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's...so 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 things...do 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, look...it'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't...it'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 replace...it'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:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=73NxuNhFsFg#t=5m (Worksafe for about 1:30)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xwl75jfBDfI#t=7m9s (Worksafe for about 1:26)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4bMM7tGV9MI#2m46s (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 him...it'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
...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.
-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 just...cool. 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.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

What happened?

Did you see it? Did you see MMO-Champ yesterday? A post was made regarding Build 13241 in the Beta. There was a lot of interesting changes listed.

Among them was something all Feral Cats should have seen coming. Our damage since patch 4.01 has been...how should I say...a touch on the high side. Just a little. It's been nice. But I think we all knew that it would be coming back in line with other classes soon.

Yesterday in said post, there was proof of this. In the section about Druid Spell changes, there were some big hits to cat DPS. I don't know what they would have done to the overall actual damage numbers, but the coeffecient number differences were huge. We're talking in the range of "850% down to 320%" kind of huge.

I didn't see it until after I made yesterday's post. And I try to keep to one post a day. So I stopped myself from immediately talking about it. Instead I started thinking about how I could make an awesome fun post around kitties being hammered by the nerf bat.

I came up with an idea and went to work. It was a lot of fun making it happen. I get stupidly giddy about the most random things sometimes. (Ask me about Peepshi.)

So I spend all this time, I have a bunch of fun, and I'm all giddy stupid smiling. I come here to my blog to finally make this post, go over to MMO-Champ to get the numbers to post in here...

And they're gone.

I swear to high heaven they were there yesterday afternoon, but now they're gone.

I wasn't intending to actually complain about them or raise a huge fuss. I just wanted to point them out in a light-hearted way. Maybe get a laugh or two. And then wait to see what it actually did to our overall DPS before weighing in on whether or not I thought it was too much.

I mean, Blizz tends to do a good job of evening things out eventually.

So, anyway, I don't have a post today, but I still have an image. So I'm going to make the image my post. And just keep it around for the next time I can actually use it.

Click for full image

Ah, this explains it. Via Zarhym:
This is one of those moments where reading data-mined material can be sorely misleading. I talked a bit about these changes yesterday here: http://forums.worldofwarcraft.com/thread.html?topicId=27497534774&pageNo=1&sid=1#14

Most of these abilities have not changed for level 80+, however, they've been changed to scale from 1-79. As an example, Ambush deals a flat 190% weapon damage on live realms. With these changes, it now deals 90% weapon damage when first learned, and increases up to 190% again by the time you hit level 80.

We made these adjustments because healing and damage-dealing at low levels has been way too powerful. These changes will make more sense when you get into the game and see for yourself.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

KotJ for Bears?

One of the most crucial talents in a Cat build is King of the Jungle. Without that extra 60 Energy every 30 seconds, you can pretty much forget about being competitive. It's just not going to happen.

Most Bear builds skip right over this talent. Bears generally tend to avoid using Enrage during combat because dishing out an extra 15% damage for 10 seconds isn't worth the trade-off of also taking 10% more damage. At least not in the current content cycle where the main source of making encounters tricky for healers is to hit the tank hard and fast.

The exception, of course, is having your 4pc T10 bonus. Now you have another mini-Barkskin on an identical cooldown. And it's awesome. Enrage all the time!

What I never considered before (because I've never been good with theoreticals¹ until I have a practical application to consider them against) is that while KotJ may not be the best Bear talent in most cases, if you're filling the role of an off-tank on any fights where your tanking skills may not be required for the entire fight (Rotface until a Big Ooze forms, Festergut when you're not tanking, Sindragosa Phase 1, LK Phase 2 and 3, etc.) having this talent can push you from the ranks of kinda-contributing-a-non-consequential-amount-of-DPS to I'd-be-kicking-that-mage's-ass-if-I-was-in-my-DPS-gear.

With the new talent tree design, the only potentially significant dps contribution talent a Cat is likely to have that a Bear won't is Blood in the Water. And that really only counts in the latest stages of a fight. So you can still rip out a pretty significant chunk of a boss's health.

I came to this realization last night on Festergut. At the end fight I checked the damage meters and was surprised to see that I had landed solidly in 2nd place and was challenging our uber-Mage for first. Now, granted, Vengeance and 8 stacks of Gastric Bloat played no small part in this. But it's also worth noting that I was DPSing in Cat form for less than half the fight, I burned a few GCDs on Cower, and Vengeance doesn't apply when in Cat form, so that was only helping out while I was tanking.

Even with Gastric Bloat, I used to end up a (very) distant 6th on DPS in that fight. But since I was able to mimic my normal cat rotation (because my current Bear spec does include KotJ) I fell just short of 11k and 1st place in output.

We'll be working on Sindragosa tomorrow. I know what I used to be able to do against her. I'm anxious to see the difference now.

With Cata around the corner, I'm starting to look at KotJ as a Bear talent in a new light. While I still won't plan on using Enrage very often while in Bear form, it will give me more versatility in the way I contribute to a raid. I'll be able to fill that niche that Ferals were meant to fill, being able to both Tank and DPS without spec swaps. Yeah, I won't put up the same numbers I do when I'm actually in my Cat spec and gear. But they'll be a lot higher than they were before.

¹ : Yes, it's a word. Because it's my blog and I say so.