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.