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

Posts tagged ‘altoholics anonymous’

It’s Okay To Love DPS

Part of a sketch I never finished.

Cynwise and I have been on a similar wavelength lately. If you haven’t yet read his post that was a response to my post – it’s a great read and it will make you think. I started drafting a reply in his comments and I quickly realized it was going to become a full-fledged entry. So there is the background for you, and here are my thoughts on finding the character you love, and why it’s not always that easy.

The first problem is that DPS have a certain image in the community, especially pure DPS. I can’t even claim to be immune to this myself; there is something about tanks and healers that wants to invite trust. When I zone into a pug, I automatically assume that the tank and healer are reasonable people who want to succeed in the instance. (This isn’t always true, but we’re talking about my assumptions here). I assume that the DPS might cause trouble or disruption in some way.

Yes, I admitted it – I am prejudiced against DPS players, even when I’m one of them. The stereotype exists for a reason, and I think it’s self-perpetuating for several reasons. Self-fulfilling prophecies are funny that way. Let me tell you about a trollroic I ran a few weeks back (as a mage).

First off, I was excited to be there! I waited twenty minutes for the queue to pop, determined that I wouldn’t let the lure of quick queues dissuade me from getting some VP for Millya. We zoned into Zul’Aman and I did as I usually do – made a table, buffed the group, said hello. Everything went fine for a little bit but of course it was one of those rushrush jobs, everyone is in such an incredible hurry. We got to the Dragonhawk boss (I don’t even know their names at this point) and the tank said “Kill hatcher on the left.” Well, folks – left when facing the stairs and left when standing on the stairs are two different beasts. I killed the wrong hatcher. I’ve been in plenty of groups where this has happened, but this tank was so rigid that he stayed in the spot he’d been waiting for the eggs to spawn from. So mea culpa, I killed the wrong one, but at least a hatcher was killed. This fight doesn’t need to be a wipe unless no hatchers are killed at all (even then, I’ve healed through no hatchers being killed, but that’s neither here nor there). The group got really snarky with me, “MAGE killed the wrong one” etc, and everything continued in this vein for the entire instance. They wouldn’t sheep the mob I asked for (so I could spellsteal the buff). The fact is – I’m a keen pug observer, and I knew quite well that the real issue was the resto druid was not a very strong healer, except that I’d never say so. Somehow, I became the de fact scapegoat for this run. (No goat jokes, please). We wiped on the last boss because they wanted to do the “stand in the square” achievement, and I thought to myself (and almost typed sarcastically) “How are they going to find a way to blame THIS on me?”

Well. As it happens! I should NOT have used Time Warp at the Lynx (I always use Time Warp at the lynx) because the Dragonhawk is harder to heal and so clearly that is the reason we failed. At this point I just threw up on my hands and didn’t fight it. We killed the boss, not without a struggle (Time Warp notwithstanding) the druid let the tank die and then had to battle-rez him. I should mention, as a footnote, that I did 40% of the damage in this instance. Yes, that’s integral to the story, because apart from the Dragonhawk mix-up I think I was doing a pretty good job. When I left the group, the tank and healer were still congratulating each other on their respective awesomeness, because WHAT AN EPIC BATTLEREZ.

The point I’m trying to make is that DPS get no respect. I have seen this attitude mostly in tanks and healers, and yet also adopted by the DPS themselves. Think of self-deprecating comments like “I’m just a DPS,” or “He/She is JUST a DPS,” or “We just need a DPS.” There are more of us, so naturally, we’re expendable in the extreme. Heroic runs can be a revolving door of DPS players and nobody cares. There are three per group, or 5-6 per raid group. People think that what we do is easy, we are highly replaceable, and really not worthy of respect. Therein lies the problem for those of us who have the ability to play multiple characters: If everyone is going to assume you are a meter-humping mouthbreather, why wouldn’t you want to play another character?

Here’s where the problem gets sticky, especially for those of us who are responsible adults. You want to help (your guild, your friends, random pugs, whatever) so you make a tanking or a healing character. For a double-dose of responsibility you can make a tanking character with a healing off-spec! Now there’s no problem with this. It’s true that fewer people play tanks, and fewer people play healers. It may not seem so based on the blog community – I think there are more healing blogs than DPS blogs and more of both types than tanking blogs – but in general, the population is a pyramid with DPS on the bottom and tanks at the top. LFD queues bear this out as well. So someone has to play them – and the natural response of a thinking, responsible adult is to want to fill these roles. Because we know we are capable of doing them, but not because we truly love them.

This becomes a problem. I actually chose to play a priest when I first started playing because I thought it would be the most useful. The book that I bought about Warcraft (don’t laugh) actually asked the question, “Do you like to help people? If so, then being a healer might be a good role for you.” I did like to help people, and a priest could do that. It was the ultimate healer, a healer so healy that they had more than one tree devoted to it. I didn’t dislike healing. I still don’t necessarily dislike it. But the guild we were in had an abundance of tanks and healers, whereas truly good DPS were a great rarity. Consider the opposite to what the Warcraft guide was inadvertently suggesting: If you DON’T like to help people, you should play a DPS.

It’s not often you see DPS players advocate for each other. I mean – we are so disparate, a lot of times. You aren’t likely to have many people of your same class in a raid, especially a ten-person raid. You won’t hear a mage talk about solidarity with rogues or shadow priests. The other issue is that DPS are tacitly “competing” with one another. We want to be the best, to do the most damage, and that doesn’t necessarily lend itself to a fellow feeling with other DPS. This only compounds the problem: DPS are seen as being selfish. They aren’t assuming the responsibility that the tanks and healers are, they get off easy, they’re a dime a dozen, etc.

It’s this attitude that drives people to heal and tank. Which wouldn’t be an issue on its own, if they weren’t hating every minute of it. Are you playing the class or character you’re playing because it’s what you really, truly love? Or is it because you feel that you have to because no one else will? Trust me, because I know. It leads to resentment. It leads to frustration. And ultimately it may lead to you not even enjoying the game you are playing, so that at one point you sit up in your chair and wonder what the heck you are doing devoting hours of your life to something making you miserable.

The problem that Cynwise and I both share (if you choose to see it as a problem) is that we are adaptable players, able to play multiple characters and learn how to fill other roles. That’s not me being self-congratulatory, and I also specialize in just two – tanking isn’t really my thing. This is a problem because we’re also the kind of people who want to feel as if we matter, and who want to help people. This is always going to result in a pull away from the somewhat isolated, self-sufficient damage dealing role. We’re not as helpful, not as useful as we could be, and it’s that potential that gets us in trouble. As Cynwise said, he can’t help but feel he could better contribute to the success of his team if he were playing a healer. Honestly though, I’m not sure.

An old friend of mine, a fellow DPS, once told me that many more people can play a healer decently (not necessarily exceptionally) than can play a truly outstanding DPS. I think it’s the kind of statement that can’t be verified, but the part I want to take away from it is not anything disparaging against healers, but rather, the clearly stated DPS pride that he espoused. He was the first person (and one of the few) I have met who was truly dedicated and proud of being a DPS player. Never apologizing just for existing, or for taking up a spot in a group, he knew that in any group he was a major factor in its success, and he was right. I know I could definitely stand to examine my own attitude towards DPS players, and I suspect we probably all could. Appreciate the unique challenges of all the roles without assigning value to them. Yes, there are fewer tanks and healers in a raid group. The role comes with greater responsibility and somewhat higher visibility when it comes to failure. But we can’t tank and heal the bosses to death. I think it’s sad that a mediocre tank or healer is more likely to receive accolades than all but the greatest DPS players. We’re playing what we love. It doesn’t make us shirkers, slackers or fail players. You have to play what you love, otherwise why are you playing?

Another unfinished sketch, this time of my mage on the OTHER side, Jikali.

Revelations (That Are Not Actually About Cookies)

Just over a week ago now, Canadians were preparing for our version of stuffing ourselves silly and being thankful about it. Thanksgiving! (Yes, it’s the same holiday as in the U.S. pretty much, except ours is a little earlier). We’d acquired a turkey, friends were due to arrive, and as with any major holiday – I happily took a welcome excuse to do some baking. The centerpiece of my endeavour was to be pumpkin cupcakes. Voss, who doesn’t especially like pumpkin, asked if I could perhaps bake something else on the side for him. Some cookies, maybe? (Insert big pleading eyes here.) Chocolate chip cookies, maybe? It doesn’t usually take much to get me to do more baking, so of course I agreed.

And here I paused. For years now, I’ve been experimenting with lower fat baking. It’s possible to do and still have recipes taste good. My low-fat chocolate chip cookies are pretty decent – but they tend to be a bit harder, definitely “dippers.” You have to be so careful with the dough not to overmix it. I hesitated. Did I want to make the “healthy” recipe – or did I want to go back to my tried-and-true?

I haven’t made this recipe in years. It was faithfully copied from my Mom’s recipes when I first moved away from home a decade ago. I looked at that recipe, carefully written out. It has twice as much butter as the other recipe. I know they aren’t as “healthy” (if any cookies can be considered healthy). The thing is, butter serves a specific role in baking, just like all the other ingredients do. It helps with texture, establishing both moisture and crispness. It’s possible to make things with much less of it (I hardly use it at all in “regular” cooking) but in baking it’s a tough thing to do away with.

I made my Mom’s recipe. They weren’t as pretty to behold as their low-fat counterparts. I watched them cooling on the rack a bit uncertainly – they’d flattened out more than I’d expected. I wasn’t sure how they were going to be.

I took one bite of that first cookie and the taste of it exploded in my mouth. It tasted of a hundred happy moments mixing with my Mom, adding vanilla, adding eggs. It tasted of licking the beaters of the electric mixer (raw egg be damned! I came through childhood just fine). It tasted of the time that our old, long-departed cocker spaniel opened a container of cookies and helped himself (one by one, at his leisure!) It tasted of home. It just tasted right, and in that moment I didn’t care that the cookies had twice as much butter as the other kind. They were perfect.

I have to admit, I’d been having a tough time getting into the Thanksgiving mood. For awhile now, I’ve been labouring under an indecisive funk. I wrote all about how I felt playing retribution all the time. I’d even planned to write a “Thanksgiving” Warcraft post that never materialized because I just felt like I was going through the motions. The thing is, I have a lot to be thankful for (both in and out of game) but I wasn’t feeling up to expressing it. I’d begun playing my paladin at the start of this tier because I felt that it was how I could best help the guild. I felt that it was best for the guild. What I didn’t consider deeply enough was whether it was what would be best for me.

For years, I’ve been making chocolate chip cookies as a treat that are “better for me,” but they aren’t RIGHT. I’d rather eat them half as often but enjoy them twice as much. Or actually, what I’m trying to say – in an extremely roundabout and cookie-based way – is that last week, I took Millya into Firelands for the first time. (It’s appropriate if mage metaphors include baking, you know).

The first raid, I was really nervous and I definitely didn’t play my best. There’s an element of wanting to “prove I’ve still got it,” and focusing on that led to a few bonehead maneuvers. But it was okay. The second raid, I was feeling more comfortable, and I really let myself exult in the feeling. I love being a mage. I love everything about it. I love blink, I love firing spells off like a deadly turret, I love conjuring cakes for everyone and seeing my mirror images sprinting all over the place and even my stupid flame orb wandering off on its own to explode and attack, seemingly, nothing. I love my serious little goat woman and her wild hair and earnest horns. I love wearing a dress. I’m crazy about it. I always have been. I missed it when I was a priest, and a druid, and now a paladin. I missed it because it was the right thing for me to be and I never should have lost sight of that.

“You always preferred your mage,” a few guildies have told me gently. I’ve received more than one whisper from people saying they’re happy to see my mage again, and that it feels “good” to have me be a mage. It does feel damn good. I am still feeling pangs of guilt, as our discussions about two versus three healing came to an uneasy commitment, and I know that me leaving that team leaves us one healer down and bloats the DPS roster. If we need to, we’ll have to recruit another healer in the next tier. It is selfish of me – I’ve admitted I was wrong to switch characters. Not because I can’t do it. I think I was a pretty good paladin, and a pretty good healer. But it’s not what I love the most, not like my esteemed paladin friends – who live and die on paladin news and are really, some of the best folks I know. I was proud to be among them, and it has nothing to do with the class. I don’t want to attribute too much meaning to a video game, or a virtual persona, but there is a thin line between what you play and who you are.

I don’t want to have to write another entry like this in one tier, or two. No matter how much I think “I could help out” as a healer, I shouldn’t do it. When I stepped into that second raid, my eyes actually momentarily stung, I was so happy. The familiar sensation rolled over my finger tips as I spammed two like my life depended on it. This character is home. I regret the inconvenience it causes my guild and my guildies, but I need to be selfish about this. It was silly of me to think I could be as happy playing anything else. Every time I’ve switched has been to try and fill a niche or role we’re lacking, but I’m no good to anyone if I’m playing something but secretly and sadly miserable. Thursday’s raid was an absolute blast, and I don’t know if it’s because good moods are infectious or what but it felt like everyone had a better time. We have a secret paladin turned warlock going back to his paladin and I think he’s as happy as I am to trade his robes for plate. (He probably didn’t tear up about it because he’s far too stalwart for that, but I’ll bet he sang a song). I remember that this is the right thing to do every time I wonder what reputation grind I need to be working on (re-doing) now and then I remember, I don’t need to be re-doing any of them because I’ve already done them. This is my main we’re talking about. I’m baaaaack.

Oh, and P.S. – The cookies are going to be a rare and occasional treat, but when I make them, you better believe I’m going to make my Mom’s version.

P.P.S. – I used eight images in this blog post, but I probably had twice that many I could have used. More evidence.

You’ve Earned The Achievement: Re-Earn All The Achievements!

Deja-Vroom

It occurred to me as I was flying to Stormspire to talk to Dealer Rashaad about purchasing a parrot, rabbit, dragonhawk and cockroach pet that I might have a problem.

I can’t consider a character “real” until they have achievement points, pets, and mounts.

I don’t know when this started – heck, I played the game before achievement points even existed. I remember that fateful day in October of 2008. I received credit for some of the things I had done, and even things I hadn’t known I’d done. I was annoyed that it didn’t know I had done all of the heroic Burning Crusade dungeons (I only went back to re-do them all for ‘credit’ years later. If you ask me why I did this, I couldn’t even tell you).

I’ve had a lot of time to think about this over the past few weeks, as I’ve been gathering the materials to make another Mekgineer’s Chopper, and disguised as a fel orc doing tasks for the Netherwing (there’s a Broken in those mines who cuts off his own hand and gives it to you, did you know that? He’s so committed to the task that he does this because he knows if he doesn’t, it’ll blow your cover. Now that’s dedication… Do you think he got ten achievement points for it?)

This is a sickness. I earned 100 Valiant’s Seals to become a champion of four more factions so that I could be a Crusader and reclaim the pallycorn that was mine by rights. This may also be my third Crusader character, or not quite, but it’s definitely my second. Yes, I know, draenei paladins (Vindicators!) received a very racially appropriate elekk that robbed me of my beloved horse. It’s ideally suited to male draenei – who’ve been crushing mounts beneath their prodigious bulk since coming to Azeroth – but Vid likes to be a bit more low profile. So now she’s a Crusader, and has a horse (and a motorcycle) and a Cenarion Hippogryph and somewhere in the neighbourhood of sixty mini-pets. You can see where this is going.

I don’t even really mind that I’ll have to do Loremaster again. I’ve been meaning to see all of the “new” old quests in any case. Plus, I really like “The Seeker” title. I tried just focusing on character appropriate achievements/pets and mounts – that’s why Vid has the Legs pet (from Zangarmarsh) and will need the Firefly, as well as riding the Cenarion Hippogryph mount. She’s spent a lot of time in Zangarmarsh over the years (Sporregar rep is naturally on my “to-do” list).

Three hours of farming in Tol Barad has failed to yield another Fox Kit, though. I’m not sure I’ll have the heart to re-do all of the achievements Millya has.

The Dalaran Fountain coins? …ugh.

Another Mr. Pinchy? …This would be the third character I’ve fished him up with.

I think being an achievement hunter and an altaholic may be a dangerous combination. I’ll tell you more about it, as soon as I’m finished my daily Winterspring cub quest. If I do that for enough consecutive days, I’ll get another mount which will put me at nearly fifty!

…please send help.

A dwarf asked me to carry this keg back to Ironforge. It has wings because that's how in touch with the Light I am. I only did it because there's this achievement if you complete all these tasks, though...

A Main By Any Other Name

I went ahead and did it, folks. I took the plunge. I was writing this long entry trying to explain when I realized, why am I justifying myself to the internet at large?

For the next tier, I am going to be raiding as a holy paladin.

Oh hey. And yes, Vid rocks a Gnomeragan tabard. She is friends with gnomes. I'm working on her tabard collection, though. Achievement points are a sickness.

What precipitated this radical change? What’s the future of Manalicious?

First of all, when I moved from Pugging Pally to this new blog space I deliberately gave it an ambiguous name. Yes, it is like delicious conjured pastries and confection. But it could also apply for any class that uses mana. I knew that no matter what I might play, it would always be a mana user. So you might say I future-proofed the blog, which won’t be changing at all.

I know that many folks read here for mage content and/or have me in the mage section of their blogrolls. That’s fine, because I am still staunchly pro-mage. I never wrote that much about theorycraft here. I don’t anticipate this will have much impact on Manalicious at all.

As for why I did it, I have quite a few reasons. Our healing search was not going well. Our healing team has been extremely unstable in this expansion, experiencing nearly 100% turnover. I wanted it to be more stable. I’ve never raided primarily as a healer in progression content. I’m excited about it. I did run the majority of heroic BWD with a friend’s raid. I’m confident I can increase my skill as a healer, and work well with the other team members. I guess that’s a big part of it, too. As a DPS you may sometimes need to coordinate with the other DPS but for the most part you’re running solo. A self-sufficient spellflinger in the middle of the group, if you will. It comes with its own set of stressors. But the longer I play WoW, the more I realize that I greatly enjoy working with a team. The entire raid is a team, but the smaller microcosm of healers and tanks are also their own mini-team.

I still love being a mage. If I had to DPS, that would be my first choice. I just expect it’s going to be easier to find a great DPS than it has been to find a great healer that is also a personality fit. I’m excited about this change! The reactions I’ve gotten have ranged from dismay through to cautious enthusiasm. I wouldn’t do this if it was going to make me unhappy, truly. It’s just ironic that right after I was writing about how you should be playing your main, I realized that the fact I wasn’t playing mine might be trying to tell me something. I just wish that achievement points didn’t exist. I am going to have to try to stop caring about them, along with my pet collection. Millya’s not going away, she’s just pursuing other things for awhile. I joked that I could be happy playing any character so long as it’s a draenei. Sadly, this is probably true.

My friend Walks once remarked that druid heals are like a hug, and paladin heals are like a punch in the face. The gauntlets are on!

p.s. – We’re looking for a shadowpriest, moonkin, and we’d consider any exceptional DPS. Check us out!

How Playing My Alt Was Hurting My Raiding

I once wrote about how I think that playing alts can actually make you a better player. I still believe that to be true. If you’ve played a class, you’ll often better understand the cooldowns and abilities available. This helps with leading raids and organizing rosters. In PvP, it helps you understand how to counter another class because you know what to expect. I am a staunch advocate of alts! I love getting inside another class and seeing what makes it tick – or in the case of my paladin, making a list of spells with various iterations of Hand, Blessing, and Divine to try to keep any of them straight.

There’s just one possible pitfall, and I’m afraid it blindsided me. I think it’s a fairly common scenario. If you’re a raider, your raiding main is decked out in great gear. You take your main to raids, but other than raids, they don’t “need” anything. So… If you’re like me, you play an alt. That’s not necessarily a bad thing and of course, it all depends. There’s no right or wrong way to play a game, there’s only deciding what’s right for you. But if you are a progression raider looking to maximize your play, I’m going to suggest something radical: playing too many alts might be hurting you, as it was me.

On the surface, there wasn’t a problem. I mean, I wasn’t routinely at the bottom of the meters in raids. I think my performance was solid. I continued to enjoy raiding as a mage. I was just playing Vidyala, my paladin, constantly outside of raids. She was the one who needed Valor Points to upgrade her gear! She was the one who needed gear. I get a bit obsessed with upgrading gear, because it’s such a tangible improvement. I’ve geared alts to the teeth only to completely abandon them once they no longer “needed” anything, having hardly used the gear at all. I just like the completeness of it. It also happens that I enjoy healing, and I enjoy five-mans, and so I didn’t see any detriment to this alting – except when I started to take a hard look at my own performance. With the kind of gear I have, I felt I should be performing better. I’d grown complacent. I wasn’t pushing myself to excel and find ways to maximize my damage output, due in large part to the fact that I wasn’t playing Millya as much as I could be.

I decided that I wasn’t satisfied with the state of my DPS or my play. I wrote a whiny blog post (and deleted it, unpublished). I asked myself, “Do you want to put energy into complaining that your numbers aren’t where you’d like them to be, or do you want to put that energy into figuring out how to improve your numbers?” I checked up on mage resources to make sure that my theorycraft was current. I asked our guild’s other mage, Fsob, to look at my World of Logs. He is both my respected colleague and a wizard (har) when it comes to reading WoL. He gave me some valuable feedback that I used to plan my improvement, but the grunt work would have to come from me. I needed to play Millya as much as possible. One of my problems was not casting enough. Especially when a fight is new, it’s easy to get caught up in the mechanics and movement and not nuke as often as you should. To improve this, I was going to have to really focus on it.

I resolved that when I wanted to run a pug, I’d do it as a mage (thirty minute wait be damned). When I ran a BG, I’d do it as a mage. I ran dailies constantly. Tol Barad fears my name. The Argent Tournament is tired of seeing me. I was all mage, all the time – and I got results. Really and truly. Partly through a combination of research and practice, I improved my damage on heroic Valiona and Theralion by 1000 in just one week. I nearly doubled my number of “main nuke” casts, while keeping Scorch casts at the same amount. If you’d asked me before, I would have answered that I was “always casting” on the first V&T fight I looked at. But to see such a marked improvement in such a short time the following week floored me. I hadn’t received any significant gear upgrades in that time. I was just playing better.

"Thanks for killing my worthless minions!"

What Alts Can Do For You

(Doesn’t) Stand In Bad
If your goal is to maximize your raiding performance, in some ways alts can help you with that. Some things are completely universal – situational awareness, for example. High survivability is something I’ve always prided myself on, and that tends to be true no matter what I’m playing. As a healer, I can usually dance out of something oozey and painful very quickly. As a tank, I can neatly sidestep something coming my way. I believe situational awareness is a skill that can be learned, or at least honed – and you can practice that no matter what you’re playing.

You know the big spider forest in Tol Barad, and how those spiders will spit a big puddle of green goo at you? Did you know that you can usually start to move before the goo hits the ground so that it never hurts you? Half of situational awareness is anticipation. The same thing is true of the dark oozes that play a huge part in the heroic version of Maloriak (and it used to be the case for Trial of the Crusader and countless other raids). You can see the ooze flying at you and actually move before it hits the ground. Forget about getting out of bad – how about never getting in it? Of course, this isn’t possible for everything. There are some things that will hit you no matter what you do, and you really do have to move out of them. That’s something you can practice no matter what you’re playing!

At What Level Did I Get That Ability Again?
Another thing that you can do if you love alts and don’t always want to be playing at end-game is to level an alt of the same class as your main. I know tons of people who have done this! Vosskah has something like four warriors. I have two level 85 mages, as does Fsob. I know that Kurn just finished leveling another paladin. Leveling your “own” class can give you insights into it. The game has probably changed since you leveled up for the first time. Even if you don’t level as the same spec, it can be a valuable experience (and still scratch that alt itch).

I’ve had folks laugh at me for having two mages at maximum level. It’s kind of a running gag for people who wonder why you’d ever want more than one character of the same class, but it’s actually more common than you might think. If you’re playing a class at 85, it’s probably because you enjoy it. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that many of the best players I know have “multiples.” They are so passionate about their class that it’s no chore to make a second one. I sometimes wish I could “unlevel” Millya just to do some quests again and revisit zones that I liked. That’s not possible, but leveling another mage alt might be the next best thing.

Playing alts (especially in pugs) definitely accustoms you to the controlled chaos of a raid. Or at least, it accustoms you to chaos!

What Alts Can’t Do For You

I’m Sure Iceblock Is Around Here Somewhere
My pugging has honed my emergency button reflexes. My instincts have me reaching for Hand of Sacrifice so quickly; it’s like lightning! Unfortunately, that doesn’t help me whatsoever when I’m in a raid, because I don’t raid as a paladin. You might have lightning reflexes that are completely useless if your muscle memory isn’t remembering the right thing. (I also happen to have a lightning-fast Iceblock reflex, but that’s neither here nor there). Experienced alters often mimic a “basic” keybind set-up between all of their characters. So if you’re playing a druid tank or a warrior tank, your taunt is the same button (no matter what it’s called). This can help ease the transition between different characters when you do play them. I think there’s no substitute for playing your own character, though.

In a raiding situation, you can’t look down at your buttons and try to remember where you keybound your emergency heal or health potion. Well, you can – but you might be dead first. The faster you can instinctively reach for your key abilities and cooldowns without even thinking about it, the better you’ll do. You also learn a rhythm for when things are available. It’s weird for me to play my second-string mage, Tazya, because she has less haste than Millya and she feels sluggish. I think the effective difference is only a fraction of a second, but it makes a big difference when I’m playing her.

Being attuned to the nuances of your own class takes time, and here’s the thing… the time we all have to spend on WoW is finite. We all have other obligations, families, lives outside of WoW (hopefully!) It can be a fun diversion to level an alt for awhile, but if you aren’t 100% satisfied with your performance and your main, that’s time that you don’t spend improving and learning it.

Practice Makes…Probably Not Perfect, But Closer

I feel that I need to add a huge, honking caveat here. I’m not saying that “You shouldn’t play alts,” or “Playing alts makes you a bad player.” No. All that I am saying, from my own, highly subjective and biased personal experience is that I wasn’t playing as well as I wanted to, and I think part of the reason was because I was playing too many alts. That’s a decision that only you can make for yourself. If I was in a guild where I could casually top the DPS meters in a raid, I’d probably never have worried about it. It’s only when I thought, “I could be doing better,” and started to seek out reasons why that I hit upon this conclusion.

I’m a big proponent of doing what makes you happy; in life, in WoW, wherever. If hitting the fifty character limit is something that’s fun for you, why not do it? Cynwise wrote a great post about making a low-level PvP character just for kicks. If you get tired of them and want to delete them, no harm, no foul! (I’ve been thinking of doing this…with a mage, naturally). For me, what’s fun is progression hardmode raiding. That is my passion, and it’s one that is shared by the people in my guild. If I’m not doing the best I can, then I’m not just hurting myself, I’m letting them down too.

So lately, if you’re looking for me, it’s a pretty sure bet I’m flinging fireballs at trolls, or freezing Horde to the ground in a BG, or running around a grim island off the coast of the Eastern Kingdoms stealing fish from villagers. I’ve been digging through WoL to figure out ways to increase my DPS, and usually when I’m in-game I’m practicing. Diversions like learning PvE Frost as my raid off-spec have kept me occupied. Far from being bored, I keep finding out things I hadn’t thought of before. Besides, playing a mage is never a chore! It’s my favourite WoW thing to do. It’s been nice to see tangible results, too. I’m sure I will always have plenty of room for improvement.

What do you think? Are you a one-character sort of person, or do you wish Blizzard would increase the ten-character per server limit? Has playing an alt helped you improve your main character’s play in an unexpected way? Zinn over at Jinxed Thoughts wrote some great tips for dedicated alters while I was still working on this draft, and the irony wasn’t lost on me! I’ll admit, I still have and love playing a bunch of different alts, I just intend to temper my playtime with equal dedication to my main!

Worgen Frustration (or How I Learned To Stop Worrying and Love My Night Elf)

After leveling to 85 and spending some time on instances and reps to gear my main, I thought I’d set some time aside for a little lowbie alt. I’ve come to accept this about myself – I like leveling. Whether it’s through instancing, questing, exploring – or lately, herbing – it’s a relaxing process for me. Some people are one character people, and I respect that. But I wanted to see the new zones.

I’ve even come to accept that I’ll never have “one 85 of each class,” because there are honestly some classes I don’t want. So instead I have multiples. That means two warriors (81 and 28), two mages (85 and 80) and most recently, two druids (80 and 27). But this druid has assumed two different incarnations.

What Big Teeth You Have, Grandmother

I was excited to make a worgen druid. Originally the plan had been to make a warlock, but as I mentioned, I accepted that I don’t necessarily want one of each class. I had cloth/caster heirlooms that would serve as well for a druid, and I’d love to have a power-gathering character. (She mines! She herbs! She is the incredible flying druid!) I was a bit torn on the gender; the odd, foxy features of the females didn’t immediately appeal, but I figured they’d grow on me.

Looking despondent - probably because when they put her in the stocks they wedged her staff into the wood. I'd be bummed too.

So here’s Francisca, worgen druid. I played her to level thirteen. My impressions of the starting zone were mostly positive. I liked how quickly the action moved and the quests were organized in a logical manner. The flow was very nice, and the point at which the quests shout back to previous Kaldorei lore were great. I enjoyed the eerie feeling of the zone, the little things (like mastiffs and foxes!) and the accents of the NPCs. They’re a bit over the top but they still give strong flavour. You know you’re definitely not in Stormwind any more.

What I wasn’t feeling as attached to was my worgen herself. She lumbered everywhere, wrathing and moonfaring, but I just wasn’t feeling it. No matter, I thought – she can always remain human most of the time. The only problem with this is using the worgen racial, Darkflight – means that you are, naturally, transformed back into a worgen. And I use things like that on cooldown – it makes you faster! But despite that, I liked her as a human and ultimately intended for her to spend most of her time in flight form – so it didn’t really matter. I probably would have kept playing her, until I reached a pivotal point in the quest progression.

I’m trying not to give spoilers here for folks who want to do this, but essentially it’s a series of quests that make heavy use of phasing. You take one quest, proceed to accomplish it, and pick up the next quest afterwards. The next part has you following an NPC with an aggravating habit of dashing off in an unseen direction. I happened to get this quest just as it was time for us to head out for the evening (and I’d failed it). So, no problem (I thought) I’ll just drop the quest and park myself in front of the NPC that gives it, so that I can pick it up the next time I play.

The next day, I logged in to continue with my druid – the NPC didn’t have a quest for me. I was sure it was the correct NPC; but she had nothing. I tried moving around the phased zone by myself to see if I’d missed something. I went back to the beginning of the chain, thinking perhaps it had bugged out and I needed to start all over again. Nothing. I checked the Wowhead comments – I wasn’t the only one who’d had this happen.

I thought about my willingness to open a ticket and wait a very long time to have this one quest fixed. I thought about how this is a pretty major bug to have made it into a game, especially since it’s happened to other people, and I was frustrated by it. I thought about my lumbering druid with the interesting, albeit bugged zone.

Then I logged out, deleted her and made another night elf druid instead.

No Place Like Home

The world's stealthiest night elf. No, really!

I quite like the changes to the night elf starting area. They’ve streamlined things like silly gathering quests. When you go to kill spiders you bring the NPC with you so that you don’t have to run back and tell her, “I found this big, evil boss spider!” only to have her tell you, “Please go and kill the head honcho spider!” and then get lost in the cave again…although maybe that’s just me.

It is still a slower experience than the worgen starting area, possibly simply because of zone size. Shadowglen is a large zone – and I think the sole building needs an entrance at either end, because every night elf character I’ve ever leveled has circled that building at some time or another to find the front.

Other positive improvements include: putting the tree with the strange fruit along the shore of Lake Al’Ameth instead of wayyy on the other side of the zone, and also the escort NPC that accompanies you into the barrow dens is stupendous. She comes with a “we’ll point the way” green mist orb thing, incidentally my new favourite thing in the game. If I had a mist like that for running instances I’d never hesitate to tank them!

The Darkshore experience is definitely improved. My only regret (note, regret, not complaint) is that the combination of guild experience gains along with my heirlooms means I am outleveling my quests ridiculously fast. I haven’t done a single instance (although I am herbing and mining like a fiend) but all of my quests turn green and even grey before I have had a chance to hand them in. I’ve had to skip entire quest hubs for this reason. I’m a bit torn about it because I like to do every single quest possible, but my primary goal is to get this character high level so that she can start herbing and mining for me simultaneously. So I realize I could take off the heirlooms and slow the process down, but I’m unwilling to do that.

I had a tear in my eye as I ran through Ashenvale. I imagine I can hear all the Kaldorei characters I’ve ever known crying their outrage. Unfortunately, again I’ve out-leveled it and I may have to hop over to Stonetalon. I do really appreciate the new “Hero’s Board!” quests in the major cities. I know that I’ve often heard people ask, “Where am I supposed to go at level x?” These conveniently answer this question at any level, and they mean that you can pick up the quest there instead of having to find a breadcrumb in a lower zone before you can move on.

I’ve been thoroughly enjoying leveling my new druid – apparently, since she’s now double the level my worgen was when I dropped her. My other unspoken goal for her is that I’d like her to cover her own expenses – epic flying, possibly even the faster-than-epic-flying if that seems possible. I often level characters that end up draining my main character’s resources. If this one can be self-sufficient I’ll consider her quite a success.

 

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