Friday, December 30, 2011

Guest Post: Furtive Father Winter

Hello All!

We may have not met before, but I'm Mia from Chronicles of Mia. Today, I am writing a guest post for Raiding After Dark for BlogAzeroth's Annual Holiday Post Exchange (a.k.a Furtive Father Winter)! I'm happy to write this post, mainly because I've never came across Saif's blog before. I may not celebrate the holidays, but I figured I would do something out of the ordinary for a new friend. I was a bit off guard when I had to think up a quick post or gift to Saif. I thought I had my blog's email account set to be forwarded to my personal gmail account. That wasn't the case. It was not set up, and I basically received a couple of emails late. This included who my gift recipient was , which was Saif. After looking around Raiding After Dark, I noticed the helpful Raid guides that Saif made. So as a gift, I decided to make my own little guide! Enough chatter. Let's begin! :D

How to Farm a Low Dungeon Pet on a New Server...

This guide will be helpful if you are looking to make some gold or to surprise a new friend.


What You Will Need:
- Having a character at least 55 or above
- Lots of Free Time

Directions:
1) Start off by picking your server - I chose a role-playing server named Moonguard. It's also the same server that Saif has a couple characters on, so I'm assuming it's his main server.
2) Next, make a Death Knight Character - I suggest you make your Death Knight's race based on what pet you are farming. If you are farming for the Deviate Hatchling, make a Horde character. If you are farming for the Green Wing Macaw, make an Alliance one. This will help you save time in the long run, and avoiding PvP. You are also going to be using free time to farm for a Dungeon pet, and it could take a while. Make sure you are able to have a bit of fun with your Death Knight's Race.
3) Do ALL the Death Knight Quests! - You should be at least level 58, and have 25 talent points by the time you do all the Death Knight Quests. You should also have all your equipped green items replaced by Blues from Quest Rewards. The last Death Knight quest takes you to Stormwind or Orgimmar depending on your Death Knight's faction.
4) Head out to the Dungeon and begin to farm! - I chose Deadmines to farm for the Green Wing Macaw. It only drops off the pirates at the end of the dungeon. If you are farming for the Deviate Hatchling, you have it much easier. The Deviate Hatchling drops off of Raptors at the beginning of the instance. Keep in mind that it may take multiple runs in order to get your pet to drop, but it WILL drop! Don't give up!
5) Sell or Gift your Pet! - After about three full dungeon runs of Deadmines, I got the Green Wing Macaw pet!

That's the end of the guide and I hope you all enjoyed it!
With Love,

Mia

P.S - In case you haven't noticed by now, that Green Wing Macaw is for Saif ^_^ Even though I don't celebrate the holidays, I hope everyone has has created lots of good memories from the year ^_^



Thank you Mia! I had just started reading her blog a few days ago when I got this post (and the pet) in the mail. As I've been crawling my way to 100 pets, and didn't have the Macaw yet, it was the best gift. Very kind of you. And as I have a rather cash-strapped DK on Argent Dawn, I think this guide will be helpful in getting some quick money when she needs it.

If you're curious about the post I gifted, it's here, on Bossy Pally. :-)

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Avatar Improvement

I swear I have like, 10 posts in draft that I can post, but whenever I go to retrieve one of them, I wind up with something new to write. Something is wrong here.

This is the first week in a long time that we didn't raid. Enough folks are missing that we just couldn't fill the holes. And I was kind of glad. On the one hand, I really want to kill Deathwing and be done with it. I think we just need one solid night on him to finish it all, but even just farming the rest of the raid would be a fun experience. I really enjoy smashing the first half and working hard on the second half. The raid is well paced, and well designed. I need at least my tier gloves and chest still, not to mention the shield and sword, and maybe a trinket and a ring.

But still, when we called it last night, before even entering the raid, I was glad. A few of us queued up for LFR and cleared the first half, and I called it a night an hour and a half early. It was odd, and nice, to just walk away rather than struggling to find people, messaging every I know and flailing like mad to make a raid happen. I just shrugged and said, "Okay." I wouldn't have done that even a month ago. I would have fought to raid.

I don't know if it's the Holiday that I'm willing to be more laid back about it, I don't know if it's the fact that our server has so many relatively hardcore raiding guilds that we're really just a tiny fish in a big lake, or the fact that maybe when I'm not raiding or doing Arenas, I really don't have much to do in the game. I keep trying to level my rogue, or get the rest of my alts up to 85 who're parked somewhere between 80 and 82, or gear up my DK Horde-side, but I just manage an hour or two of any of those activities and loose interest.

The one character I don't loose interest in, is my Paladin.

Whenever I look at her, I want to improve her gear, improve my understanding of her as a character, improve the way I play, push her achievement points into the five digits, get her all the pets and mounts I can, and make her perfect. Which, of course, is impossible.

The MMO by definition is a game that never ends, and goes on forever, where we just grind for gear, and achievements, and drops, and there is always just one more thing that we could use. I remember when TBC ended, I had been doing a bit of T5 and had some of that gear, but what I really wanted was the T4 helm from Prince. After killing him for months and months, he dropped it the last time we ever raided Karazhan at level, the week before Wrath came out.

I remember changing mains on the first day of Wrath to my Paladin (and never will I change again), and we were in ICC for a year and yet I was still hunting for one more drop or one more kill. Today, I look at my character and I know even after we kill Deathwing, we'll be raiding, wrapping up the T11/T12 heroics, grinding out Sinestra and Heroic Ragnaros, eventually even trying our luck with Heroic Deathwing.

But when Pandas come, it'll reset everything, won't it?

Maybe some part of me remembers what it was like to grind ICC. Two years ago, now, we started on that raid, and man, it was a brutal time. I remember how close I came to burnout, almost burned all my bridges, left the wreckage of two guilds in my wake before we formed the current guild and stabilized ourselves. And maybe that part of me doesn't want to slip into the desperate end-of-the-expansion must-finish-everything panic.

Sure, we've got months and months to go, but when I look at Innana without her title, without her mount, without her shield and sword, that part of me cringes, wants to post on the realm forums right now and get a PUG together so I can at least have a shot at some of that gear.

And another part of me says, "Relax. It's okay. If not this week, next week. The gear and the raid are here to stay. The only person you're playing against is yourself."

If that seems obvious, and normal, I assure you, it's a bit of an epiphany for me. Maybe it's a sign that I'm finally starting to let go of some of that hardcore edge I've always wanted.

To be in a group that was devoted to pushing through content, to grinding night after night, early in the tier, to be one of the first with the titles, the kills, the glory. To make Innana a Hero in her own right. The best gear. The highest gear rank. Because that way, I can get her as close to finished as I can - and rest, till the game paints more track further up the field.

Friday, December 23, 2011

HOW TO: Dragon Soul 10 - The First Half

Dragon Soul has been a fun raid to tackle, the early fights are a bit easy, but they do scale up in difficulty as you go on, and while the encounters might not feel particularly original, they let you revisit old content with new skins and the old encounter models feel updated.

It's almost as if the Encounter Team was doing a best-of retrospective release, and instead of just picking old songs, they decided to remaster the sound, fix the levels issue on certain early tracks, and add in demos, alternate versions and extended takes.

I buy a lot of music.

Anyway - for the first four bosses, tanking is super straightforward in the Normal-10 mode. Quick and dirty tips follow.

Morchok (safe and easy with 2 tanks, can be done with 1)
Swap as 3 stacks, and then each time the Armor debuff drops off. When you're not tanking, you can go help soak a crystal so one of the DPS doesn't have to. You can easily solo tank the fight as long as you save CDs for when stacks get high before he goes into phase 2, and they should reset while you're running in and out. But two tanking it isn't a problem, unless you're doing some kind of speed-run. Use Divine Guardian if people are low on health and there's a stomp coming with a crystal up. You can cast Judgement and throw Hammers of Wrath while you're running away from the blood, but don't Exorcism spam or you'll OOM yourself.


Yor'sahj the Unsleeping (2 tanks)
Two tank this to avoid accidental death to Void Bolt. Remember that the adds aren't tankable, they focus random people. You can help with the slime when necessary, but they don't have a lot of health, and the DPS can kill them easily while the tanks just sit and swing on the boss. Use  Divine Guardian as per usual in a set rotation with the healers to mitigate the AoE and voila. This is slightly more difficult for the DPS and healers, what with chasing the Mana Void and getting the adds down in time. We're just literal meat-shields on this one. Yawn.


Warlord Zon'ozz (1 tank)
The trash before this can be solo-tanked, as only the Claw really melees someone specifically. Burn down the eye, then the ranged on tentacles while melee swap to claw. The Claw might fling you away, you can just rush back with a ranged taunt if the Claw is trying to mutilate one of the melee while you're flying.

You also want to solo the boss so that you don't have to worry about the enrage timer as he does have a chunk of health. You want to line up 3 raid markers in a row. You'll be facing the boss away from the raid except for when he's about to cast the Orb. Keep a healer in melee with you, and try to split in a 5/4/1 formation, even if some ranged have to move into the melee clump just to keep the splash damage at a minimum.

Pull the boss facing the raid, let the orb come out, then flip him 180 degrees so his back is to the melee clump and the ranged clump. Try not to use any personal cool-downs until his stacks start to get high. We bounce the orb 5 times, sometimes 7 if melee doesn't get out of the way and the orb gets bounced back to ranged. I wind up WoGing a bit here, just to keep things stable right after a bounce.

When he goes into phase 2, group up, use  Divine Guardian on a set rotation with the healers, and then back to Phase 1. Make sure you're not facing him towards the raid when you clump up.

After the transition, I like to keep him turned away until he casts his life drain, and then very quickly turn him around, but you don't really need to do it if you don't want to. The amount of health is regains can be a lot if he gets the entire raid, but with the amount of extra damage he takes as the fight goes on, it shouldn't be an issue.

If you do try to do this and mess up the timing so he winds up casting the orb behind you in no-man's land, you can run as soon as the cast starts, tell the healers you're moving, and you can catch the orb and bounce it back towards the raid. It's pretty fun to do this! :-) But the healers don't think so. :-(

Hagara (1 tank)
Remind your second tank to swap specs for the trash. You can solo the boss, but it's easiest to duo the trash. The gauntlet in front of her is annoying, just keep in mind that after the first set of adds, you'll get a few waves and these will have two clumps each, one from either side of Hagara's platform. Pick a side, and stick with it, while the other tank sticks to their side. Kill the casters first. Bring them together for an AoEfest, interrupt their casts, Avenger's Shield to silence them, Death Grip, whatever, but just be careful of the Tornadoes and Lightning Storms and Blizzards.

It's probably not your druids, shaman or mages casting those - if they are, ask them to stop and focus down the casters first. At the end of the gauntlet, there's a mini-boss who doesn't really do anything except put up some kind of Deathgripping snowflake thingie. The boss will move in when the mini-boss dies and float to the middle of the platform so pull the dude off to a side so you can prep before pulling.

Another boss to solo - doesn't really matter how you tank her as long as you're the only person in front of her. Watch the timer for Barrage and strafe away at a second or two left and you'll take minimal damage from it. Keep Hand of Freedom handy as she will slow you when you're out of range. When Tombs come out, have the raid clump up right before and that way you can help cleave them with Hammer of the Righteous.

During the Ice phase I don't do much except chase the walls, swing at whatever comes close, throw some Judgments and Hammers, and dodge falling snow. Yawn. The Lightning phase there is slightly more to do - kill the elemental on a node to make it explode, and then just stand there while the rest of the raid chains ahead of you while you twitch spasmatically as electricity courses through your veins.

Good luck!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

More Dragon Soul Impressions

Our first night in DS was very successful as we got through the first 5 bosses in two days, and then got stalled a  bit of Gunship and Spine. For that reason, I didn't do the second half of LFR as I wanted to get all the content down on normal mode rather than cheese my way to the achievements.

We've spent, maybe two and a half nights on Spine to really get it down - and not for lack of effort. It is a fun fight that requires a bit of coordination and planning and the execution is solo-play dependent and at our current gear level and DPS level, we just can't 9-man it, so anytime we lost someone without a possible Rez, we'd wipe. So many wipes on the third plate, it wasn't funny.

It was one of those fights that was dead but didn't know it, and we needed one clean pull to get it done. And we got it last night without much fanfare and wound up on the platforms for Madness.

The first pull was... Madness. I didn't know where the Corruption showed up, I didn't realize there was a facing order to it till it slammed half the raid, and then the Elementium Bolt pulsed and wiped us. It looked like a long training period was necessary... so we came back in, pulled a second time... and cleared up to the third platform where we lost to the Elementium Bolt as we weren't prepared for its speed without Nozdomu. The third pulled cleaned that up as well, and we had a very sub-par DPS with us filling in, and we were 3-healing, 2-tanking it.

To say Madness will take us less time than Spine is a given, though with next week being a Holiday week, I'm not sure we'll have any progression pulls, but soon enough. My prediction of being clear through normal modes by Christmas almost came true, and if we'd been more diligent on Spine, we'd be there now.

Anyway - point being that I enjoyed the ramp-up Dragon Soul had. The first 4 were too under-tuned but they did get more difficult as the raid went on. Zon'ozz can be difficult on 10-man if you mess up the orb bouncing and there have been instances where I've gotten myself killed  by not being on top of cool-downs when the orb winds up bouncing an extra time and the damage buff stacks get very high. There are some dangerous slime combinations on Yor'sahj and Hagara is supposed to be a coordination fight, though for anyone who did Ragnaros, pre-nerf Nefarian and LK, the synergy required seems quite easy.

Ultraxion was the first road-block boss - the real DPS check, though after a couple of weeks of gear, he has become very, very easy. We lost a DPS early this week to Twilight and still cleared it under 5-minutes. To be fair, people are starting to kiss the 30k mark on that fight across the board. Gunship and Spine are both much more difficult co-ordination checks, and I enjoy tanking them a lot, especially soloing Spine. The bloods get nuts at the end of the fight, I love it.

But Madness? The ultimate boss fight?

It just much easier for some reason. And it doesn't really feel like you're fighting Deathwing at any point. I get that we can't fight him, and the feeling of being in the presence of gods is there, but I don't know. There's something missing in the feel of the fight. And with how quickly we were progressing on him, with a very conservatively setup team, it seems maybe too easy.

With our A-team, we should be able to clear the 4 platforms fairly quickly. Of course, Phase 2 could kick our ass and stall us for weeks, but I'm fairly sure I can solo-tank this and if I can do that, then we have 6 DPS to eat the adds that much faster, and honestly, there wasn't that much damage going out either, I might even suggest trying a 1/2/7 combination to see if it's viable.

Anyway. Point being - the ramp up was very nice, but it seems to have dropped off right at the end. And that feels odd. Though if you look at the Heroic raids, KIN stalled on Spine for ages, then killed Madness in one or two night.

Odd to say the least.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Do You Need LFR Gear And Other Sundries

Firstly:
I finally joined up with Twitter! You can follow me @RaidAfterDark if you like.

Secondly:
This post from The Reluctant Raider made me sad and a little angry.

When your Raid Leader is asking you to run LFR or loose your spot in the raid team for Dragon Soul, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Are you seriously going for and expecting to get Realm First Heroic kills?
  • Do you still need to seriously gear up in Hour of Twilight or Firelands?
  • Do you find your performance  lags significantly behind the rest of the raid?
  • Do you have a lot of trouble killing more than 1 boss in normal Dragon Soul?
  • Is your entire spec balanced around your 4-piece tier bonus in 4.3?
  • Do you want to run LFR?
If your answer to any one of those questions is "Yes", then you might need some LFR gear. Otherwise, tell your Raid Lead that you are comfortable with your gear level and if he has a problem with your performance, to discuss it specifically with you. Being benched for not running LFR when your performance is equivalent is utterly, completely unfair and unreasonable.

And if you're a raid leader who requires their members to use LFR as an essential gearing element, you need to buckle up, setup a night and get as many core raid members into a 25-man group as you can before queuing.

LFR is not an easy nor a guaranteed method of gearing and a single boss can take an hour. You can't reasonably throw your raid members into that hell rudderless and expect them to come out with gear. If you want them to get that gear, you have to take them in yourself. Own up to your responsibility.

This isn't ICC 25 where Trade PUGs would clear 9/12 for GDKP runs in 2 or 3 hours. This is a million monkeys, gibbering and slamming their heads on their keyboards, hoping to kill bosses.


Lastly:
A Korea guild (I'm sorry, I can't anglicize the Korean characters but I think it translates to Kin Raiding) get World First Kills of both Deathwing modes, on 25-man. The world second kill of Spine was another Korean guild (In Extremis) and they're the only other guild in the world working on Madness right now.

Wow.

That's a sea-change I didn't see coming. And with US guilds having sat up there at 6/8 for ages and ages. Blood Legion and Vodka must be stunned, I know I am. This was the unseen bullet that came out of nowhere, and, yeah, I don't know. I wonder what the race would've been like with Paragon/Ensidia/Method in there, but it is a sting for US Guilds to deal with not claiming world first yet again, even without the EU competition.

Also: they're an Alliance guild. WIN! Glory to the Alliance!

Seeing things like this make me wish I could compete and play the game at a higher level sometimes. I love raiding with my guild, but we're a casual/semi-serious group that raids 6 hours a week and spends maybe 4 of those hours actually killing shit and the rest of it is spent in banter and camaraderie.

That is not a complaint, BTW!  ;-) Just wistful thinking.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Raiding in Media

I stumbled across a couple of pieces of interesting media items related to raiding. Both of these are worth your time, though the second item may be of more interest to the general Warcraft public than the nitty-gritty raiding discussions of the first item.

Raiding Research
This is a actually a blog by a Doctorate student in the UK named "Ladan"covering the raiding scene. She's been researching the scene for some time, and, I think at the behest of Paragon, put together a round-table discussion of the 4.3 controversies between some of the big-name guilds involved (Paragon, Method, Exodus, Vodka). It's posted on the Paragon site, and is part of their Raid Observer series of blogs.

The conversation is remarkably civil and quite enlightening in terms of getting a look into what the guilds were thinking, their reactions to the bans, and so forth. It also gives an insight into how some of these guilds actually prepare for a new patch, what their planning process is like, and so forth.

She goes on a bit too long about the US vs. EU thing, but the guests do a great job of presenting their views in terms of why they cheated, what their reactions are to the bans (generally positive, shockingly enough), the 10s vs. 25s debate (they seem to prefer letting the community decide if the brackets belong together or not), and their opinions about how the race will unroll (they correctly predicted that Spine and Madness will block most guilds in the second week and allow the banned guilds to catch up and compete on them with a week's lag in training and gear.)

Being banned must not have been fun, and one of the things they talk about is the amount of time off from work and school these guys put in for that's now wasted, and I hadn't even thought about that.

Anyway - recommended, and worth a listen even if you're into casual raiding or are curious about very high-end raiding culture.

Race To World First
This is a film streaming on the web over here, and it's kind of an agonizing look at the 4.0 race. We mostly see it through the eyes of Blood Legion - a US guild, but we get spinets and insights from Paragon, Method, Ensidia, and a couple of other guilds. Seeing the internal life of Blood Legion through the five members they follow is quite detailed, and times, too intimate. The documentary gets very close to some of the participants, and we see some of the open conflicts the membership and leadership has - and also the kindship they share with each other. The wrenching and anguished postmortems as the bosses start to fall and guilds rack up kills are the most human part of the documentary.

All that said, I wish it had kept from drifting into the "we all have to move on some day" angle that every film about MMO's seems to feel the need to tack on at the end. It's quite annoying. Still, for some inexplicable reason, I found the ending quite poignant.

If you're raiding, have raided, or will raid in the future with your guild, this is essential viewing. If you've ever played in an MMO, I'd still recommend watching it - while it follows the Raid Race very closely, the observations about interpersonal relationships in game, and the feelings of effort vs. reward are relevant to all players, no matter how casual. it's about an hour and twenty minutes, so get a snack and a drink.

Monday, December 12, 2011

New Season Shenanigans

I swapped back to Innana to PvP with for this season and it is a massive culture shock.

Warlock PvP is all about control, very strict oversight of the field, making sure at least one of the opponents is being juggled and dotting everything up. While being focused so you're continuously self-healing and kiting as much as you can.

Palading PvP especially in 2's with a Rogue melee-cleave is all about burst. The longest fight we had was maybe 45 seconds last night. The number of stuns and interrupts the rogue has, plus my interrupt and stun, and the amount of burst I can dump within the first 20 or 30 seconds of a fight is just absolutely crushing at very low levels. I'm sure it'll even out very quickly as we get another week or two of gear in, but still, it was very shocking to go from such a nuanced play-style to essentially a burst-fest with occasional Stun/Hammer/Repentance/Blind chains on the healer.

Cleared an 8/0 win streak in less than an hour.

I do still want to PvP on my warlock, but I'll probably do more Battlegrounds and maybe see if I can sneak into a 3's team. Like a dummy I completely failed to realize I could have been gathering Conquest last week so I'm short, essentially, an item. Ah, well. It'll even out in the long run.

I also managed to find someone last week in Trade who had the tanking wrists pattern and had them crafted, and my Warlock bought the boots for Innana, while she picked up the Relic and Cloak as I can't get either of those upgrades from the raid. With the tier legs and shoulders I picked up two weeks ago, my gear is looking pretty good and I'm seriously starting to get into a situation where my gems are starting to slowly shift into the blue spectrum.

I'm considering actually re-gemming for full-out mastery just so I can swap out one of my mastery trinkets for a stamina trinket, but I kind of like having a sort-of DPS trinket on hand to get a bit of extra damage in (and a minute bit of parry as well) on demand. I don't know.

I'm excited for a 3-day raid week. I want a new title already, damn-it.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

My Attitude Sucks

My attitude in raids lately has been just total crap. My attitude in game is also a reflection of my attitude out of game, I've been going through a bit of a bad patch but that's really no excuse at all for my behavior.

Maybe it's because of my expectations of play - and sometimes I feel like my willingness to bring up points about performance is almost a detriment. I hold my play to a fairly high standard. If I let myself get killed, that's a problem, I look at my logs, I try to see what's killing me and I prevent it in the future. If I'm causing a wipe, I try very hard not to repeat my mistakes.

In the same way, if there is a difficult portion to a fight, I'll do my best to take it. I want to do the heavy lifting, I want to take the responsibility of failure if someone has to do a high-stress job, but as a tank, that's not always possible. Sometimes it's the healing and sometimes it's the DPS and sometimes it's one role that one person has to fulfill that I can't do as a tank and that's when my issue kicks in.

I begin to hold that person's performance to the same standard that I hold for myself, and that's just not fair. That person might learn some things faster or slower than mine, maybe I would take a week to figure it out and they'll get it in an hour, or maybe it's the other way around, but the point is - they have a role, and I have a role, and we're both there to perform it to the beset of our ability.

But when that doesn't work, I begin to get frustrated.

Ultraxion is a good example of this. It's a fight that sits in the hands of the DPS. If the healers can 2-heal it and get the raid to the 5 minute mark, that requires from the raid, counting the 2 tanks as 1 DPS, an average DPS of 27k.

Or 24.5k to finish the fight in 5.5 minutes which is about how long the raid can stay alive with 2 healers after the 5 minute mark.

That's a lot, even for a Patchwerk fight, which this essentially is, outside of the Hour of Twilight and Fading Light mechanic. That's expecting people to be just about perfect with their rotations, using every cool-down in the most efficiently lined up way possible, and limiting their time outside the Realm of Twilight to 2 seconds at worst. Factors having a say about this include such thing as Latency where the time you pressed your button and got to the other realm might be long enough to kill you, bad string of procs where you don't get any, a bad string of RNG rolls on your crit chance and any other number of things.

We were able to kill it last week, with numbers both above and below that average. Some bursty classes and better-geared people pulled ahead, and hit the 25k, 26k mark and others were in the 20k, 21k range, but the overall damage balanced to eke out a kill, and yet last night, we pulled a couple of times and couldn't get him to drop, wiping in the 3% range sometime after the 5 minute range.

And I was kind of loosing it with the wipes. Which is absolutely ridiculous given it's the second week and the gatekeeper boss to the hardest content in the raid.

I think there's a difference between assigning blame, and dissecting the fight. I'm always ready and willing and able to take responsibility, and do my best to improve. I might get testy, true, especially when I'm frustrated with myself, but I'll take feedback, even negative feedback, over silence any day of the week. And while we're not a hard-core guild by any measure, we do have a commitment to progression and that means we're going to dissect and fix our problems.

But I'm not dissection fights anymore.

I'm afraid I'm drifting into crazy-old-man grumbling about them DPS not pulling their weight territory instead of doing a proper analysis of the encounter and coming up with solutions.

The conflicts are getting all jumbled in my head and affecting my attitude in raids tremendously. I'm just super glad I'm not the one making calls and calling shots right now.

If I was my raid leader, I would've fired me by now.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Paladin Transmog Sets - Part 2

Right now I'm sporting a mixture of the first set I made, with a different shield than the one I showed there. Mostly because Human Female model covers her entire face with the shield and it's not a lot of fun. Also, I quite like the model's face so I'm actually not using the helm right now.

Anyway, once I do start to build up some Tier 13 gear, I'll be switching to a more contemporary look. However, there are some issues I have with the full Paladin set. Mostly with the fact that it brings back the bare midriff. Ugh.


Thankfully, we also happen to have an amazing PvP set this season, and with Conquest available through daily Random BGs at a reasonable pace, we can build what I think is a truly unique and inspirational, Paladin-y set.


I really like this set and I think this is what I'm going to be wearing till MoP comes out. The added benefit is that you can get a LOT of this gear without ever having to set foot into the raid. The only thing you'll need from the raid are the shoulders. Almost everything else is purchasable with Conquest or Valor.

The Shoulders, Hands and Legs are all Paladin Tier 13 gear, but, you can also buy the off-set pieces from the Valor vendor, or get the off-set healer pieces from the raid. I'll have to wind up buying or getting the healer Belt and Boots somehow myself. The Conquest sword and shield are absolutely amazing. Some of the best art that has come into the game in a long time. They're beautiful, but functional, and they are absolutely on-mark for Paladins.


The chest, sword and shield are all from Conquest gear. I'll be doing Arenas on Innana this season, so I expect to be able to get the weapon and shield fairly easily, however, I won't be doing it as Protection so it'll be a bit of a point-sink just for aesthetics. But oh, so worth it. Look at those gear - just absolutely lovely and perfect for a Light-wielding warrior. The cloak is actually a throw-back to ICC, and is purchasable with Justice for cheap. I like the colors as they synchronize well with the blue in the shield.

If you're a fan of helmets, I would recommend you forgo the winged Tier helm and actually grab the PvP conquest helm as well - it fits in quite nicely with the rest of the set and actually makes you look a bit like an avenging and wrathful angel of some sort straight out of the Old Testament.


Here are the individual items in detail and a link to the base set for you to start messing with.

Gloves: Handguards of Radiant Glory (Valor alternative: )
Leges: Legguards of Radiant Glory (Valor alternative: )
Shoulders: Shoulderguards of Radiant Glory
Chest: Cataclysmic Gladiator's Ornamented Chestguard (Conquest)
Belt: Blinding Girdle of Truth (Valor)
Boots: Silver Sabatons of Fury (Valor)
Sword: Cataclysmic Gladiator's Slicer (Conquest)
Shield: Cataclysmic Gladiator's Barrier (Conquest)
Cloak: Sentinel's Winter Cloak (Justice)

Helm: Cataclysmic Gladiator's Ornamented Headcover (Conquest)

If you are still dedicated to using the Tier chest, you can always sport it with an undershirt to eliminate the midriff. It doesn't fit perfectly, but the result isn't terrible either. Lastly, you always have the option of using a good looking Tabard to cloak yourself - but if you do this, I'd recommend ditching the cloak. You have some pretty good options here, and the set is just lovely. I've linked alternate set pictures below so you can decide what works best for you.

With a Formal White Shirt.


With the Argent Crusader's Tabard, sans cloak.


I realize this set is expensive to make in terms of the time commitment required to get all the items, but I think it's worth it in the long run. It's one of the best looks I can imagine for a Paladin that's in the game right now. Enjoy!

Monday, December 5, 2011

Exploits in LFR & Valor Gear

So. I'm looking at the Paragon (and every other top-tier guild, it looks like) exploit that let them loot the same boss multiple times, and I am left wondering why they had to exploit when they could, very easily have farmed the bosses in a much easier way.

So, you have 25 main characters you're going into Heroics with next week, You want them geared as much as possible but you don't want to exploit. Here's what you do. Form a raid in the following way:

2. Conqueror token
2. Protector token
2. Vanquisher token

Preferably, all of a different armor type (cloth/leather/plate/mail). You also bring along19 alts who you don't care about gearing at all. You form a raid and you run LFR. Everyone passes on everything, the main take whatever they want, hopefully getting at least a 2-set bonus each. At the end of the raid, swap out 6 alts, for 6 mains.

Reset. Rinse. Repeat. 4 or 5 times, and you're done. I'm sure it will only take Paragon maybe an hour or two to clear LFR, so you're talking about maybe 9 or 10 hours invested total. Yes, you're left at a bit of the random loot mercy, but this is not a bad way to gear up mains with no risk of violating ToS at all. It's fair, you're not breaking any rules, and everyone only gets 1 shot at the loot from each boss. It just so happens that you're stacking the rest of the raid with people who'll pass over and over.

Anyway.

Speaking of gear up quickly, somehow, I completely missed the fact that there are two BoE items available at the Vendor.


My poor Merricat who is already Valor capped will have to rorego that Trinket she was pining for and buy the boots for Innana while I'll run a dungeon or two tonight with my druid so he can buy Innana her bracers if I can't find someone with the pattern.

Innana gets all the good stuff the first two weeks of the patch! I must love her best among all my children.

I made my first Valor purchase in the Relic this week, next week it will be the Amulet, along with the boots and bracers, and then I'll have to evaluate where I am in terms of gear and decide what needs upgrading first. The Trinket looks pretty damned good.


The boots are quite good, almost comparable to the Mirrored Boots, with a Fractured Amberjewel in the Yellow slot. The bracers, on the other hand, are not so thrilling. The lack of Mastery and the single socket make the crafted bracers far more appealing. Now I just need to find someone on my server who has the pattern. I might just grind a few dungeons out on my Druid alt to get the bracers in the meantime anyway... but we'll see.

I don't really look at the drops as anything that's attainable until it actually drops and my position in the Suicide Kings list grants me the item. After who knows how many kills of Baleroc, I saw the tanking helm drop once, while Maara was on top of the list. Yeah, I don't really depend on loot drops anymore as a viable thing.

The lack of Mastery on a lot of the new items is a bit annoying as I have to reforge/regem a lot to stay at block-cap but my overall mitigation has been increasing quite a bit. Raid buffed, I can get up to ~40% pure mitigation, even more if I have Windwalk procs rolling. That's 40% of incoming damage Missing, Dodged or Parried.

I can't wait to get some heroic gear.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Dragon Soul Difficulty And What I Want From It

I've been trying to articulate my feelings about Dragon Soul and it is very conflicted.

As I mentioned on Wednesday, the bosses are just falling over each other to cough up their loot. We finished our second night of raiding with Ultraxion going down, netting us a genuine realm first kill of all things. We were having a bit of trouble on that fight with DPS not being able to kill him in time, so we swapped one of the healers to DPS, switched out one DPS who wasn't quite pushing the numbers we needed and bang. Purples.

That put us at 5/8 and I fully expect us to clear through all that content on our first night next week, kill Gunship and be working on Spine by the end of our raid week.

On the one hand, the new content is fun, and I really wanted to go back in last night to clear Gunship and start poking at Spine but a lot of folks couldn't make it and a few of them wanted to slow down and savor the content. But on the other hand, this doesn't even seem like content worth doing over and over. If the next two bosses are as easy as the rest of the raid has been, we'll be facing hard modes at Christmas.

Now, to be fair, if I look at Firelands, once we killed Shannox, Beth and Rhyolith, the rest of the dungeon kind of fell in our laps. Baleroc only took about a night or two, we killed both Alys and Domo the same week we pulled them. After that Ragnaros was the only issue. This was pre-nerf. Ragnaros, took us about 2.5 nights to kill, and the nerf hit in the middle of that, which meant he went down fairly quickly after that. This was the first time we failed to kill all the normal modes pre nerf and I still grumble about it.

So, our progression in Dragon Soul has surprised me, as we didn't even have all that much heroic gear, we were only in the 379/380 iLevel range when we walked in on Tuesday, none of us had done the fights on the PTR, it was as new as content gets. We really went off of the Dungeon Journal for the most part, supplementing Icy Veins when necessary. And still, in about 5 hours over two days, killed 5 brand new bosses.

We know the next 3 bosses aren't going to stonewall us. Nearly a thousand guilds killed Madness this week. In three days. I don't foresee these bosses being much of an issue. So, even pessimistically, two weeks to kill Madness, by Christmas, we're done with normal modes.

I'm worried.

Really, there's not much you can say or do at this point, this is what's going to happen, we're not going to see these guys being buffed at this point. But what we don't know, is what's going to happen after normal modes. And this is my hope for Heroics:

A progression with a gradually sloping,
linear scaling of difficulty.

I don't mind if I can kill the first boss or two in the first week. That's fine. You have to start gearing somewhere. But I want us to stall on the third boss for a full week.

I want us to wipe, I want us to sit and discuss strategies, look at our team and evaluate what to do with our resources. I want us to reforge gear for specific stats, re-gem, re-enchant, move talent points around. I want to struggle and when the boss keels over, I want vent to be indecipherable with all the cheers of relief earned after winning a hard fought kill.

The fourth and fifth boss need to be on a similar level, if not a bit harder. Ultraxion is a well tuned fight even on normal, we had to 2 heal it, but I want us to have to 2 heal and solo tank it just to make the enrage and come up with creative ways of letting someone tank the boss while I'm dropping off Fading Light.

I want lootship to add more mechanics instead of just an add priority with positioning challenges.

Spine and Madness should both be very difficult, they need to last us weeks, they need to make us gnash our teeth and shake our heads, they need to make us struggle and anguish about whether or not we push our lockouts because we're so close to a kill, but wouldn't another week of heroic gear help.

That's what I want.

But even then, eight bosses, we're talking about, pessimistically, March? April? Before everything is done even on hard modes? And we'll still have four months to go at the least before expecting MoP. I can't see the expansion before July/August. And a cynical voice in my head wonders if that's why the Beta was included in the year long plan, as a way to get us content even in its incomplete state...

Anyway. I'm worried. But I'm having a lot of fun at the same time.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Faction Pride

There's a thread going on at the official forums about faction pride and the Developer's Water Cooler that was posted a few days ago.

As primarily an Alliance player, I have a strong interest and disagreement with the way Blizzard has presented itself to the community in terms of this conflict, and I tried to articulate it in this post. I'll repost it here, since I think it captures how I feel about the whole thing well.


I really do think the Developer Water Cooler post missed the mark.

Story is awesome, I am all for Story, please realize that I don't care if we win or loose, honestly, what I care about is pride and even-handed dealing.

Have you ever played a table-top game? I'm sure you have. :-) When you have a conflict between two characters, and the GM is managing the conflict, how do you feel when the GM is kind of winking and nudging at the guy you're rolling off against and saying, "Good lucky buddy, you got this!"?

That's what playing Alliance is like.

We're (or at least, I'm) not looking for a tit-for-tat Theramore means Horde needs to loose Crossroads or whatever - tell the story you have to tell, but please stop with the divide and conquer.

We constantly see "Horde pride" and such all over Blizzcon, from the developers, in your commentary but we seldom if ever see any such dialogue about the Alliance. That's the crux of the problem. It's okay if you guys all play Horde. I don't care. You guys make the game, you guys deserve to enjoy it in whatever way you like.

But what I care deeply about is how you present yourself at the gaming table when you're running the game for me. Don't make me suspect you're rooting for the guy across the table from me when you're supposed to be a neutral party.


That's really it. I have written enough stories, and played enough RPGs to know that winning doesn't always make the best story. But I do require that the person in charge of the story stay neutral and fair to all the players in the game. And I have never felt that way in Warcraft.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Patch Day Madness

I was glad the patch dropped when it did - I think I was really bored with Firelands despite the fact that we were on Heroics. With how late we started work on that instance and how the tuning was all over the place with it, I always felt disconnected from the place. There was a lot of confusion about the raid where Blizzard seemed to mid-step change directions and nerf stuff across the board.

One of the things I'm loving lately is how stable the patch days have been. No instance server issues, no authentication server issues, really, no issues at all and you can log in and play. Even most of my add-ons were behaving fine except for a couple of LUA errors from DBM whenever I zoned into an instance. After the nightmarish patches of yesteryear, this is a sweet, sweet dream.

Remember 3.3 when you couldn't log in for two days? Or 3.4 when half the authentication servers were down? Hell, even 4.1 when Omnitron was broken and you couldn't get past him, if you could even get into the crashing instance server gateways? We used to move raid night to non-patch days because we knew we couldn't raid on Tuesday and juts hoped everything was stable by Wednesday night. Kids these days.

Anyway.

I logged in about 10 minutes before raid in typical fashion, ran around with my head cut-off for five minutes and only managed to 'mog my hideous shield and sword away for something better before clicking Accept on the Have Group Will Travel summons into Dragon Soul for the first time.

Where we proceeded to demolish the place. There is a serious tuning issue for 4.3 at least on 10-man normal modes. For better or worse, this is the easiest tier since the first wing of ICC. Even Saurfang and Deathwhisper had slightly more compelling mechanics on 10-man.

With no one having seen the bosses, no one having run the LFR, just based on the dungeon-journal, we one-shot Morchok and two-shot Yor'sahj, and  I was DC'd for about a minute on that fight so my co-tank had huge stacks of Void Bolts but apparently our healers had no problem with it.

Zon'ozz took a little longer, but he died as well once we figured out a very easy way to handle the bouncing mechanic by lining up and turning it into a fool-proof ping-pong game while I jumped back and forth pointing him this way and that. He was the first boss that felt like a real raid boss with scary damage and positioning and an enrage timer that was somewhat of an issue (30 seconds left on enrage when he died, so not really but still).

We made one pull of Hagara before raid time to give our Rogue a chance to pickpocket her and got to work on her ice phase a bit, so we'll go back in and kill her tonight, hopefully and then the one fight that actually seems scary outside of Deathwing - Ultraxion. I'd love to get through both of those tonight as loot-ship looks as easy as the ICC loot-ship and that just leaves Deathwing to kill (twice.)

It could be that the first four are easy and the next four are really hard, or scale up slightly in difficulty as you went further in. Morchok was lolwut, Yor'sahj was an AoE heal, minor DPS check and a are-you-really-here check in terms of picking which add to kill each time, and Zon'ozz was a mild DPS check (he has a tight enrage timer at 5.5 minute/68 million health) and awareness check with more AoE healing. Did I mention there's a lot of raid damage? There's a lot of raid damage. And a bit of bursty tank damage too.

The one nice thing about these fights is that while the tanking isn't particularly difficult so far (I did enjoy solo-tanking Zon'ozz and looks like solo-tanking Hagara will actually require a bit of focus as well), there is a lot of ancillary stuff tanks can do to make the raid run easier. Tanking crystals with two DPS when you're not on Morchok for instance, or helping put out damage on the oozes, raid-walling with efficiency to chain cool-downs with the healers.... there is more stuff to do than just standing there and being a meat-shield.

I was lucky enough to pick up the off-set shoulders and tier legs last night, which was awesome. The weird thing is, despite loosing Mastery on both those items, without even reforging, and going for the set bonus, I was still at block-cap with Mastery food (though I am using two Mastery trinkets.)

Callooh!Callay!

I know in a month I'll be moaning about how boring normal modes are, but right now, man it was satisfying to smash through the instance and kill bosses so quickly and efficiently. Maybe we'll even be in Heroics this time next month. This was something I had known for some time - once we have a regular team of geared people who've been working together and gelled, we have zero problems in terms of progression. We can get this done. And we did.

A rather amusing side-affect of raiding so early in the week after patch is the following image:


It is, of course, an anomaly and a lie, but it is kind of nice to be listed as server first and word top 200, even if only for a day or two. We have a US top-100 guild on our server that killed Heroic Ragnaros back in early October, I think, so we're nowhere near the top, and I'm sure we'll get down-ranked very rapidly as other guilds get ranked (as is appropriate) but still.

Sometimes it's nice to lie to oneself for a minute and take a screenshot! :-)

Tonight: more raiding, hopefully knocking out the two dungeons I haven't done yet, and then mogging up my set, moving stuff into void-bank... so much to do! And so much more to write about!

Monday, November 28, 2011

It's Over Nine Thousand!

This weekend between bouts of Turkey and Stuffing floating in an ocean of butter, I took the time to grind out a bunch of low-hanging achievements and a profession that has been hounding me since Cataclysm launched and crossed the Nine Thousand achievement points line.

At first I just went for the easy stuff - getting Pilgrim got me well within striking range. After that, the cooking/eating/drinking achievements easily finished with purchases from the Auction House, a bit of cooking, and a little help from a guildy who cooked up all the cookies for You'll Feel Right As Rain.

After that, I grabbed an easy rep grind over a couple of hour or so to get two achievements and a pet, and then win-traded my way to another achievement over at the Argent Colosseum. Jumped off a cliff and bandaged myself for another.

After that, being so close to the end, I just began to grind out Archaeology as I had never finished it, stalling in the 300-range somewhere, and began to rack up the achievements until the finale when with five points left to go, I racked up three in a row, all adding up to the big one.

All done. Now I'm kind of looking at that number and wishing for a 5-digit number, especially with how many achievements I haven't ground out (a few meta 25-man stuff from Wrath, a few more Holiday things yet, several PvP ones, etc.), it shouldn't be difficult at all to hit 10k points. But I can take it in a more leisurely fashion. With the buff Archaeology is receiving in 4.3, I might even go back to get some achievements from there - I rather enjoy a few of the rare items you can get from there.

It was surprisingly relaxing to spend a few hours doing a low-stress activity like this. I do hope we see some kind of account-wide achievement tracking ability in 5.0 as I do hate being on an alt and not being able to prove that I know what I'm talking about when I'm trying to PuG something. Plus, a few of the really hard PvP achievements are very difficult to duplicate multiple times and if I have it on any one character who's not my Paladin, it's really aggravating to try and duplicate that.

Anyway. If 4.3 hits tomorrow, the relaxing down-time will be over and it's nose to the grind stone time. I'll need to cap Justice and Honor next week on at least two characters for PvP gear and start getting Valor and Conquest capped again.

Home again, home again, jiggety jig.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Thanksgiving

With a holiday week and truncated Warcraft time, with 4.2 on its last legs, the last week of the PvP season, the missing guildies away to visit family, I'm left feeling nostalgic, so rather than my usual ranting, I'll take this opportunity to give my thanks to a few people in game that I don't say thanks to often enough.

Since my son was born nearly 14 months ago, time has become a precious commodity for me. With Warcraft taking up as much time as it does to play, I often think about what makes me commit my time to this game instead of something else that would be, frankly, a great deal less stressful as a relaxing hobby after very full days of work and handling the baby.

The main reason for that, of course, are my friends in game. I came close to leaving the game once, and then I met some people who're still keeping me here, and grounded, and when I log in to see them, I know I'm with friends and as long as they're here, I'll keep logging into Azeroth because it's a second home for me, not because of my loot or raids or achievements, but because that's where some of my dearest friends reside.

So, this is thanks to them.

Thisle, Issacc, Riley, Elrahd, Nettle - I've been raiding with you guys for over two years, through three guilds, across two factions, through rage-quits, through rants and raves, through fallen guilds, missing raid leads, weeks of no progression, no shows, all in pursuit of the euphoric highs of many, many, many kills.

Lava and Vesti - without you guys, the Turtles would never have been successful and we're lucky to have met you in our early days. Maara and Verm - you guys are like the missing chunk of our guild that we didn't know was missing till you joined us this year. I can't imagine the Turtles without your presence anymore.

Thanks also, to all the friends who moved on after raiding with us for so long - Rasc, Brusin, Hal, Ryan, Jiri, Suly, Bhambi, Raiku, Siandris... too many names and too many voices that have fallen silent but I'm happy to have known you while you were here.

Thanks to the people who got me here in the first place - Shinorah and Ehr, who were the leaders of my first guild, who trusted a plucky little bear to run his own little Kara group, to Elionene and Lal and Zeo and Marilee, who took over when I moved on and then formed their own guild. To Rish and Lailie, who were the core of my first 5-man heroics group and the first guildies I traveled to meet, late at night, in a diner in Baltimore.

Thanks from the bottom of my heart, with nothing but love, to Loch and Atvia, to Tel and Lafaera, to Nes, and Sheri - and all those people know exactly why, I hope.

To the guildies I've met in GenCon to play table-top games with, to the guildies I've met and walked the streets of Philadelphia with, to the guildies I went to a Renaissance Faire with, to the guildies I drank beer in a pub with, to the guildies I drove across Scotland with.

And to the friends I have yet to make and meet, and to the adventures we have yet to undertake.

Thanks.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Paladin Transmog Sets - Part 1

In case you weren't sure, I'm really, really, really excited for Transmogrify. I'm a stickler for the way gear looks, I want my character to look powerful, regal and heroic. I want her to be dressed as a sword-wielding shield-bashing name-taking blood-spilling holy warrior of the Light would dress. That is to say, not wearing plate bikinis and exposing a flat mid-riff in the hopes of distracting her enemies.

So I'm going to make a catalog of various sets I'm planning to use - I'm sure I'll swap between these as the mood and whim strikes. I'll start with my hands-down absolutely favorite, best remembered set from the last two years that I actually gained and used actively while playing that I haven't worn in close to a year - the Sanctified Lightsworn Plate. This is the set in it's unadulterated glory:


It certainly isn't bad on it's own,and it might be fine for healing, or even DPS but I think tanking sets just look better without a skirt. I adore paladin sets with with plate skirts, but I think functionally they work as ceremonial or for healing at best. And besides, can you imagine her being able to kite mobs in that skirt? I don't think so. The set itself is dramatic and striking, the visor is unique, the glow and effects and the details of the ribbon are lovely and I like the way it works even when you color shift it for some glamour shots.



So, taking the head and shoulders as a base, and relying exclusively on Icecrown gear, I build into this.

Paladin Transmogrify Set: Modified Sanctified Lightsworn Plate
(link to full set)


The set uses a lot of stuff you can easily purchase from Vendors or get crafted:
The only thing you might actually have to go hunting for is this:
  • Weapon: The Facelifter. Drops from Professor Putricide in 10s - alternately, you can use the Soul Blade, a BoE sword from Bastion of Twilight that's fairly easily found and looks quite good.
Of course, I would have much rather used the purchased off-set Tanking chest piece, but it suffers from bare-midriff-itis. You can mitigate it with a black undershirt somewhat, but the colors and patterns don't quite match up. The caster belt helps transition between the warrior tier legs and the Paladin tier chest piece quite nicely. I don't use a cloak with it because it just looks much better without it.

UPDATE POST PATCH 4.3!!
It's one thing to plan an outfit and another to wear it. I found the shield and sword to just not be up to my standards in game, in terms of look and feel, and while it might work for you, the shield in particular was just too big and disguised my character's face far too much. I wound up using the Soul Blade and a vintage shield called Brutal Gladiator's Barrier that you can buy from the retro PvP vendor in Stormwind/Orgrimmar the same as the PvP shield I linked above for a small amount of Honor. Here's how I look in game right now:


Pretty snazzy, if I may say so myself!

Next time, I'll look at modifying Tier 13 to be even more bad-ass than it already is, by eliminating the bare-mid-riff and tweaking the look slightly with different weapons and cloaks.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

I'm Shy!

Online at least.

I really don't think I am in person, I'm fairly aggressive when it comes to socializing, and I don't really have any fear of speaking in public, meeting a new group of people, or whatever, but for some reason, when I'm taken out of my comfort circle in Warcraft, I do find myself acting in a very reserved and shy manner.

Specifically, I have an alt in a Horde guild on another server, and it's a large guild with a lot of people on and a lot of activities and I'm sure everyone is very friendly, but I seldom if ever pipe up to say anything or contribute much to the guild as a whole, nor do I get involved with it. As silly as it sounds for a man of my age to say, I feel shy and don't want to engage and make myself seem a fool! I'd rather sit in /trade looking to do stuff rather than ask in Guild.

Which is just insanely silly.


I remember back when I first really went looking for a new guild and joined a hardcore 25 man raiding group, I was the quiet guy who never said anything in Vent and used "Please", "Thank you" and smiley faces in nearly everything I ever said in Raid or Guild chat. When I got promoted to solo-tanking the really scary stuff in Ulduar, I was still really terrified to say anything, because there were 24 other people who were counting on me to keep pulls together.

It wasn't until months later when I got pulled into the selective 10-man group that was clearing a lot more content regularly that I began to feel like a part of the group and began to loosen up and some of those friendships are what led to my current guild, where I do feel very confident, and I work hard to assimilate new people in, though we are a much smaller guild by comparison.


All of this is well and good, but then I realized that it extends to a much bigger level when I think about my blog.

There is a large and vibrant and active blogging community - and I have never really participated in it. I don't really know how to, and I'm kind of scared to try to even start a dialogue. I don't know why I can be so much more confident and overcome any social anxiety in the real world where it can be a lot more overwhelming and when it comes to engaging in online communities, I get shy.

Anyway. There's not really a point to this other than that I logged into my Horde character, sat around for a few minutes staring glumly at /trade where nothing was going on, then I logged off and went to read a book.

So, um, sorry to be so inconclusive. As a bonus, here's a set I'm considering for my tanking transmog set!


Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Decency and Vote Kicks in PUGs

"What the hell is wrong with you," said the healer to the Hunter, "Why did you run towards me? You got me killed."

Typical PUG grandstanding and raging over a wipe in a 5-man, nothing too new or unexpected. Except, this was on the PTR, on the last boss of a new dungeon that most of us were doing for the first time. I looked at the words on the screen and paused for a minute before beginning to type. I politely explained that this was probably the first time for most people here, and now that we know what not to do, we shouldn't have a problem.

"I just wanted to let him know he was being stupid for killing me."

Again, I began to type, and explained that since we didn't cover the fight before pulling, we couldn't know what to expect from a new mechanic.

"Doesn't change the fact that he's stupid."

I was expecting a vote-kick window to pop up in front of my face to get rid of the hunter, who hadn't said a word this whole time. I'm sure he was feeling bad enough without this guy ripping into him for no reason.

"I think you could have pointed out that he misunderstood the mechanic without being rude," I said, expecting that I would be kicked as well at this point for talking instead of pulling.

Except, that one of the other members chimed in, talking about the need for civility, politeness, and understanding when we're doing new content, and the hunter thanked us for not kicking him. The healer didn't find anything else to say at that point, so we pulled, killed the boss, said our thank-yous and went our way.

I don't know if that healer would have initiated a vote-kick if I hadn't jumped in right away, I don't know if the other two people would've just mindlessly clicked "Yes" when the window popped up, maybe they would have declined and one of them would have said something.

But I felt like I was taking a risk just for speaking up in the hunter's defense.

As a tank, my queue times are irrelevant so I wasn't really bothered about being kicked, the risk for me was minimal, but I can completely understand why the other two DPS stayed quiet.

They don't get an instant queue if they get kicked. They have to wait another 20 minutes, a half hour and maybe re-do the dungeon all over again. I know because I think the same thing when I'm PUGing on my Warlock - I don't want to do anything to give cause for vote-kicks. I don't want to draw any attention to myself. It's practically Orwellian how much power the group, in particular the tanks and healers have over a PUG.

I don't know how to fix it, but I think, based on what I saw yesterday, most people are going to side with polite behavior, and empathize, especially when the anger is as unjustified as it was in this case, so long as someone takes that first step - someone needs to speak up on behalf of the victimized member, even if a mistake was made.

No one deserves the kind of treatment DPS get, when they make a single mistake. It makes me want to PUG more just to add to the list of people who will vote "No" when frivolous vote-kicks fly.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Why am I logging in again?

I've been having a "blah" few weeks in WoW that are leading up to severe boredom.

Our progression has stalled to a point where it's just log in on autopilot wipe on heroics for a while, then switch to normal and sleepwalk through kills. I don't mind it so much, it's just not very much of an incentive to log in and be excited to raid. It kind of doesn't matter how well I play, or how well 90% of the raid plays, if one or two people aren't pulling their weight, the raid fails.

I could use one more upgrade from normal modes, but otherwise, I could more or less walk into Dragon Soul with what I have on now and probably clear through most of that content without feeling undergeared.

I've been trying to play alts more, and getting to DPS on my warlock or playing my DK is quite entertaining, and I kind of want to focus on one of them a bit more, but I can't, really. I need to be on my Paladin for Raids since we're pretty low/short on tanks. And my DK is horde side on another server anyway.

Honestly, the only really fun stuff I'm enjoying in game right now are the PvP nights on my Warlock. I'm slowly, slowly, slowly getting better, I think. Our 3's team hit 1400 ranking after only two weeks of play. But we only do the 8 or 9 wins we need to cap out Conquest so it's not even like it's a long-term thing. It's just about two hours of fun and then it's done till the next week. Our Warlock/Priest/Rogue combo is pretty great... when we remember to save the healer from melee cleaves but otherwise we do pretty well for a team that's still finding its feet. I think with how geared we're getting we'll do very well in the next season as we zone in the first week in full Ruthless gear.

And I kind-of have fun on my Horde DK lately, as I've geared her up through at least T11, when I can find some PuGs for her but her server seems to be a bit slow in terms of PuGing content and I can't always find stuff to do so I just wind up running dungeons and being bored there too. I would actually love to DPS on her but searching for slots for DK DPS is pretty goddamned fruitless - still, Blood tanking is different enough from Paladin tanking to be entertaining.

But anyway. Again. What's the point? Working on my 'lock or DK would involve raiding with another group and I just don't have the time for it. I want the commitment I have to my raid group to pay off.

So it all leads up to, what's it all for? I don't know. When progression on my main stalls for me, everything goes out the window - all motivation to log in and raid just evaporates and I just roll my eyes when we swap to normal mode and kind of tune out, more or less. We've been killing normal modes for months now. It's literally like running a heroic at this point, down to one-shotting Rag last week with a death in phase two.

There are different reasons people play this game, and when I hear about how many other groups can't do Firelands or whatever, it doesn't matter - I'm never comparing myself to those behind me or ahead of me, I'm just comparing myself to the expectations I have set for myself.

I think that any decent raid group should get through more than 50% of the content provided to it. Normal modes are the first 50% of content in any tier, that's more or less how Blizzard has setup the raiding game. If you can't get through a majority of hard modes pre-patch, then that's content you're missing out on.

That's what I want to do. I don't want to go back and get kills after I've geared up in Dragon Soul, I want to kill these fuckers now when it's still relevant. When I'm not working towards that, I'm tapping my feet wondering why I'm logging in instead of working on another project.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

HOW TO: Ragnaros 10-man

Since the first six bosses in Firelands are rather silly and easy post nerf, I figured I might write up how we do Ragnaros as guilds might still be stuck on him. The way we do the Intermissions in particular are a bit different than most guides so maybe it'll be helpful for someone.

Also, it took me a while to do this because I wanted to experiment with making animated GIFs and see how that goes, so this is an experiment! :-) I don't know. Hopefully it's helpful! If you think I'm doing something wrong, please let me know.

There are also some Paladin Tank specific tips at the bottom.

RAGNAROS (10) NORMAL 


2 tanks, 2 healers, 6 DPS
Unless your DPS is very high (which is to say, if you can push phase 2 with 5 DPS taking only 2 seeds and if you can handle Intermissions with 5 DPS), you want to do this with 2 healers.

6 DPS will also trivialize Phase 3 as you can get through it well before a 3rd meteor forms. If you have more than 3 melee DPS, you might have a bit of trouble but it should be okay with a bit of practice.

You want to set up your groups so you have 1 tank, 1 healer and 3 DPS in each group for ease of positioning in phase 3.

Phase 1
Main things to handle: Smash, Knock-back and Traps

This is a very simple phase - positioning almost doesn't matter. Melee should be tight up against the boss on the lip of his hot-tub to his side to mitigate Parry and they will never have to worry about Smash. The ranged and healers can position themselves at a angle to the Smash as it falls. The only way you might take damage here is if Ragnaros lines up a knock-back and a Smash so that you get knocked into a wave - just strafe towards or away from the Smash to mitigate this as necessary. Also, if a trap lands behind you, move away so you don't get knocked into it.

Dedicate a Mage to handle the traps - they will have no trouble with every single one, but failing that you can rotate paladins (bubble), Shadow Priests, Rogues, Hunters, Warlocks.... this shouldn't be much of an issue, just make sure you have the person call out before detonating it and making sure the raid health is high enough to sustain the damage. Doing it after a knock-back once the raid is topped off is probably best.

Tanks should swap off after 3 stacks of Burning Wound, and we found that taunts were actually messy if the debuffed tank kept DPSing due to very high Vengeance stacks. We found it better to just pull off for a few seconds to ensure safe swaps to avoid gaining a 4th stack of Burning Wound. With tight taunting, you can make sure neither tank ever has more than a 3-stack.

This phase should go very quickly and you will get used to the mechanics after a couple of pulls.

Intermission 1
We have a very strict positioning, that we use for both transitions. I'll illustrate using our composition:

Balance Druid - Rogue - Feral - Mage - Priest - Arcane Mage

At the very least, the 2 people at either ends should be ranged, but if you can get four ranged and have 2 each on either side, it would be even better.

This is not a strict formation - the DPS will have to adjust left or right and decide who takes 2 based on the position of the hammer. There will be 2 DPS assigned 4 adds and 4 DPS with one each. No matter where the hammer falls the DPS with single adds need to clean up their add first before shifting over to help with the spares. This is an animated image that will show all 3 positions of hammer.


We trained on the first set of adds with no help from the Tanks until we got it right. That way our DPS was used to handling it on their own and the tanks could cleanly pickup the extra adds in the 2nd intermission without having to worry about splitting attention between the sets of adds.

Now that we have it down, the tanks do help with the adds, but we've drilled it into the DPS that it's their jobs to get the adds down and the positioning is super-simple, as people just need to remember who they're standing next to and they will know where to go. The shifts aren't that complicated either. Just make sure your DPS at either end is careful of the last add on their side as it will go through the lava to get to the Hammer if it's on the left or right, and you do not want melee running into that. Healers can regen mana here for the most part. Also, don't run into the hammer. Hammer.

Phase 2
Main things to handle: Smash, Engulfing Flames and Seeds


Here is all of Phase 2. I spelled it out in detail below, but I think this illustrates it in an easy way.




Pick a side, doesn't matter which one, but you need to gather up while staying 6-yards apart. Staying within Melee is preferable unless Engulfing Flames is on the inner ring. Dodge the first Smash as it comes, wait for Seeds to land, watch out for Engulfing Flames and then as soon as Seeds land on YOU (the timers are slightly off for this, so you need to watch your own feet and move when you see the spinny thing under your feet)! Now, book it to the opposite side using any (safe) speed boost you have, and gather up on the other end as fast as you can.

The positioning is tricky here but every time you move you need to gather up on the boundary between the two nearest Engulfing Flames zones. That way as soon as it hits you can move in or back and not take damage from that. You can drop a raid marker on both sides to identify where you want to gather up.

Shortly thereafter, Seeds will explode and rush you - group up, use ONE raid cool-down here (Aura Mastery, Barrier, Divine Sacrifice, etc.) and AoE the adds down. Now, quickly, either step into Melee or spread out a bit because you're going to get another Smash shortly afterward. This is a not as tight a moment, as soon as the adds die, your raid needs to position itself for the Smash. You have a short amount of time to call it out and adjust. But it's very easy to get focused on one thing and miss the Smash here, especially as you'll have a lot of ground effects going on - know what's going to happen and be prepared.

Right after Smash is the ideal time for DPS cool-downs as you'll have a few long seconds of burn here with only Engulfing Flames to worry about.

60 seconds later, the second set of seeds land - same as before. Run to the opposite side on the boundary of the two Flames zones.

Now, this is the tricky part. 3 things will come at the same time right after the Seeds explode - the adds are rushing you, the Smash is about to come down, and Engulfing Flames is about to go off. This is the make it or break it moment. You WANT Flames to be in the middle or far back so your entire raid just moves onto the lip and avoids everything. That's ideal. But it won't happen like that every time. Chances are you will have Flames in melee range and you will have to do a lot of dodging to avoid the Smash in addition to moving back out of range.

The most tricky thing in both these situations is making sure you tank stays in melee range or Ragnaros will swing and murder anyone else who is in range - usually a rogue (sorry Vesti).

By now, Ragnaros should be sub-50% and you should make a call depending on your DPS and the time remaining before the next cast of Seeds if you want to push him or take a 3rd set of seeds. With 6 DPS this is not a problem, and you can easily push it with 2, as a 3rd will strain your mana and you might not have a 3rd raid-wide cool-down to deal with a 3rd set of adds.

The less time you spend in this phase, the better.

Intermission 2
Just handle it exactly as you did Phase 1 - the only difference is that you want to keep at least one Son alive for a little while and kill it as close to the end of the phase as possible. Tanks should pick up one Scion each and bring them to the center, mark one for focus and DPS can swap to it as their adds are cleaned up. Ideally you want to get at least one add down before transition into Phase 3 but it isn't too terrible if you don't. Your raid will have to watch out for Blazing Heat and not give a fire boost to the Sons but it is generally not an issue with a bit of awareness.

If you can handle the Sons in phase 1, you can handle the Sons here. The only trick is to get one of the adds below 50% to slow it, use knock-backs, stuns, Death Grip, etc. to delay its journey as much as possible and really burst on one of the Scions. Cleaves and such will get the other one low - they each have 1.5 million health, so you'll need to hit a few short-cool-down DPS boosts to get one down before transition.

Phase 3
Main things to handle: Smash, Engulfing Flames and Meteor


Group up loosely in the middle, dodge any Smashes or Flames that come your way, get any remainingScions down quickly, hit Heroism and all your really big damage cool-downs, trinkets, take that potion and go nuts. You have a good, long period to really burst him here with very little, very predictable movement, and you can get him through as much as half his remaining health very quickly if you transition with no Scions.

About 60 seconds into the phase, the first Meteor will spawn. Ragnaros should have 30% - 25% health left. Immediately, your raid should split - remember how you split your raid into 2 5-man parties? Group 1 goes left, Group 2 goes right, and whoever is being chased by the meteor knocked it back into the center once they've kited it to their side. The raid just keeps on DPSing and dodging Smash and Flames.

Here it becomes a game of kickball - every time it's knocked back, the meteor will pick a different target and move towards them. It's also immune for a few seconds after each knock-back, so you want it as far into the middle as possible. Make sure there is one person on each side who's responsible for jugging it so everyone isn't just focused on Ragnaros assuming someone else will handle it.



Ideally, you want the meteor picking people on the opposite side so it has to travel to them before getting knocked into the center again and so forth. Chances are it will target people in the same group repeatedly and if it's very close, have the person run out and kite it to the opposite group. But if RNG isn't being really terrible, you should still be able to burn the boss with only one meteor up. More meteors will spawn every 30 seconds (or so it seems) after the first one, but I think the pace might increase after 3 meteors. On our training runs, we saw as many as 5 at a time. That was kind of. Crazy.

At this point, if you're able to deal with the meteor okay, you should be able to kill him. Knock back or kite, either way, you're very close, and all you need is one clean pull at this point. If Rag is at 15% or so, and the meteors are getting too close for comfort - maybe try and have a tank with high stacks or DPS run out with one all the way towards the back while the rest of the raid pushes Rag over.

I do believe that if executed correctly, you can easily get this phase down. The only trouble is that most people will not get a lot of time to practice this as the focus you need to get through Phase 2 and the second transition has drained you (and the healers) and you just kind of tunnel-vision into getting him down to 10% and meteors hit people and you wipe.

The other strategy is to simply have the person who's targetted kite it away from the raid and have the raid move away from the meteor but it requires a great deal of personal responsibility and if a healer gets targetted you need to hit it right away to get it switch targets. We were able to kill him with both strategies but splitting up and playing kickball made it seem more organized for us.

Also, with this other strategy phase 3 can wind up looking like this.



Please note that while I did make the other GIFs, I didn't make this (very awesome) one, I found it while doing random searches for information. Whoever made it is, obviously, awesome.


Paladin Tank specific stuff:

- Use WoG to heal your co-tank after swaps
- If you go into Phase Transition with a Trap up, you should take it, use a bubble after reaching the apex of your parabolic journey, and you should land okay.
- Use Divine Sanctuary for one of the two Seeds (co-ordinate with other raid-wide cool-downs so you don't use them all at once)
- Holy Radiance after Seeds while you still can (still grumbling about the added cast time to that spell in 4.3)
- You can take 1 meteor hit if you're Bubbled, or LoH someone who just got hit by Meteor to save their life


Good luck!

Saturday, October 29, 2011

The Great PUG In The Sky

A new motto for tanking, perhaps?


I'm not afraid of tanking. Any PUG will do, I don't mind. Why should I be afraid of PUGing? There's no reason for it - we've all got to PUG sometime.


And if you get the reference without looking at the tags, you probably listened to too much music while lying in your bed with headphones on staring at trippy lights moving on the wall like I did, when I was a teenager.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Petition Bump

I know my blog is on the low (low) end of readership in the WoWoBloGoSphere, and I'm sure anyone seeing this link here must have seen it already, but just in case someone hasn't seen this yet, there is a small petition for Blizzard to make amends for providing a platform for homophobic language at BlizzCon - about 500 folks so far, but I'm hopeful more people will sign. If you support this kind of thing, please take a look and add your name to the list if it fits with your .

If for no other reason than that at least there's a list of names that winds up on Mike Morhaime's desk of people who don't appreciate homophobia mixed in with their gaming entertainment.

And I hope my anguished defense of heavy metal in the face of the homophobic rant wasn't misconstrued.

Raid Master No More

I wasn't expecting this to happen last night, but I quit from my position as raid-lead.

It was in the middle of raid, and a rather embarrassing display of childish peevishness from me for the people in Officer chat, but I'm glad it's done. My guild has been kind enough to tolerate my fit as I wasn't G-Kicked, and there was someone ready to take over right as I pulled out, and we continued the raid and finished what we set out to do.

As I tend to do after raid, I keep thinking about what to do next, and so forth, but I keep being surprised at the idea that it doesn't matter what I think at this point. I'm not in the position to make calls about whether we're pulling a boss on normal or heroic, I'm not in a position to say anything about scheduling, when to call raid, deciding who to sit - anything like that is up to Thistle and Elrahd, and I can just show up and raid, having no more a voice than the rest of the raid.

After two continuous years of raid leading with absolutely no break, it's kind of a relief to finally give it up.

I've been left in the Officer position by the GM and I'm not opposed to playing second string or helping out if necessary, but the people in the guild are just fine, the new RL is going to be great and we're going to keep progressing at the same pace, if not better, with someone who's not burned out.

The germ was planted long ago that I wanted to stop having so much responsibility in game, but it was illustrated in a stark way the last time I PuG'd something with a friend's guild where all I did was show up and DPS. It was fun to just kick back and follow the plan rather than come up with and execute one.

Now.

The big question that's kind of hovering above my head is, how long will this last? I know I get itchy about running things from time to time, and I can't seem to take a break from RLing for too long. The last break I had was maybe, four or five months, which was enough time to really refresh me, and even then I was one of maybe three raid leads in a rather large guild.

Between then and now, I tried to follow along in the footsteps of another RL for about a month before I got frustrated with his way of doing things and I just quit and formed the current guild with Thistle.

Since then, if a raid was run, Thistle or I were running things. After last night, it'll be Elrahd and Thistle and I'll be the guy in the back seat, munching peanuts and reading a book, occasionally frowning at the landscape outside the window to say, "Didn't we pass that barn ten minutes ago?"

I hope I don't get too annoying.