Staving off boredom in 5.4: The Alt-ernative route

As it’s past the 1st of April, it’s finally appropriate to wish most of you a Happy Belated April Fool’s day. I trust my little joke from before wasn’t taken too seriously by most of you!

While it’s true that I haven’t *actually* taken up Turkish Oil Wrestling as a hobby (sorry if you were expecting training videos!), my joke post did contain an element of truth to it: I am indeed fast on track towards completing a third legendary cloak on an alt within the next week or so, and also heavily contemplating working on a fourth and potentially fifth cloak.
This can only be indicative of one thing: Welcome to World of Altcraft!

In retrospect…

Up until this expansion it would be fair to say that I largely treated alts as a means to an end, rather than as separate characters to enjoy for their own selves. “Will improving some aspect of this character benefit my main in some way, preferably economically?”, was a question that I subconsciously asked myself whenever considering any number of alt activities. This included levelling, investing in new professions, raiding on said alt, etc, etc. I unashamedly cut corners too- unless I was stepping into raid content, there didn’t seem to be any reason to bother with gemming or enchanting the gear of what was essentially a glorified bank alt.
This isn’t to imply that I didn’t bother researching basic theorycraft and understanding behind whatever alt spec I happened to be playing- simply that the desire to progress and experience as many facets of content as I did on my main was rather muted, if even existent.

As such, I can’t begin to overstate the irony of Mists of Pandaria being the expansion where I have exclusively dedicated a great deal of time and effort into not only levelling and gearing alts, but also actively playing them as much as possible. Anyone who has played with or known me for an appreciable amount of time will know of my disdain for levelling, thus the fact that I managed to get four full toons to 90 (and one to 60, in order to take full advantage of its Veteran boost) will be fully appreciated by them for its usual implausibility.

When MoP launched it was widely considered to be one of the most alt-unfriendly experiences since Vanilla-era WoW, in part due to the enormous grind associated with daily quests and faction reputations.
I was so repulsed by my experience with several hours of daily quests a day (no, I don’t want to hear any nonsense about how it was “optional” for raiders), that I bitterly vowed not to level any toon besides my Death Knight, unless it were for the specific goal of taking advantage of professions that my main could benefit from.

Tempus Fugit

Patch 5.1 introduced the Grand Commendations system, which doubled the amount of reputation earned by toons with a faction at least one character on that account was already exalted with. I purchased them out of habit, but still wasn’t pushed- the mere act of levelling my Paladin was a process that took many months, and much (self-contained!) whining on my part. When I reached Level 90 on the Paladin, I stayed in the Blue and Green pieces that I had received from quests and concentrated on her Jewelcrafting and Mining capabilities.

Then came Patch 5.2, and with it several significant changes. I’d love to say that having an entire tier of content become “old” (and thus, be nerfed and become cross-realmable) was what drew me back towards alts, but that wasn’t it. Believe it or not, Zandalari Warscouts and Warbringers were what truly focused my attention back on the alt experience- in a roundabout sort of way!
Being a Death Knight, naturally, meant that soloing both types of mob was quite easy. Furthermore, the lure of three unique mounts and a bounty of raw materials (in the form of Zandalari Bags) made them highly tempting targets. Utilising my ever-growing Battletag list’s cross-realm teleportation capabilities, I soon found myself in possession of new mounts, a lot more gold andStolen Insignias.

Aha! There we go: The item that truly brought me back to alts. Insignias represented a significant departure from the 5.0 reputation system. While it wasn’t quite the same as implementing “championing” tabards such as what we saw on WoTLK and Cataclysm, I found myself with an excess of these insignias to utilise. While they vendor for a significant amount of gold, I decided to go ahead and send them to various alts- something about just selling them seemed wrong!
In short order, I was exalted with almost every relevant faction that I would need- even on Level 85 toons!

Around this time, curious about the mechanics of the newest class in the game, I decided to level Monk to 90. This was much easier to stomach than the Paladin for two reasons: First, the mighty experience buff conferred to Monks made the process a lot faster than any toon I had attempted to begin from scratch thus far. Second, I levelled the Monk as a Tank: Anyone who has had the experience of levelling as a DPS and then levelling as a tank will be able to relate to how much easier the latter is, especially in terms of queuing for and quickly completing dungeons.

Unfortunately, my brief foray into Mistweaving at Level 90 left me largely disinterested in seeing any real progress on the Monk- for the time being. However, it did spark my interest in healing as a concept. Despite largely using alts as a means to an end, I recalled that Healing had presented a significant change of pace from my usual melee DPS/Tank role. As such, I turned back to the character that has come to be my “main alt” (pardon the sensible oxymoron- oops!): My Druid.

Distractions… For now

Let’s jump ahead a couple of months: Tier 16 and Siege of Orgrimmar have been “over” for my guild since January. We continue to clear the instance once a week for the sake of mount farming, but it almost never exceeds a two-night farm period at best. It’s also safe to bet that most other guilds in our bracket are largely done with the tier as well: Welcome to the dreaded doldrums of waiting!
As it’s now 100% safe to say that we won’t see Warlords of Draenor prior to late September, this has left us with roughly nine months to do little more than twiddle our thumbs.  Given that WoW is currently the only Blizzard game that I play, it’s not as if the recent release of the Diablo III expansion has done anything to break this tedium. Thus, my only refuge has been my alts and alt play. At last count:

-My Paladin remains a glorified bank alt. The fact that I already main a plate melee DPS has meant that my interest in Retribution has never been considerably high. Add my strong aversion to the Inquisition mechanic into the mix along with the fact that neither Holy nor Protection currently appeal to me, and it’s easy to see why the toon is in a sorry state.
Perhaps I’ll polish off the dust for Warlords? We shall see.

-My Druid is my best progressed alt. I exclusively play Restoration on her, and have also recently completed all 9 Challenge Modes with Gold on the character. Needless to say, I’ve also completed the legendary questline on my Druid. At a 561 ilvl (currently) and a number of Heroic SoO bosses under her belt, this would be the toon I’d be most likely to seek a consistent, permanent raid team for. At some point, I also intend to use the toon to get through 30 waves the Endless version of Healer Proving Grounds.
Have I mentioned that it feels ridiculously satisfying to pop Nature’s Vigil, Swiftmend (thus triggering Soul of the Forest) and then Tranquility? That raw HPS!

-My renewed interest in the Monk emerged from my desire to explore the Active Mitigation system around which most Tanking specs in MoP were designed. Brewmasters, being the newest addition to the Tanking family, were likely to have been fully designed around this goal rather than having existing mechanics adapted to suit it. While my heart still lies with Blood, I’ve had a great deal of fun with Monk Tanking. The heavy utilisation of Avoidance and using Critical Strikes as a core form of mitigation offers a very “different” experience to the control and timing that Blood demands. I’ve also felt that some aspects currently defining Brewmastery (such as having multiple forms of Active Mitigation, instead of just one) are also signs of what direction the developers might take with “older” specs such as Blood.
While I have yet to venture into even normal Siege of Orgrimmar on this character, I have enjoyed my time playing on it immensely. Most recently, I also put it through 9/9 Gold Challenge Modes- not as enjoyable an experience as with the DK, but definitely worth it. Oh, and in case you were wondering: This is indeed the character that will complete its legendary cloak…. Assuming the RNG Gods don’t continue torturing me.

-After levelling four separate toons to Level 90 (a true Feat of Strength for me), the idea that I’d play yet another class at max level seemed laughable… Until the announcement of the boost to Level 90 provided by preordering Warlords of Draenor. While the initial idea was tempting, what really convinced me was the Veteran Bonus- a mechanic that would fully level both secondary professions on the boosted character from 1 to 600, provided that the character was Level 60 or above at the time of having the boost applied.
It seemed too perfect an opportunity to pass up, and thus resulted in my 5th Level 90 toon to date: A Discipline Priest. To date, I’ve greatly enjoyed the (grossly overpowered) playstyle, and will probably enjoy it for some time to come.

At the End of the Day

Unfortunately, my enjoyment of a variety of playstyles across different classes, not to mention each character being at different stages of various endgame profession paths, is inherently limited by the types of paths that I take. I have has little to no interest in Pet Battles and PvP this expansion. I have completed the entirety of HM content on my main toon, and don’t particularly see myself enjoying the prospect of relearning/redoing bosses I’ve already killed on my alts.

The fact of the matter is: Despite my best efforts to the contrary, I’m getting bored.
Let’s say I complete a fourth legendary cloak on the Priest (and in the process discover new, unplumbed depths of my loathing for LFR), run it though Challenge Modes, and even progress with Heroic raiding on the Druid and Monk- ultimately, I’m still constrained by the fact that every toon must travel down the same path as the ones preceding it.
Older content from this expansion holds little value to me, both for the inferior quality of the rewards and also for the fact that I’d be experiencing a pale shadow of the tiers I enjoyed on my Death Knight.

A question that’s recently begun nagging at the back of my mind is: “Am I having fun?” Truthfully, I can’t tell any more.
Perhaps a large part of the reason I continue to spend so much of my leisure time on WoW is because of a lack of a better alternative in the immediate present. There is also the definite presence of several communities within the game that I am proud to be a member of, and enjoy playing with; I imagine I would have quit till WoD quite some time ago, had they not kept some facet of my attention engaged.

I do acknowledge that the WoD Beta and subsequent theorycrafting/exploration to follow will likely pique my interest- but to what extent? More importantly, how much longer is it reasonable to anticipate something I’ve been waiting on for what seems like a long time?
While I clearly speak for nobody but myself, I wonder how many other players can currently relate to the sentiment I’ve expressed here. While I’m grateful to still have some reason to log into the game, I also recognise that that interest exists on borrowed time.
Don’t keep me waiting too long, Blizzard.

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