Saturday, August 29, 2015

I Dreamed a Dream of the Americas



Yesterday, while going about my normal business of gaming and watching my various email and Twitter feeds, I received a Tweet that really got me thinking:

Come to Vegas and leave a winner! Pick up epic loot by attending the Americas Championship.

What was being advertised here is, of course, the Heroes of the Storm Americas Championship. I have never attended an event like this - never been to Blizzcon, or Pax; never gone to any of the League of Legends events; not once plugged in in person to the community of people I am trying to reach out to by blogging about gaming. And here's the thing about this upcoming event - admittance to the event is free. Blizzard is really working hard to get the word out about their entry into the world of eSports. And this, of course, got me speculating about attending...is there any way I could go?

Then, of course, reality sinks in. Sure, I could go to Vegas. I would have to hitchhike to Vegas and back, sleep in a tent in a park, and forage around in dumpsters for food - but, hey, at least I could get in to the event for free! Just not something that is really going to happen. My discussions with Lor confirmed this - there is a list of family members I could ask for help with paying for this, but I guess I would be wiser to wait to draw water from that well when the car breaks or the roof caves in or something. Not exactly an emergency, wanting to attending a gaming championship/convention in Vegas.

There is, however, another avenue available. Several of the people in the gaming community not only blog, but run Twitch streams on a daily basis, letting the Internet watch them as they game. These channels are then supported by people who subscribe to the channel and/or donate. This requires quite a bit of setup - it isn't something that I could do in time to get me to this year's HotS event in Vegas next month. Also, I am not a professional gamer, so I would have no appeal in that respect. But I do have the one thing that all those who run successful Twitch feeds agree that you need: I already talk to myself constantly while gaming. Providing content would not be a problem.

It is merely an idea at this point - I would need to get some streaming software and learn how to use it, scrounge up a dirt-cheap webcam and second monitor, and commit myself to several months of sitting in my office talking to myself on a daily basis while no one was listening. But to be able to plug in at a higher level would be really cool. It is something I will be thinking about in the days to come.

Musing,

- Hawkwind

Friday, August 28, 2015

The Warlock Dilemna

Everyone, meet Xanthias:


Xanthias (yes, named after the Piers Anthony novels) is both the most visited and least-used of all my characters. As my Auction House toon, he gets to spend lots of time walking back and forth between the mailbox and the AH, in an endless profit-making circle. He is also our guild's main Enchanter and Tailor, so he also gets to disenchant random magic items and make bags. (TONS of bags.) What Xanth doesn't get to do is, you know, adventure. 

Don't be fooled by the nice looking gear he is wearing: the Deathsilk Armor set he wears he created himself. The mighty Key of the Planes he wields? Made for him by Bullcephalus, my Inscriptionist Shaman. Even his current status is a bit of a myth - looking through his achievements, he has completed 50 quests in the Ghostlands, 55 quests in Silverpine Forest and then...nothing. I decided early on that he wasn't working for me and relegated him to Auction House duties. He made level 80 only on the basis of a level boost from buying Mists of Pandaria. He has earned nothing on his own.

Why, you ask?

Because I don't understand caster classes at all.

Casters, Clothies, Squishies - whatever you may call 'em, I don't get 'em. The very idea of standing as far away as possible and hoping desperately that I kill whatever is charging at me before they knock me down and eat my face is simply anathema to me. Gimme some armor, a weapon, maybe a shield - even a Hunter pet and a bow has worked for me in the past. But standing around in a dress and wiggling my fingers while hoping that nothing walks up behind me...it has just not worked for me so far in-game. And I have been playing on and off since the game launched in 2004, so it isn't like I haven't had some time to get used to the idea.

So, I have resigned poor Xanthias to standing around in the Valley of Spirits, emptying mailboxes and filling Auction House listings, and, since he had nothing else to do, running my daily pet battle quests for me. Seemed harmless enough. Then, yesterday, something unexpected happened:


I should've paid attention to the fact that I was earning Experience with every pet battle. I should've seen it coming. I should've kept an eye on my XP bar. But I landed next to a Huge Toad to add it to my pet collection, and after the battle was over: Level 85.

I am now "qualified" to go level in Pandaria.

I have no idea what to do.

See all those buttons on the action bars in the picture above? I have no idea what 90% of them do. Any time I am forced into combat I cast the first 3 spells on my opponent and then hide trembling in a corner, hoping my Voidwalker can finish the job. A spell effect called "Nightfall" occasionally surrounds Xanthias in a glowing black nimbus. I don't know what that means, or what it does. I have four glowing shards floating around my head, which I guess are the remnants of the old "Soul Shards" that Warlocks used to have to carry around in bags, like Hunter ammo (Both now thankfully gone from the game.) I don't know how these things are used, or how to create new ones.

Lor, who plays nothing but casters, finds the whole situation quite humorous. I don't know, seems like she could be more supportive. After all, I would never make fun of her if she was trying to figure out how to tank...

Yeah, I couldn't even type that with a straight face. But the question remains - what the heck do I do with Xanthias now? Seems kind of tacky to get him all the way to 85 via pet battling, then park him back on Auction House Row now that he could be working where the real Pet Battle action is. But, do I really want to commit myself to learning the class mechanics of a class I don't even really like? Can I force myself to be...a Squishy?

Anyone out there with a copy of "Warlocking for Dummies"?.

Thrust Upon the Horns of Indecision,

- Hawkwind

Thursday, August 27, 2015

15: The Dream

Remember long, long ago (yesterday) when I theorized how funny it would be if my new Hearthstone account managed to tie my old main's monthly performance?


So, yeah - that's done. But I have also discovered where the tipping point is - where casual, free-to-play players exit the rankings and those who are spending some serious money on this game enter. It is exactly at the above point - Level 17 in the rankings.

Understanding the mechanics helps - beginning at level 25, getting to level 20 requires nothing more than patience and perseverance, due to the simple fact that your losses do not cost you any points in the rankings until you have passed level 20.  Getting your level 20 "I participated this month" new card back art is merely a matter of waiting until you have collected the requisite wins while ignoring your losses. But beyond that point things get more complicated.

During my attempts yesterday to push past level 17 with my Mage deck, relying on skill and wits and Basic cards alone (ok, and one Blizzard card I got in a free booster pack), I was consistently surprised by what happened at the cutoff between Level 18 (Top 50% of players) and Level 17 (Top 45% of players.)

At level 18 I was still seeing things like Bloodsail Raider and Ironfur Grizzly in decks.

As of level 17, I was suddenly seeing things like decks including Alexstraza, Kel'Thuzad and Ragnaros. All in the same deck, mind you.

It became pretty obvious where the rubber meets the road as far as running into players who have spent a LOT of money and/or time crafting their decks.

It is kind of a bummer for me, as I had really hoped to earn my way back up to level 15 for the month (top 30%) and STAY there. but it appears that is not going to happen this month. Right this second I am winning as many games as I am losing at Rank 17, which implies I have gone as far as this deck can take me. I will probably just Arena my way to the end of the month, building up my collection on Hawkwind and see what new ideas September brings.

As an aside, though The Grand Tournament has kind of taken over the blog for a bit here, Misdirected has not suddenly turned into an "All Hearthstone, All The Time" channel. I do have some articles lined up for World of Warcraft, maybe a couple for Diablo - might even stick my head into Heroes of the Storm this week so I can try Leoric while he is on his free trial period.

So, you know, more like the "All Blizzard, All The Time" channel.

Cheers!

- Hawkwind

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

TGT: The First 48

The Grand Tournament has arrived, and boy has my World of Warcraft gold earning suffered as a result.

It has been a couple days of chaotic madness. On my main account, I threw away a week's worth of earnings to purchase a few card packs. By far, the best expansion pack was this one:


...giving me a damage boost for my Paladin decks to use in combination with Muster for Battle, some desperately needed early board presence for Druid, and an inflatable Lowly Squire that can be slotted into pretty much any deck. It also included a Warrior 3/2 taunter that gives another minion taunt, if you are into that kind of thing - my Warrior knowledge is well below average, so I have no strong opinion on this card yet.

This did all come at a price, however - I spent no funds on Arena battles on my main, and thus ran out of steam for the month at Rank 17. I had hoped to make it back to Rank 15, but it was not to be. My chops are not quite good enough to overcome my lightweight decks just yet.

On my new account, things were different. I spent the delay in the launch yesterday finishing up my basic leveling of all 9 classes, collecting the "Got the Basics" and "Chicken Dinner" achievements in the process. 

                       


When all was said and done, I was left with just over 700 gold. I stayed true to my commitment to the Hawkwind account, and spent no money on boosters, instead launching my first Arena match-up. I was handed a Paladin deck whose draw included 2 Muster for Battle and 2 Truesilver Champion, topped off by a Sea Giant. The combo of direct-able weapon damage and a flood of early minions followed by the Giant gave me an excellent result, going 5 - 3. Even better was the reward screen:


For my 150 gold entry fee I got a TGT booster pack worth 100, plus 55 gold - leaving me 5 gold ahead total. Topped off with a Stormforged Axe that I can slot into any Shaman deck, it was a profitable experience, for once.

My second run through Arena was not as successful, with a VERY low-powered card draw that left me with half my Paladin deck in the 2-3 mana casting range.  Essentially a Paladin Zoo deck, it did not perform nearly as well, leaving me with a 2-3 record, another TGT pack, and 45 Dust. Given that I haven't crafted anything yet, I still have the "Crafting Time" achievement waiting for me to give me another 95 Dust, leaving me in a position to craft my first Rare whenever I decide I need one.

Overall, a successful run on my secondary account, leaving me with 2 Arena matches completed and enough gold to run 4 more. I strongly suspect that what is now my secondary Hearthstone account will turn into my primary - we'll find out next month. I will craft a few basic decks and see how far I can get on my Hawkwind account before the end of the month - it would be a blast to wind up tying my record on my main account using no crafted cards or purchased boosters whatsoever.

Meanwhile, I think I hear my empty Auction House and bulging mailbox in World Warcraft calling me...

Cheers!

- Hawkwind

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

The economics of blogging

(Not exactly a gaming post.)

In my daily meanderings around the Internet, I never fail but to see at least one ad talking about "Making Thousands of Dollars From Home!!!" Further investigation usually involves buying someone's guide (for $9.99, or $18.88, or whatever) on how to turn your blog into an income stream. Those making the money are those selling the guides, right?

Other than that, I've never thought too much about it. Any of the blogs I frequent that actually run ads, I will give 'em a click when I think about it. Sometimes it is a product (usually a game) I am really interested in, other times it is Gold Investments or Private Investigations. But, you know, one click and I have contributed something, right? It's not like anyone is gonna really get rich doing this, right?

Earlier this month, Misdirected got an email from Google instructing me on how to set up Ad Words on the blog. After reviewing my options I picked the least obtrusive ad I could find and slapped it up on the right side of the page - you can probably see it as you are reading this. We average about 40 visitors a day nowadays, so I was curious to see what impact, if any, this actually had. 

On average, Misdirected seems to collect about $.25 a click on these ads. Sometimes a little less, occasionally a little more. Also on average, about one in ten visitors seems to click an ad each day. The math is so simple that even someone who never made it past remedial algebra (like me) can do it - the blog seems to average about a dollar a day. In the 14 days I've been running ads, the blog has brought in just over $13.

Now, allow me to theorize for a moment. Let's guess that we remain at 40-ish readers a day for a year. Let's further theorize that we maintain our 1-in-10 average for ad clicks. After a year of operation, the blog will have brought in about (wait for it while I grab a calculator) $365.

That is a year's worth of World of Warcraft subscriptions for my household.

That is over 300 Hearthstone Booster Packs.

In Real World terminology, that is more than I received from my yearly Social Security cost of living adjustment last year.

So, to all of you who have been clicking on those ads - THANK YOU! You may be single-handedly supporting my gaming habit. If I had realized that the ads were worth that much to the bloggers I follow, I would have been more diligent about clicking while visiting. Make sure that you also are supporting the bloggers you follow - not just Misdirected! Once or twice a week, click on an ad! It will cost you less time and effort than sitting through a television commercial. And it may be what keeps your favorite writers, well, writing.

Gratefully,

- Hawkwind


Monday, August 24, 2015

In Line for the Tournament

It is 5:00 AM on August 24, and I have already fired up Hearthstone once to see if the party has started yet.

Nope, not yet.

According to the Battle.net launcher, The Grand Tournament expansion launches today, and I am ready. I completely missed the launch event for the Goblins and Gnomes expansion, just logged on one day later that week and found I had 3 free packs waiting for me to get rolling with. This time, I have decided, I will be there at the front of the line - ready to charge in and take a look around once they flip the switch.

No freebies this time, sadly - there will be no free Grand Tournament card packs made available just for showing up. I've saved a few hundred gold so I can take a look at a few packs, then will get back to my weekly Arena grinding to try to add some more to my collection. But I actually went so far as to try an entirely different approach as well - I have sort of laid the ViperScho alt account to rest, and have started an entirely new alt account for Hearthstone - Hawkwind!

The theory here is simple - I feel like I have made tons of mistakes in both of my current accounts - I've wasted gold I didn't need to, I've blown away cards I shouldn't to craft cards I didn't really need, I've wasted time and energy in poor deck designs. Accordingly, I am giving myself a clean slate - on the Hawkwind account I will not rush. I will not blow away cards from one class to develop decks in another. I will earn cards slowly and deliberately - by Arena play, and by whatever crafting opportunities (not many, I know) come from  disenchanting excess cards. I am undecided as to whether or not I will save gold to unlock the Naxxramas and Blackrock Mountain adventures - there are some super valuable cards available there, but I think I want to focus on playing against other people on the new account. We'll see what develops.

I am little discouraged to hear folks like Trump and Kripparian state that they think there are only a handful of "playable" cards in the new expansion. I am seriously hoping that some analysis and experimentation will find new and unusual way to use the cards and new mechanics being released today. Waiting to get the 10 "playable" cards out of random packs in a 130+ card expansion would be a grind all its own. It may be a little arrogant of me, but I am willing to guess that there are meta-changing cards and combos hidden inside the new expansion that even pros like Trump and Kripparian have not quite discovered yet.

Well, back to the line for me! I am totally thrilled to try deck design using a new starter account fleshed out with a handful of these expansion packs. Nothing like being an early adopter!

Nose pressed against the glass,

- Hawkwind

Update: About an hour after I posted, Hearthstone tweeted the following: "Tournaments are hard work. The Grand Tournament will not begin before 19:00 CEST today. "

Sigh.

Friday, August 21, 2015

The Battle Pet Bonanza

Though I spend plenty of time leveling characters, running instances, and manipulating the Auction House, a pretty large percentage of time I am running Battle Pets. I have no idea what it is about the Pokemon clone built into WoW that makes it so appealing to me, but I truly love it. Before I start talking about my own pets, I would be remiss if I didn't mention the site I use to get like 99.999% of my info about pets when I am looking for it: http://www.warcraftpets.com/. If the info about Battle Pets isn't on this site, I am pretty sure it does not exist. 

My personal pet database is actually not based on pet rarity, or name, or family. Nope, all I really want to know about my pets is who they are best at throwing down with. Accordingly, here is my list of go-to pets for battles against specific pet families (all images borrowed from Warcraft Pets):

vs. Aquatic:  

Yes, the lowly Turkey is my go-to critter when throwing down with Aquatic enemies. Found in the Howling Fjord. I tend to use Peck in slot 1, due to the 66% chance of more damage than Slicing Wind. I use Squawk in slot 2 as my opener to reduce incoming damage. And Food Coma in slot 3 is perfect for necessary escapes, or for transferring in another pet without losing momentum.

vs. Beast:


In the name of full disclosure, I must admit that for a very long time I was relying on Warbot in this slot. But I just love the attack names and animations for Lil' Bling, so I have switched over to using him as my anti-Beast weapon. He can take forever to find, dropping rarely out of Blingtron robots - if so the Warbot is nowadays available from the toy vendors in Org, Stormwind and Dalaran for 500 gold. I run him with SMCKTHT.EXE in slot 1, taking advantage of his native speed, Extra Plating in slot 2 for damage reduction, and alternate between Make It Rain/Launch Rocket in slot 3 depending on what type of enemy I am up against - high attack gets Make It Rain, high health get the Rocket.

vs. Critter:

Not only is the Cheetah Cub my go-to pet for Critter attacks, he tends to be the pet that I use to provide my support for any pet I am power-leveling. They are found everywhere around the Northern Barrens, with a couple of spawn point in the Southern Barrens as well. The RNG Gods did not favor me, and despite multiple tries I was only ever able to find an Uncommon, but used a Beast Stone to turn him into a Rare. I tend to use Pounce in slot 1 as my go-to attack until the enemy is getting close to the low end of their Health. If they need to be brought down just a little more before using the fatal blow, I will then hit them with Rake in slot 2. Otherwise, I go straight to Devour in Slot 3, if they are within range of being executed in the next 2 attacks. This series of attacks can keep the little Cheetah Cub going just about indefinitely, with the generous heal attacked to Devour. In my opinion an under-used and under-valued pet.

vs Dragonkin:


Found along the ridge between Hellfire Peninsula and Terokkar Forest, the Flayer Youngling is my definitive Dragon slayer. Humanoid pets can be such a pain to find and use, especially if you dislike the Christmas-themed ones, as I do. Looking for one with the Speed attribute is important, as 2 of his main abilities count on going first in a round. In slot 1 I tend to use Blitz, counting on his speed to ensure that he gets either 2 or 3 hits in a round. In slot 2 it is tough to beat Focus - a buff that increases Speed, Hit and Critical Strike for a duration of 5 rounds. Slot 3 belongs to Kick - an excellent opener allowing Focus to be applied without damage repercussions, or an excellent closer if you are trying to swap in another pet.

vs. Elemental:

Another pet from the "What a pain to obtain" group, Muckbreath is a reward from the Shattrath Daily fishing quest "Crocolisks in the City". Sometimes. Other times you get one of his siblings, and occasionally you get nothing but fishing gear. Can be quite frustrating. However, once obtained, his combo potential is excellent. You will use Rip in slot 1 as your first attack to get the Bleed running, then use Surge in slot 2 thereafter for guaranteed first-in-turn attacks. But your second attack after starting the bleed should always be Blood in the Water in slot 3 - normally a 50% hit chance, it becomes an auto-hit once the Bleed is running. I have frequently taken out groups of 3 Elemental pets with nothing more than Muckbreath.

vs. Flying: 


Like many pet battlers, I had a heck of a time finding a decent Magic pet to put into the "anti-flying" slot. Unlike most, who are more patient than I, I gave up and switched over to the Nether Faerie Dragon. Found outside Dire Maul in Feralas, the Nether enjoys an excellent suite of anti-flying abilities. In slot 1 I tend to carry Arcane Blast, enjoying the attack power scaling up each turn. Most flying creatures have some kind of attack that leaves them invulnerable for the next turn - this is where I will use Evanescence in slot 2, allowing their follow-up attack to get Dodged automatically. And my first shot of each fight is always Moonfire in slot 3 - 300+ damage plus a flat 10% boost to magic damage attacks thereafter. What is not to like?

vs. Humanoid:


Yes, I know - he requires that you go spend some time in Heroes of the Storm to get him. But Graves is definitely worth the trip, and you will probably find you like Heroes anyway - I certainly do. But currently Graves is what you might refer to as "ridiculously OP". His slot 1 attack, Consume, gives him a heal equaling the amount of damage you do to your target, available every other round. Slot 2 goes to Bonestorm - which damages the whole enemy team at the cost of 10% of Graves' health, easily recovered by using slot 1. Slot 3 goes to Grave Destruction - another "damage the whole enemy team" ability, this time without a 10% self-damage component. Seriously, go spend the required time in Heroes of the Storm and unlock Graves while he is still available. You won't regret it.

vs. Magic:



In the interest of full disclosure, I actually use my Onyxian Whelpling for my anti-Magic chores. However, since she was a reward for those of us who were around at WoW's 5th anniversary, I realize she may not be available to everyone. Accordingly, let's talk about the Infinite Whelpling instead. Easily obtainable outside the Caverns of Time in Tanaris, the Infinite Whelpling actually has a decent suite of anti-Magic abilities. In slot 1 I would place Sleeping Gas, a scaling attack that also includes the chance to knock out your Magic opponent every turn. Slot 2 I would give to Healing Flame - it not only heals for a flat amount, but also for half of the last attack amount. Since Magic opponents can have some heavy hitters, this is invaluable. In slot 3 Darkflame not only provides damage, but also a 50% debuff to any heals your opponent may try in the next 2 rounds.

vs. Mechanical:



More full disclosure: there are very few Mechanical problems that I can't use my Celestial Dragon and his Flamethrower ability to solve. However, I realize not everyone has unlocked 150 unique pets (yet!) and earned the achievement that gives you the Celestial. So, let's talk about the Amethyst Shale Hatchling instead, shall we? Collectable both in Desolace (around Mauradon) and Deepholm, what the Amethyst gives you, other than a solid Mechanical attack, is survivability. Against a Mechanical pet I would be using Burn in slot 1 for the straight Elemental damage, Sticky Web in slot 2, and Stoneskin in slot 3 to add to the length of time he can take punishment. But note that if you change Slot 1 over to the Leech Life ability, tied to Sticky Web, you now have a pet that can be used against just about anyone with a great amount of survivability. The Amethyst Shale Hatchling can be the engine that drives your early pet collection very easily.

vs. Undead:


Yes, really. The lowly squirrel is, paws down, one of the best performers against Undead pets. He is locatable anywhere, really - any starting zone should have an assortment of them, and accordingly there is no reason not to have a Rare Speed/Balance Squirrel within an hour or so of beginning to look for one. Slot 1 will be filled with the anti-Undead Scratch ability.Slot 2, your opener, should be given to Crouch - reducing the amount of damage you take at the hands (claws?) of these unholy creatures. Slot 3 should be a Nut Barrage - while only an 80% hit chance, the DoT lasts for 4 rounds, and continues to add value by damaging whatever pet your opponent happens to have out at the moment.

There you have it, folks - A collection of fairly non-esoteric Battle Pets for you to go forth and do battle with. Enjoy the lost hours you will spend trying to find Rare versions of each!


Gotta Catch 'Em All,

- Hawkwind