Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Spiral Geographic Society Warehouse

This is the quest location in Marleybone where you retrieve a key to open up Celestia. You get this quest after completing Dragonspyre. However, it no longer is necessary to get this key to go to Celestia. I like to do this for the experience rewards, and some nice loot drops. I'm not so sure this is a solo-able experience at the "appropriate level" of a character just finishing Dragonspyre. There's quite a number of levels to traverse to the top, and all the battles are with four opponents. There's a lot of life, balance, and frost enemies, so count on shields galore, and weaknesses on yourself. If you're able to bide your time with shields and cost-effective life gains, you could try and build up for a single large multi-hit spell. They will be shielding, and if you're death, often with combination shields that will really mess up your spells. You will need to do a hit that is generally at least 2500 damage (to overcome the shields). Even if you don't take them all out, you will be able to pick off at least 2, which will make the rest of the fight easier. The enemies will sometimes do vampire spells, but I don't remember seeing any life gaining (at least for non-boss encounters).

The tower levels
Here's the overview of the tower:

One: NPC, can be ignored
Two: four monsters
Three: four monsters
Four: puzzle encounter
Five: mini-boss
Six: four monsters
Seven: four monsters
Eight: puzzle encounter
Nine: four monsters
Ten: boss encounter

Level Four Puzzle
If you read the book near the entrance, it will have a story with the clues on what to do (they will be the bolded words). Looking at what else is in the room, you have 5 crates in a horizontal line - one center crate, two to the left of it, and two to the right of it. You will click the crates in this order: center crate, the crate to the left of that, the next crate to the left of that, head back to the right and click the next crate, and the last crate to the right of that.

For those more visually oriented: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 (order of crates from left to right)... click in this order: 3/2/1/4/5.

If you get the puzzle right, you get red health wisps. If not, I think a four monster fight. It's in your best interest to get it right!

Mini-boss General Stormclaw
He starts out alone, but after the first turn, he will cast a free earthquake and summon his 3 skeletal minions (lazy, tired, and dimwit). He will also cast a free tower shield on himself that gets replaced every time it goes away. While his minions are up (and occasionally after they are killed) he will automatically remove traps and weakness on himself and his minions (if they are up). There's a bunch of cheats and rules about targeting him while his minions are up, so it's best to either use multi-hit spells or just go after the minions first. In other words... just use big multi-hit spells in the same way you were doing with the regular four monster levels. You must kill the minions before you go after Stormclaw, or all sorts of extra spells will be fired on you. Plus, if you need to put a myth prism on him, you will need those minions gone for a chance to keep the prism trap on him.

When his last minion is dead, he will cast a free Frost Giant on you, so be prepared for a big hit and stun.

Level Eight Puzzle
This is impossible to solo and not trip the trap to fight four monsters. The floor is arranged with a maze of floor pressure plates: 3 of them are sun sigils and the rest are snake sigils. Hitting a snake sigil will fire off the trap and the four monsters will appear. Stepping on a sun sigil will activate it, but the character has to remain standing on it, or else it will go back dark. When all 3 suns are lit, a fourth character can pull the lever. If you do have four people, send the first character through the maze to the lever by the gate. Don't step on snakes! The second one goes to the third sun farthest along the maze. The third character goes to the middle sun, and the final character goes to the first sun. Then pull lever. Since I solo this, I never see what happens (I expect wisps to appear).

Boss Estrakir Gloomthorn
He's a robed insect minion of Morganthe. And this room is one of the more difficult cheat boss encounters in the game. Even a high level character may find this encounter to be quite difficult. In the accompanying dialogue, he drops a vital clue: you must at some point cast a global bubble spell of any kind. Otherwise, Estrakir will cast free Power Novas (that are fire based) every other turn. It might be a good idea to hold some bubble spells in the treasure card section of your deck so that you can get one out quickly.

Like General Stormclaw, Estrakir will automatically remove traps and weakness from him and his minions for free (at least while his minions are up). His rat minions will sometimes cast special tower shields that reduce damage by 90%. Multi-round damage spells could be a nice solution to that. He also has a minion named Knuckles who likes to cast free heals if your or your allies cast a heal. He will do a free Rebirth (but with no extra damage shield) out of turn when that happens. Drains and damage spells like Link and Vampire don't trigger this.

If you do target Estrakir while Knuckles is still alive, Knuckles will cast a free Helping Hands heal on Estrakir, and Estrakir will cast a free Fire Dragon.

You need to kill the rats first (since those shields they cast are too powerful), and then kill Knuckles. Multi-target spells are acceptable and won't trigger the above effects. Once the rats are down, you should probably heal up, unless Knuckles is low on health. Likely because of the shields, Estrakir will still have lots of health, so Knuckles healing him back up won't make much of a difference. Once all the minions are dead, Estrakir will start casting free Scarecrows on his turn (not sure if he does this if you have your bubble up or not... I'll amend this if I find that to not be the case). You may want to have some death shields prepared in your deck for this.

You'll need a lot to go right to defeat this encounter solo, unless are significantly high level. If you have a bubble aura up, and you take down the minions in the right order... you should have a solid shot though.

Good luck!

Monday, March 17, 2014

Coming back to Wizard101 after a year

It's been awhile since I've played. I would have kept up, but I got sucked into a new (old) game again, and the demand on my time left Wizard101 out in the cold.

Things that were nice about coming back.
- I didn't have to pay any subscription to start playing again and pick up where I left off. That's because I've been spending money to open areas rather than pay subscription. There are obvious benefits to a subscription, but I think if you start playing, it's better from the outset to pick one model or the other and not dip into both. For better or for worse, this is what I picked. I am able to pick up the game, play it, and then put it down for later without worrying about the money I lose by paying and not playing.
- I also like that a new area has been implemented (actually a multi-level area that one revisits in stages, like Grizzlheim was). I easily soloed the first area with Alexander, though I was rusty on the play. Probably because it's a level 30 instance.
- It was nice to see a familiar face popup and say hi, even though I was gone for a year. Time marches on, and hopefully so will Wizard101!

Things that were tough
- As I mentioned above, I sort of forgot how to play efficiently. I have to re-remember the good combos, how to walk the streets, where things are located, order casting (oh, Balanceblade - you so crazy!). More than once I put my traps on before dropping my prism to filter my incoming spell. Whoops. Also, you play a bit to remember the general damage "brackets" that your spells will do, such as "this is what my Meteor Strike does with a fire trap, this is what it does with just a blade, this is what it does with both, this is what it does with a Fireblade and an Elemental Blade" (etc.). I ran into a few problems fighting some bosses, as I was afraid to cast and not do enough damage when my life was low. This caused me to often use an extra turn and risk dying rather than casting, but once or twice I did the opposite and fired too soon, which left me short on damage and dead before I could get another damage spell off. The game rewards the player who has a good guess to how much damage spell combos will do, and to the player who can always remember to cast in the right order.
- What's easy on my pyromancer isn't so much for other wizards. Especially now that he's past level 80. After having no problems in Aquila, I hopped on my sorcerer who is just past level 40. He was doing admirably in some other areas as I warmed up (currently leveling in MooShu), even dispatching every boss with ease. However, the first real problem arose when I had to fight the Praetorian Guard encounter. Oh my! I wound up buying some treasure cards to put me over the top, but it still took me over an hour to best this fight. The fight has three minions supporting the mini-boss, and that's just too much damage to overcome one at a time. It would also take too long with Sandstorms (the only multi-hit damage card available for that level)... so I realized I needed to do one large, augmented damage spell to do enough damage to all of them before I died. Also, though Balance has a variety of blades (and I have gear giving me bonus item cards), I was going to have to spend some of my mana pips on blades. If I didn't get the right pip combo, or if I took a critical hit from any of my opponents, or if they went first, I was likely to lose. I wound up using a Power Nova with two Balanceblades (one of them an item card) and two Bladestorms (one of them an item card). I had planned on dropping an Amplify Treasure card as well (which I did once, but that wasted a turn and I died before I could cast my Power Nova). Like I said - it took me an hour, but when everything finally went right, I got off the Nova, and it was just enough damage.

Things I learned (or re-remembered)
- Be patient. Watch for "cars" (monsters) before crossing the street. Don't be so impatient that you lose time rushing toward your goal because you got caught up in wandering monster battles. Don't shoot your spell off looking for a kill unless you know it's going to be a kill. If your plan is multiple damage spells, make sure you're timing your offense and defense right.
- Look at your opponent's school of magic before engaging it.
- For that matter, look at the deck of spells you're using before you wander around. If you're like me and have multiple pre-made decks for different situations, you'll wind up swapping them around depending upon the area you're in.
- Look for information on the internet before battling a boss. Some people like the novelty of facing the unknown; but some of these bosses are tricky and have particular "rules" to obey (cheats to avoid). Why spend hours trying to figure it out, when others have gone there before you?
- Play to your school's strength. If you're a high damage class (Diviner), build up for big hits and fire them off as soon as you can. As a Pyromancer, consider when multi-round damage is optimal. Pyromancers have many ways to control battle through kinds of damage they do, so know when to play what. If you're a Sorcerer, Theurgist, or Thaumaturge, keep your shields and life spells up and look for your opportunities. If you're a Necromancer, watch your life to know when you have to cast your drain spells. If you're a Conjurer... all of the above? I think those rules really apply for all classes (shields are very helpful against most bosses, so stock up, even if they're treasure cards!).
- Pets that have powers are great. However, mine don't fire them off nearly as often as I remembered them doing before. When you're planning your battles, it's best not to rely on your pet's intermittent power to get you through the day, although in a long battle, you're probably going to see that power at least once.

I may do some more write-ups soon, as I progress through more areas. Alexander is now finished with all of his quests from Avalon on down. He has not yet entered Azteca. I figure I will have to finish that before having a chance at the rest of Aquila, and then I see that Khrysalis is the next world to encounter. So much to do!