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

Posts tagged ‘did I mention that draenei are awesome?’

Draenei: A complete set

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

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

Millya

Millya – 90 Mage

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

Vidyala

Vidyala – 90 Paladin

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

Jun – 90 Monk

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

Sofira

Sofira – 90 Priest

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

Sarika

Sarika – 85 Warrior

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

Corycia

Corycia – 82 Shaman

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

Ziana

Ziana – 59 Death Knight

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

Mairix

Mairix – 23 Hunter

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

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

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

Sugar Draenei Cookies How-To

 

Millyawithcookies

I saw that these little “person” cookies are an Azeroth tradition! But I don’t want little human person cookies, I want draenei cookies. With a few simple changes, you can also make little draenei cookies.

You will need:
1 batch of your favourite cutout cookie recipe (Gingerbread or sugar cookies work well, for this demo I used sugar cookies).
1 “gingerbread man” shaped cookie cutter preferably with rounded feet as shown below.

Cutters with rounded feet.

Cutters with rounded feet.

Other cutters look like this, and because of the shape of their feet/legs they wouldn’t work as well for these cookies. The one on the far left MIGHT work but has a more pronounced heel than I’d prefer. The other ones, no.

Don't ask me why I have so many little person cutters, or why the last one looks like a chalk line incident.

Don’t ask me why I have so many little person cutters, or why the last one looks like a chalk line incident.

A bit of flour in a small bowl
Rolling pin
Sharp knife (like a paring knife)
2 parchment paper lined baking sheets
Small spatula for moving cookies

For decorating:
Batch of either buttercream or royal icing
Candies, sprinkles, etc. Specifically for these cookies I used confetti for the eyes/buttons, white sanding sugar for outfit cuffs, and red sanding sugar for the bodies.
Food coloring – if you want really intense colours you will need the paste type colouring such as Wilton makes. I used Cornflower Blue, Red Red, and Black.
Paper plates (if you’re going to use sanding sugar)

The next part of what you’ll need depends on how you intend to decorate. If you are going to use Royal Icing, I highly recommend you use little squeeze bottles (found at Michaels or other craft stores). You’ll also need meringue powder which you can find in a kitchen store or at Michaels, and a little icing spatula for spreading the icing. I’ll have a section specifically about Royal Icing later on.

If you’re just using regular buttercream, you’ll need a piping bag and at least one round tip. You can do the whole “sandwich bag with the tip snipped” trick if you’re in a pinch, but it’s not going to give great results for detailed decorating.

Okay, now comes the fun part! You’ve got your area all ready:

Note the little bowl of flour.

Note the little bowl of flour.

Your baking sheets are also ready to go:

This sugar cookie recipe didn't make very much dough.

This sugar cookie recipe didn’t make very much dough.

Great! So flour your rolling surface, also flour your rolling pin a little bit, and roll out your dough to 1/4″ thickness. Use your cookie cutter to cut out a little person shape.

cookiecutting

Have Voss take a photo that turns out blurry because you are as fast as lightning.

Okay, so you’ve got your little person shape. Ordinarily this is the part where you’d just drop it on the baking sheet, but you’re not going to do that yet. Take your sharp knife that I mentioned before. Now cut a triangle out of the bottom of the cookie’s feet. Like so:

Repeat on the other side.

Repeat on the other side.

Now you have to make a decision. Are you making a lady or a dude draenei cookie? If you are making a dude, take your sharp knife and cut just a sliver of cookie off the top of his head so that it forms a point! If you are making a lady, move your cookie to the baking sheet for the next step.

Lady is on the left, dude on the right.

Lady is on the left, dude on the right.

This is what your cookie will look like if you are making a lady draenei.

This is what your cookie will look like if you are making a lady draenei.

Okay, so you’ve got your draenei cookie onto the parchment-lined baking sheet. Don’t worry if it doesn’t look great on the surface (like mine, which had a weird ugly bit. This dough was dryer than other sugar cookies I have made. Icing hides a multitude of sins). If your cookie is a lady, she’s still missing something! You have an option here: 1) Use the triangles you cut from her feet to make the horns, or 2) cut shapes from scraps to make the horns. I’ve done it both ways, and either way is fine. If you cut them, it’ll look like this:

You can cut round shapes too if your knifework is good, or you can just gently round the triangles.

You can cut round shapes too if your knifework is good, or you can just gently round the triangles.

Now attach your horns gently to your draenei’s head by setting them alongside in the appropriate place, and gently smoothing between the two pieces with your fingers. Gently round them if desired, or leave them straight if that’s the style of horn you’d prefer. At this stage your cookie should look like this:

It doesn't matter if the horns aren't exactly perfect, as they should smooth out a bit while baking.

It doesn’t matter if the horns aren’t exactly perfect, as they should smooth out a bit while baking.

Bake your cookies at the temperature and for as long as your recipe directs. Watch them carefully, especially sugar cookies are pretty delicate and the small parts (like horns) will tend to brown very quickly. Here you can see two of my cookies after baking. This was a new recipe for sugar cookies I was trying, and they browned a bit more than I would’ve liked.

Lady draenei on the left, dude on the right.

Lady draenei on the left, dude on the right.

Hooray! Your cookies are baked. Let them cool on the baking sheet for awhile. You don’t want them to be at all warm when you go to start decorating. While they’re cooling, you can make your icing and get your decorating stuff ready! Now, you have some choices here as outlined above. I’m going to show you some examples of how I have decorated these cookies before we get into the step-by-step.

gingerdraenei

IMG_0036

These are the gingerbread draenei I made a few years back. I used a plain, white buttercream icing to just draw them on there. You can see this method requires some drawing ability. If you aren’t confident doing that, this might not be the best method for you. BUT, you could use buttercream icing to still make a really nice cookie, just simpler. I’ve never done that personally because I like to make my life complicated, but here’s an example of other, non-draenei cookies I have decorated:

gingerbreadmen

See, there’s no reason you couldn’t take this and apply it to a draenei cookie. Do a simple little smiley face, use icing to cement some M&M’s in place, and you have a cute, festive little draenei cookie. So don’t let the elaborate decorating methods intimidate you! The next part of this demo is what I would consider “advanced.” It isn’t for the faint of heart, and you should have some decorating experience if you’re going to do it. Or you’ll tear your hair out and be mad at me (please don’t). Here’s what the cookies look like when decorated with royal icing.

DSC_2700

They aren’t perfect (I’d never used this icing before either!) and I have learned a few things I’d do differently for next time.

Decorating your cookies with Royal Icing
Royal icing is a very different beast from regular, buttercream icing. It’s runnier, and the best way to apply it is using little squeeze bottles rather than a piping bag. The advantage of it is that it gives you that puffy, smooth icing look that you can’t really get from another kind of icing. The method behind using royal icing is actually pretty simple – you first outline an area you want to be a specific colour. (Looking at my cookies above, one hand would be an area, or the faces). Then you fill the area with icing, and use a small spatula to smooth it out. At this point if you want any special effects or decoratings (like the sanding sugar on the draenei’s cuffs) you sprinkle that on. Then you let that colour dry and move on to another cookie. By the time you come back to the first cookie to add a second colour, your icing is dry and won’t run together. There are wet-on-wet ways of using the icing too but I didn’t employ any of those. If you want to see some demos in action, Sweet Dani B has some good ones on her Youtube channel. I also linked to her royal icing recipe earlier.

If you’re using royal icing, I’d recommend after you mix it up (one batch makes a lot) put it into bowls and make the colours you know you’ll need. Then, take a sandwich bag and put it over a mug. Scoop your coloured icing into the bag and then seal the bag. Snip a tiny tip of the icing bag and put the tip in an empty squeeze bottle. Slooowly squeeze to get the icing into the bottle. Then use the provided bottle tip to cover it. I had some issues with my icing by the time I was finished in terms of consistency – you can see that the grey parts on the cookies are not as smooth as they should’ve been. This is because it had dried out somewhat and I should have thinned it. Live and learn! But if you put your icing in the bottles all at the beginning, that should keep it from drying out.

The hardest part of decorating the cookies this way is planning out where areas of colour will be. Don’t be afraid to draw yourself a diagram beforehand if that helps. I’m pretty confident just winging it but you don’t have to do it that way.

Smoothing out icing with the spatula.

Smoothing out icing with the spatula.

I skipped a step for this photo. For the first step (to make cookies like mine) take plain white royal icing and squeeze it onto the areas you would like to be the sparkly cuffs of their outfits. Holding the cookie over a paper plate, liberally sprinkle it with white sanding sugar over the areas you iced. Shake it a little bit or brush it with your fingers to remove excess sugar. Allow to dry.

Once the white on your cookies is dry, start with the “skin” or blue! Be sure to have your candies ready if you are using them for any facial features (eyes, etc.)

Outlining.

Outlining.

Now pipe the outline of the area you want to ice. I left a chunk empty across her head because I want to put hair there.

Fill.

Fill.

“Fill” or flood the area you outlined. This is just a rough step, you don’t have to literally fill the entire surface area. Just enough so that when you smooth it out with your spatula, it should look nice.

Smoothing.

Smoothing.

Now smooth the icing. Once you’ve done this with all of your draenei, they’ll look something like this:

Getting there!

Getting there!

I waited until the blue was mostly dry before adding a bit of white to make mouths. That part was tricky, which explains why some of them look like they are making faces. At this point I could move on to their outfits, because there wasn’t any place where blue would be touching (except for the one draenei who had face tentacles, I left him for last just for that reason.

icing06

Proceed just like you did with the blue to do the inner red part. Outline, fill, and smooth. I found that getting the right red colour was really hard, so I also added red sanding sugar at this stage to make their outfits a bit redder. My mistake here was that I did it after I’d added buttons, so some of the buttons got a bit covered by sanding sugar. The neat thing though is that as long as your other colours are dry, the sugar will not stick to either white or blue areas. So you can have different sections with different effects very easily!

I stopped taking progress photos at this point because it was getting late and I was tired. But all I did was proceed to add grey/black hair to each hoof area and each head. Except the male draenei, I guess they are bald in this case because I didn’t leave room to give them hair!

DSC_2705

Worth noting for this guy – I made his tentacles rings by just squeezing a bit of white icing in a line and then sprinkling with golden sparkles. All of the other colours were dry, of course!

DSC_2710

So in the end, this was a worthwhile cookie experiment. I already knew I could make draenei cookies from previous years, I just wanted to make them better. If you’re going to do these, keep in mind that making them draenei does add some time. I didn’t keep track of how long I spent doing this, but the decorating was probably at least two hours.

Now I don’t know what to do with these cookies. I can’t bring myself to eat them. (This happened the first year I made them, too). You could probably adapt any of these instructions to make your favourite WoW race – cut a triangle out of the feet and then round it and you have a troll’s two toes! Change the type of horns and use brown sanding sugar and you could have a Tauren. If you make these or any type of similar WoW cookie, please let me know! I’d love to see them. Also, if you have any questions or if something is unclear, please comment to let me know and I’ll try to answer as best I can.

Unfamiliar Stars [Fiction]

This is a story for Big Bear Butt’s writing challenge! I have been behind on my blog reading and I very nearly missed it but hopefully I slipped in under the wire. The challenge was to write anything, making sure to include a few specific words. If you’re at all interested in a bit of fiction, you might enjoy the following, otherwise feel free to skip this one. Check BBB’s blog for a post with comments from all the participants.

I’ve never posted any of my fiction writings here, but in the spirit of taking part in the challenge I’m happy to do so.

A gentle hush fell over the city towards this hour. It was not quite fully night but the day had already surrendered, the sun slipping into the sea to reveal the twin moons of Azeroth. It was still strange to her, even after years of living here. She unconsciously scanned the night sky seeking one familiar star, and finding none. These were not the stars of her youth. The atmosphere of this adopted planet, new home to her people, lay far from their last home. She doubted they could find their way here a second time. She smiled to herself as she walked. Even if her people still had a functioning ship, there were few confident in their ability to pilot or steer it. How did that joke go? “Three draenei walk into a bar…no, literally…”

Millya wasn’t great at remembering Azerothian jokes, except that one. She made it a point to memorize relevant cultural markers, tidbits of information that could help her relate to the people of Azeroth. She knew the name of grape varieties grown in Elwynn, the chief exports of Dun Morogh, and the greeting rituals of the Kaldorei, but pop culture was usually outside her milieu. She enjoyed the quiet twilight as she walked, her hooves making a familiar sound on the cobbled streets. Everyone seemed to be taking the time to relax lately. The immediate threat to the world had been dealt with, for the time being, finally allowing reprieve for its citizens to pick up the pieces. The Cataclysm had taken its toll, there was no doubt of that. The streets weren’t crowded at this time as they might once have been – shops closed up and many of Stormwind’s inhabitants were at home enjoying an evening meal or already abed. She passed torch after torch, and they gave off a sort of friendly glow, keeping the paths from being too dark as evening fell. She appreciated that. Even partial light was better than none at all.

She paused as raucous noise came from up ahead. The door to an inn burst open, spilling light and noise into the street. The dark-haired mage frowned and squinted into the shadows as several figures emerged. Some of them shouted angrily, and it was hard to make out exactly what they said, but caught up along with them was another silhouette. Tall and slender, with a distinctive spread of horns. Millya groaned inwardly, thinking it couldn’t possibly be her, it couldn’t…

“You’re just mad,” a strident voice crowed triumphantly, “Because you know I could drink you under the table any day of the week and still kick your ass without breaking a sweat!” Millya briefly closed her eyes. There was no mistaking the voice.

The group of men and human women seemed to close in on the speaker. Millya thought she could hear the sound of some combat from within the tavern, more shouting amid the sound of colliding bodies and even the distinctive snap of breaking wood. She walked quickly closer, deciding in a moment that she had an obligation to intervene if there was any risk. As she drew closer, a pale-skinned draenei woman was revealed by the torch in front of the inn. Her would-be assailants seemed wary about pushing the matter, as she raised her fists and her lips pulled back from sharp incisors in a savage grin.

“C’mon then, what’s the matter?” the second draenei minced a few steps closer, half-swinging a taunting jab at one of the men. From the way he flinched back, he’d had some experience with that fist already.

“OY!” a voice roared from within the inn. A few more patrons scattered before some unseen threat before he crossed the threshold. A burly dwarf with a shock of astounding red hair emerged to stand framed in the doorway. His dirty apron revealed him as the proprietor of the tavern, but his authority was cemented by the gigantic crossbow he was pointing in their direction. He looked down the shaft of a thick quarrel with one eye, his stance menacing.

“I don’ suppose,” he said in a conversational tone, “Tha’ any of ye know what migh’ have caused summat kind of explosion just then?” He lifted his prominent shaggy brows in an inquiring manner, looking around at the group in a way that would have been comical if not for the accompanying crossbow and implied threat. Millya straightened and cleared her throat, causing the dwarf to look towards her.

“Well, Missy Hoofs?” he asked. “D’ye have some insight inta what manner of demon it was that caused me fire to belch purple an’ green, scaring me patrons half to death, spreading hither an’ yon, an’ causing at least one keg to explode halfway to Ironforge?”

She regarded him mildly with glowing eyes. “I’m certain, Master Dwarf, that any manner of an accident causing your fire to emit purple, green–” the mage was cut off as the taller draenei next to her interjected.

“And yellow,” she added helpfully.

Millya and the dwarf both turned to look at her, one in dawning horror and the other with eyes narrowed in suspicion.

“There was definitely yellow, it was a bit hard to notice due to the colour of the fire itself, but it was there.” The dwarf barked a sound that might have been a yell, a laugh, or something in-between.

“All of ye! Get out of ‘ere, an’ I don’t want to see the lot of ye again!” The dwarf’s face was slowly turning a colour to rival the brilliance of his hair. “Take your hooves, an’ yer tails, an’ yer explosions somepleace else an’ don’ ye ever come back!”

Millya stepped forward and took the other draenei by the elbow, turning her firmly even as she murmured reassuring words to the dwarf. The taller draenei initially resisted, trying in vain to turn back to the cluster of humans and dwarf. To what end, Millya wasn’t sure – to finish the fight? Offer to further demonstrate the fireworks? People scurried in all directions as the irate dwarf began waving the crossbow again, and by that time Millya had her charge halfway down the street. They stopped under a street lamp, the bedraggled draenei wrenching herself free. Millya looked up at her, dark eyebrows slamming down on a disapproving face.

“Vidyala,” Millya hissed between clenched teeth, all signs of the diplomatic peacekeeper gone, “What in Velen’s name was that all about?” Her frown deepened. “Are you hurt?”

Vid brushed brown hair out of her face, looking at Millya cheerfully. One of her eyes was slowly purpling and looked slightly swollen. A thin trickle of blue blood had congealed under her split lip, revealing that at least a few of the humans had landed some solid hits. “They got the worst of it!” She assured the other draenei. “There was no need to rush me out of there, you know, I was doing fine.” She dusted herself off as she spoke, looking down in sudden dismay at the goggles around her neck. “Shit,” she said in a muffled tone, her chin pressed almost to her chest. I think they broke ‘em.” Millya noted her knuckles were dirty and similarly bruised.

“Anyway, those Darkmoon fireworks worked just as I expected! I bet that human ten gold that he couldn’t snatch them out of the fire quick enough if I threw them in, HE said he could, and that some troll had taught him to firewalk…Guess that only works if it’s your feet and not your hands!”

A look of sudden dismay crossed her face. “Hey, he didn’t pay me, I’ve got to go back there!” Millya’s face stopped her mid-stride and she amended quickly, “Well, it was only ten gold.” The abrupt turn seemed to set her swaying. It took a fair amount of alcohol to affect draenei with their larger sizes and constitutions than humans, but clearly imbibing had played a part in Vid’s evening. “Say, I don’t feel so great…” Vid lurched past Millya, almost landing in a neat row of shrubbery. She bent over double and abruptly vomited into the bushes, an event that was uncomfortably juicy and lasted for several minutes.

Millya sighed heavily, murmuring an incantation and wordlessly handing Vidyala a canteen of conjured water when she was finished. She guided her towards a nearby bench and they both sat down – Millya with her hooves crossed at the ankle, Vid with her legs sprawling nearly into the street. Vid swigged the water, Millya imagining her complexion to be faintly green. They sat in silence for a long moment, expressions hidden in the dim light.

“What am I supposed to tell your father?” Millya asked finally.

Vid snorted. “Tell him what you want! Tell him I invented a new kind of firework,” she brightened, “Actually that’s not strictly true, but it will be sometime. You know, there’s something about the mix of powder that you put inside of them that really makes the difference.”

The older draenei heaved a sigh, tapping a finger against her chin. She ignored Vid’s chatter, as she usually did, and said finally, “And should I tell him at the same time that you’ve been seen consorting with an orc?”

This time she had Vid’s attention; and she actually turned to face her. She sat up straighter and her tone was chilly. “How would you know anything about my friends, orc or otherwise?”

Millya shook her curly hair in disbelief. “People have seen you with him, Vidyala. People talk. Dalaran is full of people who talk, and mages are some of the worst! What are you thinking? What would your father say?”

Vid stood abruptly, unfolding long limbs from the bench to tower over Millya. She crossed her arms. The effect was only slightly spoiled when she appeared to sway slightly, unsteadily on her hooves. “People talk,” she agreed in a sardonic tone, “Entirely too much. So I have a friend who happens to be an orc, so what? He wasn’t even born on Draenor, he happens to be a fellow engineer, and we’re colleagues, because unlike some people, I don’t judge others based on whether or not they have hooves or a tail.”

The mage drew breath to respond, but the younger draenei forestalled her with a wave of her hand. “I know what you’re going to say!” Her voice took on the pedantic, slightly mocking tone of someone who was repeating phrases often heard. “It’s important for us to integrate. We shouldn’t forget our past. We aren’t like the other people here, and they don’t trust us. Well, you know what? I am integrating, and I’m sure as fel not forgetting the past. I lived it too, remember? But you have to start by trusting someone. How will they ever trust us if we don’t trust them first?”

“And I suppose that brawling in the taverns like a common ruffian is helping the cause?”

Vid met her stepmother glare for glare. “Yeah,” she spat back. “It is, because respect starts somewhere, and nobody gets to hit me without expecting a fist back in the face. We may be taught to turn the other cheek but that doesn’t mean we can’t land a second punch.” She brushed away imaginary dust from her tunic and spun on her hoof with calculated dramatic effect. Her stomach rumbled audibly, which she chose to stiffly ignore, although her cheeks each had a high spot of blue colour.

“So, go ahead and tell my father. Tell him I’m friends with a hundred orcs, and some gnomes, worgen and humans, too. And if he wants to talk about it, I’m going to find another tavern.”

She left the aqua-skinned draenei behind, rubbing her temples wearily. The night’s peaceful calm had been shattered for her, and she sat a long time in the semi-darkness, before resuming her walk back towards the part of the city where its few draenei inhabitants lived. Some time later, when she lay down to sleep beside her partner, he questioned her quietly.

“You seem preoccupied. Is something wrong?”

“No, nothing,” she lied. Satisfied, he fell asleep, but her luminous eyes cast a gentle glow over the room for some hours afterwards.

Tuesday Art Day: Teeny & Claire

I recently did this watercolour painting as a surprise gift! (Not a gift from me, a surprise gift from one girlfriend to another of their WoW characters). I really enjoyed trying to capture a dynamic between the two characters and giving them some scenery. I took a few progress images with my phone/scanner, so I thought it’d be fun to share those.

Final sketch before painting. This is not the "first" sketch.

This next image is a bit shadowy because of being taken with my phone (I don’t scan at this stage because the paper is often still a bit damp and I don’t want to chance dirtying it).

First washes.

In case I haven’t mentioned this…photographing a painting is hard. Especially when you have to hold the painting in one hand, and the camera in the other (without getting your hands into the photo).

Not finished, but getting there!

The above still needs detailing on the shaman dress primarily.

Aaaand done!

This is the final image, scanned in and colour balanced as best I can. Scanning watercolours is tough because some subtleties always seem to be lost. I’ve found that the best way to handle this is to not use the scanner driver (my scanning software has an option) and then to turn off “Auto Tone” in the more advanced settings. This seems to prevent the scanner from washing out the lighter areas by trying to pre-set the contrast itself. Anyway, that’s Teeny and Claire enjoying an afternoon in Nagrand! You know I love any commission that involves draenei. No, I don’t have a problem, why do you ask?

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!

Character Hierarchy: Who’s the boss?

I’m always interested in discussions about which character people consider their ‘main.’ I know people who have two mains, one they raid with and one that is their achievement/collector. Is your main your oldest character? The one you love the most? If you’re an RPer, perhaps it’s the character whose story you are most invested in. Changing mains can lead to mixed feelings and even a confusion of identity. I know it sounds dramatic, but it’s true! My friend Rades has been playing his death knight character primarily since he was unhappy with the hunter changes, but his identity in the WoW community is still pretty strongly a burly green hunter. After all, his blog is called Orcish Army Knife.

Millya's (and my!) first raid ever. I love this screenshot; I can feel the tension I felt at the time being told "Go stand here," while we waited to pull - and to me Millya looks as if she feels the same way. (p.s. Spellfire set and PvP staff, so retro).

I remembered being flat-out shocked when Wrath came out that people would change “mains” at this time. This was naivete on my part, to the tune of, “But you are a priest, how could you level your druid first?” Plenty of people I know switched characters at the beginning of Wrath (from a bear to a paladin! from a priest to a druid! from a hunter to a death knight!) I had to reconcile myself to the fact that people won’t stay the characters you expect them to stay. The death knight was especially rough because we had to wait for him to catch up to us at max level. The new expansion was a valuable experience, though, because when Cataclysm was coming out I knew to expect it and I started the conversation in-guild really early: Who are you going to want to be playing in Cataclysm? Several people seized on that opportunity, and of course now I understand at least partly why. If you are dissatisfied with your class or just want something new, nothing levels the playing field like the gear reset at a new expansion.

I’m continually surprised by how even when you think your main is clearly defined, other characters can sneak up in the rankings and even dethrone the long-time king or queen. Unexpectedly during Wrath, I dropped all of my max-level characters to play Shaedra – a character who was level forty when I was raiding Naxxramas turned out to be the healer I brought into Ulduar. I really fell in love with being a druid, and the character herself (as I was still on an RP server at the time) was a ridiculous amount of fun to play. Her personality was outrageous and she made people laugh, and I think that was a large part of why she became my “main.”

I took many screenshots of Shae because she was fun to photograph. She's posing here with what was actually a feral staff from Ulduar but it looked so neat I used it for screenshots.

As a confirmed altoholic, I have to admit that there’s always a certain shuffle going on with my characters. I had to play a healer because of raid group requirements, and I found that at the time I preferred to be a druid. I’ve since done this several more times. I remember one of my RLs famously remarking, “You can bring anything you want! But, can you bring a healer?” (Sorry, Saif!) It’s not that I didn’t enjoy healing, but at the time I had an awesome partner. It was fun to rock through Naxx with my druid buddy, two-healing everything. We were a great team.

My later experiences with Shae in Ulduar didn’t really match up with that. No one else in our group wanted to/was in a position to heal, so every week we’d be pugging again. There was the priest who asked whether I was a guy or a girl on Vent (okay, I know I don’t have a high-pitched voice, but I think I still SOUND like a woman), there were healers who would DC, there were healers who clearly had no idea what the heck they were doing. In one week’s run, I did sixty percent of the healing, the other healer did twenty (twenty!) and the rest of it came from other sources. On the one hand, it’s kind of fun to feel superhuman. On the other, I’d finish each raid with a crazy tension headache and started bursting into tears for no reason. This is when we realized that we were not succeeding at running a raid group, and I was burned out on being a healer.

My poor Holy priest, she is the epitome of "Always a bridesmaid, never a bride." I have since race-changed her to be a draenei and she really doesn't have a story of her own.

So, I was happy to begin raiding as a mage again when I server transferred and moved to Business Time! They needed a mage. I had kept Millya’s gear at around T9 level because I can’t bear to let my beloved characters languish. BT didn’t really need a warrior but they accepted Voss grudgingly on my good merit (and conjured cakes). The truth is, I played a healer because a healer was needed, but I’m not sure any character was ever my true “main.” They are powerful second-string characters and sometimes I play them, but for me, there’s only really one true main.

Millya's triumphant return to Ulduar hard-modes - i was absolutely floored by some of the scenery in later Ulduar. Please ignore the fact that she is wearing pants, something that would never, ever happen if she had a say in it.

My screenshots folder tells the tale. As I rummaged through looking for good shots of all my characters, I saw the amount of documenting I had done for my behooved spellslinger. There are shots of her in every raid instance, dinging level 70, level 80 – learning how to polymorph people into pigs and wearing the worst Burning Crusade fashion choices. In a way, she’s my least exciting roleplay character because she is me. My other characters are often fun because I deliberately try to make them different – an outspoken booze hound/hedonist, a determined inventor, etc. She’s a bookish intellectual with a temper – not really my most creative decision given my personality. This doesn’t mean I never get confused about the main/alt issue. As recently as this week I’ve thought about playing one of my healing characters because it’s what the raid group needs. This time, fortunately, I faced up to the reality that even if I did it “for the good of the group” I would always miss her. If mages had a healing spec (a la Rift) I would not hesitate! I would chloromance the heck out of my raid group. But that’s not an option.

My feelings towards individual characters is a shifting thing. I haven’t been as excited about Shae since she is no longer a happy tree healer. It’s sad, but true. She’s languishing at level 83. Vidyala became such a favourite that I seriously considered playing her in Cataclysm, but she never quite made it. She is the queen of pugs and possibly an eventual alt run, but she isn’t my main.

Vid-on-ice. Or is that in ice? Anyway, you all know the fight. I guess my pathetic magic had betrayed me.

She is my top pick for when we’re branching out into alt-territory, though! This tier of raiding doesn’t seem very pug-friendly so I’m not sure how much raiding she’ll do, and I’m okay with that. I don’t have time to maintain two “complete” characters. Besides, if I weren’t running LFD pugs, how would I get crazy pug stories to write blog posts about?

Fireballing M.A.G.E.

I knew that when I felt a rush of relief at not having to switch characters to fill a healing slot that it was the RIGHT decision. I don’t want to not be a mage! I don’t know if it’s the class so much as Millya herself. If I could change her class and keep my mounts, titles, and achievements, I might consider changing her to a priest. Barring that, I don’t see it happening. Incidentally, I’ve heard that they are introducing the option to rearrange your characters on the character screen and I am so happy about this. It’s actually okay because Millya is at the top – I deleted my 58 Death Knight just so that she would be at the top. I don’t know why, I am OCD about some things. Now I will be able to put seldom-played alts at the bottom and arrange my other characters in the true pecking order.

How about you? Do you have one main forever? Did you find yourself switching when you least expected it? And why does your main hold the title?

The Tortoise and the Hare: It’s Okay If You Aren’t Raiding Yet

The other day I read this post by Oestrus over at World of Matticus called Keeping Up With The Paragons. It touched on something that I’ve been thinking about pretty much since launch. It’s easy at this point in the expansion’s life to feel as if you are getting left behind, will never accomplish what you want to accomplish – or if you do, it’ll be so long after the fact that it’s irrelevant. It’s not true. The expansion just came out – approximately yesterday! Really. You have to dive in at your own pace, not the pace of everyone around you. Not everyone is going to have server firsts, or world firsts – in fact, I think the majority of us are comfortably someplace in the middle. The guilds that are blowing through content like tissue paper are impressive, but they make sacrifices and commitments to be there. That’s not a criticism, it’s a fact. Finally, the content isn’t going to go anywhere. You still have time.

It’s okay if you aren’t raiding yet, honest.

Time Well Spent: Always Includes Cookies

The expansion has been out for twenty-eight days, or exactly four weeks. Of those days, depending on your beliefs – at least three were likely holidays. (The twenty-fourth, fifth, and first of January, for anyone keeping track). That leaves you with exactly twenty-five days that you could have been playing WoW, but I’m probably being generous there. In my case, my brother was here from out of town for Christmas. I don’t see him more than once a year – and the once is if I’m lucky – so I sure wasn’t going to be playing WoW in the evenings when he was here. Several of our guild members had other obligations; travel, family, holiday. One of them moved across the country in the middle of December, a few more went home to another state to celebrate the holidays with their families.

I’m not here making excuses. (“Oh, we absolutely would have been server-first at xyx if only we’d had the time!“) But the fact is, the expansion is still quite young. Presumably most folks had to attend to that pesky work-thing for a good chunk of December. I know that being behind the leveling curve can be frustrating. I started playing WoW pretty late in Burning Crusade, and it felt like an eternity before I could catch up to play with the “big people.” When Wrath came out, I was bound and determined not to be left behind, and I wasn’t. This time around I’ve been much more relaxed. I leveled at what I consider a reasonable pace, and my reasonable pace is probably different from yours. At least two guildies were 85 quite literally overnight. I wasn’t among them, but that’s okay. We’re all going to be raiding at the same time.

In my world, Gingerbread Draenei Cookies > Blackwing Descent, if only for the month of December.

Expectations and Priorities: We can’t all be first.

Only you can know when you’re ready to raid. You should raid when you’re ready, and not a moment before. If you aren’t raiding right now, it doesn’t mean you’re lazy, or bad, or slow. It means that you made different choices. You chose (or had no choice) but to use your time in a different way. Now you’re hearing reports of all these first-kills rolling in via Twitter, or other blogs, or whispers from friends, and you start to feel panicky. “Why isn’t that me? Did I wait too long?”

Not everyone is going to be first, even though the competitive WoW culture is a bit obsessed with it. It can be nice to compare yourself to other folks to see how you measure up, and can serve as a form of recognition for the effort you’ve put into your character and the game. But it’s important to recognize that those kinds of achievements require a sacrifice. To use myself as an example, we could have pushed the guild harder to be ready on time. I could have made sure to run more heroics over the holidays instead of going out for supper (and sushi lunch!) with my brother and my family. I could have done that, but I didn’t want to. I’m not passing judgment on people who would have made a different choice – I’m not in their shoes! Maybe they don’t celebrate the holidays, or their family was out of town. I can’t possibly know that. I do know that I’ve chosen to be in a guild of people who are adults. They have children, jobs, and other obligations. We’re also a small guild (by choice) and so we have to wait for our full roster to be ready before we can dive into ten mans. I know some twenty five-sized guilds have been able to work on tens. They have a “head start” on us, and that’s fine too.

We expected to start raiding in early January, and that’s what we’re doing – right on schedule! I know a few of our members would’ve preferred for us to start sooner, but the sacrifice didn’t seem worth it. We have a great group of excellent raiders with real-life obligations that prevented us from raiding sooner, but we know that when we do raid we’ll be ready. One ill-fated Blackwing Descent evening back in mid-December proved that. Gearing, gemming, and enchanting don’t happen overnight. The only possible problem is when your expectations and those of your guild don’t match up. In most cases, I think that if you wait a month you won’t be disappointed. Everything feels very urgent right now, but raid progression will settle as we all get a chance to get to it.

Inevitable End: This, too, shall be patched.

As Wrath proved, Blizzard is firmly committed to making sure that everyone who wants to see end-game content will be able to do so. Whether your guild raids once a week for kicks, or five nights a week, you’ll get there. Even the heroics that folks have alternately lauded and complained about will become easier as people acquire raid gear and are more willing to pug. There’s no knowing when the next content patch will be. Clearing what’s available at a reasonable pace is something everyone has to decide for themselves, much like leveling. You can have raid goals even if you haven’t started raiding yet. You can meet those goals. I’m confident in our particular group’s ability to learn quickly, and I think the time spent gearing while people rested and went on vacation is better spent than if we’d tried to rush into raiding too soon. The frustration would have outweighed any imaginary benefit to be achieved from “doing things first.”

Regardless of when you start, if you have the will and the people to make it happen, your raiding will be successful. What successful means is something only you can decide for yourself, and don’t let the accomplishments of others cast a shadow on your own. Congratulate your further progressed friends (sincerely!) and rest assured that your time is coming. That tortoise knew what he was talking about.

Hey, never understimate the benefits of fishing for your guild and raiding! That's something that has to be done slowly.

Tuesday Art Day: Talwen

Back at Pugging Pally I used to do art posts fairly often. I think it’s a fine tradition that I wouldn’t mind continuing!

Here is a commission I just recently finished for a friend of Lara‘s. This is her draenei paladin, Tal, and she is awesome (if I do say so myself). The armour was conceived of by her and assembled/altered by the two of us with our brainstorming; it’s a combination of the Tier 8 paladin set combined with Tier 6 (shoulders and crown). I changed the colours of those pieces so that they would look as if they were part of the T8 set.

Because you all know how I feel about draenei. Draenei. Are. Awesome!

So that is thing one; I always enjoy sharing some art I’ve been working on! Secondly, I have written a guest post that is the probable first in a series of guest posts for Vosskah over at Sword and Board. Yes, that’s right, Vosskah, infamous raid leader and utterer of French expletives! Those of you who have been sad I don’t write about pugging as much may like this series, because…

I made a warrior.  And all she’s been doing is tanking (ulp). Meantime, Voss provides useful information about tanking. I think it’s a fun combination, especially for anyone else who may be interested in leveling lowbie warrior tanks. That’s something that Vid was always lacking as she leveled – I couldn’t tell people about good choice to make because I really was just figuring it out as I went along. Unlike me, Voss knows what he is doing.

It may take my little warrior a long time to level this way, but the journey promises to be a nerve-wracking one. Mosey over and read Looking To Be A Great Warrior? if you are so inclined!

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