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    Braiiiiinnns. Also Happy New Year


    2012 - 01.16

    Yes, I know it’s practically February. It’s hard to rush when you’re a zombie (unless you’re one of those newfangled ones). Anyway, I was away over Christmas and New Year — finally got back on my snowboard, and thankfully hadn’t completely forgotten the keyboard shortcuts and where to put the wheels.

    A quick round up:

    Raiding:
    Before Christmas, work/social stuff was incredibly hectic and I didn’t make either of the two nights we raided Dragon Soul. So it was pleasing last week to finally experience some of it with real people, as opposed to the Turing test candidates in LFR. We were a bit rusty, and co-ordination problems and rogues wanting pickpockets slowed us down, so we actually only killed the first three bosses, but as the cobwebs were removed it seemed straightforward enough. I have done the first four in LFR a couple of times, and (based only on a DPS perspective) I think the difficulty levels are pretty well matched between LFR and “real” raiding — the extra co-ordination and control you have in a “proper” raid and which is lost in LFR is compensated for by the reduced difficulty. Of course it does mean that, if your group is paying attention, LFR is a touch processional, but that’s ok.

    Guild:
    As ever, being a small guild can be tricky. Of course there’s the game-whose-name-must-not-be-mentioned turning heads and hearts, poachers (hands off our warlock!), different playstyles and goals to accommodate, the ever-present risk of a long-term player just running out of WoW-steam plus those tricky real-life issues like jobs eating into personal time and spouses accidentally leaving laptops on public transport (!). WTB reliable, fun and remunerative jobs with sensible and predictable hours for my guild (and myself) please.

    Hour of Twilight
    Well they listened. The 5mans seem (unless you end up in *that* group) 30 minutes-or-less-and-done affairs, there are a few fun mechanics, Illidan is campy enough that I don’t (yet) want to bludgeon him with a butter mallet and the loot tables appear balanced such that I’ll be running the damned things forever to fill out missing slots (*grumble*). Even with distinctly subpar DPS you can make it if people can move out of bad stuff. That said, I can’t decide whether it’s the change to holy paladin mechanics or the way healing works in these particular dungeons, but I am finding healing trickier. Once my shaman’s resto gear is ready, I might better be able to judge where the change lies.

    Difficulty
    I imagine that the forums are once again filled with people complaining that the new content is “faceroll” and “for the bads”, although I’ve not been to check. Certainly both the 5 mans and DS feel much more gently tuned than the Zandalaris and Firelands did at launch (with the caveat here that I’ve not done the back half of Dragon Soul, which I understandis something of a step-up in difficulty). It’s the ever-present tradeoff. During FL, only towards the end did I have more than one character I thought of as “raid ready” — Gwyddeon (bear) has tanked FL a couple of times and my DK or hunter could have filled a spot if need be (but weren’t ideally placed). The idea of running the troll instances on multiple characters really didn’t appeal that much, and it was only as I ran out of things to buy with VP on Ano that I really put effort in on the others.

    Admittedly it was my first week back and I was a little like a desert wanderer at an oasis, but I’ve maxed VP on three characters so far this week and can see a number of my characters having fun in LFR in the next few weeks. The shorter run times, (apparent) relative lower difficulty and the novelty of the new means I’m quite looking forward to running the 5′s and the first half of LFR on as many characters as I can find time for. Quite a change — I wonder if that’s just me, or whether others are feeling the same way?

    Altitude
    Another one made it to 85 — Neposlushnyj, a Enh/Resto shammygoat. I’ve not done much in the way of healing at max level yet as I prioritised gearing her enhancement set, but I’m finding enh fun, if occasionally a little strange. It’s nice to see fairly consistent DPS on singles and pairs of trashmobs (vs the RNG yoyo of retribution) but it is a little disconcerting to get to a boss fight and not have any cooldowns to press (other than wolves, which sound great but don’t appear to do all that much). AoE is great when it works, but can be a bit of a ‘mare if individuals die before I can spread flame shock with lava lash. It seems that the better the group’s DPS, the worse Nepo does at AoE :S. Otherwise she’s a lot of fun and I think I’ve finally managed to block out her silly wobbly-bum-walk. Meanwhile, other mothballed 85s are pushing their way out of semi-retirement and complaining that their mailboxes still smell :O

    LFR
    I like LFR as an additional thing I can do for fun and to maybe grab some loot1, but I’m not sure yet whether it’s ultimately going to be a good thing for the game as I like to play it. When people who are in relatively low-intensity guilds (like ours) who have never really cared overmuch about heroic modes kill Deathwing in the second week of the patch, I can easily see it affecting their desire to work through the same content on normal mode. It makes me wonder if WoW won’t echo the economic condition of the world in general here: the rich (hardmode/hardmode-aspirant guilds) get richer (more access to loot, set pieces etc) and the poor2 (less focused normal mode guilds) get poorer (struggle to motivate their raiders who have already seen the content on LFR and aren’t necessarily bothered about their epeens).

    Community
    There have been a few departures from the blogging world recently that I’ve found… distressing. People who were funny, or amusingly bitchy, or informative, or informatively funny, or some combination thereof. New directive: from now on, if you’re going to stop blogging about wow,  please be one of the people I added to my feedreader aeons ago whose posts I barely skim. It won’t make any difference to you, but I’ll feel better.

    Gah. Wordgasm — babble everywhere.

    I’m off for a lie down and a post-prose cigarette. Adieu!

    --
    1. ha ha, have you seen how many paladins and priests there are in the average LFR? []
    2. I’m not for a moment suggesting that there’s something “poor” about not being a hardmode raider. It just works for the analogy, ‘k? []

    Lucky.


    2011 - 11.29

    I’ve lots of half-written posts about problems with t12 raiding — how the attendance boss is the toughest boss in the world, how the nerfs to the first 6 bosses in FL have been so severe that they’re actually counterproductive for working on Ragnaros (cos if you have a staff-quester, then you’re reclearing each week and the first six bosses require almost no concentration excepting whoever is dealing with that particular fight’s special mechanic) etc etc.

    Anyway: on the eve of 4.3 we finally conquered the attendance boss sufficiently to have two consecutive nights working on Ragnaros. Yesterday we got the transitions to a point where we could reliably get through them without dying to massive raidwide death. Tonight, after a heartbreaking 0% wipe (ow!) we finally did it. The night the patch deploys in Europe, we killed him.

    And just to make it personally special, I nabbed both the tier token (completing my t12 4pc set) *and* Sulfuras, as the only melee in our group this evening.

    I *don’t care* that it might be irrelevant tomorrow. Tonight it’s awesome.

    Cheers! *raises bottle*

    More “how not to”…


    2011 - 10.20

    I’ve a ranty post centred on healing in draft, but in the meantime…

    How not to instance as a hunter (concise edition)

    • Aspects are tricky, and you’re quite new. Stick to Aspect of the Noob (Aspect of the Pack)
    • Definitely have problems with your misdirect
    • Be sure to let your guild know that you had the wrong aspect on in the last pull.
    • Bonus points if you’ve already done this once in a recent guild raid.

    How not to tank Baradin Hold as a Death Knight

    • For Occu’thar, definitely don’t make use of AMS to counter the nasty breath attack. Those blue bars are unsightly, make them go down
    • For Argaloth,  *do* make use of AMS for the cleave (does that screw up the damage sharing? Not sure…)
    • When running between Occu’thar and Argaloth (which you might do if you have a fresh-ish 85 alt in your run) don’t bother with Unholy Presence. The raid will wait for you.
    • Just before you get to the room, switch Unholy Presence and forget what you just did. Lower GCD > threat and survivability any day
    • Definitely complain that the other tank is taunting or overthreating, even though they’re waaaay more experienced than you. I guess I lose a potential bonus point for the other tank being a guildie
    • Try not to realise the problem before most of the other group are already dead to the cleave.
    • Announce to the raid full of guildies that you have “Aspect of the Noob” switched on. Be reminded that it’s a “Presence”1.
    ur plate-wearing characters
    • Make sure that the Helm from Hallow’s end only drops for your DPS casters.
    • Have your DPS caster win the helm early on
    • BONUS :Point
    --
    1. but still very definitely Presence of the Noob []

    Class feedback, 4.3 and other wibbling


    2011 - 10.06

    I haven’t really paid attention to the official class feedback forum threads; previous experience suggests there’d be enough posts which I found irritating to pose a serious risk to my desk (and possibly my forehead).

    I have read through a few of the summaries which the various Wow Insider class writers have written, and some of the comments. And I’m quite prepared to hold opinions, however misguided :).

    Hunters
    Minimum range *can* be annoying (I’ve been playing my hunter a fair bit recently, and the bear boss in the zulroics can be a PITA if the other players don’t move out far enough) but to me, an admittedly fairly new hunter, it’s a core part of the class. How do I know I’m not a good hunter yet? Because I have a nasty habit of finding myself in the wrong place when a fight’s moving around. If I was a better hunter, that would happen much, much less. Apart from anything else, it’s something I can measure as I play — how often do I end up with greyed out shot buttons? Also, if hunters have no penalty for being in melee range, then I’m afraid disengage has no place. And you can have my disengage when you pry my cold dead dwarven fingers from it. Assuming you can get past my scorpid.

    Mages
    Pretty please, can some of the yo-yo RNG be taken out of fire spec? I *like* that there’s an RNG proc element to fire — it’s one of the things that appeals — but it seems to me to be a bit too critical (ha!) to the spec’s capabilities. Good RNG = ZOMGburnallthethings. Bad RNG = respec arcane, nub. Centrella (my mage) was rather enjoying being a fire mage before having one too many bad RNG patches and switching to arcane. Not because of it’s theoretical higher DPS, but because it leaves her, or possibly me, with the lions share of responsibility for how well she does. Not a fickle and easily distracted goddess.

    Arcane *is* an interesting spec, I think, although only for longer fights. For shorter fights, as we all know, arcane is 1-button spam with a couple of cooldowns. And, bizarrely, I’m quite happy with arcane AoE being centred on … er … Cent.  Yes, it can be hugely limiting. I don’t mind. It’s an interesting variation and distinct from fire/frost AoE. The flavour tastes good to me.

    Holy Paladins
    Another patch, another rewrite of paladin abilities. Still, the idea of having a targeted AoE and possibly an AoE healing priority,as opposed to “hit Holy Radiance, hope people are nearby, spot heal/light of dawn if you’re well placed, maybe”, could make things interesting. Right now I’m back in the DPS camp, where the atmosphere is more raucous but the facilities are much dirtier, so I’ve not been as focused on this, but conceptually it sounds promising. Plus the opportunity to turn other players into little beacons of light-based healing sounds like a giggle.

    Ret Paladins
    I still don’t get all the wah-wah about the retribution “rotation” in cataclysm. Don’t get me wrong, I loved ret in Wrath, it was manic and fun, but there’s so much more to it now. The biggest problem with ret is probably that keeping track of inquistion and to a degree, holy power, is a PITA with the default interface. Fix that (which Blizzard probably should do, but which is trivial to handle addons anyway) and you’re away. It’s been a while since I played it, but I did find that when I wanted a quick blast of the old ret playstyle, Unholy DK dps could stand in as a “hit the button that’s off cooldown and remember the priority when you have choices” and served as both a patch of simple fun and a reminder that the “new” ret is, long term, more engaging for me.

    Other than that, I think Antigen‘s post hits most of the major markers. I confess, I don’t do a lot of seal swapping mid fight precisely because it feels like the GCD loss either side is in many cases going to override the benefit of the cleave damage gain, but with a GCDless seal, that’d be a different thing. Although there’d *would* need to be some kind of tradeoff (like the increased mana cost) otherwise you’d just macro seals to crusader strike and divine storm and it’d be invisible. I’ve only just hit the “gearwall” of not being able to get any meaningful upgrades without winning a head/shoulder token (the 378 trinket from Hyjal rep appears to be a fairly minor upgrade over the Caber) or killing Raggy and being lucky enough to grab Sufuras (pleasepleaseplease), so I don’t know firsthand how much variation there is on boss fights due to RNG. My *feeling* is that it’s nowhere near as bad as Cent’s fire spec, but I’ll know better soon.

    All that said, I’m not feeling particularly underpowered, There are still aspects of my personal play to improve which are likely to contribute more DPS than buffing X or twiddling with Y, and I like that.

    Other nice things about 4.3: it seems like, once the initial run-the-new-dungeons-because-they’re-new phase is done, and once the run-new-dungeon-X-until-the-blasted-[item]-drops is over, running heroics for VP will be a) much less boring, and b) probably less essential. With actual tier pieces only dropping from raid bosses, the whole “should you cap VP” debate could well become moot. Of course, it could be replaced by the “should you run looking-for-raid groups to gear up?” debate instead, but that’s the wow community for you — if we didn’t have something to complain about, we’d complain about the lack of problems instead.

    I’m in two minds about LFR: I’m not massively keen on raiding with a selection of randoms from servers all over Europe just to get interim pieces, but it could be a fun thing to do when you’ve got a little time and aren’t in the mood for a 5man. I’m a little concerned that it might effectively kill raid pugging though — call me a freak if you like, but I do actually enjoy joining the occasional pug raid on my alts and part of that is the possibility of meeting friendly people whom I might play with again.

    On the Firelands nerfs:
    I’m not especially keen. For our guild, which is as much limited by available players than by gear/skill, it’s trivialised everything except Ragnaros. Post patch, every single encounter up to Ragnaros is made so much easier I actually think it’s has negative effects on the Ragnaros fight, which we’ve just started working on. Players’ full attention simply isn’t required anymore, and errors which would have made fights incredibly difficult or possibly caused a wipe can now be compensated for by other members of the raid. Which means a drop in concentration in time for a new boss which still requires us to focus.

    The other downside is that it takes some of the joy out of the other bosses. It’s just less satisfying killing a boss you know is now fighting with one hand tied behind their back. It feels a bit unfair.

    I just hope they don’t look at the number of guilds who were making slow-but-steady progress pre-nerf who are now stacked up on Ragnaros, and nerf him further, because that would achieve NOTHING, and really strip from me any satisfaction I might get from killing him. Guilds like ours who have made slower progress (for whatever the reason) are by their nature not filled with people desperate to be raiding heroic modes. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not that I have no interest at all, but we obviously don’t feel like we’re “doin it rong” if we kill the end-of-raid boss before the next patch/expansion and don’t do much else. So if we have a good run through a tier, and naturally progress into hardmodes, great! But the nature of these nerfs make me feel like I’m being told that normal modes are completely irrelevant, which is a) crap, and b) rather missing the point of having bosses and “modes” at different difficulty levels.

    I’m not looking at this as a “if you’re not good enough, you’re not good enough” deal. It’s personal. By trying and failing, I learn both a fight’s mechanics and to better use my character’s abilities to manage them. This, along with the gradual process of making my character more powerful through gear upgrades, is my personal progression. Obviating that by eliminating the requirement that I play a little better and/or upgrade my gear a little takes away one of the things which make playing fun. It’s not the whole of the thing, but it’s a significant part.

    I want polkadot epics with bold underline italic ALL CAPS


    2011 - 09.29

    At WoW Insider today there was a post about gear, and whether Blizzard should implement a level above legendary. This sparked a variant of the “lolepix” conversation in the comments, where various people proposed making epics “more like they were in vanilla”, where only the best of the best1 had purple gear. Everyone else was in blues and BY GOD they were grateful for them.

    <imagine an embed of the Monty Python “Yorkshiremen” sketch, which acts as a study guide for the preceding paragraph. Right, that’ll do. You’ve all seen it, no need to watch it again>

    Given that *every* time I attempt to comment on WoW Insider their comment system has a complete freakout and attempts to persuade me I don’t exist, I thought I’d post this here.

    One problem with the oft-proposed “make purples raid-only” is that it would feel odd when you were replacing purples from the first raid of an expansion with blues from the second or third set of heroics 5 mans released in that expansion. I know there’s already some interplay between blues and greens when levelling (e.g. Throne blues being replaced by quest greens from Uldum/Twihigh) so it’s not unheard of. Still, I’m not sure it makes lots of sense to throw away the epic hat you earned in by defeating the first tier-end boss of the expansion in favour of a blue drop from a five-player dungeon in the same expansion that took 28 minutes from pull to valor points.

    Aside from that, I don’t get this obsession with tooltip text colour. Gear upgrades are great, but the important questions are “will this let me do more dps/more hps/take less damage?” and “does it look cool?”, not “what colour is the icon border in the character view”. Even iLevel is only important insofar as there are content gates based on it (the various dungeon finder requirements).

    We’ve all encountered people playing waaaay less effectively than their gear should allow.

    We’ve *also* all encountered players who are comparatively less well-geared but who are making up for it with good play. The difference with this second group is that, unless you habitually inspect every new player you meet at the start of a run, you don’t notice these people. It looks like they’re doing an ok job, not the best, not the worst, so you think nothing more of it, and don’t realise how well they must be playing to do as well as they are with the gear they have. For both of those people, while their gear sets the upper boundary of their performance, it’s the way they play that most determines their effectiveness.

    Ironically, if I’ve read correctly, Blizzard are implementing a variation on this in t13, where actual tier set pieces will *only* be available via raid drops. Valor points will allow you to purchase more-or-less equivalent pieces, but presumably without the set bonus attached. Perhaps the tooltip text of t13 setpieces will be ultraviolet…

    In other news, it would appear I’m a DPSer again. We’ve acquired another fulltime healer *wave* which has meant that my heal-arious holy-ing (sorry, sorry) hasn’t been required. It’s been interesting.

    Pluses:

    • Hitting things is fun. This is very important.
    • My DPS gear is better than my healing gear
    • I won a shiny new axe from Shannox
    • I still might get to ninja healing plate drops anyway :D
    • It’s much more satisfying to charge in and hit stuff at the start of the fight (vs. lurk at the back waiting for incoming damage)
    • There’s lots of running about and a few fun jobs (DPSing Beth upstairs, chasing doggies on Shannox, steering Rhyolith, stupid stupid sons of flame)

    Minuses:

    • Healing is also fun
    • The healing view is generally better, provided one remembers to look up from the green boxes.
    • I could try to blame my healing failures on gear or on “not being a mainspec healer”. I’m supposed to know how to DPS *eek*.
    • Welcome back, faceroll jokes. Oh how I’ve missed you. Much like my consecrate button. Clearly I need bigger ears.
    • I’ve lost all my lovely tools. Farewell, aura mastery. Please, please, PLEASE, please can I have speed of light in retspec? PLEASE?
    • HOW much running about? I swear Riplimb was laughing at me. And those stupid whackamole druids on Alysrazor.
    --
    1. of the best of the best of the best, repeating of course []