try to stay away from story spoilers, so I really have no idea what happens during or after the Jaina fight. Dazar’alor does things differently in that Horde and Alliance have bosses unique to their faction only, and we’ll be able to experience the other faction’s bosses by hearing the story of what happened during the fight. During the “story”, we’ll participate in the fight by transforming into the opposite faction.

I’ll keep running Uldir because it’s really fun, and I need to complete my transmog set, but I’m so happy to be able to choose between raids I feel like running. To me, the most fun part of the raid, besides the loot, is learning each boss’ mechanics and the stories behind them. Here’s to some great stories (that don’t involve Jaina dying) ahead!