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

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Thank you, Warcraft

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It all started with a mage named Milya…

Anyone who knows me knows that I am the worst at secrets. If I have a secret present for someone, I’ll probably give it to them early. This, by the way, applies only to my own secrets. If someone else tells me something in confidence, that’s their thing and I cannot spill the beans. So over the summer I have been simply buzzing with keeping this secret to myself. Thanks to the time I spent writing at WoW Insider, I was asked to contribute to the official Warlords of Draenor strategy guide! The mage section is my work, and many of the class section writers are people you may know from Twitter or having written in other places.

But of course, since doing this involved access to secret information (or at least a general knowledge of the game’s release date before it was announced) we also had to sign an NDA as part of the process. So I kept it to myself even though I was really excited. It’s the first time I’ve ever written something for publication. I still can’t show you any images of the book itself or its contents (shh, secrets) but you can pick up a copy for yourself on November 13th if you’d like one. To tell you exactly how I feel about this whole process, first I have to tell you a story. Really, it’s the story of me and World of Warcraft.

I’ve told this story a few times, so bear with me if you’ve heard it before, but back in 2008 when Voss and I started playing WoW…it had been a really long time since either of us had played any kind of MMO. We’d met playing Ultima Online back in the ’90s but we both stopped playing that and had never picked up anything like it again. Neither of us had played the RTS Warcraft games so we didn’t have much of a tie to those, either. We were both peripherally aware of WoW, of course (who wasn’t?) but had never consider playing it because we knew how much you could get lost in a game like that. But a confluence of factors led us to change our minds. Voss’ dad had just been diagnosed with cancer. Things in my work life weren’t really going well. Actually, they weren’t going anywhere. I’d quit my clerk job working at a registry to focus on my art and try to have a career with that. But I didn’t really know where to start and honestly, I was floundering.

I don’t remember who suggested it. But we decided to try playing World of Warcraft. I think we were both looking for an escape. Because I believe in studying for anything important, we went to the store and bought the World of Warcraft guide. It had overviews of class information, dungeon maps and guides to quests. We pretty much read it cover to cover. It didn’t stop us from being complete noobs about some things, but I remember poring over that book (especially the maps) in preparation for our first dungeon run. We knew group content was serious business and we didn’t want to be terrible. I rolled a priest because of that guide. It said that if you enjoyed being helpful to your group, a priest was a good choice! Of course, as you know, I didn’t stay a priest. But I was one at first.

I look back on the version of myself from 2008 who bought that guide and I have to smile. If you’d told me then, that six years later I’d be writing a mage section of the most current guide, I wouldn’t have believed you. Those intervening years contain thousands of words written in blog posts (some of which I was paid for), hundreds of hours spent drawing and painting commissions for people I met through the World of Warcraft community and later working on From Draenor With Love with my friend Rades. I’ve made some of my closest friends thanks to WoW, re-imagined what my career could look like, and saw it develop in unexpected ways. I honestly owe so much to WoW. Now, another thing to add to that list is that a few weeks ago I got a cheque in the mail that marks the first time I’ve been paid for published writing. It hit me unexpectedly, but I held it and tears sprang to my eyes.

I haven’t yet received my copies of the actual physical thing. And I don’t mean to make too much of a big deal out of this, I mean, I didn’t write and publish a novel. But I wrote and it was published and they paid me, and it’s meaningful to me. If you asked me when I was a kid what did I want to be “when I grew up,” I would’ve told you I wanted to write and illustrate books. I meant children’s books (the only books I knew, at the time). I wouldn’t have expected this. But I’m learning that some of the best things are the ones you didn’t anticipate at all.

I’m just really grateful to have had the opportunity, and I’m grateful for everything this community has brought to me. That’s really what I want to say. Just a big thank you to everyone in this community who ever encouraged me or struck up a friendship with me, or helped me with their own work. Thank you to Anne Stickney who asked me to write for the guide. Thank you to Perculia, whose data wrangling helped me actually write it. I guarantee you that my section of this guide couldn’t have been written without Perculia and the other great folks at Wowhead. Now that I’ve met her in real life, I can’t check something on Wowhead without thinking of how hard Perculia works and appreciating that. It’s the passion of all the people involved in the WoW community that keeps me playing, writing, drawing, and putting so much of myself into this game even six years later.

I’m sad that I won’t have the chance to meet or visit with anyone at Blizzcon this year, but still really glad I was able to go at all. This Saturday we’ll have some local friends and guildies over – friends we never would’ve met if it hadn’t been for this blog. I can’t say anything more than that, really. Things happen in mysterious ways and I can’t be anything but ridiculously thankful for my good fortune. If you get your hands on a copy of this guide, flip through and appreciate all the work that went into it from many talented writers! I’m glad to count myself among them and I really appreciated the experience.

Gaming Questionnaire

Jasyla over at Cannot Be Tamed came up with this great gaming questionnaire. Since writing anything has been like pulling teeth for me lately, I thought I’d respond to her questions and try to breathe some life into this languishing space at the same time. Seems like a win-win to me! If you want to answer the questions yourself, you can do so in the comments over at her blog or on your own blog (but be sure to let her know so she can include a link to your answers!)

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  1. When did you start playing video games?
    Oh, geeze. The first video games I played were when we got an Intellivision. Our neighbours down the street were having a garage sale and my brother and I managed to talk our Mom into buying the Intellivision and all the games. It was $20 for all of it. For those of you who are too young to even remember this thing, see the little keypad? Each game had a thin plastic sleeve you’d slide over those keypads so you’d know what the specific controls did for the individual game. We played hours and hours of those games.
  2. What is the first game you remember playing?
    It’s hard to remember which game I played first. Probably Burger Time or Frogger. There was also of course the classic Q*Bert and other games like that. We had a whole bunch and some were more fun than others. I definitely logged many hours playing Burger Time and Frogger though!
  3. PC or Console?
    I’ve pretty much always played both! When I was still quite young my dad got a PC for us that was strictly for schoolwork. Of course, whenever he wasn’t around we played games on it as much as we could. I played Alley Cat and we played the King’s Quest and Hero’s Quest games, all those Sierra ones including a Camelot one (I can’t remember what the actual name was). We also went on to get an NES (my brother’s) and then a Super NES (mine) and later a Playstation. I’ve always played games on both consoles and PC, up to and including now. Don’t make me choose!
  4. XBox, PlayStation, or Wii?
    I hitched my wagon to Playstation’s star back with the PS1, which I got exclusively so I could play FFVII. Of course I played more than that on it. I’ve never owned an X-Box and we had a Wii but recently sold it. I was never into the motion control thing (I don’t like Sixaxis either, really) and the games seemed to get old pretty quickly. With the X-Box it’s simpler – I don’t like the controls that much and they always have felt monstrous and too big for my hands! Most games you can get on both Playstation and X-Box anyway so it hasn’t really mattered.Bastion_Boxart
  5. What’s the best game you’ve ever played?
    Oh man. This is a tough question. I mean, things that blew my mind previously might not retain that title. I suppose I should give it to FFVII, which was my favourite game for years. I loved it. I haven’t been able to replay it because my memories of it are so tied up into a particular time and place and I don’t want it to seem lesser by comparison. In recent years, I really loved Bastion. It hit all of my sweet spots, the gameplay was fun, the hand painted graphics were beautiful and the story was tore my heart in two.
  6. What’s the worst game you’ve ever played?
    You know, it’s funny, because I still liked this game, but I have to go with Battletoads for the SNES. A friend of mine had it and we’d play it for hours, rarely ever getting anywhere because it was so hard and unforgiving. It was just unreasonably hard for a game but at the time we just thought we had to get better. (Probably we did).
  7. Name a game that was popular/critically adored that you just didn’t like.
    I tried to play the Mass Effect games. I really did. I wanted to get into them and I just couldn’t. There are some games I wish I could just watch the story without having to play them, and Mass Effect was one of those.heavenlysword
  8. Name a game that was poorly received that you really like.
    I don’t always pay that close attention to game reviews so I’m not entirely sure with this question which games might have been poorly received but I liked them anyway. I think I remember reading some bad reviews of Heavenly Sword for the PS3. I guess the game isn’t perfect but I really enjoyed it for what it was. More or less a God of War game but you get to be a badass lady character cutting people in half and I appreciate that.
  9. What are your favourite game genres?
    Most RPGs, platformers, some action/adventure stuff. I always think I will like puzzle games and then don’t. I sometimes enjoy just a really immersive game (e.g. Journey) that doesn’t demand very much. I have played some simulation type games and enjoyed them. I also used to be really into fighting games. I’ll play a game outside my usual genres if it’s just a really fun game! I like FPS games but only with friends, not by myself.Elwink
  10. Who is your favourite game protagonist?
    You know, it’s probably Elly from Xenogears. When I was younger this was the game that inspired me to learn how to make animated gifs JUST so I could make Xenogears gifs. I still have them! I found them on my terrible old Geocities website which was amazingly still on the internet. I made some other gifs but I made two of her and only one of all the other characters.
  11. Describe your perfect video game.
    Jasyla asks the tough questions. I don’t know if I could have just ONE perfect video game, only games that individually satisfy each of the things I enjoy about gaming?! If I had to pick specific things: 1) female protagonist or a lady character given equal billing and plot attention as a dude (Broken Age fits this, and has been a great game SO FAR) 2) An immersive environment that is preferably gorgeous to look at, I don’t care if it’s space or a forest or some other world altogether, art is key in making me like a game and 2) must have a story with good writing. It has to make me care to want to keep playing it.
  12. What video game character do have you have a crush on?
    I interpret “crush” here as “Find attractive,” how’s that? Aforementioned Elly from Xenogears, Princess Garnet from Final Fantasy IX, also who didn’t have a crush on Sephiroth…? And/or Cloud and/or Tifa and Aerith/Aeris/whatever, haha. Hey, he couldn’t choose either.
  13. What game has the best music?
    Probably have to go with Bastion here. It’s the only video game soundtrack I listen to on a regular basis. (Probably Transistor is a strong contender but I haven’t finished it yet and didn’t listen to the soundtrack because of spoilers).AerithDeath2
  14. Most memorable moment in a game:
    Aeris’ death. I just did not see that coming at all. I guess a part of was so completely shocked that it could happen at all, too – that they would LET this happen. Ask me another time about my feelings regarding the sacrificial lady character in games, though.
  15. Scariest moment in a game:
    I have to admit that I was playing Gone Home and I am such a giant wussface that I freaked out when I had to go down into all those hidden hallways by myself. I don’t do well with scary games in general, but atmospheric “You’re alone in the house” games don’t work for me. I had to watch videos to see the ending, and I had nightmares that night. It was a really good game, though.
  16. Most heart-wrenching moment in a game:
    The almost-end of Bastion just punched me right in the gut. Or the end of Journey, which never fails to make me cry.
  17. What are your favourite websites/blogs about games?
    I like Go Make Me A Sandwich! Honestly, most of the gaming blogs I read are WoW blogs. I’d be open to branching out if I see some good suggestions, though.Journey.Game_.full_.1293648-630x415
  18. What’s the last game you finished?
    I replayed Journey the other night, that’s why it’s fresh in my mind. It’s just such a beautiful game. Also, the part of it where you are going through the snow and have to hide from the giant monsters overhead is a strong contender for “scariest moment in a game for me.” My heart pounds like crazy and I am so tense. It’s not hard to freak me out, obviously.
  19. What future releases are you most excited about?
    I’m really excited to see the second half of Broken Age. I appreciate why they had to split it up to finish the rest of it and get funding, and I think it’s a great game, but I’d sure like to know what happens next. Cliffhangers!? Ugh. I’m looking forward to the next Borderlands installment. I’m thinking we should be finished the story of Borderlands 2 before that one comes out. It’s been a slog but I am determined to actually finish that game.
  20. Do you identify as a gamer?
    Yeah, I definitely do and always have. Some of my first friends became my friends because we had games in common and many of my current friends I have met through gaming. For me, being a gamer has always been about the social experience and I refuse to let dudebro asshats tarnish my own interpretation of something that’s been so much a part of my experience. My Mom and brother and I used to sit down and play Bubble Bobble together. I watched my brother play through Final Fantasy I and the original Zelda games and it was one of the main things we had in common. We used to play Super Mario Bros together. Later, I’d go over to my friends’ houses or they’d come to mine and we’d play each others’ games. Sonic, Ecco the Dolphin, Street Fighter, whatever. My family later had epic and really loud Rock Band parties. I met my husband playing Ultima Online, and chances are I met all of you because of World of Warcraft. Definitely a gamer. I also think anyone who plays any game, if they wish, can consider themselves a gamer. Whether it’s Farmville or Angry Birds or Call of Duty, whatever – if you play games you are a gamer if you wish to be.
  21. Why do you play video games?
    For so many reasons – for the fun, for something beautiful to look at, for the challenge, but probably most importantly for the social experience. Whether it’s Journey where you play alongside other people you can only communicate to without words, to MMOs, gaming is a social experience for me and it’s one that I love. I deliberately avoid games known to have toxic environments or where I know I’d be subject to abuse (e.g. FPS matchmaking or other games with similar random elements). I feel video games are an important, interactive art and I owe much to them. I want to be an old lady in a nursing home with a console hooked up to her TV, haha. (Also no arthritis so I can actually still play the games).

Draenei: A complete set

If you’ve read my blog pretty much at all, then you know how I feel about draenei. I have many reasons, though I feel that it was articulated best by my coworker Matthew Rossi. I just love them. I was joking with Rades the other day that I have a definite draenei bias. I feel a kinship with other people who identify with these strange, unique travelers. The past few months I’ve been on a leveling kick as I wanted to get the “five different classes at level 90″ achievement. As more of my characters got to 90, I realized something.

I want a complete set of draenei. One of every available class at level 90. I’m already halfway there (and close on a few). This wasn’t necessarily by design, it’s just that every character I have that can be a draenei is one. Let me introduce you to my ladies.

Millya

Millya – 90 Mage

Pretty well-known around these parts. My tea drinking, fireball slinging scholar, Millya. She is my main-main. She’s also the best dressed. Because I’ve spent so much time gathering clothes for her. Heck, I made her a paperdoll. She’s been playing “World of Dresscraft” since I first created her. She is a conjurer of cakes and destroyer of bad guys. She’s already level 90, obviously.

Vidyala

Vidyala – 90 Paladin

If Millya is my primary main, Vid is a strong second. I don’t know what it is about people who like mages, but we also seem to like holy paladins. I don’t have any statistical proof here, except that many people I know who play either holy paladins or mages as their main characters often enjoy the opposite class as an alt. Vid of course is the character in From Draenor With Love. She’s a military brat with a strong interest in engineering, particularly things that fly. I’m currently working my way (slowly) through the legendary quest chain to get her a fancy cloak for no real reason since all she does is LFR. Okay, I admit it – I like the way the cloak proc looks for healers.

Jun – 90 Monk

My newest 90, a young upstart that stole my heart. I started leveling a monk for Business Time’s Stay Classy achievement and made her a Brewmaster on a friend’s suggestion. I didn’t know how much I was going to love Brewmaster. I have a rough idea in my head that Jun was an initiate of the Auchenai but was one of many young draenei that left when things started to get weird. She despaired of ever completing her training and led a quiet life thereafter, abandoning notions of being a monk. She was working on the Exodar when she heard of this new continent and the Pandaren monastic traditions. While being a brewmaster as such struck her as a bit unorthodox, she was determined to learn whatever the monks had to teach her and made it her mission to get to Pandaria. I tanked with her all the way along – even for pugs – and had a blast. Unfortunately she has stalled a bit at 90. I’m not sure what the future holds for her, as I don’t want to tank LFR or anything like that. I might go solo old content for transmog gear – leather wearing draenei! Just putting together a transmog for her as she leveled was a blast.

Sofira

Sofira – 90 Priest

Sofira is the first of my draenei characters that doesn’t really have a story. The character itself used to be a night elf and it was the night elf who had all the background. When we moved to Moonrunner I “killed” my night elf and she was reborn as a draenei. She hasn’t really done much, though. She wears the best gear from her heyday – when I raided as a priest in Naxxramas. She’s my bank alt. The least I know about her is she’s a quiet personality, soft-spoken and more comfortable with inventories and numbers than she is with other people. Probably something bad happened in her past (sounds like a draenei story, right?)

Sarika

Sarika – 85 Warrior

Sarika, much like the rest of my draenei at this point, doesn’t have much of a story to her. She’s level 85 and I’m dreading leveling her to 90 because I haven’t played a warrior in ages and really don’t know what I’m doing. I think she has a rough and tumble demeanor, though. She’s kind of a mercenary or sword-for-hire, without strong allegiance to any person or faction. I’ve got her on hold for a bit until I feel ready to quest through Pandaria again.

Corycia

Corycia – 82 Shaman

Corycia was a character I did roleplay a little bit at one time with a friend. Her name was different then but it was the same character. She’s not very fleshed out, though. She was my Herald of the Titans character! She also has art of her. It’s funny, when I did the art it was because I thought it was the only way she’d ever get to “wear” the shaman set you see her wearing above (I think it’s T6?). Little did I know that after Wrath it would be easy to go back and farm it up for her, and transmog lets her wear it! I love that set. She is currently leveling through Cataclysm content.

Ziana

Ziana – 59 Death Knight

Taking on this project meant that I had to actually bite the bullet and make a death knight for real. I have already documented here how terrible I was at being a death knight the first go around. The worst. I’m afraid to report that I haven’t gotten much better. I had to ask Voss to sit down and help me with what was going on with this. Like I told a guildie, I specced Blood and was pretty much just hitting “the red abilities.” (They’re blood-related, right?) He pointed out that I should hit the blue ones too because of draenei blood, which is a valid point…

Mairix

Mairix – 23 Hunter

My little hunter and her moth, Grimnebulin. She doesn’t have any other pets yet. Playing a hunter is surprisingly fun, I benched her ages ago (before focus was a thing, that’s how long ago) and haven’t played her since until recently. She’s obviously got the longest way to go before she’s 90, but I’m told that hunters practically level themselves. She does seem to kill things pretty quickly.

So that’s all of my draenei – I have 4 level 90s, an 85, an 82, a 59, and a 23. My deadline for myself is I’d like to have them all at 90 before Warlords drops. I think that’s pretty doable, considering that two of the four that need leveling are already 80+. Death Knights thankfully start at 55 and hunters are pretty quick, so I think I can get it done! Maybe along the way I will try to think of more story for the characters that don’t really have one, or maybe not, I’m not sure.

It’s a fun little side-project, anyhow. I’ve known people who wanted all of the races of a particular class, or one of each class, etc. This seems like a fitting way to pay tribute to my favourite behooved race. Incidentally, Warlords fever has hit Azeroth. Ever since WoD was announced, when I’m leveling alts nine times out of ten the other characters I see are draenei. Everybody wants a draenei for heading back to Draenor!

Some Say Fire, Some Say Ice

(with apologies to Robert Frost)

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There are different schools of thought on whether you play a spec, or you play a class. I’ve heard people say that you shouldn’t consider yourself a (Fire/Frost/Arcane) mage but a MAGE – able to switch specs accordingly should the need arise. This is an attitude that ticks off other people who really only like one spec for their various classes.

Personally, I’m somewhere in the middle and have actually changed my mind over time. It’s a little-known fact that I originally created Millya with the intention of making her a Frost mage. I seem to remember even choosing her appearance accordingly. Thank goodness I didn’t name her “Frostwizzard” or anything like that. Or another mage I knew, Icyfire… what if they wanted to go arcane later? But as I was leveling, Frost just wasn’t working for me. Conventional wisdom at the time (Burning Crusade) said that Fire was bad for leveling. And you know, I died a lot. But by gosh I had fun doing it. Later on when I hit 70 I went to BGs as the best kind of glass cannon – the kind that would merrily explode in the face of a dozen people. I think it was Christian Belt, the erstwhile great Archmage from WoW Insider who joked that all Fire mages really wanted was a spell that would just, literally, make them explode. They’d be okay with this, as long as they took plenty of people with them.

I’ve played all three mage specs over the years as their fortunes rose and fell. I was Frost at the start of Wrath for leveling. I was a Frostfire mage when I hit 80 because it was actually pretty good at low gear levels for awhile. I was Fire unless I had to be otherwise – at the end of Wrath I was Arcane for a good chunk of it because Fire was too far behind Arcane to ignore it. For all of Cataclysm, I was Fire, and so far for all of Mists I have been Fire as well.

I like the changes they have made to the spec. Heating Up helped to smooth out some of the frustrating RNG aspects of Hot Streak! and Inferno Blast gives you a reliable way of managing your procs to a certain extent. It’s better than just fishing around for HS procs as we used to do. Combustion is, by its nature, still very RNG dependent. You have to get a super ignite and manage all of your other DoTs in order to time it just so. The reduced CD on Combustion itself makes this less punishing than it used to be, though. I think they did something about ignite-munching? Don’t quote me on that though. I’m not a theorycrafter and I never made that claim. It’s not really my thing. I’m just an avid mage who has been predominantly Fire for a long time.

Recently, I was tripped up by a problem, though. I felt as if I was holding our challenge mode group back from success. Fire’s AoE power in this expansion has always felt weak to me. I miss Blast Wave/Instant Flamestrike. I don’t like having to get right into a group of mobs and spam my Arcane Explosion button. Nether Tempest is nice, but you still have to put it on a group of mobs before it really starts to ramp up, and by that time our shaman’s chain lightning has already killed stuff. It’s not fun. Taking into account the lowered gear levels of challenge modes (a normalized 463 ilevel), being Fire was even less fun. I found, frustratingly, that things were living too long and my trash DPS just wasn’t high enough. On boss fights, I wasn’t getting enough HS procs or a really nice Combustion. Fire seems just too dependent on gear to be the most effective in challenge modes. So I thought the time may have come to do something radical: set my Fire spec aside and play Frost in challenge modes.

I dusted off the spec. I fixed my keybinds and buttons. I read guides. I reforged and regemmed. Once I made the decision, I wanted to just go ahead with it. So I figured – hey, I’ll play Frost for our raids this week, too. Everything is “on farm” anyway, I wouldn’t be holding us back while I fumble around a little bit. I stood at the target dummy getting used to the “feel” of the buttons and I updated my Weak Auras to include some new notifications. I went into the raid feeling excited and a little apprehensive. I take pride in being a good DPS, I didn’t want to be at the bottom of the meters because of this change.

But something strange happened. I wasn’t doing poorly. In fact…well, let me just show you. If you like charts and things, you can look more closely. If you don’t, let me just tell you, that I gained between 16-26K DPS on the fights shown. I omitted Council because I actually did better as fire there and I think my DoT uptime was a bit poor on the Frost version. I’m not too worried about it. I also omitted Tortos for the opposite reason – as Fire, my performance was truly pathetic, but the Frost combat logs are not an accurate comparison either because I was helping to AoE bats. I had AoE! Bats died! BIG YELLOW NUMBERS. (This basically sums up my DPS mindset in a nutshell).

adfs

Fire is on the left, Frost is on the right.

So I was thrown into a quandary, except it wasn’t much of a quandary. Playing as one spec clearly and roundly has trounced the other spec for me, and so I will be staying Frost for the foreseeable future. Still, I know for a fact it’s not that I was suddenly playing miraculously better as Frost… In fact, you can see that my active time went down in every case. It’s hard to avoid this kind of human error. Our motto is “always be casting,” but I was still a little fumbly and getting the hang of Frost, so I wasn’t managing it as well as I could be, and yet I still beat my own DPS by a significant amount. I have to admit, it’s a bit disheartening. Now I’m questioning myself – did I never truly get the hang of the “new” Fire? Is it just that because I’m not a heroic raider, I’m not able to play Fire to its fullest potential? It’s true that Frost isn’t subject to the kind of RNG stuff that Fire is. I find it plays really smoothly. There’s always a button you need to be hitting. You can imagine it did make a big difference in CMs, too. My contribution felt much greater than it had in previous weeks.

I have had a few Frost growing pains, too. Mostly related to suddenly creating a truck load of threat unexpectedly. I’ll put it this way, I used to use Mirror Images as a safeguard, especially at the start of fights. Now it’s the only thing standing between me and (buh buh buh bum) CERTAIN DEATH. This is how I came to be shrieking around dragging Horridon last week while yelling “Get it off, get it off!” I also had a retrospectively hilarious death at the end of our last Lei Shen kill. I don’t know if that’s directly related to being Frost… but let’s just say that Alter Time -> Thunderstruck -> Blink -> Alter Time doesn’t end well for anyone wearing a dress.

If I’m being honest with myself, I guess I have to admit that maybe I just wasn’t pushing myself as Fire any more. In the past, many of the times I switched specs was because my damage had been lagging behind. It can help to mix things up, and some of that may be at play here. Although I try to stay current on my information with any spec I’m playing, maybe I had gotten complacent and that’s the biggest reason why Frost has been such a marked improvement. One thing is clear, though. It’s time for a new Frost transmog!

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!

Tuesday Art Day: Elaina

worgen_large

Soo, long time no see, huh? This was an avatar I did over the holidays. It was a gift commission for a Secret Santa exchange. I think it’s the first time I’ve done any lady worgen avatars, so it was fun. It’s for @GGElaina on Twitter and was commissioned by @_anea.

As far as Warcraft goes, I’ll admit to you that I’m in a bit of an odd place. I’m still enjoying the game and raiding with my guildies, though I don’t find I have as much to write about in the blog these days (obviously). The time was I could barely get posts out fast enough. Of course I’ve never been a mage theorycrafter of much note but I usually had something to say. Going casual as a guild has meant some mental readjustments that way. It really meant taking a step back in many regards – there were some days I didn’t do dailies. I don’t use the maximum stat food, preferring to use feasts that the guild makes. As far as I know, that hasn’t hurt our raiding progression, but even our raiding progression isn’t a top priority as such.

We made further schedule readjustments, going from one night (three hours) to two nights again but shortening the raid to a mere two hours each night. It allows for a later start and an earlier end, which is honestly a relief. It makes my days feel less punctuated by World of Warcraft and more like “this is a fun hobby.” If I’m being honest with myself, there was a good chunk of time when WoW was less a hobby than a second job.

At this time last year I wasn’t sure I’d still be playing WoW; Voss and I wanted to stop raiding as much as we had and we were fully aware that Business Time might close up shop as a result. I’m really glad that it didn’t, though, and this reduced schedule and more relaxed approach has suited us very well. There’ve been times when WoW felt like the only thing that was going right. The danger in that, though, is that if you put too much stock in a video game you react disproportionately to probably minor things. At other times I would despair if our progression wasn’t “fast enough,” feeling that it was a reflection on me and that I was letting the guild down by not leading them better. So these days I try to have a healthy balance. WoW is a game I love to play and I’ve made great friends through it. I spend time doing From Draenor With Love each week and that’s more “WoW-related” time, and otherwise I have cut way down.

I didn’t exactly make any new year’s resolutions but if I had to choose one word for this year (as Alas described) it would be purpose. I’m trying to recognize my purpose in many areas of life and not to lose sight of it, and also to have some perspective about goals that may take some time to achieve. Having no control over things makes this more a necessity than a choice! Anyway, I spent about three days over the holidays working on this:

studio

This is my studio space, which is where I do non-digital art. As you can see from the first photo, it’s been pretty difficult to get in there and do anything for the past…oh, I don’t want to say exactly how long. But you can see to the right of the photo that portfolios and drawings are piled foot-deep there. Notice how on the right-hand photo those are mostly gone? I filled five garbage bags with old drawings and other detritus. The space is ready and waiting for me and it feels good. I won’t go into too much personal detail except that the past year has been punctuated, it seems, by illness or medical concerns, doctor’s appointments, ultrasounds and bloodwork. It’s tiring and it’s really interfered with my ability to work. The only thing I managed to be consistent about was From Draenor and my raid schedule, which I’m proud of but it’s not really enough. I also can’t remember the last time I did any art just for myself that wasn’t Warcraft related. I love the Warcraft universe but I also don’t want all my creative endeavors to depend on someone else’s intellectual property. It’s something to think about, anyway.

Don’t write me off your feedreaders just yet, I promise to write here as topics strike. I’m just a bit preoccupied at the moment. I’m starting up a personal blog at another url so that I can write about personal stuff without feeling like I am bombarding an audience who really wants to talk about World of Warcraft. That blog’s not up yet, but I will share the url when it’s ready if anyone is interested. It will likely be a catch-all for my other interests: art, food and cooking/baking, games (other than Warcraft), and also health stuff. I’d be happy to see some familiar faces reading there but I won’t be offended if you don’t. I’ve lost touch with some Warcraft folks over the years especially once they leave the game and it’s sad but expected. Sometimes our friendships can survive the loss of a shared universe and sometimes they can’t. I’m always happy when they do, though!

I hope you all had a great holiday and so far a good new year. I hope I’ll have more to share with you soon.

p.s. Due to the departure of a few good Business Time friends, we’re currently looking to recruit a ranged DPS, preferably a hunter or warlock. Hunter is the highest priority because right now we have ZERO and all that mail agility gear just rots. So if you are a hunter or an exceptional ranged DPS of any kind and you’re interested in a home for “semi-retired hardcore raiders,” check us out. Our thing is we still have minimum play standards to avoid frustrations that can sometimes accompany very casual raiding, but if you’re looking to push much hardmode progression we’re a bit over that. We just like to be casually awesome, kill some internet Mogu and have a few laughs. We raid two nights a week as mentioned, two of either Monday, Wed, or Thursday from 6:30-8:30 PST. Each week we look at signups and determine the days, so some weeks it’s M/Thurs and other weeks M/Wed and on a rare week Wed/Thurs (we try to avoid that).

Tuesday Art Day: Happy Tree

This was a quick gift for my good tree friend, Rezznul. I added the eyebrow line at the end and I like how it gives him a look of happy consternation. He’s not quite sure how he feels! I haven’t done much besides art posts here lately, primarily because a family emergency brought us out of town suddenly. Without going into it too much, unfortunately my father-in-law passed away after fighting cancer for some time. I appreciate everyone’s patience as I have settled back into life and work here. If you’ve asked about art, I am trying to get caught up on my e-mails. Also, if you have art questions please do e-mail me rather than commenting on the blog. (I may have said otherwise before, in which case I was just plain wrong-o). It’s much easier for me to keep track of inquiries via e-mail, whereas blog comments have a tendency to get away from me. (Out of sight/out of mind, etc.)

Anyway, I’ve been taking advantage of this quiet period in WoW to straighten out and handle RL things, but I’m still here and we’re doing fine! I’d also recommend you check out From Draenor With Love today (especially if you came to Firelands with me at any point) because I finally finished my special Firelands strip! It’s a doozy, and it took ages, but I’m really happy with the result. It’s my big “thank you” to everyone who helped!

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