Mages, ten-man raiding, and other things that are awesome.

Archive for 2011

Mage Gear List – 4.3

With 4.3 nearly upon us, it’s time for discerning mages to ask themselves the eternal question: How do my robes look? (In my case, the answer is purple. Very bright purple).

Soon we’ll be swapping our gear out for the Dr. Who-inspired Time Lord’s Regalia (you can’t convince me it’s not Dr. Who inspired, sorry), but it won’t matter because you’ll be able to transmog your sets to whatever you like! Still, you want your underlying stats to be good, and that’s where this gear list comes in.

I’ve combed the PTR info from Wowhead to try to find all of the new gear. This list also includes all of the relevant VP gear that will be purchase with Justice Points after the patch. These items are listed at the end of each list and are the lowest ilevel I’ve taken the time to list (378). If you haven’t been able to obtain better via Firelands, there’s no reason not to get some of these pieces to fill any odd slots, as you want your gear to be as close to average ilevel 378 as possible. I’ve kept price conversion the same, I don’t know if it will be but it’s a fairly safe assumption at this point.

I’ve included gear from the three new 5-man instances (Well of Eternity, End Time, and Hour of Twilight). There may be gear missing that is in these instances, but I tried to be as comprehensive as I could. A few items are quest rewards well worth getting from those 5-mans, so take note of those!

It’s also worth noting that tier gear, unlike previous tiers, will not be purchasable from vendors. Consequently, it’s listed under the “drop” category, and I hope that RNG is good to you in that regard. If it isn’t, it seems that there are usually off-set options.

Disclaimer: As I said above, I’ve endeavored to be as comprehensive as possible with this list but inevitably there may be items I’ve missed or that were added after the fact. I don’t yet have a list of which boss in Dragon Soul drops items that are raid drop items, but I will add it once the patch goes live and information is a bit more comprehensive. This information is compiled for my personal use, and I share it with you so that you have an easy reference, but it’s not my fault if you buy pants when you should’ve bought a helm.

Head

Purchased/Crafted
Hood of Hidden Flesh – 2,200 VP (Hit/Crit)

Drop
Time Lord’s Hood
(Crit/Haste)

Neck

Purchased/Crafted
Opal of the Secret Order – 1,250 VP (Hit/Haste)
Amulet of Burning Brilliance
–  1,250 JP (Hit/Crit)

Shoulder

Purchased/Crafted
Mosswrought Shoulderguards (Crit/Haste)

Drop
Time Lord’s Mantle
(Crit/Mastery)
Mantle of False Virtue – Archbishop Benedictus, Hour of Twilight (Hit/Mastery)

Back

Purchased/Crafted
Nanoprecise Cape – 1,250 VP (Hit/Mastery)

Chest

Purchased/Crafted
Robes of Searing Shadow – 2,200 VP (Hit/Crit)
Firehawk Robes – 2,200 JP (Hit/Haste)

Drop
Time Lord’s Robes – (Hit/Haste)
Robes of Fate – End Time, Murozond’s Temporal Cache (Hit/Crit)

Wrist

Purchased/Crafted
Chronoboost Bracers – 1,250 VP (Hit/Mastery)
Bracers of Unconquered Power – Tailoring (Haste/Mastery)
Emberflame Bracers – 1,250 JP (BoE, Hit/Mastery)

Drop
Bracers of the Banished (Haste/Mastery)

Hands

Purchased/Crafted
Clockwinder’s Immaculate Gloves - 1,650 VP (Hit/Crit)
Firehawk Gloves – 1,650 JP (Hit/Haste)

Drop
Time Lord’s Gloves (Hit/Mastery)
Gloves of Liquid Smoke (Crit/Haste)

Quest
Archivist’s Gloves – Reward from Archival Purposes (Hit/Mastery)

Waist

Purchased/Crafted
Tentacular Belt – 1,650 VP (Crit/Mastery)

Drop
Sash of Relentless Truth – (Haste/Mastery)
Cord of the Slain Champion – (Crit/Haste)
Chillbane Belt – Arcurion, Hour of Twilight (Hit/Mastery)

Legs

Purchased/Crafted
Lavaquake Legwraps – Tailoring (Hit/Haste)
Firehawk Leggings – 2,200 JP (Crit/Mastery)

Drop
Time Lord’s Leggings – (Haste/Mastery)
Time Traveler’s Leggings – End Time, Echo of Baine/Jaina/Tyrande (Crit/Haste)

Feet

Purchased/Crafted
Kavan’s Forsaken Treads – 1,650 VP (BoE, Hit/Haste)

Drop
Janglespur Jackboots (Crit/Haste)

Fingers

Purchased/Crafted
Seal of the Grand Architect – 1,250 VP (Hit/Haste)
Crystalline Brimstone Ring – 1,250 JP (Hit/Mastery)

Drop
Ring of the Riven – (Haste/Mastery)
Infinite Loop – (Hit/Crit)
Horned Band – Peroth’arn, Well of Eternity (Crit/Haste)

Quest
Ring of the Loyal Companion – Reward from To Wyrmrest! (Hit/Haste)

Trinkets

Purchased/Crafted
Bottled Wishes- 1,650 VP (Haste + Spellpower proc)

Drop
Insignia of the Corrupted Mind (Int + Haste proc)
Cunning of the Cruel (Int + Shadowbolt volley proc)
Will of Unbinding (Increasing Int bonus)

Wand

Purchased/Crafted
Hungermouth Wand – 600 VP (Hit/Mastery)
Trail of Embers – 700 JP (Hit/Haste)

Drop
Finger of Zon’ozz – Dragon Soul (Haste/Mastery)

Two-Hand Weapon

Drop
Lightning Rod – Dragon Soul (Hit/Haste)
Ti’tahk, The Steps of Time – Dragon Soul (Haste + Haste Proc for self and allies)
Stalk of Corruption – Archbishop Benedictus, Hour of Twilight (Haste/Mastery)

One-Hand Weapon

Drop
Rathrak, the Poisonous Mind – Dragon Soul (Proc AoE poison on target of spell)
Fanged Tentacle – Archbishop Benedictus, Hour of Twilight (Hit/Crit)

Off-Hand

Drop
Dragonfire Orb – Dragon Soul (Haste/Mastery)
Orb of the First Satyrs – Peroth’arn, Well of Eternity (Hit/Haste)

Conclusion

I’m going to be identifying my weak slots and aiming to update those with VP gear first (probably a helm, because I’m still using a 359 helm). Because tier gear is not purchasable from vendors, in a way you have more freedom with your VP gear. Usually, if set bonuses are worth it (and I believe T13’s are) you would want to chase the obtainable pieces of tier from vendors as quickly as possible, eschewing slots like rings and necklaces until later. Because of this change, you can find your weakest slot and upgrade it, rather than tying up your VP for weeks while you seek to snag some tier gear.

If, like me, you were a bit late in this tier and still had “regular” VP upgrades, make sure to have a supply of Justice Points laid in to pick those up quickly and easily. Although it’s not the focus of this guide, it should be relatively simple for a new 85 mage to pick up a mix of T12 tier gear, off-set VP pieces, and items from the three new instances.

If you have questions or reference to a specific item you’ve found that I may have missed, feel free to leave it in the comments!

Mages, Don’t Let Your Brethren Grow Up To Be Sheep

This isn’t a problem specific to mages. As new patches hit, abilities, damage and specs are tweaked. Gear scales, and different encounters favour different classes or types of damage or roles. Shadow priest DPS is the new hotness. Shadowpriest DPS is too low. Mages are too low, buff mages (yes, always!) And it’s true – the game isn’t always perfectly balanced. We have so many tools to track this in-game and out-of-game. Damage meters let us know where we are. Things like Spec Score analyze all available World of Logs parses, and they can paint a grim picture. But there’s also a story they aren’t telling.

Imagine this.

1. Joe plays a mage! He enjoys playing his mage. He hits 85 and runs dungeons as a frost mage to get some gear from heroics and have fun. Joe’s friends tell him that Frost is “no good,” and he should spec Fire or Arcane instead. Joe takes his friends’ advice and becomes an Arcane mage. He begins to raid with his friends and does well! Everyone tells him, “See, we told you, frost mages are no good.”(He had really poor gear when he first started out anyway, so who is to say how he would have done as a frost mage in 5-mans?)

2. Joe plays a mage! He leveled up as Frost and he really enjoys it, but when he wants to get into raiding he starts reading some different sources. Elitist Jerks and all mage sources he can find say that Arcane is the top spec, so reluctantly he gives up on Frost. After all, Frost mages don’t even appear on the list of ranked DPS specs! Joe wants to do well.

The problem with both of these scenarios is that they keep Frost mages out of the pool of Mage specs being considered for evaluation at all. It’s not even a question of “Is Frost good relative to the other specs,” or “Is Frost viable?” because all of the info is peer pressure, hearsay, or purely anecdotal. Fewer (or no) raiding frost mages lowers the sample size. Let’s say in a fictional world, there are one hundred mages. 90 of the mages play Arcane, 9 play Fire, and only one plays Frost. The “highest ranked” DPS spec is always going to be the Arcane mages, simply because there’s a greater chance that more skilled players will be playing Arcane. The lone Frost mage could be an average player, or he could be awesome, but his representation is so low that nobody even considers him. (I’m ignoring the fire mages for the moment).

This isn’t to say that some specs don’t do better than others. Simcraft and other tools are able to math out these things to ‘prove’ superiority of one spec over another (in an ideal situation with the best buffs, gear, and choosing to ignore movement or player error). I haven’t done theorycraft for mages in awhile, so take this with a grain of salt. In those ideal conditions, given equally skilled players, Arcane is probably ahead. It scales so incredibly well with gear. But by how much of a percentage is it ahead of an equally geared Frost mage? Basically, you have a playerbase that looks and says, “Well, arcane is whatever percentage ahead, so I guess Fire and Frost are bad.” No! Blizzard has said themselves that PvE Frost is much more viable than we give it credit for. The real struggle here is against player stigma and popularity.

The fact is, Arcane is an easier spec to play than Frost. It is. It has a much higher margin for error. I’m going to avoid the “two-button” joke because that’s not what I’m saying. The nuances of Arcane aren’t necessarily easy, mana and Mastery management takes forethought, planning and understanding, but by and large – an average Arcane mage can still do pretty well for him or herself without knowing all the nuances of the spec. Not so the Frost mage, who needs to carefully manage a series of procs and buffs to maximize damage. Is one “easier” or “harder?” It’s not really my place to say, but they require different things. More importantly, playing Frost requires a willingness to overcome a massive and pervasive prejudice that I’ve been hearing pretty much since I started playing this game.

Frost mages are for PvP and are bad for PvE. 

The problem with this statement is that it’s completely false. Yes, at one time it was true. Deep Freeze didn’t used to be usable on immune targets (read: bosses). Many Frost changes have been rolled out over the years with intent to make them completely PvE viable. Blizzard themselves has said that through their own internal testing, they are absolutely viable in PvE.

I didn’t need Blizzard’s internal testing, because I raid with an amazing Frost mage. He could frost any mage up one side and down the other, any time, any day. I am confident in saying that he is the best mage I have ever played with, and he plays Frost. Back in Wrath, he raided for the last part of Wrath entirely as Arcane because it was clearly superior at the time. (He also hated it, which is neither here nor there). He relegated his love for Frost to a secondary mage alt that would come on ICC runs with us (and I’m pretty sure he still did top DPS in those alt runs). With the changes to Frost that came with Cataclysm, he went Frost full-time. As I’ve said, he is consistently our highest DPS. Some might say, “lol get better DPS noobs if ur Frost mage is highest you are all BADS!”

Well, he’s too polite to say it, so I’m going to say it for him: Everyone who knocks on someone for playing a spec that they are too myopic to recognize is a strong spec can go to hell. This includes all the “hurr hurr” types that you meet in 5-mans who start ribbing on you before they’ve even seen you play, just because you have a water elemental by your side. It especially includes the mages who happened to be in an ICC 25 run the other week along with our mage.

It’s actually a pretty ludicrous scenario, when you think about it. Five mages were there – four of whom were Arcane, naturally – and the mage ‘in charge’ starts handing out Focus Magic assignments, which I imagine is something like a self-congratulatory circle. “You FM her, she’ll FM you, I’ll FM him and he’ll FM me,” he said, “And Fsob, you need to learn how to spec your mage.”

I wasn’t here for this personally, which is probably good because my head would’ve exploded on the spot. Again, because he’s classy, he didn’t say anything beyond a simple sad faced emoticon. I would’ve had a lot more to say to this guy, especially after Fsob beat ALL of their DPS on the heroic Lich King fight. This is what I wish I could have said.

Just because someone chooses to play an “unpopular” spec doesn’t make them wrong. It doesn’t make them bad. It’s bad enough that other people like to shit on individuals playing an uncommon spec without mages jumping on board to do it too. You’re not in Vodka. The day that we wipe because Fsob’s DPS is too low is a day I will eat my hat, and he could out DPS you any day of the week.

And he did! (Colour me unsurprised). Being someone who thinks for yourself isn’t anything to be ashamed of. Being someone who refuses to bow to the spec of the month, or play something because that’s what everyone says they should do is someone you should admire, not give a hard time. If Frost were truly not viable in PvE content, I’m confident that Fsob wouldn’t play it. He, too, wants what is best for the team as well as himself. But I’m happy that he does, because I know it’s his favourite spec.

You can take this and apply it to any of the “unpopular” DPS specs, or any class or spec at all that people say “isn’t worth playing.” Right now, for me that’s Fire. I went to the Fire EJ page and it basically says “Nobody is interested in this spec right now.” Fire is receiving massive buffs on the PTR so I know that Blizzard is aware that Fire mages are behind. They don’t usually leave something unbalanced for too long, and I have faith in them. I have the good fortune to be playing a class that usually has three viable PvE specs, which is not something every class can say. It makes me happy. I’m playing Arcane right now because we don’t need two Frost mages, Fire is a bit hurting, and I don’t actually mind Arcane. I am not knocking on Arcane mages, either. If you love playing Arcane, more power to you! Keep on keeping on. Just please don’t be the kind of Arcane mage who is going to put on some kind of superiority dance because you happen to run into someone who has their Squirtle by their side and is freezing things in place. Worry about your own game. More importantly, play what you want to play unless it truly matters. I said Fire is “a bit behind,” which for my purposes (heroic raiding) is a bit too far. That doesn’t mean you “can’t” be a Fire mage either. It’s up to you to judge the requirements of your group. Buffs for Fire are coming soon. Meantime, remember: we turn people into sheep, we don’t seek to emulate them. Millions of Arcane mages CAN be wrong, if they take their spec’s numerical superiority as an excuse to try and bring other people down. The “best” spec is all relative, and I think the best spec for a mage to be is whatever he or she wants.

p.s. There are resources out there for those of you who’d like to take a walk on the Frosty side. You can also always ask a question here; if I don’t know the answer I have access to a Frost mage who definitely will, for either PvE or PvP.

How To Get Into That Heroic Raiding Guild You’ve Always Wanted

This was the first time I ever saw Algalon's room. I have taken so many screenshots of it, it may be my favourite place in the game, period.

On Friday night, I joined a few guildies in a pug 25M run that was meant to be an ICC 25 run but turned into an Ulduar 25 run. (It’s a long story that’s boring, trust me, and not really essential to the rest of this post). So we’re in Ulduar 25, ripping it up, despite tremendous amounts of general confusion. I don’t usually join these kinds of runs simply because my tolerance for pug shenanigans on a grand scale is fairly low and I’m wont to rage, but I’ve been feeling the achivement bug lately. For reasons that will become clear in a few lines, when I DO join these types of runs I don’t usually talk in Vent/Mumble. I just join, do my thing, and type in raid chat.

Because our raid leader was getting progressively distressed about the fact that someone had opened Algalon’s door, I felt compelled to speak up briefly in Mumble just to say, “The timer doesn’t start until you actually engage him for the first time, so we’re fine.” No problem, right? Well, I was reminded about why I don’t usually talk when immediately one of the rogues said in /say:

“OMG! WAS THAT A GIRL? :O :O”

Those of us in BT had fun mocking him in guild chat (“I hear those do exist in the wild,”) but of course I couldn’t resist and so I replied in say, “OMG WHERE!?”

So he whispers to me (because I’m the only one who deigned to reply to him) and says, “Was that you???”

I sit for thirty seconds or so, pondering possible answers. I could lie (just to get rid of him) and say that it wasn’t. I could say that it was and potentially risk whatever that will unleash. The important thing to me is – I honestly don’t care what he says or does, and I don’t want to pretend to be something I’m not. I don’t make a big deal of “being a woman” playing video games. I know so many bloggers, folks on the Twitter community, etc. that are amazing female gamers and it’s not even an issue to me. There are tons of us, aren’t there? But I suppose in some scenarios we’re still a bit rare, yet I won’t go out of my way to emphasize my womanliness, because just as it doesn’t matter whether the person at the other keyboard is a man or a woman, why would they care that I am?

Except sometimes they do. I reply to the rogue with a simple, “Yep.”

He came back with something I didn’t expect.

“I don’t mean to imply that girls can’t raid,” he says, “But how did you get into a heroic raiding guild?”

Whew. It’s a good thing he didn’t mean to imply that girls can’t raid or anything, because the way those two statements were linked I might have gotten the wrong idea there! Anyway, the implication to me, is pretty clear. How did you (a woman) get into such a guild (when everyone knows women can’t raid) when I (possessed of appropriate chromosomes and sex organs) have been unable to find and join such a guild?

Any number of snarky answers went through my head, but I decided to just keep it simple (and blow his mind at the same time).

“How did I get in?” I wrote back. “It’s my guild.”

“:O :O” (that’s the visual representation of someone’s mind being blown, swiftly followed by mine exploding in return as he wrote…) “Do you have any room?!”

Go ahead and guess my answer! (A polite “No,” actually. I try to keep it polite. Most of the time).

You might think I started this entry so I could write about sexism, stereotyping, and ill-mannered pugs, but truthfully I didn’t. I’m not upset about what the guy said, it’s just eyerolling (and I thought you’d find it funny). I’d actually like to write about what he said in a completely serious way. How did I get into a heroic raiding guild? Or on a related manner, how can anyone get into a heroic raiding guild if that’s their goal?

Voss and I actually started out on the Moon Guard server, because when we first started playing I was especially interested in the roleplaying aspect of the game. I’d taken part in text-based roleplaying previously, and the two of us had actually met on a roleplaying, private-run Shard of Ultima Online. I was interested. We played on MG for about a year and a half, and I still have really fond memories of that time. Our experience is in no way meant to illustrate RP servers in general, but towards the end of our time there we were having trouble with raiding. (That is to say, I’m not saying that folks on RP servers can’t or don’t raid, because obviously they do). But for us, we were stymied by schedules and timezones. Many of the raiders in the group we’d organized were in the UK, and could only raid on Saturday afternoons/evenings. One day a week was not a lot of raiding, and it was hard to always commit our Saturday to this. I’m sure it was tough for them too.

To make a long story short, we decided to move on and find a guild that could give us the kind of raiding we longed to see. We wanted to clear entire instances (at the time, we’d killed Hodir in Ulduar but couldn’t get any further without extending our lockout). We wanted to see what heroic modes were all about. We’d been raiding through Kara, ZA, and had cleared all of the Wrath content up until that point but not through Ulduar. ToC had been out for some time and we hadn’t set foot in it. I started browsing through the recruitment forums and I saw an ad for the guild Business Time. It was a ten-person guild (a requirement) that focused on strict ten, hard-mode progression. They were working on hardmode Ulduar (Firefighter!) They needed a mage. I should preface this by saying that I was raiding Ulduar as a resto druid and was fed up of healing. There wasn’t anyone in our raid group who was really interested in healing full-time, so every week we’d find a pug healer, with mixed results. Two-healing Ulduar was a challenge. Two-healing Ulduar with an unknown pug quantity was even more stressful. Without an actual healing “team” I felt very adrift and found raiding to be stressful. I was starting to have more migraines and regular headaches, and realized I’d gone through the better part of a bottle of Advil in a really short amount of time. This was the impetus that pushed us to consider finding another guild and transferring away from all we’d known up until that point. The schedule fit. The approach fit. The name was a Flight of the Conchords joke that cracked me up.

And Business Time needed a mage. I wanted to be a mage. I’d mostly raided in Wrath as a priest and then a druid because healers were always needed. So I applied to BT with my mage, and Voss applied as a fury warrior (because they didn’t need tanks).

I think, at present time, our app would have been a hard sell. Business Time was just getting into hard-modes, so they weren’t yet as stringent in their requirements. (The preceding link is actually an Officers’ Quarters column with a letter written by the former GL. I had read the letter at the time, and secretly wished I could be in a guild like that). I was under geared, and inexperienced with many of the fights they were working on. I was also really freaking out about leaving the server I had known for one and a half years, and moving to a completely unknown server type. But I really really wanted to be a mage again, and I really liked what I had seen of the guild. Heck, I’d read about the guild back in June and then completely forgot!

Business Time talks strategy before Anub'arak. I am too busy making faces and taking pictures in the smoke bombs.

Take full advantage of the point/emblem system to ensure that even if you aren’t raiding, your gear is the best it can possibly be.

Even though Millya hadn’t been my “main” raider, her gear was by no means bad. She had quite a bit of T9 stuff, if I remember correctly (it was purchasable with points from the vendor!) She also had such BoEs as I could find like a Darkmoon card, etc. I was definitely still undergeared compared to the majority of BT raiders, but that meant that once I started raiding it was easy to get gear because nobody needed it. The point wasn’t that you need the best gear to raid, it was that my character showed dedication. Before I applied, I went through my gear with a fine-tooth comb to put all the best gems and enchants on it that I possibly could. No stone was left unturned to ensure I was putting my best face forward. Your gear is the most immediate indicator of your commitment to your character and attention to detail. Don’t miss any enchants or enhancements! Go over and above what you think is “necessary,” because in most guilds the best is an expectation.

Don’t be afraid to leverage your personality.

Business Time took a chance when they recruited Voss and I. We were inexperienced, a bit undergeared, and had no logs to prove our chops. What we DID have was an application that I took great care in writing (and it was long). We each wrote separate portions of the application so they could get a sense of our personalities. And we really clicked in the interview. Despite some misgivings about class balance, only our grumbly shaman voted no to let us in (I like to bug him about this, the truth is I can’t blame him at all, though I’m glad nobody else agreed). They voted to let us in because they liked us. We promised we would research the fights and prove that we had what it took to succeed with a guild like theirs. They took a chance, but really it was fairly win/win on their side. If we hadn’t worked out, it’s our money on the line, and they could’ve just found some other folks. Personality and attitude is something that is magnified in such a small group – if you have exceptional players that are jerks, they’re never going to fit – unless your guild is predominantly a jerk atmosphere. Saying thank you, being friendly and engaged and being fun to talk to are huge points. I think this should go without saying, but don’t be late, either! We’ve had interviewees not even show up, which is pretty much an automatic disqualification unless you have a great, emergency-level reason like being attacked by a bear or a car breakdown.

Do the research to show you’re ready, especially if you’re facing fights you’ve never seen.

Voss likes to remind me that when we first joined BT, I had pages and pages of notes about every boss we were going to be facing. I watched the videos, I jotted quick notes on every salient point to make sure I’d know the mechanics. So it was that on our first night in BT, when I was pulled in to replace a DPS for hardmode Mimiron, I was ready. Sure, I was nervous, but like I said to Voss (cue Rocky music) “These bosses have no ‘normal’ mode. I am going to treat them as if this is just what they do.” And so I did, and it worked for me. Later when we went through and killed Mimiron on normal I was astonished at all the things he didn’t do. I was so used to his soul crushing hardmode version because I refused to even acknowledge that anything else existed.

Don’t be afraid to ask questions, as long as you’re still seeking answers on your own.

People always say “know your class” as if it’s that easy. What about players that genuinely want to do well but are pretty new? My best advice would be to read everything you can get your hands on. Read Elitist Jerks, read blogs written by people of your class, read threads on the official forums or MMO Champions. Read the class columns at WoW Insider. Talk to people who also play your class if things are unclear or you have further questions. You can’t help but improve in the face of that much information, and as you play more you will fine-tune what you need to know and do. There’s a wealth of available information and support out there for the taking. Take it! Be prepared to answer class specific questions such as “What would you do at xyz” time or “Why did you choose the spec you did?” (Hint: Don’t just say “It’s what EJ said to spec.”) Know why you are doing something and not just what to do. Players who can think on their own and contribute to strat in unorthodox ways are invaluable, and if you are a creative thinker that can really impress a prospective guild.

As proof of this, BT’s other mage was someone I met on Moonrunner who found OUR guild forums and registered there to talk about mages with me. He was in a more social guild at the time and struggling to make his guild care about hard modes. When that guild folded, it was a natural choice for me to talk to the theorycrafting mage who I knew would be a fabulous fit and had thus far only lacked the opportunity to do many hard modes, not the aptitude or the drive.

Be prepared for rejection.

If you’re trying to get into a heroic guild without ever having done heroic raiding before, you’re starting from a disadvantage. It’s not an insurmountable one, and the way recruitment is these days, it could possibly be no obstacle, but you may still be turned down. Don’t let it get you down. Guilds need the best fit for them just like you need the best guild, and if it’s not a good “match” it wouldn’t end well in any case. If you are really impressed with a guild but your application is rejected, you could also see about joining as a social member with intent to raid. Participation in alt runs and 5-mans with the members of the guild could make you an easy choice the next time they have a spot on the roster. Alternatively, seek out another guild. Maybe you were overreaching. I know I used to shake my head regularly over ads that said, “Must be 8/13 heroic or better,” when the player themselves hadn’t done any hard modes at all! Don’t set your expectations of a guild too high. There are many reasons why progression in a tier could be slower (and needing to recruit heavily is definitely one of them). If you join a guild that’s seeking to progress, you could find a great home in that 2/7 heroic guild rather than the 6/7. The distinction is pretty fine, and having you on the team could mean that next tier things progress even better!

I don't wear this title any more, but when we earned it ranks among my top three best WoW moments ever. It was such a struggle to get there, and yes, we did it in tens gear!

It should go without saying that my final advice to anyone seeking to get into heroic raiding is: Don’t whisper the GL and act astonished that she’s able to use her keyboard to kill heroic dragons, because if you do that, you can do all of the other things above and they won’t get you anywhere. Alternately, as a sub-tip to the above, you COULD also marry a mage and then join a guild that really needs a mage and will take you even though they didn’t want a warrior at all. Just ask Voss! We actually just passed our two year anniversary of being in Business Time (October 12th!) and it’s been awesome. I hope it goes without saying that the subtext of this article is tips to help you if you WANT to be in a heroic raiding guild. If you don’t, these tips could be applied to any guild, or applied to “getting into raiding” in general. I don’t think there’s anything in there that won’t serve you well no matter what your aspirations might be!

Feel free to add your own tips, experiences or questions in the comments! After all, this is just based on my story, yours may be completely different.

Mage Revival

I don’t know if anyone else’s guild works like this, but ours seems to go in phases of popularity. I swear, for awhile there all I saw when I logged in was druids. Or paladins, druids, and warriors, which actually gave rise to the phrase “warrior warrior,” later adapted into “mage mage.” Anyway, I think it starts when someone has a lot of fun playing a class. Other people see the fun happening and think, “Wow, look at the fun they are having! I’ve never tried that class/I haven’t played my character of that class in awhile,” and suddenly the guild roster is positively awash in blue mage names.

I love it. People talk about leveling specs on the forums, gear levels, pugs giving us a hard time about when to use Time Warp (seriously, what IS it with this? When I am in a pug I’m just happy if all my fellow group members generally know where their keyboard is and are pressing buttons. I don’t ever give people crap about when they are going to use something like Time Warp, I’m just happy they know where that key is located and opted to press it. These people who get all bent out of shape because I used TW at the start of Jin’do must spend their lives angry because their expectations are pretty high. P.S. You don’t usually get TW at all on that fight because I’ll use it on Zanzil but absentmindedly forgot. WAY TO GO, MAGE). Anyway, I digressed a bit there, because my original point was:

1) Mages are awesome

2) Mages are contagious.

I’ve now been raiding as a mage again for several weeks, an endeavour that has not been without its minor mishaps but by and large has been awesome. Last night we beat our Baleroc record by a whopping one second so I feel that I contributed positively to that. Groups being held back don’t beat records, do they now?! There has definitely been a learning curve as I realized that I know very little about what DPSers are doing in most of these fights after healing them for months. It’s a good thing I’m not giving the fight explanations.

“So, um, on this one you’ve got to… I’ll be – Look, I’ll level with you, all I do is take a feather. I know that’s very important. And then I chase Voss around in circles. I look at the fire and make sure not to get hit by it. But mostly I see this green bar. It looks pretty much the same as it does on the other fights. So why don’t you just – I’ll be over here. The green bar and I.”

No, I’m not slighting healers. It’s just that I had to re-learn my role for DPSing, while at the same time growing accustomed to a new spec. Initially, gear was definitely holding me back because I was unwilling to relinquish my T11 4-set until I was able to get 4-set T12. Well, last night I got it, and raided for the first time! It was awesome. I’m almost at the same gear level now with Millya as I was with Vid; actually better because I got both a weapon and an off-hand last night. Three piece heroic tier gear in the amount of time I’ve been raiding is a bit ridiculous. Vid had one piece of heroic tier! I’m actually glad she didn’t have more and that I kept passing on stuff in favour of the other healer (I knew I’d be DPSing for H Rag anyway) so that when I switched it hardly mattered or affected anyone else’s gear level at all. But yea, verily did the loot gods look down upon Millya and smile, beam and begin to throw mage gear in her general direction. I know that doesn’t necessarily matter, but it is pretty nice. I’ve been fortunate.

Another story from the mage front; actually it requires some backstory first: One of our former raiders invited a work friend of his to play WoW, and so he joined our guild a few months back. He was completely new to the game, I think he’d played LoTRO or something but had never played WoW before. I seriously love him. He will ask questions like “I’m dueling this guy and he disappeared, how do I kill a guy like that?” (Freaking rogues, right?) Or he’ll say, “Hey, this Argent Tournament thing is pretty fun! Have you guys ever tried this?” (Oh, if only he knew). There’s something pretty awesome about knowing a person as they experience this game for the first time. We’re all so embroiled in the nuances, or jaded by the long grinds and hours we’ve poured into it, that sometimes I think it’s easy to lose sight of that magic – these “worlds we inhabit together,” as Metzen put it.

This guildie is level 84. It’s taken him a good long while to get there, and there’s no “end” in sight soon because he got distracted doing Loremaster (first of Outland, now I think he’s going back to do Kalimdor/Eastern Kingdoms). He’s not in any rush to “finish.” He’s just enjoying the journey and seeing what the world has to offer. He’s also the only one who laughed when I got the “My Sack is Gigantique” achievement the other day, so I love him for that too. (Come on, I spent 1000 G on that joke!) Anyway, so that’s to introduce you to my guildie, that’s the back story. The actual story is that I logged in yesterday and was running a dungeon as Millya (needed to get the last VP for those tier gloves!)

He said, “What are you up to?” and I told him, “Killing some trolls, taking their stuff,” (he laughed, how can I not love this guy?) and then he said, “You know I didn’t know that was an alt of yours.”

“Oh no? Actually, she is my MAIN!” I replied with great glee.

“Oh yeah,” he said, “I thought you were different people when you were playing Vid and Millya.” (Pause) “I always thought Millya was friendlier.”

I laughed and said I was sorry if I’d been a jerk when playing Vid, and he said no, you were nice, just Millya was friendlier. He’d clued into the connection between my characters when I asked Voss to make Millya the guild leader again the other day (so annoying not being able to do guild leader things on the appropriate character). So he had gone to work to ask our mutual friend if I was the same person. I had a good laugh relating this story to Voss, who just shrugged.

“Playing Millya makes you happy, so you’re friendlier.”

I don’t want to harp on about this, but Shintar mentioned that I had been a bit negative about Millya before switching. I tried to think back and remember this and I couldn’t (I know I could read blog entries, but I didn’t). What’s interesting about keeping a blog like this is that it’s highly filtered information. You only know as much about me as I choose to tell you, and also, I only tell you what I believe to be true. In other words, it’s possible for me to hide things from myself, convince myself something is true, or try very hard to convince anyone reading that something is true. What’s funny is that I’d written about “how playing my alt was hurting my raiding” only a few short weeks before I switched, and I’d been playing Millya non-stop (and loving it, honestly). I tried to spin it around and say “Oh well, I guess I was playing my alt for a reason!” but I’m afraid I lied – mostly to me, but by extension, to you guys.

We had an interesting thread on our private guild forums the other day where we talked about /played time and tallied up our totals for all to see. I liked it because it was interesting to see how much people have played (and which characters), but also because the inevitable, “I don’t know how I should feel about this number,” came up and there was no shaming, only agreement that we enjoy this game and have enjoyed those hours, too. I don’t tally up the time I spend reading or doing other hobbies and I don’t feel any guilt about those – why should I? As with WoW. So what was interesting about my numbers was that they were completely skewed. I’ve played 141 days as a mage. My next closest character doesn’t even come close, clocking in at a mere 50 (my druid) and poor Vid way behind at only 39 days played. I have played more as a mage than my other characters combined! My next closest character is almost 1/3 the time. I think that’s eloquent in itself.

The truth is, when we needed another healer, I sincerely felt I could help in that regard. I didn’t dislike playing a mage at all. The other other truth is, though, that I have sometimes been frustrated as a mage because I always feel I’m not as good as our other Super Mage, and that everyone is always comparing me to him (to my detriment). It’s tough to be in the shadow of someone you truly respect and you know is an exceptional player. I think that I’m a pretty good player, but not like he is. So there’s that. At the time, we also had our ridiculously good warlock and I was having a hard time keeping up with the two of them. It stung. I guess it was an ego thing. And I’ll be completely honest with you – I wanted to avoid the issue of The Legendary.

Fortunately, Dramawrath didn’t really cause any in our guild. At the time, I felt like an argument could have been made for either myself or our awesome mage, (who is indisputably an amazing DPS and also does a lot for the guild). Our shaman is also stupendous and ended up being second-in-line by virtue of guild seniority and steadiness. I hope we’re able to make one for him, too. He’s almost done with the cinders portion of the chain. I think I am no slouch of a DPS and I also do a lot for the guild. But I think it meant more to our other mage. (And I know he’s going to read this and if he’s reading it I want him to know this has nothing to do with you and everything to do with me. I wanted you to have this, and I still do. You deserve it.) He said to me when we talked about it that he would rather not have it, if it was going to cause drama. I couldn’t agree more. I have the kind of personality that unfortunately can be avoidant. Especially as a leader I have to consciously push myself to confront issues sometimes when I’d rather pretend they don’t exist – or maybe, when I’d rather just duck out of the way altogether, as I did when I switched to my paladin for one very specific tier.

I will admit, privately on the internet in front of everyone, there’s a part of me that’s a bit sad about the Dragonwrath. Caster legendaries don’t come along all the time, it’s a pretty neat thing to have, etc. etc. I was watching at Blizzcon when they announced that they would do a legendary staff, and I cheered so loudly. I see other folks getting theirs or read about their progress on blogs and I feel a slight pang. But I don’t regret my decision because I think having me as a healing paladin did help us in this tier. Yes, I missed playing my mage, and I am happy to play her again. Perhaps sometime during the next expansion I’ll see if I can solo any of Firelands and get an outdated Dragonwrath. The more essential thing, to me, though, is not Dragonwrath itself, and I’d actually like to invite you to think about that for a moment.

There are many Dragonwraths. Yes, it’s an “orange” item, but every raid group is making one (or more). Some raid groups will have several. It’s not Dragonwrath that matters at all. That staff is a visual representation of the teamwork and devotion of ten to thirty people. They painstakingly gathered all of those cinders, those embers, those shards, to put that together. I’m deliberately leaving out the “and then gave it to you” part here. Because in a way, that almost doesn’t matter. It’s an achievement that everyone can be proud of. That team work, that drive, it’s humbling and awesome. Braving the challenges of the Firelands night after night, through tension and tedium, elation and success, that is what’s truly legendary. I’m proud of the guild for doing it (we’re about one week away from completing it) and I couldn’t think of a better wielder of that honour. I’m really glad he will have it, and I’m also really glad to be a mage again (although it’s not like playing a paladin was bad). After all, I’m friendlier, which is probably a good thing!

Tuesday Art Day: Surprise!

So, for weeks I’ve been hinting on Twitter (annoyingly) about a “top secret” project I couldn’t talk about. Well, folks, it’s finally done (which is to say, begun)! Although if you’re fortunate enough not to follow me on Twitter, you didn’t know about it anyway (and I didn’t annoy you).

From Draenor With Love is a webcomic that I have been collaborating on with Rades of Orcish Army Knife fame. We both worked on the website, although all the CSS fancy-stuff was his doing. I made graphics! I do the art for the comics, he writes the comics and we discuss them at length. I originally pitched this idea to him along with a half-completed comic that was made even better after he added his ideas to it, thus proving that two creative minds really are better than one! The painting part is a bit more solitary, but it really is a joint process in many ways and I’ve been loving it! We’ve been cooking this up for over a month now getting it ready to go “live” and I’m pretty excited about it. I hope you’ll enjoy it! It is going to update weekly on Wednesdays (yes, today it is Tuesday, it won’t update this Wednesday.) This is a bonus, one day early comic, but not a moment too soon! I wrote more about that over at FDWL, so all I will say here is:

Go check it out! I’d love to get any comments you might have if you’re inclined to leave them. We’re both really pumped about this project and the anticipation of tomorrow feels a bit like Christmas to me to finally pull back the curtain on something we’ve been spending so much time on. I know it’s only one comic (so far) but we’ve actually completed many more than that! If you enjoy the work of either Rades or I (hopefully both) I think there should be something for everybody. Plus, it’s not Horde or Alliance-centric. There’ll be a good mix of both viewpoints and factions, which is part of why I’m excited about it and what I think is a bit unique.

I think I’m just rambling. Hooray, comic launch day!

Guild Culture & You

Last week, Alas celebrated her second anniversary of blogging! As the kind tradition goes, she offered to think of a blog topic for interested parties. Of course, I couldn’t help but take her up on this offer. More topics to write about? Yes please, always welcome! Here’s the topic she gave me:

As a GM, how directly responsible do you feel for your guild culture? If a new person were to join, would they be right to credit you for the overall shape of the culture since you are in a position to dictate policy? Or do you think your members shape culture more?

It’s an interesting question, because it doesn’t really have a definitive answer, unless you want to go with: “Somewhat, yes and no, and maybe.” First off, the ‘culture’ of a guild (as I read it) encompasses many factors. Most obviously, it’s the interactions between members (that take place on both the forums, in guild chat, and via voice chat, and these can differ). As well, the culture is the implicit expectations of all the members. What can they expect from their fellow members, from the leadership, and from the activities we do?

The culture of a guild is a nebulous and fascinating thing. I’ve seen the culture of our guild change quite a bit over the past two years – in fact, it’s fair to say that it’s constantly changing. Shifts in culture can happen in two directions – from both the top down, or the bottom-up. The most direct way to influence the culture of your guild is pretty simple: Recruit the kind of people who espouse the culture you want. Obviously, it’s more complicated than that, and people aren’t that simple. But no matter what guild you’re in, all it takes is one drastically different person: drop them into the center and watch the sparks fly!

This could be someone whose attitude is more “hardcore” than the members of the prevailing guild.

It could be the opposite – someone who doesn’t quite catch on with regards to what’s expected of them.

It could easily be someone who just doesn’t quite “get” it socially – they tell jokes no one laughs at or they never say anything at all; they just don’t “fit.”

Who fits? In answering that question, mostly, I go with my gut. I’ve ignored it on a few occasions, always to my detriment. (For more about this, I recommend reading “Blink” by Malcom Gladwell). If I have a good feeling about someone, I am usually pretty confident that they will fit in. This feeling begins from the moment I start to read an application. Maybe it makes me chuckle, and contains complete sentences with punctuation – whatever it is, I seldom write more in our applicant discussion thread than, “I’d like to talk to this person a bit more at an interview,” or “I don’t really like [xyz].” A few times I’ve been persuaded to talk to someone whose app didn’t immediately grab me – and even given a trial to someone I was on the fence about, but that’s always turned out to be a mistake for various reasons.

Similarly, I trust the gut feelings of everyone in the guild when it comes to reviewing applicants. If someone says, “I’m just not sure about them,” I’m less likely to want to talk to them. So in a very real sense, the culture of the guild itself is fairly self-regulating when it comes to new people. We’re pretty egalitarian. Everyone weighs in on applications, and everyone tries to be there for interviews on Mumble, too. This makes for especially grueling fifteen-person interviews that are pretty nerve-wracking. I know because I’ve been on the other end of one. If you’re a shyer person it can be scary to know there are so many people listening to what you say – but it’s absolutely essential for us that everyone gets to hear an applicant and give an opinion. At the end, we go through the list of people on Mumble after the applicant has left and vote. Everyone has a chance to say yes or no (and why). Most folks who get in have received a unanimous “yes.”

The only exception to this process are social members – friends and family, and curiously they can prove to be the most potentially unbalancing, because 1) they didn’t apply and weren’t interviewed as we do with other people, and also 2) they already have social ties within the guild so if they don’t fit in or are disruptive, it’s delicate to handle because you risk offending both the newcomer and their friend. I’m pretty welcoming of social members, really, despite what I wrote about them before – I love having people to chat with in guild, and I think especially in a smaller guild they can add some action on nights when folks are busy with other things. More people to hang out with are welcome, but again you have to be careful with expectations. What happens if a social member offends or gets into a fight with a raiding member? Fortunately, I’ve never really had to deal with this and people tend to play nice. I’d like to think that we could resolve any conflict like adults, which is pretty much what the guild is founded upon.

So, I think that the largest determining factor of guild culture is the people in the guild (duh) and in my guild, everyone has a say in deciding who the people are. That’s pretty big. In terms of me personally affecting culture, I think a GL affects culture the most through their own actions. That can be good or bad, depending on your perspective. We don’t really have a lot of policy per se, although I’ve added to it in the year and a half that I’ve been GL. I like to have things set out so that you have something to fall back on in case of disputes, but it’s important for me to remember that I’m not managing juniors.

You have Voss to thank for this bit of manager-ese; he likes to explain that when you manage someone who is pretty green or new, they will probably need a lot of hand-holding. You can’t necessarily entrust them with things you would trust to a more senior person, nor expect the same things from them. But our guild is built around the expectation that members are already pretty senior. They have prior raid experience (in many cases, raid-leading, other hard mode guilds, etc). The thing is, if you manage a senior like a junior, all you’ll end up doing is pissing them off. Have you ever had a manager at any job who treated you like you were incompetent, breathed down your neck, or tried to micro-manage everything you were doing (despite your being competent and capable?) They were treating you like a junior. We try not to do that. So there’s a fair amount of trust there that precludes a lot of policy or a lot of dictating. Expectations are clear – how we raid, how we prepare to raid, and so on. What happens within that framework is up to all of us, and it’s understood that we’ll do it without raising our voices to each other, and we’ll handle any conflict with the least amount of fuss.

The end result is (I hope!) a guild that knows I care about what they think and feel, and that I’ll take their opinions and desires into account when making any decisions. It’s not completely a democracy, but there are definitely strong democratic leanings. It’s a guild that gives respect and receives it in turn, one that knows what’s expected of them (and knows they can let me know if I’ve fallen short in their expectations). Mutual respect, dragon killing, serious business time, many jokes and general badassery make up BT’s culture. I think it’s owed in large part to the excellent people that comprise it, and perhaps I clarify it where necessary. If it’s an unconscious partnership, it’s an awesome one. I think any new member joining would be right in thinking that everyone contributes to the guild’s culture, and my primary responsibility is to find negative contributions and make sure they don’t sour the good thing that we have.

I think I answered that question. Maybe. Sort of, yes and no. What do you think? Does your guild leader shape your guild’s culture, or do you think that’s mostly up to the members? I think it’s probably true that the personality of a guild leader is a larger determinant of culture than I’ve admitted here. I favour collaborative and cooperative environments, so I do my best to recruit people who suit that and to encourage it overall. Perhaps a different guild leader with the same members would create a completely different culture. I’m definitely open to opinions!

Solidarity and Silence

I was talking with a friend via e-mail about the Corpsegrinder dust-up at Blizzcon. Pradzha has already written about it more eloquently here, and my friend sent an e-mail that I found particularly poignant. I couldn’t have said it better myself, so I’m not going to try. If you haven’t read Pradzha’s post I recommend you do that first.

The long and the short of it is that George Fisher (aka Corpsegrinder) said some nasty stuff about Alliance players, and he couched it in very homophobic and hateful terms – and it was played during the Blizzcon concert, albeit with much of that bleeped out. That’s the tl;dr version. Below is what my lovely friend had to say about the matter:

Many years ago, when I was still in high school, a cartoonist named Doug Marlette did a cartoon of Ed Meese, who was then-President Reagan’s Attorney General. In the cartoon, Meese was standing with his enormous belly hanging out, and a little starving child was sitting in its shade, all skin and bones, while Meese said, “I see no evidence of poverty in America.”

It was a harsh criticism (if sadly accurate), but that cartoon always stuck with me, because it so clearly represents something you see time and time again — not just from public figures, and not just about poverty, but from regular people about regular things. How many times do you hear somebody say something like, “I don’t know why <x> is so worked up about <y>, I don’t see any problem.”

Maybe <x> is a woman and <y> is the salary gap. Maybe <x> is a gay person and <y> is the right to be legally married. Maybe <x> is a poor single minority working mother and <y> is child care. Whatever you plug in for <x> and <y>, those of us in positions of privilege naturally tend to generalize from our own experiences to the experiences of others, to our detriment and theirs.

And when I say this, I’m not excluding myself. Sure, maybe I have some disadvantages being a woman in a highly male-dominated technical field, but on balance, I’ve got all kinds of advantages that are not available to other people. As much as I try not to let that colour my views, it does, and that’s something I have to be aware of.

So, when I see people like Blizzard putting an asshole like George Fisher up there on stage and an audience cheering at his filthy, homophobic language, it makes me very sad—but it doesn’t surprise me, and I don’t think they’re necessarily evil: They’re just playing out the cultural template that we’re given. That doesn’t excuse his behaviour (or theirs), but it does mean it’s not a problem we’ll solve by condemning Blizzard. I just hope that someday we will get to a point where playing a video like that will stun the audience into shocked silence, rather than drawing cheers.

I like to think that the reaction was mostly to his flag-waving rather than his homophobia — that the cheers weren’t for “fag” and “fucking queer” but for “Horde pride”. I don’t think faction loyalty is necessarily bad in itself.  But even if that’s true, it means people are shockingly unaware of the rest of the template that’s playing out—the casting of sexual orientation as choice, the marginalization of difference, the whole panoply of human xenophobia that we are painfully heir to.

That’s why I say that it makes me sad more than angry. The whole thing makes it starkly clear how much more work there still is before us.

The fact that it’s human nature doesn’t mean we should sit by and accept it—that is after all what causes the problem in the first place—but we won’t get past it with rage.

What my friend is saying is that this isn’t a problem specific to Blizzard. Do I think they should acknowledge and apologize that their actions contributed to hate speech? Yes, I think they should. Bleeping it out doesn’t make it go away. Endorsing someone like that and putting him on stage at their concert is tantamount to endorsing his message. But I also think we could all stand to take a look at not just this one incident, but what it implies. Check your privilege, recognize that you probably have advantages that others don’t; opportunities and privileges that you don’t even realize, and you can never fully understand someone else’s experience. But you can listen, and you can damned well try. We all can!

We can stop ourselves from using slurs that demean other people, which yes, includes saying something is “gay.” You never know who you are hurting, and even if you aren’t saying it directly to an LGBTQ person, you’re furthering a culture in which it’s okay to say such things and think nothing of it. Hate speech is ugly, and it’s needless. I’d seen this video long before it was played and I cringed and felt a bit sick at the vitriol directed at other people for what – the imaginary cities they inhabit in their imaginary worlds? This is a person with some serious issues, and for the record, I love my Horde friends. I couldn’t care less that they happen to play “on the other side.” I’d love the gaming community to be known for its tolerance, acceptance and solidarity in the face of internet dragons. We’re all people. Be good to each other.

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