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

First: I know it isn’t Tuesday, but I couldn’t finish this yesterday and I didn’t want to rush it.

I am really excited to share this particular art day project because I’ve had to keep it under my hat since September! This was a special commission from Kirby (who was referred to me on Twitter). He wanted two figurines for the top of his friends’ wedding cake. I can’t remember who suggested me because they had seen the figurines I have done before. (See: Shaedre, Millya). For many reasons this was a much more complicated project than those – they had to be wearing specific clothing, and they also had to stand on their own!

I wish I’d taken more in-progress photos; I do have the preliminary sketch that I did though. I was surprised that the final figures ended up looking similarly to this sketch. I really presented it as a rough just to get some idea of proportions.

This was the image that I had in my head and that I sent to Kirby before I started working on it. I wanted everything to be ready to go before I actually began work because once you start working with clay (even the type that doesn’t dry out) it tends to be an all-consuming project taking over an entire desk and house. In this photo you can see a bit of my working area; note the thin scraps of clay and how they retain their shape without “sticking” to each other. Also you can see the box of 60 travel wipes – I used ALL of them. Travel wipes are amazing for working with clay. You can use them to clean your hands in-between colours, and also to wipe down the work area. I read this tip randomly on a clay website and it was invaluable.

Sophye, before baking!

Unlike my previous figures, these ones had to be able to stand on their own and were a fair bit bigger. Because of that, I knew they would need an armature inside. Arbalest (the groom) has a wire armature wrapped in aluminum foil that makes the shape of his legs, torso, arms, head, and horns. Sophye (the bride) was a little different. Because I knew her dress was basically cone shaped, I simply rolled and shaped a piece of aluminum foil into a cone. The reason this is done is because it makes the final figures lighter, stronger, and ensures that the clay bakes evenly. It also keeps the price manageable, because otherwise you’d have a solid block of clay.

I used a different type of clay, Staedtler Fimo instead of the Sculpey III I had used for my previous projects. I was really happy with the Fimo and will be using it again. I found that it held detail much better than the Sculpey. The feel of it is a bit more plastic-ey, but it was perfect for rolling out sheets of clay and retaining its shape. The black in particular gave me trouble, for some reason it felt softer than the other clays and tended to almost feel like it was melting in my hands. I think the only available Fimo black may have been Fimo “Soft” and I’m not sure I would use it again for a larger project such as the groom’s tux/body.

Here you can see the detail of the bride’s dress pretty well including the folds I was able to make in the “fabric.” I don’t think that would have been possible with Sculpey at all, as I found it much stickier.

For this project I also invested in a dedicated clay “pasta” machine to roll out sheets of clay. It was a huge lifesaver and I don’t regret it at all! Especially the bride’s dress required uniform amounts of clay and the Fimo was perfect at holding a “fold” as I was working with it. What I did was figure out the approximate length of “fabric” needed to wrap around the dress. I’d roll out the clay, use my blade to slice it straight and then just built from the bottom up. After the bottom of the dress was done I worked on the torso (I did the head separately, it also has a ball of aluminum foil inside) and later added the details like the roses.

Overall, the bride was much easier to sculpt than the groom. His stature and the Tauren legs made him much trickier. When I finished the majority of his body (his head was also sculpted separately) he couldn’t really stand on his own, even with the wire skeleton in his legs. I changed the configuration of his tail so that it provided an extra support. This “tripod” arrangement keeps him upright! The tail is also built around a thick piece of wire and is probably a little thicker than an actual Tauren tail would be, simply of necessity.

I couldn’t resist taking a few fun photos of the two of them once they were finished.

The bride had a slight mishap in baking unfortunately, her bouquet slipped right out of her hands. Fortunately I was hovering over the oven anxiously and I caught it in time to pull the bouquet off of her and bake it next to her instead. Super glue works really well with polymer clays and I knew I could attach it after the fact. The bouquet may have needed some internal structure itself to lighten it up, I’m not sure, but lesson learned!

After both sculptures were baked, I spent some time glazing parts of them (and attaching/reattaching other parts). Having learned from the bride, I baked the boutonniere separately and attached it with glue after. I glazed Arbalest’s hooves, the lapel of his jacket, his nose ring, the leaves of all the flowers, and Sophye’s hair attachments. I toyed with the idea of glazing their eyes but ultimately decided against it in case it made them look creepy. I might experiment with this when I make another figurine for myself, but it’s not something I wanted to mess with considering I was under time constraints and didn’t want to mess these guys up.

Arbalest and Sophye

I’m not sure that either of these photos shows all the little details like the tiny white buttons on Arbalest’s shirt (I poked four holes in each of them!) but I guess it gives some idea. You can click to view any of these larger.

Here you can see how his tail holds him up, and also his bow tie, because bow ties are cool…

Finally, I have one photo from the wedding itself graciously taken for me by Kirby. It turns out that they were a bit big for the cake so as Kirby put it, they went plainstriding. I’m not sure if they were a surprise for the bride and groom (I think so, though) but it looks like they had flowers already planned for the top anyway so it’s okay. I think even if I’d made them half the size they still would’ve been pretty big for the top so this worked out!

I learned quite a bit from this, including how much work such figures would be (I hadn’t paid attention when I made them for myself). Sculpting each figure took about ten hours for a total of twenty, post production stuff was probably five between the two of them. Or, if you prefer, nearly two complete seasons of Buffy and a bit of extra where I wasn’t watching anything at all.

Thanks to Kirby for the opportunity to make these! It sounds as if the “real” Arbalest and Sophye liked them and I had a blast making them. If you have any questions about something I forgot to mention, don’t hesitate to ask me in the comments.

Continuing a Manalicious tradition, I present to you the following: A list of gear to get your mage (or other cloth-wearing caster) ready for raiding! The conventions of the list are described in the following paragraphs.

I haven’t listed any gear from normal dungeons because normal and heroic dungeon gear has the same name and is just a lesser version of heroic gear. This is a ready for raiding list, so of course you’d prefer to have the heroic version. Use common sense; where normal dungeon gear is an upgrade for you, equip it!

In the past, I’ve included one quest item per slot just in case you really had trouble finding gear; unfortunately the database at Wowhead hasn’t had time to catch up with all that info yet. So there were many pieces of gear as I was searching that look like good gear, but I have no idea where it comes from. It could be a quest, it could be tailoring, I don’t know. I included quest rewards for the first few slots but eventually gave up. I assume everyone will quest their way to 90 to some extent, keep your eyes peeled for obvious quest rewards. You will likely replace them with gear from this list in any case.

This is not an absolutely comprehensive list although I’ve tried to make it as complete as possible. I still don’t know exactly what’s crafted from Tailoring or where there might be some juicy quest items. I have not included any PvP gear and this list is specifically for PvE purposes. The newest addition to gearing options is the Raid Finder, and Raid Finder items are listed under their own header. You still have to technically get a high enough ilevel to do Raid Finder, though – are you getting ready for pre-raiding raiding? Anyway, this is not a Best in Slot list, this is a list aimed at helping you to zero in on the best upgrades for your character from reputation, crafting, heroic dungeons and eventually RF. You can ignore the RF upgrades if you don’t intend to do it. I wouldn’t call it a reliable method of obtaining loot in any case because your odds of getting actual gear from it are pretty slim, at least in the Raid Finder’s current incarnation.

One major change worth noting to the gearing process is that items formerly purchased with Valor or Justice Points now also require reputation in Mists. So the heading “VP/JP” items also includes a reputation along with each item. The VP cost of items was available for some things on Wowhead, for the vast majority it was not, and so I used current conventions for items of that type. (i.e. a cloak is 1250, hands are 1650, pants/chest are 2200, and so on). These may be inaccurate but hopefully they are close. Blues are purchased with JP and epic purples with VP, as is expected.

Gear is organized first by slot. Each item has a Wowhead link, followed by the location or source (if known), and then the secondary stats. Int is assumed, none of the items have spirit (a pox on your spirit) and all weapons have spellpower etc. Items are coloured with their respective rarity; only blues and purples are listed. Trinkets have a brief description of their effect or use. This time around I’ve added a nifty Table of Contents so you can click any link to go straight to a particular section of interest! It’s beyond the scope of this list to provide appropriate enchants for each slot, I may do a post about gems/enchants a bit later on.

Table of Contents
Head
Neck
Shoulder
Back
Chest
Wrist
Hands
Waist
Legs
Feet
Fingers
Trinkets
Two-Hand Weapon
One-Hand Weapon
Off-Hand

Disclaimer: As I said above, I’ve endeavored to be as comprehensive as possible with this list but inevitably there may be items I’ve missed or that were added after the fact. This information is compiled for my personal use, and I share it with you so that you have an easy reference, but it’s not my fault if you buy pants when you should’ve bought a helm!

Head

Quest
Mistborne HoodThe Sha of Hatred, Townlong Steppes (Haste/Mastery)

Purchased/Crafted/BoE
Hood of Alchemical Vapors – BoE Zone Drop Vale of Eternal Blossoms (Haste/Mastery/Meta Socket)

Dungeon Drop
Barovian Ritual Hood – Jandice Barov, Scholomance (Hit/Mastery/Meta Socket)
Whitemane’s Embroidered Chapeau – Scarlet Monastery (Crit/Haste/Meta Socket)
Breezeswept Hood – Wing Leader Ner’onok, H Siege of Niuzao Temple (Haste/Mastery/Meta Socket)

Raid Finder
Hood of the Burning Scroll – Mogu’shan Vaults (Crit/Mastery/Tier Set)
Xaril’s Hood of Intoxicating Vapors – Garalon, Heart of Fear (Haste/Mastery/Meta Socket)


Neck

Quest
Burning Necklace of the Golden Lotus, The Final Power, Vale of Eternal Blossoms – (Hit/Crit)

Purchased/Crafted/BoE
Dorian’s Necklace of Burgeoning Dreams – BoE (Haste/Mastery)
Skymage Circle – Jewelcrafting (Haste/Mastery)

VP/JP
Wire of the Wakener – The Klaxxi, Revered, 1250 VP (Hit/Mastery)
Necklace of Jade Pearls – Golden Lotus, Honored, 1250 JP (Hit/Crit)

Dungeon Drop
Mindbreaker Pendant – Sha of Doubt, Temple of the Jade Serpent (Crit/Haste)
Temperature-Sensing Necklace – Flameweaver Koegler, Scarlet Monastery (Crit/Mastery)
Anarchist’s Pendant – Instructor Chillheart, Scholomance (Hit/Mastery)

Raid Finder
Worldwaker Cachobon – Will of the Emperor, Mogu’Shan Vaults (Crit/Haste)
Amulet of Seven Curses – Feng The Accursed, Mogu’Shan Vaults (Hit/Crit)

Shoulder

Quest
Dreadspinner AmiceOn The Crab, Dread Wastes (Crit/Mastery)

VP/JP
Mantle of the Golden Sun – Golden Crane, Revered, 1750 VP (Hit/Crit)

Dungeon Drop
Whisperwind Spaulders – Wingleader Ner’onok, Siege of Niuzao Temple (Haste/Mastery)
Forgotten Bloodmage Mantle – Thal’nos the Soulrender, H Scarlet Monastery (Crit/Mastery)
Shoulders of Engulfing Winds – Raigonn, Scarlet Monastery (Crit/Haste)

Raid Finder
Mantle of the Burning Scroll – Raid Finder Bosses (Hit/Mastery/Tier Bonus)
Shadowsummoner Spaulders – Raid Finder Bosses (Crit/Haste)

Back

VP/JP
Cloak of Snow Blossoms - Shado-Pan, Revered, 1250 VP (Hit/Mastery)
Cloak of Ancient Curses – August Celestials, Honored, 1250 JP (Hit/Haste)

Dungeon Drop
Cloak of Cleansing Flame – Gekkan, Mogu’shan Palace (Crit/Mastery)

Raid Finder
Mindshard Drape – (Crit/Mastery)
Cloak of Overwhelming Corruption – (Haste/Mastery)
Stormwake Mistcloak – (Hit/Crit)

Chest

Purchased/Crafted/BoE
Spelltwister’s Grand Robe - Tailoring (Haste/Mastery)
Darkened Robe - BoE (Hit/Mastery)

VP/JP
Vestments of Thundering Skies – Golden Lotus, 2250 VP – Revered (Hit/Haste)
Robe of Eternal Dynasty – Shado-Pan, Honored – 2250 JP (Hit/Mastery)
Robe of Quiet Meditation – Shado-Pan, Honored – 2250 JP (Haste/Mastery)

Dungeon Drop
Robes of Koegler – Scarlet Halls (Hit/Crit, Yellow Socket)
Burning Robes of the Golden Lotus – Unknown, (Hit/Haste)
Robes of Fevered Dreams – Shado-Pan Monastery (Crit/Haste)

Raid Finder
Imperial Ghostbinder’s Robes – Mogu’shan Vaults (Crit/Mastery)
Robes of the Unknown Fear – Terrace of Endless Spring (Hit/Mastery)
Robes of the Burning Scroll (Tier) – Raid Finder Bosses (Crit/Haste)

Wrist

VP/JP
Minh’s Beaten Bracers – Shado-Pan, Revered, 1250 VP (Hit/Mastery)
Tranquility Bindings – Golden Lotus, Honored, 1250 JP (Crit/Haste)

Dungeon Drop
Bracers of Displaced Air – Ook-Ook, Stormstout Brewery (Haste/Mastery)
Deadwalker Bracers - Rattlegore, Scholomance (Hit/Crit)

Raid Finder
Attenuating Bracers – Imperial Vizier Zor’lok, Heart of Fear (Haste/Mastery)
Twisting Wind Bracers – Blade Lord Tay’ak, Heart of Fear (Hit/Haste)
Shining Cicada Bracers – Unknown (Hit/Crit)
Gleaming Moth Cuffs - Unknown (Crit/Haste)

Hands

Purchased/Crafted/BoE
Spelltwister’s Gloves – Tailoring (Hit/Mastery)

VP/JP
Sunspeaker’s Flared Gloves – The August Celestials, Revered, 1650 VP (Hit/Crit)
Krompf’s Fine-Tuning Gloves – The Klaxxi, Honored, 1650 JP (Hit/Haste)

Dungeon Drop
Conflagrating Gloves – Trial of the King, Mogu’shan Palace (Hit/Haste)
Bomber’s Precision Gloves - Striker Ga’Dok, Gate of the Setting Sun (Crit/Haste)
Gloves of Enraged Slaughter – Sha of Violence, Shado-Pan Monastery (Haste/Mastery)

Raid Finder
Gloves of the Burning Scroll (Tier) – (Hit/Haste)
Claws of Amethyst – Zone Drop, Mogu’shan Vaults (Crit/Mastery)
Undying Shadow Grips – The Spirit Kings, Mogu’shan Vaults (Haste/Mastery)

Waist

VP/JP
Klaxxi Lash of the Orator – The Klaxxi, Revered, 1650 VP (Hit/Crit)

Dungeon Drop
Girdle of Endemic Anger – Lorewalker Stonestep, Temple of the Jade Serpent (Hit/Crit)
Incineration Belt – Darkmaster Gandling, Scholomance (Hit/Mastery)

Raid Finder
Ruby-Linked Girdle – Mogu’shan Vaults (Hit/Mastery)
Orbital Belt – Elegon, Mogu’shan Vaults (Haste/Mastery)
Sorcerer’s Belt of Final Winter - Terrace of Endless Spring (Crit/Haste)
Invoker’s Belt of Final Winter – Terrace of Endless Spring (Hit/Mastery)
Belt of Malleable Amber - Heart of Fear (Hit/Haste)

Legs

Purchased/Crafted/BoE
Courinth Water-Strider’s Silken Finery – BoE drop from Courinth Waterstrider, Krasarang Wilds rare (Hit/Crit)

VP/JP
Leggings of the Poisoned Soul - The Klaxxi, Revered, 2200 VP (Hit/Crit)
Leggings of Unfinished Conquest – The August Celestials, Honored, 2200 JP – (Hit/Crit)

Dungeon Drop
Leggings of Unleashed Anguish – Lilian Voss, Scholomance (Crit/Haste)
Leggings of the Frenzy – Commander Ri’mok, Gate of the Setting Sun (Haste/Mastery)

Raid Finder
Leggings of Shadow Infestation – Heart of Fear (Crit/Mastery)
Leggings of the Burning Scroll (Tier) – Terrace of Endless Spring (Haste/Mastery)
Dreadwoven Leggings of Failure – Terrace of Endless Spring (Hit/Haste)

Feet

VP/JP
Void Flame Slippers – The August Celestials, Revered, 1650 JP (Hit/Crit)

Dungeon Drop
Scarlet Sandals – Armsmaster Harlan, Scarlet Halls (Hit/Crit)
Soulbinder Treads – Xin the Weaponmaster, Mogu’shan Palace (Crit/Haste)

Raid Finder
Sandals of the Unbidden – Garalon, Heart of Fear (Hit/Mastery)
Sandals of the Blackest Night – Tsulong, Terrace of Endless Spring (Haste/Mastery)

Fingers

Purchased/Crafted/BoE
Lionsfall Ring – Jewelcrafting (Hit/Crit)

VP/JP
Simple Harmonius Ring – 1250 VP, Golden Lotus – Revered (Hit/Haste)

Dungeon Drop
Alemental Seal – Yan-Zhu the Uncasked, Stormstout Brewery (Crit/Haste)
Eye of the Tornado – Master Snowdrift, Shado-Pan Monastery (Hit/Mastery)
Ring of Malice – Taran Zhu, Shado-Pan Monastery (Haste/Mastery)
Signet of the Hidden Door – Thalnos the Soulrender, Scarlet Monastery (Hit/Haste)
Triune Signet - High Inquisitor Whitemane, Scarlet Monastery (Crit/Mastery)

Raid Finder
Fragment of Fear Made Flesh – Imperial Vizier Zor’lok, Heart of Fear (Hit/Crit)

Trinkets

Trinkets

Purchased/Crafted/BoE
Relic of Yu’lon - Reward from Darkmoon Serpent Deck (Int with an Int proc on spell damage)
Zen Alchemist Stone – ALCHEMIST ONLY (Mastery with an Int Proc)
Ghost Iron Dragonling – Crafted by Engineers but not limited to Engineers (Three empty cogwheel sockets for +1800 in the secondary state of your choice, e.g. 1800 Crit or 1800 Haste)

VP/JP
Blossom of Pure Snow – Shado-Pan, Revered, 1650 VP (Int with Increased Crit on use)
Mogu Rune of Paralysis – Golden Lotus, Honored, 1650 JP (Mastery and a placed paralysis effect on a 1 min CD)

Dungeon Drop
Flashfrozen Resin Globule – Vizier Jin’Bak, Siege of Niuzao Temple (Hit with Int on use effect)
Vision of the Predator - Striker Gadok, Gate of the Setting Sun (Int with a Crit proc)
Mithril Wristwatch – Coren Direbrew, Brewfest only (Critical strike with a Spellpower proc)

Raid Finder
Jade Magistrate Figurine – [Unknown] (Int with Crit on use effect)
Light of the Cosmos – Elegon, Mogu’shan Vaults (Haste with an Int proc on periodic damage)
Essence of Terror – Sha of Fear, Terrace of Endless Spring (Int with Haste proc on spell hit)

Two-Hand Weapon

Quest
Liuyang’s Lovely StaffThe Arena of Annihilation, (Scenario)

Purchased/Crafted/BoE
Inscribed Serpent Staff – Inscription crafted BoA staff, some BoP materials involved so may not be feasible to have lower level scribes craft for your main. Cannot be traded or sold on the AH.

VP/JP
Amber Scythe of Klaxxi’vess – The Klaxxi, Exalted, (Cost Unknown) (Haste/Mastery)

Dungeon Drop
Greatstaff of Righteousness – High Inquisitor Whitemane, Scarlet Monastery (Crit/Mastery)
Wort Stirring Rod – Yan’zhu the Uncasked, Stormstout Brewery (Hit/Mastery)
Staff of Trembling Will – Sha of Doubt, Temple of the Jade Serpent (Crit/Haste)
Headmaster’s Will - Darkmaster Gandling, Scholomance (Hit/Crit)

Raid Finder
Jin’ya, Orb of the Waterspeaker – Lei Shi, Terrace of Endless Spring (Crit/Haste)* Special: Can be socketed with a legendary gem

One-Hand Weapon

Purchased/Crafted/BoE
Blade of the Poisoned Mind – Unknown (Crit/Mastery)

VP/JP
Amber Saber of Klaxi’vess – The Klaxxi, Exalted (Haste/Mastery)

Dungeon Drop
Melted Hypnotic Blade – Flameweaver Koegler, Scarlet Halls (Crit/Mastery)
Necromantic Wand – Rattlegore, Scholomance (Haste/Mastery)
Firescribe Dagger – Xin the Weaponmaster, Mogu’shan Palace (Crit/Haste)

Raid Finder
Torch of the Celestial Spark - Elegon, Mogu’shan Vaults (Crit/Haste)
Regail’s Crackling Dagger – Terrace of Endless Spring (Crit/Mastery)
Loshan, Terror Incarnate – Tsulong, Terrace of Endless Spring (Crit/Haste)* Special: Can be socketed with a legendary gem

Off-Hand

Purchased/Crafted/BoE
Umbrella of Chi-Ji – Archaeology, Pandaren (Haste/Mastery)
Inscribed Jade Fan – Inscription (Hit/Mastery)

Dungeon Drop
Bottle of Potent Potables – Hopotallus, Stormstout Brewery (Haste/Mastery)

Raid Finder
Tornado-Summoning Censer – Blade Lord Ta’yak, Heart of Fear (Hit/Crit)

Conclusion

I hope that this list helps you to locate some worthy upgrades as we dive into a new expansion. If you have any additions, corrections, or comments, please feel free to post them here! I’ve gone over this thing until my eyes bleed checking for formatting or other errors. I hope nothing has escaped my notice but it’s possible it has. If you see anything, I’d appreciate your letting me know.

Because sometimes you want to have a stag dance party in front of the bank, and sometimes you don’t want anyone to know you’re online.

Back in May when Diablo came out, I wrote a postĀ  bemoaning the lack of an “Invisible” feature on Battle Net. Well, today I arrive with good news: They are going to be implementing an invisible feature for Battle.Net!

I’ve still seen a certain amount of naysaying or people who seem unhappy that this is a feature they are going to implement. First of all, I think it’s important to look at context. Most major chat programs have had this feature for the entirety of my time on the internet. I was using ICQ (I Seek You, remember, ahah) in 1996 or 1997. I can’t remember which, but my original number was seven digits. This is an invitation for all ICQ e-peeners to tell me that THEIR number was in fact only FIVE digits or less! (Vosskah does this every time ICQ is mentioned). Anyway, ICQ had an option with the little invisible flower face. You could see friends that were online and even message them, but you yourself appeared offline. Which was great, because there’s always that one person who is going to message you as soon as they see you come online. You don’t like them, you’re fine with them, you just don’t always want to talk. Or maybe you only want to talk to one specific person and you just want to check and see if they are online. Whatever your motivations, I think it’s important to make this really clear:

You are never, ever entitled to demand someone’s attention in this context. No one is obligated to talk to you. No one needs to sacrifice their privacy on the altar of constant availability. So that’s the first thing. Invisible modes are awesome because they give us more choice, and we like more choice. If I want to pursue a solo activity, I can do that. That doesn’t mean I’m avoiding the “MMO” nature of WoW. Let’s say, for example, I want to go outside for a walk by myself. I may meet people on my walk. That’s fine. The world has people in it, almost all of whom are not me. Likewise, I may sometimes want to play WoW in a way that isn’t specifically group-oriented, such as farming herbs, exploring, or just doing whatever I want. A friend was telling me yesterday that people message him when he is in BGs. People message me when I am on my bank alt. I don’t want to have to put up a status every single time: “THIS IS MY BANK ALT,” because even that clue might not be enough for some. They don’t necessarily understand that “bank alt” to me is synonymous with “I don’t want to chat right now.” Because banking is a solitary activity for me. It may not be one for you. So you can stay online with nary a care in the world! If you want to focus completely on what you’re doing, you can do that.

Other people might argue, “Well obviously you have rude/inconsiderate/oblivious people on your list. Just take them off.” No! It’s not some angry, Real ID grudge match. I don’t have anyone on my list I don’t like or who isn’t a friend. But just because I like you doesn’t mean I always want to talk to you. If you’re like me, it’s really hard to say ‘no’ or hurt someone’s feelings if they have missed already obvious signs. Perhaps this is just an introvert thing, but I like having a bit more control over this. What makes me laugh is the assertion that because this feature is introduced, no one will ever be online. I suppose I can eat my hat if this turns out to be true, but I’d be really, really surprised.

Most of us are playing an MMO because we do like people. We have friends on our Battle Net list because we like those people especially. Sometimes wanting to be incognito doesn’t invalidate any of those things. I anticipate I’ll use the invisible feature probably in the neighbourhood of 5% of the time. 5% of the time I am banking. Many of my solitary activities include being online and in-guild chatting anyway, so they aren’t that solitary, and I’d be unlikely to use this feature for those times. If I want to make an alt on an RP server or “tour” to an RP server and enjoy that style of gameplay for awhile, I might be inclined to go invisible at those times. I’m a little bit shy about RP (also incredibly out of practice and have few friends who do it) so I don’t know if I’d even do this but at least I will have the option to do so. There may also, I admit, be the odd time when I just plain don’t want to talk to anyone and I might be off-line those times. If I feel that way, it’s okay. If I have friends who are off-line sometimes (but actually online) I’m not going to take it personally. I think that someone who is always invisible is going to be the rare exception to those of us who want to be able to narrow and widen our availability and focus depending on the circumstance and our feelings and mood.

Kudos to Blizzard for hearing us on this one. Battle.Net is slowly shaping up to be the kind of service I enjoy using. Cross-realm grouping, Battle Tags (instead of real names), and now finally an Invisible mode! I may think that it should have started out closer to its current incarnations (screen names from day one, with an invisible option from day one) but I’m not going to look a gift horse in the mouth here. When a company actually makes changes based on feedback it gets from customers, it makes me feel validated and listened to. It makes me happy. I won’t use this feature all the time. But when I do, I will be thrilled that it exists!

Tuesday Art Day: Kumineko

An avatar done as an inclusion to a larger commission I’ve been working on for a friend for wayy too long. I was able to get this to him because this stuff is fast, unlike big commissions. I’m more or less always able to sneak a few avatar commissions in alongside larger ones, because they can be done in bits and pieces when I need a break from focusing on something larger. He wanted a cute rendition of his feral druid!

Technology has not been kind to me today. I waited patiently for the patch to deploy (these things take time) but some weird glitch prevented Vosskah’s install from patching correctly and so I spent a lot of time fretting about that. I wrote an entire blog entry that WordPress then ate. (This isn’t that post, that post is gone forever and you only get this post). I had just enough time to mess around with addons a bit before a guest arrived. I spent some precious moments with the target dummies after; long enough to know beyond a shadow of a doubt that FIRE MAGES ARE AWESOME. More about that later.

Meantime, the technology that worked most unfailingly for me today was my Kindle, as it happily delivered the new Christie Golden book, Tides of War, while I slept. I read it in bits and pieces throughout the day and then in one big gulp at the very end. What follows is part review, part synopsis, part reflection on the events in the book – and most importantly, it is chock full of spoilers.

Do not read any further if you don’t want spoilers for the new Tides of War book about Jaina Proudmoore.

I can’t say this more plainly.

Come back after you’ve read the book if you intend to, and you don’t want anything spoiled for you. If you are someone who is subscribed by e-mail, delete this e-mail before reading it!

If you 1) don’t care about spoilers or 2) have no intention of reading the book but want to know what happens in it anyway, then read on. I’ll put a big image here to keep people from seeing spoilers they may not want to see. If you scroll past the image and have things spoiled for you, I claim no responsibility.

Jaina Proudmoore art from the WoW TCG.

Okay. Are those folks gone? Now let’s talk about the book.

I’ve found the Warcraft books in general to be somewhat hit and miss. Arthas was a big miss with me (and I bought that one in hardcover). I like Rise of the Horde because it is the most information about draenei ever put in one place. This book continues more in the vein of the pre-Cataclysm book in that it’s closely tied with in-game events as well as published concurrently. The book itself opens about a week to a week and a half before the destruction of Theramore. The way it’s structured actually worked extremely well for me, lulling me into a false sense of security. In a way, even though I knew events would somehow lead to Theramore’s destruction, I was still deceived by the beginning parts of the book. Jaina is in Theramore, Jaina is generally happy, you get to meet Jaina’s new apprentice and all of her friends and staff in Theramore. They joke about conjuring cookies. I’m not even kidding.

So I started out really excited. This book is awesome! There are so many mages! They are my cookie-conjuring brethren.

Then things start to get real.

The initial conflict of the story begins with the blue dragonflight losing control of the Focusing Iris. You’ll remember it from such events as making it possible to use the surge needles in Northrend and channel the arcane power from the ley lines while under Malygos’ control. It also helped to animate Chromatus (in the Thrall: Twilight of the Aspects) book. This is an artifact of truly awesome power, and you’d think they’d keep a better eye on it. The Iris is stolen while the blue flight is attempting to relocate it – no word on how the Horde knew where and when to find it, incidentally. They were going to disguise and then hide it in the ocean but that didn’t pan out.

Things escalate from there, with Garrosh announcing plans to move against North Watch and subsequently Theramore and ultimately all of Kalimdor; he wants to use a victory against Kalimdor to isolate and eliminate all Alliance presence from it while helping himself to the resources and lands contained therein. Not everyone in the Horde is too happy about that, and it’s a subplot throughout the book that Garrosh’s methods and his Kor’krons grow increasingly violent. Orgrimmar is for all intents and purposes under martial law. Though this is understated, it’s understood that if someone isn’t cheering loudly enough for the warchief or if they dare to voice any discontent, they’re going to either quietly disappear or show up with a few more bruises than they had before. Baine and Vol’jin aren’t excepted from this, though Baine is the more outspoken of the two. Unfortunately for the trolls, their weaker position with the Horde makes it so that openly defying Garrosh is tantamount to suicide and Vol’jin’s hands are tied.

Baine is also victim to what happens here, because the Tauren need the Horde but Baine violently disagrees with Garrosh’s motives, methods and leadership. It’s made clear from the start that he feels ambivalent about what is happening but is caught up in events. Yet I think even Baine doesn’t immediately understand the depths to which Garrosh will sink.

This is actually worth mentioning here, before I forget, and it was Voss who asked me – do I think that Garrosh’s actions in ToW are out of character or forced? All along, people have been saying that Garrosh will need to do something truly horrific before it can be justified that he be the end-boss of an expansion. Heck, Rades and I did a comic about this very thing. Many people seemed to say “Yes, Garrosh is warlike, but he hasn’t really done much to warrant being especially targeted.” Well, the events in Tides of War sure change that in a shocking way.

Back to the actual synopsis of the book – so the blue dragonflight loses control of the Focusing Iris. It’s not known who has it, merely that it’s gone. Kalecgos is able to trace it somewhat but then his sense of it disappears. He’s lost and frantic about how the artifact could be used, and so he seeks aid which is how he winds up in Theramore and meets Jaina. (I believe this is the first time they meet). Jaina, Kalec and a crack force of mages try to discover how to uncover the artifact so that he can trace it. How they do so doesn’t really matter – the crux of it is that Kalecgos is eventually able to sense the Iris and it is zigzagging all over Kalimdor. This should have been their first hint that it’s somehow airborne, but this doesn’t seem to occur to anyone. It’s not being borne on a dragon’s back, so how is it doing that? Anyway, Kalec realizes he will just be exhausted chasing it all over the place so he goes back to Theramore.

Here’s where the romance part comes in. If you’ve read the interview WoW Insider did with Christie Golden, this romance is alluded to. I have some feelings about it. First, Jaina and Kalecgos as a pair isn’t too far-fetched, I suppose. He fell in love with Anveena, after all, and she was human(oid) and ended up being the Sunwell. So his romantic indiscretions with the ‘younger’ races are documented; he obviously doesn’t always have a thing for other dragons. It’s a joke in the book itself that Jaina isn’t exactly known for choosing the best romantic interests – Kael’thas (though they were barely involved, and Arthas…we all know how that one ended. Anyway, I don’t think Kalec is actually a bad choice for her. He’s a blue dragon so they have magic in common, and they’re both obviously powerful magic-users. In short, I like the romance but I think it was constrained quite a bit by the nature and length of the book. This is often my feeling about “one-book romances.” If you have a trilogy of books telling a story, you have time to do the more leisurely “maybe they’re starting to have feelings for each other” followed by the “something happens to keep them apart” that ultimately culminates with the satisfying “they’re finally together” feeling. In a book of this scope with this much story to tell, it’s tough to write a convincing romance but I think Golden did the best she could. You could also argue that in desperate times people will often turn to one another with feelings that are more quickly realized than would otherwise occur.

Personally, looking at him makes my heart go “pitter-patter” but maybe not for the same reasons. Mostly because: whoa big blue dragon teeth, scary.

Still, I tend to think of dragons as being less impulsive than regular people. They seem to love each other awfully quickly, which makes it less believable, but again – you work with what you have. So Kalecgos and Jaina are together by the end of the book, and throughout it he seems to flit back and forth a bit as he’s torn between his desire to recover the incredibly powerful artifact his people lost (whoops) and his twitterpated feelings towards Jaina. It’s rough, though. I feel for him. The guy only got to be a dragon Aspect for no time at all (to a dragon) and now he’s mortal again and his dragon buddies are all “Whelp, see you later” and he’s left holding the bag for having lost the Focusing Iris. So perhaps it’s natural that his attentions would turn strongly towards an engaging young woman – a powerful mage and extremely intelligent and powerful lady in her own right.

I feel like I’m dancing around the immediate facts of the book: the destruction of Theramore. It’s almost something I don’t want to put into words. I don’t want to talk about it, I’d rather talk about blue dragon courtship rituals. It was disgusting, and awful. Completely reprehensible and the opposite of honorable combat. This is how it happens: Jaina and Theramore have word of the coming attack thanks to Baine. North Watch falls easily as Thrall’s shaman harness the power of extremely dangerous molten giants (a power that could lead to another Cataclysm, according to the book). Theramore has time to prepare. Jaina calls upon the Kirin Tor, who send aid somewhat reluctantly and with the caveat that they will only defend and not be the aggressors. Stormwind sends a fleet of ships along with a number of great generals. One of them is a draenei! Rhonin is here too. Kalecgos himself comes to Theramore’s aid so that when the Horde come knocking, they’re ready for them. They’re able to repel the attack even though one of the Kirin Tor mages (a blood elf, naturally) is a traitor and was weakening the gates instead of strengthening them.

So it seems as if they’ve won at least the initial skirmish, although they’ve suffered losses – including all of their aerial defenses, down to the last gryphon. This is where the other shoe drops. Kalecgos suddenly becomes aware of the Focusing Iris again. It’s nearby, because it’s on a goblin ship. And underneath that ship is the biggest mana bomb anyone has ever seen. Kalecgos tries to detonate it in the air (where it won’t harm the city) but is repelled by the defenses on the zeppelin. In a last-ditch suicide effort, Rhonin draws the power of the bomb towards himself while sending Jaina through a portal to safety. The mana bomb explodes in Theramore, killing everyone in a really large radius. Jaina is teleported to one of the rocky islands surrounding Theramore, where she still feels a significant impact from the blast but isn’t killed.

I repeat: She’s not killed horrifically like every single other person, including Rhonin.

I’m afraid I can’t really do justice to the emotional impact of this part of the book, at least for me. Jaina’s sassy gnome apprentice, Kinndy, is killed. Everyone. It’s established earlier in the book that Kinndy is the only daughter of the gnome in Dalaran who lights the lights, Windle Sparkshine. I LOVE this gnome. I can’t remember how many times I have followed him around Dalaran, and gone out to help light the lights myself. Just giving this character a tie to an existing in-game character meant that when she was cruelly snuffed out I sobbed. I didn’t want Kinndy to die, or for her parents to lose their only daughter. I didn’t even want Rhonin to die, and goodness knows I’m no Rhonin fan. (Although now that he’s dead, maybe we can stop hearing about what a mage he is, a damn good one.) But for him to die like this, in such an atrocity, through such an act of treachery… it’s unconscionable. Going back into the wreckage afterwards drives Jaina to the brink of sanity, as I think it would for anyone. It’s not just that people died, it’s that they died in a way that is so fundamentally wrong. Grief-stricken, Jaina goes to touch Kinndy’s body and it dissipates into purple sand. The infusion of arcane magic fueled by the Focusing Iris has wrought awful changes on everyone it worked on. Bodies are floating, there are rips and tears in the sky itself.

Meantime, Garrosh is celebrating his flawless victory. It’s clear that he feels no remorse whatsoever for the manner of this massacre, and here incredulity and hatred for him begin to set in. Baine and other Horde-members with a conscience are sickened by what has been done. Whatever the Horde has become with this madman at its helm, they feel no connection to him or his further conquests. Without going into a tiresome conquest, the rest of the book plays out fairly predictably. Jaina takes the Focusing Iris with the intention of using it to level Orgrimmar in the ultimate act of vengeance. Anduin and Varian are both appalled by the change in her, and ultimately Kalecgos and Thrall manage to talk her out of making what would have been a mistake that would change her personally even as she achieved her revenge. There are a few other good moments – Anduin blessing the Alliance troops as they leave for Kalimdor, while reflecting on the necessity of war even when you love peace – and the fact that draenei were actually mentioned in this book a few times besides as “awe inducing shaman.” It seems the people of Azeroth have grown more used to draenei, or else the writers are sincerely trying to integrate them into the ongoing story. I would have only wished that one of the mages sent from the Kirin Tor had been a draenei (they had one of nearly every other race!) but we can’t have everything. Draenei are always shaman and paladins and that is just the way it is (brb, rerolling).

Tides of War was a good book. I appreciated as well the subtle integration of the in-game scenario, although I missed it at the time and had to go back looking for it. At some point, there is mention of “five people” helping Jaina and Rhonin. I can see where the scenario will fit, although I honestly have no idea how that’ll work for Horde players because it doesn’t make any sense whatsoever for them to help Jaina or Rhonin at that part of the book. Even friendly Horde aren’t going to be very welcome in Theramore at that time.

I’m also regretful that today’s From Draenor With Love won’t necessarily make sense in the context of actual events, although it could happen during the initial assault on Theramore! Anyway, we conceived and created it at a time when we didn’t have all of the information. I think it’s still a useful reflection on the horrors of war in general, especially when you have mixed allegiances and your feelings don’t lie with factions but with people. For this reason, Baine is one of the most sympathetic characters in ToW for me. What an untenable position he’s in. Jaina is the more obvious and sympathetic character because she’s just been through truly horrific things. Baine also lost his father at the hand of the orc he’s now duty bound to serve as he leads the Horde to ruin. I’m glad that by the end of the book he basically says, look buddy, eff you and don’t come around to Mulgore either.

This all paints Pandaria in a completely different light for me. I am happy to explore the new land and to see the wonders it has to offer, but there’s a sombre feeling. Where will all these struggles end? What more harm can Garrosh do to our people (and his own) before he’s finally taken down?

Another thought: wouldn’t it be awesome if the Let’s Kill Garrosh raid was the only raid that you could accomplish cross-faction, with both Alliance and Horde in your party? It makes sense, doesn’t it? You guys will want him dead, we’ll want him dead, why can’t we work together to do it?

Randomly: nice touch that when the Earthen Ring heard about what had happened with Theramore, a draenei starts to cry and she’s comforted by her troll friend. I like any emphasis that our races don’t necessarily determine who or what we stand for, and the Earthen Ring is one of those truly neutral groups wherein faction divisions cease to matter. See, draenei can be friends with trolls and orcs, too.

So, that is my huge ramble about Tides of War. If you made it to the end, you deserve a conjured cookie. Please feel free to say all that you need to about the book or the events in it or whatever you want in the comments. This is a spoiler-rife zone, so you don’t have to hold back. Everyone was forewarned!

The Road to Perfection

Joe Perez (Lodur) over at WoW Insider wrote an interesting article about using the new scenario dungeons to create a way for healers to learn/practice on their own, the same way that fancy new DPS dummies in Shattrath simulate a raiding environment by granting raid buffs etc. I’ve also heard that these new dummies are only for beta use and won’t make it to live, but that’s beside the point (and I’m not sure either way).

I used to spend more time with target dummies than I do now. It’s a certain mark of pride for a DPS player – make a new spec, test it out on the dummies. Want to try different gear configurations? Test them on the dummies. Playing a character you aren’t that familiar with? Get a “feel” for the rotation by paying a visit to the target dummies. I remember when I was still pretty new to the game and a player I admired used to say, “Time to go visit the target dummies.” It cemented itself in my mind as something that “serious” players do. They serve a useful purpose; sometimes you want something to attack that won’t just keel over like a regular world mob. When I wanted to figure out what I was doing with tanking, I went out and found some of the big elites in Icecrown and that was somewhat useful but not exactly the same. The premise of giving healers a place to practice healing (especially if they are new) seems to follow along with this notion. DPS players have target dummies, tanks and healers have a harder time “practicing” what they do.

I think that’s a good thing, though. I don’t think target dummies are all that useful, either, as any DPS will tell you. They can give you an approximation of how you might perform in a raiding or boss environment, but we know not to expect those numbers to be accurate. Firstly because the “live” dummies don’t give raid buffs – I hear the ones in Shattrath do, so that’s a step closer to “reality.” But dummies can’t simulate things like movement, or adds, or phases, or distractions from Mumble or otherwise. I know that if I stand there until my evocate and mana gem are on CD I may have done x amount of DPS over the course of three minutes, but during a raid fight it’s going to be a different story altogether. The same is true for healers. When it comes to being a healer, my “testing” usually consisted of asking someone to group with me so I could make sure my UI was correct. There’s always the tried and true method of casting spells on yourself. And Joe is right; in no way does that prepare you for an actual healing situation. You don’t see those bars dropping. You don’t have someone ignoring an important mechanic almost getting one-shot – someone who might be your tank!

At the same time, though, while I can see the value of such a tool I am almost leery of introducing any more of these types of practice activities or zones. Why? Well, because at some point I just want to play the game that I am here to play. I don’t know if this is a reflection of my newer, more casual mindset, but pretend DPS or pretend healing strikes me as the height of boredom. If I want to practice DPSing I don’t go to a target dummy, I’ll queue for a five man or LFR (with or without friends). I’m not ashamed to admit that after I got my Dragonwrath I queued for LFR repeatedly just so I could pit myself against other casters with DW in a raid-like environment. (And no, I never post a meter or boast about my DPS and if you do that there is a special place in hell reserved for you where a voice echoes endlessly, “Is anyone running Recount? Is anyone running Recount?”) When I was learning to heal, I mostly did it with friends in five-mans. Actually, the first dungeon I healed was as a former shadowpriest at level 40 something in Zul’Farak. I had absolutely no idea what I was doing. I’d never healed an entire group. Someone in my guild needed a healer for ZF and this was before the days of LFD so I was roped into it.

I was practically hyperventilating the whole time. Did someone die? I’m pretty sure they did. Was I perfect? Not even remotely, but that’s how you learn. To me, that’s what playing a game is about. The comments on that article are interesting because some of them say, “We tell our new healers to go practice in pugs.” Other people reply, “How can you DO THAT to your friends? I would hate to be in your guild,” etc. I’m actually 100% behind the first guy. You all know I’m not a stranger to pugging. Pugging is one of the best environments to learn to heal. You have an element of chaos and unpredictability that you’ll seldom find in a “safe” guild or friend run. Yes, it can be taxing and frustrating. Yes, you may leave some groups. But you will leave those groups a better healer than you went in. I like to play a little game with myself. Instead of practicing retribution healing, I make it my goal to keep the worst player in a group alive. Does the group have a melee DPS who’s never heard of fire on the ground, pulls aggro on every pull and then tries to run from the tank? That guy right there is my prime target. In addition to keeping everyone else alive, I will keep that guy’s bar above zero, against all odds. It’s like a mini-game.

That’s why I could go from healing five-mans to healing Naxx to later healing heroic Firelands coolly. Not because I am this awesome super healer, but because I practiced and I wasn’t afraid to put myself in situations where I was at a disadvantage. I’ve been the healer barely able to drink, slamming mana recovery abilities on CD, desperately chasing after my tank and hoping he doesn’t pull an extra group because I’m still clad all in greens. I understand what the article is saying – the punishment for a tank or a healer who doesn’t perform well is usually much more severe than that of a DPS. Many DPS get by simply coasting, and it’s not fair but they are less likely to get called out. There is great power and responsibility in the healing and tanking role and they are hard to step into. You have to cultivate a thick skin. I ran a Zul’Aman pug with a guy once who made fun of me every time I used Tranquility.

“lol why you Tranquility?” he’d say. I grit my teeth and ignored him; he continued. I finally told him, look, it’s a three minute cooldown, not ten minutes anymore. Using it on trash doesn’t hurt you, it heals the group, and will you just shut up about it? If you want, next time YOU be the druid and ignore your Tranquility button all you want. Until then, this is my show.

There will be guys like that. You may need to leave groups. You may be removed from groups. But the only real penalty there is pride. If you leave an LFD group, you may have to take a deserter debuff – play another character or do something else until you can queue again. It’s not really that big a deal. I’m reminded of this book I read a few years back by Carol Dweck called Mindset. Basically, in a nutshell: everyone is one of two mindsets, either fixed or growth mindset. I’m not exaggerating when I say this book changed my outlook and even my life. I grew up with a completely fixed mindset, no question. I was proud of my accomplishments but I also felt that I had to be perfect…at everything. With this mindset, you might find that you attempt less because if you try and fail, you will be a fraud or a failure. It’s better to “play it safe” and do things you know you can excel at. Everyone thinks you are really smart and awesome, and nothing ever happens to challenge that.

A growth mindset is different. It approaches the world and challenges from a malleable perspective – everything is a learning opportunity. Of course you will fail at things and you won’t be perfect at them right away because you have to practice in order to be perfect. Do you see what I’m getting at here? If there was a place for healers to practice in a basically no-risk environment, sure, it might help them to try healing when they otherwise wouldn’t. But I’d argue that it’s a lot better to just dive in and start healing from the get-go. There will be bumps and scrapes, but who cares? It’s not a reflection on your character, it doesn’t mean you’re bad, it means you’re learning. And anyone who has a problem with that can take a hike (or you can leave them in your dust). I was thinking just last night about how Voss and I joined Business Time. Without any hard mode experience and with gear that was only as good as we could get outside of raids at that point, we were more of a liability than an asset. But we promised we’d be able to learn quickly. I studied the Mimiron hardmode video for hours. I took notes. I knew I could apply my skills to that environment. Over the years since then, I’ve taken on tasks I’m not always comfortable doing. I hate messing up and feeling like I’m wiping the raid – and obviously, it’s a continuum. You start out learning in places like five-mans, then maybe LFR, then a raid. You can start PvP healing in a battleground and then move to arenas if that’s your goal. All experience in the game will serve you elsewhere, whether it’s just to sharpen your reflexes or help you fine-tune your UI or whatever.

When 5.0 drops next week, I’ll respec and set up my UI and probably visit the target dummies to make sure all the buttons are in their proper places and get a feel for them. After that, I will want to hit some fives or an LFR or whatever else is going on, because I’ll want to really learn what’s new and the only way to do that is with practice, practice, and more practice. Remember that there’s no shame in being new, or needing to improve, no matter what anybody tells you. Whether you’re playing an unfamiliar alt or a completely new spec or role, you can do a certain amount of preparation on your own but at some point you’ll need to play with other people to really learn and get truly great.

As most people have probably heard, the Mists trailer is out this morning! I watched it eagerly and I really enjoyed it. I saw some comments going around where people were comparing their “favourite” trailers or rating and numbering them. It seemed like a good opportunity to go back in time a little bit and reflect on the trailers for the previous expansions. It’s interesting to see the evolution in both aim and tone.

Vanilla

For me what really stands out about the classic “World of Warcraft” trailer is that it’s quite ambitious for the time. Keep in mind, I didn’t play the original Warcraft RTS games nor did I watch this trailer when it was current. Based on the way it’s put together, it feels to me as if they really wanted to highlight and showcase the various races that would feature in the game that people knew and loved from the originals. So it’s very, “Look, it’s a dwarf! Look, it’s a night elf! Look now she’s a panther OMG you guys!” That isn’t necessarily a bad thing, either!

Something interesting to note for later (if you’re watching the cinematics along with me) is the characterization of the orc versus later orcs. The orc in this cinematic is very much “ROAR” and look there is fire and I am big and scary. To my ears he even sounds more bestial/brutish; if watching this trailer were my only experience with any Warcraft stuff I might think he was a monster rather than a playable, sentient race. This cinematic sets out to get people excited about what they will see in the online version of Warcraft, and is obviously aimed mostly at fans of the Warcraft universe.

The Burning Crusade

This is a trailer I watched closer to when it was actually released. I didn’t have any idea of the backstory of Illidan (Tyrande, Malfurion etc) at the time so I had no idea who the scary guy with the voice was. Watching it now with different eyes, I can appreciate the impact of the Illidan voiceover. You know it had a lasting effect, because how many times did you hear someone make a joke or quote, “I/You/Your Dog was not prepared”?

The blood elves and the draenei are characterized; they did a particularly good job with the female blood elf, in my opinion. Especially the first time you watch this trailer, you’re surprised by her sudden shift in attitude from seemingly innocent to sinister. There is a need in her that’s frightening, which is exactly the story of the Sin’dorei in the Burning Crusade.

Up until this point with the cinematics, Blizzard has been outdoing themselves each time. I’m not talking about the actual graphics of the cinematics (although they have obviously improved, along with technology) but also the scope and ambition. This one shows the Dark Portal with its swirling door – challenging players, even mocking them. “You are not prepared” became a catchphrase because it was so memorable and it hits right at the heart of gamers. You think I’m not prepared? I’m going to show you how prepared I am!

Wrath of the Lich King

This trailer. (Did you watch it again? You really should.) This trailer gave me chills. It’s so cleverly done. The juxtaposition of Terenas Menethil instructing his son on the responsibility of royalty paired with the dark visuals and the true horror and irony of what his son went on to become are nothing less than masterful. I don’t know if it’s because Blizzard had such a legendary figure from the previous games to build upon, but in terms of cohesiveness and impact this trailer blows all of the others out of the water. I can’t even find something to nitpick about with it. It has awe-inspiring visuals, emotional heft, and it also tells a story. Even the music used for it is phenomenal and it lends much to the story itself as the trailer unfolds. It is a tragic lament, an incredibly sad song – in keeping with what is also a tragic story.

The cinematic leaves you wanting to defeat the horrors that are hinted at here. I look at the legions of undead and I still get twitchy even to this day. I really want to kill the Lich King and everything he stands for. And this is knowing that I’ve already done so! This trailer is successful even when it’s an anachronism. Basically, I love it, and I loved Wrath, so I am clearly biased.

Cataclysm

The trailer for Cataclysm is an interesting case. I would argue (and you’re welcome to disagree) that it is much less successful than any previous trailer, even the Vanilla trailer. Oh sure, it has impressive visuals. You get the lava and the forge and the big dragon. But for me therein lies the problem that we’ve been talking about for all of Cataclysm: the story told in this trailer really boils down to “I am a big dragon destroying your Azeroth rawr.” It’s sad because the character of Neltharion has a lot of meat to it, none of which featured in Cataclysm at all. I found myself struggling to remember whether I even heard his voice when you’re fighting him, or if I only read what he said on the screen? The fact that I can’t remember seems eloquent enough to me.

That’s where this trailer falls down. It has some emotional impact, yes, but all of the weight of the trailer rests upon the locations Deathwing is destroying. It relies on you caring about seeing them destroyed. In that sense, it works. Seeing Thousand Needles awash in a great tidal wave is definitely upsetting. But other parts of the trailer just expose the suspension of disbelief necessary for Deathwing to work as a villain, and why he simply wasn’t that effective in Cataclysm. He was STANDING on Stormwind and he didn’t just raze it to the ground. Yes, it’s distressing to see a dragon with his claws planted at the front gate of Stormwind. But you know that Stormwind wasn’t actually destroyed, and then you have to wonder, why not? It took us an entire expansion to take him down, but for the majority of that he was just flying around randomly breathing fire on some things. Someone on Twitter pointed out (I’m sorry, I can’t remember who to attribute this to) that Deathing is basically a griefer. He waits until you are AFK and then ganks you by setting a zone on fire. I know some people joked that during Wrath we saw Arthas a little too much, but we saw him just enough as far as I’m concerned. I’ll never forget running into him in the “dream world” near Utgarde and how he squashed me like a bug. He was a villain who made things personal.

Other people have delved into this more deeply than I want to get into here, but essentially: Deathwing is just a big dragon (yawn) and that’s basically this trailer to me.

Mists of Pandaria

Now we get to the exciting new shiny that everyone wants to talk about! First of all, I want to talk about the orcĀ  here. (Remember how I mentioned orcs earlier?) Notice what a huge difference there is with this orc versus the first orc featured in the classic WoW trailer! This orc is canny. He doesn’t just come lumbering up to the human, he’s watching him for a moment, gauging his opponent, thinking. Oh, there’s no doubt they are going to end up fighting (hello, orcs and humans) but he doesn’t just charge in blindly. When he accidentally reveals his position with a sound, then he’s lost the advantage and he seizes what he has left to him to try and catch the human off-guard.

I really like the way they chose to portray both the orc and the human here. The human is also a grizzled veteran and someone used to command. He’s not going to back down from a fight with the orc, and it’s a great fight scene. As the trailer goes on, the appearance of Chen Stormstout just makes it better. Of course it has all the kung fu movie type tropes (effortlessly dodging attacks and putting both opponents down repeatedly, etc. Although the human does take a chunk out of his hat!) This is basically just a good, wholesome fight scene and it’s enjoyable to watch. There are moments of subtle humour, too – Chen replaces the pedestal the orc broke and then straightens it (you can almost hear him thinking “HMPH,”) and when the human hands the orc the spear their open-mouthed gaping is priceless.

But what about the story, since I was so down on the Cataclysm trailer and Deathwing for lacking a story? Well, it’s an interesting trailer because unlike the previous three expansions (and as Blizzard themselves have made this clear) it doesn’t have a “big bad.” You don’t see any villains in this cinematic at all, unless the humans and orcs are the villains, and we just might be in this context. But that doesn’t mean it’s lacking a story. Chen’s voice over speaks volumes about that with the more philosophical questions. “Why do we fight?” etc. The moment when the mists dissipate to reveal the rest of Pandaria gave me chills just like the Wrath trailer. Again, it’s a completely different approach and that’s what I like about it. It takes several themes – the conflict between the Horde and the Alliance, the nature of the new race we are meeting – and interweaves them.

We know that Mists doesn’t have one overarching villain the way previous expansions did. That doesn’t mean it lacks conflict. The trailer left me with a strong wish to explore this land and get to know its mysterious inhabitants. That is the best place you could hope for a trailer to leave you – excited, anticipatory, and impressed. If this world is even half as beautiful as the trailer would suggest, I am going to be ridiculously happy wandering around it at the end of September.

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