Twink Essentials

As I’m going through building my army of level 19 twinks, it’s clear that there are some things every twink needs, regardless of class.

First, there are certain skills everyone takes:

Expert First Aid (skill level 225) allows you to use Heavy Runecloth Bandages, which heal an insane 2000 health over 8 seconds. Even for twinks, this means gaining a heal-to-full ability once a minute. You need to have a higher level medic actually make the bandages, but your twink isn’t your main.

Engineering or Fishing at 150 are required to gain the two universal head slot items: Green Tinted Goggles or the Lucky Fishing Hat. The Lucky Fishing Hat is a bit more difficult to get, as it requires you to fish in (but not win) the Stranglethorn Fishing Extravaganza, but the Goggles are an acceptable alternative until you can win it.

It goes without saying that both professions should be chosen and maxed out as early as possible. You can get started at level 5 and reach 150 at level 10. The gathering professions all convey excellent bonuses at this level, which they do not in the endgame. Amusingly enough, the professions that are worst for endgame raiders are best for twinks, which just goes to show balance is a tricky thing to achieve.

In addition to those skills, you will also want several stacks of the following consumables:

The Heavy Runecloth Bandages require someone with First Aid 280 to make, but the healing they return is awesome.

Rumsey Rum Black Label is the twink food buff of choice. The +15 Stamina boost translates into +150 health, or 10-15% increase. That’s insanely good. Consider that to have that kind of effectiveness on my level 80 Warlock, food buffs would have to grant at least +200 Stamina. So yes, this rum has quite a kick.

It costs 2s at the Southshore Inn in the Escape From Durnholde Keep instance in the Caverns of Time, and you should fill your bags with this drink.  If you don’t have this up at all times I don’t know what to tell you.

Healing Potions should be a staple of every adventurer’s kit, twink or not. These aren’t as good as a bandage but can help out in a tight spot.

Because the Rumsey Rum overwrites any cooked food buff you might obtain, you don’t need anything but the standard vendor food and drink. I prefer Melon Juice and Dwarven Mild cheese, but it really doesn’t matter what you eat — you could have Tigule and Foror’s Strawberry Ice Cream, if that’s what your twinks like.  If you find yourself in a position where you have the luxury to eat and drink in WSG, do so.

And yes, it’s good to have both available even if you don’t need mana. You will get a pug healer who forgets to bring something to drink.

There are plenty of consumables which are a good idea to have, but are hardly essential. Lesser Mana Potions, Big Bronze Bombs, and Explosive Sheep all have their places in my bags, but not everyone needs or wants them.

(Who am I kidding? Explosive Sheep are like the best thing, EVER! Blow up sneaking rogues with sheep!)

I count a lot of the low level elixirs and potions, like the Elixirs of Minor Accuracy, Firepower, Strong Troll’s Blood, Defense, and Lesser Agility, in this category. They are all very good buffs, but which one you should stack depends on your class, role, and if you have a close personal relationship with an alchemist. Even then, because potions and elixrs don’t persist after death, keeping these buffs up can get expensive, fast.

One final type of consumables bear mention: temporary item enhancements, like Heavy Sharpening Stones, Heavy Weightstones, and Minor Wizard Oil. These add an additional enchantment (called an imbue) to your weapon that either increases your weapon damage or spellpower. This imbue lasts through death, so is worth keeping up throughout a match. The catch is that they can’t be used on heirloom weapons, some of which are really great weapons for twinks.  If you aren’t using an heirloom weapon, you should have a few stacks of these items and macro their application into your buff sequence to make sure you don’t forget to apply it.

The final essental element to twinking is a good attitude, but that’s a post unto itself.

What about you? What items do you consider essential? Please let me know if I’ve missed something below in the comments.

Warrior Twink Introduction: Cynderblock

I was surprised at how fun Warriors are to play. I mean, they have no spells per se, no healing, are entirely dependant on gear – but they can also be completely disruptive, formidable opponents on the battlefield.  And the joys of Charge are visceral and deep; rushing across the field to stun your opponent, closing the gap in the blink of an eye, is a heck of a lot of fun.

I rolled a Warrior a bit on a lark; I knew I had the heirlooms for one, having outfitted a DK and Paladin earlier. I was a little bored with rolling humans, so I picked a dwarven lass with red braids and a long ponytail. And because I was feeling especially whimsical, I named her Cynderblock. Obviously not her dwarven name, Cynderblock had all the right connotations for an unstoppable tank while following my Durotan naming convention.  I don’t go with non-realistic names very often, but for a twink I can usually justify it to myself.  In this case, it’s a custom from her clan to not reveal their true names to non-dwarves.

Hey, that works, right?

So I’ve had an absolute blast playing Cynderblock in both the leveling bracket of WSG, where she has topped some damage charts since level 12, and PuG tanking some instances for gear, which is OMG SCARY for a DPS/PVPer like me.  I have tanked on my Druid before, but it was always with friends and guildmates.  Tanking with a PuG is an entirely different ballgame.  In some ways I’m glad that I’ve frozen my experience, so that I can really get to understand how to use the abilities I have in some detail.  I saw this on my DK, Cynwulf, who was an awesome tank at level 59 because I knew exactly what abilities did what and how to use them to keep the group alive.  Frozen XP gives you time to really learn the abilities you have.

I’m really glad I’m on Twitter, because all you have to do is admit your own cluelessness about a class and you can have experienced experts give you advice right away.  I like playing my Warrior, but I don’t know a lot about tanking, so I asked and got the following advice:

  1. Charge
  2. Thunder Clap
  3. Demo Shout for AOE threat
  4. Stack Sunder Armor (tab-sunder-tab-sunder)
  5. Heroic Strike when you have > 30 Rage
  6. Thunder Clap liberally
  7. Taunt when needed
  8. Mocking Blow for the OH SHIT moments
  9. Shield Bash for spellcaster interrupts

I was pointed to the excellent So You Want To Be A Prot Warrior guide over at Panzercow’s blog, which is going into my bookmarks now.  Yessss… a clue, I have it!  I cannot wait to get into the DF queue tonight and start running for some gear!  (First up, Deadmines, because I need the Chausses of Westfall.)

Right.  I know that I started off saying I was going to be twinking for WSG, but … c’mon!  Dungeon Finder!  Tanking Deadmines and SFK!  It’s fun too!

You’re not buying it, are you?

Oh well.  Yes, I like tanking.  I enjoy setting the pace of the group and being the one in the center of attention.  Twinking isn’t just about PvP, though it is often about it — it’s about playing as best as you can at a certain level of play, and that includes PvE too.  There’s no reason I can’t have the best of both worlds.

So I will.  :-)

Right.  Where was I?  Oh, Cynderblock.  Her gear is coming along nicely — I’ve switched out the Reforged Truesilver Champion for the Night Watch Shortsword / Redbeard Crest sword-and-board combo, with Crusader and Stamina enchants.  I’ve got the Blackened Defias Armor, which has awesome stats even if it is leather, and Thorbia’s Gauntlets.

A nice surprise was in the Satchel of Helpful Things: the Earthbound Girdle of the Champion, with +5 Strength, +5 Stamina, and +5 Defense Rating.  I think the …of the Bear might be better for WSG (+6 Strength, +6 Stamina).  One of the reasons I want to run a lot of instances is for the great cloak and belt options available with the random dungeon, so I can try out different stat combinations.

Anyhow.

This is my Warrior.  There are many like her, but this one is mine.

And I have a lot of fun playing her.

Fire vs Frost is the Wrong Question

So Cynwyn is in Shadowfang Keep, right? She’s spamming Frostbolts and her DPS is really sucking. I mean, say what you will about DPSers looking at Recount in the middle of a fight, but really, the tank shouldn’t be out-DPSing me here. I’m like, listen, little Frost Mage, have some Mage pride and do some damage, and she’s all, I’m casting them as fast as I can, STOP JUDGING ME. And I’m all, cast faster! And she’s all, you didn’t give me Improved Frostbolt, so unless someone pops Heroism, this is as good as it gets.

No, really. Don’t you have these conversations with your characters? No?

Hmmm. Likely story.

So I start searching around for something to make up for Frostbolt’s dismal performance. Arcane Missles are there, but they suck mana like blood elves at a mana picnic. Fire Blast has too much of a CD, but wait… didn’t I use to have something that hurled big balls of fire… I’ve got that mapped somewhere, right? On the … T key? Odd. Why is it over there? Let’s give it a try.

Woah. Boom! Heh.

Suddenly, the worgen were dying a LOT faster. Wow. Those Fireballs might have been slow, but they sure packed a wallop. Cynwyn’s DPS soared along with her renewed Mage pride, and she was gracious enough to not call me a noob.

There was an important lesson in that episode for me, and it wasn’t just that Fire burns. It was that I’d brought a concept from later in the game — talent tree specialization — and applied it waaay to early. Level 19 is too soon to have invested enough points in any tree to have picked up their defining features.

Furthermore, a leveling character is working towards a specialization and doesn’t want to respec every few levels to optimize for this set of abilities. A twink, however, has her full set of abilities right now, and will never get past the second level of talents.

In other words, a leveling character is looking down the talent tree, picking some goals and working towards them. A twink needs to look across the trees at just the first two rows and take those talents that suit their current roles. The view must be horizontal, not vertical.

So my real mistake was thinking Cynwyn was a Frost Mage. She’s not. She’s a Mage. Period. Frostbolts, Fireballs, Arcane Explosions — I have to start using all the tools available to me and not get stuck in an endgame mindset. Just as there are no Destruction or Demonology Warlocks at this level, the Frost, Fire, and Arcane labels do not apply yet.

I started experimenting on that SFK run with spells I didn’t use that often. For AoE mobs, hitting them with Arcane Explosion until my mana ran low, followed by a Frost Nova and hasty retreat, gave me huge DPS numbers on trash mobs. (It also left me /oom, but it was worth it.) Arcane Missles or Fire Blast worked well on mobs who were dying quickly, and Fireballs were the way to go on bosses. Frostbolts – especially level 1 Frostbolts – were great for stopping runners.

When I teleported out of that dungeon, my first stop was to the Mage trainer to unlearn my current talent build and look at the trees, sideways. I’m not sure if I’m happy with the build I have right now (2/2 Improved Fire Blast, 3/3 Frostbite, 2/3 Ice Floes, 3/3 Permafrost) but I’ll take her back in to the Gulch and let you know how it works out. I want to see if Permafrost is as potent as I think it is.

And as for Fireballs?

Expect to see a lot more of them in the future.

Warlock Twink Introduction: Cynwine

It’s not really a secret that I don’t like WSG on my level 80 Warlock main. I started playing it a few months into Wrath, when it was dominated by pre-nerf Death Knights. While I found I could do tremendous amounts of damage, I died so often that felt like I really wasn’t contributing much, and we tended to lose. I got very frustrated by the whole battleground, and pretty much spent my time in Alterac Valley instead.

It was actually surprising to me when I took my Death Knight into the Gulch. Yes, you could totally own the battlefield as a DK. I got achievements on Cynwulf that I never thought I’d see on Cynwise, sometimes with ridiculous ease. And I won. A lot.

This kind of lopsided experience led me to consider two possibilities; either Warlocks just sucked in Warsong Gulch, or I sucked at playing one there. I mostly believed the latter.

(You may ask why I didn’t consider that DKs were so overpowered that using them as a comparison was foolish. I did consider it, but since they were dominating PvP I thought it a moot point. Either you were able to handle the hordes of DKs running around, or you couldn’t. I’ve mellowed since then.)

So when I started making twinks, I thought a lot about my past experiences and said, here’s a bugaboo that I can’t seem to get past on my main. Maybe if I can roll back to a simpler time I can learn to master this battleground.

I don’t know how to play other classes nearly as well as I play a Warlock. But this is the one place where I just don’t play well. The challenge is not learning a new class, it’s learning an old class a different way to avoid mistakes you made the first time.

So that challenge to myself is why I rolled Cynwine.

Her name uses another Anglo-Saxon suffix (-wine), one comfortably close in spelling and sound to Cynwise, so as to make the class apparent. Oddly, it is really more similar in meaning to -wyn, but I figured that worked, too.  I considered a joking, fun name — yes, I do do that, as you’ll see — but it just didn’t seem right. Warlocking is serious business. I have a score to settle with Warsong Gulch, and this is my instrument.

(She also has the same face and hairstyle of my main, just in case someone missed what I’m doing here.)

The first ten levels breezed by, and not just because of the heirlooms. While there are plenty of low-level spells that I haven’t used in months, they’re familiar old friends. (Hello, Curse of Agony! I haven’t seen you in a while. How’s the wife and kids?)

While the spells are familiar, the playstyle is decidedly NOT. Deep Destruction plays at range, with huge combos that destroy the opponent before they get close. Deep Affliction plays very nimbly, drain-tanking, constantly moving while the DoTs take life from others and give it to you.

At level 10-19 you aren’t really anything but a Warlock. You have some dots, some weak nukes, some drains.  You do a lot of pet tanking, some fearing, and lots and lots of dotting.  You’re not quite yet strong enough for serious drain-tanking, you can’t chain nuke for very long, and your pets lack the punch they’ll develop later.  But all the elements are there, in a strange mishmash of the later styles.

PvE is easy: send in the Voidwalker, dot ‘em up (CoA, Corruption, Immolate if you like), and wand ‘em down, drain ‘em if you’re low.  PvP is a bit more interesting because Fear is more potent due to your opponents lacking the defenses of later levels, but it’s still a similar strategy.  You probably should flip your CoA/Corruption cast rotation and put Corruption on first in PvP to start front-loading damage. (You’re not worried about threat, after all.)

All of this sounds good, doesn’t it?

Yeah.  I’d be lying if I didn’t say I’m struggling with it, a bit.

It’s not the execution, or that I’m fumbling around trying to figure out what I should do.  Each spell I learn gets placed into a familiar spot on my keyboard, each ability gets macroed in the appropriate sequence.  It’s not that leveling is hard: multiple mobs are a breeze.  DPSing instances with the new LFG is great — I handle it much better than I ever did on Cynwise.  PvP in the leveling bracket is predictable, though some nights are better than others.

No, instead I struggle with motivation and enjoyment.  There are times that I’ve had a lot of fun on Cynwine, but they’re few and far between compared to any of the other twinks I’m leveling now.  The grim efficiency with which I play her lacks the delight I’ve had freezing things in place with my mage, or charging with my warrior, or sneaking about on my rogue.

In some ways this reflects my recent attitude towards my main.  After months of playing her almost exclusively, it’s just not as much fun as it was before.  It’s now a matter of execution, of doing the right things at the right time.  And to be honest?  Ruthless efficiency can get kinda boring.

I debated whether I should talk about my motivation behind rolling each twink. I think in this case it’s definitely the right thing to do, because it will explain a lot of my future behavior towards this toon.  I am conflicted about this warlock, this grim girl with the green goggles who exists solely to settle a score with a battleground.

I play to have fun.  And I think I can have fun playing her.

But we also have a job to do together.

Mage Gear: Spidersilk Drape

I’m about 2/3s of the way complete gearing up Cynwyn in BiS or near-BiS gear. The great thing about building a twink is that the gear grind ends, eventually. There is a finite amount of gear available for your level, and it changes very infrequently.

(It will be interesting to see what Cataclysm does to current twinking equipment. Kinda exciting, actually!)

There are three recent changes to gear that mages will be interested in: new Spidersilk tailoring patterns, heirloom items, and rewards from the daily random dungeon satchel. Any guide that doesn’t take these into account is outdated.

I’ve noticed as I look at various twinking gear lists that though there are some slots with clear BiS items, there are others where it’s not so clear. Just because someone puts together a list and puts it on the internet doesn’t mean you’re excused from using your grey matter.

I’m just saying!

So, instead of throwing up a gear list at the start, I’m going to talk about why I’m choosing certain items, and then see how the gear list looks at the end.

I talk a lot about stat priority on CBM, but gear at level 19 is much more simply (and poorly) itemized than at level 80. Just because something has worthless stats doesn’t mean it’s not BiS for a lot of classes, and Spidersilk Drape is definitely one of those items. It’s long, it’s blue, it has Stamina, and it has Hit. Sexy, sexy Hit, which is so very rare at this level. This easily-available crafted cloak is good for offensive casters, rogues, hunters… Well, I can say that it’s good for them, but I don’t really know.

I worry sometimes about my devotion to the Church of Hit. The chance to miss someone of equal level in WoW is 4%, or about the same as rolling a 1 on a 20-sided die. To be safe in PvP you should have a little extra to counter elven racials and class abilities. I don’t think any if those class abilities are even available at level 19, so Alliance casters and Horde melée classes need 6%, while everyone else just needs 4%. And this one cloak supplies about half of what you need.

So, if you’re like me and subscribe to the philosophy that Hit outweighs every other stat until you reach the cap, then Spidersilk Drape is clearly BiS. If there were enough items in other slots with Hit, you might be able to swap this out for the cloak that comes as a reward for the new LFG random dungeon Satchel of Helpful Things, which swaps out Hit for Intellect.

But since there’s not a lot of Hit to go around, I feel pretty comfortable going with Spidersilk Drape for my mage’s cloak.

Holy moly. I hope I don’t have a post to write about every. single. piece. of gear. We’ll never finish if I do!

Mage Twink Introduction: Cynwyn

Welcome to Green Tinted Goggles. I’m Cyn, of Cynwise’s Battlefield Manual.

I started this weblog as a separate place for me to document my adventures in twinking. Over the course of my PvP experience I’ve come to really respect the attitudes of some of the twinks I’ve met, and I also enjoy the prospect of having characters who aren’t part of the gear grind. One level 80 main is enough. Seriously.

I decided to go with a separate site, even though this is still about PvP in the World of Warcraft, because twinking is a very personal effort. I try to write CBM to be broadly applicable. The posts that I envision here are more like journal entries, which – while interesting to some, I hope – I’m not going to even try to make universally appealing. This is a journal of someone trying to make some twinks.

Also, I should mention that I only have the vaguest clue what I’m doing. On CBM I write what I know. Here, I’m writing about what I’m figuring out.

With that in mind, let me introduce my first twink, Cynwyn, a level 19 Frost Mage. Cynwyn is the third Mage I’ve played. Her name comes from my current naming convention on Durotan, where all my public alts start with Cyn-, and my very first character, Danwyn, rolled on Vek’nilash all those moons ago. (It helps that Cynwyn is a legitimate Anglo-Saxon name, too.)

I know there’s a lot of supposed rivalry between Mages and Warlocks, but if you let something like that stop you from trying new things, I don’t know what to tell you. Wait, yes I do: don’t. Because you might find you really like those things.

Such was the case on my return to magery. It was prompted by two posts on leveling a Mage: one by Christian Belt, and the other by Jason Griffith (@psynister). These articles really presented the Mage as a fun class to play, and since I’m a big fan of fun, I rolled ‘wyn.

I was not disappointed. I loved playing a Mage. I sent her several heirloom items to make the early levels fly by, and fly by they did. Here’s what I sent.

The rest I filled in with vendor whites and them crafted gear. Cynwise, my main, is a tailor, so it was trivial to make some cloth off-pieces to round out the outfit. My basic thought was to stack Spellpower whenever possible, then Intellect, then Stamina. Some Hit is always good, but hard to find at these levels. I have mixed trinkets for three reasons: getting Health back is always good, Haste is almost always good, and while I gave two melée trinkets, I only have the one caster one right now.

Leveling ‘wyn was a real pleasure. I found the Mage much easier to play the third time around, especially since I’m able to move around much more fluidly than my first clumsy attempts. My growth as a player was really apparent in the ease with which I burned up those first 15 levels. What took me days only took a few hours, at best. It really was a lot of fun.

I pretty much followed all of Psynister’s advice with respect to talent builds, glyphs, and rotations, so I’ll just point you over there for more info.

I started playing WSG around level 15 and adored it, to the point of deciding to stop once I hit level 19. And that’s where the story really begins, because while leveling gear is very, very good for leveling, it’s less good for twinking.

More on that in the next installment.