Thursday, September 19, 2019

I Got Skills: WoW Classic

I wanted to say something about weapon skills in Classic, following Kaylriene's post on the subject. I was going to write a long, theoretical post about the concept and mechanics but when it comes down to it there's not much wrong with the way Classic does it already. A quick run-through of what my Hunter was doing yesterday should cover most of the salient points.

I replied to Kaylriene, saying it was the norm (back in the day) to buy all the weapon skills as you could afford them, then swap between weapons as you levelled so as to hit the cap with everything at or near max. This is true but I'd forgotten it was something I was never very good at doing. Or, more accurately, remembering to do.

Having reminded myself, I spent yesterday afternoon taking my Hunter around Ironforge, Stormwind and that Night Elf hovel, finding weapon trainers and paying them ten silver to teach me all they knew. You'd think it would cost more and take longer, right?

Acquiring the skill is trivial but how about training it up? Fortunately for the forgetful (and slackers), weapon skills in Classic improve incredibly quickly, at least until they get to about ten or fifteen points short of your level cap. Then they slow to a crawl, but by then you're already good to go with that weapon in any normal leveling situation.

Like shelling peas. And yes, since you ask, I have shelled peas.
As far as training weapons go, it seems to make remarkably little difference what quality or level you use. Anything remotely close to my level on the Auction House was way out of my price range (I had about sixty silver to my name at that point) so I bought a Level 11 white quality bow from a vendor and filled half eight slot bag with the second-cheapest throwing axes, 50 copper for a stack of 200, meaning I was carrying 800 throwing axes. Best not think about it. Then I went to Wetlands, where I spent a couple of hours killing gnolls, crocs, raptors and slimes.

As a skinner and a leatherworker, with a tailor relying on a steady supply of cloth, this sort of thing is always time well spent. I killed a couple of grey cons to see if they gave skill-ups (they did) and then I moved to where everything was green and gave xp.

I tore through them as fast as if I was using my regular gun and two-handed axe. It was confusing. In order to get the most skill increases I sent the pet in and stood back, chucking axes. Everything stayed on the bear and died fast.

My throwing skill increased by nearly a point per throw at first, slowing down a little after I hit three figures. It took me half an hour and exactly 200 axes to go from zero to 145. Getting the last ten points to my level cap took almost as long. Still very quick.

I was also training one-hand axe. I had let it slide so I had about 50 points to do. I had nothing in my off hand because alhough I'd trained Dagger and Fist I hadn't got weapons for either. I did think I might get some increases for "Unarmed", which isn't a weapon skill as such, but nothing doing. I have eleven points in it so I've obviously punched something, somewhere, sometime but I have no idea what I did then that I wasn't doing this go round.

That's the Skinning Knife. Sure looks like a dagger to me.
Going through my bags in the vain hope of finding an off-hand weapon I'd forgotten about (not at all impossible, given the state of my inventory) I noticed that my Skinning Knife had damage stats and was flagged "One Hand". I equipped it, which at least freed up an inventory slot.

It didn't do anything else. I got no skill-ups and the combat log recorded no damage. The Skinning Knife, although it has a damage rating and can be equipped, doesn't show a weapon type. It looks like a dagger but clearly isn't one. Not sure why it didn't do any damage, Might need further research.

Once Thrown was maxed I went to swap to Bow, only to find I didn't have one. Which was odd because I was one hundred per cent certain I'd bought one an hour ago. After a bit of head-scratching I decided I must have sold it so I ran back to Menethil and bought another. I later found the original safely tucked away in the bank, so that was twenty silver wasted.

Bow went much the same as Thrown except that by the time my skill was over a hundred I seemed to be doing as much damage as I'm used to doing with my gun, which has double the DPS. I kept pulling aggro from the bear, which was fine because it let me carry on raising Axe and Defence.

Things seemed so easy and safe I started to press into higher level areas and pick off mobs nearer my own level. By the time I decided Bow was high enough at 150/155, I was on Level 29 Elder raptors, just a couple of levels below me.

WoW might be the only MMORPG I've played that uses more than one death animation for the same mob. Here are two identical Giant Wetlands Crocolisks. One just collapsed on his belly, the other did a dramatic back flip and ended up with all six legs in the air.
I'm sure if I parsed my DPS I'd see the difference but experientially I really couldn't tell. I did spend a lot of time just using auto-attack, which I never really do, and I wonder if that's actually more efficient than cycling through skills and abilities. Or maybe having the bear tank for longer helps.

Also, I didn't die at all (well, that one time I pulled five gnolls and then got two adds running away...). I may have to rethink my usual "Horatio on the bridge" approach. It doesn't seem to be quite as efficient asI thought it was...

After all that was over I went back to regular questing. Still using the Level 11 Bow and the Axe. And I bought a White Level 11 dagger from a vendor and stuck it in my off hand. I spent the rest of the evening killing mobs my level and up to three levels above me in Shimmering Flats. It went as fast as I'd expect it to go.

Leaving me puzzled. I know it makes a huge difference when I get a much better weapon. I have seen the major increase in DPS. So, if I can see that leap when I upgrade, why can't I see the drop when I change down?

I do think it has a lot to do with how it made me change my approach. Because I was being more careful and cautious at first, letting my pet do more of the work, meleeing less and using fewer skills, my downtime was significntly reduced. Not only did I not die as much (or, really, at all) I spent far less time sitting and drinking to recover mana and far less time running and re-setting after bad pulls.

They don't call it "Wetlands" for nothing. Heaviest rain I have seen in any game, ever. Then again, I've never played "Heavy Rain".
All of that may have made things feel faster even though each kill might have taken longer. Although I can't say they ever felt longer. Also I think I have majorly underestimated the value of just auto-attacking with my hands off the keyboard. What that says about Classic gameplay I hesitate to consider too closely. 

Also, I think it's worth noting that just killing green con mobs in Wetlands for two hours got me a third of the way through Level 32. If I can replicate that with mobs above my level, which I believe I can, that would be more like half the level, which is a lot faster than I'm leveling by doing quests.

Today I plan on getting Dagger to 150 or so. The I have to work through One-Hand Sword (already in three figures), Two-Hand Sword, Staff, and Fist. Not to mention Crossbow and Polearm, neither of which I have ever seen in game.

I find this sort of thing immensely enjoyable. I look forward to doing it on all my characters from now on. And it's going to be a lot more efficient if I start early. The only hard part is going to be working out what weapons each of them can use without looking it up outside the game.

Those weapon masters could at least tell me who uses what. I mean to say, I'm paying ten silver!


  1. You hit a green mob A LOT more than a yellow mob, so that might explain a bit why it wasn't so slow to progress. You aren't getting as much coin, and the random items you get will be lower level, but in terms of pure XP, green mobs aren't much worse than fighting yellow or higher.

    1. Ah, good point! Also makes them a much better proposition for skilling up, obviously. And if you're farming leather and cloth the drops are secondary.

  2. The lowest level polearm is the pitchfork from Hilsbrad hills.

    I used to run a spirit hunter in Classic and everyone would explain to me how spirit was useless for a hunter.

    Meanwhile, I'd kill elite wyrmkin in burning steppes with enough dowmtime that a given camp would respawn while I was waiting (very little). Then I'd skin them and sell black dragonscale armor.

    1. Ah, ok then. No hurry for polearms!

      I think when you're soling all kinds of unusual builds and playstyles work. I like to melee a lot with my hunter. I know it's inefficient in terms of DPS but it keeps the mob still which reduces all that wasted backpedalling as I try to get out to ranged distance while the bear spins and turns because the animations don't work when he's moving.

  3. I really don't think having no weapon in your off hand is considered fighting 'unarmed' when your main hand is holding a sword... ;-)

    1. That is a very good point which I had not considered. On the other hand - when did logic have anything to do with MMORPGS?

    2. Sadly even the Fishing Pole seems to count as "armed" for stat purposes. As I have accidentally found out a few times. I think it's only fair that if it's armed I should have a stat for it. I want to max my Fishing Pole weapon proficiency!


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