Heirlooms and JP: A Random Complaint

It has been just shy of a month since the release of Cataclysm, and I have already reached that stage where Justice Points are now completely meaningless on my current main, Belgrave.  I’ve run up an additional character to 85, my shaman, and he is nearing the point of being fully heroic geared as well.  So as a result, rather than race changing my druid Loamis, I rerolled a brand new baby worgen Belgarou.

Papa Needs his Medicine

F5A1205B808F4FE5C0DC80CDBF5638EF I am a fairly lazy person, so if there is a way to level a character faster without the hassle of constantly swapping gear then by all means I am going to do it that way.  So obviously my first thought was… grab some heirlooms.  I had a set of shoulders, chest, and trinket over on my 70 dwarf rogue, so I stripped them off for the time being. 

Being melee centric, the most important heirloom to me has always been the weapon.  Always having a weapon with the stats of a blue at your level is the most game changing item you can get for a character.  While a feral druid doesn’t rely on their weapon nearly as much as traditional melee, it was still something I definitely wanted to lock down.  Even in the brand new Worgen starter zone, and repopulated night elf zones the starter weapons have generally been crap.  So I quickly browsed out to wowhead to find out how many of those JP daddy warbucks (Belgrave), would have to spend on the new member of the tribe.


wtf Yeah, I know that is not the most intelligible heading but that is exactly what I felt.  I really had not paid attention to heirloom prices since the swap from a tier based token economy to the new point based one.  Needless to say I was completely shocked at the insane price gouging going on to get your alts some gear.  Primarily when contrasted with the price of heroic level blues (346) it is just truly insane.  Let me give you some examples of the prices.

Heroic Level Blues (346)

  • Offhand Item / Shield – 950 JP
  • Neck – 1250 JP
  • Gloves – 1650 JP
  • Belt – 1650 JP
  • Shoulders – 1650 JP
  • Chest – 2200 JP
  • Helm – 2200 JP
  • Legs – 2200 JP

Heirloom Items (1-80 Range)

  • Shoulders – 2175 JP
  • Chest – 2175 JP
  • One Handed Weapons – 2175 JP
  • Trinket – 2725 JP
  • Two Handed Weapon – 3500 JP

Seeing the disconnect? I think you do.  The cheapest heirlooms (that cap out at level 80 mind you) are just 25 JP cheaper than the most expensive heroic level blues.  So we are supposed to be paying way more per item than we pay for the gear that allows our characters to raid?  I realize, that I said at the beginning of this post that my justice points are meaningless at this point, and as one of the most geared tanks in my guild I will be running the hell out of instances for a long long while to assist in gearing everyone else.

However, not everyone will be having that dilemma.  We have a good number of players in our guild that are not near as focused on gearing up a “main” first, and as a result spend a good deal of time playing around on lower level alts.  While I am not expecting blizzard to hand us heirlooms in a silver envelope in the mailbox, I just think the pricing currently is way out of line.

Fear for the Future

47746-bigthumbnail One of the things I really enjoyed during the wrath era is the fact that as the life span of the expansion extended, it became easier to catch players up enough to be useful in raids.  With a few weeks worth of work, you could take a green level 80 and get them enough gear to be able to survive in Icecrown.  I’ve enjoyed the fact that upgrades so far have been hard to come by, and require actual work to get, however I am starting to feel the echo of burning crusade.

During the burning crusade era, with the various gating mechanics (attunements), and difficulty to gear up, it became very difficult to replace vacancies in your raid.  We for example are a group of mostly 30 somethings, with families, and jobs, and real life that sometimes intervenes in our game time.  As a result sometimes a player has to leave the active raid through no real fault of their own. 

During the Burning Crusade era, once we moved past tier 4 content, this was a massive tragedy as it meant we either had to step back and spend time running lower level raid content or try and steal a member of another raid that was already at our gear level.  Due to these problems, the raid climate on my server was very back biting and vicious.  Every raid leader was forced to steal from others to survive and keep the home fires burning.  Wrath thankfully made it much easier to find a player with a good attitude, but lacking gear and catch them up enough to start contributing to the whole.

Enough Beating Around the Bush

coyote-bush1 My big fear is that as blizzard decommissions the 359 gear, and moves on to the next tier that based on the current heroic blue prices, the justice point cost will be astronomically high.  We will be right back to Burning Crusade, an expansion where I ran Karazhan every Sunday for literally 2 years just to get players enough gear to begin raiding.  The gearing grind is fun to do once, but not much fun when you have to keep dragging your friends through it.  I came out of the Burning Crusade era very bitter about all the things I had to do on a regular basis just to keep raiding functional.

I Really Hope Blizzard Knows What They are Doing

Fear and Loathing in Heroics

It has been nearly a month since the release of cataclysm, and one thing is certain… we aren’t in Kansas anymore.  Long gone is the wrath era of brute forcing instances with easy AOE tanking.  Long gone is the era of healers being able to spam the tank through anything.  What is left in its wake is a series of instances that require actual forethought and planning to complete them successfully.

Over the last few weeks I have noticed a real reluctance in my guild at least, to run heroics.  There is a certain amount of fear surrounding them, so this has created a divide between the haves and have-nots.  There is a group of stubborn individuals that have waded waist deep in the heroic madness and as a result have come out extremely well geared replacing every slot with heroic level items or at best epics.

The other group of players, has timidly stuck their feet in the water only to get them chopped off.  During the wrath era we as a player base were used to steamrolling content without really trying.  Instead we have returned to the burning crusade style of dungeon running, where even in great gear you can wipe quickly if you don’t keep focused.  I come to tell you all there is hope, so long as you approach these instances with patience and understanding that you will be wiping, you can walk away with upgrades and more importantly experience.

Forming the Party

Back in June of 2009, I created a series of blog posts that I titled Groupcraft 101.  It covered the key skills needed to successfully form groups, and for the most part everything I said then applies today.  However during the wrath era, crowd control was an unneeded hindrance to generating threat on multiple targets.  So as a result we pushed hard through the instances, tanking them by the seat of our pants.  Today, party balance is more important than it ever was.

Get the Tank and Healer First

The key to forming a group fast is to lock down your tank and healer roles first.  Generally speaking as a tank, I have a good working relationship with all the guild healers and many of the server community ones.  As a result it becomes trivial for me to find a healer willing to run an instance.  As a DPS however you need to keep lists of both tanks and healers. 

What I find works best is to message the healers and tanks directly.  In general, your tanks and healers stay busy the majority of the time.  I know personally I am unlikely to notice a request in open guild chat or chat channels.  When I am not tanking an instance, I am furiously working on dailies.  As a result it tends to work best to message the tanks and healers directly.

Get Balanced DPS

Now that you have your tank and healer, its time to move onto picking out some dps.  In general once you have the core of your group locked down, picking up a few dps goes quickly.  There are definitely some things you need to think about while forming your party.  Firstly try and make as balanced a group as possible.

Pointers for a Balanced Group
  • Choose a good mixture of both ranged and melee
  • Make sure you have at least 2 forms of crowd control
  • Try and choose 3 different classes for your dps
  • Try and choose a mix of plate, mail, leather and cloth classes to limit loot contention
  • Make sure you state what you are expecting out of the players up front

Know your Crowd Control

Now that you have a well balanced group formed it is important that you understand what each of the classes brings to the table.  In wrath, our dps were essentially big dumb cannons and all that we really cared about was how much raw damage they could push.  In cataclysm, a player needs to be able to master all of the abilities of their class.  Interrupts need to be applied often, enrage effects need to be tranquilized and most importantly all of the crowd control methods need to be mastered.  Here is a quick rundown of various classes and what kinds of crowd control they can bring to the table.


  • Chains of Ice – While not a solid form of crowd control, can be used to help kite mobs for the party.  Kiting a hard hitting mob has become a very viable way to help break up the damage being dealt to the tank.


  • Entangling Roots – Rooting melee mobs is a very effective way of locking something down.  Breaks unpredictably, so druid will need to watch it and be prepared to reapply.
  • Hibernate – Very effective way of keeping a beast or dragonkin locked down for 40 seconds.
  • Cyclone – Locks target down for 6 seconds, mana intensive and needs to be reapplied often.  Very susceptible to diminishing returns.


  • Freezing Trap – One of the most versatile means of locking down a target, with the right talents a hunter can even keep two targets trapped at once.
  • Wyvern Sting – Puts target to sleep for 30 seconds, however the cool down is 1 minute.  Good to use as a CC for when something breaks unexpectedly.


  • Polymorph – The traditional pinnacle of crowd control.  Stable, can be reapplied quickly, and works on both beasts and humanoids.
  • Frost Nova – Freezes all targets near caster for 8 seconds.  Not stable CC, but great for stopping incoming damage in a pinch.
  • Ring of Frost – Improved version of frost nova, places target on ground and freezes everything in it for 10 seconds.  Again handy for stopping damage from unexpected adds and giving time for more stable cc to be applied.


  • Repentance – Retribution paladins can lock down demons, dragonkin, giants, humanoids and undead for 1 minute.  Negative is that the cool down is also 1 minute, so it cannot be reapplied early to keep a target locked down.
  • Hammer of Justice – Stuns target for 6 seconds.  Great for stopping incoming damage and buying time to lock the target down with another form of crowd control.
  • Turn Evil – Fears a demon or undead for up to 20 seconds.  Not the most stable crowd control but great in a pinch, and in areas without large number of adds.  Remember using this one alot on the Moroes fight in Karazhan.


  • Shackle Undead – definitive undead crowd control.  Shackles a target for 50 seconds, can be repplied early to keep a mob locked down for longer.
  • Mind Control – For dps priest, this is a great way to keep the most annoying mob in the pack locked down. Lasts up to 30 seconds, cannot be reapplied early so a stun or similar short term CC might be needed to allow priest to reacquire.
  • Psychic Scream – Causes 5 targets nearest to caster to flee for 8 seconds.  Great way to get targets off of the priest temporarily, or scatter unexpected adds long enough to allow dps to finish off a current target.
  • Psychic Horror – Causes target to tremble in fear for 3 seconds, and disarms them for 10 seconds.  Another short term crowd control.


  • Sap – Incapacitates a beast, demon, dragonkin or humanoid for 1 minute.  Negative is that it cannot be reapplied.
  • Blind – Incapacitates a target for 10 seconds.  Great short term crowd control.
  • Gouge – Incapacitates a target for 4 seconds.  Another good short term stun.
  • Kidney Shot – Stuns a target for up to 6 seconds (dependant on combo points).
  • Cheap Shot – Stuns a target for 4 seconds.  Not extremely useful as it is an opener from stealth, but if desperate to buy the party a few seconds of time this paired with a vanish can help separate a pack.


  • Bind Elemental – New to Cataclysm, works like Shackle Undead but for Elementals. Binds target elemental for 50 seconds, can be reapplied early.
  • Hex – The Sturdy "sheep".  Transforms target Humanoid or Beast into a frog for 1 minute.  45 second cool down so if you are careful you can reapply early.  Fairly resistant to occasional AOE damage.
  • Earthbind Totem – Falls into the same category as chains of frost, useful for slowing mobs while kiting.


  • Fear – When glyphed this because a great crowd control.  Causes target to be feared in place for 20 seconds.
  • Enslave Demon – Controls a demon for up to 5 minutes.  Great way to remove a mob from the pack and turn it into a pet.
  • Banish – Banishes a Demon or Elemental for up to 30 seconds.
  • Death Coil – Fears target for 3 seconds, great way to temporarily reduce damage to the party.
  • Seduction – Succubus is able to seduce a target humanoid for 30 seconds.


  • Intimidating Shout – Causes 5 targets nearest to caster to flee for 8 seconds.  Short term crowd control.
  • Intercept – Charges to target and stuns them for 3 seconds.  Short term crowd control/interrupt.
  • Hamstring – Slows target movement by 50%, useful for letting a warrior kite a mob away.

Sheep the Moon

Now that you are comfortable with all the possible crowd control options at your disposal, it is time to think about how you plan on marking the targets.  Its important to set up a scheme, and assign certain players certain symbols.  I’ve been in groups that randomly mark targets with no real semblance of order.  The problem with this is that each pull you end up having to explain what the targets mean, which slows down the run.

If you choose a stable symbology, it allows you to mark the targets quickly, and the crowd control to know immediately which target they should focus on.  For example, I always mark sheep or hex with the moon and I always use square for the trap.  This allows players in the guild to have an understanding of how I will always mark the targets.

Equally as important as is to agree on some method of pulling.  When on ventrilo I usually give my CC a countdown of “pulling in 3, 2, 1”.  When running with a hunter, since trapping takes some setup time, we often agree CC on hunter trap.  Regardless of what you choose, it is important to explain to your party what methodology you plan on using, and stick to it from pull to pull.

Pass the Prozac

With all of the above taken care of we move on to the final and most important thing to a successful heroic.  Stay calm, be patient, and understand that more than likely you will be wiping more than once during the course of your heroic.  My first time in Stonecore, we wiped 3-4 times per boss while we were getting used to it, and I still considered it a very successful run.  So long as everyone stays calm and focused on the fights you will recover quickly from any mishaps and keep progressing forward.

Cataclysm has been a return to the core fundamentals of instancing, and with it there have been alot of growing pains especially for those who never spent time wiping in burning crusade heroics.  Truth be told, wrath was an extremely easy expansion, and as a whole it made even us veteran players soft.  There is alot of things we all will have to unlearn and or relearn.  I know personally I have to stay in contact with my healer and watch my cool downs anytime unexpected bursts of damage come in, or the healer runs into mana shortages.  Likewise the DPS needs to do everything they can to reduce the damage they are potentially taking, and stay in communication with the group as a whole to make sure crowd control targets are covered and kept locked down.

So long as your group is able to keep a level head, and is willing to constantly keep adapting and learning you will quickly get used to the ramped up difficulty.  Last night I gathered a group of guild members and managed to run 3 heroics in a row with only one wipe due to a bad pull.  Each of us have been running heroics on a daily basis, and as a result we are used to the ebb and flow of the instances, and now know which mobs to crowd control, which to kill first, and which to try and avoid.  Before long your own groups will move as smoothly, and your gear score will improve with the influx of new heroic items.

Stay Calm, Be Patient, and Stay Focused on the Objectives

Enter the Nub

Lately we have been prepping for this audit at work.  Preparing the type of reports that basically say, please oh please don’t find justification to try and outsource the department.  So all the writing and wrangling of words has left me pretty unwilling to write anything on my blog.  We’ve been beating our faces against Blood Queen 25, while fighting the traditional "it’s pretty outside" attendance breaks.  All of my game time outside of raiding has been devoted to pushing up my shaman.  I managed to cross the finish line this Wednesday, and have been working on gearing up since.  I cheated and got a few pieces of gear crafted, which allowed me to instantly begin queuing for heroics.

Things I Learned in Randoms

Over the course of 5 characters I have gotten pretty good and pushing them up quickly, but this time I kept taking breaks in order to run random dungeons.  I found them entertaining diversions from the quest grind.  All of my friends and guild-mates can attest to the fact that when I start seriously leveling I am dead to the world.  I zone out and stop paying attention to chat, tells, and the outside world.  These groups helped to pull me out of this bubble every now and then and wake me up, as well as keep feeding me a ready source of much needed upgrades.

Problem is, I found it really hard to wrap my head around the idea that I was playing beside folks who you were honestly experiencing the content for the first time.  Being a tank, I have ground these instances into the ground for various members of my guild.  It feels like I have run all of these dungeons, be it old world, burning crusade, or Northrend, hundreds of times between my various characters.  Having geared several different tank characters, it feels like I can pull most of them in my sleep. 

So I was just floored the other day, while sitting in Halls of Stone normal, and I realized that I was the only player who had ever been in the zone.  We all started out as nubs once, it had to happen, but for most of us that time was so long ago we can barely remember it.  I talked about the Veteran handicap, a few posts back, and honestly it was smacking me in the face once more.  I sat there trying not to get frustrated as the players stopped to smell the "granite", as it were.  Instead of being frustrated at the slow pace, and how hard I was having to work to make up the low collective dps of the players, I forced myself to take a different approach.  I could have been an elitist jerk, like so many players are these days in randoms, pushing the inexperienced out of the way for the safety of a fast run.  Instead I offered suggestions, explaining how to tank the bosses, how to keep from getting too many mobs on the various pulls.  I chose to take the role of the mentor, rather than the brat.

Kindness Repaid with Indifference

One of the nasty side effects of the random system is that players are nameless and faceless commodities.  Before the group matching system, we had to actually make connections on our server to real living players, and our actions had consequences on whether or not we got groups again.  Now we know, there is always an endless supply of more players to be abused.  If we don’t like something about a DPS, punt them, because we know that DPS are literally a dime a dozen.  I personally don’t run alot of randoms as any of my tanks, because I don’t enjoy being pushed to skip bosses, skip packs, and generally do whatever it takes to complete the zone and get those players their frost badges as fast as humanly possible.  I’ve always found this detracts from the game.  Which is highly ironic considering I have always been known within my guild and circles for my fast pulls.

The part of the anonymity that I dislike the most is the fact that no one communicates at all.  Wednesday night I was running Forge of Souls normal mode, with a decent group.  Since I had just dinged 80 a few hours beforehand I was obviously not dishing out a ton of damage.  I was charting in around 2000 dps, which in my mind is more than enough for normal mode FoS.  I was johnny on the spot, dropping the right totems at the right moment, doing as much to support the team as I could.  Shortly after Bronjahm I was kicked from the group without warning, or notice.  The only reason I could possibly think, was that my dps was lower than the rest of the party.  What is distasteful, is that me being punted from the party was just a meaningless transaction to the rest of the party, who didn’t even bother to give a reason why.

Gearscore is Lazy

The growing apathy created by the random system, and the prevalence of addons like Gearscore has lead to a weird environment on most servers.  Players in general have unrealistic requirements in their head as to what is really required to do something.  On Argent Dawn for example, the requirement to get into any raid seems to be 5000 GearScore regardless of what the raid is from ICC 10 to the Weekly.  Granted you can get to this made up number of 5000 pretty easily, with a certain amount of time spent gearing, but it doesn’t actually mean anything.  I know personally I regularly have players fill in on my ICC 10 on their alts with GearScores of 4500 or less and do just fine, still being able to clear everything we have been able to clear in the past.

The worst thing is when I see people talking about Gearscores in heroics.  This honestly makes my bile rise a little bit.  We have arrived at a point where we expect to overgear the content so much, that it requires no effort at all.  Storming through the instance, killing everything so fast that it doesn’t actually need to be tanked, isn’t really doing the content "as intended".  I am not sure where these requirements have come from either.  I remember tanking all of the heroics that were available at the release of wrath, in nothing but blues…  why?  Because we didn’t have access to anything better yet a week or two after the game released.  Each of the dungeons has been nerfed a good deal since then, so if we could do them in blues back then, its certain that a player with 1500 dps is more than sufficient.  I laughed at a guy the other day in a heroic, that said it required 35k hp to tank a heroic instance.

We’ve become Lazy

I think basically we as player population have become lazy.  Many of the constructs we have now, were done for our benefit, and taken alone have been great things.  I have applauded how easy it is to gear players currently.  As a raid leader its great that we can grow up players from within our circle of friends and family rather than recruiting from outside.  I have applauded at how easy it is to get a group, but it has caused us to stop relying on our social ties as much.  I have applauded all of the AOE tanking changes in the game, because it is fun to pull entire rooms of mobs, but it has caused a generation of players who do not know how to CC, and more so NOT BREAK CC.  Most simply put, all these nice features that Blizzard gave us have caused us to forget how to play the game.

As I look forward to Cataclysm I am hoping beyond hope that we return to dungeons that require thought.  I want pulls that I have to reason with.  I want to have to know what abilities the different mobs do, and which one to kill first and which to sheep, which to trap and which to shackle.  I want us to have to think our way through a dungeon even if it takes a little longer to do so.  We have these constructs in the game, like the raid target system, that served so well in burning crusade, that really are optional other than marking whatever we want to avoid these days.  I don’t want things to be brutally stupid, and punishing.  I am not one of those Everquest fanbois that longs for the return of the corpse run.  I just want a reason to think again, and I want AOE tanking to be something that only the truly skilled could manage to pull off without killing their party.

Raid Grub: Boneless Wings

It’s been a crazy week for me so far.  My sister in law was rushed back to the emergency room on Monday, and my allergies are going haywire and irritating my asthma to no end.  So I am barely here, however I wanted to get a post up regardless.  Today is the first of what I hope will be a series of occasional posts related to tasty, easy to prepare and most importantly fast food ideal for raid nights.

Every raider has been in the situation of getting home late from work, with only a few minutes left until raid time.  Without the time to prepare a full meal you are left with a few options.  Do you nuke a hot pocket or similar convenience food, or do you grab some chips or something to tide you over until after the raid.  My hope in these posts is to present you with additional fast options.


Boneless Wings

For years I have been a fan of the various wing restaurants, be it Buffalo Wild Wings, Wing Stop or Wings to Go.  They are great for lunch specials, but when you are craving boneless wings during primetime it quickly becomes cost prohibitive to go there often.  I am not sure exactly when it hit me, maybe it was watching the guy at the wing place I used to frequent every Tuesday prepare our order, but it dawned on me that I could recreate this experience at home.  Through trial and error I come to a technique that produces very similar results, or at least close enough on a limited budget.


  • 8-10 Microwave Chicken Chunks (Store Brand, Tyson, etc)
  • Bottled Marinade or Wing Sauce (Lawry’s, various Wing Sauces, BBQ sauce etc)
  • 1 Quart Sized Freezer Bag (Store Brand, anything with a zipper seal)

Make the Chicken

Wal-mart brand Chicken Chunks Okay the first step in the process is to acquire a bag of microwave chicken chunks.  There are various brands on the market that will do nicely.  I personally prefer Wal-mart’s Great Value brand, just for price and ease…  but I know in my local area Tyson is very common and works equally well.  If you want a slightly different effect popcorn chicken works equally well, as do chicken strips.

Now cooking your chicken chunks a bit of an inexact science.  Basically what you are wanting to do is cook your chicken enough to make sure your breading is firm enough not to flake off, but not all the way as to not allow your chicken to dry out in later phases.  Closest estimate is for the 8-10 chunks mentioned in the list, you need to microwave them on high for 2 1/2 minutes.  This starts to crisp up the breading but leave the chicken still very juicy inside.

Marinate The Chicken

Wide Selection of Marinades Now comes the time where you grab the marinade you have chosen.  I have found that any of the pre-bottled steak marinades work extremely well, as do the various bottled wing sauce mixtures.  I personally am fond of Lawry’s Ginger Sesame marinade as it gives a great Sesame Chicken flavor.  For buffalo flavor, I am fond of Budweiser Hot Wing Sauce, but it will vary to what is available in your area.

Take the quart freezer bag mentioned in the ingredient list and place the hot chicken in it.  Into the bag you will pour enough marinade to adequately coat the chicken, but it is best to be sparing unless you like extremely saucy boneless wings.  In general pouring a thick coat to the top of all exposed wings will be plenty to coat all the pieces.  As soon as the sauce is applied seal the bag up tight as to not let too much of the heat escape.  You also want to make sure you have a good amount of air in the bag, so that the chicken can move freely.

Shake the Chicken

Freezer Baggage Now comes the fun part.  Shake the hell out of the bag you just stuffed the chicken in.  You want to make sure all of the boneless pieces get completely coated with your sauce.  If any of the marinade pools up in the corner of the bag, you might have to squeeze it out with your fingers and continue shaking to ensure a thorough glaze.  Once everything is coated lay the bag flat on the counter top.  This helps to let the chicken soak up any excess glaze.

Caramelize the Chicken

Shake and Bake Baby! This is the key step that makes your boneless wings start to taste like the real deal.  After your chicken has sat in the bag for a few moments, and we are literally talking 30 seconds at the most is needed, empty the contents of the storage bag onto your final plate.  Make sure to spread the chicken out, as it will now be clumped together from the shaking.  We will be microwaving the chicken again, and making sure it is in a evenly spaced will assure it receives even cooking.

Place the plate in the microwave and let it cook on high for a minute and a half to two minutes depending on how much sauce was used.  This extra cooking helps to “bake in” the sauce and will start to caramelize it a bit.  This is the step that gives your boneless wings the finished quality as though they came from one of the professional wing restaurants.  If you used one of the steak marinades or a thick wing sauce, it will give it a slight crispness to the texture of the sauce.

TLDR: The Summary

  • Microwave Chicken 2.5 Minutes on High
  • Place Chicken in Quart Freezer Bag
  • Pour Sauce to Cover in Bag
  • Shake Vigorously
  • Lay Bag on Flat Surface and let sit 30 seconds
  • Place Chicken on Plate
  • Microwave Chicken 1.5 Minutes on High
  • Let Cool
  • Om Nom Nom Nom

Let Me Know What You Think

The Sky Isn’t Falling

So Tuesday I posted what seemed to be a rather grim pronouncement that the Cataclysm raiding changes were going to signal the death of casual 25 man raiding as we know it.  On the day the announcements came it, it most certainly felt that way.  So like always I blog what I am feeling, and I felt fear and dread.  So after some time, and much talking amongst friends and confidants.  I have come to the conclusion that the sky really isn’t falling…  it is just changing colors.

Everything Will Change

This is just one more in a long line of game changing events that Blizzard has sprung upon us, and it honestly will change the way everything happens in game for the hardcore and casual alike.  However I am trying my best to adopt a "wait and see" attitude.  There have been so many times in the past that a blizzard pre-beta pronouncement never actually makes it into the final draft.  Do I think this is one of those cases?  Honestly probably not, this seems like a fundamental shift in design that could be happening for one of many reasons. 

My honest believe if that blizzard is trying to condense the raid experience and make it simpler to design and manage.  Right now we have so many raiding options, and as a whole the raiding content is more open to the masses than it ever has been at any point in the past.  However there are so many variants of raiding, and Blizzard has been attempting to make the game viable for all of them.  It has to be hard to balance encounters so they are challenging but doable in a 10 man strict guild, but at the same time offering a bit of challenge to players who are fully 25 man geared.  I think they have been disheartened by seeing all their un-gated content steamrolled in a matter of weeks.

When the designers asked themselves how these players are able to burn through content so fast, it is pretty obvious that they came to the conclusion that it was due to being able to run both 10 and 25 man raids.  You can see the evidence of this decision in the outrageous jump in price between t9 and t10 badge items.  The base prices for tier 9 were 30 badges for shoulders/gauntlets and 50 badges for helm/chest/legs.  We have an extreme jump when you go to frost badge loot to 60 and 95 badges respectively, when there are fewer zones actively dropping frost badges.  The designers obviously were expecting all serious players to be clearing both 10 and 25 man in order to get badges to purchase their gear.

Is it really a problem?

I pose the question… is it really a problem that players who are able to run both 10 and 25 man raids will accumulate gear faster?  I personally have never had a problem with the fact that more time spent in game equates to more rewards.  I am not jealous of the players who have racked up a full suit of heroic mode gear, nor am I jealous of the players who geared out their t10 before me.  Not everyone in this game can be equal, and since I am not on the hardcore track I am obviously going to be a little less equal than others.  Is it really worth the impending schism in order to fix a perceived problem?

I know it has to suck as a developer to spend 6 months of your life working on what you believe to be the ultimate dungeon, only to have to decimated by the most serious players within the first week.  But that is life, people are going to do things you didn’t expect, use tactics you never thought of, and literally throw themselves at the content over and over until it falls down.  I feel their heart is in the right place, in trying to make the entry level of content less confusing to players and make it so they don’t have to "mudflate" the prices of gear so badly as the expansion goes on.  However I honestly feel the current model creates far more opportunity for the casual players, than the proposed model would.

How things are now, it is relatively easy for a newer player to work their way into one of the many successful 10 and 25 man casual raids that form every week on my server.  If you show up at the right time, show the right amount of effort, and listen to the right things…  you can get a regular invite back.  All raid leaders are constantly looking for fillers, especially during the spring doldrums that we are going through.  Leaders often times use their 10 man as a more controlled environment to check a player out before unleashing them onto the bigger raid as a whole.  These changes will blow all of this away and resign 10s to "alt" raids, where they currently rely heavily on seasoned veterans to push through the content at a decent pace.

Positive Changes

While I am still not happy about the changes and the implications they are having, it has had at least one positive effect.  I have come to the decision that the future is far from certain right now.  With the changes to the raid structure and the impending guild rewards system looming on the horizon.  These things might very well spell the doom of casual raid alliances like Duranub.  This got me to thinking, much like when someone gets a dread disease.  If tonight were going to be the last raid we had together, how would I want it to be?

I’ve come to the conclusion that  regardless of our future, I want to make sure we make the most of the tail end of wrath.  By this I don’t mean burn through all the content, I mean really enjoy the most of our time together.  I have been trying to really relax and enjoy the raiding experience, and hopefully my changed attitude will trickle down to the raid members.  The last thing I want to do is go out stressed, agitated and frustrated at what we aren’t doing.  I want to be able to enjoy the time at hand and relish all the things we already have.

I know this is a bit of a 360 from the attitude I had on Tuesday, but sometimes life does that.  It takes the realization that our time might be numbered to really be able to enjoy the time we do have.  So I challenge each of you, to really savor the friendships you have with your raid friends.  Cataclysm will be another bombshell like Burning Crusade, and we have no way of knowing right now how it may change each of us. 

So lets all enjoy what we have today.

Death of the Casual Raid

I ate lunch yesterday with a long time friend, one of the founders of House Stalwart, who has recently come back to the game.  I had originally crafted a long post in my head about the frustrations I have with the current state of 5 mans in general.  However when I checked the wow news feeds after lunch a much bigger topic had spawned.  My frustrations with the fact that 5 mans have been dumbed down to the point where a players performance can just be phoned in, was replaced by a brand new frustration. 

It was announced that in Cataclysm, 10 and 25 man raid loot would be equal.  This in itself is pretty great, gone will be the days of feeling behind the curve by raiding only the 10 man content.  The spiteful part however is the fact that 10 and 25 man raids would now share a lockout.  No longer will players be able to run 10s with one set of friends, and 25s with their normal raid group.

Guildpocalypse II: Poc Harder?

I had put out of my mind all the havoc and mayhem that was invoked by the first guildpocalypse, but now it is all rushing back in vivid technicolor.  Prior to the release of Burning Crusade it was leaked that the defacto raid size would be switching from the classic raiding 40 man construct, to a brand new 25 man size.  This unleashed a series of revisions that forever changed the guild landscape for Argent Dawn, the server I play on.  Guild after guild simply imploded as they attempted to pare down from the 50+ raiders it took to be able to maintain a working 40 man raid, to the 30+ raiders required to keep the new 25 man raid going.

The few groups that managed to weather the change, came out forever modified.  They were hardened and bitter for the hassle, and much more serious.  I watched personally as my raid group fell apart at the seams, causing our fearless leader to give up and transfer off the server.  The remainder of people left in the balance split into two communities.  The more hardcore raiders joined with the remnants of another raid, that suffered a similar death, and are now a successful 25 man raid on our server.  The more social/casual players for the most part got picked up by my guild House Stalwart.  The death of a raid is always a trying thing on all parties connected, and some players didn’t adjust well to the new roles. All in all, a good number of us stayed in contact and continued raiding together when Duranub was formed.

Same As It Ever Was

Having lived through the frustration and growing pains involved with a major raiding paradigm shift, I cringe at the thought of the impending storm on the horizon.  The key problem I see is that more than likely this is the death knell for casual 25 man raiding.  Attempting to keep a 25 man raid going every week is a constant battle.  A casual raid, more than any other is made up of players of vastly differing play styles and skill levels.  As a leader, you are always attempting to juggle the needs of your hardcore raiders, that are in truth the primary reason why you can down new content, with your more casual players who want to be able to show up and raid without much external work.  It is this constant tug of war that leads to endless torment and frustration for the officers. 

We suffer through, and try our best to make enough people happy to keep them showing up on a weekly basis.  The reason why we struggle, is because a casual raid like Duranub is based on longterm friendship, more than the progression.  The current raid construct allows for the more hardcore raiders to continue to do serious, focused progression at the 10 man level, while still rolling up into the larger 25 man raid.  It allows for both needs to be met, while not having to abandon your friends that you have struggled to be able to raid with.  As it stands now, I will have to choose between my 10 man raid, that is the high point of my week, and the 25 man raid that I have sacrificed my sanity to try and keep going.

The Great Sorting

Currently it is difficult to find the right kind of players for a casual raid.  Players who are socially motivated, and willing to accept the fact that we are going to progress slower than more serious raids, have always been a special breed.  Without benefit of at least getting better loot, I am not really sure if there are enough benefits to keep players struggling together.  I have to admit, it is a massive temptation to just say screw it, and leave 25 man raiding altogether.  It is far easier to balance a 10 player raid, and easier to find players who are willing to commit to showing up 99% of the time.  When someone can’t make it, it is easier to fill in that one slot for a 10 man, and if you have 9 seasoned players already the requirements are far more lax. 

So as I see it, casual 25 man raiding and 25 man raid alliances in general are going to die in the process.  It simply won’t be worth the struggle involved to try and keep them going.  Spinks mentioned in her blog post, that the temptation for the more hardcore members of your raid, to simply break off into a more stable 10 man will be far too great.  I helped to found our raid, and have been to many the figurehead… and I myself am struggling to find a reason why players SHOULD continue 25 man raiding.  Duranub makes up 3 different 10 man raids currently, and I believe given push to shove each of prefers the 10 man dynamic to the larger 25 man.  Out of those 30 players… how many are going to be willing to make the personal sacrifice, and give up the format they love for the good of the many?

The Personal Cost

When our raid formed, I made a personal sacrifice to make it happen.  Several of us had been raiding Tier 6 content, and out of the ashes of that raid, Duranub was founded.  However during the interim I myself was recruited by several different guilds on our server, all of which would have meant being able to continue progressing through Tier 6 content.  I made the choice to follow my friends, and signed onto to help lead the raid.  I have to admit however, that as we struggled to teach tier 4 and tier 5 content to a new group of players, more than a little bitterness set in. 

I knew that had I chosen the other path, I would be seeing new things, rather than wiping endlessly to content I was long bored running.  The sacrifice I made effected my attitude, and mental state for the rest of burning crusade and soured our victories.  I was unable to see the fact that we progressed through the content far faster than we had before.  I was unable to realize how fast the skill-sets of the various players were improving.  I felt like a child left out in the cold, looking through the window at the warm and dry table that was the path abandoned.

So now as raiders, we will be forced to abandon the fun we used to have in our 10 mans, for the good of the raid as a whole.  Knowing full well how stressful that decision was on me during burning crusade, I find it hard to willfully ask anyone to share the same personal toll.  So as I look forward, I am not sure what is the future of Duranub, and other casual raids like ours.  I think Blizzard has their hearts in the right place, but once again did not quite think through the ramifications this decision has on anyone who does not fit neatly into the "serious raid guild" mold.  This, coupled with the guild rewards changes, I fear signal the death of raid alliances that allow players to remain in their small family guilds.

It’s the End of an Era

The Danger of Down

Last night we went to Icecrown on our normal Thursday night raid, and as seems my tradition, here comes my “morning after” thread.  We are not nearly as far along in the instance as I might have hoped at this point, but we continue to make constant forward motion.  Problem is apparently I have been coming off as far more negative and downtrodden than I meant to be.  Much like a parent, I have been focusing on the things that have been going wrong, and trying to figure out ways to overcome those obstacles.

However to the raid apparently I have been sounding like XT and his refrain of no No NO NO NO!   One of my good friends in the raid told me that across the board we as officers have been very negative lately.  In our serious focus on attempting to tweak and fix all that was wrong, we were not taking the time to point out all the various things that were going right.  Stopping to think about it, the member was right.  We have become so zeroed in on the obstacles in our path that we had allowed our demeanor to start bringing the raid down.

The Darkside

The danger of down, is that once you start the path, your whole raid begins to mirror your feelings.  They stop noticing the little victories that are accomplished along the way.  At its very worst, they stop believing they can do better; that they really can succeed.  Negativity is like a feedback loop, the more there is of it the more it dominated the mood of any group.  If the officers allow themselves to indulge in these feelings, it is only a matter of time before the raid as a whole is a bitter and spiteful place.

When you are in the middle of face planting on new content it is really hard to see the positive side.  There will always be rough nights in raiding; nights when it seems like the fates themselves have conspired against you.  During these times is when you as a leader need to reflect upon the little things going right in the raid.  I am not an optimist by nature, and often times the optimism I have is hard fought to keep.  However there will always be something going right during any fight.

The Cure

I’ve brought up the concept of Legos before, when it comes to raiding.  If you approach a fight you can break it down into building blocks in your mind.  Last night for example we were working on the Blood Queen encounter and as we got our feet wet I started to notice the moving parts.  Breaking down the fight you can see it mostly falls into distinct categories that need to be handled:

  • Tanking – Keeping two tanks sharing the blood mirror
  • General Healing – dealing with the raid wide damage from vampires
  • Vampiric Bite – Making sure players are biting who they should be
  • Shadows – Making sure players are running the shadow trail to edge
  • Pact – making sure linked players meet at predetermined point
  • Fear – making sure priests fear ward to dispel/heal
  • Proximity – making sure everyone is far enough apart as not to splash damage

As you work your way through the fight, you can start to see how each of those elements is being handled and whether or not it needs tweaking.  While it is important to point out what is going wrong, it is every bit as important to point out the things that are going correctly.  While we did not down Blood Queen, we were getting very close.  Towards the end all of the elements were going extremely smoothly, except the biting.  So we as the leaders gave some positive feedback on those elements that were going well after the attempts.

I have been stuck in the rut of only looking at the bad things, so after each fight in my little synopsis of what happened, it started to sound like: “Bad Bad Bad Bad Bad”.  Where in truth, had I been more honest with myself and the raid the end result would have been a dialog that looked something like this:  “Bad Bad Good Good Good” highlighting the elements that were going well after delivering the items that were still going horribly.

As a leader last night, at the beginning of the night I had to force myself to be positive.  I fully admit it was a struggle for awhile.  We came into Icecrown and wiped on some farmed content, which only made the struggle to keep a positive spin going that much harder.  However as the night went on, the mood of the raid as a whole began to lift, and before long I myself was in a genuinely good mood.  It was almost like the curtains parting to let in the sunlight…  which is a cheesy metaphor I know.

I am not sure how much longer this new approach will last, as I am sure before long we will have an epically bad evening and my old patterns will begin to set in.  However I honestly believe that if we can manage to keep a positive outlook our “wipe” time will be all the more productive.  The cure I guess, is to change the attitude at the top of the raid.  We are the voices the members hear in their headsets, and if we are excited and positive… it certainly can’t hurt things.

Don’t Talk to Strangers

I thought the transition back to blogging would be a difficult one, but after one raid down I already have plenty of "blogfodder" to keep me going for awhile.  The raid I run with is fairly casual, and I have commented on this before.  Last night we were stung by a problem that has been occurring amongst a number of the casual and pug raids out there.  One member, not knowing what they were doing, committed the "icecrown sin", and told Wrynn we didn’t need his help.  As a result the entire raid had its buff stripped from them.  Were this a normal night we probably could have struggled through, but last night we had a concordance of two events that made this new variable very hard to manage for. 

Firstly we were running a little bit light on healing.  This had been a conscious decision in order to bring in an extra dps and at the same time force some of our weaker healers to have a bit of a workout.  Secondly we have made the decision to push for progression content after killing the first four bosses on Tuesday nights.  So we have been clearing Blood Princes, and moving on to attempts on Blood Queen.  We were honestly doing great, but as soon as we lost the buff it was like we had our legs chopped out from under us.

The Veteran Handicap

One of the difficult things about being a raider who has literally been raiding since Molten Core, is trying to get into the mindset of a player who doesn’t remember when Onyxia deep breathed more in phase two.  The fact that we have so much game knowledge crammed into our heads is honestly a handicap towards attempting to lead players who are new to the game.  It’s easy for us to relate to things in terms of, it’s like *** Boss, but when a player has never experienced those fights it is hard to compress that package of learned experience into words.  I personally find it very difficult to comprehend the fact that we have members who have literally never had a max level character before Northrend.  When something goes wrong and it is one of those "classic newbie raider" mistakes, it can be difficult to dial back the annoyance enough to realize that these folks are cutting their teeth on this content with no "formal education" to rely on.  So in an attempt to jump start that formal education… 

Classic Raid Mistakes

Don’t Talk to Strangers

Since this is the one that bit us in the butt last night, I will lead off with this.  Most of us in Stalwart/Duranub learned this lesson back in Blackwing Lair with Vaelastrasz, but the same lesson has carried through most of the Blizzard Raid and Dungeon Content.  Talking to any NPC can often cause negative effects for the raid.  I realize we are curious creatures by nature, and telling you all never to talk to NPCs is like putting a shiny red button on your desk and saying not to push it.  Simply taking the time to ask whether or not a certain NPC is safe to talk to can save the aggro of your raid.

Don’t Stand in Stuff

This is without a doubt the most common raid problem.  It plagues both newbies and careless veterans alike.  In the long illustrious history of WoW, it has only been good to stand in the fire during one fight.  With those overwhelming odds, you can darn near guarantee that if you see crap on the ground, and you are in fact standing in it…  that you should get out as soon as humanly possible.  A dead player has zero dps, and if you are doing something fundamentally dumb like standing in crap on the ground, no one will fault a healer for simply letting you die.  This problem isn’t just a DPS thing however, healers are often times too busy watching the green bars to be bothered to move out of environmental effects.  Your most important trait as a raider should be situational awareness.  I know I would rather have a player who does ho-hum damage but always avoids environmental damage, that one who is leading the meters but always dead.

Don’t Precast on Pulls

We are so used to having misdirect and tricks of the trade that as a community we have forgotten the fundamentals of what used to be known as the “3 sunder rule”.  In classic raiding, the rule was let your tank get 3 sunders up on the target before you opened up.  However in the modern era, I am constantly seeing players casting on the target before the tank has even reached it.  Aggro is a quirky science, that I can go into more detail on in another topic, but the basics is this:  Don’t make your tank work harder than they have to.  If you consistently ride that line between control and chaos, you are ultimately going to hurt your raid in the long run.  Making sure your tank has acquired the target and has a few large hits in on it before you start casting does not lose you that much dps time, but the general raid stability it gains is monumental.

Don’t Run up on Targets

After playing the DPS role for awhile now, I understand that overwhelming desire to make things dead now!  However if you allow your tanks to pull targets back to the raid, you generally have much more stable results.  The biggest problem I see here is that a tank will call that they are pulling back, but as soon as the aggro starts everyone runs up on the pack of mobs.  This keeps the tank from doing what they need to do, and makes it far more likely that you will pull aggro while the tanks are trying to place things.  On the pull the only players that need to be up near the targets are the tanks, and any crowd controllers.  If you do not fit either of those roles then please stay back until the tanks are done moving.

Don’t Turn Your Back to the Next Pack

Just like the defacto tank rule of pulling is to turn the mobs away from the raid, the defacto rule for everyone should be to make sure your back is not facing the next pull.  There are many dynamics in the game that cause you to lose control of your character for a short time, be it knockback, fear, or daze.  These effects paired with your proximity to live targets add up to be a ticking timebomb for the raid.  If you make sure you always have your back facing either a wall, or the path you just cleared, you will minimize the risk of your carelessness cascading into a raid wipe.

Don’t Run From the Tank

I realize I could have simply said, “Don’t Pull Aggro”, but the aggro issue is always a multi headed thing and sometimes you can’t control how attractive you are to a mob.  One of the biggest mistakes I have seen is when a player pulls aggro, they tend to run away from combat.  I realize proximity plays a key role in aggro mechanics, but if you already have the attention of the target, it is far too late for that manner of triage.  The best course of action is to run to the tank and announce as calmly as you can that you have aggro.  The tank will beat the mob in the face, and when the “target of target” shows you no longer have aggro, it is safe to move away.  There are various reasons that can cause the tank to take a second or two to pick the target back up, so it is very important for you to keep your wits about you, and give them the time needed to reacquire.

Don’t Blow Up the Raid

There are several encounters in the game that involve the mechanic of getting away from other players.  Don’t be the guy that blows everyone up.  If you are poor at eyeballing distances, I highly suggest a proximity mod.  Both Deadly Boss Mods and Deus Vox have excellent ones, that will show you when it is safe to stop running.  Equally important to running away, is to pay attention to the placement of the other raid members.  Situational awareness is something that never goes out of style.  As you are running away it is important to make sure a flock of players is not trying to arrive at exactly the same spot.  There will be natural voids in the room, where no players happen to be at any given time.  If at all possible, it is best to aim towards one of these vacant areas to free up space in the more populated ones.

Don’t be a “Special Snowflake”

Just like the fact that there are times you need to get away from players, there are a number of times where you will need to clump tightly with other players.  These clumps usually start out fine, but as the fight goes on the casters tend to migrate to the outer orbit of the main group.  The clump of players should be tight enough that it is hard to pick out individual players.  If you are clumping in melee range with a target, your hunters should be forming a second group at minimum range tightly orbiting the main colony.  When players filter out from the main group, it becomes more difficult to find the nexus that players need to gather upon.  What starts as one player getting some breathing room, quickly escalates into an uncontrolled mess.  As the topic says, do not be that delicate and special snowflake that has to do their own thing.

When Failure Comes to Visit

The basic thread through all of the elements above is situational awareness.  It is the most important skill that a wow raider can develop, and is a trait that all great players have.  However through the course of raiding you will inevitably screw things up.  You will eventually do something clueless, which cascades into a horrific raid wipe.  When this happens the way you approach your failure makes all the difference in the world.

Admit your Failure

Own up to your own mistakes, nobody likes it when someone sits quietly when they have screwed up.  Raid loggers can tell the culprit after the fact, so it is not like you have anonymity in your favor.  Admitting your failure is the first step in smoothing the annoyance and aggression that your raid will be feeling.

Don’t Make Excuses

It is human nature to want to try and explain why you screwed up to players.  In the course of a raid this does no good, and only serves to waste the raids time while having to listen to your complicated explanation of your failure.  You screwed up, you admitted it, and for most players that is all that needs to be said.  Making uses for your performance does nothing to undo whatever just happened.  The best course is to pick up the pieces and move on.

Do Better

Accepting a momentary lapse in ability is one thing, but you need to make sure whatever just happened does not happen again.  As a player, you need to be able to diagnose the conditions that lead to the problem, and take necessary actions to keep it from happening again.  If you pulled aggro, then use your aggro dumps more proactively.  If it was a placement issue, adjust where you are standing to make sure it is no longer an issue.  Figure out what went wrong, and keep it from going wrong next time.

Be Humble and Thick Skinned

When you do screw up, you are going to take flak from the raid.  It is just human nature to get frustrated with whatever is impeding your progress, and right now in the eyes of the raid, you are that impediment.  As a player you need to stay calm, keep a humble attitude, and be willing to take a bit of ribbing for your mistake.  You screwed up, so own that mistake and handle it with a bit of humor. 

One time in Vault of Archavon I was tanking the very last trash mob before Archavon himself.  I unwittingly broke one of the above rules; I put my back towards Archavon himself.  The trash mob died, blew up, sent me hurdling into the boss, who in a few unhealed swings killed me.  The entire sequence of events was rather comical, but nonetheless entirely my doing.  I owned up to my mistake, accepted the ribbing from the raid, and we moved on and killed the boss.  It doesn’t matter how long someone has been playing the game; you are never beyond screwing up.  The great players, are the ones who learn from their mistakes, and keep moving forward towards the goal.

So Pick Yourself Up, and Keep on Raiding

Life Happened

Sometimes we go off the road It has been 265 days since my last confession.  It is somewhat staggering when I put that number on paper, but my absence from the blog has been a pretty extreme one.  The longer I went without writing something, the harder it was to put virtual pen to paper and make something worth reading.  So for the last several months, my blog has sat here collecting dust staring out from the darkness as a constant reminder of my failed experiment in blogging.

Various sundry real world events happened, but if I were to condense a timeline of in-game events it would look something like this:

  • Server Unplayable
  • Years Behind Fails
  • Raid Struggles
  • My Account Gets Hacked
  • I Get Horribly Burned Out
  • Shift to Deathknight trying to fix low raid dps
  • Start regretting the decision to switch mains fast
  • Form new 10 man so I can continue tanking
  • Get burned out again raiding 4 nights a week
  • Quit one night of raiding and start playing other games
  • Start plotting my switch back to tanking

There are various sub events tied to each of the above, but thats the basic lay of the land.  The most traumatic of the events was probably getting my account hacked.  Blizzard did an amazing restoring everything that was taken from my various characters and the guild vault within 24 hours.  The however hacker took one of the things that really mattered to me, that can never be restored.  House Stalwart was formed on the day WoW was released and this was a point of pride.  The Hacker moved Belghast my main to another server, and in the process disbanded our guild.  Now our re-formed guild date commemorates the day I got hacked, which is not quite as enjoyable.

The shift to Belgrave my Deathknight was a pretty major event as well.  I reached a point where I flat out didn’t trust my healers anymore.  I had taken too many needless deaths in a row and had gotten gunshy.  I could only do the things I have been able to do, because of the extreme faith I have had in my healers.  I knew no matter what trouble I got myself into, what measures I had to go to to attempt to hold aggro, they would keep me standing.  When that faith waned, I started playing like a shell shocked veteran.  I became slower, more cautious, always trying to make sure I had an ace in a hole for when the heals just stopped for large blocks of time.  I got physically angry with myself, my raid, my healers when I ran out of "oh shit" buttons and nothing I could possibly do could save me.  I came to the realization that something needed to change.  I was going to have to either stop raiding as Belghast, stop raiding entirely, or just outright quit the game.

I chose to switch to raiding as my Deathknight, because at the time we were struggling in the DPS community.  My DK had been my "help friends raids" character, and for the most part was better geared that much of the active dps.  We’ve since recruited more players and solidified our DPS camp, but at the time me switching over allowed us to take down the content with more wiggle room.  But since the first raid I went as a Deathknight, I had the little pangs of remorse in the back of my head.  My identity has been wrapped up in Bel the Tank for so long, that it was difficult for me to accept the transition.  As I look towards Cataclysm I am planning on making the shift back to Protection Warrior as my primary raid focus.  If this ends up meaning I will need to leave the raid I helped form to make this happen so be it, but I know without a doubt that I am not as happy as a DPSer than I am as a Tank.

As I come back to blogging, I still very much think of myself as an aggronaut…  a tank at heart.  While now I wear the hat of a Unholy/Frost DPS Deathknight during raids, I still approach the game as though I were the tank.  I plan on still covering tanking topics, but mixing in a few DPS issues now and then.  I plan on still posting regularly about guild management and raid maintenance, and even now and then throwing in a topic like rotations.  I can’t promise to be nearly as regular as I once was, considering my life is in general more busy than before, but I promise to keep posting.

Thanks for letting me back on your screens

Time Capsule Tanking

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

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

You can’t skimp on the tank

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

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

Getting to 440

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

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

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

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

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

Gear: The Outfitting

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

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

Another Dragonslayer

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

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

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