Guest Post: Elnore

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

On Why I Raid, Leadership, and Val’anyr

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And my raid is awesome.

Twelfth Times the Charm

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

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

Bitterness Pool

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

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

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

Above Average

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

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

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

Warrior Pride

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

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

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

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

Long Dark Tea Time of the Soul

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

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

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

Mr. Gorbachev, Tear down this Wall

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

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

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

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

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

Warders beware

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

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

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

Guild Spring Cleaning

Yes I realize that it can by no stretch of the word be deemed as spring anymore, but it was the most evocative title I could come up with.  I’ve been going through a good deal of “cleaning” in real life, trying to get the house in order and backyard in a state that is anything other than a disgrace to our crystal clear blue pool.  The whole process has put me in a mood to “clean house” in the virtual world as well.

There are a good deal of chores that, if you are like me, you just put off until you otherwise can’t anymore.  Two things that have been sticking out like a sore thumb is the maintenance of member ranks, and the maintenance of the guild bank.  These on top of some much needed maintenance to over overall policies, are in dire need of attention.  Like everything, I thought I would attempt to post some of my thoughts in order to spur all of you into tackling those items you have been leaving alone too.

Ushering out the Old

packing up and pushing out the inactive House Stalwart does not remove members, and this has been a point of pride for me.  We have members who have quite literally not been online in 4 years, and these are individuals I know in person.  However it is a simple fact that accounts that have not been active in some time are just a treasure waiting for an account hacker to find.  If one of these nefarious individuals were to get a hold of a privileged account, you could find yourself in a position with all of your guilds worldly positions gone in a blink of an eye.  I don’t know anyone who keeps an accurate record of all of the guild banks tabs, so as a result you would most likely be unable to recover the majority of it from blizzard.

This said I have implemented a guild rank called “inactive” that is one up from the default rank of the guild.  Once a month roughly, I have been going through the accounts in our guild looking for any account that has been active for a year.  When this occurs I bump them down to the inactive rank, which has no rights whatsoever to the guild bank, or guild permissions in general.  The problem with this process is I have been extremely lax when it referred to inactive officers.

We currently have several officers who are either on hiatus, or otherwise unaccounted for and each of them is a true disaster waiting to happen.  So as a result tonight when I get home, I am demoting every officer that is currently inactive, and promoting a few new ones to take their places. The guild is a living entity, and its important that you prune your ranks from time to time to make sure that it stays safe and current.  While I know personally I am most liable to leave close friends with the honorific title of “Regent” (our officer rank), it is important that you push these things aside and do what is best for the guild.

Checking Permissions

keep it all safe Another activity that should be considered is deciding whether or not your permission scheme for your guild is too strict or too lax for your current situation.  For us we have 2 tabs that are considered to be “Free For All”, and the last 4 tabs to be officer access only.   For the most part this works well, and our default rank of yeoman, has no access to any of the tabs at all.  This gives new members a bit of a trial period before they can wreak havoc.  You might ask why this permission less default rank is so important.

Stalwart is very much a unique entity.  We are one of the remaining “day one” guilds on the US Argent Dawn server, however we have never really had a “traditional” recruitment policy.  Simply put, we are both always recruiting and never recruiting.  House Stalwart is only open to players who already know a member, and all of our members of any long standing have the ability to do guild invites.  This has lead us to grow in a very organic method, and while we are flush with raiders, kept a very tight knit family atmosphere. 

Every so often one of our members is a poor judge of character, and as a result this default permission less rank acts as a safety net between the guild as a whole and new members.  So as part of your guild spring cleaning I urge you to map out exactly what your permissions are, and determine whether or not they still meet the needs of your guild.  It is almost every day that you can read on the forums about some poor guild being robbed blind by a less than honorable individual.  It is important as you the guild leader and officers to set up a scheme to protect against such attacks from outside…  and in the case of hacking, making sure that when someone is compromised they can only do so much damage.

Clearing the Clutter

out with the old, in with the new Our guild bank overruneth…  quite literally.  We seem to always be short on the items that players actually need, and long on the miscellaneous crap that nobody seems to need.  If you are not watching it, things like the 15 stacks of Pygmy Suckerfish can creep in and just take up needless space.  So as a result it is once more time to clear out the clutter and debris from the corners of the bank.

Lucky for us, we have had a member step up and offer her services to help us sift through what is good and auction house the rest.  But the basic idea is to get together with your officers and determine, which items are actually needed, or rare enough to warrant saving, and which items are now outdated or simply junk.  The old items should either be offloaded to an individual alt bank, or shipped to the auction house as fodder for the guild bank funds.  For example, we have had some blues stacking up in the bank that have quite literally been there since January.  If no one is using them, then there is no need to keep them around, and as such should be auction housed before they become “last years fashions”.

Another prime example is that we tend to keep ready eat stat food on hand, as we have several cooks in the guild.  Problem is, we have a good number of outlands recipes that nobody actually wants.  So our basic idea is to make these into care packages for players in the guild who have alts in the level ranges of this food.  This serves two purposes.  Firstly it clears out the bank freeing up space for better items, and secondly it gives players a little added benefit to level those characters.

Everyone wants Free Enchants

shiny enchanting mats One of the problems that we have been having is that we simply cannot keep enchanting materials on hand.  They seem to fly out the door faster than they arrive. The key issues, is that very few people actually donate the materials, and everyone wants to tap upon the resources sitting in the guild bank.  This has lead me to become a pit bull when it comes to enchanting material requests, forcing me to check the logs and see whether or not this is a player who has been actively donating to the guild bank or not.

One of our procedural tweaks we are looking at is to auto loot all green items to a disenchanter for breaking down and storing in the guild bank.  In the past we have always let greens go to the luck of the draw, to help players out with repair bills.  However as the donation of materials has come to a halt, we have literally 2-3 players carrying the entire raids material needs.  It is completely unfair to ask a handful of players to support the whole guild.

This however is a symptom of a larger issue that I don’t quite know how to deal with.  As with everything in life, 10 percent of the players do 90 percent of the work.  This carries to guild bank donations as well, and other than imposing some kind of a formal system I am really not sure how to fix this issue.  I would be curious to find out how other players handle the guild bank, and requests for items.  More importantly, I would be interested to know how guilds handle the restocking of the bank once items are taken.

Material Sharing only works when everyone shares

Vive La Attendance

As you all noticed, I did not manage to get a blog post up yesterday.  For some reason it seems to often be Thursday that I massively fail at getting one out the door.  Around here it was fairly busy, and I was furiously working on something that caused me to not even pop my head out long enough to eat lunch.  So needless to say thinking of anything to write about was quickly replaced with, must survive day so I can get some food.

Stubborn is an Art form

i'm not listening! Over the last few weeks we have managed to accumulate some new blood for the raid, both in the form of players who are ready to step up to the plate and perform, and those who will need some gearing help.  This has been like a breath of fresh air for us all, and provided some much needed balance.  Duranub continues the slogan used by one of our former incarnations, the Late Night Raiders…  a durable pack of nubs.  However, I think we should probably change this to somehow indicate just how stubborn we are.

Blizzard may preach the motto of take the player not the class, but we have as a whole proven the truism and faults of that statement.  In general, duranub has HORRIBLE class balance.  We’ve had too many protection warrior tanks, too many healing priests, a truly silly number of mages, and in the past more than half of our dps comprised of melee.  We have struggled through a complete and total lack of balance, on all grouping fronts, making us work much harder to progress than we really need to.  Combine this with the fact that we only have 5 hours of raid time per week to devote to our 25 mans, it gives us a progression speed that at times feels like cold molasses.

The Shifting Sands

everything falls into place This past week we had a few things shift into place.  Firstly we lost one of our protection warriors to a guild with some easier progression.  I’ve always had mixed feelings regarding leaving a raid, considering I have turned down numerous raid spots with “easymode” farmed gear to continue to tank for my friends.  In the case of our warrior, they very much signed up to tank.  However due to the specifics of Ulduar, and various sundry connection issues were relegated to a swing tank role, spending most of their time dpsing.  This lead to an unhappy raid life, and as a result they moved on to tank another tanking position.

While this would have normally been a crippling blow to a raid, an odd concordance of events saw one of our past raiders become available on their already 10/25 Naxx geared Tankadin.  So while we lost one of our seasoned players, we brought another one back into the fold and added some much needed balance to the tanking camp.  Having already tanked my 10 man on Wednesday and our 25 man on Thursday, I have to say Ornquist is doing an amazing job assimilating into an already complex raid. 

We don’t exactly have a good track record with past Tankadins.  Our first was an adept tank, but turned out to be very mercenary and sold his skills to the highest bidder, along with some BoE loot on the Auction House.  Our second was an impetuous child, and left nothing but drama in his wake, eventually taking his toys and going home when we didn’t allow him to switch mains for the 4th time.  So all those past experiences behind us, I am just praying Orn is “the one”.

Adding it all up

balance is good mmmmkay When you take the tanking balance and throw in that we just added more healing diversity, in the form of a new tree druid, resto shaman, and some prospects for paladins, we wind up all the sudden with a better class balance than we have ever had in Wrath.  The change is balance is very noticeable.  All the sudden all of the fights seem more manageable.  Tanking and Healing both have become much more stable, and in spite of new players having to learn/re-learn the fights we had an amazing week.

Wednesday night my 10 man group had without a doubt our most successful single night ever.  We had a bit of trouble locking down healing, but when players finally became available we got underway about 45 minutes after our normal start time.  We pushed through the content, and even with some re-education on the part of new healers and a new tank we made an extremely fast path through the zone.  At the end of the night we had spent roughly 2 hours in the zone and cleared Flame Leviathan, Razorscale, XT-002 Deconstructor, Assembly of Iron, Kologarn, Auriaya

This sets us up to give Hodir some serious work on Monday, and hopefully some tries on Freya as well.  More than anything I think it was the fresh players giving us a better mix of classes that allowed us to start moving a at fast clip once more.  Blizzard might preach, take the player not the class, but in practice it means…  take the class or you are going to fight your ass off and suffer retarded repair bills and retarded difficulty.

Cat Scratch Fever

crazy cat lady goes down.... owait Tuesday we were able too clear a good deal of content in our 25 man raid.  We had a few issues, firstly the hardship imposed by a tank leaving with short notice meant we had to push one of our deathknights who has been in a primary dps role since ulduar, into tanking once more.  This combined with an influx of new players who had either not seen the fights, or not done them the way we do, caused several encounters to be far more difficult than they should have been.  However we still managed to clear Flame Leviathan, Razorscale, XT-002 Deconstructor, Kologarn which left the path to Auriaya wide open for Thursday.

Last night instead of doing a farmed encounter as a warm-up, we dove straight into attempts on the catwoman.  We had a good deal of early bobbles, but these were mostly caused by the fact that we were completely changing the way the fight would be tanked with the addition of a new, stronger, AOE tank.  After several wipes we settled on the pull strategy of me tanking the titan like normal, our newly acquired tankadin handling 3 of the adds, while our deathknight pulled a single cat to the side in order to reduce the total damage the pack of 3 would be dealing to our tankadin.

Once we locked down on this, immediately we could get through the pull with little difficulty.  I believe we managed to get her down to 50% or so on our first try with this strategy. The second piece of the puzzle that clicked into place, was not so politely at times, reminding the players to clump up on top of the tankadin at all times.  This allowed us to avoid the shadow dot placed by the feral defenders and mitigated a good deal of the pounces.  All the sudden the fight became more healable and before I knew it we were staring down the barrel of 20% life left on the titan.

It was somewhere about here that bad things started happening.  For some reason, on many new boss kills for Duranub, we have what I call a race to the bottom.  About 5-6% we began a slow wipe of the raid, we lost healers, the main tank (me), and slowly each of the two off tanks.  Finally a deft use of evasion bought us the time that the remaining dps needed to push her down all the way.  It was far from pretty, but by god I will take it.  I think next week will go much smoother, as from 50%-20% people really seemed to speed up.  As a whole we were extremely low on dps, considering some of our heaviest hitters were out of town.  So once you put them back in the mix I think we will have a farmable fight.


Cloak of the MakersUnbreakable ChestguardSandals of the Ancient Keeper

I managed to pick up the chest piece which I thought was extremely awesome.  I am not sure what has happened but for some reason over the last few weeks the gear has just finally began dropping.  Granted we have not even seen the much coveted Titanguard, somehow without me really noticing it, I have upgraded almost all my slots to ulduar gear.  In the last few weeks I’ve managed to pick up… Titanstone PendantSaronite Plated LegguardsShieldwall of the BreakerGreaves of the Stonewarder.  All of which has greatly buffed my survival and it combined with the fact that our healing has regulated a bit, make me feel far less squishy.

Stealth Nerf:  Repairs?

no more tears.... well not as many Okay it has been a truly great week for myself and Duranub, but there has been one hidden benefit of it all.  I’ve complained about the insane amount my repair bills have been.  Prior to this week they had been roughly 20g per death, which by any count was insane.  In fact I have had people writing in to argue with me, that formulaically that would be impossible…  however regardless of what math and logic tell us, they were in fact 20 freakin gold per death.  Tuesday evening a miracle happened.

I’ve gotten in the habit of repairing every time I run back into the instance after a wipe, this helps me not think about the hundreds of gold the night will be costing me.  After our very first wipe of the night, I looked down and noticed something strange.  My repair bill, was only 9g, and this trend has continued.  I seem to have had my repair insanity nerfed… which is an awesome thing.

Granted I am still hurting for cash, after months of 20g per death being the norm, but maybe just maybe I can begin to make a little bit of leeway.  After asking around, this seems to have only really effected plate wearers, as the only player that really noticed a difference was one of my tankadin friends.  If anyone has found reference to this phenomena I would love to see it in writing, but as of this posting I have not found any mention of a repair bill nerf. 

I just hope the trend continues

Virtue of the HitList

Well once again its a Wednesday, which is quickly becoming my favorite day of the week.  Why you might ask?  For the last few weeks we have been running 10 man Ulduar on Wednesday nights, and there is a certain package of hope when confronting a fresh instance.  For me, the 10 man dynamic makes for a much more enjoyable grouping experience.  While we are still serious about what we are doing, the 10 man group I run with always seems so much more laid back than our 25 man raid. 

I think most of this is simply logistics, trying to get 24 other players all moving in the same direction is as I have related before, like herding cats.  In the 10 man dynamic, we tend to take a group of players that as a whole work better together, and are closer friends.  So the banter is quick and friendly, and the pace is a bit swifter.  If there is a god, we will be able to pull together the group at the normal start time and maybe just maybe get Hodir down and start working on Freya.

Things in the 25 man front are looking more hopeful as well.  Last night was a bit rough, but mostly because we had some Ulduar virgins with us.  But the positive of this is we had some fresh blood finally coming in.  We managed to lose one of our tanks this week, but in a very serendipitous fashion I found a replacement in one of the stalwarts returning to the game.  In the grand scheme of things, adding a Tankadin to our stable, will mean much better balance.  In addition to this, we added several new healers…  that weren’t priest!  You all know my love of priests, but adding some more druids and shaman to the raid will help balance out the healing as a whole.

What is a HitList?

Knock down that gear This topic is something I probably should have covered in my recent GroupCraft series of posts, but it honestly did not fit cleanly into the topics.  One of the important things I covered in those posts, was that you should have a clear focus and a stated purpose.  When I hit maximum level I switch my focus to gearing my character, since my goal with any character is to get them to a “raidable” state.  So one of the methods that I employ to decide which instances I should run is to create a “HitList”.

Loosely defined, a HitList is a list of items you wish to acquire for your character and which boss/instance they drop in.  I generally sort my list by equipment slot, and from time to time I will choose a primary focus and an alternate.  This requires a good deal of research and there are many options on how to do this.  If you are a DPS based class your easiest option for figuring out where items drop is MaxDPS.  This website allows you to constrain what tiers of gear you have available, and then presents you with a list of options allowing for things like crafted gear and badge gear.

Another older resource that still has alot of good in it is Kaliban’s Class Loot lists.  During Burning Crusade, I practically lived on this site when it came to gearing my characters.  The layout of the website really is designed to support the collection of gear as you are leveling up, as the various dungeons are arranged by level order.  However you can still view the various dungeons normal and heroic loot tables by class.  They used to have this great flash gear chooser, that allowed you to constrain things based on what stats you were looking for, but it appears to be long dead.

Wowhead is a bit like Hard Mode for gear choosing, and by that I mean you are flooded with so much raw information that it takes a good deal of work to dissect it all.  Basically when I attempt to choose gear from Wowhead I use a series of constraints to limit down the data.  For an example of this process here is a link that I would use to look at Tanking Helms.  Let me walk you through the process I used to arrive at it…

  • I selected from the browse menu:  Items > Armor > Plate > Head in order to only return only results for plate helms.
  • I constrain by level required, as we are looking for gear to ready us for heroics and raiding, we only want level 80 gear…  so I type 80 in the first box for “Required Level:”
  • I only want to return items usable by my class… so I selected Warrior
  • I am going to add a filter, that will allow me to sort out any gear that simply does not make sense for me to use.  In order to do this, you either want to constrain by a stat you would NEVER use, or constrain by a stat that you would ALWAYS use.  For a warrior, I want to filter out any gear with spellpower on it, as this is the immediate designator that the gear was designed for a Paladin.  For a healing priest, filtering out Hit gear is a good idea for another example.
  • Lastly I am going to use the “Create a Weight Scale” Optional tool.  To open the UI for this, you click the text.  From the dialog boxes I chose the preset for Warrior, Protection (Tanking), and left the default of Rare gems.  If you are doing this on a search NOT constrained to a specific slot, it is good to check the “Group by slot” box.

Click apply filter, and you are given a much shorter list of items to choose from.  Additionally, if you are looking for only Epic or Rare gear, you can change your selection for that as well.  The source column will give you in a quick glance where the item drops from.  Generally I keep a notepad document open and scribble down all the selections that I am making per slot.

Once you have your list of items and where they drop, you will start to see patterns in the list.  Certain zones will have more items you need than others, so as a rule those are the zones that you should be attacking first.  Now that you know where things drop that you need, you can start trying to get into groups going to those dungeons.  If you apply a focused approach to gearing, you can do what I have done many time and go from being a fresh level 80, to being a heroic ready player in a week or less of systematic gearing.

Elemental Mastery

She's not a cow.... but it's a badass picture Well it appears that I have inspired another friend to start blogging, and I have to say she has blown my website design completely out of the water.  The player in question is non other than Audrae, the friend of mine who drew the Chibi Belghast that adorns this sites header.  Completely Elemental is her take on the world of warcraft world, from the perspective of an elemental shaman. 

It’s a fledgling blog, so there is not a ton of content yet, but as always Rae expresses herself well.  I highly suggest you add her to list of blogs to read.  Normally I would say add her to your RSS reader, but in this case the site design is so beautifully rendered that it always seems like a crime NOT to read it from the website itself.  Considering the fact that she is feeming to post more today, I am hoping that she can keep up with the rigors of regular posting.

Now… I have to redesign my site

What’s in a Main

I was talking to a good friend of mine this morning about “alting”, or the playing of characters other than your primary focus.  She was talking about her inability to seriously play any character other than her “main”, and that when she has alted before, it was more a shift of focus and that the new character quickly became her new “main”.  It got me thinking about the whole debate about mains and alts, and the various attitudes players have towards the two terms.

One of the key traits that you need in any leadership role is the ability to place yourself in the shoes of others, and understand who it is that they view the world.  Knowing and understanding how your players approach the game, gives you a greater understanding of their prime motivations, desires, strengths and ultimately weaknesses.

During the last five years playing WoW, I have noticed that there are three basic archetypes that exist in the way players view the main/alt relationship.  I will do my best to outline each of them and their unique spin on the world as I see it.

The Main

Archetype_TheMain The Main is a very unique player. They tend to focus on one character entirely, and in many ways see that character as the virtual embodiment of themselves.  Their sole purpose in the game is to better their single character, and will do anything within their powers to progress.  These tend to be very driven players, and are often motivated by collecting items, gaining achievements, and accomplishing new goals.

The Main archetype gets very frustrated when dealing with players and their alts.  They don’t fully understand why anyone would choose to play a character other than their main, so they are quick to get annoyed when progression is stifled for the purpose of other players “alts”. 

The significant weakness of the Main archetype is that, while they are the most dedicated to their individual character, they are also the most susceptible to burn out.  When experiencing a period of significant stagnation, they do not have the ability to shift focus to another character and as a result begin to question why they are playing the game in the first place.  This can be seen with the players that rejoin WoW at each expansion, and then go on hiatus once they have reached a plateau.  This same basic action happens within raids as well, certain players are only there during the progression, but disappear once the initial challenge is gone.

The Progressionist

Archetype_TheProgressionist The next archetype is similar to the main, with a few key differences.  The Progressionist tends to have one character that is their primary focus.  When that character reaches a point where progression becomes slowed, either through raid lockouts, or inability to raid, they shift focus to an alt.  When this new focus reaches its natural plateau, the focus shifts again to a new character leaving a string of very well geared max level characters in their wake.

This personally is the category I fit into.  I focus on my main, in this case my Protection Warrior Belghast, and when he reaches a plateau where I can no longer progress other than through raiding, I begin to shift focus to a new character.  For me personally this was my Retribution Paladin Exeter, and when he maxed out and could only be progressed through raiding, I pushed up my Balance Druid Loamis. 

Much like the Main, the Progressionist tends to be very focused on each new character, doing their level best to master the class, and gear them as well as could be expected for a non-primary class.  This leads to these players being very good switch hitters, in that they can swap to alts if need be to fill necessary roles, but prefer progression on their primary character when at all possible.

The progressionist tends to get annoyed by rampant altism, but understands the desire to play characters other than your primary focus.  So as a result, sits somewhere in the middle of the archetypal spectrum being able to unit both sides of the chasm.  I feel the majority of these “alts” start out of a need to have a character for the “downtime” between scheduled and focused raiding.  Personally I find it favorable to have the ability to have multiple raid lockouts for each week, and I often times use my alts to go on instance runs with friends of the guild, and as a result network with new players.

The Altist

Achetype_TheAltist The Altist in its truest form is a player who refuses to designate between characters being mains or alts.  Many times the altism starts from a desire to be self sufficient, and the need to level up characters to unlock higher tiers of abilities like tradeskills.  However as the player levels each character, they become more and more attached to the point at which each additional class becomes interchangeable with the older ones.  I think the root of altism comes from a desire to do everything at once, and a fear of missing out on some aspect of the game that they might not be able to experience otherwise.

We have had multiple players in the guild that have maximum level characters of each and every class.  One of the most extreme cases of being an altist that I have seen, involved a player that would get no more than one level higher than any of his other characters.  The result was that he would rotate putting one single level on each character, slowly leveling them all up within range of each other.  While this functioned well, and kept all the trade skills and gear acquisition within the same level of each other, it made for very slow progression as a whole.

The key weakness of this method is that the altist tends to be the jack of all trades…  master of none.  They become acceptable players on each and every character they play, but tend not to really shine at any of them, as they lack the key focus it takes to truly master all of the nuances of one class.  In the best case scenario they seem to shoot for the middle, and in the worst case scenario they are the warm bodies that hold back progression.  I’ve known a few altists that did an great job at everything they touched, but they tend to be the exception not the rule.  The general lack of focus, tends to carry through to the raiding as well, and ends up with a player that may or may not accept assignments with the gravity you are expecting. 

The natural chasm forms between the Main and the Altist, since neither seem to be able to understand the others point of view.  To the Altist, the desire to play multiple characters is so ingrained that it seems truly foreign to ONLY progress one character at a time.  it is always best to lay some ground rules, when you know there is a rampant altist in your midst.  However, know that forcing an Altist to declare a primary character, will always lead to discomfort from that player on the whole.


Each individual archetype has strengths and weaknesses, and as a leader it is important to be able to recognize them.  Being able to exercise the strengths and mitigate the weaknesses, will require a good deal of planning on your part ahead of time.  Being able to chose from multiple characters that each player brings to the table, helps you tweak the balance of a raid group.  Having a character who is driven and focused on one class, makes them the natural source of detailed information on the working of that individual class.  Each of the above types can offer some very solid things to a guild or raid, if you can utilize them properly.

Granted there are grey areas between the archetypes above, just as there are grey areas in everything.  But some prior knowledge of these traits makes managing situations when they arise far easier.  Understanding the basic mindset that each player comes from, only serves to allow you to formulate better solutions in the future.


Last Friday I had a blog post featured on  Granted this is not the first time my blog has been mentioned, in the past It was just a minor link.  This time however they did a pretty flattering write-up on my GroupCraft series of posts from the last few weeks.  I have to say I was pretty shocked and amazed, and truth be told still more than a bit taken back by the mention.

As a result I got "wow-dot-comed”, which for a Warcraft blog is much akin to getting “slashdotted”.  For the weekend my readership shot up by over 900%, which equates to over 16,000 unique users.  I am unable to wrap my head around this notion fully yet, but on the most basic level I guess this means I am doing something right.  Hopefully folks can deal with the rambling topics that fit their way in-between my informative ones.

Honor Thine Campfire

burn baby burn Well it is once again time for the Midsummer Fire Festival, and boys and girls find themselves running around like mad trying to either honor or put out bonfires.  I started in on the first bit of this early yesterday morning, and by the end of the day had completed the Eastern Kingdom achievements.  I figured that if I broke it down into several smaller chunks I would not suffer from the hatred and loathing that so many of the previous events have ushered in for me.

In truth, I don’t really mind events like this one.  Sure it takes large blocks of physical time to visit all of the bonfires, but it is purely based on player effort and not luck.  It also gives me time to sit back and revisit the old world, a place where I rarely travel anymore save for the trips to the Ironforge auction house.  Sunday I was taken back by the sheer marvel of what various pieces of the old world meant to me as I leveled through out.  The game world in warcraft is truly amazing if we just take the time to notice it in our rush to get somewhere else.

I’m hoping to get some guild help on the stealing the flame quests which take you into opposing faction capitols.  That appears to be the only real stumbling block for me, since I play on a server where PVP only exists if forced by the players.  Wowhead has a great blog entry, with links to quests and locations of all the bonfires, which should prove useful to any player trying to complete all this madness.

Now for the massive disappointment.  It appears that the Lord Ahune event has remained completely unchanged.  I realize its probably unrealistic to expect blizzard to go back and updated every one of these “boss” encounters to be viable for the latest expansion.  Based on the fact that they DID update the loottable for the Headless Horseman between his last two appearance, I did however expect that there be something either added or modified to the event.  Based on early reports, the items dropping seem to be exactly the same as the previous year.  Oh well at the very least this gives players a shot at getting a Scorchling pet if they did not get one last year.

360 Degrees of Not WoW

Meep for Meeples One of the things I have been trying to do lately, in order to stave off burnout is to do something OTHER than play wow on a pretty regular basis.  Previously I had written about taking a weekend away from the game, to explore Fallout 3…  which I might still add is amazing.  With my recent Birthday I indulged in the purchase of a doodad I have been wanting for a long while.  So I am finally joining the rest of the gaming public by starting to play an XBox 360.

Believe it or not, I have never played ANY Xbox titles be it classic or 360 prior to this Sunday.  I had been a console junkie for years, and have every major console platform leading up to the PS2.  However around that time, I fell off the planet as far as these titles were concerned.  Yes this does in fact coincide with my entrance into the dark world of MMO gaming.  I’ve recovered some of these roots with my PSP, and playing my PS2 while at the lake and otherwise unwired.

Itsa Me!  well sorta....  I attempted to make a brief foray into the console world once more with the Wii.  While it is ridiculously fun, it doesn’t really provide the true “gamer” experience I once savored so much.  Many of the titles seem to be more gimmick than game play.  So I am looking to Microsoft and the Xbox to give me back some of that console diversion I was missing.  The fact that I could stream movies 24/7 through it with a Netflix subscription was a very solid secondary reason. 

However I now find myself far more interested in the XBox Live Arcade titles than the shiny disc games.  Carcassonne has already accounted for many lost hours of strategic goodness.  I have to give an apology to Ysinnia of Limb From Limb…  I have given her immense amounts of crap over the years for her husband’s “bored game” nights.  It was them who introduced me to this great game, when I was up visiting family in the area they live.  While I won’t guarantee more crap in the future…  I am having to eat crow now because the game is amazing, and even more amazingly translated onto the Xbox.

I figure I will eventually add a xbox gamertag link on the side panel of this site, but for the time being if anyone out there wants to friend me I am “eXeterTBC”.  I am playing Street Fighter 4 offline right now, as I attempt to remember how to play the SF franchise with a certain measure of skill.  I have to admit that it was rarely disarming when I first booted up the game, to keep getting spammed with challenges from live players.  I kept trying to sit down and play a nice computer match, only to get my ass kicked over and over by a kick who has unlocked Akuma.  After a few minutes I figured out how to turn that option off and was back to pleasantly beating the game and unlocking characters for myself.


Thank You All I feel once more like I need to take a quick moment to thank all of you who helped make this blog a success.  I am overwhelmed on a daily basis by the regular readers and support I have gotten from the WoW Blog community.  I will do my best to continue to write something worth reading, if you continue to read it.



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.