The Disqus transition and some blogs for your perusal

First off, happy holidays to everyone who celebrates at this time of year! I hope your day(s) were enjoyable/tolerable and any allergic reactions to the ubiquitous soap-related presents were kept to a minimum. (Also that you did not lick any gifts trying to puzzle out if they were soap or food. Thank you Lush for that particular experience.)

Secondly, thank you so much to everyone who's been visiting and commenting on the blog, adding it to their blog rolls and retweeting my posts on Twitter. The number of hits Touch of Death received this month is double last month's traffic, and it's exciting to know there are people out there reading what I've written and enjoying it enough to come back (voluntarily, even). Double love goes out to commenters for turning my rambles into discussion.

Which leads me to a site note: Touch of Death now uses Disqus for its comment threads. Blogger's default system is perfectly functional and all, but the comment form loads through an iframe so I'm unable to edit the look and feel of it to match the rest of the site. This, of course, is unacceptable. Thus: Disqus.

Unfortunately, while Disqus has copied all the comments over so nothing has been lost, existing comment threads have been broken by the switch over. Much, much more annoyingly, all the links back to each commenter's blogs have been rudely severed. So I thought I'd do something to make up for that.


Shared topic: new raid pets

If a future patch adds more raid-dropped pets like those introduced in 5.1, what pets would you like to see? What raid and boss would they be available from?

Topic suggested by Effraeti of Awaiting the Muse

This is an interesting question not only because it's a nice creative outlet, but because it has me thinking all about which bosses stand out from the rest and why. What makes a boss memorable? How do you encapsulate it in a pet?

I'm not much of a designer, but I've picked out a few of my favourite bosses, each memorable for a different reason, and taken a wild stab at imagining up a pet for them.


The haunting of Sunsong Ranch

Farmer Yoon is not alone, and I don't mean that as a terrible lead-in to he's got you, best friends forever!

I've noticed this a few times on the inn-to-farm run my sad, neglected alts make most days. There's something shadowy on Sunsong Ranch, right by Yoon himself.

It's a little easier to see in-game because it's moving, but hopefully you can make out the slight shadow in that screenshot, between the witchberries and the carrot.

Investigating this proved difficult. As soon as you cross into the phased part of Halfhill, the ranch itself, the shadow despawns. It despawns more quickly than Flying Serpent Kick can handle, which is saying something. That skill can handle most things.

My investigation tailed off, until my most recent silliness reminded me that I have a priest, and that priests have Mind Vision. What better way to investigate the haunting of Sunsong than with the Yoon cam?


Art: Forceiswithyou's Nyxrinne

I would word now, but sometimes those are overrated.

Nyxrinne by the excellent Forceiswithyou, who kindly threw sketches to lucky WoW_Ladies in the build up to her finals!




Today I am on a boat. The living soldiers don’t particularly want me below deck, and the crew don’t particularly want me on deck, so I volunteered to sit up in the crow’s nest on watch. They would have refused this as well, I think, if I had not pointed out that I need very little sleep. So little that I can feasibly stay awake for the duration of the trip, and avoid polluting their deck altogether.

That appeased them, so now I am up at the top of what is essentially a very tall pole, which pitches a lot when the water fusses, and takes the brunt of the wind at all times. I don’t mean that as a complaint. Those things are now my primary defence from the rowdiness below. No-one will come up here to pester me, so I can write as freely as I want.

I cut off the other day because Awende interrupted. She came down from behind me, calling Nyxrinne! Walking dead girl! Then she cut off because I had turned to look, and she had seen my robes.

I had put on my apothecary garb between witnessing the orc guard at the inn and sitting down in the Cleft of Shadow to write because it is comforting to be in uniform, even when the uniform is tied to a cause I don’t support in full. There are Forsaken in Orgrimmar who have gone over completely to the Horde, and cut ties to the Forsaken and thus really humankind in the process. I was repulsed by the idea of being mistaken for one of them.

I admit, writing this now, that it was not a particularly logical decision at all. It was more a sign of how nervous I had become.

Nevermind. I waited to see what Awende would do. For a moment, that was nothing more than stare. Then she scoffed.

‘The way you were talking, I shoulda known. That’s some dark company you’re in with there, Nyxin.’

‘I’m looking for a cure,’ I said.

‘Whatever it takes, yes? I think you’ll be wasting your time. What Bwonsamdi has taken, he won’t be giving back.’

This is roughly in line with what I have heard for as long as I have been Forsaken, from all different sources. It did not surprise me to hear it, but I was already under the weight of whatever complicated thinking was going on in the back of my head, so her words did bring me lower.

‘We’ll see,’ I said.

She came and sat next to me. ‘So then, did you come here to sit right in the chest of this Horde?’

‘I don’t know what that means,’ I said. I was sullen.

‘Right next to its beating heart.’ She thumped her chest like a pulse with one hand, and pointed with the other to a nearby tent.

It was a warlock hut. I could see in through the sides, it was that poorly maintained, and there was an orc working on his runes inside, drawing them out on the floor in green fire. Two more were watching, too far from us for me to hear their comments.

‘They’re the ones enjoying Garrosh’s loving care,’ said Awende. ‘They led the march on Theramore, the Horde made strong with demon might. Your people call that history repeating, I think.’

‘Don’t,’ I said.

‘What’s the matter, walking dead, tired of truth already?’

‘Yes,’ I said. I drew my velvet sleeves taut around my knuckles. ‘It’s this place.’

Where her tone had held bitter vitriol, now there was some gentleness. ‘Tired of the sight of us all slipping under, like your people slipped.’

‘Just tired.’

‘Come with me,’ she said. ‘There’s warships setting out for a whole new world. I don’t say a lot of this won’t come with us, but I do say a lot more will stay behind. Come. Let’s see if Bwonsamdi’s grip stays as strong past the mists.’

Two things are probably very clear already: that she did not think the loa’s grip would lessen at all, and that I agreed to go. What I do not think anyone would anticipate, because we did not, was that Awende’s presence on the boat was protested even more than mine. So much that she was not allowed on at all. She is for now my lone companion in the crow’s nest, as a frog I am keeping wrapped up in my cloak for the warmth I cannot provide. It is a strange turn of events that one of the Forsaken is trusted over one of the Darkspear. I will have to work out why.

We are due to reach land in two days, where we will set up a base of operations. I am not sure what Awende means to do then, as a stowaway whose race will not have changed and probably not become welcome simply because we have arrived. What I do know is that we bring almost as many cannons as people. The Horde is bringing war to this new land of Pandaria.


Miriah's epic adventure

So, I woke up at quarter to five in the morning because my brain is a crime against humanity. Because my brain is a crime against humanity, I couldn’t then get back to sleep, so I decided I wanted to do some rare and relic hunting. Nyxrinne, I felt, was far too well-equipped for such a venture, so I hopped to my old main, Miriah, and started out.

The main advantages of being Miriah are as follows.

  • Miriah is on a dead PvP server.
  • Miriah is still in her old Cataclysm sets.
  • Miriah cannot fly.

This makes for a lot of untouched spawns, the ability to pounce on the competition and wrestle them off cliffs, a lot of gear to upgrade, and a lot of Actual Exploring to be done from the ground.

I basically blitzed through every single Jade Forest rare, because they were all kind enough to show up to my party. Krasarang and Four Winds were slightly less obliging, but surrendered after a few circuits and tea breaks and a brief stint questing to make Miri colourful.

Apparently 'colourful' isn't a desirable look for a priest of the Forgotten Shadow.

She picked up epic leggings, amongst some solid blue drops, and I became increasingly arrogant. What about crossing the wall and taking on the mantid, I thought.

But it became clear that first there should be yaks.

Image heavy and ridiculous beneath the cut.


The pets can do the work

I’m knackered at the moment, right down into my bloody marrow. My new job is physically demanding and I’m pathetically weak, quite simply.

I did expect to be tired, but not in this way. When I was worn out by academic work or the teaching I was doing during my work experience placement, I got much more into beating the snot out of internet dragons incarnations of inner strife in my downtime. Now that it’s physical exhaustion I have to deal with, eh. My reaction times are down and my attention span is shot.

Not that it was ever that great, but, you know.

I’m still excited about Nyxrinne and about Mists, not to mention the new patch (which I’ve yet to explore at all, if that gives any concrete evidence of this exhaustion business). I’m just not firing on all cylinders, which makes LFD and LFR lacklustre to me: I play both to see how far I can push my gear this week. If I can’t do a good job of that, I don't enjoy the instance.

So, well, I’ve been checking out the aspect of Mists I’d ignored in favour of levelling.

Here follows an exhaustion-zombie pet ramble of questionable value. (Needs more brains. Not enough brains.)


The loot roll window

Just a quick post to flag up a relatively new feature, as a morning spent tanking through the LFD tool has revealed not everyone is aware of this handy thing.

Want to roll for offspec? Want to see who's rolling against you? Nosy like me and just want to know what everyone's doing? When loot drops, uncommon quality and upward, you'll see a message in chat that looks like this:

If you click [Loot] the following window will open up:

It keeps track of every roll, past and current, for your perusal. Much neater than a chatlog full of roll spam, innit?




It has been several days since I last wrote, and I am now in Orgrimmar. Most of the rebuild has been finished now, so the whole city is choked up with metal spikes and other fortifications.

I can’t help but think that if Garrosh wanted his city to be a true bastion he should have built it underground. A wall is not much use against gryphons and airships, after all, and I have overheard a lot of talk about the ship that sank Deathwing and its service as part of the Alliance.

It’s just occurred to me that we are now set up for a pantomime. The Alliance’s aerial navy, if that’s what you call it when a boat decides the sky suits it better, versus Orgrimmar, all dressed up in Deathwing’s metal plates. A dramatic reconstruction.

Only Orgrimmar cannot move, or spit fire, or summon up the black dragonflight to its defence. And its demolition won’t scour the world of a great evil, but terminate the lives of a vast number of Horde soldiers and civilians.

Although I accept those two things can be viewed as one and the same, depending on who is asked.

I have to say that the place is strangely monolithic, and by strangely I actually mean in a way that is sadly very familiar to me. Awende and I parted shortly after passing through the gates, and I have decided to scout the inns.

It is unusual that you cannot gauge the thoughts of the Living by sitting in a tavern and listening, so I gained a flagon and a chair and made sure to mind my own business, which is harder than it sounds when you are Forsaken and people are drunk.

But, this time, it was very easy. No-one was interested in me. In fact they may have been purposefully ignoring me. They sat evenly spaced around their round tables, sitting cross-legged on furs, with a guard or two presiding over their talk.

The guards, in fact, seemed to be directing each conversation. I just heard one say, ‘And now, brothers, Northwatch in ruin, where next? Where to destroy, by the will of the Warchief?’

‘Northwatch again,’ said the woman on his right, ‘when the Alliance fleet-’

‘Who we will crush beneath our heel!’

I note he is still doing that. No-one seems to be directly contradicting anything he says, but he’s taking no chances. He’s holding the discussion to a particular course, and the drinkers around him have already surrendered to this, only two or three rounds in.

By rounds four or five they were almost drawn up in it. They used words he would approve of, and there was anger behind them, and if that anger had once been aimed at the guard himself, now it seemed redirected down his sights.

He had not even been subtle in his manipulation, but did he need to be? Orcs are part honourable and part warlike. Some of the drinkers must have agreed with the Horde’s actions already. Those that did not were reminded, every time they were interrupted and corrected, of the futility of their complaint, of their helplessness. But they could express anger and pride if they showed it in the right way, so perhaps that was why they had opted to do so.

I say perhaps because I have never got to grips with this phenomenon. It happened to us after the Wrathgate. Not immediately after, when the Kor’kron came in. The reaction to that was more organic. Some people were angry, some shamefaced, some continued on as they always had done, lost in their still-dead bodies.

No, it happened after the Lich King was dead. There came this surge of monarchism. I am still confused about it. Maybe I missed some important trigger while I was out in Tarren Mill, where there is a tempering orc presence as well, and not all Kor’kron either.

But the results were like this: statues went up to Sylvanas, and suddenly everyone was talking about her. Apparently she had been out in the field with the soldiers, talking to them and taking an interest.

I never saw this, and I never met anyone who had actually seen her themselves. It was always something a friend’s friend had witnessed. No-one seemed to mind. They were all so eager to help her. Sylvanas seemed almost sacred. They were willing to die for her.

That is part of why I went all the way out to Feralas when I wanted to be away from Lydon, instead of returning to the Undercity or Brill. It is also part of why I am not going back to Lordaeron now. I don’t want the queen in my head.

I don’t want the warchief there either. From the inn I have gone out into the market place, which is busy as always, but with an unusual tension hanging over it that made me jittery right down to my bones to be near. I perceived that people were watching each other, more intently even than the goblin bankers watch their customers. There were grins, and greetings that all seemed to mention Theramore, and constant watchfulness.

I retreated to the Cleft of Shadow. I know I said I wanted to investigate this but it makes me sick with unease. Unease makes me think violently, which I think it may do for a lot of the people here. Is it wrong that I am trying to criticise something that I am a part of? Am I a hypocrite? I don’t even know what I hope to achieve. No-one will listen to me. I am a mouldering corpse. My opinion means nothing. The Horde will cut itself to sh



Armour worth a thousand words

After the trope-ridden, lore-punting, grossly unsatisfying end of Cataclysm, Warcraft’s writers had a lot to prove in Mists, and they hurled themselves into it with the Jade Forest as the opening zone of the expansion.

I know there are concerns about what can be seen as a simplistic depiction of the Pandaren culture in this zone, but I’d like to set those aside in favour of a moment to bask in the successes of the writing.

The Forest is immersive. NPCs with strong personalities, histories and motivations are deployed from the moment you set foot on your respective faction ship; the opening quests are fast-paced and brutal, with heavy kill counts from the start; and your character is at long last treated to an external viewpoint in Lorewalker Cho.

That’s all impressive enough, but there’s an absolute killer of a storytelling technique used in the Jade Forest, tied seamlessly into the usual trends of levelling up, and that’s visual referencing.

Watch your character as you level. Specifically, watch your armour. Consider the way you’re given iLevel 372 armour in the first wave of quests, only to be presented with 384 kit not two quest chains later. It’s almost as though that first set is merely intended to establish your character’s aesthetic at the start of the expansion, rather than providing a long-lasting stat base to use while you quest.

Let me elaborate.


Musing on free experience

So, I recently levelled Nyxrinne to ninety, and I've had a while to consider the levelling process as a whole. There are a few things I want to talk about, but I think the biggest one for monks has to be the major experience buff we pick up through class quests.


For new or non-monks, here's how it works: at level twenty you gain a skill called Zen Pilgrimage, which teleports you from your present location to the Peak of Serenity. Here you pick up a class quest from the head monk, which involves defeating one of the masters down in the training grounds. You gain gear as a reward... and also the Enlightenment buff. For an hour, you gain +50% experience.

Once this first quest is complete, you also unlock a daily quest variation. You defeat a master, you gain an hour of the buff. Every tenth level after twenty, you gain another class quest bringing you back to the Peak of Serenity, for further loot and another hour.

There are a few things to take note of.


Why I should never have control of a camera

I wanted to add an image to this post because screenshots are shiny and I am forever in love with Nyxrinne's athletic springing about. I figured I would catch her mid-roll.

Now I have a new and improved gallery of... well.

The technical term for this is 'boing'.

There are more.


Through Durotar

Previous chapter

The troll decided to travel with me to Durotar, or fate decided it for us. We met on the path that evening, and after some strides in sync we acknowledged each other, and that was that.

Awende, she introduced herself as. She had ‘some magic’, she said, but refused to specify. I had ‘some medical knowledge’, I told her, and left it at that. There was some conversation, the usual kind, about destination and occupation, but it was precursory and we knew it.

‘Do you know them,’ I asked, ‘the tauren back there?’

The bull, yes, the cow, no. She and the bull had fought in the siege together. He was strong, but wilful.

‘Judgemental,’ I said. ‘He blames every Forsaken for the work of the Royal Apothecary Society. We aren’t one and the same.’

She answered with silence.

‘The Society,’ I told her, ‘had a cure in mind when they were formed. They didn’t have all these subdivisions. They were working for the reincarnation of us all, inarguably. Some still are, of course! But that’s not what they’re known for anymore, is it.’

The troll, like most trolls, was sharp. Unlike most trolls, she wasn’t obstinate, set on feigning ignorance. She spoke.

‘The Horde took my people in, and taught our men to take note of our women. For that there had been no hope before. In our tribes there was danger all the time, always hardship: my mother and her sisters had too much to do to demand anything more. The Horde fixed that. I am a soldier today by the goodness of the Horde. I am turned murderer today by the will of that Horde!’

We fell silent and let the tread of our feet replace her words with steadiness.

‘That Horde only in name, perhaps,’ I said in time.

‘No,’ she said, ‘the same people, the same places, the same Horde. You cannot say Garrosh alone makes everything– like this. We are the same, but infected with a wickedness.’

I think infected is an interesting word. Firstly it suggests something external coming in. An infection isn’t an intended part of us, it breaks through our defences somehow, when we’re cut or when we eat, or it just goes ahead and perseveres through all the mucus and immunities our bodies set up to repel it.

But secondly an infection is still something that gets worse inside of us. It brews in there and builds up, using our strengths against us. A bad cold is nothing while it’s still in the air, floating about doing nothing. It has to encounter someone, and get inside them, to become sickness and to start generating all these symptoms.

Thirdly a truly bad infection, like an epidemic, will affect not only health but behaviour. People flee to the country and abandon one another, even fight to keep other people far away for fear of being infected too. Others will suddenly find heroism and risk themselves to help the sick. And the sick themselves, if the sickness is fatal, can turn despondent, or desperate, or violent.

What I’m saying is this: her analogy seems to work, and suggests that something entered the Horde, maybe through a wound, maybe because we welcomed it in through our everyday hunger, maybe because it was tenacious.

Once inside the Horde it grew, festering within people, feeding on our energies, perhaps our anger, because that’s an easy one to exploit, or our fear, because that is too. It turned our strengths into negative things, maybe putrefying the merits of our diversity by making racial differences into barriers instead of opportunity, or something like that. Perhaps turning our war machine into something inward and problematic?

In fact, yes, because Theramore was the work of the war machine and it prompted this entire discussion. This discussion which is, like the party at the Crossroads, the reaction of the people who suffer or are near to those who suffer the infection. It’s prompted a wide range of behaviours.

But I have issue with using this analogy even if it seems neatly descriptive, because of the very first point, that it has to come in from outside. Placing the blame for our own actions on something inflicted on us is something I hear a lot amongst the apothecaries. Crimes committed against us become reasons for cruelty or poor logic. An infection becomes not a contributing but a deciding factor, as though we are all caught up in this tide toward evil and not one of us can be expected to swim against it.

Even Lydon, who taught me to be self-evaluative, and to keep working for a cure, even as we were pushed more and more to weaponize this and weaponize that, was like this. He would say that we should stomach the work in poisons and plagues so as to keep the resources flowing that we could then use on better research. Then I would witness him torturing individuals with a kind of animal ferocity and joy that I would never see in him at any other time, and he would explain this as his undead state getting the better of him.

I do not think something ‘getting the better of us’ is anything other than an excuse, and I think the same of this supposed ‘infection’ of an otherwise good and forward-thinking Horde. I think Garrosh’s policy is carried aloft by the masses of people who want more war and more land and more butchery, and that Thrall himself appointed Hellscream out of some deep desire for revenge that he could not acknowledge and so could not question or halt.

I don’t think I believe in good people and bad people anymore. I think vengeance and violence and prevarication are ingrained in all of us, even those who have slithered onto the pedestals of heroism, and that should be accepted as fact: it is the condition of all sapient species to have all these destructive traits. To do anything else is to try to formulate cures based on false evidence.

Personally, the thought of Theramore makes me sick, because of the scale and the brutality of the destruction, and because it stirs a little glee in me. I am glad to be on the winning side.

I will not mention this to Awende, I think she is happier with her excuse, and I think she might be happier still to put a spear through me, because my species is such an icon for this behaviour she hates so much.

Next chapter


The Crossroads

Previous chapter

The settlement they call the Crossroads is busy, packed with soldiers. Their reasons for loitering here are diverse and contradictory.

When I arrived at the inn, late at night after spending the day in my patch of shade, a group of rowdy orcs accosted me. ‘Join us! Drink!’ and things like that.

They were all quite young, and their leader was exceptionally muscular, wearing little more than a leather harness. He slung his arm around my shoulders and led me to his friends’ table, where I spent the rest of the night perched on his knee, his arm around my hips, food and drink coming in a constant stream, and more passersby being drawn into the festivities. They were celebrating Theramore’s annihilation.

What did we want?
What did we give them?
Why do we fight?
For the Horde!
(And so on.)

Any form of intoxication can be funny like that. This orc rejoiced in the death of humans with a dead human in his lap. I didn’t know whether to take it as a compliment or an insult, so I mostly simply grinned. It was, after all, the warmest greeting I’ve ever had from strangers, since I’ve been this carcass anyway.

Maybe this is the duality of drink. It makes your current passion reveal itself in bright, bright colours, but it also leads everyone to doubt the validity of what you’re doing. It lets you cheer on your bloodlust and hug someone you’d normally hate. Or I assume he would, most do, especially when I’m in my robes – which I wasn’t, they were folded up in my pack, safe and hidden.

I did not put them on when the young orcs’ party was over, either, and everyone was sleeping. In my travelling leathers I left the hut, and there was the mild, clear light of morning outside, with the Crossroads so quiet I could hear the grasses shivering across the plain for miles around, or so it seemed.

But there were also voices, low and hushed. I found them under the guard tower on the western side of camp. Two tauren, a cow and bull, and a troll, in Horde-styled mail with shaman trinkets braided into her aquamarine hair.

All three were subdued. They made no eye contact with one another, watching the savannah instead, and they sat slack, not at all ready for combat, so presumably they were not guards on duty, or if they were they were bad at it.

I sat down with them without introduction, and they did not seem to mind. Staying quiet, staring out, it was as though they had initiated me into this little pocket of contemplation or gloom. I found myself drawn in.

‘It is not my place to contradict,’ said the troll, in the strong accent that is typical of the Darkspear. ‘But sometimes the feeling, it picks you up and it carries you, and there you are all the sudden, out in the open with all your complaints.’

‘Nobody would fault you for that,’ said the bull.

‘They would,’ said the cow, ‘you know they would. That is the greatest problem here: so many have been drawn into the frenzy.’

‘It picks them up and carries them, just like my doubt does me,’ said the troll.

I have read the Forsaken literature on something I think is quite like this phenomenon she was trying to describe. Crowd rage, swarmer mentality, compounded by lifetimes of war and, for the undead, bodily disfigurement. That goes for the orcs as well, with their green skin. I wonder if the orcs see fel corruption when they look at their brethren, like I do when I look at mine?

I said some of this aloud: the part about the swarmer mindsets and wartime conditioning.

‘Are those the excuses your people fall upon?’ asked the bull.

‘There were not so many of the walking dead in the siege, I did notice that,’ said the troll.

‘Some of my people have learned,’ I told them.

‘Only some! Should we expect your newest atrocity soon enough!’ The bull glared at me, his nostrils wide, the tiny hairs within surging in and out.

‘As much as you expect the same from those people in the inn,’ I said, ‘and those who are like them.’

His gaze dropped, then. He snorted helplessly at the dust beneath knees.

‘The Horde has entered a time of sickness,’ said the cow.

So we sat and thought about that for a while, and there was nothing good to say, so no-one said anything at all.

Next chapter


Making friends with the Tillers

Tiller farmland.

The Tillers are a faction of farmers based in the Valley of the Four Winds, beset by the virmen and the hozen and entrenched in an anti-newcomer mindset. Reputation with the Tillers is granted every time you harvest a crop at ninety, and through completion of several dailies available at Halfhill (again at ninety).

Alongside the main faction reputation bar, there are also individual Tillers to befriend, and note that by “befriend” I mean “ply with food and trinkets.” Each Tiller has a favourite meal you can cook for them (or rope a friend into cooking for you) and a special item found in pockets of Dark Soil all over Pandaria, most abundantly around the farms in the Valley of the Four Winds, and less reliably as extra loot when you harvest a crop.

Befriending the Tillers at maximum speed is all about knowing what to give to whom. In aid of this, this post is split into four parts for your convenience:

  1. A screenshot overview of locations, meals and gift preferences.
  2. The meals and their materials.
  3. The gifts and how to hunt them.
  4. Information about each Tiller in alphabetical order by name.

The overview: click for full size

Tillers location in Valley of the Four Winds

Back up top.

The meals

For a full meal run, you'll need to create five of every meal. This will require the following materials:

35x Juicy Crunch Carrots
25x Scallions
25x Striped Melon
5x Giant Mantis Shrimp
10x Jade Lungfish
10x Krasarang Paddlefish
5x Reef Octopus
5x Raw Tiger Steak
5x Raw Turtle Meat
10x Wildfowl Breast

Pull these together to make the following:

Braised Turtle
For: Old Hillpaw
Materials: 1 Raw Turtle Meat and 5 Juicycrunch Carrots per dish; 5 meat and 25 carrots total.

Charbroiled Tiger Steak
For: Haohan
Materials: 1 Raw Tiger Steak per dish; 5 steaks total.

Eternal Blossom Fish
For: Sho
Materials: 1 Jade Lungfish and 5 Striped Melon per dish; 5 fish and 25 melons total.

Fire Spirit Salmon
For: Tina Mudclaw
Materials: 1 Emperor Salmon and 5 Scallions per dish; 5 fish and 25 scallions total.

Sautéed Carrots
For: Jogu the Drunk
Materials: 2 Juicycrunch Carrots per dish; 10 carrots total.

Shrimp Dumplings
For: Ella
Materials: 1 Giant Mantis Shrimp per dish; 5 shrimp total.

Swirling Mist Soup
For: Gina Mudclaw
Materials: 1 Jade Lungfish per dish; 5 fish total.

Twin Fish Platter
For: Fish Fellreed
Materials: 2 Khasarang Paddlefish per dish; 10 fish total.

Valley Stir Fry
For: Chee Chee
Materials: 1 Reef Octopus and 1 Wildfowl Breast per dish; 5 octopuses and 5 birdy breasts total.

Wildfowl Roast
For: Farmer Fung
Materials: 1 Wildfowl Breast per dish; 5 total.

Back up top.

The gifts

Match these to the best recipient for a full 990 reputation, or pass them around as you like for 584 instead.

Blue Feather
Jade Cat
Lovely Apple
Marsh Lily
Ruby Shard
Chee Chee
Old Hillpaw
Fish Fellreed
Jogu the Drunk
Farmer Fung
Gina Mudclaw
Haohan Mudclaw
Tina Mudclaw

Gifts can be found all over Pandaria in patches of Dark Soil, and you can see the exact places where these spawn here at Wowhead.

Rate of Dark Soil pickupIf you're looking to grind reputation quickly, your best bet will be to search around the farms in the Valley of Four Winds. The soil's extremely abundant there. Even if you have competition, it's not unusual to loot flurries of the gifts, as you can see from my time stamps to the right.

That said, there's a lot going on down on the ground amongst the farms, which can turn a gift-grind into a squintfest. Look how obscuring all those vegetables can be, an issue that's only compounded when you're doing a speedy fly-by on the epic mount:

Ground clutter in action

There is, however, a good way to ease visibility.

Hit Escape and bring up the game menu. Click System and look down toward the bottom left section of the System Settings panel. Change Ground Clutter to Low.

Turn down ground clutter

Observe the difference!

Veggidisappearo, a spell much-coveted by the under twelves.

If competition is getting you down, the spawn rate of soil is apparently quite good around the Temple of the White Tiger in Kun-Lai Summit, mostly around gazebos and under trees. You can also try out this addon, which modifies TomTom to show you the exact locations of Dark Soil spawn spots.

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The Tiller characters

Chee Chee Tillers Chee Chee
Eats: Valley Stir Fry
Likes: Blue Feather
Provides: Sheep on your farm, and Chee Chee's Goodie Bag in the post.
Ella Tillers Ella
Eats: Shrimp Dumplings
Likes: Jade Cat
Provides: Luna the cat on your farm, and a Tree Seed Pack in the post.
Farmer Fung
Eats: Wildfowl Roast
Likes: Marsh Lily
Provides: A shaggy prized yak on your farm, and an Enigma Seed in the post.
Fish Fellreed
Eats: Twin Fish Platter
Likes: Jade Cat
Provides: A trio of pigs for your farm, and a Special Seed Pack in the post.
Gina Mudclaw
Eats: Swirling Mist Soup
Likes: Marsh Lily
Provides: A mailbox for your farm, and a Celebration Gift of fireworks in the post.
Eats: Charbroiled Tiger Steak
Likes: Ruby Shard
Provides: Songbell Seeds in the post. These grow into Motes of Harmony.
Jogu the Drunk
Eats: Sautéed Carrots
Likes: Lovely Apple
Provides: A Secret Stash of alcohol in the post, and free crop forecasts.
Old Hillpaw
Eats: Braised Turtle
Likes: Blue Feather
Provides: A flock of chickens for your farm, and a Straw Hat in the post.
Eats: Eternal Blossom Fish
Likes: Lovely Apple
Provides: An orange tree for your farm, and a Red Cricket pet.
Tina Mudclaw
Eats: Fire Spirit Salmon
Likes: Ruby Shard
Provides: Furniture for the farmhouse and a Nicely Packed Lunch, full of food.

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Thus concludeth the guide. Edited 30/12/12 for all those people finding my blog while looking for the elusive Farmer Fung!


Being ex-human in the Horde...

...tends to make you feel very small.

WTB stepstool, PST.


Newly ninety monkling

I meant to head this post with a fantastic level-up screenshot of Nyxrinne hitting ninety. Instead, out in the Dread Wastes, I was enshrouded in sonic weaponry and hurled at the ground by one of the Klaxxi. I missed all the mobs I was aiming for, plummeted into a section of the zone I had yet to visit, and levelled up on impact.

You'd think this might make a dramatic ding shot, but instead it's mostly a monk sprawled on her back and a lot of perplexed mobs hanging around in the background, unharmed. So here's Nyxrinne and a chicken instead. Ta-da.

It took me just over three days worth of /played time to reach this level cap, including all the usual AFKs and RP-related slowdowns and... Mogit. (Mogit.)

I found the monk class extremely enjoyable out in the world, for the movement-related reasons outlined here, which provided a constant sense of precision and speed; the burst capabilities of the windwalker spec; and Enlightenment, which I was going to discuss here but in fact deserves its own post.

What I will say is that I have enjoyed MoP questing a great deal. The vast majority of the storylines are good, the world is beautiful, and there's a strong sense of pace throughout that carried me forward effortlessly, even though I was replaying some of the earlier content as I'd levelled my paladin to eighty-eight before starting on Nyxrinne. I have quite a lot to say on all of it, so posts ahoy!


A new book

all battered and churned up. Garrosh used the desecration of this place as an excuse to go for Theramore, as I hear it, but the army from Mulgore marched so close by the ruins that Taurajo’s even more of a mess than before.

It’s not normal behaviour for the tauren, I think it’s been forced. I couldn’t bring myself to honour the place in their custom after seeing that, so I made a wreath of wildflowers in human fashion and set that by one of the burned tents instead.

Even empty, the place charges me.

That’s not clear. As Forsaken I pick up on bad tension, I see bad things and I hear bad sentiment and I take it in more than anything good. There’s been a lot more of that sort of thing about lately. I get a kind of pressure between my eyes everytime someone speaks bitterly about our movements, or when I see things like this: Taurajo in ruins and the marks of peaceful hooves all pressed in close for the war-march.

What I mean is that the state of the Horde makes me uneasy, and my own state of undeath turns that uneasiness into nervous energy: lots of it.

After the Wrathgate, Horde and Alliance and Legion alike poured into the Undercity and killed indiscriminately. Our brutality was mirrored right back to us from all those sources. Has Garrosh forgotten? I think his orc honour has blinded him to the similarities. Anything can be justified when your creed is one of warfare. Or, not warfare, I mean anger.

Wrathgate was down to anger: the rage of my people against all that has happened to us. I wonder if Garrosh would like that thought, the thought that he now wears the mantle of Putress. His shoulders will soon bear the weight of his Horde’s severed souls.

Anyway, this is a fresh book for my journal so I should introduce myself again. I find my thoughts of me make a good approximation of where I am in my own life, or in my own head, if that makes sense.

I am Nyxrinne, once called Corinne in life. I am a Forsaken apothecary, and eighteen months ago I was sent to Feralas by Master Apothecary Lydon to be forgotten (deliberately, because Lydon has what is called an eidetic memory, so he won’t have forgotten at all, but presumably Faranell and the others will do, or have done already).

Out in Feralas I grew to know my tauren hosts at Mojache. They claim I’m in the state of owa’hane, which loosely translates as a loss of the whole of which I should be a part; the loss of a strong cause.

There is some truth to it, but, despite the increased corruption of Lydon, who was my mentor, and the crescendo of warmongering behaviour from the Horde, I don’t think I have lost my way particularly: I am still working toward the defeat of the plague of undeath, and though the path is more overgrown and strewn with troubles than ever, I will keep to it.

Out there in Feralas, anyway, I met with Alliance contacts: three dwarves who are herbalists and alchemists, and a gnome, who is an arcanist. I wore traveller’s clothes instead of my robes and pleaded old notes of humanity, which washed, and we worked together on cataloguing the precise makeup of plants, which is mostly about all the different liquids and solids that go together to make a thing.

With the flattening of Theramore this alliance has been broken; the sentinels from Feathermoon looked ready to make sure of it so I left before they could. I’m on my way back to Orgrimmar, because I feel I need to witness as many corrupt cores of power as possible.

I have seen Faranell and Sylvanas, I felt the weight of the Lich King on my own mind, and I worked at the foot of the Icecrown Citadel, so I am curious to see how Orgrimmar fares. Perhaps there is a unified darkness to them that could be picked apart and understood. Perhaps it could be broken into its component parts and cured, bit by bit, like I hope the plague will be cured, bit by bit, body by body.

I am near the Crossroads now, I am resting in some shade, because I will not make it before noon, and the heat will swell my body if I try to press on under the full blast of the sun. It will not be long before I am amongst the orcs, and I can begin my diagnosis.

Next chapter


Lowbie windwalkers: fighting with flowers

The high-level mantra: Rising Sun Kick, maintain Tiger Power, Fists of Fury, Blackout Kick. Levelling windwalkers may have noticed just how lacklustre a monk's DPS will be if they stick to that, even on single-target pulls where the tank stands still and lets you maul away. Blackout Kick lacks any oomf.

There is a cure. It may make you feel like a florist rather than a martial artist, but thems the breaks. It's Spinning Fire Blossom.

Even Icy Veins' levelling guide fails to touch on this one, stating that 'you will not find much use for this ability as you level up.' But it doesn't take much testing to notice the way SFB hits for more than Blackout Kick even in melee range, and a helluva lot more at range. It does this for half the resource cost, and continues to dominate all the way through Northrend. You will do more DPS in instances if you forsake Blackout Kick for this skill, and you will mow through mobs more quickly on your own as well. Often you will kill things before they even reach you.

This is all down to a basic scaling issue with Blackout Kick, compounded by a secondary issue of convenience. Low level content is always a blitzfest. You can mow through things without stopping, in an instance or out questing. Keeping on top of the meter at this stage is more a matter of speed than style: if you've some decent burst, you're going to dominate. If your DPS requires a bit of setup... well, even at the top of your game you probably won't manage much more than 'keeping up'.

Blackout Kick becomes more powerful when you precede its use with Rising Sun Kick and three stacks of Tiger Power. RSK is a powerful ability in its own right, but Tiger Palm might be better named Tiger Pat on the Head for all the damage it deals. And let's not forget Jab, better named Poke Softly. In fact, let's not forget Jab, let's consider it.

Before Blackout Kick, you will need:

  • Four Jabs (two chi for RSK, three chi for three Tiger Palms, two chi for Blackout Kick itself);
  • Eight global cooldowns (four Jabs, one RSK, three Tiger Palms);
  • Melee range.

For Blackout Kick itself, you'll also want to be behind the target so as to apply the DoT effect. So, eight GCDs, and the ninth will be a fully-powered Blackout Kick. Meanwhile, how to use each of those eight preparatory GCDs with SFB:

  1. Jab.
  2. Jab.
  3. Spinning Fire Blossom.
  4. Spinning Fire Blossom.
  5. Spinning Fire Blossom.
  6. Jab to avoid energy capping.
  7. Spinning Fire Blossom.
  8. Spinning Fire Blossom.

In the space of time it took to set up Blackout Kick, a florist will already discharged five SFB, a skill that deals more damage than Blackout Kick even when all the buffs and debuffs are applied. SFB gains nothing from Tiger Power, so you can cut the Tiger Palms from your attack pattern altogether. Not only that, but if you have chi left over from the previous fight, or if you're keeping it up between packs through liberal use of Expel Harm, you can be smashing mobs for even more powerful SFBs when you're still some fifty yards away. The range on it is truly beautiful.

You should be aware, mind you, that your flowers have tiny flower minds of their own. Unless you've picked up the Glyph of Spinning Fire Blossom, the skill won't lock on in quite the same way other spells do. With the right combination of lag and a tank who likes running, you may find it blasting straight past the mobs you meant to hit as you were racing in... and straight into another pack.

Another downside is that, in melee range, it won't necessarily hit the mob you're targeting, or even turned toward: it could well decide it just wants to pummel that mob's neighbour instead. This is especially irksome if you're trying to nuke down a healer mob and your blossoms keep going for something else. What you can do, of course, is keep repositioning until all is working as intended, or switch back to your other skills for the sake of precision.

In my eyes, mind you, the biggest downside of all is that the power of this skill reduces lowbie windwalkers to spamming two, maybe three spells (if you include Rising Sun Kick or Spinning Crane Kick) and completely ignoring their end-game rotation.

I generally feel it is poor design for the numbers to teach observant players a completely different playstyle while levelling up to the one they'll use from 80 onward. To get a feel for the way your class will work at level cap, maintaining stacks of Tiger Power and keeping up the SFK debuff, a levelling monk will have to use a suboptimal range of spells. There's no real sense of being good at your class either way, as you'll be doing low damage if you stick to Blackout Kick, or you'll be doing high damage with SFB but feeling this is only because you happened to cotton on to the trick.

From a roleplaying perspective, meanwhile, my character has been learning to throw chi as fire flowers all this time: how is it she's so good at close-range martial arts all of a sudden when she reaches Hyjal? She hasn't been practising much of that at all. There's no solid sense of progression in the way this works.

I suppose levelling monks will have to take solace in dealing massive crits, dealt via hyacinth.


What can levelling do for you?

Earn your guild a metric arsetonne of experience, that's what. I mean really.


The levelling experience: movement

Full disclosure: I am a raving altoholic. Group sessions and focus exercises and shiny, shiny purples have all failed to keep me away from that Create Character button. As a result, I've levelled a lot, and I'm good at levelling quickly and efficiently.

I suspect most people know that the best way to level fast is through optimised quest circuits. Hell, Blizzard seem to have cottoned on to that: compare the compact quest hubs we have now to the sprawling mess of objectives and travel time that made classic levelling such a time sink and you'll see what I mean.

These days most quests run together; you finish them all in the same general area; moving from target to target happens naturally; and creating an optimised circuit is mostly just a matter of making sure you pick up all the quests and take note of any quest starter items you find. But it is still important to plan just a little if you want to to push your speed to maximum.

That wider issue - moving between different quest areas effectively - is mirrored small-scale in basic movement between each of those scattered tablets you need to loot, or those mobs you need to kill. If you want to level really bloody fast, you will be doing two things: you will be looking for the next target as you're dispatching or looting the current one, and you will make sure you cover the ground between here and there as swiftly as possible.

With that in mind, there is one thing I hate above all others. The peripheral mob.

The peripheral mob is a dick, and don't let it argue otherwise. This sucker is out of range of your usual pulling skills: your spells, your taunt, your bow. It's sufficiently far that you're going to have to run a bit to get there. But it's actually a pretty big bit to run, you know, I mean, should that really be taken on foot, or is it worth mounting up to get there? Is it worth mounting up to get there? There's a 1.5 second cast time on my mount, will the speed of the mount make up for that pause while I summon it? Would I have pegged it into range by then if I'd gone in on foot? Will I be shedding precious seconds if I do, or if I don't?

By this time I have wasted precious seconds on mental contortions, of course. If I'm feeling particularly twitchy, I may have busted out some maths.

This is one of the reasons I adore the monk class. Roll is sufficient to bypass this whole problem. If you find yourself surrounded by peripheral mobs, all loitering at the kind of distance that suggests they all hate their neighbours, there's no need for tears or calculators. You roll. Maybe you roll twice. If you've specced into Celerity, maybe you roll three times. If you've specced into Momentum, you're practically sprinting. And if you're a windwalker monk, you fly across the questing zone and kick that peripheral mob in the face.

It's very satisfying. Not just because of the face-kick, no: because the cooldown timers on roll and flying serpent kick are such that one or both will be done ticking down when you finish killing and looting, but not so fast that there's the niggling feeling that you're wasting potential rolls.

And yes, alright, both skills are probably tuned for PvP and the PvE endgame, not ridiculous people like me with my, er, eccentricities. Still, when a class has such tools as Enlightenment to boost them through the world, I have to wonder if it's all a big conspiracy to make monks especially addictive to level. I can only approve.


A bit about me

I suppose the first thing to do at the start of a new project is to say hullo, so here I am. Hullo! I'm a veteran WoW-player who plays on the EU realms. I didn't make it onto the Mists beta so I've been improvising an awful lot with my new monk, and it occurred to me that, hey, perhaps I finally have something to write about.

So this blog happened. The leading lady is Nyxrinne, Forsaken monk. She's presently a brewmaster/windwalker, and hopefully everything else will trickle through in her diary entries and my sillier posts. I intend this blog to deal with immersion gaming, the Forsaken faction and the monk class - although I'm still levelling up and puzzling things out at the moment, so any sort of theorycrafting is a looong way off.

For now I'll see about fixing up the layout, and maybe later I'll refashion this post into something slightly more engaging!