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Outland as Endgame

March 7, 2012

Among my many weaknesses with my alts is my fondness for giving each character a theme of some sort, which I guess probably stems from my roleplayer roots.  I love figuring out which title, mount, and now transmog set are appropriate for the personality of each of my toons.  Sometimes the theme is simple and just corresponds with the character’s class – Tzufit, for example, generally wears the “Elder” title and can be seen riding around on her Raven Lord mount, because she’s a druid.  My priest wears “the Argent Champion” after her name, my shaman is a Skyguard Ace with her nether ray mount and “Undying” title, and my warlock is still working her way toward becoming a full “Professor.”

Deciding what to do about my level 70 priest twink (a.k.a. #minipriest to you Twitter types), initially started out as a lot more of a challenge, though.  There are only so many titles that are easily obtainable for a level 70, and I didn’t think that any of the options from the holiday achievements or – Elune forbid – “the Patient” made much sense for Thisby.  Eventually, I settled on “of the Shattered Sun” for my priest, since certain PvP gurus had convinced me to grind Shattered Sun reputation to Exalted for the resilience helm enchant and for the alchemy trinket.  But in all my research on profession choices, I realized something odd the moment Thisby set foot on Quel’danas to pick up her daily quests for the first time.

I had never done a single Shattered Sun daily on any character before.
These quests were completely new to me.

Even though I started playing WoW when the Burning Crusade was current content, I never got to do any of Outland’s endgame.  I began playing in the spring before Wrath launched and very slowly made my way to 60 (on several different toons as I tried to find a class that I really enjoyed).  The first time I ever saw Outland was on my birthday.  I’d hit 58 maybe an hour before I had plans to join friends for a birthday dinner, but my RL friend who had introduced me to WoW insisted that I should see Outland and set my hearth in Shattrath before I left for the night.

Stepping through the Dark Portal for the first time was incredible.  There wasn’t much color outside of the green forests in the Eastern Kingdoms and Kalimdor in those days, so zoning into a place as ridiculously bright as Hellfire Peninsula was a shock, to say the least.  Beyond the overwhelming colors of the sky and the orange-iest orange ever conceived for the ground, stepping into Hellfire was incredibly disorienting.  The way that the ground was torn apart and the strange angles of everything confused the hell out of me at first.  I had a difficult time getting my bearings, so I followed my friend as closely as I could as he led us across the zone towards Zangarmarsh.

I don’t think I’ve ever fallen in love with a zone at first sight the way I did with Zangarmarsh.  It was as if some Blizzard designer had gotten inside my head to the brain cells dedicated to ideal fantasy setting where you would TOTALLY LOVE TO LIVE IN REAL LIFE and turned it into this beautiful, interactive thing.  I adored that Zangar was simultaneously eerie and dark, but also peaceful and calming … if you stayed away from the Naga and their steam pipes, of course.  I adored the colors and the strange wildlife – the wasps and sporebats are still some of my favorite creatures in all of WoW.  I instantly fell for the Sporelings when I saw them a few weeks later, though I’ve yet to work on their reputation on any of my characters.  I was fascinated by the stories of the “Broken” draenei who had settled in this place, and I always make it a point to do those quests each time I level.  Much later, when I discovered my love for all things druidy, I realized how much I enjoyed the quests that show you the work the Cenarion Expedition is doing to reclaim the marsh from the Naga who are destroying it.

Eventually, my friend managed to tear me away from Zangarmarsh so that we could continue on our journey to Shattrath.  The city, with its glowing beacon of Light, homicidal elevators, and dilapidated tents of the Lower City was amazing enough.  But then, I looked up.  All around me people were flying.

At that time, there wasn’t nearly as much of a variety in flying mounts as there is today.  The vast majority of the players I saw were on gryphons and wyvern, but even this was more impressive than I could have imagined.  My friend finally dismounted the nightsaber he’d used to chaperone me to the city, and then hopped onto his Ebon Gryphon so I could see one up close.  I told him that this was the coolest thing I’d seen so far in WoW, and that I wished someday we would be able to fly in Azeroth – even though we both knew that was ridiculous and would never happen …

Shattrath was also incredible to me because it was a Sanctuary – meaning I got to see all sorts of Horde players who before had only passed me by on the roads of Azeroth.  Now I could see Tauren and Undead in full raid gear, wandering around the same Scryer rise that I was!  I watched a Tauren jump off the edge of the rise and reappear a moment later as a huge brown bird.  I asked my friend how exactly someone got to turn into a bird, but he didn’t know either.  We had a vague idea that it might be a “druid thing,” but we weren’t certain.

Above all else, I couldn’t wrap my mind around seeing so many players in the same place.  Before that night I’d mostly taken care of my city tasks in Ironforge, which always had a decent number of people there – but nothing like this.  Everywhere I looked there were crowds of people, all busy doing something or going somewhere.  I saw someone fly overhead on the beautiful Ashes of Al’ar mount that first night in Shattrath, and then a warlock on Midnight a few minutes later.  (Seeing a warlock on an obviously demonic flying horse led to a lot of confusion and eventual heartbreak for me down the road.  I assumed that my little gnome warlock would be getting her own flying fiery vampire horse someday – clearly Midnight was the warlock’s class-specific flying mount, right?  I just had to find the questline that would start it, right?!  Imagine how crushed I was.)

Now, 4 years since the release of the Sunwell patch that marked both the winding down of the BC era and the beginning of my time in WoW, I find that my minipriest has found her way home to Shattrath once more.  Although the city may be deserted compared to how it was on my first night there, it is still as interesting to me as ever.  I’ve done some of the quests for the Aldor, Scryers, and the Lower City on other characters, though I can’t say I was really paying much attention before.  On my priest, I’ve found that I’m actually taking a moment to read the quest text again and to learn all of the complexities of the political disputes going on in Shattrath – and it’s an awesome story.

Twinking, or more specifically locking my priest’s XP as a part of the experience of twinking, has given me this opportunity to slow down and appreciate a giant part of WoW that is practically unknown to me.  When Cynwise advocated “iterative twinking” in a recent post, he pointed out that level 70 twinks spend a lot of time doing things (such as grinding SSO rep) that would serve no practical purpose for a max-level toon, but – at 70 – serve to make your twink the best twink she can be.  Locking a character’s XP, Cyn says, is something like preserving that toon in a time capsule at the absolute height of badassery, and the cool thing about not gaining XP is that you character can remain the baddest badass for as long as you choose.

This, I’ll admit, is a huge part of the appeal of twinking for me.  It’s always rewarding to feel that a character is “done” in terms of gear progression, and to know that I’ve mostly turned myself into one of those “irritating” and “unkillable” healers Cynwise mentions.  Battlegrounds are an entirely different experience in the locked 70 bracket – people actually have the gear they need and know the strategies of each field.  I can’t pretend you won’t see a troll in your BG chat every once in a while, but in general the bracket is much more civil and focused than any others I’ve played in – and for obvious reasons.  When you zone into Alterac Valley, there is almost never a call to “rush Drek,” and instead you will find a group of players who understand the importance of back-capping, defense, and who know that “turtle” isn’t a dirty word.  Playing in this bracket has made me understand the rules of the battlegrounds much better than I did before, and has made me a better PvP healer because of it.  When you remove the distractions of horrible language in BG chat and players who have difficulty understanding how to communicate as a team within a PvP environment, it’s funny how quickly you can chart your personal progress.

But aside from feeling like a badass on Thisby when I PvP, I’m enjoying the decision to keep her at 70 because it’s giving me so many opportunities to catch up on everything I missed.  I didn’t raid when BC was current content – I never even ran a heroic dungeon in Outland.  My warlock hit 70 on the shores of Borean Tundra the day that Wrath launched and I never looked back.  Why would I?  WoW’s entire design, especially post-Cataclysm (see the recent Scroll of Resurrection rewards for additional proof), is to keep you moving forward at a breakneck pace, hurrying through the Old World content so you can join your level 85 friends as quickly as possible.  The majority of my alting experiences prior to Thisby followed that same process – hurry my way to 85 only to have a maxed, geared alt that sits around with nothing to do.

I have so much to look forward to with my 70 twink (soon to be twinks, as I have a holy paladin who is only days away from hitting 70 as well, and a mage who is to be my next project).  I cannot wait until Battle IDs are released so that I can enjoy not only cross-realm PvP, but also cross-realm raiding with other people who enjoy the level 70 content as much as I do.  I never got to raid in Outland when the content was current, and this is my chance.  While I know the experience can never duplicate what it was like to actually raid during BC, for me these raids are new content.  Until a few months ago, I’d never done a BC heroic except to fly through it for achievements or faction reputation on a maxed character – now my priest heals a full group of at-level players in BC heroics a few times a week.  I have never completed all of the Outland quests (particularly those in Netherstorm and Shadowmoon Valley) on any character, but now I have an excuse to take as much time as I want with them – and that’s a really good thing, since I happen to have plenty of in-game time on my hands right now.

Final raid tiers, I’d argue, are always difficult on raiders because we end up spending a lot of time doing the same things in the same place.  (This is, perhaps, even more of an issue with Dragon Soul because all of the environments in the raid are places we’d already seen prior to this patch – but that’s another post for another day.)  In the interest of keeping my sanity and still wanting to participate in a pastime I enjoy, I’m thrilled to have found a new project that will keep me busy until Mists is released – and after.

In the doldrums of Cataclysm’s end, exploring Outland has given me a sense of excitement that I haven’t felt about WoW in a while now.  Thisby has given me a chance to return to Outland – not as a place to be hurried through on my way to greater things, but as a remarkable experience in-and-of-itself.

23 Comments leave one →
  1. March 7, 2012 9:11 am

    What a brilliant and inspirational post! I make no secret about my own love of WoW, and of alts, but I’d never really taken that love to the twink stage.

    I remember the days when twink was a bad word. You’d see it shouted at those who outperformed others in a BG. As a result, I kind of avoided the whole thing as if it were some sordid clique. However, your post, and the linked post of Cyn’s, (that I somehow missed!) have made me look anew at the whole notion.

    It would be awesome to have a character who would be eternally epic in their chosen bracket, who could focus on the content at their leisure, who could experience various aspects of the game as they were intended, (within reason).

    As a roleplayer, it might take some adjustment, and it certainly will not be how Alethiar spends her time. However, I have a number of alts who may just have found a new lease of life, thanks to this post.

    • March 7, 2012 4:47 pm

      I’m so glad to hear that your alts may have found a new purpose. Permanently situating a character in a BC setting would definitely make for some interesting storytelling in roleplay. What kept your character there so long after the threats had been neutralized? What is it like to live in Outland now, and what new problems might the citizens there face?

  2. March 7, 2012 9:47 am

    I started at about the same time you did. My Outland endgame experiences included some heroics, a single visit to Isle of Quel’Danas where I got about 1 fps because of the crowds of players doing dailies, and being carried through parts of Kara once or twice (another place that I fell instantly in love with at first sight.) You’ve completely captured the wonderment I felt upon seeing those places (Hellfire, Zangar, Shatt) for the first time. I still love Outland more than any other place in WoW.

    The mount that I coveted most of all (and still have never gotten) was the Baron’s Deathcharger out of Stratholme … partially because that first toon was a Tauren and there were racial restrictions on mounts back then, so she could never get the undead racial mounts. Yet another one of those changes that has made the game so much better. As soon as that was lifted she was in Brill grinding Undercity rep. 🙂

    • March 7, 2012 4:48 pm

      The Baron’s mount has never dropped for me, either. My 85 priest started out her WoW life as an Undead (she has since been a human, and now a gnome), and I always wanted to get her the Deathcharger as a bit of a nod to that history. Sadly, no luck yet!

  3. March 7, 2012 10:27 am

    This sums up whilst I like levelling so much. I think we sometimes lose sight of the fact that there is a game before 85 in our rush to push each character up so it can start doing things at the level cap.

    I still do the Isle of Quel’danas dailys on each alt I roll though, simply because the Isle of “Gank’danas” has such fond memories for me. I’m quite fond of the tabard too 😀

    As for Zangarmarsh, my Undead Priest is going to retire to Zabra’jin. I’m sure that the moist air has to be good for her rotting flesh and aching bones. After all, the Forsaken are a bit like mushrooms aren’t they.

    “Nudgers and shovers
    In spite of ourselves.
    Our kind multiplies:

    We shall by morning
    Inherit the earth.
    Our foot’s in the door.”

    From Plath’s poem Mushrooms. Bet Sylvanas has that written in blood on her mirror.

    Awesome post.

    • March 7, 2012 4:50 pm

      LOL! Fantastic – I have no doubt Sylvanas would love that. 🙂

  4. March 7, 2012 11:50 am

    I was just telling Rep how Zangermarsh was my favorite zone, despite not liking half the quests and she was all “have you read Tzufit’s post?”

    I think I just found a new blog to put on my reader 🙂

    • March 7, 2012 4:55 pm

      I could do without the ogre questline in the back half of the zone, personally, but I enjoy most of the other quests in Zangar. But, yeah, if I’m being honest with myself – I’d probably quest through that zone every time even if I hated all the quests just because it’s so beautiful. 😛

  5. March 7, 2012 12:12 pm

    God, I miss Burning Crusade endgame. I didn’t progress too far, just Kara, ZA, and Gruul’s but I loved it. I loved Zangermarsh and the Shattered Sun dailies are still my favorite. Now as far a questing to level I would have to say I enjoyed Northrend more.

    Just curious as XP locked @ lvl 70 how long are the queue pops for BGs?

    For Cenarius!

    • March 7, 2012 4:59 pm

      The BG queues vary depending on day and time, but usually they run anywhere from about 7 minutes to 20 minutes. Obviously, that’s a lot longer than it would take for a random BG queue at 85, but I can’t say I mind.

      BC heroic queues are even more sporadic. They can range anywhere from instant (for a healer), to 20-30 minutes, to just not happening at all if there are no tanks willing to queue at that time. I’ve gotten two guildmates into this project with me, but they both have DPS characters so far. This is why I can’t wait for Battle IDs – once they’re live I can just make my own dungeon groups!

    • March 8, 2012 11:17 am

      Thanks for the reply! I may have to look into this. I really want to relive and complete the BC raid content @ level. The wait times for BGs seem good with me since you could do dailies or farm while waiting. I wouldn’t want to wait any longer though.

    • March 8, 2012 4:29 pm

      As Tzufit mentioned, the queues are usually quite reasonable. I rarely wait more than 7 minutes as Alliance during evening hours, and usually get pops throughout the day. Horde is often a little bit faster.

      There is also a community that is doing RealID rated battlegrounds at level 70. I’m not part of it, but it’s quite active.

  6. March 8, 2012 4:30 pm

    I love this post. You probably knew that I would, but I’m going to say it anyways. 🙂

    So glad you’re enjoying the 70s experience.

    • March 9, 2012 2:00 pm

      Glad to hear it! 🙂 And thank you, again, for suggesting this bracket.

  7. March 9, 2012 1:01 am

    I did that… just before I quit wow.
    I was (is? am?) addicted to Paladins.
    So in addition to my main at 85, I created a number of other pallies.
    One i capped at level 21 to cover all the low level dungeons.
    Another at 44 for medium level dungeons.
    A fourth at 60 for Vanilla raiding, a 70 for BC and an 80 for LK.
    Twinking out each brought interesting things and a sense of “stop to smell the roses” feel.

    • March 9, 2012 2:01 pm

      Oh my, that’s a lot of paladins! But I love the idea of being able to experience the class you love at so many different stages in the leveling process. Cool idea.

    • March 9, 2012 2:37 pm

      There is no such thing as too many paladins. 😉

      I have six of them as well … >.>

    • March 9, 2012 2:44 pm

      She lies, she has, at last count, 32

  8. March 11, 2012 6:11 am

    Nice post!

    I loved Zangarmarsh until I needed to get fast flying (back in the BC days). I rode on my warrior around and around for about two weeks, herbing and mining. It took alot of effort but it was well worth it. I still look back on it though as I felt it was easier than Hellfire. I would buy runs until I hit 60 then head straight there for easier questing.

    Note – I started playing in Dec 2006, maybe a month before BC came out. Good times back then!

    Sizz from Sizzle’s Legs

  9. Dragonray permalink
    March 11, 2012 8:15 am

    My hubby regularly comments on BC being his favorite expansion, and I can see why it was so popular with so many people, but I have a sneaking suspicion that pandaria is going to be my favorite 🙂


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