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

Archive for 2011

The Hybrid’s Dilemma: Part II

Way back when, in the ICC days, I wrote about the troubles I faced as a hybrid player. At the time, I was playing a moonkin with a side of resto. You can read that post first if you like, I think a lot of it is still relevant to the problems that hybrids continue to face. It’s not entirely comprehensive, this is more of a personal viewpoint thing.

After my experiences as a hybrid moonkin, I swore that it wouldn’t happen again. When I switched to my mage, I was very “mage for life,” and I poured my efforts into her achievements and her mount and pet collecting. Unfortunately for me, even over nine thousand achievement points isn’t an effective deterrent when it comes to character switching (and it was a big reason why I knew I should never be a contender for something like a legendary weapon – I am too fickle). That is why, at this point in time, I find myself coming back to the same issue – only it’s as a paladin.

Tens and the Hybrid Dependency

It must be tough to design encounters effectively for a ten-person raid. Any raid has a set number of “required” tanks for an encounter, although it can be flexible. Some encounters can be tanked with one less tank or one more tank depending – For instance, we did Heroic Halfus with two tanks and three healers, but I’ve heard of guilds that preferred to do it with three tanks and two healers. It all comes down to what you have available to you. A raid team can only be made stronger by having flexible people willing to change roles when need be, but at what cost? At what point does asking players to switch roles become unreasonable, untenable, or even counter-productive?

The biggest obstacle to this is roster size. The majority of ten-person guilds are smaller (deliberately so). Some guilds will maintain multiple tens teams and perhaps a bigger bench, but by and large we don’t have the luxury of world first guilds that could just bring x number of available moonkins because their abilities trivialize an encounter. Sometimes we can have recourse to people’s alts, but for the most part we just make do with what we have.

The design of encounters in this tier has not been friendly for juggling the number of tanks and healers. As a friend of mine has complained, very often the second tank was expected to switch to DPS because a fight simply didn’t require another. Rhyolith is like this, as is Majordomo. An ongoing issue for us after the heroic nerfs was how many healers does a fight need? Historically, we’ve switched between three and two healers at different times and for different content. ICC was largely two healed up until the point where that wasn’t possible, and the roster was adjusted for three healing. We’ve stayed with the three healing model up to and through Firelands, when especially in later Firelands it becomes evident that three healers aren’t necessary or even possible for quite a few of the fights.

That leaves us with a problem – four active, main-spec healers on our roster and only two spots for healers on most nights (with the exception of Beth’tilac, and perhaps it will become more two healable for us but at the moment it’s more of a three healer thing). What this means is that on any given night, we either have a healer going off-spec DPS, or we bench a healer. I don’t think our healers signed up to raid for just one night a week. The other option is for a healer to switch roles entirely. All of these solutions hang on one question – what is the Dragon Soul going to be requiring in terms of healer and tank balance? We’re trying to plan our roster for the new tier of content but we aren’t sure what we should be aiming for.

The Unhappy Ret

We’re fortunate in that some of our players enjoy tanking and DPSing fairly equally. Our excellent druid is happy to boom it up with his laser beams for some fights, and our paladin tank plays ret without complaint. As a moonkin, I liked to heal (but I didn’t actually like to moonkin). Now I am a main spec healer, and I’ve been finding out that I don’t especially enjoy raiding as retribution. Actually, that’s an understatement. I’ve been doing it so much that I’m starting to loathe it. I’m not really great at it, so it’s stressful. I’ve chased heroic Rhyolith’s legs around for hours. Each week I’ve been Ret for Alysrazor – last week saw me dying to a fire sprinkler just before the fight ended. This week I didn’t die, but my DPS was the lowest by a great margin. When I’m DPSing as ret, I always have a niggling feeling in the back of my head that if I would step out for another (better) DPS, it would make fights easier, and I wouldn’t be holding the group back. I love DPSing. I don’t love ret DPSing. And as was my problem previously as a hybrid, I want to be the absolute best I can at what I’m doing. Off-speccing Ret and DPSing a fight doesn’t allow for that. The only solution would be to DPS even more as ret, which just pigeonholes me into a corner where last week I reached the breaking point and turned to Voss and said: I COULD get better at ret. But I really don’t WANT to.

I could practice art of warring until the cows come home, but ultimately it’s not why I’m playing a paladin. Now this is an entirely personal thing – nobody’s been “making” me play ret, but the fact is that we have all these nights with too many healers, and so somebody’s got to do it – or else healers sit to allow DPS to step in. I realized that I would rather sit than work on H Ragnaros as ret. It’s just that simple. I don’t learn the fight from a healing perspective as ret. I probably will hardly even see what’s going on in the fight itself, because I’m too busy hitting the buttons and hoping my Inquisition uptime is high enough and looking to see what’s procced and what hasn’t and what oh that’s fire it’s burning me ow.

I realize this probably sounds very “I’m taking my ball and going home,” and petulant, and I hope you’ll bear with me there (as I insist and reiterate that this isn’t a problem with my guild or anyone in it). I’ve come to the realization that doing most of the fights in a spec I don’t like instead of a spec I do like has been killing the fun for me. It’s not even, “Oh, I’m lukewarm about this,” I logged off last Wednesday and I was probably the closest I have ever been to saying: I am tired of raiding. It is the opposite of fun for me.

So nobody should have to play a spec or a class or a role they don’t like. I wouldn’t do that to someone else, why would I do it to myself? After taking the weekend while hardly logging into any of my main characters (and enjoying a lovely Thanksgiving, thank you) I realized that I had to make this known to both our other officers and my guild. They aren’t mind readers. It’s certainly not fair to them to stew quietly, getting frustrated with my position until one day I’ve just had enough and I don’t even want to raid any more.

The Hybrid Advantage

I still think that being a hybrid is awesome. Having them on a roster is even better! But you absolutely need to know that the people in the hybrid positions are willing and enjoy doing it. Some people are cut out to be hybrids in both aptitude and attitude. They genuinely have no spec preference. I guess, when it comes to my hybrid roles, I’m not really one of them. I’d rather be a holy paladin. But the way that encounters are designed, it leaves a great big question mark for ten person guilds in particular about each tier. Will their tanks be spending a lot of time DPSing? Will their healers be twiddling their thumbs, or will someone who is DPS need to swap to heals for a fight or two? We just don’t know, although the raid cooldown nature of the tank T13 bonuses seems to suggest that there will be a lot of damage going out. I will be happy to go into the next tier as either a healing paladin or a mage, but I don’t want to go as a ret paladin. Alts tend to slow raiding down so it’s not advantageous to swap from one alt to another depending on role needs. Our raid needs hybrids – the question is, who will they be? We never have been able to find an awesome moonkin; the biggest thing for us right now is that our roster is actually over-full. Only two of our healers are willing to DPS (out of four) and I know the others feel guilty about it. But really, why should they have to DPS? Is it a better model to just start sitting healers for a “real” DPS?

If I move to a DPS role it means fewer available DPS positions. We may be doing some more shuffling, with having someone else move to tank and our current tank move to DPS, which would open up a position for me to do that. Overall, though, it’s frustrating. Speaking as someone who loves playing a “pure” DPS, it’s unfortunate that we have nothing to recommend us but our DPS, when the smaller raid size is so favourable for hybrids. Our raid would probably be perfect if we had an ele/resto shaman, a boomkin/resto druid, and plate DPS that was willing and able to tank. We have a fabulous elemental shaman, and he just doesn’t like healing. I can’t blame him! I don’t like melee DPS. I can’t expect him to do something he doesn’t like and probably wouldn’t be good at, and therein lies the problem. Finding 10-15 people with the appropriate specs, personalities, skills and willingness to swap roles is an almost indescribable juggling act. We shouldn’t be unduly penalized for having two mages, or two paladin healers, or whatever. Except that we are. One of the big reasons I am thinking of switching is because two paladin healers for one ten man team is often not just less than ideal, it’s nearly impossible. Neither of us has the raid healing strength to fill that niche. The upcoming changes are working to address that, but it remains that our holy paladin would be better off healing with any of the other three types of healers by his side – not another holy paladin. That’s frustrating, and it’s disappointing to me personally because I love paladin healing.

That’s not really what this is about, though. What it comes down to is that it’s usually better to have a hybrid, but when you’re a hybrid that hates your other spec you aren’t much use as a hybrid, and then what do you do?

I hope you’ll forgive the somewhat ranty nature of the above post. I have put off writing about this because I didn’t want to be too much of a whiner (hence the radio silence for the past two weeks while I quietly seethed). I want to do the best thing for my raid team, but I also want to do the best thing for myself, because if I’m not having fun then my priorities are severely skewed.

Edited to add: Beru over at Falling Leaves and Wings wrote an excellent post this morning about this very problem, from a broader overview and 25s perspective. It behooves you (har) to go check it out!

Tuesday Art Day: Gone Fishing

This is an image I was recently commissioned to do as a super-secret surprise painting gift, so I can’t tell you more about the character except that she likes to fish. I also like to fish, so this was really fun to do. My client wanted a sort of dreamy, hazy feel and greens from Feralas or similar, so we went with that. I liked finding the right fishing basket, also called a “creel,” which I didn’t know before. So I also learned something new!

A gnome after my own heart.

Battleplate of Radiant Glory

Here's the Angry Yellow Man.

Well, folks, it’s here. Above is what I was afraid of. Below is the actual tier set, if you haven’t seen it yet!

Paladins, now with more wings!

Here’s what the artist had to say about it.

Design requested a set to ‘key off the Guardian of Ancient Kings summon,’ and I though the concept of ‘feathered’ plate mail, rendered in silver and gold, would create an aggressive, yet sweeping and powerful silhouette. The previous paladin raid set had a good deal of cloth, but we wanted this set to be entirely platemail.

The key to a strong paladin tier is hitting a balance between martial prowess and elegant grace — tapping into that classic Arthurian knight archetype.

How do I feel about it? I don’t hate it, at all. The colours are much more subdued. They used gold and burnished silver to really evoke that “noble, clean” look without going too over the top. Even the shoulder feathers are okay by me. They wanted to evoke the feeling of the Guardian’s wings without actually having giant wings poking out the back of the armor. Now, as for the helm…well.

I think it’s going to interfere with my horns. Most helms do. It may be something I’ll leave turned on if my horns don’t jab through it in a way that says “one blow to the face is going to embed this metal in my bone.” I’d have to see it on Vid before deciding. That said, who am I kidding – I’m going to probably be transmogrifying this set in any case. Not that it isn’t a very nice set. I may wear it for a time, but like I told my raid, I expect to transmogrify my gear about once a week or so, as the spirit moves me.

I like the set itself, though the winged helm might be a bit over the top. Then again, why not? Heimdall had these two spikes sticking out of his head and nobody laughed at him. (I know Thor’s helmet had wings, too, but he only wore it for about twenty seconds in the movie – which, incidentally, I enjoyed. The movie, that is).

So what do you think of Paladin T13?

100th Post: Paladins, Mages, and Something In-Between

So it’s been about three months now that I’ve been raiding as a paladin, and it happens that this is my one hundredth post at Manalicious! I’ve been waffling about what to write, considered doing a blogaversy style-retrospective of my favourite posts, but I think I’ll save that for my actual blog’s anniversary. I did also want to mention I have been horrible about replying to comments lately, and I’m going to try to get better about it. I do read and enjoy every single comment, and usually I try to always reply to them, too.

On Being A Paladin

This is a preview of a graphic I've been working on for ages with intention to put it on the blog. Secret unfinished image!

It’s ironic and sad for my husband, Voss, that he has such a rivalry going on with paladins. Every Friday when he is able to tweet more, he picks a fight with the paladins on Twitter. It’s actually hilarious to me that most of the people he talks to on Twitter are 1) Blood Elves and 2) Paladins. The cherry on the paladin sundae is that he’s married to someone who also plays a paladin. But, I don’t feel bad about it because being a paladin is fun. I am really starting to settle in to raiding as one. The healing style is in my fingertips, if you will. I have fixed some issues and bad habits and I think I’m doing a better job than ever before. So that aspect of being a paladin is going well.

I think I make better use of my toolbox. My gear has been steadily improving, although both Ragnaros and Domo have stubbornly refused to drop tier tokens while I’ve been in the raid – so now I’m at the point where I expect we’ll be getting heroic shoulder token upgrades and neither myself nor my priest friend will be able to upgrade them because we never got the normal ones. Naturally, I’m unhappy about this. I don’t really have a solution in mind, but four-set doesn’t look like it’s in my future anytime soon. I’ve heard that it’s really not “all that” anyway, so perhaps that’s fine. My fellow paladins may disagree.

Paladins have many neat things that I wind up missing when I am playing a mage (and vice versa). The two speed bursts make up for not having Blink, in my book, while in Retribution spec the Long Arm of the Law gap-closer makes me happy. Playing melee is interesting and it’s definitely been a change from the DPS I’ve been used to in the past. I find myself reaching for Crusader Aura when I am playing any character that does not have Crusader Aura. (Despite world-wide flying, there are still places like the Molten Front where it is incredibly useful).

On Having Divided Character Loyalties

I eased off on trying to re-complete achievements for Vid, realizing that I was burning myself out by trying to regain ALL THE THINGS that Millya already had. Instead of trying to rebuild a pet collection, I collected some more pets until Millya was able to get the Celestial Dragon. Right now I’m doing Brewfest stuff for both of them, but the only thing Millya needs to do is get drunk in Dalaran and then fall off something, so she just needs Brewfest clothing. Vid hasn’t done the achievements at all, but Brewfest is one of my favourite holidays so I don’t mind doing them all again. I also did just enough to get my druid (the original drunkard of my “crew”) a Brewfest Keg Pony.

FOR PONY.

I think I’ve come to the point where I am resigned to the fact that I’ll never have the one character with all of the achievements and things the way that some people do. (Voss, for instance, has all of his raid achievements on Vosskah because he never plays anything else). Me? I will have different achievements depending on the character, and I may go back and re-do some if I feel the urge but I can’t let it bug me too much because I’m too variable to only ever play one character. One of my guildies was teasing me because I said during the My Epic Heals podcast that I would probably play my mage again, and that she is my “true” main. What I really mean, but can’t explain, is that my strongest loyalty lies with her, raiding aside. Raiding is only one aspect of the game, after all. I’ve been playing Millya devotedly for three years, while Vid has only even existed (at max level) for about 1-1.5 years. But her name is also my online identity and I first started blogging while writing about her so… I guess, what it comes down to is that they’re just different. I’m sure I could never abandon either of them. I didn’t expect Vid to become my raiding main, but she has, and she is awesome.

On Being A Mage

My avatar on Twitter.

The Molten Front dailies suck. They really do. The second time around, they suck in a way I can’t even describe for fear of being sucked into a whirling vortex of suckitude. I’m doing them again with Millya because she likes achievements but seriously. 150 Marks to reveal more dailies. Then another 150 until you’ve done the same thing. Then 125…three times over? It just seems excessive. Even the first time, towards the end I was really losing steam with these dailies. And I am someone who really likes dailies. I did the Isle of WTF for weeks back in the day. Anyway, Millya will get some more pets and a mount, but I reserve the right to complain about it a bit at the same time. (I know, I do it to myself).

As far as maging goes I have delved into LFD a bit more with Millya as Vid routinely caps VP through raids primarily. I don’t actually mind the DPS wait too much. I do mind the way that groups often treat DPS, like expendable (and stupid) movable artillery. If you’re unclear about which Hatcher you want killed, you don’t get to yell at me when I kill the “wrong” one when you weren’t smart enough to go pick up the hatchlings, regardless of where they spawned! And the reason we wiped on the last boss is not because I “used Time Warp in the Lynx phase and should have saved it for Dragonhawk.” It’s because you are a terrible tank that wasn’t using your CDs, and the healer was a pretty undergeared and slow druid who let you die. Also, when one DPS does 40% of the damage in a run, you should stop giving him/her a hard time.

Most of my LFD runs go well, and are fun. After healing a lot of the time I find it’s nice to relax back into exploding things with fire in the face, fire on the ground, extra big fire, little fire…! By contrast, when I’m soloing and running around the world it will usually be as Frost. My water elemental and I, Speak, are an inseparable team. I actually did go Frost on the last boss in ZG when our group was struggling, though. The added control on the Spirits made a big difference, and I wish I had thought of doing it sooner!

By the way, my elemental’s name is Speak because of this video a friend inflicted on me years ago. Now, I pass it on to you. Don’t blame me if it gets stuck in your head, though. I dun wanna war. Yee, c’mon.

Patch 4.3 Notes: This Just In

The news about patch 4.3 is coming fast and furious! I have a few posts in the works at the moment, none of which seem particularly relevant in the face of so many announcements. So instead, you’re going to get me doing a bit of rambling.

Tier Sets and other Fashion Concerns

First of all, for the most part I really like the tier sets they’ve previewed thus far. I even like the mage one, with a caveat. I do not want to wear it, but I like it. I think it’s going to look amazing on a gnome mage. I think it would not have looked amazing on my mage, but I’ll look forward to seeing it modeled by the esteemed Fsob. I think the other tier sets are strong, but there’s something they said that worries me.

Most of this tier was attempting to play off a new ability the class got in Cataclysm, so for instance Time Warp for mages and Wild Mushroom for druid, in some cases (like warrior or warlock) there’s playing off of the raid and those themes, and then for others it’s a bit more just doing something we think represents the class in a more abstract manner. We’re putting them up as soon as they’re done, essentially, so from here on out they’re likely to be posted rather randomly.

I read this blue post and I cringed…Does this mean that this is what the paladin tier set is going to look like?

I mean, it’s… I guess it’s not… It could be worse, but it’s just SO YELLOW. This may sound funny coming from someone playing a paladin, but I don’t even like yellow. Fortunately (as Voss reminded me) if I hate the tier set, it’s coming out when Transmogrification is coming out, so it isn’t going to matter!

I am happy to hear that there will be a “dungeon set” for the three new five-mans. Dungeon sets were something I really enjoyed from BC and Vanilla; it was nice to have a cohesive set of visually matching gear to pursue even if you weren’t a raider, and even now these remain some of my favourite sets. Everyone likes to match their gear, right? Well, some people might not, but that’s a whole other concern.

New Five-Person Content

Yes. This cannot come soon enough for me. If I never see another troll again in-game (sorry, my Berserking friends) it will be too soon. I looked at the armory of all my heroic-running characters to add this up and illustrate my point. I have run Zul’aman fifty-four times. I have run Zul’Gurub fifty-five times. That’s a total of one hundred and nine troll instances since they were released. I am done with trolls, and I don’t think the idea of having an “upper” tier of heroics was necessarily a great one, either. Sure, it was fun initially because the troll heroics are pretty tough, require CC and coordination. But since maxing VP every week is the model for the fastest gear acquisition (and being in a progression raiding guild, I made the choice to maximize mine each week), there was definitely an obligation to do troll heroics, often. I still find that I can sometimes enjoy them – the fights are interesting, pugs can be just inept enough to keep things tense – but I will be greatly relieved to go do some other instances for awhile.

And the new instances look great! From a lore perspective, I am fascinated to go to the Well of Eternity. The End of Time also has an awesome hook. Post-apocalyptic Azeroth? Fighting shades of faction and other leaders? Sign me up!

I only hope that because she is going to be a dungeon boss, that Tyrande gets a much-needed model upgrade. Not a lazy upgrade, either – an honest-to-goodness model made just for her. After the art debacle, she surely deserves that much!

"You know, I've been dead for AGES and I still have better textures than you."

(Above wallpaper image compilation is by Jujin on Deviantart). Another aside, because I can’t help myself – why not Echo of Velen? You know he could be scary! Heck, Eredar are scary, aren’t they? Yes, I know, draenei aren’t getting any love this expansion. I can only hope they remember we exist in the next.

My talking chandelier and I are going to **** you up! Aw, man. The Naaru have not forgotten us, but Blizzard has.

Random Other Things

Tier 13 will not be available at all from valor points.

It’s an interesting departure from the previous models. I’m a bit leery of this change if only because of the fact that drops for tens are so fickle. We had the same token something like four weeks running. There are still people on our token (our priest, myself) who don’t have shoulder or head tokens. At least if my armor looks like the most terrible mishmash of random Firelands stuff mixed with whatever T13 off-set will be, I’ll be able to Transmogrify it to look halfway decent. Unless there IS no T13 off-set. Hmm. I’ll have to reserve judgement on this for the time being.

The new legendaries are two daggers (main hand and offhand) that are only usable by all three Rogue specs. Combat Rogues will be made to use these daggers as well without a DPS loss. The questline will revolve around the pure black dragon (from the egg in the Badlands) and features several Rogue-centric elements.

Good. I’m happy for our rogue (our ONE rogue). A legendary that doesn’t cause guild drama is okay in my books.

Melee classes will be getting a buff that is only active in the new raid to help them compete with ranged classes.

Now this is interesting. They obviously know that ranged DPS is strongly favoured over melee, and has been for quite a few tiers. Without taking into account the interrupt requirements of T11, in almost all cases it was a no-brainer to stack ranged DPS. Now that my offspec is a melee DPS I’m definitely feeling it. It’s like, I COULD go retribution for this fight but that would bring us up to x number of melee and probably hurt us in the fight overall. It’s frustrating. This is a bit of a bandaid solution, but at least it says that the issue is on their radar.

The new Looking for Raid tool is going to have lockouts separate from “regular” raids. Functionally, this probably just means I’ll have a new way to torture myself with belligerent strangers. I’ll probably try it out once or twice just to see what the difficulty is like, and possibly garner some pug stories. (The things I do to gather blog fodder…)

Epic Gems

For raiders, this will be an interesting move from epic gems of previous expansions.

Epic gems will drop in the new raid in Normal and Heroic only. Each player gets a geode when a boss is killed which has a small chance to contain an epic gem, most will have rare gems. It is rare enough to take all of 4.3 to replace all of your red rare quality gems with red epic gems.

Even with limited gem availability, it’s always been our policy to put the BEST available gems in your gear, regardless of item level. If it was available, and an upgrade – you had to swap them out. It doesn’t sound like that’s going to be a viable option here, depending on how truly rare they are. If there are never any on the auction house, you can’t very well buy them to put in your gear. This may lead to some careful consideration about just what gear you put your fancy new gems in, when you can get your hands on them.

Will any of them be prospectable? Will they still drop from fishing bags? Will they be buffing Jewelcrafting gems to be on par with these new ones? (I suppose not, considering that the 81 Intellect advantage a JC currently has is equivalent to the other profession’s bonuses).

Firelands was nerfed so that players could see the content and continue progression instead of hitting a wall in heroic modes.

“Quite a few” new profession recipes will be added.

Northrend will require 2/3rd of the experience it does now, making leveling alts faster.

Old PvP armor will come back for transmogrification.

I should look more closely into the stats about not only who has been downing heroic bosses, but also who has been trying and failing to down them. Other than that, “quite a few new” profession recipes should be good (and may or may not determine whether I drop engineering), quick Northrend leveling will be nice for people leveling alts or new characters, and more Transmogrification options are always welcome.

Besides all of that, don’t forget that this patch also includes the new and improved Darkmoon Faire. There should be quite a bit going on when the patch comes out!

How I Learned To Stop Worrying and Love The Nerfs

I tend to be a bit slower to comment publicly on news – especially contentious news. It’s not that I don’t have opinions. But especially when my reactions are strong ones, I usually want to sit on them for a bit, sift through why I am reacting so strongly, and only then can I express that reaction coherently.

When word of the upcoming T12 nerfs (to both normal and heroic modes) hit, I was spitting mad. I hit Twitter in a frenzy, posted on my guild forums, logged in to commiserate with my guildies. My nerd rage was at an all-time high. I thought it was unfair, I felt cheated – and didn’t understand why they would nerf content that is, to me, “mid-tier.”

Of course, I recognize that we’re missing some key pieces of info. We don’t know when T13 is coming out, how long it will be on the PTR and exactly when this tier will become obsolete. I was on vacation when T12 came out and so to me, it’s had a run from July to September. Two and a half months feels really short. I didn’t understand why they’d sweep the proverbial tier rug out from under our feet.

But do you want to know the real, naked and honest truth? I was upset because we were late, and I knew it, and I hated to admit it even to myself.

You’re seldom going to see a blog post where someone admits (especially a guild leader) that their progression just hasn’t been going the way they’d imagined. Granted, I don’t usually say much about my raid team anyhow; kill shots aren’t exciting for anyone but the people in them. When we achieve a particularly awesome kill I might write about and exult in it a bit (I was so proud when we downed Heroic Lich King, nothing could have prevented me from writing about that). This is the other side of that coin; the dirty, reluctant and secretive side. The uncertainty, the disappointment – yes, dare I say, even shame and guilt. I was the guild leader of a raiding guild that hadn’t killed a new boss in a month. That is the secret that I wouldn’t write about. It was eating away at me.

There are certain acknowledged risks that go along with pushing that big red button.

The Green-Eyed Monster

I could go into all the reasons (excuses) why BT was stuck in the mud, spinning its wheels, although it’s a timorous beast. Who can say exactly why a raid team may stall? It’s seldom any one reason. Was it the roster changes? Scheduling conflicts? Lack of interest? It’s almost impossible to pinpoint just one thing, and anyway, excuses are tedious and boring. But you start to doubt yourself, and you feel others’ doubt beginning to build, too. Please don’t mistake me. I am incredibly proud of my team and the people on it. The other reason I didn’t want to write this was because I never wanted to make them feel bad, or as if I had lost faith in them. Quite a few guildies read my blog. To write about how we’d been struggling felt like it would be a betrayal, and incredibly demoralizing. It could become a self-fulfilling prophecy. If your guild leader expresses doubt about you, wouldn’t you start to doubt yourself too?

Yet it’s been agonizing, and I know it’s been hard on all of us. It got to the point where I hated even opening Twitter, hated to hear about the successes of others, each new kill announcement feeling like it was aimed specifically at me, shouting, “We killed this and YOU DIDN’T.”

It’s not a pleasant feeling. It’s even worse feeling like your own self-doubts and frustrations are making you act like the worst version of yourself. I’ve always been (or tried to be) the kind of person who is honestly happy for the successes of others. In order to do that, you need to come from a strong sense of self. You can’t let your confidence be shaken, nor start to feel like others’ successes are a reflection of you. They aren’t, unless you let them be.

But the fact is, we’d still only downed Heroic Shannox after a month of work on other heroic bosses. It eats away at a person, and it eats away at a guild, slowly eroding the confidence that lets you move on to other kills. The longer you’re there, the deeper you become mired.

When the nerfs were announced, I read “nerf” and what I heard was “failure.”

“These nerfs are for you, because you haven’t downed the content in the allotted time frame. You are the intended audience and you need them.” I’m sure I’m not alone in feeling this way. Whether you are working your way through normal or heroic mode raids, it’s hard not to feel as if nerfed content is a pronouncement on you. For me, I found myself wondering, what is a heroic raid guild that doesn’t kill heroic bosses? I had to think long and hard about this, and the answer I came up with is that it’s a heroic raiding guild that could, perhaps, at this time – benefit from some nerfs.

Whatever the reasons – and I don’t want to delve into them here, because our group is in the process of stabilizing once more – we’ve really struggled to move through this tier. We mowed over the normal modes for the most part and had great momentum going into heroics. It’s as if we were caught somewhere in the middle; quite strong for normals, but maybe not quite strong enough for all of the heroics. So, I was immediately angry, and then slowly started to drift towards acceptance. As I read some thoughts that other people had on the subject, I realized that I have to focus on what is important: the long-term strength and success of the team. We faltered somewhat in T11, not completing the heroic tier (something we’d not failed to do since Ulduar), and that was a blow to morale. We’d hoped to make a strong start in Firelands (and I think we did) but it’s tough to predict just what is going to happen – who is going to leave, who is going to be out of town, whatever. I’m not looking to point fingers at my people. The funny thing is, the guild has changed completely. It’s not the same guild it was even a year ago. Many of our long-term members stopped raiding, replaced by new people who – no matter how awesome – need time to click, and build a new team.

This whole process has helped me to realize some truths.

Sometimes it’s better to pick yourself up and build something for the future. So we weren’t on the bleeding edge of content for this tier. It’s a fact. But so what? Tons of guilds haven’t even made it this far – they’ve folded, collapsed, or exploded. We still have a full raid group. We’re still here. We’ve consistently cleared through Ragnaros for many weeks in a row, and our raid has been gearing up nicely as a result.

Success is all relative. A week ago, I was upset because we couldn’t move past 1/7 heroics. None of us joined this guild to only kill 1/7 heroics. The announcement of the nerfs and other changes we’ve been making really galvanized the team last night and we had a breakthrough of sorts – finally pushing through to kill Heroic Alysrazor. Nerfs or no nerfs, we’re going into next week with one more kill under our belts. That feels good, it feels like progress, which is why I play this game. Will I be puffed up and brag about our progress post-nerf? Probably not, because I will know that these kills will be much easier than kills made while the content was still at full-strength. But there’s a difference between not boasting and not being proud to complete things at all. These nerfs may be just what we need to continue pushing and have challenges to face leading up to T13 – and when T13 does come, we’ll have all the gear we can muster, and the experience of this tier, and we’ll be ready for it.

This time around, they nerfed the content when we were 28% of the way through heroics (or 42%, if Domo goes well this week). If next tier they pull the “to the ground, baby” move again, I’ll consider it a success if we are further through that tier than we were this one. Measurable, steady improvement is highly underrated. I’m still proud of my team and what we have accomplished, and what I know we will accomplish in the future. Besides that – we can’t be the only group that didn’t go extremely far. There has be a good reason for Blizzard to be nerfing the content before it’s truly through. Maybe guilds that only want to do normals couldn’t get as far in them as they would have liked. Maybe, with reduced raid schedules, not everyone is able to go through the whole thing. Obviously, Blizzard thinks so, and they’re taking this action as a result. It’s going to benefit my guild, and I’m okay with admitting that. It turns out that maybe – if you shed light on such a secret – it might not be so shameful after all.

Voss-isms

I’m sure our raid leader, Vosskah, could tell you that there are so many advantages to being bilingual. I can’t actually claim them, myself (while I do understand quite a bit of French, I wouldn’t call myself bilingual). You can live in different places, work in either language (or both) and also you have access to twice as much arts, culture, and history – in the original language!

It’s an advantage for Business Time that Voss is our raid leader, because 1) he’s great at it but also 2) he’s often inadvertently hilarious. Sometimes it’s a matter of a colloquialism he missed, our just a difference in translation, or a slip of the tongue in the heat of the moment. Fortunately for us, he’s a great sport about it. I’m sure that more than half of our “in” jokes have sprung up from some Voss-related misunderstanding. Voss jokes are so much a cornerstone of BT that back when we were working on heroic Lich King one of our members made this video.

The jokes:

  • Voss has a hard time with the word “horrors.” It tends to come out more like just plain old “whore.” Shambling Horrors takes on an all new-meaning, I’m sure you can imagine.
  • Our warlock, Dirtface, had a penchant for summoning mole machines smack in the middle of the raid.
  • Our mage, Fsob, is seldom content to remain in his natural form, leading to some confusion about just who or where he is at any given time.
  • Our erstwhile paladin, Noodlestein, constructed an elaborate fish feast art installation during one of the interminable RP sessions.

Please note: the following video has coarse language and references to gnomes. Viewer discretion is advised.

As it happens, <Shambling Horrors> is now the name of our Horde-side sister guild. Poor Voss’ hapless hilarity doesn’t end there, though. Other things of note:

Our hunter nearly died when we were killing Marrowgar and Voss shouted, “OK, now get Kayla off!”

I had to explain why he might want to choose different phrasing the next time. Similarly, you never know when he might tell us all, “OK, now everyone come on the gnome!”

For some reason, from the first time we fought Shannox, Voss couldn’t help but call him “Shannon.” He wasn’t trying to be funny, the boss was just “Shannon” to him. (Below image credit goes to Searing Shammy).

This image came up in a Google image search for Shannox and I couldn't resist using it. It's from Searing Shammy, it is not my image!

“OK, here she comes!” he’d say. Naturally, this most unfeminine of bosses started a trend. You may be fighting Shannox and Ragnaros in the Firelands. BT is fighting Alice, Beth, Margeurite, and Barbara. Or, as Adgamorix said, “How about – Baleroc as a substitution for Baleroc? It’s catchy, has a good ring to it, and is easy to remember.” (It never caught on, though.)

I can’t even describe to you how hard I laughed the other night when Voss yelled into Mumble as we were fighting Ragnaros, “Alright guys, SPLITTING BOWEL!”

He insists that the difference between “blow” and “bowel” in this case is minimal (after all, if you were hit by Ragnaros’ Hammer you might suffer that effect) but I have to beg to differ. Splitting Bowel is so much more evocative! Given the well-documented prevalence of poop quests in the game, I wouldn’t put it past them to include it as a real boss ability.

I’m really resisting making a “wipe” joke here, I swear. We keep it classy!

Let’s just say that when it comes to having Voss as a raid leader, there’s seldom a dull moment – especially since he himself is so focused and serious. He is the perfect straight man to our admittedly sometimes adolescent humour. Although, he insisted that I had to add in his response to our teasing: “Mangez donc tous un char de marde!”

It means, “I think you are all so hilarious!” (Please note: This is not an actual translation. Don’t repeat this to a French-speaking person unless you want to pick a fight with them. If so, then by all means!)

We love you too, Voss.

What are your raid’s funny (or not so funny) “in” jokes? Is your raid leader, much like Voss, apt to be super serious, or are they cracking jokes along with you? One day we were joking that Voss just tunes us out (“He probably doesn’t even hear us!”) and about thirty seconds later he said, “Huh?” It’s probably the only way he can stay sane.

Hoarders

For the past few weekends, I haven’t played very much WoW outside of old time raids and current raids with my guildies. Raiding has still continued as usual but once the weekends arrive Voss and I generally found that we have other things to do. I have an ongoing project that I decided should take precedent over my in-game bank organizing – house organizing! Specifically, several months ago I read a book about minimalism that talked about how to let go of things you don’t need. Possessions themselves come with a responsibility, apart from simply owning them – they need to be stored, kept clean and in working order, in some cases insured, and guarded against theft. The more you own, the more you stand to lose in a disaster. More importantly, the things you own can add up to a mental “weight” you aren’t even aware of.

In our case, that included old furniture cluttering our basement, books I’ll probably never read again, more clothes than I could wear in a month of not washing any (seriously), and a lot of other stuff that is not adding any value to my life. I set out on a mission to pare down and let go of things that I no longer needed or wanted, or found useful. It’s been enlightening and freeing. It’s far from over, naturally, but I pick a small area at a time and focus on it. It helps me to keep from getting overwhelmed to say, “I’m going to weed the books from THIS shelf,” instead of, “I need to get all the junk out of this entire room.” One weekend we pared down our clothes and ended up with eight garbage bags of stuff to donate!

I get rid of MY clothes. Millya's clothes, on the other hand...don't even think about it.

I’ve gotten rid of, to date:

  • my old set of bedroom furniture (bed frame, desk with shelf, dresser, night table)
  • one mattress/box spring
  • a wooden kitchen table
  • a metal kitchen table (it was an art project, don’t ask)
  • one artificial Christmas tree
  • a huge bag of stationery, honestly, I had a problem
  • uncounted amounts of cookware, bakeware, etc (including one entire set of pots and pans)
  • aforementioned eight bags of clothes (out of season, unfitting, unfashionable, whatever)
  • a few bags of extra towels sent to the dog shelter

I’m sure there are more things I’m forgetting, but to me it’s a great list so far! We have much more space. It’s ironic that as this has been going on, I’ve simultaneously been stuffing my WoW character’s banks to the absolute gills – if bank bags had gills, that is. A few months back a firefighter guildie challenged me to write a post about “hoarders,” inspired by the fact that he’s seen many houses in real life that are a fire waiting to happen, and relating to the television show of the same name. I had never seen this show before (we don’t have cable) and I watched a few episodes after he mentioned it. It was absolutely horrifying to me. I don’t ever want to be one of these people, so buried in stuff that it’s consuming them (or damaging their health). I imagine the average person reading this isn’t like that, but still. It’s eye-opening and sordid. Incidentally, for gross-out factor, that same guildie told me he can’t watch the show (while his wife likes it) because the one thing the episodes can’t capture is the smell of a place like that. I guess dealing with that in your professional life doesn’t exactly leave you wanting to think about it in your leisure time, too.

As far as in-game goes, I’ve been trying to get rid of stuff just as much in-game as I have outside of it (except the clothes, never the virtual clothes). I don’t hang onto old enchanting mats anymore – I sell them, reasoning that if I eventually need them, I can just buy them anyhow! I’m curious whether the theory that clutter creates mental distress could be applied to virtual inventories, too. In-game items don’t require insurance or cleaning, but they do create a virtual “mess” and need maintenance. How many of you have guilds for your bank alts? (I know I do!) It’s also nearly impossible to manage the “stuff” accrued across various alts without a system – in the form of add-ons or additional storage space. Larger bags, more alts, more bank slots! I can’t seem to get enough virtual room and it definitely takes up my time to manage it.

Anyway, for me this has been a parallel endeavor. I’m really trying to get rid of junk I don’t need in WoW at the same time that I am slowly but surely de-junkifying my living space. Hint: If you want less junk, you have to put a moratorium on the purchase of new things! Seriously. The rule is, nothing comes in without something going out. So if I buy a new pair of shoes, I have to get rid of a similar pair at the same time. Meantime, I get rid of at least one thing a day (usually to a new home, if I can. Freecycle has been fantastic for this!) At the end of the year, no matter what else happens, at the very least I’ll have 365 fewer things than I did last year!

My WoW efforts are less stringent, but more lucrative. Each thing that I send packing from my bank usually earns me a bit of cash (and if I can’t sell it, at the very least it’s vendor trash). You’d be surprised what people want, both in WoW and out of it. I won $5 betting Voss that someone would want an artificial Christmas tree in September. He insisted that nobody would. It took twelve minutes for someone to contact me through Freecycle.

Long story short: My non-wow time lately has been spent decluttering and it’s starting to pay off. I’m also thinking I need a better inventory addon to manage my space; I’ve been hearing good things about AdiBank so I’m thinking of trying that! How are you handling the gear and outfits you’ve been gathering for Transmogrifying purposes (or, like me, have you always been a packrat?)

p.s. I did a few outfits for Liala at Disciplinary Action along with some lovely company, so you can check that out here if you missed it. See, hoarding pays off; some day you may get to be in a fashion show if your wardrobe is interesting enough!

p.p.s. I don’t actually endorse hoarding. Unless it’s virtual, in which case I’m mostly all for it.

Minipost: Third Time’s The Charm

The other week, one of our priests stepped out of the raid for someone else after a wipe. Inexplicably, his body floated there long after he'd gone. It was creepy. Our rezzes are so powerful they grant levitation!

I just wanted to post quickly to mention another podcast I was on recently, My Epic Heals. Eade and Wolfshade were our gracious hosts and I was there along with Kurn from Kurn’s Corner. It’s an episode about holy paladin healing. We talked about Ragnaros and a bunch of other stuff if you want to give it a listen.

Also note, in case you missed it, my silly paper dolls post from the other day! I probably would have ordinarily saved that post for today, but I’m impatient like that, so instead it was posted a few days back.

Still Excited To Play World of Dresscraft

Last year, for the first time I paid for the Blizzcon “virtual ticket” so that I could follow along with the Blizzcon action as my Twitter feed was filled with excited attendees meeting up and having drinks. I really enjoyed the opportunity to see some behind the scenes stuff (the art and cinematics panels were my favourites!) and listen to the devs answer some questions.

Unfortunately, it wasn’t entirely fun to watch because some of the flippant replies earned my ire at the time. A woman who asked if we could have female characters that didn’t look like they’d stepped from the pages of a lingerie catalog was asked, “Well, what kind of catalog do you want them to have stepped out of?” You could see her face mirroring the feelings I had as this line of men mocked her question. Disbelief, followed by embarrassment, followed by resignation and a shrug as she stepped away from the microphone. By that time, the “answer” had degenerated into tasteless jokes about female Tauren coming from an agriculture magazine or catalog. It was disappointing to see that a serious question was not taken at all seriously. There are entire blogs devoted to the way female characters in games are portrayed. Women that actually play games? We’d like to know that our important organs are protected when we step into battle. Even gamers that are not women don’t necessarily like their characters to have exposed midriff for no real reason.

I’m digressing, though, because my post isn’t actually about this question, but another reply that made me roll my eyes.

The question and answer I’m referring to happen at around 9:39, so you’ll have to do a bit of scrolling to get there. For those who can’t be bothered, here’s a transcript: (also, big thanks to Wolfshead who wrote about this at the time of the last Blizzcon; the commentary on this entry helped me to relocate the question and answer once I knew exactly which developers were involved).

Woman asking question: I would like to ask for a closet. Something similar to a keychain. We’ve got all these wonderful festival items, and midsummer night, and all that stuff, and no place to put ‘em!

Tom Chilton: Yeah, that’s actually something that we had hoped to get in with Cataclysm. It’s really more a question of resolving data storage, and exactly what the interface is, and all that kinda stuff. But it is something we’d like to do at some point.

J. Allen Brack: What I’m interested in, is how excited are you guys to play “World of Dresscraft”?

At the time I was watching this, I tweeted: “Why yes, I AM excited to play World of Dresscraft, thank you very much!

Now, almost a year later, as the next Blizzcon looms, much has changed. Lo and behold, we’re getting a virtual closet. We’re also getting the ability to modify our gear. I don’t know about you guys, but the reactions I’ve been seeing to this have been uproarious. My guild has been furiously running old content to get specific set pieces – and we’re not talking about RPers here. We’re a raiding guild. I’ve been saving tier gear all this time out of long abandoned RP pursuits, but also because I just like doing it. My bank is all dresses. Tom Chilton gave a really respectful and honest reply to a valid question. Bank limitations are a problem for pretty much everyone, I’d imagine. I don’t think I’ve ever seen so much enthusiasm for an upcoming change before!

So I’d say: I’ll let the community’s response answer your question, Mr. Brack.

Right after I watched this Q & A, I started working on a small side-project for fun. Naturally, it could have only one name: World of Dresscraft. This is the result.

SO EXCITED. CAN'T EVEN TELL YOU.

Patch 4.3 not coming quickly enough for you? Help shorten the wait by taking your love of World of Dresscraft into the third dimension with a fully functional paper Millya doll (and assorted outfits!).

Millya is never without an outfit for every occasion. She has fancy dresses, spring dresses, Kirin Tor robes, Draenic Silk Robes (lovingly crafted for Modoru by his grandmother, they’re an heirloom, you know) and even an odd outfit she borrowed from another wizard she met once. There are outfits for fishing and baking, killing Horde, and of course some pyjamas with mage cakes and pink elekk slippers.

You can download the full-sized version here: Millya Doll (Colour)

and if, like me, you don’t have a colour printer, here’s a black and white version that you can colour yourself: Millya Doll (Black & White)

Both of these images should be suitable for output on standard (8.5″ x 11″) paper. I’d recommend printing them on matte photo paper, cardstock, or some other heftier paper. If you don’t have that option, you can always print out and glue them onto something sturdier. Speaking from experience, it is possible to assemble them using plain old’ printer paper, but she won’t stand up really well. If you have any questions or comments I’d love to hear them! The cutting is pretty fiddly, especially Millya’s hair, but it’s just the way her hair is. If you have access to an x-acto knife you might have an easier time using that for the cutting, although it is doable with scissors. I’d never made anything like this before so constructive feedback will be helpful. If I end up doing any more, I can make sure my next one incorporates any suggestions! After all, World of Dresscraft is a vast universe full of many possibilities!

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