Playing Guild Wars 2 for free . . . and why you should

I have two paid GW2 accounts. Yup, I bit that bullet twice. I also have a free account. Why? Because playing for free multiplies the joy. Truly!

We live in an “instant gratification” world. We want it and we want it now. But there isn’t a lot of joy in that. I’ve re-discovered the joy in building a base slowly and working smartly, and that’s where the free account comes in.

Admittedly, I’ve cheated. I’ve sent things from my paid accounts to my free account, but I’ve really worked hard to keep it within reason. Big bag (one 18 slot silk, one 18 slot invisible)? Yes. Minuscule amount of gold (10g), sure. Low level mats to buff the crafting? Sure! Cheating? Uh . . . yeah, I sent unbreakable tools and glyphs for those tools once my free character hit 80 . . . I probably shouldn’t have done that but I did. It’s done . . . moving on.

Here’s the point and my goals. I plan to do everything, all the map completion, crafting, story line, events . . . everything I can do on this free toon until I run out of things to do . . . and then, and only then, I will consider upgrading to a paid story line.

I am maximizing the fun by not getting HoT or POF until I’ve done everything else first, maximized every craft, explored every map, completed the story line . . . everything. You cannot imagine the joy of working toward a goal instead of paying to reach it.

Guild Wars 2, the most misnamed game in the MMORPG universe

I have been playing Guild Wars 2 (GW2) for two years now. I know that’s not long in the world of MMORPGs but consider . . . I played World of Warcraft for two years before I bailed . . . completely and definitively. One day I was playing, the next day I was gone. Completely and totally never went back gone. Masses of gold, something close to 40 character . . . GONE. When it’s done, stick a fork in it, done.

So, why do I think GW2 has the least representative name in the genre? Because it isn’t about guilds. Okay, it is about guilds but only in the most general overview imaginable. You can be a member of up to five guilds so guilds are vying for your membership but that is the least important feature of the game. Truly! Once you find a good guild that’s where you want to stay!

GW2 is about the story, the mechanics, the environment, the players, the joy. It really is. And to understand what I’m telling you, you really need to play the game to understand.

Not looking back . . .

I stopped playing WoW. Yup, cold turkey. One day I was playing, doing the same thing day after day and the next I was gone. WoW had become a job instead of an entertaining distraction from pain and frustration. I was paying a monthly fee and felt like I HAD to play to justify spending the money. Ugh. Just ugh.

So I took some time to see what else was out there in the world of MMORPG. I tried a bunch of different games. I either couldn’t stay alive or couldn’t figure out where to go and what to do. Yup, not happening. MMORPG is supposed to be fun, not frustrating.

Then I found GuildWars2. OMGosh. GAME CHANGER. Some of it made me laugh. WoW was just starting to integrate the awesome features GW2 has had forever. And the big plus . . . I could SEE what I was doing most of the time, something I constantly struggled with in WoW.

To give you a flavor of why I think GW2 is superior, here’s a very small list of things that GW2 does much more brilliantly than WoW.

  • Resource storage – click a button in your bag screen and all the materials are automatically deposited into the resource bank regardless of where your character is in the world.
  • Trading Post access – right click an item in your inventory and sell it on the trading post regardless of where your character is in the world. Need more of something? Buy it from the trading post from ANYWHERE. You have to go to the TP or one of its agents to collect items and profits, but you can interact with it from anywhere.
  • Transportation – Portals and waypoints instead of flight masters and flying mounts. No more wasting time flying from one point to another or traveling to a portal to get to a different part of the world and then flying to where you want to go. Travel from one side of the world to the other in the time it takes for the screen to load. Buried in the bottom of cave and don’t want to fight all the spawns to get out? Open the map and click a waypoint and you are out of there! Truly amazing logical stuff that makes the game FUN .
  • Player attitude – When you lose too much health to fight you can work to heal yourself before you’re truly dead. ANYONE can heal or resurrect another player. I laughed out loud the first time I got the “there are too many resurrectors” message on my screen. If you’re dead and the battle is so fierce there’s no time to resurrect you or you’re in a spot where no one can safely get you back up, you can waypoint out and run back in full health. No wasted time whisping to your dead body. If you fall in GW2 SOMEONE will get you back up either during the fight or right after. You won’t be left lying there dead while everyone else wanders off to do their own thing. Player attitude in GW2 is COMPLETELY different. The attitude fostered by the game’s mechanics is a wonderful thing.
  • Armor repairs – Are completely free. Yup. No more spending 100g+ because of damage during a boss fight. It. Is. FREE. There is no armor damage if you fall and die. The boss has almost killed you off? Yeah, jumping off that cliff might not be a bad thing.
  • Guilds – It’s called Guild Wars for a reason. Guilds are busy busy busy. EVERY DAY our guild runs one or two activities. Guild groups get together to do something all the time. ALL the time. Ten percent of the guild members are usually online playing at any given time. If you need help filling a group or killing a boss, people leap to help. It’s a whole different world.
  • Activities – GW2 has daily activities in addition to achievements, holiday activities, dungeons, raids, events, boss spawns . . . the list is so long there’s no way I could cover it here. There’s so much to do there isn’t enough time in the day when running just ONE character. I had nearly 50 on WoW and was bored, bored, bored.
  • Wiki – If you need to know something, /wiki whatever in the chat box will get you the wiki page on that thing. It. Is. AWESOME.
  • Wardrobe – All the armor comes uncolored. Color is added via dyes which are acquired from chests, boss drops, story achievement chests, the trading post, etc. The look of the armor can be selected from a wardrobe. My toon may be wearing the same leggings as another but that’s where the similarity ends. With three dye locations and over 100 colors, the chance of my toon wearing the same thing as another is rare indeed.
  • Questing – WoW had quests which must be done in order, a rigid and boring system. GW2 has stories which branch depending on the choices you make and the type/race of the character you are running. This is separate from map completion which can be done at any time.
  • Armor Scaling – When you go to a lower level zone to do an event or kill a boss, your armor is scaled to that zone. There are no one-stroke kills here.
  • Crafting – There is no greater contrast to WoW than the way the crafting professions are handled. They aren’t even the same species. In GW2 components are made which are combined in the discovery screen to find recipes. You can buy from the trading post, sell to the trading post, create components from the main recipe screen, refine ingredients from that same screen. OMGosh. Example . . . if I need a pair of leather zerker leggings I can open the recipe. From that screen I can pull up windows to make all the necessary components. It’s fabulous!
  • Characters/toons – The character creation screens have a wonderful range of options with a wide selections for every aspect (nose, eyes, hair style and color, body type, height, tattoos, horns, ears, mouth size and shape, skin color, etc.). I was unlikely to find any other toon in game which looked like mine. Each character I created was truly unique. And each character has a personal story based on choices made for that character.
  • Mounts – This is one of the best things GW2 has done differently. There are four types of mounts and questing is done for those mounts. They each have a different perk which makes the game fun and interesting.
  • JUMPING PUZZLES – OMGosh! Jumping puzzles! Every map has at least one. Complete the jumping puzzle to get to the chest at the end. You can do them all every day if you like though I don’t know that you could manage them all in a full day of play. It would be fun to try . . . if I weren’t doing so many other things.
  • GLIDERS! – OMGosh. Instead of flying mounts, GW2 has gliders and updrafts. OMGosh. SO much more fun.

So, as you’ve no doubt figured out, I dove into GW2. I played for free until I was hooked. Then I bought the game’s current expansion and I haven’t looked back. I’m spending about the same amount of money every month, but I’m spending it on things that improve the game for me. More bag slots, more bank storage, keys for Black Lion chests. Occasionally I buy gold when I don’t have enough time to create the gold I need. The beauty of it is, I can CHOOSE what I spend my money on instead of wasting it on a subscription that does nothing but give me access. And if I’m short of funds I can play and spend nothing. It’s a beautiful thing.

It’s all about the buffs

In Draenor there are two things that matter, how closely your stats match your spec’s needs and how well you’re buffed.  Good stat distribution and full coverage on buffs and it’s easy to rock Draenor.  Ignore one or the other and you are going to struggle even if your rotation rocks.

For sorting my armor/enchants/gems I use AskMrRobot.  It’s an addon and a website and to use it at its fullest you have to subscribe.  The amount in minuscule for the benefit it offers, though it is confusing as the layout/operation is a bit awkward.  Nothing else does the same job so I suck it up and pay.

Because stat distribution is so important and so specific to each spec, I don’t try and figure out what to equip and what enchants to apply on my own.  With many specs at level 100 I choose to not to spend time sorting out which item in my bag matched with which other items on my toon or in my bag is going to give me the right combo of stats with which enchants . . .  I want to spend my time playing, not wracking my brain.  I LOVE AMR. I can mindlessly equip what it says, enchant what it says and not worry about whether it’s right. It frees me up for the fun stuff.  And if you’re running without Draenor enchants on neck, cloak and rings you’re taking a big hit in dps.  If you’re having trouble staying alive you might want to consider getting your gear enchanted.  If your gear isn’t 695 or better, use Breath of enchants and Mark of the Shattered Hand (weapons) and save your gold for the big enchants when you get better gear.

Buffs . . . Oralius’ Whispering Crystal or stat flask is a must.  Stat flasks give bigger stat buffs, last an hour and persist through death but they’re expensive.  A 100/125 stat food buff is a must. Savage Feast is great because it’s one size fits all.  It gives you 100 of your most useful stat. Tent buff is a huge plus (10% bump all stats) and if your armor score is less than healthy it’s a must.  The rune buff is also a big plus.  Every buff makes you stronger, healthier and increases your dps.

Wear the most appropriate gear you can, make sure it’s enchanted and get those buffs onboard and you’ll rock Draenor.

Garrison buildings, what to build and why

Garrisons are confusing. There is so much stuff going on it’s hard to know what to do.  There are lots of good garrison building guides but I’m going to try and offer you something different, advice on what order to build and why.

While you are leveling your way through Draenor, in addition to your professional building(s), you need a/an . . .

Inn (don’t waste resources upgrading it).  As soon as you have a medium sized plot available build an inn to get the on-steroids version of the Crystal of Insanity we all got from the cave on Timeless Isle.  The quest you’re after is offered by Oralius, the dwarf standing at the bar – check daily until he’s there and you can grab the quest.  You don’t have to run it the day you grab it, you don’t have to wait for Oralius to show up inside the inn to turn it in.  He’s behind the inn once the quest is done.  You DO have to have the inn to turn it in.  You won’t be able to use someone else’s.   Don’t bother picking up any of the other quests (most are for heroic dungeons) unless you’re going to be running the dungeons or you will clog your quest log.

Trading Post.  A level 3 trading post gives you a 20% boost to rep earned.  To get flight in Draenor, to get the Empowered Augment Rune, to get the 15% flight speed boost in Tanaan, to get the Arakkoa Outcast rep that lets you purchase the Arakkoa Trade Agreement, to get wingman with your bodyguard . . .  you have to gain rep.  As a plus you get the ability to sell excess garrison resources for crafting and cooking mats and trade in mats for garrison resources (daily quest).

Storehouse. Build a level three storehouse IF you don’t plan to play your toon every day.  A level three storehouse boosts the number of available work orders up to 36 (dependent on the level of the barn or professional building).  You can fill all your buildings (assuming they’re level three) and five days later come back to the last work orders just finishing up.

Barn.  If you don’t have a level 3 barn on another toon, start your barn as soon as you can and keep it working.  You have to gain the Master Trapper achievement to open up the level three barn to trap Nagrand elites for crafting mats, feasts and the savage blood needed for crafted upgrades to 685 (675 for weapons and offhands).  The first three upgrades requires 15 savage blood, 15 of one of the sorcerous mats and 70 of the profession mats (burnished leather, war paint, alchemical catalyst, etc.) so it’s of value to get the barn in quickly and start building your stores of mats.  The final two crafted upgrades require 175 and 350 of the professional mats.  It’s good to get started early.

Bunker.  One of the goals with your garrison is to get your slate of followers filled as soon as you can (cap of 20 for a level two barracks, 25 for a level three) and get them leveled and geared to 675 so they can go out on the missions that will get you good gear and gold.  To do that you need the bunker.  The plus here is a free Seal of Inevitable Fate each week.  Two more notes regarding your followers.  First, Garrison Commander (addon) has a wonderful interface that lets you prioritize your mission rewards, set the level of risk you’re willing to take and make mission assignment and mission completion a single button click.  As your followers level you can shuffle the reward priority (yes, I want those special rewards that sell for big gold on the auction house!) and turn off certain types of missions (no, I don’t need any more follower armor tokens).  In addition it works great with the FollowerGearOptimizer addon (assigns armor tokens to followers based on their value to currently available missions).  Second, while you’re pushing your followers to get them to 100, send them out on missions with as little as zero chance of success.  Each mission has a base xp they will get whether the mission succeeds or fails.  The goal is to level your followers as quickly as possible.  If the mission’s sure to fail but the follower will get xp, kick ’em in the butt and send ’em out.  DO NOT do this with your naval fleet.  Followers fail but return smarter.  Ships sink.

Where you go with your buildings after you’ve got all your crafted items upgraded, stacks of savage feasts and crafting mats is totally up to you.  This is intended to give you some guidelines on what to do while you’re working your way to that point.

Tanaan tips

There’s a lot going on in Tanaan Jungle.  Consider this an addendum to my Draenor Noobs post.

There is a weekly boss you should kill without fail every week.  Kazzak drops 705-711 gear suitable for your spec.  Specifically he drops bracers, neck, cloak and trinket.  He also (without fail) drops felblight.  Felblight is a must for upgrading crafted equipment.  Look closely at the equipment you get off Kaz.  Sometimes it will have a prismatic socket.  Sometimes it will have extra stats like avoidance or leach.  All Kaz drops are not equal so take the time to look carefully.  For Kaz you have a bonus roll available to you.  It can be purchased from the Arakkoa vendor next to the AH in Stormshield for alliance and behind the portal/transmog building in Warspear.  The four quests (gold, apexis, garrison resources, honor) give you the opportunity to trade for a Seal of Inevitable Fate.  Here’s one final tip on this.  If you forget to grab your bonus roll seal, don’t leave group.  Hearth back to Lion’s Watch (if this stone is on cooldown hearth back to your garrison) and step through the portal to Ashran.  Buy the seal and step back through the portal to Lion’s Watch and the bonus roll will pop . . . assuming your group is still active.

Gathering in Tanaan has the chance to drop felblight.  Some days I get lots, some days I get none but if I’m going to do any gathering I try and do it in Tanaan.

If your gear score going into Tanaan is low (below 640 though 660 is a more comfortable ilvl for easily running Tanaan solo), ask someone with flight if they will fly you around to collect treasure and kill bosses.  All treasure chests and fractured apexis bundles have a chance to drop baleful armor tokens which can pop equipment (armor, tokens, jewelry, weapons) that ranges from 650 to 685 in varying degrees of suitability for your spec.

Empowered Apexis Fragments (the upgrade token for items created by the baleful armor tokens) will upgrade your gear to 695.  They are account bound.  If you start a new toon in Tanaan you can send those upgrade tokens across realm/faction to your noob, so continue to collect apexis crystals even if you don’t think you need them.

There are a couple one-time treasures available in Tanaan.  They appear on the map if you’re using Handinotes:Draenor.  All the other chests and fragments respawn so watch for them as you work your way around Tanaan.

If you chose the artillery tower in Talador, that’s your best option for your garrison ability in Tanaan.  It’s perfect for blasting the adds called by Varyx in Kranak and Riloth in Fel Forge.  Artillery makes these two bosses easy to solo at ilvl 660 assuming you keep your toon properly enchanted and have your buffs up with bodyguard in tow.  If you selected the tank option from Nagrand as your garrison ability . . . well, <wince>.

Fel wolves count as demon and as teeth.  If you have demons and all the fel wolves at the approach to the Throne are up, you can finish your demon quest in about 4 minutes.  If you have teeth, that batch of wolves and all the pigs (including the little ones) near those wolves (one end has Steelsnout) will nearly finish your teeth quest.  Goreclaw’s cave is also a good source.  Swoop through, gather them up and drop one bomb.  That batch is good for between 1/2 and 1/3 of the teeth needed.  There’s another batch of fel wolves up by Sha’naar where Ceraxas spawns.  When you kill Ceraxas the first time a fel pup will spawn near the edge of the cliff.  The quest gives you a spike collar which produces a pet.  You get one of those but collect the collar for each toon as it’s worth a nice chunk of gold.

All the bosses in Tanaan (not Kaz) can be killed daily.  They will drop 655 or better gear each day.  Doing a sweep through Tanaan and killing every boss that pops is an excellent way to gain gold or enchanting mats, whichever you need most.

Fel sludge (the green rivers and pools of stuff in Tanaan) give you a buff/debuff.  Ten stacks will kill you.  Nine stacks gives you a nice dps boost.

Leatherworking hut followers can make tents which give an hour-long 10% stats boost.  These are account bound and can be sent cross realm/server.  You can benefit from anyone’s tent.  This may be faction dependent but can’t tell you for certain.  If you have a tent buff that’s nearly out and want to rebuff, you will have to click the buff off before entering the tent.  You will have to enter the tent unmounted.  If the buff doesn’t pop in ten seconds, exit, check to make sure you don’t already have a tent buff running and reenter.

Outside your garrison (alliance) or by the bonfire at the pet area (horde) is a vendor that will sell you a recipe for 125 stat (more for stamina) food that uses fish.  You can be a level one cook and still use the recipe.  Stacks of the base fish (crescent saberfish) is usually available at the AH in reasonably sized stacks.

Fishing in Tanaan fel sludge pools will produce a fish that, when consumed, gives you a damage buff.  Fishing them can also produce felblight.  This fish is a great one to use if you don’t have food (savage feast, the chili that drops off the mission table or cooked food suitable to your spec).

If you sit down to eat and can’t get the food buff, you have a buff in place that is better than the food you’re trying to eat.  If you have an about to expire 125 food buff sitting down to eat a savage feast (100 stat food buff) will do nothing.  Click off the better buff and try again.

Iron Front starter is unnecessary

It is not necessary, when starting a toon in Tanaan, to complete the Iron Front objective area. Talk to Murad, turn in the quest from Yrel, pick up the flight point/scouts quest and skip completing the Iron Front.  This will speed your setup for Tanaan and leaves the area available for the two objective areas quest you’ll pick up after finishing the mission table.

Nifty stuff

I’m working to learn healing and running a lot of dungeons as a result.  It’s amazing the number of people who don’t know about Findle’s Loot-a-Rang, but the dungeons are run so fast there’s no time to type a “hey, look at this” message.  Even with the macro half the time no one sees the message in chat but hey, I can try.

Since I’m doing the macro thing on other stuff I thought I’d create one linking the loot-a-rang and a “hey look!”.  Did you know you can use a macro to link an item in chat?  You don’t even need an addon.  Pretty nifty stuff here . . .

And this is what I ended up with, all properly linked.  It’s exactly the number of characters allowed in a macro.

/run SendChatMessage(” [Findle’s Loot-A-Rang]  makes looting a simple pause and cast. Available at AH”,IsInGroup(2) and “instance_chat” or IsInRaid() and “raid” or IsInGroup()  and “party” or “say”)

This blurts the message with a single click regardless of where I am and is exactly the number of characters allowed by the macro utility.  If you want to add more characters than this you’ll need a macro addon that has an extend feature.  I use Macro Toolkit though it wasn’t necessary for the above macro.

Why healers are scarce

Have you ever queued and waited . . . and waited . . . for a healer?  Have you ever stopped to wonder why?  I can share a few reasons with you.  I’m sure this isn’t a complete list.  If you are a healer some of these will resonate, I am sure.

If you’re a tank, have you ever considered how much more difficult you make the healer’s job if you:

  • don’t turn the mob away and the healer and all the dps gets blasted as a result
  • take off to the next mob so fast the healer can’t get you back up to full health
  • take off so fast to the next mob the healer doesn’t have time to loot
  • take off so fast to the next mob the healer doesn’t have time to buff you for the next fight?
  • pull too large a mob for the healer to heal through?
  • fail to hold aggro so the healer gets attacked?

Sadly, it’s not unusual for a healer to experience each of those IN A SINGLE DUNGEON.  The tank happily bounces along singing “ME, ME, ME, ME” and the healer fights to hold the pack together and keep them healed.  Many tanks are so self-centered they’re rushing forward with no clue or care that they’ve left live mob behind which holds up the dps AND the healer.

Can you tell I’ve had a bad day healing dungeons?  Some of those pricks were so bad they ended up on my ignore list.  If they’re that bad, I don’t need to know them.  I think I’ll fix myself a drink and listen to some soothing music.

Who knew?!

It’s funny how some small disaster can lead to neat discoveries.  I wore out my Kinesis Freestyle2 keyboard.  Yup, literally wore it out . . . well, the left half of it, anyway.  I poured half a cup of sweetened coffee on the right half.  Ouch.  So for a week and a half I used something else.  One temporary replacement was a mini usb keyboard.  Boy did that suck.  Truly.  I was back to being a noob player with reduced dps.  Yeah, having the right keyboard is definitely key.  But . . . the silver lining . . .

Did you know . . . you can bind shift-space bar?  Yup.  As of yesterday I have an easy mount-up and ride/fly key combo.  I have a ButtonForge button set to shift-space bar and I drag onto that button whichever mount I will need . . . or whichever macro I need (no you will NOT dismount me in flight).  Beauty!  No more trying to find the right mount each time I want to mount up.  Will you be spending time flying someone around in Draenor?  Drag the Sandstone Drake onto the button.  Have stables in your garrison and want to do some quick mining/herbing?  One of the panther mounts is just the thing.  I love it when I find a method that’s both efficient and elegant.