About Cynwise

Warlock from Northshire. I write about the battlegrounds of Azeroth, warlockery, auction house tomfoolery, and assorted other Warcraft topics on my various blogs. I love the smell of seaforium in the morning.

Satchels of Helpful Goods Prove REALLY Helpful

A commenter on one of my other sites (leave a link so I can credit you, I see your comments!) pointed me to Tobold’s most recent post, where he brings to light an exploit where goods from the Satchels of Helpful Goods can be used by level 19 characters, and how it’s having a bad impact on the 19 bracket in the EU. I’ve only played a few 19s in the past month in the US, and I didn’t notice anyone overwhelmingly powerful – all my losses were definitely due to getting outplayed – but this is one of those things which can cause big problems for a bracket until it’s fixed.

Blizzard has supposedly fixed the satchel so you can’t get these rewards anymore at low levels, but the gear still remains. Unbalancing? Yes. Likely to remain? Also yes, this doesn’t seem like something that’s easy to fix.

We’ll have to see how big an impact this has on the lower brackets.

Here’s an example of what a toon with the satchel gear looks like. There’s also a blacklist starting on the twinkinfo forums.

F2P Unable To Lock XP

Blizzard has made a fairly major change to the way Starter Edition accounts work today (or in the very recent past) in a hotfix.

Reports are coming in from both the official and twinkinfo forums that F2P accounts who have locked their experience gain at levels below 20 are gaining experience. Even if the experience is manually turned off again, they continue to gain experience.

Some forum posters report that GMs are saying that F2P accounts were never supposed to be able to lock their XP, and that this is the intended behavior. We may see some clarification on this in the next few days, but if you have locked a F2P account below level 20, you might want to watch your XP bar very carefully.

This will likely send all 10, 14, and 19 bracket twinks up to level 20, where they will compete in the 20-24 bracket.

I will start revising the F2P guide to reflect this new update over the next few days.

 

Update: Blue post confirms this was a deliberate change. Vrakthris writes:

Yes, it looks like the option for trial accounts to turn off experience was removed. I don’t believe they were intended to have such an option, so that was fixed.

There have been reports of regular account twinks gaining experience, too. I haven’t been able to duplicate this, but there have been reports in the forums.

The Lure Master Tackle Box

I love the Lure Master Tackle Box on my twinks. It’s practically the perfect twink bag.

The tackle box is a 36 slot bag which holds fishing supplies: lures, hats, fish, poles, and – you guessed it – Rumsey Rum Black Label, the drink of twinks everywhere.

Considering how much of this drink you’ll use on your twinks, you should think about picking up this box. It often is easier to buy off the AH than it is to have it made, because players leveling Engineering will sometimes mass-produce this for skillups.

You can benefit from their haste to dump leveling mats, and profit with a LOT of storage space. Or, you can get 20 Elementium Bars, 4 Handfuls of Obsidium Bolts, and a 475 Engineer, and you’re all set.

Considering how important Fishing is to low level twinks, the Lure Master Tackle Box is an easy upgrade that dramatically improves quality of life on your twink.

Get it if you can!

A Guide to Trial Account Twinking

With Blizzard removing the 10-day time limit on trial accounts, it has become possible to gear up characters to participate in Warcraft PvP on a free-to-play basis. The limits on these new Starter Edition accounts are severe, but overcoming limitations is part of the fun of creating a twink.

Please note: Blizzard doesn’t support Starter Edition twinks.

If you choose to make one, you’ll be exploring a lot of arbitrary limits as to what can and can’t be done. This can be a lot of fun, but be prepared for limits you encounter. The challenge of overcoming these limits is the point of this project.

WHAT IS A TWINK?

A twink is a character in a MMORPG, like World of Warcraft, which has been outfitted with the best gear possible for their level, often above and beyond that a normal character would obtain during the leveling process. Experience gain is usually turned off for twinks so as to allow them to continue acquiring gear and items without gaining levels. These characters are then used in both PvP and PvE, depending on the player’s desires.

In Warcraft, there are currently two types of twinks: XP-off and expansion twinks. XP-off twinks have turned off experience gain in-game by paying 10 gold to the Experience Eliminators in Stormwind or Orgrimmar. Expansion twinks are limited by the type of account attached to the WoW software, not anything done within the game itself. e.g. A player without the Wrath of the Lich King expansion will not be able to level characters past level 70 on that account, but will be able to gain all gear from the original and Burning Crusade expansions.

Trial account twinks are a type of expansion twink. Trial accounts are limited to level 20, so characters on these accounts can quest, run dungeons, and engage in PvP combat to improve their skills and gear without leveling further. Because of the restrictions on trial accounts, trial account twinks will have the following characteristics.

  • Level 20 (so normal ground mounts are available.)
  • Cannot have any primary profession over 100.
  • Enchants are extremely limited.
  • Gear is primarily quest rewards, PvP rewards, and dungeon drops.
  • BoEs are possible but require random drops.
  • Heirlooms are possible but require a lot of Honor Points.
  • No buff foods.

Despite these limitations, trial account twinks can still be competitive in PvP, and can be solid explorers and dungeon runners. You can build a very good character with a trial account.

PVP BRACKETS AND TRIAL ACCOUNT TWINKS

Level 20 characters who queue up for PvP will be placed in the level xp-off 20-24 bracket. This means that trial account twinks will be facing characters who may be higher level than they are. That’s the bad news.

The worse news is that because your twink’s level is limited by your account type, you will be playing with other twinks in the XP-off bracket. The competition will therefore be harder, as you will be fighting with paid account twinks, whose access to the best gear, enchantments, and consumables in the game gives them a significant edge.

The good news is the sheer number of Starter Edition players in the 20-24 XP-off bracket ensures that games are not completely lopsided. Your skill still matters.

The availability of Heirloom gear – bind-to-account gear that scales with level, normally purchased by players once they have reached the highest levels of the game, to be passed on to other characters – means that you will often be dealing with players who are substantially better geared than your twink. If they make an effort to gear up and enchant their items, even leveling characters can and will surpass a trial account twink in ability and performance.

I’ve constructed several sample characters on Wowhead so you can see the difference between trial account twinks and other characters in the bracket.

Trial Account Level 20 Twink
Paid Account Level 20 Twink
Paid Account Level 24 w/ Heirlooms

The first two are level 20 twinks, to give you an idea how having access to BoE gear from the AH, enchants, and heirlooms influences a character. The trial account lacks those elements, but has the best quest and dungeon gear available. Both have stacked hit to address competing against level 24 characters. (I skipped the Arena Grand Master trinket, though both twinks could of course get it.)

You’ll note that the level 20 paid account twink outclasses the trial account twink by a substantial amount. It’s an interesting comparison.

The level 24 character represents a more accurate picture of what a geared PvP toon would look like in the leveling bracket, or just entering the twink bracket. It’s not fully twinked, instead using a reasonable selection of dungeon gear, heirlooms, and cheap enchants. This gear build would do very well in the bracket.

Locking your XP at earlier levels is no longer possible. You cannot use a Starter Edition to participate in the 10-14 or 15-19 XP-off brackets. [ed: Previous section on level 19 twinking removed.]

Next, let’s look at how to build a trial account twink.

BUILDING A TRIAL ACCOUNT TWINK

The fun part about making a twink is figuring out what kind of gear you can get for them. Let’s look at the limits of trial accounts again.

  • Trial account twinks can’t visit the AH, so BoE gear has to be farmed by the twink, leaving the player at the mercy of very low drop rates.
  • Similarly, they can’t trade with other characters, so the only crafted gear available is gear they make themselves.
  • Skills are limited to 100, so most patterns are just not available.
  • They can’t get mail, so sending heirlooms from a different Battle.net account is not possible.

So what is available?

In order of approximate ease of acquisition:

  • Quest gear (rewarded by quest givers)
  • PvP gear (purchased with Honor Points from PvP vendors)
  • Dungeon drops
  • Cloaks and belts from the Satchel of Helpful Goods, from running random dungeons through the Dungeon Finder
  • Fishing gear
  • Crafted gear made by the character (up to level 100)
  • Heirloom gear (purchased with Honor Points from PvP and PvE vendors)
  • BoE gear (directly looted by the character)

Quest gear is relatively straightforward – by seeking out quests which give powerful rewards, your character can get very good gear. Many quests are faction-specific, so be sure to check that that GREAT piece of gear you’ve spotted is actually available to you!

PvP rewards are purchased from vendors around battlegrounds and in your faction’s capital city. Trial account twinks should look at the necklaces, rings, weapons, and trinkets available at the Warsong Gulch vendors in Ashenvale: Illiyana Moonblaze for Alliance, Kelm Hargunth for the Horde. This gear is purchased with Honor Points, gained from participating in battlegrounds.

All twinks will want to purchase a PvP trinket from the PvP vendors in their capital city. The Insignia of the Horde / Insignia of the Alliance remove movement-imparing effects once every 5 minutes and can make the difference between victory and defeat.

Dungeon drops are another reliable source of gear for trial account twinks. Blue-quality gear drops off the bosses of the dungeons available to level 20 characters, especially from Shadowfang Keep & Gnomergan.

If you run random dungeons using the dungeon finder, the cloaks and belts from the Satchel of Helpful Goods will be some of the best gear you can get in those slots. The Tumultuous Cloak of Stamina is probably your best drop, but others may be more appropriate to your class. For some classes, there are a few belts that drop from dungeons which outclass the belts from the Satchels, but the belts are generally very good.

Fishing has a few rewards which can benefit trial account twinks. The Lucky Fishing Hat is a reward for catching a rare fish in the Strangethorn Fishing Extravaganza, and the Weather-beaten Fishing Hat is a random reward from the daily fishing quest in major cities.

Due to the limits on professions, crafted gear generally is not as good as the gear you’ll find from other places because you have to make it yourself, and leveling many of them without the Auction House is a feat in and of itself. A notable exception is the Flying Tiger Goggles from Engineering, as they are one of the few helms available to trial account twinks. But quest, pvp and dungeon gear generally is superior.

Bringing up the list of possible gear choices are BoEs (bind-on-equip) items and Heirlooms. Both of these are really hard to get, and only established twinks will likely even consider getting them. Normally, BoEs would be purchased off the Auction House, because they are rare, random drops. Since trial account twinks can’t use the AH, they will have to farm for them themselves, which is really just hoping random chance smiles on you.

Heirlooms are a little easier to get if you’re willing to put in a lot of time on your twink. These cost thousands of Honor Points to purchase – 2 to 3k each – and I’m not 100% positive that trial accounts can even purchase them. (Level 20 characters on paid accounts can.)

While PvP-oriented Heirlooms are available for direct purchase with Honor Points, you can also purchase PvE heirlooms by converting your Honor Points to Justice Points at a 3/2 rate. If you play a trial account twink long enough in the battlegrounds, this gear may be worth it for an upgrade!

One final word on gear: the Arena Grand Master is the best trinket you can get for either the 19 or 20 PvP brackets. I have a guide to getting it on this site with more information.

HOW DO I FIND SPECIFIC GEAR?

Wowhead is a twink’s best friend for finding gear. Learn how to use their database to search for specific types of gear that you can use for your character. Use their filters to search for specific types of gear – for example, here’s a search of all Cloth armor rewarded by quests, optimized for an Affliction warlock.

I recommend creating a profile on Wowhead to store the gear you’re considering in a profile, much like I did above, so that you can create a dynamic list of gear that you think will work well for your twink.

BAGS

Storage space can be a real challenge for starter edition characters. There are several sources of 16-slot bags available.

  • City Faction Bags: each city’s quartermaster sells a 16-slot bag (e.g. the Stormwind Satchel) which can be unique-equipped for under 2g. Each bag requires Revered with a given city’s faction, which can be obtained either through questing or running dungeons while wearing the appropriate city’s tabard. City Quartermasters can be found near the flight points of each city.
  • Stormpike Bags: Alliance Players have access to two quivers, the Harpy Hide Quiver and Gnoll Skin Bandolier, which can be purchased for 50 Honor Points each from the Stormpike Supply Officers near or in Alterac Valley. These bags will display on your Hunter character on the selection screen due to their former status as ammunition pouches. There doesn’t appear to be a Horde equivalent.

In addition to these 16-slot bags, there are 14-slot bags available from bag vendors for 9g 60s, and another 14-slot bag available as a quest reward from the Darkmoon Faire (the Darkmoon Satchel). These bags are good for filling out your trial account twink’s 3 available bank slots.

(Thanks to Goodpeeps @ Moon Guard for the tip about the AV bags.)

CONSUMABLES AND PROFESSIONS

Updated with information about secondary professions.

Primary professions like Engineering, Enchanting, and Skinning are limited to skill level 100 on a trial account. Secondary professions like Cooking, Fishing, and First Aid are not, so effort in those skills will generally repay your time investment.

Most twinks go into battle with a supply of Rumsey Rum Black Label on hand due to its excellent Stamina buff. However, it’s normally purchased in bulk from a Burning Crusade dungeon (which trial accounts can’t reach), purchased from the AH (which trial accounts can’t use), or fished up randomly from around the world (which gives you one at a time.)

So you’re probably not going to be able to have 4 stacks of rum on hand for your twink. Instead, look to Cooking to supply your food and drink needs. Cooking 100 gives you a variety of recipes which can create food which gives up to +6 Stamina, which is 60 extra health. Every little bit helps.

Another secondary profession, First Aid, can give you the ability to use Wool Bandages to heal yourself once a minute for 161 damage over 7 seconds. One of the quirks of First Aid is that you can use better bandages than you can make, so while you can use up to a Silk Bandage with First Aid 100, you can’t create it without First Aid 150. So you’re stuck with a weak bandage as a trial account twink.

While you can learn any two primary professions for your trial account twink, only a few will give any benefit.

  • Skinning grants Master of Anatomy, for +3 Critical Strike rating.
  • Mining grants Toughness, for +3 Stamina.
  • Herbalism grants Lifeblood, for +15 Haste rating for 20 seconds, every 2 minutes.
  • Enchanting allows you to enchant your gear, but with very minor enchants (about 25 health, +3 Intellect, +1 Strength/Agility.

My preference would be for Herbalism and Skinning, as they will both increase your DPS a small amount. Lifeblood is good for giving your damage a burst, useful for when you are trying to kill an opponent quickly, and the passive Critical Strike rating from Master of Anatomy is a nice bonus.

CLASS SELECTION

Play the class you like. If you’ve never played before, pick the one that appeals the most to you. There are classes that are more powerful than others in PvP at level 20, but any class is workable and can be fun.

This advice seems trite, but I’ve seen people take classes which were universally discounted in a bracket and use them to tear apart the place. I’ve seen folks play flavor of the month classes and fail badly at them.

Pick the one you have the most fun playing.

MORE RESOURCES

  • Wowhead is my Warcraft database of choice. Their search filters are fantastic and can give you great gear advice. Perculia has an excellent guide to F2P accounts with very detailed gear advice.
  • The Twinkinfo Forums have recently started up a Free to Play Forum exclusively for trial account twinks. Twinkinfo has a lot of good gearing advice and an active twink community.
  • Psynister has a great guide to trial account professions, including a guide to leveling, and dropping, and leveling, and dropping…

A community of trial account twinks is already springing up. It will be interesting to see what becomes of the Free to Play WoW twinks in the months to come.

Good luck, and happy twinking!

The Arena Grand Master

The best twink trinket for low levels is the Arena Grand Master. More than any other item, the AGM marks a character as a serious twink, having put in the days, weeks, or even months to get an absurdly powerful trinket for low-level PvP. Anyone can get the Inherited Insignia of the Alliance. Only twinks consider getting the AGM.

In order to complete it, you need to loot 12 (that’s twelve) Arena Master trinkets from the Arena Treasure Chest dropped by Short John Mithril in the Gurubashi Arena in The Cape of Stranglethorn. Every three hours, this crazy goblin comes and drops a chest of loot on the floor of the arena.

So you have 8 chances each day to try to win the Arena Master trinket. That’s the good news.

The bad news is, well, pretty bad.

The first part of the bad news is that the Gurubashi Arena floor is a free-for-all area. As soon as you step foot down there anyone can, and will, attack you. This means competition between twinks can be quite fierce.

The second is that there are two achievements based on getting the Arena Grand Master, so endgame characters will be trying for it, too.

The combination of these two issues makes getting the Arena Grand Master a challenge if you don’t have a guild who can help you out. (And even if you do have a guild like that, it’s still a challenge.)

But overcoming challenges is what playing a twink is all about.

I learned a lot during my quest to get the Arena Grand Master.

  • Park your toon in the Arena, preferably by Short John Mithril. This way you don’t have to corpse-run your way back into the Arena every time you want to check.
  • Check every three hours you’re available. If level 85 characters are there, you can try to strike a deal with them – or ninja the trinket. Log out if you know it’s hopeless.
  • Even if you’re late, check to see if the chest is still there. I would often forget and check in at five or ten past the hour, and discover no one had taken the chest yet. Once, I logged in 45 minutes late and still got it!
  • Be friendly. You’ll get to know a lot of the twink players and guilds on your server when farming the AGM, and often they’ll help you out after their current project is over. You’ll also get a chance to see how they act. Smart twink guilds don’t let their players act like jerks in the Arena, because it’s prime recruiting grounds for new twinks.
  • You can ninja the trinket away from higher level characters. Wait until they are in combat with another player and see if you can get over to the chest without them stopping you. Another favorite tactic is to let yourself be killed, then resurrect right on top of the chest.
  • The Arena Master trinket is Bind on Pickup, so you have to accept the binding to loot it. Be ready for this. Have your mouse in the right spot to click “Yes,” and spam that click. Don’t be caught unprepared – autoloot should be on, and you should click that button.
  • Pick your times wisely. I found I had great success logging in right as I was logging in for work – 9AM on weekday mornings – and then again at lunchtime or mid-afternoon. Others swear by the 3 and 6 AM slots, but my sleep schedule doesn’t allow me to do those. By contrast, Friday at 9PM would be a madhouse in the Arena, and was best served by bringing lots of guildies.
I remember my very first Arena Master, and how impressed I was that I finally got something out of that chest! Then the sinking feeling hit – I was going to have to do it many, many times.

Eventually, though, you get the 12 Arena Master trinkets and can turn them in to the crazy goblin for an exceptional piece of work – 120 extra health, and a bubble that absorbs 2000 damage. It’s pretty awesome.

But then your work is only partly done, because you’ll probably want a second one. If you’re Human, you definitely the second one, and even if you’re not, you still probably still want it for when your PvP trinket is on CD. And for walking around your home city, because an extra 240 health is really cool at level 19.

Getting the AGM seems hard at first, but it’s relatively easy once you get started. It’s a big task, and it requires commitment, but it’s not difficult per se. It just requires dedication and persistence.

If you haven’t tried for the Arena Grand Master before, I recommend you try it. It’s an interesting, unique experience in WoW, and one worth having.

Good luck.

A Guide To Twinking In Cataclysm

A BRIEF HISTORY OF TWINKING

In the World of Warcraft, twinking is the act of making your character as absolutely as good as they could be, usually by turning off experience gain, and usually at low levels.

Twinking has a storied and not entirely savory history within WoW. The name itself is taken from derogatory slang for young-looking, attractive homosexual men, as the characters in question were almost universally not playing at the endgame. Twinks used to exist almost entirely for PvP, existing to completely dominate lower-level battlegrounds when such BGs did not award experience. These twinks would slaughter lesser-geared and enchanted opponents, to the point where low-level PvP was not a good idea for leveling characters. This is why, even though this situation has not been in place for over a year, twinks remain hated by many long-term WoW players.

There were two dominant motivations in the twink community; one that was pursuing excellence at a given level, in a given arena, and the other which pursued dominance over other players at any cost. The former motivation was often cited, but the latter one was more often on display against non-twinks. I think that both motivations were present in most twinks who played before patch 3.2; I’d be lying if I didn’t say that I enjoyed taking my level 59 Death Knight twink (which is almost an oxymoron) and totally stomping through a battleground after a hard day of work.

But things completely changed for twinks in Patch 3.2 with three related developments.

  • Battlegrounds would now award experience points for participation, effectively ending the ability for players to park a twink in a city and PvP without gaining any levels.
  • Characters could turn off and on their experience gain at will, making twinking vastly more accessible to players.
  • Characters who had their XP gain turned off would be placed into a separate battleground bracket from those who were gaining XP, guaranteeing that twinks would fight only twinks.

These changes had dramatic effects upon the battlegrounds, bringing many new players into the BGs as a viable alternate leveling route – Alterac Valley in the 50s was especially popular – but also made it possible to consider entirely different kinds of twinks, as well as changing the entire environment in which they lived in. Twinks, formerly spread out among the general population, found themselves forced to relocate to destination battlegroups to provide a sufficient concentration of players to “pop” a battleground.

For much of the twinking community, these changes were completely embraced. The battles that began to take shape were of characters in nearly equal gear, so that skill and tactics became paramount. No longer were battlegrounds about racking up HKs on unsuspecting leveling players; no, battles became longer, strategic matches between roughly equal forces – just what many twink players had maintained they wanted.

However, other twinks were not so satisfied with this state of affairs, and found that if they entered regular battlegrounds, but left before the first flag capture, they could engage in the darker side of twinking, completely dominating an unsuspecting leveling bracket and racking up HKs while bullying the other side into submission. A special kind of twink – an expansion twink, one limited by the account not having Burning Crusade or Wrath of the Lich King on it, thrived in this situation, as they could run as much older content and battlegrounds as they desired without leveling and without turning off XP. Expansion twinks began to dominate the 51-60 Alterac Valley bracket in many battlegroups, outfitted with MC epics and BC enchants.

It would be nice to pretend that this didn’t happen, but it did.

There were other, smaller changes in the recent past: changes in gear and enchants, with minimum levels being applied to many enchants that previously lacked them. Mounts were lowered in level, making them accessible to all but the level 19 pvp bracket. Titles became available that were previously lacking. Faction changes allowed you to get the best in slot gear from both sides. The lack of XP gain allowed for twinks to become PvE specialists in addition to PvP players, letting people solo dungeons or run them repeatedly at-level for gear.

This is how it stood for much of Wrath of the Lich King.

CATACLYSMIC CHANGES

The Sundering (4.0.1) and Cataclysm (4.0.3) patches turned twinking upside down. Gear was completely reitemized at early levels to make for a better leveling experience. Gear that may have been substandard was now Best in Slot, and vice versa. Enchants were rearranged, sometimes dramatically. Some gear was changed, some moved up out of different brackets, others removed completely.

But there were three changes that overshadowed all the others.

The first was the introduction of the revised talent trees in 4.0.1, which gave class-defining abilities to characters at level 10 which were formerly reserved for much higher level characters. The changes in each class’s talents and abilities were extensive, but gaining this signature ability at level 10 was the most visible of the changes. These changes dramatically affected how classes played at various levels, and helped redefine roles in each battleground.

The second change was to the brackets themselves. Formerly, each bracket was from levels ending in 0 to 9, so 10-19, 20-29, 30-39, etc.. Patch 4.0.3 brought a massive change to this structure, splitting each bracket in two and redistributing the battlegrounds so players could experience more battlegrounds earlier on in the leveling process. The new brackets were 10-14, 15-19, 20-24, 25-29, etc., making entirely new brackets available for twinking. Arathi Basin joined Warsong Gulch at level 10, and Eye of the Storm became available before most characters had even glimpsed Outland, at level 35. Exciting stuff.

A third change was implemented not as part of a patch, but as part of the server infrastructure improvements in preparation for Cataclysm. This was merging all the PvP battlegroups into region-wide battlegroups. Players from all North American battlegroups were joined over the course of a few weeks into a single, large pool of players to pop battlegrounds, effectively ending the need for the destination battlegroups that patch 3.2 created. No longer do you need to roll on a foreign server to twink and get a queue – now you can do it on the same server as your main.

All of these were fantastic changes to leveling characters, and they open up a whole new set of possibilities for twinks, too. They combine to make Cataclysm the perfect time to start twinking if you’ve been considering it.

STARTING A TWINK

Twinking is a little bit of an odd activity in the World of Warcraft. It’s arbitrarily setting a limit on your character and then trying to excel within that limit. Doing so is a challenge, but a rewarding one – for at the end of it all, you will have a character which requires little maintenance or grinding, and which you can hop on at will for your chosen activity.

It is a lot of fun, when you get down to it.

First thing you’ll want to do is settle on what you want your character to be. My best suggestion here is to level a class and find a time when you had a huge amount of fun playing them, and then go and capture that. Try to figure out what kinds of things you want to do – PvP, run dungeons with friends, solo content, try for Loremaster – and start from there.

Next, you’ll need to pick your level. WoW is built to drive you to level, so each level you pick up will be translated into more abilities, more power, and more freedom. Some things to keep in mind here about picking levels:

  • If you are PvPing, you will likely want to stop at a level ending in 4 or 9 to maximize the gear and abilities available to you. The only exception, and this is an important one, is level 10.
  • Level 10 characters benefit from the generous ability translation and combat rating conversion that starts tapering off once you hit level 11. This benefit to levels 1-10 helps make starting any new character more fun, but also means that level 10 characters can (and do) take out level 19s. Yes, even twinked 19s. They also benefit from increased health and mana regeneration out of combat, so don’t let a level 10 get out of combat!
  • The x9 PvP brackets are generally established. You’ll be up against players who have had a lot of time to gear up, and often have several expansions worth of gear available to them. The x4 brackets are completely new, and are probably more friendly to newcomers.
  • Some brackets which were previously dead should come back to life. Expansion twinks will have a tougher time in the new bracket system, as level 64 Outland gear will outclass level 60 Vanilla gear. So the 59s might come back soon.
  • If you are considering PvE, look at the dungeons you’d like access to and plan your level accordingly. Level 20 gives you a lot of options and abilities that are denied to strict level 19 PvPers, like mounts.
  • Level 1 twinks are another option if you enjoy world PvP or want your banker to be a serious badass. A well-geared level 1 twink can take out a level 15-20 leveling character due to favorable game mechanics.

Once you’ve decided what environment you’re twinking for, you need to choose your class and race.

Generally speaking, lower levels favor Agility-based classes due to the exceptional Agility enchants you can put on level 1-34 gear. Intellect- and Strength-based classes do okay at the lower levels, but Agility has the best enchants, and enchants are vital to your success. After you get BC-era enchants and level 35+ gear, this levels out a bit and class balance becomes more even.

Consider what role you want to play in your chosen field – are you going to be a damage dealer in Warsong Gulch, or a flag carrier? Are you going to tank Wailing Caverns and Shadowfang Keep like a boss, or do you want to heal the worst PuG tank LFD throws at you with ease? Generally, what you want to do will determine your class more than anything else.

Then, consider the races available to you. Racial abilities do matter. If you are going to be a melee fighter, consider the racial benefits available to you. Look at the stats and see if you can get an edge with one race over another. Every race brings something good to the table; look them over carefully.

Once you’ve rolled your twink and gotten him or her to the desired level, you’ll want to visit an Experience Eliminator in either Stormwind or Orgrimmar to turn off your XP. It will cost 10 gold, but once it’s turned off, gearing up and skilling up become easy.

GEARING UP YOUR TWINK

Now comes the fun part.

Once your XP is turned off, you’re going to need gear, and you’re going to need professions. Sure, there are some essentials every twink needs.

But more important than someone on the internet providing you a gear list, you need to know how to build your own. Don’t blindly follow a gear list, no matter how detailed it is. Choosing the best gear for your twink means learning what is going to work best for you and your playstyle. Gear lists are the starting point, not the end.

I have 4  different gear sets for my warrior twink Cynderblock, with some variations on each. I have a tanking set, with variations for  trash pulls and boss fights. I have sets for Arms, Fury, and Protection PvP. I have a questing set for low level areas, and a questing set for high level areas where I need more Hit. I have an Agility set for high Dodge.

And I have a set for looking awesome around town. Oh! And an Intellect set for pretending to be a Mage. But they don’t count.

I bring up my gear obsession for a reason: you can’t consider something to be Best in Slot until you consider the situation in which it’s going to be used. And that’s what you have to learn to do when gearing up your twink.

I’m not going to provide gear lists. Not only am I not qualified for the vast majority of classes and levels, but Cataclysm has wiped out all previous lists.  No, instead, you need to learn how to make your own gear list, and go after it.

  • Learn how to use Wowhead’s search filters to limit items to those available to a specific level. Their stat weighting can be good, but don’t lean on them too heavily – you may miss some great gear that perhaps still gives Attack Power instead of Agility, for instance.
  • Find twink forums, like TwinkInfo.com and WoW-Twink.com, and use them for ideas and inspiration.
  • Look at items you find on other toons while questing with an eye towards your twink. Sometimes, you’ll discover an out of the way quest reward that you hadn’t considered.

I find the forums helpful because you learn things there that you might otherwise miss. Especially with all the new gear out there, they’re a nice shortcut to find out what people are really doing out there.

HAVE FUN WITH IT

Making a twink is a different sort of challenge than many of the others you’ll find in the World of Warcraft, but it can be really rewarding when it’s all done.

But once you’re done, don’t forget to go out and have fun out there. This is your character, your little work of art. Do what you want with it. Don’t let the haters tell you that you can’t.

Deadmines: Mine Harder

When you solo Deadmines repeatedly for rep, eventually you figure your way around the place.

I decided to take a 30 minute dungeon run and compress it into a 10 minute whirlwind video tour of the new place. Includes commentary about both running it in a group and soloing it as a tank.

(For in-depth strategy and analysis of the instance, I recommend Wowhead’s article.)

Enjoy!

(Special thanks to Snack and Narci for the many entertaining conversations about this video.)

They Love Me Behind That Wall

Cynderbock is Exalted with Gilneas before Cataclysm.

Wait, what?

That’s crazy to think about, considering it took, at most about … 10 runs of Deadmines, max, to achieve? The new Gilneas Tabard (one of the new City Tabards, available at vendors near the home city Flight Points) allows you to gain reputation gains in dungeons, and if you do them at-level, they reward pretty substantial rep.

How substantial? 15 rep for each mob, 300 for each boss.  If you’re Human, that’s 16-17 each mob, 330 each boss.

So making a level 19 Ambassador just got a whole lot easier.  Lock your XP, get tabards, run LFD for profit and a title. Easy. You could do LFD at level 15, even, if you like RFC – or if you have friends who will run you, you can enter the dungeons at level 8-10.

This is a great change for the game, making it easier to use LFD as a leveling tool without missing out on all the benefits of questing.

Does it trivialize the Ambassador title on Cynderblock? Not really. Yes, it’s vastly easier to get now, and I expect I’ll see even more of them than I did before. That’s fine. No, really, it is!

See, the changes now can’t take away the fun I had in getting that title. Or, for that matter, getting Exalted with a faction that isn’t even really in the game yet. I mean, it’s not like I get anything from the deal, since ‘block still can’t use a mount. (Not that Gilneas has a mount to get, anyways.)

No, it’s time to move on and look forward to all the new things Cataclysm will bring us.  And no matter what else – they love me behind that wall.

How Cynderblock Got Her Groove Back

Van Cleef: Drop. Your. Sword.

So a funny thing happened to me on the way to the Deadmines.

I was pretty down on level 19 Warrior twinks in my review of the 4.0.1 changes. The loss of so many abilities was pretty daunting, and struggling in areas where I previously excelled was downright depressing. Going from a tank with unshakable aggro to one where everyone pulled off me was a humbling experience, even if I was running with twinked DPS.  PvP was painful, with casters and rogues running roughshod over me, feral cats jumping on me from the shadows, and paladins refusing to die, no matter how much damage I did.

I took a few days off to regroup.  I stopped trying to farm the AGM, since several guilds were gearing up twinks and competition for the trinkets was getting too fierce.  I rolled a bunch of alts.

Then one day I said, “let’s solo Deadmines, ‘block.”

And we did.

And it was hugely fun.  Why?

  • Damage is up across the board on all abilities in PvE.  As Prot, Shield Slam hits like an absolute truck.
  • I made sure to take Shield Specialization, and with multi-mob pulls I never had Rage issues.
  • Not only did I not have Rage issues, but I never had to worry about aggro.
  • The additional health, armor, and block chance means you’re taking very little damage from pull to pull.
  • The self-healing of Victory Rush changes the entire style of play, allowing you to maintain your health by killing things.  And since you’re not in a group, you can be sure it procs every single time.
  • Execute is a huge finisher.
  • Having Victory Rush and Sunder Armor available in both Battle and Defensive Stances meant that I didn’t have to sit in Defensive Stance or stance dance; I ended up staying in Battle Stance since I wasn’t worried about aggro, and wanted Charge and Execute.

I’d soloed RFC and most of Wailing Caverns before this patch dropped, so I knew it was possible to solo these instances at level.  But while RFC was a bit of a multi-mob faceroll in 3.3.5, WC required a lot of caution and care with each pull.  It was slow, careful going, and after a while I got pretty darn bored of the whole thing.

Deadmines, on the other hand, was a riot, with miners running all over, elites and normal mobs mixing with impunity.  It was a blast.  I started off cautiously, but by the time I saw how much damage I was throwing around, how I could use Victory Rush to keep myself healed up, and how little damage I was taking anyways, it was soon a romp over the Defias.

My second run (I was already hooked), the Cruel Barb finally dropped for me. With the nerfs to Shadowfang, Cruel Barb is now the highest DPS 1-hander available at level 19. You sacrifice stats for raw Attack Power, but if you have the Stamina from other places it’s awesome.  +12 AP is equivalent to +6 Str for Warriors, and the next highest stat weapon is Butcher’s Slicer, with +4 Str/+3 Stam.  The Barb already has higher raw DPS than the Slicer (15.8 vs. 15.2), and with the additional AP it is the clear choice for raw DPS.

So I’m sitting there, looking at my new toy, and it strikes me: I should go Fury, and wield two of these monsters.

I prefer Crusader, because when you get simultaneous procs, really great things happen.

I’ve never really played Fury before, though I do have a Combat rogue in her mid-40s. I grabbed a bunch of weapons out of my bank to try out offhands, eventually settling on the trusty Venerable Mass of McGowan for my OH weapon. The Mass and the Sacred Charge both received some slight changes in the latest patch, with the Charge now brought up to being a very good alternative to the Mass.  Basically, they both give you Agility and Stamina (for tanking); the DSC gives you a lot of Crit, while the Mass gives you Crit and Haste. I grabbed the Slicer as well to try it out, though I think the Mass helped me out more in the earlier runs.

It took me a few times to get used to soloing Deadmines as a Fury warrior. Fury plays a lot like I remember playing a Blood DK; as long as you can keep your self healing going, you’re unstoppable, but you take a lot of damage in the process.  If I pulled too big, especially with elites, then I’d wipe.

Victory Rush is really the key to Fury soloing right now.  You’re putting out so much damage that your goal is to burn though a mob, any mob, and kill it to offset the damage you’re taking with another Victory Rush.  As long as you can repeat that process, you’re fine – but if the damage overwhelms your kill rate, then you’re going down.  I found that I’d start off a big pull losing a lot of health, but once the mobs started dropping I’d go right back up to full.

Bloodthirst is the other tool in your Fury aresenal to help out with this kind of fighting. It gives you a small heal back while attacking, and doesn’t suck up much of your Rage while doing it.  It does respectable damage, but can be hit more often than Shield Slam.  I found in high-Rage situations I’d alternate between Bloodthirst and Heroic Strike while waiting for Victory Rush (and Execute) to proc.

Blood Craze helps out with the self-healing, giving back more than Bloodthirst but less than Victory Rush.

And, while I’d been farming the Arena Grand Master trinket, I’m glad I didn’t rely on it while soloing.  Dual Swift Hands of Justice provided increased DPS on top of healing on Killing Blows, giving a lot of small heals to offset the incoming damage.

The Cruel Barb refused to drop for me for a long time, so I spent a lot of time practicing how to solo Van Cleef as a Fury warrior.  I made a video on one of the early attempts that shows how the spec plays as a solo artist.

Yes, it is totally as much fun as it looks.

(I did speed up the video, because even a run with no wipes is about 30 minutes long.  It’s not RFC. You can play Yakity Sax in the background for full comedic effect.)

I kept running it, and what kept impressing me was how out-of-whack damage seemed.  I was able to 1-shot normal mobs with regularity, and elites were lucky if they lasted 5 seconds. I know that I’m twinked for maximum damage, but there were times that I’d pull off a 1513 Execute crit and know that levels were out of whack.  (The 700-800 Victory Rush crits were even better, to be honest – most of Execute’s damage comes as overkill.)  I fully agree with Zarhym’s assessment that combat times in the lower levels are too short, and that it’s not PvP we’re talking about here.  PvE is totally unbalanced at the lower levels right now.

Anyhow, after a dozen runs or so, the second Barb finally dropped. By then I was ready for something different, so I took Cynderblock back out into the wide world and picked up questing in those areas that are going to be changed in a few weeks.  Most notably: Darkshore and Ashenvale.

"So, they sell insurance in this tower? I don't think they get a lot of foot traffic out here..."

Aside from wanting to complete as many quests as possible with Cynderblock, there was one quest chain in particular I wanted to finish – The Tower of Althalaxx, which I remember being a total PITA trying to do at level 30.  I admit, I’m juvenile, and I’ve refused to call that tower by its proper name ever since I got there – this is the Tower of Aflac, and I quack “AFLAC!” at it every time I have to deal with it.

Well, the Tower of AFLAC has a pretty nice quest reward, Seraph’s Strike, a sword with good DPS and Spirit, useful for health regeneration.  I figured I’d pick it up before it vanished in the Cataclysm, and bang out the Darkshore/Ashenvale quests while I’m at it.  (You have gotten your Furbolg wand, right?)

Only… wait a minute.

Lower level items have had their stats rearranged, and… woah.

Did all that Spirit get converted into Hit?  Like, are you kidding me?  +10 Hit on a 2-hander?

Having that much Hit (4.72% at level 19) is huge for DPS.  Huge.  It knocks off nearly the entire Miss column for at-level targets, and makes hitting higher-level mobs much, much easier.  Good for twinks, good for levelers… this is a good sword.  A really good sword.

How good is it?

Well, I pulled out my DPS spreadsheet (not ready for primetime, that’s another post) and plugged in the new numbers.  Wow.

Pre-Crit, Seraph’s Strike has a white DPS of 22.54, greater than Glacial Stone (22.25) and Smite’s Mighty Hammer (21.29).  The Hammer might make more sense for boosting attack power, and the Stone puts out solid DPS numbers, but the Strike now gives a great blend of both.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m enjoying the heck out of Fury, but I may have to go Arms and try out a 2-Handed build just to see how this sword performs before the damage nerfs come in.

Anyhow. Warriors are still doing fine.  PvP is broken as a whole right now, don’t worry about it.  Aggro is hard because damage is too high.  We’ve lost some tools, but gained new ones.

And Cynderblock has her groove back.