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Archive for December, 2009

LFD: Looking For D-Bags

(Before we begin, please observe a moment of silence for my home computer’s hard drive, whose crappy firmware last night decided to depart this fallen earth and leave behind its bricked metal shell.  This may also be used as a cautionary tale…if you’ve got a Seagate Barracuda 7200.11 SATA drive in your machine, back the damn thing up now. This is the second one I’ve had fail in less than eighteen months.  DIAF, Seagate, I’m done with you.  It’s off to Worst Buy tonight for some Western Digital lovin’ and an evening spent reinstalling everydamnthing on my computer instead of hanging out with my guild for our in-game Winterveil party.)

Obviously, a lot of the chatter in the WoW blogosphere has been about patch 3.3’s awesome new Looking for Dungeon cross-server instancing tool.  It is, after all, simplicity itself.  It removes anything resembling thought, effort, or social interaction from running your favorite five-man instances!  Just push a few buttons, sit back and wait (note:  the waiting part is optional if you are a tank or healer), and voila.  You too will be thrown into a wonderful garden spot like Utgarde Keep or Gun’drak with four total strangers with whom you will engage in 10 to 30 minutes of frenzied activity and then never see again.  As others are wondering, is this what casual sex feels like?

I have run about, eh, 25 or so random heroics since the patch went in.  About half have been on Beltar, my dwarf hunter, with the remainder split between Linedan and my other level 80 alts.  I’ve only tanked three randoms on Lin–the others, I’ve gone as DPS to practice on his new offspec (more on that in another post).  And much to my surprise, generally, my experiences have been neutral to pleasant.

Now, I’m not generally accused of a huge amount of charity toward my fellow WoW players.  I never liked to PUG that much before the LFD tool came along.  But suddenly, I find it strangely addicting.  Part of it, I think, is that I’m finding that my two most undergeared alts–Illithanis the BM hunter and Moktor the blood DK–don’t actually suck as much as I thought they did, or perhaps I don’t suck as much at playing them as I thought I did, or some of both.  (The links are to their respective Armory pages, so you may gaze upon them and laugh.)  Both of them are generally running with a good bit of ilevel 200 gear, Illy more so because she actually got into a few 10-man Naxx runs several months back.  Both seem capable of consistently bringing 1800-2200 dps in heroics, despite Illy’s wasp dying regularly and my seeming inability to grasp the DK concept of “PS – IT – HS – HS – DS – RP  //  DS – HS – HS – HS – HS – RP”.  (I get my DS before my HS, or I stop and RP instead of actually using runic power, or some such.  Letturs r hard.)  Anyhoo, while neither of them are going to rizzock the hizzouse in Ulduar or higher anytime soon, so far, they’ve not even been laughed at by a heroic group, much less votekicked.  In fact, Illy, with her pedestrian 2k dps, has topped the meters more than once.

No, really, I’ve only seen one person get kicked (a rogue, in full Hateful Gladiator’s with 25k health, only doing 800 dps), and no massive displays of incompetence.  Now what I have seen are a few examples of some pretty serious douchebag ex machina, and the one overriding thing…silence.

Let’s talk about the d-bags.  There haven’t been many, and contrary to what some of us RP-server types might think, these weren’t primarily from PvP servers.  Probably the biggest example I saw was when I had dps!Linedan on a heroic Azjol-Nerub run.  The tank was a death nugget that had about 29,500 health buffed out.  Nobody said anything, even though there seems to be this unspoken rule that if your tank has less than about 45k health, THERE IS NO WAY YOU CAN POSSIBLY TANK A HEROIC AZJOL AMG WE’RE ALL GONNA DIE.  Never mind that I tanked heroic AN back in the day with 25k in crafted blues and epics.  Poorly, but I did it.  And I had to walk uphill in the snow four miles each way to do it.

So off we went, and it was a perfectly normal dungeon run.  Nobody died, we killed Anub v1.0 and everything was peachy.  Then the following conversation ensued between the healer, a tree druid from Uldum, and the tank:

Tree says, “hey, (tank name here)?”

Tank says, “huh?”

Tree says, “Nothing.  I just wanted you to respond so I could ignore you and never group with you again.  Get some gear, noob.”

Now mind you, nobody died.  We never wiped.  The tank never lost agro, even on the trash-filled last part of Anub, which can still get a little bit pear-shaped even in high-zoot Tier gear.  Apparently, the tree actually might’ve had to work a little at healing the DK, and we can’t possibly have that.

I tried to buck up the DK by telling him, “look, my main spec is prot, I’ve got 4/5 T9.25, I tank ToGC and Icecrown.  I know tanking even if I don’t know how DKs do it.  You did fine.  Screw the haters.”  I hope he believed me.  I wish I could remember the guy’s name and server, so I could give him a shout-out.

And speaking of shouts or the lack thereof…that’s the other creepy thing about LFD.  The total silence.  I’ve gone complete instance runs without anybody in the party–me included–saying a damn thing.  We land at the entrance, buffs fly, and then the tank wordlessly runs off and grabs the first trash group without saying a word.  And off we go to the races, the tank setting a blistering pace (almost without exception) while the DPS and the healer pant along behind.  Chain-pulling is the order of the day, crowd control is not needed.  No strategy, no breaks, no drinking.  I’m damn glad my only mana-using class I’ve taken through randoms has been a hunter, because the ability to regen on the run with Aspect of the Viper is the only thing keeping me from ending up half a mile behind the main group.

Eventually we’ll kill the final boss, get some screen spam and extra emblems…and then, maybe, somebody will say “thanks” or “gg”, and that’s it.  The group’s dissolved, and I’m back wherever I was before I queued, richer by some enchanting mats and badgers, and maybe, on my lesser-geared characters, some new toys.  It’s a fun experience, but it’s oddly empty.  I console myself with the thought that probably I don’t really want to talk to the other four people I just grouped with…but that’s not much of a way to play, and not a very good thought to have, now is it?

I really don’t like only having one roleplay server per battlegroup.  I would love to be able to instance-group with RPers from places like Argent Dawn and Sentinels and Moon Guard (leave your vampire catgirls and sons of Arthas at home plox), and do some of these heroics at a slightly more relaxed pace in-character.  Instead, this is a strictly OOC business we’re in, running these randoms.  It’s all about speed.  I know on the ones that I’ve tanked, I feel pushed because I’m not normally a chain-puller.  I cut my teeth as an undergeared tank that had to wait for healers and DPS to fill their tanks before pulling again, and that’s carried over into Lin’s current pimped-out status.  My very first tank run, I had a DK “helpfully” start pulling “for” me.  Nothing frosts my cornflakes faster than somebody else doing the pulling when I’m the tank.  My theory is simple:  I’d rather take two minutes longer to finish the instance than risk a wipe that’ll cost us five minutes.  So in randoms, I do pull faster, but I always check that there’s at least some blue in the blue bars in my party frames, and that we’re all gathered, before pulling.

Heck, sometimes, I even say things in party chat.  RANK HERESY!


Tirion Fordring is the Marlin Perkins of Icecrown.

(Disclaimer:  The following post is brought to you by Linedan’s player being in a very strange mood. You have been warned.)

For you young people who never had the privilege of knowing who he was, Marlin Perkins was the host of the long-running nature show Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom for over twenty years (1963-1985).  Aside from being one of the pioneers of the nature-show format, Wild Kingdom was semi-famous for having good ol’ Marlin sit back and narrate while his poor long-suffering sidekick–professional zoologist and dangerous animal target Jim Fowler–actually had to go out and do the real hands-on work.  Typically Marlin would be chillin’ like a villain either back at the base camp with the native girls or, more likely, back in some studio somewhere recording voiceovers like “Here’s Jim giving the angry musk ox a hernia exam while I’m at the hotel watching Spectravision and making travel reservations for our flight home.  Don’t forget the latex glove, Jim!”  Jim was a stud.  Basically, Jim was Bear Grylls when Bear Grylls was still wearing diapers.

Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, I submit to you that Tirion Fordring is our Marlin Perkins.

Think about it.  Here’s Tirion, old veteran undead-wrangler, rebuilder of the Silver Hand, co-founder of the Argent Crusade and the Ashen Verdict (because we obviously needed yet another rep grind).  Compare that to Marlin, who was a respected zoologist and zoo curator for decades before he walked in front of a TV camera.  They’ve both been there, done that, and honestly, have probably earned the right to take a bit of a break from the front lines of either cleaving Scourge in twain or attempting to radio-collar a pissed-off grizzly.  (At least Marlin never had to stand in the same big round room all the time and listen to Garrosh Hellscream and Varian Wrynn neener at each other.)

But really, here’s the analogy.  Marlin always sent Jim out into the bush to do the dirty work while he sat back, right?  So does Tirion.  You walk into Icecrown Citadel, and there’s Tirion hanging out with High Badass Saurfang.  We get a brief glimpse that Bolvar Fordragon may not, in fact, be beyond saving, and Saurfang hauls ass for the Orgrim’s Hammer because hey, if Bolvar’s not dead, then maybe there’s a chance to get Wrynn and Garrosh to quit slapfighting long enough to actually do something about the Scourge.

At which point, Tirion says something like this.  I tuned out for part of it, but this is what I heard:

“Blah.  Blah blah heroes blah blah Arthas blah final battle blah blah justice blah blah shining suns blah blah Verdict blah.  Now let’s watch our heroes get overwhelmed by trash skeletons and sliced and diced by Lord Marrowgar, while I’m back here at base camp in the hot tub learning the finer points of the Pandaren tea ceremony from Lady Proudmoore.”

Or back at the Crusader’s Coliseum:

“Blah blah working together blah challenge blah worthy blah 15 badges of Triumph blah blah.  Now let’s watch our heroes save us from trifling idiot gnomes ‘working of their own volition’ (insert fingerquotes here) while I’m behind the screen discussing the finer points of Enlightenment philosophy with Argent Confessor Paletress.”

So there you have it.  Tirion Fordring is WoW’s version of Marlin Perkins.  Discuss!


Panzercow hits 3.3. 3.3 hits back.

For the past few weeks, I’ve been pretty short on blogfodder.  I’ve been going through a mild burnout with the game and been dabbling in EVE Online and Dragon Age instead.  I mean, don’t get me wrong, I love my friends in game, raiding with The Anvil, all that fun stuff.  But things had stalled a bit.

For Linedan, the satisfaction was bleeding out of raiding.  Trial of the Crusader was, frankly, nothing more than a one-hour expedition to dispense 15 badges.  Trial of the Grand Crusader was nothing more than Trial of the Crusader with the red numbers on my screen turned up to ridiculous levels…and maybe it’s just me, but there’s something about taking a fight that we usually roflstomp on normal (Beasts) and having it pimpslap us into the ground on heroic that just grates me a bit.  I don’t get mad at my raid, I just get annoyed with Blizzard for undertuning ToC so badly that they left a cliff wall the size of El Capitan between normal and heroic.  I could, and should, RP with him more, but Lin is not exactly Captain Happy Fun Tiems in his personal interactions.  Besides, a schedule change has left me unable to attend Noxilite’s Monday night storytelling/guild meetup in the Barrens.

With Beltar, it was kind of the opposite.  He doesn’t have a regular raid.  He’s largely a roleplay character these days, and a great one.  But at the same time, I am serious about advancing him gear-wise.  On the rare occasions I can raid with him, I do.  That doesn’t happen often, though…and once you’re through the solo quest content, which he mostly is except for some Icecrown stuff, and you’re already wearing a mix of stuff from a few Naxxes 6-7 months ago and some loot-trashcan pieces from the rare Ulduar, what then?  So while I’ve been having fun roleplaying him, I often wonder just what the little guy could do if he was geared up like Linedan was.

And then there’s my stable of alts–Illithanis (80 BM hunter), Moktor (80 orc death nugget), my up-and-comers like Sakula (77 troll shaman and ladies’ man) and my prot warrior experiment Latisha (currently 68, and yes, she’s wearing Outland slut plate).  They need some love too.  But after the fourth or fifth time, even Storm Peaks gets old.  What to do with them after cap?  All of them are sub-Naxx geared.  They’ll never get into raids–too much of a gear gap to overcome, I’m needed as a tank where I am now, and I don’t have time to raid on any more than two characters as it is.  So why put forth the time?

Enter Patch 3.3:  Fail of the Lich King.  (Yes, I know it’s “Fall of the Lich King.”  Look at the font on the logo when you open your Launcher and tell me it doesn’t look like “Fail of the Lich King,” dammit.)

Suddenly, most of these problems have been solved.

Linedan has a new raid to play with.  No more Trial of the Big Round Room With Two Settings, Too Easy and Too Hard.  Welcome to Icecrown Citadel, and kids, let me tell you, it kicks so much ass it’s painful.  I rang up over 200 gold in repairs in there over the weekend and we only downed one boss (Lord Marrowgar)…and I don’t care. It’s fantastic.  You’d better bring your “A” game, because Arthas is not playing flag football.  Crowd control is back, with a vengeance…most of the trash pulls we’ve seen so far are between six and nine mobs.  (Priests, time to get your shackles out for more than just private fun in the cloisters.)  Lord Marrowgar is challenging but doesn’t seem to be over-the-top impossible once you use a little brainpower and figure out a good movement/tanking strategy.  The two fights we’ve seen so far on 25-man require three tanks–oh frabjous joy for a raid that carries four tanks every week, fewer people forced into their secondary role!

And for a second, ditch the mechanics, ditch the loot…this is Icecrown, people.  That’s Arthas up there.  That’s the Big Bad who’s been hovering over the Warcraft franchise for nigh on ten years now.  The special guest stars are everywhere…Tirion Fordring, Saurfang the Elder (and his son, in a way), Bolvar Fordragon, Muradin Bronzebeard.  Lore whores and roleplayers like me are loving this.  It looks good.  It sounds good.  It is good.

And then there’s the five-mans.  Forge of Souls, Pit of Saron, Halls of Reflection.  I’ve only run them once, on normal, with one other attempt (unsuccessful) at the HoR gauntlet on heroic.  Forge of Souls looks big, but actually is fairly small and linear, and doesn’t appear too awful hard, though all these instances are considerably harder than existing level 80 5-mans, both normal and heroic–think Magister’s Terrace for the difficulty jump.  Pit of Saron is my favorite, a giant outdoor quarry full of Alliance and Horde slaves, with some awesome NPC interaction, funny boss fights (leper gnomes with mohawks FTW), a nasty but cool gauntlet, and twists near the end.

And then there’s Halls of Reflection.  Any instance that can simultaneously have me gushing at how awesome it is and literally screaming in frustration is probably doing something right.  HoR is brutal on tanks from a technical standpoint.  The first boss fight in there left me with an aching wrist and exhausted…and then I had to turn around and flee for my life while holding off waves of undead with the Lich King his own mother-humping self coming to eat my face.  The final gauntlet in HoR is simultaneously brilliant and frustrating, at least if you’re a warrior or a bear.

What about Beltar and the alts?  Looking for Dungeon, baby.  Random heroics.  It works brilliantly.  You can accumulate badges at a ridiculous rate, and at least so far, the idiot quotient seems to be quite low.  Most people I’ve run with have been quiet, and none have been RPers, but they’re mostly at least competent enough to get the job done.  The tanks and healers I’ve run with have, for the most part, actually been quite good.  Oh, and how ridiculous is “a ridiculous rate?”  Ridiculous as in, in one weekend, Beltar has gotten two pieces of Tier 9 (gloves/shoulders), a new gun from heroic Coliseum, a bronze drake from CoS, and the Northrend Dungeonmaster achievement.  In one weekend.

So the final score for WoW over the past four days?

Thursday:  Icecrown Citadel 25-man on Linedan, downed Lord Marrowgar.

Friday:  Icecrown Citadel 25-man and Trial of the Crusader 25-man on Linedan.  Full clear on ToC, didn’t quite get Lady Deathwhisper in ICC but we’re doing better.

Saturday:  Trial of the Crusader 10-man (full clear, 5 for 5 on one-shots), Onyxia 10-man, Naxx 10-man (weekly raid quest, just Anub’rekhan) and ICC 10-man on Linedan with Lord Marrowgar one-shotted.  Plus a couple random heroics on Beltar, and all three of the new 5-mans on normal with Linedan.

Sunday:  7 random heroics on Beltar, two on Moktor my DK, one on Linedan.

Soooo…what do you guys think?  Think I’m burned out any more?

Me neither.

I’ve got a bunch more 3.3 posts mentally lining up.  One on the LFD system and its quirks, one on the five-mans in which I fully accept that Halls of Reflection has made me its bitch and I don’t mind, and one on Icecrown’s first two bosses with a little about strategery and a little about tanking.  Stay tuned.


Cross-server PUG culture shock

From my lovely wife on Google chat just now:

“We’ve been doing new dungeons but keep having to pick up one cross-server DPS.  I don’t think ‘Grampywraith’ was quite prepared for me and Jemjabari RPing our way across the Pit of Saron.

‘Jemjabari.  You may be somewhat confused.  The skulls are NOT YOUR FRIENDS.’  <pause> ‘Please stop petting them.'”

Next stop, frozen hell

Welp.  This is it.  Today is the day that patch 3.3 drops…and after the obligatory extended expanded extended maintenance, we might even be able to actually play tonight.  (Currently, servers are one hour late coming up and the clock is ticking.)  Of course, after you factor in the hours of time it’ll take for some of us to make our heavily customized UIs workable again, the obligatory server wobblies, and the massive lag, we won’t be doing much more than chilling and RPing anyway.  Which, honestly, is just fine!  Tuesday is our informal Wildfire Riders roleplay night in Stormwind anyhow, and there’s Things to be discussed…so as Anna says, why not take patch night to roleplay instead of fighting the lag, instability, and addon hell of trying to instance or raid in Icecrown Citadel?

Anyhoo.  I guess I’m in a bit of a burnout period on WoW, either that or all the crazy stuff going on in Real Life at the moment–demanding job, house move, four-year-old daughter, etc.–is doing a pretty good job of making me feel like I’m in a WoW burnout.  While I’m looking forward to 3.3 and Icecrown, I’m not ZOMGHOLYCRAP enthused about it.  Yes, I want out of Trial of the Big Round Room, badly. I need 41 more badges to get Linedan his fourth piece of T9.25 (the helm) and after that, the place can basically burn down for all I care.  And the only reason I care about that is because the warrior T9 four-piece set bonus reduces the cooldown on Shield Block by 10 seconds.  Shield Block up for 10 out of 30 instead of 10 out of 40?  That’s just sexy right there.  I’m on that like Tiger Woods on a cocktail waitress.

Icecrown Citadel itself, honestly, I know little about except for what Blizzard posted about the “gating” setup for it.  I have not researched any of the fights in advance.  I’m one of these weirdos that can watch videos and read strategies all day, but until I actually get in there and experience the fight, it’s not going to stick.  (My raid officers are going to read this and /facepalm considering I’m a tank–sorry, guys, it’s the truth.)  We’re going to walk in there at some point this week, and I’m probably going to be coming in pretty cold.  And that’s OK.  I pick stuff up fast.

And then there’s this new cross-server PUG dungeon tool whatchamacallit thang.  I’m not so sure about that.  Yes, Blizzard is offering some pretty big carrots to randomly pitch yourself into a group with four people not only from your server, but your battlegroup. But do you remember the last time you went into Alterac Valley and found yourself listening to Istabbdurmom and Mastablasta having an all-caps textspeak argument about strategy (“ALL ON O RUSH DB!!1!”  “LOL STFU NOOB CAP SF FURST”) while Poosniffa sexually harassed your female toon and Neerdraaage kept whispering you “lolololol rp server nurd u sux”?  Imagine that set in the middle of Oculus.  You will have to decide if the title of “the Patient” and a Perky Pug pet is worth running the risk of that.

OK, maybe that’s a worst-case scenario.  The pool of PUG recruits should improve dramatically in quality because of the significant rewards Blizzard is offering to subject yourself to cross-server instancing.  But still, it’s a total crapshoot.  You might end up in a group with a solid bunch of people and have an easy run.  You might end up feeling like you landed in the middle of “Beavis and Butt-Head Play World of Warcraft” and realize all four of your groupmates are probably the result of inbreeding.  Such are the vagaries of random numbers, and such will be your life in cross-server PUGs.  I might not do them on Linedan, since I don’t like PUG tanking in general due to the stress level.  But my DPS alts?  Sure, why not?  I raid with Beltar rarely, and the others never, so this would be a good way to slowly build badges and money.

There are, of course, a ton of other things in the patch–class changes, profession changes, PvP changes, etc.  But really, just like patch 3.1 was about Ulduar and patch 3.2 was about the Trial of the Art Department Originality Fail, patch 3.3 is about Icecrown Citadel.  It’s about closing the storyline of Warcraft III–Arthas Menethil’s betrayal, the fall of the North to the Scourge, the destruction of Silvermoon, Arthas’ flight to Northrend and his becoming the Lich King.  It’s the third reel.  It’s Act V.  It’s time, after all the effort, to mount the final assault upon the stronghold of the Lich King and eradicate the leader of the Scourge from Azeroth once and for all…

…at least until the next raid reset.


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