Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Happy Birthday, Dragons.

The first time my guild showed up on the radar of Warcraft Realms was July 27, 2006. Five years ago, today. I was not a member of the guild at the time. In fact, I was not a member of any guild at the time. I had only been playing WoW for a little over 4 months at that point, very on-and-off. I didn't find the Dragons until 2 years later and joined when the guild I was in at the time, Calentrai, was merged in.

I've tried for a couple hours to think about what, exactly, to write in this space. I kept referring back to a post on our guild forums by Dinaer that he made just prior to Cata and has maintained since, basically recounting our guild's history. I've finally realized that he summed it up better than I ever could, so I'm just going to repost it here, nearly word-for-word. Hopefully he doesn't mind.

The Beginning

The Dragons is one of the oldest continuously active guilds on the Sen’jin server. It was founded in July of 2006. There are still a couple of players in the guild from that far back.

Back then the guild was mostly a social/leveling guild. Most players were not at the level cap. There were two players who had raiding experience and they led us on some fun adventures. Many of our current officers joined back in late 2006. They had a very fun group that got along well.

The Dragons did our first guild raid (UBRS) in late 2006, but we did very little actual raiding as a guild. At some point we finally decided that we should try real raiding. We got all of our interested members attuned to Molten Core and arranged to join a 40 man raid along with some friends in another guild. Then, just days before we were ready to go, Blizzard announced the release date for the Burning Crusade expansion. With that information out, interest in raiding plummeted, and we never got to go into Molten Core.

Burning Crusade

The Burning Crusade expansion was released in January 2007. It took a while to level through it. We weren’t really focused on raiding. Our experienced raiders were gone. At the level cap we ran a lot of heroics but didn’t raid.

Sometime around June of 2007, the GM called a guild meeting in ventrilo. He told us that he had arranged a guild merger (without informing anyone else) into a large guild. The reason for the merge was to give us all opportunities to raid. This announcement was not met with the reaction he had hoped for. The majority of our members really liked the friends-and-family feel of The Dragons. No one wanted to go be little fish in a huge pond. In the end, the GM and a few of his friends left to go to the other guild while the rest of us stayed in The Dragons.

A few days later we had another guild meeting in vent to decide the future of the guild. We needed a new leader. Dinaer was about to nominate Hamacus for that position, but Ham was faster on the push-to-talk button than Din was and he suggested Din for the job. The guild agreed and Din was promoted to GM of The Dragons.

We decided that the best way to cement this decision was to start raiding on our own. Within days of the new leadership we set up a Karazhan raid. This had problems from the start, due to our lack of experience organizing raids. There were more people who wanted to raid than there were raid spots, and the selection process was handled poorly. Feathers were ruffled, and as a result a group of players left shortly thereafter to form their own guild (our first drama!).

We still had enough to field a raid team, so we pushed into Karazhan in the days to follow. Raiding was much harder back then. It took weeks of wipes before we even killed the first boss in Kara. We didn’t kill the second until October 2007 – three months after we started raiding there. Progress was slow, but steady and the learning process was fun. We had a fine raid leader who taught us much about raiding. By the end of 2007 we had defeated most of the Kara bosses. Along the way we added many excellent players that helped drive our success.

And then in February 2008 things just fell apart. We had a lot of strong personalities on the guild, and eventually there were disagreements and conflict. Our raid leader and his wife did a server transfer to get away from the negativity. When we had trouble fielding raids, others left for larger guilds. By March 2008 we had as few as 3-5 people logging in each night. We considered disbanding the guild, but chose to continue out of respect for the longevity of The Dragons name.

We knew that to continue we had to find a way to raid. Around March of 2008 someone stumbled across a forum post by a guild called Calentrai that was looking for a guild alliance for raiding. Din spoke to their guild leader and soon we were running Karazhan raids with them. Those raids went pretty well. Between the two guilds we fielded two full Kara teams most weeks, and we got along well.

Now that we were raiding again The Dragons started to thrive once more. Several members who had left during the down times would come back to us during this period, including the original GM. Between the two guilds, we had enough people to move into 25-man raiding. (For those who are new, in BC you did not have the option to choose 10 or 25 man raids. Karazhan was only 10 man and the later raids were only 25 man)

In April of 2008 we started in Gruul's Lair, and had that raid cleared by May. By June, The Dragons had enough people to run our own guild-only Karazhan raids and still have enough people left unsaved to do our joint Dragons-Calentrai runs. The guild alliance was moving right along, downing Magtheridon and moving into Serpentshrine Caverns.

However, Calentrai started to have its own internal problems. When the guild alliance started in March, the raids were 70% Calentrai and 30% Dragons. By August 2008 they were 70% Dragons and 30% Calentrai. After a lot of discussion, in September 2008 we decided to merge the two guilds. (San's note: By this time the co-GM's of Calentrai were taking a break from the game to work on personal issues. Norf had been promoted to active-GM and I was also given officer status to help try to keep it together until they came back. They never really did.) This turned out to be the most important decision in the history of the guild. About half of the current guild leadership came over in that merge.

There was a short golden age of Dragons raiding then. Blizzard nerfed a lot of the raids in advance of the Wrath expansion, so we blazed our way through most of Serpentshrine Caverns and Black Temple. We had a lot of fun in those last days of BC.

Wrath of the Lich King

As we went into the Wrath expansion we had a very solid core of players. The expansion was released in November 2008, and by December we had a group of players at the level cap so we started raiding Naxxramas. We had cleared it with a 10-man team by early January, only two months after its release.

At that point, we were hit with the type of drama that always plagues casual guilds. A group of our raiders wanted to push progression more aggressively. That didn’t fit in with our guild philosophy. When we didn’t go that route, a large group left to form their own raiding guild. We still had enough solid players to do 10-man raids, but our 25-man raiding was put off for quite a while.

Through the Wrath years the guild was pretty stable. Our officers have been around the since Wrath began. Din had been GM for four years, and I had been leading raids since the guild merger. We went through cycles where sometimes we had enough people to do 25-man raids, and sometimes we didn’t. In a guild with no attendance rules and no gear requirements, those sorts of ups-and-downs were bound to happen. Through it all we maintained our friends-and-family approach and always put fun as a first priority. We were joined by the members of more guilds during toward the end of the Wrath cycle - Guild Drama and Freedom Knights, bringing more good people into the fold. We did manage to defeat the Lich King and complete the raid content before the end of the expansion.


This expansion presented us with a challenge. Raiding was harder, and raid lockouts changed. No longer could we try to balance 10 and 25 man raids. We decided to go strictly with 10-man raids. We also imposed some gear requirements for the first time in our history. It was an adjustment, but one that helped in the long run. We have tried to balance two 10-man raid teams through this expansion. Its been tough, and one team has had more has had success than the other.

Despite the changes and the slow loss of players due to burnout, the guild has reached all-time new heights during the first six months of Cataclysm. We were the 13th Sen'jin guild to reach Level 25. We have stayed in the top 10 on the server in guild achievement points.

Most notably, we cleared all available raid content before any content nerfs or new gear was released. This is the first time in the history of the guild that we have accomplished that feat.

I can honestly say that I'm very fortunate to have fallen into this guild. The people are great, the atmosphere is always comfortable, and it's just an all-around great way to play. I don't think I could play WoW in any other guild for long without just calling it quits. (Except maybe the Effers. They seem alright.)

Friday, July 22, 2011

LF2M Heals, then G2G

As I alluded to a couple days ago, I'm looking for a couple more healers to round out my current raiding group. Right now we only have two regulars, one of whom would like to spend more time on the DPS side. Our third slot tends to get filled in by whoever is online and available.

Anyone interested will be seriously considered, though non-Druids will have preference. We have one Tree already (our lead) and are actively gearing another. I'd like representation from the other healing classes to keep a balance.

The Raid Team:
  • We run Thursday and Monday nights, from 8pm to 11pm server (Central) time.
  • We're a solid group that can play well, but is not hardcore progression. We don't have dead weight, but we won't be showing up on World of Logs rankings, either.
  • We started really raiding as a team in mid-April and finished T11 the night before patch 4.2 dropped and nerfed it. So far in the Firelands we've downed Shannox once and got Beth'tilac down to 9%.
  • My unofficial mantra for our raids is "fun, but focused." There's room to joke and laugh while we run. Mistakes are taken in stride. We /roll for blame. I don't think I've ever really had to rant or yell. If I do have to call someone out specifically (rare), I do it in whispers. I'm not out to embarrass anyone or make them feel bad. That's not fun for me or the other person. That said, we do want to progress. We know our classes and we play hard. When it's time to get down to the srs bsns of killing internet dragons, we treat it as such.
  • With the exception of Healers, we have more people at each position than we have slots. I hope to get there with the Healers, as well. What this means is that we rotate. Every so often you'll be asked to be on Standby for a lockout.
  • We use /roll for our loot distribution. Main specs get priority. It's inelegant, but we're a mature enough group that it's been drama-free since we started running together.
The Guild:
  • The Dragons is one of the oldest active guilds on the Sen'jin server. Less than a week away from our 5 year anniversary. About half our officers have been in their position for four of those years. The other half, for three. Point being, we're very stable. This isn't a guild that's going to blow up and disband any time soon.
  • We're also one of the largest guilds on the Sen'jin server. We have over 500 characters in the guild, representing probably somewhere around 100 players. Some, obviously, more active than others. Still, it's not uncommon to log in on any given evening and see 15-25 people playing.
  • The guild is mostly made up of working adults. Many with families. We understand life comes before WoW and we don't begrudge people who have their priorities aligned accordingly. We value maturity, stability, and friendliness.
  • Guild rules are pretty simple. Respect others. Don't swear in Vent, /g, /r, /p, /bg, or /s. Don't be a troll in General, Trade, or LFG. Stick to these even if they're not filled with fellow guildies. There's a few others, but people that can follow the ones above generally don't have a problem with any of the rest, either.
  • Level 25, all 8 bank tabs, most Vendor rewards unlocked. Guild Repairs.
What you need:
  • Thursday and Monday nights available.
  • Ventrilo (Mic optional. We'd love to hear your voice, but as long as you can hear us, that's enough.)
  • DBM or similar addon.
  • A minimum equipped 353 average iLvl on your healing set. We don't mind helping you get a few extra pieces to finish it off, but at this point we're not looking to spend a lot of time gearing you up, either.
  • T11 experience a plus. Minimum 4/12 prior to the 4.2 nerf good. 9/12, very good. More, even better.
  • A smile. Seriously. No frumpy raiders. No angry raiders. I'm as close to either as we're allowed and I fill the quota for both.
If you're interested or know someone who is, you can contact me at

Also feel free to check out our website.

You can also whisper me in game if I'm online. My character list is at the top of the blog on the right.

If you want to bring a lowbie into the guild to see what we're like before coming in, whisper any officer. There's almost always one available.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

A Bear's guide to the Firelands: Beth'tilac

Beth'tilac is what happens when you try to kill a spider with fire and it goes horribly, horribly wrong. Instead of no spider, you now have a giant fire spider. Toasty.

Beth'tilac's encounter is a two phase fight requiring two tanks for each phase. In the first phase the tanks are performing very distinct duties. In the second, there's taunt swapping.

Phase 1: Beth'tilac Tank
When you pull Beth, she immediately retreats up to the web above her lair. A moment later she will start raining down fire on the whole raid. This is unavoidable and she will continue to do this at any point during Phase 1 where she is not aggroed on a player on top of the web.

After a few moments, a pair of Spinnerweb Spinner adds (medium-sized yellow spiders) will drop down from the web, hanging off web strands a little bit off the ground, and start shooting fireballs at random raid members on a pretty short interval. There are two ways to get these spiders on the ground. First, ranged can kill them. This takes some time, though, and you need to get on top of the web fast to stop Beth's fire rain. The other way to get them down is to use any taunt or taunt-like ability. For us Bears, this means Growl.

Communicate with your other tank prior to the pull on who is going to get which Spinner. (i.e. "I'll taunt the one that's on the right.") Their positioning is somewhat random, so things like "right" can be arbitrary, but it usually works out. You want those first two on the ground as quickly as possible so that the tank and a healer can get up to Beth and get her attention.

When the Spinners are brought down--regardless of the method used--the web strand they were attached to is left on the ground for a short period of time. This is what you use to get up onto the web with Beth. Mousing over it gives you the typical green-arrow vehicle cursor.

The first strand should always be used by the Beth tank. The second should be used by a healer.

It's generally a good idea to use Barkskin as you're being carried up to the web. It may be a few seconds before your healer can join you and you'll want to mitigate some of the damage you take before they get there.

As soon as you're on top of the web, target Beth and get her attention. Your initial pull will have generated no threat, but the healer coming up after you will have some from throwing heals. You obviously want to make sure Beth doesn't start hitting them. Growl and F3 for sure. Once you have her attention, try to tank her near the large hole in the center of her web. Just be careful not to fall through it.

Tanking Beth isn't that tough. You don't have much to do. Optimize your rotation for damage. The more you do while up there, the easier Phase 2 will be on your raid later. Depending on your raid's composition and ability, you may have a DPS helping out. This is ideal, but not always possible. Add control on the floor is important. It's also harder on the Beth healer when more people are up on the web.

Beth hits fairly hard and will also be casting a fiery AoE blast pretty regularly. Paladin and Shaman healers work well on top of the web for their access to elemental resistances. If you're having survival issues, you may want to consider moving some talent points around to spec into Perseverance.

The one avoidable thing you have to watch out for is Meteor Burn. Watch under your paws and get ready to move if a lava puddle appears. You'll have a few seconds to react before a meteor lands on the web in that spot and burns a hole through it. (It looks less like a hole and more like a small, fiery eruption, but believe me, you can fall through it. And that's bad.) There will be around four of these active at any given time after they accumulate, so watch your positioning. If you do have a melee DPS with you, try to keep Beth positioned to where they don't have to worry about them, either.

The final thing you need to do is watch Beth's energy/mana bar. It slowly drains over time. When it reaches 0, she'll cast Smoldering Devastation, which will kill you. When the cast starts you need to drop back down to the ground level. If you go through the big hole in the center of the web, a few web strands will catch you and slow your descent. Otherwise you'll take some fall damage. If you absolutely have to fall through some hole other than the center one for some reason, shift to cat form on the way down to reduce the fall damage you'll take. It's almost negated by this.

Once you're on the ground, you have a few seconds before a new set of Spinners appear and you're able to get back up on the web. Toss F3 on any Drones your other tank might be holding to help get them down faster. If there's a nearby pack of Spiderlings, feel free to Swipe and Thrash a couple times to help burn them down.

As soon as you see Spinners hanging off the web, taunt one down (the one furthest from the other tank, if possible) and get back up there.

You're going to repeat this process three times. After the third Devastation, Beth drops down to the ground for Phase 2.

If there are any Spiderling packs active during the transition, go Cat and help burn them down as quickly as possible. Just make sure to go Bear again in time to pick up Beth when she hits the ground.

Phase 1: Add Tank
The second tank needed in Phase 1 is an add control tank. Bears are very, very good at this job, thanks to the ease of our mobile AoE tanking.

When the phase starts, get ready to Growl at one of the Spinners that drops off the web so that the Beth tank and healer can get up top ASAP. But don't get cozy. After those first two, there will be six more. They need to be brought down quickly, or their fireballs will overwhelm your healers. They do much less damage on the ground than they do hanging from the web.

Taunt as frequently as possible to get them down. Enlist the help of any Paladins, DKs, Ferals, and Hunters (Distracting Shot works, too) in the raid. Get ready to grab the Spinners off of them when they come running to you. They don't hit all that hard, so group tanking them usually isn't that big of a deal.

In addition to the Spinners, you'll also be tanking Cinderweb Drones during this phase. They are fairly large, red spider-taurs that emerge from caves around the edges of Beth's lair. The important thing to remember when tanking them is that they have a long-range, frontal cone AoE that hits pretty hard. Make sure they're not facing the raid at any time. The first one will appear about 10 seconds after the first set of Spinners fall off the web.

The last thing you need to watch out for as the add tank is the Spiderling packs. Like the Drones, these spawn around the edges of the lair. Unlike Drones, you don't tank them. In fact, you need to stay very clear of them. Once spawned, the move relentlessly towards any active Drones. If a pack starts getting close before your DPS can burn them down, you need to move. Drones will consume nearby Spiderlings, healing 10% of their health in doing so. You don't want this happening.

Things can get pretty frantic on the ground will all the adds and all the movement and all the taunting. Keep cool, keep your eyes open, and you'll be fine.

Phase 2
Heading into Phase 2, if you don't have any adds currently on you, look for Spiderling packs and help burn them down. Like the Drones, Beth will consume nearby Spiderlings for a health boost. This can negate all the work that was done whittling down Beth's health on top of the web and you do not want that.

(Note: The range at which Beth will consume Spiderlings has been hotfixed and greatly reduced. It's now fairly easy to tank her well away from any packs while the DPS finishes burning them down. Still, your best bet is just to kill them outright before then.)

Once Beth hits the ground for Phase 2, she seems to aggro reset. So whichever tank is going to tank her first will need to taunt. Usually this is the Beth tank from Phase 1, but if all the adds on the ground are dead, it can be either tank.

From here on out, it's a straight DPS race. Beth will continue to cast Ember Flare, which will now hit the entire raid. Additionally, she will be in a stacking Frenzy state, which increases both her physical damage and the damage of the AoE blast. This is why you want her health as low as possible when the phase begins.

Beth will also be casting Widow's Kiss on her current target. This is where the tank swapping mechanic sets in. When one tank gets this cast on them, the other needs to taunt.

For this phase, your raid should be forming a triangle around Beth. Each tank should be at one point and the rest of your raid should be stacked up at the third to help with healing. Tanks need to make sure they're 10 yards apart from each other and the raid so that the pulsing damage they put out while under the effect of the debuff doesn't hit anyone else.

The deadliest part of this phase (for the tanks) is the swapping. Between the damage of Beth's physical hits, plus the her fire blast, a tank can drop very quickly after a taunt if the healers aren't ready. If you have DBM, watch your timers and make sure to communicate with your healers when a swap is approaching. Saving Barkskin for just before taunting is also a good idea.

If you have Berserk available during this phase, you have a couple options. You can either wait until Beth is taunted off you, then do some Cat burst damage or you can use it in Bear form after gaining high stacks of Vengeance for some crazy Mangle damage. Otherwise, stay Bear when not holding Beth. Your damage output will be comparable, and it gives your healers more breathing room.

Try to save Survival Instincts and Frenzied Regeneration for as late as possible.

Beth drops a few good things for Bears. The Cinderweb Leggings are a good holdover until you can your T12 legs along with the 2pc or 4pc bonus. The Widow's Kiss is a nice ring. You'll be reforging Haste to Dodge, but it's still good. Finally, there's the Spidersilk Spindle. The mastery is nice, even if the proc isn't that great. Most tanks will eat up that shield in one blow. It's mostly intended for non-tanks in AoE or random damage situations.

As with all my boss strats, I'm writing from the overall perspective of a Bear tank (in 10-man) 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.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

So hot

I haven't been WoWing much since my last post. The A/C in my house crapped out...just in time for the hottest temperatures of the summer so far to kick in. The room that Norf and I play in is the hottest in the house, due to a number of factors including the running electronics, being south-facing, being the smallest room in the house, and being in a weird place for overall airflow.

Needless to say, I've been avoiding being home as much as possible. And when I am home, the computer room is the one I least want to be spending my time in. Molten Front dailies and Shaman gearing be damned. (That said, there was something disturbingly authentic about sweating my ass off while raiding the Firelands on Monday night.)

I'm working on a Beth'tilac writeup for Bears, which I should have done for tomorrow. We haven't killed her yet, but we're close. (9% was our best attempt.) I've tanked both on the ground and on the web for Phase 1, so I've got a pretty good grip on what needs to be done.

I'm also working on a call for Healers. My raid group could really use a couple more. There will be more details on that coming, but if you're looking to join a group of level-headed adults and can raid Thursday/Monday nights, keep an eye out here in the next few days.

Friday, July 15, 2011

A Bear's Guide to the Firelands: Shannox

Shannox is the first boss a lot of guilds will be tackling in the Firelands. When you first enter the raid, he's not around. You have to start killing trash to get him to eventually spawn. A lot of trash. Which is good. Because unlike any boss that's come into the game since Molten Core, Shannox doesn't have a little area of the raid to call his home. Instead he pats around the road that circles the big, open area in the center of raid. And if you want to deal with him without worrying about trash, you have to clear a good-sized area in which to fight him.

Once Shannox does spawn (you'll hear a third "horn" sounding and a /yell emote), he moves very fast. Make sure you're not anywhere near the road unless you're ready to pull. He can come down on you in a hurry if you're not careful.

This is a two-tank fight. One tank will be on Shannox. The other will be holding one of Shannox's Hellhounds, Riplimb. Shannox's other Hellhound, Rageface, is not tanked.

Both tanks
Shannox, in a what can only amount to a giant EFF-YOO to every Hunter in the game, spawns more traps than the Noblegarden bunnies spawn offspring. And they persist until triggered.

He has two types of trap.

The first is an Immolation trap. It doesn't look much different than the standard Hunter Immolation trap. Just bigger. It has an orange dancing flame above it. Walking over one of these does big fire damage and applies a hefty DoT.

The second trap is a Crystal Prison Trap. Basically an Ice trap. When triggered, it locks the target in a Ruby-colored crystal block that must be DPS'd down to be broken. It's not trivial, either. It will require several seconds of focused DPS by your raid (not just one or two people) to break. This trap has a deep red, elongated octahedron floating above it.

Both tanks should avoid stepping in either trap. The longer the fight goes, the more difficult this becomes. Occasionally it can be necessary to kite your target to an area of the raid that's nearly empty of traps to give you more room to work with. Communicate before you do this, as it will force almost everyone to reposition.

It's also worth noting that both of Shannox's Hellhounds can trigger the traps. This is important later.

Both tanks will also be receiving stacks of Jagged Tear from their respective targets. The key to this fight is getting those stacks to drop. More on how to do that below, but I'm going to note here that one of the key factors in making this happen is tanking Shannox and Riplimb well away from each other. 60+ yards away. 80 is better.

Just don't go too far. There's some point (we don't know exactly where it is...100 yard range, maybe) where Separation Anxiety kicks in. This is bad, mmmkay?

Finally, none of the enemies in this fight are tauntable. That becomes most important late in the fight, but just keep in mind that if you lose control of your target, you have to actually hit it to get it back.

Riplimb Tank
Other than avoiding the traps Shannox is laying everywhere, the Riplimb tank has two specific things to deal with.

The first is Limb Rip, which is the attack that stacks Jagged Tear on the the Riplimb tank. There's nothing you can do about it. Just be aware that it's happening.

The other is Hurl Spear. Shannox will frequently toss his spear towards Riplimb. You can tell where it's going to land because of a bright red column of light that appears. You've seen this before on Mimiron (his missile attack) and on the adds prior to Om(nomnom)notron with their Laser Strike. When this appears, you need to move. The further away (without inducing Separation Anxiety), the better.

Prior to this point, it's a good idea to keep Riplimb clear of traps, as well. When he hits a trap he becomes immune from other traps for a short time. In an ideal situation you'll be looking for a nearby Crystal Prison Trap and kiting Riplimb over it (without going over it yourself) when Shannox starts to toss the spear.

Once the spear lands, it will crate a large fire spiral around the impact point. Find a gap between the flames before they erupt.

At that point, Riplimb will stop attacking you. He runs to the spear, picks it up, and runs it back to Shannox, and finally runs back to you to keep attacking. This is where you drop your stacks of Jagged Tear and it's the reason you want to trap him in a Crystal Prison. It gives you a lot more time for the stacks to drop. Depending on the exact timing of the debuff application and the spear toss, you could need up to 20 seconds. That doesn't sound like long, but in practice it feels like forever and can be very tricky.

Whether or not you manage to trap Riplimb, do what you can to slow his movement once he picks up the spear. Bears are probably the least capable tank for this. During this part of the fight, Riplimb gains a buff that prevents him from being slowed below 50%. He definitely can't be rooted. I also believe he's immune to stuns.

For Bears, this means the only thing we can do is our very best to apply Infected Wounds before just letting him go. You don't want to chase him to keep it up, as the run-back time after he gives Shannox the spear is also important to dropping your Jagged Tear stacks.

This cycle continues until Riplimb dies.

Your DPS should down Riplimb before Shannox gets to 30% health to prevent him from going into a Frenzy.

Shannox Tank
The Shannox tank's job doesn't differ too much from that of the Riplimb tank. You're still avoiding traps. You're still watching Jagged Tear stacks.

One of the key differences is that Shannox has a frontal cleave with a 10-yard range. So make sure to keep him facing away from you raid. This is also the attack that causes stacks of Jagged Tear.

When Shannox hurls his spear he loses the ability to cleave and, by proxy, to stack Jagged Tear. This is where the Shannox tank tries to drop his stacks. Much of this depends on how well the Riplimb tank does their job. If they sufficiently slow/trap Riplimb, you're in the clear. If not, you may have to do some kiting to increase the time it takes for Rimlimb to give Shannox back his spear. If you find yourself in this situation, Stampeding Roar can help a lot.

At the start Shannox doesn't hit too terribly hard. But each time one of his Hellhounds dies he will gain a Frenzy stack, increasing his physical damage and attack speed by 30% each. Make liberal use of Barkskin and Survival Instincts throughout the fight to help your healers.

After Riplimb dies, Shannox will begin to drive his spear into the ground in front of him, instead of tossing it. Functionally, this has the same mechanics as when he tosses it, minus the massive damage at the impact point.

Since he's no longer tossing his spear, and since he can't be taunted, you can't drop your Jagged Tear stacks anymore. The fight is a race at this point. The DPS have to kill Shannox before he drops the tank and then makes quick work of the rest of the raid. (It goes without saying that if you can time entry into this phase to a point where you have 0 stacks, you should.)

The general idea is to have Shannox as close to 30% as possible before killing Riplimb. This leaves Shannox with the minimum amount of health you have to burn at the end of the fight while still preventing Riplimb from going into a Frenzy.

I like to save Frenzied Regeneration for this phase. I also do what I can to make sure I have Survival Instincts at some point during this phase. Obviously, still roll Barkskin every time it's available.

Once Shannox dies, you're hoping to see the Gloves of Dissolving Smoke drop. It's the only thing he has to reward you for your efforts.

As with all my boss strats, I'm writing from the overall perspective of a Bear tank (in 10-man) 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.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

A little secret

A lot of people are making a fuss about Valor Points right now. Is it too hard or too easy to hit the weekly cap? Are Heroics faster than raiding? What about the ceilings? What about people who don't have time? What if you're a responsible adult and you have to prioritize limited play? And what about your alts?

There's an easy answer to all this worrying about VP. Three simple words you can say to yourself to make it all go away.

You ready for these?

"It doesn't matter." (Other candidates include "Get over it," and "I don't care.")

Seriously. It's okay if you're not rocking your 4-piece T12 bonus yet. It'll be okay if you still have a few pieces of 359 gear at the opening of the next raid. I promise the Firelands bosses will still fall and all will be right in the world.

And if you're worried about not being the first person on your server to be the best geared, let me help you with that: It's too late. Someone already beat you. You can stop worrying now.

Since 4.2 dropped, I've accumulated a grand total of 140 VP. That's it. I haven't downed a raid boss yet (though we're close on Shannox) and I've run a grand total of two heroics. One was just because the group needed a tank and the other was because I was trying to get a Chaos Orb.

Here's the craziest part, though...I'm perfectly okay with this. My hair's not falling out, I'm not crying into my keyboard, and I've had no shakes or convulsions yet. Not even a burning desire to justify my behavior. And--despite this sacrilege--Blizz hasn't canceled my account. The game loader still lets me log in. All my characters are on my select screen, with their gear, and still sortable. The game even allows me into the Firelands when I step through the portal. As the RL, no less.

I know. Wild, right?

Friday, July 8, 2011

Ambitious Alts

If you look over on the right there, you can tell I'm a little bit of an alt-aholic. Not as bad as some, but I have my share of issues. Most of it comes down to the fact that leveling offers a sustainable, solo-able goal. Short of times like now, where there's new content to work through and conquer, this is somewhat lacking. So I roll and go.

At the moment I have four 85s. Five, if you count Sanele, but she's on the back burner for now. She fulfilled her intended purpose. (Incidentally, as of last night we are a classy guild. No, Sanele was not the last missing link. She's been 85 for a couple weeks now.)

I do enjoy playing the other 85s that are not Saniel. I've been taking each of them through the rounds of daily content that the Molten Front has offered because it's finally given me a reason to spend time on them. Yes, it's somewhat repetitive doing the same set of daily quests 4 times every day. And when they all unlock the 3rd and 4th phases I may have to start picking and choosing who--other than Saniel--I work on each day.

But for now, it's still fun. I don't use them often, so the different mechanics keep it interesting. Feral, Enhancement, Beast Mastery, and Shadow all play very differently. Plus Daluaan and Siaaryn are still in more questing gear than not. So that offers even more challenge.

I've also been putting some effort into beefing up Daluaan's healing set as of late. It's what I created him for way back in BC. And, every now and again, he's still needed for that. (Mostly in dungeons.) He's woefully undergeared, though. So that's given me a good reason to put some time into him.

But at the end of the day, what I really love about WoW is raiding. It's where (in my mind) you really get to see what you can do with a given character. And it's only once in a blue moon that I don't add the most value to a group by bringing out San and going Bear. It's not that I mind tanking. I love it. And I'm happy to do it. But the opportunities to spend time on my other toons is too limited.

I've been toying with the notion of shopping Grevioux around my server a little. Of all my toons, he's the least helpful to my guild in any group situation. We don't have many Shadow Priests. We have fewer Enhancement Shaman. And there's always need for a healer. But we're overflowing with Hunters.

Add to that the fact that I've really come to love playing Beast Mastery. It's just fun. No two ways about it.

In an ideal situation, I could find a raid group somewhere on my server that needs the occasional rDPS to fill in. Between my responsibilities to my own guild, plus my out-of-game activities, I'm committed to stuff 4 or 5 nights a week (depending on the week). I don't really want to lock myself into another one every week.

But I would really like a chance to raid current content on a toon other than Saniel occasionally.

And I do definitely want to keep him on Sen'jin. In my guild if I can. He's my scribe and I'm about 6 weeks away from knowing every glyph that I don't need a book to learn. He's also my herbalist with access to Bountiful Bags.

Of course, as a raid leader, I know this is a pipe dream. If someone approached me and said, "Hey, I'd like to be a part of your raid team. On an alt. Standby only, because my schedule's kinda full. And I want to stay in my own guild. Just run with you," I'd laugh and then /ignore them. How could someone like that be accountable?

I mean, I know I'm an exception to the rule. But there's no way to convince someone else of that.

Also, today is my 256th post. Which is not only a square, but also a power of two. This makes my (not-so-)inner geek very excited.

Thursday, July 7, 2011


Pro Tip: The Reflective Shield that the Seething Pyrelords cast during the Protectors of Hyjal quest I mentioned yesterday? It can be interrupted.

Fellow Bears and everyone a huge favor. Skull Bash that thing.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Bravo, Blizzard. Bravo.

Note: I started writing this post on Friday. I'm just now getting around to finishing it. A lot of it is written assuming that people were just getting to the point where they were ready to enter the Molten Front. Since then, Blizz has hotfixed the rate at which this can occur (from three days to one). Also, a lot more people have gone through those three/one day(s) and seen this already. So this is probably no longer "OMG, Amazing!" news. But I still want to share it because I'm still excited about it.

Once you're gotten your first 20 Marks of the World Tree and seen Hamuul Runetotem turned into hamburger, you unlock a daily quest out at the Sanctuary of Malorne called The Protectors of Hyjal. (Which doesn't actually show up until the next day.)

This is, far and away, one of the most amazing quests I've ever seen. Why? Blizzard took a small, subtle step that shows just how far-reaching the consequences of Ragnaros' invasion really are.

Once you pick up the quest and fly out to Sethria's Roost, you're joined by a group of four NPC allies. Sometimes all four will be generic Hyjal Protectors. But sometimes the fourth will be a named NPC that you've run across during your time in Azeroth. Usually ones associated with some of the best questlines from certain areas.

Saniel ended up with Tony Two-Tusk the first time around, who's the center of a pair of short (but fun) quest lines out in Thousand Needles. First to kill him, then to bring him back to life.

Siaaryn also ended up there on the same night and he got John J. Keeshan in his party. If you've quested out the Burning Steppes as Alliance since the Cataclysm, you're well acquainted with Mr. Keeshan. Dude's hardcore. I'd want him on my side any day of the week.

If you go to quest page on Wowhead that I've linked above, you can see all the possible NPCs that could show up. There's some crazy names on that list. Mankirk, Johnny Awesome, Budd, Thassarian, Hemet Nesingwary.

From characters you meet in starting zones (Gwen Amistad) all the way up to one of the most powerful dragons on Azeroth (Chromie), to characters who are no longer really in the game (Linken), every name on that list brings back memories some of the best quest chains in WoW.

Do you remember turning your weekly Raid quests to Archmage Lan'dalock?

Do you remember rescuing Archmage Vargoth from the tower in Kirin'var Village in Netherstorm?

Do you remember rescuing The Leaper from the Lich King's grasp?

Mog'dorg the Wizened from Ogri'la?

A lot of the characters are new to the game in Cataclysm, even though you meet them in 1-60 zones.

Lunk, the pacifist Ogre in the Searing Gorge.

Maximillian of Northshire, the incompetent and condescending Knight in Un'goro.

Tony Two-Tusk and John J. Keeshan, who I've already mentioned.

I could keep going. But I won't.

Like I said, it's subtle and it's simple. You don't really interact with these characters. And the Protectors quest itself doesn't take long at all. A few minutes, really, including travel time. They just show up, occasionally say or emote something, and then disappear again with a quick farewell.

But the point is that they're no longer forgotten. They're not relegated to their brief, shining moments and then left there for all eternity anymore. They're now a part of something bigger. Their story continues. This is their world, too. And they're going to help fight for it in any way they can.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

What Nefarian could not do...

So I didn't get to play in all the new 4.2 goodness last night. I downloaded the patch, updated all my addons, logged in, logged back out, enabled out-of-date addons, logged back in, picked up the quests from the Hero's Call Board and Naraat the Earthspeaker, and took the portal to Hyjal...

...where my game promptly slowed down to approximately 1 frame every 10 seconds.

I hearthed back to Stormwind, where the lag issues persisted, though not as bad. (Which is interesting, because SW was fine before I lag issues.)

I decided, rather than get in a four-way wrestling match between me, the game, my system, and the throngs of people out doing the new 4.2 content, I'd just go continue my Mass Effect replay for the night and try again today.

I must have had bad luck or bad interaction between one of my addons and...something. Because Norfin zoned into Hyjal just as I logged out and he had zero issues.

I was already committed in my mind to shooting aliens and synthetics rather than shredding elementals, so I let it go. I'll give it another try tonight.

Monday, June 27, 2011

We did it! 12/12!

I called "last attempt."

I called "real last attempt."

I called "for real-real, seriously last attempt."

The problem was, even though we were way past our usual cutoff time, we kept getting closer and closer.

I mean, you don't stop when you get to 25%, then 18%, then 7%...

So I declared that we would stop when someone whispered me and said they had to go to bed before they made face-waffles on their keyboard.

And as soon as I said that:

So crazy. And on that last attempt, the successful one, it felt so cool and calm. (Save Karmaze, whose voice went up 2 octaves and doubled in tempo.)

I'm really proud of this group. I was looking through the guild forums the other day and realized that we didn't even start raiding together until mid-April. Some of us had seen Halfus, Magmaw, and Omnitron prior to that, but I don't think we'd managed to kill all of them, if any. So, in all reality, we learned and conquered all 12 normal mode bosses in two and a half months. And we did it before the patch nerfed them significantly.

The last night before the nerf. Talk about bringing it down to the wire.

We joked (after the raid) about still being at it, right on the heels of a kill, when the servers went down for maintenance. We kinda wondered if anyone was going to be unfortunate enough to experience that. Thankfully, not us.

For most of us, this was a true 12/12, giving us our Defender of a Shattered World titles. It also unlocked the Dark Phoenix for our guild.

(I finally replaced my 346 helm, too.)

Come tomorrow, no one will really know we earned them before the patch. But that's okay. We do.

We're going to take Thursday to go redo BoT. We only have one Council kill, and our Hunter (my other half, Norfin) was healing on his Shaman when we did it. So we want to get him his achieve and title. The other Shaman who's regularly filled our 3rd healer slot also needs that fight for the raid portion of his Defender achieve.

Monday we're taking off for the holiday.

And then it's into the Firelands after that.


Monday, June 20, 2011

Al'Akir defeated! 11/12!

Brutal fight. Every phase has things that can go horribly wrong. And, as the tank, it's exceedingly easy to wipe the raid at any point in the first two phases if you're not paying attention and performing with absolute precision. No easy task when you're trying to manage adds, lead the raid, watch the timers, and find the gaps in the squall lines. Plus, you know, still put up respectable tanking damage to help the raid get through those phases quicker.

The hardest part was the third phase just because--to even get to it--you had to get through the other two phases first, which we were only doing about 33% of the time. Made it really, really hard to learn how to execute the strategy properly. In those kinds of situations, it's up to the raid leader to step up and really guide everyone through the process. There's no room for ambiguity. Once I figured out how to lead that phase effectively, we got him. (Not to sound like it was all me or anything.)

I got my tier shoulders out of the fight, which means I was able to justify spending my VP on the robe. I now have the 4-set bonus and don't look half bad (except for the silly belt).

Only Nef is left. The first half of Thursday's raid will be spent just clearing to him. We have the first five bosses down to an art, with the possible exception of Chimaeron. We can usually down him, but it's still almost never pretty.

Providing the first 5 go that smoothly, we'll be left with 4.5 hours to down Nef before 4.2 drops. Going 12/12 before the nerf would be a huge accomplishment considering how late we got started raiding in this expansion and how long it took us to really hit our stride once we did.

Even if we don't quite pull it off, we're going to stay in Tier 11 until we get him, just to have it all wrapped up. Then it's off to the Firelands.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

A Bear's Guide to BWD: Atramedes

Atramedes resides on the north end of the Vault of Shadowflame in BWD. He's a unique boss with a new sound mechanic. At the beginning of the fight everyone in the raid has 0 "sound." Every time someone gets hit by one of his special abilities, they gain sound. If/when they hit 100, he focuses on them and cannot be taunted off. Many of his special abilities are also deadlier against people with higher sound levels. Why sound? Because Atramedes is blind. Sonar, people.

There are 10 gongs around the room (5 per side) that can be to cause Vertigo on Atramedes. While under the effects of Vertigo, he'll take additional damage and the sound level of everyone in the raid will be reset to 0. However, you don't want to use them recklessly. Each time you ring one, Atramedes destroys it and they serve an important function during the fight.

If you have DBM (or similar addon), you can see sound levels represented in easy-to-read text. If not, you'll be dependent on an in-game sound meter graphic. It's a circle that fills blue (from the center, expanding outwards) as your sound rises. I find it's very difficult to read because of the non-linear relationship between a circle's radius and area. Low levels of sound tend to look much worse than they really are.

Atramedes is a single-tank fight. It's not unusual for Bears to be asked to go Cat for this fight to get a little extra DPS boost. There's no enrage timer, but if he isn't killed before your raid runs out of gongs to ring, it will cause a wipe.

But this is a guide for Bears that do end up tanking.

There's two phases to this fight. An 80-second ground phase followed by a 40-second air phase. Rinse, repeat. You'll only be tanking Atramedes while he's on the ground. He hits hard, but slow. So you usually don't have to panic (too much) if your health dips low. Your healers will (probably) have time to get you back up.

You'll want to know ahead of time the order that your raid is using the gongs. In my raids we use the gongs on the east side of the room during the ground phases, starting with the northern-most one (closest to where Atramedes spawns) and moving south. You want to keep Atramedes positioned such that the gong is one side of him and the center of the room is on the other. Your ranged should be standing near the next gong to be rang and melee generally do their job from the other side.

During the initial pull, this is not very hard to accomplish. When he lands (in the center of the room) after the air-phases, it's a little harder. You sometimes have to kite him to the north or south end of the room first and then swing him around and into position. Make sure you're communicating with your healers when you do this so they don't end up out of range.

All throughout the ground phase, Atramedes will be casting Modulation and Sonar Pulse. There's nothing you can do about the former, so don't worry about it too much. The latter causes four gold discs to spawn beneath Atramedes and move out in random directions. They move somewhat slowly and are relatively easy to avoid. Atramedes has a fairly large hit box, so try to make sure you're tanking from the edge of it. It gives you more time before the discs reach you and more time for them to spread further apart, making easier gaps to run through. Strafing is your friend here.

Sometimes fate conspires against you and there won't be an easy gap for you to hit. When this happens, run straight through the discs towards Atramedes to minimize the amount of time one is touching you.

Twice during each ground phase (at roughly 20 and 60 seconds), Atramedes will use his Sonic Breath ability. He targets a single player and casts a room-length, fire-laser at them. That player needs to run around Atramedes to avoid it. (Atramedes continually tracks the target for the the six or so seconds this beam lasts.) Anyone the fire-laser touches takes damage and gains sound. As the tank, you'll never be the target of this ability, but that doesn't mean whoever is targeted won't track it right through you. You may have to move to avoid it.

Once per ground phase (at roughly 40 seconds) Atramedes will cast Searing Flame. Your ranged should be standing by on the gong as this ability approaches and ring it very quickly when he starts casting it. It must be interrupted by the gong. If you have high sound (more than 50), pop Barkskin before this ability goes off. If you have really high sound (more than 75) use Survival Instincts instead. And if you have low health, Frenzied Regeneration is probably not a bad idea in addition to either one of your damage mitigation abilities, regardless of your sound level.

Once Atramedes starts to fly up into the air, you and the rest of your raid should start running in a large circle around the edge of the floor. Atramedes is going to pick one person and start chasing them with Roaring Flame Breath, a beam similar to Sonic Breath except that it goes downward now. It starts fairly slowly at first (faster if the target has high sound) and gradually speeds up as it chases them. The beam does heavy, fast ticking damage to the player if it catches up. It also leaves a trail of fire on the ground behind it that will damage anyone that runs through it. They'll also gain sound (presumably because of shouting something between "Ow! Ow! Ow!" and "Oh god, the burning! Make it stop!").

The beam can be stopped by ringing a gong.

Once the beam targets someone, everyone else should collapse down to the center except for a designated gong-ringer. The gong-ringer needs to stand near an available gong (in my raid group, we use the gongs on the west side of the room for the air phases) and keep an eye on the person being chased. When the Flame Breath is about to catch up to that person, they need to use a gong and then immediately start running. Why? They become the new Flame Breath target.

In order to keep the number of gongs needed for the air phase at 1, the gong-ringer should hold out as long as possible. People being chased by Flame Breath should do whatever they can to increase the time the gong-ringer has to save them (Sprint, Dash, Blink, Lock Gate, Ghost Wolf, Heroic Leap, etc).

Providing we don't get targeted initially, we Bears make very good gong-ringers. For starters, we can't DPS Atramedes while he's in the air (ranged can still reach him) so we're pretty much useless during the air phase anyway. Secondly, we can shift Cat to gain a speed boost via Feral Swiftness and have Dash available to us every other air phase.

Whether or not you're the gong-ringer, keep an eye out for Sonar Bombs. These fall fairly rapidly during the air phases and frequently target the spaces people are standing in. There will be a set of flashing rings that appear where one is going to land a few seconds before it does. If one of these appears under you, move.

If you're not the gong-ringer, just hang out near the middle and get ready to pick up Atramedes when he lands. Stay out of fire patches on the ground and Sonar Bomb zones. Also stay 6 yards from other raid members so you don't catch splash damage from the Sonic Fireballs that will be raining down.

Atramedes has a pretty anemic loot-table as far as Bears are concerned. The only drop you'll potentially be looking for is the Sark of the Unwatched.

As with all my boss strats, I'm writing from the overall perspective of a Bear tank (in 10-man) 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.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Cho'gall dead! BoT Clear!

Our first attempt of the night we got him to 11%, which was our best ever. At that point I knew for sure we had him tonight.

After Cho fell, we headed over to T4W to make quick work of the Conclave and then started learning Al'Akir. We only had an hour, but we made good progress. I think we may be at 11/12 before the week is over, leaving only Nef.

So many levels...

Another hectic weekend gone by with a lot of things that took my attention away from WoW. I'm not complaining. I had fun doing them and I don't mind spending time away from the game.

It's just not conducive to power leveling a toon.

Sanele is 72 now and almost done with the Fjord. Just a few more quests out of Fort Wildervar and then it's off to Dragonblight.

My plan is to get her to 80 by the weekend, which is ambitious. Tonight is raid night (Cho'gall will die) and I have hockey Friday night (although not until 10:45, so I should have plenty of time in the early evening).

Then it's the final push to 85.

After that, I plan to take Maeniel from 80 to 85, mostly because I've worked through my stockpile of enchanting mats leveling his skill and questing/leveling is a huge source of DE'able gear.

After that, no more leveling for a while. Once I go through the the aforementioned plans I'll have taken three toons from 80 to 85 (Saniel, Daluaan, Siaaryn), three from 1 to 85 (Grevioux, Sanele, Maeniel), and one from 80 to 82 (Maarken), all since Cata's release.

And now that I typed that out, the little completionist on my shoulder is telling me I can't leave my DK as my lone hold-out. So I'll probably end up finally maxing him out, too. Finally give his Frost spec a shot.


Monday, June 6, 2011

Tanking the weekend, part 2

After taking a few days off of leveling my Warrior I sat down on Saturday morning and queued up again to see if things would get any better.

Between the time I started and when I took a coffee break, I ran 3 or 4 dungeons. Most of them actually went pretty smoothly. The groups were nice enough, the DPS did a relatively good job of not trying to tank for me, and I didn't run across any major jerks. I even ended up in one group with a Hunter that was an obvious fan of Jane Lindskold's Firekeeper Saga. So we chatted about that a little while going through one of the Dire Maul wings.

I gained a couple levels from the runs, putting me somewhere around 47 when I stood up to take a break.

Once I did get out of the routine of leave-queue-run, though, I found that I was extremely reluctant to get back into it. I started doing anything I could to delay sitting back down in front of my comp and queuing again. I even started cleaning the kitchen.

I took a step back and realized that, even with the better groups than I ran with last weekend, I just wasn't having fun. And the only reason I'd continued to queue as long as I had (pretty much everything past level 30) is because I said I was going to level to 85 by tanking dungeons and that was that.

What makes WoW fun:
I've been playing this game for over 5 years now, and I'm honestly well past the point where the game itself is enough to keep me interested in playing. That's not a knock on WoW. It's still an amazing game. I don't think it has a lack of things to offer...I just think I've done and seen more of it than not.

There's two main things that keep me coming back: social interaction and challenge.

Low-level dungeon running has neither.

The social aspect of this game is huge for me. I've made a lot of friends over the years and if they were to all scatter, I probably wouldn't stick around long. But even outside that, if I'm in a group with people, I want to feel like I'm in a group with people, not silent robots on auto-pilot. I can power run a dungeon with the best of them, and I don't always mind doing so. But if there's not some kind of talk or banter going on, it just feels like a slog.

Talking with the "Firekeeper" Hunter I mentioned above was actually fun. But it was easy to tell the rest of the group wished we'd just shut up and go faster.

The challenge aspect is obvious. I love raiding with my guild, because I love tackling those challenges. It's actually tough. There's effort involved.

Of course, I would never want to try to tackle those challenges without those same social connections I mention above. They're what keep it fun and light in the face of wipes and such. So there's a hand-in-hand aspect there.

Outside of those two factors, though, there's something else that started to notice:

I'm not convinced dungeons are actually faster than questing.
It's no secret that running dungeons while leveling can rocket you completely past zones. It's been a well-posted fact ever since 4.0 dropped. But I think that has less to do with how much experience you gain through dungeon running and more to do with how tightly tuned questing is now.

Prior to level 30, you definitely rip through the levels while you're running dungeons, no question. I would often ding more than once from beginning to end. This is especially true the first time I hit each dungeon and had quests to turn in at the end.

But as time went on, even with tank insta-queue, I felt like leveling speed had actually slowed to a crawl. I felt that even my two Worgen (Grevioux and Maeniel) that had gone 1-60 with no heirlooms had leveled faster post-40 than Sanele was. Or it could be that I was just enjoying it more. Either way...

The leveling-via-dungeons experiment is over
After that last run, I just decided I wasn't feeling it. There was no reason to play the game in a way I wasn't enjoying for reasons that I wasn't sure were even valid. So I stopped queuing and headed out into the world.

Since I was already stocked up on all the Prot plate gear (and out of JP on all my 85s), I decided to just stick with it and see how it would go. I figured, if nothing else, the bonus XP would offset any speed differences.

Two things happened:
1) I started having fun again. How novel.
2) OMG, I'm ripping through levels. Due in no small part to how easy it is to kill things.

With just about every character I've ever played before, if I was running along on my mount and accidentally pulled something, I'd just keep going and hope it didn't catch up. If it did, I'd kill it and then keep going.

On my Warrior, I'll look around first to see if there's at least 2 or 3 other mobs I can pull. If so, I'll stop and mow them all down. If not, then I'll try to keep going. A Prot Warrior can kill huge groups of mobs just as fast and more efficiently than a single one. And that's gobs of XP every time.

I've started playing games where I see how many mobs I can pull before they all start leashing or overwhelm me. In some areas of the Blasted Lands, I was able to get upwards of 15 on me at a time and drop them all.

Now that's fun.

My play time this past weekend was somewhat limited again. Much of my time Saturday was spent with my family celebrating the birth of my new nephew. And there was a lot of housework to be done on Sunday. Still, I managed to make it to 61. I did run Ramparts once, when I got the quest to do so. It was a good change of pace from the leveling grind and gave me a good chunk of XP. I plan to do Bloodfurnace once I turn in that quest.

In Outland and Northrend, I think this might be the way to go. Mix it up. Run dungeons when the natural progression of questing asks you to and leave them otherwise.

Obviously, this doesn't work in the old world anymore, where all the dungeon quests have been moved inside the dungeons. There's no real breadcrumbs leading you inside.

And, of course, this is just my preference. But it's what felt fun and stress free, and isn't that why I play games anyway?

Friday, June 3, 2011

Picture Day!

Just some of the screenshots I've collected over the last couple months.

The werewolves can now breathe underwater. We're boned.

One of the only helmets I've seen that don't look absolutely ridiculous on Worgen.

Yes, I have both the Sparkle Pony and Running Wild. But it's a werewolf riding a giant, armored saber cat. How metal is that?

Wolf totem.

Speaking of totems, Earthmender Duarn decided to vent some of his frustrations while I was busy fighting Iso'rath.

This is the kind of quest I can really get behind!

In order to make the 31-point Demonology talent more appealing, a stealth component has been added. (Not really.)


Take two conversations, equal parts awesome, and mix together...

Prince Thunderaan down. Guild achievement imminent.

Call me crazy, but I'm pretty sure that's not the proper duration on Mend Pet. (This happens whenever I have him out in groups. Also, anyone have a good name for a worm?)

I finally got the last piece (robe) of my Priest's Tier 6 set. And a shiny mace for the finishing touch. Looks soooo good.

This happened while waiting for a raid member that dc'd.

More Guild Firsts (in chronological order):


Double Dragons

Ascendent Council

We made damn good progress on Cho'gall last night. I fully expect him to die Monday.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

And how!

Oops, I did it again.

Tanking the weekend

Welcome back from your long weekend.

Those of you who had a long weekend.

And those of your who are coming back to...something.

Umm...hi again.

So anyway. I actually didn't WoW as much over the weekend as I usually do. Had a lot of other stuff going on. Most of what time I did spend in-game was spent working on my Gnome Warrior, steadily tanking my way through dungeons and leveling her towards the cap.

Friday afternoon into Saturday evening I pretty much flew through the levels. I went from 13 to 35 in that span, even after taking most of Saturday afternoon off to watch the second and third Pirates of the Caribbean flicks. Most dungeons yielded a level, if not two. Most of the groups I ran with were pleasant, if not entirely experienced. It was smooth sailing all the way through. For the most part, I was having fun. And even when I wasn't, I was at least getting rewarded enough to make it bearable.

Starting Sunday morning, things changed. I don't know if it's because it was starting to get a little repetitive, because I was starting to get into dungeons that I was totally unfamiliar with, because people were just set in their bad habits, because all the pleasant folks were spending time being with other people instead of playing WoW, or just coincidence.

Around that time I started ending up in Scarlet Monastery and Maraudon a lot. SM has always been very compartmentalized and Maraudon has become so segmented from it's "winginization" that any one section is over in a blink. That, combined with the climb in experience needed to level slowed down the dings a lot.

And it seemed like every group I got in was just cranky and impersonal. Every time I enter a dungeon, the first thing I do is greet everyone. Usually short and simple. "Hey," or "hey, all." In the earlier dungeons I got responses and sometimes we'd even banter and converse through the dungeon.

In the later ones, by the time I'd finished typing, the DPS has generally already pulled for me. No one would respond at all and the whole run would be done in silence.

Mages and Hunters seem to be the most impatient. Probably because they have ways of saving themselves when they pull and I choose not to pick up the mobs. As soon as that whole pack starts going for my healer, I grab them.

In one SM:Armory run, every time I pulled the Hunter would run ahead, pull the next 2 or 3 groups, bring them all back towards us and Feign Death.

I had a Scholomance run where a Warlock declared he was able to tank. He was booted after causing two wipes (only instance so far where there's been wipes) and killing himself three additional times.

Generally every run includes at least one person that refuses to attack my target, if not all the DPS. Ferals, I'm sad to say, seem to be the worst offenders in this regard.

I can see now why when people start hitting current-expansion dungeons, they have unrealistic expectations of how they should be run and are general poor performers. I don't want to go so far as to say the low-level dungeons encourage bad play...but they certainly don't punish it.

So far I haven't been called a bad tank (probably because I'm not) or had any real negativity directed at me (because I just do my job and wait for the run to end when it gets unpleasant). But the whole experience has become decidedly unfun and I just haven't had the motivation to queue.

Between Sunday and Monday, I only gained another 8 levels. Granted, given the amount of time I actually spent playing those two days, that's still not bad at all. And 30 cumulative levels over a 72 hour span isn't too shabby given that I pretty much only played mornings and/or nights over most of those three days...nothing in the afternoons.

I think I'm going to give it a solid rest for a few days and then make a push to get to Outland. If it gets better, awesome. If not, I may forgo the whole level-by-tanking-dungeons thing and fall back on questing. Not that I'm excited about the prospect of questing Outland and Northrend again, but at least I won't have other people ruining that for me.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Bear updates in the 4.2 Patch Notes

Some interesting Bear updates in the latest 4.2 PTR patch notes:
  • Bear damage abilities were scaling too fast with higher gear levels compared to other tanks, so the following balance changes have been made. All the numbers cited are for level 85 characters; numbers will be lower for lower-level characters
    • Faerie Fire (Feral) base damage has been raised to 2950, up from 679. Attack power scaling has been decreased to 10.8%, down from 15%.
    • Maul base damage has been raised to 35, up from 8. Attack power scaling has been decreased to 19%, down from 26.4%.
    • Pulverize weapon damage percent has been decreased to 60%, down from 80%. Damage per Lacerate application has been increased to 1623, up from 361.
    • Mangle (Bear) weapon damage percent has been decreased to 190%, down from 260%. Bonus damage has been increased to 3306, down from 754.
    • Swipe base damage has been increased to 929, up from 215. Attack power scaling has been decreased to 12.3%, down from 17.1%.
    • Thrash initial base damage has been increased to 1464, up from 339. Initial damage attack power scaling has been decreased to 13.8%, down from 19.2%. Periodic base damage has been increased to 816, up from 189. Periodic damage attack power scaling has been decreased to 2.35%, down from 3.26%.
    • Lacerate initial base damage has been increased to 3608, up from 2089. Initial damage attack power scaling has been decreased to 5.52%, down from 7.66%. Periodic base damage has been increased to 69, up from 16. Periodic damage attack power scaling has been decreased to 0.369%, down from 0.512%.
  • Natural Reaction damage reduction has been increased to 9/18%, up from 6/12%.
What does this mean for us?

I'd like to sit here and say I saw this coming. But the truth is that when I see "Base Damage X and AP Scaling Y," I just kinda gloss over. It's never been my end of the game. Too much theory. Gimme application. How do I hold one mob? Two? Five? Ten? How do I make sure I live when that's happening? Where do I need to hold said mobs to give my raid the best chance of surviving? Those are the things I worry more about.

But if you look at the numbers with a little bit of hindsight, it's pretty obvious this was going to happen. Small base and huge scaling percentage? Yeah...your damage is going to run away at some point.

If you're a raid-geared tank, I doubt you'll see much difference when the patch goes live. I have a feeling these numbers were balanced to keep that gear/performance ratio pretty much in the same spot.

Where I think this could have an effect is on Bear tanks still in Dungeon and Heroic blues that are trying to raid gear themselves.

As you may remember from patch 4.1, the threat modifiers of a lot of our abilities where stripped away and were replaced with higher damage output to compensate. If scaling was an issue, specifically in that Tier 12 damage output would be too high, than it stands to reason that Dungeon/Heroic damage might have been a little low. Or at the very least, that with the evening out of the damage curve, it's going to bring Dungeon/Heroic damage up a little bit.

So for you non-raiding Bears out there that have maybe been having some threat and aggro issues, you may have a little easier time of things if/when these changes go live.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Light help me...

One of the big achieves my guild has been going for is Stay Classy. We've had a thread on our forums since early February tracking our progress and keeping people in the loop about what we still need.

As of right now, we're actually very, very close. We're only missing 7 total race/class combos and many of those are 80 or above already. A few of them are either already Honored or already 85, and so they just need to complete the second half of the achieve requirements.

The two glaring exceptions at this point are Worgen Priest (though we have a couple people working on them now) and Gnome Warrior. I've taken up this latter portion of the challenge now that Maeniel is at 450 Enchanting and is effectively functioning as my mats factory.

Meet Sanele. (The random name gen found the name...after almost 10 minutes of names I'd never use. I couldn't pass it up.)

I've decided that, similar to Dinaer's Mage experiment, I'm going to level Sanele through dungeons. To lower my queue times and hopefully make this a relatively quick trip, I've decided I'm going to do it as a tank.

I'm really not sure what I'm in for here. I've never tanked anything level-appropriate prior to Kara. With the exception of going in for the achieves, I haven't even set foot in most of the pre-BC dungeons since...well...pre-BC. They're more than half the reason I almost quit the game while still in the mid-40s. Gnomeregan broke my spirits in regards to dungeon running. When it looked like I was going to have to run Sunken Temple to keep advancing, I waived the white flag.

KYL is what ended up bringing me back, and what gave me motivation to figure out this whole group aspect of the game was supposed to work. I wanted to be a part of this story, and there was only one way that was going to happen.

So...yeah. I'm probably 2 hours of play time (tops) from being able to queue.

Light help me...

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

A Bear's Guide to BWD: Maloriak

Maybe it's just me and the various strengths/weaknesses of the group I typically work with...but I kind of feel like Maloriak is on the bottom of the difficulty curve of BWD bosses. He should be first and either Magmaw or ODS should be moved inside.

That said, he's not a pushover. He's probably also the most technically
demanding boss from a tanking perspective. It's very easy to slip up and induce a wipe.

Maloriak's also a unique boss in that pacing and timing are very important. There's a right "speed" for this fight. Go too slow and you'll hit the enrage timer. Go too fast and, unless you have a very well-geared add tank and healer or a third tank, you'll get overwhelmed by adds and wipe the raid. More on those in a bit.

As you may have gathered, two tanks are required for this fight: the Maloriak tank and an add tank. Bears can generally handle either. This fight has 20 adds total: 18 Aberrations (released 3 at a time) and 2 Prime Subjects (released at the start of Phease 2). Any Aberrations that haven't been released by the start of Phase 2 will also be released at that time. All the adds are buffed with Growth Catalyst. The more you have in a small space, the tougher they get.

Maloriak is a two phase fight, with the first phase broken up into a series of three mini-phases: Red, Blue, and Green. Each mini-phase lasts 40 seconds.

About 20 seconds after the pull, Maloriak will run to his pot-o-potions and initiate the first mini-phase. It will randomly be either Red or Blue.

For the Red phases the important mechanic is a frontal-cone AoE fire blast that extends the length of the room and shares its damage among everyone it hits. So for this phase you'll want to make sure everyone is in front of Maloriak, with the exception of any non-tanks that get Consuming Flames. Those people should run off to the side until the debuff expires.

For the Blue phases, the idea is to stay spread out. Maloriak will be casting Biting Chill and Flash Freeze, both of which affect an area around the target.

The second mini-phase will also be either Red or Blue, but it won't be the same as the first. So if the first mini-phase was Red, the second will be Blue and visa versa.

The third mini-phase is always Green. The Green mini-phase is a burn phase, where everyone in the room (friend or foe) will be taking 100% additional damage for 15 seconds due to Debilitating Slime. The slime also strips the adds of their Growth Catalyst buff. This is when all the DPS should leave Maloriak and burn down the Aberrations that have been released.

After the Green mini-phase, the loop starts over.

Throughout the phase, there's going to be two spells that you have to keep an eye on. The first is Arcane Storm. This must be interrupted every time and as quickly as possible to keep your raid from taking heavy AoE damage. The second is Release Aberrations. When successfully cast, this spell releases three adds into the room from the vats on the north and south walls. On average, he's going to cast Release Aberrations 5-6 times during each set of three mini-phases. You want him to successfully cast it 3 times. No more, no less. The rest have to be interrupted.

It's best to appoint two interrupters before the fight starts, one for each of the spells.

He'll also be casting Remedy on himself. Warriors can Shield Slam this off, but other tanks are going to have to depend on their raid to get rid of it.

The idea in this fight is to go through the mini-phase rotation twice, letting out 9 Aberrations each time. After that, Maloriak can safely be pushed into Phase 2.

Phase 2 starts when Maloriak hits 25%. From that point on, it's a burn fight.

Maloriak Tank
The first phase doesn't have any positional requirements. Most groups tank Maloriak right where he's standing when you enter the room. He will be running between the pot and the tank during this phase, so keep that in mind. You don't want to have your melee dps chasing him to keep doing their job.

More often than not, one of the interrupters during this phase is going to be the tank. Regardless of which spell you're given to interrupt, don't be too quick on your Skull Bash. You want to be sure you're interrupting the right ability.

If you're interrupting Arcane Storm, it's easy. Just get every one. The air above the raid will fill with lightning streaks, so it's pretty easy to identify.

If you're interrupting Release Aberrations, it's a little harder. You need to be keeping track of how many times it's gone off so you know whether to interrupt it or not. Again, the magic number here is three successful casts prior to each Green mini-phase. The third successful cast should come right before the Green mini-phase starts, otherwise it puts a lot of strain on the add tank and your healers.

After all 18 Aberrations have been released, you don't need to interrupt anymore. Maloriak will still cast the Release, but it won't do anything.

During the Red mini-phases, make sure you keep Maloriak facing your raid. There's nothing else special you have to do. Maloriak will sometimes cast Consuming Flames debuff on you. If you get it, there's nothing you can do. Moving will just cause Maloriak to turn with you, and you don't want to do that. Just pop a cooldown and eat the flames.

During the Blue mini-phases, you need to keep an eye on your raid. Biting chill can land on anyone, even you. Flash Freeze should never be cast directly on you, but it can still chain to you if you're too close to the person it is cast on. Generally this won't be an issue. Just make sure you tank Maloriak in the same spot throughout Phase 1 and it'll be everyone else's job to stay away from you during the Blue mini-phases.

When Maloriak starts the Green mini-phase, he's going to leap to the back of the room. Not long after he'll cast Arcane Storm. Your DPS is going to be focused on the adds at the time so it'll be up to you to interrupt that, even if you're typically the Release Aberrations interrupter. This is nice for Bears, since our Skull Bash works from range. We don't have to run all the way to him to interrupt.

Once you've interrupted the Storm toss out a quick Swipe and Thrash to help with the adds if they're nearby and then drag Maloriak back to his normal tanking spot.

When Phase 2 starts, your job gets a little tougher. Maloriak will begin casting Magma Jets. This puts a line of fire on the ground in front of him (not at a random target, as the tooltip says) that does heavy damage if it hits and leaves a trail that will damage anyone that runs through it. When he starts casting this, you need to move out of the way fast.

I've seen two different tactics for dealing with this spell.

I like to keep Maloriak where he's been the entire fight. When Phase 2 starts, I immediate face him towards the pot. When the first Magma Jets goes off, I turn him 90°, so that he's facing either the North or South wall. For the second Magma Jets, I run through him, turning him 180°. Finally, for the third, I turn him back 90° towards the pot. Then just keep repeating that. Only two Magma Jets trails are on the ground at a time, so this works out. The rest of the raid just has to make sure they stay in the front half of the room.

The other tank in my raids likes to kite Maloriak along the edges of the room, keeping him facing the walls for each Magma Jets cast and then moving him between. This requires a lot more movement and coordination by the tank (I think), but it also frees up the entire room for the rest of your raid.

Regardless of what method you choose, make sure to keep an eye out for floating ice balls and steer clear of them.

Aberrations Tank
The Aberrations tank job is simple: pick up and hold the Aberrations until the Green mini-phase.

You have a little bit of time at the start of the fight before any of the Aberrations are released where you can help DPS Maloriak. Once that first Release Aberrations goes off, though, you have to be ready to get the adds.

The Aberrations can come from a lot of different spots in the room and it can be difficult to pick them up, given our limited ranged options. Usually this isn't a big deal, though. Almost every raid has one healer who picks up more heal-aggro than the others. Just park yourself near that healer and pull the Aberrations away as they get there. You may have to Growl at the occasional straggler, but that's easy enough.

The most important thing for the Aberrations tank to do is keep the adds away from Maloriak. Their Growth Catalyst buff spreads to him, too. You don't want that happening.

Also watch your positioning during the Blue mini-phases. Like Maloriak tank, Flash Freeze should never be cast on you, but it can still chain to you if you're not careful. You also don't want to be taking the pulsing Biting Chill damage from another raid member, especially once you get beyond three Aberrations.

During the Red mini-phases, you probably shouldn't be standing in the path of the Scorching Blast, either.

Make sure you're communicating with the interrupters to keep them informed of how many adds you have. Three is no real threat. Six starts hurting a little. Nine is going to require heavy heals and good use of your cooldowns. This is why you don't want the third Release Aberrations cast to go off until right before the Green mini-phase. The longer you have 9 adds doing 180% damage to you, the hard this fight is going to be.

More than 9 will wipe all but the most uber-geared tanks.

There's usually going to be an uninterrupted Release Aberrations cast during the first Green mini-phase. All your DPS are going to be busy burning down the current adds, and the Maloriak tank's interrupt is going to be on cooldown from having interrupted the Arcane Storm just before it. rest for the weary there.

Once all 18 Aberrations have been killed, you can go Cat again and help your raid DPS Maloriak into Phase 2.

At the start of Phase 2, Maloriak is going to release any unreleased Aberrations (hopefully none) and the two Prime Subjects. The Subjects are always going to come from opposite ends of the room. They're untauntable and they have to be picked up as quickly as possible. Shortly after they're released, they're going to fixate on whoever they're aggroed on for the rest of the fight. It needs to be you.

Once you have them, you just need to hold them until your DPS have killed Maloriak.

Like the Aberrations, the Subjects have the Growth Catalyst buff. Make sure you keep them far away from Maloriak. Avoid any floating ice balls you see. And if one of the Subjects is fixated on a raid member other than you, take the other one away to reduce the damage that other person takes.

Once Maloriak is down, you'll be looking for the Aberration's Leggings and the Cloak of Biting Chill, which is T11 BiS cloak for Bears.

As with all my boss strats, I'm writing from the overall perspective of a Bear tank (in 10-man) 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.