Monday, April 27, 2009

Blogging and Burnout

Out of Mana closed just over an hour ago. It's hardly the only blog that has closed in recent weeks, but it was perhaps the one that irked me the most. Not because the blogger decided to call it a day and move on with his/her life.

Nah, it's more because Megan locked commenting on her blog so readers can't say good-bye. I thought about e-mailing her anyway, but I figured she may have deleted the e-mail address, decided to stop checking it, and in any case, if she doesn't want comments she probably doesn't want the good-byes.

I found her blog to be very personable and funny, and besides there's not much out there for holy paladin PvP. I wanted to thank her for the laughs and wish her well.

As for me, I realize I may never be the most prolific blogger out there, but it's a good place to be. I largely compose these posts during my lunch hour at work, more rarely at home at night, which means on busy days I might not get around to posting anything. It's especially difficult to compose posts that involve screenshots since my computer at work and computer at home are not linked in any way.

But what that does is it puts a restriction on how much time I can possibly allocate to this activity. When I'm home I play the game I like or I do something else. I don't usually think about my blog at home, except perhaps in the screenshot taking department. I have what might be considered an embarrassing number of screens of my characters in various locations just because I thought they looked cool. Sadly I'm not sure how many I'll ever get posted up here.

I like writing down my thoughts on this game, but because of the limits I have in place, it's not possible for me to ever blog to the point where it's just taking up too much time. I still do things like go out to eat with coworkers and such. Not every lunch hour will ever be devoted to this blog.

Anyway, this isn't much of a real post. Just me thinking about moderation. It's important in WoW, in blogging, and much of anything else. I really like WoW at the moment, but once I'm done with the game I know I'll be able to set it down and walk away without looking back.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

[Druid] Kiting the Constructs on Ignis

My guild downed 10-man Ignis in Ulduar last night, and it was a fight that had bothered us both in 25-man and in our previous 10-man attempt on Saturday. But we finally nailed it, and it only took us two shots.

There are two ways to beat Ignis. One is to kite his Iron Construct adds the entire fight and just burn him down, but doing this results in him getting a stacking buff for each construct up that increases his damage by 15%. Once there are enough constructs up this will eventually one-shot the tank and chances are most guilds aren't going to have the dps to do this. We tried, getting him down to 30% on our best attempt, but we couldn't kill him fast enough for this method to work.

So we opted for the other method; rooting the constructs in the scorched ground created by Ignis's Scorch attack, dragging them to the water where they can turn Brittle, and then shattering them to remove the buff.

The first thing we changed from our previous 10- and 25-man attempts was where we tanked Ignis. Out tank would now move him in what amounted to a square marked by the edges of the two pools of water (each end of a pool could be considered one corner of the square). It was important that Ignis would be tanked near, but not too close to the water, where the Scorches would be put out. This would place the Scorches close to the pools of water for minimal kiting distance. This was a vast improvement over trying to keep Ignis more or less where he starts the fight, dragging the constructs over him, and then dragging them away to the water after they become molten.

Secondly, at least on 10-man, add duty can be handled entirely with a single off-tank and a moonkin, leaving the rest of the dps free to focus on the boss. In fact, moonkin possess qualities that make them ideal for add duty.

The reason for this is because of our Entangling Roots spell, which is perfect for rooting a single construct in the Scorch. Our roots are easily recasted should they break early, and because they have a chance break on damage, it's possible to prematurely break them once the construct is molten or if the Scorch has faded away and construct needs to be moved.

Additionally, our Starfires will hit for the 5k minimum to shatter a brittle construct without requiring a crit. (Though the constructs have an additional 50% chance to be crit when Brittle, why take the chance?)

I love taking on special assignments, and while I was originally concerned with being both rooter and nuker, given how painful it was on 25-man with the old strategy, it actually turned out pretty well.

Here's what we did:

At the start of the fight there are no adds, so I would cast Faerie Fire and my dots on the boss and proceed to nuke. I'd raid marked the OT so he would be easy to see, and now that the mini-map now shows raid members as colored dots based on class, it's easier to find his position that ever. Our OT was a warrior, and the only warrior in the raid so it was easy to look for the brown dot on my mini-map.

As soon as the first add would spawn I'd see our OT grab it and I'd watch him drag it over to the first Scorch that Ignis left behind. At first he would call for a root when he'd positioned the construct, but by our second attempt of the night the two of us had gotten into such good sync that he could just stun the construct and leave it in the Scorch (so he could pick up another add) and know that I'd have it rooted before it had a chance to recover.

It takes 20 stacks of the Heat debuff for the construct to turn Molten, which turns out to be about 20 seconds. Entangling Roots lasts for 27 seconds, so a single root should be enough unless it happens to break early. Mine never did unless I was actually trying to break it with additional dots and nukes.

Once the construct is Molten it starts doing a mild AoE around it and aggro is reset. Because the last thing the construct will "remember" is the damage from my roots, it would immediately go for me. Generally I will dot the construct, nuke if there's time, just to make sure my threat is above that of a healer, and the construct will go straight for me after breaking free.

I always made sure to stand in the water (with a good swath of water between me and the construct) while dotting up a molten construct, so that way once it broke free it would make a beeline for me and land in the water before it could reach me.

Once the molten construct lands in the water it will turn Brittle, almost immediately, and from then on there's about 10-15 seconds during which it will be stationary and inactive. It's enough time that it's possible to stop casting to avoid the silence effect from the boss's Flame Jets attack as well as land after having been knocked up into the air. I would always strafe away from the construct before nuking it with a Starfire (for that guaranteed kill) so I wouldn't get hit by the construct's Shatter when it explodes. Shatter will kill or nearly kill just about any non-tank and this fight is intensive enough of the healers without making it worse for them.

At this point our OT would be positioning the next construct (who would have activated by now) in another Scorch so we could repeat the process. The entire fight becomes a dance between me and the OT trading off constructs in a cycle of positioning them, rooting them, kiting them, and then nuking them.

On a successful attempt there should never be more than two constructs up at once, three on the off chance something bad happens to the kiter (getting repeatedly stuffed in the Slag Pot will do it).

As the kiter, I was sure to call out over vent whenever I ended up in the Slag Pot. This was important because the OT needs to know that I will not be able to root anything for him. If roots should happen to break, he'd need to pick up the adds, and if he knows I'm unavailable to root then he won't try position anything in the Scorch where he'd risk damaging himself.

Also, at least for 10-man, I was the only capable rooter/ranged nuker so if I died it would be a wipe. The healers would need to know if I was in danger, no different from a tank.

It's possible to heal while in the Slag Pot, and I saved my health potion for it as well. However, it is not possible to root while in the pot, even if the target is otherwise in range, so my focus was on keeping myself alive.

For my trouble I escaped a moonkin Hot Pocket and earned The Siege of Ulduar.

Side note: I'm not part of what would normally be considered a hardcore progression guild, but we were apparently the first guild on our server to down Ignis on any difficulty! It's nice to have gotten first at something, especially on the boss that most guilds have been skipping in their rush to enter Ulduar proper.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

3.1 Impressions - Ulduar, Argent Tournament, and More

The patch has been out for a few days now and I've finally gotten a bit of a feel for how things have changed… or not… and how the new content works.

I finally got to step into Ulduar and my guild downed Razorscale, but wiped hardcore on Ignis. Our best effort was 75%. Even if it wasn't for the fact that Ignis occasionally melees the person stuck in his slag pot (which was a bug, now fixed) he would still be a rough boss due to the adds that pop up every 30 seconds that need to be kited, superheated, dunked in water, and then killed while they're brittle.

As a moonkin, it was my job to root the Iron Constructs in the fire pillars created by Ignis's Scorch ability so they could get 20 stacks of the Heat debuff, and to nuke them when they become Brittle because they'll only shatter on a hit of 5k or more. Since my Starfire hits 7-8k even without a crit I made a natural choice as a designated construct nuker. Unfortunately, trying to be both rooter and nuker when constructs are popping up every 30 seconds is an exercise in extreme multitasking, as the water is generally located a complete 180 from wherever the Scorch happens to be.

Upshot, you can't reasonably expect one person to do all of that. The time it takes for a golem to get Molten is about 20 seconds, which is an eternity when all you want to do it get that construct heated and killed, and you still need to watch out for a second construct and be ready to nuke a third construct that's being dragged over to the water.

We tried a couple variant tactics with other people helping me and switching around the tanks, but it seems the tank who was best at controlling the adds (a DK) was also our best MT, so we eventually called it without making much progress. Blizzard has since hotfixed Ignis to make the construct spawn more slowly and I think that will help a lot.

We'll return to Ulduar 25-man on Tuesday, though a group of us are thinking of trying 10-man this weekend.

I've also started doing the Argent Tournament material on my druid. A tauren on a hawkstrider still makes me laugh, and it's even funnier when she's holding a lance preparing to charge. I've only done the Aspirant level dailies so far and I'm not sure I'll enjoy the combat once I actually get to fight someone. The practice quests with the dummies don't feel very dynamic, which is something I think mounted combat should be. I'm also wondering what the Sunreaver faction will do for me since there's nothing in game that uses it, but I'm already earning rep for it.

Each day there's also a daily that sends you off to some godforsaken corner of Northrend kissing frogs, thawing frozen maidens and the like. Thematically they're kind of cool, but as a daily they're rather annoying because Northrend is pretty big even with epic flight speed and they're not necessarily easy to combine with other dailies.

I wish there had been a breadcrumb quest leading me to the tournament grounds in Icecrown, because it seems kind of strange from an in-game standpoint that my character would just know that there was something new up there, but the tournament is just there and you have to run around a bit to find the tent that everything starts in.

Lastly, for some Friday night fun a bunch of us actually went back to Naxx 10. I'm not entirely sure why my guildies wanted to go, but I was asked if I was interested and I agreed. I healed it on my holy paladin, who is currently 52/19/0 in expectation of upcoming Season 6 arena action, but that was fine. There are really only marginal upgrades left for me in Naxx 10. I have four piece T7 and I passed on so much healing plate last night it made me sad.

A couple things that came out of healing last night though…

1) Since Sacred Shield can now only be used on one target I would often Beacon one tank and then shield the other. That way the tank I'm actively healing gets the FoL crit bonus which can then be copied over to the second tank via the Beacon. Obviously this was for trash pulls and fights involving two or more tanks. For fights where there is only one tank then I would Beacon and shield the same tank.

2) The new Divine Guardian is still good, but in a different way. On a maintenance level, it's nice that my Sacred Shield now lasts the same amount of time as my Beacon. Time to refresh one means time to refresh the other. But it also gives me more flexibility in reducing incoming damage aside from Hand of Sacrifice. If one is on cooldown I still have the other, and I can use both at the same time. While using a bubble for either of those abilities is desirable, now that DG is uncoupled from Divine Shield it is possible to use it while HoSac and bubble are on cooldown if you really have to. (Yes, we were a bit sloppy last night.)

I could see the new DG being fantastic in arena, where I could redirect damage to myself like a second Hand of Sacrifice while still saving my bubble for emergencies or interrupt prevention.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

No Ulduar for Me

And I'd thought I'd prepared so well. In game I'd stocked myself with flasks and food. Outside of game I made sure that the background downloader had nothing left to download. I came home early from work to give the patch time to finish downloading and installing.

I'd thought the last scrap of patch that would need to be downloaded could be taken care of in a half hour. That was an underestimation on my part. But I didn't think it would take three hours. I was looking at my Blizzard downloader connection going 20kb/sec.

I ran over to a patch mirror to download a copy because I know my connection can do better than that… but the direct download appeared to have been missing a file or something and didn't work correctly… so a couple hours later I had a patch that wouldn't install and the Blizzard downloader was still crawling along.

Finally in the last half hour someone connected to the Blizzard torrent that gave me a good download speed of 150kb/sec and the last 40MB of the patch came to me much quicker.

Of course, I still had to install and by the time I finally logged on my guild's Ulduar raid was almost over for the night. I think I might have been online for the last five minutes of raid. Alas.

It turned out that we had Wintergrasp so a few guildies figured we could throw together a 10-man and try out the new Vault boss. I thought great, I'll at least get to see something new tonight.

So we got a group of mostly guildies together and I was on my moonkin. Problem was, all the guildie healers either went to bed or were currently the wrong spec (and apparently too poor to buy their dual spec) and there was only one pug healer in LFG. I'd wanted to do the boss first on my moonkin so I could get the achievement, or maybe a shiny new piece of T8, but we needed a healer and I wasn't sure if my second druid spec would be resto yet. I've actually been leaning towards feral of late.

That lead to me switching to my paladin, which was just as well because I PvP on my paladin and I don't on my druid so if any PvP gear dropped it would be wasted on my druid.

We cleared the old Archavon with ease, and then entered the corridor for the new boss. And then I crashed.

I got an error message and a prompt to send the report to Blizzard (or not). I did and logged back in.

I crashed again.

This was not good.

I came back on a third time and for a while things looked good. We engaged the new boss.

I crashed. That was bad.

I restarted my computer and did the graveyard run. After zoning in I waited around near the entrance for a while and things seemed good. So I ran back to the new wing of the vault and a few seconds later… I crashed.


I had a sneaking suspicion it was something in that wing that was causing the problem. One of my guildies asked me to read him the error message I was getting and the consensus was that somehow my copy of WoW was broken and I should use the repair tool in the WoW folder to fix it. Oh… and it might take a few hours.

So I said good night, started the repair tool, and went to bed.

So much for patch 3.1 fun.

The one good thing with the arrival of patch 3.1?

Yes, that's an achievement for Love is in the Air. Look at the date it was accomplished. I was one of those people that only got a single bag of candy after some 40-50 odd tries. The final night of the event I even set my clock to wake up every hour for my last ditch efforts, and failed. I was rather cranky afterwards and decided I'd never do that for an in-game event again.

But patch 3.1 lowered the requirement for the number of candies needed to six, which is what I got, so my paladin is now Gillien the Love Fool. At least one thing went right.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Woohoo! Project Complete!

I'm done. I can't believe, but I'm done.

The blog hasn't been much of my focus lately because for the past two weeks I'd become increasingly concentrated on the Blizzard Creative Writing Contest. I had long hoped that Blizzard might offer something like that since I have no talent for fanart or comics, but I do know writing.

Less than an hour ago I submitted my short story for Blizzard's consideration, and though I don't know if I'll win, it was a manic personal triumph. Never have I written like this before. I was up past 3am last night putting my draft through its paces. And the feel of how I refined my story with each and every draft, I just can't describe it...

I've grown as a writer. I've never made so much progress on a story so quickly before.

I'd like to give shout-outs to my Flower Street writing workshop (who I know do not read this blog but have taught me so much about writing in recent months) and to my guildmate Cursedhoof (who probably doesn't read this blog either, but that's okay). He bravely went through not one, but two drafts today, the second of which was around dinnertime, helping me catch last minute mistakes and redundancies. If I somehow manage to win, a big part of that will be thanks to him!

Thursday, April 2, 2009

I'm Scraptacular?

Klepsacovic from Troll Racials are Overpowered tagged me with a meme. I have no idea where this thing started (I tracked it back through 3-4 blogs and decided to quit while I was ahead), but apparently it goes as thus:

"This award is bestowed upon a fellow blogger whose blog content or design is, in the giver’s opinion, brilliant."

1. When accepting this auspicious award, you must write a post bragging about it, including the name of the misguided soul who thinks you deserve such acclaim, and link back to the said person so everyone knows she/he is real.

2. Choose a minimum of seven (7) blogs that you find brilliant in content or design. Or improvise by including bloggers who have no idea who you are because you don’t have seven friends. Show the seven random victims’ names and links and leave a harassing comment informing them that they were prized with Honest Weblog. Well, there’s no prize, but they can keep the nifty icon.

3. List at least ten (10) honest things about yourself. Then pass it on!

So now I have to find people to tag who haven't already been tagged by other people... (It's the not tagged by other people that's the hard part.) Well, I can give it a shot. Let's pick a few "lucky" people!

You've Been Tagged!

Altosis - Though the Alt Doctor presumably plays a lot of alts, since I've started reading his blog he's mostly discussed his main; druid. Lots of musings, with a stronger PvP flavor than most druid blogs.
Ardent Defender - I suspect Galo will not participate since he's reduced his gaming presence, but his blog was one of the originals that got me interested in the practice and even on his new, more limited posting basis, I still like reading what he has to say.
Lienna's Log - Lienna was a survival-spec hunter back before survival was popular, and having been a moonkin before moonkin were considered viable, I can completely relate.
Lorecrafted - I really like the lore behind the game, and Tharion's blog is pretty much the only one I've found that really goes in depth with it.
Of Teeth and Claws - Karthis was the first feral druid blogger that really gave me a good idea of the mechanics behind bear tanking. I hardly bear tank anything, but for when I do, I know how!
ThinkTank - Kalon usually writes from a bear perspective, but he's done plenty of warrior, paladin, and what is perhaps an excess of kitty posts, presenting a more balanced view of tanking in general.
Tree Bark Jacket - Keeva's a resto druid and sports one of the spiffiest UIs I've seen. She's been doing a series of Grid vs. Healbot comparision posts I really like.

Ten honest things about myself? What could possibly be that interesting?

1. I'm a published fiction writer. Nothing terribly amazing, but I've had about a dozen short stories published (yes, for pay). I usually write science fiction and fantasy.

2. I work in the video game industry. No, not for Blizzard. I don't have friends at Blizzard either. I know people who have left my company and have gone to Blizzard, but they didn't work in the same department as me so it's not like I knew them well enough to bug them for inside info. One of them is in HR anyway and HR isn't exactly who you go to for the inside scoop.

3. I went to Germany and lived with a host family while taking language classes after I graduated from college. Most people do this sort of thing in high school or college, but apparently not me!

4. I'm a role-player. Not in that I play an RP server and such, but I just can't play a game where I create my own character without having a concept behind it. Before I can play, I need to know something about who I'm playing. Hence Hana is a peacenick druid who has 0 HKs her entire career, yet I don't mind PvP-ing with just about any other character I have. I also play D&D and other table-top forms of RPing. You haven't lived until you've tried RPing a game of Clue.

5. I love to eat fish. It's just hard to find a way to prepare fish that disagrees with me. Sushi, broiled, fried, steamed... I just like my food with fins on it.

6. I've studied three different foreign languages; Spanish (high school), German (college), and Japanese (also in college). This has created awkward situations for me where I sometimes remember a word in one language, but not the one I'm actually trying to speak or write in at the moment.

7. I'm third generation Han Chinese. My grandparents were the ones to leave China, though they took different paths in coming to the US (if at all).

8. Aside from my PC, the Nintendo DS is my current favorite game system. I love its portability and the fact I can play in bed. WoW's fun, but you just can't snuggle up with it.

9. I can't stand tours when I travel. If I go someplace, I need to be able to get around on my own and explore at my leisure. This includes foreign countries. To a lesser degree I suppose this applies to WoW. I only go to Wowhead for a quest as a last resort. Half the fun for me is figuring things out on my own.

10. My favorite set of chores is doing yardwork. Trimming the bushes, mowing the lawn, even pulling the weeds, is much more preferable for me than anything I could be doing inside the house. Besides, it gets me outside.