Category: Pets and Mounts


Some time ago, I wrote a post concerning community in WoW and its rather execrable state. All sensible players bemoan the fact that behaviour from others is often disgusting, and many bloggers have been musing about how it could be improved, myself among them. But what I saw tonight made me feel positive about the WoW community for the first time in years.

Blizzard’s decision to allow the powerful rare mobs on the new Isle of Thunder to be taggable by faction, and thereafter available for fisticuffs to any player of that faction, is a marvellous one. Tonight, a few of us in the guild decided to do some group work on the Isle. We’d hunt rare mobs, help each other out with a few quests requiring more than one person and so on. First thing we noticed was how many players were around and not only that… they were talking. We didn’t have to greet the sight of dozens of other players of our faction with a despairing sigh, thinking ‘oh well, there goes my chance at the rare’. Because everyone could join in on the event and get loot from it, there was no need for anyone to be unpleasant or selfish. While we waited for spawns we could… mingle. Unheard of, I know. I chatted to a few people about the new mounts they were on, and about various aspects of the area. I really applaud this new feature and think it should have been instituted well over a year ago, like when Rift appeared with this feature at launch. GW2 took it further. Albeit that game does not have factions, but even so, *any* mob in that game works like the rares do on Isle of Thunder. There is no competition whatsoever for quest mobs. You can casually work with any player who’s around without even having to team with them to share mobs. You can also heal each other without teaming. Admittedly, more of the mobs in GW2 require this type of co-operation because they are not pushovers, but I really think Blizzard should go further than they have and implement similar in WoW. Also, let’s do the same with resource nodes while we’re at it. If you harvest a node of any type in GW2, it disappears for you for a while, but not for other players. How is this not a great thing? Reasons for players to be mean to each other are swept away entirely and if there’s one thing WoW needs it’s those reasons to be swept away.

Another thing occurred to me as we were messing around on the island tonight. If a server has a population imbalance in respect of factions, the lower populated faction will be disappointed and frustrated by the new area, simply because the more numerous faction will control all the tagging on rares, and even if they don’t, if a player hasn’t got a lot of friends around to help with the mobs, they won’t survive, so the larger faction will simply take over once they’re dead. It’s really going out on a limb to suggest this in respect of WoW, I know, given how deeply the faction rivalry is embedded in the game, but I did think about how it wouldn’t hurt for the rares to be taggable by *anyone* who’s there, irrespective of faction, such as we find in Rift.

WoW really needs something to improve its community spirit, and what’s happening now is a small step towards that. Perhaps Blizzard is experimenting and observing the results and will take it further if it appears to work well. I really hope so. All I know is that I had a fun night with far fewer reasons to get angry and annoyed at other players. I spoke to people I didn’t know in a way I never do. The opposite faction was a minor annoyance, since we outnumbered them so much, (must have been crappy for them, though), and some of them did try to get their sport by messing up our fights if they could. But if there’s only 2 or 3 of them against a couple of dozen of us, even if they tag a rare it’s not going to be tagged for long. That’s why I think the faction aspect should be approached differently, but that would be game-changing in the extreme. The lore of WoW, and its (virtual) thousands of years of politics would be challenged, to put it mildly, if Horde and Alliance became more co-operative with each other. I’d quite like it, but a lot wouldn’t. I have noticed though that for one of the dailies in the Court of Bones you are asked to free captives of either faction: those poor sods in cages. That’s another little inch towards what I’m talking about, isn’t it?

We also visited the Isle of Giants tonight, the new Jurassic Park of WoW. Love all the massive dinosaurs and tamed myself a couple on my Hunter. Pity they shrink like socks in the wash once you’ve tame them, but never mind. My only complaint is that the flying pterrorwings aren’t tameable. They look amazing and do turn up as temporary, secondary combat pets when your Hunter uses the Dire Beast skill. So why they’re not tameable I don’t know. The new dino non-combat pets were virtually spilling from the corpses of the dinomancer Trolls too. We all came away from the place with a nice haul of goodies, not least the dinosaur bones you have to collect to buy the white raptor mount there. I expect the drop rate for the mini pets will take a bashing very soon, so get them while you can. Best to go with at least one friend though, because all the mobs on the island are level 90-91 elites and pack a hefty punch. The immense Primal Devilsaurs do a lot of AOE damage, so it’s advisable to go with a fairly organised group if you want to take those on, including a tank and a healer. You don’t have to fight these big ones, and can avoid them, but one reason you might want to fight them is that they drop a lot more bones, and as you will need 9999 of them to get the mount, that’s as good a reason as any. There’s also a rare mob to be found on the boat that’s moored off the island. The boat has a big Devilsaur on the lower deck and an awful lot of dinomancer Trolls all through it before you even reach the rare. They respawn quickly too, and caused us inconvenience while we were fighting the Big Bad. Fun fight though, and this island is certainly worth a visit for Friday night fun.

For those not yet initiated into the mysteries of this island, it’s found off Kun Lai Summit, north of Zouchin Village. You can’t fly all the way there, and have to watch out for fatigue setting in once you’re unceremoniously thrown off your mount and dumped in the ocean, but it’s not too difficult to reach dry land before the fatigue kills you. If you have the Anglers’ Water Strider mount even better, or of course Death Knights can use their Path of Frost for themselves and team members to travel over water quickly.

I really love the new zones, and am looking forward to more of the Isle of Thunder opening up as time goes on. I especially love the Saurok quest area where you become a Saurok for the duration, along the lines of how we became Nagas in Vash’jir in Cataclysm. Only this transformation happens every day for your quests. And it’s not just one appearance either. You can have the big lizard ruff, or one of the metal masks they sometimes wear, or a fairly regular lizard face minus ruff or mask. There might be others, but so far have just noticed these three. The Saurok can leap miles and I mean really leap miles. Be careful when pressing the space bar to jump; you never know where you might end up. But they’re very agile so take no damage when falling off that mountain you just landed on. I defy anyone not to want these saurians as a playable race after doing these dailies. Try out some of the emotes on them; it’s great fun. They can’t dance, which we found really funny. If you type /dance, they stand up straight and look sort of stunned, as if they can’t bear the humiliation of dancing. But they can do quite a few of the emotes, such as /cower and /flex, both of which are hilarious. As I’ve written a story in which the Saurok make a kind of appearance, though somewhat changed and not called Saurok, (as it’s not a WoW story), I was delighted to find these quests. Just have a soft spot for the race and am really pleased they’re included in this way for players now.

So, 10/10 for the Isle of Thunder. I really look forward to going there and doing my dailies as and when I can. And it’s not often you’ll hear me saying that about dailies!

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Come patch 5.1 there will be a new mount achievement to obtain 150 mounts. For most mount fanatics, their collection, (even if they’re not particularly hardcore at it), will probably be hovering around 160 mounts already, assuming they’ve bought some of the MoP ones. The really serious collectors will no doubt not be far off the 200 mark, but they are the minority, albeit comprising a fair few players.

I’ve read a lot of lamentation on forums about the reward for 150 mounts, which appears to be a Pandaren Kite. I believe it’s the green Kite that some NPCs you rescue during Shado Pan dailies ride off on. I must admit, although I do think the colour of that kite (if indeed it is that) is rather nice, I’m a bit disappointed this is the reward for collecting 150 mounts.

A lot of people aren’t that impressed with the Albino Drake reward for collecting 50 mounts, which first appeared way back at the end of Burning Crusade when achievements were initially introduced. Maybe it is a bit ‘meh’ to people now, but you have to bear in mind that when that achievement appeared there were NO drake mounts in the game at all, just the Nether Drakes, which are utterly different. To be able to ride a mount that was of a model only lent to us in the Caverns of Time Durnholde Keep instance seemed amazing at the time. I can remember us doing that instance and people saying, as we rode our Bronze Drake NPCs to the start of battle, ‘wouldn’t it be fab to have these as mounts?’ We got our wish later on with the Culling of Stratholme instance, where that mount could be won on a timed run, but before that… it seemed like an impossible dream. Few serious mount freaks would be seen dead on a Bronze Drake mount now, they have become so common, but the idea of getting one at the start of Wrath seemed fantastic. So, point number one: whatever later achievement-gatherers might think of the Albino Drake now, back when it was first introduced, it was pretty special.

Wrath also introduced the 100 mount achievement, which to start with was punishing, since you’d need rare drop mounts, expensive mounts and possibly TCG ones to hit that figure. As Wrath progressed, and especially with the introduction of the Argent Tournament and its mount piñata, that figure became more easily attainable. The reward for it was a Dragonhawk, red for Horde, blue for Alliance. Initially, there were no Dragonhawk mounts in the game, apart from a few taxis you could take. When I finally got mine on my Alliance Druid, I thought it was a fantastic mount. There was no other like it. Eventually, when I levelled my Horde characters, I got my main Hordie the even better black/red Dragonhawk from Argent Tournament dailies. When mounts and their associated achievements became account wide, all my Hordies found they had a nice red Dragonhawk too, (thanks to Alliance characters and their mount collecting), as well as every one of them being able to use the AT Dragonhawk. But again, when the 100 achievement first appeared, the mounts associated with it were different from all others and could be considered special.

So, the Kite. You can get one as a reward by raising all Mists factions to exalted, and to be honest I haven’t really read anything about players being enormously excited about Kites.  They’re ok as taxis, but I’m not into them myself. I think if my characters could sit on them they would be better. I have the same beef with flying carpets. I find that standing on this type of mount in a surfing pose just looks ridiculous. So I agree with all those who are QQing a bit about the 150 mount reward – if indeed it does prove to be the Kite, although from what I’ve read it’s almost certainly that, well at least it’s that on the PTR. Maybe it’s not such a milestone mount because so many will just log on the day after the patch and get that achievement immediately. But for those players who’ve only recently managed to get 100 mounts, (or not even that yet), perhaps the idea of getting another 50 is somewhat more daunting than it is to those of us who’ve been mount freaks for years and have already got over 150. I personally think all achievement mounts should be special to start with. OK, we have tons more Drakes in the game now, and several Dragonhawks, if you include the TCG one, but the fact remains at the time of their appearance they were fairly unusual. I don’t find Kites that unusual or exciting, and it appears a lot of other players feel the same, although of course there are going to be others who think they’re great. It’s just down to personal opinion again.

I also think it’s odd Blizzard haven’t put in a 200 mount achievement yet, since for the serious mount collector this would be something to strive for, as we strove for the 100 mount one back in the day. The fact is, it’s not difficult to get 150 mounts now, if you’re prepared to grind faction rep and shell out for the mounts at exalted. Admittedly, if you were starting from scratch this would make a massive dent in your gold reserves, or would require a lot of saving up. I do know that a couple of people in our guild, who aren’t that serious about mounts, but have pottered about getting them casually over the years, already have well over 100 and won’t find it that difficult to hit 150 for the next achievement. So to me a 200 mount achievement would have been good to include in the patch too. When new pet collecting achievements came out some time ago, Blizzard added a couple at once.

As to what would have made a nice 150 mount reward, I’ve read some interesting suggestions. An Infinite Drake – yes, I’ve always wistfully thought of having one of those. A recoloured Heavenly or Thundering Cloud Serpent – again, good suggestions, don’t think anyone would complain about that, even though we already have a few Cloud Serpents to collect. Cloud Serpents have certainly been a big hit with our guild, with some saying they are the best flying mounts ever introduced. But how about something that’s not yet a mount we can acquire? My personal vote would be for the Arcane Wyrms/Serpents in Coldarra of Northrend, who fly around outside the Nexus/Oculus/Eye of Eternity structure. Every time we go over on a Friday to have a go at Malygos I think how fabulous it would be to have one of those Wyrms as a mount. Missed opportunity there, I say. They’re not that different in shape to the Cloud Serpents so surely wouldn’t be that hard to turn into mounts. There are other flying beasts in Northrend who have never been utilised as mounts, such as the Ember Wyrm and a certain type of Frost Wyrm, but perhaps these are a bit old hat, so not really suitable for the Pandaria era. I don’t think the Arcane Wyrms fall into the same category, but I admit to being biased. If we want to think really bizarre, how about a Fel Reaver mount, which can also liftoff vertically and become a flying mount? That would be pretty awesome.

Something else about Arcane Serpents. I was looking up these creatures on Wowhead to get their correct name and made the happy discovery that on the PTR there are four different colours of wyrm now, (blue – arcane wyrm, purple/pink – arcane serpent, white – spirit of the north, and red – crazed mana wyrm). They have been transformed into beasts from dragonkin, and three types (not the red) will be tameable by Hunters. What excellent news – subject to nothing changing when patch goes live, of course! Now if Blizzard could only take that one step further and make them mounts…

An Arcane Serpent

An Arcane Serpent pic I got from WoWhead

There is much debate going on at the moment about the fact that once you’ve got your main character through to 90 in Mists, it’s rather a pain for your subsequent alts to have to ride on the ground through all the zones. Flying is not allowed until 90 and many think that for alts it should be allowed, via Heirloom Tomes for example. While I see both sides of this argument, there are some pros and cons to consider.

 Ground Mounts are Just a Pain When Levelling on Alts

Yes, they are. There’s no doubt that a certain – rather large – level of pain is involved in fighting through tons of mobs to get to a quest objective, only for some other player to ninja it off you while you’re fighting. Sometimes, with no ninjas in sight, it’s just wearisome to fight in and fight out through a swarm of fast respawning mobs – all the time. I get that. And I hate it myself. Being able to swoop in on a flying mount directly to where you need to be and who you need to kill is fabulous.

But there is something to be said for experiencing this really beautifully-designed expansion from the ground. I think a lot of players rushed their mains to 90, almost blindly. To be frank, I did so too really. The first alt they level is the one who will have the time to investigate and explore the new continent. This is obviously more interesting and realistic from the ground. For this reason, I think flying at lower level should be held off for a patch or two. It didn’t hurt in Northrend. I levelled several alts the hard way back in Wrath. Although I must admit that the first alt I levelled with Heirloom flying – my rogue – was like a silky dream. No more fighting through annoying mobs to get to a quest objective. No more fretting that some other ‘considerate’ player would pinch my quest item as I was fighting a path through to it. It was blissful. But that said, I’d be happy to wait for that in Mists. While I’m an impatient player, I could bear waiting a couple of patches before we get Eze-mode for alts. The land is more realistic from the ground, and it’s beautiful to quest through.

Ok, some players really hate questing. It’s not their objective for the game; they just want to get to top level, gear up, and raid. Any impediment to that is just going to annoy those people. They did it all on their main character, no doubt cursing all the way through, so why shouldn’t they be given leeway on their alts? Why be forced to do it all again and again the hard way. I understand this complaint.

The solution, I think, is to allow flying at earlier levels like they did in Northrend, but not immediately, and everyone’s first character should experience the content to 90 without flying. Just enjoy it. Trust me, it’s fun, if you forget the stress of gearing up and raiding. I personally would be very happy if two patches down the line, an Heirloom flying tome came in. But in the meantime, I’ll also be happy to level my alts slowly and look around.

This expansion is going to be with us for two years. Forget what they say about expansions being released quicker; we know this won’t happen. We have plenty of time.

 PvP Concerns

For some reason, some people want to play on PvP realms and then weep over the consequences. Sorry guys, but why? One concern that’s been voiced is that level 90 players being able to fly inflicts hideous ganking harm on those who can’t fly, so everyone should be able to. I can’t really sympathise with this. If it bothers you, why the hell are you on a PvP realm? Why would anyone want to level on a PvP realm, without being accepting of ganking and all that shenanigans? The idea, frankly, is just ridiculous. It’s amazing how many people are upset about what happens to them on these realms. What do they expect? PvP worldwide is just license to be a dick. And every dick on the realm will happily take advantage of that. Change to a PvE realm, guys, and just enjoy playing WoW without all that stupidity and exposure to the worst element of players. Leave PvP realms to the dicks who enjoy inconveniencing each other for the hell of it. Unless you’re one of them.

Faster Ground Mounts

This is a great idea I’ve read about, but sorry guys, the fact that WoW is both PvE and PvP means you’ll never get it. PvP spoils a lot of PvE play again and again. It’s hugely annoying for PvE players. Yes, having ground mounts go at 150% or 200% would be great, and probably a lot would happily pay for that to help with PvE levelling and get it over quicker, but it will never happen, because of the implications – apparently – in PvP battlegrounds. This is what I’ve read so can only assume it to be true. There’s enough previous form to suggest it’s right. I’ve seen the class of my main character – a Hunter – be butchered time and time again because of PvP concerns, which just emasculates him in PvE. I’m going to see it again imminently with the nerf to Lynx Rush, for no other reason than PvP players whining about Hunters being overpowered. It’s not like Lynx Rush puts Hunters way at the top of DPS meters in PvE. It’s just a great skill I’ll be sorry to see so diminished for burst damage, which is helpful in raids, never mind on all those sodding dailies I have to do, when I sometimes get swamped with fast respawning mobs. I wish PvE and PvP would separate forever, be different games. It won’t happen. So we just have to suck it up – continually. Some classes more than others. It seems unfair to me that Blizzard always listens to the PvP players and nerfs classes because of their moaning. It doesn’t happen the other way around. At one time, during Wrath, I had to stop playing my Hunter completely in raids because of what PvP adjustments had done to his DPS. I’m not bitter… noooo. But anyway, *cough*, where was I? Oh yes, faster ground mounts will never be.

Conclusion

I think we will see alts being able to fly earlier eventually. It will be like in Northrend, and it will come at the right time. Flying isn’t always the answer to everything as players doing all the level 90 dailies will be able to attest. Other ‘considerate’ players will still ruin your day whether you can fly or not. So with that in mind, levelling to 90 without flying isn’t really that much of a bind.

That said, questing through Townlong Steppes and Dread Wastes without flying is really quite horrible. It seems to me those zones were designed for players who could fly, because of the amount of mobs and their fast respawn rates. My recommendation is to do every zone before that with your alts so you get to 90 before those last two zones. It is far more pleasant, even if it does take a bit longer. And with alts, there is surely no rush to get there.

Mount collectors in WoW are an insatiable breed. I know because I’m one of them. Ever since TBC when Blizzard unleashed new mounts into the game –  a lot of them – and mounts became learnable ‘spells’, I was hooked.  In the early game, mounts took up bag space, and with this being precious enough as it is, most players would only take one mount out on the road with them (and one companion pet as well, if they were into those too). It was not the norm for people to collect mounts in the way we do now. First, there were far fewer of them about, second, reputation was far more difficult to earn with the home cities, third the aforementioned inventory/bank space was prohibitive to collecting anything really, and fourth, gold was harder to come by than it is now. You needed 1K for the level 60 riding skill (which at that time was only the 100% ground mount speed), and most players struggled badly enough getting the 100 gold together just for slow ground riding. The faster ground mounts were seen rarely in the game, and were in fact the prestige mounts of their day.

But TBC changed all that. The price of ground riding was slashed to a manageable amount, gold became more easily earned in the new expansion, inventory space was no longer a problem and oooh look at all these amazing new mounts!

The first were the talbuks you could get in Nagrand from your faction’s allies in the area. There was a choice of six different ones. You needed exalted reputation to buy them and at first they didn’t come cheap. Players would usually only buy one, or perhaps different coloured ones on alts. Some were more expensive than others, being armoured. This was the first bona fide rep grind in WoW for new mounts and most people I knew were happy to do it. We’d just not had exotic new mounts before, and the talbuks, or high goats as they were affectionately nicknamed, looked quite exotic to us at the time.

Later in the expansion we were given our first flying mounts, which were drakes – those from Netherwing ledge. Again, quite a grind, but we’d never imagined we’d be able to have drake mounts, so whatever it took we did it gladly. We were given another faction to earn rep with, the Shatari Skyguard, who also sold mounts – the nether rays. At the end of TBC, achievements were introduced in the pre-patch to WotLK. One of these was to acquire 50 mounts. It was doable, just, with all the new mounts in Outland, but it cost a packet.  As you needed all available mounts, it was a bankrupting experience to attempt that achievement at the time. I managed it by clearing out the bank accounts of several alts, but I wanted the reward for the achievement so badly – the albino drake – that I didn’t care. This was the first ‘proper’ drake mount in WoW, since the nether drakes were a species unto themselves really. They didn’t look like any other dragons we saw in the game and had rather ‘sharklike’ faces. That said, I still love them.

TBC also brought in a few rare drop mounts, such as the Raven Lord from Sethekk Halls, the Ashes of Alar from the Tempest Keep raid, the Fiery Warhorse from the Karazhan raid and the White Hawkstrider from Magister’s Terrace.  All of these were rare at the time, the Ashes of Alar phoenix particularly so, as the boss who dropped it, Kael’thas, was no pushover when he was current. I can remember the first time someone got that mount on our server – a Horde player – and they were riding it in Shattrath city. Everyone just clustered round him to gawp in wonder at this amazing looking mount. We’d seen nothing like it before. Silly rumours abounded, such as only one per server would be allowed. That was untrue, but it was still incredibly rare owing to the difficulty of downing that boss and the fact only a small percentage of players were actually attempting the 25 man raids back then.

WotLK brought in dozens more mounts and a new way to get some highly prestigious ones. These were the rewards from completing dungeon and raid meta-achievements. It gave guilds really good incentives to complete the achievements. Unfortunately, there was a hiccup with the raid achievement mounts. Two were awarded for completing all of the Naxxramas achievements (one for 10 man, one for 25 man), but Blizzard removed them from the game when they released Ulduar, the next tier of raiding.  They now realise themselves it was a mistake, even though elitist players who’d got those mounts were pleased about it, because they felt that owning them showed everyone around them that they had completed Naxx when it was at its most challenging. People who outgeared the place later had – and have – no chance of getting those mounts.

One thing I will never understand is certain players’ desire to keep prestige mounts away from others. This is because a prestige mount is only prestigious until the next slew of difficult to obtain mounts is released. All those players smugly preening because no one else could get the black proto-drake or plagued proto-drake any more probably wouldn’t be seen dead on theirs once they’d got their paws on one of the Ulduar reward protos. Really, why should they care what players who take longer to complete things do with content and mounts they’ve left behind? How many of them now ever get their black/plagued proto out of the stable? I can’t remember the last time I saw one; probably not since way before Cata. And yet we still see the complaints, and the demands from a certain type of player, that some mounts should remain inaccessible to the majority. I wouldn’t dispute that maybe some of these people are better players than those who follow in their footsteps, but again, why should they get riled about people getting rewards they no longer even care about? It’s just dog in the manger to me; selfish and puerile. Thankfully, Blizzard appears to feel the same way about it; they’ve not removed any meta achievement mounts since the Naxxramas ones. I still really hope they’ll put them back one day; I’m quite sure players would flock to do those achievements then, and most wouldn’t care who else got the mounts. They’d simply enjoy them themselves until they got a newer one they’d prefer to ride about on.

As a serious mount collector, I know that some mounts will be beyond me until I vastly outgear the content they’re found in. This is simply because few people share my passion, so getting a team together when the mounts are current is difficult, once our progression team has moved on to a new raid, leaving the mounts from metas and rare boss drops behind. That’s OK. The friends I have who share my collector’s gene know as well I do we’ll have to wait until just the few of us can tackle the content. It’s annoying but that’s just the way things are. But I don’t think that any mount in the game (with the exception of the Arena reward mounts, which are a thing apart) should ever be utterly inaccessible to players, or should be removed to keep selfish elitists happy.  No true mount collector minds hard work. While that lovely goddess Arenjee might cause us to lament and gnash our teeth occasionally, mostly we’re happy with what we do. We are not so much into the concept of prestige mounts – just… mounts. But for some, exclusivity is the only thing that makes a mount worth having. As far as they’re concerned, mounts are for showing off to other people in cities, in the hope everyone is green with envy, rather than to be enjoyed by the person lucky enough to get them. This is amply demonstrated by the reaction to the Blizzard store mounts (which the majority of collectors would have bought the moment they came out). Few would deny that the store mounts are pretty gorgeous, and if they were rare drops from raids or difficult metas you’d never hear a bad word against them. But simply because they can be bought, they are heaped with scorn by certain players. This is particularly the case with Heart of the Aspects. When that shiny gold drake/serpent showed up in the game data, and no one knew how it would be attained, you saw comments on forums from players virtually slavering over it. Most assumed it would be a drop or a meta reward from the Dragon Soul raid. Then we found out people could simply nip to the shop and buy it. Suddenly, as these mounts started to appear in Stormwind and Orgrimmar, it was a target for verbal abuse. Personally, I don’t care a bit. I’ll ride my Winged Guardian or Heart of the Aspects, or even the poor old reviled Sparkle Pony, whenever I want to, and am glad I can do so.

Mounts really do inspire some quite incandescent feelings among the player base; rage from those who want them kept exclusive, resentment from those who want a chance at them when they’re able to do the content, and wistfulness from the collectors who simply wish it was a case of nose to the grindstone to get mounts, not just down to the whims of Arenjee or insurmountable content pinnacles we have to wait years (in some cases) to climb. But it’s not all negative. Nothing can compare to finishing a meta achievement and getting the mount reward in the mail, or winning a roll on a rare drop, or even soloing content for years and then finally seeing that longed-for mount turn up in the loot. It’s also a great feeling when you get to the end of a rep grind and can go and buy the mount you’ve worked so hard to get. They’re only pixels, and yet they can invoke such emotions – crazy really.

I’m fully expecting that the beautiful new phoenix mounts in Mists will be the privilege of the hardcores for a couple of years, and they’ll no doubt be gratified by that, but I’ll be happy if I can get one eventually. It was quite a tease by Blizzard to give everyone in the Beta one of these mounts in their collection. I could hardly bear riding it, because I just knew it would most likely be a long long time before I could get one for real. Or maybe I’ll be pleasantly surprised. Whatever happens, there are again dozens of new mounts in Mists and many of them involve only rep grinds. That, I can handle. I’m a hardcore rep grinder!

There is a goddess in WoW; her name is Arenjee. She is a capricious sort at the best of times, and even if you should heap her altars with offerings, or prostrate yourself to her in prayer a dozen times a day, the chances are she’s not paying attention, and is off somewhere, perhaps lying on a sofa reading a magazine, or pulling the wings off insects.

Arenjee is sometimes held in check by the elder god, Blizzard. She is subject to his whims, and sometimes he thinks she might have gone too far, gives her a rap across the knuckles, and removes whatever caprice she’s been inflicting on mortals.

What is Arenjee’s purpose, you might ask? Blizzard created her, and threw her into the world of his creation, in order to work mischief, much like Eris, the goddess of Chaos, in earlier pantheons. Theologists of WoW might consider that Blizzard had to create Arenjee because the mortals shouldn’t take things for granted. There is this other form of worship called ‘grind’. Without ‘grind’, mortals might not even believe in the gods any more. And there is one area of the sacred grind that is perhaps more sacred and contentious than others: The Rare Pet.

Listen now, for I have a tale.

Once upon a time, upon the world of Azeroth, there was a distant isle called Tol Barad. Upon this isle were many creatures and peoples, whose lives were mostly blighted by the followers of the god Blizzard invading their space and killing them. (Well, they knew this was their lot, even if they didn’t understand it.) Among the varied creatures of this isle was one known as the Baradin Fox. Mortals knew that slaughtering this lowly animal held a potential prize. It was the rare and much desired Fox Kit, this poor cubling wrenched from the still warm body of its murdered parent. But it was a rare and mysterious creature. Mortals might put one Baradin Fox to the sword (or spell, depending on their murderous preferences) and a kit might tumble forth from the corpse. Or they might kill over 12,000 of the unfortunate foxes and not one bleeding cadaver might offer up its progeny. The reason for this somewhat startling discrepancy between the likelihood of finding a kit among the entrails was down to one thing, or rather one goddess: Arenjee. She hovered over the isle, laughing, and when she’d downed a few cocktails of an evening, might decide to point her finger at a mortal and grant them success in their sacred grinding. Other times, she elected to make all the Baradin Foxes barren for months.

Blizzard, like Arenjee, can be capricious and rather random in his decisions. The winds of change and destiny blow across all worlds, even virtual ones. Blizzard had decided that mortals – who he after all relied upon to believe in him and thus ensure his existence – might enjoy pitting the many small creatures found upon Azeroth in battle against each other. He put much thought into this idea and created a fairly complex modus operandi for this illicit pleasure. Mortals, he knew, loved killing things. And if the things were small and squeaked in agony, or perhaps exploded in a mass of feathers with a dismal squawk upon death, even better. He cast his eye upon Arenjee’s favourite small beast: the Tol Barad fox kit. Well to be fair she had other favourites, but for some reason Blizzard forgot to notice them. “The mortals will like this playful little creature in their teams of beast death,” Blizzard mused, “but Arenjee has really put the little beast out in the ethers somewhere. I know, I’ll make it so that a humble merchant upon Tol Barad will have an endless black market supply of fox kits to sell. That should please people.”

But what do you think, my dears? Did it please people or not? Those of the sacred grind gnashed their teeth, tore their hair and daubed ashes upon their faces. “We worshipped Arenjee for two years,” they wailed. “And she stooped to bless us. We bled for her, we suffered the dark night of the soul of the Great Ennui. Our hands are raw with fox killing. In what crazy universe does a god say, ‘oh never mind, that task was a bit irksome, meet my friend Mr Merchant, he has foxes’?”

Other mortals said, “Oh thank the gods, I was beginning to feel like an ivory poacher. I actually rather like foxes, and killing twelve thousand of them made me feel rather nauseous. Cheers, Blizz, here are two offertory candles and a year’s subscription.’

It is not down to us mortals to question the ways of the gods.

After a shaky start on the Beta, the pet battles are now up and running, more or less as intended. There are still some glitches, such as pets all dropping down dead the instant you begin a battle, and the occasional utter freeze up so you have to forfeit a game and relog, but on the whole it’s a smooth experience. Although you can only revive your pets yourself once every fifteen minutes, most stable masters dotted around the landscape will also do this for you, for the modest sum of 10 silver for your entire stable to be healed and revived.

First, I have to say this is one of the best things brought into WoW for a long time. It’s fun, absorbing and extremely addictive. Like with Archaeology, you have to travel around a bit to track down and train up your pets, but it’s nowhere near as boring as the aforementioned. Each time you begin a battle with a wild pet of the appropriate level, you have the option to capture it once it goes below 35% health. And what turns up in your trap is a surprise: the captured pet can be of grey, white, green or blue quality, i.e. poor, common, uncommon or rare. What this means is that a ‘poor’ pet will have the lowest stats in comparison to a rare, and therefore is not really worth keeping. If you want a particular pet for your team, it’s best to farm the relevant creature until at least an uncommon one turns up in the trap. I didn’t realise this to start with, so am really glad I’ve been messing around with the battles on Beta so that by the time it goes live I’ve got more idea of how to build up my stable and not waste time levelling a ‘poor’. I’m assuming there might well be epic or purple pets in the game too; just not come across one yet.

Pets that you buy, have earned through achievements, or other means within the game, do not have a ‘quality’, but from what I have seen so far, they seem about on a par with an ‘uncommon’ or ‘green’ quality pet from the wild. I bought a Jade Crane Chick from the pet battle trainer in Stormwind (think it’s a limited supply, occasionally available purchase) and it’s one of my best pets.

I also found that pets you might consider a bit drippy and pathetic such as fawns, mice, squirrels and rabbits are no such thing. Squirrels are hard as nails, with their AOE nut barrage! Rabbits and hares can burrow underground and are not weak foes. Mice and rats get a stampede ability to assault your pets with an army of rodents, and fawns, well, don’t get me started on those gits! The standard Fawns you find in places like Elwynn Forest are bad enough. They heal, they annoyingly heal. I got one for my team, but have yet to find a decent quality one, mainly because they’re virtually extinct owing to player numbers in that area. Once I got to Eastern Plaguelands with my pet capturing, (when I had a team of pets around level 10 or so), I was confronted with the infinitely more evil Infected Fawn, which is an Undead pet. This does a soul siphon on your pets that heals it virtually to full for 4 turns on the trot while decimating your valiant critter. I of course swiftly captured one of these for my pet stable. The Giraffe Calf, found in the Northern Barrens also has an AOE heal skill that lingers after they depart the field, as do crabs – who also mix it up with an effective shield to make themselves doubly annoying when you confront them, but handy in your own team. I assume that eventually I’ll come across pets who have silencing abilities that will offset the strengths of healing pets.

Pets also have strengths and weaknesses depending upon what kind of adversary they’re facing. There are several different families of pet – beast, elemental, dragonkin, critter, flying, undead and so on. Some pets perform better against certain families than they do against others. You’re advised of this by a red or a green arrow next to your pet’s skills when they go into battle. A green arrow means your attacks will be strong, a red that they will be weak. Therefore, as you learn about which pets do best against what, you can assess a fight before you start it and choose pets for your team best suited to it. You can only have 3 active battle pets at a time and can’t change these in combat. But you can swap the 3 active pets around as much as you like in between combat ‘turns’.

Another thing I didn’t realise at first is that although only 3 pet skills show on their individual action bars, they will gain more as they level up. You can only have 3 active at a time though, so you need to click on the arrow beneath each skill in the Pet window to select the skills you want to use on them.  I think it’s about level 10 when they get their 4th skill, up to a maximum of 6 at top level.

Once you get beyond the starter level areas, such as Elwynn Forest or Durotar, and you have worked on your pets enough to have 3 available at a time in your team, wild pets will come at you in pairs when you initiate combat. This might make it rather random as to whether your team will work well against the second foe in the fight, since you’re not aware of its exact type before you start, but it will be a creature found commonly in whatever zone you’re in.

The best way to level pets that are lower level than others you might have is to put them in a team with two stronger pets. Put the lowbie into battle first and swap it out before it’s killed (i.e. after one turn most likely). Finish the battle with the better pets, and the lower one will then get bonus experience for the kill. This is the quickest way to level a new pet you might get that’s only available in lower level areas. Rares can turn up anywhere. I got a level 1 rare ghost from Tirisfal Glades.

On the subject of rares, I am finding them in my traps fairly regularly, and am somewhat sceptical this will carry over into live. Pets can be sold on the AH, and Blizzard does love its gold sinks. Commonly dropped rares wouldn’t really hold a price. What astonished me yesterday concerning the AH is the amount of idiots putting pets on there for 500K or more. In fact, few of the pets on the AH are cheap. On a Beta… Why? The only explanation must be that these are people who aren’t on there to test the game, merely treating it like a preview of the real thing. What is the point of trying to make millions on a Beta? Every single bit of gold will disappear into oblivion the minute the Beta is halted. You don’t get to keep anything you acquire on there. I despair of people sometimes. Still I suppose we have to take this as an indication of what prices will be like initially when pet battles go live. It would be great if it’s not too onerous to farm up your own pets rather than rely on the AH (shuddery, horrible memories of my short time in Diablo III, urgh!), so I’m hoping the drop rate for good pets doesn’t plummet too drastically once Mists of Pandaria is released.