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

Posts tagged ‘now why would you go and do something like that’

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?

Knowing When It’s Time To Let Go (Redux)

This post originally appeared in my old space, Pugging Pally – last June. At the time I posted it I had a guildie ask me, “Uhh, is there something you want to tell us, Vid…?” There wasn’t, I just felt like I had something to say about the topic, and now I’m going to say it again!

It'll make sense in a minute, I promise.

It was my brother’s 25th birthday party, over seven years ago. We had only a stay-at-home affair planned – my Mom had baked a cake and we’d had supper in. It was just myself, Mom, and my brother’s (current, this is important, trust me) girlfriend, and my brother. We hadn’t yet actually had the food, or the cake, when the doorbell rang.

The girl at the door was his ex girlfriend. She arrived without having phoned beforehand. With her, she brought three things:

  • a birthday card
  • a framed photograph of her and my brother
  • and a gigantic cookie she had baked for him.

Needless to say, the following hour was not a comfortable one. It was so uncomfortable, in fact, that my Mom likes to remind me that I phoned up a friend on the sly and said, “Hey, want to go for coffee?” and then pretended that I’d planned to go out all along as I sped out the door with a breezy, “See you later!”

I remember leaving them all sitting at the kitchen table, current and ex girlfriend on either side, and my brother in the middle.

Say it with me now:

Awkwaaaard.

I don’t bring this up now because I’m the world’s meanest person, or I want to reflect on the feelings that would drive someone to come across as so, well, let’s face it…desperate. She knew my brother had a new girlfriend. They’d broken up over a year before, but she chose to drop by, hoping to…win him back? Remind him how awesome she was? I’m not sure. But I can relate to the feeling of clinging to something that’s probably run its course. In fact, when it comes to WoW it can be all too easy to do.

Friends

Very strong ties can be forged online, I think (I hope) we’ve all experienced how great it can be to play a game you enjoy with people you’ve met. But as Voss is constantly reminding me, the internet is a nebulous thing. In the two years that I’ve played WoW, I’ve had good friends, and they’ve gone on to do other things. Sometimes it’s harder when you don’t get any closure – someone just goes offline, or server transfers without a word. It’s not like there was a huge blow-up or fight, but they’ve clearly moved on. My unofficial rule is one point of contact, and then it’s over.

When we “split” with our former server and transferred to raid on another, not all of our friends were too happy about it. I hoped we could stay friends, but some reactions were pretty unpleasant. I did send an e-mail or two, before I realized that it was pointless to pursue something that really had no future. The biggest thing we had in common was the game – why belabor something that had run its course? It was better to just let it go. Even now I occasionally miss some of those people, and I think about e-mailing or dropping by their server to say “hi,” but I always stop myself. The friendship can’t exist the way that it did, and so it’s better for all of us to just not go there.

This isn’t to say you can’t stay friends with people if your server, guild or even faction affiliation changes. Sometimes you can, and sometimes it’s better if you just don’t. The trick is to learn to discern the difference between the two.

Guilds

This is somewhat related to the previous point, because naturally you often become good friends with the people in your guild. But the guild exists separately from the friendships, an entity unto itself. Whatever the guild’s focus is – PvP, PvE and raiding, or roleplay – people change, and so do their goals and wishes within the game. The casual, friendly guild you joined to level up when you first started playing may no longer fit your burning desire to raid end-game with like-minded people. It doesn’t mean you suddenly hate everyone in the other guild, but you may have to make a choice to change in order to do what you want to do.

It’s not an easy decision to make, but in the long run both you and your former guild mates will probably be happier for it. If you’re staying in a guild out of a sense of obligation or inertia, people around you can sense it. If you leave before things start to sour, there’s still a chance you can retain the friendships you value.

Activities

Maybe it’s that arena team you agreed to join, or the raiding you were really gung-ho about, and unfortunately you found out that you don’t enjoy it the way you thought you would. I don’t advocate leaving people in the lurch – if you’ve made a commitment, you should honour it. But your first priority should be yourself – if it’s not fun any more, set an end-date for it, or talk to the people your decision will affect, and try to come up with a compromise. Don’t keep making yourself do something you don’t want to do. It’s a game, and you should be having fun.

Naturally this can intersect with either of the previous topics; you joined a raiding guild, so you can’t really get too bent out of shape to realize that… it requires raiding commitments. But if it’s not working for you any more, most raiding guilds have some provisions in place for social members. You can always step down from the active roster but remain in the guild.

Blogs

Most people who write blogs are usually avid blog-readers. I’ve definitely heard an ongoing complaint from other bloggers about their massive, unwieldy blogrolls. What I have to say might sound a bit callous, but I’m going to say it anyway: cut that thing down to size! Feel no guilt. I think the problem is that we tend to associate a blog more with a person than content. So taking them off the blogroll might feel a bit like, “I don’t like you any more.” It isn’t, though.

I don’t know about you guys, but my work and other commitments can severely limit the amount of time I have available to read blogs in a given day. I have to be pretty ruthless about what I take the time to read, and it was an adjustment for me. When work wasn’t busy, I had all the time in the world, I could read any blog I liked. Nowadays, I’m pretty judicious about new blogs I add, and I do sometimes regretfully remove (usually inactive blogs) or blogs that aren’t speaking to me any more.

It’s cliche, but “It’s not you, it’s me,” really applies here. It could be a blog about a class I don’t play as avidly. Speaking from my own point of view, I’d rather someone not read my blog than feel they have to read it but it’s kind of boring to them. I get that you don’t hate me. It’s okay.

Even when I don’t actually remove a blog – I’ll admit, I use “Mark all as read” liberally. Some blogs update more often than I can keep up. I might skim to see if a topic really interests me and then read more in-depth and comment. I know everyone loves comments. But when there’s no time for that… there’s always Twitter, right? (140 characters is just right for small procrastination breaks).

This section applies to writing a blog, too. Sometimes your interest may have waned, and you just don’t have anything left to say. I know many bloggers have recently been hanging up their hats, and while it makes me sad I can’t do anything but respect their decisions. It’s better to walk away knowing you made the right decision than to just let your blog fade leaving people wondering what happened.

No, Really

So whatever it is… if you feel you might be clinging to something that’s just over (or should be), take steps to rectify or change the situation so that you can have fun again. It might be something I didn’t cover here, I don’t know, but I suspect you will.

In the situation I described before I left a bad situation on my old server, the stress and drama was making me physically ill. I had recurring, painful migraines and bouts of inexplicable nausea. Yes, I know, it’s “just a game,” but it can have a way of making itself pervasive. We can all take this game pretty seriously sometimes. But your subconscious often knows what’s best for you, and it’s telling you somehow or other. Don’t be a “quitter,” but don’t jeopardize your own health and well-being either.

And don’t drop by to visit any ex-girl or boyfriends. You’ll thank me later.

I'm so over you. But you don't know what you're missing!

A Furry and Feathery Look at Lowbie LFD

Thisalee (my latest druid!) has been leveling madly, and flinging herself into LFD with gleeful abandon at every opportunity. She’s level 50 now, only ten levels from being able to fly, and I am excited! She’s the first character I’ve leveled since The Shattering, and the difference has been profound and enjoyable.

Familiar, Yet Different

I have loved every new zone I’ve been to so far. I mentioned how I liked the changes to Darkshore and Teldrassil. I’ve also been through parts of Ashenvale and Desolace, and most of Eastern Plaguelands and Badlands. The quests are engaging and interesting, with just enough variety to keep them from getting monotonous. Having not done much research into the changes, I keep running into new zones and going, “Wow! Look at THIS thing that has changed!” It also leads to things like me plummeting into a ravine between the Badlands and Loch Modan, but we’re not talking about that. No, we’re not.

All of the zones have many more resources, which for a dual gathering character is frankly ridiculous. You want to talk about someone being “led down the garden path,” that’s basically this character’s life.

“Ooh, yellow dot! Ooh, another one there! And another! What was I doing again? Oh, I have to kill Lord Whosits. But he’s all the way on the other side of the zone… Wait, I’m all the way on the other side of the zone.”

I think of this as the “Mildred Phenomenon,” in honour of the Forsaken I was leveling with Voss. She was just an herbalist, but she’d follow a path of herbs into a pack of mobs and then I’d yelp and try to run away and Voss would yell (in this awesome Archie Bunker voice) “MILLLLDREEEEEDDDD!”

But Thisalee is a lone reed, and so there’s nobody to be annoyed by my constant forays into gathering. The gathering XP really adds up, too! Paired with my heirlooms and guild XP bonus, I expect she’ll be leveled in no time flat. LFD is actually less lucrative XP-wise, but I’ve been doing it to see how the instances are, and just to break things up a bit.

Hey, hauling around all these feathers is thirsty work. You'd drink, too.

What Big Teeth You Have

Someone said the tool should be called “Looking for Worgen,” and that’s pretty much true Alliance-side. There are many, many worgen – but actually, I’ve noticed a strong majority of dwarven shaman as well. Almost every healer I’ve had is a dwarf shaman! The ones that aren’t dwarf shaman are often gnome priests. Still, apparently Gilneas was just flooded with unfortunate souls and they want to rip up dungeons in retribution.

I am a big fan of the changes to the dungeons in general. Some of them have had their level ranges changed, and the dry spell that was Scarlet Monastery – Graveyard hell in the thirties has been greatly alleviated. Thisalee has run the following instances:

Scarlet Monastery

I only ended up running Graveyard and Cathedral during the course of my pugging. They are the same as they always were, except that many of the troublesome trash packs are now fighting each other and so can be skipped! I’ve noticed this happening in other zones and quests as well, and I think it’s a great design move. You achieve a feeling of an epic battle occurring, without having to fight an hour’s worth of trash. You also get to skip the private hell of pulling wayyy more than you intended to pull and dying a horrible death.

One of the tanks I had in a Cathedral run was having a rough time, mostly because the hunter insisted on pulling for him. This hunter was my polar opposite; My DPS tends to be pretty low in this instance because I’m overcautious. I don’t want to be the one wiping the group or causing a Scarlet mess everywhere. I’ll always remember a Cathedral run where someone ticked off pretty much all of the Scarlets in the Cathedral and then ran out…and shut the door.

This seems very Scooby Doo-esque to me. “Maybe they won’t know we’re here, guys! Look, there’s an exit behind the bookcase.”

I might be thinking of Culling of Stratholme here, though, to be fair.

Scholomance

This instance is still very Hogwarts in flavour. My group for this was pretty fun. I’m finding that the dungeon quests tend to lend themselves to greater group cohesion. People all have the quests and so they want to finish them – and they’ll stick it through ’till the end to do it. Moving this instance to the early forties was a good choice – it’s one that I really enjoy and it was a shame for it to get passed over in the late sixties in favour of Outland instances.

We did have a bit of an incident at the end where the tank let a stray mob eat the healer’s face – and then ass-pulled Darkmaster Gandling. I dropped moonkin form to heal him and DPS throughout both of these fights, even though my mana was running on fumes, we managed to pull through. It’s some kind of paladin phenomenon that (sorry, paladin friends) the pally tanks I meet think they really ARE all that and a shield too.

“No worries, I’ll just self-heal, lol,” the paladin said, preening and strutting when we managed to kill the last boss without the healer.

What, those heals I was casting on you? The ones that kept you from eating dirt? Those ones don’t count because I have a sword symbol next to my portrait. It was all you, paladin. No, really!

Dire Maul

My experiences blundering around here proved useful when nobody in the group started the silly imp running at the beginning. (My bad, too, I completely forgot he was on the left hand side). I tried my hardest to make them wait at the spot where he runs while I teleported out to cat-run along with him.

I’ll give my pug group some credit – they managed to stand still a whole forty-five seconds before pug diffusion claimed them and they started heading towards the next boss.

“Just hang tight, guys,” I urged them. “The imp will be there in two minutes.”

I had the last laugh, though, as the imp ran PAST them on their way to the next boss and they had to double back to reach him. We finished all the quests in the instance. I actually like Dire Maul, although I only ended up queuing for the first part of it. It seems to have been broken up into manageable chunks. You are meant to head down into the gardens at the end, though – something that wasn’t immediately apparent to anyone in the group. Not exactly intuitive, but we managed!

Zul’Farrak

I enjoyed this instance as much as I ever did (which is to say actually quite a bit, because I’m one of Zul’Farrak’s biggest fans!) There are many quests, as usual. I swear they’ve made these bugs bigger, don’t you think? They’re bigger than my moonkin.

I think it’s Zum’rah’s Vexing Cane that makes me like the instance the best. I always want it just as a flavour item, so that I can hit people with it and just be generally vexing.

And you think that regular-sized bugs cause the heebie jeebies.

Stratholme

This was the first time I’d ever run this instance at level, and my pug was hilarious. It started out with the tank saying that the healer was just grabbing coffee.

Me: “Sure, no problem.”
Tank: “Now he’s going to pee.”
Me: “TMI, TMI!”
Tank: “Well, I told him to grab a bottle, if he had we¬† wouldn’t be having this convo…”

I had no words.

Now that the quests are all grouped nicely at the beginning, I was able to grab those as we went along. About halfway through, I started to get annoyed that I didn’t have any Stratholme holy water. So I did what anyone doing this quest would do – started opening crates.

There was an outpouring of rats, bugs, you name it. No one had really noticed what I was doing (we moonkin are so stealthy) and so periodically they’d just get a bunch of bugs biting their ankles. Eventually, our ret paladin said, “WTF?”

Tank: “It’s because I have this [Fine Aged Cheddar], the rats want it.”
Paladin: “Really?”
Tank: “No.”
Paladin: “Oh.”

I ‘fessed up. “The rats may or may not have been coming from the crates I’ve been opening… But they have holy water!”

The tank said, “Haha! Only the sparkly ones have holy water. The other crates are evil crates.”

I told him (and I still maintain) that what’s the point of having evil and good crates if you can tell which are which just by looking at them? I swear that’s new, but I could be wrong. In any case, I kept my moonkin hands off crates after that, until I found a sparkly one. We joked around about my baby moonkin – he tries to fly, something I can never aspire to as a moonkin. We discussed whether Ragnaros can be used as a cooking fire or not (outcome not clear). I pulled an entire pack of mobs with my moonkin ass (I warned them it has a large aggro radius).

We finished Stratholme to much acclaim and decided to move on to another instance, which ended up being Blackrock Depths.

Blackrock Depths

Even with a map, this place still confuses me utterly. It didn’t help that I was lower level than most of our folks, so they had quests that I didn’t have. I never did end up completing one of the quests I had at the very beginning of the instance. We spent more time going around attacking bosses that were red to me. I did manage to squeak out level fifty in this instance though, so it’s not that I’m complaining exactly. I still had fun, I was just thinking of all the herbs there are out there waiting to be picked, and ore to be mined.

A mole machine and a repair goblin at the beginning of the instance are a nice addition and make the place more manageable overall. I freely admit that with this character I am DPSing because I want to avoid responsibility. When I’m healing, I have a particular soundtrack. It goes something like, “Oh my– what the heck was — you’ve got to be kidding me,” and occasionally, in tones of great disbelief, “SERIOUSLY?”

When I’m being a crit chicken, sometimes I literally sprawl in my chair and just spam two for awhile (assist macro is a great boon here). I may have also been starting a hurricane cast and then reading Twitter or other blogs. It’s a luxury I enjoy. I also have a theory that you get better groups if you are not pugging as a tank or a healer. Feel free to tell me I am full of it, but here’s why I think this.

Most people that want to level characters together opt for a tank and healer team. Nine times out of ten, when two people are from the same guild, one is tanking and one is healing. I’ve done it myself! It’s a solid strategy. You don’t hear a buddy saying, “OK, we want to make sure this run goes smoothly, so you DPS and I’ll DPS.” No. They say, “Okay, I’m going to tank, you heal me, and it doesn’t really matter who the three DPS are.” Consequently, I have pugged into some very stable and friendly groups. Tonight’s was especially fun – talkative and jokey (I have no idea how a tank can talk like this tank did while tanking, but whatever works for him). So cheers to <Free Beer and Chicken> from Mannoroth, you guys were a blast. Like I said, next time I expect the beer. I’ll bring the chicken again, with a side of moonfire.

Queues have also been very reasonable – all of the worgen and new classes being leveled are populating LFD quite heavily. I haven’t had to wait more than twenty minutes at the most, and often the wait is between five and ten minutes. For the opportunity to relax and really enjoy the instances, I think it’s a fair trade – all that herbing and mining takes time, anyhow. Lowbie LFD is currently very fun and efficient, something that really isn’t the case for end-game LFD, so I am going to enjoy it while it lasts!

From Vid's "Ill-Fated Pug Files," I left this run before it began because our 'tank' wouldn't stop bouncing around in cat form.

The Hybrid’s Dilemma

With Wrath winding down and Cataclysm just on the horizon, everyone’s mind is on the future – fresh new raids, leveling, and this strange broken Azeroth we all inhabit now. We’ve been focused on making sure our roster is “set,” and it pretty much is. We have some player shuffle; no one is leaving but several folks have switched characters. We have a druid migrating to a warrior, a hunter becoming a shaman, a paladin becoming a rogue, and a moonkin becoming a mage (that’s me).

What you might observe there is a distinct lessening of hybrid classes. We’ll lose a healer who could also DPS, and a DPS who could also heal. Especially in a ten-man setting, these hybrids can be crucial. Being able to off-heal for our group was the major motivating factor behind my switch to Moonkin – I’d actually planned to be more or less full-time resto, but it so happened that we recruited an awesome resto druid that week. Three resto druids isn’t exactly a stellar combination, so mostly I was an owlbear. And it was okay. (I did enjoy the “forest for the trees” jokes, though). But there were many things that were less fun about it, and I’ve been thinking about why I’m more or less okay with our group losing some hybrids.

"What, there's a dragon behind us? Never noticed."

Jack Of All Trades, Master of None…

For some people, not excelling at any one role wouldn’t really be a problem. They embrace their versatility (and it’s wonderful). Don’t get me wrong, I flatter myself to think I was a decent hybrid player. When I healed, I wasn’t standing in fire. I did the best I could. But I could never quite match our “regular” healers. Even though they didn’t think so, I always felt that I was a handicap and that we’d do better if we had a “real” healer for that night. I know, it’s a mental obstacle – but it was there.

Likewise, when you are a hybrid that plays both your hybrid specs, it can start to affect your play in either role. I felt that my DPS always lagged behind where it could be on many encounters. It was just never quite there. Keep in mind, I’m talking about raiding when it was actually still tough (before the thirty percent buff was finished rolling out, and while we were still working on heroic modes we hadn’t yet downed). Every point of DPS counted, every HPS could be crucial. I was actually healing for our guild’s first Sindragosa kill, and that was pretty fun. I healed it for a few weeks – and the first time I DPSed it I didn’t know exactly what I was doing.

Yes, I knew my rotation – but it’s the subtle nuances of a fight that are hard to remember when you aren’t in it that make the difference. Can I use my Treants at the very beginning and have them ready again by the time we use Heroism? Should I put a DoT on the iceblock while I’m dodging (the answer, by the way, is no… At least it was that time we narrowly avoided being blasted into oblivion by a block that broke a bit early). It turns out I was also meleeing it with my staff. Don’t judge me.

The Landscape of an Encounter

I was trying to explain this to Voss the other day and I hit upon a metaphor that really works for me. Imagine that each encounter is a landscape with specific challenges. Perhaps they are hurdles you have to jump over. As a DPS player, you approach that encounter from the perspective of: “Anything that causes me to stop casting at any moment is the enemy.” So movement is your hurdle, as well as other mechanics. Depending on the encounter, you might have specific tasks, and there are things that will force you to move. Let’s take heroic Blood Queen Lana’thel as an example.

DPS: We arrange ourselves in a loose circle, with the center area being reserved for folks who are linked. Don’t stand too close to someone else because of the proximity damage. Perform your rotation as hard and fast as you can because this is a DPS race. Your obstacles are:

  • Movement: Plan ahead for what you can cast while running to another player if you’re linked. Make sure you have an eye for where your shadow flames will go if you get the debuff for those (if you’re a druid, keep a cat-dash macro handy).
  • Planning: If you are the first DPS bitten, you’ll need to make sure you know where the next DPS is standing and not be too far from them. If you are to be bitten, try to get near (but not too near) to the bitten person.
  • Be ready to scatter when she flies up in the air and casts her fear. Don’t be near anyone else. Hit it like you mean it.

That’s the fight from the perspective of a DPS player. If you’re following along with my simile, picture it as a tophographical map with mountains you have to jump over, and valleys you have to avoid stumbling in. You’re running over the ground and those mountains and valleys fall at fairly predictable places. You know them. You don’t have to look to keep your footing. Suddenly, the healer is unavailable for that night. Guess what, hybrid with the gear to do it? You’re healing! Here’s the fight from that perspective:

Healers: We still arrange ourselves in a loose circle and don’t stand too close to anyone. Depending on your assigned role (are you tank healing? raid healing? HoT spamming?) your focus will be different. Let’s assume you are a raid healer. AoE damage is crazy in this fight – something I really didn’t know until the first time I healed it. So you have your own topographical map… Let’s say the healing version has boulders being thrown at you from above, which is really what it feels like the first time you heal a fight you don’t know. I knew there would be boulders hurting the raid. Did I have any idea where they’d come from? Not a clue.

  • Movement. You still have to run to linked players, but you also have to heal yourself while you’re doing it, or hope another healer is covering you. Likewise, if you are tank healing and you get the shadow flame debuff… nobody is healing those tanks while you’re running unless the other healers know to do so (they’re dropping boulders on the taaanks!)
  • Planning: Like the DPS, you will always be casting, but you’ll be HoTing the heck out of the raid. Suddenly, you can’t just ignore the people who are linked if they aren’t you – they need healing now!
  • Still be ready to scatter when she flies, but also be ready to heal everyone because damage from this phase is heavy.

The first time I healed this fight to fill in for a missing healer was, to say the least, intense. I don’t know how the healers were doing it with just two at that gear level, and I understood why it was so hit-and-miss. We pulled it off, I’m not saying “I wiped the raid!” The learning curve was steep. That’s just one fight, and yet the mechanics affecting a DPS or healer are in some respects completely different. It’s a different mindset – a different landscape, if you don’t mind my tortured metaphor. You can learn to navigate both landscapes and even switch mindsets if need be, but it’s a rare player who can pull each one off seamlessly or as well as someone who knows that landscape intimately. I’ve caught myself bracing to throw HoTs in a heavy-damage phase only to remember “Duh, you’re DPSing right now,” or preparing for heroism only to think, “…You don’t do anything special for heroism, you’re healing. Keep healing.”

You will have players who thrive on this challenge – the multifaceted challenge of knowing an encounter from more than one perspective, but it’s not easy. Some fights present less of a challenge than others, but switching mental gears (at least for me) was the largest obstacle.

This was the second largest obstacle.

Can I Have That For Offspec?

In our raid, everyone is expected to have and gear a respectable offspec. Even the pure players have two viable PvE specs that might be better suited to different encounters. I know our other mage is itching to go Frost for Cataclysm, and that’s fine. He’ll probably keep another spec. There are some differences between spec gear priorities that can crop up for pures, but it’s nothing compared to what it used to be like for hybrids. We’ll have to wait and see how that shakes out for hybrid classes in the expansion, with spirit to hit conversions and etcetera. Even with that in mind, though, hybrids will still have a “main” spec, and it takes time and many drops to adequately gear up an offspec properly. I have teased Voss because the one night he had to possibly switch from tanking to DPS he was “not prepared.”

Later that night, he shamefacedly admit that he hadn’t gemmed his DPS gear for a pretty good reason. He needed nearly twenty cardinal rubies to do it! As someone who has kept two sets of gear “raid ready” I sympathize with this wholly. Having plenty of alchemists and jewelcrafters I could afford it, but it’s still a considerable expense that other folks might not incur to the same extent. By the end of Wrath, my moonkin’s two gear sets were equally awesome – more or less equivalent to other folks in either role – but of course I was never going to take gear from “main” spec healers in order to do that. (Our healers were very generous with me, though, and so this is no gear complaint. They’d say, “It’s a sidegrade for me, give it to Shae,” and the cooperative spirit was a big part of the reason I was able to be so well-geared for when we needed it.) Still, things like trinkets are rare enough for main specs – it takes a long time and great fortune for an off-spec to even sniff them, which is as it should be. But it’s part of the hybrid handicap that prevents us from being as good as main healers when we need to be. Your gear can be “the best you’re able to get,” but it will probably still fall a bit short in one spec or the other until the content has been on farm for quite a long time.

Neither Fish, Nor Flesh, Nor Good Red Herring

Ultimately, the burdens and rewards of being an excellent hybrid player depend on the individual. Some people might thrive on the challenge and not mind the confusion and gear lag. In my case, I loved being a resto druid, and I loved being able to help the raid when it was needed. Unfortunately, I just didn’t love being a moonkin. It was tough for me to admit that to myself (and my fellow raiders, who had put the time and effort into gearing a character I no longer wanted to play at the end of the expansion). I still regret that and worry that folks may have seen it as selfishness on my part or a desire to gear a character then move onto another. I had concern that two mages was less useful for the raid than a moonkin and a mage – and in a way, that’s true, but what is most useful for the raid is people playing what they love. I’d rather have ten people truly passionate about their class and role – with less raid flexibility – than a few hybrids who really don’t want to be where they are but will do it “for the good of the raid.”

So we’re going to be a bit less flexible when we start raiding in Cataclysm, and we’re going to have to lean more heavily on our full-time healers. I hope that it turns out fine – and if we’re coming up short, we’ll recruit, because I’m confident in my character choice. I could be a hybrid, but at the end of the day I just don’t want to – and I think that’s okay.

Whenever I'm tempted to be a hybrid "for the good of the raid" Voss yells, "NO. Now, we're short on healers, what do you do?" "Well, I have a paladin that..." "NO!"

I Am A Damage Dealer

 

That's why I wear a hood, because it makes me look mysterious and dangerous.

We are the “bad boys” of Warcraft, the mavericks, the devil-may-care, aggro-stealing, reckless ne’er do wells.

Everyone knows we only ever look at our damage meters. Threat? What’s that? Oh, you are threatening me if I don’t stop pulling aggro. I understand that, but I can’t take my eyes off the “two” key long enough to listen, sorry.

I know that I should beg pardon of the tanks and healers because they are the ones with the important role.

DPS are a dime a dozen. Replacing a DPS takes three seconds. Any mouth breather can DPS!

I am not buying it.

Perhaps it’s because these attitudes perpetuate from 5-mans and random pugs with strangers that they seem so prevalent, but anyone who actually believes this BS is missing a key concept in the notion of a team.

As a DPS player, I and my compatriots research our classes tirelessly. We practice on target dummies, we adjust our gemming, our gear, our talents – so that we can do the most damage possible. Yes, there is pride in doing “the most” damage. There is pride in beating your personal best. Without someone damaging bosses (and I’m talking challenging raid content, here) they wouldn’t die.

I have been in guilds where the prevailing attitude was “If we are failing, we need more healers.” They did treat DPS as interchangeable cogs in the wheel. And to an extent, we are. After all, yellow numbers are universal, right? Damage is damage. Incidentally, the “add another healer” approach didn’t really work out for that guild. What they needed was better DPS. Sometimes a boss fight goes on so long and people start to die and it’s easy to misdiagnose this. “People have died,” becomes “Let us find a way to keep them from dying,” leads to, “We need more healers to heal them.”

I am fortunate enough to be in a guild where I feel that all members have the mutual respect of their team-mates. Don’t mistake this declaration as being opposed to tanks and healers. I have played all roles in this game. I didn’t choose to be a damage-dealing class because I’m lazy, or because I’m dumb, or simple, or can’t handle the responsibility of the other roles. I started playing the game as a healer. Around level forty we fell into a regular group of dungeon runners (long before the days of LFD).

In our little group, we had: two holy priests, one protection paladin, one protection warrior, and an arms warrior. I kid you not when I say we spent more than four hours in Sunken Temple. It was ridiculous. We had more people who wanted to tank and heal than who wanted to actually kill things. I re-rolled as a mage, and I set out to be the best damn mage I could be. First I had to level to catch up with my group. I had a lot to learn, and I have been learning it for years.

It’s easy to assume that because many classes can re-spec and do respectable damage with their off-spec gear that “DPS is easy.” Sure, in a sense, it’s easy. You target a creature (hopefully the same one as the tank is targeting) and you kill it. But you might compare an off-spec player with someone playing the same class and spec and see a huge a discrepancy. Why? Because the DPS player practices all the time. He or she knows what they are doing. They have read strats, they know how to maximize their damage for a particular encounter. Believe me, they do, and they think these things all the time. Not because it makes our “e-peen” grow, or because we think that it really makes a huge difference if we cast just one more instant spell as we’re moving instead of just moving. We do it because it’s our job and we are going to do it WELL.

My fellow damage-dealers: there’s a notion floating around that we should be pathetically grateful when a tank deigns to tank for us, and when a healer throws us a pity heal. Receive these boons humbly, but don’t forget that you are also important. We are greater in number because more of us are needed. We are three parts of a five-man, and at least five parts of a ten man, possibly more. Take pride in the work that you do and don’t let anyone tell you that you don’t matter to the success of a group. You often matter more than they know.

Healers: I have the utmost respect for you and the difficult role that you play. I will gladly receive your heals when you see fit to give them to me. In addition, I will try not to take them for granted. I will do my best to survive on my own – through my self-heal, through bandages, through the tools of my class. Please remember and appreciate that I would take a hit for you if I had to – that I keep an eye on you and would frost nova to help you in a pinch, crowd control an angry creature, or kite it away from you. I think of you often and love you when you BoP or shield me, or give me Blessing of Salvation. Without you, there would be no group.

Tanks: I recognize your very difficult job. You are patient when we are overzealous, and we have a back-and-forth power struggle we can’t really escape. When you are doing well, I can unleash the full powers of my devastation. If you are newer, it is my responsibility to hold those powers back so as to not make your life difficult. I thank you for every taunt and all the aggro that you generate. I’m proud to stand beside you when we have killed things together.

We overcome the challenges in this game as a team, for a reason. Whether a group acknowledges it or not, we all have some say in how group play is conducted. DPS may follow along meekly because the tank and healer have a stranglehold on the group, but we aren’t your pissing boys; we are not an endless parade of replaceable cronies.

Perhaps we’ll gain some respect if we claim it for ourselves and show it to each other.

I am a damage dealer, and I’m proud of it.

Everyday I Wipe The Raid Because Of A Book

There are some things that only die-hard fellow achievement hunters will understand.

"Oh yay I got an achievement for /hugging all the murlocs of Azeroth! I get a Slimy Arms title and a new murloc pet - which I already have, but this one is cyan, and my other one is kind of an aqua..."

Or, as Ghostcrawler put it, “We’ve found that if we put ridiculous things in the game, players will do them.”

That’s why I’m still trying to get the rare drop mounts that are going away. Note, not all of these ARE going away, they are mounts I’m trying to get.

For the record:

  • Raptor mounts – 0
  • Tiger mounts – 0
  • Anzu mounts – 1 (ages ago with my druid when it required a druid)
  • Rivendare’s mount – 0
  • White Hawkstriders – 0
  • ZG, Sethekk Halls, Stratholme and Magister’s Terrace runs: I don’t want to think about it

It’s also why I have been slowly chipping away at the Grand List of Things To Do. Some of them I have crossed off the list, like Loremaster. Others, well…

Let’s just say that sometimes an achievement gets under my skin. I just want to get it done. So it is with the Higher Learning achievement. For those who may not be familiar with the achievement, it requires that you read a series of rare books around Dalaran. They spawn at specific spots, but at any given time there is no guarantee of the “right” book spawning. You are much more likely to be reading an issue of Kirin Tor monthly (back issues, sadly) or any other of a number of flavour books. Most of them are pretty funny! But most of them also won’t reward me with an incredibly magely pet.

Who knew he was so into books?

The pursuit of this achievement is well-documented and a lot of people want it, so there are even channels dedicated to people sharing book info. On most servers it’s “bookclub.” The bookclub channel on Moonrunner has proven incredibly helpful to me – I’ve found at least two books because of it and have dutifully reported the books when I find them, too. I’ve been working on this achievement since I knew that it existed, but perhaps I lacked the singleminded dedication I have recently found.

I just need one last book. It’s the one above the Threads of Fate shop. There’s a cute water elemental and a gnome there who are washing clothes, and it’s just out on the balcony from the shoe shine fellow. I had rarely even seen a junk book spawn here when I was running between spawn points. Now it is the only book I need, and it vexes me. You can imagine my consternation the other night when a call went out in the bookclub channel:

“Enchantment book up above tailoring shop.” He didn’t mean the tailoring shop, really. He meant the Threads of Fate. My book! Guess where I was? The FROZEN THRONE.

I may or may not have burst out into Vent, “YOU HAVE GOT TO BE KIDDING ME.” Whether it was a consequence of my distraction or not, the raid wiped within the next twenty seconds or so. It’s impossible to prove causality, here. Just that my achievement may or may not have been involved. I ported to Dalaran as soon as we HAD wiped…but I was too late. The book was gone.

I'm a mage. Being a bibliophile is practically in the job description!

Voss thinks my book was directly involved. “How could you wipe the raid because of a book?!” he says at our next break, waving his arms.

“I did not wipe the raid because of a book!” I tell him.

“You distracted everyone with your book!”

“Look, some people wipe the raid by standing in fire, surely I get one LITERARY FREEBIE.”

Finishing off this achievement hasn’t been all bad. I’m often one of a crowd of people waiting… usually all of them mages. Yesterday a troll mage said something to me that I obviously didn’t understand, so I had Voss log onto his Horde warrior to ask what he’d said. It turned out that he had been singing Business Time to me. We got to chatting a little bit. I’m sure we would be friends, except that he’s a troll. In summary: searching for this last book is bringing me closer to random strangers, but wiping the raid.

My priorities are absolutely in line, I don’t know what you’re talking about.

My...precious?!

Been Waiting A Long Time For This…

I don’t often blow my horn about my guild. (I don’t think I do, anyhow, but feel free to correct me if I’m wrong). I do write about my guild’s experiences where they intersect with something I want to talk about. Every now and then, though, I just really want to go on about something significant.

Many thanks to Draos from my guild for a number of screenshots used in this post.

Six months ago we were finishing up our last heroic ICC kill. Things didn’t look promising from there – heroic Lich King is a fight that was highly tuned for a strict ten guild. That’s not to say that none have done it (I know of at least two and one is an awesome blogger)!

As the months went on, it began to look like an H LK kill would slip through our fingers. We were plagued by personnel issues as we flailed against the Summer Boss. There were vacations (including Voss and I going on vacation in October). We were demoralized. We actually decided to stop working on H LK, period.

Longtime readers will remember how we discussed and wavered about whether or not we would keep our strict ten ranking. Ultimately, we decided to drop it. It was more important to us to have all our guildies in one place. Many of us “stricters” went out and tried ICC 25 in the weeks that followed. Most of us didn’t get any loot, anyhow. We no longer “ranked.” We’d decided to let H LK go. It gnawed at me a little bit, but I wasn’t going to force the guild to do something that they didn’t want to do.

One night, I was flying around Icecrown with Voss doing Argent Tournament dailies. He told me he was whispering with one of our paladin tanks, Meraxis. Mer had gotten a whisper from a guy in a 25-man guild on our server. They’d been armory stalking us and wanted to know if Mer, Voss, and Pan (our discipline priest) would like to join their H LK attempts. I remember sitting silently for a few minutes and then turning to Voss.

We should be doing that fight,” I said to him. “We shouldn’t be doing it with some other people. We should be doing it together. Do you think anyone else still wants to do it? That is so wrong.”

“Let’s ask,” he said, and we asked in guildchat. My visceral reaction was one of simple wrongness – that our guildies should be working on such a tough achievement with some other random people, instead of their raiding guild. Everyone who was online at the time (some six or seven of us) wanted to do it. We made a forum post. Nine out of fourteen people responded with a resounding yes and two more told me later they didn’t realize they had to post for it to be understood that they wanted to do it. We wanted to do it. We started working on it again.

It was not easy to get the team together. Scheduling hated us. Vacations and timing hated us, but we kept at it, extending our lockout, re-clearing for more chances at gear that might make an infinitesimal difference on the fight. As the weeks ticked by we increasingly felt the crunch – there was a hard deadline for this achievement and we were staring it down. Last week’s attempts ended on a high note – we got him to thirty-eight percent, our best attempt yet.

This week, we got him to thirty-three percent. On our next best attempt…

I am not sure I breathed for the last five minutes of the encounter. It was all a blur of desperate, focused intensity. Our first Harvest Soul went without a hitch. We followed our paladin tank and danced the dance and our healers were incredible and we came through. Everything was going fine until the second Harvest Soul. Even that went fine – we came out, but our paladin tank dropped quickly.

“Can we get a battle rez on him?!” I blurted into Vent. Ulla got him up but then we went back into Shadowmourne and this time lost our holy priest. No one said anything in the tension but you could FEEL us all focusing. It was getting down to the crunch. As we came out, our poor unbuffed paladin ate another Soul Reaper and went down again.

“HANG IN THERE,” I yelped as Voss quickly picked up the big bad.

“Two percent left, come on guys,” our paladin said.

Living Bomb, Scorch, don’t get hit by Vile Spirits, yesss pyroblast, fireball, fireball, come on, come on…

Yes, you heard me. DEAD.

DEAD. The sound was deafening. We annoyed everyone by sitting and watching the cinematic again. No, there is no heroic version. But the incredible feeling of succeeding at this lent it extra emotion to me.

I have never been prouder of our guild. We didn’t get this kill earlier, and that’s OK. We didn’t even get it while we were “ranked” strict ten. But there is no one who has 277 gear (aside from our rings, naturally). We’re all dressed pretty much exactly as we were when we were still as strict as can be. In our hearts we’ve never been anything but a tens guild, and this is a great triumph. I’m immensely happy. I’m excited to go back and do it again since everyone was not there.

It also bears mentioning that this kill holds significant personal significance for me, for one very good reason:

I did it with my main. Not a single member ever complained to me that I swapped moonkin for mage post-4.0. Originally the intent was for people to “try out” new specs and classes, I’ll admit that I seized the opportunity to play the character I have missed since January. It was selfish of me. Millya’s gear isn’t quite as good as Shae’s was. But damn it, she is my Millya. She is Bane of the Fallen King, and I know who my true main always will be, and I couldn’t have done that without my generous and uncomplaining guildies. I don’t think I was holding us back in the final kill (for any WoL nerds, like me). But this story doesn’t have a star. Everyone tonight was awesome and essential to our success. I am so proud I could burst!

Congratulations, Business Time! Tonight you were all down to just your socks.

Oh, he's fallen all right.

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