A new drake in an unexpected colour

14th January 2010 – 5.47 pm

I feel reinvigorated. A break for several months has made Northrend feel fresh again. I ease myself back in to activity by refreshing my jousting skills, soon earning the title of 'Crusader' that eluded me before. The intangible nature of all the gold piled up in my bank convinces me to invest in a second talent specification, such that I can investigate the path of the fury warrior whilst remaining a tank. But my return to Northrend is not as ephemeral as making cosmetic chages, which was my concern. I am actually enjoying adventuring again.

Becoming exalted with the Argent Crusade, necessary for the Crusader achievement, allows me to investigate other factions. Before being disappointed at not completing the Argent Tournament and realising I needed the Crusade to like me, I was aiming to become exalted with the Wyrmrest Accord. The Accord interest me partly because their quartermaster offers some decent tanking gear, but mostly to get myself a nifty drake mount for flying around Northrend. I like my Veridian Netherwing drake, and a second drake could keep it company.

It is possible to earn reputation more easily in Northrend simply by wearing a tabard of the faction and clearing dungeons. Unlike Outlands' dungeons, where faction gain was based on the location of the dungeon, wearing a tabard of a faction 'overrides' the normal faction gains in a Northrend dungeon, offering greater choice when deciding what dungeons to run, as long as you have the appropriate tabard. Discarding my Argent Crusade tabard for the less stylish Wyrmrest Accord one, clearing dungeons with my guild starts earning me many small reputation gains. I bolster the small gains by completing quests for the faction. But there is a better way.

The new looking for group (LFG) tool is supposed to add greater flexibility and automation to speed up entering dungeons. With a cross-server implementation, a queueing mechanism, and joining a group as a rôle—tank, healer, or DPS—the amount of time required to find a suitable group composition is removed from the character and handled automatically. As soon as a tank, healer and three DPS characters are available in the queue, you are grouped together and transported to the dungeon. You don't even need to travel to the dungeon entrance any more, no doubt a result of the cross-server groupings but another time saver and stress-reducing addition. And dual-talent specs are recognised.

If a character has dual-talents and is happy to adventure using either of them, the LFG queue accommodates this, allowing the character to enter the queue as any of the rôles allowed for the class. As a warrior, I can join the queue as either tank or DPS, and the system will let me know which rôle I am expected to fulfil before entering the dungeon. Being able to join the queue in alternative rôles and switching talents and gear as necessary helps the queue move more quickly, getting characters adventuring together smoothly.

I enjoy tanking, I find it challenging and rewarding, and I like to think that I understand how to tank effectively. But I don't particularly like the attention it garners. I don't mind the responsibility of the rôle, as that is what it means to be the tank, but I simply don't like being put at the front of a group of strangers and expected to perform. I simply don't feel comfortable. But with my new fury talent spec, I can join the LFG queue as a DPS class, and DPS is easy. Or, at least, DPS is rarely noticed, or blamed. I feel a little embarrassed when I get killed during fights, or when rolling 'need' on some tanking gear, but generally I am anonymous, which suits me fine in an arbitrarily composed group.

I even have good enough gear, perhaps thanks to the shiny swords bought from Argent tournament quartermasters, and a good enough idea on how to be a fury warrior to be competent in heroic-difficulty dungeons. I had never tried a heroic dungeon before my return, successfully completing my first with the guild as a re-introduction to Northrend dungeons. It was quite thrilling. But a guild friend introduces me to the random heroic dungeon queue in the LFG interface, which offers extra rewards if the dungeon is completed, as well as offering achievements if enough groups are formed successfully. And, surprisingly, the groups are mostly competent, generally composed of good players wanting a quick fix of mob slaying, perhaps with the addition of achievements and reward tokens. I find I can participate positively in random heroic dungeon runs, returning most days to see a new dungeon in the more difficult heroic difficulty level.

The tokens awarded for completing the dungeon, as well as those that drop from bosses, are not a great incentive for me. Gear bought from quartermasters cost enough tokens that I am unlikely to get more than a couple of pieces even if I enter a dungeon a day for two months. But I enjoy running through the dungeons, being a fury warrior, a hero. And the reputation gains from heroic dungeons are greater than normal dungeons, by quite a margin. The reputation gained from killing one boss is equivalent to completing a daily quest, and there are normally three bosses in a dungeon. Each trash mob also offers a handful of reputation gain, and with dozens of them to fight through it all adds up. Instead of crawling my way to exalted status with the Wyrmrest Accord by completing daily quests, I am racing towards it. I can almost picture myself sitting on a new drake, flying high above Northrend.

With a Wyrmrest Accord drake looking much closer to being mine than expected, it is amusing when the Culling of Stratholme instance is chosen as a random heroic dungeon. The group I am in is as competent as the others, and we speed from pull to pull, barely resting between fights, such is the gear of the healer and tank. The speed with which we move through the dungeon is perhaps my only concern with the new LFG tool. My guild is fun, but not strong, and we often have to pay careful attention to strategies for boss fights, even on non-heroic mode. But the LFG heroic groups damage and heal through nearly all special attacks, rendering the fights straightforward. It can be more interesting to be situationally aware, and have more to do than repeat the same attacks, but at least random groups aren't subjected to repeated wipes, which is more demoralising.

The Culling of Stratholme has a timed achievement. If the group can get through all the mobs and defeat the black dragonflight boss within twenty minutes, before it manages to close a time portal, the achievement is awarded and a single bronze drake is dropped as a reward. I am fairly sure our group is aiming for that achievement, which is exciting enough in itself, so I shall not expect to get the drake. Even though one party member gets confused and runs off to pull final boss Mal'Ganis whilst the rest of us head to the time portal to defeat the black dragonflight, we are able to defeat the dragonflight as it is tanked towards Mal'Ganis. We are successful in completing the timed achievement!

Mal'Ganis kills our wayward party member, but the encounter resets and we finish the Culling of Stratholme. Meanwhile, the bronze drake has dropped as expected, but curiously no one is interested. I think I had better mention something before needily trying to grab it for myself, and the replies I get, amidst grumbling about the failed Mal'Ganis pull, are decidedly apathetic. It seems everyone either has the drake or really doesn't care. So I select 'need' and win! I was expecting my exciting runs through heroic dungeons to get me a drake, but I thought it would be from the accelerated reputation gains. I was only friendly with the Wyrmrest Accord on my return to Northrend, and although a few quests got me to honoured status the heroic dungeons have thrust me over half-way through the revered level already, one step away from being exalted. But I don't buy a red drake, instead bagging myself a bronze drake.

My adoption of a dual-talent spec unburdens me from the pressure of tanking, and in turn opens up the random heroic dungeon with the help of the revamped LFG tool, resulting in my getting an excellent new flying mount. I have found plenty to keep me entertained in Northrend over the past month, and it looks my interesting adventures are set to continue.

  1. 2 Responses to “A new drake in an unexpected colour”

  2. Ok, that's just a cruel title for a Caldari Pilot to read. I got all excited about you having insider information from CCP about a new faction Drake coming off the production lines somewhere.

    By Kename Fin on Jan 16, 2010

  3. It's pretty though, and got a good tank on it.

    By pjharvey on Jan 21, 2010

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