Wednesday, June 30, 2010

A strange feeling

So I'm back from my vacation out east. I spent 48 hours in NYC playing in a hockey tournament. (Played 4 games in that 48 hours.) A few days in CT at a friend's place trying to recover. (And trying not to get him sick with whatever I got.) And then a few days in Pittsburgh partying like a rock star with friends. (Partying in a city where none of you live...oh yeah. It's great.)

The time spent in CT is the only time during that whole trip where I had free internet and the time to actually sit around and use it. Hence why the blog's been mostly quiet for the last couple weeks.

Also during that time, obviously, there really wasn't any WoWing going on either. And you know what? I didn't really miss it...

I spend an inordinate amount of my time every week playing that game. Most of that time I'm genuinely excited to sit down and play. But now that I've been away from it for well over two weeks (I didn't have much time to play in the week leading up to my vacation, either), I'm starting to wonder if it wasn't just because I'm a creature of habit. I like stability. I like constants. Sitting down and logging in to play WoW is one of the constants in my life. At least up until June 13th. Since then, not playing has been the constant.

The itch to log in and do something that usually nags at me isn't really there right now. I arrived home from vacation Monday evening and spent the time just unwinding and watching TV with my partner. I decided to take yesterday off, just to give myself one good day to relax and settle back in before heading back to the office. It would have been the perfect opportunity to jump back into Azeroth and feed the addiction. But I didn't really feel compelled to. (Granted, the maintenance was a decent part of the reason why, and I was completely wrapped up in other things by the time it ended.)

Even as I'm sitting here in the office this morning going through 6,000 unread emails (most of them crap that my filters didn't pick up because I didn't leave Outlook running while I was gone) and setting up the next cycle's code base, I'm wondering if I'm even going to log in tonight, or if I'd rather finish pulverizing the Celts in the game of Civilization that I spent most of yesterday playing. Or maybe just watch a movie or something. I dunno.

I don't think I'm done with WoW. Not by a long shot. And definitely not with Cataclysm around the corner. I'm still very much looking forward to that. But for right now...I'm just kinda indifferent. It's a strange feeling. One that I haven't really felt in 3 years...

Thursday, June 24, 2010

I Believe.

The elusive Female Dwarf Rogue. Often disregarded as the thing of myths and legends. Reported sightings are few and far between, often confined to times of the year marked by gluttonous celebrations where one is encouraged to consume sickening quantities of food. These reports usually flood in from town centers and other high-traffic areas where the revelers tend to convene. They claim to have placed bunny ears on the elusive rogues, or else shot them with a toy gun, turning them into turkeys and making any kind of proof of their existence impossible to produce.

Even more rare is the reported sighting out in the wild. Occasionally these reports will come with shoddy images that are touted as proof--blurred and grainy as they are. More often they are tales told in pubs and around campfires; wild claims with nothing but the word of a drunkard to go on.

One reported sighting of a female Dwarf Rogue. The best Gnomish and Goblin experts were unable to draw conclusive evidence from this image.

"It doesn't even make sense," said Byron, a Tauren we spoke to on the matter. "The only place a dwarf could possibly sneak up on you is in a pub, where it's already noisy and reeks of ale. And that's assuming they aren't slumped over a table, drunk out of their minds. I have a better chance of being a rogue than a dwarf."

Sentiments weren't much different on the Alliance side. Andoral, a human that stopped to talk to us outside of the Stormwind bank had this to say: "Look, all I'm saying is that Dwarves aren't inherently the sneakiest folk around. And the women seem particularly...unadventurous. Don't get me wrong, I have no doubt they're hardy people. But how often do you really see them outside of Ironforge?"

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

How much do you RP?

Perhaps my favorite thing about WoW is just how far the devs have gone to create this amazing world wrapped around this amazing lore and completely immerse us, as players, in it. And it's only gotten better with each expansion.

I may have mentioned this before in my blog, but I almost quit the game around the mid-40 range. What brought me me back was learning about the lore. Reading about Illidan and Kael'Thas and Vashj. I thought, "Man, this is freakin' awesome! I want to be a part of this!"

When it's that kind of immersion that attracts you to the game, it's not hard to slip into a little bit of RP. In fact, it's kind of hard not to. I don't go all out...I'd feel horribly awkward and out of place on an RP server. It's just not my element. But there are still certain levels of RP that I appreciate.

Names: I won't lie...I kinda wish the RP server naming rules existed across all realms. Nothing breaks the immersion factor for me quite so much as running across characters named Istabthings, Pwnsu, or Buttjustice. (Although I will admit that the last leads to some much appreciated levity in raids when you have to say things in vent like "Infection on Butt," or "Butt's got worms.")

I appreciate good names that look like they're a good fit for the race of the toon. When creating a toon, I often spend more time trying to find a good name than any other part of the process. It's not uncommon that I'll sit on that character screen for almost an hour trying to get it right.

Sometimes I flip through the random selections until something catches my eye, and then I'll tweak it a little bit. Change a vowel here, add a syllable there. Make it just right. (Saniel, Daluaan, and Siaaryn all got their names this way.)

When that fails, I have a bookshelf next to my computer with a good couple of rows of fantasy books. I'll pull one down, flip through the pages and see if one of the names appeals to me. (Maarken was named with this method, as is my future Worgen, Maeniel).

Barring that, I have a couple fantasy name-generator websites bookmarked from when I used to write a lot. (None of my current characters were named this way, but a few deleted alts were.)

Personality quirks: Most of my toons have small personality quirks. They rarely ever come up in the normal playing of the game, but they sometimes make things fun for me.

Saniel used to be kind of vain. A pretty boy. He was clean-shaven and had that NElf hair cut with the long hair that kinda frames the face. Every time he went into a CoT instance that made him human, he was aghast that he ended up mostly bald. Eventually he got so traumatized it that he tied his hair back into a braid and grew chops.

Daluaan enjoys his drink and would stop mid-fight to fill his mug if someone dropped a keg.

Ultanan can only have pets that are bigger than he is.

Maeniel is going to have a bit of a royalty complex.

Back stories: I don't build long, complicated back stories for my toons. But just little tidbits.

My favorite is Siaaryn's. I knew I wanted a Shadow Priest, so I picked a Draenei specifically so I could make one with that whiter-than-white skin. I like to think that he was kinda revered when he was born because, well, how could someone like that not be light-touched? So he was set down the path of a Priest. But then this darker side of him emerged.

Sometimes I like to think it's a Jekyll/Hyde kind of thing, where each side isn't even aware of the other.

These kinds of things...they make the game more fun. Add a little bit of personal investment in it.

How about some of you? How much do you RP? What are some of your favorite examples?

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Real ID

Bumming around the web this morning, it looks like there's reports of today being patch day. 3.3.5 is going live.

There's not much to this patch. The new Ruby Sanctum raid, and the Real ID system.

There was a lot of talk about the Real ID system when it was first announced, but now that it's here, who's planning on using it, and to what extent?

I know I'm excited about the prospect of being able to work on unguilded or Horde alts without being completely out of touch with the guild. It does mean that I'll never have a true "escape" character I can just hop on and play when I want to WoW without the stress of being a guild officer. But to some extent, that's okay. I'm a little neurotic, and so "escape" characters often presented me with a different kind of stress. Instead of "omg, I don't want to deal with any of this today," it was "I'm totally shirking my responsibilities and that makes me a bad officer." Like I said...neurotic.

I do plan to limit the people on my Real ID friends list to mostly my fellow officers and a small handful of guild members (who probably could be officers if we ever decide we need more). People I know will respect the boundary implied by me not being on a character in the guild and only reach out to me if it's something important. Or at least respect a "no, I'm not really up for any heroics/raids right now" without hassle.

The big issue that comes out of this is what to say to the people who want to add me that don't fall into the above category. How do you reject a request without hurting feelings?

To some degree, I think it's unavoidable. Some people are going to be very excited to be able to keep in constant contact, and they're going to be let down. My plan is to find a kind way to say that I devote a lot of time to help leading our raids and the guild. To keep from getting burned out, I need to have some space. Finding kind ways to phrase things has never been one of my strong points, we'll see how that goes.

Other than's going to be a week until I get to try out the new raid. I've been on vacation since Friday and won't be back home until Monday night. So I won't be able to give my impressions of it until then. Haha. Forgot it was going to be a couple weeks until this got opened. Nevermind.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Exp gain, warp 3. Engage.

As I've been doing recently, I spent most my weekend leveling my Priest. Via randoms and questing, I'd been going along at a pretty steady clip of a 2 levels every weekend.

Last was different.

Saturday afternoon, one of my fellow alt-in-the-70s whispered me to see if I wanted to run some BGs with him and a couple other alt-in-the-70s people in our guild. I figured it would be an exercise in futility since
  1. I was 72 at the time, so still on the lower end of the bracket
  2. I was completely decked out in PvE gear, not one bit of Resil on me
  3. Was also passing up gear with more Stam and Intel for that which boosted my damage more
  4. Alliance is notoriously bad in my battlegroup
Still, shaking things up a bit seemed like the best way to keep from getting bored doing the NR quests for the 4th time in the last 18 months and the dungeons for...I don't even want to think about it.

Over the next day an a half a group consisting of anywhere from 2 to 5 of a Shadow Priest (me), Disc Priest, Destro Lock, Assassination Rogue, and 2 Ret Pallies queued for Eye of the Storm over and over.

I played 25 matches in that span. I was in a winning game 24 of those (and the one loss was very close). We 4-capped half of them.

I was pretty consistently in the top 5 for killing blows. I racked up 950 HKs and 158 killing blows. I was killed 48 times. I went a stretch of 3 games at one point (early on) where I wasn't killed at all. I even capped a flag just because it was there. The last game I played before going to bed Sunday night yielded this result:

Top of the list, baby! Booyah!

I know I'm bragging at this point and that most of you probably don't care. You'll have to forgive me. I'm excited about it.

But anyway, back to what I was originally making this post to say.

When you spend a day and a half 3- and 4-capping EotS...holy crap, do you rake in the experience. I went from 72 to 76 in that time. And as you can see in the screenshot above, I'm damn near 77. I could probably spend one more day doing that and hit 80 (although I doubt the stars will ever align so nicely for the Alliance in my battle group again).

Now, granted, the nice part about the whole thing was that our little group of guildies were rockin' it together. We pretty much stuck together the whole time, roaming from base to base and having our way with things. There were only a few times we got absolutely stonewalled. Even with as much winning as was going on, the part that kept it truly fun was running with those guys all weekend. So my hats off to them for getting me to try something different.

But if you're in a battle group where your faction routinely dominates...try to grab a few people and queue for those BGs. The levels will fly.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

A Bear's guide to ICC: Blood Prince Council

The Blood Prince Council is the first of two boss encounters in ICC's Crimson Halls. It pits your team against the 3 most formidable San'layn you've previously faced off against in your travels around Azeroth: Keleseth (first boss of Utgarde Keep), Valanar (ended separate Alliance and Horde quest chains in Borean Tundra), and Taldaram (second boss of Ahn'Kahet). It's a very chaotic fight, but once you get a handle on it, it's insanely fun. One of the best encounters to date, in my opinion.

After clearing the trash in the room you will see the Blood Queen Lana'thel hovering over the bodies of the fallen Princes, left-to-right in the order I listed above.

When you get in aggro range she will give a short speech (by ICC standards, anyway), resurrect the Princes through the use of an orb that descends over Valanar (this will be important), and the fight ensues. On subsequent attempts, the Princes will be waiting for you on their stage and will immediately pull when you get into aggro range.

This fight is similar to the Twin Val'kyr in ToC in that the 3 Princes share a single health pool. Unlike the Twin Val'kyr, only one Prince can take damage at any given time...the one currently empowered by the orb. It's easy to tell which Prince is empowered at any given time, as he'll be the only one of the 3 with a health pool. The other two will have 1 health and will not take damage.

Important note here: Just because the the unempowered Princes aren't taking damage, your abilities are still building threat. So don't stop attacking. Another good reason to continue to attack is so that you'll still be proccing your Savage Defense. Keep your healers happy.

Valanar is always the first Prince to be empowered at the beginning of the fight, but the empowerment will change randomly every 30 seconds or so. You could make the case that you're actually damaging the orb throughout the fight, not the Princes.

In any event the traditional setup for this fight is to have one tank on Valanar and one on Taldaram. The third Prince, Keleseth, is to be tanked by a ranged member of your raid. Most people like a Warlock for this job, but any ranged class will do.

That said, there's nothing about the encounter that requires it to be done this way. It's possible for a well-geared tank to hold both Valanar and Taldaram. This frees the other tank to handle Keleseth or switch to a DPS spec (leaving Keleseth to a ranged class) or act as a Dark Nucleus gatherer for the Keleseth tank (I'll explain that further down).

Regardless of how you handle this in your raid, it's important to coordinate the pull so that everyone who is supposed to have aggro gets it a roughly the same time. Having all 3 Princes aggro on one individual can lead to a very quick death.

Since Valanar is always the first empowered Prince, we'll start with him.

Like all of the Princes, Valanar can be tanked wherever you and your raid prefer. I tank him right where he starts the encounter before the pull. It works as a nice, easy location.

As a tank, he's not going to do anything specifically to you other than hit you. But he does have abilities you need to watch for. First, he'll summon Kinetic Bombs such that up to two can be out at any given time. They look like giant glittery disco balls that float lazily towards the floor. If at any time one hits the ground, it will do about 10K damage to anyone within 50 yards (half the room) and hit them with a nasty knockback. The way to prevent this from happening is to damage them. As a tank, you don't want to go out of your way to hit one of these, but if one spawns in your general area feel free to Swipe at it to keep it in the air. You'll have to keep this up for a minute until the bomb despawns.

The other thing he'll do is a Shock Vortex. The vortex will spawn on one of your raid members and stay in place pulsing for about 30 seconds. Anyone that gets within 13 yards of it will take 5K damage and get knocked back. If this happens to spawn near you, you're going to get knocked off your targets. The usual tank reaction to this is to Charge right back in, in which case you'll just get knocked right back again. (This is especially annoying because the vortexes tend to be hard to see.) You'll need to swing around the vortex to get back to Valanar and then lead him wherever you plan to continue tanking him.

When Valanar is empowered with the orb, he'll cast Empowered Shock Vortex. In my opinion, this is less annoying than the non-empowered version. The empowered version will pop a shock vortex on every member of your raid, but it doesn't persist. To avoid this, just have everyone spread 13 yards apart as he's casting it. Any melee attacking Valanar at this point need to run away from you. If everyone's far enough apart, this will just do 5K damage to everyone in the raid and that's it. If people are too close together, there's going to be extra damage and knockbacks.

The biggest danger with any knockbacks is your healers getting out of range of you. Keep an eye on this and know when you use your cooldowns to keep yourself up in a tight spot.

Right, then. On to Taldaram. Like Valanar, the only thing he's going to do directly to you as a tank is hit you. His other abilities require less of your attention than Valanar's.

Taldaram will cast Glittering Sparks (really? Jubilee, anyone?) towards a random raid member in melee range of the boss. It's a frontal cone attack that will catch anyone in its path. It might hit you, it might hit all of your melee DPSers. Nothing you can do about it. Just keep an eye out for when heals might get tight.

His other main ability is Flame Sphere. They look just like the ones he conjures when you fight him in AK, though they behave differently. The regular, unempowered versions will fly at a random raid member and explode on contact, damaging everyone in a 15 yard radius. The longer it takes to reach that player, the less damage it will do when it explodes, so it should be kited. Anyone in the path of the ball will also take damage, so the idea is to try to keep clear of it.

When Empowered, his flame spheres will do 1K damage every second to anyone in their path as they fly towards their target. The catch is that the only way to weaken the Empowered orbs is to allow them to deal this damage. Raid members should try to take a few hits of this and then get out of the way again before it strains the healers too much.

Keleseth is the last of the Blood Princes and the most unique. He's also the most difficult for a traditional tank to handle, especially for Bears. Rather than use melee attacks, Keleseth will constantly fire Shadow Lances at his target. On they're own, they're not too bad and any tank can pretty easily soak them. However, when Keleseth gets the orb and begins casting Empowered Shadow Lances, well...different story.

To counteract the damage caused by the ESLs, you have to run around picking up the shadow orbs that Kel summons all over the room. Each orb that you collect gives you a debuff that ticks for 1K damage every second and buffs your current shadow absorption by 35%.

Now listen close, because this is important. I didn't italicize the four words above for no reason. It's 35% of your current shadow absorption (multiplicative effect), not overall shadow absorption (additive effect). This means that 3 shadows orbs does not add up 105% shadow absorption and everything is peachy. The first orb gives you 35% shadow absorption, true. The second one will raise you to 57% shadow absorption. The third, to 72%. And so on. By the time you get up to the 6th orb, you'll have 92% shadow absorption. At that point, stacking more orbs on yourself is doing much more harm than good, because of the 6K damage per second you'll already be taking from the orbs.

Here's the other fun part of the shadow orb equation, and the reason why Bears (in particular) are tough Keleseth tanks.

The orbs don't have a traditional aggro table. They will latch onto the last person that does any kind of damage to them, with one exception: physical AE abilities (like, for instance, Swipe). I've also found that, for whatever reason, they're extremely difficult to pick up with targeted melee strikes or auto-attacks. And they're taunt-immune (unless that taunt also does damage). So for Bears, this means we really have one effective way to grab the orbs: Fearie Fire (Feral). And that's on a 6-second cooldown.

During much of the fight, this isn't much of an issue. But when it becomes most difficult to manage is also when it's most important: when Keleseth is empowered. With your entire raid suddenly attacking Keleseth, you'll often find orbs leaving you at a rapid pace because of incidental secondary target damage. Not only because it pulls them away from you, but also because it kills them. (They do have a health pool and will disappear when it reaches 0. Their health pool also naturally decays on its own, so you have to watch for that.) It can be a very frantic 30 seconds while you attempt to stay alive.

Compound this with the fact that the whole time you're running around picking up orbs, you're not hitting Keleseth and not building threat. If you do end up being the Keleseth tank, it's usually a good idea to spend the first few seconds of the fight beating on him (at the very least, stacking Lascerate to a full 5 stacks) while your Hunters MD you and your Rogues Tricks you. This should give you a (slightly uncomfortable) threat lead once you break off and start picking up the shadow orbs. Any time you find yourself with enough orbs, you can go back and hit Keleseth for a little bit. (Avoid using Maul at this time if you have it glyphed, so you don't end up damaging the orbs as well.) Any time Keleseth becomes empowered, the MDs and Trickses should go up again to help you out.

And that's about it. Hold whichever Prince(s) you're supposed to while your DPS are bouncing all around between the targets.

On 10-man, the Princes can drop Hersir's Greatspear which is a pretty decent tanking drop. They'll also drop Taladram's Soft Slippers which will pretty much only be replaced with the ICC crafted boots. In 25-man you can look forward to the Royal Crimson Cloak and the Geistlord's Punishment Sack. There's also Cryptmaker if you're really in need of an upgrade and there's no Plate DPSers in your raid that want it.

As with all my boss strats, I'm writing from the overall perspective of a Bear tank and what they will need to do. For you Cats reading this blog, I suggest you check out Dinaer's guides on Forever a Noob. They're written for Rogues but are a pretty good guide for melee in general and his gear drop suggestions (with the exception of weapons) will be spot on for Cats. If I have additional insight, I will try to add it in my blog. Here is his Blood Prince Council strat.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Monthly Moderation

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

This month's Monthly Moderation comes courtesy of another blog I've begun to frequent. The blog is called Beautiful Life.

Once a day, Beatiful Life will post about...something artistically beautiful. It could be traditional art, digital art, architecture, fashion, engineering...anything that can capture your eye and make you go, "Wow!" (You see what I did there?)

I found the blog a couple weeks ago when a friend directed me to a post about Paul Lung, an amazing pencil artist. (The embedded pic is his.) After reading that post and perusing Mr. Lung's dA gallery, I probably spent the next two hours just going through back-posts, spending most of the time in complete awe.

Now Beautiful Life has found its way onto My Internet™ as a daily read. I thought I'd pass it along to the rest of you to enjoy.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Playing around with Cata Alpha Talents: Bear Edition

So Blizz released the current builds of the Cata talent trees for Druids (and a few others). Reading through them didn't do much for me...I couldn't organize my thoughts very well around that kind of text wall.

But then MMO-Champion went and built a talent calculator out of the information. So much better. I can think about it this way.

I'm not going to spend a whole lot of time pouring over all the details. There's still a lot of things in flux. These will probably change a lot before the release of Cataclysm.

That said, here's an initial pass at a tanking build. What I mean by "initial" is I went through and put points in everything I considered a "must-have". Or rather, if I felt even the least bit iffy on whether or not to take something, I left it empty. What's linked there is what I ended up with. You'll notice I still have 9 points left to spend in that build.

Going through and assigning those last 9 points, I came up with this.

What I like:
  • I feel like I have choices. When I can make a quick pass and still have 9 talent points left over--as opposed to 1 or 2--it makes me feel like I have more flexibility to customize the spec to my particular needs. Blizz has stated this is one of their design goals, and I think they're on the right least for Bears.

  • Fury Swipes (Tier 4, Middle) looks to address some of the threat generation issues that may come with no longer being able to spam Maul. (Remember, it's going to work more like Ferocious Bite in Cata. No longer an auto-attack replacer.)

  • Perseverance (Resto, Tier 2, Left) gives us some extra mitigation versus spell damage, which is currently one of Bears' weakest areas.
What I don't like:
  • Improved Mangle is still on the tree. 3.3.3(.3.3.3) effectively rendered that talent useless and I haven't seen anything coming in Cata yet that would change that. The only thing I can possibly think is that we'll want to hit it more often in light of the Maul changes. I can't be sure of anything like that until I can actually play with it, though.

  • They're still encouraging the use of Enrage during combat with King of the Jungle (Tier 7, Left). The Rage normalization changes may make this tempting or even useful. But as long as Enrage decreases our armor, it's still less than desirable.

  • Along the same lines, we now have Primal Madness (Tier 9, Left). Putting one point in Primal Madness doesn't do anything for Bears. But at 2 points, we get 12 Rage for hitting Berserk (I'm good with that) or Enrage. Again, rewarding bad behavior. Add to that the fact that you have to fill out King of the Jungle to even get to Primal Madness and...yeah.

    That said, Blizz has been known to test out future class changes through tier set bonuses. Since the Bear 4pc T10 bonus removes the armor penalty for using Enrage, maybe that's a permanent change we'll get somewhere down the road. That would make spending 5/5 across KotJ and PM a lot more desirable and would definitely make for an interesting time designing Bear builds.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

100th post!

This is my 100th post to this blog. It may not sound like much, but at least a part of me is a little shocked. When I started this project it wasn't without a little trepidation. How much would I actually have to say after my first dozen posts? Would I actually have a reader base that made posting worth it? Would I be laughed off the face of the internet for being a crazy faildurid? (Silly, I know...but it's the kind of thing that crossed my mind.) Would this even be as fun or exciting as I imagined it could be?

I've learned a lot over the last 100 posts.
  1. Blogging takes a lot of time. I didn't think it was going to be a 15-minute-a-day deal to keep up with a 4- or 5- post a week schedule, but I don't think I anticipated just how much time it actually would take. Fortunately for me I have a pretty forgiving job where I can usually carve out enough time to keep up. Except for stretches like the last 3 weeks when it's muzzle to the grindstone...

  2. The best way to get readers is to read other blogs and comment on them. They call it the blogosphere for a reason. If you try to be your own little island out there, you're not going to get very far. Yeah, Google may drive some traffic to you. But most of the regulars are going to find you because a blog they already read mentions you. And those blogs are going to find you because you comment on them.

  3. If you have an idea for a post, no matter how silly or insignificant it sounds, go with it. I wrote a guide to Stinky and Precious. I wrote it less to be an actual guide (even though it's accurate) and more to make a post poking fun at the fact that Stinky stinks so bad that it does constant damage. And to speculate on the relationship between the two and Gluth. That post ended up being one of the most pinged from Google.

  4. When inspiration strikes, start writing. It doesn't matter if you scribble down a few sentences on a piece of paper or leave some half-assed notes in a Draft post to come back to later. Or maybe you get a half post or even the whole thing written. The important thing is to brain dump right then while the idea is fresh and then finish/post it at a more appropriate time if right that moment isn't it. Otherwise you'll eventually find yourself staring at a blank post thinking, "Damn...I had a really good idea. What was it?"

  5. Pictures require planning. Having even a simple small picture at the beginning of a post helps draw attention, give something focus, and break the text wall a little. But it requires planning. I write most of my posts at work while I'm catching up on email, filling my coffee tank, and/or waiting for code to compile. A lot of times I don't know what I want to write about until I start to do so. But all my screenshots are on my computer at home. Unless I actually plan ahead or can modify a screenshot I've already uploaded somewhere, I'm usually SoL on that front. It's something I want to improve on.

  6. If you're hurting for topics, check your keyword analysis. People may be finding your blog while searching for things you haven't directly talked about. If certain terms keep popping up again and again, cover them.

  7. Similarly, analytics are great for tracking where people are coming to your blog from. My top 3 sources tend to vary in order, but usually consist of saved bookmarks, google, and Restokin. Various other blogs tend to fill out most of the other significant sources. I've learned that a guild on Magtheridon has a post in their forums (which I don't actually have permission to view) that links to a fair number of my ICC strats. That was a nice ego-boost. I've also learned that yet another one of my guild's members has started a blog, though I don't think that's common knowledge yet.

  8. Blogging is actually much more rewarding than I had imagined. It's a lot of work and it takes time to gain traction and get noticed. And once you have been noticed, you feel kinda compelled to keep churning out the kind of quality posts that got you noticed in the first place. The pressure could make it quickly become not-fun for a lot of people. But as 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.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010


After several weeks of attempts and multiple different raid compositions, we finally found the right mix of people and strategy on Sunday night to down the former consort of Malygos:

We bit the bullet this week and extended last week's RaidID in order to get right in on attempts. Our time to get an ICC clear before getting hit with a pretty substantial setback is fleeting.

After the Sindy kill, we had about an hour to start learning the Lich King fight. I think we managed to give it 4 attempts, the best ending around 50%. The current roadblock is learning the Val'kyr/Defile dance. Once we get that down, I think we'll be in really good shape.

Despite the fight now being available for months, I've still managed to stop every strat vid I've watched before the last 10% is shown. I've also managed to avoid watching (both via the 'Net and the statue in Dalaran) the cinematic that plays after the Lich King's defeat. I know the overall gist of what happens, but I'm still holding on to actually earn the right to see it.

My realm is one of those that's down all day today. But the same group that downed Sindy and started on the Lich King is planning on going back in tomorrow night. Hopefully to finish the job.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Bear Raiding Spec (3.3.3)

The following is my raid talent build for Bear tanking. "Raid" being the key word here. In this build I pass over abilities that are nice during solo or PvP play and focus strictly on what's useful for raiding. This is also not meant to be a hybrid build of any kind. It's optimized strictly for raiding as a Bear.

Bear tanking is tricky in that there's 3 basic types of talents you need to focus on: Survivability, Threat (DPS), and Utility. You won't get enough talent points to max out in all 3 categories, so you kind of have to pick and choose which are most important to you. This will typically vary based on your gear, your healers, your raid group make-up, and your role (MT or OT).

I'll try and explain why I picked the talents I did. In the Feral tree, I'll also explain why I passed on the talents that got no points.

Balance - 0 points
There's just nothing in there that's useful for bears.

Restoration - 10 points
Furor - 3/5 (Utility)
With some of the recent changes to Enrage, this is no longer a highly mandatory talent. You shouldn't be spending a lot of time shifting between forms anyway, so you don't have to worry much about needing rage immediately after shift. These points are mostly here to help get down to the second tier of the Resto Tree.

Improved Mark of the Wild - 2/2 (Utility)
The other 2 points to get past the first tier of the Resto tree. Easy buff to our buff and a stat increase to boot.

Naturalist - 5/5 (Threat)
10% extra physical damage equates to 10% more threat generation. This helps especially when trying to hold large groups of enemies using Swipe.

Feral - 61 points
Ferocity - 5/5 (Threat)
You should be using Maul every time it's up, and spamming Swipe is key to controlling groups of mobs. Saving 5 Rage every time you use these abilities is essential to your job.

Feral Aggression - 4/5 (Survivability)
Demoralizing Roar isn't a key talent, and it's redundant to a Warrior's Demoralizing Shout or a Paladin's Vindication if you have one of those in your group. Warriors can also spec into Improved Demoralizing Shout, which mirrors the bonus of Feral Aggression point for point. So these points are definitely optional, depending on your raid group's Warrior/Paladin situation. If you're lacking those, though, it's very nice to have.

Feral Instinct - 3/3 (Threat)
The extra 30% damage to your Swipe is key to controlling large groups of mobs, especially as your raid's DPS gets increasingly better. If you're not having any trouble holding threat on large groups, you may choose to move these points elsewhere.

Savage Fury - 2/2 (Threat)
The 20% threat increase on Maul, your primary threat generators on single (or double, if glyphed) targets, is good enough on it's own. But Mangle is a pretty big part of you rotation too. This is definitely a good place for two points.

Thick Hide - 3/3 (Survivability)
No question this is an absolutely essential talent unless you can reach the armor cap (49905) without it. I'd have to check, but I don't think that's possible. And if you're in a situation where it is, you're probably not reading my blog for tips. So max out this skill.

Feral Swiftness - 2/2 (Survivability)
Dodge is the only avoidance stat that bears have (we can't parry or block), so anything we can do to increase it is key to doing our job.

Survival Instincts - 1/1 (Survivability)
The bear equivalent of a Warrior's Last Stand. This is your main panic button. You definitely want this handy.

Sharpened Claws - 3/3 (Threat, Survivability)
Not only do crits increase our threat (obviously), but in 3.1 we took a nerf to armor and stamina with the expectation that Savage Defense will make up for it. Savage Defense procs off of crits, making this talent more or less mandatory.

Shredding Attacks - 2/2 (Threat)
Whereas Swipe is spammed for multi-target tanking, Lascerate is typically spammed for single-target control. So reducing the amount of Rage it requires makes sure you have enough for your other abilities when you need them.

Predatory Strikes - 3/3 (Threat)
3 points are required here to unlock Heart of the Wild, one of the essential talents for bear tanks. The threat increase is nice, too.

Primal Fury - 2/2 (Threat)
Free rage when you crit. Particularly helpful with rage generation if you're not getting hit as much as you should be for some reason (like when you're the OT on Marrowgar or Lana'thel, for example).

Primal Precision - 2/2 (Threat, Survivability)
Increasing your Expertise will lower a mob's chance of blocking, parrying, or dodging your attacks. Obviously the more attacks you land, the more threat you'll generate. There's also the Parry/Haste mechanic (where a boss's parry will reset their swing timer, to a point). This mechanic has largely been cleared from the game, but there's still a few bosses that maintain it.

Bear gear can have a fair amount of Expertise on it, since we share it with Rogues and Cats. But more (until you hit the cap) is always better, and this is a good cheap source of a lot of it. (Remember that 10 Expertise is roughly equal to 82 Expertise Rating, which is what you find on your gear.)

At the very minimum, Bears should be aiming for the Expertise Dodge cap, which is 6.5%, or 132 Expertise rating. Since 2/2 in Primal Precision is 62% of that, it's a good spot for some points.

Brutal Impact - 0/2 (Utility, Survivability)
While Bash does work as a spell interrupt, you'll often find that the mobs you really need it against are immune to it. And even with the cooldown cut in half by putting 2 points in this talent, you'll rarely get good use out of it. So many other classes have far more effective interrupts. You don't really need this.

Feral Charge - 1/1 (Utility)
I can't think of any reason any Bear shouldn't have this. From its interrupt ability to its close-that-25-yard-gap-instantly mechanic, you need this to be all the tank you can be.

Nurturing Instinct - 0/2 (N/A)
Bears get no benefit from this talent. Cats only.

Natural Reaction - 3/3 (Survivability, Threat)
Not only does this increase your chance to dodge (remember, the only avoidance stat we have) but now you'll get rage every time you do dodge. Awesome!

Heart of the Wild - 5/5 (Survivability)
10% increase to stam. Bears need all the stam they can get. Period.

Survival of the Fittest - 3/3 (Survivability)
The 6% increase to all stats is nice. The 33% increase to armor is a god-send. But the key to this talent is the 6% reduction to melee crits against you. This makes bears 100% uncrittable to melee attacks. All other tanks have to work hard and juggle gear to be able to say that. We get it for 3 talent points.

Leader of the Pack - 1/1 (Threat, Survivability)
Again, with Savage Defense, crit is a big deal for bears.

Improved Leader of the Pack - 2/2 (Utility, Survivability)
This is more about your raid group than you. As a tank, you're generally going to be taking too much damage for this to make a huge difference. But it does allow the healers to focus more time/mana on you as opposed to the rest of the raid group. So it's a toss-up. I like it, though.

Primal Tenacity - 0/3 (Survivability)
This is primarily a PvP talent. Not really worth spending points in a raiding build.

Protector of the Pack - 3/3 (Survivability, Threat)
12% incoming damage reduction and 6% threat generation? For 3 talent points? Yes, please.

Predatory Instincts - 0/3 (N/A)
Bears get nothing from this. Cat only talent.

Infected Wounds - 3/3 (Survivability)
20% slower enemy attack speed = 20% less incoming damage from that enemy. Plus this is a disease which means it should be spreadable by a DK's Pestilence. I haven't tested that yet, but I plan to soon.

King of the Jungle - 0/3 (Threat)
With the 20 Rage you get from Enrage, and an additional 60% chance to get another 10 when shifting into Bear form (from Furor), this isn't a very critical talent for Bears. Additionally, unless you have your 4pc T10 bonus, you should never be using Enrage while in combat, which makes the damage bonus next to useless. That said, if you do have your 4pc T10 bonus, moving some points around to fill out this talent may be a good move.

Mangle - 1/1 (Threat)
Absolutely required. No questions asked.

Improved Mangle - 0/3 (Threat)
Just like with Cats, the 3.3.3(.3.3.3) Mangle Change pretty much rendered this talent useless. Even moreso for Bears than Cats, I think. Even with its full cooldown, you're never really "waiting" for a Mangle in your full rotation. And now that a parried or blocked Mangle isn't guaranteed to drop the debuff on the boss, you don't really have too many situations where you need this to be available sooner.

Rend and Tear - 5/5 (Threat)
Since your primary target should always be bleeding (via Lacerate) this is a 20% threat increase for every Maul that hits that target.

Primal Gore - 1/1 (Threat)
Gives your Lacerates the ability to crit. Not essential, but definitely nice. And since it only costs one talent point...

Berserk - 1/1 (Threat, Survivability)
Another panic button for bears. When things get out of control, this lets you spam Mangle for 15 seconds, and hit 3 targets each time you do. Plus it will break untimely and inconvenient fears if you don't have the benefit of Fear Warding or a Tremor Totem.

Optional Moves
There are 10 points in this build that I consider "optional."
The 10 points are those spent in the following talents:
Feral Aggression (4)
Improved Leader of the Pack (2)
Infected Wounds (3)
Primal Gore (1)

The other places where I would consider putting some of these points are:
Brutal Impact (2)
Filling out Feral Aggression (1)
King of the Jungle (3)
Omen of Clarity (Resto, 1) - Bears are at a point in the game where they are almost never, ever rage starved. There was a point, when Naxx was progression, that OOC was still a good talent for Bears. And I think there will be again in Cata (if it doesn't get pushed too far down the Resto tree). Still, if you have extra points, this is one place to consider spending one. It will help you (minimally) in fights like Sindragosa or Festergut where you need to stay tank-ready, but could be spending a lot of your time DPSing as a Cat.
Master Shapeshifter (Resto, 2) (and the pre-req Natural Shapeshifter (Resto, 3)) - Only if you're having a really difficult time with threat generation. 5 points is a lot for 4% threat...

The link to the Wowhead build at the top of the post also includes my suggested glyph choices. Of course, you could carry a stack of glyphs to switch in and out based on the needs of a given fight (which isn't a bad strategy for anyone trying to min/max, really). But if you're like me and would rather set 'em and forget 'em, the ones attached to that build should serve you pretty well.

Friday, June 4, 2010

I really hope I wasn't like this

So as I've mentioned before, I've been spending a lot of my in-game, non-raiding time leveling my Priest. I did pimp him out in a full set of Heirloom gear and I've been going at the task of leveling by questing in between random dungeon pops.

It's been a long, long, long time since I've done dungeons while leveling that weren't run with guildies. I'm talking vanilla instances. In vanilla WoW. Sure, I PuG Heroics now. But that's know...I'm running around in ICC gear. There's not a lot of challenge to most of them at the moment.

As my partner could probably tell you, I spend most of these runs not-quite shouting at my screen at just about every tank I run with. You can tell they're being played by people with mains that are used to running around Heroics in ICC gear. And while we manage to survive (most of the time), I feel bad for the people who are going to be running behind these tanks when stuff really matters.

I've learned a few things that I'm sure just about every Healer (or any frequent pugger, for that matter) probably will laugh at me for not knowing before.

For instance, I zoned into a Mana Tombs run. There was me, 2 other dps, a healer, and a ghost tank. Literally. He was corpse running. The other 4 of us were at the entrance of the dungeon and I could see that there were no dead mobs, so I figured maybe his queue popped while he was dead (never thinking that it would probably still drop him in the instance alive). So I made a casual remark about how zoning in to see a ghost tank didn't inspire a whole lot of confidence. Then I quickly added a safety wink so I wouldn't come off as a jerk 3 seconds after zoning in.

Then the tank pipes up, already on the defensive, explaining to me that he's dead because the healer wasn't healing him. As someone whose main is a tank and primary alt is a healer, this sounded strange to me. Healers heal tanks. It's what they do. If it were Ragefire Chasm or Stockades, that might be one thing. But we were in Mana Tombs.

So the tank zones in, we buff up and the pull begins. Immediately I understood what the tank was saying. "The healer isn't healing me," is sucktankish for "I'm pulling 3 times as many mobs as I should because I honestly believe I'm that awesome and I don't understand why my health is dropping faster than British Petroleum's stock." (Since I generally am the one tanking, I'm still not very fluent in sucktankish.)

If it's been a while since you've run Mana Tombs, I'll give you a little refresher on the first couple pulls. There's two groups of two mobs relatively close to each other and two single-mob patrols that will pass through the narrow gap between them. Through most of Mana Tombs, each mob that's pulled will spawn another (relatively weak) spirit mob a few seconds after being aggroed, effectively doubling the size of every pack. There's also random neutral mobs that wander around. They won't attack unless they're attacked first, but several of them will wander around the area the first few pulls occupy.

So the tank, in all his furry glory (he was a bear, which made me doubly sad), was Charging in to pull, one of the packs of two. He's be close enough that this would aggro the other pack of two. And before we could burn them down, the pats would make their way through the space, bringing our grand total of mobs to 12. Very fast wipe.

I whispered the tank and calmly suggested that he may want to try pulling with Fearie Fire and dragging the mobs back to us instead of blindly charging in. I was ready to be assaulted with a much more winded version of "What would a shadow priest know about tanking?" but he said nothing. And did exactly as I suggested.

...Until those first four pulls were over. Then he went right back to pulling everything with Charge for the rest of the instance. I sighed heavily, but we didn't wipe again so I let it go.

On that note, I've seen tank after tank face pulling instead of range pulling. All tanks have tools to pull from range, but they all insist on running right up to that waiting group. Now that I'm in Northrend, this isn't such a big deal. Packs are much further apart in Wrath content. In BC dungeons, I was pulling my hair out.

I've watched tanks with the patience of a jackrabbit on crack chain pulling in instances with healers that would go OOM faster than a mage. Let me tell you how well that went...

I've watched tanks tank mobs with frontal cone attacks and not face said mobs away from the rest of the group.

I've watched tanks pull with taunt.

It's all Most of the time I keep myself content by yelling at my screen while doing the best DPS I can. Only if we're wiping do I actually say something. Which is probably bad of me. When I see bad tanking, I should be more proactive in giving out tips. If they're not taken to least I tried.

Still, Cata is going to thin the ranks again, I think. Not that this will necessarily be a bad thing...

Thursday, June 3, 2010

UI post (finally)

So I finally had the presence of mind to snap a couple screenshots during a raid so that I could make a post about my UI. Crazy, I know.

Before I get into all the nitty gritty, here's the screenshot (click for full a bigger size):

This UI is very heavily modeled after the one CiderHelm (of TankSpot fame) was using back at the beginning of Wrath when he was posting his boss strat guides for Naxxramas. At the time I was still pretty much using the default UI (because customizing a new one seemed like a very daunting task that I was loathe to take on) and his really appealed to me as clean and functional. I've tweaked it a bit here and there, but it still remains the basis for what I've done here.

The Basics:

CBHViewport - This creates the empty space on my screen at the bottom and top that most of my UI elements rest in. For the most part I hate having UI elements over my display. In some cases (like my raidframes off to the side) it's tolerable and in others (my unit frame and my target's unit frame) I recognize the necessity of it enough that I push those little voices aside. But my main goal with most any UI is to interfere with the rendering space as little as possible.

TitanPanel - The bar across the top of the screen where I keep track of both some system info (like my fps, latency, and system time) and in-game stuff (location, bag space, durability, etc.) It's also my main access point to Outfitter (the "Druid: Bear Form" bit is referring to my currently equipped gear set, not my actual form).

SexyMap - While a lot of people use SexyMap to make their map flashier, I prefer to keep it simple. Square it off and hide most of the addon buttons that hover around it until I move my mouse there. I also display the realm time on the map.

Prat - Just used to tidy up the chat pane a little bit and make it easier to read.

OmniCC - OmniCC sticks duration timers on auras and cooldown timers on abilities. If there's one addon I absolutely use on every single character I create, it's this one.


ShadowedUF - I originally used ag_UnitFrames for this purpose. After the death of ag_UnitFrames, I moved to ShadowedUF mostly because it looked almost the same. It had a lot of the same configuration options and it seemed much easier to me to duplicate the look and feel I already had rather than fiddle with a completely unique UF addon until I came up with a new format I liked.

I keep my and my target's unitframes right below where I'm tanking. This lets me keep an eye on the ground under my feet and my health without moving my eyes. It's also close enough to my two most important action bars that I don't have to shift my focus much to see them. Target of target is also active here.

The rest of the raid is shoved off to the left side. The important things here are the debuffs (so I can see if someone's standing in bad stuff) and aggro. In this shot you can see my bar is red, meaning I have aggro. If I had thought about this and taken the screenshot while blood beasts were up, you'd see several more of those bars red. I've gotten pretty good at giving a quick glance up there every few seconds to make sure aggro is staying on the people it's supposed to be on.

Action Bars:

Bartender4 - On San I kind of break from "clean UI" tradition and keep pretty much every spell or action I have on my screen. I use each of them just frequently enough (by which I mean "more than never") that I can't justify relegating them to my spellbook until special situations occur.

The bar right above the area cleared by CBHViewport is the most dynamic...and there's actually 3 bars in that space. When I'm in Cat or Bear form, they show the abilities specific to those forms. Each of these have the main set of 10 abilities plus one extra bar to hold what wouldn't fit in that space.

The Cat form bar

If I'm in a vehicle or otherwise have a set of abilities that are not my own, they also get shown there. If none of those three things apply, the space is empty.

The bar right below the health frames is my "oh shit" bar. It's where I put my cooldowns and other emergency actions. It's also where I stick situational macros when I need them. This one changes depending on my spec, but ends up looking almost exactly the same either way.

Coconuts - You see that little icon at the bottom right of my action bar box? The one that currently displays the travel form icon? That's Coconuts. Coconuts is a random mount selector. Since I'm currently in combat, the only "mount" choice I have is travel form, so that's what it's displaying. However, when not in combat, it will show the icon of whatever mount is next up to be mounted.


Yeah. Anyway, it's pretty cool. It knows when I can and can't hop on a flying mount and will choose accordingly. It also lets me set frequency modifiers in case I like certain mounts more (Drakes, Sabers) or less (Mechanostriders, Nether Rays).

Party/Raid stuffs:

Deadly Boss Mods - There's a couple things going on here. First is the big popup warnings. I keep these in the default position in the upper middle of my screen. It works well for me.

Timers for events that are a ways out are showed next to my unit frame. Impending timers move over near my target's unit frame.

I'm not sure why I have the boss health frame up in this fight. I typically only display that in instances where there's several bosses (I3, Faction Champs, Blood Princes) or fights where I spend a lot of time not targeting the boss (Ignis, Rotface, Putricide).

Recount - Pretty basic. I use it mostly to keep track of the raid as a whole, especially on tight DPS fights like Festergut. It also helps me keep track of what's killing people if we're having problems with stuff, which is invaluable as a raid lead.

Omen - So I know when the Hunters or Warlocks are about to pull threat...if I'm paying attention.

LuckyCharms2 - That little bar of raid markers under the "oh shit" bar is LuckyCharms. It's a quick and easy way to throw marks on raid targets. I prefer this over the key-bind method. LuckyCharms also comes with a Ready Check button and a "Announce Kill Order" button (which is configurable).

Not Pictured:

PowerAuras - It just so happens that none of the Auras I have set up are being displayed at the time I took this screen shot. I don't use many. In San's case, I use one to show when my target is not Fearie Fired, when I am Beaconed, and one other very situational thing that I can't even remember right now.

This is another addon that I use on just about every toon I have, though usually for small things. On my Priest I track when Vampiric Embrace or Inner Fire have expired. On my Hunter I track when I'm above 90% mana, below 10% mana, and when I have Aspect of the Viper active.

So that's pretty much it. There's still a few things I'm not crazy about with this setup:
  • The location of the menu action bar. The one that opens the character screen or spell book or quest log, etc. I originally had this hidden, as I access most of those through the keybinds. But I found that I very frequently wanted to open them while I was in the middle of typing something, which meant that I had to copy what I'd typed, escape out of the chat box, open the menu, re-paste what I'd typed, and do whatever I meant to do. Huge hassle. The bar's not really in the way where it just bugs me in principle.
  • When an achievement pops up, it covers the top half of my main action bar. If I'm furiously clicking away at abilities (particularly during boss fights) then I end up clicking the achievement and opening the entire Achievement pane...which can be a huge pain in the butt.
  • I wish I could get rid of the tooltips. I know all my abilities...the names, what they do, everything. I don't need to see it. At least not on San. (I wish the option in the Interface menu that turned detailed tooltips on and off worked on a per-character basis.)

In contrast, here's what I use on Daluaan, the only other toon I have with a completely revamped UI:

It's mostly the same, but there's a few key differences.

The most obvious one is that I've replaced my ActionBar area with my Raid Frames. This is because a vast majority of a Shaman's abilities are his totems, which are handled in their own little UI component. Therefore, unlike San, I found that Dal's action bars were mostly empty...especially when I removed all the heal buttons that are instead bound to different key+click combos in the raid frames.

VuhDo - I use VuhDo as my raid frame of choice. It's a little tricky to set up and there are some aspects of it that I like less than HealBot (which I used to use). But the big draw for VuhDo was that I could configure it to fit in that small space and still work well.

TotemCaddy - I prefer the default Blizz totem component over totem caddy for managing my totems, mostly because it fits better into my sleek design goal. It keeps all the buttons in a nice row, rather than in a boxy component I'd have to slide somewhere. However, I keep TotemCaddy installed for the buff bars. I use them to keep track of my shields, cooldown on Fire Nova, and (when in Enhancement spec) my MW stacks.

TotemGuru - This is the box to the left of my totems, above the chat pane. It shows me what totems all the Shamans in the raid have down and which ones I'm in range of. It's a great tool for helping me determine what I need to keep down without the tedious process usually needed for that.

I actually have TotemGuru in use on San, too, though I frequently forget to turn it on in a raid environment.