The Idiot’s Guide to the School of Hard Knocks Achievement

Aabde's new Violet Proto-Drake. What a long, strange trip it's been indeed!
Aabde’s new Violet Proto-Drake. What a long, strange trip it’s been indeed!

I just got my Violet Proto-Drake this morning 🙂

When I started WoW, the very first time I logged on it was the Fire Festival. I’ve always loved the seasonal events, and have great memories of sneaking into enemy areas or high level zones to burn bonfires. I’ve been after the What a Long, Strange Trip it’s Been meta-achievement for three years, to get my Violet Proto-Drake, but everyone who goes for the meta has to eventually face the facts: they will have to do the School of Hard Knocks achievement during Children’s Week.

Not. Fun.

There’s plenty of qq about this achievement and it is by far the hardest thing in the entire meta to do. I won’t qq about it here. I will refer you to the excellent piece at WoW Insider which pretty much says it all, not to mention the discussion at the Wowhead entry (the latter which also has a lot of great tips).

My aim here is to make a very quick, succinct guide about strategy for this achievement. There’s lots of strategy guide material out there, but here’s what worked for me. I hope it helps you, because despite the well-warranted qq, this IS achievable. It IS doable. Don’t be intimidated and don’t despair. If I could do it, so could you.

Yes, there’s a lot of luck involved. But that’s how statistics and RNG work: keep trying and it will break in your favor. Keep trying.


  • Finish up all the other achievements for the meta. Do all the achievements for Children’s Week also, except for SoHK. (Still stuck on this step? See below…)
  • If not already, get to the level cap (90 as of Mists of Pandaria).
  • Obtain a crafted PvP gear set. The latest ones as of today’s date are the iLvl 458 crafted blue sets. Use that link to figure out which set is appropriate for your class and spec, and then advertise on Trade for a blacksmith/tailor/leatherworker to make it for you or search the AH.
  • Get gemmed – use Ask Mr Robot to figure out the optimal gems for each slot.;
  • Get these two enchants:
  • Don’t bother with potions or food. You’re going to die. A lot. It’s just a waste of money.
  • With that done, you are ready to enter the Battlegrounds!

Orphan, Orphan, Orphan!

  • Thankfully this never happened to me, but many people go through all this trouble to do these PvP achieves, but forget to have their orphan out when they do it. This means they do NOT get credit for their hard work and luck!
  • EVERY time you die – which will be often – your FIRST action should be to blow your whistle and call your orphan back. EVERY time.
  • You can be mounted without losing your orphan. So call your orphan and then mount up.
  • DON’T click the whistle if the orphan is out already – doing so will dismiss him/her!

Capture the flag in Eye of the Storm

Map for Eye of the Storm
Map for Eye of the Storm

UPDATE: yes, as several folks have pointed out, the map is backwards. I will revise this asap…

  1. Get the flag
    • While waiting for the gates to open, summon your orphan and mount up.
    • Ride in a straight line to the center of the map. Don’t worry about fall damage. There is a stone bridge in the middle where the flag will spawn. Run straight there and try to grab the flag.
    • If someone else grabs it before you, stay there and wait; the flag will respawn as soon as they take the flag back to their base.
    • If you are killed, run back to the center bridge and wait for the flag to respawn.
    • While you are waiting, read all the updates about the battle scrolling past in chat. You need to know specifically when the flag is about to respawn, and what bases your side controls. Use the map to make sure you know where the controlled base is, so you know how to get there.
  2. Run the flag to your base
    • As soon as you have the flag, RUN (do not mount up or you will drop the flag). You need to take it to one of the bases your side controls. Usually these are the two closest to your starting side, but not necessarily.
    • If you die, summon orphan and then run back to where the flag is to see if:
      • the flag is still lying there? then pick it up again and run to base; or
      • someone else picked it up and there’s a big brawl going on? then wait around for them to die and try to pick it up again; or
      • someone picked it up and they are almost at their own base? then run back to the center bridge and wait for the flag to respawn.
    • There’s a circular pile of rocks inside your base, just run towards that and the flag will automatically despawn and you’ll get your credit. IF you had your orphan out, that is.

Assault a tower in Alterac Valley:

Alterac Valley map from WoW Insider
Alterac Valley map from WoW Insider
  1. Run to the farthest undefended tower
    • You cannot mount up while waiting for the BG to start, so summon your orphan and wait for the countdown. As soon as it hits zero, if you have an ability like Blink, Heroic Leap, Sprint or Dash, use it to give yourself some headstart. Pop that and then mount up.
    • Ride towards the other end of the map, along the path. As you gain familiarity with the map on repeated tries, take whatever shortcuts you can to get to the other side ASAP.
    • There is a central area called the Field of Strife. Stay to the right side of it or you will be smack in the middle of the opposing faction’s crowd and probably get killed.
    • If you are Horde, you are aiming for the bunkers; if you are Alliance you are aiming for the towers. (I’ll refer to both as towers henceforth). Ignore the graveyards, outposts, huts, etc.
    • I suggest aiming for Tower Point if you are Alliance or Icewing Bunker if Horde, but keep in mind others with Orphans out will also be aiming for them too. If there are a lot of others in your group also trying for the achieve, then instead aim for one of West Tower and East Tower (if you are Alliance) or for North Bunker and South Bunker (if you are Horde). These are the furthest towers and you will have less competition.
    • At the start of the game, all the towers on Horde side are Horde controlled and vice versa for Alliance. That will change as the battle progresses and towers are claimed.
    • If you are killed, you will resurrect at the closest graveyard. Look at your map to see which towers on the opposing side remain controlled by the opposite faction and run there. Any towers that are destroyed are no longer usable for the achieve and you can ignore them.
  2. Capture the tower
    • Run inside and run up the stairs to find the flag. Right-click on it to start the capture process, this takes a few seconds so if you can CC any NPCs around there will be less interruption.
    • If there are a lot of enemy players there, you will probably get killed before you can capture. Better to wait for backup, let your teammates engage and then try to grab the flag in the melee. If the game just started though, there won’t be.
    • You don’t need to carry the flag anywhere. Once you complete the capture, you will get credit for the completion. IF you had your orphan out, that is.

Assault a flag in Arathi Basin

Arathi Basin map
Arathi Basin map
  1. Get the flag
    • While waiting for the gates to open, summon your orphan and mount up.
    • As soon as they open, ride in a straight line to the first base and visible flag directly ahead of you (Stables for Alliance, Farm for Horde). Get there and right click the flag as fast as you can. Capturing the flag will take a few seconds.
    • If someone else gets it before you, then run to the next available non-controlled spot (check your map) and try to capture that one. If there are a lot of people with orphans out, skip Stables/Farm and go for Gold Mine (if Alliance) or Lumber Mill (Horde) instead.
    • If you are killed, you will resurrect at the nearest graveyard controlled by your faction. Summon your orphan and check the map. It’s unlikely there are any uncontrolled spots by this time, so you’ll have to go find one controlled by the opposite faction and try to take it from them. Try to spy from afar how many defenders there are and pick the least-defended target possible.
    • It’s far more likely you’ll have to fight for this one. So stay in the fight and keep at it. Unlike the others, your achievement goal here actually coincides exactly with the goal of winning the BG, so be a team player. As with Alterac, once you succeed you will get completion. IF you had your orphan out, that is.

Return a fallen flag in Warsong Gulch

Alliance flag room in Warsong Gulch
Alliance flag room in Warsong Gulch
  1. Get in position
    • Unlike the other BGs, you need to know your starting area very well rather than the map. Look carefully at the image of teh Alliance flag room above; the Horde room is laid out identically. Your first time in WSG you may want to not even bother trying for the achievement, instead just familiarizing yourself with the layout of the room and where the entrances to each area are.
    • While waiting for the BG to start, summon your orphan and wait for the countdown. As soon as the gate opens, run up the ramp on your left to the second level of the flag room so you have a view overlooking your own side’s flag from above.
  2. Recover the stolen flag
    • When the opposing faction arrive to take the flag, they will most likely arrive either above you (the roof area) or the ground level (via the long tunnel entrance). Do not try to stop them from picking up the flag – the flag needs to be in the enemy’s possession first for the achieve to count.
    • Once they have the flag, jump down from above and focus all your fire on the flag carrier. They will probably have friends with them for defense; ignore them and focus on taking the carrier down.
    • If you die, you will resurrect at the single graveyard on your side. Summon your orphan and run immediately to the long tunnel entrance to intercept the flag carrier who will use that exit 99% of the time. Attack and focus again on just the carrier.
    • Once the carrier dies, they will drop the flag and you can pick it up to get credit for completion. IF you have your orphan out, that is.

What about the rest of WaLSTiB?

If you are just getting started on What a Long, Strange Trip it’s Been, you may be feeling a trifle bit overwhelmed. But even though they removed the free 310 flying reward, it’s still the best way to get yourself a rare proto-drake mount, far more interesting and less grinding than getting the various raid meta-achievements. If I had to start from scratch, the best option is to use Zygor’s Professions and Achievements addon (affiliate link). If I had this when I first started, I would likely have finished the meta achievement a full year earlier and gotten my 310 flying, so I regret not getting the help. There’s no better way to keep all the various achievement steps and goals organized than this – it will literally save you days of work.

Here’s a quick video preview of how Zygor’s Professions and Achievements addon works:

(That’s just for the Professions and Achievements guide, of course. There is also a fantastic Zygor guide for leveling which I highly recommend).

Other resources

Finally, also do check out Cynwise’s guide to School of Hard Knocks as well. Very detailed guide with a lot more depth on strategy for Warsong Gulch in particular.

Building your army of alts with Zygor’s help

In anticipation of MoP I’m trying to build up an alt army, mainly for professions support of my main, Aabde (mining/blacksmithing). I’ve got Ppeeta, a lvl 10 gnome mage herbalist/inscription, Mmarko, a lvl 20 worgen hunter jewelcrafter/enchanter, and Zzamba, a lvl 30 nelf druid skinner/leatherworker. Those guys are all in the queue, but I’ve mainly been focusing on Gganda, my dwarf rogue engineer/tailor who just reached 71. And of course I will have a Panda monk to add to the mix, I’ll probably just go mining/herbing for him to act as gatherer support.

This is daunting especially since most of Outland and a hefty chunk of Northrend bored me out of my mind the first time around with Aabde. I’ve got agility leather heirlooms to outfit the alts with (note how all are classes that can use the same set, except for the mage). I’m turning to Zygor’s Guides as an alternative, especially since due to Real Life I barely have any actual time to play. They have a free trial available as well, and the guides have an in-game addon that looks like it lets you level on cruise control. (and they also do Diablo III, if you’re interested…). I’m setup as an affiliate link so if you decide to buy I will also get a few bucks, which will be useful since keeping this place spam free isn’t cheap 😛

There are other guides out there, but it looks like Zygor is the leader of the pack. Give it a shot!

mind your b’s and K’s: the arcane art of measuring download speeds

I’ve just upgraded to the 30 MB/s internet plan at Charter cable (and added HBO so we can watch Game of Thrones), so here’s the obligatory speedtest results.

It occurs to me that the units for download can be incredibly confusing. Charter advertises the download speed plan using units of Mbps. So, the question naturally arises, how long should it take to download something 18.3 GB in size? (and a related question, if I am downloading something at 300 KB/s, am I getting my max download speed?)

1 GB refers to a gigabyte (10^9 bytes) in this context, since we are talking about file sizes and network speeds. If we were talking about RAM, a GB would actually refer to a gibibyte. However, 1 Mb is a megabit (10^6 bits), not a megabyte (10^6 bytes), because of the small-case b. So 1 Mb is actually 1/8 MB (since there are 8 bits per byte).

So 18.3 GB downloading at 30 Mbps should require:

(size) / (speed) = (time)

(18.3 x 10^9 bytes) / ( (30 x 10^6 bits / sec) x (1 byte / 8 bits) = 18.3 x 10^9 * 8 / 30 x 10^6 = 4880 seconds = 81.3 minutes

Wolfram Alpha gets the answer right, too (and I like teh natural language query – very intuitive).

Now, suppose I’m rocking 300 KB/s according to a certain beta software download client. How am I really doing? The capital B means it is kilobytes, so that’s actually 300 x 10^3 x 8 = 2400 x 10^3 = 2400000 = 2.4 Mbps. Wait, what??

I’m only getting 1/10th my actual download speed for this??

This is why it’s important to do the math. Of course, the download speed may be limited by a lot of other factors, most notably how fast the server at the other end can deliver the data. I clocked almost 40 Mbps doing a speedtest with some local, low-ping server somewhere, but for downloading this big file I’m probably going a lot further and their server has a lot more to do than humor my ping requests. I guess I should be satisfied.

(But, I’m not. grrr….)

@Warcraft improves cognitive ability in older adults

There are plenty of brains in Warcraft
via @tomshardware, playing MMO games like World of Warcraft can help improve cognitive ability among older adults, according to a study at North Carolina State University:

Researchers from North Carolina State University have found that playing WoW actually boosted cognitive functioning for older adults – particularly those adults who had scored poorly on cognitive ability tests before playing the game.

“We chose World of Warcraft because it has attributes we felt may produce benefits – it is a cognitively challenging game in a socially interactive environment that presents users with novel situations,” says Dr. Anne McLaughlin, an assistant professor of psychology at NC State and co-author of a paper on the study. “We found there were improvements, but it depended on each participant’s baseline cognitive functioning level.”

Researchers from NC State’s Gains Through Gaming laboratory first tested the cognitive functioning of study participants, aged 60 to 77, to set a baseline. The researchers looked at cognitive abilities including spatial ability, memory and how well participants could focus their attention.

More information on the study here and here’s a link to the actual study at Science Direct.

This is unsurprising, because WoW’s complexity really scales with the player. You can easily access the game as a total noob but if you’re a diehard theorycrafter you cam minmax your way into elitist heaven. And there’s an entire social layer on top of that – you can play the game solo if you prefer, but from guilds to PUGs to PVP there’s plenty of actual human interaction that forces teamwork, competition, etc. There’s even a free market economy and the occasional plague. I think that the cognitive benefits for people with higher baseline are going to be more subtle, but like the Nintendo Wii I think that there’s an argument to be made for WoW in particular to become part of the therapists’ arsenal.

newbie 80 warrior… what next?

So, in celebration of getting to 80, I went ahead and Explored the world 🙂

Now here’s my dilemma. I’ve been working my way through Northrend, and hit 80 while finishing off Grizzly Hills. Now, do I continue the questlines in nrend or do i just go straight to the new cata zones?

I looked around and here’s pre-cata advice for finishing Northrend after 80:

If you’ve done the run to 80 before you shouldn’t do every quest in the zone; only the ones that will help you later.

Do Howling Fjord first, do the initial zone quests up to the ones that unlock the Utgarde Keep dungeon quests. Then do the Ka’luak quests in full.

Do Borean Tundra. Do Coldarra in its entirety to unlock the Nexus dungeon quests. Do Ka’luak quests until you get to Revered (or close to it, there’s easier ones in Dragonblight), and do the quests that lead up to and include finishing Temple City of Enkil’ah.

Run Utgarde Keep and Nexus at least once WITH the dungeon quests.

Do the majority of Dragonblight. The Goblin quests in the north area are optional, but nearly all the quests are important for something (Kirin Tor, Wyrmrest Accord, Ka’luak, Wrathgate).

By the time you do all those you should be Honored with Kirin Tor and Wyrmrest Accord, and Revered with Ka’luak. When you hit Lv.76 go to the Ka’luak vendor and buy a blue chest, and go back to the vendors for all three when you hit Lv. 78.

After that I recommend skipping Grizzly Hills and Sholozar Basin and hit Zul’drak for the Argent Crusade and Ebon Blade rep, both of which are in the lower areas. You could optionally unlock the Drak’Theron keep quests in Grizzly Hills, and probably a good idea to do the same for the flight point in Sholozar. If you intend to do Frenzyheart or Oracles, then stop by in Sholozar.

Once you hit Lv.77 go directly to Icecrown and do the quests to unlock Crusader Pinnacle and Shadow Vault, and start up the Argent Tournament quests. Then if you think you need shoulder enchants later go to Storm Peaks and do the entire Sons of Hodir questline, but only that. By then you should have enough dailies unlocked to not have to worry about anything else.

However, as the level cap is 85 these wont be as much of a gold bonanza – instead i could go straight to Hyjal, finish the zone, and then go do Firelands dailies for epic gear and better flying mounts. And then I can always return to northrend to finish off the Lich King.

What’s the better strategy here? I don’t even know all the pros and cons of each, so help educate me…

UPDATE – I just went to Hyjal, did three quests and got a sword that doubled my DPS. 0_o


Aabde on Staghelm, level 80


Level 10 – 5/14/09

Level 20 – 6/22/09

Level 30 – 8/7/09

Level 40 – 10/20/09

Level 50 – 12/12/09

Level 60 – 2/20/10

Level 70 – 6/24/10

Level 80 – 7/25/11

So, over two years. Note that it took over a year just to go from 70 to 80, so I’ve been in Northrend for a loooong time. Here are the dates of my Northrend questing achievements:

DEHTA’s little PITA: 7/14/10
Nothing Boring about Borean: 2/2/11
I’ve Toured the Fjord: 2/28/11
Might of Dragonblight: 5/21/11

This shows I’ve spent most of my time in the Borean Tundra (almost 6 months). That’s about how long I spent in Outland (from level 50-70).

At one time I had decided I was going to do all the quests in Outland, and was making some headway, but eventually gave up when I finally bought WotLK. I’ll reserve Outland achievements for my other alts.

I just noticed that there are quest achievements for the Eastern Kingdoms and Kalimdor that I should have had credit for , but don’t – I assume they must have been added afterwards. Thats annoying 😛

On approach to 80

My main is approaching level 80, which has only taken me about two years of play 🙂 Of course the Flame Festival is going on now which will distract me once I get online again (today doesn’t look great for that, maybe tomorrow?). But as I get to “endgame” I am finally going to be eligible for raids and Wintergrasp and all that stuff which until now has been inaccessible.

The question is, what do I want to do? and how do I start?

I used to run battlegrounds when I first started but tired of the Kobyashi Maru aspect of them. I almost had the achievement for winning every BG once but then they changed it so that all BGs give the same kind of honor point (or is a valor point? I get confused). At any rate I have a good number of those saved up but am not really sure there’s any useful gear if any I could buy that would be useful to me now.

Also, I am trying to run a random dungeon every time i log on (which isn’t always possible) and thus am accumulating the other kind of Points there, too. Again, not really sure how many I need and what they are good for.

In a nutshell, I am a PvE player – I like to quest. I also like to do dungeons, in order to complete the questlines and get the achievements. What I want is better gear, I am very poorly equipped as most of my gear is quest reward stuff and I don’t have much gold to spend at AH.

From this comprehensive guide to PvP gear for the new 4.2 release, most of which is utterly incomprehensible to me, it seems like some PvP gear would be hugely useful for PvE. So, should I try to get some? How? What’s the best way to go about this?

I dont know if I will enjoy raiding, but right now I’m so under-equipped that it’s not even an option. I’d like to at least try it out. But again, no idea where to start.

I need a Newbie Eighty Guide to Gear. Tell me what to do, what the basic due diligence is. Any and all guidance appreciated!

UPDATE – should have mentioned, my main is a human Arms spec warrior, level 78 on Staghelm.

Leeroy Jenkins

This is an old Warcraft meme, but new to me, and its hilarity is universal.

It’s just awesome. And players who endlessly strategize and micromanage drive me insane. I’ve never yet been on a raid (my main is still 75) so maybe the overthinking is necessary for all I know – but pulling a Leeroy is going to be hard to resist.