Time Capsule Tanking

Above is not yet the official logo of Years Behind, the retro raiding project, but one of the ones being considered by Wargallow our fearless project leader.  I call it a project and not a guild because in essence, this is an experiment.  We don’t yet know how successful raiding the old world content will be, and each of us are very much active in the leadership of our respective classic guilds.

However all things seem to be rolling along nicely, with the guild finally getting a few bank tabs and a tabard depicting representing Hogger…  the FIRST raid boss.  Right now we are pooling resources and gathering up as many old world trappings as we can find.  I’ve donated my collection of Zul’Gurub Voodoo Dolls, as well as some various faction and quest items.  Getting ready for the retro raid has become one of my driving focuses while in game.  I’ve prepared many times for an impending patch, but never quite in this fashion.

You can’t skimp on the tank

underprepared to "tank" When I was first presented with this concept, I knew that without a doubt if possible I would want to tank it.  When I raided the old world content originally it was as a hunter, and as I leveled and geared up Belghast, I tanked for anyone that would take me.  However I never actually achieved many of the goals that I wanted to.  I never completed tier 1 or tier 2, I never owned a Quel’Serrar, I never really tanked much more than the first few bosses in AQ40.  I just feel like part of my tanking Pedigree is missing, since I have experienced all the content, but as the wrong class.

My little warrior Bobbinn, had been sitting there inactive and acting as a banker for some time.  As a result her gear was in a completely horrendous state, so I knew that I would have to regear the character from the ground up.  For this reason, I almost considered shifting focus to pushing up my rogue, Gloam since he was at least fully outfitted in heirloom gear.  In fact I had started to run him through Blackrock Depths for gear, but in the process of doing so a sign from the random loot generator gods appeared.  In the middle of the quarry in BRD, Stockade Pauldrons, which in their day were the best defensive shoulders available.  Stupid as it might sound, this pretty much told me I should be working on the warrior instead.

Getting to 440

Get it?  Defense Cap??? The primary goal in gearing a tank is to first get to the defense soft cap, aka the point at which you can no longer receive critical blows through normal means.  I knew that this was going to be a tall order, since in classic wow we got the benefit of “classic” Anticipation, that when fully talented was worth 20 defense.  This meant that in the “retroraid” world, I was going to need to make up for that loss of defense through other means.  Prior to Blackwing Lair it was fairly hard to stay defense capped, as both Valor and to a lesser extent Might attempted to be “Jack of All Trades” gear sets for the warrior.

Years Behind has set the goal of raiding the content as level 60 characters, however we have NOT set the goal of raiding the content in only the gear available to us back then.  What this means in practice is that there are a good number of defense enchants that are available for level 60 items, and the addition of the random “Of The Champion” type gear which on level 60 gear gives 32 Stamina, 21 Strength, and 21 Defense.

The problem with the later is that on Argent Dawn, the “champion” gear has been going for some pretty ridiculous sums ranging anywhere from 100g-200g per item.  Since I live in a habitual “broke” state in game, I knew that this was not going to be an option for me.  So instead I went after a favorite amongst twink tanks back in the day.  Many of my friends thought I was somewhat nuts, when I carefully collected the various pieces of the Advanced Armorsmithing tome, but I knew sooner or later it would come in handy.  While cost prohibitive in classic wow, with little effort I was able to craft Enchanted Thorium Breastplate, Enchanted Thorium Helm, and Enchanted Thorium Leggings which will serve as my base to build upon.

Zul’gurub used to be a hotbed for starter tanking gear, and I have a good number of friends who either enjoy ripping apart old world content or are “a-faction-ados” in need of more rep to hit exalted.  As a result it has been pretty easy for me to get a few overpowered friends to clear Zul’gurub for me for gear.  I’ve been cautious of gaining too much experience, so as a result I have kept Bobbinn safely out of XP range until it is boss time, only running her in long enough for the kill.  These Zul’Gurub runs gave me a strong number of upgrades, to start to fill out my tanking set. After two runs I had managed to accumulate: Overlord’s Embrace, Overlord’s Onyx Band, Overlord’s Crimson Band, Bloodlord’s Defender, and my first decent tanking trinket Zandalarian Hero Badge.

At the suggestion of a guild member I accepted the offer to do a run through on AQ20 as well, and the result of it were a few more pieces of gear.  The biggest of them was Buru’s Skull Fragment.  This was a shield that eluded me on Belghast in classical wow.  Each time it dropped, there was always someone along on a main, that I passed it to, or another alt with better dice.  So I have to admit, that I was borderline giddy when it dropped.  In addition this I managed to pick up Polished Obsidian Pauldrons, which in theory was a downgrade from my Stockade Pauldrons.  However if you notice, the new shoulders are a level 60 item, meaning they are eligible for Heavy Knothide Armor Kit…  which in turn makes the item a net gain overall.  Last gem from AQ20, was the Head of Ossirian the Unscarred which netted a pretty nice tanking neck: Pendant of the Shifting Sands.

Gear: The Outfitting

look at all the gear! Now that I had managed to amass a good number of tanking items my focus shifted to looking into the various enchants that were available for me.  Like I said in a subheading above, you can’t skimp on the tank.  All the other raid members can show up to our first Molten Core outing wearing whatever the hell they could mash together, but in order for us to have a successful run you have to have a solidly geared main tank.  Looking down through the various slots, here is a list of the enchants that I compiled for a 60 retro tank.

With a Roadmap in place this gave me a shopping list of what to obtain.  I managed to pick up two Primal Hakkari Idol during my ZG runs, and after some scrounging a couple of Punctured Voodoo Doll.  For most players that will be the most difficult of the enchants, the rest rely mostly on older enchanting materials and should be fairly reasonable.  For me, as an enchanter I had the majority of it ratholed away.

Another Dragonslayer

Bobin with Quelserrar One of my big regrets as a tank is that I never actually got to tank with my Quel’Serrar when it mattered.  I managed to get my Foror’s Compendium of Dragon Slaying a few months before Wrath came out, and while I used it on a few guild Karazhan runs, I never really got to enjoy the sheer awesome power of the weapon.  So as I stared down the barrel of another 60s tank, I knew without a doubt I had to obtain another Foror’s book.  After several weeks of nightly Dire Maul runs prior to raid time, and checking both the Alliance and Horde auction houses, I gathered up the required insanity points to post on the Argent Dawn forums.

I’ve been a known entity on the forums for years, and for the most part the organization of our retro raid has been held entirely there.  So I thought maybe someone had a book collecting dust in their vault and would take pity on me.  Surprisingly, after several days and a few bumps the thread hit paydirt.  Trynd from House of Arathor, posted saying he had one that he had been holding onto for awhile, which he out of an amazing act of kindness just mailed to me free gratis.  I had never met the man before, but I have to say he is one of me heroes now.

Last night I managed to accomplish the goal of forging Quel’Serrar for the second time.  I am pretty pumped about tanking the old world dungeons with this truly epic weapon.  It does however crack me up exactly how oversized it is on a gnome female.  My friend commented last night, that they need to add a sparks animation as it drags the ground while slung to your hip.  I do remember how cool the gnome animations were with the big blade, so looking forward to bringing it down swiftly with a twirling flourish on the baddies.

Losing My Religion

REM-tableau-2 The title to this post sounds rather more ominous than it deserves, but I loved the song, and love the phrase.  Another week is passing and this is my first blog post.  I’ve found myself in a slump lately.  When I started this crazy experiment I had more topics to write about than I had time to write them.  Now as I sit here trying to drum up anything worthy of discussing, I realize that it’s become much harder.

I’m finding myself in a pretty “blah” place as far as the game goes right now.  I’m enjoying Ulduar still, and I am happy that we are making progress.  But the prospect of more content on the horizon looms over my head like the sword of Damocles.  I know without a doubt that we have more time needed before we reach the end of Ulduar than we have weeks left before the patch.  So as I look at what is coming down the pipe, I know eventually we will have to move forward.

This is the big frustration with living in the “medium-core” space (as one of our raid council members put it), you are constantly trying to temper both ends of the spectrum.  We have our more hardcore members, who actively want every single achievement, are pushing with full gusto to do hard modes, and burn through content as fast as we can.  On the other end of the spectrum, we have the players who either want to stop and smell the roses, have specific goals like obtaining X item, or only have enough playtime to show up just in time for the raid. 

Being a “casual but focused” raid means we are constantly trying to steer between the two very different pillars.  If you move too slowly, you risk losing your best players to bigger raids.  If you move too fast, you end up tearing yourselves apart at the seams while forcibly dragging players who don’t want to move.  So as raid leaders we walk this razor thin line, attempting to make everyone acceptably happy in the process…  but at the same time having to swallow many of your own hopes and aspirations in the process.

So I think a good chunk of my malaise towards posting lately is that I am myself going through a bit of a burnout from all the opposing forces surrounding me.  I think it mostly started when the first news of the new patch surfaced, my impending class nerfs, and a brand new dungeon that feels like another hamster wheel presented before us to keep the most hardcore of players from going to other games.  I am sure I will enjoy it when it arrives, but my present disdain of the argent tournament is not helping my excitement at all.

Goblin Engineering

Goblin-Shredder One of the topics that has spurred more than a bit of interest in me is the supposed “leak” of new mask textures from the last few PTR releases.  I believe MMO Champion broke the news first with their provocative topic titled:  Goblins and Worgens are the new races of the Expansion.  Two new halloween mask textures made their way into the 07/17 PTR build, and they featured a good number of curious things.  Firstly the quality of the textures shown represented something we had never seen in the existing Worgen or Goblin models.  On the Worgen side, they represented a “female” Worgen model, something that doesn’t exist in the game today even when the female humans in Grizzly Hills transform.

This started the forum crowds murmuring about the likelihood of whether or not these were legitimate racials, or if this was yet another Blizzard red herring.  A few days later, in build 10123 other masks began appearing.  So added to the pile were Murlocs, Vrykul, Ogres, and Naga.  So of course, this began the chant of players claiming that the new races were simply a figment of our collective imagination.  I am not sure if I am ready to call this as over, or to call it as a conspiracy to cover up a mistake.  However one thing you can notice immediately, is that the second set of masks do not match the level of detail as shown within the first two.  The Murloc, Naga, and Female Ogre masks are all extremely low resolution as compared to the high level of detail shown within the Goblin and Worgen masks.  Part of me wants to believe that we really DID get a glimpse of the new racial models, and that the resulting additional masks were an attempt to diffuse a mistake.

I’ve said for awhile now within guild conversations that I felt this expansion would lead to new races being introduced.  In MMO gaming, after awhile companies tend to get into patterns for releases, and I feel that blizzard has probably already hit it’s stride.  For sake of balancing the game, it is far to destructive to introduce both new races and classes at the same time.  So I feel that from this point on, Blizzard will introduce an expansion that provides new races and starting zones to grow its player base, then follow it with an expansion that introduces new classes to play.  This pattern gives one expansion to bring up a new crop of players, and then the next to reward these new players and old ones alike with new kinds of game play at its most basic level.  So following this pattern, it means that this next expansion would introduce new races…  which in turn fits the leak.

The Beta List

scroll There has been a list of “expansions” floating around the internet for years now.  The very first time it came to my attention was shortly before the announcements surrounding Burning Crusade.  Much like Nostradamas and his quatrains, it seemed to predict the progression of Azeroth.  For the sake of explaination I am reposting the list here.  I’ll make no guarantee as to its validity, but it has in fact been floating around the collective web since before the original Naxxramas patch, which is roughly when I first saw it.

Draenor Set

Azuremyst Isle – 1 to 10
Bloodmyrk Isle – 10 to 20

Eversong Forest – 1 to 10
Quel’thalas – 10 to 20
Hellfire Peninsula – 58 to 62
Zangarmarsh – 60 to 64
Terokkar Forest – 61 to 65
The Deadlands – 63 to 67
Nagrand – 64 to 68
Blade’s Edge Mountains – 66 to 70
Netherstorm – 67 to 70
Shadowmoon Valley – 69 to 70

Northrend Set

Borean Tundra – 67 to 70
Howling Fjord – 67 to 70
Dragonblight – 69 to 72
Grizzly Hills – 70 to 73
Crystalsong Forest – 72 to 75
Zul’drak – 73 to 76
Sholazar Basin – 75 to 79
Storm Peaks – 76 to 80
Icecrown Glacier – 78 to 80

Maelstrom Set

Gilneas – 77 to 80
Grim Batol – 78 to 81
Kul Tiras – 79 to 82
Kezan – 81 to 86
Tel Abim – 83 to 85
Zandalar – 84 to 87
Plunder Isle – 86 to 88
The Broken Isles – 87 to 90
The Maelstrom – 89 to 90

Plane Set

Pandaria – 1 to 10
Hiji – 10 to 20

Wolfenhold – 1 to 10
Xorothian Plains – 10 to 20

The Green Lands – 88 to 91
The Dying Paradise – 91 to 94
The Emerald Nightmare – 94 to 97
The Eye of Ysera – 97 to 100

Deephome – 88 to 91
Skywall – 91 to 94
The Abyssal Maw – 94 to 97
The Firelands – 97 to 100

Legion Set

K’aresh – 96 to 99
Argus Meadowlands – 97 to 100
Mac’Aree – 99 to 100
Maw of Oblivion – 100+
The Burning Citadel – 100+++

As you can see, for the most part the list has been accurate to this point.  Some of the final names of the zones have been different, but the wide majority of both the Burning Crusade and Wrath of the Lich King zones have been dead on.  If the list continues to predict the future, then the next expansion would in fact be related to the Maelstrom as many have speculated, which strongly fits with the recent trademark of the name Cataclysm.  In the above list, the area slotted as the staring zone for the expansion is Gilneas.

31925 Gilneas is rumored to have fallen to the influences of the Worgen.  So while the zone levels do not fit with the pattern of a starting zone, it would seem that the next expansion will in fact let us peer beyond the Greymane wall into the cloistered realm.  As far as the Goblins go, it has been long rumored that the “Sea” expansion, will let us visit the goblin continent of Undermine.  We know it has been designed based on whiteboard drawings from the Warcraft Behind the Scenes DVD.  So if the next expansion is in fact the Maelstrom, it would be the “sea” expansion and more than likely have a good deal of involvement with the Goblins as well.

So when you take the combined speculative powers of all of the above, combined with the supposed “leak” of the racial masks you can get to the point where you begin to believe that we will be playing wolves and gobbos in the next expansion.  Granted this is all a colossal feat of Imagineering, with only the most flimsy of evidence… it could happen.  After you have leapt to the conclusion, the next question you have to ask yourself is which faction will get which of the new races.

Without a doubt, in these are the new races then the Goblins will be a Horde race.  My reasoning here is pretty simple.  Goblins and Gnomes hate each other.  This has been a construct of the wow mythos since the days of beta.  The engineering might of the gnomes and the goblins will forever be pit against each other, and that in itself is reason along to know beyond any shadow of a doubt that they would end up wearing red.  But if you need further reasons, I give you this.  The horde has no “small race”.  Burning Crusade gave alliance their first “big race” with the Draenei, so in the Great Blizzard Homogenization I figure the next expansion will give the Horde their first “stunty”.  Granted I would have rather it been Iron Dwarves…  but Goblins would have been a close second.

So by elimination this leaves Worgen as being the new Alliance race, which also makes a certain amount of sense if you stop to evaluate it.  There are many bits of non-canon lore suggesting that the individuals locked behind the Greymane wall too suffer from the same Worgen curse as the inhabitants of Pyrewood Village.  Pyrewood itself is our first step on the delusional road that leads us to believing the Worgen to be Alliance sympathizers.  This Village by day is a normal run of the mill alliance town, which registers as hostile to horde players.  Every race needs a foil, so you already have the ready enemies just a zone away in the Forsaken.  It would be an easy fit for the Forsaken and Worgen forces to be opposed to each other.  Lastly in the Great Homogenization, this would give the alliance our very first REAL “Montrous Humanoid”, to use the Dungeons and Dragons term.

Granted everything I just said, is for all intents and purposes, utter bullshit.  I am by no means a lore afficianado, I haven’t even read quest text since about level 40…  so in truth I have no leg to stand on.  However this all makes a kooky kind of sense to me based on the patterns we have already seen from Blizzard.  Worgen would present the alliance with a new Shaman race, but Goblins however I really don’t see solving the paladin racial issue.  I am anxiously awaiting BlizzCon just so we can finally get some real information to replace all of this hysteria that currently abounds.  Granted I just probably fed a good number of conspiracy theorists with my blog post, but hopefully some of you Loremasters out there can tell me just how wrong I am.

Too Soon, Executus

aggronaut40k

As you might guess from the logo, Tales of the Aggronaut has passed the 40,000 unique readers mark on Google analytics.  As a result, I decided to steal from the iconography Warhammer 40,000 logo, in honor of the milestone.  Over the last few weeks, real life has slowed my postings down to a crawl, but I thank all of you out there for sticking with me.  I continue to gain readership each day, and I am completely amazed that anyone is willing to read my half-baked rambles on a regular basis.

This week has been busier than most.  With a house guest from Mississippi I have missed more raids this week than I have ever missed during the lifespan of the Duranub Raiding Company.  As fate would have it, I managed to make both of our 10 man outings, but completely missed both of our 25 man raids.  So between last week and the cleaning/home improvement ramp-up to having a house guest, and this week the actual act of playing host…  I am completely worn out.  Looking forward to a long weekend of doing a whole lot of nothing.

In the past I have posted a few emotion wrapped rambles about how expendable I was feeling at the beginning of Ulduar.  Prior to that, I posted about the bittersweet feeling of when your raid group does just fine without you.  Because of the insanity of this week I have to say that I was thoroughly thrilled that my raid was able to pull together and perform extremely well without their main tank.  From what I hear we saw some pretty phenomenal performances from various players as they stepped up to fill the void left by the raid mascot…  me.  Awesome job to everyone.

You can’t go back… can you?

Too Soon, Executus Too Soon Expansions are an exciting time, with the advent of new content to conquer, but with each also comes a certain sadness for me.  I know in the back of my mind that I will never again experience the content in the same way as I once did.  Sure I can go back and run Molten Core, but it is rather sad and wrong that I can now solo what once took a group of 40 players working together to conquer.  We can never again experience the camaraderie of 40 players focused on one singular goal…  or can we?

The 3.2 expansion brings with it a new feature to the game, the ability to for a fee lock your character so that it will no longer receive experience in any fashion.  The goal of this addition is without a doubt to be able to create PVP twinks at the various brackets, and there will be much rejoicing amongst players as they know that they can safely run instances to acquire gear without ever pushing beyond that much vaunted bracket.  However this feature also allows for an unanticipated option.

Real Retro Raiding

GET IN THE POISON!!! With the new feature we will be able to lock characters at level 60, and experience the older content in a similar fashion to the nostalgic days of WoW.  On Argent Dawn, one of our regular community organizers Wargallow, has suggested just this.  His plan is to create a group of 25+ level 60 characters for the purpose of running old world content the way it was originally meant to be experienced.  For the time being, any level 60 character is welcome, and I am presently planning on playing my dwarf rogue Gloam.

Will this usher in the era of “Twink Raiding”?  I guess only time will tell, but I feel this is a brilliant way to experience content that either you are nostalgic about or managed to miss the first time around.  While it is enjoyable to push through the older content with a group of over-level and overpowered friends, for me at least it has always been bittersweet.  I remember the epic feeling of experiencing molten core for the first time, and the joy I felt when I completed my Giantstalker set.  Maybe we can recapture a small bit of this.

This weekend I will be spending it pushing my rogue to 60 off and on, and looking forward to the hopefully good times to come.  I look forward to meeting new players, and helping to nurture this fledgling group as it gets off the ground.  The only sadness I feel as I look forward is the fact that my gnome warrior Bobbinn is ineligible, as on a whim I dinged 61 all so many months ago.

Ragnaros, we come for you!

Can of Corn

CannedCorn There is one lesson I should have learned years ago.  Never pick on someone for something, because sooner or later you are doomed to do the exact same thing.  A few weeks back I was picking on Ariedan from Wordy Warrior a bit for her lack of updates.  Then over the course of the last week I’ve had a pretty significant lapse in my postings.  I guess for lack of a better term, life happened.

Last week and this past weekend almost all of my time was devoted to minor home improvement projects, and cleaning.  Why on earth would I wear myself out doing this?  Well, we had a house guest coming this week, and among other things our house needed a good deal of TLC to get to a state fit for company.  As a result I am very much feeling my age.  Getting up and out of bed sounds like a bowl of rice crispies as my back straightens, followed by a chorus of groans.  However the house looks better than it has in years, and I am praying I will be able to maintain it.  My general state of “worn the hell out”, combined with limited time has thrown a severe case of “lack of giving a shit” when it comes to the frequency of my blogging.  So apologies for the lapse. 

One more oddball thing while I am on my traditional “real life” section of the blog post.  My local newspaper just launched this HORRIBLE google maps mash-up application where they attempt to show all the businesses in the Tulsa area as tiny indistinguishable dots on a map.  They made the mistake of showing the top searches on the right hand side of the page.  When my co-worker first hit the website, the first few phases were expectable… but number 5 in the list was “Can of Corn”.  So it has been our goal to try and keep this gem at number one.  So if you are bored, please hit this site and bump “Can of Corn” a few times for us.

Emo Aborted

10down_bosses Tuesday afternoon I was primed to make a rather self-indulgent and emo post about the rigors of raid leadership and the insanity it takes to try and lead at all.  Tuesday in 25 man Ulduar had a very “herding cats” feel to it, making me address all the things I dislike about the 25 man raid dynamic.  It hadn’t quite gotten to the point of my cyclical internal battle of “why don’t you just quit 25 mans and do nothing but 10s”, but we were probably teetering dangerously on the edge of that slope.  So you can probably only imagine the load of crap that would have been contained within the body of that post.  However I got tired, and busy and the post never made its way onto the digital page. 

Wednesday and Thursday happened, and both days restored my faith in humanity and the reason why I began leading in the first place.  First I have to start with my beloved 10 man group.  Even if the rest of the week had been complete and total crap, just getting through another Wednesday with my 10 man team is usually enough to push me through even the worst of Thursdays.  I’ve bragged on my folks so many times over the last few weeks it is probably getting annoying, but alas I have to do it again.

Wednesday night went by the books in every way.  We did our normal Leviathan > XT-002 Deconstructor > Kologarn > Auriaya clear to get to the bosses we would be working on this week.  While there we went ahead and pushed through and downed Hodir, making great time doing it.  From there we went to Freya and downed her in a single shot.

It was at this point that I made the judgment call, since we only had an hour of time left, I didn’t feel we really had enough time to adequately work on Thorim, so instead we began to backtrack.  We picked up Assembly of Iron, then moved to Razorscale, and still had time left for an Ignis the Furnace Master oneshot.  So for the second week in a row, in our 3 hour window we had cleared all of the bosses previously downed.  I am pretty damned proud of us downing 9 ulduar bosses in a single night.  This gave us plenty of time to come back in last night, and work out the kinks on Thorim.

Last night we managed to work through the issues we were having with Thorim very quickly in spite of some backseat driving going on in ventrilo.  I believe it was within 4 tries that we had to the second phase and managed to down him that attempt.  Among other things I got a shiny pair of ram shoulders (Valorous Siegebreaker Pauldrons), and we had plenty of time to start work on Mimiron.  In the few attempts before we called it, we managed to get him halfway into phase 3, so I fully feel that next week we will down him since we will be prioritizing his encounter.  Last week I posted about how wonderfully our team has meshed together, and I have to say things keep getting better as we learn to work as a cohesive force.

Hall of Winter Defrosted

Thursday we continued on in Ulduar 25 man.  Riding high on the weds night fun I was looking forward to the 25 man raid once more.  On Tuesday we had only managed to make it through Leviathan > XT-002 Deconstructor > Kologarn > Auriaya > Assembly of Iron, which on the day seemed like a letdown, but looking back now seems pretty good.  So as a warm-up we started the night with Razorscale, which went down the smoothest we have seen yet…  we have to find a way to get folks paying attention faster so we can finally knock Heroic: A Quick Shave out.

After this interlude we moved forward to the real focus of the night, Hodir.  It took us a total of 6 tries from start to finish to down him, but when we did it felt pretty stable.  In fact we managed to pick up Heroic: I Have the Coolest Friends in the process, and I personally picked up Heroic: Staying Buffed All Winter at some point throughout the attempts.  After Hodir, we moved on and cleaned up Ignis the Furnace Master which had always given us trouble in the past.

 

All in all it was a great week of raiding for Duranub and House Stalwart.

Guest Post: Elnore

A few months back I made a post in the BA shared topic regarding the distribution of Fragment of Val’anyr without our raid.  In that post I laid out the basic decision path we were planning on taking, and after a vote of the healers Elnore, our healing lead was unanimously chosen.  Being a very good writer herself, I told her that I thought it would be cool if she did a guest post outlining how she felt about being chosen for the honor of our first legendary weapon.  This afternoon I received the results of this prompting.  I hope you all enjoy reading it as much as I did.

On Why I Raid, Leadership, and Val’anyr

As a raid, we very nearly have what I think of as the absolute perfect progression speed—just finishing up the Big Bad of the last expansion as the next thing comes out.  We have yet to farm any Big Bads.  I maybe wish we were a tiny bit faster, since we sometimes miss a boss or a hard mode here or there, but two nights a week is what our real lives can give up to raiding, so two nights it is.  I find that I’m content visiting the things we miss later, as an overlevelled tourist; for instance, since we formed quite late in BC, we never got to Black Temple or Sunwell, but we just spent a very entertaining, somewhat ad-libbed Sunday evening doing just that.  And who of the envelope-pushing raid groups of BC could say “I solo-healed most of BT?”

What I am saying, I suppose, is that what I raid for is not progression or best-in-slots.  I care about gear only to the point of staying above the threshold where I remain useful.  I just want a challenge, be it new content, needing to try a crazy strategy to account for a class mechanic we’re short on, or seeing just how far you can get with how few people in an old instance.  I just want teammates I trust to take on that challenge with me.  Bonus points if our defeat of that challenge is rewarded by an awesome cinematic.

When I was approached to help form Duranub, I agreed not because I was sure I could do a good job—I was frankly terrified that I wouldn’t, since my previous leadership experience was exactly two raid nights as healing officer during my previous raid’s death throes and an essentially responsibility-free officership in my guild—but because I knew that the other officers and I would make a good team.

And for the most part we do, and so do the elders (the next rank down) and so do the raid members.  But when I learned that Ulduar would have a legendary healing mace, the raid was having a tough time.  The summer was coming, most officers and several other pivotal members were either dealing with important real life things or having real life explode in their faces, and attendance and attention levels were slipping to the point that we tended to wipe to dumb mistakes and low DPS levels.  I questioned whether we would ever kill Yogg-Saron, let alone do it well enough to allow for throwing a bunch of shards in his mouth. I questioned whether I even wanted to play the game long enough to see it.

But because our first shard could fall at any time, we talked about it anyway, and decided all the shards would go to one person, and that the healers would vote on who that would be.  And perhaps I shouldn’t have been, but I was surprised when it was me, unanimous except for my own vote.  I was burning out, I felt like I had been failing for a long time, and a large part of me wanted to see it go to anyone else.  There were definitely others who were drooling over it more.  But I have to admit that in the five years I’ve been playing, nothing has ever felt quite like the moment the officer who’d tallied the votes announced my name, and the raid channel, the healer channel, and my tell window all flooded with gratses.  I got all misty-eyed and wordless, and I feel a bit like that again each time another shard drops.  Which probably doesn’t sound much like the Elnore my fellow raiders know, but there you go.

That was several months ago now, and there are still off nights, and disagreements, and the occasional ugly thing said when it shouldn’t be.  There are nights I dread logging in because I’m worried we will be short healing and that I’ll spend the whole night feeling both responsible and unbearably helpless to fix it.  Leading can strain friendships, and I still fantasize about quitting sometimes, about being in some other raid where all I’d have to do is show up and spam my assignment.  I am looking forward to a vacation in August, where I will be unable to log in for a whole week.  That Tuesday will be the first raid I have missed since before Wrath was released and only my second in Duranub history, I am pretty sure.  I suppose it is overdue.

But there is no question of whether I’ll come back.  The thing is, for all that being a raid officer is much more stressful than being a raider was, it is also more rewarding. You get to see that for all the frustration, there are also people who offer to play even though they’re sick, who amaze me with what they can do with their character, who know just when to cheerlead or crack a joke, or who go out of their way to craft an epic or two for the new undergeared mage, There are nights when the Steelbreaker tank is learning and the Molgeim tank dies and the Brundir tank disconnects and we only have one battle rez, but we pull off the kill anyway.  Because my raid is awesome.  (See above, where I play for the challenge and the meeting of it as a team, heh.)

Tuesday night, a shard dropped off of XT, and we had the standard ceremonial just-for-me auction. (We use a version of WebDKP, and I pay per shard.)  It brought me up to six, six shards that aren’t really a weapon to me, or even necessarily a future weapon, though I am much more confident that we will get that far than I used to be.  Those six shards are my continued responsibility, a weight and a humbling and an honor, the hard work and trust of my raid.

And my raid is awesome.

Twelfth Times the Charm

12 is a magic number Anyone who has played with me for long knows that I have this dark trait…  I tend to obsess over the acquisition of various items.  I’ve written about this fact a few times, and the way that certain items seem to evade me.  For example I ran Karazhan every week for well over a year without ever seeing the Barbed Choker of Discipline drop, only to have it drop the very first time I attended Kara on my Alt-adin.  The Shoulderguards of the Bold were similarly coy, in that it took around 30 runnings of the dungeon to finally see them drop.

So in truth, it should have been no shock for me, that while every other group I knew was getting them almost every week… Duranub had yet to see a Titanguard drop.  It had even become a point of teasing, as friends from other raid groups linked them the one they just won on their alts.  When our offtank recently left, she got the cursed sword on her very first running post-duranub Flame Leviathan kill. 

Bitterness Pool

The Breakfast Jolly Roger One of my previous raiding incarnations, the infamous Late Night Raiders had a concept known as the “bitterness pool”.  Each week we would put up money, betting that the item we wanted would not drop.  When an item dropped, that player paid their bet into the pool split up amongst the “winners” who did not get the drop they were after.  I had joked many times, and was somewhat serious about starting up one of these again.  Feeling that certainly I could start recouping some of my repair expenses by with the fact that Titanguard hated me.

Last night I would have been a major loser.  On my 12th time killing Flame Leviathan, the rusting bucket of bolts finally made good with my sword.  Sure in the grand scheme of things, it was not a massive upgrade over my Stoneguard, and in truth it looks way worse…  however things like this become a point of honor for me.  I had to beat the RNG at all costs, and walk away with my sword with an orbital docking ring. 

The odd thing about knowing practically every enchant, is that you simply don’t know any enchanters anymore.  So there was a good deal of hoop jumping trying to track down a player in my expanded circle of acquaintances that unlike Duranub, had gotten some enchanting drops.  After 30 minutes of networking, I located and acquired my Blade Ward enchant.  My sword is ready for battle and looking forward to giving it a good test.  Hopefully we can push through to Thorim and maybe get Ornquist our tankadin a Legacy of Thunder.

Above Average

Bacon Awareness Tat All in all the night was a pretty good one.  The raid formed without much haranguing, and getting my sought after drop from the very first boss definitely set the tone of the evening on a positive note.  We had some great showings from a few dps, and some truly lackluster from others.  In the grand scheme of things it worked out to us having a pretty median night.  Healing was more than a bit weak, for reasons I have yet to fully figure out, but it was adequate for us to get in and blaze a path to the boss we needed to work on.

Auriaya once again posed some issues for us, mostly on count of the odd healing discrepancies we were having.  My connection seemed to be laggier than normal which also posed some problems.  In general I run about 19 ms ping to Argent Dawn, but all of last night I sat in the range of 90-300ms pings, with a few crippling lag spikes and a few disconnects.  It seemed to be something upstream from me however, as another of our raiders would lock up at exactly the same times.

It was a good loot night all around, with only 2 items going to DE, which itself explains the severe shortage of Abyss Crystal in the guild bank.  Maybe going to have to start implementing a minor charge on mats to afford the purchase of whatever we need like @Nibuca suggested.  It is probably a good thing that we have not started a bitterness pool, as one of our priests would have had to pay out handsomely as well considering we finally saw our first Rapture drop and we had the good luck to get another Fragment of Val’anyr.  Probably the most important occurrence last night is we finally had someone to soak up all the accursed paladin loot.

Warrior Pride

... come out and plaaaaaay Now for a completely divergent direction, I want to talk about some comments Ghostwalker made a few weeks back.  In these comments and a few others in the past, he has stated that he believes there should be fewer warrior tanks.  That in the grand scheme of things blizzard would like to see an equal distribution of all tanking and healing classes.  Reading his statements you get the impression that warriors are getting a few necessary “fixes” withheld in order to make them less popular.  This is probably not what Ghostwalker wanted the community to take from it, but its my feeling that in essence that is what is happening.

The problem with this gem of social engineering is that Warriors tend to be a pretty stubborn lot.  For those of us who have been in wow since the beginning, the class warrior equated to tanking.  So by that lot, if you entered the game wanting nothing than to be the best raid tank you could be, the only logical choice was to roll a warrior.  As a group warriors have a class loyalty that seems to be only rivaled by that of healing priests, and those insane pre-bc ferals.  So with that in mind, to say that there should be fewer warrior tanks just seems like a slap in the face.

I am confident that recent changes are going to screw us over (block changes and parry/dodge changes), but at the end of the day I am still going to be a warrior tank, and still going to be the main tank for our raid.  Where I start to get sensitive is when I am forced to question whether or not my choice of class is in effect harming our raid progression as a whole.  I do everything I humanly can to be the best tank I can be, even going so far as switching from a fun fury build, to dual tank specs to help out the raid as a whole. 

I can accept the fact that warriors are no longer the pinnacle of tanking, but by the same token I do not feel that it is fair to be forced to work twice as hard as a paladin or death knight to achieve the same level of tanking.  I realize we are no longer the golden boy that we once were, and that raids no longer need more than one of us.  However I do not feel that the time of the warrior tank is an outdated practice either.  As always myself, and the legion of other warrior tanks will adapt to the changes and bring with us years of tanking experience.  I just hope my class loyalty won’t hurt our raid in the long run.

Long Dark Tea Time of the Soul

  It’s been a week since my last blog post, and I am really feeling horrible over the massive lapse.  I would love to say it is purely due to the fact that I have had quite a bit on my plate, which I have.   That however does not really cover it entirely.  I just have lacked the basic “oomph” to sit down at the keyboard and compose anything worth reading.  So what you are getting now may or may not be worth reading, just be warned.

I am going to blame the root cause of my lapse on the holiday.  Through a concordance of events brought on my the shitty economy, I was forced to take a furlough day as part of the normal 4th vacation.  The result gave me a nice long 4 day weekend, and a very compressed 3 day work week.  So last week I really did not have the time to do my normal lunch time posting, and while on vacation I lacked the fundamental “give a shit” to actually think cogent thoughts.

I think a good part of it as well is as the week drug on there were so many things to write about.  There have been so many announcements of late that reflect some pretty ground breaking changes to the way the game will be played from now on.  The end result has been at least for me a bit of a “deer caught in the headlights” effect.  Too many things to write about, is often times just as bad as nothing to write about.  So cover me, as I attempt to charge into something that makes sense.

Mr. Gorbachev, Tear down this Wall

world history...  by lego Last week brought forth the announcement of many things, but probably the most shocking was the Faction-Change service. The quick summary of this is that players will be able to, for a fee, change the faction of one of their characters.  As part of this, they will be able to choose which class they will be transitioning too pending its a valid race/class combination, so no Human Shaman or Tauren Paladins.  This undoes several stances that blizzard has taken in the past on this concept, and pushes them one step in the right direction as far as I am concerned.  However my notion is this, why stop there…  why not take the step I have been waiting for and finally tear down the faction wall.

The Faction Wall is the artificial barrier between the alliance and horde factions restricting players form interacting in anything but the most basic or violent ways.  This barrier has been one of my biggest complaints about the game in general over time.  Previous titles like the Everquest series have always allowed players from opposite factions to group together for a common cause, even giving players in EQ2 the ability to formally defect to the other faction without any severe character changes.  The invisible wall between factions allows for both sides of the fence to benefit from the server population as a whole, instead of creating the ever present horde “underprivileged” that comes from generally lower populations.

This concept really strikes a chord for me because of the past history of my guild House Stalwart.  As a group we began to organize, months prior to the release of WoW on a game agnostic forum.  We gathered together all the players from multiple games, to unite under one banner for the new game we all planned to switch to.  However as we decided which characters we would be playing, there was a clear divide between players who were definitely alliance and those who were most certainly horde.

As a hedge fix we tried to start two guilds on two different servers, planning tentatively to split time between the two.  However as we all got higher in levels, each became more attached to one server or another.  The result caused the lions share of players to end up in House Stalwart on Argent Dawn, and a much smaller number to remain on Silverhand in the Burning Scar.  The Horde faction was eventually forced to merge into a larger guild, due to a simple lack of warm bodies available to do anything.  The artificial wall between the factions had successfully cleaved our gaming group in two.

Were the faction boundary not artificially imposed upon the game, we would still have remained a strong unified force.  Sure each of us would be forced to bank in a different town than some of the guild, but the end result would be that both horde and alliance players could group and quest together relieving the burden somewhat of under population.  To this day I still have a good number of friends that play horde on my server, and have rolled alts in an vague attempt to play with them.  However I know, that I will never fully integrate into that society because my home is still alliance.  But it would have been amazing, were our two guilds able to help one another out.

Warders beware

gimme muh mace bizatch! In other news, my 10 man Ulduar group is still going well.  We seem to have finally found a stable group that works really well together.  Gone are the days of not knowing who I would invite for the last half of the raid, and in it’s place is a stable group of 10 players who work well together.  I can not put into words how much fun I am having with these folks.  First we have the amazing healing trio of Aigie the priest, Ysinnia the tree, and Elemiuse the resto shaman.  Add onto it the tanking team of myself, Ornquist the Tankadin, and our swing hitting Euron the Deathknight who can deliver serious dps or survivability depending on the situation.  Layer onto this already potent mix our dual mage threats Dallian and Pinkygirl, the best hunter on the planet Thalen, and our resident crack dealer Kinral, and we have without a doubt the most versatile group I have managed to run with.

The most amazing thing is that this group has seemingly fallen into place entirely by accident.  After weeks of various spots in the run being a complete and total crapshoot, this lineup has just finally stuck.  Sure I could have cherry picked a some higher DPS in a few places, or min-maxed the balance to the nth degree, but what this group brings to the table that shatters everything else is amazing teamwork.  The group just meshes, has excellent situational awareness, and is able to think of its feet.  Every week I truly look forward to the 10 man nights with great gusto.

In the few weeks with this arrangement we have made short work of Auriaya, Hodir, and last night Freya.  In addition to this we put in some very solid tries on Thorim so I have no doubt we will be able to down him soon.  I am giving you notice now Mimiron, we are coming for you soon.  I guess finally our 10 man feels like it has some legs on it, and for that I am extremely happy.  I can only hope that soon our 25 man group will solidify like this, and those nights would feel more enjoyable and far less like herding cats.