#251: The Portal

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Today I’ll be discussing a lesser-known aspect of World of Warcraft, but something that’s still deeply important to my main class choices.

For the record, and for those who don’t know, I played a mage as my main class from 2007 all the way until… probably about 2018. His name is Seneth, and he’s been my main guy for well over 10 years. I still play him from time to time, though not as frequently as I used to. The mage playstyle just doesn’t interest me that much right now, and I’m waiting to see if any major changes to the mage rotation come in the next expansion, or after that. At the moment, nothing about mage is really striking me as interesting, except one thing… Portals.

That’s the topic of today’s blog post: the portal. Being a mage means having access to portals and teleportation spells that allow you to go wherever you want, whenever you want. The spells cost mana to cast, but the cost is practically negligible when it comes down to it. The main perk of playing mage is the ability to always have the ease of access of teleporting wherever you want to go. I miss that when I play other classes, like paladin and shaman, which don’t have the same ease of transportation. Both are bulky, mostly immobile classes. It makes me wish that mages were better right now, as I would probably be playing one!

I took a portal just now from Boralus to Silithus, but it would have been so much easier had I been on my mage. The times have definitely changed since the old days of this game.

As you might be able to tell by the picture up top here, I don’t have a picture of an actual portal to share with you, just a port!

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#238: The Grind

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The Grind. When it comes to grinding out experience, reputation, currency, gold, whatever I need in order to push forward in World of Warcraft, I’m used to it. Back when Burning Crusade was current content, I remember the first grind I participated in was the Shattered Sun Offensive reputation grind. You had to hit exalted in order to get all the good stuff, so obviously I wanted to get there pretty badly. As a kid in middle school, I didn’t realize the predatory practices of games at the time, and I didn’t quite understand how the rep grind was designed to make me want to play the game more and more, incentivizing total commitment to the game every day in order to maximize the reputation I earned each day. That’s what life on current World of Warcraft is like, too, now that they’ve added two new reputations and two new zones to explore: Nazjatar and the Ankoan, and Mechagon and the Rustbolt Resistance. (Rustbolt almost sounds like Rustbelt, which is kind of funny.)

(Coffee beans are all I could find when searching “grind,” even though it’s unrelated to the topic. I like having unrelated pictures attached to these blog posts, though.)

In other words, the grind is a long, arduous process of completing monotonous tasks over and over again in order to achieve a result that’s gated in some way by an arbitrary restriction, such as reputation or gold or something like that. In this case, in order to get flying on all my characters in the new areas, I need to hit revered with both of the new factions and then explore each new island, too. It’s a process, but I’m used to it by this point. I’ve done it on almost all of my characters, so there’s nothing holding me back.

#224: The Tank

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Today I’ll be discussing the art of “tanking.” Tanking is a strategy employed in certain strategy games or role-playing games, wherein a tough, beefy character stands in front of all the baddies and absorbs their hits while the rest of the party deals damage or heals the tank. The holy trinity of MMORPG party mechanics is one tank, one healer, and three damage dealers, and it hasn’t changed much in the time since World of Warcraft’s initial release. It’s just become normalized that way in almost all MMORPGs.

Tanking, however, is something that takes skill. It’s not as easy as just face-rolling all of your damage dealing abilities and expecting big numbers to pop up. You have to worry about maintaining aggro from all the mobs you’re attacking, while also keeping yourself alive and dealing a respectable amount of damage, enough at least to keep the attention of the mobs. You also have to position the mobs such that they don’t unintentionally grab the attention of other nearby mobs or bosses, while making sure their abilities and spells don’t target the rest of the party. Essentially, you are keeping multiple people’s positions in mind while worrying about your own position and the position of the enemies. Being a tank requires a special awareness to all of these key traits.

And if you mess up, everyone knows. You’re the de facto leader of the group; you’re the one who decides the pace of the dungeon, after all. You’re supposed to be the one who pulls mobs at your decided pace, and because mythic+ dungeons are timed, the blame for dungeons not being completed in time can sometimes fall on your shoulders.

This all being said, I enjoy tanking and the challenges it provides. Sometimes I like being able to just join a group without having to worry about how the tank decides to carry us through the dungeon; sometimes I like being able to decide that myself. It can be nice and liberating. Tanking is great, and stressful, and that’s all that matters.

#220: The Timewalk

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Timewalking is a feature in World of Warcraft that becomes available every few weeks or so, and it’s become a tradition for us to take time out of our busy schedules to complete the 5 required weekly timewalking dungeons, regardless of what expansion they come from.

Let me explain what timewalking is first. So in World of Warcraft, there have been seven expansions up to this point. The game has been out since 2004, and it’s still running strong despite everything else going wrong with the game since then. Each expansion has a set of dungeons (5-player group content) exclusive to that expansion. In Mists of Pandaria, the fourth expansion to the game, you could explore the Temple of the Jade Serpent with a group of randomized players, but in the most recent expansion, you can still complete the Temple dungeon, but not with random players in an instance queue. That is, until timewalking appears, and then you are able to experience the magic all over again. Your characters are leveled down to the current level of the expansion, and then you’re forced to take on everything that comes your way with an item level appropriate to the expansion, too. Everything is normalized to provide an authentic experience of what it would be like if that content was current. For example, all the enemies and bosses are scaled up while you are scaled down to match their power levels. Mechanics are important again, and you can’t just zerg rush through all the bosses without paying attention to some of the mechanics of the game. You have to actually pay attention and work as a team, rather than rushing and rushing along through every health bar you face.

That’s it for timewalking, for now at least. I’m sure I’ll talk about it again at some point, considering how prevalent it is in WoW.

#165: The Legion

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Originally, I was going to write about the Boros Legion, the overzealous crusading guild in Ravnica, but then I realized I could also write about the legion in another respect: the Burning Legion in World of Warcraft. There are so many legions! Legions upon legions to discuss.

The Burning Legion in World of Warcraft were the central antagonists of the second most recent expansion, World of Warcraft: Legion. They’re an endlessly respawning army of demonic forces, and they are practically unstoppable. The conflict in this expansion is that they were invading our home world again, and this time they were hell-bent on annihilation. This expansion solidified WoW as an absolute titan of the gaming industry and allowed them to reclaim some of their old glory. Legion propelled subscriber numbers and boosted player interest and hype, with the introduction of the Broken Isles, legendaries, artifacts, and the exclusively max-level Suramar questing experience (which, if you read my blog regularly, I wrote about a few weeks ago). Legion revitalized my interest in WoW and got me hooked again for practically the entire length of the expansion, minus a few spots. I remember focusing super heavily on completing the mage tower challenges at the end of the expansion, trying my best to unlock the hidden and exclusive artifact appearances before they went away for good.

The Boros Legion is interesting because they’re primarily “good” guys. I bought the Boros guild pack recently, and it’s absolutely crushed all the other decks when it curves well. I’ve enjoyed playing with it a lot. The idea of playing a “white weenies” deck (strong, small white-colored creature cards with exceptional synergy between each other) has always been fun for me, and I like blasting people’s faces in with flying angels. Thankfully, that’s what the Boros are all about: ruthless aggression and flying assaults.

#153: The Guild

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When I first started playing World of Warcraft, years and years and years ago, I met some friends online who had just started playing, too. We quickly became friends and bonded over our immaturity, youth, and playful attitudes. It’s so easy to find like-minded individuals online when your entire personality is shaped by your online presence and what you find on the Internet. Our guild, called “R A W R” (because we were kids who liked memes and cats on the Internet), meant a lot to me, and our regular conversations in guild chat set the standard for what I would come to expect from sociable, inviting guilds. We would set up raids of Alliance cities, and have regular hang-outs in secret alcoves on the world map that no one knew about except us (or so we thought). We discussed guild matters, like who deserved a rank promotion and, more likely, who was being annoying on a particular day. There was drama, of course, as there is in any guild, but we persevered through it. Our guild’s downfall came not because of any drama or anything like that, but because we all, gradually and slowly, stopped playing the same game as each other. I remember quitting at one point and roping in my guild friends to come play other computer games with me, but that never lasted very long. I think one was a browser game, with blue fish and matching cards. That’s all I remember from it.

Some of my friends who used to play still come on every once in awhile, though not as often any more. It’s not the same as it used to be; even if we were to try to recapture that old magic, it’s past that time in our lives. And I think we all recognize that, which is why we don’t talk as much as we used to.

#118: The New Raid

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(This is the first picture that shows up in the free picture search engine for “raid,” for some reason.)

Jimmy and I both agree, the newest raid added to World of Warcraft in patch 8.1, Battle of Dazar’alor, has been a smash hit. It’s a wild ride from start to finish, representing perfectly what an actual, all-out war between two juggernaut super-factions would look like, rendered into the game’s modest engine. There are hefty stakes at play from both sides; consider the targeted assassination of the Zandalari king, and the reckless defense and heated chase through the waters to hunt down Jaina Proudmoore. Amidst all the high stakes is heightened tensions between the two factions after the battle climaxes. No one inevitably dies, except for the king, which leads to the events of the war campaign and allied race acquisition in 8.1.5. This is all just about the raid’s story, touching nothing on the bosses, mechanics, aesthetics, and more. But it’s impossible to separate this raid from the overarching story, as it is a climactic moment in the tale so far.

My favorite boss I’ve faced so far has been Opulence, wherein the raid splits in two and follows treasure golems through cavernous paths lined with booby traps and flame engines. But if you make it to the last room, powerful gems await that can empower your character, allowing them to finish the golems and enter the second phase of the encounter, wherein you face the massive treasure elemental, Opulence. It’s a ridiculous fight, and I loved being able to experience it firsthand in LFR and Normal difficulties. Hopefully, with my gear level increasing so fast, I have the opportunity to raid on Heroic sometime soon. That might be too much stress though, and we already know I’ve talked enough about stress recently!

#43: The Mythic

Mythic dungeon runs in World of Warcraft are stressful, nerve-wracking, and high stakes. They can sometimes take an hour or more to complete, and their completion insists and relies upon five people and their ability to coordinate with each other through dangerous obstacles and trials. One healer, one tank, and three damage dealers join together as a makeshift team to take down bad guys and delve far into some of the most deadly places you can imagine. Often, the obstacles in the way test the stability and patience of those brave enough to venture inside. Bosses, which are difficult enemies that require more intense coordination and mechanics to triumph over, line the path to the dungeon’s exit. Trash, which is what the nameless enemies you face between bosses are called, can test your patience too, if you’re not careful enough. Trash often is grouped up and has to be aoe’d down (aoe = area of effect, which are spells or moves that deal damage in an area, affecting multiple targets, rather than just a single one.)

The difference between a mythic dungeon and a regular dungeon is that mythics are timed. Each mythic dungeon has a specific, preset timer that your group needs to overcome in order to progress through your key. If the dungeon key is a high enough level, you might even face against certain “affixes” that make it even more difficult, such as quaking, which makes it so that every 20 seconds or so, your character exudes a large area move around them that deals friendly fire damage to the team. The strategy for dealing with this, ultimately, is to keep separate so that the area doesn’t overlap with anyone else’s before it spawns. Accidents happen, as they often do, and strategies can dissolve in an instant if the unexpected takes place. The truth to overcoming a mythic is complete trust between group members: trust that they won’t screw each other over, and that they will do their best to avoid making other people’s lives miserable.

More often than not, the dungeon has a clear path from beginning to end, leading through all the aforementioned baddies. But, sometimes the dungeons have branching paths, and sometimes there are efficient shortcuts that skip certain packs of trash, if you’re careful enough to avoid their sight range. Sometimes, the trash is as powerful as a boss, and there’s lots of trash to clear on the way to the end. There are, however, some common strategies that help you take down these threats. It’s the tank’s responsibility to “tank,” or command the attention and aggression of, all the enemies you face, while keeping the rest of the party safe. The healer’s responsibility is to cure any wounds the party faces along their journey, while the damage dealers are glass cannons: especially weak to damage, but especially good at dishing it out as well.

Now by this point you might be thinking, this sounds stressful (remember that they are timed, too). And it is, no doubt about that. But the rewards are often worth the stress that goes into it. Mythic dungeon runs are repeatable, and each new difficulty level (+2, all the way through +25) has a chance to award new levels of gear for completing it. If your character wants to progress at all, they’re probably doing some manner of mythic dungeons.