Zygor Guides for World of Warcraft sale – 50% off

Zygor Guides is having a 50% off sale today – there really is no better addon for leveling alts quickly and efficiently from 1-90. You can buy just the leveling guide, or additional guides in various categories covering all aspects of the game, such as dailies, professions, pets and mounts, and reputation grinding.

From Zygor’s website, here’s some marketing copy that I think describes it pretty well:

Zygor Guides is an in-game software strategy guide for World of Warcraft. Every guide comes complete with the Guide Viewer, which displays step by step instructions of what quests to accept, how to complete objectives, when to use items, and more. Our gorgeous waypoint arrow will point you exactly where to go at all times and the model viewer will display fully rendered 3D models of NPCs and objects mentioned in the guide.

Zygor’s Leveling Guide includes the most optimized questing path for power leveling from 1-90 in lightning speed. The guide software is very dynamic, tracking your progress, detecting when you complete goals, and automating tedious tasks such as accepting and turning in quests. You will be amazed by the difference Zygor makes.

I can attest to the fact that the optimized quest paths are superior to the free ones like Jame’s leveling guide (which I used for my first main). I used Jame’s to get that toon to 85, and switched to Zygor when Pandaria came out to get to 90 and there was a huge difference. I’ve used Zygor since for all my Alliance toons. To be honest the guides are expensive, so I can’t recommend buying them at full price, but at 50% off they are definitely worth the investment in time saved.

Here’s a video that gives a preview of how it works:

I can’t recommend Zygor enough if you play WoW! There’s a free trial option so there’s no risk in giving it a whirl.

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.

he blessed the raids down in Africa

Shamus explores the Barrens. The whole zone is so clearly African savannah themed, that everytime I go there the Toto song plays in my head.

And now, so will all of you! But I assume that the game designers were well aware of this possible connection when designing the quests. Look at the lyrics:

I hear the drums echoing tonight
But she hears only whispers of some quiet conversation
She’s coming in 12:30 flight
The moonlit wings reflect the stars that guide me towards salvation
I stopped an old man along the way
Hoping to find some old forgotten words or ancient melodies
He turned to me as if to say, “Hurry boy, it’s waiting there for you”

It’s gonna take a lot to drag me away from you
There’s nothing that a hundred men or more could ever do
I blessed the rains down in Africa
Gonna take some time to do the things we never had

The wild dogs cry out in the night
As they grow restless longing for some solitary company
I know that I must do what’s right
As sure as Kilimanjaro rises like Olympus above the Serengeti
I seek to cure what’s deep inside, frightened of this thing that I’ve become


Hurry boy, she’s waiting there for you

It’s gonna take a lot to drag me away from you
There’s nothing that a hundred men or more could ever do
I blessed the rains down in Africa, I blessed the rains down in Africa
I blessed the rains down in Africa, I blessed the rains down in Africa
I blessed the rains down in Africa
Gonna take some time to do the things we never had

The Barrens has old men, wild dogs, mountains rising above the plains… and it even rains there from time to time. But anyone who has leveled there on foot know, “Gonna take some time to do the things we never had” indeed.

a guild of their own

It’s amazing how many people I know who play World of Warcraft. Even Shamus is getting sucked back in 🙂

I was thinking aloud a while back about how I’d love to start a guild named for Haibane Renmei. Most of my toons are Alliance, so I think a Horde guild would be fresher, and I have one alt on Staghelm I’d be willing to move to just about anywhere. The question is, is anyone else interested? The focus would be to stock a bank for leveling alts and grouping for end-game raids.

The main question is what server is would be, ideally a PvE server in CST to make it maximally convenient for everyone to be online roughly at the same time. I’d welcome suggestions as to what server we should pick. How many of you would be willing to bring a Horde toon or start a new one if we got this rolling? chime in on comments…

(as far as Cata content goes, like everyone else I am itching to play a Worgen, but for my Alliance toons I am content to stay on Staghelm as that’s where a lot of my friends are.)

UPDATE: We are officially Haibane Renmei on Blackhand! Here is the official Guild page.

Star Trek Online – temptation

UPDATE – the sale is over. Star Trek Online is now priced at $39 (still $10 off retail).

Excalibur class starship - looks familiar
It’s bad enough that I got hooked on World of Warcraft. Now I see Amazon is selling the new Star Trek: Online MMO for a ridiculous 45% off – $28instead of $50.

Man, though, it looks cool. I haven’t seen a decent space combat sim since the X-Wing days. And they are integrating it into the timeline of the original series/movies and the reboot. The Klingons are at war with the Feds again, the Romulans are creeping around, there’s the Borg and even Species 8472. No mention of Section 31, though, unfortunately…

Spider Man 4 dies so that Warcraft may live

I don’t really care about the news that the Spider Man franchise under Sam Raimi’s hand is over, except for the much more important fact that it frees Raimi to work on the Warcraft movie instead. As Harry says at AICN,

I feel confident in saying that the next film we’ll see from Raimi is going to be WARCRAFT… which after AVATAR, the concept of world building that particular universe could be astonishing – especially in 3D – especially after what Cameron just unleashed upon the globe. World creating Science Fiction & Fantasy… done by visionary filmmakers … well, it is a premium. We got THE HOBBIT coming, looks like an AVATAR 2… but the word I hear is that today – the phone lines were burning between a certain legendary locale and Raimi’s folks about firing up the furnaces to forge the weapons of war.

Some time in the next few months, I expect progress. I’ve heard that Robert Rodat (SAVING PRIVATE RYAN, THE PATRIOT) has put together one helluva script.

A movie technology arms race between Jackson, Cameron and Raimi with the Hobbit, Avatar and Warcraft franchises is going to be one fun hell of a ride.

Just look at this again – click on it, zoom in, and really look at it – and imagine it on the big screen, alive:


Willow goes to Azeroth

Unfortunately I got stuck on the Earth for rather longer than I intended. I came for a week and was stranded for fifteen years. — Ford Prefect

These words of warning apply equally well to Azeroth as Earth, as does the Guide entry which read in full, “Mostly Harmless”. That mostly bit is key, as G Willow Wilson is discovering.

The thing that gets me is this: there is nothing original about this game. Somebody mixed a little steampunk into Tolkien’s Middle Earth, changed a few names (high elves are night elves; hobbits are gnomes; trolls are troggs–the L’s replaced with a letter a mere 4 spaces away on the keyboard) and went to town. From a storytelling angle, everything about WoW is a rehash of something older and better.

But the sheer richness of the digital environment is so impressive that you don’t even begin to care. The other day (day? night? In my delirium I can’t remember) I was running along a frozen river in my little gnomish avatar when I heard the sound of bells. Around the bend came a blue-skinned elf. We stood there for a long moment, looking at each other, and then ran on, each bent on her own errand.

It was almost poetic.

Indeed, as was the occasions when I (or rather, my lvl 50 warrior toon) literally rode up on a white horse to save her little gnome mage from something or other. The sheer artisanship of the game makes even mundane encounters, epic in a way.

Meanwhile, on my flight back to Chicago from Abu Dhabi, I became acquainted with the TV show “How I Met Your Mother”. It’s amazing how WoW crops up in pop culture nowadays:

Razorfen Kraul

So, back in Azeroth I had a really enjoyable run through Razorfen Kraul with a winsome nelf priest friend of mine; the high point had to be the armada of snufflenose gophers we were parading arouund. The low point was getting those gophers to actually do their job. My warrior is level 34, on the high side for the level, but still nowhere near high enough to solo RFK. I’ve found that doing instances really requires teamwork to get anything out of them; to solo one you must be so high level that none of the item drops are going to be worth anything to you. A team of three players, all matched to the instance’s level or slightly above, is probably optimal (the Holy Trinity of tank, healer, and DPS). That’s not always possible, of course, and this experience in RFK taught me that it’s actually more fun to go with an escort at level 80. I have been escorted through the deadmines and the stockades with an 80 before, but those were boring; the 80 did all the work and my job was to sit back and get out of the way. This time, I was able to charge up and practice my warrior techniques in full melee, and the 80 backed me up as needed with heals, buffs, and ensuring that I didn’t get overloaded (since every attack they made generated higher threat). The result was a fun fight where I could experiment with my new berserker stance, but where I still had to work at it. I was high enough level that I could survive the melee and inflict damage on my own instead of being babysitted through the whole instance. The downside was that I got only average gear – I need to try the same thing out on a slightly tougher instance (perhaps something in the 30-40 range).

I’m thinking about focusing on instances for a while; I still have to do Gnomeregan. I really want to “twink” myself and try to get some better gear, as what I have thus far is mostly picked up from quests and lags behind the curve.