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

Archive for October, 2011

Guild Culture & You

Last week, Alas celebrated her second anniversary of blogging! As the kind tradition goes, she offered to think of a blog topic for interested parties. Of course, I couldn’t help but take her up on this offer. More topics to write about? Yes please, always welcome! Here’s the topic she gave me:

As a GM, how directly responsible do you feel for your guild culture? If a new person were to join, would they be right to credit you for the overall shape of the culture since you are in a position to dictate policy? Or do you think your members shape culture more?

It’s an interesting question, because it doesn’t really have a definitive answer, unless you want to go with: “Somewhat, yes and no, and maybe.” First off, the ‘culture’ of a guild (as I read it) encompasses many factors. Most obviously, it’s the interactions between members (that take place on both the forums, in guild chat, and via voice chat, and these can differ). As well, the culture is the implicit expectations of all the members. What can they expect from their fellow members, from the leadership, and from the activities we do?

The culture of a guild is a nebulous and fascinating thing. I’ve seen the culture of our guild change quite a bit over the past two years – in fact, it’s fair to say that it’s constantly changing. Shifts in culture can happen in two directions – from both the top down, or the bottom-up. The most direct way to influence the culture of your guild is pretty simple: Recruit the kind of people who espouse the culture you want. Obviously, it’s more complicated than that, and people aren’t that simple. But no matter what guild you’re in, all it takes is one drastically different person: drop them into the center and watch the sparks fly!

This could be someone whose attitude is more “hardcore” than the members of the prevailing guild.

It could be the opposite – someone who doesn’t quite catch on with regards to what’s expected of them.

It could easily be someone who just doesn’t quite “get” it socially – they tell jokes no one laughs at or they never say anything at all; they just don’t “fit.”

Who fits? In answering that question, mostly, I go with my gut. I’ve ignored it on a few occasions, always to my detriment. (For more about this, I recommend reading “Blink” by Malcom Gladwell). If I have a good feeling about someone, I am usually pretty confident that they will fit in. This feeling begins from the moment I start to read an application. Maybe it makes me chuckle, and contains complete sentences with punctuation – whatever it is, I seldom write more in our applicant discussion thread than, “I’d like to talk to this person a bit more at an interview,” or “I don’t really like [xyz].” A few times I’ve been persuaded to talk to someone whose app didn’t immediately grab me – and even given a trial to someone I was on the fence about, but that’s always turned out to be a mistake for various reasons.

Similarly, I trust the gut feelings of everyone in the guild when it comes to reviewing applicants. If someone says, “I’m just not sure about them,” I’m less likely to want to talk to them. So in a very real sense, the culture of the guild itself is fairly self-regulating when it comes to new people. We’re pretty egalitarian. Everyone weighs in on applications, and everyone tries to be there for interviews on Mumble, too. This makes for especially grueling fifteen-person interviews that are pretty nerve-wracking. I know because I’ve been on the other end of one. If you’re a shyer person it can be scary to know there are so many people listening to what you say – but it’s absolutely essential for us that everyone gets to hear an applicant and give an opinion. At the end, we go through the list of people on Mumble after the applicant has left and vote. Everyone has a chance to say yes or no (and why). Most folks who get in have received a unanimous “yes.”

The only exception to this process are social members – friends and family, and curiously they can prove to be the most potentially unbalancing, because 1) they didn’t apply and weren’t interviewed as we do with other people, and also 2) they already have social ties within the guild so if they don’t fit in or are disruptive, it’s delicate to handle because you risk offending both the newcomer and their friend. I’m pretty welcoming of social members, really, despite what I wrote about them before – I love having people to chat with in guild, and I think especially in a smaller guild they can add some action on nights when folks are busy with other things. More people to hang out with are welcome, but again you have to be careful with expectations. What happens if a social member offends or gets into a fight with a raiding member? Fortunately, I’ve never really had to deal with this and people tend to play nice. I’d like to think that we could resolve any conflict like adults, which is pretty much what the guild is founded upon.

So, I think that the largest determining factor of guild culture is the people in the guild (duh) and in my guild, everyone has a say in deciding who the people are. That’s pretty big. In terms of me personally affecting culture, I think a GL affects culture the most through their own actions. That can be good or bad, depending on your perspective. We don’t really have a lot of policy per se, although I’ve added to it in the year and a half that I’ve been GL. I like to have things set out so that you have something to fall back on in case of disputes, but it’s important for me to remember that I’m not managing juniors.

You have Voss to thank for this bit of manager-ese; he likes to explain that when you manage someone who is pretty green or new, they will probably need a lot of hand-holding. You can’t necessarily entrust them with things you would trust to a more senior person, nor expect the same things from them. But our guild is built around the expectation that members are already pretty senior. They have prior raid experience (in many cases, raid-leading, other hard mode guilds, etc). The thing is, if you manage a senior like a junior, all you’ll end up doing is pissing them off. Have you ever had a manager at any job who treated you like you were incompetent, breathed down your neck, or tried to micro-manage everything you were doing (despite your being competent and capable?) They were treating you like a junior. We try not to do that. So there’s a fair amount of trust there that precludes a lot of policy or a lot of dictating. Expectations are clear – how we raid, how we prepare to raid, and so on. What happens within that framework is up to all of us, and it’s understood that we’ll do it without raising our voices to each other, and we’ll handle any conflict with the least amount of fuss.

The end result is (I hope!) a guild that knows I care about what they think and feel, and that I’ll take their opinions and desires into account when making any decisions. It’s not completely a democracy, but there are definitely strong democratic leanings. It’s a guild that gives respect and receives it in turn, one that knows what’s expected of them (and knows they can let me know if I’ve fallen short in their expectations). Mutual respect, dragon killing, serious business time, many jokes and general badassery make up BT’s culture. I think it’s owed in large part to the excellent people that comprise it, and perhaps I clarify it where necessary. If it’s an unconscious partnership, it’s an awesome one. I think any new member joining would be right in thinking that everyone contributes to the guild’s culture, and my primary responsibility is to find negative contributions and make sure they don’t sour the good thing that we have.

I think I answered that question. Maybe. Sort of, yes and no. What do you think? Does your guild leader shape your guild’s culture, or do you think that’s mostly up to the members? I think it’s probably true that the personality of a guild leader is a larger determinant of culture than I’ve admitted here. I favour collaborative and cooperative environments, so I do my best to recruit people who suit that and to encourage it overall. Perhaps a different guild leader with the same members would create a completely different culture. I’m definitely open to opinions!

Solidarity and Silence

I was talking with a friend via e-mail about the Corpsegrinder dust-up at Blizzcon. Pradzha has already written about it more eloquently here, and my friend sent an e-mail that I found particularly poignant. I couldn’t have said it better myself, so I’m not going to try. If you haven’t read Pradzha’s post I recommend you do that first.

The long and the short of it is that George Fisher (aka Corpsegrinder) said some nasty stuff about Alliance players, and he couched it in very homophobic and hateful terms – and it was played during the Blizzcon concert, albeit with much of that bleeped out. That’s the tl;dr version. Below is what my lovely friend had to say about the matter:

Many years ago, when I was still in high school, a cartoonist named Doug Marlette did a cartoon of Ed Meese, who was then-President Reagan’s Attorney General. In the cartoon, Meese was standing with his enormous belly hanging out, and a little starving child was sitting in its shade, all skin and bones, while Meese said, “I see no evidence of poverty in America.”

It was a harsh criticism (if sadly accurate), but that cartoon always stuck with me, because it so clearly represents something you see time and time again — not just from public figures, and not just about poverty, but from regular people about regular things. How many times do you hear somebody say something like, “I don’t know why <x> is so worked up about <y>, I don’t see any problem.”

Maybe <x> is a woman and <y> is the salary gap. Maybe <x> is a gay person and <y> is the right to be legally married. Maybe <x> is a poor single minority working mother and <y> is child care. Whatever you plug in for <x> and <y>, those of us in positions of privilege naturally tend to generalize from our own experiences to the experiences of others, to our detriment and theirs.

And when I say this, I’m not excluding myself. Sure, maybe I have some disadvantages being a woman in a highly male-dominated technical field, but on balance, I’ve got all kinds of advantages that are not available to other people. As much as I try not to let that colour my views, it does, and that’s something I have to be aware of.

So, when I see people like Blizzard putting an asshole like George Fisher up there on stage and an audience cheering at his filthy, homophobic language, it makes me very sad—but it doesn’t surprise me, and I don’t think they’re necessarily evil: They’re just playing out the cultural template that we’re given. That doesn’t excuse his behaviour (or theirs), but it does mean it’s not a problem we’ll solve by condemning Blizzard. I just hope that someday we will get to a point where playing a video like that will stun the audience into shocked silence, rather than drawing cheers.

I like to think that the reaction was mostly to his flag-waving rather than his homophobia — that the cheers weren’t for “fag” and “fucking queer” but for “Horde pride”. I don’t think faction loyalty is necessarily bad in itself.  But even if that’s true, it means people are shockingly unaware of the rest of the template that’s playing out—the casting of sexual orientation as choice, the marginalization of difference, the whole panoply of human xenophobia that we are painfully heir to.

That’s why I say that it makes me sad more than angry. The whole thing makes it starkly clear how much more work there still is before us.

The fact that it’s human nature doesn’t mean we should sit by and accept it—that is after all what causes the problem in the first place—but we won’t get past it with rage.

What my friend is saying is that this isn’t a problem specific to Blizzard. Do I think they should acknowledge and apologize that their actions contributed to hate speech? Yes, I think they should. Bleeping it out doesn’t make it go away. Endorsing someone like that and putting him on stage at their concert is tantamount to endorsing his message. But I also think we could all stand to take a look at not just this one incident, but what it implies. Check your privilege, recognize that you probably have advantages that others don’t; opportunities and privileges that you don’t even realize, and you can never fully understand someone else’s experience. But you can listen, and you can damned well try. We all can!

We can stop ourselves from using slurs that demean other people, which yes, includes saying something is “gay.” You never know who you are hurting, and even if you aren’t saying it directly to an LGBTQ person, you’re furthering a culture in which it’s okay to say such things and think nothing of it. Hate speech is ugly, and it’s needless. I’d seen this video long before it was played and I cringed and felt a bit sick at the vitriol directed at other people for what – the imaginary cities they inhabit in their imaginary worlds? This is a person with some serious issues, and for the record, I love my Horde friends. I couldn’t care less that they happen to play “on the other side.” I’d love the gaming community to be known for its tolerance, acceptance and solidarity in the face of internet dragons. We’re all people. Be good to each other.

Tuesday Art Day: Vosskah

I’ve been trying some different experiments with my art lately, mostly centered around getting away from so many lines. I have a bunch of stuff in the works that’s in this vein, but this is one of them I did of Voss a few weeks back. I’m pretty happy with it, as far as “experimental sketches” go! If you look closely, you can see there’s a Naaru-esque pattern on his tentacle rings, something perhaps Voss himself wouldn’t necessarily wear, but I thought they looked too plain otherwise and I’d always imagined draenei jewelery contains a fair amount of embellishment and personal meaning.

Mage Class Talent Changes From Blizzcon 2011

I spent the whole day liveblogging and hardly had time to stop and consider changes (until now) but I’d really like to talk about the most drastic change proposed for the upcoming expansion: all new Class Talent systems. (I’m not even going to touch the Panda controversy for the time being).

Talent trees as we know them are going away, to be replaced by a single choice of talent point every fifteen levels. What’s especially relevant about these is that they aren’t specific to any one spec of mage. So for example, you could be a Fire mage with Slow, or a Frost mage with Blast Wave. Transcribed below are a few quotes from Ghostcrawler during the Mage portion of the Class Talent panel. Apparently we are the poster children for this new system, because traditionally many of our utility spells were located in the Frost tree. The only thing I really have misgivings about is that none of these talents are DPS increasing talents at all. Don’t freak out about that, because they said specifically that in most cases, talents you know and love are simply going baseline for a spec. Or hopefully, we’ll be balanced so that our damage is just part of being a mage, and the choices are fun utility things. I say “hopefully” because it seems to me as if some of the “choices” warlocks and other classes get to make aren’t just fun utility things, but rather are specific DPS increases (a more powerful warlock pet? The opportunity to have a second pet out for a certain length of time?)

Most of the spells represented here are things we’ve already seen or have, and the major change is that we’ll be able to choose them. The other big thing is that not only will we be able to choose them, but they’ll be “as easy” to swap as Glyphs currently are. What does this mean for the modern mage? Well, suppose you need to slow Shannox’s dogs. No problem – choose Slow as your T6 talent for a given fight. On the next fight, you would like to have an AoE slow – okay, take Blast Wave. (Presently Blast Wave also lays down a Flamestrike for a Fire mage – I can only hope that will persist but it’s tough to say at this point).

I’m going to come down firmly on the side of “cautiously optimistic,” as I usually am. I’m not entirely sure how this will all look at the other end, but at the moment I’m intrigued. Here’s what Ghost Crawler had to say about us.

“Mage is a great example of a class that worked really well with this talent system because historically we had a lot of the most fun abilities for crowd control, survivability, and utility in Frost and then we always had trouble increasing their damage because they had so much utility here. So we figured it would be a lot of fun just to take the utility, put it throughout the talent tree and then let Frost do different types of damage (because obviously you’re doing Frost here) than Arcane and Fire.

In this brave new world, Arcane Blast is Arcane only, Fireball is Fire only, and Frostbolt is Frost only. I know, it’s crazy.

…As we were mentioning with the warlock, we really wanted the mage to feel slippery and glass-cannon-ey and we wanted the warlock to be more of the tank of the casters. These are ways that mages survive and get away. (Re: Tier 2)

Re: (Tier 3) I should also mention here, we are going to make sure that Scorch isn’t the no-brainer spell for Fire mages. You know, Fire mages buff all their Fire spells, so I have to take Scorch. We want these to be attractive to any of the three specs.”

If you’d like a closer look at any of these talents, MMO-Champion has images taken from the presentation screens for you to see here.

Tier 1 (Level 15)

Ring of Frost
Summons a Ring of Frost, taking 3 sec to coalesce. Enemies entering the fully-formed ring will become frozen for 10 sec. Lasts 12 sec. 10 yd radius.

Cone of Cold
Targets in a cone in front of the caster take 802 Frost damage and are frozen in place for 3 sec and slowed by 60% for 6 sec.

Frostjaw (1.5 sec cast, 20 sec CD, 30 yd range)
Silences and Freezes the target in place for 8 sec. Lasts half as long versus Player targets.

So this tier gives us an initial choice of control options. Do you want to have an AoE freeze on a long-ish cooldown, a shorter CD freeze that breaks more quickly (this is the only Cone of Cold that will be available, and functions as the current ‘Improved’ version) or do you want to use the new spell, Frostjaw, to both silence and freeze something in place? The option of a secondary interrupt to back up Counterspell is a nice one in my mind, and I could see it being situationally useful in five-mans and naturally quite nice for PvP. Note that it will have reduced efficacy in PvP, however.

Tier 2 (Level 30)

Greater Invisibility
Instantly makes the caster invisible, reducing all threat and removing two damage over time effects. The effect is cancelled if you perform any actions. Lasts 20 sec.

Cauterize
An attack which would otherwise kill you will instead bring you to 60% of your maximum health. However, you will burn for 10% of your maximum health every 1.50 sec for the next 6 sec. This effect cannot occur more than once per minute.

Cold Snap
When activated, this spell finishes the cooldown of your Ice Block, Frost Nova, and Water Elemental spells.

I assume that class Invis will continue to be baseline, and this new improved version is an option you have for survivability. Cauterize is as it always was, except now is available to any mage and not just those of us who are wont to blow ourselves up. The only outlier here seems to be Cold Snap; in a tree based primarily around survivability talents, it feels like they just stuck Cold Snap in because it had to go somewhere. Also, I don’t really see how that’s a potential utility talent for any tree. Who would take it but a Frost mage? Now, if they’d made Icy Veins an option…

Tier 3 (Level 45)

Presence of Mind (Instant)
When activated, your next mage spell with a casting time less than 10 sec becomes an instant cast spell.

Scorch
Scorch the enemy for 809 Fire damage. Can be cast while moving.

Arcane Flows (Instant, 45 sec CD)
Invoke the flow of Arcane magic, allowing the next two non-instant Mage spells to be cast while moving. Lasts until cancelled.

Presence of Mind, same old same old, except now available for any mage. PoM Pyro makes a startling comeback, you heard it here first! GC mentioned specifically how they do not want us to feel that we have to take Scorch if we’re Fire, which is fair. Whether this talent becomes a no-brainer for Fire mages is going to depend on the movement requirements of the upcoming content and perhaps even specific fights. Scorch will not be baseline and you will need to take this talent if you want it.

Arcane Flows is pretty interesting, and seems aimed at addressing the movement issues of turret specs like Arcane. ABs on the move would be pretty nice. Right now only having ABarr to cast while you dodge around can get old pretty quickly. Having two “cast and move” options in this tier will be nice to tailor to what is needed.

Tier 4 (Level 60)

Mana Shield
Absorbs 1597 damage, draining mana instead. Drains 1.0 mana per damage absorbed. When your Mana Shield is destroyed, all enemies within 6 yards are knocked back 12 yards. Lasts 1 min.

Blazing Speed
Suppresses movement impairing effects and increases your movement speed by 50% for 4 sec. May only be activated after being affected by a movement impairing effect.

Ice Barrier
Instantly shields you, absorbing 7960 damage. Lasts 1 min. While the shield holds, spellcasting will not be delayed by damage.

GC mentioned how this new and improved Mana Shield has Incanter’s Absorption baked in, but I don’t see the spellpower increasing component. If this is gone, I am a Sad Panda (will that joke get old quickly?) because I really like using Mage  Ward for that. We also have the option of the zippy Blazing Speed, which still seems pretty PvP-based, or Ice Barrier – it’ll be nice to borrow that from Frost mages if the mood strikes.

Tier 5 (Level 75)

Sickly Polymorph
Your polymorphed targets regenerate life at 10% of the normal speed.

Heavy Polymorph
When a target you’ve polymorphed is damaged, that target is stunned for 3 sec. This effect cannot occur more than once every 10 sec.

Double Polymorph
You may polymorph an additional target for half the normal duration.

It’s clear that they wanted to take our signature CC and pump it up. Sheeping is after all the iconic mage ability. The options here are fairly solid – giving us the ability to chain a polymorph with a stun and burst damage will be very powerful in PvP, likewise sheeping someone without guaranteeing their health comes back will be dead handy. I don’t see that having much use in PvE beyond the usual – if someone breaks your sheep it won’t immediately eat your face, and if you polymorph an already damaged target it won’t regenerate its health as much.

For PvE, Double Polymorph will be pretty great depending on how the dungeons are tuned, but at this point I can hardly get a tank to let me sheep one thing, never mind two! The biggest attraction in my mind will be using different polymorphs to create my own animal menagerie. (Turtle + Pig? Turtle + Sheep? Turtle + Penguin? How will I choose?!)

Tier 6 (Level 90)

Blast Wave
A wave of flame radiates outward from the target location, damaging all enemies caught within the blast for 923 Fire damage and are slowed by 70% for 3 sec.

Dragon’s Breath
Targets in a cone in front of the caster take 1285 Fire damage and are disoriented for 5 sec. Any direct damaging attack will revive targets.

Slow
Reduces target’s movement speed by 50%, increases the cast time between ranged attacks by 30% and increases casting time by 15%. Lasts 15 sec. Slow can only affect one target at a time.

I have to admit, I find this tier the most underwhelming and am a little jealous of classes that seemed to get something new especially in their “last” tier. These are all existing abilities that, granted, are currently tied to a specific spec but it’s nothing huge. DB and Blast Wave have fairly situational use in PvE content (I used them a ton on Heroic Maloriak). The de facto choice for most fights would be Slow, currently limited only to Arcane mages – we’ll be able to use it whenever. Use of Blast Wave is more needed for a Fire mage in any AoE situation, but we’ll have to wait and see whether Fire mages still have things that interact with this particular talent. (Alas, free Flamestrike, I hardly knew ye).

What are your thoughts on the proposed changes? Remember, nothing here is set in stone and may well change before the expansion ever comes out! For now, that’s enough writing in one day for me. If you tuned into the liveblogging over at Twisted Nether, thanks for your commentary and support. I tried to keep up with the comments coming in as best I could, but at some point it just became a whirlwind of frenzied typing!

Liveblogging Blizzcon 2011 at Twisted Nether

So many blogs (and Twitter) are abuzz with Blizzcon happenings. I must admit, I’m a little bit jealous – I wish I could be there having fun and meeting blogging folks and other gamers! But this year it came down to a choice between going to see Rush in Vancouver or Blizzcon and I just had to choose Rush. I don’t regret it!

Anyway, if you are going to Blizzcon, I hope you have a fantastic time! For those of you who aren’t going and might like to read about some of what’s going on – a team of folks from Twisted Nether are going to be live-blogging panels and events as they happen!

As far as I know, the blogging team is going to include:

Rilandune (The OverLores podcast)

Ringo (Flinthammer Hall)

Rades (Orcish Army Knife)

Liala (Disciplinary Action)

(and of course, me too). I’ll be helping to cover Friday (day one!) but not doing liveblogging on Saturday because we are getting together with some friends in real life to watch the panels, maybe play some of the WoW TCG, and hang out.

Find the TNB Liveblogging here:

Day 1
http://www.twistednether.net/blizzcon-2011/blizzcon-2011-liveblog-day-1/

Day 2
http://www.twistednether.net/blizzcon-2011/blizzcon-2011-liveblog-day-2/

Thanks to Ril and the TNB folks for putting this together, I’m looking forward to it! See you tomorrow when everyone is waiting for news of the happenings at Blizzcon!

It’s Okay To Love DPS

Part of a sketch I never finished.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Revelations (That Are Not Actually About Cookies)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Of Tanks And Healers

This post originally appeared at Pugging Pally (my previous blog), but Twitter was having a “Retro Wednesday” and I thought I may as well just repost it here. So if you read my blog then, it’s old news to you, but I think it’s still relevant!

It’s a special moment, isn’t it? You look into each other’s eyes. You think to yourself, “Now here’s someone who would make a Last Stand for me.” They see a certain something in your gaze, a spark. You might even say, a Flash of Light. You know that this is The One. A tank that you can trust.

There’s a certain something about a tank and healer pair, something that people who’ve never played either might not understand. I don’t mean this to be exclusionary, after all – my main raiding character is primarily a damage dealer. But I’ve been a healer and played many healers and it’s truthfully the thing that often draws me back to healing. I find myself missing it.

The tank and healer must cooperate in a way that no other role does. Tanks work together to coordinate pulls, taunts, and specific tasks. Healers work together to know who’s going to heal who and when. You have to be able to trust everyone in your raid team (more about that another time). Of course the tank is watching out for everybody, if they’re a good tank. But your primary task is to keep them alive, and they know that if you die – their grisly demise comes shortly thereafter.You have to be able to depend on each other.

I’ll never forget the time we went back to Ulduar with a new tank. He was new to our group and the encounters. One of the first bosses we tackled was Ignis. This tank was a paladin, and his job was to keep the angry automaton adds off the rest of the raid. We had a Discipline priest healing with myself (resto druid) so the obvious choice was for me to heal the raid, and the OT. Okay. So I was healing this paladin and he missed one of the adds, which merrily proceeded to try and eat my face. I popped Barkskin, started hotting myself up, and then I called out in Vent, “Add on me!”

He snapped back, “I’m a little busy here.

I made a scoff-choking sound of indignation and rage, and then yelled at my monitor (without pushing to talk, naturally), “SO AM I. I’M BUSY TRYING TO HEAL YOUR SORRY *SS.”

I know that he was stressed out because he was new to the encounter, and possibly he’d forgotten that I was a healer… I used to play a DPS role. But I was left with a feeling of betrayal. This tank and I weren’t headed for a good relationship.

The tank’s just not that into you

All the signs are there. They’re pulling away – way, way ahead of you. She says things like, “Heals?” or asks where you were. Actually, amendent, the tank calls you “Heals.” She’s gone while you’re drinking. He doesn’t taunt when something is trying to kill you, or he AFKs when he should be throwing heals your way. There’s no trust there.

I hope we’re not talking about a tank in a raiding situation – but the tank-healer relationship exists in a pug too. Except that pugging is like the equivalent of blind dating fifty people in a row, each less attractive than the previous. They chew with their mouth open or you split the bill and they don’t tip. So what can you do to foster some good tank-healer vibes, both in the short and the long term?

What we have here is a failure to…

I can’t stress this enough. In a pug, communicate, communicate, communicate. If you’re tanking, ask your healer to let you know if their mana is low. Watch their mana. Ask them if they’re comfortable with you making larger pulls. When in doubt about anything, just ask. The healer will know that you are a responsible tank who wants the group to succeed. And you’ll get to know what you can expect from your healer. Even if you’re only together for an hour, you still have to work as a team to get the job done. Don’t ever get accusatory with a healer who seems to be struggling – a bad situation can go from bad to worse. Perhaps they’re new to healing, or maybe you’re harder to heal. If you ask, you can pace yourself accordingly – or maybe even consider things you could do with spec, gear, or glyphs to make healing you easier if you’re inexplicably squishy.

As a healer, I’m going to say it again, communicate, communicate, communicate. You need to drink? Let the tank know. Make a macro if you have to. I made a stupid one for my druid while I was leveling her that was really corny, along the lines of, “Don’t leaf me behind, I’m watering the plants, otherwise I’ll have to bark at you.”

Yes, I know. I like stuff like that, but you’re here reading this, so you already knew. It was lighthearted and a bit nerdy, but it got the point across. Very simple things like owning up to mistakes and just being forthright with how things are at your end can help smooth over what might otherwise be a nightmare pug. When I got lost, I admitted I was hopelessly lost, and my group helped to find me. When I had to continually ask to stop and drink, I confessed that I’d been having mana troubles lately. Especially in pugs while you’re leveling, everyone is in the same boat. They may have struggled with mana, or something else that led to them dying. Most people are just regular, good people. Yes, there are well-documented exceptions.

So if you need to give the tank pertinent information, or something is bothering you, or you aren’t sure about something, ask! There are no stupid questions (except “Who’s the tank?” There’s a shield next to your name, doofus.)

Going Steady

Maybe you’re lucky enough to be in a guild with a tank you really like, or you just have a tanking buddy you get to hang out with often, or a similarly fantastic healer. This is a great place to be. If leveling a character via pugs is like blind dating, a solid tank or healer you can trust is like a marriage. She leaves toast crumbs on the counter, but you expect them. You know he’ll be your Guardian Spirit and you’ll be there with a Shield Wall when he needs it.

Often tank-healer pairs really are married in real life. My husband plays a tank, and when I was healing him it was great. We’re sitting in the same room, so I could always say to him, “Go ahead and pull these next three packs, I’ve got you,” or he’d hear that chokey yelp noise I make when I’m throwing out HoTs as fast as my branches can toss them and know that he needed to use a cooldown to give me some breathing space – or I would say to him, “Use something NOW.” It’s a pretty handy situation, but you don’t have to be married to your tank or healer to have a good relationship with them.

I’m going to keep harping on about this, but when you aren’t in the same room with your tank or healer, communication becomes even more vital. Use Vent. The more you run with someone, the more you’ll get to know their idiosyncrasies. “Slaphappy always charges ahead when he’s going to engage a group of mobs, I’ll have to make sure to stick closer to melee than otherwise, so I don’t get left behind,” or “There’s a lot of movement in this fight so I know that Shamtastic might be distracted and need me to use a cooldown at some point.”

You won’t always know exactly what’s going on with the other person – but that’s when you ask. I actually went through a bit of these growing pains myself, when our guild was doing hardmode Mimiron. My job was to tank the head in phase three, and at that time our awesome pally healer would switch off and heal me. It was a bit strange for me to be in a tanking role, and I was goofing it up. His healing skills amazed me. He kept up my squishy self through damage I would’ve never expected to be able to live through, even with mitigation talents. But a few times, I died. I whispered him. Guess what I said.

“Heals?”

NO! I said, “Gee, I’m still getting the hang of this. What can I do better?”

He said that my blinking was making it a bit tougher for him to always keep up with me, and that a few times when I had been line of sighting Mim’s head around a corner, I’d left him completely behind. I was more careful the next times to watch where he was before I blinked away willy-nilly, we stuck together, and his healing kept me alive while I was tanking. We made a great team.

Always Depending on the Kindness of Strangers

I’ve met a lot of tanks during the course of my pug leveling. Some have been good, and I connected with and liked them a lot. Some of them have been very bad. (Maybe they thought that about my healing, too). It’s possible to have a positive experience and a tank-healer combo that communicates well in a pug, but I won’t lie, it is more rare especially in these LFD days when many folks queue as a tank or healer simply because they know it will get them a group instantly and not because they enjoy it or actually know what they’re doing.

To borrow my earlier analogy, if pugging is like blind dating, lately the rejection has been starting to get to me. I struggled for a way to end this entry because I realized that the reason I was writing about tanks and healers was that I was weary of feeling I couldn’t trust the person nominally ‘in charge’ of each run. It became clear to me during my last few Mana Tombs run. In one, the DK tank zoned in, pulled all the trash and nearly died although I was healing him the whole time. “This isn’t right,” I thought, although in party I said “um, omg.” He responded cleverly, “omg ur mom.” So I just said, “Why did you nearly die? That was just trash.”

“Oh, my gear is mostly red and yellow,” he said. “Guess I should go repair.”

Yes, DK, I guess you should. He disconnected instead and we voted to kick him, bringing in a marginally less clueless DK.

Another Mana Tombs run saw me zoning in with a different tank – “Misspladin” [sic]. It didn’t start well, beginning with my usual “Excuse me I just have to respec and regain my mana,” statement. “Please hang on a sec while I drink,” I told the tank. She started pulling right away and didn’t stop, period. I was completely OOM, but I managed to type, “Or you could just ignore me and start chain-pulling, that would work too.” By some miracle we managed to down the first big shadow boss guy, and then the tank did a curious thing. In chat, he typed only a sort of wicked, evil emoticon… crashed into the next three groups of mobs, and then bubble-hearthed and dropped group.

“OH NO HE DIDN’T,” I shouted in party chat. I’m not going to dwell on what causes people to do things like this. One of the DPSers said she could get her boyfriend to come in and tank. He was a 70 DK. It’s Mana Tombs. How hard can this be, right?

Hard enough that we all nearly died with the exploding arcane wyrm things. Enough that when I said, “Mana,” he ran ahead and kept pulling regardless and we all did die. Again. I said, “And that’s what happens when you pull and your healer is OOM.”

“Having mana is overrated,” he said to me.

“So is dying repeatedly,” I told him.

Faced with a future of tiresome pugs, Vid contemplates exchanging her healing shield and mace for a metric ton of chocolate.

And I meant it. I left the group, wondering if I’d ever even finishing leveling poor Vid, or just start questing and never look back. I was resolved to do it, but then was prevailed upon to give it one last go.

Mana Tombs again, and this time a bear tank. “Let me know if you need to drink,” she whispered to me, “But I’ll keep an eye on your bar.”

The instance started out promisingly with the usual suspects – a DK who felt that he could go ahead and do all the pulling for our bear. But unlike any other tank I’ve seen in all my pugging, she stopped dead.

“You pulled that,” she said, “You fight it.” She stood there. The DK struggled with the group, flailing around as his health took a massive beating. Taking my cue from her, nary a heal went his way. He very nearly died – oh so close to dead – I think she may have taunted the final mob at the last second, or else he just lucked out. I laughed a lot. “Now, are you finished wasting time?” she asked.

Uber-DK lurched ahead and pulled another group. “Apparently not,” remarked the druid, and we killed his extra group, and then kicked him. The rest of the group was pleasant and easygoing, and the run was completely smooth. We didn’t have any deaths or any problems. My heart wasn’t beating out of my chest, nor was I shouting at my monitor in frustration. I knew when I had to drink I could, but I hardly had to drink at all because my tank was so practiced with cooldowns, surgical with pulls, and threw an innervate my way when I needed it.

In short, it was the absolute most fun I’ve had in a pug in a long while. I could relax and actually enjoy it. We went on to do Sethekk Halls afterwards and it was just as good, enough that someone at the end remarked, “Solid group.” It was an incredibly solid group, unbelievably so, and I firmly believe it was so because the tank and I trusted each other and communicated.

(Incidentally – a DPSer named “Bumpirate?” I don’t have to say anything more about that. This stuff writes itself).

But I have to admit, I’ve been holding back on you a little bit. I’ve told you the story but not the whole story, or the whole truth.

The truth is, I went into those last two pugs knowing my tank. If you ever read my comments here, you may also know my tank – she’s Lara, and she’s awesome. Having no prior commitments and looking for a new server for her character, she chose to move her druid alt to my server. I said that I started this experiment because I wanted to experience the game alongside other people, and that’s absolutely true. Writing about it has been a blast, even if the experience itself has been frustrating at times. Having been able to find a friend I can pug with – that I never would have found if I hadn’t done all that pugging, written about it here – is indescribably awesome. I trusted Lara from the first, and I think we both had so much more fun because of it. So if there’s anything that all this pugging has taught me, it’s that it’s a means, not an end – a way to meet people you want to run with again, so you don’t always have to have an endless merry-go-round of what-are-these-people-thinking. Sometimes the tank or healer you were looking for is closer than you think.

I almost gave up on pugging today, but I’m pretty glad I didn’t. In Lara’s words, “I felt good knowing you were back there with your tuning forks!”

To which I can only reply, there’s nothing like having a bear butt you can trust!

The Hybrid’s Dilemma: Part II

Way back when, in the ICC days, I wrote about the troubles I faced as a hybrid player. At the time, I was playing a moonkin with a side of resto. You can read that post first if you like, I think a lot of it is still relevant to the problems that hybrids continue to face. It’s not entirely comprehensive, this is more of a personal viewpoint thing.

After my experiences as a hybrid moonkin, I swore that it wouldn’t happen again. When I switched to my mage, I was very “mage for life,” and I poured my efforts into her achievements and her mount and pet collecting. Unfortunately for me, even over nine thousand achievement points isn’t an effective deterrent when it comes to character switching (and it was a big reason why I knew I should never be a contender for something like a legendary weapon – I am too fickle). That is why, at this point in time, I find myself coming back to the same issue – only it’s as a paladin.

Tens and the Hybrid Dependency

It must be tough to design encounters effectively for a ten-person raid. Any raid has a set number of “required” tanks for an encounter, although it can be flexible. Some encounters can be tanked with one less tank or one more tank depending – For instance, we did Heroic Halfus with two tanks and three healers, but I’ve heard of guilds that preferred to do it with three tanks and two healers. It all comes down to what you have available to you. A raid team can only be made stronger by having flexible people willing to change roles when need be, but at what cost? At what point does asking players to switch roles become unreasonable, untenable, or even counter-productive?

The biggest obstacle to this is roster size. The majority of ten-person guilds are smaller (deliberately so). Some guilds will maintain multiple tens teams and perhaps a bigger bench, but by and large we don’t have the luxury of world first guilds that could just bring x number of available moonkins because their abilities trivialize an encounter. Sometimes we can have recourse to people’s alts, but for the most part we just make do with what we have.

The design of encounters in this tier has not been friendly for juggling the number of tanks and healers. As a friend of mine has complained, very often the second tank was expected to switch to DPS because a fight simply didn’t require another. Rhyolith is like this, as is Majordomo. An ongoing issue for us after the heroic nerfs was how many healers does a fight need? Historically, we’ve switched between three and two healers at different times and for different content. ICC was largely two healed up until the point where that wasn’t possible, and the roster was adjusted for three healing. We’ve stayed with the three healing model up to and through Firelands, when especially in later Firelands it becomes evident that three healers aren’t necessary or even possible for quite a few of the fights.

That leaves us with a problem – four active, main-spec healers on our roster and only two spots for healers on most nights (with the exception of Beth’tilac, and perhaps it will become more two healable for us but at the moment it’s more of a three healer thing). What this means is that on any given night, we either have a healer going off-spec DPS, or we bench a healer. I don’t think our healers signed up to raid for just one night a week. The other option is for a healer to switch roles entirely. All of these solutions hang on one question – what is the Dragon Soul going to be requiring in terms of healer and tank balance? We’re trying to plan our roster for the new tier of content but we aren’t sure what we should be aiming for.

The Unhappy Ret

We’re fortunate in that some of our players enjoy tanking and DPSing fairly equally. Our excellent druid is happy to boom it up with his laser beams for some fights, and our paladin tank plays ret without complaint. As a moonkin, I liked to heal (but I didn’t actually like to moonkin). Now I am a main spec healer, and I’ve been finding out that I don’t especially enjoy raiding as retribution. Actually, that’s an understatement. I’ve been doing it so much that I’m starting to loathe it. I’m not really great at it, so it’s stressful. I’ve chased heroic Rhyolith’s legs around for hours. Each week I’ve been Ret for Alysrazor – last week saw me dying to a fire sprinkler just before the fight ended. This week I didn’t die, but my DPS was the lowest by a great margin. When I’m DPSing as ret, I always have a niggling feeling in the back of my head that if I would step out for another (better) DPS, it would make fights easier, and I wouldn’t be holding the group back. I love DPSing. I don’t love ret DPSing. And as was my problem previously as a hybrid, I want to be the absolute best I can at what I’m doing. Off-speccing Ret and DPSing a fight doesn’t allow for that. The only solution would be to DPS even more as ret, which just pigeonholes me into a corner where last week I reached the breaking point and turned to Voss and said: I COULD get better at ret. But I really don’t WANT to.

I could practice art of warring until the cows come home, but ultimately it’s not why I’m playing a paladin. Now this is an entirely personal thing – nobody’s been “making” me play ret, but the fact is that we have all these nights with too many healers, and so somebody’s got to do it – or else healers sit to allow DPS to step in. I realized that I would rather sit than work on H Ragnaros as ret. It’s just that simple. I don’t learn the fight from a healing perspective as ret. I probably will hardly even see what’s going on in the fight itself, because I’m too busy hitting the buttons and hoping my Inquisition uptime is high enough and looking to see what’s procced and what hasn’t and what oh that’s fire it’s burning me ow.

I realize this probably sounds very “I’m taking my ball and going home,” and petulant, and I hope you’ll bear with me there (as I insist and reiterate that this isn’t a problem with my guild or anyone in it). I’ve come to the realization that doing most of the fights in a spec I don’t like instead of a spec I do like has been killing the fun for me. It’s not even, “Oh, I’m lukewarm about this,” I logged off last Wednesday and I was probably the closest I have ever been to saying: I am tired of raiding. It is the opposite of fun for me.

So nobody should have to play a spec or a class or a role they don’t like. I wouldn’t do that to someone else, why would I do it to myself? After taking the weekend while hardly logging into any of my main characters (and enjoying a lovely Thanksgiving, thank you) I realized that I had to make this known to both our other officers and my guild. They aren’t mind readers. It’s certainly not fair to them to stew quietly, getting frustrated with my position until one day I’ve just had enough and I don’t even want to raid any more.

The Hybrid Advantage

I still think that being a hybrid is awesome. Having them on a roster is even better! But you absolutely need to know that the people in the hybrid positions are willing and enjoy doing it. Some people are cut out to be hybrids in both aptitude and attitude. They genuinely have no spec preference. I guess, when it comes to my hybrid roles, I’m not really one of them. I’d rather be a holy paladin. But the way that encounters are designed, it leaves a great big question mark for ten person guilds in particular about each tier. Will their tanks be spending a lot of time DPSing? Will their healers be twiddling their thumbs, or will someone who is DPS need to swap to heals for a fight or two? We just don’t know, although the raid cooldown nature of the tank T13 bonuses seems to suggest that there will be a lot of damage going out. I will be happy to go into the next tier as either a healing paladin or a mage, but I don’t want to go as a ret paladin. Alts tend to slow raiding down so it’s not advantageous to swap from one alt to another depending on role needs. Our raid needs hybrids – the question is, who will they be? We never have been able to find an awesome moonkin; the biggest thing for us right now is that our roster is actually over-full. Only two of our healers are willing to DPS (out of four) and I know the others feel guilty about it. But really, why should they have to DPS? Is it a better model to just start sitting healers for a “real” DPS?

If I move to a DPS role it means fewer available DPS positions. We may be doing some more shuffling, with having someone else move to tank and our current tank move to DPS, which would open up a position for me to do that. Overall, though, it’s frustrating. Speaking as someone who loves playing a “pure” DPS, it’s unfortunate that we have nothing to recommend us but our DPS, when the smaller raid size is so favourable for hybrids. Our raid would probably be perfect if we had an ele/resto shaman, a boomkin/resto druid, and plate DPS that was willing and able to tank. We have a fabulous elemental shaman, and he just doesn’t like healing. I can’t blame him! I don’t like melee DPS. I can’t expect him to do something he doesn’t like and probably wouldn’t be good at, and therein lies the problem. Finding 10-15 people with the appropriate specs, personalities, skills and willingness to swap roles is an almost indescribable juggling act. We shouldn’t be unduly penalized for having two mages, or two paladin healers, or whatever. Except that we are. One of the big reasons I am thinking of switching is because two paladin healers for one ten man team is often not just less than ideal, it’s nearly impossible. Neither of us has the raid healing strength to fill that niche. The upcoming changes are working to address that, but it remains that our holy paladin would be better off healing with any of the other three types of healers by his side – not another holy paladin. That’s frustrating, and it’s disappointing to me personally because I love paladin healing.

That’s not really what this is about, though. What it comes down to is that it’s usually better to have a hybrid, but when you’re a hybrid that hates your other spec you aren’t much use as a hybrid, and then what do you do?

I hope you’ll forgive the somewhat ranty nature of the above post. I have put off writing about this because I didn’t want to be too much of a whiner (hence the radio silence for the past two weeks while I quietly seethed). I want to do the best thing for my raid team, but I also want to do the best thing for myself, because if I’m not having fun then my priorities are severely skewed.

Edited to add: Beru over at Falling Leaves and Wings wrote an excellent post this morning about this very problem, from a broader overview and 25s perspective. It behooves you (har) to go check it out!

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