Harpoons and Slagpots

razorscale_down Last night Duranub had our second outing in Ulduar.  It was one of those nights with tons of things going wrong out of the officers control.  Pulling together the raid was a bit less than easy, with more than a few of our solid core members having to be gone for various valid reasons.  Next we received command performances from a few of our most heinous serial AFKers with zero options to simply replace them and be done with it.  In addition to all of this, my connection was completely unstable causing  me, the main tank, to disconnect in the middle of a couple of solid razorscale attempts. 

All of these issues aside we managed to still come in, tighten up the razorscale strategy and pull out our first kill in spite of having two tanks DC in the middle of it.  It turned out to be a very frustrating night in general but all of that aside we performed very well on the content we managed to attempt.

razorscale 

Shoulders of MisfortuneBracers of the BroodmotherRemorse

After downing razor we moved in to Ignis putting in several attempts.  Towards the end of the night we seemed to be getting the rhythm of the fight down.  Sadly we ran out of time, but I believe that Tuesday we can tighten things up and with any bit of luck pull out our third boss kill.  I am still impressed with the difficulty, it seems to be the perfect balance.  I realize we have only been a few bosses into Ulduar, but I am greatly saddened by the news today that they appear to be nerfing by as much as half the damage taken from various effects within the zone.

nerf logo I understand tuning encounters when they fall into the category of being “cheap”.  Meaning there are overpowering attacks that cannot be predicted or mitigated in any reasonable fashion other than praying for good luck.  However so far every fight I have seen in Ulduar appears to simply be a matter of learning the pattern of the fight, knowing how to adjust to each change, and then executing well. 

Dumbing down content due to player whining always disturbs me a bit.  Maybe they are looking at the numbers and seeing larger majorities of raids wiping over and over to content, but to me Ulduar seems tuned JUST fine.  What I do see however is players who have been lulled into a sense of complacency by the “lol-easy-mode” content that was Naxxramas.  Several raid groups I am friends with, each have a faction of players who just want to return to farming Naxx because Ulduar is ‘”too hard”. 

The best things in life, are the things that are earned.

Rainy days and err… Thursdays?

1FAIL I’m not sure if it’s the fact that it is a dreary and sullen Thursday or that I am under the gun to finish up a website replication component for a project here at work, but I have zero “oomph” create a passable blog today.  I promised myself that I would try and post at least something everyday so what you are getting now is the result.  For those of you not old enough to get the title…  [click here carefully]

I am continuing my descent into the wow blogosphere.  Been connecting a bit with some of the other authors and spending a good deal of time between tasks reading various topics.  I figure it might be at least an informative topic to share some of the things I found interesting.

You down with CPP?

VB002206.tif Stabs over at Death Knight Spree presents us with the concept known as the Consumer-Producer Paradigm as applied to MMO games like WoW.  The 500 ft view is that essentially everyone breaks down into the role of consumer or producer in this game, and various classes tend to split along certain lines.  Stabs has a short questionnaire to help you determine which role you play.  On the quiz I scored 6 to 3 that I was a producer, which based on the theory is pretty obvious considering I’m a guild and raid leader.

I think it’s a nice clean elegant theory, but in real application it breaks down a bit.  I don’t feel that anyone really can be defined in such simple terms.  I tend to think of players breaking into 4 basic groups, and I plan on elaborating on this at a later date, but the quick summary is like this.

  • Proactive:  These players make up your leaders, they are the self starters who are either by choice or by lack of other options organizing and helping others.  Proactive represent the small group of players that make things happen and get the job done by giving the other players something to rally around.
  • Active:  These are the players that are always willing to help out and respond openly in chat when someone requests something.  They rarely organize a group but are the first to align themselves with an initiative when one is formed.  These are the supporting staff that no guild could survive without.
  • Reactive:  These are the players who want to participate but for some reason do not understand how to.  Either by shyness or unfamiliarity with others, they tend to only respond when contacted directly and asked point blank questions.  These players tend to be live on the fringe of activities, often times less than reliable, and often times bad with communicating their needs.  However with “handholding” they can become very valuable members of a team.
  • Inactive:  The Solo-artist.  These are the players that exist on the outsides of the group.  They play an MMO like a single player game, concerned with their own needs and only interacting with the community when they directly need something from another person.  Often times these players enter a guild on the coat tails of another member, but do not feel like they are a true part of the guild.

Nonetheless both approaches are food for thought.  There are several other bloggers discussing this concept but one of the better breakdowns comes from Larisa at The Pink Pigtail Inn.  I hope to revisit this whole concept in a proper post but for now I would just suggest you spend some time reading the posts.

Does the MMO Market ignore the female audience?

UltimateGamesForGirls There are several blogs out there to this effect, but one of the best posts I have read lately is from Spinks over on Spinksville entitled “Is it time to stop making MMOs for a hardcore male audience?”.  I am not sure what the magic bullet is, but considering there are more female gamers playing WoW than any previous MMO I have played it appears the blizzard has hit on a formula that is at least working.  Sure there are controversies, like bikini plate mail, and the playboy bunny quest.  Personally I find the image on the left for “Ultimate Games for Girls” more condescending but I was informed by a friend of mine that those are in fact games little girls like.  Both articles however are good reads and I suggest doing so.

Drinking the Kool-Aid

Premium_Media I’ve been using the Curse Gaming updater for awhile now without any issue.  In fact I’ve gotten rather addicted to it.  Somehow I managed to get in on the beta test period for the premium features, so I have had access to all the nifty things like auto updating of add-ons for the entire time I have been running it.  Last night however, they shut off the morphine drip… and in a moment of weakness I subscribed for a year to their premium service.  I will let you guys know if they are in fact the devil.

I’m not entirely how, but I have managed to create a blog post… about nothing.  I promise real, semi-intelligent content soon!

Ulduar: Welcome to Raid Content

flameleviathan_down Last night was the much anticipated first Ulduar raid for Duranub Raiding Company.  Most other groups have been banging against the zone for two weeks, but we tend to take a more measured approach at things.  Our timetable was in part to account for the fact that playing on Argent Dawn after a major patch means you will be dealing with raid crippling lag and instance instability, which is especially true for a raid that starts late in the evening like we do.  The other component was to have a week to say goodbye to the tier 7.5 content and let everyone have one last shot at those items they never could get before.

Maybe this was a bad idea as last week ushered in some of the absolute worst performances our team has exhibited.  However I did end up with far fewer abyss crystals than previous weeks, and we had a good number of points exchanging hands as loot gear awarded.  Personally I was able to pick up a few items that had eluded me up to this point: Sabatons of Endurance and Rune of Repulsion.  Both items I believe well help with my personal survivability moving forward, which is pretty great being the main tank and all.

The Confused Start

After explaining the fight, sorting out vehicle assignments… and re-explaining the fight we started roughly 40 minutes behind schedule.  For some raids this wouldn’t be a huge ordeal, but for Duranub when you are talking about a pool of only 2 1/2 hours, 40 minutes lost means quite a lot.  We start clearing trash and folks start to get their feel for each of the vehicles.  It goes for the most part pretty smoothly, until we got to the courtyard for the Leviathan fight.

Before I can get the warning of not to pull the last two constructs we have already done it.  I start giving frantic instructions over ventrilo, and telling players to move up to the first “brown line” on the floor.  As predicted a few players were not paying attention and got locked out.  We fail miserably on this attempt across the board.  Nothing was done correctly, however this was to be expected. Leviathan is not one of those fights that you can really explain, you have to experience it.

Adding insult to injury, one of the locked out players draws aggro and Leviathan twitches through the gate.  This in turn resets the encounter, which would have been awesome had everyone moved out of range.  However we fail at this as well and he simply resets only to aggro again.  I call the wipe and we start running back, trying to tweak and fine tune things over officer chat and open ventrilo as we go.

Gears sliding into place

The next try things start to happen.  The cycles lay down a good kiting circle of tar and keep it up.  The siege engines and demolishers are better about kiting onto the tar.  The catapult team still for the most part fails, but we at least get a few players up top and get one overcharge phase.  The end result has us getting him down to 25%. I know that if we tighten up a few more things, we have this fight.

Some last minute tweaks go out over ventrilo and we try again.  For the first time we get the entire catapult team up top, and get an overcharge early into the fight.  The kiting is much better as a whole, and the motorcycles start doing a decent job of picking up players as they get knocked off.  The interrupts on flame jets are also happening pretty reliably.  Players are starting to communicate freely on ventrilo, calling out timers and aggro shifts.  All the gears engage and the fight just clicks.  While there was the frantic burndown that always seems to occur on a first kill.   We managed to pull across the finish line without much issue.

flameleviathan

Iron Riveted War HelmMimiron’s Inferno CouplingsSteamworker’s Goggles

I am very proud of the team.  In all honestly, I was more than a bit on edge about last night. Our performances the week before had been extremely bad, however we all rose to the occasion and pulled out some excellent performances on progression content. 

We moved on to Razorscale and came close to the transition on one of our attempts.  That fight is going to take a good deal of organizing and fine tuning. However I was pretty pumped that we did not get completely blown out of the water, as I have heard so many raids do.  Without a doubt I feel we are truly ready to start making a dent in Ulduar.  Thursday we should tweak our strategy, get some solid attempts in, and with any luck a Razorscale death.

Raid Content:  I missed you

It feels so much that Ulduar is what Naxxramas should have been.  This is real actual raid content, and for the first time since the release of Wrath I felt actually challenged.  Naxxramas had a good number of stupidity checks, but if your players paid attention it was not unlikely that you could clear almost the entire thing on your first time in.  It was very much the Upper Blackrock Spire of Northrend.

Ulduar however in every aspect of the word feels epic.  God how I have missed this style of content.  I freely admit that it will take us months to clear the zone, and that fact excites me.  Each boss will be hard fought, and as a result will love every minute of it.  Sure, it is going to force our raid to step it’s game up.  Simply proving that we have a cerebellum will not cut it anymore.  But in the end, we will be a far better group for it.

Ulduar is the infusion that I needed to keep this game fresh and enjoyable.  Sure, I will be paying a hefty repair bill at the end of every night, but at least it will feel like I earned it.  In Naxxramas as the main tank, the only time I frequently died was when someone else screwed up (thaddius I hate you).  We never wiped because the fight was tough, or we did not understand the mechanics…  we wiped because someone was stupid.

 

Thanks Blizzard for bringing back raiding.

Blog Azeroth: How would you distribute the Legendary?

This is my first attempt at a “Shared Topic”.  I apologize to the good readers of Blog Azeroth as I did not really understand this concept at first.  But now that I at least think I do, I am attempting to “write” the wrong as it were.  The topic question was posted on the BA forums and for those who like me were not familiar with the concept of a shared topic, the idea is essentially to have multiple authors write about the same topic.  Feeling rather daring, here goes nothing.

Fragments of Sanity

inv_ingot_titansteel_red Honestly the issue of deciding who is going to get the Fragment of Val’anyr is something that somewhat “snuck up” on us and is fixing to “bite us in the butt”.  We stand on the precipice of our first Ulduar raid tonight, and the issue is still very much under discussion.  I feel confident that the officers will hash out something throughout the day and make our professional-esc decision before we start the invites tonight.

The whole issue of who gets the Fragments honestly gives me a massive feeling of Déjà Vu, as should it any group that’s been around long enough to have raided the original Naxxramas.  If you remember back into the annals of time we have dealt with this same issue regarding the Splinter of Atiesh used to create the previous omg-caster-legendary Atiesh.

The deciding of the loot process for it was somewhat of a debacle, but not because of the design.  The low drop rate combined with the general horrible luck that our raid had (never saw a single binding of the windseeker in 2 years of raiding MC) meant that nobody even got vaguely close to the “staff of awesomeness”.  What we were left with were a few scattered splinters and everyone with a nice hollow feeling.

The Shattered Plan

inv_ingot_titansteel_red As we now sit on the verge of our first foray into Ulduar I see that we are starting to arrive at a similar play for distribution.  The Elders have all agreed that this item is far too precious to allow it to go to something and fickle as random chance.  We use a Zero Sum dkp system with a 5 week vesting period, so in theory it would be conceivable for one of our less seasoned and dedicated players could wind up winning a pure bid war as well.  In addition, the last thing we want to do is reward a player who has been hording points and in essence hurting the performance of the raid by not taking upgrades.  Simply dictating which player is going to receive the item also seems heavy-handed and unfair.

We are far from a hardcore raid.  We only exist by the cohesion of the players, and in making this key decision we have to be conscious of this.  So right now the “best” avenue appears to be an open vote.  Our raid is organized into function teams;  The tank team, the healer team, the caster team, and the melee team.  Thanks to the dual specs, these lines are a little bit more blurry than they used to be but in general we still organize along those lines.  What appears to be the fairest method is to put choosing the first candidate for Val’anyr, Hammer of Ancient Kings up to a vote of the active primary healers.

The Theory

inv_mace_99 So as it stands right now, it is looking like a vote will be made by the active healers in the raid.  Who better to choose a worthy holder of the legendary weapon than those in the healing trenches?  To keep things fair and unbiased, the vote will be held in private tells to a non-healer officer and tabulated at the start of our raid tonight.  This player will become our first candidate for the epic.

Now the big point of debate is who much this “right” is going to cost the member, and how we are going to deal with points.  Since Zero Sum dkp works best when there is a steady trickle of points, as it stands right not we are looking at a fixed point per Fragment, and then a kicker cost a the end when the weapon is created.  This should serve two main purposes for the overall health of the raid.  The first is that the point drain will cause points to keep flowing into the system for the players who attend each raid where a fragment drops.  Secondly this places the chosen healer in a position where they are less likely to be able to contend with the other healers for “first drops”, making it at least fairer to all in the system.  If for some reason the chosen player cannot attend a raid on which a fragment drops, the spot of “second legendary” will be put up to an open bid.

Is this going to work?  Is this going to be fair to all players involved?  Is this even going to be the solution we wind up doing tonight?  In all honesty I don’t know the answers to any of these questions, but for now it appears like for the good of our raid, this is the best possible solution.  Only time is going to tell whether or not this scheme is going to work better with Val’anyr than it did with Atiesh.  At least in this scenario we are dealing with a smaller pool of potential players, which in my mind can only help the process.

Holidays Suck: Noblegarden Edition

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I had originally planned on this great post contrasting my 5 favorite raid mechanics and my 5 most hated raid mechanics, but on the day after Eggs-mageddon I had to post a note about the holiday event. First off, let me open this with the blanket statement of…  damn you Blizzard for giving me the carrot that is the Violet Proto Drake.  As a result, I am obsessed with obtaining every holiday title so that come brew fest I can get the drake. 

The key point here that you all need to know… is that I HATE the holiday events with deep burning passion.  I enjoy the events like brew fest, hallows eve, and fire festival because they have “bosses”.  Killing a boss over and over for epics is fun, doing a bazillion mind numbing meta-achievements however is not.  Needless to say, I am not the player this content was designed for, however I feel obsessed to conquer it much like a raid boss…  but in this case it isn’t for loot, its for the reward of never having to do it again.

Somehow I guess I had blotted out of my mind that yesterday would be lost completely to mindlessly playing a game of trying to get to the egg spawns before all the other players.  I was still logged in Saturday night/Sunday morning when the content rolled in and players in guild started talking about it.  I cringed knowing that my Sunday would be lost no matter how hard I tried to avoid doing so.  I found a sweet spot in Kharanos at the start where I could reach two eggs.  However anytime I was a second late clicking the egg as it would spawn, I would miss out and end up cursing wildly. 

I am not a friendly player during these events.  I turn into an obsessive and boorish asshole, and I decorated our guild chat with more expletives than I have said in months.  Why you ask?  Because my luck is horrible.  I was one of those 7/8 people back during the Valentines event.  I got 4 bags of candy, and managed to still wind up one candy short of the title.  So going into Noblegarden I expected that I was going to need the 305 chocolate candy that is required to acquire all of the BoP items needed to get the title.

Sad thing is… this assumption was not far off.  After 165 eggs carefully stole from unwitting players also vying for them I got my very first non chocolate drop, the White Tuxedo shirt.  Another 15 eggs later I got a duplicate.  I took a break after 205 eggs, and did the Chocoholic achievement, bought my Spring Robes and Spring Flowers and proceeded to try and get as many achievements done as I could, so I would at least feel like I had made some progress for wasting my entire day.

Honestly the Shake your Bunny-Maker achievement was far easier than I had thought it was going to be.  Honestly being able to dual box and log in a horde alt to communicate with players was invaluable, but I imagine that /beg and /wait used together would have done the same thing.  I set out to grab all the horde players first, and within a hour or so I had all of them knocked out.  Then I grabbed the rarer alliance first, leaving dwarf female for last since we have several of those in guild that I would harangue into coming to Dalaran.

Finally this left me with nothing left standing in the way of my title other than the Spring Rabbit.  So I grabbed a fresh drink and sat down resigned to knowing that I was going to have to farm up another 100 Chocolate Eggs in order to buy it and complete the title.  I had already done 205 to this point, I could handle another 100, I could brute force my way through this.  Finally my luck started to pay off, around egg 250 I got the Rabbit’s foot to drop.  After some ping ponging around the map, I got my Noble Gardner achievement and I was done with this hell by around 3:00 pm server.  So now I sit on the near side of the mount, 5/8 titles out of the way.

The stuff that didn’t suck…

The key point of the weekend was Saturday night I got asked to fill in as DPS in a friends semi-pug Ulduar raid.  They use the shroud system for loot, which I was unfamiliar with, but I went in to experience some of the fights and not for loot.  We are planning on taking Duranub into Ulduar for the first time this Tuesday, so to me any pre-game reconnaissance was invaluable since in a few short days I would be expected to lead the troops through the content.

We downed Flame Leviathan without much issue.  It’s a very fun fight, or at least I enjoyed it far more than I expected to with a “vehicle fight” (damn you Malygos phase 3, damn you all to hell!).  I played a chopper, which was ridiculously fun laying down patches of tar for the kiters.  I think honestly what makes this fight fun, is movement is in the 2D plane, no more trying to gauge distance and height and all that crap.  My friend Aigie who also went along on the run managed to pull out a winning bid on the epic priest gloves, so was I thought going to be our high point for the evening.

However we move on to Razorscale, and through much work we manage to down him.  This was coincidentally this groups first time doing so, so everyone was very pumped.  I click the corpse and see it… the object of my growing obsession.  See when it comes to loot, I tend to obsess over whatever item is the hardest to find a replacement for.  In BC it was The Unbreakable Will, in Naxxramas it was Slayer of the Lifeless, and there on the corpse was my current obession…  Veranus’ Bane.

I am thinking to myself… there is no way in hell I am getting it, but I will bid all my points.  Turns out, this group apparently has NO warrior tanks, and none of the dps were willing to risk any significant amount of points on an offspec ranged weapon.  So now here I sit, not even really raiding Ulduar in earnest yet with the best tank gun in the game already acquired. 

 

Life is good 🙂

To All The Blades I’ve Loved Before…

Most players develop some kind of emotional attachment to the various baubles that we pick up along the way in azeroth.  I’ve known players who sacrifice storage room for sets of gear, roleplaying clothing, various doodads from quests.  As a warrior, my fetish has always been the weapons I used to tank.  For some reason I have always developed a bond with them, and above any other piece of gear I aquire it is the one I am most likely to keep.

In fact my vault is littered with weapons that have long become outmoded and useless.  Looking back through it you can see a history of sorts of the progression I made as an “aggronaut”.

 

The Old World Era

During the old world, I was relegated to the role of a tanking alt.  Back then raided actively as a hunter, and a pretty piss poor one at that.  Lodin was the character I played for business, and Belghast the character I played for fun.  As a result I whored myself out to any group that would take me as a tank.  I managed to get experience tanking Ony, MC, BWL, ZG, AQ20, AQ40, and a little bit of Naxx.  I never had the best gear available, but I managed to accumulate enough to make me a viable tank in most situations.

 Ancient Hakkari Manslayer – This was my first real epic mainhand.  I remember how proud of I was of this weapon.  Back then House Stalwart was a mostly casual guild, and I was one of our few players that had an epic anything, let along an epic “tanking” weapon.  I used this thing with pride for months.  I still think it was one of the coolest weapons I have ever had the luck to swing.

 Bloodlord’s Defender – This was my first true tanking weapon.  I had been waiting for months to see one of these drop and when it finally did I beat out a few other tanks for it.  I swung this with pride all the way until Burning Crusade was released.  I never did manage to get an Aegis of the Blood God to drop in the time we were actively running Zul’gurub but I have since picked one up to use as a set.

 

The Burning Crusade Era

Burning crusade was the great equalizer.  Most players sat around and bellyached about replacing hard fought epic gear with quested greens, but for me I looked at it as an opportunity to catch up to those bulletproof tanks I admired so much.  It was in BC that I shifted my focus to be the best damned tank I could be.  In truth it was a good thing, most of the old guard of tanks had gotten disillusioned and moved on to dpsing so the voids were all too neatly filled by me who was more than willing to do the leg work.  While the expansion ultimately killed the Late Night Raiders, I was able to keep my contacts and keep raiding.

 Latro’s Shifting Sword – This was the first weapon that I used with any frequency in the outland.  While not technically designed by blizzard as a tanking weapon, it did an amazing job at generating aggro.  I’ve kept it all this time because of the graphic.  I still think this was the best looking sword of the BC era.  It has this whole futuristic swashbuckler appeal.  It only became cooler after sunwell when they introduced it as part of a new weapon set.

 The Sun Eater – I ran heroic Mechanar every day for 2 weeks before I finally saw this beauty drop.  After getting mine it started dropping every single time we went in.  Our mages, warlocks, rogues…  basically every player that could wield it had one for cosmetic purposes.  Still one of the best looking tanking weapons especially when enchanted with mongoose.

 King’s Defender – Yet another weapon that was hard to acquire for me.  I think we ran Kharazhan for 3 months before I saw a King’s Defender drop out of the chest.  This weapon was such the archetypal burning crusade tank weapon.  You weren’t a serious tank until you had this thing or better.

 Mallet of the Tides – This weapon and I have a love/hate relationship.  It was the be all end all tanking weapon of the day, but without a doubt the ugliest piece of shit the blizzard artists have ever thrust upon us.  I am pretty sure this was designed by a summer intern…  and simply never got replaced with a real graphic.  I keep it as a reminder of how awful the blizteam’s sense of style can be.

 The Unbreakable Will – The night this weapon dropped was one of my happiest moments in WoW.  If I did not clearly state it above, I hated the Mallet soooo badly that I was jumping out of my skin at the prospect of replacing it.  The side benefit was the fact that was hands down the best weapon a human warrior could wield.  It served as my best friend all of the way leveling through Northrend content.

 

Northrend – The Modern Era

While I am not sure you can really count these as classics yet, they are still adding to my armory of tanking history.  I am hoping to keep replacing them with better and better main hands all the way through the northrend dungeons.

 Red Sword of Courage – This is the defacto first Northrend tanking weapon.  While Utgarde Pinnacle is not the easiest of heroics, it takes the place of Sun Eater as your first farmable epic tanking weapon that can carry you onward.  Due to shitty luck, our secondary tank has been using this weapon all of the way through 25 man content only to be recently replaced by Last Laugh.

 Broken Promise – I picked this weapon up, wanting to test out tanking with a slow hard hitting mainhand.  It wasn’t for me, so this one hands out in my bag for fights where I am needing to conserve rage.  Not exacty the best looking weapon, but it is certainly unique.  There are many tanks out there using this one with pride.

 Slayer of the Lifeless – This was the one weapon I HAD to have before moving out of Naxx.  I wanted it back in the oldworld when it was called the Hungering Cold, and I like it all the same under its new name as well. For a human warrior I still believe this is the best pre-Ulduar tanking weapon, and as a result I still use this with pride.  I am however ready to replace it with a Titanguard as soon as I can.  I wanted this weapon for stupid reasons as well.  There is a DC Comics action figure that looks almost exactly like Belghast, and this is the badboy he is swinging.

 

A Weapon Out of Time

Every so often I get something stuck in my head and I have to acquire it out of all costs.  Towards the end of BC one of these mad quests hit me.  I had to track down Foror’s Compendium of Dragon Slaying at all costs.  After much farming of Dire Maul with no luck, I finally located the book on the horde auction house and traded it across in Booty Bay.

 Quel’serrar – In the classic game, I wanted this weapon more than almost anything.  I had no luck getting the book to drop, nor could I have ever afforded the 1500g price tag attached to it on my server.  So I stood at afar lusting over its awesomeness.  During the pre-Wrath boredom that sat in, this became my obsession and after lucking across the book for 200g I pulled together a spur of the moment Onyxia run late one night and forged the badboy.  Since then I have tanked all manner of content with it.  I find it a challenge trying to hold aggro with this old of a weapon. but damned does it look sexy.

 

The Naked truth

Now you all know what my personal obsession is in this game.  Everyone has one.  I know plenty of pet and mount collectors out there.  What are your obsessions?  What are the doodads you have littering your vault that you will never be able to bring yourself to part with?

The Dark Art of the Raid Invite

confused_bush Tonight is yet another Duranub raid night… something that I both look forward to and dread at the same time.  There is one aspect of being a raid leader that I will never get used to; the raid invite.  In lean times I hate trying to magically pull a workable raid group out of my ass, and in good times I hate trying to decide who is going to make the cut and who is going to have to twiddle their thumbs that evening.  No matter what decisions myself and the other officers make, it is always at great personal cost to my digestive tract.

Lately it’s come to my attention that many of the players who are late to the party simply think that I in some way do not like them, and that is the reason why they are not receiving regular invites.  While this came out in part on the empyreal forums this morning, I thought I would take some time to type up a post on my blog about it.  Maybe as a way to explain the thought process that goes into invites and some of the things that our players do that drive me up a wall.

The first concept players have to get into their heads is a confusing one.  Raid Leader Belghast, Guild Leader Belghast, and Friend Belghast are three completely different entities.  It’s like the triumvirate… and even less understandable.  When I am wearing my Raid Leader hat, my only concern is about the success of the raid and dealing with any issues that are in the way of us going in and clearing content quickly and efficiently.  We try our damnedest to leave our feelings out of it.  This doesn’t always work, but in general is a benchmark we try and work from.

 

7 Habits of Annoying Players (well just 2)

Please sir can I have some more?

domoPumpkin On any given raid night during the course of the evening I will have received a tell from 20 or so players each wanting some form of special “care and handling”.  There are two behaviors that just drive me up a wall.  The first one is the players, and this is a LARGE group who start messaging me the moment I log on during a raid night, and in some cases days before trying to “reserve” their space for the next raid.  Unfortunately the Duranub invite system is not a car rental company. 

The most common question myself and the other officers receive is…  “Is there room tonight for me?”.  In 99% of all cases the answer will always be “I won’t really know until we do invites.”.  Which is the gods honest truth.  Unless I know up front that one of our regular “core class” players is missing, then I do not know ahead of time whether or not there will be “Room in the Inn”.  Pressing the point only serves to make me either annoyed or feel like complete shit that I can’t give you a straight answer.

We Built this City… err Raid…

The next trait that just drives me up a freaking wall is…  the player that EXPECTS a raid invite.  It does not matter who you are, or how long you have been with a raid…  we are all expendable for the good of the raid.  This includes myself and any of the other raid officers.  The good of the group is our driving focus, and every night we try and assemble out of what we are given the group with the highest likelihood of success.  From time to time this means that one of the “regular” members is going to get asked to ride the bench.  When this happens please take it gracefully and understand that there were more factors in play than you will realize.

 

How The Invites Work

m12troop There is in fact a dark science as the topic states to all our invites.  Essentially starting somewhere between 8:30 pm -9:00 pm the Duranub officers begin evaluating who is available in the Duranub channel.  If you are NOT in the channel, then that is the first critical mistake you can make.  Being in the channel is part of your responsibility.  This is not a House Stalwart raid, and as a result we do ALL our invites from those who are sitting in the Duranub channel at invite time.  We take this as your signal that you are available and ready to raid that night.  Please do not expect us to track you down from guild, our friends list, other social channels… we have a million things going on every raid night and the surest way to get left behind is to not be where you are supposed to be on time.

We officially start invites at 9:00 server or shortly thereafter.  Please be available for an invite at this time.  This time has been announced publically for going on 2 years now, so you should expect to start receiving invites at this time.  It is disrespectful to the members and officers to be unavailable at this time.  There are many annoying behaviors that end up digging under my skin.

  • Not taking raid invite because you are furiously working on daily quests
  • Being in another group at the time invites start going out
  • Pushing your luck and trying to finish and instance run prior to the raid
  • Being afk – There are mods that auto accept group invites from people on your friends list.  If you have to habitually go afk FIND one and use it. (example)
  • Spamming officers as to if invites have gone out yet, or as to why you haven’t gotten one yet

We approach invites in multiple phases.  Basically we weigh a number of factors when we attempt to do a raid invite.  This is not an exact science but basically this is the theory that is applied.

  • Core Classes/Class Balance – We invite players first who play a unique role that is vital to the success of the raid.  This is not limited to but includes tanks, healers, players with uniquely needed specs
  • High Performers – we invite the players next who have habitually shown the ability to always perform above and beyond the curve of the raid.  These are the players who carry the raid on their backs every single night and without whom we would have a harder time succeeding.
  • Players Who Got Left Out – This filter is to catch players from that would have normally gotten an invite but for some reason got left out for the good of the raid the previous week.
  • Senority/Dedication – We invite the players who have always been there for the raid, have always done whatever was asked of them, be it change classes, be it change specs, be it take a particularly annoying but needed role. 

Throughout this entire process as many officers as are available are sifting through all of these decisions verbally.  If there are still openings to fill we begin to look towards new applicants and other folks that are currently available and willing to go.  We take into account melee vs caster dps balance, healer diversity, buff diversity, and all other manner of subtle issues that can’t be directly quantified.  The basic point that needs to be taken away, is that if for some reason you get skipped over for an invite there were dozens of other points that went into making that decision.

 

The Money Shot

explosion Now we get down to the crux of this point.  Running a raid is hard work.  The officers and raid elders spend countless hours each week doing various things we would probably rather not be doing.  All of this to bring everyone the relaxed but successful environment that I hope we all enjoy.  We do in 2.5 hours 2 nights a week what other raids do in 4 hours per night 3-5 nights a week.  We start at a huge disadvantage already, so in order to be successful we have to pull out all the breaks we can and remain focused. 

When you disagree with a decision that has been made or for some reason feel wronged please let your first reaction be to take a step back and evaluate the situation.  We are making decisions every night for the good of the raid, not for your benefit and not for the benefit of ourselves.  Nothing kills the morale of the officers than receiving nothing but complaints, but it is human nature for players to ONLY speak up when something is wrong.  We are going to do our best to handle things in a manner that makes everyone happy, but at the end of the day please be gentle.

 

That in a nutshell is the Dark Science of Raid Invites.

Can no longer exorcise pvp “demons”

Exorcism can no longer be used on players
We made a change in the 3.1.1 patch to prevent Exorcism from being used on players. We didn’t announce this change ahead of time because we were trying to get the tooltip changed at the same time to reduce confusion. We still plan on getting the tooltip updated ASAP. Exorcism’s use in PvE has not changed at this time.
Going with a “not on players” solution is not ideal and we will be re-designing how the ability works in a future patch (the plan is sooner rather than later). We don’t like for PvE and PvP mechanics to work differently when we can avoid it. We also don’t like for a major damaging ability to be excluded from the PvP game. However, we thought this had become a balance issue serious enough to address at this time.
We shifted around paladin damage for 3.1 trying to increase sustained damage while reducing burst damage. Unfortunately, the Exorcism change did the opposite. Instead of stealing a GCD from a paladin, it actually gave them an extra one. A Retribution paladin could use Exorcism to cause damage while closing to melee and then be ready to go with their melee damage attacks. (Exorcism of course is not limited to Ret paladins either.) We changed the way paladins do damage for Lich King, so while it is unfortunate (and we accept full blame), it also isn’t too surprising that it is taking some effort to get their damage in the right place.
In the same patch where we remove the “not on players” limitation for Exorcism, we are going to change the way paladins do damage so that their normal combat moves have more depth to them instead of just using abilities every time they finish their cooldown. This should make causing damage as a paladin more interesting and also less bursty. While we have some ideas on how to accomplish that, if you have suggestions or your own ideas about how this could work, this would be a good time to share them. (As examples of abilities you don’t just use whenever their cooldown has finished, you might look at Conflagrate, Brain Freeze, Rip, Overpower or Arcane Blast.) We do request that you don’t fill the forums with posts of limited content or insight about how you don’t like to be nerfed. Nobody does.
It is always a judgment call about when a fix (a buff or a nerf) can’t wait. Some things we can’t change easily in hotfixes or small patches, and some things we consider too risky for technical reasons or for their potential effects on the game.

Ghostcrawler
Lead Systems Designer

 

Panic Well I guess this means the end of my not sucking in PVP.  When 3.1 was first released I did a bit of PVPing with a friend of mine Zea and for some reason I was able to roll through 5-6 players as a retribution paladin.  I am guessing this is because I have always used exorcism as part of my rotation and it accounted for my bonus damage.  Oh well, back to me sucking horribly in pvp 🙂

Unbridled Wrath

Spell_Nature_StoneClawTotem Last night I bucked some of the conventional wisdom and tried another one of my “bel” builds for tanking.  For some reason I have never had much luck with the canned builds. They have never really produced the results I would have expected, because I guess in many ways they don’t fit my play style.  Many in Duranub can remember the colossal failure that a deep wounds build was for me.

I have heard for years that unbridled wrath has no place in a tanking build, let alone a tanking build of a main tank.  This morning I did some investigating by looking at last nights WWS parses.  Over the course of the night I gained nearly 3 times the rage from Unbridled Wrath that I did from Shield Specialization.  To me that is pretty phenomenal. 

I think primarily what is happening here is that roughly 60% of all attacks are avoided completely.  So more attacks are missing me completely than are being blocked.  So what this is allowing me to do is have a constant font of rage coming in from my attacks.  Thanks to the revenge glyph I am getting a ton of free heroic strikes, which in turn increase my number of attacks spinning the random generator for firing unbridled wrath…  which is turned into rage that I can use for shield slam, cleave, thunderclap, shockwave etc.

So far I am digging the build quite a bit.  While it is not optimal based on the math presented by Tankspot/Elitist Jerks it fits my play style.  So far it works equally well for 5/10/25 man content.  Now we have yet to poke our heads into ulduar, so I might be retracting my praise shortly, but for now I am rather happy.

Dual Specs – Unexpected Consequence

Yesterday brought us the 3.1.1 patch and with it a spec reset.  I can only guess that this was to help clear out some of the disappearing talent issues players had been having.  Always in the past a free respec was a welcome thing.  However in the world of dual speccing this turns out to be a pain in the ass.

I spent a good chunk of my evening reapplying 2 specs each for 3 different characters, for a total of 6 rapid fire respecs.  Luckily for me I had all of my specs saved in my email box.  Inside of gmail I have a label called “Notes to Myself” which I use to email things I might find useful later.  Habitually this has been the storage bin for all my spec ideas.

The only thing that kept me from pulling my hair out is that Talented has been fixed to apply imports from WoWhead.  So For the most part I could just cut and paste my spec urls into the Talented UI and then hit apply.  Granted in the case of my Boomkin spec this caused me to reapply the spec I had missing typhoon.  I had a “where the hell is typhoon” while in the middle of fighting a mob, only to remember that my earlier spec design had starfall not typhoon.