07 May 2007

Gnomer, Again

Well we finished up Gnomeregan Thursday night. It was an interesting combination -- still fairly difficult, but also somewhat anticlimactic.

We'd been far enough in before that we had the backdoor key. So that saved us some time. I don't remember anything of note in the first several battles. Most of the early to mid fights are against gangs of gnomes.

Our aggro management and crowd control isn't great. That's mostly a problem for the hunter Firegrin and for Alamein as healer. With a crowd, we'll usually have Wyrmm sap one and then Firegrin pull the next. Depending on the mobs, we'll either focus on one and take it down quickly, or maybe split them up, with Alamein focusing on healing.

That's the plan. In reality, we usually have some challenges with bigger groups. The first is getting Firegrin to shed aggro to Cargarios. So often we'll have mobs jumping out to get a run at the hunter, which puts him into melee and removes his more-useful bow attacks. Meanwhile, I'm having to heal -- at least Cargarios, and often Firegrin too. (Wyrmm is either fighting the same target as Cargarios, or else doing a good job stunlocking his opponent; either way he usually avoids taking much damage.) So as I drop these heals onto the others, I will usually pull aggro and end up with the annoying adds ganging up on me.

But for most of Gnomeregan, it's not a problem. The wrench-throwing gnomes are a pain but I was able to complete my heals without taking too much damage myself, so I could be patient and wait for the help to come. (Having points in Nature's Focus helps too.) So there were a few eventful moments, but nothing too troubling for much of the instance.

Then we got to the last hallway, the one with the X-21 Arcane Nullifiers. This was where we had wiped before, and we knew it was a challenge. This time we knew about the nullifiers, about the two levels of the hall, and about the dark iron dwarves' land mines. So at least we knew what was up. We did well for the most part. Taking down two mobs wasn't too tough. We had to be careful -- didn't want to aggro the mobs on the lower level -- but in the event we were able to work our way downward.

The challenge came when we were about 3/4 down the hall, and saw a group of 6 or so dark iron dwarves. This we knew would be tough. They hit hard, last long, and have the annoying mines. Six of them were going to be tough. And so they were. We started as best we could. Wyrmm sapped one and then we started, with Wyrmm and Firegrin taking one and Cargarios soloing another. I watched for heals and mines, trying to take out the mines before they armed. It was the best plan we could identify.

Unfortunately it still left three dwarves unaccounted for. We were OK until the damage started to add up and I started to heal. Cargarios felt the brunt of it, as expected. I did my best to stealth him with smaller heals but eventually it built up and a couple came after me. That sucked because I couldn't just wait these guys out. They did a lot of damage and quickly I had to choose between healing myself and healing Carg. At one point, I lost him, but I was able to get off a battlefield rez with Rebirth and get him on his feet again... but by that time I was low myself, almost out of mana, with potions on cooldown... in short I had no cards left to play. I think I went out first with Cargarios close behind. Wyrmm didn't last long either, though Firegrin was able to Feign Death and escape. But without a means for him to rez us, we were effectively wiped.

But we were determined to finish this one off, so back to the instance we came. The real kicker was that we couldn't come in the back door as ghosts. Pity, that. So we had to go the long way 'round and fight ourselves back to where Firegrin was hanging out. It worked well enough, though it took about a half-hour, methodically taking out mob clusters down the halls. Eventually we got back together, fortunately before we had any respawns. So this time we only had three dwarves to deal with, which wasn't too bad.

By contrast, the final boss was a cakewalk. Mekgineer Thermaplugg is pretty amusing, but not too tough for us to beat. We put Firegrin on bomb duty while Cargarios and Wyrmm took down the big guy. I helped out by Moonfiring bombs and of course healing. He went down without too much fuss. I think maybe Firegrin died -- too many bombs or something -- but that was right at the end and not much of a problem. Cargarios rezzed him and then we grabbed the loot and hearthed home.

So despite the setbacks, not too bad in the end. Gnomeregan was the first tough instance we'd had since Deadmines. But it just wasn't as engaging. The ambiance tries too hard to be both funny and menacing. It should be one or the other; the hybrid just doesn't come off. Some of the mobs are suitably challenging and interesting... but you have to kill hordes of boring gnomes and troggs to get to them. And the layout is confusing and annoying without being attractive. So in the end, not as much fun as we might have hoped.

We'll probably go back in at some point to run some of the early quests we skipped, and to clean up our final few grime-encrusted objects. But for now, I guess we'll have to look ahead to our next instance run.

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