Reading Challenge #86: The Codex Alera Series by Jim Butcher

I’m back with yet another installment in my reading challenge series. This time we’re discussing #86, The Codex Alera Series by Jim Butcher. According to the all-knowing internet, there are 6 books in this series. For this challenge I read the first one, “Furies of Calderon”, published in 2004.

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Set Mastery Wrap-Up

Screenshot051I finally finished my goal of getting some sweet wings by mastering all of the (pre-necromancer) set dungeons in Diablo 3. When set dungeons were first announced and they previewed those wings, I knew I had to have them. Unfortunately when set dungeons actually launched I did not enjoy them at all. There’s been a set dungeon requirement in every season since they debuted in early 2016, and it has always been one of the season journey tasks I’ve dreaded. I think that completing the full season journey in season 10 gave me the confidence and drive I needed to dust off this goal and get moving on it.

Working on set dungeon mastery made me realize that I needed to adjust my outlook and playstyle drastically in order to succeed. In a strange way the set dungeons remind me of PvP in MMOs, because you are playing the game in a different way than you are used to, and because you have to make your peace with the fact that you’re going to die a lot but dying is only a temporary setback. Making it all the way through a dungeon only to realize that you never found enough big groups to finish one of your objectives feels bad, but eventually you learn to weigh your success after the first minute of the dungeon or so, and just start over if you got an unlucky spawn. Also like PvP, knowing the map ahead of time and using it to your advantage will make life far easier. I generally tried to run each dungeon blind on my first attempt, but after that I looked up a map and planned out my route.

Having the right gear and builds is a huge part of this process, but I also found that, with a few exceptions, you shouldn’t let perfect be the enemy of good. You need your set pieces to unlock the dungeon, and there are often 1 or 2 key legendaries that really make the objectives possible. Anything after that will make your clears easier, but is probably not required. There were several times when I had looked up the gear list* for a particular build and spent hours trying to farm specific items, then finally gave up and just ran with whatever I had laying around and it worked fine.

Mastery

Speaking of gear, I got very good at farming during this project. Unless you’re aiming for a set mastery conquest, I would highly suggest using non-seasonal characters. On some classes, like my witch doctor, I already had almost everything I needed in my stash, and it was just a matter of running a few rifts with her to get the last few pieces. For monk and barbarian, which I had barely leveled to 70 before and had no clue how to play, farming everything was a more daunting proposition. My method was to primarily use my demon hunter to fill up to capacity on blood shards, then swap to the other class and take my chances with Kadala. If you had a buddy willing to carry you around, farming T13 on the correct class would be optimal. I used a combination of solo greater rifts, so I could get shards quickly and level up gems, and T13 farming with random strangers so I could also pick up plenty of death’s breaths. Just like farming on a fresh seasonal character, I used Kadala for armor and upgraded rare items in the cube for weapons and jewelry. Doing it non-seasonal meant that I had plenty of mats for hellfire amulets, and staples like focus/restraint laying around which saved me a lot of time.

This was a huge project and honestly at this point I’m very glad that it is over. It was occasionally fun, and sometimes frustrating. On average it was more entertaining than I expected it to be but I’m in no hurry to go through this again. On the plus side it did force me to try out almost all of the different classes and playstyles in the game. Only the necromancer is left, and I’m curious whether I will ever bother to master those dungeons since there’s no pretty wings to get. For now I’m going to savor this accomplishment and take a much-needed break from set dungeons.

 

*I used a bunch of sources to help me choose gear and skills along the way, but I want to give a special shout-out to Team BRG which was the most useful, clear, and organized. Most importantly, they included maps with optimal clear paths. I could have finished my mastery without their guides, but it would have been a much more painful process.


Collected posts for each class:

Demon Hunter: Easiest – Natalya’s; Hardest – Marauder’s

Wizard: Easiest – Delsere’s; Hardest – Vyr’s

Crusader: Easiest – Invoker’s; Hardest – Akkhan’s

Witch Doctor: Easiest – Zunimassa’s; Hardest – Helltooth

Monk: Easiest – Sunwuko’s; Hardest – Inna’s

Barbarian: Easiest – Immortal King’s Call; Hardest – Wrath of the Wastes

Barbarian Mastered

Screenshot052

Barbarian. The last of the RoS-era Diablo 3 classes that I still needed to master for my wings. There was some misery to be had here, partly because I really have no clue how to play a barbarian and partly because of the dungeons being awful.

I had most of the Might of the Earth set laying around, so I focused on that dungeon first. This one was very hard for me. The objectives were to use leap, ground stomp, and earthquake in under 6 seconds on every elite, and to freeze and kill at least 1 enemy every 10 seconds for one minute. These felt pretty daunting, especially since I don’t know much about playing a barbarian. On my first attempt I got the freeze objective but didn’t even hit a single elite with the required 3 attacks. As I kept attempting it, I lost count of my failures. Either the elites would die too quickly, or more often the cooldown on earthquake would not quite be finished when I engaged the next elite. The map is quite large but I got used to it over the course of many attempts, and when I finally mastered it I had almost a minute leftover. Success came when I slowed down and made sure all my abilities were ready before I engaged each elite.

Second on the list was the Immortal King’s Call. This one goes up there with the Invoker’s set dungeon on the list of the easiest ones to master. Your objectives are to kill all of the elites while the 400% damage bonus from the set is active, and to kill 150 enemies while Wrath of the Berserker is active. I one-shot this one, without looking at the map and without even really taking the time to familiarize myself with the requirements or my abilities. I had an entire minute left on the timer too. If you’re looking for an easy one to complete your season’s journey, this is a good bet.

Raekor’s was up next. The objectives are to hit 15 different enemies with a single furious charge (x6), and to hit 15 enemies with a 3750% damage bonus spender. Both objectives were pretty easy independently, but it took 2 tries to get both done and still have enough kills for the mastery. The map is one big loop so it is deceptively simple, but there are a lot of corners and side passages for mobs to hide in. Luckily all those corners also make it pretty easy to group up enough to hit with your furious charge. Overall this one wasn’t bad.

The very last dungeon I needed to complete Barbarian mastery and to complete the achievement for all the pre-necromancer masteries was the Wrath of the Wastes dungeon. Little did I know that it is hands down the worst set dungeon in the game. The first objective isn’t too bad, Rend 10 enemies at once (x5). There’s plenty of enemies and once you get the hang of the layout you’ll know exactly where you’re likely to find big enough groups. And you will be learning the layout. Intimately. Because the second objective is awful and you will fail a lot, or at least I did. “Do not take any physical damage for the duration of the dungeon. A tiny goblin hits you? Fail. A swinging scythe hits you? Fail. Something sneezes in your general direction? Fail. After about 3 attempts I got my fancy Wings of the Dedicated (for completing every set dungeon). They’re very pretty but sadly I’ll probably never wear them since the mastery ones are way cooler. It took me three hours and I don’t know how many attempts to actually master this dungeon. All I can say is pray to RNGsus and be super careful.

Screenshot053

They’re not the mastery wings, but they are still very pretty…

And with that I have completed all of the set masteries except the Necromancer. Some of the Barbarian ones were rough for me, even more so than the monk. They certainly did nothing to make me want to play this class in the future. At this point I wish I had saved something I like better for last, but for now I’m glad it’s over. I’ll be sharing some of my overall thoughts in a follow-up post soon.

Death Knight Mount Get

WoWScrnShot_091317_092402I finished the DK mount quest (that’s class mount number 11 for me, for those keeping score at home). Once again I really enjoyed it. As much as I don’t like melee characters, the story quests have made leveling DK a ton of fun for me. I especially liked how the mount quest seemed like a logical progression from the Broken Shore follower quest for this class.

WoWScrnShot_091317_090226One thing I am sad / mad about is that they took out the “Unholy Determination” feat of strength before I got the chance to earn it. Yes, I know they retroactively took it away from everybody, but still. I decided to murder every single living thing in the ruby dragonshrine anyway. It felt perfectly in character for my DK. From a mechanics standpoint I can see why they took it out, since it is a non-repeatable quest. Otherwise I’m not really sure why people were complaining about the morality of it. Death Knights aren’t exactly full of rainbows and love, and if you’ve made it this far in the DK campaign you’ve already done a ton of other questionable things.

Anyway I raised the giant red dragon from the dead and now I have a fancy mount and a matching pet. I thought I was finished with DK stuff but I didn’t realize I have to do the broken shore quests for the other specs to unlock the other two pets. I have concordance with all the weapons, but it won’t let me buy them yet so I’m assuming that’s the holdup. I’ll wrap that up this week and then only warrior will be left.

Not all of the class mount quests have been winners, but this one was definitely one of my favorites. The class flavor was spot on, the quests were fun and not annoying, and the mount looks cool!

Death Knight Leveled

As the Darkmoon Faire was winding down I managed to get my DK leveled up to 110. Leveling is so fast now, it’s easy to fall far behind on class hall quests. This is especially true when you have multiple rounds of follower missions to complete, and multiple dungeons to run. I have a special hatred for the class hall quests that require Maw of Souls and Vault of the Wardens. Almost nobody runs those dungeons on normal mode, since you have to be 110 to unlock them anyway. That means a 40+ minute DPS queue, or waiting until you hit ilvl 825 to queue for heroic. I’m stalled out on unlocking the mount quest until I finish the standard class hall quest line, and I’m stalled on that until I can finish these dungeons. Luckily gearing up is fairly quick, and I should hit 825 soon.

Like a lot of things about Legion, getting up to speed when you hit 110 feels very uneven. Some systems are working really well. For example, I’ve already hit concordance after just 2 days or so of play at the level cap. The changes to artifact knowledge feel great, putting everyone on a level playing field. Most of the gearing process seems good too. Between nethershards and world quests I’ve upgraded most of my gear to at least 850 in no time. On the other hand, my highest level relic is 750-ish, and I still have an empty relic slot on my main spec weapon. Weapon level is hugely important to feeling powerful and being able to kill things and complete quests quickly, and there’s no reliable way to get relics in a hurry. I know there’s at least one from the Argus quests, but the thought of attempting those with a weapon that’s less than 800 ilvl does not appeal. There’s no good reason why we shouldn’t be able to buy 850 relics of our choice from the nethershard vendor at this point. Failing that, Kadghar should just hand you some ilvl 800 relics as soon as you ding 110. Praying for a world quest with a useful relic reward feels miserable, and getting carried through dungeons hoping for a drop when you can’t contribute much feels rude.

On the plus side, concordance goes a long way towards making up for my crappy item level. Unholy DK has some really silly survivability and I’ve been tearing through world quests even without a follower to help. I’m hoping to finish up the original class hall story tonight or tomorrow (depending on dungeon queues). The DK story is by far one of the best ones, or at least most interesting. So far it is second only to rogue for me in terms of class flavor and engaging story. I’m not entirely sure how I feel about the morality of some of the things I’ve been doing, but it absolutely feels right for the class and is contributing to the overall game lore. I’ve already seen spoilers for this story, but I’m still excited to see how everything plays out firsthand.

Shaman Mount Get

The shaman mount questline sends you back to Skywall to help Thunderaan again. This guy sure has trouble keeping his subjects in line. But I don’t care since it’s an excuse to go back to one of the most beautiful zones in the entire game. Unlike the main class hall questline, this time we’re in the Throne of the Four Winds.

WoWScrnShot_090217_115620Once we’re there we have to defeat 3 wind guys: sandy guy, chill guy, and eff you guy (aka healing guy). The fights felt long, most likely due to my sad item level. They weren’t difficult though, and they ended early because you don’t have to kill the guys, just beat them up enough so they know who’s boss. I was expecting to have to fight some other guy in the middle but it turned out that after I beat up the 3 minions Thunderaan gave a small speech filled with vague wind puns and that was it.

And you know what? It doesn’t even matter. This mount is so awesome I don’t even care that the quest to get it was a letdown. The payoff is totally worth it.

September 2017 Gaming Goals

Oh crap it’s September already! Aside from the semester starting and my stress levels kicking into overdrive, it also means it’s time for my monthly gaming goals update.

August Goals recap:

FFXIV: Level my AST. I did it! Hooray! I still can’t decide whether I like AST or SCH better though.

Clear at least 1 boss of Omega Savage. Nope. We got the first boss down to something ridiculous like 0.1%, but that group ended up disbanding. Sadness.

Diablo 3: Finish Barbarian set mastery. Nope. I’ve been super unmotivated in D3 and combined with terrible luck with drops I still don’t have the last set I need to try the 4th dungeon.

WoW: Get back to the Robo-squids project. Yes! We got through Blackfathom Deeps and Gnomergan this month. News flash: I still hate Gnomer just as much as I ever have (which is a lot).

I got half of my goals for the month done. That’s not too terrible!


September Goals:

WoW: Get my shaman class mount. I leveled her up to 110 in August. Now it’s a matter of gearing up and getting through the Broken Shore quests to unlock the mount questline.

Do more Robosquids stuff. I’ve been loving this project but it’s hard to find times when all 4 of us can play. I resolve to pester my friends until we get it back on the schedule. (You’ve been warned, guys!)

Horizon Zero Dawn: Finish a second playthrough to see all the updates. It’s this month’s Aggrochat game of the month so I’m doubly motivated!

D3: Finish the Barbarian set mastery. I know I can do this. I just need a push. And I really need to get it done before Destiny 2 releases on PC and starts filling the “murder monsters, get loot explosion” slot in my gaming time.

Legendary: Get a maxed-star card of every color. Legendary: Game of Heroes is a mobile game with a super boring name and very sticky gameplay for me. It’s like a much slicker-looking, slightly less confusing Puzzle and Dragons. The weekly-ish events give pretty good chances at strong cards and materials to upgrade them, so hopefully I can get a maxed-out team by the end of the month.


You’ll note that FFXIV has fallen off the list. I’m just not into it lately, and forcing myself right now is likely to end in a full stop instead of a brief pause. I do still want to try to show up for raid nights more to hang out with my friends than anything else.

I think this month’s goals are pretty reasonable. I just need to remember to play HZD for the main story and not all the side content or there’s no way I’ll finish in time…