State of the Alts

Posted: December 23, 2012 in Uncategorized, WoW
Tags: , ,

After several months of inactivity, I have decided to give this blog some love.  I figure the best place to start is a What am I doing now? kind of post.  This is that post!

Let’s start with games!  At the moment, due to my internet situation (Australia’s internet is metered – my wife and I get 15gb a month, before they lower our speed to unusable), I have curtailed my play on always-on connection type games.  The notable exception is WoW, which has been where most of my free time has went recently.  I’ve also went back to playing several of my older games on steam and a few new ones (mostly small footprint games that don’t take my monthly allowance of bandwidth to download).  In addition to WoW and the steam games, I reinstalled WC3, D2, D3, and SC2.  I downloaded all of them before I left the states, and just had to update them.  I haven’t devoted much to them.  It’s mostly been a level/quest or two at random intervals on them.

WoW, on the other hand, has gotten a lot of my attention recently.  I have been spending more time on alts than doing dailies.  Have I mentioned I hate dailies?  Guess what?  I HATE dailies!  I would much prefer to run dungeons, new quest areas, raids, etc. than do dailies.  It shows pretty well too. My ~main~ has two reputations (Golden Lotus/Klaxxi) at revered and another two (tillers/cloud serpent) at exalted.  The rest of them, well, I haven’t devoted much attention to them.  Shieldwall got a week or two devoted, but that’s about it.

As for the characters themselves, my ~main~ is a Blood DK.  The only other 90 that I have is my rogue.  Those two are on different servers from each other.  As a matter of fact, I have 3 servers that have chars at 80 or above.  That count (chars above 80) is somewhere around 15 (most of them are 85+). The most recent being a priest that I’ve been leveling as Disc.  He’s also the next character I plan to hit 90 with. I’m going to test smite healing in a LFR environment.

If you’re looking for the breakdown of my WoW characters, here it is:

Death Knight: 90, 80

Rogue: 90, 82

Shaman: 85 (x2)

Warrior: 85 (x2)

Paladin: 85, 82

Hunter: 85, 80

Mage: 85

Druid: 85

Priest: 80

I don’t have a warlock or a monk at a decent enough level to consider them for the list.

Guild Wars 2 BWE3 has come and gone, and now we wait for the release.  I spent quite a bit of time in game for this event.  I participated in BWE1, but was less enthused by some of the issues plaguing it.  This time, though, I played and enjoyed all weekend.  I spent most of my time in PvP with a side of crafting.

PVP

In the first beta weekend, I tried several classes.  I stuck with a (greatsword) Mesmer for most of the event, and really enjoyed it.  I played a (mostly) water Elementalist as well.  I think the healer effects in a game without healers (and tanks) is quite effective.  I tried out a warrior and found it was one of my least favorite classes, which is a problem for me.  I play warriors in every game.  I am a meat shield, it’s what I do!

Fast forward to this beta event.  I decided to try a warrior again.  I needed to figure out what I didn’t like about them and fix it.  Of course I picked Asuran.  Who wouldn’t pick an Asuran Warrior?!  Tiny li’l guy carrying a HUGE weapon = WIN!  It seems that I was doing something wrong in the first beta weekend, because I loved playing a warrior this time around.  Maybe I was using the wrong weapon (I used a 2h Hammer the first weekend vs a Greatsword this weekend).  Maybe I was just too big (Norn vs Asura).  Whichever is the case, I ~really~ enjoyed the warrior this weekend.

I also spent some time on a Guardian.  When I was 20 on my Warrior, I ran across a level 20 Guardian in a world event. He was some kind of psychotic whirlwind of death (and life, since he got to heal too!).    I can definitely see the class as one of my alts.

I checked out a few classes (again) and found that I still don’t enjoy the Thief or Ranger, Necromancer might end up as one of my alts, and I haven’t spent any significant amount of time on an Engineer .

It looks like my starting five will be:  Warrior, Mesmer, Guardian, Elementalist, and Necro.  This is, of course, assuming we get five (and only five) character slots.  I am assuming we’ll be able to buy additional character slots through the micro-transaction system.

Crafting

I spent quite a bit of time and most of my money on crafting.  I picked up Armorsmithing and Weaponsmithing and spent a fair amount of time researching them both.  Judging by the way that these two work, I assume the rest of the tradeskills will be the same.  There are tiers of materials that will get you through 75 levels of the skill before you swap to the next.  The biggest departure from any other MMO I’ve played is the discovery pane.  It is a VERY important way to level your tradeskills.  I will be posting a generalized crafting guide “soon”.   I managed to get my Armorsmithing up to 125+ and Weaponsmithing up to 75+ during this event.

Dailies

Dailies in Guild Wars 2 work differently than most other MMOs.  There are four different dailies with multiple tiers of completion.  Each tier on each type of daily rewards some experience, and when you complete them all, you get a chest that gives XP and a small sum of silver.  There are two key differences with dailies in GW2.  The first is dailies are account wide.  This is actually a concern for me.  Since the dailies are account wide, with experience rewards per tier, there is little to stop you from accidentally acquiring daily XP on a low level alt.  Since the XP is percentage based, that means you could lose out on considerable amount of XP by playing a low level alt before you finish your dailies.  The other thing that’s different with GW2 dailies is they reset a day after you complete them.  I didn’t time them, so they might not be 24 hours.   I hope that they follow Blizzard’s lead and put the dailies on a set reset timer to prevent players from finishing their dailies later and later every day.  There are also MONTHLIES, btw.  I will have more information about those when the game goes live.

In the last couple of months I have spent very little time playing SWTOR or WoW (beta or live), and with a couple of good reasons.  As you can see by the shiny new image on the left, I’ve been spending some time playing Diablo 3.   Of course, by some time, I mean a lot of time.  In the first ten days after release, I spent about four full days (100ish hours) in the game.  I have deleted a few characters and leveled a bit since then, but this is the result of those 100 hours (+20 hours spent since that point).

Diablo 3 Character List

The results of 5 days (120 hours) of Diablo 3.

After the first 10 days, I started a vacation that just recently ended. I spent a couple of weeks in Australia visiting my wife’s family, a couple of days introducing my family in California to my wife, and ended with a few weeks spent with my kids here in Alabama. Each part of the vacation was enjoyable and had some form of notable event (birthdays and a wedding).

The one thing that none of the parts of the vacation had was gaming, or not much anyway. Now that everything is back to normal, it’s time to change that.  In the next few days/weeks/months, I plan on spending time playing Diablo 3, experiencing the Guild Wars 2 beta (when it’s up), PvPing (and maybe finishing another 50) in SWTOR, and even some raiding in WoW (if we can coordinate everyone back to it, at least).  Another thing that’s definitely on the list is some upkeep on this blog (including new content and correcting URLs in some of the previous posted pages).

In a previous life (another post), I covered which crewskills to choose based on factors that were important (to me) at the time.  While the information contained therein is still accurate, there have been some changes to the game, and the way I play it, that make my previous decisions less ideal.

A quick recap of the key points of the last post:

  1. I chose 4 characters per faction per server (4 crafting crewskills).
  2. I valued mods over gear (moddable gear is a part of the leveling process).
  3. I wanted my characters to compliment each other and provide for each other through the leveling process.

So, what’s changed? 

Legacy:

  1. Legacy changed my process in a couple of ways.  The first thing it changed was how many characters per faction I have.  The current number is 3 per faction.  The number was reduced to allow for creating a character on both sides that utilizes the unlocks I have from my legacy.
  2. Legacy allows for the mailing of (non-bound) gear to any character that’s part of your legacy.

Crewskills:

  1. Synthweaving and Armormech have been given the ability to crit on moddable gear.  A crit on moddable gear creates gear that has a slot for an augment.

These three changes in my playstyle and game mechanics have forced me to rethink my original choices for characters per faction per server and my choice of crewskills to complement them. 

My proposed class and crewskill list (on one server) is:

  • Jedi Consular – Artifice
  • Smuggler – Armstech
  • Trooper – Armormech
  • Sith Warrior – Biochem
  • Sith Inquisitor – Synthweaving
  • Bounty Hunter – Cybertech

The reasons for the changes are:

  1. The new setup allows me to have every crewskill on both servers I play on.  This is the overarcing point of the changes.
  2. Synthweaving and Armormech both have become valuable to make gear as well as sell gear.
  3. Instead of losing one character per faction, I have gained 2 characters per server (due to the mail change). I don’t have to choose 4 out of 6 crewskills.  I can have them all!

How did ~I~ do it (or how will I do it)?

  1. I play my Trooper first.  The character that’s unlocking my legacy on every server I play on is the trooper.  This allows me to use Armormech to create both moddable and normal armor for the Bounty Hunter
  2. Since the Bounty Hunter can use Cybertech create armoring and modifications for himself he can utilize both types of armor.
  3. The armoring and modifications from the BH combine with the enhancements & crystals that the Consular creates with Artifice to allow him to be fully decked out (weapon & armor).
  4. The Smuggler is up next and uses Armstech to provides his own barrels to go with the mods and armor coming from the rest of the characters. 
  5. The Inquisitor is the next one up for his Synthweaving armor to go to himself and to the Warrior.
  6. The Warrior is last, but he gets the benefit of every other character that came before him.  The medkits and stims from Biochem are a nice addition to the rest.

A key point to this is you don’t have to level each character to 50 in sequence.  As long as you can make the appropriate gear/mods for the next (and all subsequent) character, the setup works. 

Now that we have the abilities and level builds out of the way, it’s time for the fun part – How to win at PvP!

The Early Levels :

  • 14 – From this level until you hit 16 you’ll mostly focus on guarding other players, specifically healers.   There are 3 medals that you can gain from doing just that.  2k damage prevented without dying, 5k total damage prevented, and 10k damage prevented without dying.  That last one isn’t an easy task.  Having a healer buddy DEFINITELY helps.  In order to finish off your 4 medals I’d recommend shooting for 75k total damage, and if you can’t get the 10k without dying medal 1k defender medal (stand around an objective that your side owns and wait).
  • 16 – Adding your taunt to the rotation helps get the 3 damage prevention medals quicker.  Instead of having to have all of the damage redirected to you to get the prevention medal, you can just eliminate 30% of the damage.  Taunting a target that’s currently attacking your shielded target will put reduction at 65% total.  If, on the other hand, you taunt an enemy going for another target you get both a 50% reduction on your shielded target and a 30% reduction on another target.
  • 20 – Gut will completely change your rotation and will encourage you to get into melee range more frequently.  Gut -> High Impact Shot -> Stock Strike  can eliminate a large chunk of an opponent’s health, but requires you to be in melee range for 2 of the 3 abilities.

The Mid Levels:

  • 22 – The ability to yank someone to you starts here. 
    • Huttball
      • At the start of the match, run to your edge of your acid pit.  Once your opponent grabs the ball, step one foot into the acid, yank him to you, and stun him.  If you’re feeling lucky, stock strike him for good measure.  Chances are, you just killed the enemy ball carrier and got the ball yourself.
      • Yanking enemy ball carriers into fire, back a platform (or 2), and jump yanking him into a pit (this one doesn’t always work) can stop an opposing team from scoring very effectively.
    • Voidstar:
      •  The most frequent use of this ability is pulling an opponent that is capturing an objective away from said objective.
      • An equally important functionality is pulling an opponent away from LoS/out of range of your team’s capture. 
      • An infrequent use of this only works near the bridge, and is dangerous.  Standing on an edge and yanking someone to you can drop them off.  It doesn’t always work and is difficult to line up.  I don’t recommend actively pursuing this usage, but if the opportunity presents itself go for it!
    • Civil War:
      • Just like Voidstar, yanking someone away from capturing a node is a key use of your harpoon.
      • Separating healers from other enemy players at capture points is a great use for this WZ.
      • Players usually perch around the central turret, dealing damage and healing from afar.  Harpoon can eliminate that threat.
  • 30 – At 30, your mobility greatly increases.  Storming targets is a great way to cover long distances quickly.
    • Huttball:
      • Storming enemy ball carriers stun them for 3 seconds.  You can use this to stun opponents in acid or fire.  Follow it up with a traditional stun, and you can keep an enemy burning (in acid or fire) for longer than it takes for them to die.
      • As a ball carrier, storm will allow you to skip traps.  No one wants to run through an active hazard, so most players will perch close to, but not in one.  Storm a distant player and you don’t have to wait for the trap any longer.
      • Recovering from a knockback into a pit is another great use for Storm.  Any player that is shooting you from above can be stormed.  In addition, newer players will perch on their end of the map allowing you to storm them and take 5 steps for a score.
    • Voidstar
      • Storm should be used for general distance closing and avoiding bridge knockbacks. 
      • Like Harpoon, Storm has a limited functionality of bypassing the bridge.  In the center of the area, the distance between each side is short enough that you can Storm an opponent on the other side and cross the gap without using a bridge. 
    • Civil War:
      • Storm is still going to be best used to close distances.  A well timed storm can interrupt a Turret capture, but otherwise standard rules apply.
  • 30 to 50 – From this point on, the skills you choose and class abilities just get stronger.  There are no specific changes to your playstyle at this point (except the usage of both Storm and Harpoon at 41).

Max level PvP (50):

The biggest change you’ll notice when you hit 50 is you will die VERY quickly and VERY often.  The main reason for this is your opponents have better gear than you.  There is supposed to be a mechanic in place to keep gear levels mostly equivalent, but it won’t prevent matches from being started because of gear disparity.  Just like level 1-49, stick with it and you’ll get the gear yourself.

General Play Guide/Commendation Spending/Etc -

Now that the specific Vanguard/Powertech information is complete, there are some things that I think are important through the leveling process.  A lot of this information is going to be basic to some, but combined with everything else the information can turn you into a true PvP powerhouse.

The first point I’d like to make is I don’t recommend PvP as the only way you level your character.  The further ahead of your class story you get, the less value per quest each quest gives.  If you outlevel your main storyline quest too much, you end up getting 5 XP per quest.  It’s definitely not a good time versus reward ratio.

Along the same lines, have a plan for your commendations.  When I started PvPing on my Powertech the goal was to have 1 Champion bag and 1000 WZ/1000 Merc commendations (1.2 will change the caps on these, I recommend doing research on caps and purchasable gear) before I hit 50.  As I progressed in that goal, I noticed 2 things:  1. I ~really~ enjoyed PvP and would play way less than I intended if I stopped at that goal.  2.  There were other things I wanted as I went through the leveling process.  By the time I hit 50 I had a full set or moddable gear for one of my companions, a few weapon upgrades, enough valor for rank 30 (and the Gladiator title),  and my original goal.

Abuse the Bolster mechanic.  The formula is hidden in the background somewhere, but through it your low level character can have better stats than their high level counterparts.  The most important thing to keep upgraded is your weapon, or more specifically the barrel.  The difference between an upgraded barrel and one that’s 4 levels old is significant.  Add to that the difference between a green barrel and a purple barrel and the difference becomes huge.  For comparison, a level 41 green deals 126-235 damage while a level 45 purple  that deals 211-392 damage.  The difference carries over to the bolster mechanic making those shots deal huge damage.

PvP gear isn’t PvP gear until you start buying level 50 gear.  Everything on the vendor is itemized for PvE.  While that doesn’t sound great for PvP, keep in mind that before level 50 noone has true PvP gear.  If you spend 525 WZ commendations at level 20, you can get a set of blue implants and an earpiece.  I recommend picking the implants (175 WZ comms each) up at least since the earliest you’ll get them otherwise is level 25. 

At level 40, if you find yourself enjoying PvP enough that you’re going to have more commendations than you need, buying a set of moddable gear for a companion is great.  Mako will love you forever if you give her the purple (color, not rarity) level 40 gear (1505 WZ commendations).  Elara might like the PvP gear too, but you can just give her your hand me downs instead.  Other purchaseables that you might want to pick up include moddable weapons  (for your companions), PvP case/boxes, and WZ Medpac/Adrenals.  I recommend saving medpacs/adrenals for after you hit 50, except in emergency situations.  They are percentage based, and you’ll get more use out of them at 50.

That should do it for the basics.  I will be keeping this post updated with any major changes (specifically the 1.2 patch).  Now get out there and kill someone!

This guide is a primer on leveling a Powertech/Vanguard from 1 to 50 through PvP and PvE.  The guide will be laid out in a way that focuses on PvP play and the ability to stay PvE viable. There will be a few basic tips that are valuable for any class/spec as well as specific skill choices throughout most of the leveling process.

General Recommendations (not specific to class or level):

  1. Queuing for PvP takes time.  Do not waste the time between matches by solely idling on the fleet.  Send companions on crewskill missions, shop the GTN, spend commendations (PvP/Planet/Space), etc.  It will make the time go quicker.
  2. In line with the first recommendation, make your companions happy before you start sending them on crewskill missions.  20k credits can get most companions to 4k affection without any conversation turn ins.  If you’re not sure how, reply at the bottom and I’ll explain it.
  3. Do not leave a PvP match early.  Losing a PvP match sucks.  Waiting for 15 minutes to lose a PvP match sucks even more.  You can still earn a good amount of commendations, valor, credits, and XP.

PT/Vanguard specific information:

PT/Vanguards are a medium range heavy armor class.  They have abilities that require melee range in addition to the normal ranged abilities of their primary class.  They are a well rounded class with high marks in most categories.

While you can PvP before 14, due to sprint and a couple of class abilities I recommend holding off.  Abilities will be listed as their Vanguard versions.

14 – Sprint, Ion Cell, Guard:  0/5/0

  • Sprint – 35% movement speed while not in combat. Combat in PvP is fairly constant, but those times when it isn’t make this ability invaluable.
  • Ion Cell – This is your tanking cell (stance).  While it’s active your armor, shield chance, and threat are increased, incoming damage is reduced, and ranged abilities are given a chance to deal additional damage.  This is the Cell to keep active at all times in PvP.
  • Guard – This is a friendly shield.  While it’s active on a target, the target takes reduced damage, and 50% of the damage taken is redirected towards you.  This ability can/will get you 3 WZ Medals if used appropriately.

16 – Neural Jolt:  0/7/0

  • Neural Jolt – This is your taunt.  In PvP the target of your taunt deals 30% less damage to any target other than yourself.  Combine this with Guard on a healer/ball carrier and that person takes 1/3 of the damage (s)he normally would.

18 – Riot Strike: 0/9/0

  • Riot Strike – Interrupt with a 4 second ability silence on an 8 second cooldown.  A well timed interrupt can be the difference between a dead enemy healer and a mob of angry fully healed enemies.

20 – Gut:  0/11/0

  • Gut – Inflicts initial damage and a bleed.  This ability will allow you to use High Impact Bolt without relying on someone else to inflict the appropriate condition on your target.

22 – Harpoon:  0/11/2

  • Harpoon – “Get over here!” – Scorpion.  This ability pulls your target to you.  It’s great to pull someone into an acid pit in Huttball, off a wall in Civil War, or (if you position it right) off an edge in Voidstar.

30 – Storm: 21/0/0  (note: respec required to get to this point.  7/11/2 is what I recommend at 29.)

  • Storm – Charges a distant target inflicting damage and a 3 second stun.  This ability should be used almost on cooldown.  The mobility this ability allows has many uses in PvP.

41 – 21/11/0 - This phase of the build has Storm and Gut.  Storm -> Gut -> High Impact Bolt -> Stock Strike is a good way to deal some heavy damage in few GCDs.

50 – 25/14/2 - This is the final build of the spec.  I learned about this build from Taugrim ( @taugrim & taugrim.com ) without the benefit of the order of skill points taken.

Part 2 of this guide will cover tactics and tricks of playing a Powertech/Vanguard in PvP at various levels.

With SWTOR just coming out, there are a lot of information that people haven’t found yet. One of the earliest things you do in the game is pick a set of “crewskills” (SWTORs professions). There are plenty of guides out there that lay out how to level the skills or the synergy between the skills, but I haven’t found one that explains the optimal set of crewskills for the average, self-sufficient player.

Some understanding of SWTOR is needed to follow this post, so I’ll post the quick generalities here:

1. There are 4 classes per faction in SWTOR, with each having 2 sub-classes (total of 8 per side). There is no functional difference in mirrored classes.

2.Starting very early in progression (end of the first planet) you will receive from quests, purchase from NPCs, find on the GTN (Auction House) moddable gear.

3. There are 3 types of crewskills: Crafting, Gathering, and Mission.  There are 6 crafting, 4 gathering, and 4 mission crewskills.  You can only have 1 crafting skill per character.

The six crafting professions (and quick descriptions) are:

1. Armormech (crafts non-force user armor); 2. Synthweaving (crafts force user armor); 3. Armstech (crafts non-force user weapons); 4. Artifice (crafts force user weapons); 5. Biochemistry (crafts consumables – similar to alchemy for WoW folks); and 6. Cybertech (crafts Droid gear, ship components, bombs, mounts – similar to Engineering for WoW folks).

There are synergy skills that match each of those crewskills (I used this information for synergy and more).  I will not be covering the non-crafting skills in-depth.  I will be covering the crafting skills and my justification for taking/not taking them.  The four skills I chose to take (for both factions) are; Armstech, Artifice, Biochemisty, and Cybertech.  I chose not to take/drop Armormech and Synthweaving.  The reasons are listed below (staring with those that I chose to take).

Armstech - The main reason I kept this skill is the barrels.  Barrels control the damage output of the moddable weapons non-force users find on their trek to level 50 (weapons are the first pieces of moddable gear you get).  If you keep your barrels (and other mods) up to date, your first weapon can last you up to level 50.

Artifice - Very similar to Armstech, Artifice provides hilts.  Hilts are the barrels for force wielders.  They control the damage output of moddable weapons force users find on their trek to level 50.  Again, keeping hilts (and other mods) up to date can make your first weapon last until level 50.  In addition to hilts, Artifice creates Enhancements for both armor and weapons.  Enhancements are another mod slot that usually focus on stamina and secondary stats.

Cybertech - This was the most important crewskill I chose to keep.  This skill provides Armoring (mods that control how much armor you gain on a piece of moddable armor), Modifications (very similar to enhancements, but it focuses on primary stats [aim, strength, cunning, and willpower]), and moddable “armor” for droids.

Biochemistry - Biochemistry’s major advantage (for me) is the healing kits it provides.  A standard (green level) medkit is ~50% more effective than a vendor purchased one of equivalent level.  In addition, there are blue level kits (same benefit as a green +~60% as a HoT) and kits that can heal you and your companion (for +30% of a normal medkit).  In addition to the healing kits, biochemistry also provides implants.  Implants are another armor slot (similar to rings in WoW).

The two skills I chose not to take were Armormech and Synthweaving.  Neither skill creates mods of any type, and with the lack of armor swapping (due to modding) I found there to be little reason to take either skill.

This is my breakdown of characters and their crewskills (on both factions):

Jedi Knight/Sith Warrior - Biochemistry – Bioanalyst – Diplomacy

Jedi Consular/Sith Inquisitor – Aritfice – Archaeology – Treasure Hunting

Trooper/Bounty Hunter – Armstech – Slicing* – Investigation

Smuggler/Imperial Agent – Cybertech – Scavenging – Underworld Trading

* Armstech and Cybertech both utilize Scavenging as a gathering profession.  Due to the overlap, I have chosen Slicing as an additional skill.  Slicing (even after the nerf) is (one of) the only profitable mission skill(s).