3.2 Grab Bag

It’s amazing how phenomenally boring it is when everyone in your department is on vacation.  I went from being so busy I could barely see straight, to essentially sitting here babysitting an install process where I am communicating with a third party over email.  I am sitting back at my desk now after a quick jaunt into the adjacent tower, to a break room that always smells like a curious mix of burnt popcorn and wet dog, for a quick infusion of caffeine.  Hopefully the clock will learn to move faster.

Crusader’s Coliseum

Yesterday we began to receive a trickle of information about the next big patch and the content it would include.  Amongst the blatant nerfs and lackluster “tradeskill improvements” were a smattering of details about the new raid dungeon.  Firstly I like that it is shaping up to be 3 unique dungeons, with their own merits.  The thought of a semi random sequence of bosses that has been hinted at before also seems very favorable.  When Northrend was released, Violet Hold was both the most loved and most hated dungeon due to the random bosses.  If there really does end up to be a random element, I hope that they at least do the smart thing and have some of the items on a shared loot table, like we saw in Naxxramas.

The most intriguing tidbit however is the concept of the “Crusaders’ Tribute”.  Honestly I think you could call filing your taxes a “Tribute Run” and I would at least do it once, just the sheer merit of the enjoyable memories I had doing tribute runs in Dire Maul.  Adding an extra special, sneaky, challenging way through a raid dungeon sounds like good mojo to me.  Granted everything they are saying, makes the new tribute run sound absolutely NOTHING like the original.  However count me in for running through it a few times.  I just hope that it does not turn me back into the frothing asshole, barking a furious string of orders amongst the expletives, that the Zul’Aman timed runs did.

A Few of My Favorite things

This patch seems to be the “oh yeah, here are a bunch of things we forgot to do ages ago” patch, in order to play catch up for the next big paradigm shift.  I am breaking from my normal format and doing a change / comment type structure.

  • Block Value: The amount of bonus block value on all items has been doubled. This does not affect the base block value on shields or block value derived from strength.
  • On-Use Block Value Items: All items and set bonuses that trigger temporary increases to block value have been modified. Instead of increasing their block value amount by 100% like other items, they have all had their effect durations doubled. This applies to Glyph of Deflection, Gnomeregan Autoblocker, Coren’s Lucky Coin, Lavanthor’s Talisman, Libram of Obstruction, Tome of the Lightbringer, Libram of the Sacred Shield, the tier 8 paladin Shield of Righteousness bonus, the tier 5 paladin Holy Shield bonus, and the tier 5 warrior Shield Block bonus.

This is pretty much too little too late, but it is nice to see.  It is painfully obvious that block is not cutting it, as in comparison with the other options like dodge/parry, so I am glad to know that they are going to address this in the future.  It both excites and frightens me to think about what zany scheme they will come up with as its eventual replacement.  For now I just hope this is going to be good enough to make it “less than useless”.

  • Emblem System Changes
  • Both the 10 and 25 player instances of the Crusaders’ Coliseum drop a new Emblem of Triumph.
  • Any dungeons that previously dropped Emblems of Heroism or Valor, such as Naxxramas or Heroic Halls of Stone, will now drop Emblems of Conquest instead. Emblems of Conquest can still be converted to Valor or Heroism.
  • The heroic dungeon daily quest will now reward 2 Emblems of Triumph and the normal daily dungeon quest will reward 1 Emblem of Triumph.
  • The existing achievements to collect 1, 25, 50, etc. Emblems of Heroism, Valor, and Conquest have been converted to Feats of Strength since Heroism and Valor Emblems are no longer attainable.
  • New achievements have been added to collect various amounts of any combination of emblems.

I have seen MUCH gnashing of teeth regarding this one in the last twenty four hours.  Pretty much this feels exactly like the same elitist complaining that happened when 2.4 was announced and the stats on all the new badge gear was shown to be roughly equivalent to that of black temple.  While I have posted against the general dumbing down of content, I do think that from time to time you need to help the player population “catch up”. 

As a raid leader, we are having the same problem this summer that so many other raids are having.  Summertime means waning attendance, and it is becoming increasingly harder and harder to find a fresh infusion of players who are already Tier 7.5 era geared to fill in on Ulduar raids.  Making it so that every player can get the same level of emblems regardless of it being heroics, 10 mans, or 25 man raids makes it that much easier to catch players up who have the drive and skill, but not the gear.  Trust me…  this is a GOOD thing for raiding in general, not to mention for adding flexibility to your raid making it easier for players to gear up offset gear.

  • Mote Extractor now has innate tracking for gas clouds while it is in your inventory. Tracking of gas clouds has been removed from goggles.

It’s always the most simple items that seem to make me the happiest.  Since I graduated out of the rather impotent engineering helm, to better tanking options (amazing that the last one served me well until tier 6, but this one was replaced by a nonset piece in the first dungeon), I’ve had to ritually enchant my belt with Spynoculars so that I could see elemental nodes on the mini-map in game.  Now this practice becomes a think of the past and makes room for…


  • Spynocular belt enchantment changed to a Brassbolt Rebreather, allowing engineers to breathe underwater.

Yep you read that right.  Now engineers can put a place an enchant on our belts that will allow us the ability to breathe underwater.  I can finally remove my Deepdive Helmet from my inventory and finally and forever upgrade my Mastercraft Kalu’ak Fishing Pole, to my trendy Jeweled Fishing Pole with the spiffy phoenix wings.  Like I said, it’s always the dumb things that make me happy.


  • Players with 300 or higher cooking have a chance to find a Waterlogged Recipe in the Bag of Fishing Treasures awarded by the Northrend fishing dailies. This item can be traded to other players and rewards several Dalaran Cooking Rewards when turned in.

Another stupid change, but one that makes me very happy.  Considering I enjoy doing the fishing daily quest, this will allow players to catch up on the cooking patterns they are missing, since in general…  the cooking daily sucks.


  • Potion Injectors now increase the amount gained by 25% when used by engineers. Quantity produced by recipes for Runic Healing and Mana Injectors has been increased.

If this is how I read it, that engineers will now gain a 25% bonus from using health and mana pots from an injector, this is a pretty monumental change.  Since we only get one shot off a pot per boss fight, this is an “oh shit” button that I hold in reserve.  Anything that gives me a little more health is a very very good thing.

 


  • The Nexus: The Oculus & The Eye of Eternity  – Vehicles (drakes) used in these instances now scale with item level.

Thank you soooo freakin much for this change.  Heroic Oculus is without a doubt the most scabrous piece of crap a seasoned player will ever have to run their friends through.   Almost every single player I know who is stalled on the Champion of the Frozen Wastes title, is hung up on this silly requirement.  Trying to teach someone who has not been through this place a dozen times or more how to do all the events is sheer torture.  If you manage to get all the new players through to the final boss, trying to give them a crash course in how not to suck at flying a drake can give water-boarding a run for its money any day in the race for most extreme officially sanctioned torture method.  Any small boost in our ability to pull it off with dead weight is a miracle.  So once again…  Thank  you blizzard.

The Just Plain Wierd

There are several things in the upcoming patch that are just plain kooky.  Patching in Northrend Children’s Week, when the event is almost a year away from happening again…  what the heck is the point.  Giving rogues the ability to wield axes when there is only ONE endgame main hand axe currently…  what exactly was the point here.  Putting Ravasaurs into the game finally in Ungoro Crater, only 5 years too late…  not entirely sure what the point was here either.

Honestly this patch feels like a combination of all the scraps left lying on the floor after they build other patches.  This is the chum to ready the waters for something bigger.  I can only imagine that the something bigger, is ultimately Icecrown, and this patch will serve as bite sized nibblets to tide us over until the real meal.  The nerfs to Deathknights and Retadins were probably needed, but I would still rather seem them bring up other classes to their level rather than push those excelling into the dirt.  We will just have to see how everything shakes out after the inevitable months of PTR service.

An Ordinary Day

nothing says Happy Birthday like Spam You can tell that you live in a connected society when opening your inbox on a day like today, you are assaulted with dozens of automated messages from the various sites you have signed up on before…  all wishing you the most sincere Happy Birthday.  So apart from my wife, the first birthday greetings came rolling in from a chorus of mail bots over night.  I’ve tried not to talk much about real life here, saving it for mostly game based topics (much to the ire of some key individuals), but on a day like today I figured I would make an exception.

Makes you realize how small the world has become, as the well wishers start rolling in on every platform imaginable from facebook to email to IM.  Birthdays lose their lustre as an adult.  Gone are the elaborate birthday parties and the months of being told no because it was “close to your birthday”.  Forgotten are the party games, and the looking forward to gifts…  because chances are if you really really wanted it you’d have gotten it yourself.  What you are left with, however is probably the most important part of birthdays.  The realization that there are all these people out there, who genuinely care about you, enough to remember that you do in fact have a birthday, and stop for a moment in their busy days to wish you a happy one.

Stabbity to Sliceity

200px-Bloodsail_Swashbuckler Over the last few days I have been helping one of my good friends who has always been a dagger rogue, try and build a Hemorrhage build.  The whole process has made me realize exactly how different the life of a stabbity rogue, as I call them, is from that of a Sword/Mace/Fist rogue.  First you have to have the background that I have raided as a rogue many times, but never ONCE played a rogue that used a dagger for anything other that part of a macro to equip it only long enough for an ambush.  I don’t like positional attacks, and in general I hate the stealth dynamic…  so the real question is why the hell did I play a rogue in the first place?

I’ve always modeled my rogues off of the Swashbucklers of those classic sword fighting movies.  As a result I have either played a combat swords build, or a hemorrhage build, both of which support that play style very well.  I guess I never really thought about the differences in the styles, until sitting down with someone I feel to be the most adept rogue I know, and going over the basics of how to play “hemo”.  I felt like Master Yoda, asking him to “unlearn” what he has learned. 

I’ve never claimed to know much about being a rogue, nor really excelled at playing one either.  There was a time when I could easily top the meter in “alt” runs, but most of it was by sheer brute force.  It was not until today that I realized that the two play styles are almost as different as say a Feral Druid and a Resto Druid.  Were I to sudden switch my focus to daggers, I would have to go through the very same “101” training to even know what abilities to use.  It is funny that five years into wow, I still learn new things on a regular basis.

The Ugly, The Bad…

doh This week has brought two drastically different raid experiences so far.  In Duranub, Tuesday night we had probably the hardest time we have ever experienced trying to pull together a workable raid.  It was nearly impossible to find enough healers to make the raid work.  Normally we run 6-7 healers on our 25 man raids, and this gives us plenty of healing across the board.  However last Tuesday we were able to pull together what could be best termed as 4 1/2 healers.  Within a few minutes of starting the raid, one of those healers got pulled away on a work emergency.

We sat there after Leviathan trying desperately to make things work.  We had one of our “retired” raiders, magically show up when needed and helped solidify the ranks enough for us to keep moving forward.  It was a very very bad night.  We only managed to get Leviathan and XT down, and when the fill in healer needed to leave we were forced to call it early.  It was far from our worst night, but it was very trying on the raid as a whole and caused by nothing but attendance issues hitting all at the same time.  The people who were there made a valiant effort, but at the end of the day we just didn’t have the oomph to continue.  The hardest decision a leader can make is knowing when we simply do not have the needed resources to keep going.

The Amazing!

20483_logo Now we scan forward to last night, a night that I honestly thought I wouldn’t be able to raid.  Our little 10 man group is having the same regular attendance issues that our 25 man has been, but through some luck we managed to pull together a group with relative ease and get into the instance only 15 minutes late.  We have yet to actually EVER start on time, so only 15 minutes late, instead of an hour late, seemed like a breeze of fresh air. 

We had a pretty unorthodox grouping, including 3 mages…  but we made it work pretty well, even though we struggled with some DPS issues throughout the night.  Each fight seemed to take twice as long as normal.  Part of this was caused by the fact that the DPS warrior realized late into the evening that she had been in half tanking gear for the majority of the night.  The other issues seemed far less intangible, since the damage numbers didn’t look all that off. 

The amazing part however is how smoothly everything went.  The mood of the night was light, and we joked back and forth throughout the raid.  Everyone just seemed to do their jobs without prompting, and the night saw us clearing Flame Leviathan, XT-002 Deconstructor, Kologarn, Auriaya, and Razorscale in our 2 hour window.  This was by far our most successful night yet in the 10 man raid, and sets us up for attempts on Hodir first thing Monday night.  Auriaya caused a few false starts, but once everything fell together we downed her like she was on farm status with very few issues.

Change the Randomizer

dice1 For as much fun as we had, the main frustration of the night was not the low dps.  The annoyance du jour came from the fact that every single boss that night dropped Paladin and Shaman loot which quickly got DE’d.  Had we a shaman or paladin, this would have been a great night, but since we rarely if ever have them…  seeing those item drops just adds to the frustration of loot in general.  It would be nice if blizzard would change the way loot worked, so that only items usable by classes in the raid would drop.  I realize this would take alot of work, and change the whole dynamic of loot in general…  but isn’t it about time?

Blizzard made great strides with the addition of tokenized loot (set tokens/badges), and other games like Warhammer have created versions of universal loot in the “repairable” items system (ruined gear that repairs into something useable by your class).  I think it is time for one of these companies to truly push the paradigm to the next level and introduce “intelligent loot”.  So that if you come into an instance with a warrior, priest, warlock, mage, and rogue…  you would see an item usable for one of those 4 classes drop from each boss.  Granted there would be ways to game the system, but surely there has to be some solution available.  Nothing is more annoying than an otherwise amazing night tarnished by the fact that so much loot went to disenchant.

GroupCraft Summary

groupcraft101

Over the last few days I have made a series of posts titled GroupCraft.  It is my attempt to create a general guide on how to get groups going in the World of Warcraft.  In my guild this has been an issue, with players simply not sure how best to approach the process of pulling together groups.  These resulting posts are an expanded version of the basic advice I have given on our own forums.  In an attempt to make the final posts easy to find, I am creating this quick summary post with links to each of the individual articles.

GroupCraft: Part Two

groupcraft101

Previous Sections

Assembly

In the previous two sections I have covered a basic theory of networking in online games, and some pointers in how to better communicate your needs and intentions to your fellow players.  Each of these lays the key groundwork for grouping, but has little to do with the actual building blocks of the group itself.  Today’s topic however will cover the true meat and potatoes of dark art of GroupCraft…  the ability to assemble a group from nothing.

Assembling the group relies very much on the two tenants covered earlier.  First as I have said before, you will need a stable pool of players to draw from, and in order to achieve best results you are going to have to bring more to the table than just the looking for group channel.  On top of this, you need the ability to communicate your intentions clearly to the players that you are attempting to recruit into your group.  Not everyone wants to be a leader, but there comes a time where you must decide to learn to fish for yourself.  These guides are my attempt to pass on some of the knowledge I have accumulated.

Know The Roles

FinalFantasyMix Everything we ever needed to learn about building a group we can learn from the original Final Fantasy for the Nintendo console.  For the time being we are going to forget those abominations known as Red Wizards even existed… damned dirty hybrid casters.  Essentially the world can be divided into 3 teams for the sake of GroupCraft.

Tanks – This is the heavily armored badass who gets his jollies by pissing off the mobs.  The more mobs he has pissed off, the happier he is.  This is the guy who keeps everyone alive by deflecting all the attacks his way.

Healers – This is the life giver who furiously watches your health bar making sure that you get topped off when you need it.  They are the heart of the group, and make it possible to keep moving at a steady pace. 

DPS – These come in various shapes and sizes but essentially all perform the same role.  They make things dead.  Since burning crusade DPS classes have pretty much all been interchangeable for the sake of grouping, and all you simply need is a player behind the keyboard that can pay attention, and react to changes in the environment.

Final Fantasy was really the first game that introduced class balance, and allowed the players to pick and chose their own groups.  The “core” of the group was always comprised of some class that could take large amounts of damage, and some class that could heal the group up.  From that point on it was left to the individual style of each player.  Granted this concept has been alive in pen and paper gaming since its inception, but FF1 was the first title to really display this well and clearly for the video gaming audience.

Build Your Core First

The key to building a group easily is to lock down your core classes first.  Every group must have one healer and one tank to remain successful, so it is always best to make arrangements for a tank and a healer first before filling any other roles.  For me this was easy, considering my main character Belghast, is a tank.  All I had to do to complete my core was find an able bodied healer.  For DPS, you need a ready reserve of tanks and healers to be able to pull in for grouping purposes. 

I have a number of DPS Alts however, and have been able to do this all pretty simply, so long as I get to know the tanks and healers and their personal preferences.  I always find it amusing when you see someone looking for more, stating all they lack is a tank and healer.  In truth, if you do not have a tank and healer, you do not have a group.  Locking down the core, allows you gauge what kinds of dps will complete then quintet the best.

Tanks and Healers more than any player live in a constant deluge of people asking them to do things.  A few months after the release of Burning Crusade, there was a great drought of able bodied tanks.  As a result I found myself logging in every night to a barrage of 15 or more tells.  With Wrath of the Lich king, the absence was initially healing, so as a result all of the healers I knew were the ones in high demand.  As I stated in the communication topic, it is always best to try and directly communicate with your healers and tanks.  More than any other classes they are almost always in high demand, so it is not realistic to expect them to respond to open channel questions.  However once you find a handful of stable tanks and healers, your group assembly will go much easier.

Know Your Missions

When assembling a group it is extremely important for you to know the mission at hand.  Each dungeon or raid requires a few key elements for utmost success.  For example, it is impossible to complete the Deathknight wing in Heroic Naxxramas with at least two able bodied priests for the mind control.  Another example, is that for Emalon, Deathknight tanks have the ability to completely negate the “Nova” effect through the use of their Anti-Magic shell.  Regardless if it is a raid or a 5 man instance, each favors a specific balance of classes.

It is important that as a leader, even if a reluctant one, that you do the basic research into the various abilities that the mobs will utilize in whatever dungeon or raid you are focusing on.  It is important by the same token to know the abilities of each class that you can utilize.  There are key judgment calls that allow the leader to know when best to utlize crowd control methods, or when to just try and AOE tank the content.  Each group combination you choose will place very specific constraints upon the encounters.

Know Your Classes

It is important that you familiarize yourself with the various abilities that different class and spec combinations offer.  Get to know details like that a Retribution paladin offers passive AOE, so you have to be wary of the crowd control you choose, and that they offer the strongest replenishment and have an often times under utilized crowd control method called Repentance.  Another example is that you should know that a Feral Druid and an Arms Warrior feed off each other since both classes rely heavily on bleed effects, or that a Mage and a Balance Druid are best friends so should always be placed in the same group.

There are numerous traits that each class and spec combination have, and it takes time and research to learn how to best utilize the inactions of each.  If you take leading seriously, you will do the leg work on wowhead or wowwiki to understand how each class works and various things you need to watch out for when that classes uses some of its core abilities.  In addition to DPS complimenting each other, you will learn that certain healer/tank combinations work better than others.  There is no easy way to digest all the information at once, but it is something you need to be aware of as you start piecing together groups.

Closing Thoughts

Over the course of these three posts I have tried my best to present some ideas on the general topic of how to best get groups rolling.  As I have stated before, I originally started formulating this concept with the release of Burning Crusade.  I noticed that some players were able to pull together groups easily, and others were not, and slowly I began to learn from the techniques each was using very subconsciously.  As members of my own guild complained at a lack of being able to get into groups, I compiled the first draft of this in the form of “Bel’s How to Get Groups Started Primer”.

Since then I have collected and refined my methods and these last three posts have been a much expanded version of the core concepts of that guide.  Ultimately, no matter what I say, some players will still be hesitant to get the ball rolling, preferring to wait in the wings for someone else to do it.  This is fine, we can’t all be chiefs… however in my opinion you have to take responsibility for your own happiness.  When something is not going like you had hoped it would, then you need to seize control of your own destiny and figure out how to make things happen.  I hope this guide can serve as a starter, for players to go off and formulate their own grouping theories.

GroupCraft: Part One

groupcraft101

Previous Sections

GroupCraft:  Preamble

Communication

Last week I stated that the first step in building successful groups was to build a pool of players.  You cannot build a group without the players, and in order to get those players you need a solid network.  However, without good communication skills you cannot build your network. This step in the group building process goes very much hand in hand with the previous one.  Communication is the general heading for learning how to interact with players in a very deliberate fashion in order to achieve your required results.

Be Specific

Let me make a call back to what I had originally stated as the problem, being that players in general do not know how to ask for a group properly.  It is my experience that saying “Does Anyone want to do something?”, “<class> Looking for Group”, and “Anyone need a me?” all garner the exact same response…  crickets.  As Copernicus responded to the last post, there are a lot of players who simply are not motivated to lead, and those who are often times need some downtime.  So announcing that you are wanting to do something, without wrapping any specifics around it, tends to make players uncertain of whether or not they should respond.

Simply changing your request to something like this.. “I’m a priest, wanting to heal a heroic violet hold, is anyone interested in running it with me?” will give you much more determined results.  This statement, while not that much more complex than the previous examples does several things right.  Firstly it answers the question of where.  It tells the players that you are wanting to run Heroic Violet Hold.  Players who also want to run this instance, are much more likely to respond to this knowing that your destination is predetermined.

Next the statement announces that you are a healing priest, and that your intent is to heal the instance.  This means that in order for you to build the instance you are going to need a tank and some dps.  So tanks and dps who also want to run the instance immediately know whether or not there might be room for them, since your intention is once again clearly spelled out.  It allows people watching chat to make the important decision of whether or not they are in the mood to run that instance, with a character that compliments what the group has already.

Be Direct

In truth, while this will give you better results I have always found it better to go to the players directly.  When building a group, I tend to lock down a few players before I open up the invites to the general population. It has been my experience that the fewer places you need filled by the time you ask in open guild chat or a social channel, the faster and more positive your response will be.  If you are looking for 2 dps for example, you will have a much easier time filling than if you HAD 3 dps, looking for a tank and healer.

Directly messaging a few players to ask them if they are interested, helps to shape the group and give you an idea of what exactly you are going to need to succeed.  I will cover this theory a little bit more in depth in the group balance topic, but the basic idea is to lock down your core players first through direct communication and as many DPS as you can muster, before bringing it out into the open.  Many players feel intimidated responding to requests in open chat, but when contacted directly will respond quickly and positively.

Communicate Clearly

While I am covering this towards the end of this post, it is probably the most important point.  Be aware of how your communication reflects upon you.  Read these two statements, and tell me which one you would rather group with.  “We need another dps for a 10 man Naxxramas, are you available?” or “Need 1 dps 4 Naxx 10, u avail?”.   I personally have a good deal more faith in the first player as being a good leader. The second player seems lazy, and as a result gives me the assumption that they would not take into account all the details in their rush to get “phat lewtz”.

What you say is often times not as important as how you say it.  An over use of abbreviations makes you seem far less intelligent than you really are, and as a result gives players who do not already know you a question about whether or not you will do a good job in the assigned roles.  There is nothing hip or trendy about communicating poorly.  You will find the best results if you always strive to type as clearly as possible, and with minimal usage of abbreviations. 

It is best if you view communication with new players as a business transaction.  Would you entrust your money to a bank that was not diligent enough to spell out what they were trying to tell you?  Probably not, and by the same token why should a player entrust you with their grouping experience if you are doing the same.  You are trying to sell yourself, or your group to the potential member, and as a result it is always best to put your best foot forward.

Next Topic:  Assembly

Under a bus

thrown under a bus Last week I had high hopes for things starting to settle down for me.  The last three days of the week were pretty hellacious, but I had managed to wrap up one project that was causing me a good deal of stress.  It seemed like I would be handling many of the issues that had stacked up while I was devoted to that project which all in all should have been a few low stress weeks.  However I was sorely mistaken.

Friday afternoon I got thrown under the bus, figuratively at least.  I work for a good sized municipality as a web developer.  The small team of web developers for the most part represents the tightest cluster of modern development skill-sets in the entire IT department, with the majority being what I would term as, “application babysitters”.  The result is that we often end up getting pulled in to things at the last minute, to serve as virtual ballast in an effort to keep the entire project from capsizing.

Friday I was steamrolled by one of these such projects.  Including a develop that seemed to be willing to do anything at all in his power to halt the progress of the project as a whole.  Due to other issues I had to leave midday, but when we last spoke I had a clear path outlined and agreed to work on a solution to act as a stop gap measure to keep the project on track.  Today I sat down to start working on the application only to find in a few short hours that everything had changed.

For this very moment, I appear to be out of the loop, so I am finally able to sit down and write a bit.  However everything is very much in a state of flux and could end up undoing itself at a moments notice.  Ultimately, I am tired of dealing with individuals who will do anything at all, to craft excuses as to why they can’t actually do their own work.  Without a doubt, I do fully understand why it is that postal workers…  go postal.  Dealing with governmental employees takes a whole kind of stomach that I have yet to full develop.

It’s Everywhere

It's a virus Part of my morning ritual involves stopping each morning at “Kum and Go”, a gas station chain in my area.  This serves as my morning caffeine destination, and gives me something to drink on for the rest of the day. Over the course of the year and some change we have been stopping there every morning, I have gotten to know almost all of the morning staff.  Even to the point of bringing the morning manager a small Christmas gift this past year.

One of these individuals who has warmed up to us over time is Tim.  Great guy, good sense of humor, and while he started out a little bit standoffish, he has warmed up and become rather personable.  At some point last week I was trying out the new WoW Mountain Dew flavors, and in checking me out I found out that he too plays WoW.  I am just constantly amazed and how widespread the game has become.  Now I just have to work my magic and get him to somehow transfer characters over to Argent Dawn.

More Guide on it’s way

Sorry, I was lazy this weekend The continuation of the groupcraft guide will be following shortly, but I wanted to get a quick note up to attempt to explain why I hadn’t been posting.  Depending on how long this break in the work storm lasts will determine how quickly I can get the next segments done.  In truth I should have worked on them this weekend, but after the insanity that was Wednesday, Thursday and Friday last week I frankly needed a break from thinking. 

What better way to stop thinking than to grind away playing a horribly overpowered and mindless class…  aka the Deathknight.  I am going to pretty much have to eat all the nasty things I have said about the class as a whole.  While yes I am annoyed that so many players have abandoned much needed classes in order to migrate over to the unholy warriors…  I cannot at all deny how fun they are to play.  Friday I was level 66, and by Sunday evening I was level 71.  The time between seems to have somewhat disappeared on me.

GroupCraft: Preamble

groupcraft101

The Problem

One of the issues I have encountered over and over in this game is the issue of how to get groups.  I have sat around watching players get frustrated when groups do not just magically happen around them.  Honestly, I used to be one of these players.  Just like so many players I would pose the question, “Anyone want to do something?” or the dreaded “Anything going on?”.  Each time expecting someone to magically form a group for my own benefit around me, when in truth the only refrain would be that of dead silence.

At the release of Burning Crusade I came to a revelation.  It was not my guild, or my friends, or anything else that was the problem at hand.  It was the way in which I approached the problem of getting groups going.  I was in fact doing everything wrong.  I set myself to the task of learning how to assemble group, and after a few weeks of trial and error I was building them every single night and burning through dungeons with ease.

I’ve shared my knowledge with guild mates and friends in less complete versions, but here I am trying to distill all the basic theory I have collected into one easy to follow guide.

Preamble: You Need People – General Networking

If you are going to group up, you in the most basic sense need more people than just yourself.  Yes I am stating this to be overly obvious, but it leads it’s way to a key fundamental of group building.  You need a ready supply of players at your disposal, or you need a network.  Networking is a concept used often in business circles but in its most fundamental form you need a list of “known good” players if you ever hope to start assembly groups with a regular frequency.

Looking For Group – Pugging

Networking in WoW is a process occurs gradually, but is so fundamental to being able to succeed in this game that I feel it is best to cover the topic as a sort of, preamble.  The only real way to network is to get out and expose yourself to new group of players.  The most basic way to get access to groups of new players is through the use of the looking for group tool inside World of Warcraft itself. 

If you are in the process of building your network, I would highly suggest staying in the looking for group channel your entire time playing.  Often times there are random grouping opportunities there, but more importantly an astute reader of the channel can pick up patterns.  There might be a healer, tank and a couple of dps looking for heroics, and all that it really takes is someone paying enough attention to make the connective tissue and organize the ready to form group.

Friends List – Known Good Players

While you are spending time in pick up groups, take note of the good players you encounter.  I suggest you utilize your friends list as a way to track all of the players you encounter that seem to know their classes and can execute assignments well.  Before long in your friends list you will have a directory of potential grouping options, allow you to quickly assemble groups with a core of players you already have experience grouping with.

You will quickly start to notice patterns while grouping.  Certain guilds just seem to have higher quality players than others.  When you find one of these guilds that seems to be both active, and populated with really good players I have found it useful to create a macro that does a simple “/who guildname”.  This allows you to easily check and see which players from that guild are online, and zones they are sitting in.  If a player is standing in one of the hub cities, it is generally a good sign that they are not otherwise busy, and are potentially an option for grouping.  I have had good luck in the past at “cold” messaging players that are from guilds that I know to be solid.

Social Channels – Haven for Good Grouping

Most Servers have many active social channels.  Get to know these well, and join them.  An addon like Cirk’s Chatmanager makes sifting through channels for potential grouping prospects considerably easier but the default UI is more than adequate.  Social Channels are by default, populated by Social Players…  which in turn makes them much more open to the concept of grouping as a whole. 

Once you “hang out” in the channel for awhile, you will learn the various players personalities and who will be more or less likely to accept your group invites.  These channels open up a door to a whole body of players and make it easier to assemble a group rapidly.  Various raids and guilds have specific channels open to members and their friends, and these channels often lend themselves to potential raid invites later down the line. 

Next Topic:  Communication

Everyone else is doing it…

It’s that time again, another Tuesday, or to WoW aficionados…  maintenance day.  The day where little boys and girls sit by the warm glow of their screens cautiously watching for the sign to enter Azeroth once more.  For the Duranubs, it is another day spent wondering whether or not the server will be stable enough to raid.  For me personally sitting here trying to prepare for the impending disappointment brought by Titanguard  once more being fickle.  I am convinced that this will be one more in the long line of things that refused to drop: Shoulderguards of the Bold, Barbed Choker of Discipline, and Destroyer Shoulderguards.  It is a pattern…  certain pieces of gear hate me with deep dark brooding passion.

Bowing to peer pressure

Bad Ronald is Bad Well its not so much, peer pressure, but I still feel like I am somewhat jumping on the bandwagon.  It started with Larisa moving from pinkpigtailinn.blogspot.com to pinkpigtailinn.com, and then continued with Ariedan moving from wordywarrior.wordpress.com to wordywarrior.com.  It seemed like most of my favorite blogs were abandoning their cheap/free subdomains for the sake of a real domain name.  In a blatant act of following the leaders, I did a quick search and sure enough, Aggronaut.com was in fact available.

I snatched it up as quickly as I could rifle through my wallet for my credit card.  I have in fact had the domain for a few weeks now, but was waiting to make sure that my google analytics was in fact wired correctly and various other house keeping details.  So from this point on, both the original Aggronaut.housestalwart.com and Aggronaut.com resolve to the same location.  Thanks to everyone who has been reading this blog and making it so surprisingly popular.  Had I not gotten the overwhelming support, I don’t think I would have ever “ponied up” for the “real” domain name.

Life and Limb

Trees are friends, not food Ysinnia has been an active support of me and my dumb actions for going on six years.  She helped me to found House Stalwart, acted as a gateway drug into heavy raiding, taught me to love and respect the power of the dwarven priest, and has been a great friend all along the way.  Though she has shifted in and out of the mix due to real life responsibilities she’s always been a great player.  When Burning Crusade was released, she shifted from her dwarven priest to her druid, and with the release of Wrath became one of the best Trees I know.

A few days ago, I added her new endevour to my blogroll, but haven’t really had time to give her a proper plug.  She is currently working on the Limb From Limb druid blog, in which she covers the life and times of a more casual player in wow.  We miss her horribly in Duranub, but real life has forced her to take a step away from the rhythm of the raid life.  She’s hopelessly addicted to the “Get That Achievement” game on the Achievements forum.  While I think she is nuts sometimes for it, she apparently enjoys being made to grind achievements by strangers.

Mostly I added that part in to fluster her, but I think it is a cool source of inspiration.  Limb from Limb is shaping up to be a good blog, and I highly suggest adding it to your RSS feed.  Great player, great sense of humor…  you just can’t go wrong.

Pathfinder

Doesn't make much sense... I was just feeling like a picture of Vampire Hunter D Every so often I write something that might be a bit more than just one of my random brain dumps.  When this rare event happens, it becomes a sort of guide that can be referred back to.  Stealing a page from the book of RollingHots,  I have decided it might be prudent to create a guides page so that it is easier for new folks to find these rare nuggets of wisdom, or at least not horribleness.  If you notice at the top of the site, there is a new link entitled…  wait for it…   Guides.

It took me hours to think that name up.  I hope people find it even mildly useful.  The real reason behind this is that I am working on a new guide for the site.  At the start of burning crusade I found that the groups were not coming as frequently as I wanted them to, so I set out to learn the ancient art of how to pull together a group from out of thin air.  The resulting guide was posted for my guild, and I am in the process of updating it to be more sane.  Hopefully in the next few days I will get it posted on the site.

A Final Thought:  Normalize Repair Bills

bleeding gold... In closing I want to through something out there.  I think the time has come for blizzard to seriously consider normalizing the cost of repair bills for plate, mail, leather and cloth.  Last Sunday, I ran Naxxramas with my boomkin.  At one point during the run, I looked down and noticed that all my gear was in the red, so I flew over to Wintergarde keep to repair.  I was expecting the worst, because I am used to the plate repair bills…  and was shocked at a full epic repair bill for the Naxx leather gear I was wearing was only 35 gold.

This figure may or may not seem normal to you, but I will tell you that on Belghast, that is less than two deaths worth of repair bills.  Even on a good night of raiding, I am dropping over 100g in repairs alone.  My worst night ever that figure climbed up to roughly 300g, and in truth it was a little bit over that.  I simply cannot make enough money each week to cover 4 nights of raiding on my warrior.  Honestly this is the point at which blizzard needs to either adjust quest rewards to compensate the difference in armor classes, or look at maybe finally normalizing the costs.

In the old world, the basic theory was this.  Plate classes had the least reagents to buy, so as a result they had the highest cost of repair to normalize things so that each class had to pay out roughly the same cost for a night of raiding.  However, as gear has increased, the costs of reagents have not increased to a level to keep up with the astronomical repair bills that most main tanks have each night.  I very literally watch my gold reserves draining every single night, and it is very hard not to do the math in your head.

You start to calculate, how many more weeks can you afford to continue to raid.  I’ve had friends help me out with money, but in truth this only serves to delay the inevitable point at which I literally run out of money.  The time has come for blizzard to finally address the disparity in the “cost of living” for the various classes.  So I ask you my readers, what are your thoughts?  Religiously grinding daily quests are not the answer, this simply adds more workload to an already overworked player.  We should not have to work a “second job” just to be able to afford to raid. 

Basically I feel like general motors, looking to blizzard to bail me out

I’m not dead yet

I promise that the rumors of my demise have been greatly exaggerated.  Quite honestly, as you can probably tell if you are a longtime reader I have been going through a bit of a rough spot.  My posts have become less informative and more emotional over the last few weeks.  This week many things seemed to come to a head and I just flat out exploded on some unintended victims.  While sorting through the rubble I came to the decision point that I needed to take a much needed break.

Life in the Wasteland

mmmm stable isotope So I spent most of the weekend determined not to log into WoW, and for the most part this was successful.  I tanked one minor runs with my closest friends, but otherwise only logged in to do the fishing daily a few times.  I have to say the break was pretty revitalizing.  I needed time away from the politics and emotions that being a guild and raid leader tend to bring to the surface.

Where did I spend my time you might ask yourself?  I aimlessly roamed the capitol wasteland.  I had honestly never really devoted enough time to the game Fallout 3, and used this weekend as a chance to get hopelessly addicted to it.  I was a huge fan of the two prequels by Black Isle, and can still easily replay them with the full amount of enjoyment I did the first time around.

I was more than a bit skeptical about the titles move into the world of three dimensions, but after a few hours the game “felt” like the original 2d click to move adventures.  Granted I am not playing the game like I am “supposed to” in a very quest centric style.  Honestly the quests DO feel different, and I think this is a lot of the issue many of the fallout diehards had with the game.  However if you are like me and just want to equip some gear, and roam the wastelands finding whatever you can along the way, the game plays EXACTLY like the original.

This is my Boomstick

watch it primatives I am not sure what it is about the shotgun, but for some reason this is the weapon I rely on in ALL games.  It doesn’t matter if I am playing Doom, Quake, Team Fortress 2, Left 4 Dead, or in this case Fallout 3…  I always end up gravitating towards the shotgun and the glory of one shot kills.  I have laser rifles, sub machine guns, and assault rifles in my inventory and more than enough ammo to choke a mule…  but at the end of the day the ONLY weapon I care about is the trusty combat shotgun, or currently the rare upgrade…  The Terrible Shotgun.

I get perverse pleasure as I draw a bead on a radroach scurrying its way across the floor, and with a single catastrophic shot cause it to explode in a juicy fountain of vitreous. I find that blowing up ants in the many infested buildings is an equally disturbing pleasure for me, as well as the ever present headshot.  I find it bizarre that blowing off a Protectron head exposes something that looks much the same as blood and guts.   I guess part of me just finds it so appealing to blow things to bits with such a relatively simple weapon.  Some previous co-workers can attest to the annoyance of my addiction to this weapon, in our lunch and after work SoF2 matches (which I might add is still probably my favorite LAN game).

Ground Control to Major Tom

ARD189,1 Sunday evening my space capsule had a forced re-entry as I had planned to lead a 25 man Naxxramas for alts, under geared guildies, and friends of the guild.  This was without a doubt the most horrendous mindfuck I have dealt with in awhile.  I don’t want the people who participated to think that I was meaning the raid, because it went really well.  I am meaning being pulled back into raid leader role, on a character I had not really played for two weeks, while being barraged by 10-15 tells at a time with each and every person having a valid question or need of me.  To go from the pleasant cocoon of non-interaction that I had wrapped myself in all weekend long, to the stark reality that every single member of the raid needed some of my attention was more than a bit of a culture shock.

We managed to down 3 wings and 2 bosses in the time allotted.  I feel that overall this was a pretty smooth run giving the facts that we had several periods of afk-ness, and scraping around to find extras to fill holes as people needed to leave.  We had more than our share of issues with the Death knight wing.  Most of this really comes from the fact that the assembled group represented 4 different 25 man naxx raids, with 4 different sets of strategies.  In my reeling mind, I was doing a less than adequate job of explaining our intentions.  So many of the fights in that wing particularly took a few attempts for us to come to a compromise as to the method we would handle each boss.

The real win of the night however is the fact that we only walked away with 4 Abyss Crystals.  That means that many items found new homes in much needed main and offspec sets.  Any night you down a good number of bosses, see a lot of loot, and very few of the pieces go to DE is a massive win in my book.  It helps to justify the fact that we did in fact have a need for a Naxxramas 25 man run.  In the case of Duranub/Stalwart, we have been in need of some fresh blood, but the majority of our good prospects were not geared well enough to be able to perform adequately in Ulduar.  It was my hope that by running a few weeks of this, that we would manage to fill out the gear sets of these players.

Getting Council-ed

council_down Since the events that lead me to take a break happened Thursday evening during our raid, and I never got up the “oomph” to make a post Friday, I missed my normal Thursday night raid synopsis post.  We started the evening doing a little bit of cleanup, and going after Razorscale.  In stark contrast to last week, we pulled off a near flawless victory, with the only mishaps happening during the very tail end of the fight.  It was just a combination of me with too many debuffs, and I believe healers transitioning to the second tank before he had aggro.  However this bobble happened at 10% and really had little effect on the overall outcome of the night.

We proceeded on to the Assembly of Iron, otherwise known by almost everyone as the Iron Council (blame black temple and the Illidari Council).  On our first attempt we made some solid progress getting Steelbreaker down to under 60%, which made me very hopeful for our shots at downing the encounter.  We made some adjustments, and over the course of 3 more attempts we managed to push our way through Steelbreaker, and down Molgeim and Brundir as well.  Other than Flame Leviathan this was without a doubt our fasted time to learn a new encounter.  I don’t want to jinx us, but after the pure horribleness that was weeks 4 and 5, week 6 redeemed the raid as a whole and I think maybe signals us finally being back on our game.

ironcouncil 

will add loot later – since our lootmaster neglected to upload the file and my memory is crap this morning

More Indestructible

Iron Council also managed to drop us our 6th Runed Orb, and in the hopes of increasing my general “not dying-ness”, and the fact that I put in the first request…  they went to craft the insane new tanking belt.  During one of my trips into wow to do the daily fishing quest I managed to catch one of the crafters on Argent Dawn that actually have the pattern (thanks Riotus).  Special thanks go to all the people I pinged in the guild to do titansteel transmutes, and Rylacus who is freakin amazing for helping me with half of the bars I needed to craft the final product.  I love you man, and I totally DON’T want your Bud Light.

Indestructible Plate Girdle with 3x Solid Sky Sapphire for max stamina

Hopefully the week ahead will go smoothly, and I will be able to maintain the “better” mindset that a weekend of NOT playing Warcraft awarded me.  For anyone that I have had an unnaturally short fuse with these last few months, I want to post a very public apology.  I am hoping that the fact that I realize how much of an asshole I have been lately, and taking a bit of a break, will allow me to back down from the Raid Nazi mode I have been slipping into.

I couldn’t wish for a better group to raid with

No Bunny

Last night in Duranub it was a mixed bag, as is often with the night patches are released.  We pulled together the raid with plenty of time to spare and actually had to turn people away for the first time in awhile.  Our push to recruit, along with some of our less than regular raiders showing up last night forced a quite a few people to be left out.  For the folks riding the bench, it was probably a pretty horrible night, but for the health of the raid as a whole it was a good thing.  The officer doing invites kept track of the players who were ready and willing, but without room, so we will get them worked into a run as soon as possible.

Murphy’s Law of Patch Day

it is in fact... just our luck The shortened version of what I am coining, Murphy’s Law  of Patch day states that if a patch is applied to the client or server, Argent Dawn will eventually go down.  In the case of last night, we got a royal flush of horribleness.  The server was up and seemingly stable, but around 8pm server time lag started setting in.  Was there a problem introduced with the patch?  No…  Blackrock was down.

For those of you not familiar with the epic Argent Dawn versus Blackrock battle, the short of it is that the populace of the Blackrock PVP server finds it amazingly fun to try its best to crash our server when theirs is down.  This childish act started shortly after the release of the game and continues today as their version of a “proud tradition”.  While Blackrock is down our cities are flooded with an army of gnomes spamming memorable phrases like “Poop comes from the butt”.  Other piece of information you need to know is that without a doubt, Argent Dawn has the most lazy GMs of any server.

All of this fun aside, we managed to get all our members through the 500 player queue without much effort and prepped to start the Flame Leviathan event.  Clearly things were moving entirely too smoothly for a patch day.  Mere seconds away from us talking to Brann to start up the event, we saw  a dreaded server announcement come across our chat windows.  Yes, Argent Dawn would be restarting in 15 minutes.  So we sat there twiddling our thumbs, waiting for the server to do its business and let us back in to raid.

Thirty minutes later, we finally pushed out way back into the game and started out raid.  Considering we only raid 2 1/2 hours per night, and it took us a bit to get a few healers successfully through the queue we were standing on an hour and 45 minutes left to make some progress.  We pushed through Leviathan like normal and got a few of our members the Heroic: Shutout achievement.  I myself finally managed to finish Heroic: Three Car Garage.  I finally entered the age of modern tanking weapons Monday, when a Stoneguard dropped for us, and I figured that the act of putting Blade Ward on it would surely make the Titanguard finally drop.  Clearly Ulduar saw through my ruse.

Prosthetic Nipple of Doom

kologarn_down We switched up strategies on XT a bit, and after a few attempts managed to down him rather easily.  This allowed us to push on to Kologarn and put in some serious time on him.  Last week we had gotten close, managing to get him to around 10% during one of those slow wipes that happens while learning new content.  Had we around thirty minutes more I think we would haves sealed the deal last Thursday.  However we had to call it and set our sights for him this week.

From out of nowhere, success came back to be our friends.  On our second “true” attempt of the night we managed to pull out a win to the big dumb giant.  Also…  I am convinced that it is not a clasp but a prosthetic nipple, because the lost his real nipple in the war.  It’s an inside joke.

kologarn

Shoulderpads of the MonolithMaliceLeggings of the Stoneweaver

 

Dumb and Dumberer

Dumb Player is Dumb I said earlier that we downed Kolo on our second “true” try of the evening.  One of the attempts featured what was quite possibly the dumbest move I have ever witnessed a player do on a raid.  We were prepping to pull kologarn and over the officer channel I hear one of our mages saying, make sure to click off bunny.  I thought nothing of it, because last I looked down everything was normal.  I tend to play zoomed out at maximum range, and right before pulling Kologarn I ask for the raid to group up on the yellow band at the edge of the room as a sign of readiness.

So I fire my incoming macro, and start running towards the boss only to realize a few seconds later that I in fact was one of the players who had the bunny costume cast on me.  So as I am moving towards the boss with the raid following behind me, I am quickly trying to find the buff and click it off and at the same time screaming a string of expletives over ventrilo at whoever the dumbass it was who thought it was cleaver to apply the buff to the main tank.

For those of you who were not familiar with this effect, the bunny costume is yet another effect that prohibits you from using any abilities while the costume is in place.  So here I stand, the main tank rushing headlong into an almost certain wipe.  We attempt to hold things together, but I am furious beyond words.  Casting this effect in a raid is the single stupidest thing that I have ever seen a player do.  I never in a million years thought that we as a raid would have to put in place a rule to prohibit the use of wands.

To make matters worse, ventrilo was dead silent.  No one was fessing up to doing this or offering any apology.  This is one of those situations where if a player had stepped up to the plate, and offered an apology, it would have faded quickly, but the fact that we had to parse the logs to track down who did it, means that we will be taking punitive actions.  I thought we were adults, but apparently some of our members don’t take progression seriously.

All that said, we managed to still pull out the win and everyone came together in the end.  But that player owes the entire raid a repair bill, and hopefully they think that over carefully the next time they get the grand idea to do something that phenomenally stupid.  As a result we will be adding yet another rule to our stack along side the no trains and dance trinket, put in place only for the sake of mitigating idiocy.

Another joins the fray

wowscrnshot_060109_232313_thumb Much like Ariedan’s Wordy Warrior inspired this blog, apparently I have in turn inspired one of my guild mates to start his own blog.  Gweninu is a longtime member of the guild, raid, and by no small measure a great hunter.  The blog is titled Out of Ammo and features hunter issues and much like this one, his adventures in WoW.  So far its shaping up to be a great little blog and I highly suggest you guys check it out as well.