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Archive for February, 2009

Sleepy Saturday morning random thoughts

A few random thoughts tossed out while trying to wake up on a cloudy, rainy Saturday morning after plopping my daughter down in front of a Backyardigans DVD…

- You may have noticed a distinct lack of 3.1 and PTR information.  Honestly, there are a squillion places to find information from the PTR that’s a lot faster and more complete than anything I could put together, and chances are you already know where they are.  (If you don’t, try some of my blogroll.)  Plus, I try (often unsuccessfully) to avoid getting caught up in the back-and-forth hysteria from PTR build to PTR build.  Particularly this early in the cycle, things change so fast that it’s not much use freaking out over, say, the 10% “pwn tax” on Titan’s Grip damage.  Once things get closer to release, I start paying more attention and use the information to plan what I’m going to do after the patch drops.  Besides, I test software 40+ hours a week for a living.  I kind of like to leave it at work when I get home.

- Itanya Blade (one of the Anvil’s raid officers) makes a good point over here.  It applies in WoW as much as it does in the real world, because when you’re dealing with a raid, you are dealing with the real world–25+ people with real lives and real problems.  Communication is key.

- I’ve finally closed most of the gear gap between Linedan and the other tanks in our raid.  Not all, but most.  The final link was biting the bullet and dropping the 1050g on an Armor-Plated Combat Shotgun.  Expensive?  Yeah.  But since I’m working on Ebon Blade dailies now (40% of the way to Exalted), money isn’t that big an issue–at least I can break even over my repair bills, and a bit extra.  And while four digits is aspensive for sure, from what I’ve seen price-wise, it’s not all that much more expensive than gathering the needed eternals.  In the old money-vs.-time tradeoff, this time I chose money.

- I did something similar with Beltar.  He went from over 3000 gold down to 45 gold in two days after buying five pieces of armor, a Nesingwary 4000, and a scope on the AH.  It’s the curse of an alt who doesn’t get all that many cracks at instance runs.  But, now he’s doing about 1500 dps combined with his cat in heroics…maybe ready for Naxx 10?  Not sure.  I may get the chance to find out this weekend.

- In other Beltar-related news, he has a new pet for instancing, a Cursed Offspring of Har’koa that he’s named Longpaw, also called “Bigballs.”  (Don’t ask.)  I thought I was being a unique and special snowflake by grabbing the silver, spotty, glowy-eyed cat.  Uh, no.  I’ve seen nine of them in two days.  He can’t do a spirit beast since he’s marks, so at least I’m not tempted to do that endless search. 

- Now Illithanis is 51 in BM, and can tame Loque’nahak, and she’s level 76, and my wife already has one on her hunter.  Get her to 77, get her slow-flying back again, and maayyyyybe…

- Moktor’s 70.  Still wearing a purple steel bustier that she’s falling out of, and still overpowered as all hell.


Madness? This…is…DARGONS!

We got it on the fourth try.

That is easily the most insane fight I have ever seen in WoW.  It makes all the stuff I thought was crazy–Majordomo Executus, Vashj, even Kael’thas–look like it’s moving in slow motion.  Trying to gather little fire elementals and drag them out of the way before they get hit by lava walls and become big pissy fire elementals while also grabbing drakes and trying to stay alive while doing all of it…daaaaaaaamn.  And there’s still one more drake left to go.

I have got to get better at add-gathering.  Not to put too fine a point on it, but I sucked out loud doing it tonight, even on our successful attempt.  Fortunately we had a kick-ass paladin and a hunter who was fast on the icerink traps.  Gotta work on it for next week.

After seeing heroic Sarth +2, heroic Sarth +3 has got to be…ugh.  I’m simultaneously amped about it and dreading it.


Not a bad night’s work

Despite a late start into Naxxramas tonight, everybody but the Horsemen are dead downstairs (thus continuing our odd pattern of dropping exactly one boss more each week on Thursdays, no more, no less).  So Friday gives the Anvil plenty of time to work on Sarth +2 after saying hi to Korthazz, Rivendare, Ziggy, and Blammo, and then going upstairs to give Sapphy and Kel’Thuzad some noogies.  And, we pulled off two things we’ve been after for a while, as seen above–Arachnophobia, and The Safety Dance.

The “Superior” achievement seems a bit odd, though.  It says “equip a superior item in every slot with a minimum item level of 187.”  Well, apparently that doesn’t mean that all my items have to have a minimum of 187.  I’m still carrying around a craptacular ilevel 174 blue in my ranged slot (Weighted Throwing Axe) because I’ve been slack about getting an Armor-Plated Combat Shotgun made.  And one of my trinkets is the most overinflated and still-useful ilevel 115 purple ever–the Commendation of Kael’thas from Magister’s Terrace.  (I actually have two BC purple trinkets…as part of my shield block set, I swap in Coren’s Lucky Coin from last year’s Brewfest.)

What put me over the top on the achievement was replacing the last of my crafted gear–Tempered Saronite Bracers–with the 60-Valor-badge tanking bracers, the Bracers of Dalaran’s Parapets.  I’ve had terrible luck even seeing tank bracers, much less getting them, so the badge bracers are perfect.  I also picked up two more pieces of DPS plate that nobody else wanted.  Slowly, I’m building at least part of an epic-level deeps set, with 3.1 dual specs in mind.  I don’t really know what I’m doing in terms of itemization, and I’m not bothering to get it enchanted right now, but I figure, hey, if the name’s purple and it’s got +strength, +stamina, and +pwn, and I’m at the bottom of the Suicide Kings list anyway, and nobody else wants it…why not?

I experimented with Grid as a raidframe tonight and it worked out well.  It’s small enough that I could block it out and ignore it when I needed to, and still glance over and keep track of peoples’ statuses on the few occasions I had to know them.  My new UI configuration still needs some tweaking, but it’s already showing improvements, and should show more when I break some old habits (like looking up for my target frames instead of looking down!).  Once I get it more presentable, there will no doubt be a long and involved post on the UI and the components thereof…maybe next weekend.


Warning, overload

Last week I wrote a post about one of the player-driven factors that I think makes for a great in-game tank–situational awareness.  In it, I wrote that good situational awareness is something that can’t be caught, but it can be learned.  You go, you tank, you die, you wipe, you hork things up, and you learn by sheer experience.  It can be painful, and expensive, and time-consuming, but speaking as somebody who learned by that method, it just works.

But I did come up with at least one way that you might be able to help improve your situational awareness…well, maybe not one “way,” but at least one concept to think about.  That concept is filtering the information that you have to process in order to build your SA.  (By the way, this concept holds true for anybody, regardless of your role.  Healers, DPS, doesn’t matter.  I’m just going to look at it from the view of a tank because that’s the role I play in-game most often.)

Here’s what I mean by that.  We know that if you’re a tank, you have a lot of things to worry about.  Health, agro, positioning, adds, timing, your own cooldowns, and so on.  But there are some things that you don’t need to know about.  For example, if I’m tanking Kel’Thuzad, I don’t really need to know that one of our druids just dropped a big heal on our hunter who just ate a frost volley.  That is not a piece of information I need to do my job.  So why should I include it in the stream of information I have to take in and process?

So for me, that means that when I’m on a raid, since I don’t have a healer, I don’t run raidframes.  Ever.  Quite frankly, there’s two health bars I care about 99.9% of the time…mine, and whatever’s eating my face.  Period.  (If I’m on my hunter, add a third–my pet.)  I have my normal five-man party healthbars up on the left, just because I’ve been too lazy to modify that frame.  But especially in 25-mans, I need the screen real estate that 25 health bars would take up.

Another example.  I’m addicted to Scrolling Combat Text.  It’s a kick-ass addon, still better than the built-in Blizzard combat text.  But SCT can absolutely bombard you with information.  Ever left heals turned on and run with a shadow priest and a paladin?  HOLY GREEN SPAM, BATMAN.  Now as a tank, I like knowing that I’m getting healed.  But generally, I don’t need to know the details.  Especially when I’m getting a heal or replenishment constantly–say, Blood Aura, or Judgement of Whatever Heals Me Every Time I Smack The Mob, or similar stuff.  So I’m going to turn those off.  I’ll keep track of my heals by looking at my health bar and watching for SCT “low health” visual and audio warnings.  It’s that much less stuff that I’ve got to look at and interpret.  Other folks use a HUD-style interface to do the same thing, giving them mob health and their health/mana/energy/RP at a glance without having to even look to the upper-left of the screen.

Basically, my advice would be this:  Take a little time about what you need to know to do your job.  Then group that information into categories–like, say, “got to have,” “nice to have,” “don’t need.”  Once you’ve done that, you can start looking at your interface, your window into WoW.  Think about configuring your UI to maximize the important information, and drop the things you don’t need.

Get rid of as much clutter as possible.  I personally like running with as much screen real estate wide-open as I can so I can see things.  (This, BTW, was why I always hated back-into-the-corner fights like Prince Malchezzar.  I really don’t want to spend four minutes trying to tank blind, relying on other people to tell me where to move, and seeing nothing but flashing lights, yellow numbers, and Eredar package.)  

Strip your UI down to the essentials, use what’s needed, drop what’s unneeded.  You probably don’t actually need to have Recount open during a fight unless you’re wanking off to your l33t d33ps…but you might want to have Omen open instead to make sure where you are on the Threat Parade.  Are all those flashing lights and patterns causing problems?  Turn your spell effects down.  Can’t hear Vent?  Ratchet your in-game sound down so you can.

Basically, use your UI as your first line of defense against information overload.  Filter out the extraneous garbage, and give your brain a little more bandwidth to handle the important stuff.  You’ll thank yourself when you walk out of a raid with a lot smaller headache than normal.


Good and evil

Some really interesting thoughts about Alliance vs. Horde and “good” vs. evil over at Going Bearfoot.  It’ll make you stop and think about just who the “good guys” and “bad guys” are in WoW.

(Hat Tip:  Varenna over at Binary Colors.  Enjoy that new T8 paladin belly-shirt armor!)


The Ten Commandments of Raiding (King James Version)

Readest them.  Learnest them.  Livest them.  And it will go well with ye and your children, even unto the fourth generation of alts.  Fail to do what is given to ye today by the Holy Llanion, and ye will, verily, be banished from the Holy Land of One-Night Naxx Clears and be cursed now and forever as That Guy…eth.

(Hat tip:  Where else but Anna?)


Somebody call DEHTA…

…I think this qualifies as sheep abuse.  And not the kind of sheep abuse Loch Modan dwarves supposedly do on cold nights, either.


Dramatis Personae: Illithanis

It’s time for another installment of “Dramatis Personae,” where I introduce my various characters that I occasionally mention here on Panzercow.  Today, meet my blood elf hunter Illithanis.

  • Full name:  Illithanis Jadehawk
  • Created:  November 2007
  • Level/race/class:  Level 76 blood elf hunter
  • Spec:  Beastmastery (currently 53/14/0)
  • Age:  119 (human equivalent 20)

“Illy,” as I call her (and she does not call herself), grew up in Quel’thalas, where her family, the Jadehawks, had considerable land and holdings south of Silvermoon in what is currently the central portion of Eversong Woods, on the western edge of the Dead Scar.  Many generations of Jadehawks before Illithanis served proudly as Farstriders, the ranger corps of the quel’dorei, dating back three thousand years to the Troll Wars.  Skill with bow and sword, and a great affinity with taming and training winged animals such as dragonhawks, ran in the family.

All that changed when Arthas showed up seven years ago and led his assault on the Sunwell.  Illithanis and her fraternal-twin brother Althoris were sent to Sunstrider Isle in a last-ditch effort to preserve the family line–both were very indignant at this fact, as they wished to fight the Scourge.  In the end, they were two of the few survivors of the quel’dorei, renamed the sin’dorei–blood elves.  (Miraculously, both Illithanis’ parents also survived, though their landholdings were all but destroyed and the elder Jadehawks were forced to abandon the rest, and now live inside the rebuilt city of Silvermoon in moderate circumstances.)

Illithanis attempted to follow in her family tradition and join the Farstriders.  But with the ascension of the Blood Knights and the Magisters, the Farstriders found themselves greatly diminished in power, prestige, and size.  In addition, Illithanis’ rather negative opinions of Lor’themar Theron and the post-Kael’thas administration of Quel’thalas rendered her politically “unfit” for service.  She became the first Jadehawk in three thousand years not to serve Silvermoon as a Farstrider, and made her own way out into the world as a free agent.  Her brother Althoris, on the other hand, became an eager young Blood Knight.

Physically, Illy is fairly unexceptional; attractive, but not memorably beautiful, with regular features, something of a long face, pointy chin, and thinner lips than she’d like.  She’s of a normal blood elven build and height, perhaps a bit more athletic than a caster-type but by no means muscular (“wiry” would be a good word).  She has jet-black hair of just over shoulder-length, held back of her ears with a jade-encrusted clasp.  She’s got the complexion of someone who spends a lot of time outdoors.  She hardly ever wears makeup, and her only jewelry besides her hairband, rings, and trinkets is a small jade hawk earring in her right ear.  That doesn’t mean she’s slovenly; far from it, she bathes as regularly as she can, and her clothing and equipment are always repaired and as neat as she can possibly keep them.

I’m still working on Illy’s personality.  Some things I know about her, and some things she’s steadfastly refused to reveal.  I know she’s a generally decent sort, especially for a blood elf (which fits in with what lore says about Farstriders in general).  She can be arrogant and doesn’t suffer fools well.  She despises what she sees as the lazy, indolent, corrupt culture of the “elite” in Silvermoon and fumes at what’s been done to her beloved Farstriders, especially by the Blood Knights–and yet, up until patch 2.4, she was an unrepentant Kael’thas fangirl.  We’re talking poster-on-the-ceiling levels of squee here.  She saw him as the savior of Quel’thalas in the Third War (such as was saved), and constantly wished he would return from Outland, sweep aside Theron and the Blood Knights, and reset the sin’dorei on the path toward greatness yet again.

Then came patch 2.4.  Whoopsie.  Come to find out that Kael really is a bastard who stole his own people’s naaru and left them starving for magic.  Illy’s still getting over the betrayal.  It’s left her with a huge distrust of kings and magisters in general, and deepened her hatred for her native Silvermoon even more.  She only comes there now to occasionally visit her parents and sometimes to train with the Farstriders.

I do know that Illy has taken to the Horde more than a lot of blood elves.  She respects the warrior tradition of orcs even as she’s repulsed by some of their bloodier aspects.  Tauren culture fascinates her, but it’s in sort of a patronizing Jane-Goodall-and-her-chimps kind of way.  She stays well away from trolls–hey, 3000 years of conditioning is hard to break–and Forsaken squick her, even though her #2 idol, Ranger-General Sylvanas Windrunner, is one.  She’s neutral on dwarves, gnomes, and Draenei.  Humans infuriate her for what she sees as Garithos’ betrayal, and she really looks down her nose at night elves, thinking them stupid redneck country-bumpkin tree-humping idiots.  If she calls you a night elf, she just insulted the hell out of you.

The other hook I’m trying to hang onto with her (but may not be able to) is that she only tames and works with flying animals.  She started with a dragonhawk, then switched to a Thousand Needles venomous cloud serpent at level 28.  At level 44, I found her a beautiful red Feralas rogue vale screecher, named it Bloodwing, and she’s used it until now.  (And yes, I admit it, I tamed it because at the time, her armor was all red, and they matched.)  Bloodwing may get honorable retirement, though.  Yesterday I tamed an Emerald Skytalon from the Emerald Dragonshrine and named it…Emerald.  C’mon, her last name’s Jadehawk, how could I not tame a bright green bird of prey?

And for slogging through this wall of text, you get a bonus…my tribute to one of the greatest scenes in movie history, Ursula Andress’ famous entrance as Honey Rider in the first James Bond movie, Dr. No, done WoW style:


Double your pleasure, double your loots

I think it may have been that great orcish bard, Muktuk Snakespearer, who once said, “The best-laid plans of meese and moocows, sooner or later, are gonna get an arrow through the eye.  Guaranteed.”

Friday night, when the Anvil prepared to hit Naxxramas, we only had 22 people in the raid at go time, and Gothik, Four Horsemen, Sapphiron, and Kel’Thuzad left to clear, with a first attempt at Sartharion +1 afterward if we had time.  Real Life did what Real Life does and threw a wrench into the works.  Well, even though we are very strict about putting Real Life before Raid Life, we weren’t going to let Real Life dork up our Friday night fun.  So the twenty-two of us bravely headed through the Green Skulls of Three Times The Mob Health, and buffed up…

…and blew the place apart with 22 people.  Gothik, dead.  Four Horsemen, dead.  Sartharion, dead.  Neidermeyer…

For KT, we knew we would need a little more firepower, so we managed to get two of our Thursday night regulars who don’t generally come with us on Fridays to join up.  That brought us up to 24, and 24 is what we went with as we charged into Kel’Thuzad’s lair.

After two wipes, we were sailing along pretty good on our third attempt until the MT died with Big Nasty at around 56%.  My spinal tanky reflexes kicked in–I was technically #3 on the tank list behind the MT and a prot paladin, but I mashed Taunt and grabbed agro on Kel’Thuzad, then moved to where our MT had died.  I figured I’d hold him until they battle-rezzed and rebuffed Gorebash (our MT) and he could take back over, and I’d move back to my melee spot and get ready to grab Guardians of Icecrown when they came out (my designated job).

Instead, over Vent I heard:  “OK, leave Lin on KT, Gore and I will pick up the Guardians.”

Two thoughts flashed through my head, in this order:  Holy shit, I’m tanking Kel’thuzad!, followed by, oh God, PLEASE DO NOT LET ME FUCK THIS UP.

We got him.  I didn’t die.  I didn’t get hit by a single frostbolt because our melee and Wind Shocking shaman were on top of their game.  The healing was perfect.  All I had to do was stand there and mash my normal buttons, nothing different.  We were hanging on by our thumbnails at the end with a few deaths, but dammit, we got him, and that’s what counted.

What did we do after that for an encore?  Headed a little south to the Obsidian Sanctum and one-shot our first 25-man attempt at Sarth +1, that’s what.  With me tanking Sartharion.  Sartharion is a ridiculously easy fight to maintank (at least with zero or one drake up) as long as you position him right on the pull.  Put him in the right spot on the east end of his island, and it’s no more than six steps to either side for safety when the lava walls roll through.

So I accidentally got to maintank Kel’thuzad, and intentionally got to maintank Sartharion.  And, oh yeah, I got my Tier 7.5 breastplate.  And all I really wanted to do last night, besides downing the bosses, was test out if a slight tweak to my actionbars would improve my threat and my deeps.  (It did.  I’ll post more on that later.)


Anna’s RP Friday Five – The Three R’s

It’s Friday morning, so it must be time for another wonderful Friday Five from Too Many Annas.  This week it’s about…edumacashun.

  • Can your character read and write?

Actually, all of my various characters can to one degree or another.  Maybe it’s laziness on my part, but I just can’t seem to work up the energy to play a good illiterate.  Moktor is probably the closest I’ll ever get to a functional illiterate, and hers is more just a fifth-grade education than anything else.  But it’s not like you really need to read and write so much when you can command the powers of frost, disease, and blood.

  • Is he/she good with numbers and business-like things?

Linedan and Moktor, no.  They can do normal math if you give them a minute, Lin more so than Moktor.  Illithanis is a little better just because she’s brighter and has a formal education from Silvermoon (albeit nothing more than your average elven high school diploma with a 2.8 GPA).  Beltar, oddly enough, would be my best numbers guy.  He’s smarter than he looks and acts, and has hung around enough merchants and criminals for a century that he’s picked up a nose for numbers and how to manipulate them.

  • Does your character have a formal (schooled) education or an informal (apprenticed/learned by experience) education? Or both?

Hard to say with Linedan…I imagine Tauren education is largely informal.  Beltar’s basically a ninth-grade dropout with a century of classes in the School of Hard Knocks on top of it.  Illithanis, as stated above, has a formal secondary-level education but her “practical” skills with bow, animal, and skinning knife are family-taught.  Moktor’s an elementary-school dropout street urchin.

  • Has he/she learned another language than the one they grew up speaking (in full or in part)?

Linedan, yes because he knows Orcish in addition to Taurahe; his spoken Orcish is very precise and somewhat formal.  Beltar, yes because he knows Common in addition to Dwarven, and has also picked up a very small smattering of expressive cursewords in Darnassian, Thalassian, Orcish, and Tarquinese/Jolstraerian.  (His latest project is a Lordaeron-to-Common dictionary, entitled “The Apostrophe, Why It Is Half The Northmen’s Alphabette.”)  Illithanis, again, yes because she can speak/read/write in Orcish and Thalassian quite fluently, and in fact rather oddly likes the harsh Orcish language.  Moktor, nope, just Orcish for her.

  • What does your character’s handwriting look like?

Linedan:  Block printing, very slow and precise, because that’s how he learns–not by gift of intelligence, but by sheer bloody-minded hellbent rote persistence.  Beltar:  Doctor-level semi-intelligible high-speed scribble, but the spelling is usually close to right at least.  Illithanis:  Small yet flowing, somewhat sloppy because she writes quickly (a Farstrider talent of quickly making scouting notes).  Moktor:  Ten-year-old all-over-the-page badly misspelled scrawl.


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