Thursday 8 October 2009

Mr. Micawber's Transactions

Companion pets are great fun. What white witch doesn't love to have a black cat padding quietly behind her? Actually, I now have quite a collection of pets, and I accidentally discovered something worthwhile: pets are a tradable commodity!

Companion pets are an especially good source of gold for low-level players, who might have a few silver coins spare and can buy a beautiful black Bombay Cat from Donni Anthania, the cat lady just between Northwind Abbey and Stormwind City. You can then auction it in Stormwind for a good profit.

However, if you can get to the Blackwater Auction House in the goblin-held cities of Tanaris or Booty Bay, you can make a even more money there, because horde traders make the trip there to buy these alliance pets (pets that the vendor will only sell to alliance members). They can't get them any other way.

Other pets you can easily get at low levels are the Snowshoe Rabbits from the Amberstill ranch in Dun Morogh, and the owls of Darnassus. Any time you're passing, just pick up a few and sell them in an Auction House.

Also, if you happen to be visiting the Blackwater Auction House, you can often pick up horde pets. Those Golden Dragonhawk Hatchlings are especially pretty!

Have fun with these beautiful creatures!

Wednesday 30 September 2009

Our Housekeeping

I hope it goes without saying that after you have killed the enemy, their mangled corpses should be subjected to the indignity of a strip-search while their blood still gushes hotly, and that you should loot everything you can carry.

What have you been doing with all that linen and woollen cloth that you've found on them? Chances are, you've been selling them to a vendor. Well, stop that, right now! There are at least two things you can do with them that are better than that.

Firstly, various professions can use these scraps of cloth. For instance, if you are a tailor, you already know that they can be turned into the most beautiful costumes; if you have the first aid profession, you can turn them into bandages.

Secondly, if you don't have a use for the cloth, sell it to an adventurer who does. Your fellow adventurers pay a lot more than vendors for it. But how do you sell it to somebody else? The Auction House is how. Go to the auction house, select an auctioneer, and search for the cloth you want to sell. You'll find loads of it, at various prices. Decide on the price you want to sell your cloth for (make sure the price you set is above the price a vendor would give you for it), and post it! If you select a low enough price, you'll find it will sell easily, and often within a few minutes. You'll get paid by a letter in your mailbox an hour after the sale.

And it's not just cloth that sells well. Every green item that you loot and that you can't use youself can be sold in the auction house. The secret here is that people will usually buy these item not to wear, but to disenchant into various magical powders, crystals, essences and so on, needed by enchanters. This gives even the lamest green item a value much higher than the vendor puts on it.

As well as green items, many white items also sell well at auction: consumables (like cloth) that are used in other professions or for quests. For instance those small eggs that you get from the birds in Westfall are worth quite a bit to chefs.

Also, while you're at the auction house, don't forget to buy some bags. You can get some from vendors. You can get bigger bags from tailors who sell their wares at the Auction House. Obviously, the bigger your bags, the more loot you can carry.

I don't want to turn this into a guide to using the auction house here; that's been done very well already in loads of places, including Just My Two Copper ( I just want to draw your attention to its importance. Don't be poor. Sell your loot in the Auction House. At the very least, the AH is a great way to turn your unwanted loot into gold. The trading game can also be fun in its own right; I love trawling though the auctions looking for bargains that I can resell for profit later.

By the way, if you want to get the most out of the Auction House, you'll really want to get the AuctioneerAddon. This improves your pricing by tracking historical prices and letting you see when items are cheap or overpriced. If you never get any other World of Warcraft addon, get this one. And check out Marcko's guide to using it:

Wednesday 2 September 2009


The first time I went into the Deadmines instance, my first instance, it was awesome. My group and I were really challenged by the enemies we met there, and we felt we were heroes when we completed it and got out the other end with Edwin van Cleef's head. That was a real achievement. I was just 19. Level 19.

Some days later, I was duelling in Goldshire, when a level 50 player asked me and my protagonist to accompany her. She brought us to Westfall, to Moonbrook, and I realised we were going to go into the Deadmines. Just the three of us. At first, we had a hard time, since the mobs targetted me and my protagonist. We hadn't yet learned what a tank was, and so we didn't know to let the tank take the aggro first before we started attacking. Moreover, being lower level than our leader, our aggro radius was greater, and so as we travelled alongside our level 50 leader, mobs started attacking us. This made things tricky for the level 50. Eventually she suggested we hang back and let her get stuck into the mobs and really get their attention before we started attacking. This made for faster progress, but left me and my protagonist with little to do; by the time the level 50 hit the mobs twice, they were dead. We sort of became passengers. There was nothing heroic about it. Luckily, I'd already got my achievement.

The first time I went into the Stockades, when I was 24, it was in the company of a level 24 hunter who had invited a level 80 death knight along. It was a complete waste of time. The death knight went through the stockade like a hot knife through butter, and the hunter and I were reduced from fighters to cleaners. All we did was sweep up after the death knight. I take no pride in the Stockades "achievement". A failchievement, really! I can never get it properly now. I've never been back.

"Looking for boost in Stockades" is a common cry on the trade channel. Some low-level character is asking for a high-level character to accompany him to the Stockades and essentially get the achievement for him. There are several reasons why one might want to do this, but let me assure you, you never want to be boosted in a dungeon if you've not yet completed the dungeon for yourself. If you get a high-level character to do it for you (obviously with you in their company), you'll never be able to feel the pride of achieving something for yourself. Moreover, you've paid Blizzard for this content. Why would you additionally pay some level 80 character so that you can skip it and pretend you've done it? For that's what boosting means, even if the lower level character fires off a few spells, or swings his sword a bit as well.

There are legitimate reasons why you might want to be boosted:

  • you've already met the challenge and done the dungeon with a level-appropriate group and completed the achievement, and now you just want to "farm" it for some particular piece of loot that you didn't get the first time round.
  • you've completed the content in other alternative lives, and now you're just speed-levelling past content you already know well, in order to reach the end-game.
  • you are a coward and are not fit to be honored by the heroes of Stormwind, but you want to hide your cowardice by appearing to have achieved a brave act.
  • you are lazy and cannot be bothered doing your part for the alliance, but you want to hide your laziness by appearing to have achieved something for the alliance
  • you are a show-off who wants people to admire you, but you're actually too lazy or too cowardly to actually achieve something admirable.
If you're a newbie like me, who loves killing the horde, I doubt you belong in any of these categories. Don't accept boosts. You'll regret it. Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but soon and for the rest of your life.

Why would somebody offer boosts? Perhaps because a friend or guildmate has asked you to, and you want to help them (actually, I don't believe you are helping them if they are newbies like me). Perhaps because you're a show-off who would like a low-level character to think how great you are (possibly because you can't show off with your peers because you aren't their equal). Anyway, friends or guildmates won't be asking you for a boost over trade chat, so I assume if you're asking for or offering boosts in trade chat, that you belong to one of the "slacker" categories. As a matter of fact, I keep a note of people I see offering or soliciting boosts. I want to avoid grouping with either of them.

Monday 31 August 2009


If your only experience of grouping has been fighting Hogger, you probably don't yet know much about fighting in a five-man group.

Team Roles

There are four roles, normally: tank, DPS, healer and leader. Whoever is leader is also one of tank, DPS and healer. The group leader should normally be the highest level member of the group, or the most experienced member. If you are nominally leader, but not the highest level or most experienced member, you should invite the veteran to be leader. If you don't you risk the group having two leaders or none!

It is the job of the group leader to make sure everybody knows what is expected of them (Tank, DPS or Healer). Team members should follow the team leader's directions.

  • Leader: the leader's role is to assign combat targets, and make sure that the team is ready before giving the attack order.
  • Tank: the tank's role is to draw and keep the enemy's aggression. He is not expected to dish out punishment to the enemy, but rather to take it. Normally, this means defensive stance, shield and lots of taunts and mocking blows to keep the enemy attacking the tank and not the DPS or healers
  • DPS: DPS stands for "Damage per Second". The DPS's job is to do maximum damage to the enemy in the shortest possible time, while keeping their threat to a minimum, thus making the tanks job easier.
  • Healer: mainly the healer must make sure the tank, who is taking all the beating, is not killed. Of course, sometimes, enemies will attack DPS or healers, so the healers must also keep an eye on the whole team!


Before each fight, make sure you are buffed and have buffed all your teammates! Buffs are beneficial spells you can cast on yourself or your teammates, such as "Arcane Intellect", or "Mark of the Wild".

The group leader may assign targets to particular members. Otherwise, the usual target is whoever is beating on the Tank! Tanks should be in defensive stance, and should be aware that spells may attract mobs to squishy DPS spellcasters, and should make sure they maintain threat (for instance by taunting the mobs who are attacking DPS).

Don't pull prematurely. Wait until the leader gives the order before attacking. I would go so far as to say that the most common cause of wipes is attacking a target before the team is ready.

Don't run! If you're being beaten up and likely to die, call for help, but don't run. Running makes it harder for your healers to target you, and harder for your DPS and tank to target the enemy who is attacking you; and since the enemy can usually run as fast as you, you normally won't outrun them, anyway (and in a dungeon instance, they will never stop chasing you). Even worse, by running you may draw other enemies into the fight, and instead of just you dying, the whole team may be wiped. Even if you are definitely going to die, stand your ground. Better to take one for the team than to wipe the team.


I think it's best to stick to group loot. This gives everybody a chance to roll on valuable items, and because it isn't first-come first-served (like free-for-all) it doesn't encourage looting mid-fight. You can concentrate on the fight without worrying that a less-principled team member is busy robbing the bodies.

Normally, when you are given the chance to roll on a valuable item, it is polite to choose "Greed" or pass. If you really need an item, ask the group leader (in party-chat, not whisper) if you may roll need. Normally you should only roll need on items that you can use immediately (either you can equip yourself with the item, or learn to use the item). You should not roll need on an item because you have an alt that needs it, or because you want to disenchant it.

Don't loot while the fight is still going on. Sometimes it isn't obvious that a teammate is still in trouble because they're behind you. It would be a Bad Thing if you were looting while your teammate was being killed!

Friday 3 July 2009

I enlarge my Circle of Acquaintance

What should you look for when choosing a guild? That depends on your motives. I have been in a number of guilds for different reasons, and I foresee that as I progress I may find reason to change guilds again.

First, you may choose not to join a guild. Many people find solo adventuring very satisfactory and feel no desire to join a club - for that´s all a guild is. There´s nothing you can´t accomplish as a solo adventurer. That said, there are many ways in which a guild can make things easier for you, which I´ll talk about below.

The first guild I joined, I joined for money. As simple as that. I had 5s54c in my pocket when I met a level 60 warrior who was yelling out that he would give 1g to anybody who would sign his guild charter. Let me tell you that was the easiest 1g I ever earned, and the most useful. By all means I advise you to take this offer yourself, if you're not yet in a guild. You need the money, he needs the signature. Both parties profit.

What's that all about, by the way? Why would a level 60 warrior be down in the market square in Stormwind offering gold to all and sundry to sign his charter. Surely he's more selective about who he wants in his guild? Surely the last person he wants in his guild is somebody who's just joining for the money? What's the catch? There is no catch. Or rather, the catch is, he doesn't want you in his guild - but the offer of 1g is genuine. The player who is offering money for your signature is not planning to steal anything from you (what have you got that might interest a level 60 warrior, after all). He's wanting to set up a 'banking' guild. This is a guild that will eventually only have 1 member, and that member will be his banker. Once the guild is up and running, it's probable that you and all the other signatories will be kicked out of the guild, 1g richer than when you joined it. What the guild master really wants is to be able to create a guild bank where he can store more items than he could store in his private bank account. Don't worry. Be happy. Take his 1g payment, leave when he finally has his guild up and running, and take the next guy's 1g. All parties will be happy.

Eventually you may want to join a proper guild. Maybe you just want to see what being in a guild is like. I encourage you to try a few before you settle down. Sow your wild oats. Different guilds have different flavours. Try a few out, and then decide what you like.

You'll see various advertisements in the trade and general channels from guilds who are looking for new members. These advertisements often contain a number of code words that will help you identify the kind of guild that's being advertised:

Guilds that advertise "we have our own tabard and bank tab" are generally new guilds - it's a big deal for them that they have their own tabard and bank tab because the guild master and officers have just spent a bucketload of money getting them. New guilds often die out. Try not to join a new guild until you have had experience of an established guild. I don't mean that you should never join a new guild. In fact, I think that eventually you should. Just not until you know what an experienced guild has to offer.

Guilds that use the words "progression" or "raiding" should be of no interest to you until you are level 80. You will certainly be of no interest to them.

Guilds that are "friendly" or "social" are certainly worth experiencing. Sometimes this is code for "not interested in joining the rat-race to level 80 and beyond. Just interested in having a good time, sharing some jokes, hanging out and having fun". There's nothing wrong with that, and it's worth trying out.

Guilds that are "levelling" guilds can be both friendly and social, but what their members have in common is this: they are very interested in joining the rat-race, and reaching level 80 and beyond. There's nothing wrong with that, and it's worth trying out. Very often, these are new guilds who have got beyond the "have tabard and bank tab" stage, but have no members at level 80 yet.

In my opinion, you should try out several guilds before choosing a long-term partner. You'll quickly realise what style suits you - social or levelling (of course most guilds are on a continuum between these two extremes). Once you are level 80, if you are considering raiding you'll perhaps look at the serious raiding/progression guilds. By then you won't need any advice from me.

Before joining a guild, I recommend you look at their member profile on the armoury. The EU armoury is at and the US armory is at

A levelling guild with less than 50 members will either die, or will require a lot of hard work from its members to get it up to a critical mass. On the other hand, a guild with more than 200 members might seem a bit impersonal. One of the most important things to know about guilds is that they're usually set up by a group of people who know each other well, perhaps having been together in other guilds, or perhaps grouping together often as they levelled up. Sometimes such a group can make you feel a little like an outsider. I left such a guild some time back, after a guild photo-shoot. The location chosen was the surface of the lake in Darnassus. If you couldn't walk on water? Too bad, noob. You weren't in the photo. I left the very next day.

I mentioned earlier that there are many ways in which a guild can make things easier for you. I´ve more or less covered these already: they can provide you with pals (for the crack), they can provide a ready-made pool of players around the same level as you with whom you can group and level and PvP, and after you´ve reached max level, it provides team-mates with which you can raid.

I also mentioned earlier that I think you should eventually join a new guild. Actually, the more I think about it, what I really mean is that I joined a new guild and liked it enough to want to stay. Why? Because in a new guild, you make a difference. You level up with the other new members of the guild, you get to know them, they get to know you. You make friends. Of course, this can happen in any guild, new or old. It can happen outside of a guild. All I can tell you is this. I like being in a new guild whose members are known to me. I wish it was a bigger guild, since we could more easily plan guild dungeons. I know that whatever happens to the guild (it's at the grow-or-die stage right now), I've enjoyed it.

If you ever want to start your own guild, I have one piece of advice: don't.
Just don't. It's a lot of work, and the rewards are uncertain (unless you're just creating a bank guild). Maybe it'll turn out like the guild you hoped for, maybe it won't. More than likely, there is already a guild out there that is a good match to what you want. It's probably a better match than the guild you build will eventually be! But if you insist in ignoring my advice, at least take Matticus' advice:

By the way, whatever guild you join, don't accept a boost. You'll regret it. More on boosting later.

Wednesday 27 May 2009

I am Sent Away

There comes a time in the life of every child of Elwynn Forest when we have to spread our wings and fly away. Of course, we've all been to Stormwind already, and met the high-level Jenkins and heroes, and beggars and bankers; but really this is still home. No, usually our first trip abroad is to Westfall, and what a difference there is between Westfall and Stormwind. While Elwynn forest has a magical fantasy mediaeval touch to it, Westfall has a different
atmosphere: dustbowl America - a formerly rich but now rundown farming community, now almost derelict and overrun by weeds and other undesirables.

The story of Westfall is the story of that shadowy organization, the Defias Brotherhood, and it's a great story, though this isn't obvious when you first arrive. In fact the initial quests in Westfall are a little tedious - kill twenty of this, collect 8 of that - and the magic mechanical scarecrows, while they add to the not-in-Kansas atmosphere, do not fit into the world - no attempt is made to explain what they are, where they came from, how they came to life. They are just there, as out of place as a laser-gun-toting murloc. But never mind that, follow the yellow-brick road to Sentinel Hill and Gryan Stoutmantle. That's where the real story starts.

And it's also where you get to fly! When you were fighting the great Hogger, you noticed high-level characters passing overhead on flying steeds, and thought "wow, it must be wonderful to be able to fly! I'll bet you have to get to level 80 before you can do that"! When you get to Sentinel Hill, however, you discover you can join that elite group. You don't even have to own or train the mighty beasts that will soon be transporting you to Stormwind, for they are a taxi service. And what a great service! The journey from Stormwind to Sentinel Hill probably took you a week or two. The return journey, high above the scene of your recent epic deeds, takes a minute or two. I'll never get tired of flying!

Anyway, back to Gryan Stoutmantle. At first, the quests he gives you just feel like more of the same "Kill Ten Rats": kill 15 Defias trappers, kill 15 Defias smugglers, kill 15 defias pillagers and looters, and so on. But gradually, the story begins to come into focus with the Defias Brotherhood quests starting with a trip to Lakeshire to learn more about this shadowy organization.

This excellent slow-burning quest chain leads you, via Stormwind city, deep into the Deadmines in Moonbrook village, the first instance dungeon that most players, where you hunt down the leader of the Brotherhood, and then leads to the next instance, the Stockades in Stormwind, to interview his deputy, finally leading to the higher echelons of Stormwind society and your first audience with the King. Great stories like this are what make me want to play more. The stories, not the loot. Make more great stories like this, Blizzard, and you will be loved forever.

Wednesday 25 March 2009

I Fall into Disgrace

I suppose the first experience most people have of the benefits of grouping together is when taking on Hogger. The first thing I noticed is that people using the 10-day trial account are at a significant disadvantage here - they can't invite anybody to join their group. Instead they have to rely on somebody else to invite them. I joined such a pick-up group recently. We were a warrior, a priest and me. I was the highest level character, at level nine. The people were nice, but once it came to fighting Hogger, I made a huge mistake: as a mage, I'm only wearing cloth, and when (after one particularly fiery strike from my fireball spell) Hogger decided he was going to ignore the warrior in our group and swing his axe at me, well, I panicked.

What I should have done was coolly cast a Frost Nova spell at point blank range as he swung at me, then stepped back and let the warrior take his attention, and let the priest heal me. What I actually did was - I ran! I ran blindly away from Hogger. Hogger ran after me, and the warrior ran after Hogger. The priest couldn't target me to heal me, because I was moving so fast and both Hogger and the warrior were interfering with his target selection. You know what happened next. I got too close to a nearby gnoll camp and four stout gnoll warriors came out and gave Hogger a hand! They made mincemeat of the warrior and me, then Hogger returned to give the poor priest his full attention. We were wiped out.

However we learned from our mistakes. I learned the value of standing my ground and being prepared to die if it meant the group would succeed. I also learnt the value of making sure Frost Nova was available on my action bar. And the group leader learned the value of kicking a poor player out of his group!

What a pleasure it was, then, to meet a friendly Paladin who seemed to know what he was doing, and who invited me and three others to join him. We hung around, killing gnolls, until Hogger made his re-appearance, and were able to make fairly short work of him (because we'd been diligently killing gnolls beforehand, there were none around to intrude on our battle).

The pick-up group is one of the things that makes online gaming so interesting. You meet with some strangers, you work together on a task for a short time, you have some fun, some banter, then you go your separate ways. After a while you notice that you see the same characters again and again, because - guess what - they're levelling their characters at about the same rate as you are, and are often on the same quests. You avoid the people you don't get on with, you team up again with the people who are on your wavelength. Pretty soon you're becoming friends.

Wednesday 18 March 2009

I have a change

The first thing I did on leaving Northshire was to head down to Goldshire, and got Innkeeper Farley to set my hearthstone to the Lion's Pride Inn.

What a fun place Goldshire is! Loads of exotica - my first sighting of elves and draenei and high-level characters mounted on all sorts of beasts - and my first duel. Of course I was rubbish and got killed immediately. Didn't know what I was doing. Anyway playing about dueling is a fun way to practice Player vs. Player fighting (PvP), and eventually I managed to win a duel and gain the "Duel-icious" achievement.

Goldshire is a great place to be based in, since so many of the Elwynn forest quests either involve you starting or ending there, or returning there to empty your bags (by selling the contents to Tharynn Bouden). I love the stories behind the quest chains!

Saturday 28 February 2009

I Observe

As a new player in World of Warcraft, you observe strange things that later on you become innured to. And I don't mean the magic and mayhem. I'm talking about the AI.

But before I get to that, let me first mention collision detection. When I walk into a wall In Real Life, I don't get anywhere. I can't walk through walls. The same is true in World of Warcraft. Similarly, if somebody chucks a spear at me, it gets stuck in my chest both in WoW and In Real Life. How come I can walk through monsters and players then?

Anyway, back to the main theme of today's diary entry. The AI. I'm talking about the stupidity of the beasts and other enemies (known collectively as "mobs") that you're going to slay. They see you coming, but they don't react until you're very close. In Real Life, if I am out in the open and you see me coming towards you like I was planning to kill you, you would react accordingly: prepare to defend youself, run away, call for help; something like that. These dumbos don't do anything until you get very close to them.

Okay, I can see that in the training grounds of Northshire Abbey, such artificial behaviour is helpful while you're learning how to control your movements; but once I'm out beyond the training grounds, I'd prefer more realistic and challenging reactions from the computer-controlled enemy. For instance, if the enemy can see you, they should react, just as you can react when you see them. Instead they wait until you are a few metres away (and usually well within spellcasting range) before reacting (this distance is called your aggro radius).

And then how do they react? They attack you. That's it. That's their one move. They don't call for help; they don't run to a defensive position; they don't run away, even when they are clearly outclassed (okay, there are a few mitigations. Your aggro radius increases a little when you attack a mob, so other nearby mobs may suddenly take notice of you and join the attack. Also when they are near to death, some mobs will finally try to do what they should have done when they first saw you coming: run away). It's stupid that mobs outside your aggro radius can see one of their comrades a few yards away getting shot at, but they just dumbly ignore it like sheep or Eloi.

Blizzard have deliberately chosen this behaviour, I know not why. They are capable of better AI, as anyone who has met the Gnomish Alarm-o-bots in Gnomeregan (more of which anon) and elsewhere can testify. They have just chosen an extremely dull and dumb behaviour for most mobs.

Your aggro radius reduces as the difference in level between you and your mob opponent increase. This means that higher level characters can ride through Elwyn Forest without getting attacked by low level mobs. I'd go one step further - I'd have the mobs running away and hiding!

Better AI is not difficult, and Blizzard would not have a problem applying it. Why don't they? I think it's because they just don't want to do anything that inconveniences players: they don't want the mobs to be smarter than their paying customers (and God knows, you can see plenty of stupid behaviour from players).

This is also, I think, why there's virtually no penalty for dying (another weirdness that experienced players quickly become innured to). I don't like it. I almost wrote "it encourages recklessness", but what's reckless about getting yourself killed in WoW? There's no penalty for bad play. This makes WoW too easy.

Addendum: A Dwarf Priest spotted 100 weird wonders of the World of Warcraft:

Thursday 26 February 2009

I Am Born

As a new human mage, I came into the realm of Azuremyst a few months ago at Northshire Abbey, a complete novice to World of Warcraft. I knew nothing. Not even how to walk (funnily enough, we learnt to run before we could walk). Well, I've forgotten so much about how I learned those very basic things a few months ago, that I thought I'd jot down what I do remember before that, too, fades from memory!

I was tickled pink when I learned how to dance! (simply type /dance (and hit the enter key), or click on the emote button for a list of emotions you can display). Simple things amuse the innocent. I danced, I flexed my muscles, I waved, cried, begged, laughed. Man, I must have spent a half an hour just messing about like that.

One big mistake I made was to leave Northshire Abbey before I reached level 5. This just got me killed a lot! Inside the training grounds of the Abbey, I was fairly safe, but outside, I couldn't safely leave the path or I'd get stiffed by a Defias thief, or a spider. Lesson learned. I went back to the Abbey and kept up my training there until there were no more quests for me to do there.