Wednesday, March 30, 2011

A Bear's Guide to BWD: ODS

ODS (or Odies or Omnotron (Defense System) or Omnomnomotron) is the other initial encounter in BWD, and the one that's significantly more complicated for tanks.

There are four individual "bosses" in this encounter, any two of which can be active at the same time. On their own, not one is really anything special. The difficulty in this fight lies in dealing with them in constantly rotating pairs. The order is random each time you try the encounter, though the activations always go in sets of four. (i.e. None of the units will activate a second time before they've all been activated once. None of them will activate a third time before they've all been activated twice. etc.)

Each defense unit has a resource (energy) bar that starts at 100 and slowly drains (I think it takes about a minute). When the unit reaches 55 energy, a new one will become active. At 50 energy the unit will put up a shield (specific to each one). The shield lasts for 10 seconds, during which time you'll want to stop attacking. (This is a good time to pop Barkskin since you won't be getting the benefit of Savage Defense.) At 0 energy the unit shuts down.

At the start of the fight, there will be one active defense unit. Whichever tank is the initial tank will pick it up. Thirty seconds later, a new unit will activate. The second tank will have to pick up this unit. Another 30 seconds later, another new unit will activate and the first one will deactivate. The tank on the first unit will have to pick up the new one. This continues in a round-robin fashion until the encounter is over. (The units all share a single health pool.)

The first time each unit activates, it has a clean aggro table, so the first thing it's going to do is go straight for your healers. Be ready with your Growl and F3 to grab it if it's your turn. From that point on, each unit retains its aggro table when it shuts down, so next time it reactivates it will go back to the tank that had it last time.

When tanking one unit that's about to shut down, it's tempting to go stand near the next one that's going to become active. (You can tell which one because there will be an energy "stream" from the central tiki console thing to that unit.) Don't do this. There's a 2 or 3 second window between the time one becomes active and the previous one completely shuts down, which means you can get pummeled by both of them. Your healers won't appreciate this. Just be ready, pick them up from a distance, and let them come to you.

Each of the defense units has two abilities and a shield that you have to be aware of.

Arcanotron (Purple)
Arcanotron is the most demanding of the four units to tank. His first main ability is Power Generator. It puts a small, arcane-colored (blue/pink) void zone on the ground beneath his feet. He must be moved out of this immediately, as it increases the damage done by 50% to anyone (friend or foe) standing in it. Make sure to watch his buffs, as his hitbox is bigger than it appears. It can look like you've kited him away from it when you really haven't.

His other main ability is Arcane Annihilator, which is a 1.5-second cast Arcane blast. You're going to be taking turns with one of your DPS interrupting it. (You are specced 2/2 in Brutal Impact, right? You'd better be.) He casts about every 6 seconds, so you will need to share the duty and make sure you take turns.

Arcanotron's shield is Power Conversion. Be very aware of when it's going to go off. It's a 1.5 second cast, just like Arcane Annihilator. It's very easy to accidentally blow your Skull Bash on the shield cast, effectively wasting it.

While the shield is up every damaging attack will give Arcanotron a stack of Converted Power. It can be purged or spell stolen so a couple hits aren't bad (and can even be good if you have a mage with you), but you still don't want the stacks going up too high too fast. The trick here is that you'll still have to interrupt him while his shield is up. Get friendly with your escape key or use a macro like this:
/cast Skull Bash(Bear)

Electron (Blue)
Electron, on the other hand, is the least demanding in regards to tanking. He has a chain lightning that you can't do anything about and a electric AoE damage debuff that he'll inflict on random raid members. You also can't do anything about this. So just hold him steady and tank away.

While his shield is up, any attacks against him will trigger damage on a random raid member and anyone standing near them.

Magmatron (Red)
Magmatron isn't much harder to tank than Electron, but requires a little more awareness.

His first major ability is a channeled AoE fire blast that just has to be healed through.

The other is a two-stage ability where he'll first focus on a target and then do a heavy-damage channeled fire cone in their direction, extending all the way to the end of the room. This can't be avoided. He'll turn to always face the target.

Ideally you'll want to hold Magmatron near a wall, facing parallel while tanking him. This way the targeted person can just go stand against the wall and everything will be fine. If you are tanking Magmatron, this won't target you.

As a tank this becomes a dangerous ability when you're tanking an active unit other than Magmatron. If he targets someone standing between himself and you, you'll be in the blast path. If you see this happening, move quickly. There's also a possibility he'll target you, at which point you should be hitting Survival Instincts.

Magmatron's shield absorbs all damage done to him, up to a certain amount. If it reaches that point it bursts, doing 75K fire damage to everyone in the raid. Ugly.

Toxitron (Green)
Toxitron is somewhere in the mid-range for tanking difficulty. He's harder than Electron and Magmatron, but easier than Arcanotron.

His first ability is Chemical Bomb, which creates a large cloud at the feet of a random raid member, including the Toxitron tank. Anyone standing in the cloud, friend or foe, takes an additional 50% damage. As long as you can do it without holding Toxitron right in the middle of the room, you'll want to position him so that he is in the cloud and you are not. Anyone in the cloud turns a green color, so it's easy to tell.

Twice while he's active, he'll also do Poison Protocol, which summons 3 slime adds at his feet, 1.5 seconds apart. Each separate slime will fixate on a raid member and start chasing them. If the slime reaches its target before it dies it will explode, doing massive AoE damage near it and leaving a slime puddle on the ground.

These are the reason I mentioned not holding Toxitron in the middle of the room. It gives the rest of your raid a definitive direction the slimes will be coming from and an easier space to use to avoid/kite them.

The slimes can be slowed. I'm not sure about rooted or stunned.

The adds will not fixate on the Toxitron tank, but they can fixate on the non-Toxitron tank. If you're not tanking Toxitron, be alert. You may have to kite the boss until DPS takes care of the one after you.

Stampeding Roar can be helpful here if you see one of the slimes getting close to you or close to a target standing near you.

Also, you'll be able to use Berserk during one of the two add "phases". (I usually choose the 2nd since the rest of the raid is focused on a different defense unit by then.) Spamming Mangle on Toxitron as the adds spawn will put out some good initial damage. It will also put an initial slow on the adds if you've specced into Infected Wounds.

Once your raid defeats the encounter, you'll be looking for the Lightning Conductor Band and the Poison Protocol Pauldrons.

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, March 28, 2011

It's the little things

Let's face it, after playing this game for 6 years, you start to take a lot of things for granted. And even your "relaxed pace"--where you're trying to take it all in--will run laps around newer players.

But every now and again you stumble across something that makes you stop for a moment and really appreciate this game that Blizzard has built. Often it's something small. Just a little detail that you happen to catch; almost by accident.

One of my goals last week was to get Siaaryn's Archeology skill maxed out so that I could start seriously hunting for the Vial of the Sands Recipe. At the start of the week he was at 200 skill. I hit 525 Saturday afternoon. </gloat>

Needless to say, I spent a lot of time during the week (especially on Saturday), mindlessly flying around from shovel to shovel on my map.

During the 450->525 home-stretch, once I was back in old Azeroth, I ended up in Feralas. I hit two different digsites and then opened my map to find the next one. And that's when I had one of those moments.

For the first time since Cataclysm's release, I heard the new music that plays in Feralas (anywhere other than around Dire Maul). I'd been through the zone a few times previously. A few for archeology, a few for picking up the new flight points, and Grevioux passed through very briefly while leveling, but didn't quest through the zone. But the music never really registered until this last time.

It's really quiet, unlike so many zones in WoW. I'd say it fades into the background more than anywhere else. Maybe that's a part of why I hadn't heard it before.

Whatever the reason, I heard it, then, while I was staring at my map and I just had to stop and listen.

It's one of the most beautiful pieces of music I've heard in the game. It's so haunting and so...sad.

It's easy to look at the Night Elves and say that everything is their fault. As a race, they've collectively brought about pretty much every bad thing that's happened on Azeroth in the last 10,000 years (give or take). From the day they started getting drunk off the waters from the Well of Eternity, it's all gone to hell.

But if you're going to accuse them of that, then you have to look at the other side of the coin, too. As a collective race, the Night Elves have lost more and fallen further than any other race on Azeroth. Perhaps combined. Their current civilization is hardly a shadow of what it once was.

A lot of the Night Elf music encapsulates that loss. It's almost all down-tempo with long, drawn-out melodies.

Music from later stages of the game (i.e. what you hear in Mount Hyjal) starts to show a revival. There's still sadness, but also resolve and hope. There's a fighting spirit coming back.

But back in Feralas, among the overgrown ruins of one of their most ancient and powerful cities, and the shambles of Feathermoon Stronghold in the wake of the Cataclysm, there's none of that.

Maybe because I'm an established lore-whore (or maybe because I'm just a little bit special), I couldn't help but to stop my Archeology grind for a few minutes and just fly around the zone, listening to that music, and truly feel sorry for the Night Elves.

Kudos, Blizzard.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

A Bear's Guide to BWD: Magmaw

I've been putting off writing these guides because I've wanted to include video with them, but every time we raid I either forget to start recording or we just have a bad night. (Sometimes both.)

So I figure I'll at least start typing them out, then I can update with videos as I get around to making them.

Magmaw is one of the first two bosses of Blackwing Descent, and the easier of the two when it comes to tanking. There's a lot of different tanking options with Magmaw, and which one you take is going to depend on your group's makeup.

Magmaw is a stationary boss. He doesn't move. So for the pull (and every moment thereafter) you have to go to him. If Magmaw is in combat without someone in melee range for more than a few seconds at any time, he starts throwing a Molten Tantrum, so once you start combat, you want to close in quickly. Magmaw has a very small hitbox and only a slightly larger aggro range. So you can actually get really close before pulling. I recommend a face-pull and then throwing F3 as soon as you enter combat.

As you close in, keep in mind that you can fall off the edge of floor into the lava below. So make sure to stop running when you get close.

Generally you're going to tank Magmaw with your butt against the wall to his right. This turns him enough that your melee dps can stand behind him if they're all the way to the left.

Once you're tanking him, there's not much you have to worry about. He'll be doing random Magma Spits and Lava Spews on a timed interval. You can't do anything to avoid either one, so just chill out. He'll also be dropping Flame Pillars under random people's feet, but unless you have no one outside of melee range you don't have to worry about these hitting you.

The Flame Pillars will spawn several Lava Parasites. You do have to keep an eye out for these. If they happen to get near you, make sure you don't Swipe or Thrash or do anything else that may cause you to gain aggro on them. You don't want to have to worry about Parasitic Infection and Infectious Vomit on top of the damage you're already taking.

Now here's where things get important for the tank. Every 90 seconds, Magmaw is going to do an ability called Mangle. His version is significantly more vicious than ours. While in his grip, you are stunned, so it's important to pop your cooldowns before you get picked up. And you will want to pop them. You will be taking heavy, heavy damage and anything you can do to help your healers will be appreciated.

Shortly after picking you up, Magmaw will cast Ignition, slamming his head down on one half of the room. Once he picks his head up, all aggro is reset.

You will be dropped 5 seconds after your DPS successfully chain Magmaw (at which point he becomes impaled), or when you die.

If you survive the Mangle, you will have the Sweltering Armor debuff, which reduces your armor by 50%.

Once you hit the ground, you should immediately shift to cat, pop Berserk if you have it available, and go to town. Keep an eye on your DBM timers. About 4 seconds before the impale phase ends, you'll either want to be backing out of melee range or shifting bear and getting in position to pick him up again. Once combat resumes, you're back to the first phase. It's just rinse and repeat from here out.

This is where your group has some choices. Magmaw can be solo-tanked and the armor debuff healed through. This puts a little more strain on your healers, but frees up a spot for another DPS, which will help the encounter go faster. There's also a very, very small chance that the Sweltering Armor debuff won't clear before you get Mangled again. If this happens, you're definitely toast.

If you choose to use this method, there's two things you'll need to do as a bear.

First, you'll have to alternate your cooldowns for the Mangles. Survival Instincts for one, Frenzied Regeneration for the other. Try to make sure you get a full Rage bar before popping FR. Try to save Barkskin for after you get dropped, when you're tanking with the armor debuff.

Second, you'll want a macro like this:
/targetexact Magmaw
/cast Growl

As Magmaw gets close to the end of the impale phase, you'll want to start spamming this to make sure he doesn't melee your other raid members. As soon as your Growl goes off, start attacking and building threat.

If you go with a two-tank method, you have a couple options. You can tank swap at the Mangle (in which case you'll be able to use both defensive cooldowns every time you get picked up), or you can have one tank designated the Mangle tank. The Mangle tank will taunt off of the main tank right before each Mangle, leaving the other tank free to tank normally the whole encounter. If you go with this method and end up as the Mangle tank, you'll have to roll your cooldowns the same as if you were the only tank.

There's one other possible thing to note here. One strategy on Magmaw is to have only one person outside of melee range. This has the advantage of easily controlling where the Flame Pillars will spawn (since there's only one candidate), cutting down on the number of raid members running around instead of doing their job, and decreasing the number of potential Parasitic Infection targets. (A person can only get infected by one parasite at a time.) A lot of times this job falls to a good AoE kiting class with slows, like a Hunter, Frost DK, or Frost Mage. Some groups opt to use a tank to do this.

As is generally the case with large groups of mobs, shield tanks (Warriors and Pallys) are more ideal, but Bears can do the job. If you end up with this job, you'll have a few things you need to watch.

Make sure you stay out Flame Pillars. Since you'll probably be moving a lot, this shouldn't be too much of an issue.
Stay out of melee range of the Parasites as much as possible. Obviously you'll have to spend some time in range. Swipe and Thrash will be your tools of choice to hold aggro. So it'll be a pattern of run in, hit your AoE attacks, get out.
Stay in range of your healers. You'll be running around a lot. Make sure you don't run too far away from them.
Don't let the parasites reach your other raid members! Use F3 and Growl to get back loose adds. If you lose control of several parasites, Challenging Roar can save the day. In an extremely dire situation, Hurricane can help get the job done, too. It just means you'll be spending several precious seconds stationary and out of Bear form.
Use Barkskin and Thorns on cooldown. They'll help keep you alive and keep aggro, respectively.

Once your group kills Magmaw, you'll be looking for the Parasitic Bands and the Symbiotic Worm as potential upgrades. There's also Akrius the Worm-Breaker, but only if you really need a new weapon. As usual, Strength isn't nearly as good for Bears as Agility.

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, March 23, 2011

Life vs. WoW

Where do you draw that line? To what extent are they allowed to merge? At what point does one start to overshadow the other? What decisions do you have to make when that happens?

About 3 years ago, when I started to really, really get into WoW and began to spend an increasing amount of time logged in and playing I told myself that I was never going to become that gamer. You know...the one whose life started to play second fiddle to the game. I promised myself that if I ever saw myself pushing aside my real life for more game time, I was going to have to adjust.

Since then I've done a fair job of that. A couple times I started to see myself letting WoW consume time I should probably spend doing other things, but I never fell completely off the wagon. I was always able to adjust.

All well and good, right?

But what happens when your game time isn't just yours? What happens when you fill a big role in a guild (say, Raid Leader and Main Tank, just for totally hypothetical example *cough*)? Does that shift those lines any? Does it make a difference in your decisions?

I've been playing hockey recreationally since the fall of '04. The whole time I've played in a single league. And while teams shuffle from season to season, I've pretty much played with the same core group of guys, including one of my best friends.

While it only takes up one night a week, that's still one night a week I know I can't really be playing WoW.

The last couple years, I've been growing steadily more and more dissatisfied with my league.

For starters, I moved to be closer to work once I got hired into my company as a FTE instead of just a contractor. The move meant hockey is now a 40-minute drive, instead of a 10-minute drive.

Secondly, the league management has gone further and further downhill every year. From changing the schedule on the night of games to changing rules mid-season (and even mid-playoffs) to combining two different level leagues into one (creating situations where some teams are far outmatched by others), it's just become infuriating. And the only time they appear to give a damn about you as a player is when you're so much as a day late paying your fees.

So why am I still playing?

Familiarity, for one. Friendships, for two. And because, despite all the frustrations, once I was out on the ice I still had more fun playing than not.

But above all that, because if I switched to the league I've been considering switching to, my primary game nights would move from Mondays to Fridays. Since I'm in a Friday/Saturday raiding guild, as the RL and MT, this would cause some obvious issues.

Yes, the biggest single reason I've stayed with something that caused a certain amount of undue stress is because to change it, I'd have scheduling conflicts with WoW.

That said, this past season has been a nightmare. It's gotten to the point where I don't look forward to game night anymore. I'm not having fun. And that's a problem that I can't continue to ignore. It's where I decided I had to draw the line.

About a week and a half ago I informed the other officers of my guild that I'm going to be pulling the trigger on this change. Initially just for the summer season, but if I end up enjoying the new league it'll become a much more permanent change. Tonight we're going to be having a guild meeting, much of which is going to be centered around this topic.

With the continued un-success of our 25-man runs (either getting them together or accomplishing anything when we do) and now losing a MT and RL for one of the two nights, we're pretty much throwing in the towel on 25s. This is a big shift for us as a guild, as it's the first time we're truly abandoning the idea instead of merely putting it on hold. While it might be fair to say that it's been a long time coming and probably something we should have done a while ago, there's still a voice in the back of my head telling me that I caused this upheaval. I'm responsible for the shift because I put my life ahead of that of the rest of my guild.

Although that's fair, too, isn't it?

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Are there any classes you just don't get?

Alas' post yesterday touched on keeping up with class changes in patch notes. It's definitely a hard thing to do.

But it got my brain going off on a different tangent.

WoW currently sports 10 classes that cover a wide range of play styles. There's mana, energy, rage, focus, runes, and runic power. HoTs, DoTs, and nukes. Pets and minions. So many ways to play.

Are there any classes you just don't get?

I don't mean classes you've played to 10 or 20 and decided they weren't for you. I mean ones you've spent a good chunk of time with and just can't get a grasp on?

For me, it's Death Knights.

When I started Maarken, it was mostly just because I wanted to see the DK starting zone. Ultimately I decided to level him up because I needed a high-level herbalist and he was a lot closer to 80 than any of my other toons with open professions. So I specced Blood, went tearing off through Outland and Northrend, and generally had a good time. I never fooled myself into thinking I was doing it "right," but I felt like I had the basic mechanics of Blood down and I enjoyed it while I was doing it.

I tried Unholy PvP to get him from 78 to 80, just to do something different. I don't want to say I did horribly, because I didn't. But I think that had a lot less to do with me as a player as it did with the fact that I was using a DK. I'm pretty sure I could have done a lot better if I'd known what I was doing.

Once he got to 80, he only saw action when Siaaryn needed herbs. But even running around Sholazar collecting herbs, when I'd get attacked by something, it felt like it was taking forever to kill.

Now Cata's here. Blood is the tank spec, and while it may still be an option for leveling, it's probably not the best one.

I've gone through 2 and half levels as Unholy since Cata's release, including one group run. I've read a few guides and blog posts about how to play the spec correctly. I've even looked at what it would take to go Frost to give that a shot. Bottom line, though...I always feel like I'm reading a foreign language.

Even when it comes to just having DKs in my raids, I can't give any DPS or tanking advice because I just plain don't understand them. The only thing I have a solid enough handle on to consider asking is, "Can you death grip that caster over here?"

My guild isn't exactly overflowing with DKs, so that helps. It's actually somewhat uncommon for us to have one in our smaller raids.

Of course, that's also one less reason for me to make the effort to figure them out.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Some Raid Lead Macros

I know a lot of raid leaders, like me, have turned off the default Blizzard raid UI in favor of their own custom setups. The problem this has is that it hides a lot of functionality from you that's otherwise very useful (and that I haven't found addons to replace).

I managed to find a set of macros to deal with one of these areas (world markers) and spent some time digging through the source to find out how to deal with another (role checks). I figured I'd share these with any interested parties.

World Markers

Using these will give you the targeting rune if the marker is not already active. If the marker is active, it will get cleared. (So replacing a marker will require hitting it twice.)

#showitem item:23770
/click CompactRaidFrameManagerDisplayFrameLeaderOptionsRaidWorldMarkerButton
/click DropDownList1Button1

#showitem item:23771
/click CompactRaidFrameManagerDisplayFrameLeaderOptionsRaidWorldMarkerButton
/click DropDownList1Button2

#showitem item:25886
/click CompactRaidFrameManagerDisplayFrameLeaderOptionsRaidWorldMarkerButton
/click DropDownList1Button3

#showitem item:23769
/click CompactRaidFrameManagerDisplayFrameLeaderOptionsRaidWorldMarkerButton
/click DropDownList1Button4

#showitem item:23768
/click CompactRaidFrameManagerDisplayFrameLeaderOptionsRaidWorldMarkerButton
/click DropDownList1Button5

Clear all markers
#showitem item:23768
/click CompactRaidFrameManagerDisplayFrameLeaderOptionsRaidWorldMarkerButton
/click DropDownList1Button6

Role Check

/click CompactRaidFrameManagerDisplayFrameLeaderOptionsInitiateRolePoll


/run InitiateRolePoll()

You'll have to pick you own icon for this one. I really, really wanted to use the one for Showdown (among a few other vehicle-based spells), but it seems it's inaccessible from macros. If anyone knows or can figure out how to use it, lemme know. (I spent about 30 minutes the other night trying every method I could think of based on what I could find about the #show command.)

Code diggers may be asking themselves, if /run InitiateRolePoll() works, why not /run PlaceRaidMarker() and /run ClearRaidMarker() for the world markers. The answer is...I don't know. Blizz has decided to block those particular functions from easy use. Probably too easy to break things (as they can take arguments).

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Picture Day!

Here's a random collection of screenshots I've taken of the last few months. Sorry about the uber-low-res preview versions. I didn't have time to use PS to actually make them, so I had to settle for Photobucket's editor...which liked to use low-res versions of my images for editing. Click any of them for full-size/hi-res.

Ran across this guy while questing through the new Stranglethorn. I lol'd.

This is my Ogre disguise. There are many a few none quite like it, but this one is mine.

I picked these gloves up while questing through Northrend. I just felt that they looked amazingly cool on a Worgen.

Our (Dwarf) tank wasn't feeling very pretty. A little makeup and some accessorization took care of that.

Bind Elemental might just be the coolest looking spell in the game right now.

Can you spot what's wrong with this picture? I'll give you a hint. Lightning Shield orbs and Flametongue Weapon trails are usually "attached" to something...

Wolf-head helms on Worgen just look...wrong.

Obligatory Guild-First Kill Section (in chronological order):



Conclave of the Winds

Halfus Wyrmbreaker

Omnitron Defense System


Wednesday, March 9, 2011

The best thing to happen to Druids in a long time

If the news coming from MMO-Champion this morning is any indication, 4.2 is finally going to give (Alliance) Druids the ability to do something that many of us have been wanting to do for 6 years:

Kill Fandral Staghelm.

AKA Fandral Douchehelm

Now I'm not going to say he doesn't have his reasons for being a giant jerk. He did watch his son get ripped in half by General Rajaxx. And in his despair, he did fall under the influence of Xavius and, presumably, the Old Gods.

But you know what? I don't care. A jerk is a jerk is a jerk. And "I'm under demonic influence" isn't really an excuse. In fact, all it really does is give me another reason to want to see you beaten to a pulp. Damn demons need to get off my planet.

Clearly, after 1,000 years, your chance at redemption has come and gone. I honestly felt worse for Illidan.

So you know what? I'm going to round up 9 of my friends, I'm going to march into Ragnaros' little home, find the playroom he's set up for you, and finally show you what became of that lowbie night-elf that you all but spit on.

Oh, and I'm bringing some Morrowgrain with me to shove down your throat once I'm done.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Heirlooms and Spirit Beasts

As I have most weekends as of late, I spent this past one (at least the days, nights are raid time) working on Grevioux.

I've started several Hunters of the course of my WoW time, but was never really able to get into the class. My last Hunter, Ultanan, was a fun diversion, but ultimately that's all he was. I still wasn't having enough fun with him to really work hard at leveling him. And once they announced Worgen as a playable race, I knew I'd be making a Worgen Hunter to see all the new content with. Any desire I had to work on Ultanan died at that point.

But while I'm finally having fun with a Hunter in general, and leveling through the new old world was an absolute blast, the moment I hit Outland, it turned back into a grind. Even moreso in Northrend.

About halfway through Dragonblight, I had an epiphany. Just because I had no intention of using heirloom gear to speed up 1-60 leveling doesn't mean I couldn't strap it on the second I hit Outland to help push through the next 20 levels.

I do have an inherent reason to get Grevioux to 85...he's the closest in the guild to reaching the requirements for the Classy achievement. But more than that, I really am having fun playing him.

Anyway, I sent him the heirloom gear that used to belong to Ultanan. I also purchased the (ugly, ugly) chest with some of my extra JP as well as the cloak.

The rest of Northrend just flew by. On Saturday, with the help a full helping of Rested XP bonus, I sped through 5 levels. Sunday I got 3.5 more. He's about 40% of the way through Vashj'ir (just did the first quests as the Battle Maiden) as it stands and halfway from 81 to 82.

The best part of the whole weekend, though, came Saturday night.

See, the reason for my renewed interest in trying the Hunter class came with the release of Wrath. Loque'nahak.

From the moment I saw the first screenshot of that pet, I said, "That's awesome. I want it."

This was before I ever quested through Zul'Drak and saw Har'koa. Readers of my blog should be well acquainted with my feelings towards her. Her presence only fueled my desire to have a Hunter with Loque'nahak at his beck and call.

While questing through Sholazar I would occasionally swing out of my way to check the nearby areas where Loque'nahak could be found, but had no luck.

Saturday night I was sitting around in the Dwarven District, waiting for some of my raiders to finish a Heroic run with one of our best healers who got late start in Cata and is still trying to gear up and learn the new style. I figured, just for the hell of it, I'd log over to Grev and fly around to see if I could get lucky.

It's funny, because I did a few things I don't usually do. I'd cleared my creature cache earlier that day so that NPCScan would have fresh data to work with. I figured that would be enough.

Just to be sure, though, before leaving Nesingwary's camp, I also turned on Track Beasts because I remember reading that it lets the spirit beasts (which are neutral) pop up as a yellow dot among a bunch of red ones. Makes them easier to spot.

So I mounted up and flew to the first potential spawn area, just south of the camp. Of course, that area is filled with Longneck Grazers, which are also neutral. My mini-map was a sea of yellow.

NPCScan hadn't gone off, so I started heading to the next spot. Right before I left--and I have no idea what compelled me to do this--I waved my mouse over my mini map. In the brief flash of creature names, I saw it.


It took me about 30 seconds to find him on my mini-map again, go land near him, and tame him.

He's mine!

Seriously, I didn't stop smiling for about 40 minutes. I was way too excited about this.

Now there's just one problem. I have no idea what to name him.

I've considered sticking with his actual name. I do like it and it's better than anything I've been able to think of so far. But it just feels...unoriginal to keep it.

But for now, until I stumble on something I like, it's just Grevioux and Spirit Beast.

Spirit Beast: 100% more awesome looking in dark caves

Friday, March 4, 2011

What's his power at?

Back when Blizz announced achievements, I kinda rolled my eyes. "Oh more ruler in the giant epeen measuring contest," I thought. So not for me.

If history has taught me anything, it's that I'm very good at lying to myself. Especially when it comes to making myself feel like I'm somehow above something.

Actually, that's not accurate. In reality, I'm horrible at lying to myself. What I'm really good at doing is telling myself those lies. Which is different. Because they're horrible lies. They never hold up.

I remember when I told myself I was way above watching cartoons. This started when I was 12. I missed a lot of great cartoons throughout most of my teens.

I used to tell myself I was above playing an MMO...

Anyway, all it really took to get me to admit I was a big, fat liar was to get a few achievements accidentally. You know, the ones you inevitably get just by playing the game. The little fanfare and the flash as the achieve pops up on my's like a drug. Not quite as rich as the leveling ding but oh so much more frequent.

Then the worst part happened. One day I noticed I was in 3rd place in the guild for Achievement points. A cage door in my brain swung open. Turn-everything-into-a-competition Saniel came out to play.

The thing about TEIAC Saniel is that he's like a cat prowling around. You really have no idea he's there until he's on top of you, smiling a smile with way too much fang involved for your comfort. TEIAC Saniel doesn't like to make his presence known while he's on the hunt. What kind of cat would intentionally make his prey harder to catch?

TEIAC doesn't every really go back in the cage, either. He may lay low for a while every now and again, but once he's out, he's out. I did eventually claim first place in the guild, but I had to keep going. There was more I could do. Always more.

I hit a milestone (or a new low, depending on your viewpoint) last night. Two nights ago I got my 9000th achievement point. I was excited because I knew there was a Feat of Strength involved with that. But then it didn't come.

Egg on my face.

Wait, what? Why not?

Oh, the achievement is for having OVER 9000 points. Well...crud. What haven't I done that I can knock off quick?

I spent the next hour or so flying and teleporting all across Azeroth, spreading my love among way too many critters for me to be okay with it. But the Achievement! The rush! I needed that fix! (Getting creepy yet?)

Eventually I ended up in Uldum with just one critter left to love. But I couldn't do it. Not because of some kind of performance anxiety or the fear that accomplishing the big goal would somehow leave me feeling empty. No. It was because there were only four other guildies online by that time. And some things just deserve the proper audience.

Hey, why should I pretend I'm not some total bitchin' rock star from Mars?


So I logged out, flying just above a Mac Frog. Then last night I logged in, still there, and still with a Mac Frog within sight. What's more, there were about 20 people online.


Thursday, March 3, 2011

10s vs 25s. How's it going?

I should have seen this coming...

Before Cata landed on us, the officers of The Dragons (myself included) decided that we wanted to try to be a 25-man raiding guild.

I'm not sure why we decided this. The most success we've ever really had as a 25-man raid group was downing Magtheridon before the 3.0 super-nerf. Of course, to do anything past Kara, you had to run 25s, so there was something to be said for that.

We went into Wrath with the intentions of being a 25-man raiding guild even though it was optional. We did manage to clear Naxx (a week) before Ulduar dropped. After that we had a huge exodus and couldn't even field enough people to try Ulduar on 25 most weeks. We never got past Auriaya.

ToC came and went much the same way. We did eventually clear it, but Anub took us a good while and we couldn't crank out the DPS to get him down before he enraged until a good portion of us were sporting a fair amount of ICC gear.

ICC at the beginning was rough. But at least by then we seemed to be able to regularly pull together the numbers to try. Festergut and Rotface were pretty regular challenges for us, though. We did down Putricide once and the Princes a couple times. But nothing beyond that.

Part of the problem was that 25s were actually tuned to be more difficult (beyond the obvious difficulty in wrangling 25 people instead of just 10). Often to fill all 25 spots we'd be taking people who just weren't as geared or able as the situation demanded. Often they would have struggled in 10s. So to ask them to perform in 25s was probably short-sighted and unfair.

Enter Cataclysm. Blizz expressed the design goal of making 10s and 25s equally difficult. If you could handle one, you should be able to handle the other. But the overall difficulty curve went up.

When ICC came out, our guild had somewhere between 12 and 15 raiders good enough to handle the kinds of fights you see in the ICC wing-chiefs (Putricide, Lana'thel, Sindragosa) and LK. In the year that followed we picked up a few random people here and there. We also absorbed two smaller guilds. So going into Cataclysm, that 12 or 15 jumped up to about 25. Maybe even pushing 30. It was the biggest pool we'd had heading into any expansion. Or even any new tier.

We figured with the gear reset and everyone starting over at the same time and being in the same place, we'd be in good shape to try the 25-man raid experiment again.

It just hasn't worked out that way.

We have started to put more stress on overall preparation due to the increased difficulty, but one thing we haven't changed at all is our "no required attendance" policy. That's just not in line with our stated goals as a guild.

The downside to this, as I've realized over the past few weeks, is to have a 25-man raiding guild with a "no required attendance" policy, you need about 35-40 geared and capable players. We're nowhere near that. I wonder if we ever will be.

At this point, I'd say we're hovering right around the 25 mark. We have yet to have a night where those exact 25 people are all online and able to go. So we've filled spots with the other people available just so we wouldn't have to tell 8-11 ready players, "sorry...we're going with 10 tonight," and subsequently spend two hours wiping before trash respawns and we call it. I don't want to say that we haven't seen good progress on those nights. Our later attempts are always better than our early ones. But I'm still watching enrage timers or other limiting factors and knowing we're just not going to make it.

Our 10-man runs have seen more success. We're not clearing places yet, but we're making progress. Magmaw, Omn(omnom)itron, Halfus, and the Conclave have all been downed. We made decent progress on our four attempts at the Double Dragons, as well.

It's obvious that the people involved in those feats are much more inclined to want to continue where we've seen success.

There's currently a 4-page long thread in our Officer section debating what we should do now. Persevere? Throw in the towel and run 10s? We have way more than 10 people who deserve raid spots.

Do we have enough for two 10s groups? We're a little light on tanks and healers.

Should we include alts? That would mean people might be in both groups and they couldn't run at the same time.

Should the separate groups be very succinctly defined, or mixed from week to week? What happens if one group starts seeing more progress than the other?

There's also the fact that I'm currently my guild's only regular raid leader. There are other people that probably could lead a second group, but no one that really wants to. That's fine for the occasional "fill in for San because he's off leading a ski trip instead of a raid" or whatever, but not for a regular second group.

In a way, I like the idea of two 10man groups. I think most of us in the officer corps do. It sucks trying to put together a 25-man group and looking at the guild list, only being able to pick out 18 people that can handle it. It sucks even more trying to put together a 10-man group and having to whittle down a list of 18 candidates.

For now I think two 10s is going to be the direction we head. We're gonna have to play around with it and make some adjustments on the fly. But hopefully we can make it work.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Troll love

From Zarhym:
We'll have more information to share on the return of Zul'Aman and Zul'Gurub soon. But for now I'll say this: there is a center of troll civilization yet to be seen in World of Warcraft. There was once an ancient empire of troll tribes united. Zul'Aman and Zul'Gurub becoming key points of interest in Cataclysm plays into this. Perhaps something has happened to once again call for the unity of the disaffected tribes. Perhaps a certain tribe with allegiances elsewhere sees this as a very bad thing. ;)
Honestly, I think I just peed a little.

It could be said that WoW is a game that's actually all about Night Elf lore. Pretty much everything we're doing in the game since it started (and even the RTS titles before it) is a result of the Night Elves' follies. You can debate about whether or not these follies were induced by the Old Gods (as they seem to be very adept at manipulating the mortal races of Azeroth, and even the not-so-mortal ones), but the fact remains that we're all trying to clean up the messes they've made.

That said, I've always loved the Troll lore most of all. Their history is all of Azeroth's history as far as we know. It's rich and expansive and full of politics and betrayal and war.

Not to mention the Loa. The Loa are where it's at. I'm still trying to figure out how I can make Har'koa adopt me and let me take her form. (It'll happen, dammit!)

Zul'Aman was my favorite BC instance by far. In every respect. Story, design, and content. I loved that the ZA Loa showed up to offer guidance while you were questing through Zul'Drak in Wrath. It was one of those small touches that tied together loose lore strands from across expansions.

Even though we've defeated Zul'Jin, I'm very interested to see where the story is going there. I haven't quested through the Ghostlands since BC. Has the story there changed any? Is there some indication while going through the zone of what's going on in ZA? If so, I might have to go roll a BElf just to see it.

Zul'Gurub looks to be very promising, too. If you've quested through Northern Stranglethorn since the Shattering, you know what I'm talking about. (And if you haven't, you should before 4.1 hits.) It was definitely my favorite zone as I leveled Grevioux through the new "old" content.

But, seriously. A central troll empire possibly reforming? And the Darkspear being very uncomfortable with this? Why? Given Vol'jin's current lack of enthusiasm about Garrosh's control of the Horde, what would be so bad about a re-united Troll empire that he'd rather stick it out than go rejoining with his brethren? Inquiring minds want to know!

Do you smell that? It smells kind of like a future raid. Zul'Ultimate!

The more I hear about 4.1 (3 second Swipe!) the more excited I get. Granted, I'm currently 4/12 in current raid content. So it's time to start busting by butt there.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

I'm a bastard.

Is it bad that I really want to get Grevioux leveled, geared up and raid ready as a Beast Mastery Hunter just so I can get the smug satisfaction of out-dpsing some of the "leet" SV and MM Hunters I've played with while using a sub-optimal spec?