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

Archive for the ‘The Social Aspect’ Category

A birthday surprise

Rades and I use a system with Google Docs to coordinate the script for From Draenor With Love. I had already known for probably months that he wanted to have a page wherein Rades gives Vid a pink sky golem as a birthday present. Based on the trajectory of the story he decided to do it early in March, specifically because “It fits since it is around your birthday, too!”

I was a little suspicious. But I mean, I didn’t want to assume anything. And he admitted that he actually hadn’t been planning anything up until a few weeks beforehand. That’s when he realized that he had a lot of materials lying around that he’d been faithfully making on Rades each day, and also that he could give a mount to my Horde character and have it useable on any of my characters.

So when I saw in the FDWL script that he’d written “LOG IN ON VID ON DRENDEN AND CHECK YOUR MAIL” under the “refs” section for that page, haha, well…

This was waiting for me:

skygolem01

Of course, it can’t be actually pink (alas!) But it was still such a great surprise. It’s been an interesting trip, working on FDWL, to go from being friends with someone to self-directed colleagues and really almost coworkers. Rades and I have met in person twice but we talk pretty much every day via chat (and once a week with voice chat to plan the week’s strip). Of the two of us, I am probably the hardest to work with because I get frustrated more easily. Rades could best be described as “extremely mild with the conviction of a rock.” I don’t know if I’ve ever seen him angry, though I’ve definitely seen “firm.”

We both pour a lot of ourselves into FDWL. While the visible writing is his and the visible art is mine, he has a great deal of input into the art and I often weigh in on the script as well. The best and worst part about working with Rades is his exacting perfectionism, which is also the only conflict we ever have. Often times to me something looks “good enough” and he always pushes me to make it better. It’s a rare person who will do that, and I’m grateful to him for it (even if I don’t always sound grateful, haha). I’m really fortunate to have a friend who I can create something like this with, and also who has stuck by me through some pretty difficult times on a personal level. Basically when you find a friend like that you should stick to that person like a blood elf’s hair gel and make sure not to let go!

Thanks for the surprise birthday gift, Rades, and for everything else too.

All good things

tcg_10

I can talk about this here now because the news is public: due to budget cuts, WoW Insider has had to let much of their feature and columnist staff go. That includes me and all of my columnist friends at the site. I’m glad that many people will still be writing there, but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t sad on my own behalf.

Writing for WoW Insider has been a great experience for me. I was able to write for a much wider audience as well as having to be much more critical when it came to my writing in terms of both content and length. Voss says I’m long-winded, which is probably not untrue. I tend to get rambling and then before I know it I’ve written three essays instead of one. Staying within the word constraints (1000-1500) was a great exercise in restraint for me. It’s forced me to be more concise and also to make calls about what is really necessary and what isn’t.

I’ve also had to reconsider the rambling structure of what I write. Overall, I think it’s made me a stronger writer and I’m incredibly grateful for that experience. Of course, another effect of writing there was that Manalicious suffered in terms of updates and I do regret that. Between the pressures of updating a weekly comic, a personal blog and a bi-weekly article about mages, this place has collected a bit of dust.

The future

Now that I will not be spending the time writing for WI, I intend to redirect that passion back into this site. I’ll be posting much more regularly as well as possibly overhauling the layout and updating some things. (My least favourite part of maintaining a blog, if I’m being honest with you. I’m not very technical).

But the fact of the matter is that I still want a venue to talk about mages, my favourite class and the thing that really keeps me logging into World of Warcraft along with the awesome people in my guild. I will, of course, still write about the old standbys here too: whatever is going on with Business Time (still recruiting, by the way) as well as art and personal anecdotes where applicable. I also talk about baking things. This isn’t WI and it has a much smaller audience and is part personal blog as well. I may also post fiction from time to time, though I’ll be tagging it so people can skip it if they like. I know it’s not everyone’s cup of tea.

On a related note, as I’m losing a bit of my income I would like to step it up with the business side of art – commissions, etc. I’ll have more info about that for you soon. I’d love to do another set of Blizzcon badges for anyone who is planning to go this year. Those were so much fun and I loved doing them!

In terms of what am I going to actually be writing about: I have my third article about challenge modes more or less written. It didn’t fit well within the word limits and is mostly my personal notes about each CM, but I think it’ll fit very nicely here. I’m also eagerly awaiting news about our talent changes that is bound to drop anytime now. Celestalon’s hinting has me in great suspense!

So if this is your first time dropping by Manalicious, hello, welcome, have a cookie, pull up a chair. Things are a little more conversational here and I try to respond to comments when I can. I also have a strict “don’t be a jerk” comment policy and I will lay the ban down on someone really quickly if they come here and get out of line. Be polite and you are welcome. I’m Canadian, after all. To folks who’ve been reading here for years, even when content was a bit sparse, thank you. Without you I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to write for WI at all and I am so glad that I did.

cake

Here is a picture of the cake I baked the day that I heard The News about the layoffs. It’s this yellow cake recipe that Sally (Sarah Pine from WI) gave me. What’s brilliant about it is that it’s an old-fashioned, one bowl affair. You sift the dry ingredients into the bowl and then just toss in the milk and butter and let it mix. I set a timer and let the stand mixer go to town on this bad boy. The end result was delicious, very flavorful and moist. I frosted it with a chocolate sour cream frosting from another recipe book I had. It was the perfect cake for a bad news day. Here’s hoping that things will start looking up from here on out, though, and best of luck to my former and current colleagues at WoW Insider. It was fun working with you. I wish we could have some cake and beverages in person. Instead, just know that I raise my glass to you all!

An Epic Secret Santa Gift

So way back in November, I signed up for the Secret Santa gift exchange on Twitter. It was a lot of fun in 2012. I can’t show you what I sent to my Secret Santa this year because it has her actual name on it. I can, however, show you what I received in the mail today…

I made this post with Millya’s paperdoll image in it ages ago. Here’s the image, anyway, if you don’t want to click over there.

milldollpreviewThat’s just a preview size; the full-sized print ready image is linked in the post itself. But you get the idea. I made up a bunch of fun outfits for Millya before transmog even existed as such. Later, when I wanted to use an avatar from the image, I made this one:

twitvatar

Because what mage wouldn’t dress up as Howl if they could? So that’s been my profile picture off and on for a few years now. Little chibi-Howl-Millya. Little did I know that when my Secret Santa present arrived, I would open it up and find THIS:

kia02

Please excuse my terrible photography. I was excited. I took another picture too:

Kia

It is a cross stitched MILLYA. AS HOWL. Be still, my heart! Upon opening the card it was revealed that my Santa was the very talented @Kialesse from Twitter. Needless to say, I love it and I am so impressed. She even had it matted and framed up so that I can pop it right on the wall. I’ll do that as soon as I decide where. I’m thinking pride of place right above my computer monitor so I can look at it often.

So that is the story of the SS gift I consider myself very fortunate to have received. Well worth the wait! Especially after delivery snafus. Apparently UPS put the package on my doorstep last night, but I didn’t know until this morning and poor Kia was freaking out. I’m really glad it was there, it would’ve been too awful if something had happened to it. Who knew they delivered things that late!? Anyway, crisis averted. Draenei delivered. The wrapping paper was even a sort of shiny draenic purple, haha.

Thank you, Kia!

Blizzcon Recap

I’m home! What a whirlwind of a trip that was. I’m going to do my best to hit the high points in this recap but I have a tendency to be verbose so… It’ll probably run long. Consider this fair warning!

Voss and I had decided to roll into Anaheim a day early (Wednesday) just to give us time to get settled and ready before the lines, crowds and social whirlwind commenced on Thursday. We were also staying a day after, not leaving until early Monday morning. This was in large part so that I could go to Disney(!) with friends. Big caveat: I am going to really, really try to remember who I met and when but if I happen to overlook you it’s not because I wasn’t happy to meet you! I loved meeting everybody. But I also tried to make a list on the plane and at last count I had met 56 people, and that’s just the ones whose names I knew or learned. I also talked to some people and I have no idea who they are.

Day 1 (Wednesday, Travel Day)

Our trip from home to San Francisco and then finally Anaheim seemed disproportionately long. If we go again I am going to really try to find a direct flight. But we flew into John Wayne (SNA) which was nice because it’s pretty close to Anaheim and the convention center. We flew United and I found them really disorganized from the very beginning. So that’s good to know. I’m hearing good things about Delta so I may seek them out for next time. We made it from the airport to the Hilton pretty easily. The only downside of this was that it was 12:00 PM PST and we couldn’t check in yet.

So instead we had them keep our bags for us and caught a cab over to the outdoor outlet mall, “The Outlets at Orange.” This was really surreal for me. Coming from Canada, where obviously an outdoor mall isn’t feasible, it was really weird to be walking through the “mall” in the sunshine. Also, to add to that feeling, the speakers were piping Christmas music throughout. I accomplished my goal of finding a pair of jeans (and an extra pair for 50% off!) so the trip was deemed a success! I wish I hadn’t been so tired from traveling as plenty of other stores looked interesting but I just didn’t have the energy to drag myself through them. We said maybe we’d come back but clearly we were dreaming there.

By the time we got back to the hotel, though, some of our people had begun to arrive. We met up with the pally group in the food court – Rhidach, Antigen, Theck and Mel, and also Anafielle for a little bit. It was the first time we were meeting our guildie and Voss’ co-tank, Rhidach, as well as Antigen (former and honorary BT member) so that was great. I think we got over any awkwardness pretty quickly. We spent quite a bit of time with these folks over the course of the week, forming an unofficial posse. (Voss surrounded himself with paladins. I’m not really sure why since he’s such a vocal opponent of them).

Anyway, we all retired to our rooms to freshen up and wash off the travel grime. Afterwards we went down to the lobby and had a few drinks while waiting for our dinner reservation at 8:00 p.m, which turned out to be at 8:50. The steak and everything else at Morton’s was really, really good and the conversation was great too. Most of our party was fairly drunk-ish by this point, excluding Theck, Voss and myself. Theck because he doesn’t drink very much, me because I couldn’t drink at all during this time, and Voss because of solidarity. I think we were in our rooms and sleeping by 11:00 PM.

dafs

View from our hotel room!

Day 2 (Thursday, Pre-Con Day!)

I woke up bright and early on Thursday morning at 6:08 AM and was completely wide-awake and felt well-rested. But hungry. So I took to Twitter, assuming nobody else could possibly be awake that early. But fortunately (for me, not sure how they felt about it) due to time differences, Theck, Perculia and Hamlet were all awake and willing to meet up to have breakfast. It was really great to meet Hamlet and Perc; we’ve interacted some on Twitter but I don’t know them really well. We got to thank Hamlet in person for his challenge mode videos that helped us while we were working on our CMs. Later, Rhidach and Antigen joined us at breakfast as did Ilaniel who it was also great to meet! I had a brief “duh” moment after forgetting my Metformin and having to run upstairs for it after I drank a glass of orange juice. Whoa, blood sugar. I tried to be more careful about it after that and keep in mind that even though I was on vacation I couldn’t really just eat or drink whatever, especially things like juice. But it gave me a chance to grab the cookies from our room that I’d brought for the WoW Insider team’s headquarters, which I passed off to Ilaniel who kindly delivered them for me. We sat and talked for several hours before we started moving in separate directions to prepare for the day.

Around lunchtime we were getting hungry and my guildie Elfindale had just landed along with her work friend so we met up with them at their hotel and walked until we found some lunch. The lunch wasn’t outstanding but the company was great, I love meeting my guildies and Twitter friends in person!

Actually, I want to take a moment to talk about that because it’s one of my favourite things: Having known someone online and then meeting them in the “real” world for the first time and just observing how they are. The way they smile or laugh, their mannerisms, even just their way of moving. I hope this doesn’t sound creepy because it’s not like that, it’s just really so nice and enjoyable to put faces to names and really get to KNOW a person. Hear their voice without a microphone and hug them! I love it, and it was really the highlight of my trip for me, every single person that I met. I learned that Aerix88 gives great burly hugs and looks a bit like his Pandaren avatar, that Matty is just as exuberant in real life as she is in her writing, and that my own friend Rhidach isn’t even exactly how I’d expected him to be. He’s usually a pretty calm guy (online) and he’s calm in person too but he’s also more expressive than I’d expected, dramatically gesturing to accompany his outbursts, it was fantastic. Now when I talk to these people online I’m going to have a much better sense of who they really are, and that’s amazing to me.

So, we had lunch with Elfindale and then went back to the lobby at the Hilton where people had started to arrive en masse. I got to hug the Sha of Happiness (as happy as advertised), Angry Orc (actually happier than advertised, declaring “C’MERE AND GIMME A GOOD HUG,” he sort of does talk all in caps though). I also met Alinea, Jezi_Belle and StarmHW and Ailinea from Twitter which was cool. Ailinea would later rock her fantastic Ashes of A’lar costume for the costume contest!

This was the day a few of the people I had done badges for found me, too. For various reasons: Timbersham had forgotten his badge and I offered him one of my business cards with his picture on it as a substitute. Marconin needed his painting signed (/sigh at myself). Arielle found us and hung out a bit too. It was great to see my badge paintings in action and know that people were really enjoying them. I think they were a good mix of visible and useful souvenir for afterwards. We also ran into Jasyla and Serrath in the lobby after they had arrived, we didn’t get much chance to talk but it was nice to catch up a little!

That evening was the WoW Insider/Wowhead party and we planned to get there really early so that we could get in. It turned out that 5 pm wasn’t quite early enough as people were already starting to line up for the party. Though we probably could’ve skipped the line due to working at WoW Insider, we waited anyhow and it didn’t take very long. This day began my day of Regrets About Shoes, as my cute dress flats are…well, cute, but not very cushioned and not great for standing around on hard pavement/tiles for hours at a time.

The party itself was really enjoyable. We met Matticus soon after coming in, and, definitely a man of priorities, he showed us over to the bar immediately. We also went to meet Alex Ziebart. Ilaniel (Sarah Pine) and Lisa Poisso were taking tickets at the entrance but I didn’t get a chance to really “meet” Lisa until Saturday. After we got drinks and as we were standing there, a lady nearby me kept kind of turning her head to look at me, then looking away, with a big grin. I thought she looked a bit familiar and then I saw her tattoos – it was definitely Hestiah! I went over, “Hestiah…?” “VID!” and she gave me a big hug. Nearby was also Apple Cider Mage, and we also met and hugged! Soon we were joined by Tikari and Kristin, and I also got to meet Orkchop, Mrs. Orkchop, and Tree Buddy. I can’t remember if I met Corv at this party or if that wasn’t until later. I know I definitely saw Ophelie again which was great! We see her at least once a year usually since we live in the same province, but still it’s always nice to catch up!

We left the WI party at around 8:00 p.m. to go and line up and get our badges for the next day. It was funny, as we came out of the party there was a huuuge line of people waiting and hoping to get in. We walked by and I heard some guy mutter to his friends, “Must be VIPS,” haha. We also found our guildie Tassager waiting in the line and got to meet him for the first time. He left and came along with us to pick up badges.We’d surmised that if we waited until later there’d be no line – we were WRONGO. But the line wasn’t too terribly bad, it moved very efficiently, and I limped through it, a martyr to Poor Shoe Choices. Apple Cider Mage and I got a chance to hang out and talk during this time which was great. HayFayFay from Twitter also went out of her way to find out who I was through Hestiah and we had a brief moment to chat.

The line itself was pretty much cattle herding. Long, narrow single-file rows that we had to briskly walk through, up and down, up and down. By the time we hit the end they printed our badge, handed us the swag bag, and sent us on our merry way. When we got back to the Hilton the lobby party was in full swing and it was way too much for me so we took some folks up to our room. I did get to see Sara very briefly though, as she practically knocked me across the lobby with a hug! We’d taken advantage of an offer the hotel sent us to upgrade to a suite, so we were able to fit fourteen of us in there actually reasonably comfortably. We had to sit on the bed and some on the floor but we made it work. We ordered a couple of pizzas from room service, which they sent up along with some glasses of ice cold water. I realized I’d have to get up onto my battered feet and play hostess and so I started bringing people water and someone shouted, “VID HAS CONJURED US WATER!” and everyone laughed while I swore at them that they had me CONJURING WATER ALREADY. Ah, the life of a mage.

This was the evening we got to meet Beru and Brade as well! Beru was already lined up to be my Disney guide on Sunday but it was super to talk a bit in person. We didn’t stay too late in the suite, everyone cleared out to go and get some rest because the next day was officially Blizzcon!

IMG_1039Hey it’s me with my FDWL stickers, ready to roll for the con! I put this picture on Twitter so that anyone looking for me could find me!

Day 3 (Friday, Opening Ceremonies)

We woke up pretty early to start getting into line but not before getting breakfast at the buffet. To our dismay, the line wasn’t a line so much as it was a mass of people crowded in front of the convention centre. It seemed unruly and like it would be a huge mess. They weren’t supposed to let us into the con until 11:00 AM (I believe) but somewhere around 10 AM the line had reached the street and organizers made the call to start letting people in to get settled. I am so glad that they did. Everyone streamed to either the right or left and we started going in the doors. Once inside, we waited a bit longer before they started checking bags/purses and then letting us into the hall. We wanted to be in the main hall for the opening ceremonies, and so we scrambled to get seats. It was just Mel, Tass, Voss and I because Rhidach and Antigen had been way ahead of us in the crowd/line but we got some decent seats at the front of a section with a good view of a screen.

We killed time for awhile until the opening ceremony. Once it started we were completely sucked in. I, of course, was over the moon at the announcements. Rhidach remarked that I began “barfing rainbows” when they showed the cinematic but I’m here to tell you it was actually more like cheering myself hoarse. Going back to Draenor! Draenei! KARABOR. Oh man. After the ceremonies Voss got up to go and find where Rhidach and Antigen were (they’d procured some more seats closer to them) and I got to chatting with the guys sitting next to us during the ceremony.They were also excited about the expansion and we had a great chat. So when Voss came back and said, “Okay, let’s go,” to meet up with Rhi, I worked up my courage to give the one guy a card and said “I do the art for the comic From Draenor With Love…” and he shouted, “I READ THAT ALL THE TIME! I just went on an archive binge!” So that was pretty awesome. Then his friend further down the row was kind of like, “What? Who?” and Voss said, “She’s Vidyala” and he was there going, “No way! My guildie is a huge fan, can I take your picture?” …yes seriously, so that happened.

I gave them some cards and stickers and went off to our new seats with a big grin and a really surreal feeling. I told Rades about it and I surmise that if we just happened to be sitting next to some folks who read FDWL there must have been many more than I think. So, I didn’t get your name but whoever you are, that was one of the best experiences of my Blizzcon. Just to chat with someone who reads the comic and get feedback about the new format in person was great.

We stayed in place for the WoW: What’s Next panel to get some more details about what the expansion entailed. My excitement level reached new heights as they announced things. Garrisons! A mage tower! KARABOR.

By the time the panel wrapped up we were pretty hungry and so we opted to go and find some lunch. We hadn’t counted on the hordes of people swarming every available restaurant, though, and so we kept walking right past Bubba Gump’s Shrimp Co. and ended up at P.F. Chang’s. They don’t have that in Canada so I’d never been there, it was really good though! Now I wish we did have it. By the time we finished lunch we would’ve had to sprint back in time to make the art panel, so I opted not to go and to just watch it on the Livestream when I got home. My time inside the actual convention is a blur – I completely forgot to go to the Apotheosis meetup, because we ended up hauling ourselves off to the hotel room around 4 pm. I was pooped.

We relaxed and killed some time until the Twisted Nether party was to start at 8:00 p.m. We skipped on supper and went to the party where I got to meet Fimlys and then Hydra, some other folks who were new to me. Rilandune arrived and I met him. I chatted with a few other people from Twitter including Lorekeeper Glaci and then Chronis and Kaleri showed up! It was great to have the time to sit down and chat with them and reconnect since we’d met in Toronto back in April. Later on in the evening I was found by Jed from Jed’s Blog as well as Navimie! We stayed pretty late, leaving the party (completed) at midnight. TNB had some bags there you could buy that had loot in them and a chance to win special loot that they had on the table! I won a signed copy of this Samwise print:

Artist Template_Scaled

Day 4 (Saturday, last day of the Con)

The next morning was the second day of the con, Saturday, and it was much more relaxed than the frantic lining up of the day before. We slept in until about 9:00 AM and had a leisurely breakfast at the Hilton buffet. I’m sure we ate breakfast with someone, but I can’t currently remember who. Saturday was the day to see anything else we wanted to see at the convention and buy some swag. We went to the J!nx store as well as the official Blizzard store. I got the Art of Blizzard book, some WoW cookie cutters(!) and a Hearthstone tee. Voss and I also picked up new mousepads at the Steelseries booth. On either Friday or Saturday we noticed that the line to try out WoD was short/non-existent and so we went there and were immediately ushered to a bank of computers. I spent the next twenty minutes frantically absorbed in trying to be a mage without any keybinds and not knowing where on the bars my abilities were. Somehow we still managed to defend Karabor in the time that we had, and I struck out into Shadowmoon to do some more quests. Shadowmoon is lovely. I think I know where my Garrison is going to be! I tried to get some screenshots with my phone but they came out blurry. It also turns out you’re not supposed to take photos, oops.

Here, have a blurry screenshot anyway!

Here, have a blurry screenshot anyway!

At 4 p.m. at the Meeting Stone was a meet-up I couldn’t miss, the WoW Insider/Wowhead meetup. The way the stone area was set up was maybe not 100% ideal – everyone kind of ended up crammed into this roped off area and it was an impenetrable sea of people I didn’t want to plunge into. I still met some folks including Anne Stickney, Noxychu, and some of the WI people I had seen on Thursday in any case! Perculia and Hamlet were here as well but we didn’t get to talk very much. Earlier I had run into Cadistra and I’m glad we happened upon each other

This was when I got to meet Aerix88 and Logtar along with Matty. Technophobia and his wife Frito_Kal brought us cupcakes! They were deliiiicious. I saw Apple Cider Mage again and talked a little bit! Mostly I chatted with Matty and then her husband for awhile, both super nice people. I want to say at this point I met Nyxy and ProbablyAero. Voss practically had to drag me away from the Meeting Stone because we kept getting involved in another conversation and he wanted to go back to the hotel before supper. We still had to figure out what we were doing for supper specifically, we had the day earmarked for a guild supper.

We ended up making (unnecessary) reservations at a sushi place that was as fair cab ride away. As the surroundings grew more desolate and we pulled into the dark and empty parking lot I started to wonder if we’d made a mistake. The feeling didn’t leave as we went inside the restaurant where there was no one else at 7 p.m. My fears turned out to be unfounded though, the sushi was good and fresh and no one got sick to the best of my knowledge. It was really a blast to sit down with all our guildies at the same time and place and just talk about stuff, mostly not guild related at all. But again this was a highlight for me because we’d been so scattered at other times. We talked about politics (Canadian & US) and a million other things. I got Rhidach to try beef tataki (not a hard sell) because I’d been telling him about it just a few days earlier when he was talking about how much he liked filet mignon.

The empty restaurant turned out to be a blessing in disguise as we enjoyed having the place to ourselves and not worrying about other people listening in on our video game talk and wondering, “WTF?” After we finished eating we got the restaurant owner to take a picture of us. I can’t believe it’s the only picture we got of all of us. It’s not a very good picture, but I guess it’s better than nothing. That night, we couldn’t really handle the bustle of the Hilton lobby (again) and so we went up to our room with some more folks. I knew I was going to Disneyland the next day very early but I also knew it might be my last chance to see some of these people so I’m glad we had them up. Even though Jed brought his warlock guildie with him.

Day 5 (Sunday, Disneyland!)

This was the day I met up with a friend of mine (not a WoW-friend) for breakfast and then we headed to Disneyland to meet up with Beru, Brade, Tikari, Kristin, Elfi and her friend Kim. I had wanted to go to Disneyland just because it seemed silly not to go when it’s right there, but I surprised myself by having a really good time all day and on all the rides. I didn’t personally do anything too daring, but I loved the Haunted Mansion (Nightmare Before Christmas) ride and had fun on the Buzz Lightyear ride too. One day is not really much time to see all that you might want to see at Disney, and I know this now for the future! We had a blast watching the Jedi Training Academy where they take kids from the audience and teach them how to be Jedi, it was great. I was glad to have more experienced park-goers (Beru and Brade) because they always knew the right way to go to get to something.

Still, by the end of the day my poor battered feet and ankle were displeased with me. I limped home tired and said goodnight to my last batch of Blizzcon friends. Our time together had been so short! The next day we were flying back home which was a whole other adventure but it’s boring. Tl;dr – we made it home. The best part of traveling is always coming home.

Blizzcon Lows:

Honestly, I’m still mad at myself for failing to get enough pictures. I could’ve had tons of pictures with our guildies, with other friends, and I barely took any. I wish I had, now.

Crowds continued to be a theme as I just couldn’t handle the Hilton lobby afterparties. I know I missed out on meeting some great people because I wasn’t there, but the cacophony and mass of people just sent me scrambling for the relative peace of our hotel room. It probably didn’t help that I wasn’t able to drink during the time of Blizzcon – there were a few occasions when some liquid courage would not have gone awry, and I might’ve been able to stay in the lobby for longer.

My shoes/feet/ankle. It took me a few days to recover fully once I got home.

Blizzcon Highlights:

Meeting all of the people! I’ve really tried to include them all here so that I don’t forget meeting them but it’s tough because I met so many. My guildies and close friends especially, but everyone I met was really nice and I was thrilled to have the chance to talk with folks in real life who had formerly only been an avatar to me.

Meeting people wearing my badges! It’s just a neat feeling, and knowing that they are enjoying the art and will be happy and maybe frame it later. A tiny keepsake from Blizzcon.

Going to the panels was pretty fun, it’s really neat to feel the energy in the room. I’m also reasonably confident that I started the cheer that went out when they announced Karabor would be the Alliance capital. It was silent for a few seconds before I shouted “WOOOO” haha.

Really, the best part of the entire trip was just the people. The con felt almost secondary to me, though parts of it were fun, it was the social events and people that were unbeatable. I’m glad we went. I’m not sure whether next Blizzcon is in our future or not – as always, it depends on circumstances, and it is also a very expensive trip – but I’m tempted. I’d like to do it again if it means seeing all the great people I got to meet this time.

If you actually read this far, thanks for sticking with me. I know, I’m longwinded.

Blizzcon!

This was the first (and probably only year) that we’ll be able to go to Blizzcon. So far this year it’s been a lot of uncertainty related to my infertility stuff. i.e. “Can we go to Blizzcon? If this medication works and I am pregnant then I can’t…” etc. But today finally arrived and I know we are okay to go to Blizzcon so we were ready to get our mitts on some tickets!

Rhidach helpfully had written a “how to get Blizzcon tickets” guide on our guild forums that was fantastic. ETA: He’s since posted these helpful tips on his blog, too. Less helpful was the fact that both he and I don’t seem to handle stress well and so we were stress-cases. I was honestly jittery all day anticipating the moment when I’d have to be spamming F5 to try and get into the queue quickly. We were in Mumble with Rhidach, Voss and Theck. All of us on tenterhooks, waiting. Actually, Voss seemed pretty chill, but Rhidach and Theck and I all agreed afterwards that the moment itself had been intense. My heart started pounding the way it does when we are fighting a progression boss and you just know that you can kill it. I just kept hitting F5 steadily with my eyes fixed on the words “unavailable” and my cursor hovering ready for when the button should appear.

When it did I hit it as fast as I could and hoped for the best. It takes you to a new page and tells you how you did. I was number 33 in line! I think it’s some uniquely DPS thing, but I am super proud of this. SEE HOW FAST I CLICK.

I know of course that there is a component of luck too. I happened to hit Refresh at a really great time. The clicking was all me, though. All four of us that were in Mumble managed to get tickets at various times, enough that we had some extras. I am happy that I was able to resell those to Twitter friends (at face value) who weren’t as lucky with the queue. I don’t think buying four was greedy as I intended to make sure they got into the hands of other worthy folks rather than scalping them for ridiculous amounts on eBay as some unscrupulous people seem to do.

If you were someone who wanted tickets and didn’t get them, I’m sorry, I hope you have better luck on Saturday! I wish I had enough tickets to give to everyone. The Warcraft community (especially the people I know on Twitter) are so awesome and you all deserve to go. Plus, I’d like to meet you!

So now as for Blizzcon itself! I’m worried it’s going to be a chaos of people or I might not recognize people or miss out on meeting people I’d really like to meet. I’m not quite sure how I will manage that yet. I know that I definitely will find some way to identify myself/From Draenor, possibly a shirt or…I don’t really know. I guess a shirt would be the most obvious thing. Anyway, if you are going to Blizzcon and I know you at all (or even if I don’t) I would love to meet you! I’m toying with the idea of some FDWL stuff I could have on hand for other people but I’m not sure about that one yet. Rades and I have talked about it before but not with anything definite. Shirts would be too unwieldy and I don’t know whether anyone would even want them. If you have any ideas I’d be happy to entertain them! Fortunately, now the tickets are bought and there is still time before the actual convention to think about these things.

I’m so excited to put some faces to the names I’ve known so long, in some cases years, and to meet some new people too, no doubt. We’re thinking about extending the trip a little to head to San Diego, so we’ll see.

Anyway, the gist of this post: I hope to see you at Blizzcon! Leave me a comment or get in touch or something so I know who to look out for.

The Greatest Night

There have undoubtedly been rocky parts during Business Time’s transition to “casual” guild from “reasonably hardcore.” It felt really smooth back in Dragon Soul because we already had the entire place on farm, so it was no problem to reduce to one night a week and smoke through it. Then it wasn’t a problem to take a break altogether. When Mists launched, it was the first true test of our new reduced schedule (two days a week, two hours per raid for a total of four hours). We’d never tackled new content this way before. To me it was a raid tier of fits and starts. We progressed easily through the first four bosses in MSV and then slammed to a halt on Elegon for a lot longer than any of us would like. When we finally downed Elegon, we killed Will the same night. Moving into Heart of Fear, we hit another wall in the form of the second cyclone boss and we spent a good amount of time on him as well. Throughout this all, roster changes and recruitment were dogging us and making it hard to have a steady pace. When we finally got Tay’ak down, it didn’t take very long to kill Garalon or the council style fight and then we encountered our ultimate nemesis – Amber Shaper Un’sok.

I could tell you how I feel about this encounter design, but I don’t want to sour my mood. Basically, Un’sok is my least favourite fight EVER, in any expansion and any tier. We wiped to him more than any other boss in T14. But he did die, like all the others. Unfortunately he died at a time when it was starting to look like we wouldn’t have time to finish the tier. Patch predictions were for March, and we hadn’t even touched Terrace. It seems that two hour raids were taking their toll. I know there were many nights when it felt as if just a few more pulls would’ve made the difference between a kill and no kill.

We killed Empress Shek’zeer very easily (14 pulls total, I believe), and launched into Terrace with a vengeance. Everyone knew that we had to clear it fast if we wanted a chance to actually finish the raid tier as well as earn ourselves a feat of strength. I’m not sure if it was the urgency of knowing we had a deadline, but everyone really showed me what they could do. We one-shot Protectors and killed Tsulong the same night, cleared Lei Shi and spent some time on Sha of Fear during our second to last raid. Everyone knew that yesterday’s raid was our last chance to finish “on-time.”

The raid started out in the best possible way for me. We were all hanging around the summoning stone getting everyone there when our monk, Zhem, told me: “Millya, check your mail please.” Mystified, I checked my mail and there was a letter from him with a wrapped gift. It’s my birthday on Sunday and I am turning 30, but I wasn’t expecting a gift! The accompanying letter said it wasn’t just a birthday present, but also a token of appreciation for everything I do for the guild. I opened it up, and this is what was inside:

!!!

!!!

It’s a Jeweled Onyx Panther. My own VOLTRON. To say that I was flabbergasted is the most extreme of understatements. Honestly, I teared up a little bit. It seems that Business Time had been planning this for weeks, since the start of February. They helped gather the materials to make all four panthers using a communal spreadsheet and they made this for me. Oh man, I am tearing up again. I am overwhelmed and humbled. It honestly means so much to me, and not just because “ooh shiny mount” but because the mount itself is indicative to me of the power a raid group has. Not just to kill internet pixels, but to support each other and to be friends over long distances and different lives. We are all greater than the sum of our parts, just like Voltron and the Onyx Panther. We’re always better together. I can’t say anything more about this than thank you, thank you, thank you. Even when we’ve moved on and the servers are dark, you’ll always have a friend in me. You all are the true gift.

I promised them all a sappy blog post, which is something of a forte of mine. But honestly, the night just got better from that point on, this was only the BEGINNING of the raid after all! Because we went in and read Sha the riot act; it was only our second night seeing him and we all felt the pressure to perform and make this a cleared tier. We did it!

And Itanya set Ullariend on fire.

And Itanya set Ullariend on fire.

This was pretty much the best conclusion any of us could have imagined to the tier. I couldn’t stop grinning all night. I’m so proud of these guys (and lady). We are set to go into the next tier with a clean slate, if you will, and no obligations to this content. We will go back and get kills for some people who unfortunately missed them, but we’ll have a solid footing for the new stuff, too. Incidentally, we are still looking for a hunter to finish off our roster. We’re sitting at thirteen at the moment but we’d prefer fourteen. Even when our numbers dipped we didn’t cancel any raids in the past tier, but we’d like to continue in that direction.

You would think I’d be satisfied with a night like that. An amazing gift from my guild, a Sha of Fear kill just in time for patch day… but no, there was more yet to come! After the raid I realized that I wasn’t VP capped. After doing a heroic, I was still 95 points short. So Pargath, Zierlyn and I headed into LFR for the 90 VP. We chose Vault of Mysteries because that’s the only thing that Pargath hadn’t done. We waited a little while in the queue but it eventually came up, as they do. Spirit Kings was fairly uneventful and I thought the raid was going to be generally fine, until we got to Elegon.

It has been pointed out to me that waiting until Monday night before a patch to do my last LFR guarantees there will be shenanigans. I hadn’t considered this exactly, but it was only a minute or so on Elegon when we realized we’d be in trouble. Neither of the tanks was bothering to tank the adds that spawn and they ran around freely trying to kill people. We were able to get four spark “cycles,” but as soon as the floor disappeared, so did a number of our raid. (I want to say five, off the top of my head, including a tank). But okay, no matter, we could still do this. Until after the second add phase when our OTHER tank plummeted to his untimely death. We were heading into Elegon’s last phase, with no tank. You might think at this point we were guaranteed a wipe. I say: NEVER SAY DIE.

I hit Time Warp as we pulled and started DPSing Elegon as if my life depended on it (which it did). I thought that at least I could do enough damage to him and possibly keep him busy long enough with Mirror Images, Cauterize, etc. before my inevitable death. We might manage to kill him yet. Ladies and gentlemen, I am here to tell you that I never died. Cauterize didn’t even proc! Sure, my health was crazy spiky, but the incredible healers in LFR (most prominently, a paladin) kept me alive. I TANKED ELEGON.

Hilarity ensued (you’ll have to click to read the raid chat from right after we killed him).

I TANKED THAT

I TANKED THAT

I was pretty proud of myself, haha, but really it’s the healers who deserve the props (and you’ll note that I said that, too).

elegon02

elegon03

LFR was suitably happy about the whole thing. Maybe I should just retire now on that note, the highlight of my illustrious mage career. Forget Krosh Firehand, I tank star dragons. I think it’s only fitting that I happened to be wearing the title Dragonslayer Millya at the time.

So that’s it – an account of the greatest night I’ve had in WoW in a long time. Possibly the greatest night I’ve had in awhile, period. I am really excited for the T15 content now. I hope there are no repeats of the Un’sok debacle. But mostly I know you can tackle anything with a group of friends, or barring that, exceptional healing strangers who can keep your berobed body from going splat!

Meanwhile, Outside Azeroth

I know it’s always frustrating to see a blog slowly begin to flounder as its owner posts reassuring messages, “I promise I will be posting again soon!” And either they just never post again, or they eventually have to post to admit that they are closing or stopping or taking a break.

I’m not necessarily at that point, I’m more dancing along the shore of something and knowing that it is struggling to stay afloat but not knowing how to stop it. I would like to post more often and yet I seem to become paralyzed every time I see this white space for typing (or else I start writing an entry, get frustrated with how its going and leave it saved, never to see the light of day).

The thing is, this isn’t a personal blog. It’s a Warcraft/Gaming/Mage blog, and so I’m not comfortable going on and on about personal life things, but for the sake of this post I’ll give a snippet. I have a chronic illness that I don’t usually talk about (that I in fact, for years, told no one about) because I don’t want to be seen as a “sick person.” I don’t even want to see myself that way. I don’t think my biological father even knows. Anyway, I may have even been pretending for a long time that I don’t have a chronic illness. I’m not writing this now to say “oh poor me,” either. Many friends of mine struggle with worse things and they don’t talk about it much, either. For me, this is coming to the forefront now and it makes it tougher to deal with. I’ve been at the doctor, or the lab, or both, pretty much weekly (or more often) since June. I’ve got lab requisitions galore so it’s not letting up any time soon. I’m tired. I started some new medication that makes me feel nauseous/ill – but I’m confident it will ultimately feel better, just that right now it doesn’t. We’re trying to have a kid and it’s not working (related to illness) so there are more tests/doctors/medications/worry in our future.

Voss and I have both been coping with the grief of losing his father. At the same time, he started a new job which was good and exciting but it meant that we lost his group health insurance and had to acquire private insurance and no preexisting conditions (read: anything I’d ever need covered) are paid for with the new insurance. We can afford it, it’s just one of those worrisome things on top of other things. Also, this morning I found out my credit card had been compromised and a bunch of charges put on it before my bank locked it down. This happened right at the time that Blizzard announced they’d been hacked. Now I’m not saying that for sure this was how my information was obtained, but you might want to keep an eye on your credit cards just the same. The timing was awfully close, and I’ve used a credit card online for a decade without incident – but perhaps it was just a coincidence. Perhaps not. Anyway, better safe than sorry, right?

I’ve been trying not to let any of this stuff affect my professional life or my other endeavors like the blog and From Draenor but they do affect it because my state of mind hasn’t been good. I can’t seem to concentrate on things for very long. Every small thing feels like a struggle. I haven’t missed a From Draenor, but unfortunately the blog was one of the first things to suffer. I’m also working very slowly on my list of commissions. Unfortunately I swamped myself with (much appreciated) new business right after losing my wedding ring, not knowing that we’d be making an emergency trip for a funeral, or that medical stuff would leave me so tired. If you’re on the list or in any other stage of waiting, I appreciate your patience so much. I’m going to try to knock out some of the avatar list, but most of the “new” commissions I got were larger ones and so they aren’t completed as quickly.

Someone on Twitter remarked the other day that they thought I had stopped playing WoW (presumably because I haven’t been blogging, or because before a drop in blogging I talked about how we were “going casual.”) I am still playing WoW along with my guildies and also picked up a bunch of games on Steam I’ve really been enjoying. Most recently, I spent the weekend playing Civ 5 as the Egyptian empire. I’m also playing through Bastion and I’ve played Borderlands once with a friend. I have Mass Effect I and II ready and waiting for me when I get to them. The summer heat has been fairly prohibitive for much computer time (we don’t have air conditioning, something that we’ll be remedying in time for next summer, I can assure you). I’ve spent some nights curled up on the couch in the basement watching Firefly on Netflix. No, I’d never seen Firefly before! Yes, I like it. I know I’m a bit behind the times.

Anyway, I guess what I’m getting at is that the blog is still here and I still think about blogging. I have a few possible post topics lined up and I’d like to make writing them more of a priority. Blogging is a hobby I really enjoy and I love interacting with people here. I’ve just been a bit distracted, and far from a bid for sympathy, I just thought I had to get a bit more personal for at least one post to explain myself. I expect I’ll have more to say about Warcraft and mages as Mists creeps closer to release – just over two months away, now! I’m excited for it in a way I wasn’t really excited for Cataclysm. I think Mists is going to be just my speed. I am also still staunchly a mage, so no worries there. Voss interjects randomly to quiz me on a regular basis.

“So, I was reading about this thing on the Globe and Mail the other–“

“Who’s your main?!”

“Millya.”

“Okay.”

I didn’t end up playing much beta because I really like to experience things for the first time when they are “live,” and I realize that now. I’m definitely going to make a pandaren character (class to be determined) and a draenei MONK. I just need to think of a name for her. If you’re looking for mage specific stuff, Christian Belt of Arcane Brilliance has been doing a series covering the basics. The inestimable Lhivera has been handling more of the theorycrafting mage stuff over at Lhivera’s Library. If you have any other great mage links, feel free to leave them in the comments. I may or may not do a gear guide similar to what I did at the start of Cataclysm. It’s a lot of work, but it’s also pretty prosaic and straightforward and that might be a good focus for me as we get closer to the new expansion!

Solitude and the Advent of Battle Tags

I was a pretty late adopter of cell phones. I don’t really like talking on the phone, and phones at the time were just that – a bit big and clunky, nothing like the smart phones of today. They didn’t have games or any other distractions. I finally gave in to the cell phone trend when I moved away from home to go to college. My Mom insisted I needed one since I was moving to a larger city, as a safety measure. I got a “Pay as you go” type and hardly ever used the minutes on it.

Moving to the city was in itself a transition for me. I came from a town of about 70,000 people and moved to my city just as it was marking its millionth citizen. It’s not the biggest city, but it was a pretty large adjustment! As I made my way around my new city, exploring the downtown, taking the train and the buses, I was struck by a feeling: No one knew where I was. This wasn’t a scary realization, rather, it was liberating. In my old town, you couldn’t go to the grocery store without running into at least three people that you knew. This used to drive me crazy, especially because my mother worked at a school and knew hundreds of kids and their parents. It used to irritate me because I just wanted to go through the cereal aisle or whatever without having to always stop and chat. In my new city where I knew so few people, I could have a coffee, go draw in the botanical gardens, spend hours wandering around on my own and no one would bother me. I loved it.

I still carried my cell phone with me. But my distaste for it was driven home after an altercation with my father. Frustrated that he couldn’t reach me, he complained: “You never answer your cell phone! What’s the point of even having it?” I told him in no uncertain terms that I had a phone for emergencies and in case I needed to reach anyone. It was not a guaranteed way to get in touch with me. I wasn’t going to be at anyone’s beck and call. This was over ten years ago, mind you. Since I first reluctantly brought my clunky phone in my purse, smart phones and constant internet access have become an expectation. Twitter, e-mail, text messages, Facebook messages, instant messages and cell phones give people almost immediate access to each other. The introduction of Real ID into the Blizzard family of games lets you play with all of your friends – and don’t get me wrong, I think it’s fantastic. But there are a few drawbacks.

The stoic refusal to introduce an invisible mode into Real ID (and now, I assume, Battle Tags within Diablo) has been a constant thorn in my side. Like when I first explored the city unattached, sometimes I want to play a game without someone knowing where I am. Suppose I wanted to roleplay on another server for awhile – all of my Real ID friends can see my character name, server, and zone. If I want to login to my bank alt and just spend some time auctioning, everyone can see that too. Even if I just want to make a silly lowbie alt and play quietly by myself, I can’t do that. I’m far from the first person to bemoan the lack of an “invisible” mode with Real ID. The counter-argument is, “Why are you playing an MMO if you don’t want to talk to people? Just don’t use Real ID if you don’t want anyone to bother you.” But that seems really ridiculous to me, and overly simplistic. A person might go to a coffee shop by themselves in real life and read a book or just sit. It’s not expected that anyone will just walk up and sit at their table and talk to them. “But why did you go to a coffee shop if you didn’t want to talk to people?”At another time, you go to a coffee shop with a friend to chat and catch up over a hot drink. You shouldn’t have to choose that you ALWAYS want to go for coffee only with friends, or that you always want to go for coffee always alone. If it wasn’t for Real ID, I wouldn’t be able to run five-mans and raids with friends from other servers and factions. I love Real ID. But there are times when I also hate it.

Because solitude doesn’t necessarily have to be anti-social. There should be room for stillness in every day life. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to be alone sometimes. I really struggle with this because I get messaged a lot in Real ID. And the people I have in Real ID are my friends, so it’s not that I don’t want them there. But sometimes I just don’t feel like talking – and this even applies in real life. Voss knows more than anything, because he is more extroverted than I am. Sometimes I’ll be reading something quietly and he’ll be talking to me and after a few minutes of “Mmhm,” or me not responding he’ll say wryly, “You’re ‘peopled’ out, aren’t you?” He’s usually right. Being social takes energy from me. It’s possible to overdose on it. At those times, I really wish that Real ID had an invisible feature. It’s possible to manage your status with “Busy,” and “Away,” but that requires that people pay attention to your status and also respect it. It can be hard to tell a friend, “I just don’t feel like talking now,” without hurting their feelings or making it seem as if it’s something to do with them.

Now that I’m adding Battle Tags in Diablo III, it’s my understanding that the tags will carry over to the Real ID system in WoW, and I’ll be honest, I’m wary. I’m not quite sure why I need to be able to connect to Battle.net to be able to just play Diablo by myself (as sometimes, I am going to want to do just that). Don’t get me wrong, I’m excited to be able to play with a wider range of people than I had available to me on Real ID. I’ve met so many great folks via blogging and Twitter that I’d love to game with. But if I have you on either of those systems, don’t be surprised if someday I’m set to busy and I don’t respond to your messages, or I don’t tweet back at you right away, or immediately answer your e-mails. Sometimes I may deliberately let my phone go to voice mail, close my Twitter client, and sit quietly by myself. Since the days when I played Super Mario Brothers and Bubble Bobble, gaming has been an escape for me. I could sit for hours and play – and sometimes I’d play for hours with my Mom or a friend, too! I love shared gaming experiences, and I love solitary ones. With our current expectations of connectivity, it can seem radical or selfish to say “I’m not available at the moment,” but trust me – sometimes everyone needs a little space to get lost in the world, virtual or otherwise. Diablo III seems like it’ll be a blast to play with other people, and also solo. I promise to respect your “Busy” tag if you’ll respect mine, since it doesn’t seem like invisibility is on the horizon anytime soon.

There Are Many Like It, But This One Is Yours

At the beginning of Firelands, I made a mistake. I’ve acknowledged it before, but let me go on the record here to re-iterate that it was a mistake. It wasn’t the first time I’ve made it, but it was definitely the last. I switched characters so that I could play what I thought the guild needed instead of what I wanted to play. I’m not going to belabor this point because I’ve discussed it here, but I think this is seldom a good idea. Unless someone is really and truly unattached to any character and willing to play whatever (and I know there are people who are this way), you should always play what you want to play. Except that I didn’t.

So I took myself out of the running for a Dragonwrath. I was thrilled for the very deserving Fsob who received it, but selfishly I was always a bit sad. I’d danced when the legendary staff announcement came up at Blizzcon. I wanted to see the accompanying lore, I wanted to carry a piece of Warcraft history, and by gosh I wanted to be a blue dragon with jewelery. But I had done it to myself, and I told myself I would just have to suck it up. Except that Blizzard changed Real ID to allow people to run raids. “It would take too much time,” I said. “Isn’t it selfish?” I told Voss. He said, “Maybe it is, but you deserve it, and I’ll be there every night if you decide to do it.”

So on February tenth I posted on our guild forums to say that I was going to organize a Firelands alt run, probably normals, just for kicks. Anyone who wanted to could attend, and I’d find Real ID friends to fill in where necessary. I had big ambitions at first because interest seemed high so I thought I could organize a 25-person run. That didn’t happen the first time (although I did organize one 25 during the course of things!) But that Saturday we headed out to Firelands and we killed some fiery things. I didn’t realize at the time just how fortunate I am. Over the following three months, at least three people never missed a single Firelands run. Several more missed perhaps one or two, but were there for the majority of the runs. Voss held true to his word, and he never failed to tank the Firelands bosses for me. On weeks when Saturday wasn’t possible, we did it on Wednesdays because it was the only day that worked with everyone’s raid schedule.

For twelve weeks, a mixture of close friends and acquaintances came to Firelands because they wanted to help me and because I asked them to. Our little Firelands raid went from a “let’s clear through here on normals” to “let’s clear this thing on heroic every week” to “why don’t we pull heroic Ragnaros?” over the course of that time. We got to know each other better. I’ve had the chance to raid with friends who might not be in the guild but who are really fun, great folks. I organized that 25-person raid and it was nerve wracking. I’ve never organized a 25 for anything before; the sheer amount of organization and coordination required made me admit that I gained new respect for 25s folks (not that I lacked respect, but walk a mile in someone’s shoes, etc.) Each week everyone got together to do this and I couldn’t articulate my feelings about it. I experienced a mixture of excitement, guilt, awkwardness. Part of me couldn’t believe that I had friends like these, who would devote so many hours of their time to get me some pixels in a video game – because they knew it mattered to me, and so it mattered to them.

I don’t want to sound at all pompous or overstate the importance of Dragonwrath itself, though I will cherish it forever and it is my most prized virtual possession. There are many Dragonwraths out there, and many casters wielding them. But this one was pieced together by Fsob’s fireballs, Voss’ shield slams. I imagine each piece to have healing powers from Nowell, Itanya, Karanina, and sometimes Yahwen. It has Shaen’s elements, and Tassager’s bear butt, Bittersteel’s howling blast and Sara’s daggers. It even has some fel magic courtesy of Supplicium and DarthRegis, but we’re going to pretend otherwise. Apple Cider and Kurnmogh DPSed for me one night when we were really stuck without a tenth person! Solard and Cutaia and Rooster helped to tank, Beru, Tikari and Jasyla all had a hand in it. Killskillz, Priggle and Nyxy all helped to DPS. When I did my 25-person run, Korixa, Cordella, Oathblade, Luthvian, Tsunomi, Maelinixi, Fyriat,¬†Rhuanious and Pix all came along. That’s a total of 31 people who helped out with Dragonwrath. I tried to be comprehensive but unfortunately I didn’t keep a running tally so if I have forgotten you and you attended, please know that I am so grateful to you and didn’t mean to leave you out. (Incidentally, there is going to be a special surprise for you Wednesday, May 23rd. Just check From Draenor With Love).

I do want to mention especially the people who were most instrumental in this endeavour: First of all, Vosskah, without whom I probably wouldn’t have organized the runs at all. As always, anything I do is made more fun when you’re by my side.

Nowell/Walks: You said that you would heal for me and you meant it, and you never missed a single run or complained although I know you weren’t really interested in Firelands at all. That means you were there especially to help me. Everyone should be so lucky as to have a friend like you.

Karanina/Snack: You said that you’d heal for me and made it clear that you weren’t taking no for an answer! It’s been a blast to rediscover Firelands with you alongside. You are an outstanding healer and a great friend. I’m thankful to know you and I hope someday I can repay your generosity of spirit.

Fsob: You are an indispensable part of Firelands for us; despite the smallest stature you never shirk from the largest tasks. Thank you for driving Rhyolith, assigning Baleroc, dog wrangling and flying through all those hoops with me. There’s no mage I’d rather have by my side. Mage mage, my friend.

All of my guildies: I hope you won’t mind me lumping you together, but I happen to think we operate best that way. For coming to Firelands to help tirelessly for so many weeks, I can’t thank you enough. You kept it from ever feeling like a chore to me. You are a fantastic bunch of people who brings excellence to everything you do. Thank you.

Last night when I siphoned that last essence from Baleroc and the moment approached when I’d be reaching the end of this three month task, all the words flew right out of my head. As I said, this is more than pixels, it’s more than a Dragonwrath. To me, it’s like carrying something that is a piece of friendship, kindness, and team work. I think it’s going to make me smile whenever I think of it. I don’t care that it’s a tier late, or that there are many other people out there with one. Dragonwrath itself isn’t unique, but the experience was unique to me. I’m left with only gratitude to everyone who had a hand in it, and most of all for Blizzard: who made the world that allowed me to find all of the people who gave me this great gift. Some of you I’ve met in real life and some I hope to meet someday, but it’s not geography that determines friendship. Last night culminated in a Stormwind rooftop party including a bunch of off-server folks who had seen the Dragonwrath ceremony a million times but they wanted to see mine. You all helped to make it special, and we created enough of a rumpus that random people flew in and said, “What is this?”

This is my friends helping me celebrate something we made together. It’s the spirit of this game for me, and everyone who helped is an indispensable part of that.

Learning to say: “No, thank you.”

One of the toughest things for me (that I always struggle with) is not specific to WoW, although it applies to it here. It’s something that’s always proven difficult, so I shouldn’t be surprised that it rears its head again now. My problem is this – I overestimate the time I have. I underestimate how long it’ll take me to get things done. I overextend myself and commit to too many things.

I’m sure this isn’t a unique problem. It’s not even that I am that busy a person or anything, but my tendency to say “yes” to everything leads to me making myself frantic. In a Warcraft context, this is an issue exacerbated by the easy access to friends on other servers and in other raid groups. It leads me to say things like, “Hey, I can gear up my goblin alt so I can do Horde stuff with xyz!” and then “Hey, they are running a T11 heroic group on these days, I could go and help them…”

It seems to stem from both a desire to help (everyone) and a wish to experience things. Immediately after BT scaled back our raiding, I couldn’t believe the free time I had. Voss and I spent several leisurely evenings in succession – walking the dog, cooking new meals, hanging out on the couch reading, talking, and watching a movie. It felt decadent to have so much time to deal with day-to-day things like laundry, housework, and recreation not spent in front of a computer. Formerly, with 2-3 raid nights a week (usually three) Voss would get home at 4:30, I’d probably start cooking supper at 4:00 to have it ready by 5:00, sometimes 5:30 if I miscalculated, we’d eat and squeeze in a 20 minute dog walk in time to login for the raid at 6:30. Raids don’t actually start until 7:00, but there are things that need doing beforehand to get ready. Check the forums – has anyone cancelled at the last minute? If so, is there a standby? Are we all clear on what we’ll be attempting? Have we prepared the strats? The raid itself goes until 10:00, at which time we log off, get ready for bed and try to be there by 10:30. All too often we wouldn’t, because we wanted to talk and spend some time together, so we’d go to sleep too late, get too little sleep, be tired, and then come home and do it all over again.

This schedule left little time for just relaxing. It made us take something that was supposed to be fun and turned it into a chore. Sure, I enjoyed the actual raiding, but too much was being sacrificed to make it happen. We didn’t have a non-gaming spouse who would prepare supper or take care of outside of game things for us. It was just us. I had a conversation once with the late, much missed Roksi of Production Company. She described the pre-raid chaos she and her husband went through with racing home, getting everything ready and logging in with food still in their mouths (or at their desks!) She wondered if Voss and I experienced the same thing, and I commiserated. We knew where the other was coming from, but of course it’s a choice you make – up until it doesn’t feel like a choice any more. The time commitment that amount of raiding demanded was like a slow squeeze. I didn’t realize how I’d shaped my life around it until I’d been doing it quite literally for years. We always said “Real life is more important than WoW,” but they were just empty words. My family knew I wouldn’t see them on a Monday, Wednesday or Thursday most likely because if we both took the night off the roster would be wrecked. Our bench was theoretically deep enough to handle it but that didn’t always work out. We felt like frogs in a pot with the water was being incrementally and gradually heated – we’d reached a boiling point and never even knew it. If we did happen to do something on a Mon, Wed or Fri I couldn’t stop Voss from checking the forums (and the Mumble status) to make sure “everything was okay.”

We had started to resent the pull the game had on us. It had nothing to do with the guild, who are fabulous people we enjoy spending time with, and everything to do with the unconscious choices we’d make each week. Every time we put off plans because they fell on a raid day, we weren’t putting life first. Every hour I’d spend scouring the forums looking for recruits to shore up a dwindling roster was time I wasn’t spending on something else. Now that I have a bit of distance and it’s been a few months, I recognize how deeply unhappy I was with the situation, and how much better things are for me now. I’m slowly asserting order in our life and environment. I don’t have any more laundry that’s been allowed to pile up. I’ve cooked some (if I may say so myself) amazing meals since January. I love cooking and didn’t realize how little I had done of it because it was usually easier to just order in or eat something fast. We’ve both lost some weight and are much happier and more relaxed. I think it makes us more fun to be around anyway at the raids where we ARE doing stuff.

How does this tie into saying no? Well, first and foremost, we had to reduce our raiding, which wasn’t easy but was absolutely the right thing to do. The problem for me came when it had been a few weeks past that major change. The same free time I’d luxuriated in started to look so open. So full of…possibilities! Awesome guildies like Fsob organized old-content MMLA runs (Mogging Mounts Legendary Achievement). I always love to see old content! Folks spent some evenings in BGs. Hey, I like to BG with my guildies! I decided to start running a Firelands group on Saturdays. (By the way, we’re still looking for a few DPS for this week’s run, we’re trying it on 25! Check out the thread and sign up if you are interested, especially if you’re a hunter because we need your survivalfulness). After a little while, it was possible for Friday to be an MMLA run, Saturday to be a Firelands run, and then Monday to be the guild raid. It was too much. Actually, it was exactly the same number of nights that had made us feel too committed to raiding in the first place! I had to regretfully stop attending each and every MMLA run, because I realized that for me, FL and MMLA were often mutually exclusive. I felt guilty about it, because I like running old content and I like Fsob and I didn’t want his raid to lack for people. But I just can’t have that much scheduled WoW time any more. It’ll be nice when we are done in Firelands so that it’s a non-issue.

As far as other commitments go, it’s so tempting when you see other people who need someone for whatever it might be – a single raid, a series of raids – at least for me, it’s easy to get caught up in the moment. Raiding is fun. It’s nice to be able to help your friends! But it’s also important for me to look at the bigger picture from the opposite perspective – if I spend x amount of time doing THIS, what will I not have time to do? It’s never an easy question, and can make you feel like a colossal jerk when you know that you could help but seem as if you’re choosing not to. I am fortunate to have some amazing folks willing to help me each week in Firelands, and I’m aware that I’m accruing some sizable debts because of it, which I hope I can someday repay. For now, though, I’m just trying to remember that the time I SEEM to have doesn’t actually exist, being already filled with a number of obligations already. I have to remind myself I can’t join every raid or every five-man that contains people I genuinely like and want to help. I have to pick and choose and sometimes be a bit precious about what I’m willing to spend time doing. I owe it first to myself and Voss to not get grouchy because I didn’t set limits on the amount of energy I had to commit to this. It’s a delicate balance, but I keep reminding myself of a therapist’s advice: You have to take care of yourself before you take care of others. You know, the whole airplane oxygen mask thing. You’re no use to anybody if you’re just gasping there.

I want to hear about how YOU all maintain this balance! Are you juggling everything with perfect poise? Do you feel a bit rushed sometimes, or guilty when you can’t help out your friends? Do you somehow manage to ‘do it all’? Are you tired of hearing me write about how happy I am to be raiding on a reduced schedule? I made the joke about a month later that I didn’t have anything to write on my blog because every post would have just been “I LOVE RAIDING ONE DAY A WEEK, PART I,” “RAIDING ONE DAY A WEEK IS AWESOME, PII…” We killed H Ultrax the other day, too, which puts us at 2/8 heroic at an execeedingly leisurely pace, but then we killed Ultra the first night we even tried it. It’s nice to kill heroic bosses while not caring when we did it, or stressing out about wiping for hours if we don’t actually feel like doing it. It works for us. What’s working for you? Or what isn’t? I’m feeling chatty today, so feel free to let loose if you just need an ear. Have some tea.

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