Formerly Hardcore #10: Ships, Jungles and Crystals

Ragar talks about his adventures thus far in patch 6.2

Hello and welcome to the 10th edition of Formerly Hardcore, ZAM’s column on Blizzard Entertainment’s World of Warcraft. For this week’s column, I’ll be talking about my experience with patch 6.2 so far… which has been extremely limited due to working on Final Fantasy XIV for the Heavensward review. When the forums say that it’s about 20 to 30 hours to do all of the main story quests in FFXIV before you can even start on the new Heavensward content, they’re not kidding; they also aren’t joking about the fact that there’s 70 minutes of cutscenes at the end of the 2.55 questing. For those who are interested in how all that’s going, I’ll have a review down the road as well as impressions of the new jobs once I’ve had the chance to take all of those for a spin, but for the rest of you let’s get back to Azeroth and talk about the Shipyard and Tanaan Jungle.

You Know What The Garrison Didn’t Need? Followers That Can Die

The first thing I was greeted with (other than being told all my addons were out of date) was the new breadcrumb quest, Garrison Campaign: War Council, to start the new quest chain that unlocks the Shipyard in my Garrison. The questline itself went fairly quickly and I did like their choice to “recruit” an expert shipwright with a decent personality. I would have preferred if they didn’t bait and switch me by giving me a random shipbuilder NPC to interact with instead because I’m playing Alliance, but at least he’s still involved to some extent. Afterward you’ll make your way to Tanaan and have to knock out some basic questing before you can continue with the Shipyard. Once you get the quest to come back to the Shipyard, you’re now able to start your first naval mission. Fairly basic stuff that we’re all used to from sending our Garrison followers off on missions, but it changes once they get to Destroying the Competition. You build a second ship then send both of your boats off on a second mission like before, but this time it fails. In addition to simply failing the mission, that second boat you just build gets sunk to the bottom of the sea. You’re directed to go build a replacement boat, this time with a “lucky” rare proc that comes equipped with just the trait to get revenge on your previous vessel’s demise. The remainder of the quest chain walks you through the rest of the basic features of the Shipyard, plans for a new ship type, and gives you 1000 Oil to fuel your naval adventures for a while as well as five Rush Order: Shipyard scrolls to instantly build new ships rather than waiting 30+ minutes for each. Of course, you only have slots for six vessels in your level 1 Shipyard, so you’ll need to expand to a level 2 Shipyard soon – that means you’ll need 1000 Garrison resources, 1000 Gold, and to complete 15 naval missions.

So how do we go about successfully completing those 15 missions without having to constantly rebuild our ships? Well your ships are somewhat like Garrison followers, but with some key differences besides the whole “permadeath” thing. Your ships gain experience like your followers, but they have no levels – they simply go from uncommon to rare to epic like your level 100 followers. When you look at a naval mission, it has objectives similar to the Follower missions that you need to counter in order to succeed and avoid losing your ships. Your ship can counter mission objectives in one of three ways: ship type, crew type and equipment slots. Each ship type (Battleship/Carrier/Destroyer/Submarine/Transport) has a specific counter; Transports counter Land Objectives while the other four ships each counter and are countered by one of the others. As for your ship’s crew, depending on their race, you either gain another counter trait or you gain a new passive trait similar to those for Garrison followers. Whenever a ship is created, its type and crew are randomly generated and are permanent traits. If you really want a Draenic Crew for your Battleship to get that Dense Fog counter, you’ll just have to keep creating new ships. Well, that or just use an equipment slot and get the counter that way.

While the crew and ship types may not be changeable for each vessel, you can customize each ship with the two equipment slots. Uncommon ships cannot use equipment, while rare ships get a single slot and epic ships can use two pieces of equipment. The plans for one type of equipment are given to you through the initial quest chain, but if you want to use any of the others, you’ll need to find them from reputation vendors or as drops from raid bosses and named NPCs out in the world. Once you’ve unlocked each equipment type, you can either buy it from a Shipyard vendor for Garrison resources or hope to get lucky on missions where a ship has a Gnomish/Troll Crew and you get equipment for free.

I like the idea of ships essentially being followers with equipment slots. While the pure numbers for weapon/armor slots may have worked from a mechanics perspective and you had enough follower slots to cover all of the counter combinations, I like the idea of giving them customizable trinkets to add another degree of counter choices to the system. What I don’t like about this system is the destructible element of the ships. While it does make some sense since losing a naval battle in other games does have the potential to lose a ship, it just feels more like something that was thrown in to slow down mission progress. With Garrison missions early on, players could and often would throw their followers at every possible mission with a good reward regardless of the success percentage – after all, better to try and have a chance of success rather than letting the timer expire and losing out on a potential Highmaul/Blackrock Foundry cache.

While it’s easier to level up a new ship than a new follower due to limiting it to uncommon/rare/epic, I’d personally rather have ships that take longer to get up to snuff and give me more of a reason to care about them. While the ship may not be leveling up, the crew certainly needs experience working together and learning the ship’s traits. If we really need to keep the risk element to our naval missions, we don’t have to go full-out permadeath here. Why not have the ships take damage and require downtime to repair or for the crew to recuperate? You could even extend the Rush Order scrolls to make them instantly heal ships as well, since it’s technically getting a ship ready for duty. These are minor quibbles for the system though and I do still like the concept of playing admiral for my faction – it’s just hard to ignore those annoyances, especially with how long I have to stare at those mission timers.

Tanaan Looks a Bit Different Than How I Left It

The rest of my 6.2 experience thus far has been wandering around the new and improved Tanaan Jungle. Once my new Transport ship finished sneaking me over to Tanaan’s shore, I went through the various quests to get a feel for the current state of affairs, pushed our way further into the depths of the jungle, then planted our banner for my faction’s forward base from which to conduct our assault of Hellfire Citadel and Gul’dan. My next steps in Tanaan involved a few breadcrumb quests designed to introduce me to the zone’s combat hotspots, then it was daily quest time. It does feel somewhat strange to get back into the idea of doing dailies in WoW considering how long it has been since we really had proper dailies beyond the single Apexis one from our Garrison. I’ve only done them for a couple days at this point so I can’t speak for how tiresome they feel to those of you who’ve been hitting Tanaan every day since the 23rd, but so far they feel fine. I feel like I’m getting a good chunk of reputation from each quest towards the new factions and the quests themselves don’t take too terribly long to do. In addition, the new reputation vendors have a wide variety of new rewards to earn as we’re working towards Revered for our Draenor Pathfinder achievements. Quite a few of them take Apexis Crystals though, so hopefully everyone out there was on for last weekend’s Bonus Event.

Apexis Crystals Have a Use Now

While I may have missed the first Timewalker weekend right after patch 6.2 was released, I was around for this weekend’s Apexis Crystal Bonus event. If you missed the event, at its core this Bonus Weekend is about earning Apexis Crystals faster than usual. For the duration of the weekend, you gain the Sign of Apexis buff which significantly increases the drop rate of crystals off eligible mobs in Draenor. In addition, there’s an overall quest for the weekend, The Time to Strike, sending you off to complete five of the area objectives in Apexis-yielding areas, which includes all of the old areas your Garrison dailies would send you to as well as about half of Tanaan Jungle. Complete five of those objectives and you’ll earn 5000 Apexis Crystals, 1000 Garrison resources and 1500 Oil for your new Shipyard. Not the most exciting of weekends as I’d previously commented – after all, it’s just farming mobs for bonus objectives out in the world. They have helped matters though with the addition of the new vendor in your base in Tanaan. Sure he’s got transmog items, Seals of Inevitable Fate, pets and other flavor items, but the important piece he has (unless you’re in BRF Mythic or already clearing Normal+ Hellfire Citadel) is the ability to upgrade those gear tokens you’ve been finding.

As you quest through Tanaan, inevitably you’ll end up finding some Baleful tokens from quest rewards as well as treasures hidden throughout the jungle. These tokens are similar to the tokens you found on the Timeless Isle – once used, they will create a blue 650 piece of equipment designed for your specialization. If you get a lucky proc, they can even become 675 epics. Those of you out there with BRF gear might be wondering why that’s important though or why it makes Apexis Crystals worthwhile. The reason these Baleful tokens are important lies with the Empowered Apexis Fragment. Sold by Ravenspeaker Thelnaas for 20000 Apexis Crystals, this token will convert any piece of Baleful gear from a 650 blue or 675 epic to a 695 epic, placing it on par with Normal Hellfire Citadel and just below Mythic dungeon endboss loot. This is similar to how the Burdens of Eternity worked back on the Timeless Isle, but with one key difference – you use the Empowered Apexis Fragment on a Baleful item AFTER you’ve generated it from the token. This means that rather than buying your upgrade token and hoping that you get the secondary stats you need, you get to make sure you have a Baleful item worth upgrading before you spend your hard-earned Apexis Crystals. Of course this means you might need to use multiple Baleful tokens to get one worth upgrading, but the same vendor sells them for 5000 Apexis Crystals each (10000 for Baleful Armaments).

For the raiders out there that gear may not mean much to you and you’d be better off saving your Apexis Crystals for mounts, pets and vanity gear. Players with alts however will potentially be looking at this gear as a great way to catch them up to the new content. Previously you could skip regular and heroic (save the ones for your legendary quest) with a Dwarven Bunker for Nagrand questing and move straight into Highmaul LFR, then eventually move to Blackrock Foundry LFR once you hit 635 average item level. When Hellfire Citadel’s LFR difficulty comes out, it looks like it will have a 650 item level requirement while dropping loot between 675 and 685. This means that a new alt with no previous raid experience whatsoever (for example my Paladin that’s leveled primarily through Garrison XP missions) could build their Shipyard, move to Tanaan Jungle, and through a combination of random treasures and quest rewards become Hellfire LFR ready. With enough time (or a stockpile of Apexis Crystals if you were far more diligent about that Garrison daily than I was) you could even turn most of that gear into 695 pieces and be ready to jump into one of your guild’s Hellfire Citadel alt runs or even one through the Premade Group Finder. Personally I’m looking forward to running my alts through Tanaan and getting them ready to run Mythic dungeons with my friends later.


There’s still plenty more to patch 6.2 than I’ve experienced so far. I’m hoping once I have the Heavensward review finished to sit down and really dig into the new content. In particular, we’ve got the Wrath of the Lich King Timewalker Dungeon weekend coming up soon and I’d love to run some of my alts through those dungeons.

That’s it for this edition of Formerly Hardcore. How much of patch 6.2’s new content have you experienced? Already cleared Hellfire Citadel? Run any of the new Mythic or Timewalker dungeons? Let us know in the comments below.

Michael “Ragar” Branham


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