Wednesday, August 29, 2007


I made a comment on vent on Monday night about something which has challenged me and others in the guild. Reading The Hammer Strikes (Oakensledge's blog) this morning brought the issue back up in my mind.

Like most other guilds, Heroes has players in various levels. We're not all L70, running Heroics and Karazhan. Some are in their 60's levelling up in Outlands, while others are still in the old Azerothian world, trying to level up their toons. As we are a "casual guild", everyone has their own play time and play as often or seldom as they want.
One of the problems the lower levels face is in getting groups for the quests and instances they need to do. It can be hard to get PuGs for some of the lower level or less popular instances. As well, even if you can get a PuG it can usually be a very unpleasant experience. As such, the lower level players look to the higher levels for help. I can appreciate how these lower level players feel as I have been in their position before. It's frustrating to not be able to do these quests or instances on your own or with groups you can form on your own. Nobody likes a bad PuG and well you're in a guild so you'd rather group with these other people in your guild. Not everyone is just looking for a free ride. Yet at the same time, getting help from the higher levels can be frustratingly difficult because they're always so busy running their own instances. And you feel like a jerk asking everyone for help all the time but if you don't you feel ignored and left out.

It's no fun on the other end too. As a L70, I've been asked for help not just by guildees, but random strangers as well. I like to help when I can. One of the great things about playing a feral druid is that you can do almost anything especially when it comes to helping out lower level players. While any L70 could likely help out a lower level, a feral druid can help in different ways: just heal the player while he does all the work, tank for them, dps for them.
But you can easily get overwhelmed trying to help everyone. I've got my own goals I'd like to accomplish as well that is outside of just raiding Kara and getting better drops. I've recently dropped skinning for herbalism and am in the process of levelling that up. There are quests I really want to finish off, rep chains I'd like to get exalted with, and there are other L70's I'd like to help out with stuff as well.
So, it's also frustrating for those of us at the other end of the spectrum. I don't have the play time I used to and when I'm on, I have a list of things I'd like to try to accomplish. Yet at the same time I feel like a jerk if I don't help a fellow guildee out.

What's the solution? I don't think there's a straight-forward or easy one. We have had some folks in Heroes in the past that used to be what I would call "Takers". These people came into the guild and just asked to be run through everything and basically powerlevelled. They always wanted to go to instances that were well above their level. They always wanted help getting the best drops for their level. These people have made some veteran Heroes wary whenever they are asked for help. I know it's made me wary.
I don't think we have any "Takers" in our guild currently. Most people ask for help with stuff that is in their level bracket but just requires a group to do. At the same time, I have seen many times where higher level players have helped out the lower level players. Our guild has a lot of generous people.

In the end, I don't think there is a problem in our guild. The lower levels must remind themselves that they aren't jerks for asking for help. As long as they aren't always asking or begging for help, they're fine. They also need to remind themselves that they aren't being ignored if no one offers to help. Sometimes we L70's can be a little self-absorbed but more often than not, we are just busy and concentrated on what we're doing and do not mean to ignore anyone. Heck, just ask my wife about what it's like to talk to me when I'm on the computer! :P
As well, the higher levels need to not feel like they're jerks if they decline to help someone. This is their playtime and they should be allowed to play guilt-free. At the same time, they should keep in mind the plight of the lower levels and occassionally offer to help someone or go out of their way to help others.

As a guild, I think we can communicate better. There are often several people who are at the same level that aren't grouping together, so don't know they have the same quests to do. A higher level may not want to run 4 different individuals through Sunken Temple four different times but if the 4 individuals communicated, they could run ST themselves or get 1 higher level to help the group of them do this. This is the best way to get help.
We can also do more guild events where the focus is to help out lower levels with instances they need. This should be something we do on a regular basis and I think it would go a long way to helping people out.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Those Dry Nights

Ran 2 instances last night: Shattered Hall and Mana Tombs. I didn't need anything in either one - well, there's the Savagery enchant that drops off Centurions in SH but there's only like 4 or 5 centurions and the drop rate is so craptastic, I didn't figure it would drop. Mostly, these runs were about helping guildees hopefully get a drop they needed AND about rep. Most people needed/wanted the rep from these instances. Since I'll likely need exhaulted with every single faction to get the new enchants that are coming with the next patch, the rep was good for me too.

Honors got the trinket he wanted from SH. Nothing dropped for Rhubarb in Mana Tombs, although Polar (Wichita's alt) got a couple of upgrades. We sharded stuff but I didn't win any rolls so I pretty much ended up with nothing. Well, that's not entirely true - I did get a Golden Draenite and a blue level gem, I think it was a Dawnstone. The Dawnstone will be useful but I don't know what to do with the small stash of green level gems I have. I don't use them as I'll go with blue level ones even in something like my healing gear. I don't think they sell very well on the AH either, so right now, they're just taking up bank bag space.

I felt kind of bad for Mordiera. He is a friend of Ashur and Lilura and he doesn't play as often so his character is in the 40's. When Lil logged off last night Mordiera was on by himself and joined our Mana Tombs run vent channel for some company. However, it was late at night and even though we had a fun group (Wichita as Polar, Rhubarb, Sylvara, Darolynn and myself) we didn't really talk much on vent. In fact, there was a long stretch, probably 15 or 20 mins where no one said anything on vent. We just pulled and cleared and pulled and cleared. Well, Daro can't say anything on vent anyway but there wasn't even party chatter.
In some ways, I like that kind of atmosphere... where everyone is so comfortable with each other (and so overgeared for an instance) that we don't even need to chat (as opposed to being so unfamiliar and uncomfortable with each other, no one wants to chat - something that doesn't happen much in Heroes). However, I don't think it helped Mordiera feel any less lonely being in a channel with nobody talking. I hope he doesn't think we didn't want to talk on vent because he was in the channel!

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Above the Crowd

I read an article this morning on Gamespy that previews Wrath of the Lich King. The article got me to thinking how Blizzard got things right with WoW where a lot of other companies failed. Blizzard didn't invent the genre, nor did they necessarily bring anything revolutionary to it. What they did however, was to try to perfect what was already out there. They took the good things and tried to make them better and tried to replace the bad things with better things.
Their customer base of around 8 million customer pre-Burning Crusade testifies to their success. No, it's not the half-naked Night Elf females you can play in the game - let's face it, with WoW's cartoonish characters, there are plenty of other more realistic and racey games to play if that's what the majority of the players were really after. And I'm not saying Blizzard did everything perfectly either. However, they did a lot of things right and that we're all playing this game rather than some other is because of it.
Enter Burning Crusade. Here's were Blizzard could really have dropped the ball. In fact, if all they did was release more of the same, we'd all likely not be playing WoW anymore and I wouldn't be blogging about this game. However, not only did Blizzard release new "stuff" they improved again. Not only were there new races and a new class available to the opposite factions (pally/shammy) but the quests more interesting this time. More importantly, there were more 5 man instances - a lot more. Even better, you can set them on heroic mode and run then again!
When I first read about heroic mode for the instances, I was skeptical. I thought it was a lame way to try to extend the content by just having the exact same instance just with the mobs hitting harder and with more health. However, heroic instances have proven to be as much fun as, if not more fun than, the original 5 mans. The mobs do hit harder and it is the exact same instance but the rewards are better and the bosses have different abilities, which require new tactics. And they certainly have extended the first expansion's "content" in that it's helped keep us L70's occupied rather than getting bored.
And the loot from the heroics helps with gearing for the raid instances, which is a progression itself. I was never into hardcore raiding and trying to get better gear by entering an instance with 39 others repeatedly to get points so I could get better gear so I could do harder raids was just not my cup of tea. So being able to obtain better gear through 5 mans to help make the 10 man raids better was certainly a boon.

When I originally read about Arenas, I was skeptical about that as well. It sounded like boring and annoying deathmatching. I was wrong again. Arenas is some of the most fun PvP I've experienced and I look forward to my matches each week. It's also not full of 'l33t' geared people 'pwning' my face. There are weaker teams and stronger teams and teams of equal strength - there are a lot of different variety of arena players. It seems like everyone is getting involved regardless of gear and skill. Perhaps it's the Arena rewards, which offer an alternative way to get some really good gear. Whatever the reason, Blizzard was successful here and introduced a fun new part of WoW that keeps us playing.

So, when I stop and think about it, I can't help but applaud Blizzard. I had hit L60 with a number of characters pre-Burning Crusade. In fact, as soon as I'd hit 60, I'd lose interest in my toons because at that time, I'd be faced with one of two choices: raid or alt. So I'd alt. And by the time I had 2 L60's and a bunch of alts, I was seriously contemplating quitting WoW. The only reason I actually kept playing was because a friend convinced me to join his guild on a new server. Hitting L60 again with Origami, I was just starting to get to that point again where I was losing interest (I did start alts) when The Burning Crusade was announced. Now I'm glad I stuck with it (it wasn't a hard decision as we were basically all offered new content to adventure in together). And I am more than a little impressed that I've been L70 for so long now and not only am I not bored, I can't stay on an alt for any length of time without wanting to get back to Origami and "progress" some more!

This time, I'm looking forward to the next expansion with less skepticism. It sounds like the expansion is still quite some time off, which is a relief as it allows us more time to get through some more of the "end game" content with TBC. I can't believe I just said that! :)

Friday, August 17, 2007

There's Something About M...

Well, last night our band of Heroes ventured once more into Karazhan. We had a pretty good turn out and had to ask a few people to sit, which was probably not so much an issue since some of us (me included) would not be available for the follow-up run on Sunday. Hopefully, they'll still have enough healers to run that night.
Anyway, when we finally got the groups sorted out and headed in our raid looked like this:
Honorshammer (prot. paladin - main tank)
Origami (feral druid - secondary tank/dps)
Baconstrip (resto. druid - main healer)
Rhubarb (holy pally - main healer)
Lakini (balance/resto druid - main dps/auxilary healer)
Wichita (elemental shaman - main dps/backup healer)
Jagdelf & Klemme (BM hunter - main dps/trapper)
Ferth (fury warrior - main dps)
Condramus (arcane mage - main dps)
Sylvara (assassination rogue - main dps)

We took down Attumen without a hitch, cleared to Moroes and took down Moroes in one shot. This was my first run where we took down Moroes without a wipe and it was nice to finally get that under my belt. We got the holy priest, arms warrior, ret. paladin, and prot. warrior. Honors tanked Moroes while I kept second threat on him and offtanked the prot. warrior, which was really nice because that guy kept my rage bar full, which meant I could unload on both of them without problems. Keeping second threat can get difficult when you aren't taking any damage as a feral tank (moreso for a warrior) because you can easily run out of rage with nothing hitting you. I remember at one point during the fight I was starting to worry about the adds and then checked Moroes' health to see how much longer we had to hold out and to my surprise Moroes was under 25% health already.
Moroes didn't drop the Pocketwatch. Sad but I'm not going to complain about loot. Just read my previous blog and you'll know why. :) Moroes did drop the Royal Cloak of Arathi Kings. This cloak was not better in terms of raw dps ranking than my current Capacitus' Cloak of Calibration, but it did offer a healthy boost in health so I took it for PvP. As well the Royal Cloak added 16 Hit Rating, which works out to slighly over 1% hit. In my PvE DPS gear, if I use the Capacitus' Cloak, I'm sitting at +3.8% Hit. Switching to the Royal Cloak takes me to +4.8% while lowering my AP marginally (~22AP) and my crit % by 0.7%, so this is definitely what you call a sidegrade.

After handing Moroes his defeat, we moved on first to Opera. Wichita, Rhubarb and I have been betting on what event we'll get and Wichita won again: it was Big Bad Wolf. I think there must be a bigger chance of getting that event than others so I think we're being cheated!
Big Bad Wolf is a pretty easy boss to take - you just have to have whoever gets turned into Little Red Riding Hood to run around the perimeter of the stage and the healers have to keep him alive. The issue is when a healer gets turned into Red Riding Hood. See, the healers won't have the Wolf targetted to know they're the one getting turned into Red Riding Hood. A number of people yell on vent but often times, the healer will be in the midst of a heal and by the time they react, the Wolf is already beating on them and if they don't get heals immediately they're likely to drop quick. This happened to Bacon the last time we did this event - the Wolf turned him into Riding Hood right away and then proceeded to beat him down and he did it again this time too. So while the event is rather easy, we usually end up with a few dead.

With the Opera event finished, we still had half an hour left in our scheduled raid so we decided to go to Maiden since she was closest and clearing to her only involved one hallway. We cleared to Maiden just fine and proceeded to take her down. Maiden, however, would not succumb. Her Holy Fires and Holy Wraths kept taking out our healers which would cause the chain reaction of everyone dying. Even with a grounding totem we couldn't keep up. Now it could be because we had 2 melee DPS along with me, the tank on this fight, so the Holy Wraths would hit them hard. We also didn't do a lot of the little things that would have helped here: we forgot to put dampen magic on the melee dps; we forgot to have our melee dps spread out; we forgot to keep our hunter's pet on passive; we didn't or couldn't keep our healers at full health. However, it was the end of the night and we were all tired so after two attempts and two wipes we called it a night. This just means the raid on Sunday will get to do more than attempt Curator.

Now, even though our raid configuration wasn't ideal for Maiden, I believe we could have succeeded. There's just something about Maiden. The fight is quite different from the others. Attumen is a straight up tank-and-spank. Moroes is a crowd-control fight. Big Bad Wolf is a kite fight (I've never done any of the other Opera events so I don't know what those fights entail). Curator is more of a dps fight. Maiden, however, is a different beast. I think what Wichita said was most accurate: this is a survival fight. You have to outlast Maiden. In our fight last night with Maiden, we went with 3 healers and 6 dps, since Maiden only requires 1 tank. In hindsight, we should have used 4 healers and 5 dps. Maiden is probably best dealt with by making sure we have enough healing and letting the dps whittle her down. Mana can become an issue in long fights but we took her down to ~33% and ~28% without anyone warning of low mana, so I think our healers and casters can out last her. Besides, with 4 healers, you spread out your heals between people more so everyone should have more mana. Perhaps the raid group on Sunday can use this to their advantage.

I wish the Sunday group good luck. I hope they have enough healers as this is a big issue for us and many other guilds. If they can take Maiden down quick then they'll have several shots at Curator. If they can take Curator down, then we'll have reached another milestone in our guild.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Feeding Pavlov's Dog

They say WoW is a game of grinding but what drives us to grind? Gear. Gear is the true endgame progression in WoW. Once you've reached your accomplishment of getting to the max level, the only other way to feel like you're accomplishing anything is to get better gear. This sends you on quest chains, into instances, and makes you farm till you're blue in the face just to get that next better gear.
And when we get that nice little upgrade we hunted after so diligently, what's left to do? Hunt after the next, even better, upgrade. This keeps us playing the game. That's why there's content releases and expansion packs and new Arena seasons. Really, they're just a way for Blizzard to release more "better" items that we'll chase after.
In a way, we're like Pavlov's dog. Pavlov rang a bell everytime he fed his dog and eventually, all he'd have to do is ring a bell and his dog would start salivating. I felt a little like Pavlov's dog last night as a group of Heroes ventured into Heroic Botanica.

My evening started out with me logging in and a guildee (Sylvara) sending me a tell right away that someone was advertising they were selling a Badge of Tenacity in the Trade channel. A few of my guildees know I've been after this a while. It's the 2nd best rated tanking trinket for bear tanks in the game. I even farmed Ogri'la for a week when the patch first came out that opened up the area. I stopped farming after it after that but kept checking the Auction House and hoping for it to drop in doing my daily quests up there.
Anyway, I got the name of the seller from Sylvara and messaged him right away. The asking price was 1250 gold. Pretty steep for any item but really, why have I amassed all this gold anyway, especially since I already have my epic flying skill? So I told the guy I'd buy it but as he was in Gruul's Lair and I was about to run Heroic Bot, I asked him to send me the Badge in the mail C.O.D., which he did and I was able to pick it up later in the night, after our run.
So, I started out the night already obtaining one of the item objectives I've been hunting for. I could almost feel myself salivating. Item, woof woof, good. Pant. Pant.

We do our Heroic Bot run and while no longer an overly difficult instance, it does take some time to run through. I pretty much ignored most of the drops from the first 3 bosses, although a nice resist cloak dropped that no one else wanted. This cloak will help if I get an Arcane Resist set built up for Curator. When we get to Warp Splinter, I feel my anticipation building again (again with the imaginary salivating). I tried to remind myself that it's been taking 12+ runs to get any of the gear upgrades I want but that didn't seem to help. Feral Staff of Lashing was all I could think about! When we finally downed Warp Splinter and Jagdelf was about to loot, everyone chanted out the drop they want, me included. As the loot all appeared on my screen, I couldn't help but let out a shout of joy! The staff dropped! Yipee! Wait!! What's this?! Am I drooling IRL? No, phew! But close!!

That's when I had to take a step back. A virtual item in a virtual game made me react this way! That would seem ridiculous to any non-gamer, I would think. And I felt guilty too. Guilty because I wanted the epic that dropped to be the one I wanted, not the ones my guildmates wanted. For shame!

So, at the end of the night, I had gotten 2 really good upgrades that I had been wanting. It was nice but I still felt the sting of guilt. Pavlov's bell had rung but I had bitten and clawed back my pack mates so that I could be the one to get the treat. Bad dog!

Monday, August 13, 2007


Last night our guild hit up Karazhan again. The previous group had gone last Tuesday and cleared Attumen and Moroes, so this time we were taking on Maiden, Opera, and if time permitted, Curator. Normally, I go as DPS as we have enough tanks that don't have strong secondary choices like I do, however, this evening I was the designated offtank as we had no other tanks going other than Honorshammer.
This was my first time tanking in Kara. I was a bit nervous but I'm not sure why. I've tanked heroics and never had an issue and Kara isn't much more difficult and actually can be considered easier than some Heroics. Maybe it's because there are 9 other people in this raid as opposed to 4 others and some of the people I don't usually run heroics with or tank for. I think part of it too was comparing myself to other offtanks that Honors has run with. Would I screw up somehow? Would I be able to gel with Honors? Or would I be stepping on his toes?
When you tank a 5 man, you are usually the only tank and in some respects, you are in control. If you get adds or if one of the mobs resists a CC, you act and react with the rest of your team but you are usually the only damage soaker so your job is pretty straight forward. In a raid, when you are working with other tanks, you need to react well with them and certainly in one situation when we had unexpected adds during a pull, Honors and I did not communicate and we both tried to taunt the same mobs and left others running rampant. It was nobody's fault, really, but a little more practice should have us communicating better. I need to get some experience being an offtank as opposed to the "in control" only tank.
Still, the night went quite well in my books. I tanked Maiden as that fight is not very melee friendly and you only need 1 tank, so Honors was able to stand back and help heal. That went quite well - we only wiped once because the first time, Maiden kept targetting our healers for her Holy Fire. Beyond that and a small hiccup with my ISP and their DNS routers dropping me in the middle of a trash pull, everything went well. We had some issues with accidental aggro and those Arcane Anomalies on the way to Curator were a pain but that was it.
We got Curator down to 33% on our second try, which is quite good. The Flares were hard to chase after especially when ranged dps can start generating threat via damage immediately, whereas I would have to chase them around. I could do nothing to generate any amount of threat on Curator while the Flares were up so I ended up not soaking any Bolts. We'll need to adjust our tactics some but I'm pretty confident that we can down him soon.

After Kara, a few of us ran Steam Vaults twice to try to get Rhubarb some better healing gear and get Lakini to Exalted with Cenarion Expedition. We got Lakini his rep and we managed to get Rhubarb one healing drop but for the most part, the drops were useless and sharded. What is with the drops lately? Most of the people needing specific drops haven't been getting them and needing 14+ runs to get anything. I'm still hunting after my Feral Staff of Lashing from Warp Splinter in Heroic Bot and so far I'm 0 for 3. I don't relish the thought of having to run this 12+ more times to get it. :(

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

More PeeVeePee

This past weekend was AFK Valley weekend - yeah, I heard that term used in general chat and I thought it was appropriate. It was also a long weekend up here so I tried to hit AV as much as I could. The goal was to get enough Honor Points to get the Veteran's Band of Triumph (15,300 Honor Points and 10 AV Marks). I'm pretty sure I managed to get that much Honor.
I'm not sure why people AFK in AV... the games go much faster, win or lose, if you play it and you also get more honor participating. I guess lazy people will always be lazy.
AV can get boring fast. If you follow the zerg on offense you basically are playing a PvE zerg. You can spice it up a bit by advancing ahead of the zerg and taking forward points where you may or may not encounter some live resistance. But even that gets old pretty fast. And certainly the first half of my weekend AV matches were like this. However, towards the end, more people were interested in staying on Defense which made playing defense tolerable.
Defense on AV can be difficult and painful as you are typically fighting against overwhelming odds which means lots of dying and feeling like you're not doing anything. However, with the current AV trend this is no longer the case. In fact, in several of the AV matches us defenders pretty much delayed the horde capping Stone Hearth graveyard (SHGY) several minutes to let the Alliance gain a small lead and then, while the majority of the horde were in fighting Belinda and the rest ran on to Stormpike Tower and Stormpike graveyard, we defenders took back SHGY.
Now, some of you veteran AV players are thinking, "OMG! Don't do that you noob! You just made the Horde turtle!". In the past, this was true because the Horde would bypass Belinda and go straight to SPGY, while the Alliance would always stop to kill Galv. This meant that retaking SHGY threw Horde offense back past IBGY while Alliance was either waiting for IBGY to cap or as they were trying to take IBGY. Nowadays, however, both sides are trying to maximize honor per match and thus, both sides try to take down their respective NPCs. With the Horde busy fighting Belinda, a SHGY recap is pretty easy. Most Horde won't die to Belinda and when they come out, they retake SHGY again, with a small skirmish.
Yes, we will lose this fight eventually but again, we've delayed them from re-taking SHGY and advancing. In fact, we've been quite successful defending here with the close respawn and the split objective for the Horde (SP tower and SHGY). A good defense here basically causes the Horde to be split up by attrition (some dying at Belinda, some dying to us defending SHGY, some dying at SP tower, and some dying at SPGY) and they will slowly stream back in from their start point. Usually they will fight for and re-take IBGY, IB tower and SP tower along the way but typically, the main Alliance force has advanced to and gone beyond FWGY.
On the way back, some Horde will bypass everything and go straight to IBGY. Others will stop and try to retake SHGY and/or the towers. We've managed to successfully defend SHGY due to the small amounts of Horde streaming back in and our ability to spawn 50 yards away from the flag.
Eventually, what happens is that the Horde is drastically behind the Alliance. Most Horde don't want to do a full turtle and will not rush the RH to try to get it back. Usually, by the time the Horde seem to have grasped what has happened, Alliance has FWGY fully capped and has RH and the FW towers capping. This is when they seem to give up. I don't know what they are doing - they must just be sitting in their start cave waiting for it to end because we end up with minor resistance (2 or 3 people) and nothing else.
We managed such successful defense on several games. The typical defense at SHGY composed of 3 or 4 Alliance players. It was quite an eye-opener to see how such a small group can successfully defend and/or retake a point by attacking when the enemy was distracted. These games usually ended with Alliance in full possession of everything from Aid Station up to SHGY - possibly losing SH tower. It was a lot of fun doing defense for a change.

Monday night MewMew PewPew and A Bubble managed to squeeze in our Arena games (there were connection problems due to Authentication Server problems). It was our first games with Honorshammer on the team and this meant we were sporting 2 pallys for healing. It was a lot of fun and we did fairly well. We learned to play together, what we needed to do differently with the new team format. We lost some we should have won and won some with some heart-throbbing action. Jagdelf also joined us last night and we subbed out Zadorr for Jag and had to learn yet again what to do as a team without 2 stealthers.
We did quite well then as well and both Honors and Jag brought a new dimension to our gameplay and were able to help us step it up a notch on their very first night! Breaking 1500 rating was nice. Having lots of fun doing it was even better.

Monday, August 6, 2007

On Kara and Beyond

Karazhan is a stepping stone for all guilds to the bigger raids that are 25 man. After Kara, you usually hit places like Gruul's Lair and Serpentshrine Caverns. Kara is a big milestone for guilds when they get to it. It's also where you'll be farming to get geared for the 'next level'. However, I've always seen Kara as a stop sign as well.
Being a self-termed 'semi-casual' player, I've thought about what it means to do 25 man raids. Can I commit the time? Will my guild be able to commit the time? Will we really be able to tackle them on a 'casual' basis? While most in my guild I think are optimistic, I'm the 'glass is half empty' guy on this one. I just don't see it happening. Kara has already proven to cause problems and some feel we are moving into 'hardcore' territory with it so anything beyond seems like it's too much.
To me, a casual guild basically stops at Kara... maybe Gruul's Lair, maybe SSC. It just seems to me that it will require too much time commitment per week to advance through those like other guilds. In a way, I don't think we even have to worry about it as the nature of our play style/time and the evolution of the game progresses, we likely will never hit the upper escholon raids before more new content comes out (like another expansion) and makes the current content outdated.
Zul'Aman is a prime example. I think by the time we're two-thirds of the way through Kara the next contect patch will be released. Blizzard is adding something for the more casual players with Zul'Aman. You're supposed to be able to tackle one wing of this new 10-man raid zone in about an hour, I believe. Either way, it'd be like taking Kara and chopping it up smaller. Also, there's no '1 week reset'... the instance resets each day. This means you don't even have to worry about Raid IDs and forming raids for the week. Just form your group and go - like any heroic 5 man.

So, what am I getting at? Well, with the recent announcement of Wrath of the Lich King, I think we can forget about 25-man content altogether. With ZA released next patch, I think by the time Heroes clears Kara and can 'farm' it and by the time we can clear ZA, the next expansion will be right around the corner. We may venture into the 25-mans to see it but I doubt we'll take it very seriously when another 10 levels and new content will make anything you get out of there ultimately useless.
I have mixed emotions about this. While I would like to see all content in the game, I'm not too broken up about struggling with 24 other people for hours in an instance wiping over and over again while people get frustrated about who's not geared enough, who's not doing their job right, and who didn't get to go on this run.

I was hoping with the announcement of the next expansion Blizzard will announce they were shifting focus to 10 man raids but it seems they are happy with TBC and the 25-man raid focus so the only thing I can see in the context of raiding in the expansion is to look for the next 'Karazhan'.

This game is a treadmill that resets your progress every time you think you're done.

Friday, August 3, 2007

A Banner Night

Last night was one of those nights for me where I'm glad I logged in and played WoW instead of doing something else. You see, I have been after the Hourglass of the Unraveller for some time. It dropped once while I was in a Black Morass run but I lost on the roll for it and it had eluded me ever since. I don't usually obsess over loot like this but I think it was because I came so close to getting it before that I had become fixated. In fact, I was very casual about loot before we started gearing up for Kara and I think that in part has made me a bit fanatical about gear upgrades.
After doing my Ogri'la and Skettis daily quests with Wichita, some guildees were looking for more people for any Tempest Keep instance run. Since neither of us had anything else planned, we both joined up. However, upon joining the group, I realized we'd have one too many people and since the group really needed a healer, I stepped out of the group and now I'm very glad I did.
I put myself in queue in the LFG tool to get into a PuG BM group. I had been trying to get some PuG BM group runs because I had a hunch that I wouldn't be getting the Hourglass unless I ran BM in a PuG. I don't know why, other than the fact that a couple of other key pieces of gear I've acquired in the past had been in PuG or partial-PuG groups (Shoulderpads of Assassination, for example, dropped while I was tanking for a partial-PuG and I was the only leather wearer in the group). Anyway, the hunch certainly paid off as the Hourglass dropped and I won the roll.
I did feel kind of bad. There was a hunter in the group and he really wanted it as well. His buddy, the paladin healer, was asking if the hunter could have it, citing they had run BM 8 times now looking for it. Now, normally, I would have just passed and tried my luck again some other time. I don't like these types of confrontations - I don't want to seem greedy. However, having hunted for this for so long I told the pally that this was the only item in the instance I came for and that I had run BM like fourteen times hunting for this item. To my surprise, being in a PuG, the paladin acquiesced and simply stated, "but if you must, you must". To soften the blow for his Hunter friend, I offered to help in future runs if they happened to run them late at night, which is when my availability is higher.
I don't usually like offering my tanking services to people outside of the guild that I don't know even for a loot drop. However, I know how it feels to come so close to getting this stupid trinket and losing on the roll. Also, tanks can be hard to find - especially ones that are geared enough for BM.
When I first joined the group and made it into the instance, the pally send me a private tell asking me how much health I had. I told him that unbuffed I was at 12k and he seemed relieved, telling me their previous tank had only 9k health. Low health can be dangerous in an instance like BM. The fight with Temporus can be tricky if you're undergeared as Temporus has a MS debuff that can stack up pretty high which makes healing very tricky. As well, the fight with the last boss, Aeonus, can be dangerous for a low health tank because Aeonus has a 4 sec stun attack that hits everyone in a 50 yard radius. This means that for 4 secs your tank can't dodge, parry, or shield block and your healer can't heal him through the damage he's taking. If your tank wasn't at full health when the stun hit, Aeonus may be able to finish him off in those 4 secs.
The paladin's relief turned into shock, however, when I told him that I was sitting at 25k armor unbuffed. I could practically see his jaw drop IRL. I've got a great set of pre-kara gear and I'm proud of it. With MotW and BoK, I was sitting at 26k armor which is 71% damage reduction and above 15k health. During our fight with Aeonus, the pally sent me another tell saying I made this fight easy for them. This is probably because he didn't have to stress about keeping me at max health in case of the stun. At 71% damage reduction, Aeonus was hitting me for <1k (around 700-800ish). Even at half-health, Aeonus would have to hit me 10x to kill me so it didn't matter that my health wasn't at max when Aeonus did his Time Stop stun.
Bear druids make great tanks for a place like BM because not only do we have high health and mitigation, we also offer up good dps for a tank. And BM is a DPS test, requiring a good amount of DPS to succeed.

So, now I have the Hourglass. I went from having some pretty weak trinkets for my feral DPS around a month ago, to having some of the best. The Skyguard Silver Cross is the 3rd best DPS trinket as rated by and the Hourglass is 7th. However, the trinket rated 4th best only works on undead. The remaining trinkets are all only acquired from SSC or by doing BT - except 1. The Bloodlust Brooch is certainly a good trinket but it costs 41 Badges and that's going to take a while considering I just spent 25 Badges recently to upgrade my tanking ring (a very good investment).

It was kind of funny to tank an instance to get a DPS drop.

After the BM runs (we ran it twice hoping the Hourglass would drop again - it didn't), I joined in a guild SV run and again, it was a good call. We were trying to get Rhubarb some healing gear - none of which dropped, and after the last boss we decided to kill some of the Oracles out at the start of the instance because my guildees knew I was looking for the enchanting Formula: Bracer - Fortitude (thanks for the suggestion Jagdelf!). The first pull of a group of mobs with an Oracle and the formula dropped!
This is one of the things that makes Heroes Inc so great - the people. Most folk are generous and willing to help others try to get stuff they need or want and are even willing to do extra pulls after an instance in the off chance something drops. Hopefully, we can get Rhubarb some good healing drops and he can then help out with our shortage of healers.

Thursday, August 2, 2007

I Like PvP...

Despite what my guild leader may think, I like PvP. I didn't play those years of Counter-Strike with him because I was afraid of deathmatching. What I don't like, however, is a no-contest fight. Much like those clans we'd scrim or match against that were all teenagers with far greater eye-hand coordination and time to play, who'd walk in and be able to single-handedly take 3 or 4 of us out - I have a strong dislike for PvP where I stand pretty much no chance against an opponent.
This is a pretty big conundrum for Origami considering his class is considered one of the weaker classes (and arguably spec) in PvP. Conversely, a feral druid is one of the best solo PvE classes in the game so it's not a big surprise that I don't spend as much time PvPing as I do PvEing.

However, much like a good rogue or feral cat, I prefer to choose my fights. If you're being ganked you don't really have a choice but to fight. However, you can choose which battlegrounds you go into. When Origami hit L60, PvP was not very fun. Every Horde on the server was decked out in T-whatever gear, it seemed and most fights ended up pretty poorly - even when the Alliance outnumbered the Horde. When the Druid review happened things looked a little better but the gear differential could not be equaled. Our guild was learning UBRS when everyone else was farming MC or AQ.
When TBC came out it pretty much equalized everyone as everything at L70 would have to be re-earned. Sure, you'd never fight anyone still decked out in T3 while questing but there was also this uneasy truce that seemed to persist in the new zones. And pretty soon, everyone was L70 and ganking again. When Origami hit L70, again the same issues were there. Going into BGs against people who were already doing Kara meant lots of un-fun fights. Ferth says we need to PvP more to get experience so we'll do better and win but IMO, you don't learn much when you don't stand a chance. Sure, there's times you may win if you supremely outwit your opponents but just like our matches against far better clans in CS where we had superior tactics, in the end, it's the firefights that matter and if you can't deathmatch down your opponent you're not going to win.

Now, I'm not saying I had nothing to learn. Far from it, I joined Arenas as a feral druid, knowing feral druids don't do so great in Arenas. But the aim was for fun and education and learn a lot I have. If I really wasn't a PvPer, there's no way I would have joined an Arena team!
However, one thing I've noticed lately is that the scales have tipped a bit. Increasingly, I'm coming up against opponents in PvP that are less geared than I am. This has made PvP a little more fun in that the fights are actually winnable and sometimes actually comes down to who outplayed whom. I don't mind losing in these kinds of fights as they are a learning experience - yes, I learn from these types of fights.
The gear difference is sometimes quite high, with me being able to 4-shot some clothies with some timely crits. More often though, my gear is slightly better (1 "step" up) from my opponents which means I stand a chance against those warlocks, rogues, mages, or MS Warriors (haha, I made a funny). Yes, I said "better gear" = "equal fight". This is the sad fact for druids. When the large portion of the population was hitting 66 to just dinging 70, there was a large outcry regarding feral druids being OP'ed that subsequently lead to a nerf to our bearform damage. Druids at the time tried to explain that due to the nature of the way ferals get their damage, we gained more out of the greens and blues while levelling and hitting 70 than any other classes. However, as everyone started upgrading to epics and Tier gear, our relative power curve has maxed out and soon, everyone else not only catches up but surpasses us. Everyone kept comparing bearform druids to a Prot Warrior and said that we should be doing as little damage as "a tank". Meanwhile, druids tried to highlight the fact that in PvP, a bear druid was more akin to an Arms Warrior with a 2H-er spamming Mortal Strike and Heroic Strike. Logic and reasoning fell on deaf ears. And what do we have today? Everyone is QQing about MS warriors and how overpowered they are.
The irony here is that IIRC, NO significant buffs were given to warriors - a fact they were using to whine for their own buffs. So how, in these few months did the oppressed and unloved warriors go from PvP gimps to one of the cookie cutter classes you have to have in Arenas? Is it just the Arenas where they excel? If this were the case, why are the BGs chalk full of MS Warriors? These same "tanks" are running around with 11K to 13K armor and health getting white hit crits on a pretty well geared feral druid for 800 to 1k damage. Yes, I said white hit crits. I only get those kinds of crits with Maul or Mangle, my "Heroic Strike" or "Mortal Strike without the debuff". Now certainly, in BGs these MS Warriors are not as dangerous because they don't always have a dedicated healer but even still, it's quite hard to take one down and usually requires the effort of 2 or 3 other players to take one down.
In fact, the other night out in Hellfire as Wichita, Brambles, Azwynn and I were attempting to take the PvP towers, a Horde Warrior kept jumping Wichita and Azwynn. With 3 of us attacking him, we still could not kill him before he took both Wichita and Azwynn down. Now, yes, he was well geared. And yes, he was taking advantage of the OP'ed mace stun proc. But whichever shaman he targetted, the other would heal and yet he was still able to quite easily dispatch them. No, we weren't in an Arena and no, he didn't have a healer. So, explain how that's not OPed to me and yet somehow, bear form druids post-BC needed nerfing?! *sigh* Old topic, I know. But everytime a MS Warrior kills half an opposing team, the druid nerfs come back to my mind along with all the irony and bitterness (irony because it was the warriors who whined the loudest to get the druids nerfed).
On the topic of those fights in Hellfire though, previously, I would have easily been the 3rd man down and 1 MS Warrior would have taken 3 Alliance with hardly a challenge. However, with my current gear, I was able to fend him off and finish him. In fact, quite a bit of the world PvP I've done lately has been surprising with Origami able to hold his own. Last night, for example, when I couldn't sleep and logged in during the wee hours of the morning and tried to get my Skettis and Ogri'la quests done, the Horde were out and about and quite rambuncious. One particular warlock, sporting 11k health, was hell bent on killing an Alliance mage repeatedly. I decided to team up with the mage so we could get the escort quest done. The lock jumps us when we're escorting and in very little time dispatches a poorly geared mage. Normally, a lock with that much health is superiorly geared and would be able to take 2 alliance without much effort. However, I proved more than a match for him... granted he was a bad PvPer. I don't know what it is but I think some people think if you play the OP'ed FotM class that somehow makes you good - good enough to go and pick fights and gank people. And certainly, if you usually attack people while they're in the middle of fights, you'll win but what do you do when they fight back and beat you down? Well, you call for help, of course. And that's what he did. When he eventually rezzed after I killed him, he didn't even bother to fly away and heal up and mana up. Instead he jumps the mage right away and this time a rogue pops out and helps.
Now if you're going to get help, it's probably not such a good idea to get an undergeared rogue to help you - especially if the feral druid you were fighting critted you for 2.4K in the previous fight. Well, I guess beggars can't be choosers and after what was, for me, a nice challenging fight, it was Origami 3, Horde 0. Of course, the rest of the event wasn't so easy. Since Sevenn was in the area, I had him come help out but these 2 trouble-making Horde gained the aide of a well geared rogue and 2 rogues on a pally can make short work of him (don't ask, I don't know what happened and if he bubbled or not, I was busy with the lock). Well, you can't win them all but at least for once, a lock with 10k+ life didn't mean an automatic trip to the spirit rezzer. Nor did 2 Horde (okay, it was more like 1.4 Horde by the time they killed the mage and it was just me against the 2 of them). It was much fun.

I like PvP.

Well, my ramblings turned into an essay. Did I mention I ramble? It's not big deal, I don't expect anyone else to read this stuff. It just feels somewhat good to get it off my chest.
Anyway, the ADHD version is this:
Me = Like PvP
Me = Better Geared = More Even Fights = Less Dying = More Fun
Nerf Arms Warriors
Me = Like PvP

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

The Art of Paper Folding

Way back in my days of playing on Llane server, I made a druid named Origami. When I switched to Altar of Storms and decided to roll a new druid, I re-used the name because I liked it so much. The inspiration for the name came when I first played WoW during the Beta Stress Test. Of all the class descriptions I read, the druid sounded the most fun to me. When I was actually playing the game though, the animation when a druid shapeshifted looked more to me like the character was "bending" himself into a new shape, rather than "shifting". I thought then that "Origami" was a most appropriate name.
The beta, however, left me with a distaste for playing Night Elves. I didn't like Teldrassil - it was too sparse and everything required a lot of boring running to get to. I detested Darkshore even more with it's elongated zone and Auberdine being at the NW side of the zone and most of the quest locations making you travel farther and farther south. Subsequently, when the game went live, I rolled a dwarven Hunter instead.
The druid class can be a hard class to play to high levels, simply because at low levels, it can be rather dry. It's not until after getting cat form and then getting all the nice cat abilities that the class gets really fun. This isn't until mid-30's though. I thought I would never get a druid to end game simply because the ones I had played in the past I got bored of pretty quickly. However, when I rolled Origami on Altar of Storms, it was to join Ferth and his guild. Ferth is a guy I've been gaming with for years starting back in the 'old' Counter-Strike days. Levelling up with a guild and people you are comfortable with tends to take some of boredom away. Besides, as soon as I hit L6, I took the boat from Auberdine to Menethil and ran my Nelf behind to Westfall. A lot of people do not like Westfall but I find it a lot less annoying than Teldrassil and Darkshore.

Jumping ahead to today, Origami is L70 and is much more geared comparitively than any other "end game" characters I've played (I had a couple of L60's back before TBC came out). Blizzard did some things right with TBC as I've yet to get bored of the end game. With the good number of 5 mans, the option of running them in Heroic mode, 10-man Karazhan, and reputation quest chains to do, there is a lot to keep from being bored. Add in PvP with Arenas and BGs and your week fills up pretty quickly. Of course, it really helps to be in a guild with good guys and gals as that is really what keeps me playing this game.

Origami is Feral spec. That is my preference and I wouldn't have it any other way. He was Feral spec back before the "Druid Review" that really beefed them up. I like having the options of tanking or dpsing and being able to throw out an emergency heal or brezz or innervate. Mostly, I like to be able to be self-sufficient all in one character that can still stealth around and pick his fights. There is a lot to love about the druid class even if their relative ability in PvP is lower than most other classes.
Origami has a slightly weird spec. Rather than going with the traditional 1/46/14 spec, I am using a 2/45/14 spec. I don't have Thick Hide, which most ferals will take if they do any tanking. As well, I ended up taking 2/3 Primal Tenacity and 1/4 Improved Nature's Grasp. These are little personal flavour decisions. At the time I hit 70, there was still doubt as to whether Primal Tenacity worked. I can say for certain that it works as I have witnessed many times where a mob throws out a pbaoe Fear and everyone else is running away while I have the nice little "Resisted" combat text floating above my head. I've also seen this in action in BGs. In fact, the other night, in Arenas, I jumped an opposing warlock and with my initial stun and burst attacks with some lucky crits in there, he came out of the stun pretty badly hurt. As warlocks are want to do, this warlock Howl of Terror'd me and I trinketed out of it quickly when I was sure it wasn't a Deathcoil, but I saw he had anticipated I would do this as he was already casting Fear. There was nothing I could do as I was still out of range to hit him with a Maim but as his Fear cast, I resisted it and I was able to finish off the hapless lock in two quick attacks.
So, I've been meaning to respec and drop the 1 point in Improved Nature's Grasp and put it in Primal Tenacity. However, I've been procrastinating. This is one of those silly little decisions that takes forever to make. The whole point of having more than the base Nature's Grasp was that 35% chance to proc is a poor rate. Why have a talent that gives you a defensive ability when it has such a low chance of proc'ing? Roots itself is a so-so CC and only useable outdoors. At least with the 1 point in Imp. Nature's Grasp, I get a 50-50 chance of it helping me. Also, as it stands, the 10% improved fear and stun (never seen it resist a stun) resistance has helped me and I'm not sure that another 5% is really that big of an improvement.
As such, a respec is still undecided. I also don't look forward to spending 5 minutes clickety-clicking through all my talent trees, hoping I don't accidentally click something wrong and have to pay to redo them. Why can't Blizzard make a better interface for this?

They Say Everyone Is Doing It...

I knew this day would come. Anyone who knows me online knows that I tend to be pretty opinionated. And since a number of us Heroes are blogging and I'm reading their blogs almost daily now, I of course have my own thoughts and babblings that I want to put down.

So here it is, my very own blog. Let's get to it!