Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Dungeons

Is there anything more fun than running the new dungeons?

They're lovely, designed with a depth of detail that we saw in raids but was missing from prior 5-mans, a length that feels "just right" in theory, and with boss-fights that are rarely tank and spank.

My favorite dungeon is probably Halls of Origination but Lost City comes a very, very close second, and I love Vortex Pinnacle and Grim Batol as well.

The other two dungeons - Stonecore and Blackrock Descent - are also good, but not as amazing as the first four. I especially love the storytelling in Blackrock Descent, even if I get a bit annoyed at Raz for all the rep-stealing he does. Speaking of rep-stealing, it's a fun mini game during the bombing runs in Grim Batol, to get the mob clumbs low but not to kill them so that all that lovely, lovely rep doesn't evaporate in a puff of dragon-breath.

I'm really glad to have a couple of dungeons in Blackrock to go beat on because of the nostalgia. I didn't play in Vanilla, but as a first-time leveler during TBC, I remember standing around that summoning stone on that floating chunk of rock and watching that black drake fly around and above us, a lot. It was gratifying to finallyfly in on my own black mount and scare off that silly little whelp.

The only dungeon that feels a bit retread-dungeon-ey is, sadly, Throne of Tides - I like it a lot, but the color-scheme is so Wrath of the Lich King that I kind of blot out all the cool stuff going on in there. The Kraken cut-scene should also be trimmed with a option to re-watch, but I'm not sure how to make that happen.

Speaking of retreads, I've been enjoying the ever-loving-hell out of Heroic: Deadmines, though I haven't had the pleasure of poking through Heroic: Shadowfang Keep yet. As a life-long member of the Alliance (more or less) I never had the level of nostalgia attached to that place as, back in the day, it was pretty easy to skip that dungeon entirely, the way it was tucked all the way fuck out of in the middle of nowhere as far as lowby-alliance-leveling was concerned.

One of the things I love about all these dungeons is that they are so rarely tank-and-spank. I've been running all the dungeons as both Retribution and Protection spec, and no matter what, I find myself doing cool stuff. Using Repentance on trash pulls, running in and out of fire all the time, managing boss-mechanics, staying on top of interrupts, switch-killing or picking up adds - dungeons are exciting.

It's too early to pick favorite bosses yet. But I'm enjoying the game a lot. So much I want to talk about!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Stalled

I really wanted to talk about useful things like loot lists to start tanking Heroics with or easily accessible Ret gear from questing, but instead, I'm going to whine about my situation.

Things aren't going so hot with my guild. It hasn't helped that with how long Wrath ran, we lost a few of the really long-term members just to attrition. A rogue who needed a few weeks break just vanished completely. One of the core healers took a break for the summer and found real life instead. Another healer moved on to another guild while a fourth took a break and has no intentions of coming back. More DPS has walked through that revolving door than I can remember at this point, and the small, tiny core of about seven people that we've held together for the last few months is getting ready to raid and I find myself in the exact same spot I was in back in March when this guild started - with a small core and only PuG options to move forward and I feel like I'm solving the same organizational problems when I would have thought this would be when my work at keeping the guild together, motivated, and progressing would start paying dividends.

It's utterly frustrating.

One of the problems is that about half our members are in other guilds that are their first priority. Maybe I should've filtered those folks out, maybe I shouldn't have, I don't know, I enjoy raiding with them, but at this point, we've become a guild where people put their raiding alts and then go play in their real guilds.

The thing is, I know once we start raiding, filling in spots will not be hard. Historically, it takes people one or two runs with us to want to join up, and it's pretty gratifying when that happens, but I feel like I keep hiring mercenaries and of course, it keeps from any guild culture from evolving because really people only log on to raid and it gets difficult to do things like PvP nights or whatever.

I'd like to build guild culture, I'd like to have some stability so I can focus more on enjoying the game and not on solving the same problem over and over and over again. Either that, or I'm doing something horrifically wrong and I should just give up trying to run a guild and find some existing guild to join that fits my schedule where I can sit in the back and be Paladin #63b.

Ugh.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

New Zones Are New And Exciting

When Wrath came out, my leveling was guided by the highest level zone that I had access to. As soon as I got to a point where I could go from, for example, Grizzly Hills to Zul'Drak, I jumped ship and started questing there, for the better quest rewards. I liked the quests fine, but didn't feel compelled to continue the storylines, or see how the zone evolved. There was something missing there that I couldn't identify.

Cataclysm is the complete opposite. I started in Vashj'ir and couldn't get enough of the zone as I said earlier, but I wound up completing every single quest I could find (~140 of them). Hyjal was the same deal, and also in Deepholm and Uldum. The storytelling is just in a whole new zone, and while there are rough patches, I think they can definitely get smoothed out over time. However much I enjoy the PvP and Raiding game now, I'm a lore-nerd at heart and Cataclysm's questing feels like a love-note from the developers to those of us who've obsessed over the game and its story for years.

I'll be writing up reviews for the individual zones and what I liked and didn't like about them over the next couple of days.

--

Now that I have hit level-cap, I'm eager to get geared up before going into Heroics and farming them over the next week. I'm hoping to get into some PuG raiding this week/weekend. I'll post a list later today or tomorrow of the super-easy-to-get pre-heroics blue gear without depending on dungeon drops or a ton of Justice Points that I think should serve well enough to get us started.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Vashj'ir is awesome

The night before launch, I sat in my chair, coffee in hand, capping professions on alts, buzzing with excitement for the chaos to come. Most of my guild-mates had reasonably gone to bed while I stayed awake with one other person, my Australian friend and as midnight approached, we nervously logged out and then logged back in.

The Stormwind flight pad was absolutley CHOKED with people, AoEing everything in sight. Good thing I had my interact with target key-bound and quickly learned flight, ran out to the city and mounted up on that bony Icecrown drake. A second later I was doing laps around my beloved Stormwind, tiles on rooftops shimmering in the Ultra-settings and I was shocked at just how huge it is. I mean, I always thought it was big, especially after the changes, but perspective was great to see it all in a new way.

I really wanted to explore, but instead, I flew down to the portals, completed my quest and then started flying to Vashj'ir before I realized I should probably take the boat as instructed, even if it was utterly overstuffed with people and mounts and pets so that I couldn't see the NPCs while they bantered on the way in.

I only did a few of the starting quests before turning in around 4:30 AM and then a day of work ensued. I got home, and couldn't log in for ages due to some computer issues that cropped up with the latest build, and when I finally made it in, I was able to quest for a bit but Vashj'ir has a lot of specific NPC and loot-item quests which are difficult to do when the entire server is trying to do them. But I powered through somehow and once I moved out of the Kelp'thar Forest, life become better almost immediately.

By the way, if you're waiting for an NPC to spawn, and there is someone in your faction also waiting, throw out an invite, everyone is always happy to accept and it makes life easier for them and you. Also, it gives you another buddy to help steal the mob from the Horde and that's always awesome. Tagging mobs as a paladin is pretty easy and fun - Holy Wrath and Consecrate make it pretty much impossible NOT to tag something. Also, leveling as Prot has been slower than Ret, but pretty fast and I never have to worry about dying. So far, the gear is okay, but I've been DE'ing for mats right now rather than upgrade. I'm sure that'll change.

Anyway - the quests in Vashj'ir are great, the storytelling is much stronger, there is a ton of new tech in place that makes the game compelling and I'm super-excited to keep leveling. I hit 81 last night and will keep on leveling in Vashj'ir until I run out of quests. Haven't decided where to go after that - maybe Hyjal, maybe Deepholm.

And there are still dungeons to do, rep to grind and a lot of work to do still.

I'm super happy with Cataclysm so far. :-)

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Forgetting

Along with Ashenvale, I also said good bye to an old friend of mine with patch 4.0.3a.

My character Joachim Hamar as I used to role-play him, was for all intents and purposes finished. I had stopped role-playing with any consistency for some time now, but when I play any game, I typically get into the head of the character and find a voice for it, especially when the game doesn't provide one.

Joachim was probably the most detailed character I have made - I fleshed out his history, and background, to a great level of detail, who he was, where he came from, what he did, and what happened to him. I outlined NPCs who were important to him, events and places that played significant parts in molding him, and always, the trajectory of his arc was tragic.

He was a pious, righteous, proud man pushed into Seminary but turned towards the Military, he was educated, philosophical, but short-sighted and blinded by his preconceptions. There were elements and themes running through his life, from little things like his devotion to horses, to the big things like the constant compromise of his morals for the sake of political practicality, that all tied together in strands of story.

There was a constant ebb and flow in him, balancing his hatred for the Horde against the necessity of doing the right thing against the greater threats. The corruption that slowly filtered into his own life as he began to protect those close to him against persecution and the self-loathing it generated even as he felt thankful for buying security with his own morality.

By the time I stopped role-playing, Joachim wasn't just a character, but a second skin with a complex, fully-developed story that I knew intimately. Every action I took in game had a reflection in my head about its impact on that story.

And at one point, earlier this year, as the last of the people I used to role-play with left the server or the faction, I finished off his story line, with the last of his friends carrying a dull, bureaucratic note from the Argent Crusade to his father notating his son's death and returning his arms and armor.

Ever since then, I've felt like I was wearing a dead man's skin. His story was done and over, and yet, I still wore on, continuing his existence, and it really felt weird and wrong. I wanted to change, but I didn't want to say good-bye to Joachim. He was like an old friend. A flawed, weak man who had failed to live up to the challenges of his life, but a friend never-the-less, and I would miss him.

So I tarried, I lingered, I prolonged the inevitable, and as I sat in front of the computer on Tuesday, after dinner, waiting for the servers to come back up, I thought, this was the moment I was waiting for.

We were done with raiding for the rest of the expansion, there was little left for me to do, and if I was going to pull the trigger on Joachim, this was the moment. So I logged into Battle.Net and commissioned a race change.

The process was thankfully brief and painless. When I logged in, I quickly began to switch race, gender, appearances until I settled on something I liked - a Female Draenei - and after typing in a new name, my finger paused for a second before clicking that "Accept" button and then it was done.

When I logged, it was into a new skin, a blank canvas, it felt like I had finally said good-bye to someone that I'd kept on for too long. It was past time.

Rest easy, buddy. I'm sure you and your pony will be happy in whatever Elysian Fields paladins with stained souls find at the end of that long, dark tunnel.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Ashenvale

Monday night, I logged in to game and reset the hearths for all of my characters, I took a stroll around Stormwind, killing Elementals as I went, and then I paused, thinking about all the places in the game world I'd spent time in. What was the one place I wanted to ride through, one last time?

Even though my Paladin is my main and will always be my favorite character to play, he wasn't my first. I barely remember the leveling process through Vanilla and TBC. I have fond memories of the leveling process in Wrath due to my leveling partner and all of the RP that came out of it, but that wasn't at stake here.

What was at stake here was the old world.

And I remember my first two attempts at leveling, they were confused, uncertain, fitful things. First a mage, then a warrior, both of which were left in the mid forties over some unquantifiable misgiving and so I rerolled for the third time, a Night Elf druid, and I began to level, with a bit more certainty and confidence.

Now that I knew how the game worked, I was able to focus on the lore, the stories, the environment. In my head, a story began to write itself about who this guy was, the world he came from, the confusion of waking up into a world so changed from the world he went to sleep in so long ago.

Teldrassil and Darkshore were fine and entertaining, but his story really hit me when I came to Ashenvale. It is likely the most Night Elfish of all the zones in the games, purely executed, and though it comes across like a bit of a new-age crystal shop at times, I can indulge myself and enjoy the music and lighting and the purple colors. I remember leveling as Feral and prowling through the misty glens and hiding in leafy bushes, running solo as I went, and the place carved a little space for itself in my heart.

There was a quest in Ashenvale, long gone now, I'm sure, and at the culmination of the quest, you were given a vial that would grant three seconds of invulnerability so you could defeat some elite boss, but I thought the vial was so amazing that I couldn't use it for a simple quest, so I saved it and saved it and saved it.

I remember when I began raiding, tanking the Prince in Kara, when I wanted to take the potion to save a wipe but I never did. I went on to Gruul, Magtheridon, Zul'Aman, pieces of the next tier, but never used the potion. It stayed in my bags.

It was like a piece of Ashenvale that I never got rid of, that stayed with me.

So, on Monday night, I rode from one end to the other, back and forth, over and over, until finally I sighed, bid farewell to the purple glen and hearthed for the last time.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Near The End

If patch 4.0.3a (or as it likes to call itself, THE SHATTERING ) winds up hitting on Tuesday, it'll be the death-knell for Wrath Raiding, I think.

And I can't wait.

20% reduced XP in Northrend will let me get my Warlock and Warrior up to 80 before December 7th, hopefully, and that will leave me standing with a total of six level capped characters with most professions covered. The problem being that with Cata, crafts at least need to get near the level cap to learn the final professions but that's okay. My main professions of Enchanting and Jewelcrafting are on Joachim anyway, so he'll get there, but I need to level up my mage for the Alchemy and Tailoring, my druid for Leatherworking, my DK for the Blacksmithing and 2nd Alchemy, and my Warlock still needs to train Engineering and Inscription from scratch.

Looks like I'll be leveling a lot of alts when I'm not grinding out Heroics for points and gear. But I'm excited for the new zones and the new quests and new dungeons and hopefully I don't need to do every fucking quest in every zone to get to 85 so I can get up there while questing without doing a lot of repeated stuff.

I've also started working out a raid plan for Cataclysm. With the two medium-length raids to tackle and the one short raid, I think we'll focus on Blackwing Descent first and then Bastion of Twilight. I'm happy to leave Throne of the Four Winds to the side for a bit until we gear up a bit in raids as that raid seems to have some steep DPS requirements and gear can only help.

In terms of end-bosses, I think we'll be doing Nefarian, then Cho'gal, then Al'Akir, with Lady Sineastra coming late in the gearing process, I think.

For a while, I was thinking about swapping over to DPS as my main spec in Cata but honestly, I'm absolutely loving the Protection Paladin tree and playstyle right now, and after an hour and a half of working on and downing Heroic Sindragosa last night, I have absolutely new-found respect for the Paladin tool-kit.

Between Word of Glory, Hand of Freedom, Hand of Salvation to make taunts trivial, macroed Divine Shield to drop debuffs, glyphed Divine Protection to provide 40% damage reduction from magic, Ardent Defender anytime I dip below 50%, Avenger's Shield with a Focus glyph, a 2 minute Avenging Wrath, and the massive crit-scale of both Shield of Righteousness (I was getting 50k crits on H:Sindi, I've hit 90k crits on H:Festergut) Hammer of Wrath (crits in the 30k+ range) I was keeping myself alive through some crunch moments, able to work through movement impairments so easily that I didn't even miss a closer, while pushing nearly 7k Damage while downing a single-target boss with messy movement heavy mechanics and a fair amount of downtime.

I'm a little worried that we might even be a bit over powered right now, even with the Ardent Defender nerf (I actually like being able to chain DP and AD to give healers a breathing room stretch when they're really busy healing up a raid).

Do I sound a bit giddy? I'm getting pretty excited for Cataclysm. I think it'll be a good time and I'm excited for my guild to come roaring back from the year-long malaise that ICC has plunged us into.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Problem Solved

As might be clear from my posting habits, out little guild is a friendly, cozy little place. Generally speaking, we're a warm, inviting, and very open group that embraces new members and will quickly assimilate people and their quirks and jokes and such into our own group. In the seven-odd months of our existence, those that don't fit in generally slip away quietly and quickly in the midst of the night and I generally don't go chasing after them.

By now, those who're going to stick around, do so, through thick or thin. We've had members stick with us through the really really difficult time from August till now when putting raids together has been absolutely brutal, when teams fluctuated almost weekly, and progress just about crawled to a stand-still. About a month or so ago, we had a tiny infusion of fresh blood and it really pushed us back into gear and we finally started making some progress, especially as 4.0.1 dropped and excitement crept back in.

However, some of this new blood also brought in its own problems.

This member was really informed, knowledgeable, generous with their information, a good player, filled a class need, but... there was a feeling that this person maybe belonged in another guild somewhere. They were obsessed with their position on Recount, being knowledgeable they had very strong opinions about things, and constantly contradicted their own expectations of raiders with their personal behavior.

My problem with this person generally only extended to their behavior in raids and we spoke to this person a couple of times, but here is where our guild structure causes a bit of an issue. Because we're so friendly and the line between officers and members is so thin, when situations for corrections and discipline come up, authority isn't really established outside of raids. It makes having these discussions more difficult, but I took it up as an officer, and I thought I had made myself clear about my expectation of this person's behavior.

It worked for a couple of weeks, but then, last night, it all came screaming back in high-velocity. So much so, that an argument broke out in GChat at one point, and while I was forcefully retaining my impulsive GKick button the person spared me the guilt and GQuit themselves.

Things immediately restored themselves back to normal. I threw a tiny fit in my head about loosing ANOTHER geared, trained raider but the peace of mind that followed their absence was worth the price. The tragic thing is, I liked this person quite a bit, and had it not been for their behavior and epeening, we could have enjoyed a long and healthy relationship.

Ego can be a big thing in games, and I understand it's a rush to be at the top of the heap and it stings to be at the bottom, but:
  1. I don't need you to flash Recount every time you do well
  2. I don't need you to make excuses when you aren't
  3. I don't need you to blame everyone and everything else but yourself when you die
  4. Sometimes, the Healers choose tanks over you and you wind up dying, so deal with it
  5. Dying to mechanics you fail to execute does not mean the mechanic is bugged
  6. You might have been top DPS because you sat on the boss, but the people who actually switched over to the adds saved the fight
  7. Please don't correct me, and then when you're proven wrong, feign acute memory loss
If you're in a raid and find that you're suffering from a feeling of being the Outsider, check the above list and if you do any of the things on it, the problem might be you, not the raid.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Lessons Learned

I really hope Cataclysm changes things for me and I fall back in love with the game because I really enjoy playing Warcraft quite a bit, but things are just not a lot of fun right now.

A lot of it has to do with the boredom of a lack of content, and even the new elemental invasion feels anemic with the quick little questline which was fun the first time, and then the wide-spread elementals which is more of a chore, trying to find a node when it happens to be open.

Some of it has to do with the lack of guild activities (or guild interest in activities) so that when I log in game, there is little of the socializing and commaradarie I crave desperately which I think also ties into the big "people are bored and they aren't playing" thing.

I've just about given up trying to push any progression or agenda at this late point and we're trying to use raid-nights as a chance to keep interest up and just do achievement runs in old raids or whatever people want to knock out. Someone mentioned that one of our problems is that we only Raid and maybe if we expand out to do a BG night or something, we can open up things a bit more and I'm certainly open to such activities.

--

I'm trying to think ahead and see what lessons can be learned from the last six - seven months of raiding and I think the biggest - the biggest - factor in success and failure is a consistent team.

We made amazing progress when the same core people showed up again and again and we really floundered and struggled when we didn't. That's number one. As a small, friendly, casual guild, I can't really use loot or member standing as a motivation to help attendance and so I'm just hopeful that a year of old content is what is causing this hot-and-cold attitude towards raiding and that this is not an endemic issue.

Another was loot. I don't know what to do about loot (see above re: small guild) as we've always been very casual about handing it out and loot is easy to get these days so it's not really a motivator but I have seen people with BiS trinkets or weapons decide to GQuit or stop raiding and that's always a bit of a pinch. I'm willing to chalk this one up to a shrug and move on, as we've been relatively okay regarding walk-outs and our inner core is very strong.

Lastly - progression. I think I need to set higher standards for progression and be more ruthless towards loot farming and extending lockouts to force progression. The last time I really pushed for progression, we got LK down on our second extension. I think there's a lesson to be learned there.

--

But all of this won't be a factor for another long, hard month. Thankfully a holiday takes up part of it, at least. I really, really hope Blizzard doesn't make a mistake like this again - a year between expansions is ridiculous and I for one am just about burned out on the game entirely because of it and I can't afford to quit and come back because I have a guild to sustain.

/waits_for_December

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

The Reason For Lack Of Posts

My drop-off in posting is directly tied to a drop-off to my time in game! Often I log in and then my toon just sits around doing nothing. I've even begun missing raids here and there, and often, I have to take an AFK while the raid continues clearing trash without me.

It's quite shameful and I'm expecting to be fired from my lofty position as a Raid Lead any minute, now.

And there is someone directly responsible. And it's this guy:


My little son! He was born on October 7th and has become a giant distraction from gaming and blogging. This was the little project I referred to a little while ago in a post as to why I might not be posting or playing as much in the near future.

He hasn't figured out what class to roll yet, though based on the insane level of energy, excitement, movement, physical ambition and strength he displays on a regular basis, I'd say he's going for a Fury Warrior. He spends all day in Berserker Stance anyway.

What a betrayal! Doesn't he know his dad plays a Paladin? For shame!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Woah!

So, I was going to write about how awesome it is to raid right now in the buffed post-patch period and how much I'm enjoying raid-tanking as a Paladin right now, but, then, I saw this...

O_o

I was a finalist in the Blizzard 2010 Global Writing Contest!

I came this close to winning the contest! So exciting! Eeeek! I wish I could go to BlizzCon to meet the other writers and staff and stuff. But still - wow, this is the highest scale recognition of my writing so far.

I think it's a sign of some sort... but regardless, I'm so giddy and excited right now.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Relaxin'

It has been a quiet week or two in Warcraft for me. I decided to take a break from heroic Icecrown as I saw signs of burnout imminently flashing orange and red on the anger meter of the HUD that is my brain. Thankfully, my guildies decided to back me up on a side-winding detour into Ulduar to wrap up some achievements.

In addition, we saw a bunch of people get close to their mounts and spent the last night dragging them through the first half of the place picking up achievements and killing Algalon again for titles and the cool Rhonin quest and stuff.

Right now is a good time to do this sort of thing - relax, hang out, kill some bosses, make some money, grab some titles and achivements, earn some mounts... no stress, no fuss, no muss.

--

So, there is a lot of doom and gloom about Protection Paladins in Beta/PTR. Last time I checked, I played a Protection Paladin as my Main character of choice in this game we called World of Warcraft, so I grew concerned!

I downloaded the PTR, copied my main over, saw that I had an option to modify my character and decided to make him a Female Draenei, added an effeminate affectation to the name to make it less manly and jumped in! I spec'd away like crazy, fumed after finding no Glyphs on the Auction House, redid my tool bars, wept at the simple joy of pressing one button to buff an entire raid, fell in love with the high-detail, high-frame-count animation of my Draenei avatar, girded my loins, and queued up for a random.

As my feet landed in Utgarde Pinnacle, I immediately warned my cohorts that this was my first run on the PTR and to give me a bit of time with pulls to generate threat, and to please let me know if my threat was an issue. And then I proceeded to face-pull like a gibbering rabid warthog and finished the place with no deaths in about 12 minutes flat. No one pulled off of me at any point that I could see.

Without access to Inquisition, on AoE pulls I was more or less using:
  • Avenger's Shield
  • Holy Wrath
  • Consecrate
  • Hammer of the Righteous
  • And I was tab-spreading Judgments around willy-nilley
On bosses I was using:
  • Avenger's Shield
  • Crusader Strike
  • Shield of the Righteous (at 2 to 3 - I didn't pay too close attention to Holy Power, honestly)
  • Judgment
  • Holy Wrath
  • Consecrate
The only time I felt like I was in trouble was when I pulled 3 groups at the same time and my health dropped significantly, when I bubbled with DP (I keep forgetting its a very short term cool down now, so I can use it way more often).

With how fast trash died, I don't think I ever really had Vengeance scale up and bosses were dying pretty fast too so I didn't see really big numbers from my attacks at any point but I held threat fine. Also, getting up to 60k in heroics from just priest, druid and self-buffs was kinda sexy. I only had time for one run last night but it was enough to give me a lot of confidence and faith that when the patch drops, we'll be just fine.

Also, I might race-and-gender-change Joachim if I get too used to my tail-wagging friend on the PTR. That'd be something. O_o

--

Anyway. I'll be away from game (and possibly the blog) for a few days. Due to a real life thing happening tomorrow...

/mysterious_omen!

Monday, October 4, 2010

Well, that was unexpected

What a great night. Amazing guildies and friends gathered together to helping knock this out tonight. That's one thing marked off my to-do list!


Thank you, guys. :-) I owe you guys a song.

No Time

Just when I'm so close to wrapping up a bunch of stuff in game, is when work and personal life are piling up to make it impossible for me to even log into game.

Aargh.

But even now that the official date for Cata has been pushed to Dec. 7, I don't know that all this content will sit around and wait for me to finish it. So... before Deathwing devours us all, I need to finish up at least the following on my Paladin:
  • Get at least 35 Exalted reps (and finish up the Z'G grind - only need 2 more solo clears!)
  • Start working towards 3,000 quests done so I can pick up that title
  • Start collecting more Heroic Kills for that title
  • Finish up Glory of the Raider (10)
  • Finish up Glory of the Ulduar Raider (10)
  • Finish up Glory of the Icecrown Raider (10)
That list could be achieved in one week if I did nothing but just sit down and play for a week!

But lately, I'm lucky to be able to get on twice a week to raid... I was hoping to hit Cata with more than 100k gold, but I'm sitting on just 54k and I doubt I'll be able to double that in a couple of months. Bah. My virtual life is slowing down!

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Sexism and Racism in my Warcraft

Every time I turn around lately, I seem to be running into stereotypes about Warcraft that I would love to deny but I just can't. Warcraft players are immature, racist, homophobic, sexist, misogynists and I want to say, no. My guild isn't. My friends aren't.

Maybe we're a subset, because goddamn, the rest of the community is an exercise in depression.

There are guilds out there that reject you as a raider if you're a woman (read their application requirements). Which. I don't know. The name and the aggressively anti-gender attitude is upsetting but whatever. Their loss. I'd certainly never apply or play with them.

We're so used to terms like "rape" and "fag" being used in PvP and Raiding environments that we just accept them now and create a hostile environment for people who're hurt by them.

When I see people writing feminist blogs about Warcraft and the issues at hand, when I see other blog entries grappling with the impact that casual use of worlds like rape - which, by the way, in a word, promises horrific and very specific violence against a particular gender - I don't understand why the rest of the Warcraft community doesn't want to stand up and say, "Fuck this, I'm not going to tolerate someone using these terms in my guild, in my raid, in my presence, period."

And the thing is, if that happens in my raid, I can step up and tell that person to shut up and if they contest me on it, I will kick them. Hell, before I do a thing, my Guild Leader who's an amazing feminist woman herself, will probably have that person on their ass outside the instance portal.

We won't tolerate homophobia, or sexism, or misogyny in our raids, not because we play with a lot of women, and not because we have people of all sexualities in our raids, but because it's just fucking wrong.

Guild raids are a controlled environment, I'm in a raid with my guildies, and my friends, and they'll back me up. Things are different when you PuG. If I'm in a PuG where I see a lot of this happening, I will drop and go find a non hostile environment. But a few weeks ago, I ran into a different kind of environment and my reaction there was really unexpected.

Halfway through an ICC 25, someone began to sing a Skinhead songs. If you're interested, it was the words to a song called, "The White Man Marches On" that this person wanted to share with us. Look them up.

I felt a sinking feeling in my stomach and no matter how much I want to say now that I pressed that push to talk and said, "Kick him or I'll drop," I sat there petrified instead. A second of stunned silence passed and then Vent broke up with scattered giggles, a few people moaned that "now some bleeding hearts will drop raid" and then the Raid Lead chuckled, and said, "Someone is griefing us, let's just keep going."

And they went on with jokes that were maybe less overt but no less hurtful.

Now, I've been gaybashed in the real world, I've been racially attacked, never physically, but I've had someone walk up to me and a friend of mine and threatened to fuck us fags up if they ever saw us on campus again just because they thought we were gay. Right after 9/11 my family faced a fair amount of discrimination in small upstate-NY towns. My Caucasian wife of six years is frequently assumed to be alone when we're out together.

This sort of experience - vocal violence, aggressive discrimination, casual but unintentional racism - is not something new to me. I felt like I knew how to handle myself in these circumstances, in these situations, but in that raid, I didn't.

I shut down. I didn't say anything. It was just so bleak and depressing. Nobody else said anything about it other than to build on it without being quite so outrageous. I don't know why it bugged me so much, or the way it affected me, but really, I felt even more emasculated that I didn't do or say anything, so I stood there for a bit while they kept pulling trash, and then I just dropped raid and logged out.

Maybe it was the level of violence that the song was promising. Maybe it was something about the casual way in which twenty-four other people took this threat. I don't know.

This doesn't take a lot of effort to work out. Language has power, it affects us in profound ways, and if you don't stand up for your friends and colleagues, then you're letting these insensitive people victimize them.

I don't want to see this sort of sexist and racist and homophobic behavior continue. I don't know that I can really make a difference other than to control the limited environment in which I have influence, but Goddamnit, I'm sick of the casual way these words are used. When words become a casual part of speech and language, they become acceptable, and the person hearing those words is forced to accept them as part of a chain of abuse.

These things are not casual. They never were.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Greatness

Last week's raid was disastrously under-attended but this week we had a full guild run with a couple of folks who came out of the shadows to lend a hand and we cleanly knocked out 8 hard modes and the Full House achievement on Lady Deathwhisper after one false start.

Took just over 3 hours and every boss was a one-shot except for Lady Deathwhisper (took one wipe to figure out how to taunt swap the boss), Blood Princes (tweaked our strategy to go for 2 tanks instead of 3 and it worked just fine, three wipes later, when I stopped exploding the healers or pulling an extra boss) and Dream Walker Valethria (where one of our healers had a misstep but the kill came on the second pull and was super, super clean.)

I think these nine bosses are easy mode at this point. Of course, I'm nervous and excited about Thursday - will everyone show up again? With this team, even with the inexperience and the slightly lower gear-curve, I'm confident we can knock out the last two bosses standing in our way. I've been giving a lot of thought on how to kill Sindragosa and Putricide on Heroic, and I have what seem to be solid strats in mind based on the way other folks have done them.

If Thursday doesn't pan out, I might just extend the lockout since I'm really bored of even the hard-mode bosses and while I enjoy watching guildies get tier tokens, I also want progression at this point, and we've proven our prowess with the nine bosses already. We know how to do this shit. Seeing the guild work last night was really gratifying. The folks we've brought in and our veterans are performing at a very high level and our healers and DPS are just off the charts. Absolutely amazing work across the board.

But at this late, late stage of the game, with so many of us within grasp of the final prize, it's time to bring the beacon in. The next two bosses I kill will be Heroic Putricide and Heroic Sindragosa.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Tankadining in Cataclysm

This week was a clusterfuck of scheduling issues and half my raid having RL blow up in their faces. Still killed half the raid on Heroic. Not too terrible. So, I'm going to talk about Cataclysm Paladin Tanking Talents.

I'm feelin' this 3/31/7 build.

Stuff I'm skipping:

Reckoning - same ol' reasoning. More swings might be good for threat, but parry-haste will wind up making us take more damage. No, thanks.

Guarded By The Light - I just hate having to heal myself as a tank. That's not my job. I'll pop Sacred Shield every now and again if I don't have a paladin healer but really, putting up a piddly shield doesn't thrill me when I can use my Holy Power for a Shield of Righteousness/Holy Shield instead.

Eye For An Eye: Magical Attacks only? I'm not the world's biggest fan of reflective damage anyway and this seems like a purely PvP talent an a shitty one at that.

Stuff I'm ambivalent about taking:

Improved Judgment: Ranged attacks? It will be good for trash, but I think I'd rather spend 2 points elsewhere than to pick up something that is useless on most boss fights. Still, I want to get Pursuit of Justice so I guess I have no choice in the matter as Eye For An Eye is even worse.

Divinity: 6% increase to incoming heals? I don't know where the theorycraft hammer will land on this, it could be a lot or it could be a little depending on what healing numbres look like. I dabbled a little bit with the current iteration of this talent before dropping it completely and didn't miss it, but in the current build, I don't know where else I would drop points. More threat in Retribution? I don't know. I feel like I want to focus on survival first and then worry about threat as I need to. This is really big "menh" for me.

Stuff that has left me scratching my head:

Shield of the Righteous and Holy Shield make it seem like you no longer need to maintain Holy Shield - it is instead, a constant source of Block chance every time Shield of the Righteous is used.

So I guess that mean our rotation is starting to look like...
  • Crusader Strike for single targets, Hammer of the Righteous for multiple targets (30% weapon damage = useless for bosses)
  • Judgment (Seal of Truth for bosses due to scale-up time, Seal of Righteousness for multiple target)
  • Avenger's Shield (Procs! Procs! I love procs!)
  • Consecration (with Hallowed Ground, mana cost becomes 17% so while not spamable it can be a longer term part of our spell toolkit depending on the damage output)
  • Shield of the Righteous (at 3 stacks) to proc Holy Shield
In addition we have good old Holy Wrath which is buffed to hit all enemies along with a talent, but I doubt it'll be part of a single-target rotation. I feel like all of this is pushing paladins into AoE territory along with Hammer of the Righteous loosing its target cap.

On an AoE pull (yeah, yeah, I know, no more AoE, we'll see how that goes), you drop a Consecrate, Avenging Wrath, Hammer, Judgment, Shield of the Righteous and go from there and as long as DPS gives you 3 or 4 GCDs I doubt agro would be an issue from there.

I also find it interesting that Shield of the Templar drops the cool-down of Avenging Wrath by a minute so that it can be used up to 3 times in a really tight 5 or 6 minute long fight. Is Blizzard expecting Tankadins to pop wings during fights more often to gain agro leads and then pop it again on CDs as a way of staying ahead of blistering DPS? I hope so, I'm a fan of aggressively pushing my DPS without giving up on my survivability (I can manage ~4.5k on H:BQL now, while our top DPS caps around 21k for that fight). Really looking forward to this.

Compared to our current rotation of Judgment, Hammer of the Righteous, Shield of the Righteous, Consecration and Holy Shield, it's not unfamiliar. If we just had different tools for AoE and single target, it wouldn't feel like much of a change, but the big, big difference are the procs.

Avenger's Shield popping up randomly and Shield of the Righteous crits when you don't have a full bar of Holy Power ready - decisions on the fly! Chaos! Excitement!

*runs around screaming*

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Farming Hardmodes

Last night proved that we're getting our sea-legs with the Hard Modes. Seven bosses killed on Hard Mode including two end-wing bosses, and we only skipped out on doing Princes on Hard Mode because our raid comp wasn't really ideal (we were missing a 3rd tank - tried to range-tank it a couple of times but we kept loosing the Shadow Priest during Keleseth's empowered phase and as raid time was counting down, I just wanted to get another kill off of BQL so we just killed them.)

It wasn't just the fact that we cleared seven hard modes in 3 hours last night but the fact that we one-shot just about every one except for Saurfang (1 wipe) and Rotface (2 wipes, mostly 'cuz I was distracted and mistaunted the boss while Big Ooze ate healers. GG, Saif. Total fail.) After the raid, one of our members said that we just about cleared as much on hard modes last night as we did on normal modes most nights. That was a good point, and had we not wiped as much as we did, I'm sure we could have cleared through DWV as well and I think we're on track for a 9/12 Hard Mode night next Tuesday. /flex!

Of course, that leaves the two nasty buggers still undefeated - Le Bon Professeur still lives on as does Sindi. The two hard modes we haven't mastered yet, and our Thursday night this week is messy due to an unexpected absence from two of our top players which means we're probably going to just clear the remaining bosses on normal mode and maybe pick up achievements for folks that need it.

But last night was a solid, solid performance and being short 1 person, we brought in two undergeared people (an awesome if undergear healer we're wooing and a social guildie who has recently returned after a long beeak) both of whom performed incredibly well so really, we were a tad bit handicapped but pulled off some awesome kills - Saurfang went down with only 2 marks and a minute left on the meter (2 healing this makes it so much easier), Festergut died before he could cast a second Blight (even with 3 healees), BQL was sub-10% going into her second air phase - so that was some really, really solid DPS and performance.

I'm super happy with our progression right now. And to top it all off, Lana'thel was kind enough to give me my first Sanctified token. Maybe she will even relent to my repeated requests for a date next week...

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Writing in a hurry

As some of you might know, Blizzard's annual writing contest was running for the last few weeks/months and as the last couple of years, I planned to submit but this time, I actually made a run of it. I had an idea in mind, and I worked out the general arc and characters, and wrote about 2000 words - roughly the first third of it - a couple of weeks ago and kept mulling the rest of it over and over, thinking I had until the end of the month to wrap it up.

Some providence inspired me to check on the date yesterday morning and I realized with a shock that the submission deadline was in fact last night at midnight.

I spent my lunch break at work desperately churning out another 2000 words to get two-thirds of the way and then work and an after-work engagement kept me busy. I got home around nine, logged into game, ran into Halls of Reflection for inspiration and with the music of that dungeon over my headphones, wrote the rest of it (with some encouragement from a couple of guildies) and then gave it a quick draft and posted it off just before midnight.

I'm pretty pleased with the story, and if I might take a segue from Warcraft for a second, it is the first new short story that I've started and finished in some time. Writing has been a hobby of mine for a while and I've had some minor success with it (a couple of short plays I wrote wound up in a tiny off-broadway production, and a couple of short-stories I wrote wound up in some small-time press magazines) but I've been going through some serious writers block for a bit over a year now and this was a very gratifying way to break through that wall.

After submitting the story and getting a confirmation letter back from Blizzard, I sent the story out to a few friends and it seems to be doing well with them, so I have my fingers crossed.

I'm feeling pretty pumped to continue working on some of my own material and if anything should come of this Blizzard submission, well, I certainly wouldn't mind writing for my favorite game, as you might imagine. :-)

Friday, August 20, 2010

PuG - how to and how not to

I was puttering around on my Forsaken Death Knight yesterday afternoon and as I tend to do while puttering, I left myself in the Raid Browser as Tank/DPS on the unlikely chance that someone might need me.

You see, with my raiding and guild obligations Alliance side, I don't really want to commit to a Horde guild as I will always put my Alliance guild and toons first, so I don't think it's fair for me to join a guild with an alt. I can see it working out if I can find a raiding guild that does weekend work only or something, and while I don't mind PuGing - it can lead to fun and excitement and meeting great people - in the end of the day, I play this game to raid with friends.

So anyway, I was herbing away when I get a whisper - "Tank for ICC 10? Marrowgar is down." I do my usual Litmus Test - pop the person's name into Wow-head and peruse their gear/raid stats, and he'd done 8 or 9 bosses in ICC a few times, so I figure he is a professional PuGer. I accept his invite, zone in, click "Accept" when I'm asked to enter into the lockout and am sealed to this raid.

Happily I put on my tank gear, take my flask, eat my food, log into Vent, and start jumping up and down, ready to pull. That's when I realize with slow dawning horror that this will not be productive. That I have, in fact, thrown away my raid lockout for nothing. For one, my co-tank with massively better gear than me but in the same spec as me is doing far less damage than I am. The Raid Lead isn't leading so much as telling people when to pull. The DPS is non-existent and there are two healers, one of whom drops raid after one pull of the boss that lasts seven minutes to get to phase 2 at which point I explode the second I stop chaining cool downs.

Mind bogglingly, the raid leader then says he has time for one more pull and I just about have to induce a stroke in myself to keep from punching that press to talk key and screaming, "What the fuck?"

Disgusting.

Later in the night, my normal Alliance raid was short three people due to massive log-in issues that plagued my entire Battlegroup and I wound up PuGing and did a mixed bag of Heroic and Normal mode kills. I actually wound up with a couple of upgrades that I had been looking for, for a long time. And as usual, after we had killed 9 bosses in 2 hours at the end of the night, the PuGers whispered me kindly, asking me if we were looking for recruits.

Why can't I PuG for my guild's counterparts Horde side? Anyone on Moon Guard need a part-time Tank/DPS DK? I swear I don't suck.

On top of that, some roster issues are starting to nag on me, wherein I've had our Shadow Priest sub-healing hard modes for our Resto-Shaman who's on a sabbatical and he's getting antsy to get back to his normal spec and is tired of keeping up two gear sets, so I've sent an e-mail off to the Shammy to see what her status is.

Little, minor issues like these are starting to pile up. I might need an officer meeting soon to sort this shit out!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Leveling Whine

So, I've got four max-level characters right now, 3 of them are Alliance side, and 1 Horde side. I also have two characters ~71 that I'm trying to cap before Cataclysm.

My problem is that I'm mostly burned out on the questlines in Northrend and as I'm leveling a Warlock and the Warrior as Arms, it's pretty hard to get queues in any reasonable amount of amount, and BG Experience isn't exactly great.

So I'm stuck with two characters who're staring at a long, long grind, and when Ghostcrawler says Cataclysm will bring a much-needed reduction in XP to get from 70 - 80, I'm wondering if I should just park them here and wait for the nerf.

But here's my issue - I need to level my warrior to 80 just so I have coverage for a couple of professions for my main. He's my miner/skinner and I have a Jewelcrafter and a Leatherworker, both of whom are difficult and expensive to level up with the gathering component. I already have a level-cap'd Alchemist, Tailor, Jewelcrafter, Enchanter, Leatherworker, and Herbalist so some of those are covered but I'd love to get my Jewelcrafting leveling quickly and make some money from some good cuts early on.

And to do that, I'll need to level my warrior through Northrend before the nerf. And I am just not up to that grind.

Monday, August 16, 2010

My guild and 24 Hour Maintainance

I feel like we just can't build momentum. We have an awesome week and suddenly, poof, one raid day down the drain due to circumstances beyond our control and the week after this one, college starts rolling and we're going to loose a couple of folks to moving, scheduling, etc.

It would be nice to just build off the momentum of one week and keep rolling into another week of content. But, ah, well. Worst case, we'll just do a normal full-clear and maybe get another LK kill and achievement out of the way.

With summer taking its last few breaths and Autumn about to rear its head again (and I for one am about to have a profoundly busy and complicated autumn, but I'll write about that later...) I'm looking forward, looking at our stable of raiders and socials and hoping we have enough backup to keep raiding through the slump and hit Cataclysm with more folks than we need.

We are in good shape right now, but I'm a pretty profound Negative Nancy and always hedging my bets. That said, I'm super-excited to log in as Cataclysm drops, form epic 5-mans and hit the new dungeons with my guildies. :-)

This Friday is the 5-month anniversary of our guild being created. It's shocking to me how much we've achieved in such a short amount of time, especially with the amount of recruiting we've had to do, the number of raid weeks we've had to pug as much as half a raid, and people we've geared up and taught all the fights to only to have them vanish in the middle of the night or burn out... and here we are, 9/12 hard-modes with only 6 hours of raids a week, and sometimes even less than that.

I'm looking forward to hitting the 6-month mark! An achievement for most raiding guilds!

Speaking of awesome guild, one of our members who's a drummer in a small metal band composed a brutal song about our guild killing the Lich King (I'll link to it once he uploads it somewhere public) which has inspired me to write something as well! We'll see what comes out of it.

I'll say it again - forming this guild saved WoW for me. Nothing compares to doing what I love best with some of my best in-world friends and zero drama.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Heroic Blood Wing Finished

The Blood Prince Council went down very calmly and quietly last night without a lot of fuss. Of course, after going over the fight, I pulled without switching to Heroic mode and our rogue began to panic-flail in /raid "NOT HEROIC! WIPE! WIPE!"and the panic spread as if we might not be able to wipe somehow!

Needless to say, we didn't not wipe. Which is to say, we did wipe. And came back, switched Heroic on and killed them very neatly, with the brief strategy I outlined earlier - the enrage timer is not an issue on this fight, just juggle the Kinetic Bombs, stay spread out for Empowered Shockwave, kite the Empowered Flame-Orbs and make sure the person getting hit has some kind of magical absorption (we tried to make sure they had Sacred Shield and a bubble from our Discipline priest, and if they were in range of our paladins, a Hand of Sacrifice as well.) If our Kelleseth tank had to move during his active phase to collect more orbs, we just had our rogue sit tight rather than have her run around to minimize the damage from Shadow Prison.

That's pretty much it. The fight takes a while (our kill was ~7 minutes) but it's just about whittling them down with steady control. Huge props to our healers on making it a two-shot. It's funny, how easy it is to muddle through this fight on normal mode but hard mode requires you to pay attention to every individual factor.

Afterward we killed Heroic Blood Queen again very cleanly, except for the part where I ran in to my bite target before the Blood Bolts were out and, yeah, you can imagine how that ended. Me with my face on the floor. But she died and our lovely guild leader got her tier piece.

We spent the rest of the night with Le Bon Professeur and man, that Unbound Plague is a horror. I think we might just spend a whole week on him to get him wrapped up. I don't think Sindragosa will be as difficult, to be honest, it's her massive health pool that intimidates me. Just before end-of-raid time, we switched to normal and knocked out the achievement very easily (Nausea, Heartburn, Indigestion...) so that was nice.

Anyway. I'm super-happy with a new boss down, and we're down to Putricide and Sindragosa before our drakes. Well, and a couple of more achievements (Full House, All You Can Eat, and Been Waiting A Long Time For This) but I'm not too worried about that.

I'm pretty excited. It'll be good to wrap up this project and move on whatever we want to do next. :-)

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

H:ICC 10-man Progression

So, after a week long break from Heroic ICC we went back in last night, and it went a lot better than I was expecting.

I've written about the lower tier of bosses before but since we've seen most bosses on heroic now, I think I have a better gauge of the difficulty level. Last night, in about 3 hours we were able to clear 5 heroic modes and worked on 2, and gave up on 1 just to keep going.

Anyway - if I were going fresh into ICC, here are the bosses I'd tackle on Heroic in order. Each list goes from easiest to hardest in its block.

EASY: First time in, I'd focus on these five, though I could skip Marrowgar, he can be a bit finicky until you learn the rhythm of the fight and H:BQL is a moderate DPS gear check but really shouldn't be an issue at this point. These are bosses most groups can consistently kill every week, I think.
  • Gunship (What is this. I don't even.)
  • Rotface (3 healers make this easy, ranged stay at, uh, range, and avoid the puddles.)
  • Festergut (If 5 of your DPS can beat the enrage timer, 3 healing this makes it very easy.)
  • Marrowgar (3 heal this and coordinate the Bone Storm park locations on tanks, everyone else stack in the middle and kill spikes.)
  • Blood Queen Lanethil (Just a very strict DPS gear check. Tanks will take increasing damage as you make more vampires, otherwise it's the exact same fight.)
MEDIUM: These can take work, especially Deathwhisper - she has a number of new abilities on heroic, and Phase 2 can be challenging if you don't have any rogues or hunters. They are rewarding fights, though, and worth the glory of the kill.
  • Dreamwalker Valethria (Remind the healers to heal themselves while they collect stacks, tank the blistering zombies, and if you can, solo tank and go with 4 healers to make it go super fast. Tanking this is fun. And will give you an ulcer.)
  • Blood Princes (This is a stupidly long fight just because your ranged will spend all their time juggling kinetic bombs who drop very fast and take a lot of focus to stay juggled. 3 ranged make this a lot less complicated, and 3 healers give you breathing room, 3 tanks will also make this less stressful which leaves you.... one DPS killing the bosses full time. Better geared teams might be able to get away with 2 healing this. Shadow Prison is a bitch. Just make sure people stay spread out for Empowered Shock Wave, that bombs get juggled, that targets of Empowered Flame Orbs get absorption shields and kite the orbs, and you should be fine.)
  • Lady Deathwhisper (lots of new mechanics make this challenging - phase 1 more or less the same, just kill the Adherents first their bubbles are stupidly powerful. Taunt immunity and Mark of Insignificance make phase 2 very interesting with incoming adds, actually dangerous ghost explosions and Mind Controls. Having two rogues (or two hunters, or a rogue and a hunter...) makes the threat thing a non-issue. Make sure DPS sit on their hands, use their own threat-drops, and get Hands of Salvation from paladins. Fun fight!)
  • Deathbringer Saurfang (2 heal this if your DPS is good enough to kill him before he gets 3 marks out, otherwise use 3. Paladins are OP healers on this fight. Add-kiting and killing is actually challenging if you don't get slows/stuns on them. I am thinking of swapping my spec around for this fight just so I can guarantee stuns on every add-wave.)
HARD: Bosses we haven't killed yet just because they're actually tough with new mechanical differences or just severe gear-checks.
  • Professor Putricide (the two-add transition is not that bad, but juggling the unbound plague is what makes this hard.)
  • Sindragosa (haven't spent any time on this yet, and while the exploding unchained magic looks like it's challenging, the real threat on this fight will be her massive health pool and whittling it down before her enrage while coordinating phase 3 and the unchained magic.)
Really Hard: Bosses I don't think are going to be within our grasp yet due to gear.
  • Lich King (I don't know if our 10-man geared guild can kill LK yet - I see one guild in strict and small handful on casual progression having pulled it off worldwide, and our last buff to ICC comes in a couple of weeks so we'll see what happens then, but I'm not holding my breath. The super-strict comp (which we can actually meet!) and gear requirement makes me doubtful we'll get this but I do want to spend some time on him.)
So, that's all of ICC Heroic in order of difficulty in my experience. I think we're on track for wrapping up Glory of the Icecrown Raider sometime this month, unless I'm vastly underestimating the amount of time we'll need to spend on Sindragosa.

Here's hoping I'm right for once!

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Halion

Since this was going to be an off-week anyway, we went in on Tuesday to wrap up Halion - we had pretty much ignored him since his loot table sucks donkey balls. But people wanted the achievement and the one night we spent kind of swiping on him a few weeks ago got us kinda close a few times, I figured we could wrap it up.

So, with a couple of PuGs due to the low population week, we went ahead and pulled the mini-bosses who are pretty silly, and then worked on Halion.

Initially, I tried moving him in the Shadow zone, then moving at a 90 degree angle to the beams, then only moving when the cutters were active, then back to the other thing and after 3 or 4 tries I was getting an understanding of the movement but I wasn't exactly getting it nailed down.

That's when one of our PuGs mentioned that her guild pretty much just keeps the leading orb to the tank's left shoulder and has the rest of the raid in the open space to the right of the tank and that worked just brilliantly! We wiped once or twice again as people kept dying due to tunnel-vision but then, I think the fifth or sixth pull was the magic one, and down he went with great ease.

One thing to keep in mind when moving him this was is that a linear strafe won't work since you've got the Dragon in the middle of the room and are spinning him in a circle so you need to do a shuffle-strafe - move diagonally and up as well, I found it easier just to use my mouse to move. A shuffle/strafe would probably work but just manual movement worked fine for me.

I didn't try to toggle /walk either as some people did when they were tanking Grobbulus for example - I prefer to have my burst of speed and stop short at hand instead of crippling my movement. But your mileage may vary on that.

The only complication, I think, was balancing the damage in phase 3, and that was easy enough, whenever a second shift occurred, I had our Boomkin jump into the Shadow Zone to help bring him back down to zero.

At two shifts, I did have to start chaining CDs and at one point, I had to ask for healer CDs as well, and a single healer can easily keep the Fire zone up without a problem even with a 50/50 split. That leaves two heals to stay in Shadow Zone and they seem necessary just to cover the increased tank damage from the Twilight Radiance bullshit and also since he will very likely shift into shadow and do increased damage there since there are 3 DPS in fire and only 2 Shadow.

Once he was sub-10% I just had the boomskin stay in Shadow and as he started to shift into fire where our DK tank was easily able to chain his CDs until kill.

Not a bad fight, and interesting enough that I wouldn't mind killing him regularly if his loot-table wasn't so crappy. Ah, well.

Friday, July 30, 2010

A bit of a break

Idunno what's going on with things lately. We can breeze through ICC 10 with our eyes closed at this point but hard modes outside the basic ones just seem impossible lately. I don't know what's up - either motivation, or boredom, or burnout... I don't know what it is. I made a little speech in raid last night before swapping over to normal modes and a couple of people have talked to me about things... but I don't know what else to say or do about it.

Next week is vacation week for me (I'll be at GenCon!), so we decided next week will be a Ruby Sanctum night on Tuesday and then the guild is free to do what they wish with their ICC 10 lockout the rest of the week.

But I've set a hard expectation that I want to get to 10 to 11 Hard Modes a week by the end of August and work on Hard Mode Lich King throughout September. I'm really hoping the 11 day break from ICC will let people come back in with fresh minds, fresh perspectives and we'll make some real progress again because, as I said last night, I have zero - zero - interest in farming easy bosses.

Once we swapped to normal mode, all the other bosses went down very smooth and easy. At least we got a few more people caught up on the BQ achievement.

Ugh, ugh, ugh.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Tanking Woes

Sometimes I forget just how lucky I am to have such awesome tanks to work with as I do. There are three of us who have been tanking together since, oh, September last year or so, and we've grown used to each other and kind of communicate in short hand at this point. Any two of us in any combination can tank very efficiently and pick up new mechanics very quickly because we just have an innate trust with each other.

For the first time in ages, the other two were both absent last night and I had an initiate level member who'd expressed interest in tanking before step up to tank with me, and, it was a mess. I take most of the blame here, because I wasn't communicating as much to him as I needed.

Tanking partnerships take a lot of experience and a lot of working together and a lot of trust to be earned between both tanks. I felt like I was tanking alone, and I'm sure he felt the same way, and we kept stepping on each others toes and when the tanking is off, the rest of the raid is thrown off balance.

I think tanking is an invisible art - when done well, really well, it should be like the tanks are doing nothing at all and the DPS and healers can do their job without thinking about the tanks. That's the way we are generally, we put out enough threat that generally our DPS don't have to throttle themselves. We pull aggressively but keep things under control so things move on at a steady pace. It's an ebb-and-flow of pulls that takes a lot of effort to learn correctly and last night, there was none of that smooth flow and instead, it was like white water rafting and the DPS suffered terribly for it.

The one good thing to come out of last night's disaster is that my appreciation for my co-tanks has shot up ten fold. Because that relationship and trust we have is worth more than any amount of gear of experience another tank brings.

Let's hope Thursday is a bit better.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Fucking Yogg

Last night was an off-night. We don't normally raid on Wednesdays but when I put up an Ulduar hard modes raid on the calendar as a break from ICC just to mess around in, a lot of people signed up so we actually wound up raiding Ulda last night.

As I mentioned earlier, a number of us are one achievement short of the Rusted Proto-Drakes (One Light In The Dark) and we've started this journey no less than four times now.

--

1. Back in Tier 9, we went in and got up to the General. We had all the hard modes done up until Yogg when ICC landed on us with a thud. We promptly began to ignore all other content and focused on ICC.

2. Fast forward a month or so, a few folks we'd done all those Ulda achievements have moved on, and there are 5 of us short 1 achievement, and just before I headed off to horde side and the dissolution of the guild, we spent a couple of nights in Ulda with a team where half of us had One Light remaining and everyone else was virgin.

In two nights we cleared up to Yogg again doing every hard mode along the way to catch up the other 5 folks and then spent one night on Yogg and just could not get it done. I blame that night to a lot of our melee playing off-spec from heals or tanks and just not having the DPS to get Brain Room done, and for the second time, we stopped short, I went Horde, and I thought that would be it.

3. Nope. I come back, people start talking about drakes again, and now we have 7 people in the guild with all but Yogg left, so, on some off-night, we went back in with three NEW folks who needed the achievements and, yep, we get to Yogg and it's almost midnight, and we call it. Never to go back.

So, last night. We have a team of the 7 original people, plus three who're somewhere along the way but I decided I wasn't going to get all the achievements again. We're going to powerclear our way to Yogg.

4. So, it's raid time, I have my team, we start pulling, we get to the Keepers, and on a whim, we one-shot every keeper on hard-mode including fucking Firefighter. We get to Yogg with an hour and change left on the raid.

And our rogue starts getting connection issues. One of our DKs has his mouse die. And I'm sitting there with my face beating on a wall. We finally pull and the team is shaking off the phase 1 rust, we wipe twice and then consistently make it to phase 2. Great.

As usual, surface team is moving as a unit, we're keeping tentacles clear, but brain room just can't get it together once again. We keep loosing people in brain-room and the one time we get everyone into brain room and they power clear up to the brain in a few seconds, the rogue disconnects, comes back in insane, and starts one-shotting healers.

I called it at that point.

--

A few things that make this really annoying:
  1. I'm just tired of this whole thing. If I had finished my achievement, I'd be okay with taking people through it again, but as it is, I'm sick, sick, of doing Ulda hardmodes only to wipe and fail on Yogg. And the sad part is, I love Ulduar. It's my favorite raid of this expansion.
  2. Yogg isn't that hard. The brain room isn't that hard. Since nobody else wants to tank Phase 1, I wind up tanking it every time so I can't take someone's spot in the brain room (when you want to do something right...)
  3. The fact that I'm considering giving up our ICC heroic modes tonight just to wrap up Yogg since we can just go in and do him directly tells me just how much of an albatross this is around my neck.
  4. Because this has happened so many times, at this point, when we get to Yogg, my brain just becomes this cesspool of pessimism that refuses to acknowledge that things will go well, that we can succeed, so while I still play my best, my attitude is total shit and I'm sure that's infectious.
There are, I think, 7 or 8 of us who'll finish the meta if we kill Yogg. I think at this point, with the sour taste in my mouth from last night, I know just how badly I need to get this shit done.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

My Cup Runneth Over

Heroic Blood Princes slapped us around for an hour and a half last night, but near the end, I think we had figured out what we needed to do and the last wipe was at 35% so it's getting there.

Once we knock it out on Thursday, this fight will put us at 9/12 and with only the 3 hardest bosses left, I can relax a little and work on them, one at a time. Putricide next, I think, he's a lot more manageable as Sindragosa seems to press people's panic button a lot. The extra Plague and the twin-add transitions are pretty fun, and I enjoy that fight.

Mostly because I get to become an Abomination and ignore all that complicated plague-juggling business!

But anyway. Heroic Icecrown continues to dwindle, gear flows like wine, and having OPTIONS in building a raid team is a great thing. I had 11 people to choose from last night and when I sat someone they didn't /flipout or anything, so that was awesome. If I continue to get more than 10 folks every week, maybe I'll even start confirming people.

Oh, blessed, blessed raid attendance. The last few weeks have been so good, I'm kind of afraid of having to PuG ever again. But on the flip side, it's kind of weird to have almost nobody on when we're not raiding. It's a bit of a ghost-town on non-raid nights. But I'm pretty okay with that, as long as people log in to raid, and have interest and are not burning out, I'm happy to only see them for raids and let them enjoy the summer and time off and all that.

All that time will go away once Cataclysm hits.

Speaking of Cataclysm, a new beta-build went in yesterday with all the big Paladin changes, so I'm off to do some data-mining and reading...

Friday, July 16, 2010

Thinking About Cataclysm

Man, dog days of summer indeed. I had 4 people absent this week, and wound up recruiting three new recruits, all of whom have been awesome. I'm a little worried about having maybe one or two too many people, but I'd rather have choice than be short and have to PuG.

Even with 4 subs, we still managed to get 11/12 in one night and taught Lich King to the 3 new recruits. So, not a bad week of raiding at all. Since Malygos was the weekly and I realized we'd never actually done You Don't Have An Eternity, we decided to knock that out and called it a week. I've also been kind of burning out on ICC so next week I set up Ulda 10 hard modes for an off night, let's see how many folks show up for that. Maybe we can wrap up our Rusted Protodrakes achievement (One Light In The Dark!) and get a few more folks the Starcaller title from Algalon, maybe.

I've also been thinking of promoting someone in the guild up to Officer status to help us out - he's one of our most reliable and knowledgeable people and he loves the game passionately, and I have a lot of trust for him. Will need to talk to our GM and pitch her the idea before speaking with him.

Anyway. Moving on.

With Cataclysm coming up, I've been encouraging folks to figure out what they want to level first and what role they want to play at 85. Because I know I've been thinking of switching to Retribution full time. That would be a HUGE change for me. I've always tanked but the last few months of play have been interesting in that they make me appreciate the game from a different side (DPS) and I've been enjoying it tremendously.

I'm not 100% sold on the idea, but it is something I'm considering seriously. I think it'd be a lot of fun.

But the thing is... I said almost the exact same thing regarding my main at the end of TBC. I thought my Bear Druid would be my main and tank as main spec in WotLK but I just fell in love with my Paladin after 3.0 hit live and completely switched over to him.

As it is, these are my alts ranked in scale of interest I have for playing them:
  1. Death Knight for Frost DPS - based on the new talent trees released, they look to be in a really interesting place and with their ultra-fast locked GCD style of play, could be a lot of fun
  2. Druid who mostly heals as a Tree now, and with the promised changes, might become an even more OP healer
  3. My 72ish Warlock is just a joy in PvP and in PvE as Affliction and I love the aesthetic of the class, plus, it'll give me a chance to race change her to Worgen and be a foxy warlock
  4. There is my mage at 80 who mostly serves to make me flasks and stuff, but he was my first character in WoW and maybe I could swap to him in Cata as we don't have any mages in our guild right now
  5. And finally, I *could* just finish leveling my 65 Warrior if I wanted to go Fury and top meters all day long
And so, my poor Paladin with close to 6k Achievement points and my most progressed character is competing for attention against all these classes.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Fret Fret Fret

Tonight is the start of a new raid lockout, and it marks our first night back in after The Golden Week. I'm a bit nervous and am hesitant about attendance and expectations, but we'll see how it goes.

I'm walking in with open arms and closed eyes. I am a leaf on the winds of chance. Let me land where the wind wills.

Or something. Ideally, I want to make the fucking Blood Princes eat it hot-like and maybe make some progress on Le Bon Professeur on hard mode. Maybe snag an achievement off of Sindragosa. Too ambitious, you say? Reign in those expectations? Right. Leaf on the fucking wind.

So I'm sitting on an excess of Frost badges. Like. 300 and change. I'm wondering if I should go ahead and sink it all into Retribution or if I should maybe work on getting Shadowsedge.

Now, realistically, I really have no way of getting Shadowmourne, I have no access to a regular ICC 25 group, so getting Shadowsedge seems silly and a waste of resources. But. I'm a boy. I like axes that glisten and gleam with potential for evil. I can't help wanting it.

Maybe I'll buy some Ret gear tonight just to spend those badges and get them out of my currency tab because they sit there. Beckoning me with their come-hither sighs, their kohl-lined eyes, their round bosoms. Wait a minute. Badges don't have bosoms. Maybe I should play less. I'm starting to hallucinate bosoms where there aren't any.

Goddamnit. I need to spend these badges and fast.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Amazing Week

I woke up today and a blue tweety bird sat on my window ledge singing a happy song. Yawning, I went to the shower where the water smelled of mountain springs and lent me a manly man smell that was musky and appealing to the opposite sex. After eating six eggs, four pieces of thick beacon and a few sausages along with gallons of fruit juice and raw milk with slabs of marbled cheese, I rode my car which overnight transformed from a Honda Civic to a European car of some sort and sped through traffic that politely moved out of the way for me.

How did this happen, you say? What's going on with your life and how can I have a morning just like yours?

This is the morning after two nights of amazing raids. We went in with full guild runs both nights for ICC Heroics and man, man, is it satisfying to one-shot Heroic Marrowgar, DeathWhisper, Gunship and then, very smoothly and solidly kill Saurfang on our first pull!

After a bit of wrestling with what to do next, I decided to give Dreamwalker a shot and it took a lot of work, that fight is a bit brutal on Hard Mode but once the healers figured out the new cloud mechanic and started healing themselves and became better at holding stacks, and once we changed the priority order of kills and had our tanks coordinate the adds better - up she went, though the kill was super messy. I have plans to clean this up for our next kill.

Afterward, we went and killed Princes on normal mode just to get ready for Thursday and that was Tuesday.

Last night, though. Last night was glorious.

I logged in late (and I'm very seldom late) to find my lovely Guildleader had pulled the raid together and cleared trash in Plague Wing already! Awesome! We buff up, we pull Heroic Festergut, bang, one shot on hard mode. We run over to Heroic Rotface, we pull, BANG! Another one shot. On a whim, we ran up to Blood Wing, pulled Heroic Lanethil and down she went, even with me COMPLETELY fucking up the bite order at the end and giving out bite assignments on the fly neglected to include myself in the list (and I was DPSing).

Feeling like Gods, we ran up to Putricide and did some pulls on Heroic and... man, that's a messy fight. We kind of have half a plan to deal with Unbound plague, and we were doing okay with the adds management but I really didn't want to spend the entire night learning that fight so we decided to get the achievement and we did graet with no slows and killed him just fine, but I don't know why we didn't get the achievement - Recount didn't show me casting the slow at any point (though honestly I never looked to see if it DID record it in the past so Idunno if I'd see it anyway, but there it is.) Menh, we'll get it soon enough, as we proved we were capable of killing adds without the slow just fine.

The hard mode, though, that will take time.

We ran up to Sindragosa and I'm still a little wobbly on this fight and we've gotten stuck on her before, but, the string of one-shots continued and she went down (on normal mode, naturally) with only one person down. Very, very smooth, textbook kill.

It was running pretty late but we ran up to Lich King to see if we could quickly grab a title for one guildy who didn't have it but our first attempt got flubbed in phase 2 so we run back in and took him all the way into phase 3 without any problems. Even the transition was smooth but I hate doing hard fights in a hurry, and a couple of us kind of stumbled coming out of a perfect phase 2 transition and we wound up calling the raid there.

But to do 2 pulls on LK and have them both go THAT smoothly was amazing.

I want to spend next week getting Heroic Princes and maybe, if we get lucky and work out a good strat, we can get Putricide down. That'll put us in a great position to earn our drakes in a few weeks and start working on Heroic Lich King.

What a week. Maybe I'll even relent and work on Helion. :-P

Now if you'll excuse me, I'm off to eat a burger trapped in a bun of two grilled cheese. Because it's just that kind of day.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

RealID Woes

This is starting to get a bit annoying.

When RealID Friends thing came out, I was a fan, I liked being able to talk to friends on different servers and cross faction. I don't know why people became so defensive about Friends of Friends as all you see are names of people, not their characters so you might know I'm friends with George Jetson but you wouldn't know the names of his characters. So that didn't bug me too much.

However, this whole forum thing is starting to annoy me.

It precludes a large population from participating in the forums and I know I'd hesitate to post in certain volatile threads due to this, but I'm a 30 year old male, I have pretty little to worry about in terms of stalking or anything like that. But my guild has at least two minors (kids of 17) and about half my guild is female. They certainly have a lot to worry about.

At least one of the minors is worried his parents might cancel his subscription if this goes through and he is one of the most consistent, conscientious and productive members of my guild. I don't blame his parents (even though they could theoretically just block his access to the forums, but I can see their concern.)

Now that news is starting to leak of Blizzard and Activision having made some deal with Facebook for integration and cross-pollination - I see even less reason to force this onto people. Even worse, I can see a very easy solution to this:

Blizzard could - easily - tie into the account in the back end if that's what a user wanted. Say, I want to tie my RealID and Facebook together. Fine. Battle.Net announces that if I don't want my real name to show up, I need to log in and give them a nickname. Great - easily done. Now, I want to tie my profile into FB - again, easily done in the back end, my RSS feeds, preferences, etc, all feed into FB anonymously and my friends on FB can see my various characters in various games and if there are FB exclusive extensions to the main Blizzard properties, the tie-in can be two-sided, and I still retain my privacy.

Publically, I post with my Battle.Net nickname, while privately, my FB shows my friends all my various characters and achievements and such. It isn't a hard solution to code. There are plenty of other services that already do this (OpenID, etc.)

I don't know why they are taking the easy out. I don't mind that they're going the social networking route. I don't mind that they're wanting to make more money. Fine! But I'd prefer for them to give the consumer a choice of engagement and maybe even an incremental choice - all the way from opting out completely to total and open RealID/Facebook engagement and everything in between.

It wouldn't be hard. But I suppose, the time and energy and synergy involved in getting the companies to tie the links together would take longer and be more expensive. But I don't know - I'd think spending money to open up other avenues of income wouldn't be a bad thing?

Who can say. I'm just a lowly programmer, not a marketing executive with an MBA to make these decisions.

I hope this is a technology in evolution and not the final form of RealID. I hold out some hope.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Beta? Not for me, thanks.

So, Beta opened last night, which means, based on the length of prior betas, I think we can expect to see Cataclysm dropping on live servers sometime in October. A bit long to wait, but it's good to know that we have a date in sight.

Yesterday, when I logged into game after the news broke, all my guildies were talking to each other to see if anyone golden The Golden E-mail in their mailbox and when I said I hadn't put my name up for the option, they were surprised.

See, while I don't mind reading a bit of the spoiler information, I don't mind oohing and aahing at screenshots or videos from the game, and I'm really not a fan of doing the content twice, once on the test realms and again on live. I'll be repeating it on my alts anyway, and I'd rather see it in a final polished form and enjoy it rather than having to deal about server crashes, incomplete zones, graphical glitches and all of that sort of thing.

I totally understand people wanting to be in Beta, but for me, some of the most fun I had was in playing the first few weeks after 3.0 dropped on live. Going into new zonse and dungeons on my character and panning my camera around, and reading every word of quest text - all of that was so immersive that I just lost myself in the game world for the couple of weeks it took me to get to 80 and I'm excited to repeat that process.

Anyway. If you get into the beta, awesome, I hope you have a grand time! But for me, I'll kick around Northrend a little while longer and I'll see you back in Kalimdor.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

The (Heroic) Lower Spire

Last night we made our way in for a couple of hour of work in the Heroic mode bosses of the lower spire. We were running one person short and a friend graciously stepped in to save our skins.

Marrowgar
3-shot. Mostly because I was trying to work out a 3-point ping-pong strategy till someone mentioned that he only targets the farthest character so we started to have our OT run out to range with 10 seconds to go on Bone Storm and then I split out to the opposite end of the room just as he cast, so he spent the whole time ping-ponging between us. 1-shot with that positioning. Easy mode.

Lady Deathwhisper
2-shot. Once we figured out that the adds needed a LOT more attention in phase 1 and to stay away from Dark Martyrdom, phase 1 cleaned up and phase 2 was just a matter of DPS switching off to kill adds while tanks tried desperately to build threat with stacks of Touch. Not too hard, and we were miles away from the enrage timer with three healers. Not as easy as Marrowgar but easy enough.

Gunship
What is this I don't even.

Deathbringer Sourfang
This is actually the first challenging fight. Our first two attempts were really sloppy and he built Blood Power way too fast. After we cleaned tank taunts and adds up, we started running into deaths right about the 3rd mark popping up. We would have the boss around 15% when the third mark went out and that'd be too much for two healers to handle, we'd loose a mark and it was essentially a wipe. The best we got him down to was around 12 - 11%.

How to fix this? Well, I have a couple of ideas. For some raeson we had melee running out to blood boil to avoid extra ticks on the AoE splash. "But wait," you say, "Blood Boil doesn't splash, only Blood Nova, and that's not a DoT!"

To you I say, "Where were you last night?!"

I don't know what I was thinking. And no one corrected me. Anyway, we'll clear that up. Also, I think we'll just have to hope RNG plays well, and we get at least one mark off on a healer so we can start chain-HoPing them (we havea a couple of paladins) sub 30% to minimize the amount of BP he gains. We had a minute and a few seconds on the enrage when we got him to 12% so I think maybe we can afford to do it with three healers?

We have some options and when I suggested a normal mode kill last night just to get on to a few easier bosses, the raid revolted.

I love my little turtles.

In other news, can ICC PLEASE stop dropping mail shit that goes to OS? PLEASE?

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

The Hardest Raid Boss Of All

Last night we were all ready to go and girded our loins and sniffed like Rocky just before a fight, I had even spent a little bit of time in the cold box with a side of beef, myself, and I know our Philadelphia folks had run up the stairs of that building and posed beneath the statue of the Italian Stallion.

But all our preparation was for naught, and we were felled, defeated, unable to progress. Our nemesis was invulnerable to our taunts, his damage unhealable, his resistance too high for our casters to pierce, his armor too tough for our melee to pierce.

It was the Patch Day Boss.

Our server didn't come up till 9:40 EST which is an hour and forty minutes in to our three hour raid slot. Alas, alas, by then, most folks had logged off of vent, and a few were still having trouble even connecting to the game.

So, another night fell by the wayside, to a beast that has managed to hold back raids for years and, is as of yet, unconquered.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

After the Lich King

This is the hard part, isn't it?

Right after the end boss is dead, right before a new keep-'em-busy raid is released, trying to motivate and encourage people to come for raid progression into hard modes. Tonight is the first night of our steps into Hard Modes so we'll see how it goes.

My expectations are modest so we'll see what we can accomplish, but tonight will also be a test of our perseverance and tenacity. Can we continue to run face first into walls on fights that we've cleared with our eyes closed on heroic and succeed or will someone just whine for us to "switch to normal mode already."

Thankfully, Blizzard has added the Vanquisher mounts as motivation to keep doing hard modes, not to mention the fact that some of the 10-man heroic loot is BIS outside of 25-man Hard Modes. But really, loot is a weak excuse right now.

We're expecting some sort of loot reset at the start of Cata so who knows how quickly we'll be dropping out 264/277 level gear? Will we be seeing so much stamina and strenght on gear that no longer has to pay points out of its budget to the old stats, that the old gear just evaporates? Or will they upgrade our ICC gear to be so awesome that we can walk into Cata Heroics with it?

I'm hoping to be successful tonight and use that momentum to push my guys to get to 9/12 in a couple of weeks. If we can get there without too much nonsense, then I think we can knuckle down and focus on Putricide and Sindragosa on heroic and once we get through that nonsense, I'll just have to push push push the raid towards H:LK.

Hopefully the progression will keep up and we'll see raid attendance regularly fill up until the eve of 4.0. I don't want to stop raiding - for one, I'm enjoying the game a lot at this level, and am looking forward to old bosses with new twists, but also, if we loose focus I think we'll spend a lot of time getting it back in Cata. I know we'll miss a month of raiding as people level and gear up so I don't want to add any more to that missed time than absolutely necessary.

But all of that is months away.

Wish us luck tonight as we face down Heroic Marrowar. :-)

Friday, June 18, 2010

Le Roi Est Mort

It's good to be the King(slayer). Here's how we got there (not the actual strat, our phase 3 was still pretty messy and I want to clean it up before I post a strategy.)

With our second extension, we walked up to the Frozen Throne.

For the first time, we had a full guild run, on a fresh night with our three best healers, two tanks who knew the fight well, three ranged DPS pushing 9k on stand'n'cast fights and two melee DPS, only one of whom was here for the first time.

I was feeling good about it.

We spent 15 minutes talking about the whole fight, and then pulled. Phase 1: easy. Phase 2: just about perfect. We have a valk spawn just at transition and pick up a healer, the healer drops due to being in the AoE as the Valk slowly flew out and we started loosing people in the transition as tanks failed to pick up the adds fast enough and we hit Phase 3 down three or four folks and then exploded.

At that point, my feeling good went up to, "The cat's in the bag."

Every attempt there after was cleaner, and cleaner and we got to Phase 3 every single time. An hour in, on our fourth or fifth attempt, we wiped in Phase 2 for the first time due to a messy Defile and I called a 10 minute bio/walk/afk break, took a much needed stretch, walked about the apartment, and then when I sat down again, I broke down how to go from Phase 2 into transition - we stop at 43%, wait for the next Valk, kill it, move to the edge, and transition.

Bang. Phase 2 transition with no deaths, very clean. We pop hero, tanks grab the adds, DPS burns like crazy the phase transition goes perfectly and we hit phase 3 with only one spirit up and no deaths.

Lichy starts casting Soul Siphon on our ranged over and over which gibs us a bit on Vile Spirits but we manage. Defile dodging in Phase 3 is a piece of cake. His health plummets pretty fast - 40% gets to 30% and then sinks to 20% and suddenly Hammer of Wrath lights up before I realize it... and then inexplicably healers start to OOM.

We start loosing people in Frostmourn. Tanks start chaining CDs as he starts to soft-enrage and suddenly we loose our OT and I realize it's down to me, two healers and one DPS.

Behind LK I see our Holy Priest blossom into an angel and LK starts to cast Vile Spirits. 11%. With DP on CD, I pop wings, pop trinkets, and call for everyone to start DPSing, healers too. 11% dissolves to 10%, then painfully crawls down, 10.8%, 10.7%, 10.6%. The spirits are starting to come down and I'm out of CDs. 10.5%

Raid chat is going nuts. Vent starts going crazy.

I move him away from the spirits. 10.5%. 10.4%. My brain tells me to watch for any CDs, my finger hovers over Holy Wrath to hold off the Vile Spirits for another second when BANG. I'm dead.

0.4% to go? Really? What? How? We had ages to go on Enrage, I had AD up still, what happened? My heart sinks.

But then I realize he hasn't despawned and someone on Vent is screaming "We did it!"

I look up from a frantic scan of combat log and see him start his monologue - " No question remains unanswered. No doubts linger..."

Vent. Explodes.

After much squealing, /hi5ing and so forth, we collect loot, and with an hour and change left on our raid timer, we go do the weekly, try to pull the entire first room in Military Quarter and... because I forgot to rebuff RF after the rez, we then wipe on Naxx trash.

It's good to be brought back down to earth sometimes.

To make up for it, two days later, we decided to go in on our second raid night of the week and delivered what I had been promising the guild once we cleared through Lich King - an Algalon kill.

Half the raid had never seen him. First attempt was great but our Starkiller DC'd. Second attempt, he DC's again, I ask our lovely Elemental Shaman to switch to kill stars, but we still wipe to enrage at 5%. We swap out our DCing Boomkin from Australia for another healer, switch a healer out to shadow to kill stars, and then bang, down goes Algalon with a good 40+ seconds on the enrage.

After Lich King, the Algalon fight seems ridiculously easy.

We preened around Dalaran for a while with our second set of shiny new titles (Starcaller) and then went back in to Ulda and cleared all the way down to Yogg, doing a handful of hard modes along the way, and as it was an hour over raid time at that point, we called it after a messy swipe at Yogg with Freya down as our Keeper to guard our Sanity.

A bunch of us are one achievement away the Rusted Protdrake (One Light, wouldn't you know it)so maybe we'll knock that out one of these nights.

I'm very pleased with the way things are with the guild right now. I'd love to continue this sort of progression for the next few weeks in ICC Hard Modes and hopefully we'll see 3.3.5 on live servers in a couple weeks, and that will carry us through to Cataclysm.

My goal for the day Cataclysm drops?

Hover over the gates of Stormwind on a Bloodbathed Vanquisher with a Bane of the Fallen King title.