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Farewell to Legion

Battle for Azeroth launched last night to the usual authentication issues, servers on fire, broken quests and god knows what else. Not for me though; I was tucked up in bed in blissful sleep. The launch was at 11pm in the UK, and I thought about waiting until then and running the opening questline to collect my Heart of Azeroth, but thought better of it. Looks like I made the right decision; the realm status page now shows everything green, so I'm hoping to log in and have everything run smoothly tonight.

So even though Legion is not technically gone and I'm a little late to this party, I'm going to use today's post to complete Z and Cinder's 36th blog challenege topic, Farewell to Legion.

Part 1 – What were your top 3 moments in Legion?

1. Becoming an archdruid and hanging out with the Cenarion Circle

The opening to Legion was fantastic for me. I love the druid class fantasy. As I levelled up, I took time out to unlock the Guardian of Cenarius title which I still display now. Unlocking the Dreamgrove, then fetching G'Hanir, then immediately setting out to meet Malfurion in Val'sharah to do Important Druid Business made my first few hours in Legion feel incredibly epic and tailored exactly for my character. Honestly, it felt quite emotional and like it was specifically written for my character. The Dreamgrove itself is a fantastic zone, still my favourite of all the Order Halls, and I'll be sad that I don't get to visit it more often now.

2. Broken Isles Pathfinder Part One and Two

Not the achievements specifically, or the need to unlock flying -- a sometimes contentious design choice, but one I support -- but rather my approach to them and a little shift in attitude which occurred for me during Legion. Namely, I started doing everything. I fully explored every zone, sought out every treasure and rare, and felt like nothing was off-limits to me.

Look, I'm a casual player. But before Legion I used that as an excuse. I would look at achievements with long metas and think, "that's not for me". I wouldn't bother hunting rares, and masses of hidden treasures just made me feel exasperated. I don't know what it was, but in Legion it was like a switch flipped and suddenly I wanted everything done. I meticulously completed all the content in a zone before moving onto the next, and it made unlocking the pathfinder achievements and ultimately flying a fairly painless experience for me; plus, I got to experience so much content that I probably would have passed over before. I'm definitely going to be taking a "loremaster" style approach to levelling in BfA, too.

Similar to the Broken Isles Pathfinder achievements, getting the Argus meta achievement was a great moment for me. It's exactly the kind of thing that previously I wouldn't have even tried to unlock (and then feel bad about it). Instead I buckled down and killed a whole legion of demons, then took out all of their leaders for good measure. I actually really enjoyed Argus, both the storyline and the various rares and achievement scattered around.

3. Artifact weapons

Bit of a controversial pick this one, I think. I liked the AP grind. I like grind in games in general, honestly. But more than that, the artefacts themselves are really cool. Getting G'Hanir and the Scythe of Elune were really epic moments for me, and it felt right for my druid to be carrying those around with him. Getting the Guardian of G'Hanir title to go along with the artefact was a nice touch; as was having Archdruid Glaidalis in Darkheart Thicket comment on your artifact. That said, I'm looking forward to getting some weapons throughout BfA; transmog is the real endgame, right?

 

Part 2 – What are you most looking forward to about Battle for Azeroth?

1. Jaina and the Kul'Tiras

I'm really looking forward to seeing the story unfold in BfA; Jaina is a badass, and I really, really want to switch my worgen druid to a Kul'Tirian human, I think they look fantastic. All of the creepy woodland witchcraft stuff is right up my street, so I'm very happy. I can't wait to get started!

2. Island Expeditions

I've read some guides on the Island Expeditions and think they sound great; spammable and randomised is a great combination if you ask me -- I'm always happy to see a little of Diablo 3's design philosophy sneak it's way into Warcraft. My only disappointment is that it seems you can only queue into them in PvP mode if you're in a pre-made group. I don't have a pre-made PvP group handy, so I doubt I'll be doing much of that.

3. New goals: professions, gold, PvP

I'm making some plans for BfA, to work on my goblin-finances, to do more PvP, to keep up with my professions and not have to catch them all up at the last minute. I'm excited for all of them, and for the weekly reset cycle to start up again. I like the daily > weekly > monthly cycle of content that a good MMO provides. I've been in a bit of a lull since Argus (which I filled by playing an ever-growing roster of alts), so I'm just enthused to get back into new content.

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PvP update

On Saturday I did nine PvP battles on my druid, playing as restoration. I wanted to collect data (and transmog!) to try and see if the long-standing rumors that the Alliance are terrible at random battlegrounds actually have any merit; and if I'm truly honest, I was hoping to prove them wrong.

We lost the first four matches, and then went on to lose six of the nine games I played. Maybe it's just me dragging the side down, but I don't think so. I'm a good healer, I defended objectives, I provided support where useful fights were happening and tried not to get drawn into the morass of "fighting in the middle", because that doesn't win matches. It might be satisfying to have a big brawl, but it doesn't secure victories. 

So after the weekend, my overall Alliance PvP stats sit at a 0.3 win-ratio for the BfA pre-season period, which ain't great. That needs to climb to at least 0.4 before I can start thinking these losses aren't statistically unusual; anything lower than that does suggest a Horde superiority. It's a little demoralising to queue in over and over and get beaten (almost) every time. When we won, we won well and usually right from the offset; it was particularly noticeable in a Temple of Kotmogu match where we dominated the scoreboard consistently throughout the match. Maybe it's not a coincidence that that is one of my favourite maps to play. 

I'm not doing a whole lot to compensate for various other variables, like time of day or type of queue. I'm just hitting the queues for random battlegrounds and the current brawl, and playing whatever pops first. While this might not result in the most accurate figures for the Alliance as a whole, it does more accurately reflect the way I'm personally playing, with PvP filling a time gap between doing other things. I'm not even sure that the results would change anything about how I play; I'm not invested enough in PvP to switch factions purely for a better win-ratio, and I'm not banking on PvP to provide me with any useful gear. 

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I am prepared...

Fourteen hours to go until the Battle for Azeroth launch. Am I prepared? Yes, just like fellow Blaugustinian Galumphing, I am (mostly). Suck it, Illidan.

It's going to be a bitter-sweet launch for me this time. Usually for expansion launches I manage to get at least the day off work (or the following day) to dive right in. For the launch of Legion I had the entire week off work (coincidentally, I swear). This time I not only have no time off work, but it looks like I'm going to be having a particularly tough work week with a few big projects needing finishing off. It's sorely tempting to throw back some revolting energy drink, stay up levelling to 4am every night and conduct work on zombie-mode autopilot, but I'm a grown adult with various and sundry responsibilities, so I won't be doing that.

The only thing I haven't 100% decided on is my professions. My druid currently has herbalism / skinning, and dual-gathering is usually a good idea at the beginning of an expansion, but I'm increasingly thinking a production profession would be good. I like my professions to thematically match my character's class fantasy, so as a druid, that probably means skinning/leatherworking or herbalism/inscription.

Inscription is particularly interesting because of the new contracts they can make; they'll be both useful and probably potentially lucrative. I'll probably remain dual-gathering for the first few weeks, see how the salvager and warfront contribution systems play out, and then make a decision once the world quest and reputation grind starts in earnest.

Seeing as though I won't be hitting the levelling game hard this launch, I'm going to deliberately take it slow and devote more time to gathering, fishing, and exploring. BfA will launch too late tonight for me to play (I live in the UK but play on the US servers), so it'll be tomorrow after work before I get started. Really my only intention is to do as few quests as possible to arrive in Kul'Tiras, and then immediately go off-road, exploring and gathering. All of the zones will need fully exploring for the Pathfinder achievement anyway, and I'm assuming Blizzard have continued scattering the zones with little hidden treasures and miniboss encounters to discover.

It feels like BfA has been a long time coming, and now that we're on the eve of it launching, I find myself increasingly nervous. There's going to be a lot to do, especially once the weekly reset cycle kicks in. That's one of the things that I really enjoy about playing an MMO, but this period of not quite knowing what to prioritise or how exactly everything works is a little unsettling to me. I know for now all I have to do is enjoy the questlines as I make my way to 120, and all the rest will fall into place thereafter.

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In which I ruin enjoyable gameplay with statistics

Last night I did two things in World of Warcraft: I installed and tweaked the GW2 UI, and I went and ran some random battlegrounds. Both of them had their ups and downs.

I like the GW2 UI -- when I'm playing GW2. I thought I'd give it a go. What I should be doing is finely tuning an ElvUI setup, but I really can't be bothered. There's so much I don't like about ElvUI's defaults, I feel like I have to tweak every single thing, and then before you know it I haven't actually played any, but my UI has been adjusted by a handful of pixels. It looks like the GW2 UI offers a nice middle group. It helps get things out of the way, looks very nice, and it's nicely modular so I can turn off some of the more egregious stuff. I'll play with it for the next week or so and hang out in their Discord, and see how it goes.

The random battlegrounds are kind of a new thing for me; the last time I did any real amount of PvP was back in Burning Crusade. But I think I'm going to try and do more in Battle for Azeroth, it seems thematically appropriate for the expansion. So I queued up for some battlegrounds, in restoration druid spec. It went badly. I had enough time to run four battles, and we lost all of them. People say there's faction imbalance, that the Alliance are terrible at PvP, and maybe there's something to that, but I'm too much of a scientist at heart to believe that my extremely small sample size of four RBGs is suitable data. Truely, the thing to do is produce a spreadsheet, right? Broken down by season, by battleground, and so on. And then, once it's suitably populated, only then will I be able to say if there's an imbalance.

The other thing to do is re-read this fantastic post by Cynwise, On Faction Imbalance in Random Battleground Populations, and marvel at how well he had this stuff covered, back in 2014, and that it's still a thought floating around today.

Maybe all I'll be able to say is that I'm terrible at PvP. How much influence can one person have on the potential victory or defeat of their group in a random battleground? You'd hope that the law of averages would mean that over a large enough sample, there would be enough clueless idiots on both sides to even things out; but if the rumors of Horde PvP domination hold true that may not be the case.

Let's look at some maths for a moment, because why not. Let's assume -- and this is a big assumption -- that the two factions are supposed to be equal, and so each should win 50% of their battlegrounds. If we assign victory a score of 1, and defeat 0, the sum of all the battlegrounds played should have a standard deviation of (sqrt(n) / 2); thus after 100 battles, the standard deviation would be 5. Any number within 2 standard deviations (10) of what we expect (50) wouldn't look too suspicious. This means that after 100 battles, each side should have a score of between 40 - 60.

Stray too far from there, and some imbalance is suggested. The more battles run, the more accurate the prediction, and there's more complex math that can help ferret out the details, but let's not get into binomial confidence intervals just yet... it is only a game, after all.

Oh, but graphs! I do love a graph. I'm going to enjoy this little project.

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Picking a class with Polygon

Polygon have published an article on how to pick the right World of Warcraft main for you which seems very apropo considering it's the main thing I'm thinking about in-game at the moment. I think my decision is more or less made, but I thought it might be fun to go through their headings and see what my current thoughts are:

Why pick a Main?

I like having one, honestly! I like to consolidate my play time, achievements and goals onto one character. I play a lot of WoW, but not enough that I can be splitting my efforts; especially not in the early days of a new expansion. Alts are for content lulls further down the line. I've got more level capped alts now than I've ever had before, but that's mainly due to putting in a lot of effort on my Legion main early on.

Factions

For Gilneas! For the Alliance! It has to be. The article calls the Alliance, "stable but boring" with "a relatively young and untested king". Firm but fair, I suppose.

Class fantasy, and, Pick a class, not a specialization

This is really important for me. While my guild, Waypoint is pointedly Not an RP Guild, it does stand on that threshold and occasionally write fanfic. Lots of the older Waypoint alumni have carefully considered head-canon backstories for their characters, myself included, and that all feeds into class fantasy for me. At one point I was strongly considering maining an orc warrior, just because it fit the story of an Orgrimmar native going off to war, blindly following the orders of his Warchief.

Picking -- or rather not picking -- a specialization is also important. I like to heal, and I like to not die while doing over-the-top pulls in world content, so the hybrid classes than have a healing and tanking spec are favourites of mine. Here's a hint: I'm likely going to be picking two of them for my BfA journey.

Ignore the numbers

The article talks about sticking with a class even if they're not flavour of the month, saying that Blizzard strives for overall class balance and you'll be happier if you take the rough with the smooth over time. I guess that's largely true, even if sometimes it feels like balance is a long time coming sometimes (or not at all, on occasion). This, I suppose ties into picking a class based on the feel and fantasy of it; rather than it's raw output. I agree with the article here, but I understand that for a lot of players being the latest and greatest is an important considering, and there's nothing wrong with wanting to melt faces.

As for personal numbers, I do like to have Skada in dungeon and LFR runs, but I'm not obsessed with throughput, honest! I don't play at a high enough level for the numbers to be a massive concern. Normal-mode raids (and the occasional heroic stomp once vastly overgeared) were the limit of my participation in Legion, and most of my raid time was in LFR. So I can get behind ignoring the numbers.

Pick your own talents

I'm on the fence about this one. I just got finished saying I'm super-casual and the numbers don't matter at my level of play, but on the other hand, I like to be optimised. I like to know I'm doing the best I can, given the content I'm running. So I often look at Wowhead or Icy Veins guides for my spec and pick talents based on their advice. I do, however, sometimes pick something sub-optimal if it's really cool looking. I couldn't give up A Murder of Crows when I playing my Survival Hunter, even though it's not the best choice in that row. It was just too much fun to use. So I suppose what I'll do, in pratice, is take the optimal build from a guide, and then apply my own Rule of Cool to it until I'm happy. That seems like a reasonable compromise.

In conclusion?

...that's all Polygon have to say on the subject. I broadly agree, especially with picking a class vs. picking a spec. Most of the advice boils down to pick something you find fun and it's hard to argue with that. If you're making a choice based on external factors -- like knowing your guild requires a niche filling to compete in progression -- then you don't really need a fluff piece article from Polygon to tell you how to proceed.

As for my own class choices for BfA, I'll be making a post in the next week...

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