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My first day with Mists of Pandaria's pet battles

Pet battles handson, the first day DNP
Ever since Blizzard announced pet battles back at BlizzCon, I've been really excited about the feature. Oddly, though, I haven't tried it until today. I've been so caught up with other beta (and general World of Warcraft) activities that I've let the one feature I'm looking forward to most pass me by. This morning, I set absolutely everything else aside so I could take a crack at it.

The fun of it was the fact that I didn't even know where to get started. I've been following the countless pet battle guides floating around the internet closely enough to have a basic grip on the system's mechanics, but the first step, the starting point, never stuck with me. Where do I get the training? How much does it cost?

Luckily, finding that information in-game was easy enough. The trainers' being located in a capital city seemed like the obvious answer, so I stopped in Stormwind and checked in with a city guard. The guard was able to direct me to the pet battle trainer just like any class or profession trainer. An icon was placed on my minimap, leading me straight to Audrey Burnhep, the Alliance pet battle trainer. Between you and me, that seems like a seriously misplaced pop culture reference. What does Audrey Hepburn have to do with pet battles? Maybe she has a cockfighting history I don't know about.

For the low, low price of 85 gold, Audrey Burnhep unlocked the pet battle feature across my entire account and granted me the spell Revive Battle Pets, which allows me to resurrect and fully heal all of my battle pets when outside of combat. Conveniently, she also sells the Orange Tabby Cat for 50 silver. If you're a brand new player and have no non-combat pets whatsoever, Audrey has everything you need to get started with the system.

While pet battles eventually allow you to take up to three pets into a battle at one time, you're only allowed to use one at first, so the Orange Tabby is all you need. For curiosity's sake, I jumped over to the Horde to check which pet they receive as their starter. Orcs don't want no stinkin' kittens; their starter pet is the Black Kingsnake.

Pet battles handson, the first day
The first quest I received from Audrey, Learning the Ropes, sent me out into the world to win my first battle. While I expected that I would need to run out to Elwynn Forest to find wild critters to fight, I didn't even need to go that far. As I flew over Stormwind, green paw icons began appearing on my minimap -- there were Stormwind Rats to battle right within the city. I flew down, prepared to click on a rat to start combat -- then realized I never picked which pet I would be using in battle.

Pet battles handson, the first day DNPPopping open the Mount and Pet pane (shift+P by default), I was horrified to discover the game defaulted me to using the unholy abomination that is Egbert. I definitely did not want to use Egbert. Come on, who actually likes Egbert? Nobody, that's who.

Because I'm not a big pet collector, I didn't have an enormous list of pets to choose from. I have collected numerous promotional or limited edition pets over the years, though. Whelplings, Mini Diablo, the Zergling, the Panda Cub, and all of that sort of thing were at my disposal. I knew I would be fighting Critters first, so I skimmed my list of pets for something strong against that pet type. Critter-type pets deal reduced damage to Humanoid-type pets, but I didn't actually have any Humanoids. There went that plan. If I couldn't reduce incoming damage from Critters, what would deal out more damage to Critters? Well, Critters take more damage from Beasts, so I needed a Beast-type. I ended up settling on the Zergling, because while the Zergling is a Magic-type pet, its first ability is Bite, which deals out Beast-type damage. Good enough for me. Zerglings are cool!

Pet battles handson, the first day
The pet pane uses a very simple drag-and-drop system for selecting your pet lineup. Click the one you want on the left and drag it over into your pet lineup on the right. The pet at the top of the list will enter battle first. Spoiler alert: I took the above screenshot after the events documented below.

In my excitement, I failed to notice that the Stormwind Rats aren't all the same level. Some of the rats were level 1, but others were level 2. I started my first battle with a level 2 rat, setting my zergling at a disadvantage. Shamefully, I lost. I lost bad. It didn't really matter, though. Once the combat ended, I healed up my Zergling with the Revive Battle Pets ability and jumped right back in, being mindful to click on a level 1. I won! I won easily. There was a pretty big difference between a level 1 rat and a level 2 rat, so I learned very quickly to pay attention to the levels of things I'm fighting. That should be obvious to MMO players -- pulling mobs over your level is risky business -- but I didn't think something hanging out in Stormwind City could kick my Zergling's butt.

Pet battles handson, the first day
I killed another rat for good measure before I went back to Ms. Audrey, and my zergling ended up hitting level 2. Neat! Inspired by the level-up animation, I killed a few more rats and hit level 3. Returning to Audrey at level 3 opened up a cascade of new quests -- more than I expected all at once, really. If you go back at level 2, you won't get as many quests at once as I did, which is probably for the best.

The first quest was On The Mend, sending me off to Stormwind's resident stable master, Jenova Stoneshield. For the low, low price of 10 silver, stable masters can immediately heal all of your battle pets. That didn't make much sense to me. Why would I pay for that? I have a spell that Pet battles handson, the first day DNPdoes the same thing! ... Right? Oh. I failed to notice Revive Battle Pets has a 10-minute cooldown. If you need to heal your pets more often than once every 10 minutes, you'll need to pay up.

Since I'd hit level 3, the next quests all involved the pet battle features I'd just unlocked. At level 3, you gain the ability to use a second pet in battle (I put my Warbot into my lineup just for kicks), and the ability to catch new pets. The quest Got One! sent me back out into the field to catch a pet to fill that second combat slot. At the same time, I was given the quest Julia, The Pet Tamer. I was being sent out to the Maclure Vineyards to fight my first tamer battle -- sweet!

I definitely wanted to get the task of catching another pet out of the way first, though. I could have stuck around Stormwind and caught a rat, but that didn't hold much appeal. Really? A rat? I would pick one up eventually just for completion's sake, but I wanted something more interesting than that for quest purposes. I ventured out into Elwynn Forest, and my minimap lit up with new wild pets. I found a Fawn, battled it with my Zergling, and caught it! The catch triggered two achievements: A Rare Catch and That Was Close.

Catching a wild pet is a simple process. Once you've brought a wild pet below 35% health, an ability called Trap lights up on your UI. You sacrifice your combat turn to try catching the wild pet. If it succeeds, the pet becomes yours; if it fails, your capture chance increases by 20% on your next attempt. This capture chance increase stacks, so even if you're really unlucky, you'll catch the pet eventually. Assuming it doesn't wipe your party first.

After the Fawn, I tried to catch a Squirrel, but my Zergling managed to two-shot it and kill it before I could catch it. Whoops. I stumbled across a Small Frog, caught it, and then I was close enough to the Maclure Vineyard that I decided to go ahead and battle Julia.

Pet battles handson, the first day

"Think you can take me in battle? Most girls hate snakes, but I think they're cute!"

My Zergling was at the top of my battle order, but I decided to put my Warbot on the field. Julia's pets were Beast-type Snakes, and Mechanical pets deal extra damage to Beasts, which I didn't know before the battle. Switching to the Warbot right away made sense at the time. Unfortunately, it turned out to be a poor decision, because swapping pets used up my first combat round and set my Warbot at a disadvantage against Julia's level 2 snake, Fangs.

Pet battles handson, the first day
Fangs poisoned my Warbot on its first move. Then the two proceeded to trade blows for a while. The Warbot brought Fangs down to 6 health, but the poison ultimately got the better of him. Warbot went down.

But wait! Mechanical pets have a passive ability that resurrects them at 25% health, once per battle. The Warbot dragged himself up off of the ground and dealt the deathblow to Fangs.

Julia sent her second snake, Slither, onto the field. Slither immediately brought my Warbot down to 1 HP. Before the Warbot could go down again, I swapped the Zergling back in. I was a little nervous about that decision at first, because Slither crit my Zergling for 69 health right off the bat, which seemed like a pretty big number at that level! Slither couldn't manage any more hits like that, though. Slither was only level 2 compared to my Zergling's level 4. The Zergling stomped Slither into the ground with no problems at all. I won! Not only did I win, but I also earned the achievements Cat Fight! and On A Roll!, which felt pretty good.

Winning the battle (and thus completing my quest) awarded me with a Sack of Pet Supplies containing a Happy Pet Snack and a Sack of Expired Pet Food. Not the most exciting rewards ever, but the fight itself was fun and my first pet was only level 4, so it isn't as if I was expecting epics or anything. Julia gave me a quest to progress to Westfall and do battle with Old MacDonald, but I was winding down on pet battles for the day at that point. The old man would just have to wait.

Pet battles handson, the first day DNP
On the way back to Audrey, I caught a Black Lamb, a Squirrel, and finally the loathsome Stormwind Rat. The Squirrel is a rare-quality pet and the Stormwind Rat is a poor-quality pet, but I wasn't entirely sure what that meant. Does it impact how effective they are in combat or just how difficult they are to find/catch? That's a question for another day.

Overall, I was very pleased with the system. Everything documented here took place in less than an hour's time. Less than an hour to get your training, learn how to battle, start catching new pets, earn a few achievements, and beat my first tamer? Having the ability to jump in and progress is a good thing. All sorts of players can partake of this activity. Even the super hardcore raiders who aren't interested in anything but raids will enjoy wasting a few minutes a day battling pets in their capital city of choice.

Pet battles handson, the first day DNP
Admittedly, there are some strange hitches in the system, such as the physical space limitations. Engaging in a battle with a Stormwind Rat failed sometimes, displaying the error message Pet battle area is obstructed. The critters were placed in locations where there wasn't physically enough room to conduct a battle. My first experience with the system was trying to figure out why the heck it wouldn't work and then trying to find a rat that was in a spacious enough location for me to actually fight it. That wasn't the best first impression, but I figured out the problem quickly enough, and the developers are still iterating on the system. It's a problem that may be fixed before launch.

I haven't explored the caging, selling, and trading of pets yet, but I fully intend to try that out first chance I get. Once I do, you'll be hearing about it. Old MacDonald awaits.

It's open warfare between Alliance and Horde in Mists of Pandaria, World of Warcraft's next expansion. Jump into five new levels with new talents and class mechanics, try the new monk class, and create a pandaren character to ally with either Horde or Alliance. Look for expansion basics in our Mists FAQ, or dig into our spring press event coverage for more details!

Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Mists of Pandaria

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