Tuesday, December 6, 2011

I Cheesed the Raid Finder

But not in the way that has gotten some people banned. I didn't get double rolls on loot, but I did slip in there wearing sporting my shoulders off Chimaeron, my gloves off Maloriak, two pieces of ZA/ZG gear, a Brewfest trinket, and a 359 in my other trinket slot. I had only one piece of T12 and my average ilvl for my raid healing set was definitely not 372.

But I got in to the raid finder last week and completed the four fights that were available. I actually went last Thursday because I wanted get a preview of the Dragon Soul raid (my group raids Saturday and Mondays so we haven't gone yet) and because I didn't want to do the same raid twice on my druid, I took my holy paladin instead.

As to how I got in... it's was perfectly legal by Blizzard's standards. I happen to have a full set of Ruthless Gladiator PvP gear from all the arena I do, which pushed my average ilvl for all gear to a handy 382 and well above requirement for Looking For Raid.

Looking For Raid was not the nightmare I thought it might be after hearing all the complaints on the PTR. I think it may be because the only people who were eligible to go into LFR that first week were all raiders or their raiding alts.

No one called me out on my crap gear, but with all the transmogging going on maybe they just thought I had awful fashion sense (I've only changed my paladin's shield and head so far, because the level 60 PvP gear I was going to wear is sadly unavailable to me).

The first two bosses were one shots, even with a tank that admitted he had no idea what he was doing and hadn't looked into the fights at all. Yor'sahj, the faceless boss who summons slimes, was actually the sticking point as a pug.

The other bosses it's very clear what to do. Shoot the boss, don't stand in bad, group up with everyone else when you see people clumping. There were a couple people who already knew the fight and made callouts in chat when needed, and the fights weren't complicated enough to require more than a little nudging for everyone to get the message.

But Yor'sahj featured the ever popular problem of people dps-ing the boss instead of the slime adds. We wiped three times and each time loss some people. Fortunately the raid finder found replacements quickly.

I think the 25-man formula was a good choice, as there was none of the waiting I'd normally associate with a 5-man. Though we lost a tank, a new one appeared immediately.

And by the fourth attempt people finally got it into their heads to kill the adds and we one-shotted the fourth boss with only two deaths due to ice wall failure.

I'm not sure what it is about the Hagara fight, since it didn't particularly strike me as very paladin friendly with all the running in circles chaining lightning or avoiding moving ice walls, but I had my best healing performance in that fight versus the other healers.

No healing assignments were given, so it was really a free-for-all, which makes me wonder what it's going to be like healing Ultraxion this week since the second wing is opening up.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Skywall: Now Accepting New Players

I've dropped off the blogosphere a bit, between raiding, a wedding, two conventions, and now NaNoWriMo, but I'm still around.

For all of my time on WoW, Skywall has always been my main server. I knew the names of the vanilla guilds, the names of the top raiders. I knew who the PvP enthusiasts were on both sides of the faction divide, and I remember laughing at some of the forum jokes, like how members of the Sacred Samophlange had managed to get Eringobragh's name into the urban dictionary with an entirely inappropriate definition.

I've certainly made enough alts on other servers (mostly to play with friends) and I've gotten a feel for some of them, but I've always come back to Skywall.

The funny thing about being on the same server so long is knowing the history of how one guild rose from the ashes of another, or who went where and why.

Skywall has been a Medium population server since late vanilla. There was a brief period when it was high and we even had queues to come on, but then Arathor opened up and a lot of people transferred there, including the Alliance guild I played in with my coworkers. Server technologies improved and we went back to Medium pop.

At the end of Wrath of the Lich King we had at least five or six strong 25-man guilds on Alliance and perhaps four on Horde (Horde has always been weaker on Skywall). But when Cata launched, the 25-mans started dropping, with many reducing to 10-man during Tier 11 content, not all of them voluntarily.

Then Disconnected broke up. Driven to Conquer broke up. Language Barrier and Sanguine Curse couldn't managed the numbers and by Firelands had either dropped so low on the radar as to be invisible or vanished. And I know these guild names won't mean anything to 99% of the people who read this, and if they had gradually vanished it wouldn't mean as much to me either, but before I realized it, something was happening.

It was when Osmosis began struggling that it really hit me. Osmosis had long been one of the premier guilds on Skywall, and been undisputedly the best on Horde since TBC. I don't pretend to know all the details, and Osmosis still exists as of this writing, but they lost a lot of players. One of those who server transferred was a guy I'd known since vanilla.

Osmo, the last of our progression 25-man guilds, did their last progression kill on 10-man.

Skywall still has one 25-man guild on Alliance (Choice) and one on Horde (Tortured), so that kind of raiding still goes on for those who like it and can make the time slot, but they aren't the bleeding edge that Disconnected, or Osmosis, or DTC was.

Progression on Skywall is now in the hands of 10-mans guilds.

And while I like my 10-mans very much, I am very sad for those who want the bigger raids, who want to work the edge, and can no longer find that outlet. I don't remember the exact words used, but I remember the guild leader of Osmosis venting on the forums at the end of Wrath about the equal loot for 10s and 25s. He loves the 25-man format, he hates 10s, and he was afraid of what the change would do to recruitment.

Why aren't there more 25-man guilds on Skywall? Well, it seems everyone's leaving.

We used to be Medium population, but when I logged in last night we were one of only two realms with the blue New Players population size.

I hesitate to say Skywall is dying. A walk around Org nets a fair number of people and our economy is healthy. Pugs still happen and my guild hires itself out every now and then for achievement runs of old content to stuff the guild bank with more goodies. There are new guilds forming as always, and for all I know one of them will be fantastic and fill up a gap that people had forgotten was there.

But seeing New Players has been demoralizing. It is proof of how many people have transferred away.

I'll still be on Skywall. I don't do the transfer thing. But if you're looking for a new server, I won't mind if you roll here and say hi.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Writing Update

Just a quick update to my post from Monday, but I did get a contract (woohoo!) early this morning so that finalizes my not participating in this year's Blizzard Writing Contest.

I now have a story to write and an outline due later this month.

Good luck to everyone who enters!

Monday, October 3, 2011

Blizzard Writing Contest 2011 Redux

Well, it's a couple weeks from the deadline, I have a draft that is 75% done, but I thinking of calling it in. There are a couple good reasons for this.

Firstly, from a creative standpoint I could force the story to completion, but I don't think it would be very good, and when I think of what I could be writing instead, I find I perk up--a lot. Nutshell: My heart's not really in this story.

Secondly, I am 90% positive that I will soon have a contract for a paid writing assignment. It'll be a short story of equivalent length to the Blizzard contest requirement. Nobody gets rich from writing short stories, but in the current economic climate, any additional spending money is welcome. The 10% of doubt is only because I haven't received a contract to sign yet, but communication with the editor points to a yes.

Earlier last week, a friend of mine was talking about a work-for-hire writing job I did several months ago. Like the Blizzard contest, I give up all rights to the story I create, but unlike the Blizzard contest, I get paid and I'm not obligated to write the story until I sign on the dotted line. My friend was urging me to talk with the editor again to see if I could get picked up for another contract, which means more work.

After I sent that e-mail, I got a positive response and the story bibles for two different properties with the possibility of writing stories for them both.

And that brings me to my contest entry.

For me, the Blizzard contest is a hope to be recognized as a writer in a way that will eventually lead to a job. I do like Warcraft, so this thinking isn't entirely mercenary of me, but the fact remains that I am in a fortunate enough position where I can be paid to write fiction and time spent writing for the contest is time I'm not writing for potential pay. Writing is not my day job, but I would like to make a career out of it someday, and each story I write should be furthering that dream.

What will bring me closer to being a paid novelist? The Blizzard contest or pursuing other short stories? Thus far there has been no correlation between winning the contest and writing novels. Richard Knaak and Christie Golden came into the business of writing books for Blizzard through other media-tie in work. Aaron Rosenberg, who wrote the Tides of Darkness Warcraft book is a fellow writer in the same universe my last work-for-hire job was in. In fact, you can get the ebook collection containing both our stories here. I'm doing professional level work.

With the contest deadline coming so soon, I have to look at my schedule, and I see NaNoWriMo is coming up next month and one of my top concerns is finishing the outline for my novel before November 1st hits, and then all of November will be eaten by the book. Assuming the work-for-hire contract comes through I'll probably be due a story in December. And I'm also rewriting a short story for a book anthology I've been invited to submit to that has a deadline in January.

This is not counting the second and third tier projects sitting on my hard drive beckoning me or the fact that something unexpected may come up and I'll have another opportunity to do a short on request. (It's so much easier to write knowing a story is pre-sold.)

But the thing is... I hate to give up. Even though I can rationalize this is the best use of my time, and I know some of my writing peers would agree with me, it still feels like giving up.

I had a really good opening to my entry for this year too. Maybe I'll try to salvage it and turn it into an original story later.

Friday, September 2, 2011

[Paladin] The Lament of Flash of Light

Flash of Light used to be my bread and butter spell. This blog is Flash of Moonfire because Flash of Light was such a key part of my repetoire as a holy paladin ever since I first hit 70 and started healing Karazhan.

But when Cataclysm hit I had trouble figuring out where I'd put it on my bars. The tilda, numbers 1-6, and F1-F6 are the keys I bind things to, with occasional Ctrl or Shift combinations. Flash of Light used to be number 2 since I hit it so often. Then it moved to F2 to be a little more out of the way since I didn't use it that often. Now...

Well, it's still on my bars, but it's not bound to anything. That's probably bad, but its usefulness has become so far out of sight and out of mind that I have trouble thinking of moments where someone died because I didn't use it.

The thing is... it doesn't heal that much for the mana cost (making it an expensive proposition for what you get out of it) and it still has a cast time unless there's an Infusion of Light proc (making it's usefulness while moving limited).

I've been doing arena the majority of Season 9 and since the start of Season 10. I've seen other holy paladins run themselves dry casting Flash of Light too many times while I'm still at 90% or more mana. Whereas when I need an emergency heal and Holy Shock and Word of Glory are on cooldown, I hit Divine Favor for that 20% haste and crit and chug out a speedy Divine Light or two (perhaps combined with Aura Mastery to ensure no interruption). I figure if I'm going to spend the mana I'm going to get the most health I can for it.

I'm sure there's room for a Flash of Light in there. Again, it'd be instant with an Infusion of Light proc, but as a cast time spell I just wouldn't use it. An IoL-enhanced Divine Light goes by so fast that 90% of the time it's too fast for my opponents to interrupt (gladiator level I am not, so YMMV).

Then this week I did some Firelands raiding with the second 10-man team in my guild as a fill-in healer. I know these fights on my druid, but for those I've always been dps or a tank. I had little to no experience healing them, so I was surprised by how much faith the raid leader had in me, suggesting we two-heal several fights, considering that my paladin had only the Firelands cape and a bizarre mix of BWD, troll dungeon, and PvP gear.

I thought that perhaps as I was doing PvE raiding I would find a use for Flash of Light, a reason to keybind it again, but I didn't.

It's not that there were no wipes that were my fault, being rather scrubbish for the duties I was assigned, but they weren't because I didn't get a quick heal off. I'm quick with my Lay on Hands and I'm not afraid to use it if I think a tank's gonna die.

Wipes were more due to missing the Smouldering Devastation cue on Beth'talic (I'm not usually on the web, let alone as a healer), being in the wrong place on Alysrazor (until recently I always tanked that fight so I had no concept of where the caster adds spawned and lost a dps and a tank because of range issues), and there was the occasional, for some reason or other I didn't think the tank's health was going to drop that fast so I wasn't ready with a heal.

But we cleared 6/7 and I two-healed Alysrazor and Rhyolith so at the very least I know I'm not bad. I was just on a bit of a learning curve, and I was the only healer who didn't let someone die to Torment on Baelroc so I was rather happy about that.

Getting back to Flash of Light though... I still didn't see when to use it. I thought maybe Baelroc would be the boss.

Torment's a nice stacking debuff that eventually chews through dps the higher it goes. But it ended up that I would Holy Shock, Word of Glory, and then roll almost immediately into Divine Lights to make sure no one dropped.

My mana was hurting almost every Firelands boss (inexperience healing the fights combined with not as geared as the rest of the raid), so if I needed a "save" I wanted it to be Lay on Hands because at least that would give me some mana back.

I guess I don't use Flash of Light because I try very hard not to be in the position where Flash of Light would be appealing to me; namely where someone's going to die and that little sliver of health would make it worth the cost of using it.

In PvP I use Holy Shock and Word of Glory as much as possible. If I use cast time spells I'm either using them under an IoL proc (making them very fast and hard to interrupt), I Aura Mastery to make them uninterruptable, or I prepare to cancel the cast if the possibility of getting interrupted exists and then cast again after the interrupt is wasted. It's rare I do unprotected casts in arena, and if I do it's because my partner is probably going to die in the next couple of seconds if I don't and all my cooldowns have been burned.

In PvE there are multiple healers and the the damage intake doesn't seem to warrant it. Tanks get hit too hard for Flash of Light to make much of a difference. And if they're dps or another healer, there is typically enough time between damage bursts to allow HoTs or a Holy Light to save them.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Human Decency

I like to think that most people, even in a game, are decent to each other if not actually friendly. It takes some effort to be a jerk after all, and usually people, particularly in pugs, just want to do their business and be done with it.

But yesterday I came across an unusual bad specimen that I had to write this to wash my mind of it.

I joined a pug on my resto druid alt (my third druid) and it was for Hellfire Ramparts. We did the first couple pulls across the bridge and all was well.

The third and fourth pulls were more chaotic. It looked to me like a couple of the dps pulled, but the tank soon had everything under control and I didn't get blasted in the face by caster mobs like I expected. The mage even commented that he was happy to find a healer who would heal his pet. (For me, pets are last priority, but I do heal them if I am sure it will not result in another party member dying.)

Then the tank paused and asked the dps to stop pulling. He has been away from the game for several months and is getting back into the habit.

The mage is ballsy enough to say no to the tank's face, saying that the tank is too slow, and pulls again.

The tank replies that he's not going to taunt mobs off the mage if he pulls them. And he doesn't.

As I have done from time to time out of sympathy for much put-upon tanks, since it is most often the green and the rusty among them that get this treatment, I offered to not heal the mage so that there is a real consequence to the dps for having a mob on them. The tank is grateful for the support.

The mage dies, and I rez him figuring he's learned his lesson.

He hasn't.

And so we go down the corrider to the first boss with the mage berating the tank, saying that it doesn't matter that he's been gone for months, he's wasting other people's time by pulling so slowly, and all the while continuing to pull. Unfortunately the mage is a pretty good player, so even though he pulls mobs and the tank does not taunt off him and I don't heal him, he continues to live.

The tank snaps back at the mage, and also apologizes to the rest of the group. He says he's not normally this snippy, but after getting so many awful people in pugs it's starting to hurt. I comfort the tank and the atmosphere in the group is so bad the other dps start yelling at the mage to shut up.

The tank really isn't pulling that slowly. He's not chain pulling, but he's not 10 seconds between pulls like the mage claims.

After a pull in which the mage nearly dies, the tank whispers me that the mage tried to have me vote-kicked for not healing him. I laugh it off, though I'm a little surprised that he didn't try vote-kicking the tank first considering he's who the mage has been venting at. Perhaps he doesn't want to wait in the queue for a new tank.

Right before the boss the mage says if the tank is rusty he'll tell him how to tank. And rattles off a warrior rotation.

The tank is a paladin.

No one says anything, but the mage must have caught his error because he then spews out a bunch of random prot paladin abilities and proclaims that he has now taught the tank how to do his job.

Moving on, we kill the boss and it is no problem. The tank doesn't chain pull, but he knows how to hold aggro. The rest of the party continues defending the tank, the hunter even saying that the tank is pulling faster than others he's seen so he doesn't know what the mage is complaining about. The death knight tells the mage to stop QQing.

After the next pull the mage runs ahead. I have bad feeling about this.

When the mage comes back with two enemies in tow, nobody hits them, but the mage ice blocks sending them on us and we're forced to pick them up.

The mage runs away for the next batch.

I know his game now. If we're too slow for him, he's going to force us to speed up by bringing us enemies to fight.

We try kicking him repeatedly, but we're never out of combat long enough to activate the vote kick. He's not giving us enough breathing room.

Finally he runs down with six mobs after him and he can't save himself. Unfortunately, it's a bad situation for us with the ranged mobs not being on the tank, and I get killed second when I try to heal. The rest of the party soon falls.

I grumble in chat that at least now we'll be out of combat long enough to vote kick him.

The mage declares that he got what he wanted and he won't care if we kick him. We, of course, kick him as soon as the timer lets us.

The rest of the instance was fantastic.

The tank was easy to heal, held all the mobs, and only took a couple seconds between pulls, checking to make sure everyone was with him, which was fine with me. I don't see what in the world the mage had to complain about.

After the last boss was dead, the tank thanked us for the run and I told him that I hoped he had better luck with future pugs. What we had there was one of the nastiest I've seen in a while, and I hoped he wouldn't think that happened all the time. Pug tanking is often thankless work, but it's a role that needs filling, and I hope by encouraging young tanks we'll find more of them out there.

The thing that bugs me the most, I think, is that Ramparts is a leveling instance. People are still learning things, trying out new specs, figuring out when to use new abilities, getting familiar with the pulls. Not everyone is an old hat who knows every instance inside and out. The tank was in the proper instance for getting back into the swing of tanking. He was doing nothing wrong.

If the mage had a problem with that, he should have left, but in fact did not, even when the option was raised.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

2011 Blizzard Global Writing Contest

Well, it was bound to happen. The 2011 Blizzard Global Writing Contest is up. I'm oddly ambivalent about it this year though, reason being that a lot has happened since then.

In 2009 I was pretty hungry as a writer. I didn't get much recognition for my work, and getting an Honorable Mention in the contest was an amazing validation.

In 2010 I wrote what I thought was a fantastic follow-up to my 2009 Honorable Mention. My one beta reader who'd read both works thought the second was much better than the first. But it ended up that I didn't place at all. (My feeling is the competition was probably stiffer, or perhaps Blizzard was just tired of blood elf paladins.)

Meanwhile, in 2010 I ended up winning a critically acclaimed international writing competition for amateur writers. Patrick Rothfuss is a previous winner, and if you've been reading fantasy fiction at all these past few years his name probably rings a bell even if you haven't read his work. Since my 2010 win I have sold an additional two short stories (the winning story was published in a compilation of winners) at professional rates.

Now I'm faced with the conceit that while I find the competition fun, time writing for a Blizzard contest might not pay off. It will take time away from work I can probably be paid for, for a remote chance at getting Blizzard to recognize my work as a writer (which may or may not lead to additional work as a writer).

Is it worth writing what is essentially an audition piece I will not be able to use anywhere else instead of a short story I could sell at a number of different publishers?

None of Blizzard's winners have gone on to write a novel or even the short stories in the Warcraft Legends manga,--just the short stories on the web site. The novels are the department of established pros such as Christie Golden and Richard Knaak who cut their teeth on Dungeons & Dragon products. Aaron Rosenberg, one of the less utilized Warcraft novelists, is still a known media tie-in author who presumably came to the attention of the company through his pre-established writing chops.

I'm not saying I won't write something. I've been having an idea knocking about my head in anticipation of the contest. But I still have to ask myself: Is it worth it?

By the way, if anyone happens to be curious as to my non-WoW writing endeavors, I've added a link on the side-bar of my blog (you won't see it on an RSS feed) to my award-winning novelette, which is now available on Kindle at just $0.99. From there you can also get to my Amazon author page and find information about my other upcoming works, my author blog, and author Twitter.

I generally try to keep my WoW and writing identities separate, but when they collide like during the contest some crossover is expected.

Friday, August 5, 2011

[Paladin] KFC in Season 10 - Back to 3v3

I can't take 2v2 anymore, the half hour matches because neither side can generate enough dps to kill the other. Last night my partner and I were about to strangle ourselves after fighting our third arms warrior/resto druid combo.

(The problem with that match up is that my partner can't get range as a hunter and the warrior can't do enough damage to outdps my heals.)

I'm hoping that will end this season. We only played 2s this week because our newest teammate was out on vacation, but it looks like he's going to be a regular for Season 10. I can't say I'm going to miss those season 9 2v2 matches that took so long we even timed out at the 45 minute mark three times.

My new 3v3 team is a KFC comp, which does not stand for Kentucky Fried Chicken. (It stands for Kung-Fu Cleave, which honestly doesn't make much better sense, but there you go.) KFC consists of an arms warrior, a marksman hunter, and a healer. It's not as strong in 4.2 as it was earlier in Cata, but since my 2s partner is a hunter, we wanted a third player who would be able fill in the gaps in our playstyle.

We wanted either a DK to match our previous success in WotLK as a PHD team, or a warrior to try out KFC. Nothing else we knew of would be viable for a hunter (holy paladins can fortunately be shoved into many more comps). Fortunately, one of our priest guildies also has a warrior alt he likes to PvP on, so we found a new teammate.

We've played two weeks as a 3v3 team prior to this week's vacation, and we're starting to get the hang of playing with each other. There are better calls being made, more communication about cooldowns people need to know. My hunter partner isn't used to letting people know when he has dps cooldowns ready for some burst, because in 2s it hadn't mattered, but KFC kills with focus fire and when our hunter and warrior get their cooldowns lined up together, they can put out some pretty solid damage, particularly if it's middle of the fight when the healer's no longer expecting it.

There are still weaknesses though. We had some line of sight accidents, where someone didn't get healed, and I'm still getting used to figuring out just when the warrior is in danger of being pancaked. There were a couple matches where he died early, but the hunter and I managed to hold out for a frightfully long time 3v2, almost bringing the match down to a 2v2 multiple times before the other team finally ran me out of mana. I'm sure that's because we've been playing together so long I know exactly what the hunter's damage threshold is and can calibrate my heals accordingly. The knowledge of how to do the same with the warrior will come with time.

Personally, I know I have to get better about juking my heals. Sometimes when I'm feeling particularly canny I do this, and I admit it's really satisfying getting the other team to waste a cooldown on a fake-out, but it's not a regular habit. I think part of the reason I forget is that many times when I'm silenced it has nothing to do with casting a heal at all. It's far more common for a mage to preemptively counterspell me than for a warrior to interrupt me, largely because if a warrior is on me, I try to cast only instants or use measures such as Aura Mastery to make sure I don't get interrupted. If I'm doing an unprotected cast near a melee it probably means that I think someone's gonna die before my next Holy Shock/Word of Glory if I don't, which of course is why I should juke so I don't lose such a critical cast.

My other "I want to get better at" item is pillar dancing to avoid being CCed. It's easier in 2s because there are only two opponents to watch and one of them is usually trying to hide behind a pillar as well. But in 3s, there are more people to watch and generally at least two of them are happy to CC a healer. In extreme circumstances I've ended up hexed, then trapped, then feared for good measure, because everyone on the opposite team, including the healer, had a CC.

KFC is not a CC bonanza. For us, it seems the best tactic is to pick a dps kill target and then focus fire it while keeping the healer CCed/busy. I try to Rebuke, Arcane Torrent, or Hammer of Justice the healer if I'm free. If I'm the focus target of a melee I generally run in circles casting instants to stay alive while my teammates do their thing. But if I can't take the output then the warrior peels (love the whole charge and root thing) so I can get a breather. And if the hunter is left unhindered... woe to the other team.

Right now, I think the point we can most improve on as a team is target switching faster (when needed) and going on the offensive more. We have a tendency, particularly because we have a hunter who wants to hide in camo, to wait for the enemy to come to us. But when we think about it, it's very obvious to the other team that we have a hunter and he's near the entrance even if they can't target him, which just gives them time to execute their plan of attack, particuarly if they have a stealther.

On the bright side, we felt quite good about ourselves when we ran into another KFC team of the exact same composition (pally healer) and beat them not only once, but twice, and the second kill was solidly in our favor.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Is there really a need to raid more than twice a week?

I occasionally read recruitment threads of other guilds, partially out of curiosity, and partially to see if there's a nice recruitment layout I might want to use at a later date. Sometimes I'm surprised by what I find by what people offer or what they expect.

Particularly, I notice quite a few guilds still raid 3-4 nights a week, a pace I gave up as too demanding.

For most purposes, I don't understand raiding more than two nights a week anymore. It used to be a near necessary, especially with resets every week and no way to extend a lockout, but even then it seemed an awful lot of time to spend each week in a game. Just because I might spend 20 hours in a week playing a single video game, doesn't mean that I want to spend 20 hours a week every week playing a single video game (because you can't forget the time spent doing heroics, leveling alts, and playing the AH on top of raiding). Personally, I burn out.

At my raiding peak I'd run 25-mans three days a week and 10-mans two days a week, and that was just too much. I like WoW, but there are a lot of other forms of entertainment I enjoy besides WoW, such as other video/ computer games (played the new Dragon Age II DLC, woo!), D&D, anime, books, etc. When I'm playing WoW, I'm not doing any of those, and there's only so much time in the world.

At the time I started my two night a week 10-man raid guild, 10-man raiding was still the poor cousin of 25-man raiding and how the hell could anyone get anything done before reset with only two nights a week?

But we managed. We did wonderful things like clearing 11/12 Heroic ICC in a single three hour night so we could spend all of our second day on Heroic Lich King. (We rarely extended the lockout because people didn't like the idea of doing nothing but the Lich King all week.) We prided ourselves on efficiency. We still do.

We like that we've cleared the majority of Firelands bosses within our first three attempts. We like that we never spent more than three hours downing any of our six heroic T11 kills. We like that raids start on time and people come back on time from our scheduled breaks (if you're 2 minutes late it means you're last, people are doing /poke at you, and chances are everyone else was back on time).

Even though we like raiding, we like that we have good progression for minimal time investment. We lost a couple raid nights after 4.2 landed due to real life issues, but we're still 6/7 in Firelands, and hoping to down Rag in the near future.

One of our raiders, who really likes raiding, also raids on an alt in another two night a week group to get more of her raiding fix. When I mentioned that I was surprised she wasn't with a three or four night a week raid guild instead of us, she said that raiding more nights a week doesn't mean the guild's going to do more with the time that they have.

Skywall is not the most progressed server out there, so when I say we're in the running for server third kill of Rag it may not mean much depending on what your own server is like, but the thing is... the patch hasn't been out all that long! I don't know when Patch 4.3 is going to land, but if you figure it's at least three months betwen major patches there's still two months or more to work on Firelands.

It's not necessary to raid more than two nights a week anymore if you just want to see the content, not unless there's a drive to be the first at something, to brute force a boss kill, or you just really like raiding (and even then, you could do that on an alt like my guildie does). Two nights a week has even allowed us a fair amount of time for heroic kills. So if I was a prospective applicant looking for a new raid guild, where would I go?

Would I want to be in a guild that's 6/7 raiding two nights a week or 1/7 raiding four nights a week? (I've seen the recruitment ad for the latter. It's out there.)

We're not best in the world or best on the server, but we're doing all right and because of this I know that it's possible to do a lot with just two nights a week.

Yet when I look at other guilds advertising their raid nights, I'm quite shocked that a lot of them still raid 3-4 nights a week. And these aren't necessarily heroic guilds either. What does a 4 nights a week raid guild that has only downed Shannox do on its other nights? Are they raiding T11 still? Maybe some of those raid nights are retro raids?

I admit I don't understand and their ads don't help me to do so.

If a guild's struggling with content, adding more nights to the raid schedule probably isn't going to help them see it faster. More raid resets will, because that will give them more gear to compensate for any lack of skill. A guild that takes 50 attempts to kill a boss that takes another guild 5 isn't a better guild because they killed it first, and they may be burning out their members by doing so.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Molten Burnout

I was reading a post at Kurn's about how she was getting burned out by everything that needed to be done in order for a responsible PvE raider to max out their effort every week in terms of valor points, dailies, rep, etc.

It's a lot, and I'm at the point where I'm close to throwing my hands up and saying "Screw those Molten Front dailies, screw those heroics, I don't care if I need more gear." I only raid twice a week on my druid main because I want relatively low commitment gameplay, but the Molten Front material takes almost a month to fully unlock, and I've been slavishly doing all their dailies since 4.2 landed (even on the nights I would normally be off WoW) because a day I don't do is another day's delay to the end.

Worse, I'm doing this on two characters so my engineering paladin will be able to make the Flintlocke's Woodchucker scope for my guild's hunters.

And I think it's retarded that it's more time efficient (at the moment) to get valor points from heroics than raid boss kills.

Then, like Kurn, I have a holy paladin that's occasionally running with a second guild other than the one I lead, because it's nice to go to a raid and not have responsibility.

But all this is sucking up a huge amount of time.

Now that I've unlocked the Druids of the Talon on my druid and the Shadow Wardens on my paladin, the number of dailies I do each day on both my 85s has skyrocketed and I'm doing them everyday.

I suppose I don't have to, but I feel like I should to be a good raider on my main and to get the engy schematic for my guild's hunters on my alt (because I'm sure the first few engineers to get the schematic will be gouging on the AH).

The thing is... I know the rep will come with time. As we kill trash and bosses in Firelands I'll eventually get Avengers of Hyjal rep, so I can close my eyes and say there's no need to do trash runs. Yes, it would help get gear sooner, but I can at least pretend any gear upgrades are minor enough on my main that it won't make much of a difference.

The valor points will come with time as well. I'll still be raiding twice a week and we'll kill bosses.

Both rep and valor points will come while doing pre-planned scheduled events.

But the stupid Molten Front dailies... I think the reason I'm so annoyed by them is that they aren't a fun group activity and they're mostly the same thing day in, day out and they're taking up time when I'd otherwise be doing something else that is most likely not WoW.

Previous daily quest grinds didn't seem to be such a big deal.

The Netherwing dailies weren't for gear, so I never worried about missing a day in TBC. Hodir gave shoulder enchants in WotLK, but it was relatively easy to get the blue versions and even then there was perhaps a max of seven dailies and I only was working on one character at a time. The Argent Coliseum dailies didn't even give anything to raiders. They were mostly just for fun, city rep, and titles. Gear was only really needed by alts.

In Cata, Therazane and Dragonmaw were probably best known for having dailies, but they also had tabards so dailies weren't the only way to get gear and enchants. I could combine gaining rep with heroic runs so it felt very time efficient.

But the Molten Front gives competitive gear as well as the means to craft competitive gear. I just realized there's a neck unlocked a few days ago that's better than the one I'm wearing, and there's a relic I could use while I save valor points for my tier pieces. And of course no hunter is going to want to be without the Woodchucker.

I'm just not sure how much longer I can keep this up before I'm going to want to take a step back from the game. I think if there wasn't such a clear gating mechanism, with its own story, and with competitive rewards I'd take my time and play through the sequence leisurely, but since it's not, I feel compelled to burn through it.

And the worst part is... there's all this new craftable gear, but no new engineering helm. The engineer in me is sad.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Times I'm Thankful For My Guild

My guild looks like it will be ending its Tier 11 raids with the progression of 6/13 Heroic, which isn't too shabby at all. We've had our ups and downs, and chewed through a frightful number of healers at one point, but stabilized over the past month or two and downed multiple heroic bosses for the first time.

One thing I've liked is that people are serious about showing up. People post ahead of time whether or not they're going to be absent. We run a team of 12 and only very, very rarely have we had to cancel a raid even under the worst of circumstances.

I was not always in a guild like this.

Back in TBC, when I was in my first raiding guild, they were very lax with their team setup. People knew the raid times, but on the rare occasion they would actually raid earlier than scheduled (I was admittedly quite upset to have rushed home to raid only to discover they're started without me) and then they wanted to be fair about giving everyone an opportunity to raid. The problem was, they had trouble stopping recruiting and when you have two tanks, three healers, and twenty dps for Kara... well... you don't get to go very often.

It also meant that if a healer was absent we probably wouldn't go, and if a tank was absent we definitely did not go. There was no penalty for being absent. There was no reward to being present (other than you might get to go). There were no attendance rules at all really, so the dedicated raider would often be sat for someone who rarely showed up in the interests of giving everyone a chance to raid.

Those who are dedicated raiders can see the problem in this.

But for a casual raid guild, maybe it's not that bad a thing to trade off progression and a regular raid spot for the freedom of just showing up once in a while and still getting to go (maybe), but it's something I knew going forward that I've wanted to avoid.

And I've done a decent job. My second TBC guild valued me highly and I never sat, whether it was 10-man or 25. My first WotLK guild never benched me either, though occasionally I volunteered to sit. Both of those guilds were good about making raids happen until eventually their leaders couldn't take it anymore and quit.

My second WotLK guild and current Cata guild are the same, and it is my guild. I run it, and I do all I can to avoid the burnout of my predecessors while accomodating the schedule and raid style I want. We raid just two nights a week (then unprecedented on our server and quite rare in general when we started in ToC), just 10-mans, and with an eye on heroics.

I've seen more content in my little guild than in any of my previous ones, and I know it's due to the skill and dedication of my raiders.

This feeling of pride isn't something triggered by the upcoming patch 4.2, as one might think. Rather, something else happened recently.

In these final days of Tier 11 I volunteered to fill in for a casual raid guild's healing team on my paladin. I don't know this guild well, but their members have always been nice folks, so I was sure that running with them would be more pleasant than pugging. I was warned by their GM that they didn't have as many of their regular raiders anymore, and things might be kind of rough, but I said I was fine with that. I'm not someone who's going to nerd-rage because we wiped.

The guild ended up taking three non-guildies, including me, to fill the holes in their roster. We killed three bosses in two hours and called it a night. For a casual guild deprived of a full in-guild raid team it was acceptable, especially considering that they had to explain the fights from scratch for a couple people.

Knowing they were short-handed (and wanting to raid a bit more on my alt), I offered to fill in for them again, and their guild master extended invites to me via the in-game calendar for the next three raids.

I accepted, and now two of those three dates have passed. They didn't raid on either of them because not enough people have showed up.

If I was one of their guildies and that was my only opportunity to raid, I would be quite annoyed, but since I'm just filling in for fun on my alt, hearing that the raid has been canceled 20 minutes after start time didn't bother me, especially since I would have been online anyway.

Now, attendance is not mandatory in their guild, and it's one of their selling points in their recruitement ads, so it's not surprising that when content is stale not enough people show up. Personally, I could not live with that on my main. But I know people at my day job who play WoW and think it's ridiculous to set aside a set time every week to raid. They don't mind raiding itself, they don't mind going once in a while, but they don't like the commitment. For them, that kind of guild isn't a bad idea. Go if there are enough on, don't if there aren't.

The biggest thing to be thankful for in a guild is being with people who share the same commitment to raiding, leveling, PvP, whatever that focus might be. It doesn't matter if it's a high amount or a low amount as long as the commitment is the same. My guild is ranked #2 for 10-man progression on our server, but #72 on guild levels since we're still level 20. We might not be achievement hunters or fishers or crafters or activity maniacs, but we know what we like and we do it.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

I'd Tank... if I had a Third Spec

I queued for the Ahune fight the other night on both my 85s. My druid is currently off-specced into bear, which is my preference. (I spent most of T11 off-specced into resto, which I'm not nearly as happy playing as.) I was happy to jump in the queue as a tank and be rewarded with my instance within a few seconds. So was the one guildie I was grouped with.

This meant we had three puggers.

My guild is a small one consisting primarily of people with relaxed playing schedules, so guild-only 5-mans are uncommon. We mainly log on to raid, and anything else is happenstance. When I do 5-mans, I usually pug, and I'm fine with it. I think pugging makes me a better player due to the unpredictability of what I get.

Anyway. Ahune died. Loots dropped. All was happy in the world.

My guildie and I got on our alts. I queued as healer on my paladin. Guildie was dps. And we waited, and waited, and waited. And after 9 minutes (as a healer!) we finally got in.

Then the tank, who'd clearly never tanked Ahune before, got himself killed by trying to tank the boss (standing in bad stuff) and ignoring the adds which killed everyone else. The tank went off-line rather than face the embarrassment of a explanation on how the fight works.

Which meant we had to wait again.

And it occurred to me, that if I had a third spec... I would have tanked on Gillien.

Back in WotLK my paladin's dual specs were holy and prot. My holy spec pulled double duty for PvE and PvP, but the two specs were close enough that this was "okay" even if it wasn't ideal. Many times, in order to get the faster queue, I'd tank. It got to the point where I was tanking 5-mans more often than I was healing and I'd opt for waiting a couple minutes in the queue just to get a break from day-in-day out tanking on two 80s.

But in Cata, I found the difference between a reasonable arena spec and PvE holy spec were quite a bit different, with 7 of my talent points rearranged to give me access to a variety of talents not present at all in my PvE spec. They're good talents too. They've come in handy multiple times, whether helping my teammate burn someone down with Exorcism spam or getting an extra Word of Glory heal from Eternal Glory.

I use my PvE and PvP holy specs often enough that I don't want to sacrifice one for a prot tanking spec, but I don't mind tanking. I would have gladly tanked Ahune the other night, but I wasn't going to pay 100g in respecing forwards and back for the privilege.

It occured to me that Blizzard is trying to find ways to improve 5-man queues, to the point of offering additional rewards through the Call to Arms, and it makes me wonder if they've considered the potential tank population that just ran out of specs, seeing as all tank classes are hybrids.

I know they want specs to be of a lasting impact, to be meanful. I can understand why they wouldn't want a hunter to have BM PvE, MM PvE, MM PvP, and Survival PvE (which my guildie has said he would do in a heartbeat). To keep this on the topic of too few tanks running 5-mans, why not make the third spec a dedicated tanking spec? If it's not tanking, you can't have it.

I'm sure it would be annoying to implement something just for that consideration, but let's say the third spec can only be used for tanking and people take it for tanking. I can only see it increasing the number of tanks, since people who tank instances already aren't going to stop just because they freed up one of their dual specs, and people who would consider tanking but can't because they ran out of specs, might actually tank.

I don't know how large the "I ran out of specs population" is, but Blizzard, you have one here.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Still One Blizzcon Ticket Left!

My guild still has one Blizzcon ticket left! If interested, please contact me ASAP at . It's for sale at face value of $175. We have until June 10th to get your name registered in the database so you don't have to stand in line with us.

I'll go back to regular blogging after this. Promise. :)

Friday, June 3, 2011

Blizzcon Tickets?

I apologize for falling dorment again after the beginning of last month. May was very hectic for me for multiple reasons.

I would have liked a real post, but as it is, there's not much time to take care of my current business.

My friend and I bought extra Blizzcon tickets for friends, but it turns out that the extras weren't needed, which has left us stuck with $350 of paid tickets that we don't need.

But given how quickly the tickets sold out, we figure there must be plenty of people who are interested in going, but never had the chance. We'd return these tickets if we could, but since we can't we're offering them up for sale at the face value price of $175 each.

If you are interested, please e-mail me at . We would like to sell them ASAP, since the tickets become more complicated to sell after June 10th. (June 10th is the deadline to attach an attendee's e-mail address to a ticket, which would let them pick up their ticket without arriving with the credit card holder.)

And yes, this means I will be at Blizzcon this year.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

PvP Gear in PvE

Since the ZA/ZG instances have come out, I've heard complaints of people gaming the system by showing up in these 5-mans while wearing PvP gear. As someone who does both PvE and PvP, though, I wonder what people mean by showing up in PvP gear.

Are they talking about PvP blues or purples? If they're complaining about blues I have some sympathy, but I don't for the epics.

The reason I wonder is because the epics take time to earn. Even with the accelerated access to PvP gear that prompted the nerf to conquest point gain, it still takes real world time to purchase them. One week of capping just for the purpose of gaining a higher ilvl gear would net... what... a bracer? A relic? A off-hand?

Conquest points aren't like honor. You can't grind them all day long saying that you'll reach that item level come hell or high water. So where are these people coming from who got PvP gear just to game the queue?

Chances are they've been there all along, healing, dps-ing, and maybe even tanking heroics the whole time. (I ran into one pug tank who swapped on his PvP gear for one of the H VP boss fights to great success. He knew what he was doing and was smooth as butter to heal.)

I do understand that some of the itemization budget that could have gone to haste, spirit, and other things is lost in PvP gear due to resilience. I get that.

But would a pug group rather my paladin wear Vicious Gladiator purples or my remaining 333 blue gear that just happens to be better itemized? For some of my PvE gear slots I've just never gotten 346 blues, or the Vicious Gladiator gear pulls ahead despite the wasted budget on resilience.

I ran my paladin through Ask Mr. Robot for a quick sanity check.

The way Mr. Robot works is through stat weights. It's not the best way for a healer to determine which stats to go for. A lot depends on personal playstyle, who they run with, the content they're doing, whether they need speedier heals or more regen. What Mr. Robot does is let the player set how valuable they consider the different stats and Mr. Robot recommends the best gear for those stat weights. So for a quick "Am I doing it wrong?" Mr. Robot works in a pinch. Mr. Robot also comes with default stat weights.

For Gillien I set my gearing parameters to the content I've had available leading up to 4.1, which was just heroics and PvP gear. (I set myself to "I'm Good at PvP" which opens all PvP gearing possibilities that do not require an arena/rated battleground rating.) I did not touch the default stat weights, so as to avoid my own personal biases as to what makes good holy paladin gear.

It lists four pieces of my current Vicious Gladiator gear as the best in slot for pre-raid and recommends three pieces I currently do not have, one of which I made a conscious decision not to get. (I don't have mana troubles in arena, so I opted for the Vicious Gladiator's Greaves of Alacrity instead of the Meditation version.)

Now Mr. Robot is a robot. It doesn't turn its nose up at where the gear comes from. It's saying that even though resilience counts for crap this gear is better for these stat weights than any of the blue heroic gear in the same gear slot. Now there's a different argument about trusting stat weights since they're blind to an individual player's situation, but if you want to compare individual pieces of gear in a vacuum, this piece vs. that piece, conquest PvP isn't necessarily that bad compared to heroic blues, which is all you need for ZA and ZG. The additional spirit, the additional intelligence, can outweight whatever secondary stat is lost to resilience by virtue of the higher item level.

I wouldn't expect Gillien to perform in ZA or ZG as well as a raid-geared holy pally of equivalent skill and ilvl, but he should do just as well or better than a holy pally with nothing but blues.

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Why I Don't Like the 4.1 Conquest Point Change

If you don't PvP, you probably were ambivalent towards the change in the number conquest points awarded in patch 4.1. If you're a talented PvPer and have an excess of conquest points, you're probably annoyed, but by now you probably primarily play for rating, not to buy things.

As for me, I have no aspirations of a title this season, since I'm only doing 2v2. I'm playing for fun and the thrill of making that clutch save, but that doesn't mean I'm not affected by the change. Since I'm not interested in how high I can get my arena rating, I play just to get my points for the week. Once I'm done, I stop.

And that brings me to the conquest point change.

Community Manager Zarhym wrote:

We saw that Arenas and Rated Battlegrounds were over-rewarding players for the time investment required, particularly compared to point gains in PvE. We felt the change we went live with in the patch was a little bit too low and overcompensating though, so we buffed up the numbers for wins just a bit to 180 (Arenas) and 400 (Rated BGs).

Now, I don't disagree with the time investment for epic PvP gear vs. epic PvE. My first two weeks of arena netted me my epic healing mace while the non-PvPers in my guild are still salivating for the maces off of Cho'gall and Nefarian. I don't have to worry about the whims of RNG. Two weeks of playing for a little over an hour and I got a mace better than anything out of a heroic.

I was actually quite surprised when I learned how quickly conquest gear came to me. I stopped doing any PvP other than arena and Tol Barad, just because I couldn't justify the time vs. honor gained (not to mention that when I first got my paladin to 85 the battleground queues were buggy for Horde). An hour of arena vs. an hour of battlegrounds? It's no contest.

Gillien is ilvl 356 in his PvP gear, and I'd wager I spent less time assembling that than I have Hana's 358 and she's my raiding main.

Considering that I agree with Blizzard's assessment, it might come across as strange that I don't like their change, but what bothers me isn't that they fixed it. It's how they fixed it.

When arena was first introduced it was as a casual form of PvP where people could earn gear and titles without doing the crazy High Warlord/Grand Marshal slog that was infamous during vanilla. The fact you only needed ten games a week made it very casual friendly. Any games played beyond the ten were attempts to increase one's rating and considering that ratings tended to settle after a while (except perhaps at the extremes), it was easy to figure out when to stop.

My Challenger-level 3v3 team had a rule in WotLK. We would play our 10 games, and then if we were winning, we would keep playing until we lost two in a row. This prevented us from playing into a losing streak, but if we were hot we wouldn't stop.

In arena it is expected that when you reach your appropriate rating that you will hover there, winning 50% of your matches and losing the other 50%. In that sweet spot between the start of Cata and patch 4.1 players earned enough conquest points to cap for the week from winning just 5 matches.

I liked the 4.0 Cata system. It promoted winning (since previously teams could get their points for 10 games even if they lost all of them), and if the 50-50 ratio held true people would still be playing their 10 games for the week. It seemed elegant enough to me.

But now I have to play more games to cap for the week. After the whole 10 games and you're done that has been around since TBC, I'm rather irritated that I'm now forced to play an average of 16 games in order to cap. It's a 60% increase in the time spent each week.

What I would rather have seen (though I'm sure it still would have been an unpopular choice) would have been an increase in the cost of conquest gear. Two weeks for an epic mace is ridiculously easy to obtain. Make it three or four weeks. Just increase the prices by 50%-60%.

Blizzard would get the same effect of increased time spent per each piece of gear earned, but without increasing the amount of time spent per week.

I found 10 games to be a reasonable amount of time for a casual player to do in a single night while still leaving time for other activities, and while some weeks I've had to do more than 10 games due to having more losses than wins, it still hasn't amounted to as many games as my 50-50 win rate of this past Thursday. If we get on a losing streak it could potentially make for a very long night and I don't like the idea of playing 20+ games in a single night in order to cap.

Equally I dislike the prospect of making arena night twice a week instead of once.

While I like arena for what it is (as in I've played skirmishes before for no reward), I admittedly like my purples as much as anyone else and I feel obligated to cap my conquest points just as a hardcore raider feels obligated to run heroics until valor points no longer offer any upgrades.

I won't stop playing arena due this, but it means less time to do heroics, less time for alts. Maybe I won't get a game of Tol Barad in that I would have otherwise joined. I don't raid on my paladin, unless one counts the occasional Baradin Hold. This isn't an alternate way of me getting gear to kill internet dragons. This is my one night a week PvP fun fest that gives me better gear for hitting a set number of wins.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Day 03 – Your first day playing WoW

My first day playing WoW was back in vanilla. It's funny how the years meld together now, but I'd say it was 2005 (though I did not become a regular player until 2006). My boss lent me his discs and gave me one of his 10-day free trial passes and told me to go ahead and give the game a shot.

I was reluctant to play due to the fact I had been a horrible MUD junkie in college (now that's old school, MMORPGs from before they had graphics!) and I knew that if I got hooked I could have trouble maintaining a balance between the game and the rest of the world.

Because the free trial was for a limited period I decided I would start it up on a Friday night so I would have two weekends to play. At about 9 or 10 in the evening I finished installing the four CDs and found myself at the character select screen for the first time. I made my tauren druid (race/class combo already picked) and made her a brown cow who I dubbed Hana because it's Japanese for "flower" and sounded appropriately pleasant and fantasy-ish.

Hana began her life in Mulgore in what I believe was June (of 2005) and dutifully pew-pewed little plainstalkers to provide food and supplies for Camp Narashe. It was dark and I don't recall other players being around, but that suited me just fine. I was just learning everything.

My internet connection at the time was pretty bad, so I was having trouble staying online and I distinctly recall being killed by one of the quilboar's battle boars, the very first mobs that would aggro on to a new low level tauren, during a disconnect. I'd wager I didn't make it past level 4 before I logged for the night.

What I remember the most about my first night was that Mulgore was very green and (my death notwithstanding) very peaceful. I remember the night sky, and that I was amused that I could do the majority of the old emotes from my MUD days. MMORPGs were just MUDs with graphics. How little things change.

What actually turned out to be a pleasant thing to know after I finished my 10-day trial is that I was able to put the game down and not buy it. It would be over six months before I would actually buy the game and begin playing it.

While it seems like an odd thing to say considering that five years later I'm still playing it and I have been almost continuously, it means to me that I'm not in danger of the addiction I feared. I only raid twice a week and while as a guild master I have to put a certain amount of time into the game and related activities, I think I can quite happily put this game down when the time comes. I'd miss my online friends of course, but I'm not in danger of the game ruining my professional or social life.

Friday, April 22, 2011

[Paladin] More Thoughts on Season 9 Arena

My paladin is starting to get decently kitted out in PvP gear, especially for an alt I haven't had much time to focus on. (I blame a combination of Dragon Age II and overtime at the day job.) My 2v2 partner and I have designated Thursday nights as arena night and I've since bought my Vicious Gladiator's Gavel as well as a new cloak, ring, wrist, and shoulders. It's kind of funny how quickly these Conquest points are adding up compared to previous seasons.

I love it.

I've realized that I really like Season 9 much more than previous seasons and it's because of the changes that have been made to allow people to buy epic PvP gear.

Back when arenas were first introduced in TBC everyone started at 1500 arena rating and went up or down, but as long as you played your ten games a week you got arena points. Gear had no rating requirements so you played, win or lose, and got your gear after you earned enough points. A lot of casual arena play occurred due to people who had no interest in titles but found it was a nice way to get gear.

Unfortunately, people also played who had no interest in arena itself, titles or no. They just wanted the gear, because it was better than what they could gear raiding Kara every week. I knew several people like that.

Then Blizzard added the rating requirement to get the best gear. Some people I knew stopped arenas altogether, because the gear they wanted (for PvE) was out of reach.

With WotLK, the urge to do arenas for gear largely went away. For certain classes a piece or two of arena gear could be sweet, but by and large PvE gear came from PvE. And arenas themselves changed.

Now players started at 0 rating and moved up. Gear could be purchased at 1100 rating and up, but it would take a good many games before reaching the appropriate rating, and it was frustrating to be accumulating arena points only to cap out at a point where points were coming in but there was no new gear to spend them on because the better gear was inaccessible. Or, perhaps your team got to the appropriate rating, but you didn't have the points to spend and by the time you did you'd lost that ranking and your chance at the gear you wanted.

I did have a good time with arenas in WotLK. I got my Challenger title for 3v3 and 5v5 in Season 6 (both teams were ranked high enough). I loved my teammates.

But after they stopped playing it was hard to get back into arenas again. My one remaining teammate was my hunter friend, and as I've mentioned, hunter/paladin is mocked as "terrible" to put it lightly. While we knew we weren't terribad players, we couldn't get a rating that mattered, and our gear couldn't get any better, which was discouraging.

These days in Cata, we're still playing, and while we aren't at our former Challenger-level glory, we're making progress and having fun. We progress without being concerned about hitting a number.

We're getting conquest points much more efficiently than earning honor points in battlegrounds (working a lot of overtime right now, time is at a premium), and as our gear has improved, we're finding hunter and holy paladin isn't quite the suck it initially appears to be.

That's not to say we don't hate the Dalaran arena anymore, or that my partner doesn't want to punch himself when healers start pillar dancing, but we're durable. We outlast other teams.

My partner loves the double dps groups. If I can keep him alive through the initial burst, we nearly always win. And I have a lot of burst healing. I've had Divine Favor and Aura Mastery up at the same time to let me chain cast a bunch of super fast un-interruptable Divine Lights.

If we fight a healer/dps combo, the fight is often longer, more likely to be dicey, but I have discovered something. Even with only 1600 resilience, I'm pretty durable against a single dps. It's only been these past couple weeks that it's become evident, but apparently my resilience is now at critical mass where I can start feeling comfortable with a dps beating on me while my partner does his business of pew-pewing a target.

After last night's rousing win ratio of 5-2 (only 5 matches needed to cap on conquest for the week), I started reforging some of the spirit off my PvP set to haste.

The reason for that is that I've noticed I haven't been hurting for mana the past two weeks. We had several matches where our opponents are dps (in which case the match is over one way or the other relatively quickly) or the healer goes oom way before I do.

We had one poor team where the disc priest was at 5% mana and I was virtually at full. We can outlast. If we're durable I can keep us both up primarily with Holy Shocks and Word of Glorys, weaving occasional Holy Lights or Divine Lights as necessary. I have kited a rogue in circles in the Lordaeron arena while keeping myself alive with nothing but instants.

I can only see this getting better. I used to be the squishy healer, never mind the plate, but I can only imagine how much the opposing team is going to hate me once I get even more PvP gear. It makes the PvPer in me grin.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Day 02 - Why I Decided to Start a Blog

I'm not sure I ever mentioned why I wanted to blog. Mostly, I think I wanted an outlet for all my WoW talk. There was a period I went through where I just couldn't get enough WoW.

I read other people's blogs. I read WoW Insider. I loved keeping up on the latest on Elitist Jerks. And I am by nature a writer. It's what I do.

So it was a natural decision to set one up. Even if I haven't been blogging as much lately, I assure you that I have not stopped writing. I have a novel that's almost done that I'd started in September of last year. It's just a question of whether I'm writing here, on my other blog, or something else entirely.

Also, at the time I started blogging, there were still very few moonkin. Graylo's Gray Matter wasn't the only game in town, but the other blogs were few in number. Moonkin didn't become popular until WotLK and so I figured I could present a different voice, more of a layperson's voice to moonkin affairs.

I understand the math and the theorycraft, I can even do my own theorycraft push comes to shove, but I'm quite happy to leave the simulations to others and I suspect there are a fair number of others who are happy to do the same.

As for the holy paladin end of things, that's mostly because I love playing Gillien and I didn't believe I'd have enough meat for the blog if I restricted myself to moonkin only. I'm glad I made that decision because blogging about arena on Gillien has been one of the highlights of my blogging experience. There aren't a lot of PvP bloggers so it's fun to talk about something that's relatively unique.

Speaking of which, when I'm not doing one of these 20 day blogging challenge posts I need to get up my latest thoughts on the current arena season.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Day 01 - Introduce yourself

I found out about the 20 Days of WoW Blogging Challenge that Saga of Spellbound came up with, and I figured "Hey, that would be a good way to get back into blogging regularly again."

So here I am.

Introducing myself:

I am most commonly known as Hana in WoW, though there are a few people who only know me as my paladin alt Gillien.

I'm a thirty-something female with a day job in the game industry and I am a part-time fantasy and science fiction writer after having won the grand prize to a major sf/f writing contest. I might not be able to quit my day job yet, but it's nice to start earning enough that I need to list my income on my tax forms.

I have also written two pieces of WoW fiction for the global writing contest, featuring my paladin Gillien. "By Whatever Means Necessary" was an honorable mention in 2009, but "Devotion" did not place in 2010. I think there are a couple of reasons for that, aside from writing quality, which is something for any writer to be aware of. For one, I decided to write a sequel when the judge might be unfamiliar with the original (though I took steps to reduce the need to have read the first story). For another, Blizzard may have had their fill of both blood elves and paladins so all else being equal they may have chosen to honor a story with a different topic.

My play style is a bit irregular depending on what's happening outside of WoW. I try to be on at least four nights a week, though I can be distracted by day job overtime, writing deadlines, and other games. Dragon Age, both the original and DA2, are bad for my WoW time.

I am the guild leader of Be Your True Mind, which takes its name from the subtitle of the first Persona game. I set us up to be a 10-man guild compatible with the lifestyle of a working adult while still making progression (and we're currently recruiting healers!) and despite ups and downs we're still kicking.

Hana was my first character, ever, and I became a balance druid because I didn't know better and I found I liked it. I play Gillien a lot though, and consider him to be my PvP main. I've always wanted to raid with him, but it's never been practical to do it on a regular basis.

I'm also an altoholic with numerous alts scattered on different servers (my home server of Skywall is already maxed at 10), though I tend to play them in bursts depending on mood. All my alts are below level 70 save Gillien and my feral druid, Darkker.

Other fact: I have four druids, one for each spec, and a fourth that is leveling moonkin to see how different it is from back in vanilla.

On to Day 2!

Friday, March 4, 2011

[Paladin] Oh My! Arena, How Have You Been?

This post is dedicated to my guild’s bear tank, Buik, for nagging me to update already. ;)

My paladin hit level 85 about a week and a half ago, and since that time I’ve started PvPing. Battlegrounds, then Tol Barad, and finally, last night, arena.

Given the time frame, I didn’t have time to earn honor for a full set of blue PvP gear for myself, and I didn’t want to splurge on crafted blues. I’m not shooting for a title at the moment. I just wanted to get back in the groove of things and do some 2v2 with my long-time arena partner Cursedhoof.

So I entered my first arena match in my PvE blues and greens with a blue PvP honor chest and my old 200 resilience PvP trinket from WotLK. I wanted to be better geared, but as Cursedhoof pointed out, at this point we have no rating to lose and we’ll still be getting Conquest Points, so after some reflection it didn’t sound like a bad idea at all.

Hunter and holy paladin has long been described as one of the worst 2v2 arena combos ever. Seriously, there’s a thread on that topic at Arena Junkies and you will find hunter/holy pally listed on the first page. We made it work in Season 4 (the last season of Burning Crusade) , but it wasn’t as strong for the seasons we played in WotLK (Seasons 6 and 7).

The problem with hunter and holy paladin is a lack of burst and that the hunter is surprisingly squishy. Line of sight issues are absolutely horrible for us. It actually wasn’t too bad for us back in TBC, when Nagrand and Blade’s Edge were the arenas of choice. While a good healer can pillar hump with the best of them, the arenas that kill us are the Dalaran Sewers (boxes hate hunters because they’re so small the hunter is forced into melee range if he has to run around the corner to get on the same side as the kill target) and the Ring of Valor (we haven’t played this one yet in Cata, but throughout WotLK he would have to dismiss his pet or it would bug out while trying to get off the starting elevator).

As part of getting ready for arenas, I decided to sacrifice my paladin’s prot spec to make my first spec completely dedicated to holy PvP.

It might sound a little funny, especially from someone who had previously earned an arena title, but I had never actually specced entirely for PvP. Throughout TBC I used an odd holy spec that allowed me to PvE, PvP, and even tank content up to normal Magister’s Terrace. Unfortunately changes were made to how paladins worked early in WotLK so I lost the holy tanking ability, but with dual specs that wasn’t an issue. I could use my second spec for prot and my holy spec was a good PvE/PvP hybrid. There were a couple points here and there that were sub-optimal for one activity or another, but overall it was decent enough.

So why did I change now?

Well, the reason behind the decision was primarily Light of Dawn, and then it snowballed from there.

Light of Dawn is an AoE cone heal costing Holy Power. No mana would be needed, but it would also mean that I would not be able to use the instant cast Word of Glory heal at the same time, since they both rely on the Holy Power resource. An AoE heal for two people, even three, is a waste. Light of Dawn is not an arena talent.

I also realized that with Pursuit of Justice being on the second tier of the ret tree it was within easy pickings of a PvP spec, should I want it. While running faster is fun in PvE too, really it’s a godsend in PvP. (Few things make me happier than frustrating the warrior or DK who can’t seem to keep up with or kill me.)

So I decided that this season I would try a full PvP spec. Besides, questing with a full PvE holy spec is awful, and I could do dailies in PvP spec but PvE gear.

Our first night in the arena

Our first night of Season 9 was not terribly smooth. I can’t speak for my teammate, but I was in terrible form. I died twice before getting my bubble off in matches where my death most likely cost us the game. I always reminded my Season 7 3v3 ret pally partner that he should never die without having already used his bubble, so I was needless to say kicking myself seven ways to Sunday over it. I think the problem is that I was remembering how long I would live in WotLK, but I have virtually no PvP gear in Cata so I kept underestimating how much longer I could really stay standing.

Bubble early, bubble often, is what I have to tell myself now.

We also encountered one pain-in-the-neck disc priest who, while unable to keep his PvP partner up, was a master at running around boxes in the Dalaran area. We ended up wasting 5-10 minutes chasing him around until he finally gave up and left. If we managed to catch up in the open we could get him to maybe 40- 50% health before he got away again, but his mana regen was so strong he was always able to heal up again while getting mana back. He went from 20% mana when his partner died to full when he only had to maintain himself.

Rebuke is truly something awesome now. As a blood elf paladin I now have three different ways to interrupt a healer, and as a result of that, I had a crowning moment of awesome to redeem myself in one of our matches.

We were fighting a feral druid and a resto shaman. I wasn’t having much trouble keeping teammate up, but the resto shaman was good about ducking behind pillars to avoid being shot at by a hunter. So while my partner stayed on the feral, what I did was run up to the shaman and Arcane Torrent when she was lining up a Healing Wave. She ran away, of course, and when the silence wore off she started winding up a Healing Surge. I ran up to her and hit Rebuke. And if my teammate hadn’t killed the feral by then, I had my Hammer of Justice ready for a third interrupt.

Hammer of Justice is the third interrupt because it’s possible to trinket out of it, but Rebuke and Arcant Torrent prevent spellcasting for a few seconds afterwards, which means the healer just has to eat it.

We ended the night comfortably maxed out on Conquest Points, and to my surprise, epic PvP gear is not all that expensive! I remember having to scrimp for weeks to hope for a piece of arena point gear, but not so much now. I can reasonably expect a new piece every two weeks, starting with my PvP weapon as soon as next week. This is probably old news to some people, but since I hadn’t been PvPing all I knew was that there was a lot of epic arena gear that didn’t require a rating.

Certainly there is 2200 rating arena gear, which I never expect to get, but I should be able to get quite a few pieces of the lower tier epics before the next season starts.

Friday, January 7, 2011

How Quickly Heroics Change

At first I was fearful about pugging Cataclysm heroics. CC this, CC that. Tanks, dps, and healers alike not knowing the fights. People stuck in WotLK mentality. But my worries have gradually abated. Even instances that I used to fear the possibility of doing in a pug (Stonecore *cough*) have been done successfully and with minimal wiping.

As back in olden vanilla days, people will pick themselves up after a while, with less complaining and more of a question about what went wrong, and then give the boss or pull another shot. Often times, people actually talked to each other in party chat, even if it was just a "hello, how's it going?"

Now that Cataclysm has been out for a month, pugging heroics is much safer. More people (though far from all) know the fights, so it's possible to get to a boss and fight him without more being said than "be sure to AoE all the crystal adds." Heroics can be relatively smooth.

I think I found my first downside to having more experienced puggers though, and it's come much earlier in the expansion than I expected.

Last night I got on really late and all my guildies were already in another heroic. From the time I knew it would be their last run of the night, so I queued up by myself figuring that it should be all right. I prefer to take a guildie or two if I could help it, but I had pugged completely solo before and it had worked out all right.

I pulled Blackrock Caverns as my instance, and was pleased since I consider it one of the easier heroics. The tank was well geared (160k health in a heroic) and he tanked without CC, which I initially found concerning, but the healer didn't seem to be struggling keep him up and he marked a kill order, so I said nothing. He seemed to know what he was doing.

The other dps with me were a ret paladin from the same server as the tank (but different guild) and a DK with the impressive Death's Demise title.

The group of us cleared the first two bosses without incident. Even the second boss, Corla, whose beams some puggers have problems with, went flawlessly. So we got to Karsh Steelbender, the forge boss, in short order.

We cleared the fire elementals. We cleared some troggs to the left of the boss. Then some more troggs towards the back left of the room, which was odd, but maybe the tank really wanted the leeway. Then the tank marked the cultists and elementals in the tunnel behind the boss and charged in.

Did he really think we needed to clear this many mobs around the boss?

After we killed the pack and the patting Defiled Earth Rager duo, the DK turned around to look back at Karsh Steelbender and asked "Are we skipping this boss?"

The tank did not reply and jogged down the tunnel. He proceeded to mark the next pack of mobs.

The DK asked again, but now he was asking why were we skipping this boss since, after all, the boss was not hard.

The tank replied that we could come back and do the boss later.

This sent off warning flags for me. I know if the last boss of the instance is completed there's nothing holding the group together anymore, and even if most of the group wants to go back and clear the other bosses, they can no longer queue. The first time I did Halls of Origination my tank mistakenly did Rahj first (he'd never been there before) and our healer left immediately afterwards. The four of us who remained actually wanted to do the other bosses, but we couldn't.

We finished the next pack of mobs and the tank positioned himself with his back to Beauty, and proceeded to set up the next pull. It was clear he intended to skip Beauty as well.

The DK asked anyway if that was his intention. I stood in the hallway between Beauty and Karsh, because I wanted to hear what the resolution of their disagreement would be and didn't want to be running all over the place until I was sure where we were going. I didn't need justice points badly, I had no main spec gear left to buy, so if everyone agreed to skip I wouldn't have had a problem with it, but I didn't think it was a good idea to keep on trucking as though nothing was wrong. It was awfully strange to be skipping bosses this early in the expansion just to get valor points, especially since these "optional" bosses weren't exactly out of the way like they were in a couple of the WotLK heroics.

I'm not sure if the tank didn't realize that he didn't have the entire group with him, or he just didn't care, but he pulled the next cultist/elemental pack, got the Defiled Earth Ragers as well, and things didn't go well from there. I tried to stay out of combat so I could rez everyone from the wipe I saw coming, but the survivors ran back the direction I was standing so I got pulled in as well.

As we were running back from the graveyard, the DK asked the recalcitrant tank about why he was skipping the bosses. He said he understood that Beauty would be rough with our group comp (only I could reliably CC the core hound pups), but there was no reason to skip Karsh. I chimed in saying that I could CC two of Beauty's pups easy. I nearly always handle the CC of two of them. The tank agreed to give it a shot.

We grouped up where we came out of the teleporter, right by the forge boss Karsh. People drank up to restore mana... Then the tank ran down the hallway over to where we had died near the entrance to Beauty. The ret paladin and the healer went with him.

I stayed by the DK and facepalmed so he could see that I was annoyed by this as well. The DK asked why we were skipping Karsh again, since he's easier than Beauty. I realized in retrospect that the tank had never actually answered his question!

The tank still didn't. I don't know exactly what happened next, but I saw the three of them had gotten into combat (apparently the tank was so eager to skip bosses that he pulled without us) and they all died again.

The ensuing conversation went something like this:

Ret Paladin: So what about the two bosses? We can just come back later.
Me: It doesn't work like that. If you leave once the last boss is dead we can't queue anyone to replace you.
DK: I bet you're on your daily, so you'll leave after you kill the last boss.
Ret Paladin: lol, I'd take that bet.

Now... the thing that I hadn't mentioned yet, is that the DK queued specifically for this instance. He said so in party chat. Chances are, something he wanted dropped off those bosses the tank and the ret paladin wanted to skip, and as a dps it would be a horrible waste of time for him to have sat in the queue and skipped bosses in spitting distance of the main path that had gear he could use. And here we had a tank that was unwilling to take a few minutes to kill a boss, and in such a hurry he was wiping the group by pulling without having everyone present. (I'm sure we could have killed Karsh in the time it took for him to do his gy runs.)

I told the DK I'd support him if he wanted to vote-kick the tank.

The vote-kick passed under the reason "won't tank bosses." The silent healer who hadn't said anything up until now evidentally supported us, since at least three need to vote for the kick to pass. (He later said he's up for wiping a couple times on any boss, and that he hadn't appreciated the CC-less tanking.)

We tried to re-queue for another tank, but the ret paladin kept declining, so we realized we would have to vote-kick him too.

Unfortunately... there was something we hadn't anticipated.

The ret paladin had group lead, and being on the same server as the tank... he simply invited the tank back in.

Now I understand it's not a gigantic majority over who wants to skip bosses and who doesn't. I can understand that the paladin and his tank friend may have thought it would be cool to queue for a "quick" heroic and nab their valor points, and they were upset by the delay (from their perspective they were a mere two pulls away from the last boss), but reinviting the tank wouldn't accomplish anything. It's not like we could have finished the instance with this kind of impasse. All they were doing was blocking us from queuing.

We kicked the ret paladin (reason: "griefing"), but group lead horrifyingly enough passed to the tank, who reinvited the paladin. And it became a stupid merry-go-round of them reinviting each other until we finally got lead to pass to one of the three of us and kicked the other just after he accepted his invite.

We must have kicked the both of them a collective four or five times before we managed to queue for replacements.

(Note to Blizzard: If someone has been vote-kicked by the majority of the party, it should not be possible for them to be reinvited by the remaining minority.)

I'm not entirely unsympathetic towards the desire for a quick valor point run, and if the tank had voiced any serious reservations about tanking Karsh I might have supported the skip, but instances are a group effort and the tank and his friend didn't seem to think that the DK's wishes mattered. Worse, they talked about coming back to those bosses later when they obviously had no intention of doing so.

We're only a month from the launch of Cata. People are still gearing, not everyone's raiding yet. It's just too soon to assume the majority of puggers are only there for the valor points or happy about skipping bosses that drop loot and justice points. Running an instance involves a little give and take.

Blizzard has said in the past that they didn't like people skipping fights, and I think that's why in Cata there are no out of the way bosses, but stubborn people can still skip some of them if push comes to shove. Perhaps the best solution would be to not award valor points at all until all the bosses in an instance are dead.

I admit, I don't like the idea that we're transitioning back to WotLK-style dungeon running already, "I just want my valor points" and all. I might have little interest in dungeon drops myself, but I believe that when you sign up for a dungeon run you should have an interest in accomplishing the goals of everyone in the group. It may not be possible to do so, but you shouldn't sign up to use those people as quickly as possible to satisfy your own needs and then leave.