Respite

For all intents and purposes, we have begun Battle for Azeroth. At least I have. I spent last night doing the Silithus artifact retirement quests on all nine of my characters. Only my main had done the previous Silithus quest line, so I had to go through the annoyingly tedious criss-crossing of the zone multiple times to crank out the maybe half dozen easy quests to get to the final artifact change on most of my characters. Seriously, if I have to fly around that big ass sword again any time soon, I will scream.

I am slightly peeved at myself for not realizing sooner that the artifact retirement process would include maxing out your artifact weapon, to level 127 (!), a level that very few insane players ever actually reached. The reason I am peeved about it is that I have spent the last 3 weeks furiously chasing AP to get some of my alt artifact weapons up to level 75. 😒 We will chalk that one up to sheer stupidity.

But what a sense of freedom it is to be totally free from the tyranny of AP! It was exhilarating to realize that doing the Silithus final quest meant I no longer had to have even a passing interest in racking up AP. No longer was there any need to log in on an alt, check the available emissary quests and AP-producing world quests and see how I could maximize my AP for the time I had available to play. I could now just log in and — hold onto your hats here — just have fun.

About half way through Legion, many of us really began to feel the burden of chasing that never-ending AP. Some who felt this way just stopped doing it and pursued other goals in the game, some stopped playing the game altogether, and some like me just gave in, put our heads down, and doggedly ground it out day after day. I truly didn’t realize how burdensome that had become until last night when I was suddenly freed from it.

Sadly, this bit of respite will be short-lived. When BfA goes live in August we will back to chasing AP again, only this time it will be for several pieces of gear, not just one. There will be a few changes in the mechanics of collection, but the basic grind will remain. It is, in my opinion, the worst legacy of Legion and the most soul-sucking design in recent WoW history. It has completely changed the end game for many of us by introducing another tier of leveling that starts once you have leveled your character to the expansion — 120 in BfA. Most of what we used to consider end game goals cannot be started until we make significant progress on this new leveling tier, and even worse, Blizz believes that there should never be an end to this end-game leveling. This is a large part of what they call “content”.

It’s telling, I think, that once I realized AP was no longer relevant, I considered Legion to be over.

I think the betting is that the pre-expansion patch will go live a week from Tuesday. It’s on the download now and probably could go live this next week, but Wednesday is the big Independence Day holiday in the US, so it seems doubtful Blizz would want to bring in lots of their employees to troubleshoot the inevitable glitches in a major patch and screw up their holiday.

I will be spending my game time until 8.0 tidying up — vendoring stuff, figuring out what to do with all the soon-to-be useless legendaries that we currently cannot get rid of (I guess Void Storage will be the answer), getting rid of some legacy mats my banker is hanging onto in order to make room for some of the Legion mats I want to keep, and so forth. I really do hope Blizz will allow us to vendor or disenchant our excess legendaries at some point, but I have not read or heard anything like that being in the works. Their special effects will remain until level 115, and after that I understand even their stats will diminish with each level. They may remain useful for Timewalking, but honestly I don’t know anyone who re-equips just to do TW dungeons any more.

There really are not any outstanding Legion achievements I am keen to do during our summer break. I am not an achievement hog anyway, and I have pretty much done the ones I am interested in. I would like to have finished Glory of the Argus Raider, but our guild was unable to field a team large enough to finish the last boss achievement. We did all except that one, but it requires a relatively large team to die and properly soak up the spirit orbs while still maintaining enough dps to kill the boss. Some of our guildies finally completed it using OpenRaid, but I am not interested enough in it to do it with a non-guild team.

Similarly, I have not done any of the mage tower challenges and do not intend to. The hunter artifact appearances were completely underwhelming — not worth my time — and I am nowhere near proficient, or interested, enough to beat my head against them on an alt. However, our amazing guild GM last night completed 35 of the 36 available, and I have no doubt but what she will finish the last one tonight or this weekend (if she hasn’t already). I am in awe.

As soon as 8.0 goes live, I will spend my time until expansion release just getting used to the new talents and rotations, deciding which specs will be most fun/effective for leveling in BfA and which ones will be viable raiding specs. I still expect to have a BM hunter as my main, all my recent angst notwithstanding. But I think I will work at getting an “alt main” in BfA, too, and 8.0 will help me select what that will be.

Lots to do, lots to look forward to. Plus it is summer, and both a weekend and a fun holiday coming up. I will be taking the next two weeks off from this blog to allow my creative side to recharge a bit. Look for me to be back on July 16. See you then.

Frost mages and the vector of Legion

A vector is an object that has both a magnitude and a direction. Geometrically, we can picture a vector as a directed line segment, whose length is the magnitude of the vector and with an arrow indicating the direction. The direction of the vector is from its tail to its head.

A vector

Courtesy of mathinsight.org

For humans, time is an ephemeral vector. We are tied to its direction — always forward, never backward or stationary. And if time itself has an unimaginably immense magnitude, our own human magnitudes are infinitesimally small in comparison — occupying less space along the vector than a grain of sand along a million-mile journey. One of the consequences of this state is that we have a beginning and an end, and the space between those two points is what we experience as change.

This cosmic insight applies not only to we humans, but also to everything we create — civilizations and empires and governments and automobiles and socks and computer games. Even though humans are bound to the vector of time, we have the ability to stand outside it in a sense, to look down on a piece of it, study our creations, and see where they began and how they changed and ultimately how they ended, because we have memory and we have developed the ability to chronicle and thus preserve aggregated memories.

Which — finally! — brings me to the subject of today’s post. It certainly is not news to any of my readers that we are at the end of the Legion expansion, and something that happened over the weekend caused me to contemplate the magnitude of its vector within the game.

First, the event(s). As there is not much more that interests me about my main hunter just now, I have been dabbling with my alts, concentrating on one or another of them for several days at a time, then moving on to a different one. This weekend I was focusing on my mage. I initially leveled her (a void elf) as Arcane (a mistake, btw) and that was the first spec for which I obtained an artifact and got it to level 75. Then I did the same for Fire, because I really think that is a fun spec. Unfortunately, in Legion Fire is not especially powerful, so — just to round things out — I started the same process for Frost. Currently my artifact level is 72 on that spec, so I have a small ways to go to get to what I consider max level for any alt artifact.

Before I go on, let me point out that while I have become minimally proficient as a mage, I am nowhere close to being good, or even above average. Prior to this weekend, the best I could eke out in front of a target dummy as a Frost mage — no movement and no food or other consumable buffs — was about 700-800k sustained dps. All you excellent mages out there are free to laugh your butts off over this, especially when I tell you my ilevel was around 930. Go ahead, I’ll wait.

Anyway, the point is, I am pretty bad as a Frost mage.

But over the course of this weekend I finally got 4 pieces of t21 normal gear (I do not have any t20), along with two of the top three legendaries for Frost mages (Shard of the Exodar ring and Shattered Fragments of Sindragosa helm). Once I made a talent change to accommodate the helm, there was an instantaneous sea change in my damage numbers. Simply by adding these 6 pieces of gear (which only changed my overall ilevel by about 3 levels) my sustained target dummy dps doubled — well over 1.5m dps for  several 8-minute sessions. (I did a few to mitigate any possible fantastic good luck with the heavy proc-fishing one has to do with Frost mages.)

Did I suddenly become twice as proficient? In my dreams! No, it was just gear.

To me, this experience pretty well encapsulates some of the worst aspects of Legion, design changes that I fear we have not seen the last of:

  • Using gear (trinkets, tier, and legendaries) to correct class/spec play style and potency design flaws, instead of correcting basic balance problems.
  • Using RNG as the sole determiner of which players will be awarded these crucial gap-fillers for their spec.
    • Taunting players with the idea that there is “bad luck” insurance that kicks in if you just keep grinding raids and dungeons and emissary quests for enough weeks. But this does NOT have anything to do with getting the “good” legendaries and such, only with getting one — which may in fact suck, causing you and your bad luck to start all over again in hopes of getting the one that fixes your lousy rotation.
  • The extreme reliance on secondary stats to bring a spec’s abilities to anything close to their potential, and the twin crime of making those stats completely random for loot drops.

These design decisions, more than any other factors in my opinion, are what created the “never-ending grind” many felt in Legion. The overriding importance of gear — including the artifact weapon — combined with the RNG aspect and geometric increases in AP for the artifact — made much of Legion an exercise in soul-sucking drudgery.  Players looking to meet their regular end game goals — especially if those goals included becoming a contributing member of a raid team — found that Blizz had suddenly moved the goal posts and in fact kept moving them as the expansion progressed.

In effect, Blizz was altering the normal change vector by moving the magnitude with the expansion rather than letting the player move along a fixed magnitude and thus see what they had come to expect as “progress”.

Blizz seems unable or unwilling to learn the meta-lessons from their mistakes, preferring to learn only the specific ones. If players complained about artifacts being too grindy in Legion, for example, Blizz eliminates artifacts in BfA but simply breaks their effect up among several small artifact-like pieces. The never-ending grind is still there. If players objected to class-fixing legendary bonuses, Blizz eliminated those kinds of legendaries in BfA but moved the class bandaids to bonus traits in Azerite armor. When players complained about having to run dailies and weeklies in Mists of Pandaria in order to not feel as if they were falling behind, Blizz changed the name to world quests in Legion and kept them as a requirement for earning AP and gear in order to be eligible for other group activities. When players complained bitterly about garrisons in WoD, Blizz changed the name to class halls in Legion.

Before I get deluged with hate mail, all of this is not to say there were not some excellent innovations in Legion — and I will likely have a post on what I think those were before BfA goes live. In general I think Legion was a decent expansion. But I am troubled by what I see as Blizz’s move to a design philosophy that seems to deliberately create winner and loser classes and specs, along with a system that rewards luck more than any other factor for player potential. And I continue to be disappointed in Blizz’s seeming inability to truly move on from what even they admit were mistakes — they seem anchored to the design concepts and more eager to camouflage them than to correct them.

Entering the final stretch

In a sense I have been preparing for Battle for Azeroth now for the last month or so, but I feel like as of maybe yesterday I am starting the final sprint. In my part of the country, the expansion will launch at 6 PM on Monday August 13, part of Blizz’s planet-wide simultaneous launch. That probably means we are only about a month away from Patch 8.0, the pre-launch patch. (One wonders if Blizz will give their live launch plan a dry run by also doing a simultaneous launch of 8.0.)

I was reminded of this ever-shortening timeline by a guild Discord discussion a couple days ago. Though it pains me to say it, a couple of our guildies are actually far more diligent and meticulous organizers than I am. And if you are a regular reader, you know that is going some. Anyway, these guildies posted their very extensive spreadsheets as an example of how they keep track of achievements, alt progress, addons, and so forth. Let me tell you, I was not only impressed but ashamed at the realization that I am a slacker! I have gotten lazy in this expansion, clearly.

Well, no more. Today I will get serious about what I now realize is the final sprint towards BfA. In fact, in the past I have felt a flat spreadsheet does not give me the kind of data I need at my fingertips, so I have put together relational databases to better serve my needs. I will probably do that this time, too. Yeah, that’s right, I’m bad! I will see your puny spreadsheets, Smugly Organized Guildies, and I will raise you a relational database! *drops mic*

(Okay, enough of the nerd trash talk. For now. 🤓)

As part of preparation for BfA, I am still wrestling with the idea of changing my main. I remain doubtful that I actually will follow through on the idea, but I have really been exploring a couple of alternatives, mainly by playing different classes/specs at a level beyond casual key-mashing. Specifically, I am seriously considering resto/balance druid, some flavor of mage, and mistweaver/windwalker monk. Less seriously, demonology warlock, though I have not done any Legion prep for this possibility.

My dilemma is somewhat complicated by the fact that currently — and likely for the foreseeable future — our guild raid team has a lot of healers and melee dps, making it harder to fit in another of those roles. The guild is very good about adapting to the classes of the players that are on the team, but eventually there are limits. Whereas if there are a lot of melee damage dealers the raid leader might be able to devise boss tactics to compensate for that, there is nothing that can be done if there are 6 healers for a raid of 20-25 — someone will have to switch specs. So that is a consideration for me, too, since I want to continue raiding with this team. This could end up self-limiting my options to hunter, balance druid with resto off spec, or mage. Gotta think about it some more.

Last night, though, I got a nice bonus result from prepping one of my alts. I have lately been working on my monk, because I find I really like the MW healing play style. Trying to gear my monk up a bit more as well as get more proficient at healing, I have been running some of our alt raids and also some LFR. However, I have stayed away from instance healing, mainly because I have absolutely no confidence in my ability to be the sole healer for a group and a tank.

But last night I swallowed my fear and ran 5 Timewalker dungeons as a MW monk. It was both exhilarating and liberating, not to mention I learned some cool emergency tricks for snatching an almost-dead player from the jaws of death. I came away from the experience with a ton more confidence that I had going in, and I may have actually finally overcome my phobia about instance healing. Woohoo!

Of course, no night of running with random groups would be complete without a head-slapping story. In the third TW I ran, Vortex Pinnacle, I was having an exceptionally hard time keeping the tank healed up. He looked like he was adequately equipped and specc’ed, and he seemed to be doing the right things, but as soon as we got into combat of any length his health took a big dip and kept going down unless I pretty much healed him alone and took care of the rest of the party with just AoE. Finally I said in chat, “Tank, idk why ur health keeps taking such big hits.” His reply, “I usually take my shield off in extended combat.” And sure enough, when I inspected him during the next round of combat, no shield. 🤯 (As one guildie noted when I told the story in guild chat, “Yeah, the shield is just for aggro. Healer aggro!”)

The announcement yesterday that the new PTR build will allow character transfers was a very welcome one for me. It means I will be able to further refine my alt/main options in a realistic environment. (It would be more helpful if we could have addons, but I guess we should not expect too much.)

And now, on to database creation!

I am NOT prepared

Panic buttonIn guild talk last night, someone pointed out it is 10 weeks until Battle for Azeroth goes live. I know that sounds like a lot of time, but when I began to mentally list the things I want to get done before then, my brain began to yammer, “Sound General Quarters! AWOOOOGA! AWOOOOGA!”

BfA release in 10 weeks means we will likely see the pre-expansion patch about a month before the new expansion, or 6 weeks from now. For me, the pre-expansion patch is the effective end of the current expansion, because that is when I make the adjustments to become familiar with the class changes — change out WeakAuras as necessary, take a look at the numbers behind secondary stats, and spend time at the target dummies to develop some new muscle memory. Then I follow this with a few LFR or guild runs through some of the raid tiers to be fairly proficient when the new expansion drops.

But before I start this whole process, I like to feel each of my characters is as caught up in the game as possible. That usually means:

  • Banks and bags are cleaned out and tidied
  • Professions are maxed
  • Gear level is as high as possible for as much as I play each one
  • The spec is the one I expect to level with in the next expansion
  • Any important achievements are done (example in Legion: class mount)

As you might imagine, while this list is not very long, it has a lot of what we used to call “implied missions” for each item. For example, to know which spec I want to level with for each character, I need to do some research to get a few hints about what might be the most fun and/or “best” spec in BfA. That will include some reading as well as a few beta (or soon PTR) test runs in order to decide. Maxing professions would seem to be straightforward, but it almost always involves switching a few around, and of course it takes time to level these new ones up. That is if I decide to level them up — they can still take full part in BfA professions without leveling them up now.

Cleaning out bags and banks is nothing more than tedious. Usually I do not do it far enough in advance to make any real gold in the auction house, what with everyone else cleaning out their stuff, too. So it generally involves a lot of vendoring and mailing around. The mailing occurs when I decide which alt should be the main keeper of whatever mats I decide to save. Sometimes it is obvious, other times not so much. My main hunter is a LW/skinner, but honestly she has so much other junk in her bank that it is not feasible for her to keep all the current leather along with stocks of classic leathers that come in handy. So those go to my bank alt.

I would really love to see an account-wide shared bank tab in this game, but it does not look like it is in the cards any time soon. It would save so much tedious busywork. You would not, of course, be able to put soulbound items in there, but everything else would be so great to have access to by everyone. And while I am on the subject, it seems like it is time to end the small-guild restrictions on bank tabs. (I am talking about the single-member guilds many of us have just for our bank alt.) Why not allow more tabs for these guilds — go ahead and charge the same as for regular guild additional tabs? I suspect it has something to do with meta-storage in the servers, but still it would go a long ways to improving quality of life for many players.

Of course, the other big thing I still need to do is decide what my main will be in BfA. In all likelihood I will end up still as a BM hunter, but for the first time ever I am seriously considering a class switch for main. At this point I have narrowed it down to druid (balance/resto), monk (windwalker/mistweaver), or mage (pick a spec). While WW monk is fantastically fun to play in BfA, our guild already has too many melee raiders, and in the final analysis I really prefer ranged play. I have not looked into MW monk for BfA, so I do not know if that would be a decent raid option if I went with monk as a main.

I really enjoy resto druid play — the mobility strikes me as sort of a hunter style, which I like. But I am not sure about Balance changes in BfA — the one thing I have always hated about them is the excruciatingly long cast times for most spells, combined with the wimpiness of the small number of instant casts. Clearly, more research is needed on my part.

My mage — well, I have got her to artifact level 75 in all specs, and I find each of them engaging to play, though I would say fire is far and above my favorite, followed by frost, with arcane a somewhat distant third. At least in Legion, both fire and frost have quite a lot of mobility, but I have not rolled a mage in the beta yet, so I have no clue what may change, if anything. (My bet is no major changes, since it is well known that Blizz loves mages best!)

Still, if I had to bet, I would bet I will keep my hunter main for BfA. It is, after all, the class I love best in the game and the one I have loved ever since I started to play. But it doesn’t hurt to at least consider a different path.

So, while it may not be quite time yet to push the panic button, my finger is definitely hovering over it. We rally have only about 6 more weeks of Legion left before 8.0 is released. At that point for all practical purposes we will have begun Battle for Azeroth. So much to do, so little time!

My week in WoW

It was a quiet week in Lake WoWbegone…

Okay, nope, not going there. Bad parody. But honestly it was a quiet game week for me. I mostly just enjoyed puttering around here and there. Bopped around a bit in the BfA beta world, read some game-related blogs and forums, switched my arcane mage to fire, and finally used my 110 boost.

BfA impression of the week: I created a few characters and took them to target dummies just to see how the playstyles felt. However, there was no real depth to my research, it was more of a toe-dabbling, and of course I am pretty bad at most of my non-hunter classes. (I will say, though, that I found Windwalker Monk to be amazingly engaging, to the KA-POW! level of fun. This is in spite of the fact that I usually do not enjoy any kind of melee class. I am definitely going to look into this for a “main alt” in BfA.)

My efforts were admittedly scattered and slipshod, but I want to recommend to you a new series by Wowhead, Battle for Azeroth Community Opinons. This series is anything but slipshod. There is a separate page for each class, and what Wowhead has done is solicit feedback from a few of the top players for each class. So what you get is 2-3 very decent analyses of the spec you are interested in, from different players, addressing not only spec changes but also an opinion of the flavor and feel of the spec.

I encourage you to check it out. Unfortunately, I could not find a sub-topic home page for the series to link to, but if you do a web search on “wowhead battle for azeroth community opinions” you will get a list of all of them. It really is some of the best feedback I have seen lately. Even if you prefer to experience your spec for yourself, these other opinions may show you some avenues of research you had not considered.

Switching mage spec to fire. Although I leveled my void elf mage as arcane, I finally decided that I just have way more fun playing fire. So I switched about a week ago. Yeah, I know fire mages are mediocre damage dealers in Legion, but so what? Anyway, the process of switching has once again brought home to me the very significant difficulties Blizz has introduced in Legion for switching specs.

Let me explain. Certainly for what we used to call “hybrid” classes, switching specs to another role has always involved some complexity — different gear, primarily. Hybrids have always had to carry around a set of gear for each spec they wanted to play. This was a drawback, though the theory was that it was compensated for by the fact that a hybrid was conceivably more useful to groups than was a “pure” damage class. Also, originally to balance out the increased utility of hybrids — along with their perceived desirability for groups — so-called “pure” dps were deliberately made a bit more powerful than the damage specs of  hybrid classes.

But starting a couple of expansions ago, Blizz threw most of that out the window. There is no longer a damage advantage for pure dps classes, and on top of that the increased importance of secondary stats on gear has resulted in even pure dps classes carrying around different sets of gear for each spec. So pure dps classes now have the disadvantages of hybrids without the advantage of being able to change roles. And Legion compounded this situation by introducing the burden of AP and artifacts and spec-particular legendaries to the problem. (Yeah, yeah, I know there are “catch-up” mechanisms, but it still takes hours and days and even weeks depending on your luck to get a new spec up to speed for gear and gems and enchants and legendaries and artifact level and relics.)

I suppose I don’t have much of a point here, except to say that I am still pretty damn mad at Blizz for deliberately misleading us. I clearly recall that, in the leadup to Legion, Mr. Not Yet But Soon To Be Game Director Hazzikostas touted the idea that “you will be able to switch into any spec you want, no more 2-spec limit!” And, like baby birds anticipating yummy regurgitated worm from mom, we were all chirping and excited about this. What a load of crap, foisted on us by someone who knew full well there was a huge catch to it but who apparently considered us all to be gullible and stupid enough to think Blizz was actually giving us a break.

My 110 boost. Nothing very exciting here. After weighing some options and considering my game play style preferences, I decided to create a shaman and boost it. Of course I boosted it into Elemental (remember my preference for ranged), but I think as soon as I get a bit more comfortable with it I will try Resto. I have never really played a shaman at level. Once or twice in the past I tried to level one, but got frustrated with having to keep track of what seemed like a bewildering array of totems, all of which had different effects and cooldowns and which had to be individually managed. So even though good shamans may disagree, I like the totem changes in Legion.

Anyway, finally that 110 boost is no longer burning a hole in my pocket and taunting me every time I log in. I will make my new alt a blacksmith, so that will fill out all professions for my little character family. Woohoo, lots of new stuff to learn!

Off to do a weekend. See you on the other side.

Dusting off alts

Last night I pulled out my poor neglected mistweaver monk and ran through a couple wings of Antorus the Burning Throne with her. It was pretty grim, but thankfully even really nasty LFR groups seldom pay any attention whatsoever to healers, so I have found it is easier to be very bad on a healer than on a damage dealer or certainly a tank.

Usually within the first half of an expansion I level all my alts. (I don’t have tons of them, only 8 not counting my main or my banker.) I was a little slower doing this in Legion than in previous expansions, mainly because the overhead was so high for my main. But I managed to level all my alts except my demon hunter, which to be honest I am thinking of deleting. (Not a big fan of the DH play style.) After an alt is leveled, I try to gear them up a bit and develop their professions, but then they pretty much sit on the bench until much later in the expansion. Also, I tend to ignore my melee classes longer because I am basically a ranged player at heart. (This is my main objection to monks — I like the mistweaver healing style, but I dislike having to maintain the melee windwalker spec for soloing.)

So in Legion, besides my main hunter, I leveled: another hunter, two mages, a warlock, a rogue, a monk, and a druid. Seven “working alts” total. My “main alt” this expansion is my druid, though I only play resto and balance on her. I’ve never felt the need to have one of every class, although I know a lot of players use that philosophy with alts. I do, though, have at least one of every profession except blacksmithing (because I don’t have any plate wearers, I suppose). In Legion, most of my professions have all the baseline recipes, but they have not progressed to level 3 on all of them. Still, I am pretty self-sufficient for gems, enchants, runes, raid food, etc. (*shhhhhhhh*, don’t tell Ion!) And earlier in Legion, when crafted gear was still relevant, I was able to outfit my cloth, leather, and mail wearers decently.

At any rate, last night I summoned my monk off the bench and put her in the game. Over the years I have developed a definite process for doing this. It invariably goes something like this:

  • Check gear/profession/questline status of alt. Make note of glaring gaps and set those as short term goals. For example, I noted my monk had not done anything beyond the initial Argus quest line. Also her gear level was sitting right at around 900, which I consider to be the minimum, so I will work on increasing it. And of her 3 legendaries, only one was level 1000, so 2 needed to be upgraded.
  • Determine which spec will be main and which will be off for the alt. In Legion, of course, sometimes this requires running through the artifact quest line for a spec you did not level as.
  • Head to Icy Veins or Wowhead for some book learning on the main spec’s crucial stats and baseline rotations. Both these sources often have a section that gives just the “Dummy” versions of recommended rotations, sort of a quick start guide. The main things I try to understand/relearn at this point are the spell dependencies and interrelationships, along with a lifeline rotation I can hang onto until I get more familiar with the spec.
  • Set up my action bars with the spec’s spells.

I actually study this stuff as if there were going to be a quiz on it. I have a notebook with a section for every class/spec I play, and each section lists the stat order of importance, recommended enchants, important spell dependencies, and my basic rotation. This last is very detailed, listing my actual keybinds in order of execution. So it looks something like “1-1-2-2-4-shift1 on CD-6 when it procs”. Sometimes I also copy the rotation sequence to a large sticky and put it on my monitor.

Yeah, I know, I am a nerd. Quit rolling your eyes.

  • Determine the things I will need to keep track of or be reminded of,  check online for an appropriate set of WeakAuras, import them and tweak to fit my needs. If no good ones already exist, I take the time to create my own.
  • Spend some time (usually about a half hour) at the target dummies, developing some initial muscle memory for the baseline rotation(s). Adjust keybinds and/or WeakAuras as necessary.
  • Venture out into the end game world. In Legion that has meant running some world quests and invasions, completing some emissaries, and progressing a bit along content expansion quest lines such as Argus, or part of Broken Shore, or Suramar far enough to get the mask.
  • Take a deep breath and plunge into the current tier of LFR.
  • Continue working on goals set way back in the first step of the process.

In Mists and WoD, I would run each spec through the Proving Grounds, but I have not done that in Legion, as what I need early in my learning curve is practice, not frantic time tests. Usually by the time I have run a couple of LFRs and done several emissaries, I have a good idea of whether or not the alt will be viable for one of our guild alt raids. If I feel it is not ready, I will either take a couple more weeks or just consign it to the “LFR-only” category. (My rogue is like this.)

I do like Timewalkers for alts, because everyone is more or less equalized for gear and whatnot in those, and they yield decent rewards for an undergeared character. Also, if my guild happens to be running groups for the Mythic instance weekly, I will sometimes jump in on one of those with an alt. But I rarely look for Mythic pug groups (even regular Mythic) with an alt. I guess I think if even my main hunter is frequently denied entry to these groups, there is no way I want to put up with the hassle for an alt. Also, I almost never run an M+ on an alt.

Anyway, that’s my prep sequence for dusting off unused alts and getting them into the game. And now it is time to dust off a beer and start the weekend. See you on the other side.

Things that need to be account wide

I have said it before, and my opinion has not changed, Legion is one of the most alt-unfriendly expansions in recent history. I don’t know how it was before Wrath because I did not play alts then, but the last two expansions have seen a steady diminishing of benefits for alts. Coincidentally (?) that is the exact same period as the reign of Mr. Game Director “I Alone Will Dictate How You Will Have Fun” Hazzikostas. (And those of you out there who have like 50 alts and always send me a comment about how easy it is to play a whole stable full of them, just save your breath and bytes, you are flat out wrong. Playing alts in Legion might be less painful if you have 8-10 hours a day to play the game, but for any normal person, it is getting harder and harder to maintain anything but one main character.)

This was driven home to me over the weekend when I took my void elf mage through both the Argus and the enchanting quest lines. It took pretty much the entire weekend, probably a total of 12 hours of play time.

The Argus quest line is not difficult, and I found it passably interesting the first 2-3 times I did it, but after that it is just a long boring grind. The only reason to do it at all any more is to unlock the full set of Argus world quests, which in turn help you to grind AP at a slightly faster rate than on the rest of the Broken Isles.

The enchanting quest line, like most Legion professions, is just painful because of the dungeon requirements. I do not mind doing quests in order to advance a profession, but when every alt with a profession is forced into group activity (including raiding for some of the higher level profession recipes), that seems like an unreasonable imposition of one and only one play style for every character in the game. I got somewhat lucky with my mage, and the queues for the specific dungeons needed for enchanting were only between 10-20 minutes, but please note that this can add over an hour (I think I needed 4?) of time just waiting.

I suppose Blizz’s twisted reasoning here is that by making us go through every quest line on every alt, they are padding their MAU. But for me it really has the opposite effect — there are alts I have just stopped playing because the time sink required to get them to true end game play is just too steep. And by “true end game” I am not even talking about regular raiding or Mythic+ dungeons — just daily emissary quests, some LFR once in a while, the basic profession recipes, and a reasonable shot at level 75 for an artifact weapon. In fact, there are times when I might have an inclination to play the game but the prospect of grinding the same quests are so off-putting that I do not even log in.

I have only a bare bones champion setup in my class halls on most of my alts, because the time sink required to grind the class hall resources and get max gear for them is daunting. And I have not even attempted the full Suramar quest line or the Broken Shore quest line on any alts — the prospect is just too depressing.

Contrast this with the way I played alts in Mists of Pandaria. I really enjoyed taking them all through the Timeless Isle dailies and weeklies, mainly because most of the perks earned were account wide. Even things like the special legendary cape had account wide perks in terms of being able to get to that one boss across the chasm high up. It was fun to have a little practice area for becoming more proficient on various classes, and you could progress to harder areas as your proficiency and gear level increased. It did not seem like a grind because even if the particular alt you were playing did not need any more of the vendor gear, you could get it for a lesser-geared alt. And you could always stock up on it by running your main through every day.

Plus, there was that rep perk, where your alts earned rep at a significantly faster pace once one character had gotten to exalted with a faction.

Those days are long gone.

I am at a total loss for the reasoning behind the change. It is apparently a matter of almost religious belief on the part of Hazzikostas that alts must not, under any circumstances, be played in any kind of role except exactly as a main. There must not be any set of perks that would allow them to, say, be primarily a mat or crafted gear supplier to a main. No, no, no! They must be developed as fully as a main, and their sole approved purpose must be to pursue the exact same end game goals as a main. And in fact, the changes implemented in WoD and most especially Legion all funnel alts into exactly that mode. Why does Blizz give a flying fuck how we play our alts? The more of them we enjoy playing — for whatever purpose — the more we log in. I do not get it, except as a power trip for Hazzikostas: “Not only can I determine for you the manner in which you must have fun, but I can also dictate exactly how you must play your alts.”

Blizz could significantly improve player quality of life in the next expansion by making certain things account wide. Making some of these changes, rather than inhibiting play time, would actually encourage more players to log in more and play alts even towards the end of the expansion when typically they lose interest. Some examples that would benefit:

  • Rep. Ideally, once you earned Exalted status on one character, that would apply to all characters in the same faction on the same server. Or, if that idea is too distressing to Blizz, at least do something like was done in Mists and make subsequent rep significantly faster to gain once one character hits Exalted.
  • Quest lines that open up additional game play. These, too, should be account wide once attained on one character. Blizz gains nothing by forcing the exact same process on every alt. After all, they recognized the boredom factor this entails in leveling, and they instituted the zone leveling concept for exactly that reason: to prevent leveling burnout by following the same path every time. So why not give us a break in the long quest lines at the end of the game? I would argue that the prospect of having to do them again and again actually discourages people from logging in at a certain point rather than forcing them to log in more often and for longer periods of time.
  • Profession leveling. Once you have fully leveled a profession for a given expansion, any additional alts with the same profession should be able to share the recipes immediately. If Blizz fears this would give rise to whole stables full of alts with the lottery-winner profession for that expansion (such as alchemy in Legion), they could limit the total number of crafted items per day or even the number of additional alts with the profession. Even better, they could design an expansion that does not have clear winner and loser professions!
  • Rep-dependent mounts. Same as rep — if you have earned it on one character, why not make it available to alts? (This is not the same as class-dependent mounts.) I refuse to do that stupid fisher rep on any more alts to get the raft — I ground it out on one, saved up my Mists timewalker tokens to get it on another, and that is it. Not going to do it. But I probably would spend more time fishing on alts if I had it. Not a lot, but still more than I do now.

None of these suggestions has a snowball’s chance in hell of ever being implemented, but I make them anyway. The thing is, I really believe they would encourage people to play more, because then logging in to play an alt would actually be fun rather than an exercise in grim acceptance of yet another long slog to get to the fun part.

Of course, it would require His Royal Eminence Mr. Game Director Hazzikostas to allow some people to play their alts in a fashion he frowns upon, but possibly he could learn to live with the trauma or at least get counseling to help him accept it.