Mar 272014
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My previous post on being a new-player in the age of level-90 boosts skipped over what some may consider an essential piece of knowledge – and one that may, in fact, ideally predate doing any of the things in that post. So considering doing it right now. I am talking, of course, about addons. When blizzard first launched WoW ten years ago – they made a decision that remains allmost unique in the online gaming world ot this day – and yet has been one of their most successful and essential ideas: they released an API which allowed independent programmers to write addons for the WoW User Interface to expand it's capabilities in various ways user's find usefull. This has had a two-fold impact – in many cases addons which provided very useful and successful ideas would later have their functionality added to the main WoW Interface but – more commonly blizzard would actually deliberately refrain from adding this functionality on the basis that the addons already did such a great job at it and this allowed blizzard's developers to rather focus on new content.

Either way – this has made addons an integral part of the WoW experience and, particularly at max-level, one that is essential to being good at the game. So for the new player – a brief overview of them is probably an invaluable part of a guide like this. The very first thing you're going to want is an addon manager. You could manually install and update addons but frankly this rapidly becomes a massive chore. The top-of-the-pile for addon managers is the curse client and if you're on windows or mac you should get that now (unfortunately it still doesn't run well in wine so Linux users who want to use it will need to run a windows VM or partition). Curse's client gets most of it's power from having exclusive access to curse's extensive addon database (many addons are published nowhere else unfortunately) but for those who cannot or don't want to use it there are some alternatives. Wowmatrix is a decent one which supports Linux as well. Another option is the original wowinterface manager – now very dated but still functional though it only works with wowinterface's collection and has a terribly cumbersome approach to installing.  The third significant one is the child of the wowinterface manager which is called minion. Minion is a java project currently in beta but developement has been atrociously slow and personally I've never been able to get it to run (I should perhaps try it with the official oracle java sometime, that may work) – that said it seems to have taken some leaps recently (adding support for elder scrolls online for one thing) so this may be the future. Whichever one you choose, you'll have to tell it where your wow game is installed and you're good to go.

Now for the big question – out of the millions of addons out there- which ones do you need ? Well a lot of that is up to you – google will help you rapidly determine if there is an addon for any particular aspect of the game you would like to deal with -and there is an excellent guide series on wow-insider that highlights particularly good addons (and their addon-101 series greatly expands on the basic information I gave here), that said – for a start I will tell you about the addons I consider absolutely essential and won't even try to play without – I would suggest installing some of these right away.

Tomtom: This is a simple addon in many ways – yet it has become one of the most enduring addons in WoW because it's so incredibly useful – what it does it set up a floating arrow on your screen which you can have pointing you to any place on the map. You can configure it to automatically point itself to quest objectives, when you die it can automatically point you back to your corpse and you can set up custom markers very easily by doing a control-right-click anywhere on the map. You can also manually specify a location using coordinates (which you will frequently find on wow-sites when you look something up) by doing something like /way xx yy. Great for finding that hidden treasure. Wowhead (aside: this is the most valuable site for any wow player – you want to know how to do something or where to find a particular piece of gear- they have the data and the comments are filled with useful information) comments are almost always written with coordinates and this is the easiest way to find them. 

Auctionlite: While there are many auction house related tools out there, and some like auctioneer are far more feature rich – I find most of them clunky and if anything over-featured. Auctionlite has the features that I find most valuable (like comparing prices, finding the cheapest price on things and selling your own stuff at the best current market price) without much overhead and with a simple enough user interface.

Recount/Skada: if you're going to go raiding you will need one of these addons (recount is the more popular one). What they do is calculate statistics on combat, how much damage was done by who, who did how much healing and how much threat did who generate. All information that is critical to reaching your potential and also to evaluating when a group should change it's tactics. For a start when you're testing out new spell rotations or reforges you want ot head over to the training dummies with this on and start hitting and seeing what numbers you achieve. 

Tidy-plates/Threatplates: while there are many threat-measurement addons out there (and they are valuable to everybody – not just tanks – since the rest of you do occasionally need to make sure you don't pull threat off the tank) this is my favorite variety. It shows threat as a function of the nameplate over the monsters head, changing it's colour as threat increases and flashing a big warning if you get aggro. It also shows the mob's casts, buffs and debuffs under it's nameplate – which is very useful for keeping an eye on it.

Bigwhigs/DBM: DBM (deadly boss mods) is one of the most well-known and essential raiding addons, it's essential purpose is simple though – it keeps a timer of various boss abilities and will warn you when they are about to happen and what you're supposed to do about them. Many guilds insist on it for raiding and with good reason. Bigwhigs is the new kid on the blog in the same family – with many newer features and in some ways more advanced. Which one you choose is really up to you and you can even run both (I do) and combine their functionality, but you need to install at least one. They are invaluable for both pve and pvp.

ATSW: AdvancedTradeSkillWindow is an incredibly useful little addon that gives you a much better view of your profession window. It allows you to qeue up varying amounts of crafts to perform and will then automate it. When you ask it to make something it will calculate the materials you need and can auto-buy it at vendors and list it at the auction house for easy purchase. If you can make some yourself it will automatically set up the qeue to make the things you can make first – it's brilliant in so many ways and makes the classic profession window look like a terrible joke by comparison. Personally – I can't live without it.

AddonManager: this one is perhaps the most awesomest addon that has ever existed – and addon for turning addons on and off. Unlike the blizzard UI it doesn't require you to log out and back in if you want to switch and addon on or off, you can simply open it up from the menu, tick the addon selection you need and reload the UI – it saves enormous time and is ideal for handling addons you don't want *all* the time (i.e. to turn off your healing frames when you're in tank spec for example).

Healbot/Healium: If you're going to be a healer – one of these is essential – these provide your with easy to view frames of your team-mates showing who needs dispelling and allowing easy one-click access to your healing spells by simply clicking on their block in the frame – which is much faster than targetting the player and then casting the heal. The two function essentially the same -which one you prefer is really up to you.

Bagsync: I can't tell you how much I have come to love this addon – it's a tiny out-of-the-way addon but once you have more than a few alts with bank tabs it becomes so valuable. When you can't remember which alt has something you're looking for, or if it's in their bank or personal bags – this simple little searchable item will help you locate it. It's great for finding out who currently holds that heirloom you desperately want to put on your new alt, or the mats you need for that recipe.

Outfitter: this addon is either the most annoying or most valuable addon you'll ever have depending on where you are. I always turn it off on characters while leveling but once at max-level you'll want it on. Unlike the default blizzard UI it has automatic responses which allow you to set up gear sets that get automatically equiped depending on what you're doing. A simple selection to get your fishing rod and your fishing had equiped together ? An automatic tool to equip your deepdive helmet when you're swimming ? A tool that makes sure you're wearing your healing gear when you switch to your healing spec and your PVP gear when you enter a battleground or arena ? That's what outfitter provides. 

At this point – you should have the essential can't-live-without addons, including the ones you would seriously annoy people if you try raiding without. What comes next and what you add or remove from your addon selection is up to you. Have fun discovering pandaria at maxlevel and, soon, the new world of draenor past.





Mar 272014
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When Blizzard first proposed the boost to 90 feature at blizzcon the majority of the players supported it – because they realized the blizzard was correct, the vast majority of people taking advantage of it would not be new players but returning players wanting to play the new expansion but not wanting to spend ages catching up to their currently max-level friends. But those are not everybody, there are at least a few new players who will upon buying warlords of draenor receive their free boost to 90 – and this post is meant to help you figure out what to do first when you hit that level out of the myriad of features that become available.

When patch 6.0 brings the new level 90 starter zone a lot of this will be outdated but that could be months away – so I thought I'd give some suggestions for those boosting in the meantime. The first piece of advice I'll give however is – don't boost right away. This may be tempting but I highly reccomend you don't do it. Level normally until you hit level 60 first. This has several advantages – firstly you will learn some of the basics of how your class works in easier content – secondly you will get your professions automatically maxed out in skill level (I highly reccomend taking gathering professions – at least initially since this will max out your ability to make quick and easy money at maxlevel). That saves a lot of time and gold later on.

But now you're at level 90 – you have a tiny amount of gold to your name and you're in a strange place. The place you find yourself is your faction's shrine in the vale of eternal blossoms. This is your current gaming capital and in there you will find access to a bank, reforge, item-upgrade and transmog as well as profession trainers and – if you're an engineer even an auction house. Near the door should be people whose mouse-over icon shows a scroll-like object, if you talk to them they will conveniently mark the location of whatever you're seeking on your map for you.

You will also immediately see a quest pop up called "A Flash of Bronze" – pick it up, but don't go do it just yet, there's a bit of preparation you want to do first. Start by visiting and look up your class and spec. Right now you're not yet interested in everything (you will be once you start gearing up) but your most immediate concern is spell priority. You have a ton of new spells – noxxic will tell you which ones to use and when to use them. Secondly have a look at their reccomended talents and glyphs and acquire those – talent setting is essentially free, glyphs will cost you some gold so you may have to postpone actually doing those for a day or so to make some money first. It's senseless to waste gold on gems and enchants for the low level gear you have now – generaly you will want to start doing those only when for gear with an item-level of at least 496. However do have a look at stat priorities as these will tell you which gear items to seek out and, later, what stats to reforge (this is going away in the next patch but for now it's a critical thing). 

What I suggest you do next is jump on a flying mount (you get flying skill for pandaria automatically when you boost) and fly south into the valley of four winds, find half-hill (your map is very valuable for this) and head down. There's a ton of quests there and you may want to do some for money/fun but right now pick up the quest from Farmer Yoon and the quest "So you want to be a chef" from the market. The latter is the start to your fastest and cheapest way to learn cooking skills. The former begins the process of unlocking your own private farm – you will clear boulders, plant your first crop and harvest it – initially you will have four plots to farm in but if you keep coming back daily to harvest and do the daily quests available here you will rapidly unlock more. Farming provides you cooking and other profession materials with great ease and will help you make money and learn your class against relatively easy enemies. You will also begin to acquire some valor points. Later when you have enough you'll use these to buy some 522 gear for slots you had bad luck in, and to upgrade gear you already have (don't waste it on anything below 522 however).

Once your done with the basic farming here, pick up the quest "Stranger in a strange land" from the guy near the inn, this will start you on the quest to get your legendary cloak – which is the best back armor in the game right now. The process takes a long time so you may as well start early. 

Now you're ready to go get some better gear on the timeless ilse – go hand in the Flash of Bronze quest you got right at the start and you'll be transported there, pick up the flight point right away. You almost certainly want to do this with a friend or a guildy as your current gear will struggle against the mobs on timeless. Start by picking up the chests on the island – there's an excellent guide to their locations here. Then pick up the daily quests and do those – all together this will get you a lot of ilevel 496 gear tokens – which produce gear appropriate for your class and spec and you can get most slots upgraded to this level in about 2 hours. For the quests that require killing 20 elites and getting stones – I reccomend slaughtering the gulp frogs, they are not very hard to kill, there's a lot in one place and it goes quickly.

You'll be coming back to timeless isle every day for a while as you gear up further, but at this stage you are ready to start dipping your toes into tougher content. Do not qeue for LFR yet – you aren't geared high enough and you haven't had time to learn tactics. Start by running scenarios and then heroic scenarios (For a nice bonus fly back to where you first handed in the Flash of Bronze quest) and do the scenario quests there first as this will help. Once you're a bit higher you will be grouping up with 2 friends weekly to run the heroic scenarios for fast valor.

At this stage you will have gotten a fair idea how your class works, and your gear is improving. Now you have a few options available, you can play the older content on thundering isle and the incursion. You can acquire honor point gear and do pvp or focus on raid gear for pve. If you feel ready – you may be good to try some LFR raids – start by heading to youtube and watching fight videos on the raid you're about to qeue for – learn the boss mechanics and what will be expected of you in the raid   first, then qeue up. LFR is the easiest level of raiding so you should be okay if you have a decent group and did your bit to study first. You will also be guaranteed gear drops in the lower level LFRs some of which will be upgrades and the rest you can sell for good money.

As your gear goes up – you can run tougher LFRs and start getting ready to run the flex and normal mode raids with your guild – and this is where the big next levels of gear start to drop.