Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Female Worgen to Human Hair and Ear Charts

And, finally, the Female charts. I had to roll separate toons to put these together, including leveling a female Worgen to the point where she could get to Stormwind.

The Female Hair and Ear styles were a little harder. They're less symmetrical than the Males', so finding good angles for single screenshots was difficult. Hopefully they're okay.

All screenshots were taken with the WoW Model Viewer. Above each screenshot I've included the name of the style as it appears while you're in the Barber chair, as well as the # of the matching setting in the Model Viewer. This gives you a couple ways to actually see them in 3D if you want to.


Changing hairstyles on the Worgen affects the mane and "tails". They map to specific human hairstyles.

Click for full size.


Changing ear styles on the Worgen affects the ear size and shape. They map to different piercing configurations on the human forms.

Click for full size.

Monday, December 20, 2010

World Dragons

I enjoyed a pretty full and eventful WoW the cost of a ton of other stuff I intended to get done. I think I'm going to seriously curtail my game time this week and catch up on life. Novel concept, right? But I need to do it, and I need to make a conscious effort to do it.

The thing I'm most excited about right now is that, as of the time I'm writing this, my guild, <The Dragons>, is currently first on the server (Sen'jin) in guild Achievement points, and #37 in the world (according to GuildOx). Seriously.

Will it last? Probably not. But that's okay. I've screenshotted it and I'm keeping it tucked away for proof that our humble (not so) little guild was once able to say that it was top 50 in the world in anything.

Saturday night we had 3 groups chaining BC Heroics (and Kara) to get those achieves. Sunday night we had 5 groups chaining classic dungeons and then LK Heroics to wrap those up. It was actually a lot of fun. Plus when you have 5 groups scattered all over the world collecting these things, your guild achievements ping your screen like crazy. Every couple of minutes a new one goes up.

I hadn't smiled that much all week.

I'm really happy that we were able to get that many people willing to take a break from whatever they were doing to go back and run old content for the good of the guild. Especially now that achievements don't grant XP, so the amount of actual "good" isn't as easily quantifiable. Double especially because no one can just queue for those dungeons anymore...we had to travel to get to them.

Outside of that adventuring, I finally set foot into some Cata Heroics. I'll be giving my impressions on them in a post later on this week.

I also rolled a Female Worgen, leveled her up to the point where I could shift forms and get to SW, and got all my notes and screenshots for the Female Worgen Hair and Piercings chart. I just need to put it all together now, which is the easier but slightly more tedious portion of the process.

So those will be my next two posts. I'm not sure which order, yet.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Now is the time!

I had intended to make this post prior to Cataclysm releasing. Or at least in the first couple days thereafter. But it just never happened.

With all the new race/class combos, and the gear reset that occurs every time we have new levels to chew through, now is the idea time to try that Tanking or Healing that you've wanted to.

Late in an expansion (let's use Wrath for an example), it's hard to start Tanking or Healing if you haven't been doing it from the start. You're inexperienced, you may or may not have the gear, and encounters are pretty much designed such that they're less forgiving than, say, Naxx encounters. You may have done okay in the Lower Spire, but above that? Not likely. And being taken all the way to a fight like LK? Even more unlikely.

Even with Heroics, people were looking for fast, trouble-free runs. Easier to do if everyone's playing the roles they're familiar with. Wake me up when the last boss is dead, amirite?

But now you have a fresh start. Everyone getting new gear, everyone's learning new skills. And while I'd hardly call the current dungeons "forgiving," even on Normal modes, at least everyone is suffering through some growing pains.

So while you're out questing through the new zones, make sure you're keeping an eye out for that gear that may be good for the Tank or Healer spec you've been wanting to try and tuck it away. It shouldn't take too long to build up a decent starting set.

For aspiring healers, spend some time standing in one of your home cities and casting your heals on yourself. Get a feel for how long they take to cast and how much they actually heal. If you use keybinds, Clique, Vuhdo, Healbot or anything like that, get yourself familiar with they key/mouse presses for the different heals.

For aspiring tanks, get a DPS buddy and go out into the world, preferably in a zone where the mobs are a little tougher in groups (Uldum or Twilight Highlands). Start off pulling 2 mobs at a time. Focus on one while the DPS focuses on the other. Try to keep aggro. This (ideally) isn't how it will work in actual dungeons, but it's good practice on world trash. When you feel comfortable, try to bump this up to 3 or 4. Learn your cooldowns, even if you don't always need them.

Queue for dungeons force yourself into the unfamiliar role. 99 times out of 100, if you check DPS and either Tank or Healer, you're going to get either Tank or Healer. But don't take that chance. And if you're typically a Tank or a Healer trying to get used to the other one of those roles, definitely don't queue up with the familar one as an available option.

Better to do this in guild groups, btw. People are generally more patient and understanding.

Let everyone know up front that you're learning.

Be open to advice. Even rude advice. Just because someone's a jerk doesn't always mean they're wrong. If you do get someone who's adamant that you suck, ask the rest of the group if they feel you're really struggling. Ask for more direct, supportive advice.

Make sure to pick up better gear for the new role. Get a feel for how it changes as you get more powerful.

By the time you're ready to run Heroics and/or Raid, you should be getting pretty comfortable and used to how to play those styles. And since you're getting in on the ground floor, it'll be easier to continue those roles into the future of the expansion if you choose to.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

To Worgen or not to Worgen

I've been kinda teetering back and forth between race changing San to a Worgen and leaving him a NElf. I won't go into a long boring list, but most of the reasons for changing to a Worgen revlove around the fact that, visually, they appeal to me more. Most of the reasons for staying NElf revolve around it having been my in-game identity for so long. (Among other things, I'd feel compelled to change my name. Saniel isn't very Worgen sounding.)

But there is a single reason above all others that's holding me back.


Saved my blue-skinned butt so many times while leveling to 85. Pull too many mobs? Or that angry Elite? Couldn't get away from a spawn point that churned out enemies as fast as I could down them? Wanted to get swoop in, skin a corpse, and get out without a fight?

No problem. Pop Shadowmeld to drop combat, then pop flight form and fly away. Easy peasy. No mess, no fuss.

I would have died so many more times without that...

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Male Worgen to Human Hair and Beard Charts

Zel pointed out in my comments yesterday that the internet lacked a complete guide to mappings between Worgen and Human features. There were some partial ones, but since the Barber shops have more options than the creation screens, none of them were really complete. You're only able to access Barber chairs in Worgen form, so it's pretty much a change-and-check system to see what it looks like in the Human form.

I had a little time last night, so I put together the Male portion of said chart. (I don't have a Female Worgen or Human with which to do the counterparts, but I may be able to find the time to fix that, or at least get some help from someone who does.)
Update: Female charts are here!

Anyway, here are the Male charts at least.

All screenshots were taken with the WoW Model Viewer. Above each screenshot I've included the name of the style as it appears while you're in the Barber chair, as well as the # of the matching setting in the Model Viewer. This gives you a couple ways to actually see them in 3D if you want to.


Changing hairstyles on the Worgen affects the mane and "tails". They map to specific human hairstyles. There is one Worgen hair-style (Mane) that doesn't actually appear in the Model Viewer as a hairstyle. Instead it seems to be represented by turning hair display off.

Click for full size.


Changing beard (facial hair) styles on the Worgen affects the hair on the chin and under the muzzle near the neck, as well as ear size and shape. The Model Viewer has 23 different beard styles for the Worgen, but only 9 are available to players in the barber shops. I think I matched them all up properly.

Click for full size.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

New Character Habits

I have this habit with every character I've rolled since 3.0 was dropped before Wrath.

I create them, go through the starting zone, and then immediately hit the closest (or most convenient) big city with a barber shop and check out all the hair styles that weren't available upon character creation.

More often than not, I find one I like better than the original options.

Grevioux is currently resting in Darnassus. The next time I log into him, the very first thing I'm doing is jumping on the boat to Stormwind. Gonna get my harr did!

Do you have any crazy habits around your new chars?

Monday, December 13, 2010

The best laid plans of mice and men...

Ah, Tuesday. Feels like an eon ago. I remember looking ahead to the next five days off, excited about all the new things I would get to see and experience in Azeroth, but also firmly resolute in my dedication to not be consumed by them and to get a number of other things done.

Most of those other things are still completely undone. Others are only partially done. Cleaning my kitchen is the only one that got completely done...and then subsequently undone again as the days wore on.

I'm horrible.

I hit 85 on San early Sunday afternoon. At first I thought, "Wow...I planned to take a little longer than this to hit the cap. I didn't want to rush it." Then I realized I didn't rush it. I went through Hyjal, Deepholme, Uldum, and the Twilight Highlands. (I also ran through all of Vashj'ir on Daluaan.) It was about 60 quests through that last zone that I hit 85. I quested each one out completely and I made sure to take the time to read every quest I got. Not just skim it. Actually read and follow the stories.

The amount of time I spent on San alone in the last 5 days would probably take me 2.5 to 3 weeks during my normal play routine. So I didn't sprint to 85...but I sure as hell ran a marathon to get there. Add in some time I spent on other toons and...yeah.

The zones are amazing. Uldum so far has been my favorite one (not in the least because I'm totally enamored with the Ramkahen), but each has been a complete joy to experience. Part of the reason I was able to spend as much time in-game as I have is because the questing never felt grindy or needless. (*cough*Nesingwary*cough*) Every quest moved the story of the zone forward in a very real and impactful way. And the zones themselves are beautiful and a joy to travel through.

I haven't done any Heroics yet...I'm 1 iLvl away from being able to queue for them. Plus they're not something I intend to PuG at first, so I need to wait for a few more of my fellow guildies. I have tanked BRC a few times, plus ToT, SC, VP, and HoO once each. I've been having a blast, but it's been difficult. I have another post for that later this week, but the biggest change so far (even from running Wrath heroics post-4.01) is how careful I have to be with Maul. Using it at the wrong time now leaves me utterly rage starved and scrambling to keep threat.

I've cooked and fished some. My Skinning is maxed out and my Leatherworking is at 506. Those next 4 points are proving very difficult to get. I have 3 or 4 cheap patterns I can grind out, but since they're so close to grey, the likelihood of skillups is low. I have 2 yellow patters, but both are expensive, and they're close enough to green that they're unreliable for skillups. But I can't access any of the Twilight Highlands patterns until I get those 4 more points.

It's Monday, now. That means back to the grind. At least until next Wednesday, at which point I start my until-the-new-year vacation. My playtime until then is going to be somewhat limited (especially if I can maintain some semblance of self-discipline). But that's okay. It'll probably be good for me to take it a little easier over the next week anyway.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

A service to all my fellow bloggers

I found out something on Monday while I was updating my character list over there on the right:

WoW has a new Armory.

Yeah, no joke. I didn't know either. Been a while since I've checked it. It probably happened with the launch of the new forums and community site.

Needless to say, all my links were broken. They led to a big, fat, "Oops" page.

At first I was kinda embarrassed about this. I was sure I was the only one who'd missed the change.

Just a few minutes ago I perused several of the blogs on my blogroll in an attempt to confirm that I had been stuck on Idiot Island, population: 1.

Turns out I wasn't so alone.

So if you have links on your blog to your various characters' Armory profiles, you may want to take a look at updating them.

The new style looks something like this:

Come join me in the bar for a drink once you get back to the mainland. First round's on me.

My extensive list of Cataclysm Bear gear

So here's the deal.

I started to compile a list of the top 4 pieces of gear for Bears to look for as they level through Cataclysm. I pulled up Wowhead, put in some filters, and got a decent start at a stare-and-compare analysis.

Then I jumped over to The Fluid Druid to check out Alaron's post about gear for Cats and see how he put it together. It was a pretty good guide and I figured modeling mine after it couldn't hurt. Then after staring at it for about 30 seconds, I realized something...

It's the same list.

Follow me for a moment here.

At the beginning of an expansion, there's not a lot of variance in gear. Yeah, there's a ton of of new gear. But a lot of it is random drops and quest rewards. As you go through dungeons, you'll be looking for a piece or maybe two for each slot. Same with Heroics. Then you'll get to the raids.

At the end of BC I had two almost completely distinct pairs of gear. One for Bear, one for Cat. The first time I set foot into Naxx in Wrath, I had about 4 unique pieces for the two sets. The rest was shared.

Now that we're at the end of Wrath, I'm back to having two distinct sets. I expect I'm going see that pared down significantly before I step foot into the Bastion for the first time.

Now most of my distinct pieces of gear are my trinkets, rings, and amulet. And my cloak. Why? These are pieces that have more armor and defense on them. Plus more stam than the comparable DPS pieces. The rest of my gear is mostly the same pieces with different gems and enchants.

Things have changed now. Defense as a stat on gear is gone. Strength has gone down in value as a stat for bears (not that it was that great to start with). And Stam has been more normalized between Tanks and non-Tanks. Blizz has stated they didn't really want Bears going after those Plate-tank pieces anymore and they've backed up that desire with item and class design. So the line between Bear gear and Cat gear has gotten a lot thinner.

That makes Alaron's gear list almost spot on for Bears too. If I were better with numbers and assigning weights to stats, I think I might find that a piece or two here and there might be flipped with the one above it. But, honestly, I'm more of the eyeball-it type.

So if you want to peruse my extensive list of Cataclysm Bear gear, head on over to Alaron's blog and check out his extensive list of Cataclysm Cat gear.

Thanks for making my job easier, Alaron. :-)

Monday, December 6, 2010

Tonight at 12:01 PST...

...I will be asleep. And I will continue to be asleep until my normal wake up time of about 6:30. Then I will get up, take care of the 3 S's, get dressed, and go to work.

I figure UPS will be delivering my Cata:CE to my building sometime in the morning. Office mail will probably have it on my desk by the time I'm brewing my afternoon coffee. I'll finish out my work day, go home, and do any kind of installation/account upgrade that I need to do.

Then I'll probably create my Worgen Hunter. I won't start him. Just create him. He'll be a project for later, but I'm excited about him, so I do want to get that done.

I might log into my various characters long enough to get them to SW (San's the only one who has his hearth there already...the others are still in Northrend) and pick up Old World flying.

And then...I'm going to log out and go for my bi-weekly guys' night out. Every other Tuesday is wings night. Cata's not going to change that.

I did take the remaining 3 days of the week off of work. The timing is, admittedly, because of Cata. However the act of taking the days off is not. I have 11 PTO days I need to use up before Jan 1 or I lose them. This seemed like a good week to take care of some of that.

I'll still be taking some time among those days off to finally put up my Christmas lights and tree. I meant to do that this past weekend, but ended up with a pretty full schedule.

I've also been working on a set of questions for TriviaBot. The current available set is pretty badly out of date. Many of the questions are no longer valid. Some are flat out wrong (and were even two years ago when they were made). I've got over 450 so far and I figure I'm about halfway done. Maybe a little less. It's very time consuming and I really had no idea how large of an undertaking I was...undertaking. I really wanted to be done by tonight, but that's not going to happen. I'd like to finish them up in the next week. I figure if I put in a couple hours a day, that's reasonable.

So it's not going to be all Cata, all the time.

For what time I do spend playing, San will be my main focus until I hit 85. While I'm in no rush to get there, I do feel some small sense of responsibility as my guild's RL and MT to be among the first to the cap and available for runs, even just dungeons. I plan on breaking one of the major "rules" of WoW while I do it, though. I will not be logging out in inns or major cities. I want as little rest as possible to have to deal with. I want to see everything.

After San hits cap I'll probably be rotating among running dungeons and heroics with him as guildies need tanks, as well as leveling Daluaan, Siaaryn, and Grevioux (the previously mentioned Hunter). Hotahinahu might even see some love, too...though he'll be spending many lonely hours in Northrend. And, at some point, I'll have to get Maarken up to the cap. I may give Frost a shot to see how it plays. I'm just not having fun with Unholy.

Of course I'm really not expecting any of this to be happening in the next 5 days.

So those are my grand, illustrious Cataclysm plans.

Exciting, no?

Thursday, December 2, 2010

On Kings and Warchiefs

Before I start today's post, I just want to say hi to the recent influx of visitors from Team Sportscoat. I don't know what I did to catch your attention, but I definitely appreciate it. :-)

I know I've said it before, but the one thing that keeps me coming back to WoW above all others is the Lore. The story. This universe that Chris Metzen has created is beyond amazing. And the help and support he's gotten in bringing it to life leaves me slack-jawed.

I finished reading The Shattering on Tuesday night. It was a good read. Quick, clean, but still captivating. One of the things it showed me, though, is how dreadfully out of touch I am with the lore of WoW as it is right now.

I could go on and on about the War of the Ancients, the War of the Shifting Sands, Arthas' history, Illidan's history (and most of the lore surrounding the major players of Burning Crusade), etc. But I never really took the time to read up on the current players.

For the purposes of this post, I'm specifically referring to Varian Wrynn and Garrosh Hellscream. Two very important and very controversial figures in the current happenings of WoW.

Opposition to these two being in power is pretty unanimous. Both are hot-headed, impulsive, and violent. They have a hatred of the opposite faction so powerful that it's blinding them to (what we as players see as) any type of reason. This is especially true when we stand them up against their more moderate counterparts Jaina and Thrall. (I could toss Fandral Staghelm into this discussion, too, as he's probably still the single most reviled lore figure to ever grace the game.)

But there's a couple factors here that we as players never seem to consider.

Good writing doesn't avoid tension. It creates it.
Think of every story you've ever read. Think of every movie you've ever seen. Think of every game you've ever played. Think, particularly, of the best of each of these.

How many times are you screaming in your head, "just kill the bad guy! He's. Right. There!" or, "would you two just admit you have it for each other and get it on?!" or, "he was my favorite character, why did he have to die?!" or, "why can't the Horde and Alliance just put aside their differences and realize there are bigger problems?!"

It's simple...because what makes a story compelling is when it does the things that we as readers (and even as writers) don't want it to. There has to be a conflict that we want to see resolved or we lose interest. And as frustrating or disheartening as it can be when it gets worse instead of better, that only shows how invested we've become in it.

Have you ever read a story by a novice writer (they proliferate now, thanks to the internet) where everything just kinda goes right and all the conflicts are resolved the way we'd want them to be before they can really cause strife? It's boring as hell. And worse, it's completely unbelievable. You walk away feeling like you wasted a part of your life for having read it.

That's why we have Garrosh. That's why we have Varian. We may not like them. But they certainly keep the story interesting. Plus, it's worth noting that we are not the people they rule.

We are not Azeroth's citizens. We are its champions.
When the extent of your NPC interaction is clicking on them to open the AH or having them ask you to "keel six snow moose," when it takes 30 seconds to run from Stormwind's Cathdral to its Keep, when you can mount up and run from Westfall to Redridge in minutes, it's easy to forget that the world we play in is only a representation of the "real" Azeroth.

While the players that make up the Horde's fighting force would probably continue to play regardless of whether Garrosh or a Basic Campfire were appointed leader, the people of the Horde certainly would not.

Thrall had a very difficult decision to make and he had a very, very short time in which he could make it. He didn't want to give control of the Horde to Garrosh. But he didn't have any better alternatives. Not if he wanted to keep the Horde unified. The citizens of the Horde would break apart under any other rule in Thrall's absence, and he knew it.

And his intention at the time was for it to be a temporary thing. Just while he was off in Nagrand learning what he could about why Azeroth's elements were in such turmoil and how he, as a Shaman, could help. He assumed that when he returned from Nagrand he would resume leading his people. But it didn't turn out that way. And he couldn't just waltz back into Orgrimmar at that point and say, "Well, I'm not coming back to lead the Horde. But I thought about it and I think I'm going to appoint _______ for the job instead of Garrosh."

Yeah...that would go over well.

Likewise, on the Alliance side, we may not like Varian, but he is the rightful King of Stormwind. And as long as the Humans are the center of the Alliance, he will be its leader. At the end of the day, he's probably a good King. He's just a dick of a person. But there's a reason for that...

The game doesn't do a great job of telling the whole story.
When we see Varian in game, all we see is a giant, pushy, unreasonable jerk with an irrational hunger for Horde blood. But we usually don't think to stop and wonder why.

Through Warth, I knew a little bit about Varian. I knew that after he was kidnapped by the Defias he somehow got free, but was found washed up on shore with no real memory. I knew he was captured by the Orcs and forced to fight in their arenas until he eventually regained his senses and fought his way back to his rightful place in the world. So I could understand why he had a little bit of a distaste for the Horde, Orcs specifically.

You know what I didn't know until I read The Shattering? Varian was actually split into two people during that time. Literally.

There was Varian, the good, reasonable side of his personality. And there was Lo'gosh, his angry, violent side. It was Lo'gosh who was forced to fight in the arenas of the Horde while Varian tried to figure out what was really going on. And when the two halves were didn't go quite right. Instead of meshing back together into a whole man with each side of his personality acting as a balance for the other, he's still fractured. He's still two parts that wrestle for control. And Lo'gosh, being more naturally dominant, is often the side that gains the upper hand.

Now I understand why he's so unreasonable at times (during the siege of Undercity, for instance) and then does a complete 180 at others (telling Muradin to stand down so Saurfang can collect the body of his son, and telling Saurfang that his son was an honorable orc). (For those of you who only play Horde, this plays out when an Alliance group defeats Deathbringer Saurfang in ICC.)

Similarly I was able to learn why Garrosh is so battle-hungry and that he's not completely without a brain, or honor.

Metzen didn't make these characters jerks just for the sake of them being jerks, or just for the sake of keeping the story interesting. There's actual reasons for their personalities to have developed that way. (Again here, I would point out Staghelm. He, too, has reasons to being such a jerk.) But if you only look for readily-presented, in-game answers as to why, you'll never find them.

The game isn't about them. It's about us.
Here we come to the flip side of the citizen/champion coin. While we are not representative of the people of Azeroth as a whole, as long as we're logged into World of Warcraft, the game is still about us.

While it would be great at times if the game would do more to show us the stories of NPCs like Varian and Garrosh, they're secondary to us as heroes. We are not there to find out about Varian's past, or to counsel Garrosh. That's not our story. Our story is fighting to banish Ragnaros. It's stopping Onyxia and Nefarion from continuing their father's work. It's defeating Illidan once and for all. It's ending the Lich King's reign. It's slaying Deathwing before he can destroy the world.

Blizzard only has so many resources at its disposal to tell us stories (I have a whole other post about that for sometime in the future). While it's good for us to know what and who we're fighting for, at the end of the day, our story is the fight. And that's the story the game has to focus on telling. Blizzard realizes this, and that's why there's a plethora of other avenues for us to learn about all of Azeroth's history and the histories of all those who are a part of it. It's left to our discretion to go out of our way to find it and consume it.

And I highly recommend you do so. I've finally started to and it's made the game all that much better.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Kill it with fire!

I still hold that, in the game, Worgen casters just don't seem that appealing.

But...uh...this would probably make me soil myself.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

My guild defies logic

Lately Alas has been focusing a lot of word count on guild drama and officer issues/disagreements. I have a feeling what she's dealing with is much more common than we'd all care to admit (going off of some of the things I've seen the Drama Mamas tackle as well as general anecdotes I've picked up here and there).

One of her recent posts included the following words in her opening sentence:
...bringing me down to a comfortable total of three officers.
Woah. Three? That' few.

But is it?

I have a feeling my guild is very much an anomaly.

I kinda hope Alas doesn't read this next statement. Her head might explode.

My guild has 13 officers. No, that's not a typo. Unlucky 13.

Further defying the general rules and conventions of officerism, among those 13 are 4 couples, a pair of brothers, and an Aunt/Nephew pair. (There's some overlap in there.) It's always a little fun for us as new recruits start finding out we're not an entirely random group and start trying to connect all the lines in their head.

While Dinaer is unquestionably our leader, and we rarely take any significant actions before running them by him, he also extends the same courtesy to us. We have different ranks because the guild ranking system in WoW requires it. But at the end of the day, we're run more by committee than anything else.

If you want to get down and dirty about it, there's probably 4 of us total who actually do "officery stuff." Schedule things, run things, manage more than just give our voice to the general direction we'd like to see the guild go.

And yet, you know how much serious drama we've had since I joined the guild (2.5 years ago)? None. In fact, our guild has had relatively little drama of any kind. And none of it has been inter-officer. It's either been officer-member or member-member drama. But our core has stuck together with an amazing amount of harmony.

I think the trick is that Din (and other active officers) have done a very good job of assembling people with the same overall goals and a healthy respect for the fact that not all of us will always agree on the exact way to reach those goals. We'll have debates and discussions on our officer forums about policy or direction. Sometimes we'll go round and round in circles and ultimately not do anything. Sometimes it's easy and quick and decisive.

But it always seems to work out.

And we must be doing something right. We've managed to assemble a pretty large group of capable raiders. Most of whom could probably find spots on more focused, progression-pushing raid teams. But they're content here with us.

In terms of progression, we're usually ranked around 40th or 50th on the server. I think that's more because of time and our relaxed approach. Push-come-to-shove, I doubt there's 50 guilds "better" than us on our server. Maybe 20.

We're definitely one of the oldest active guilds on the server. (Jul '06?) And if you take the "Level Value" stat on WarcraftRealms to be a reasonable indicator of guild size, we're #11 on the server.

Am I bragging? I think I'm bragging.

What I'm getting at, though, is that the standard wisdom of what kind of leadership team function doesn't apply to every guild.

We're fortunate to have a group of mature individuals who want to play the game for fun, which means playing it with friends more than anything else.

I think we have 2 officers under the (physical) age of 30. So it's a group that's got their heads on their shoulders and are very accustomed to working with groups of people that share different ideals.

I'm curious, though. How far off the norm are we?

For those of you that read my blog, how many officers does your guild have? Are you one of them? What are your guild's goals and focuses? (More progression- or socially-oriented?)

I'd also be really interested in hearing from any of you that might participate in an RP guild, as I have to assume that introduces a whole new realm of complications.

Monday, November 29, 2010

(Re)learn the new tanking style!

Hi, all. Welcome back. Hope you're all fully recovered from your tryptophan comas.

I'm not.

And for all of you who are visiting my site from outside the US, well...things should be returning to normal shortly.

I had a pretty good extended weekend, much of which was spent in-game finally taking a good look around the new world and getting excited about the changes. There's a lot I could write about, but I think I want to enter the week talking about something specifically Druid-y as opposed to just rehashing a bunch of the cool things I saw.

Because this game is always more interesting for me when I'm working towards a quantifiable goal, I decided to strap on my Gilneas Tabard and chain-run some heroics to get my rep up with them.

(As a guild we've made it a goal to unlock the United Nations Guild Achieve as quickly as possible.)

This is the first real solo-tanking I've done since 4.01 dropped and drastically changed the way tanks perform their job.

And by "drastically changed" I mean "back to what used to be familiar."

I think there are a lot of Bears out there that never tanked prior to Wrath. They don't remember the day when Swipe only hit 3 targets. And only targets in front of you.

Target switching is not a skill a lot of Bears have ever had to acquire.

I used Challening Roar more times on Friday night than I have during the rest of Wrath combined. I'm glad I kept it on my bar all this time or I would have probably forgotten about it.

I lost aggro. A lot. And I was running with smart, capable DPS (most of whom also played prior to Wrath and are probably drudging up some of those lost skills). I'm sure if I was playing with the stereotypical "Gogogo" AoE-tard things would have been much worse.

And that right there is what I think a lot of tanks are referring to when they say tanking post-4.01 has been hell.

In Wrath, the measure of a good tank was one that could blindly hold aggro. Prior to that (and going forward) the measure of a tank is going to be how well he manages and recovers aggro. (And the measure of a good DPS is going to be how high they can climb on the meters without pulling aggro.)

Now that Swipe is on a 6-second cooldown, we have to be smart with it. In Wrath a Bear could just charge into a group of mobs and start hitting Swipe. If the first one didn't hit all the enemies, it was okay. Within the next couple of GCDs, any lose mobs would run in range and you'd get them, too.

Doesn't work that way anymore. Now if you swipe and miss a mob, it's going to be on your healer before that 6 second cooldown is up.

In Wrath, if you pulled an extra pack of mobs, no big deal. Run your fuzzy butt into the middle of them, Swipe once or twice, and you've got them.

Now if you pull another pack of mobs, odds are it's going to happen when you still have about 4 seconds of cooldown left on Swipe. Not cool. But this is where Challenging Roar comes in. Learn it. Use it. Love it.

Challenging Roar gives you 6 seconds to hit all those stray mobs and get at least a token amount of threat on them. Hopefully enough that when CR wears off, you have aggro.

Get used to it now. This is not a skill you want to be learning how to use when running Cata dungeons. You want to be familiar with it ahead of time.

Omen has also become exponentially more valuable for tanks. I've been in the pre-planning stages of rebuilding my UI (another post later this week, I think) as was considering leaving this addon out. Not anymore.

In Wrath you could sit there with a pack of mobs, Swipe it for 10 seconds, then go make yourself a sandwich while it was burned down by the dps, never having to worry about losing threat.

Now you have to be a little more proactive. If you have significant threat on your main target (oh,'s half dead and I have orders of magnitude more threat than anyone else) start cycling through the others and keeping an eye on Omen. It won't be long until you find one that's a moment or two away from running off to beat on your group's Mage and then to your friendly healer from there.

If you tanked a lot pre-Wrath, it'll take a few runs for this skill to come back to you. If you haven''s going to take some time. Again, best to run some heroics now to start getting the hang of it, rather than waiting until you're running dungeons in Cata.

If you're looking for a place to learn how to pick up loose mobs without having DPS behind you that can just burn them down without your help, hit up Phase 1 of the Lich King encounter. Stand off to the side of the Lich King (rather than behind him, as I've seen some groups do) and pick up the adds that spawn. The ghouls are weak and aren't much of a threat to your raid. Odds are they'll get aggroed on healers right after they've spawned. Learn to pick them up quickly and cleanly. Usually Growl isn't enough. Your healer will out-aggro you before the ghoul reaches you. You'll have to throw a F3 right after the taunt to make sure the ghoul reaches you.

With the cooldowns on Growl and F3, you have to get used to doing this quickly. Needing a second try means you're falling behind for when more adds show up.

Additionally, you have to balance this with the Shambling Horrors that spawn. They are a definite threat to your raid group and need to be picked up immediately or they'll cause a wipe. So make sure your important abilities aren't on cooldown when one of those starts making its way into the raid.

These are the types of things that stood out the most for me. I'm sure once Cata rolls in (8 days!!!!) and we start hitting up the dungeons, more tips, tactics, and suggestions will spring to mind. But for now, work on these. They're going to be core to being able to do your job well in the future.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Heirlooms? Never again.

Back before 4.01 dropped and changed all our Emblems to Points I sat down with a notebook, pen, Wowhead, and my bank alt and started working out what it would cost me to stock up on heirloom gear.

A lot of it I already had. The entire cloth caster set (shoulder, chest, staff, trinket) and the entire "hunter" set (sword, mace, bow, shoulder, chest, trinket).

So I calculated costs for all the other pieces I didn't have, started prioritizing (when do I think I'm going to level another Plate class, anyway?), making all kinds of crazy value judgments and assumptions...

...and then I stopped. And I realized how stupid I was being.

I have 4 80's. And if I break them down, I can cover any role more than once over.
2 Tanks (Druid, DK)
3 Melee DPS (Druid, DK, Shaman)
3 Ranged DPS (Druid, Shaman, Priest)
3 Healers (Druid, Shaman, Priest)

Granted, San will never be rDPS or Heals. And I don't really plan on using my DK for anything more than picking Herbs from this point forward. But the options are still technically there.

The point is, I'm never, ever going to have to rush to bring another toon up to max level. There is absolutely 0 functional reason for me to ever roll another toon again.

Azeroth has changed. It's shattered and shiny and new. Tons of things to see and do that I didn't before. I want to be able to experience them.

And leveling is already so damn fast. Do I really need to speed it up?

Plus I've found out that when I have 4 (or 6) pieces of gear that I never need to's kinda boring. Half the fun of leveling is going "ooh! That's an upgrade!"

So I decided that I'm going to keep the pieces I have in the bank (since I did purchase them), but unless some crazy circumstance comes along where I need leveling gear nao!, I'm done with heirlooms.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Monthly Moderation

As the loading screen tip tells us: "Take everything in moderation (even World of Warcraft)."

Most of my Monthly Moderations to this point (and I've been terrible about tossing them out on a Monthly basis) have revolved around music. This one is no different.

Today I want to point you to a pair of musical acts that, admittedly, are not for everyone. But they make me feel warm and fuzzy in all the right places. And they've both released new albums in the last few weeks, which has me on an absolute aural high.

The first of these is Ludachrist. The second is Girl Talk. I can link them together like this because they have very similar styles.

Both are glitch/mash-up artists/groups. Specifically they tend to mash up lyrics and beats from modern hip-hop to melodies from popular 80's songs. Usually of the pop variety. But there's also snippits of electronica, rock, video game themes, tv show themes, etc.

You may be saying, "San, this is called sampling. It's all over hip-hop/rap. What makes these guys different than that?"

What makes these guys different is that rather than a collection of full songs, they release mixes that run around the 55 minute range. Each mash-up lasts, on average, just over a minute before it's mixed into the next one. There's a very dance club vibe to the whole thing.

It's addicting in the same way action sequences in movies are addicting. Just as you're starting to pick out the tune through a certain section, it's mixed out for the next one. Throughout their stuff I'm constantly thinking, "I know the original, but I'm just not quite hearing enough of it to actually remember!" It's frustrating, but fun.

Neither of these acts are ones you'll want to be listening to at work without headphones. Or with small children around. There's a fair amount of swearing, sometimes more obnoxious than others.

But if that doesn't bother you and you want to know what's been playing through my headphones non-stop this month, go check 'em out.

Here's some samples: (Worksafe for about 1:30) (Worksafe for about 1:26) (Worksafe to the end of the clip)

Comments sections probably not worksafe at all...

Thursday, November 18, 2010

BA Shared Topic: Autoblogography

...or "Everyone loves metaposts!"

My participation in the BA Shared Topics is sporadic at best, I admit. But this week's seems like a pretty good one. It's a post I was planning on making in a couple months for my 1-year post. But now works just as well.

This week Ophelie prompted us to write our Autoblogography. Why we started blogging, what challenges we've faced, our favorite posts, etc.

I think this is gonna end up going for quite a bit. Run with me, though. I'll try to make it worth your time. And mine.

The Seed
But when there's a void there, I'm also the kind of person that will step up and fill it until someone else comes along that can do it as good or better than me...
-I never wanted to be a raid leader, Feb 2, 2010
About halfway through 3.0 and onward towards 3.1 my guild didn't have a lot of Feral Druids. I think I may have only been the only Feral main at the time. A few of our Druids did have Feral off-specs (or were considering them) and a few of our players had Druid alts, but that was about it.

Still, I was starting to field a lot of questions about gear, specs, enchants, etc.

Over the course of about a week and a half I put up a slew of posts on our guild forms basically brain-dumping everything I knew about the class. Each post had a specific focus and each was in regards to either Bear or Cat play. When 3.1 dropped a few weeks after I finished the posts, I went back and updated them to be relevant.

I put a lot of effort into those posts and I felt they were actually pretty well written for a guy that doesn't always have the best communication skills. I was somewhat disappointed (but not surprised) when they didn't have a read count that went much past 15 for the Cat posts or 5 for the Bears. I started to think maybe there could be a larger audience for these types of things, though.

No one to cry talk to, no place to call home
I couldn't find a good post quote for this one, so instead, totally not related to anything, Nutshell may be one of the best damn songs ever. I never got to hear Layne Staley sing it live, but the new guy, DuVall, is damn good and I got to see AiC perform at Red Rocks last month. They played that song during the set, much to my surprise. One of those concert moments I'll never forget.

Anyway, like dragonfyre mentions in her response to this topic, I have an LJ that I use with varying degrees of frequency. As I got more and more into WoW and excited about this game I was playing with people that were genuinely fun to play with, I wanted to talk about it. So I tried talking about certain milestones, experiences, and general musings in my LJ. And--like dragonfyre--it turns out none of my friends are really into WoW. So talking about it there never generated the types of discussions I was looking for.

I stopped using that as an outlet, but then I was right back to always wanting to talk about WoW and having no one to talk about it with if I wasn't sitting there playing with my guildies.

A Noob Blogger
So I have this noob in my guild, right? I'm not making fun of's a self-professed title. One I'm happy to oblige.
-Bitter, party of one?, Feb 8, 2010
Around the same time that was happening, I accidentally found out my GL wrote a blog, and a fairly prominent one at that.

I'd been following The Big Bear Butt for a while--since late 2007 when I started trying to figure out what I needed to do to get in on this raiding thing as a Feral. He'd guest-posted on WoW Insider a few times and wrote some articles that really fed me the information I needed in a digestible manner. (Ew.) Once I realized he had his own blog, I pretty much camped it for any useful material.

In late February of 2009 he made a post regarding his take on dual specs. Only it wasn't solely his take. It was his extension of someone else's take. That "someone else" happened to be Dinaer.

BBB linked to the post by "Forever a Noob" and encouraged his readers to go read it. Initially I skipped the link. I didn't play a Rogue so I felt no compulsion to go to a Rogue blog. And I'd been reading BBB long enough to know that I'd get all the info I needed once he did his own deep dive on the subject.

As I was skimming down to the meat of the post, however, I stopped. I noticed BBB was using "Forever a Noob" and "Dinaer" interchangeably. I knew a Dinaer. He was my GL. But I'd know if that Dinaer ran a blog, wouldn't I? There's no way they could be the same.

How many Rogues named Dinaer could there be, though?

So I went and checked it out. After reading a few posts and looking at his armory links I found out it was the very same Dinaer. Small world.

So it turned out I knew someone that ran a blog. A pretty popular one. In some dark corner of my subconscious, my brain decided that if I were to start a blog, I wouldn't necessarily be all alone in the endeavor.

Procrastination and Self-Doubt
I feel so ashamed. So...dirty.
-Yeah. I did it., Apr 15, 2010
Thus began an eight month cycle of internal debate. (Seriously...I can be really indecisive about the silliest of things, especially when I'm just trying to not acknowledge the decision I full well know I've already made.)

What would I actually write about? You can only make spec and gear posts so often. Not often enough to sustain a blog.

Would people care about anything I have to say? I'm not pushing bleeding edge progression. I can't compete with people who are clearly "better" than me. (Such a subjective measure, although I'll still be the first to tell you I don't think I'm that good.)

I don't have novel ideas. Nor am I the guy that's going to put out some ground-breaking theory-crafting. All my knowledge comes from the people who do that for me. I use Rawr and EJ and bloggers like BBB and Alaron to learn what I know. I'm just condensing their work into simpler terms. Who needs me with all those resources out there?

What happens if I start and I don't get any readers? Or if I can't find the motivation to post enough to make it a worthwhile blog? I don't want to be that blogger that only posts once a month.

What if I fail? Why even start at that point. I'd rather not start than fail. (Every time I catch myself thinking that, I try to imagine Wayne Gretzky taking a slapshot at my face for doing so. He's often quoted as having said, "You miss 100% of the shots you don't take.")

There are already so many Feral blogs out there. Is there really room for another? (Turns out, there's really not. The lion's share of those Druid blogs are of the Resto variety.)

I was already teetering on the edge of quitting WoW. What would happen if I started a blog and then decided to quit but felt compelled to keep playing anyway because of the blog? How would I resolve that conflict?

What would I even call it? I totally want Feral Instincts, but it's already taken. Damn that guy, anyway.

If I'm going to start a blog it needs to look good. I'm not much of a visual designer. How am I going to make a presentable blog? I don't want to start blogging unless I actually have a good looking blog.

(Notice the abrupt shift in the types of questions and doubts I was having at the end there? Yeah...I did, too.)

Taking the plunge
I have failed in this task and thus still have an exceptionally ugly blog.
-Note to self, Jan 11, 2010
At the end of 2009 I had about 14 days of vacation that I had to use or they would disappear with the turning of the calendar. So I did what any sensible person would do. On December 11 at (approximately) 5:00 pm I shut down all my browsers and IDEs, set my OOO auto-responder in Outlook, turned off the lights in my office, and walked out of the building for the last time that year.

I had a lot of time to kill. And I figured I'd kill some of it by finally spinning up this blog.

Within a couple days I'd settled on Primal Precision for the name of the blog, figured out that I'd use Blogspot as my host (100% because the Powered by Wowhead links worked cleanly and without crazy workarounds and I wanted that functionality), and reserved the blog name.

Then...nothing. I still didn't want to start posting until I had a design, but I was dragging my feet in building one, mostly due to my already-stated limits in the realm of visual creativity. I had no idea where to even start. It was overwhelming to me.

On Jan 4, my first day back in the office after that long break, I realized I'd essentially done nothing in my goal of starting a blog during my break. I'd let the self-doubt get to me again.

Since waiting to post didn't seem to be an adequate motivator to get a design, I flipped things around. I started posting. And figured that actually having a blog that I was updating would force me to get a design done.

The early days
In this blog I'm going to try to keep up on changes in class mechanics and give my impressions. I'm going to try to keep up with gear lists and what drops that's good for us. I'm going to try and give my impressions of facing off against various raid bosses as I experience them.
-Welcome, Jan 4, 2010
My first month of posting was pretty low-key as I searched for my own voice. Most of my posts were rehashes of the ones I'd made on the guild forums 9 months prior and boss strats that mirrored Dinaer's in form and substance. The few spur-of-the-moment or topical posts that I made were pretty short and dry.

It wasn't until two weeks after my first post that I buckled down with Photopaint and Blogger's CSS editor and cranked out a design for the blog over the course of a single Sunday. It's the same design I still have as of the time I'm writing this. I'm not 100% pleased with it. Actually, to be fair, I'm about 40% pleased with it. In a perfect situation, though, I think I'm personally capable of coming up with a design that I'm 60% pleased with. I guess 2/3 of the way there isn't bad for my first attempt.

(Random thought of the moment, as I'm writing this: I really want a cookie right now.)

At that point I let the cat out of the bag, so to speak, and started trying to drive some traffic to my blog.

Learning what it means to blog
reading this is like reading lorem ipsum text
all the words are correct...
but i get the feeling that if i rearrange them, then they might make sense

-Best. Comment. Ever., Jan 29, 2010
Almost as soon as I started blogging, I tried to impose some guidelines on myself about what I would and would not post. Mostly the latter.

I would not post about bad PuG experiences. LFG was all the rage at that time and horror stories were a dime a dozen. But they were cheap, easy sources of inspiration and failed to tell any unique stories starting the second week of the tool's release. Not that said stories couldn't be told in fun or interesting ways. But I didn't (and still don't) believe in my personal story-telling skills enough to go there.

I would not post about anything serious that wasn't directly about WoW. No politics, no current world events, no "so last night I was out with my friends...". I've allowed myself the (not-quite monthly) Monthly Moderation posts. But even those are to things that are more entertaining than serious.

I would not air dirty laundry about my guild or guild members. Not that there's a lot of it to go around, but no guild has none. At the very least, I'd obfuscate names to protect the innocent. If I wasn't an Officer and Raid Leader, I might not have either of these reservations. But I feel that, being in a position of authority, I have certain boundaries I shouldn't cross.

I would not fill my blog with whiny, ranty posts about how X or Y sucks. Again, some people are able to do just that, but in a way that's humorous and entertaining. Or they're at least articulate enough to form well thought-out and written posts on the matter, rather than emo-fests. I am not either of those types of writers.

(And yes, I've failed at that last goal multiple times. But for every emo-fest post that's shown up in my blog, I've started and deleted at least two more. So I'm trying.)

I would stick to a post a day. If I had more ideas than that, I'd save them for another day.

It didn't take long for the Auto-Dispenser of Topics to run out of things to feed me...for me to run through the long backlog of posts sitting in Draft form that I could just clean up and publish. I had to start dreaming up things to write.

I think my saving grace in those first few months is that we were getting a slew of information on Cataclysm. It gave me a lot of information to "report" and a lot of little details I could discuss and try to pull apart and make practical assumptions about. Having that gave me a relatively easy source of inspiration while I actually settled into and became comfortable with the routine of blogging. Had I not had that, I don't think I would have made it nearly this long.

Still, as I look over my blog, I sometimes feel like I'm spending too much time talking about what I'm personally doing in the game and not enough on general Feral or Guild Leadership related topics. At the very least, I'm not doing a very good job of relating what I'm doing back to those topics. While it's always good for a blog to have a personal touch, I want my blog to be about more than just me.

The Golden Age Season you gradually start to feel like you're a part of this bigger community, sharing your thoughts and experiences about the game--and sometimes just life in general--it feels good. I hope it's a feeling I get to continue to experience for a good bit of time to come.
-100th post!, June 9, 2010
Between May and August I hit a pretty steady pace with my blog. I was averaging a post every-other day (though mostly posting on weekdays) and I was getting at least a comment or two on nearly every one of them. My page-loads per month crossed over the 3,000 mark and plateaued. There was still a small climb, but usually only on the magnitude of 100 or so over each previous month. That was more than good enough for me. It showed I wasn't just wasting my time. People cared about the things I was posting.

I also started getting better about reading other blogs and even occasionally commenting on them. It's still something I'm horrible about and need to get better about doing. I love being a part of this community and I do want to participate more beyond the bounds of my own little corner of the blogosphere. I've always been a largely closed-off individual, though, so it's slow going.

Towards the ends of this stretch, one specific event solidified both the I'm-being-read and I-need-to-comment-more feelings for me. I wrote a quick post musing about the personal stories of some of the Wrath bosses that we were facing. It got linked from about half a dozen different blogs and I saw about a week's worth of spike traffic. Getting mentioned from that many different sources really made me feel good. Getting no comments on that post despite the attention made me feel kinda sad. I realized that even when doing your part to drive higher traffic numbers, even a quick acknowledgment in the comments of a post is worth so much more. Why I've continually failed to remember this since, I don't know.

I vlogged!
This one was a lot harder than the Halion vid I did a few weeks ago. There was a lot more information I needed to convey and, therefore, a lot more places for me to stumble over my words and have to try again. The Halion video had 3 distinct voice recordings put together. This one has over a dozen.
-I did it again, Sept 13, 2010
Okay, it wasn't really vlogging. It was just putting together a video guide. But it did involve me actually speaking to you all. Not with my fingers ('cause that doesn't sound creepy at all) but with my voice. I don't think I can impress upon anyone who doesn't really know me how much of a big deal that is for me. It helped that I was able to treat both of my guide videos almost like I was leading a raid. It gave the whole experience just the right amount of formality and familiarity for me to push my comfort zone and get through it. But I still had to do both of those when Norfin (my partner) wasn't in the room. (I couldn't even bring myself to do the Halion vid while he was home.)

I'm not sure what it would take for me to do vids in the style of Big Red Kitty, where he just...talks about, you know...stuff. With a level of enthusiasm that would get you carted off the streets anywhere but NYC.

Booze, probably.

(Lots of booze.)

Regardless, those types of videos are one of the things I've wanted to do ever since deciding I was going to do this blogging thing. I felt there was a certain gap in the strategy videos that existed out there. It seems they all exist in three categories:
  1. Using short snippits of caption text to describe what's going on, even though it's far more complicated than the little info they're conveying.
  2. Showing a very elite group of players going through the encounter with such precision that you don't get a good idea of what they're really doing.
  3. Showing the entire encounter with very loud, very bad music substituted for any kind of explanation.
These three categories are not mutually exclusive from each other.

While I'm under no illusion that I'll ever be the definitive source of strategy videos (due in no small part to the fact that I'll never be anywhere near the first one to put them out there as content is delivered) I'd like to fill that gap that exists for the more casual raider.

I think I did an okay job on my first two attempts and I'm looking forward to doing more of them in Cataclysm.

Looking forward
I think this is gonna end up going for quite a bit. Run with me, though. I'll try to make it worth your time. And mine.
-BA Shared Topic: Autoblogography, Nov 18, 2010
(You see what I did there?)

At the rate I'm posting, I'm going to hit #200 on one of the last two days of the year. My 1-year blogoversary will be less than a week later. I'm hoping to celebrate, in part, by releasing a new design. One I started working on months ago. I have the last couple weeks of the year off work again, so we'll see how that goes this time.

As we enter Cataclysm I hope to be able to be one of those voices out on the internet that helps guide Ferals through the new content, offering valuable insight and suggestions. Being that I didn't start my blog until over half of ICC was available, it's something I haven't really had too much of an opportunity to really try to do yet.

I hope to truly begin to be able to fill that void in strat videos.

I honestly didn't expect to see a true 1 year blogoversary. And I certainly didn't expect to be in the neighborhood of 200 posts by that time if I did.

Even my readership has far exceeded my expectations. Though I'd like to ultimately get it away from that 3K/month level it's been stuck at since April. (Last month saw a huge spike, mostly thanks to Feral Instincts and Jaded Alt linking to me in their very Google-friendly 4.01 compilation posts. But levels have pretty much gone back to normal since then.)

Even if none of that happens, though, as long as I can keep having fun doing this (and I am having fun) I intend to stick around.

Other random fun quotes I had no specific place to use
So I'm walking through the airport on the way to my flight's gate and I see a lady with a pug. My first thought was, "Hey, she's grouped with 100 random people."
-You know you play too much WoW when..., Jan 21, 2010

He kept trying to get me into the game. "Just try it. You'll like it," he said. I, of course, recognized this tactic from my D.A.R.E. days back in 3rd grade and stood my ground against addictive substances.
-How'd you get started?, Feb 9, 2010

Don't get me wrong. Robes are cool. But they feel very Resto or Balance. Ferals don't wear robes. They wear pants.
-The Best Druid Set to Date, Mar 24,2010

And I pried it from the corpse of a dude who had a giant, poison-filled needle for a hand and a GI tract on permanent loop
-So awesome., Mar 29, 2010

She asked if Blizzard gives me anything for my continued subscription. I said no, but they gave me a horse for getting Dad to play. She seemed bewildered. I didn't know why. Then Dad explained that I didn't mean a real horse.
-Family Update, Mar 31, 2010

They flee Argus and end up crashing their ship into what's now Nagrand. Then they flee Outland and crash their ship into Azeroth. Frankly I'm surprised we even trust them enough to fly a gryphon at this point.
-General musings from the weekend, Apr 26, 2010

Do you love maf? I love maf. Let's do some maf together!
-Mafs Time!, May 6, 2010


-I mean it, Jul 12, 2010

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Calling the stars

Last night was a very good night for me. Not because I raked in a ton of achievements. Not because I was part of a team that accomplished things I honestly never expected we'd accomplish. But because it reminded me that for every night of raiding that frustrates the hell out of me, it only takes one to be totally proud of my guild and my raiders.

We descended back into the depths of Ulduar to once again attempt One Light in the Darkness (10) and finally finish Glory of the Ulduar Raider (10). We started this back in early September. Limited time and emphasis on getting more Kingslayers kept us from really focusing on it, so runs were often spaced weeks apart. That and 4.01 wiped all lockouts clean, so we weren't able to extend and had to start over (even though we were working on Mimiron prior to that).

Mimiron took us a few nights off attempts to get past, as did Yogg. Again, nights that were often spaced somewhat far apart.

Yogg, especially, had been taxing. I'm not sure why. But it just wouldn't come together for us. Last night marked our 4th night dedicated solely to killing the Old God with only Thorim to help us. Thanks to some people (*cough*me*cough*) forgetting that they had to download a 700MB patch before logging in, we got started almost an hour late. That, combined with the here-we-go-again feeling that you could feel hanging over Vent and...yeah. It was not looking like it was going to be a happy night.

Our first attempt of the night got to Phase 3. The transition was a little sloppy and we ended up having two people die and one go insane shortly after, but we got to that point pretty smoothly. It felt good. Instantly you could tell that people were feeling more energized than they were 10 minutes before that.

We released, gathered back up, and went in.

I haven't spent a lot of time on Yogg. Prior to starting this Achievement run we'd managed to kill him once and that was back in March after we'd already managed to collect a decent amount of ICC gear.

Still, in all the attempts that led to that kill, and all the attempts we had on the achievement run, I've never come close to having a full 40 seconds with which to ravage Yogg's brain. But that's exactly what we had the first time we went into the portals on the 2nd attempt. It was glorious. We didn't get him down to the requisite 30%, but we got close enough that as soon as the brain room opened the next time I ran straight to the portals and Beared it up to wait for the Immortal Guardian to spawn at the phase transition. It didn't take long.

After that, it was just slow and steady, make no mistakes.

Two attempts to do something that's been plaguing us for many nights. That felt good.

We completely flooded guild chat with achievement spam. All 10 people in the raid got at least 5 achievements. Many got 6 or 7.

A few of the people in the raid were missing the Razorscale achievement (we skipped it when we started over because it's annoying as hell) so we went back out there to do that.

Then we still had time left, so we figured...hell, why not try Algalon?

None of us had seen the fight before. We had 0 idea of what to expect. I knew there was a 1 hour limit on attempts, but I didn't know if it started when we opened the door to the planetarium or when we first pulled, or what.

We took a quick break while I read up on fight. I explained it as best I could. And then we went to work.

Let me tell you, if you've never been inside the planetarium, you don't know what you're missing. I saw a video of it once. It didn't do it justice. By far the most amazing single room in all of WoW. And that's even before the fight starts. Once it does...oh my.

It was rough at first. Reading about a fight never really prepares you for it. So there were a lot of "oh crap" moments as we figured things out. The hardest part of the fight is that it's impossible to see what's going on. Everything's glowy and see-through and you can't tell where one object ends and the next one starts. Things across the room look like they're on top of each other and things on top of each other are completely indistinguishable. Pain. in. the. butt.

Five minutes after our usual cutoff time and with 15 minutes left on our one-hour timer, we started an attempt that ended in victory. It wasn't pretty. We lost 3 people to the last Big Bang before Phase 2 because they were forced out of the Black Hole realm too early. But as soon as we hit that 20% mark, we went all out and managed to defeat him.

I understand that defeating Algalon at this time and in our gear is not a huge accomplishment. But what I do consider an accomplishment is that at the beginning of the raid night, none of us had ever seen the fight for ourselves, nor did we even honestly expect to be trying. A lot of our raiders are East coasters and were exhausted by that time. And yet we learned it and conquered it in 45 minutes.

I can't tell you what kind of pride that made me feel as a raid leader. Every frustrating moment we'd had trying to get those Rusted Proto-Drakes vanished right then. All that was left was 10 very happy (and very tired) Starcallers.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Still so much to do

Time is winding down. Predictions are that 4.03 is going to drop tomorrow. We're a scant 3 weeks away from a brand new shiny level cap.

Have you done everything you want to do? What are those last things you're scrambling to take care of?

For me, it's the AQ scepter quest chain. I started it a couple months ago, then got lazy about finishing it, and now I'm paying for it. I'm in super go-mode hoping I can get it done before a huge tidal wave crashes into Tanaris and whisks my psychic gnome quest-giver out to sea. (How does he not see this coming? Oh, right...)

Do you know how close I am? Here's a link to the quest chain.

Scroll down. Down. Further. There. The Good News and the Bad News. You see it? Yeah. That's where I am. I've got the 20 Arcanite Bars, the 10 Blue Sapphires, and the 10 Azerothian Diamonds. Those took about 2 hours of farming out in Un'goro Basin Crater. (Prospecting FTW!) And thanks to a few generous guildies who came with me into BWL yesterday, I now have 6 of the 10 Elementium Ingots. (Seriously...had 6 drop in one run.)

If I can get those last 4, I expect the rest of the chain to take an hour. Tops.

I'm hoping--praying, really--that I have until 4.03a to finish the chain. I need one more run through BWL and I don't know if I'm going to have time to do it tonight. (I have alts, but I'd need to attune them to get in and do the run, and I'm scheduled to help out with an ICC 10 run tonight that's 10/12.)

My other goal is to get my Tauren Warrior to Outland. He's 54 now, so I'm really damn close.

When I expressed this desire to my partner, he asked why I wanted to do that. My response?

"You've noticed the earthquakes, right? I want off this damn rock before the shit hits the fan!"

He gave me a patronizing pat on the head and then walked away to let the dogs out. I continued my quest to defeat Ganon Blazerunner and reclaim the Triforce Golden Flame. (I had to call in some help for that. Turns out needing to use an OH item to continuously dispel his knockback barrier doesn't work out so well for an Arms Warrior. The large bear bone I had in my bags proved to be an inadequate substitute for my axe.)

Lastly, I'd like to get one more group of guildies their Kingslayer titles. We have about 8 or 9 that put in a lot of work over the last year to help our main group get to and through the Lich King, but haven't been a part of the LK kills we've gotten so far.

And then, of course, there's finishing up the Rusted Proto-Drake run (damn you, Yogg-Saron!), finishing ToGC (which we tried for the first time last night, got to Anub, but not through), and maybe squeezing in some time to try killing Algalon. Granted, that last one shouldn't be too hard, since we can only devote an hour to it...

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Are Druids really jacks-of-all-trades?

Alas of Kiss My Alas recently hit her 1-year blogoversary. If you don't read her blog, you should stop reading this post and go head over there for a while. Then come back. Don't forget to come back.

Anyway, to celebrate she put her inner dominatrix muse on blast and declared that she would be willing to dictate donate post ideas for any interested parties.

Chronically late, but still never one to turn down a free idea, I jumped in on this. And instead of one idea, I got two.

The first is to write an Alamo-inspired guide to kitty DPS. While this sounds insanely fun, it's also a high standard to live up to. My inner Alamo is quiet and buried very deep. It's going to take some time to appropriately channel him.

The second is to write some advice to those looking to roll a Druid due to the appeal of its jack-of-all-trades nature. I've been Feral since day 1. I'm now on Day 1713. Needless to say, my experience is a bit limited. But I think I can still make some reasonable observations.

The Druid really is a flexible class. We can tank, heal, melee dps, and range (magic) dps. And as of right now, we can do all of them pretty well.

But if you're rolling a Druid because you want to do all of these, the very first thing you have to do is temper your expectations. We can't do them all well at once. It's a choose 2 kind of situation if you want to be the best you can be at both choices. If you're willing to accept being good enough (but not excellent) at both melee DPS and tanking, then you can choose 3. (I'm not going to delve into that. Alaron did a couple of amazing writeups on that subject this week.)

Now granted, respecs are relatively cheap. And with addons like Talented out there, they're relatively fast, too. So you could, theoretically, learn and advertise yourself as having all 4 specs. And if you're ready for that kind of mental gymnastics, you're a better person than me.

But there's more barriers in your way than just limited spec space.

Like limited bag space. A full set of gear is 16 pieces. (17 if you're using an MH and OH instead of a 2H.) If you want to carry around gear for each role you can play, you're looking at a full-time 50-slot investment to your bag/bank space. More if you carry around situational gear on top of just having a basic set. This is becoming less of an issue with every expansion, but it's still a concern.

Then you have to go about acquiring that gear. Not even going into issues of trying to prioritize said specs (Main, Off, OffOff, OffOffOff) you're going to have to find time to build up all those sets. If you've only been playing for the last year or so, this may not seem too daunting. It's become relatively easy to jump right from dinging 80 to being decked out in full T9 and equivalent gear. From that point it doesn't take a whole lot longer to become ICC geared.

But ICC's been open to us for almost a year now and there were three tiers behind it. That means those three tiers averaged about 4 months. Unless you're in Premonition or Paragon (and if you are, you're probably not reading my blog) you're not going to be farming each of these places from day 1. It's going to take time and effort to progress through them. Gear is going to come slowly. And you're not the only one going for drops. Even with a main and off spec, it's not uncommon for an off-spec to lag at least a half tier behind you main spec, if not more. (Four months is 16 lockouts if you don't extend any. 16 lockouts...16 gear slots...)

You may point out that people currently manage to keep more than one max-level toon up to current gear levels, and that's true. But two toons can run more raids than one. It's easier to build up a separate toon's gear than it is to build up a different spec's gear.

There's also the issue of expectations. If you can tank or heal, you're going to be asked to spend most of your time tanking or healing. It's the nature of the beast. Those are the specs that are the most under-represented. If they're not your first choice of role, you probably don't want to advertise that you can fill them.

Bottom line, it's probably most worth your time to pick two of the roles, spec and gear them, and go from there.

"So Saniel," you're saying. "You just wrote a mini text-wall about how being a jack-of-all-trades is horrible. Why would I want to roll a Druid if that was the major appeal for me?"

There are reasons.

First, if you decide you want to change one of those two roles, you don't need to go through the hassle of bringing another character up to 80. The long part is over. You can just use your current specs to help you acquire a new set of gear for the new role, then swap it all in when you're ready.

There's also the familiarity aspect of it all. Each spec has specialized abilities unique to it, but the basic toolkit is available to all Druids. You already know the basics of your forms from leveling. You know what Moonfire and Wrath do. You know Regrowth and Rejuv and Nourish. All you have to do is learn how to use them to their fullest. It's a much smaller curve.

But that doesn't really answer the question. If the idea of being able to fill any role is what gets you to roll a Druid, by all means, roll a Druid. But if you want to play a Druid, you should do it for the same reason that you play any class: because it's fun for you.

I love the complexity of the Kitty DPS rotation. I love balancing the debuffs and DoTs. I love the idea that my DoTs aren't just lingering magic effects, but open, bleeding wounds. (Yes, I'm a little sadistic at times.)

I love the idea of a Bear tank. I love that I'm running out there with no armor but my fur and no weapons by my teeth and claws and I'm standing up to anything these bosses can throw at me. I love that my abilities are fueled by my anger. I love being more about avoidance than absorption.

And, honestly, I love having forms. It's There's no other way to describe it.

I don't want to discourage anybody from rolling a Druid. It's absolutely my favorite class. There's not even a close second at this point. But if you think you're going to be able to hit 80 and do it all with your Druid, you're probably going to be a little disappointed.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

The return of AVR (sort of)

There was an interesting tidbit that showed up on WoW Insider (is it WoW Insider again now? I'm not sure. I've lost track...) over the weekend.

Apparently Blizz has implemented in-game position markers. (I like calling them "hot spots." Not to be confused with HoT spots.) Don't know what I'm talking about? Maybe you remember AVR.

AVR was an addon that enjoyed a brief moment in the spotlight for doing something no addon had previously done. It allowed the raid leader (or whoever) to "paint" marks on the ground. It made explaining positioning on certain fights much, much easier to explain. Especially on fights like Sindragosa.

My explanation for Frost Tomb positioning on (10 man) Sindragosa usually goes something like this:
When Sindy flies up into the air, she's going to mark two people. One of the marked people needs to run to where the dark stripes at the base of the stairs make a corner, but stay where the floor is made of bones. Right about here. (I'll go there and start jumping.) The other person needs to stand in the same place on the other side.)
Had I used AVR, I'd be able to paint a couple regions on the ground, one white with a skull marker and the other red with an X marker and say "skull goes to skull, X goes to X." It would have made life a lot simpler.

On 25-man, where 5 people get tombed, this is exponentially more true.

I never did download AVR, for two reasons.
  1. I felt that it was crossing a certain line. There's a point at which an addon removes almost any need for thought. I hate discouraging thought in my raiders. I often feel like I do it too much already by the way I lead.
  2. I had a feeling Blizz was going to agree with me on #1.
Sure enough, patch 3.3.5 came along and changed the API to break AVRs functionality.

The reasoning was interesting, though. I felt at the time that Blizz was very careful with their wording. They didn't say that they didn't want people to have a way to put hot spots on the map. They said that had issue with an addon being able to modify their textures in order to accomplish that effect.

Incidentally, long-time Druids may be familiar with Andrige's work prior to us finally getting new models (at least for Ferals). Andrige came up with some amazing new models/skins for Druid forms and posted a modified version of the game files that would let them be displayed in your client when installed. However, it was use-at-your-own-risk. If Blizz detected you using these modified game files, you could be banned. Why? Because while using modified models for your Druid forms seems innocent enough, the same methods could be used to...say...remodel opposing players in BGs to be huge and bright red so that you can see them from anywhere on the map. It's a bad idea.

Same thing here. While placing down hot spots is innocent enough (depending on your viewpoint) the ability to repaint Blizz's textures could also be used for other, less innocent methods.

Anyway, that whole mess aside, it seems Blizz actually liked the idea of us being able to drop hot spots, rather than trying to describe their location. They've now given us the ability to do just that.

Apparently this ability has been in Beta for at least a little while, but has now been upgraded to be even easier to see.

What this has done to me, specifically, is challenge my notion of what is and isn't crossing the line.

You may remember a few posts ago when I mentioned that one of my guildies refused to use DBM because she felt it was crossing a line. Basically that it trivialized encounters in a way that could be construed as cheating. I argued this was not the case because the addon has been around for a long time and Blizzard has essentially designed their encounters around the idea that any serious raider would be using it.

This latest change, I believe, has moved that disabled functionality of AVR into the same space. Blizzard is basically saying that they believe it's okay for us to put down hot spots during encounters.

You could argue that we've always had this ability. Engineers are able to create smoke flares that we can toss out at will. They last a few minutes (5?) and then dissipate.

I don't know how widely used these things are. I know we pretty much only use them during Phase 2 of Sindragosa.

These new hot spots are different, though. Flares have to be made or bought. And then they are subsequently consumed. So if you want to keep using them, you have to keep replenishing the supply. Hot spots are immediately available and never run out (though you can only put down so many at one time, I'm assuming).

What this tells me is that when we get to Cata we're going to be seeing more situations where we need to say "toon 1 needs to go here, toon 2 needs to go there" or "when this happen, the raid needs to group on this spot." Blizzard is acknowledging this and supporting our needs to easily and effectively identify and describe those locations.

Based on that, I can also assume that the margin of error for execution is going to get even smaller than it is now. If we're able to go so far as to say, "go stand in the purple hot spot," then people are going to have a very small window in which to find where it is in the chaos of an encounter and move to it.

Of course, I'm not in beta, so I don't know. But I'm very anxious to see how it plays out.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Draenei Running Wild

I spent most of this past Saturday running around Stonetalon and Ashenvale with my partner on a couple of our low-level alts. We managed to climb from 24 to 30, so it was a marathon, but a lot of fun.

At one point in the afternoon I looked away from my screen for a moment and then turned back and noticed something was odd.

"Are you mounted?" I asked him.

He stopped. "Yeah. Why?"

The only response I could muster was "Uhh..."

He turned around to look at my screen, raised a brow, then started running again. We stared for a moment and then started cracking up.

"You have to screenshot that," he said.

"Screenshot nothing. I'm Frapsing this. Hang on."

Friday, November 5, 2010

Cat DPS in 4.01

...really isn't that different than it used to be. I'm Raking and Ripping less (because they last a lot longer now), and Ferocious Biting more. But other than the opening 10 seconds or so of the fight, the priority order hasn't really changed from what it used to be.

One minor difference is that with the change to bleed/DoT clipping, you no longer have to wait for Rip or Rake to expire to refresh them. You're no longer at risk of losing that last tick. Now if you refresh a bleed or a DoT between the last tick and the next-to-last tick, the duration gets extended when refreshed to include the last tick. I know that's confusing, so let me paint it this way:

Rake (unmodified) lasts for 9 seconds and ticks every 3. So you apply Rake, wait 3 seconds, tick. 3 more seconds (6 total), tick. 3 more seconds (9 total), tick and the bleed expires. It used to be that if you refreshed Rake before it expired, it would reset back to the full 9 seconds and you'd have to wait 3 more for the next tick. So if there was 1 second left and you refreshed it, now you've gone 5 seconds between ticks (2 since the last and 3 until the next).

The way it works now, if there's 1 second left and you refresh it, it adds 9 seconds. So it will now last 10, and when the timer goes down to 9 you get the tick that you would have gotten on expiration.

(This may true regardless of when you refresh it, not just between the last two ticks. Either way, when refreshed, you're adding the duration to the time until the next tick, not the total remaining time.)

Clear as mud? If the details are still confusing, just take my word for it: the idea with Rake and Rip is now to refresh them between the last 2 ticks, rather than after they've expired.

After that one change there may be a couple more, depending on your spec choices.

If you've specced into Stampede, you may be opening quickly with a Ravage where you normally wouldn't.

If you haven't specced into Feral Aggression then you may be hitting F3 more than once and making sure you refresh it before it expires to avoid having to hit it more than once again. (This usually isn't an issue, as there's always some downtime in the rotation while waiting for Energy to regen. I always fill it with a quick F3.)

The other change that comes into play is if you've specced into Nom nom n...I mean, Blood in the Water. Once you get to the last 25% of the fight, your FBs will automatically refresh your Rips meaning the only time you should Rip is if it's dropped off completely. Which hopefully won't happen.

And that's about it. Right now kitties are putting up disproportionately big numbers, so go out there and enjoy them while you can before you get smacked with the nerf bat.