Tuesday, October 2, 2012

My First Week In Pandaria

It has been more than seven days since Pandaria opened up her shores and we landed our ships and wars on those sylvan lands.

My journey began at 2am when I awoke, showered, fed, and sat down with coffee and waited for the quests to begin. The landing was rough, even as we gunned down the drowning Horde, Innana pulled the trigger and swallowed the doubt welling up. This was war. This was necessary. When the horrors popped up, when the warning came, it was brushed aside - it was not understood, and she turned her back to the blood and fire.

Initially, my intention was to group with others and burn through as fast as possible, but very rapidly I realized just how lovely and immersive Pandaria was, and I wanted to get lost in it.

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I wanted to be a stranger in a strange land, a warrior stranded on lost shores with no recourse but to explore - and in exploring, find a journey that removes the war from her thoughts. Innana wandered the Jade Forest, stopping often simply to gawk and breathe in the green and blue place, sink into the music, and I didn't even notice the sun coming up. Jade Forest devoured my attention - the storytelling and questing is light, repetitive, yet effective. There was a sense of space and time, these people were friendly, open and curious; they allowed me into their lives and I enjoyed the measure of anonymity Innana had.

When the conflict came, I didn't see it on the horizon. I was too taken by the beauty and the brutality of the ending surprised me, I was moved a bit to see the ruins that our war had brought. Yet - as I am wont to do - I didn't blame my side, and so the war goes on.

Perhaps in a fit of denial, a desire to not stare into the mirror, Innana dove into the Valley of Four Winds, lost among those pastoral fields, in the hedges and pools, the plowed fields and gardens, rooting our vermin, shepherding animals, lost in the haze of honest, sweaty work and walking with a companion across the field, arriving at Half Hill, at the Brewery, it would be so easy to forget, to let go of her past and simply become another farmer, here in a land secluded from horror.

But if one goes far enough, one encounters new horrors. The Mantid were breaking through the walls. Soon, it was time for the sword and shield, up the Veiled Stair hiding its mysteries, into Kun-Lai to see mountains like she had never seen before, into local skirmishes and bigger wars, even as the people called her to humble, escort service, old business caught up. After a glimpse of the bloodless Valley, it was so tempting to just turn her blind eye, to escape into the land and be forgotten, but that was not her nature.

Through the war in the Steppes, across the wall, and by the time she landed in the Dread Waste, the memory of the Valley was a small and dim, green mirage. War was all that remained.

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I had the week off and played pretty much continuously from launch until I hit 90 with only a couple of short naps along the way and then jumping into the heroics right away. Tomorrow on, I'll probably start talking more about tanking, but the initial reaction is extremely positive. Paladin Tanking is fun, really engaging, the rotation is complex enough to keep me from auto-piloting, and we have a ton of tools.

The dungeons are dungeons. Nothing particularly special about them. I think I'm over being excited about dungeons at this point - they really just are means to an end after the first couple of times through. I mean, yes, Shado-Pan Monastery was really awesome my first time through, crazy good with how the dungeon incorporates movie-tropes into a dramatic experience, but the fifth time through I just wanted to get through the mobs. Even the difficulty level was firmly placed at mild, and once I replaced the greens with at least blue 440s, it was just a blur of rushing through in 20 minute long bursts to gear as fast as possible.

Every day of last week was consumed with dailies, profession grinding, and dungeon running. It is fantastic to be in a guild where there  were 3 server-first 90s, and we got the server-first guild achievement for maxing out all professions. I've been trying to grind as many heroics by tanking as I can, but there are always more to run. I'm glad I took the week off, it felt productive to get that many runs done, but others did way more.

Everyone was constantly helping each other, cutting gems, disenchanting greens, crafting stuff, chasing down elites in packs, grouping up for dailies. Last night, a guildy got the random-drop BoE shield in Scholo and generously allowed me to use it for the raid tonight. Just, fantastic group of people.

This expansion launch has been the best one so far, in many ways:

- Smooth launch, no hitches, no problems whatsoever at least on my server
- The content is just downright great, I'm all over the lore and immersion of the Pandaria thing, despite my initial skepticism
- Content. I'm constantly conflicted about what to do next. Dailies? Dungeons? Rare spawns? Exploring? Achievements? Scenarios?
- I love my farm. I really thought it was something not for me, but the minute I started work on it, I just loved it.
- And I haven't even touched the new battlegrounds, the pet battles, and neither the Loremasters nor the Dragon reputations yet.

Already Mists shows just how bad Cataclysm was by comparison. The only zone in Cataclysm that left any impact on me was Vashj'ir but otherwise, it was all just bland questing. Even Uldum was spoiled by the terrible storytelling. If the raiding holds up, we could be looking at something of a Wrath caliber if not something even better.



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In raiding news, my guild killed Galleon on Friday night, and the Sha of Anger last night despite his random despawns, but I didn't get any gear out of it. Galleon is very, very simple but the Sha requires a bit of doing, though even he is pretty easy to overpower with numbers. It's weird to be in a guild actively chasing server firsts like this, but weird in a really great way.

Tonight, we begin Mogu'shan Vaults. I've got some food, I've got my gear enchanted and gemmed, I'll try to sneak in a run of Brewery one more to try to get my hands on a weapon, but otherwise, I think I'm about as set as I'm going to get. I'm double-stacking Stamina trinkets and gemming and enchanting as much Stamina as I can. I think, raid-buffed, I should probably be about ~500k or so. Which is crazy.

Wish us luck!

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