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Checking up

What follows, Dear Reader, is a cautionary tale about staying on top of your game, proof that, yes, even Kingslayers can come off looking like that doofball from your Halls of Stone random PUG last week.  I don’t tell it just to be funny, though it is (in retrospect).  I tell it to make a point, which I’ll get to further on.

So.  Last week was The Anvil’s first post-Kingslaying raid sequence.  Thursday night was a run back into ICC, in which we did our first heroic modes (just Lootship and Rotface, but, hey, you have to start somewhere, right?).  On Friday night, real life dickpunched us again and left us with only about 20 people.  So our officers did what we’ve done so often on Friday nights this summer…stalled by doing the weekly in the hopes that competent raiders would hear our pleas, magically drop from the sky, let us fill our slots, and head on to ICC.  (They didn’t.)

The weekly was Razorscale.  Ho hum, right?  Lawl T8 content and all that.  So we ended up with a lot of people switching over to alts, and a raid that was about half mains (including Linedan as one of the two tanks) in mostly ilevel 264 items, and half alts of various gear levels, still mostly part-Triumph-geared at worst.  Not a group that you would expect to have trouble on Razorscale, considering the last time we had her on the weekly, she dropped like the housing market.

So we cruised through Flame Lootviathan, formed up on Razorscale’s platform, started the encounter…

…and it all went horribly wrong.

There were iron dwarves running loose everywhere.  The big Sentinel was whirlwinding its way through the raid slaughtering alts.  Gorebash, our longtime warrior MT, was doing fine, but for some reason, I couldn’t hold agro on anything to save my, or anyone else’s, life.  I had no clue what was going on until just before I finally died…and that’s when I saw my bar was totally wrong.

I was in Berserker Stance.  So I hit F6 and swapped myself over to Defensive Stance…and my bar was still wrong.  And then I died.

And that’s when I figured out what had happened.  I’d run a random on Linedan earlier in the evening.

As DPS.

And I’d never changed back to Prot spec from his Fury spec.

I’d switched to his Prot gear.  But I hadn’t gone in and switched his spec.  So he was running around, in his full T10 kit, trying to tank things while generating no threat and no rage, in the wrong stance.

I’ve done some dumb shit in my time in WoW.  I mean, really dumb shit.  Dumber than you’ve probably done, or at least will admit to like this.  But that right there–getting a raid half-full of Kingslayers to wipe on Razorscale, for God’s sake?  That’s top 5 all-time, kids.

Well, I fessed up immediately.  And actually, everyone was so shocked, we all (well, almost all) had a good laugh about it.  And of course we went right back in there and killed us a dargon, with no more fatalities, so we could get our badges and 26 gold and pretend that the whole embarassment never happened.

The whole mess got me thinking, though.  Earlier, on Flame Leviathan, I’d been confused.  I had my Prot gear on, but Lin’s health wasn’t adding up.  He normally has, in the gear he has as I write this, 45,687 health.  But while we were waiting to start FL, I noticed he had only a bit over 42,000 health.  I checked his ItemRack, because it bugs out sometimes, but nope, he had his Prot gear on.  Before I could check any further, we started FL, and off we went.  The health difference, obviously, was because he wasn’t in Prot spec and didn’t have his Vitality talent.

This is where another one of my geeky hobbies enters the picture…aviation.

I’m not a real pilot, but I’ve always wanted to be one.  I love airplanes and aviation.  There’s a reason my Microsoft Flight Simulator 2004 and Flight Simulator X installs, combined, are pushing 100 GB…way too many add-ons, planes, terrain, etc.  I’ve used MSFS to learn just a little bit about how commercial aviation works.

Everything in a commercial airliner is done “by the book.”  Pilots, in addition to all the pilot training they go through, have to learn a lot of aircraft-specific (and airline-specific) procedures.  And most all of it is codified in those wonderful things called “checklists.”  The checklists are there so all the flight crew on the same type of airplane at the same airline do things the same way (since pilots and copilots aren’t assigned as a unit).  There are checklists in an airliner for damn near everything. There are checklists for first accepting the plane at the start of a day, before engine start, engine start, after engine start, taxi, takeoff, climb, descent, approach, landing, after landing…and that’s just the normal ones.  Then there’s an emergency checklist for almost any possible situation you can imagine.  Strange indication on one of the engine instruments?  Checklist.  Engine failure?  Checklist.  Flight instruments go wonky?  Checklist.  Fire in the bathroom?  Checklist.  Pressurization goes kablooey?  Checklist.  Flight crew eats the fish?  Checklist.  You get the idea…there are literally hundreds of the damn things, in big books stored in the cockpit.

When the time for a checklist comes around, or something hits the fan, the copilot grabs the Big Book of Checklists (or on the newest planes, pulls them up on screens), finds the right one, and starts reading it off.  Each item on a checklist is read, and the checklist says who is supposed to respond and what the result should be–and they don’t go on to the next one until the current one is done and checked.  So if the first item on the checklist says “disgronification switch – ON,” the copilot says “disgronification switch,” the pilot reaches up, turns it on, and says, “on.”  Then the copilot checks it.  Then they go to the next line.  And the next.  And so on.  There is no variation, and there is no exception.  By the book, step 1, step 2, through to step N.  Boring?  Well, maybe.  But if checklist items get skipped, and something important gets missed, people can and will die.  It’s serious business.

WoW, of course, is not that serious (for most people).  But thinking about it…what’s wrong with the idea of a little mental checklist before you start your raid or instance run or PvP?  No, you don’t need to put on a white shirt and tie and epaulettes and get your significant other to read the Pre-Raid Checklist to you after she does the safety briefing.  (“In the event of Serpentshrine Cavern, the Draenei female members of your raid can be used as a flotation device.”)  But what’s wrong with training yourself to make sure that everything’s squared away before first pull?

Let’s go back to Linedan and my unfortunate derp before Razorscale.  What might Lin’s little pre-pull checklist look like?  Here’s my quick stab at one:

  • Spec – verify that it’s correct for the role he’s assigned tonight (Prot for tank, Fury for DPS).  If not, change it.
  • Gear – verify that it’s correct for the same role.  If not, go into Itemrack and change it.
  • Stance – verify correct, Defensive for tank, Berserker for DPS.  Hit F6/F7 to change appropriately.
  • Flask – use as needed (before boss pulls).
  • Repair – 100% repair at the start of an instance.  At the least, nothing should be showing yellow.
  • Buffs – all necessary buffs on, including Feasts if we’ve got them.  If not, start bothering slacker paladins.
  • Encounter – understand what his role is in the encounter, strategy, what color poo not to stand in.

That whole sequence can be done in, what, maybe twenty to thirty seconds max?  Had I done that, I would’ve caught the problem in the very first second when I saw I was still in Fury spec, I would’ve swapped spec, we wouldn’t have wiped on Razorscale, and I wouldn’t have a blog post topic for today.

So basically, I do stupid shit for you, people.  All for you.


What a long, strange trip it’s been

Back before Wrath of the Lich King was released, the officers of The Anvil, the 25-man Horde raid on Feathermoon that I tank for, sat down and set one simple goal:  The Anvil 25-man would kill Arthas before the next expansion came out.  That was it.  Everything, all the other raid instances, all our activity as a raid, was pointed toward that goal.  Naxxramas, Ulduar, Trial of the Big Round Room…they were steppingstones toward Icecrown Citadel and our ultimate goal of doing something we’d never done before:  beating “the” boss of an expansion while that expansion was still current content, and making the Lich King our Bitch King.

Now this was a stretch for us.  Since the days of 40-man raiding, we’ve never been a cutting-edge progression raid…call us “hardcore casual” if you will.  In vanilla, we never cleared Blackwing Lair, much less Naxxramas 1.0; Nefarian only died after The Burning Crusade came out.  When we hit Outland, we stalled at the end of both Serpentshrine Cavern and Tempest Keep.  Vashj eventually went down after six or seven weeks, but we never really even got close to killing Kael’thas until patch 3.0 dropped, at which point the fight instantly turned from a near-impossible exercise to a stupidly easy no-death one-shot.  We managed to get 3/5 in Hyjal before 3.0 hit, but never visited Black Temple except for one visit post-patch, where we one-shotted the first seven bosses and couldn’t get past the Illidari Council.  Linedan’s still never seen or killed Illidan, Archimonde, or anything in Sunwell Plateau.

Four months ago we dropped Sindragosa for the first time and took the teleporter up to stand before our final goal.  That night, we began working on the fight.  And through the summer, we kept at it.  Again.  And again.  And again. I started likening progress on the Lich King fight to the Battle of the Somme…immense casualties for just a few yards, or in this case percent, gained.  We extended lockouts and threw ourselves at him for three straight hours some nights.  I counted fifteen wipes one night, that’s a 200 gold repair bill for me.  We tried several different strategies regarding Defiles and val’kyr handling, with varying degrees of success.  Time and again normal summer schedule issues ravaged our lists and left us frantically pulling in subs, or dropping back to clear lower ICC again, or even calling the raid entirely.

Last night, we faced down Arthas again.  We started off with two excellent attempts that moved efficiently through phase 2 and got into phase 3 with most of the raid still standing.  Our DPS was the highest I’d ever seen it, across the board.  Unfortunately, both times things fell apart fast and we died quickly in phase 3, not getting Arthas below about 35%.  Then we started backsliding into the pattern that’s dogged us the whole time…mistakes in phase 2, bad placement of Defiles, unlucky timing on the different cooldowns for valks vs. Defile, stuff like that.  After a few more of those, we took a break, came back, and went at it again.

It was the sixth, or seventh, or eighth attempt, I’d lost track at that point.  We started off same as the others–me on Arthas, our paladin tank Keltyr on the ghouls and horrors in phase 1.  Phase 1 was dispatched quickly and smoothly, likewise the 1-2 transition.  We hit phase 2, and the real fight began.

You know that feeling you get when you just know that everything is starting to fall into place?  We had that.  Defile placement wasn’t perfect, but it was workable.  Everyone adjusted, standing behind Arthas, all facing the same direction to keep the valks clustered together.  For once, the timers worked properly so that we weren’t all clustered up for valks and getting hit with Defile instead.  We shifted, we adjusted, we moved in and moved out, and we got to 45% with everybody still up.

Then at 43%, here came the valks.  And the shout went out from our Chief Cat Herder:  “Forget them, burn Arthas down!”  It was a crapshoot.  If we couldn’t get him to 40% while dodging the upcoming Defile, we’d lose two DPS and a healer.  Everybody ran for Defile, ran back in and laid into the Lich King while I drug him toward one edge…

..at the last possible second, he dropped to 40%, ran back to the center, and started the phase 2-3 transition.  The ledge reappeared, and all three of our raidmates landed on solid ice with just mere feet to spare.

The spirits came up and we laid into them like we never had before.  At the end of the transition, two were dead, one was at 30%, and the fourth was full up.  I had the weaker spirit on me, so I headed back in and said hi to Arthas again, and phase 3 began.

The next few minutes are still a blur in my sleep-deprived mind.  Phase 2 is barely-controlled chaos.  Phase 3 felt like it removed the “barely-controlled” part.  People were scattering everywhere to avoid Vile Spirits and Defile.  We were handling tanking differently in the 25 than we did when I got Arthas in my 10, and I had only the vaguest of ideas when to taunt Arthas and move him.  More than once I taunted Arthas and immediately got a Soul Reaper countdown, and only Keltyr’s fast action saved me.

Things were getting nuts.  We had a death or two.  The fight devolved into a screaming mass of taunting, moving, and keyspamming.  Calls of “I can’t reach the tanks!” followed by another healer saying “I’ve got ‘em.”  Vile Spirits exploding everywhere.  “Defile, move!”  “Spirits coming down!”  “Gore’s harvested!”  And all the while, I saw that big Threat Plate over Arthas’ head slowly count down numbers.  Twenty-three percent.  Twenty percent.  Eighteen percent.  Fifteen percent.  Holy shit, are we actually going to do this?

I taunted him back at about 13%.  I was getting ready to hit Vent and say “a million to go, guys, WE’VE GOT THIS”…and I died.  I got too damn far away from my healers trying to get Arthas clear of the Vile Spirits, and there I was, in the Sprawl of Shame, with the Lich King at 12% health.

“Shit, Lin’s down!”

“Want me to pick him up?”

About four of us (me included) said “No!” at the same time.  He was at 7.1 million health, under 12%, one tank up, don’t shift out to battle rez just burn his ass down.  One million more health to go, dear God please don’t let me dying fuck this up now go go GO GO GO DAMMIT GO…

His health on the plate ticked over to 9%.

I won’t spoil the fight for anyone who hasn’t yet seen it, but let’s just say, if you get him to 10%, you’ve won, despite appearances.  There’s a pause for some in-game exposition that you get to watch.  When that started, there was a second of stunned silence, as if all 25 of us couldn’t believe we were seeing what we saw, and then Vent erupted with screams.  And just as quickly, was shushed…after all, many people there hadn’t had a chance to see the show before.

I didn’t say a word.  I was too busy sitting there, staring at the screen in slack-jawed shock, my hands shaking and tears forming in my eyes.  We had done it.  We killed the Lich King.

Two minutes later, the hoedown was over, and the fight entered the last 10%, aka Pinata Mode.  And then, it was truly over, cue the acheesement spam.  At 11:33 pm Eastern time, Thursday, September 16, 2010, Arthas Menethil, the Lich King, whatever you want to call him, lay dead at The Anvil’s feet, and we sat in silent shock and relief while Cutscene Happened.

We were Kingslayers.

We had won the game.

I spent the rest of the evening in an advanced state of shock.  It took my hands half an hour to stop shaking and I didn’t get to bed until well past 1:00.  The happy crew gradually dropped off Vent and out of WoW, off to bed.

While that happened, I sat and reflected, and got hit by an incredible wave of emotion that almost started me crying.  The realization of what we’d just done, and my small part in it, hit me.

A bit over four years ago, I first started running with The Anvil as a scrubstitute, a few months after the raid initially formed.  I had no business being in Molten Core given that my gear was mostly greens and I was a pretty shitty warrior, but in 40-mans, you could carry scrubs, and after weeks of not being selected to go, my wife Rashona and I finally wormed our way in.  Back then, our daughter Nublet was only an infant so Rashona and I basically had to alternate weeks to go on those Sunday afternoon MC runs…one of us raided while the other tended the baby.  We switched weeks, sometimes we even switched mid-run if the officers were OK with it.

I hung in there and kept getting invites despite the fact I really did suck.  My DPS was lousy, I couldn’t offtank rock elementals on Garr to save my ass (or anyone else’s), I wiped the raid running the wrong way on Geddon more than once.  Slowly, on the long grind through Molten Core to Ragnaros and then into Blackwing Lair, I got better.  Not good, but better.

The Burning Crusade came out.  By the time I made it to 70, I was behind most of the other Anvillains.  The Anvil had formed two 10-man Karazhan raids and didn’t have enough people for a third, leaving me and Rashonakitty screwed.  Fortunately a friend of ours was starting up her own Kara (called “Dissonant’s Softcore Raiders”) and the wife and I came on as the two tanks.  I went Prot, and never looked back.  We helped take that raid from wiping all night on Attumen all the way to one-night full clears and lots of Prince kills.  It was a fantastic experience.

When The Anvil went back to running 25-mans in Gruul’s Lair, I got in again despite the raid being overloaded on tanks.  And somehow, I guess through just sheer attrition and my own stubbornness, by the time our TBC raiding career ended, I was the permanent second offtank.

Wrath of the Lich King brought us death nuggets, and one of our warriors switched to DK (realm first 80 DK, in fact) and became astoundingly good at DK tanking–so good that he pushed me down to the #3 offtank, in an instance (Naxx 2.0) where few fights needed four tanks and dual specs hadn’t come in yet.  The raid officers kept me on, thank God, and we’ve carried four tanks all through Wrath (the original DK left and has been replaced by an even better DK), eventually going to a rotation system where we all take turns tanking and DPSing.

The Anvil took me in when I had no business raiding.  They let me back in after I took time to head to greener pastures in Karazhan.  They kept me on and rewarded my persistence with a permanent slot.  They kept me on again when better-geared, better-skilled tanks “took my jerb.”  They kicked my ass when I needed it and reassured me when I needed it.  They had faith in me when I had lost my own faith in my ability to play this game.  They gave me the room and opportunity to develop the confidence to turn, eventually, into a pretty decent warrior tank.  They are my friends, and I’ll do anything for them.

And last night, the scrubby hybrid-spec warrior in the mismatched level 55 greens…now transformed into the fully-sanctified-T10-wearing badass tank he never thought he could become…tanked the bloody Lich King. And won.

All of the problems that were spinning around me yesterday are still there this morning.  Our one working vehicle is still laid up at the mechanic and we don’t know how we’re going to pay to fix it.  One of our cats is still a bit sick in his tummy and stinking up the place.  We’re still broke.  The house is a mess.  I still have four projects at work in various stages of “oh shit.”  None of that has changed.

But for a few magical minutes last night, none of it existed.  There was nothing but a group of friends, accomplishing a task set in front of them, and culminating a journey that started four and a half years ago.  Winning the game.

For now, the world can bite my shiny metal ass.  I’m a Kingslayer, biatch.


So You Want to Be(ta) a Prot Warrior: Climbing Trees

(Did you see what I did there with the title?  Damn, I’m smooth.  Hurr hurr.)

OK, kids, it’s finally time for Uncle Panzercow to take a look at Prot warriors in the Cataclysm beta.  Both of mine are over there now.  Linedan is casually slaughtering his way through Mount Hyjal in his usual efficient, taciturn Panzercowing manner.  Latisha, on the other hand, threw on her bikini and took a little vacation…she went on a “three-hour tour” booze cruise toward an island off Stormwind, but instead of chatting up the hunky SCUBA instructor, she found herself, well, drowning.  Then she woke up at the bottom of the Great Sea in the bilge of the SS Poseidon, surrounded by dead Alliance soldiers, beautiful coral, and pissed-off naga.  She’s done the first few Kelp Forest quests in Vashj’ir; unfortunately, after taking her back to Stormwind to train Mastery, a bug has stuck her in limbo between Stormwind and Moonglade, and she may be out of action until I can either re-copy her (giving her the T9 shoulders she picked up last night) or wait for a fix.  I may just wait for a fix, I want to retain the option to copy another character over at some point.

I’ll do another post talking about the actual Prot leveling experience once I do more of it–Lin’s only 2/3 of the way through 80, and Latisha’s barely done anything at all.  What I want to look at in this post are the warrior trees, from a Prot standpoint of course.  I’m not even going to suggest specific builds, because really, I haven’t absorbed all of this stuff yet, and I’m sure I’ll be wobbling back and forth on builds constantly over the next couple months.  Instead, I’m going to look more at the talents and abilities that you’d see at level 80.

DISCLAIMERS:  This is all based on beta build 12759 as of 19 August 2010 and is subject to change anytime Ghostcrawler wants to change it.  Your mileage may vary.  Void in Middle-Earth and where prohibited.  Side effects may include dizziness, nausea, hair loss, carpal tunnel syndrome, hot warrior groupies throwing themselves at you, frequent death, high repair bills, and hearing “not enough rage” in your sleep.  Any rebroadcast of these talents without the express written consent of Major League Baseball is prohibited.

Cutting Down the Trees

So that having been said, let’s take a look at the talent trees.  The first thing you’ll notice upon hitting “N” for the first time in the beta is that there’s a new first screen where you are shown the various masteries available.  (The three Mastery abilities only seem to kick in when you train the Mastery skill.)  We’ll be looking at Prot, of course, so you see there’s one ability exclusive to us–our old friend Shield Slam, no longer baseline, sorry Arms and Fury–and three Masteries; Vitality, Vengeance, and Improved Block.

Vitality replaces the old Vitality talent; it’s just a flat 15% boost to Stamina, nothing fancy here.  Vengeance is a mechanic that I’m still trying to get my noggin around.  The tooltip says:  “Each time you take damage, you gain 5% of the damage taken as attack power, up to a maximum of 10% of your health.”  Does that mean that my 50,000 health Linedan can get up to 5000 bonus attack power?  Well, not practically.  Any bonus you get from a particular hit seems to roll off after 15 seconds.  So the AP boost seems to fluctuate up and down.  During normal questing on Lin, it seems to wobble around +100 to +200 AP, but I imagine it will be considerably more useful on instance fights, especially bosses.  Finally, Improved Block is just what it says it is, +15% to shield block chance.  Except I noticed something odd on Latisha.  When she first arrived and spec’d out, she had exactly 20.00% block chance, which I thought odd.  When I trained Mastery, that chance went down to exactly 15.00%, which is what Lin has.  I don’t know if that’s a glitch or what.  But now both their character sheets show only a 15% chance to block.  That indicates to me that either this is a bug, or warriors have a base non-Mastery block chance of zero…which should be a bug.

When you start looking at the trees themselves, you’ll see some familiar talents about where you expect them.  Last Stand, Concussion Blow, Improved Revenge, Devastate, Shockwave, Gag Order…old friends, like the crew at Cheers.  You just expect Devastate and Shockwave to stand up and yell “NORM!” when you pick talents from this tree.  But even old dogs learn a few new tricks, so we need to go through this one talent at a time.  Strap in, it’s going to be a long ride…

Protection

Incite (3 points)Increases the critical strike chance of your Heroic Strike by 5/10/15%, and your Heroic Strike critical strikes have a 33/66/100% chance to make your next Heroic Strike also a critical strike.  This effect cannot occur more than once every 6 seconds. Veneretio had a good discussion of Incite over at Tanking Tips a couple weeks ago.  I think the jury is still out on this one largely because Heroic Strike isn’t what it used to be.  Remember, it’s no longer an on-next-swing with no cooldown.  Now it’s instant and off the global cooldown, but it costs 30 rage with a three-second cooldown.  How our rage generation works out will make or break this talent.

Toughness (3 points)Increases your armor value from items by 3/6/10%. Straightforward, and necessary as always because bonus armor and armor on trinkets get removed in Cataclysm.  Lin’s down 6000 armor from live right off the bat.

Hold the Line (2 points)Increases your critical strike and critical block chance by 10% for 5/10 seconds after a successful parry. This just in:  PARRY GETS LOVE.  About damn time.  Veneretio covered this talent as well and did a thorough job of covering the good and bad of it.  Bad:  Not all that great against bosses.  Good:  Useful against multiple targets, and when your crit percentage is as horrendous as ours is, you take whatever help Blizzard throws to you.  Probably a keeper.

Shield Specialization (3 points)You generate 5/10/15 extra rage when you block an attack.  You generate 20/40/60 rage when you Spell Reflect a magic attack. Hmm.  Note that Shield Spec now doesn’t give you a better chance to block, it’s just about rage generation.  Right now, in build 12759 of the beta, prot warrior rage generation is actually very good, almost too good.  I’m getting full rage bars on Lin while only fighting mobs two at a time without anything to Spell Reflect…with his ICC-level avoidance, that’s shocking.  (It also means I’m not Heroic Striking enough.)  If rage generation is not an issue, then this isn’t necessary.  If we get as rage-starved in Cataclysm as we did in Wrath of the Lich King when grinding, then it becomes much more useful.  Time will tell.

Shield Mastery (3 points)Reduces the cooldown of Shield Block by 10/20/30 seconds, Shield Wall by 60/120/180 seconds, and Spell Reflect by 1/2/3 seconds. Why on earth would you not take this?  It’s better than the old Improved Disciplines because it affects three of our best defensive cooldowns.  You end up with being able to bump your block up for 10 out of 30 seconds, reduce all incoming damage by 40% for 12 out of 120 seconds, and reflect a spell every 7 seconds.  (Also?  Shield Block now costs 10 rage, unfortunately, but Spell Reflect only costs 15, down from 25 in live.)

Blood and Thunder (2 points)When you Thunder Clap a target affected by your Rend, you have a 50/100% chance to affect every target with Rend. OK, maybe I’m missing something here, but…do Prot warriors keep Rend on their bars?  Seriously?  I think I’ve got it shoved off in a corner somewhere bound to ctrl+shift+6+standonmyhead or something.  I haven’t used it in years. Are they expecting us to start?  I don’t think I got that memo.

Gag Order (2 points)Gives your Shield Bash and Heroic Throw abilities a 50/100% chance to silence the target for 3 seconds.  Also lowers the cooldown of your Heroic Throw by 15/30 seconds. It doesn’t have the +5/10% damage to Shield Slam that it used to, sadly, but this is still a useful talent for pulling.  I think it may have gone from “must have” to “nice to have” depending on the composition of instances.

Last Stand (1 point, cooldown 3 minutes)Temporarily grants you 30% of your maximum health for 20 seconds.  After the effect expires, the health is lost. Nothing’s changed here, this is our reliable old ass-saver from live, right down to the three-minute cooldown.

Concussion Blow (1 point, cost 15 rage, cooldown 30 seconds)Stuns the opponent for 5 seconds and deals (38/100 * AP) damage (based on attack power). Again, no functional change here, even the cooldown remains the same at 30 seconds.  It’s just been moved down to Tier 3 in the tree.

Bastion of Defense (2 points)Reduces the chance you’ll be critically hit by melee attacks by 3/6%.  In addition, when you Block, Dodge, or Parry an attack, you have a 10/20% chance to become Enraged, increasing physical damage done by 10% for 12 seconds. Exit stacking Defense, enter Bastion of Defense.  This is how warriors become uncrittable now.  It also takes the enrage from the old Improved Defensive Stance talent, although instead of the chance being 50/100%, now it’s only 10/20%.  If you don’t take 2 points in this talent, GTFO my class and roll a rogue.

Warbringer (1 point)Your Charge, Intercept, and Intervene abilities are now usable while in combat and in any stance.  In addition, your Intervene ability removes all movement-impairing effects. No change from live, this is another near-mandatory talent; it’s what gives us our legendary pinball-of-death mobility.  When I’m in Lin’s Fury spec, honestly, this talent is the biggest single thing I miss.

Improved Revenge (2 points)Increases the damage of your Revenge ability by 30/60% and causes Revenge to strike an additional target for 50/100% damage. No functional change from live on this one either, it’s a big DPS and threat boost so I think it’s mandatory.  But that’s just my opinion.

Devastate (1 point, cost 15 rage)Sunders the targets armor causing the Sunder Armor effect.  In addition, causes 120% weapon damage + 58 for each stack of Sunder Armor on the target.  The Sunder Armor effect can stack up to 3 times. Other than the overall reduction of Sunder Armor stacks from 5 to 3, there’s no change at all to Devastate.  Even the damage is exactly the same.

Impending Victory (2 points)Using Devastate on a target with 20% or less health has a 25/50% chance to allow the use of Victory Rush, but that Victory Rush only heals for 5% of your health. Now this is an interesting little talent.  On low-health mobs, this talent gives you the opportunity to trigger Victory Rush, gaining a single rage-free attack that will give you a mini-heal of 5% of your max health (instead of the 20% from a normal VR).  Even with mobs now having 30k+ health in the 80-81 areas, I can’t see this being useful during level-grinding.  But how useful might this be at the end of a tough boss fight, when he’s sub-20% for a couple minutes?  You’re hitting Devastate all the time anyway, why not have a 50% chance to give you a free attack and heal yourself for several thousand health?  It’s better than Enraged Regeneration by a long shot.

Thunderstruck (2 points)Improves the damage of your Cleave and Thunder Clap by 3/6%.  In addition, your Thunder Clap improves the damage of your next Shockwave by 5/10%.  Stacks up to 3 times. All I can think of for this one is “meh.”  The damage boost is nice, but spending two points on it in Tier 5 doesn’t seem like a very good return.  Maybe someone can prove differently to me.

Vigilance (1 point)Focus your protective gaze on a group or raid target, reducing their damage taken by 3%.  In addition, each time they are hit by an attack your Taunt cooldown is refreshed, and you gain Vengeance as if 20% of the damage was done to you.  Lasts 30 minutes.  This effect can only be on one target at a time. Sharp-eyed readers will notice something missing from that blurb…that’s right, the 10% threat transfer is gone.  Is it worth putting a point into this for a small AP boost and the taunt refresh?  I’m not sure yet.  For grinding, definitely not.  For instancing or raiding, maaayyyybe.

Heavy Repercussions (2 points)When Shield Block is active, your Shield Slams hit for an additional  50/100% damage. Pretty straightforward, although it’s a little disappointing to have to spend two points in Tier 5 for what we used to get for free with Shield Block.

Safeguard (2 points)Reduces the damage taken by the target of your Intervene ability by 15/30% for 6 seconds. Uh…yeah.  Somebody please make a case for this talent, because I’ve never seen it to be useful.  Then again, I know I don’t use Intervene nearly enough.

Sword and Board (3 points)Increases the critical strike chance of your Devastate ability by 5/10/15%.  When your Devastate or Revenge abilities deal damage, they have a 10/20/30% chance of refreshing the cooldown of your next Shield Slam ability and reducing its rage cost by 100% for 5 seconds. Good old Sword and Board, basically unchanged.  DING!

Shockwave (1 point, cost 15 rage, cooldown 20 seconds)Sends a wave of force in front of the warrior, causing (75/100 * AP) damage (based on attack power) and stunning all enemy targets within 10 yards in a frontal cone for 4 seconds. Interestingly, Shockwave, our top talent, hasn’t changed.

Fury

Blood Craze (3 points)After taking any damage, you have a 10% chance to regenerate 2.5/5/7.5% of your total health over 5 seconds. Wow.  This is big, gang.  7.5% of your total health over 5 seconds…in beta!Linedan’s case, that’s about 3500 to 4000 health.  This talent is almost like having an inattentive druid trundling along behind, occasionally pulling himself away from watching “Dancing with the Stars” and dropping a Rejuv on you.  Between this, Victory Rush, and Enraged Regeneration…kids, if you’re a well-geared Prot warrior, and this stuff stays close to the way it is now?  You will have to work to die while grinding.  If you thought we had good survivability before, it’s beyond insane now.

Battle Trance (3 points)Your Bloodthirst, Mortal Strike, and Shield Slam hits have a 5/10/15% chance to make your next special attack consume no rage. Again, the usefulness of this talent will depend on rage generation.  Right now, our rage generation is very good.  I don’t expect that to continue.  I don’t know if spending 3 points is worth it to get a 15% chance of rage reduction on an attack we only fire off every four to five seconds (averaging in S&B procs) anyway.

Cruelty (2 points)Increases the critical strike chance of your Bloodthirst, Mortal Strike, and Shield Slam hits by 5/10%. Gee, you’d almost think they don’t want our white attacks critting anymore.  A 10% crit boost on Shield Slam only for two points…not sure the math on this one works out any better than Battle Trance, to be honest.  We’ll have to see.

Rude Interruption (2 points)Successfully interrupting a spell with Shield Bash or Pummel increases your damage by 5/10% for 15 seconds. This is a Tier 2 talent that’s gotten more press for the alleged political incorrectness of its icon than its actual use.  You can make an argument, as often as we interrupt spells, that the damage boost might be worth having to put 5 points into Fury to get it.  Well, I can’t, but maybe you can.

Piercing Howl (1 point, cost 10 rage)Causes all enemies within 10 yards to be Dazed, reducing movement speed by 50% for 6 seconds. The fact that this is now a Tier 2 Fury talent puts it, potentially, within reach of Prot warriors.  I’m not sold on its usefulness for a PvE tank, but I can sure see Prot PvPers all over it.

Arms

War Academy (3 points)Increases the damage of your Heroic Strike, Cleave, Victory Rush, and Slam abilities by 5/10/15%. Hmmm.  That’s actually pretty tempting.  HS and Cleave won’t get spammed as much as they used to (well, Cleave might, HS, not so much).  But when you see other talents in this tier, it definitely becomes second fiddle.

Field Dressing (2 points)Increases your self healing abilities by 10/20% and all healing effects on you by 3/6%. It doesn’t take too many brain cells to see this being mandatory for tanks, and quite honestly, good for grinding as well.  Right now, normal level 80 trashy quest grind mobs hit a lot harder than they do on live–try three times as hard.  Any boost to the considerable self-healing we’re now provided (Blood Craze, Victory Rush, Enraged Regeneration, even bandages) is a big plus.

Blitz (2 points)Your Charge ability generates 5/10 additional rage and stuns 1/2 additional targets. I’ve always liked the old Improved Charge talent, and this is its successor.  But with only 41 points to spread around, I’m not sure we’ll have room.

Abilities

Phew!  Well, that’s the tree changes…but we’ve still got to get to the major changes to some of our abilities…

On-next-attack abilities are gone. Cleave and Heroic Strike are now instant attacks with short cooldowns.  This means the (probable) end of having to bind HS to your mouse wheel and spinning while tanking.

Shout mechanics have changed. Battle and Commanding Shout are much more like death nuggets’ Horn of Winter.  They generate rage now instead of costing it, but have long (1-minute) cooldowns.  Since our rage decays so fast out of combat, they’re actually more useful to hit in combat as a backup to Bloodrage, which breaks my old technique of hitting whichever Shout I’m using after I kill something, to keep it refreshed.

Victory Rush. As currently implemented in build 12759, Victory Rush has suddenly become your best friend ever.  It’s now usable in Defensive Stance, and as always, gives you a single rage-free attack.  Oh, and now in the beta, it heals you.  For 20% of your maximum health. You heard me right, kids.  Between this, Enraged Regeneration for emergencies, and the Fury talent Blood Craze, a well-geared Prot warrior simply never stops killing.  You need to keep killing to get that tasty multi-thousand-point heal from VR.  And since Victory Rush has no cooldown…you can pull big and hit VR after each mob in the pack dies for a big shot of health.  I will actually be surprised if this goes live the way it is now, because it’s that awesome and I’m that big a pessimist.

No more Shield Block Value. When you block, you block 30% of the incoming damage.  On a crit block, you block 60%.  The Shield Block ability still basically lets you block everything for 10 seconds, but it’s no longer the total immunity against trash that it was in Wrath.

The order in which you get abilities is scrambled. I’m not even trying to figure it out.  I haven’t leveled a Prot warrior in the beta, and probably won’t try it until after Cataclysm goes live and I have some time to work on my mains and existing alts.

Shield Wall isn’t as effective. The damage reduction in the beta is down to 40% from 60% in live…but with three points in the excellent Shield Mastery talent, the cooldown is only 2 minutes.  Basically, you can talent into what is now the glyphed version of Shield Wall.  Less absorption, more often.

OK, that’s enough for one day.  Hell, that’s more than enough for one day.  If you’ve made it to the end of this wall-o-text, congratulations!

Soon I hope to have more posts up on the Prot leveling experience in Cataclysm’s beta…both from the point of view of a highly-geared raid tank (Linedan) and a fresh 80 with relatively minimal gear (Latisha).  Stay tuned.


The Latisha Experiment, Update #4

At roughly 7:15 pm Eastern Daylight Time last night, the Latisha Experiment reached the conclusion of its first stage when Miss Latisha Morganson, twenty-year-old disowned rich daughter of a noble and unscrupulous Stormwind merchant family, hit level 80.  She did it while talking to a dead gnome (Arly, the gnome DK questgiver at Blackwatch in Icecrown).  Despite being level 80, Latisha is still squicked by dead gnomes, and still washes her hands frequently after interacting with them.  (She’d totally be carrying around a giant bottle of Purel, if the stuff had been invented by fellow dead-gnome-germophobes yet.)

Regular readers of Achtung Panzercow know that I rolled Latisha last year as an experiment to use my own So You Want to Be a Prot Warrior guides to actually level a warrior as hardcore Protection all the way from 1 to 80.  The goals were to validate my own guides; to prove that it was not only viable, but fun, to level solo as Prot; and so I had a tank Alliance-side on Feathermoon just in case I ever needed her.

Based on the results, I’d say all three goals were fully met and then some.  I used my own talent suggestions with only two minor variations (taking Improved Disarm early and not shifting out of it to pick up Vigilance until the mid-60s, and shifting the two points in Cruelty over to Shield Specialization to end up with a 15/3/53 build instead of 15/5/51).  She actually required virtually no outside money from Beltar while leveling.  I gave her some gold for bags to start with, and funded one 30-40 gold AH buying spree in her 20s, but other than that, she’s been completely self-sufficient, getting by on quest rewards, drops, and the money from mining and skinning auctions.  She arrived at level 80 with about 2600 gold to her name, and that was without really trying to stop the leveling process just to make gold.  She’s still only got a slow flying mount, and no dual-spec, but those were personal choices–I could’ve easily ground the money for either one, but I wanted to save the maximum amount to kit her out once she got her special present in the mail from Rhonin Sue.

As for leveling her, it was easy.  Yes, there were bumps, and yes, I’m still hearing the female human “not enough rage!” in my sleep, but quite honestly, I found it much easier leveling her than I did leveling my enhancement shaman Sakula last year.  I don’t know if that means I’m really good at Prot warriors or that I’m utter fail at enhancement shamaning (more likely the latter), but getting Latisha to 80 was really pretty unspectacular.  I borrowed some help from friends at times to hammer out group quests like the ones in Dragonblight (teaming with my wife’s 80 Draenei enhancement shaman to do every group quest in Dragonblight, Grizzly Hills, and Zul’Gurub in one run) and used the LFD tool extensively once she got into Northrend.  In terms of leveling, it’s still far faster to grind quests than dungeons, but the dungeons are where the loot is.

Actually, by level 79, thanks to the LFD tool and some trips to the AH, she was pretty well set for tanking normal instances.  She had several pieces of Tempered Saronite crafted armor off the AH, a Riot Shield from Violet Hold, various other blue bits from dungeons, topped off with a Crusader’s Resolution from questing in Icecrown, and the Crescent of Brooding Fury from killing Ragemane in Zul’drak.  She could get herself over 21,000 health with Commanding Shout up and had around 505 Defense.  I never had any significant issues with her tanking a Northrend regular dungeon.

Heroics, however, are quite another matter.  So as soon as she dinged 80, I immediately headed to Ironforge on a spending spree…and spend I did.  A Titansteel Shield Wall.  A Tempered Titansteel Helm.  A Tempered Saronite Belt to replace her Cobalt Belt.  Some gems (and thanks a ton, Arrens, for sending me those Enduring Eyes of Zul–a big help!) and enchants.  Then I flew around and picked up all of the faction tabards I’d need and did more shopping–grabbing the Special Issue Legplates from the Argent Crusade, and swapping that very slow (speed 2.60) axe for a nice fast (speed 1.50) Fang of Truth from the Wyrmrest Accord; even though it cost me Defense points, I’m far more used to tanking with a fast weapon and very much prefer it in instances.  (Plus, she desperately needed the +hit.)  By the time I was done, she’d gone from 2600+ gold to less than 10…and still only 527 Defense.  Not the 535 she needed to be crit-immune in heroics.

Accepting her non-heroic status, I ran a normal Utgarde Pinnacle to get some money.  Interestingly, from doing the quests in there, I picked up the Silver-Plated Battlechest.  Between that, and her raw Defense skill finally hitting 400…she had 537 Defense.  Y halo thar, magic number.

Unbuffed:  21,251 health.  22,450 armor.  537 Defense.  17.1% dodge, 15.46% parry, 14.48% block.  A Gearscore well south of 2900.

So of course, I queued to tank a heroic.

And the Wheel of Suck came up…Halls of Motherfucking Stone. Oh great.

Now I freely admit, I expected what sometimes happens when a low-geared fresh 80 tank shows up at an random instance…a chorus of “wtf??  u tank?” from DPS or healers with 6000+ Gearscores and egos to match, followed by some insults and group-dropping (or kicking).  Instead, to my utter astonishment, I found that my group was perfectly cool with me being there.  I had more health than everybody but the death nugget, and he only beat me by about 1200.  We were all roughly around the same gear level, give or take a bit.  For once, the LFD tool actually matched five people who realistically belonged in the same instance!

And thus, we ended up taking a 45-minute jaunt through Halls of Stone…but we did it.  Killed all four bosses with just one wipe (totally my fault when I screwed up a pull and got three groups) plus one extra death on Sjonnir.  No deaths on the Tribunal of Ages.  Let me tell you, I don’t work that hard when Linedan is tanking Arthas.  It was crazy, it was hard work, and it was stupidly fun to tank that place on a character that could’ve rolled need on half the loot that might drop.

So there you have it.  A tank, with no heroic or badge loot whatsoever, who bought her own gear and got herself to the point where she could tank heroic dungeons with very little outside help.  The only “gift” in all that loot are two of those Eyes of Zul from Arrens.  The rest, she’s earned via questing, drops, or bought on the AH with her own gold.

I know that life is harder for a tank at 80 than for a DPS or healer.  DPS can walk straight into heroics and get carried to an extent and gear up that way (I’ve done it, several times).  A healer needs to work a bit harder at it but can still move into the world of badge collection with not a huge amount of effort.  But a tank, at least a warrior tank, takes a lot of effort to get ready for heroic tanking.  But here’s the proof, guys, you can do it. Don’t despair if you’ve got a baby tank in the 70s and you don’t know how you’re going to get her into Badgeland.  I’ve done it.  Here’s proof.  It takes a bit of a judicious eye about loot, minimal faction grinding, and some gold (or friends willing to help you out).

At this point, life for Latisha diverges into two separate paths.  On Feathermoon, I will continue to tank with her, probably normals and heroics, and gear her up a bit.  In fact, she’s got 28 Badgers of Triumph the Insult Comic Dog, so she’ll be able to get a piece of T9 very soon.  (Had I run more instances while leveling in Northrend, she’d already have at least one.)  Her “other” life will soon find her on Lost Isles, in the Cataclysm beta, just as she is right now as I write this, with no tier gear, no badge gear, and nothing over ilevel 200.  I already know how leveling is over there with a highly-geared raider…let’s see how it is with a fresh-faced 80 who’s never set foot inside a 10- or 25-man.

Maybe I can slow down and even get some roleplay in with her now.  We’ll see.  One thing’s for sure, I’ve grown attached to my six-foot-one poor little rich girl.  She may be my sixth character to level 80, but she’s definitely a keeper.


For the times, they are a-changin’

Soon I’m going to start putting up some Cataclysm beta stuff on the blog, hopefully every few days, as I get time to play.  I’ll keep the actual content spoilers in terms of plot, story, art, etc. to a minimum, and try to focus instead on the mechanics of playing a Prot warrior while leveling from 80 to 85 in the brave new sundered world we’ll all be facing.

In order to do that, I’ve re-copied Linedan over so instead of being level 82, he’s back to level 80.  I was going to level him through Vashj’ir, but a couple of nasty quest bugs blocked progression there, so he’ll be grinding along in Hyjal.  This also gives him the solid raid gear that he’s accumulated over the three months since I got in the alpha.  So he’ll be leveling along with four-piece Sanctified T10, and most everything else ilevel 251 or higher.  Nothing so far has given him any significant trouble, although not being able to run addons means that I can’t really determine if his damage is really down, or if it just feels down because everything has so much more health now.

What I’m also going to do is, as soon as she hits 80, copy Latisha, my other prot warrior, over.  Latisha is the polar opposite of Lin.  She is going to hit 80 (hopefully tonight!) in a mish-mash of blue and green quest and dungeon drops, barely scraping 20,000 health in her tank gear.  And I’m going to keep her that way.  I want to see how bad it might be for a character who hasn’t spent well over a year at level 80 accumulating raid goods…what will it be like for somebody who just hit 80 in their quest greens and didn’t stop, but immediately headed back from Northrend to EK or Kalimdor and started dealing with the new zones where mob health is 30k instead of 12.6k and stuff hits much harder.  Their builds will probably be similar, but their items are worlds apart.  It should be an interesting experiment.

I’ve got other stuff on my mind with Cataclysm, though, and it involves Linedan.  I play on Feathermoon, a roleplay server, and I frequently admit that I should be doing a lot more roleplay than I do, especially with Lin.  He’s my main, after all, my beloved Panzercow, but he doesn’t get the RP love that he should, and it’s my fault.

I had a defined idea in mind that slowly developed over Lin’s first year or two.  He’s basically a decent cow–not particularly bright but not stupid, stoic, loyal, honorable as his culture sees it, dedicated to excelling in his chosen art of combat.  When I decided I didn’t like the clan name I’d given him (“Granitehoof”), I ended up ditching it by inventing a little bit of Tauren culture and making him clanless, something of an outcast from Tauren society.  He transferred his clan loyalty to his guild instead; he refers to the other people in Noxilite, regardless of race and without irony, as his “brothers and sisters.”  Yes, even the blood elves, albeit reluctantly sometimes.

That loyalty and stoicism is layered over a lot of built-in rage…yes, he’s a Cow with Issues.  He pushed harder and harder as he trained to earn the respect of those around him, and sometimes, he’s felt like he hasn’t when he should’ve.  As a warrior, he’s constantly walked a tightrope between the protector of his people and the berserk reaver of his enemies.  In fact, when I tried him out Fury for a bit, I wrote up a whole storyline about how he’d been possessed by what he thought was one of the troll spirits around Warlord Mandokir in Zul’gurub–remember the ones that would auto-rez you?–and it taught him the ways of how the trolls fought, furious, with total abandon.

My problem is, as the years have ground on, I’ve let the stoicism take over.  I’ve painted myself into a corner with him.  He’s gone from having a quiet personality to having no personality.  He’s fossilized.  That’s due to two problems not with him, but with me, the player.  First, despite having this blog and vomiting forth too much information on a regular basis, I’m actually quite shy when it comes to real-time interactions in-game.  I can roleplay within my friends, but around strangers, I lock up for fear of any sort of mockery that I’m convinced will come my way.

The second is the amount of mental energy it takes for me to stay in-character.  The past three and a half years have been…well, let’s be polite and call them “demanding.”  Moves, job changes, deaths in the family, mental health issues, financial stress, a high-energy daughter, so many other things…they all combine to leech my focus and energy, what my wife and I jokingly call “noodle,” right out of me.  There are many who view RP as a refreshment, a rejuvenator.  I don’t deny that, I know how fun it can be.  But staying in-character for me takes a particular kind of concentration that I simply haven’t had.  Paradoxically for somebody who claims to be a roleplayer and has been called an “RP nazi” more than once…it’s easier for me to focus on mashing buttons in the right order while tanking Arthas for three hours than it is for me to work out how Linedan would interact in a simple five-minute conversation with a guildmate.

This has left me with a main that I basically don’t RP anymore.  And I don’t want that.  I want to get my Hordeside RP back, with Linedan.  The buildup to and release of Cataclysm seem like a perfect time for it.  I’m just not sure what to bloody do at this point.  I’m toying with the concept, once The Anvil finally kills Arthas (ohpleaseletitbesoon), of Lin simply deciding that he’s done with all the slaughter and death and retiring back to Mulgore, just in time for all Deathwing to break loose.  Or maybe I can come up with something else to happen that will crack his shell a bit.  Right now, though, I don’t know what’s under that shell yet.  Is he stable?  Is he unbalanced?  Is he good?  Is he bad?  Will he stay loyal to the only home he’s known for the better part of five years?  I don’t know, and that’s a bit frustrating, and I can only hope that it will come to me over time now that I’m thinking about it.  Character changes like that, I’ve found, aren’t something that can be forced.  At least for me, they tend to blindside me when I’m thinking about something else.

In the meantime, how are you planning for your characters’ roleplay to change come Cataclysm?


Unfortunate fashion accidents

I thought I was really rolling when I got Beltar into an ICC 10-man raid last week and got a Taldron’s Short-Sighted Helm, which uses the same model as the T10 helms for hunters.  For some reason (I don’t even remember why, there was number-crunching involved, I guess), I got him the helmet, gemmed it, and enchanted it.  Then, happy to ditch his old T9 helm which I never really liked the looks of, I put it on…

…that’s right.  My dwarf now has a giant saronite Mr. Happy growing out of his forehead.  I mean, yeah, he’s a dickhead sometimes, but damn, Blizzard, did you have to be that literal?

And if that wasn’t bad enough…over the weekend, my shaman Sakula finally got exalted with the Wyrmrest Accord while failing his way through heroic Oculus.  That left him just one of the “big four” Northrend factions he needed rep with, the Kirin Tor.  So I changed his tabard and finished the heroic run.  Then I took a good look at what a Kirin Tor tabard looks like on a male troll…and /facepalmed.

Clearly, Rhonin felt the need to overcompensate for something, if you know what I mean (and I think you do).


How to spice up a boring heroic run…

…have a small child (my daughter, aka Nublet, aka The World’s Cutest Four-Year-Old) watching over your shoulder as you run Azjol-Nerub on your hunter.  And then have her firing questions at you non-stop while you’re trying to work a marks hunter rotation that you’re rusty on from lack of play.

“Are those bugs?”

“Yes, honey, they’re bugs.”

“Are they mean bugs?”

“Yes, honey, they’re mean bugs and they’re trying to eat us.”

“They look like spiders.”

“They are sort of like spiders, yes.”

“Why’s that one got an arrow over his head?”

“I put it there so we know which bug to kill first.”

“Spiders eat icky bugs.”

“Mm-hmm.”

“Look!  That bug has little wings!”

“Yes, yes he does.”

“Is that wolf made out of ice?”

“No, honey, he’s just a white fluffy wolf.”

“He looks like he’s made out of ice.”

He’s not, love, he’s just a big white wolf that follows my guy around.”

“Does he bite bugs?”

“Yes, sweetie, he bites bugs.”

“Hey, a bridge made of ice!”

“That’s not ice, that’s spiderweb.”

“But why aren’t you getting stuck?”

“I don’t know, love, that’s just the way the game works.”

“That’s a biiiiig spider.”

“Mm-hmm.  And now he’s a big dead spider, see?”

“Eww, you fell in an icky river!  Are you going to step on the little bugs?”

“No, sweetie, I’m just going to leave those alone.”

“Why?  Shouldn’t you step on the little bugs?”

“No, hon, not enough time.  See, there’s the big boss bug.”

“Where?”

“There.”

“Oh, yeah.  Hey, he’s gone in his hole.”

“Yeah, he does that, and he sends little bugs out to try and eat us.”

“I think he’s got a secret tunnel.”

“Mm-hmm.”  (at this point I’m frantically trying to dodge darters)

“Look, no more boss bug!”

“Yep.”

“Are you going to go back and squish the little bugs now?”

“No, sweetie, we’re done.”

“Are you flying away on your dragon now?”

“Mm-hmm.”

“OK.  I’m gonna go draw fairies now.”



New and (slightly) improved

If you are a repeat visitor to my little armor-plated corner of the Internet, you might’ve thought you landed on the wrong website when Achtung Panzercow first popped up on your browser just now.  Nope, Gentle Reader, let me assure you, this is still the home of the Panzercow, my little virtual Bunker of Love.  I just thought it needed a bit of renovation.

So during a slow time at work on Friday, and carrying over into Friday night at home, I did some tweaking on it.  There were really only two significant changes that I made:

New theme. For a very long time I had used themes from Andreas Viklund at WordPress…first Andreas04 back in the day, and then Andreas09.  Both of them were nice three-column themes that let the main text of the blog flow out wider on widescreen monitors, which I thought was pretty useful.  I’ve never much liked fixed-width blog themes that smoosh the post text into a narrow column and leave me staring at an immense expanse of wasted white space on a 22″ widescreen like I run at home.

But while eminently practical, after a while, good old workhorse Andreas09 just started to look a little, well, plain to me.  I looked at other peoples’ blogs with a rising tinge of jealousy because they had fancy headers and graphics and more flexibility compared to my simple text blog.  Of course, I could always self-host to get the ultimate level of flexibility.  But even though I do average around 500 views a day here on Panzercow, and the blog recently passed an astonishing  200,000 total views since December 2008, it’s still very much a part-time hobby.  I like being hosted on WordPress.  It makes maintenance quick and easy at any time of the day because it’s not blocked at work, so if I need to duck in to fix a spam comment or something similar, I can do it and get back to my job.  Plus, I really can’t afford any hosting option that’s costing me more than $0.00 a month right now.

So I was noodling through the available free themes yesterday looking for something that I could use to punch up the place a bit.  I thought I’d found my answer with an attractive three-column theme called Coraline, and in fact for about a half-hour Friday afternoon, that’s what we were using–I don’t have a “sandbox” blog to make my changes in, I just slam them straight into the live site, because I’m a rebel, maaaan.  But I was gchatting with Anna, as I often do, and she threw a couple more suggestions out there.  While browsing those, I found my answer.

Say hello to Modularity Lite.  It’s a fixed-width two-column theme, which normally I don’t like…but I just fell in love with the layout, the font, the dark granite-ish background, all of it.  It was love at first sight.  Add onto that the fact that it supported a custom header picture, and I was sold.  I had the site swapped over and the widgets (the stuff in the sidebar and footer) rearranged in no time.  The final tweak was the header picture, which is just part of a random screenshot of Linedan (the titular Panzercow) that I took in Dalaran a few months ago, back when he was still rocking full T9 instead of T10.  The new layout doesn’t seem to have broken anything from older posts except for picture captioning, which is pretty minor and something I can live with.

Oddly enough, I think the new look of the blog has amped me up to post more.  I hope it works.  I really need to ramp it back up.

Blogroll changes. Blogrolls are almost like living things.  Blogs disappear, go on hiatus, change names, new ones appear.  I finally got around to pruning my blogroll, and sadly, had to drop over a third of them due to inactivity.  But I compensated by adding several new ones, and am always on the prowl for more.  Getting linked here will do absolutely nothing for your traffic, but, y’know.  I taunt your target, you taunt mine, or something like that.

I hope you enjoy the new(ish) Achtung Panzercow.  As always, please comment on anything you see here, because comments make me teh happeh.


I admit it, I’m a “beta” male

The ability to stream content while playing--a mixed bag.

(NOTE:  I’m aiming to keep this post as spoiler-free as possible, so it won’t be hidden behind a cut.  If I do put something up with spoilers, I’ll make sure I hide them for folks who don’t want to see them.  I’m nice that way.)

First off–yes, I’m in the beta.  In fact, I was actually in the Friends & Family alpha quite early on, back when we were under a strict NDA that meant we couldn’t even admit that the alpha existed.  Some of those bugs you don’t see in the beta?  Yeah.  I reported those.  When they actually existed in the alpha, I mean.  Trust me, if you think some zones aren’t polished now, you should’ve seen them three months ago.

Anyway…I’m not going to dig too hugely deep into things here, partially to avoid spoilers and partially because I’ve still got to do some more digging with this latest beta build, especially in regard to class trees (which are still mutating with every patch).  I plan to have some more warrior-specific info up here soon, once I can actually get to tank something instead of just grinding to level, and once I figure out what Lin’s fury offspec build should be.  But in the meantime, here’s some general tidbits…

Launcher. With this latest beta build, Blizzard has revised how their launcher and downloader work.  The theory is that now you’ll be able to stream downloaded content while you play the game.  (This forced us in the beta to completely uninstall the beta client and download the whole bloody thing again, by the way.)  The new way it works is this:  When you go to the battle.net page to download WoW, you’ll download a small 2.5 MB launcher app.  This, when run, downloads a 660 MB WoW installer that contains the core files for the game.  Run and install that (which took me about an hour) and then, when you run WoW for the first time, you’ll get the familiar-looking downloader, which will begin pulling down a massive amount of data–15.7 GB for this build.

But here’s the trick.  There’s a yellow line and a green line on the progress bar.  In theory, once the progress bar hits that yellow line, you can play WoW.  The “Play” button lights up and lets you run the game while the downloader disappears (you can’t alt-tab to it), but continues to pull the data.  What Blizzard says is that you can run the game once the progress bar hits the yellow line (about 4% on mine), but “your game experience might not be optimum.”  You may run into some delays or missing data.  Once it hits the green line–about 60% for this beta install–again, in theory, your WoW experience should improve and be almost normal while the downloader concludes its work.

I tried it last night, and surprisingly, it does work.  I was playing without any real latency issues while my wife and I both let our respective downloaders grind.  There currently is an issue with frequent drops and “world server is down” messages, though, so it’s not all sunshine and roses.  Nevertheless, the concept seems to work quite well.  Even with the downloader at only 12-14% of the big file, the only glitches I ran into (besides getting dropped every 10 minutes) were a few missing or delayed sounds.

At first I wondered why they made this change.  The old system worked OK most of the time.  And this new system is still apparently peer-to-peer, so that didn’t change.  Why add in the capability for background streaming?  Well, one reason I can think of is, possibly, to make it easier to add in purchasable downloadable content?  Y’know, go buy yourself a sparklepony and keep playing while it’s delivered to your mailbox.  Or maybe more.  Or maybe I’m paranoid.

New zones. I’ve only seen two zones so far, the first two that were opened, Vashj’ir and Mount Hyjal.  Vashj’ir is an large underwater zone–actually, three separate ones–chock full of various sea life that thinks you’re tasty.  In addition, there’s an overarching plot revolving around the naga, but honestly, I ran through it in alpha and several pieces were still missing so I’m not quite sure what that plot is. Mount Hyjal is, well, Mount Hyjal.  It’s under siege by the Twilight’s Hammer and their various allies.  There, you’ll assist Ysera and…uh, somebody else…to reclaim the portions of the mountain that the Twilights have already ravaged.  And you’ll meet some old friends.  I mean, old friends.  Beta peeps probably can guess who I’m talking about.  In addition, Deepholm is now open.  I haven’t seen it yet except over my wife’s shoulder, but she couldn’t stop gushing about it and with good reason, it’s beautiful.  The art and atmosphere is probably the best Blizzard’s ever done…it’s very otherworldly and weird.  Considering it’s on the elemental plane of Earth, that makes sense.

As for the two new races, well, how much can I gush?  I’ve gotten both a worgen and a goblin through their respective starter areas, and both are fantastic, yet totally different from each other.  Worgens start in a Gilneas under siege, first by worgen and then by the Forsaken.  The entire experience is best described as a “fighting withdrawal” against desperate odds, as the Gilneans fall back from one place to another to the next defending themselves the whole way.  Gilneas City itself floored me the first time I saw it.  LOTRO players will get this analogy–it looks a bit like a cloudy, more urban Bree-town.  In a good way.

The goblin side is completely different.  Blizzard took “teh funneh,” cranked it to 11, and ripped the knob off.  Kezan, the goblin city, is hilarious.  The goblin quests are replete with bad puns, funny names, bad puns, amusing situations, pop culture references, and more bad puns.  And did I mention bad puns?

Old zones. This, to me, is the amazing part of Cataclysm. Not that Blizzard has created new and cool places like Vashj’ir or Hyjal or Deepholm.  It’s what they’ve done to the old world, to zones where level 80s just don’t have any reason to go anymore.  They have put an immense amount of effort into zones of all levels in Azeroth, and the result is a radically different leveling experience.  The 80-85 run in Cataclysm is going to be cool, but you won’t get the full grasp of just how much has changed until you start rolling some alts of the vanilla races.

For example, I rolled a Tauren paladin in alpha.  There were a lot of bugs, and some incomplete linking of quests between zones.  But even so, getting the holycow from 1 to 35 totally derailed me from testing Vashj’ir or Hyjal on Linedan or Beltar.  As incomplete as everything was (and Mulgore was still a work-in-progress at that point), the experience was amazingly engrossing.  Blizzard has put a hell of a lot of work into cleaning up the leveling-questing process.  There are now more quest hubs spread out in lowbie zones, with some old quests moved to the new hubs, closer to their objectives.  This means less time wasted running back and forth.  In the northern half of the Barrens, for example, there used to be Crossroads and Ratchet.  In addition to those now, there are a couple of other quest hubs.  One is a goblin post up near the Boulder Lode Mine and Sludge Pit in the northeastern part of the zone.  The old Venture Company quests involving those areas have been moved to the new hub, so you’re not running back and forth to Crossroads or Ratchet constantly.  It speeds the process up and makes it feel less tedious.

But even over and above that is the storytelling.  And nowhere did Blizzard hit a peak with that more than in Ashenvale and Stonetalon, from what I’ve seen.  The Alliance and Horde are now more in conflict than ever.  Much, maybe most, of the Kalimdor Horde leveling experience between, say, levels 18 and 34 (Ashenvale, Stonetalon, Southern Barrens) is going to be wrapped up in this war.  The quests themselves aren’t PvP, but you’ll spend a lot of time killing NPC elves and dwarves and humans and gnomes if you’re Horde.  The quests flow, logically, from one to the next, and from one place to the next.  And they tell an overarching story of the Horde side of the new war…one in which, surprisingly, Garrosh Hellscream does not necessarily come off as the king-hell douchebag we’ve known him as before.  And as a Tauren fanboy?  Southern Barrens hits me particularly hard.  You’ll see why if you fly over it.

Prot warrior mechanics. I’ll have some more details up on this later.  Right now, things are still somewhat in flux, that much is plain.  Talent trees are still getting adjusted with every patch.  But what I’m seeing, from a level/grind standpoint, is a slight walkback from the bountiful joy we got in Wrath of the Lich KingWotLK turned Prot warriors from laughingstocks at leveling into sexy grinding machines.  We had enough DPS to kill mobs at reasonable speed crossed with the survivability that we all love about the class…and when we got bored with questing, we could jump in the dungeon queue and tank ourselves silly.  It became, well, easy to level as Prot.

I don’t know if 80-85 will be quite so easy.  DPS output seems flat or down from live, and this, combined with level 80 mobs in the new zones having around thirty thousand health, makes grinding a bit slow compared to Northrend.  Couple that with some odd stat changes…right now, Linedan in his T9 prot gear (from back in May when I copied him over) has a crit chance of 0.48%.  A half a percent at level 82, Blizz, seriously?  That 145 hit rating only gets him +2.1% hit at level 82 as opposed to double that at level 80?  Please tell me this stuff will be adjusted.

I haven’t had a chance to tank yet, but the rumblings I’ve been hearing are mixed.  Tank threat in the late alpha (for all classes) was supposed to be very bad.  It may have come up a bit in the last few beta builds, but still seems to be considerably lower than live.  If I can ever get a chance to tank one of the new instances, I’ll pass on my experiences.

In closing, I’m pretty excited about Cataclysm. I haven’t been too terribly caught up in mechanics and numbers so far…I’ve let myself get lost in the beauty of the new zones, and been astonished at the level of effort Blizzard has put in to reshape the entirety of Azeroth, and the confidence with which they’re flexing their storytelling muscles.  Now that we’re further along into a solid beta, it’s time to start looking at the nuts and bolts more.  But even with the glitches and the concerns?  It’s pretty obvious that once again, Blizzard is in the process of hitting yet another home run.


My name is Panzercow…

…and I approve this message.  Not least because I can’t think of a better artist to filk for a song about tanks than the Man in Black, who was basically the Avatar of Badass wearing a guitar.

(Yes, I know it’s two years old, I just saw it.  Shut up or I’ll Shield Slam you so hard they’ll be picking your teeth out of your ass.)

Hat tip:  our raid’s Chief Cat Herder, Itanya Blade and her paladin’s Helmet Hair of the Gorilla.


The finish line is in sight

Yes, there are naked people up there. Beating Arthas makes one do strange things.

It’s been a strange weekend here at the Bunker of Love, no doubt about that.

See, North Carolina has been getting hammered by a nasty heat wave.  Now yes, it’s the South, and yes, of course it gets hot in the summer.  I know this.  I’m Virginia-born and -bred, with the added resume entries of surviving three summers near Washington, DC (why did we build our nation’s capital in a bloody swamp?) and seven years in Columbia, South Carolina, a place that you could use for testing manned expeditions to Venus.  I know from hot, people.

But you see, the Bunker of Love, nice as it is, does not have central air conditioning.  This is a small, old house with “character” (translation:  a disturbing number of corners that aren’t 90 degrees) in an older neighborhood.  It was built before the word “insulation” entered the national consciousness.  Hot and cold just seeps in, despite our best efforts.  And what’s worse, our computers are in the only available space for them–a converted sunporch that was added on sometime after the house was built.  There are several large windows in this room.  They’re old and single-pane.  Do the math.  We have two small window units (one in our bedroom, and one in the living room behind us) and one box fan trying to push the output of the living room A/C in here.  It works reasonably well, as long as the temperature is a more normal, say, 90 degrees.  100 degrees with a heat index over 110, not so much.

And thus it was that on Thursday night, The Anvil spent three hours on Arthas with me as main tank, keeping one eye on the Lich King and one eye on the display of my Logitech G15 keyboard watching my video card temperature skyrocket, while sweating like a pig and trying to hydrate in between wipes.  Yes, I know how stupid it sounds talking about sweating my ass off while playing a video game.  Remember–I’m a fat white pasty guy, it was pushing 85F in here, and it’s the motherhumpin’ Lich King, people.  Things get a little intense even for keyboard warriors.  We did make some good progress, with some strategy adjustment on phase 2 of the fight, but we’re still getting our asses kicked by badly-placed Defiles or losing people to val’kyr.  We’re consistently getting late into phase 2, and we got to see the 40% transition a couple times.

Friday hit 101 degrees.  My wife and I ended up doing something I’m still sad about–we bailed on the raid due to the heat.  I take my raiding commitments seriously.  When I sign up, I show up, even if I don’t really want to.  But with the temperature in the room pushing the mid- to high 80s, and my video card reporting 83 degrees Celsius just while sitting looking out over the porch at Ulduar, we both knew that a couple hours of this, and we’d be not only miserable, but making serious mistakes when we tried Arthas again.  I can’t rationalize and say we did it for “the good of the raid” though.  Fact was, it was just too damn hot in here.

Now, come Saturday afternoon for the 10-man that I MT on Linedan, the temperature had not abated outside–heading for 100 again.  But since it doesn’t get really intolerable in here until about 5 or 6 pm, and the raid runs from 2 to 5, I figured I’d be able to hang in OK on our all-Arthas-all-the-time attempts.  (Side note:  I love extended lockouts.  Awesome invention, Blizz.)  So we got to work.

As you can guess from the picture up top, we got the bastard. Linedan is now, at least for a day, Linedan the Kingslayer.  (Then I’ll switch it back to Loremaster.)

We got him, in fact, despite most of us never really having gotten good looks at phase 3, the Vile Spirits phase, before.  I know that phase 2 is the hard part, and that phase 3 is easier, but still, we wiped a good 10 times in that phase before we worked out a strategy for saving me from getting my face eaten by Soul Reaper.  Once we did that?  I’m not going to say it was easy, because it wasn’t.  But our killshot wasn’t one of those nail-biting super-close shaves.  We just…got him.  Fairly smooth, no big issues.

That fight is so much easier on 10-man than on 25-man.  As are, in fact, most fights that require a lot of maneuvering.  To me it seems pretty obvious why.  You’ve got the same area of platform to drop Bad(tm) in, but 40% of the people taking up the room.  You’re less likely to get a Defile in a bad place, and if you do, you’re less likely to get somebody moving through it or standing in it and expanding it.  And yes, I’ll admit, a good chunk of us in this raid are wearing 25-man gear, and yes, having a nice big rack of ilevel 264 stuff does help compared to doing it in 251s or lower.

So now that Arthas has fallen in 10-man, I have one goal left in Wrath of the Lich King for Linedan…Kingslayer 25-man.  That’s it.  As soon as we get that, I will have accomplished everything I set out to accomplish for him in this expansion.  I called it the Four Big Titles–World Explorer, Seeker, Loremaster, Kingslayer.  Well, right now, he’s three-and-a-half out of four.  We’ll keep raiding after The Anvil drops Arthas, I’m sure of it, and our 10-man is going to start on hard modes in at least a few fights next week.  But after I get that 25-man Kingslayer title attached to Linedan’s name, everything else is just sprinkles on the cupcake, and the Cataclysm countdown begins.


Yub yub (that’s Ewok for “we won”)

The scene in the forums shortly after the announcement.

It hasn’t been a good couple of days in Panzercowland.  Last night I had to say good-bye to a long-time WoW friend who ditched their subscription due to Blizzard’s bait-and-switch on RealID, and how it would be required on the forums going forward.  Three of the Anvil’s core raiders either had pulled the trigger on cancellations or were about to.  And when I found out that Anna, one of my primary muses and the inspiration behind this blog, was bailing?  It was on like Donkey Kong, son. Trust me, Gentle Readers, I had the Mother of All RealID Rants cocked and locked to commit to electrons.  I had tankerloads of righteous indignation and a trunk full of snark mixed in with a couple of ammo belts of cusswords, fueled by a shitload of Diet Coke.  I’d driven right by Annoyed, passed the exit ramp to Pissed Off, and had the hammer down on the HOV express lanes straight into Nerdrage.

And then Blizzard CEO Mike Morhaime had to go and be all reasonable:

Hello everyone,

I’d like to take some time to speak with all of you regarding our desire to make the Blizzard forums a better place for players to discuss our games. We’ve been constantly monitoring the feedback you’ve given us, as well as internally discussing your concerns about the use of real names on our forums. As a result of those discussions, we’ve decided at this time that real names will not be required for posting on official Blizzard forums.

It’s important to note that we still remain committed to improving our forums. Our efforts are driven 100% by the desire to find ways to make our community areas more welcoming for players and encourage more constructive conversations about our games. We will still move forward with new forum features such as conversation threading, the ability to rate posts up or down, improved search functionality, and more. However, when we launch the new StarCraft II forums that include these new features, you will be posting by your StarCraft II Battle.net character name + character code, not your real name. The upgraded World of Warcraft forums with these new features will launch close to the release of Cataclysm, and also will not require your real name.

I want to make sure it’s clear that our plans for the forums are completely separate from our plans for the optional in-game Real ID system now live with World of Warcraft and launching soon with StarCraft II. We believe that the powerful communications functionality enabled by Real ID, such as cross-game and cross-realm chat, make Battle.net a great place for players to stay connected to real-life friends and family while playing Blizzard games. And of course, you’ll still be able to keep your relationships at the anonymous, character level if you so choose when you communicate with other players in game. Over time, we will continue to evolve Real ID on Battle.net to add new and exciting functionality within our games for players who decide to use the feature.

In closing, I want to point out that our connection with our community has always been and will always be extremely important to us. We strongly believe that Every Voice Matters, ( http://us.blizzard.com/en-us/company/about/mission.html ) and we feel fortunate to have a community that cares so passionately about our games. We will always appreciate the feedback and support of our players, which has been a key to Blizzard’s success from the beginning.

Mike Morhaime
CEO & Cofounder
Blizzard Entertainment

Shortly thereafter, celebrations erupted all across the known universe from Cloud City to Corusca…oh, wait, wrong game, that’s next year.

Anyway.  So what does this mean?  Well, this addresses the big immediate concerns with the proposed implementation of Starcraft II and WoW Cataclysm forum changes, namely the forced use of real names.  It sounds like they’re going to a single-userID “gamertag” style system.  That’s exactly what most of the posters in the now-locked megathread (final count:  2495 pages and almost 50,000 posts, around 5,000 of which were nuked) wanted.  Nobody (well, almost nobody) objected to the alleged reason behind the forum changes, which was to change the Blizzard forums from the electronic version of a truck stop bathroom into something a little more welcoming and friendly and a little less disease-ridden.  Removing the requirement of use of real names from the forums allays those security concerns.  It doesn’t really do all that much to clean up the forums, but Blizzard’s always had the tools to solve that–by more aggressive moderation with stiffer penalties, and the ultimate hammer for serious forum douchebaggery–repercussions to the poster’s actual WoW account.

But.  But.  Yes, a big “but,” like Jennifer Lopez’s.  This does not change anything regarding the well-known move by Activision to try and position all of Blizzard’s properties–WoW, Starcraft, and Diablo–as a “social networking experience” instead of, y’know, games. Activision CEO Bobby Kotick still gets wood every time he sees a hundred million Farmvillains cultivating their chickpeas, and he wants him somma that.  RealID still has a flaw that exposes your stored first and last name to malicious addons unless you go into Parental Controls and pretend to be your own mom to shut it off.  You still can’t fully opt out of the system.  And Mr. Morhaime explicitly left open the ability to expand RealID for “new and exciting functionality”–that’s corporate weasel-speak for “danger, Will Robinson”–in the future.  (The only thing worse than “new and exciting” in weaselspeak is “rich content.”  You hear that, run.)

So here is where we, the WoW playerbase, have to take our victory here and not rest on our virtual laurels.  Be vigilant.  The next time you see the Terms of Service or the EULA pop up, read them.  Don’t just scroll down and click “OK.”  Go dig around on Blizzard’s website and actually read stuff like the Privacy Policy; if you had, you would’ve seen that information on the RealID interface with the forums was actually added on June 30, six days before it was publicly announced.

More importantly, it shows that despite the somewhat unwelcome intrusion of the Activision “social networking” crowd into our little World of Warcraft, Blizzard does still listen.  It took a revolt bigger than all other class nerf revolts combined to make them come around, but hell, it worked, didn’t it?  Continue to make your opinions heard.  If you’re like those of us who don’t want WoW to turn into World of Mafiavillecraft, voice your feelings.  Stay involved.  Don’t think that it’s over, folks.  Like modern Hollywood, we may have had a happy ending here, but there’s always a sequel.

Quite honestly, I had a rather simple trust with Blizzard.  I pay them $15 a month, they give me a good game and let me go kill INTERNET DRAGONS all I want.  For five and a half years, that worked well.  But with this proposed bait-and-switch with RealID–and there’s no other word for it, guys, when RealID goes in one month from “share your RL name with just your closest friends!” to “you have to show your name on all you post on all our forums”–that trust is shattered forever.  I will continue to pay Blizzard that $15 a month, and as soon as I can afford it, I’m going to buy that windrider plushie I’ve had my eye on for a while.  (Shut up.  It’s cute.)  But rest assured that I will never take anything they say at simple face value ever again, and nor should you.  With their claim that “this is just to de-troll the forums!1!”, they insulted my intelligence.  I don’t like that.

Trust, but verify.  Actually, for now, I’ll settle for “verify.”


RealIDiocy

I’m older than most gamers, even most WoW gamers.  I’ve seen a lot of stupid in my time.  I’ve seen pre-Internet stupid, back when you actually had to go out and be in the physical vicinity of people to be stupid, instead of taping your stupid and putting it up on Youtube and getting a million views and becoming an instant celebrity, like the Paris Hilton of stupid.  (But I repeat myself.)

So when I see stupid that’s I think so incredible, so earth-shattering, so epic as to be a veritable Stupidomourne, you know that it’s really, really stupid.

And it wasn’t done by some random PUG moron.  Nope.  This stupid could only come from the mothership itself…Blizzard:

Recently, we introduced our new Real ID feature – http://www.battle.net/realid/ , a new way to stay connected with your friends on the new Battle.net. Today, we wanted to give you a heads up about our plans for Real ID on our official forums, discuss the design philosophy behind the changes we’re making, and give you a first look at some of the new features we’re adding to the forums to help improve the quality of conversations and make the forums an even more enjoyable place for players to visit.

The first and most significant change is that in the near future, anyone posting or replying to a post on official Blizzard forums will be doing so using their Real ID — that is, their real-life first and last name — with the option to also display the name of their primary in-game character alongside it. These changes will go into effect on all StarCraft II forums with the launch of the new community site prior to the July 27 release of the game, with the World of Warcraft site and forums following suit near the launch of Cataclysm. The classic Battle.net forums, including those for Diablo II and Warcraft III, will be moving to a new legacy forum section with the release of the StarCraft II community site and at that time will also transition to using Real ID for posting.

The official forums have always been a great place to discuss the latest info on our games, offer ideas and suggestions, and share experiences with other players — however, the forums have also earned a reputation as a place where flame wars, trolling, and other unpleasantness run wild. Removing the veil of anonymity typical to online dialogue will contribute to a more positive forum environment, promote constructive conversations, and connect the Blizzard community in ways they haven’t been connected before. With this change, you’ll see blue posters (i.e. Blizzard employees) posting by their real first and last names on our forums as well.

With the launch of the new Battle.net, it’s important to us to create a new and different kind of online gaming environment — one that’s highly social, and which provides an ideal place for gamers to form long-lasting, meaningful relationships. All of our design decisions surrounding Real ID — including these forum changes — have been made with this goal in mind.

We’ve given a great deal of consideration to the design of Real ID as a company, as gamers, and as enthusiastic users of the various online-gaming, communication, and social-networking services that have become available in recent years. As these services have become more and more popular, gamers have become part of an increasingly connected and intimate global community – friendships are much more easily forged across long distances, and at conventions like PAX or our own BlizzCon, we’ve seen first-hand how gamers who may have never actually met in person have formed meaningful real-life relationships across borders and oceans. As the way gamers interact with one another continues to evolve, our goal is to ensure Battle.net is equipped to handle the ever-changing social-gaming experience for years to come.

So here’s the TL;DR version:  When Cataclysm drops, the wretched hive of scum and villainy that is the WoW forums will be reborn in a format that will require you to display the first and last name hooked to your battle.net account.  Displaying the name of your “primary in-game character,” however that’s chosen, is optional.

How in hell could anybody think this is a good idea?  True, I have to release the name hooked to my RealID account if I want to RealID friend somebody, but that is a voluntary commitment on my part, and only those people I want to see it will see it.  With this change, if I want to post on the forums, everybody on the forums will have the chance to see my real name.  My only choices according to Blizzard?  Post, and reveal my real name; or “opt-out” by not posting.  There is no option to use a “gamertag” or hide your name.  Post with real name, or don’t post.  That’s it.

Guess which option a loud and pissed-off majority of the posters on that thread are going to take?  The original thread I linked is over twelve hundred pages–pages, people, not posts, pages–and still expanding at the rate of roughly one new comment every three seconds.  And of the thirty or forty pages I skimmed through, comments are running about 95-5 against requiring real names on the forums.

See, this change is not going to magically turn the forums into Happy Unicorn Land no matter what the Irvine Mothership says.  Newsflash to Blizzard:  Forum trolls are forum trolls because they just don’t care about productively contributing to the discussion.  Most of them don’t really care if you know their real names because they know decent people aren’t going to go to the trouble to harass them.  What this change will do is run off the productive, polite, helpful posters who don’t want Little Johnny Dickhead to know their real name and start digging around on Google or Facebook.  Grats Blizzard.  You’re trying to fix your blighted wasteland forums by dropping a neutron bomb on the people keeping the barbarian hordes at bay.

Oh, but it gets better.  Imagine you are a female gamer.  Doesn’t matter if all your toons are male and nobody knows you’re ZOMG A GURL because you never get on Ventrilo.  If you post on the forums, there it is, “Stephanie Gamergrrl,” out there for everyone to see.  And here come the creeps on your server out of the woodwork.  Don’t believe me?  Find a female WoW acquaintance and ask her if she’s ever had a problem with being sexually harassed.  You’d be surprised how high a percentage of “yes” answers you’ll get.  And it doesn’t have to be female gamers that have trouble.  What does trade chat look like on your server?  Cesspool, right?  Racist occasionally in between the [Anal] jokes, I’d imagine.  Now imagine posting on your realm forums as Hu Lao or Abdul Amnar or…you get the idea.

Ever tried to look for a job?  Employers routinely Google interviewees’ names nowadays as part of background checking.  Would you want a prospective boss to see your in-depth twelve-paragraph post on warlock theorycrafting and think, “he probably did that at work, we don’t want him here?”

“So,” you’re saying, “all you have to do is not post on the forums, and there’s no problem!”  Yes.  Ever tried to call Blizzard to get technical support?  They tell you to post on the forums.  What if you want to give Blizzard feedback on a class feature, or maybe you want to get on the PTR and help test a patch and file a bug report.  While they aren’t necessary to enjoy World of Warcraft, Blizzard’s forums are active for a reason.  They’re useful. And now Big Blue is giving you a choice, either put your name out there for everyone to see, or withdraw from contributing to that useful community.

The more I think about this, the madder I get.  Not out of any particular personal sense of violation; I have a very generic name and really don’t hide it that much anyway, so I personally would not be hugely worried.  This isn’t about me.  It’s about the fact that they’re taking what we in the medical IT biz call “Personally Identifiable Information”–your name–and forcing you to put it out there publicly in order to use their forums.

So is this it?  I’m not so sure.  Ever since Activision took Blizzard over, they’ve become very enamored of the whole “social gaming” buzz and microtransactions.  They’re already integrating battle.net with Facebook (which should’ve been a clear warning that something privacy-shattering like this was coming).  Their statement above is full of “social” references.  It seems obvious that Activision wants to take battle.net beyond what it is now and into the realm of a Steam or Xbox/Windows Live, and maybe even beyond that.

What I think they’re forgetting is that many–maybe most–of us signed up for World of Warcraft not giving a flying damn about a “social networking experience.”  What we want is a game.  A game where we can ditch the real world for a few hours and go pretend we’re a giant plate-clad Sioux minotaur or a slinky elven vixen, a stout dwarf or a demon-consorting warlock of unimagined power.  Maybe we don’t want the world to know that Leggomyeggolas the mighty hunter is actually Johnny Snarfle, pimply-faced checkout boy at Target.

This is the World of Warcraft, Activision.  It is not the World of Farmville.  You forget that at your peril.

(A number of folks around the WoWosphere have deconstructed this a lot better than I just did.  Be sure to check out Spinks, Larisa, Chas at Righteous Orbs, and Anna at Too Many Annas just for starters.)


Hey, look over there, it’s a Panzercow

Um, so…hi.

Yes, I’ve been a bad cow, running off and disappearing like this for over a month.  But I meant well, see.  I’ve had a So You Want to Be a Prot Warrior post on tanking attitude working for, eh, two weeks now.  And working.  And working.

Writer’s block and burnout, Dear Reader, are a bitch.  By their powers combined, they make Captain Badblog.

Anyway.  With the realization that I need to get something out here to prove that I still exist or people will just write me off as yet another MIA in the Blog Wars, here’s some quick updates from Panzercowville, in lieu of a post that’s actually, y’know, useful.

Raiding is going quite well.  No, The Anvil hasn’t made the Lich King our Bitch King just yet, but we have knocked down everything else in Icecrown Citadel on 25-man normal, and with Hellscream’s Buff of Pity moving to Rank 5 (25%) this week, we should be that much closer to becoming Kingslayers.  That’s a fight that sheer DPS, while always useful, isn’t the key on, though.  Execution, val’kyr control, spreading out for Defiles, handling diseases…all of those are things we’re working on.  We’ll get him.  It might be a few weeks yet, but we’ll get him.  The 10-man I tank on Saturday afternoons is actually in the exact same place, working on Arthas after having the rest of the instance on farm.

My Alliance-side guild, the Wildfire Riders, is doing some excellent collaborative fiction work around the death of the Lich King.  The crew at WTT:RP has some more information on it.  Now since Beltar has only been in ICC one time, and only up to Deathbringer Saurfang then, I’m still not sure if I’m going to participate or not.  They may have some stuff to do outside, but it just doesn’t seem right to me to claim “yeah, I helped punk Arthas” when in reality, he doesn’t have Kingslayer and will almost certainly never get it due to lack of a regular raid and time constraints.

In general I find myself at an odd place with WoW right now.  For the first time in a year, I don’t feel like I’m at a place where I have to get online on non-raid nights and grind things.  Yes, I could always use more Emblems of Frost to trick out Linedan’s DPS gear–his average ilevel in tank gear is 260ish compared to barely 250 in DPS gear–but I pick up so many badges during a raid weekend, with Linedan all but clearing Icecrown twice, a few more from daily randoms seems like a drop in the bucket.

I could pimp my alts out further but…why?  I don’t have the time or energy to devote more than nine hours/three days a week to raiding on a regular basis.  All of them should already be geared enough to survive and level when Cataclysm comes out.  I’ll get Latisha to 80 but what then, do I go through the expense of getting her crafted gear to tank heroics and then have to deal with doucheburgers going “wtf” and bailing when they see a tank with 23k health, as happens now?

I should be roleplaying more.  I know I should.  But roleplaying done right–at least for a severe introvert and naturally shy person like me–takes a lot of mental energy and focus.  I don’t have that focus as often as I should these days.  A full-time job (that’s ramping up into a hellacious July and August round of work) and a rambunctious four-year-old suck most of it away.  I don’t know if there’s a physical aspect to it or not…I am type 2 diabetic, and I don’t take enough care with what I eat, and I wonder if this is what fuzzes me out sometimes.   This doesn’t mean I don’t like to RP…on those occasions where I can actually get my brain to cooperate and let me get into it, I have awesome times with my friends on both factions.  That lack of ability to concentrate, by the way, is the primary reason there’s been no posts on Achtung Panzercow for thirty-four days or so.  I just haven’t been able to get my head unstuck from the mental mud bog to write good stuff, and if I can’t write good stuff, I’d rather not write at all.

So this has left me a bit tired of WoW.  I hesitate to say “burned out,” because I don’t think it’s quite that bad…yet.  What it’s done is left me looking at a few other things as my playtime has slid back.  I still noodle around in EVE Online, though not as often as I probably should.  (I have a carebear miner guy named Ellison French as my only EVE character.)  I reactivated my Star Trek Online subscription, and at this point, the odds of that lasting another month are about 50/50.  It’s still a bit grindy for my tastes, and honestly, as a guy who does software QA for a living, the ridiculous number of simple glitches and misspellings that litter the game just bother me.

And just to make matters worse…I noodled around Steam last Saturday and much to the detriment of my checking account, I saw where they were having a massive sale on EA games…specifically that day, Mass Effect.  I’d played my wife’s copy of Mass Effect through once, and always wanted a copy of my own.  Well, I couldn’t turn down Mass Effect for $4.99 and Mass Effect 2 for $23.99.  And on top of that, on Father’s Day, my lovely wife gave me a copy of Bioshock 2.  And on top of that, I still haven’t finished Dragon Age:  Origins yet–I’ve had Linedan Cousland sitting halfway down the Deep Roads for months now.  So I’m single-player-gamed to a fare-thee-well for the foreseeable future.

So, about the blog?  It’s not going anywhere.  Updates may be slow, or they may not necessarily be about WoW.  I may branch out and talk about other games and other things, and if I do, I hope nobody minds.  If you do, I’m sorry, but Achtung Panzercow’s my personal space to rant and babble, and I never said that it was going to be only about World of Warcraft.  I’ve got some more So You Want to Be a Prot Warrior ideas forming, all I need to do is see if I can winch myself out of the doldrums and actually commit them to electrons.

I love blogging.  I love all of you that read it.  No, seriously, I know that sounds like a silly thing to say, but never, in my wildest dreams in December 2008 when I started this thing, could I have imagined that I’d be sitting here, a year and a half later, with almost 175,000 total pageviews, or that I’d get linked by wow.com several times, or that I’d have emails from people profusely thanking me for writing warrior guides that helped them become good tanks.  There’s no way I’m giving that up.  I’m too selfish, what can I say.  I guess it means that I’m doing something right, for certain values of “right.”  Or if I’m doing them wrong, at least I’m being entertaining all the while.

Peace out, gang.  I’ll be back.  Life’s not getting rid of me that easy.  After all, I have played a warrior for almost five and a half years now, and that means if nothing else, I’m one stubborn bastard.


Linedan’s Top Ten Predictions for Cataclysm

And now, live from the home office in Red Cloud Mesa, it’s the Panzercow’s own Top Ten Predictions for Cataclysm…

10.  There will be a troll city in Cataclysm.  It will be named “Zul’Masharekinababa,” which is Old Trollish for “sweet zombie Jesus, NOT ANOTHER ONE!”

9.  Concerned about losing his macho appearance as he ages, King Varian Wrynn will go to Gadgetzan for plastic surgery…which goes horribly wrong and leaves him with pectoral muscles on his chin.  Strangely, he doesn’t seem to mind.

8.  After Horde characters unlock certain phasing in Orgrimmar, they will see Basic Campfire attempt a coup d’etat and try to dethrone Garrosh Hellscream as Warchief.  There will be several exciting quests to assist the usurper, culminating in Garrosh being banished back to Garadar, where he will resume sitting in the dirt, listening to Simple Plan, and cutting himself while writing orcish love poetry.

7.  There will be an NPC in Gilneas with some play on “Snoop Doggy Dogg” as a name, there to film a production of Gilneas:  Furries Gone Wild.

6.  Azeroth will suffer a massive economic crisis when it is announced that the Steamwheedle Cartel has defaulted on its purchase of Icecrown Citadel and its attempts to turn it into a theme park called “Arthasland.”

5.  Speaking of Icecrown, with the Lich King dead, Tirion Fordring will retire as Highlord of the Argent Crusade and return to his simple life along the Thondrodil River as a thirteen-foot-tall hermit farmer.

4.  In order to expand WoW’s appeal even further, Blizzard will announce that Deathwing will be voiced by Justin Bieber.  One million tween girls immediately subscribe and flood existing endgame raids looking for DPS spots as hunters, all with white cat pets named “Iluvjustin.”

3.  The shock announcement that the World of Warcraft client will run on the iPad is marred by Steve Jobs’ sudden reversal on the deal.  When pressed for an explanation, he points to a paladin’s toolbar and exclaims that something called “Flash of Light” will never be allowed to run on his platform.

2.  After five years, the bridge outside of Lakeshire will finally be completed.  As King Varian Wrynn is about to declare the Bolvar Fordragon Memorial Bridge open for traffic, Deathwing appears and destroys it again.  That poor bastard who’s been hammering on the thing since release throws himself into the lake and drowns.

And the number one prediction for Cataclysm:

1.  Headlines across Azeroth scream:  GHOSTCRAWLER AND JAINA PROUDMOORE CAUGHT ON CAMERA IN EXCLUSIVE HINTERLANDS LOVE NEST; THRALL SAID TO BE SHATTERED


The Latisha Experiment, Update #3

I'm not overcompensating for anything. I'm too busy trying not to fall over to worry about overcompensating.

I’ll admit, I’ve been slack about reporting on the progress of the Latisha Experiment–my attempt to use my own So You Want To Be A Prot Warrior guides to level a Prot warrior all the way from 1 to 80.  That’s largely because I’ve been slack about leveling her in the first place.  Latisha, sad to say, is not yet 80.  She is 75, but on the upside, she’s a veteran of the Wrathgate, is mostly done with Dragonblight outside of a couple of the dragonshrines and group quests that I’m not worrying about for now due to lack of help, and best of all, is getting xp at a solid clip from a mixture of questing and random dungeons.

Now, this is where I admit I’ve disregarded my own advice in her spec, just a little.  I’ve swapped her spec to be more like Linedan’s…x/3/53 instead of the x/5/51 I originally stated in the SYWTBAPW guides.  See, as I was leveling her, I skipped Vigilance, because I started her before the LFD system, and she didn’t get many chances to tank.  Likewise, it was quicker through the old world and Outland to just quest and grind along.  But now in her 70s in Northrend, she can take advantage of the near-instant queue times that even normal-dungeon tanks get.  So I decided to tweak her spec to be more “tanky” as opposed to “grindy”.  This involved dropping the two points out of Cruelty in the Fury tree, picking up Vigilance, and basically setting her Prot side up to be a carbon copy of Linedan, who is himself fairly cookie-cutter.  There really isn’t that much difference performance-wise between 15/5/51 and 15/3/53 Prot specs right now, but the two extra points over in the Prot tree allow for a little flexibility–in my case, that usually means two more points into Shield Specialization.  Right now, she is 10/3/53, with her last five talent points going to fill out Impale and Deep Wounds in Arms.  I also picked up a Glyph of Cleaving in her second major slot, which is a big help in tanking instances.

Gear-wise, she’s better than I expected she’d be at this point.  She’s got a few pieces to swap back and forth for questing versus tanking.  With her “tank” set in place, she’s got 464 defense at level 75, reasonable avoidance, and about 14.5k health.  So far, it’s been enough to tank any normal instance up through Drak’theron Keep without too much trouble.  I’ve actually been surprised by how well she can hold agro with a level-appropriate group against even large groups of trash.  Having a few years of experience on another Prot warrior helps, of course, but she is proving to be a very competent tank.  I just make sure I go back to the AH every so often and keep an eye out for crafted pieces like cobalt, or later on, saronite.

Tanking normal random PUGs is refreshing, in a way.  I rarely tank heroic PUGs on Linedan anymore.  I use them to practice his Fury spec…and quite honestly, after raid tanking two or three nights a week, I’m happily content to find something to do around the house during the 13-15 minute wait as DPS, and then just merrily roflcowpter my way through an instance as Fury.  Tanking heroics, at this stage in the game where Lin needs nothing more than Frost badges, is just usually not worth dealing with the durpdurp.  But Latisha has to tank…I haven’t bought dual-spec on her yet, and don’t plan to right away, since I save her money for prowling for upgrades on the AH.

So we know heroic PUGs are all about the “gogogogogo,” where nobody talks, tanks pull before everybody’s zoned in, any thought of strategy or skill goes out the window and it’s a straight-up bulldoze toward the end boss at the highest possible speed so everybody gets their two frost badges and gets on with their lives, right?  Well, normal PUGs can be a totally different animal.  I’m on my seventh character over level 70, so I have a bad case of “been there done that”–and I’m surprised at the number of people in normal PUGs who are setting foot inside Utgarde Keep or the Nexus for the very first time ever.  People actually talk.  They apologize when they make a mistake instead of screaming at somebody else.  They make jokes and are even *gasp* social.  Pacing is slower.  There is occasionally even…wait for it…crowd control. Running Drak’theron Keep with a 75 tank and four 74s in the party is a far cry from steamrolling it with five 80s in T9 or T10 gear, that’s for sure.  And I really like it.

Of course, sometimes she does get groups like the one with the two level 80 death nuggets who would’ve had no trouble running it on heroic.  (Tanking for DKs doing 3k dps, at level 75…not fun.)  Or the one with the 74 rogue who did 250 dps for the entire run because she was alternately working up her gun skill and her sword skill…and attacking mobs from the front while doing it.  But for every one of those, there’s been at least one where everybody is pleasant, we move at a nice steady pace, nobody loses their cookies when we wipe, and we have a fun time doing the instances the way Blizzard intended them to be done originally.  It really is a nice change from the typical heroic PUG.

I’ve had people tell me I must be crazy for leveling a second Prot warrior.  Why?  I have a character who, while she doesn’t kill things at breakneck speed, kills them quickly enough to quest efficiently, has tremendous survivability, gets into randoms almost instantly, has a fairly interesting backstory even though I haven’t had a chance to RP much with her yet, and, best of all, uses a playstyle that I’m already fairly good at.  Yeah.  I’m crazy.  Like a fox, baby.


And the veil was torn

(Hi.  This post originally linked to the WoW Cataclysm Friends and Family alpha screenshot content posted on MMO Champion in early May.  Blizzard asked MMO-C to take down the content as it violated the non-disclosure agreement.  MMO-C promptly complied.  Since the content that I linked to and referred to is gone, I’ve gone to the Joseph Stalin One-Hour Photo Retouching Studio and I’ve removed that section of this post.  I’ve left the section below intact, because it discusses my views on alphas and betas in general and how people–me included–sometimes overreact about things that are still very much in flux.  Also, if you are one of the lucky bastards that is actually in the alpha, remember, you’re under an NDA.  No spoilers here plox.  Thank you.)

Now.  You’ll notice all I’ve done is talk in general (albeit gushing) terms about how good it looks.  I haven’t said word one about the other stuff that got leaked–new items, new enchants, even new talent calculators.

And I won’t.

Why?  Because this stuff will change.  It always does.  This is frigging alpha, people.  Do you remember what the Wrath of the Lich King talent calculators looked like in alpha, and what they looked like on release day?  MASSIVE changes.  Numbers will be tweaked, talents will appear and move and disappear, spells will be buffed and nerfed again and again and again based on internal and external playtesting and feedback.  Why are you going to get your panties wadded up over an “underpowered” or “overpowered” talent that stands a damn good chance of not even being in the game when you finally get in line for that midnight release party?  Do not lose your cookies over anything you see there.  Blizzard has already given us their general pathways for our classes, and some specifics, in the class previews.  Go with that for now, and don’t stroke out over incomplete alpha talent calculators.

And finally, a thought.  The Cataclysm “friends and family” alpha is, supposedly, under a non-disclosure agreement (NDA) of some sort.  Well, we see how well that worked, right?  Two days in and already we have this immense flood of hundreds of screenshots and tons of detail information ripped right out of the alpha…and it’s generating huge buzz all over the WoW community.  So if you’re one of the Powers That Be at the Blizzard Mothership back in Irvine, how do you feel right now?  Are you pissed off that the NDA got so flagrantly violated?  Or are you pleased with the crazy fever-pitch intensity of the glee people have at seeing this stuff?  Or perhaps some of both?


Blue bars are important…one in particular

Here’s a little message from me, your friendly neighborhood Panzercow, to all you other tanks out there currently doing heroic PUGs:

Check your healer’s mana before you pull.

A lot of you are probably saying, “well, durrrrrr, Panzercow,” right now.  Yeah, it does seem pretty obvious, doesn’t it?  But sometimes people miss even the obvious.  When I was sixteen, I looked right at a pickup truck, didn’t “see” it, and then pulled out into an intersection directly in front of it and wound up shifting the front end of my car a foot to the right.  You’d be surprised how often the “obvious” isn’t to some people.

This got brought home to me last night.  I was on my dwarf hunter doing a random, and the Wheel of Suck came up Halls of Stone.  We had a dwarf death nugget as our tank–yes, apparently, they do actually exist!  He asked us “long or short run?”, by which I assumed he wanted to know whether we cared about Krystallus and Attack of the Fifty-Foot Tall Emo Woman.  We didn’t.

And off he went, in classic heroic PUG fashion…straight ahead, pull pull pull, no time to even loot.  Things were pretty uneventful, but as we got to the area leading up to Brann, I noticed that the healer, a holy priest, didn’t have much blue in her blue bar.  And then she said, in party chat (and obviously macroed), something like “Please do not pull, I need mana!”

He pulled.  She got a sip or two out of her Honeymint Tea, and then had to go back to healing the DK.  By the time the fight ended, she was at around 10 to 15% mana.  She said in party chat again, “Please do not pull, I need mana!”

He pulled the first two constructs in Brann’s room.

At which point, by one of those wonderful hivemind happenstances that pop up occasionally, we all just stood there and watched him die.  It did take a while, I’ll give him that.

Then we ate the wipe.

As we were heading back in, here’s what the conversation looked like:

DK tank:  wtf

me:  Healer told you twice they were out of mana and you pulled, that’s wtf

DK tank:  i don’t read chat

me:  …

Yes, you read that right, kids.  “i don’t read chat.”  Well, tell me something there, Captain Speedpull, do you look at blue bars, your healer’s in particular?  You don’t need things like, I don’t know, literacy to be able to look at your party frames and see that the healer doesn’t have much in the tank to keep your ass alive, now do you?  (Then again, considering right as we pulled Sjonnir, he typed “i <3 wEED LOL”, there may have been another reason…)

It always amazes me that PUGs, when it comes to stuff like this, are much like the corporate world that I spend 40+ hours a week in.  There’s never time to do something right, but somehow there’s always twice as much time to do it over when it gets cocked up.  The priest would’ve been mana’d back up in twenty seconds, and we could’ve moved on with our run.  You could’ve done what PUG tanks generally seem to do in those twenty-second pauses, and randomly bounced around, or inspected everybody, or whatever.  Instead, Mr. Ants in his Pants put his blinders on, said “DAAAAAH GOTTA KEEP PULLIN’ GEORGE,” and ended up wiping us and costing us five minutes to recover and several gold in repairs.  Contrary to what some people may think nowadays, yes, it is possible to go too fast in a heroic.  This was proof.

So tanks, please.  Yes, the chances are very good that your healer will never need you to stop.  Most healers in random heroic groups nowadays never seem to run below 75% mana, ever.  Hell, it’s the healers more than anyone else that are doing the “GOGOGOGOGOGO” that annoys me so much.  But do not assume your healer can do that. You may be paired with an undergeared or inexperienced healer.  Always check before the next pull, and if your healer’s mana is low, for the love of all that’s holy, wait. A few seconds’ pause every now and then so everybody can get mana’d back up for the next frantic stretch is not going to kill you.  If everybody’s good, then pull fast and pull big.  But never, never assume.


The spring of our discontent?

Well, things in the WoWosphere certainly look like they’re entering coasting mode, don’t they?  I mean, they are for me.  Of course, my two-week absence from this here blog thang is largely due to finally getting a true non-working vacation for the first time since, uh, I got married almost nine years ago.  The wife grabbed her jewelry and Nublet, and headed off to her usual spring craft show in Georgia with a friend to help out instead of me.  Meanwhile, I stayed here in the Bunker, put a sign up on the door that said “FUCK OFF UNLESS YOU’RE DELIVERING THE PIZZA I JUST ORDERED,” and engaged in five and a half days of hardcore wholesale nothing. And that “nothing” included a sabbatical from WoW.  I even took a voluntary night off from raiding for the first time in, well, a damn long time.  After my ICC 10-man finished on Saturday afternoon, I didn’t re-enter Azeroth until this morning, to start getting ready for ICC 25 tonight.  I spent the time reveling in the silence of a house without a four-year-old in it, sleeping, getting back into EVE Online, sleeping, doing some virtual flying on Microsoft Flight Simulator, sleeping, watching way too many video clips on Youtube, pigging out, and sleeping.  And occasionally taking a nap.

Isn’t that the way things kind of feel right now in and around Azeroth?  We’re starting to hit the convergence of two things–the normal burnout-slash-holding-pattern that people seem to hit a few months before an expansion comes out…and that bane of raid leaders everywhere, summer.  Blog posts are slowing down, mine included.  More and more raids (including ours) are out there beating the bushes for people, whether for regular or sub spots, and the people just don’t seem to be as easy to find as they used to be.

The Anvil has, by my count, cancelled four out of our past seven Friday night ICC-25 runs due to lack of bodies.  A combination of these Friday problems–which will probably only get worse with summer coming on–and the time it took us to finally clear the cockblock that was Professor Putricide have greatly slowed our progress through ICC.  Right now, we’ve cleared Lower Spire and the Plagueworks, and easily one-shotted Team Edward.  Blood Queen Bella is our new challenge, one we have not yet conquered…largely because by the time we get to her on Thursday, we’re close to our hard stop time of midnight EDT, and we’re not getting regular cracks at her on Friday.  One of our component 10-mans has killed Arthas; the other, the one I tank, has cleared through Putricide and is working on the Sparkle Boys (which I don’t think is bad at all, considering that the other 10-man runs seven hours over two nights and the 10-man I tank only runs three hours on Saturdays with time carved out for the weekly).

This puts our officers into an impossible situation–do we start extending raid lockouts?  Extending the lockout would give us the time to use a Thursday night to progress through Lana’thel and Valithria, but at the same time, a lot of us still need to nom as many Emblems of Frost as we can.  In my case, it’s not so much more pieces of tank T10–I have better ilevel 264 pieces in both my remaining non-T10 slots, so I’d need a token to make getting the T10 worth it anyway.  It’s more about getting the Primordial Saronite for Pillars of Might and then possibly looking at starting to get T10 for my DPS set…or the Primordials for my Shadow’s Edge.  Our officers are going to have tough call over the next few weeks in terms of extending lockouts versus collecting badgers.  We’re trying to recruit, and having some success, but our bench is still thin, and there are so many raids now, the pool of available raiders with the proper attitude, maturity, gear, and skill is small.

What I’ve been seeing around the wider WoW blogosphere is…well, fatigue is a good way to put it.  People seem a bit bored, a bit tired, a bit snappish.  Now that we’ve seen the shiny new class previews for Cataclysm, and we’re seeing beautiful new zones pop up on Blizzard’s site every week or two, going back into Icecrown yet again to work on the same content yet again may not hold the same appeal, nor may writing about it.  There’s been blog drama popping up in places I never expected to see it.  Old standbys are closing their doors.  There’s this haze of ennui drifting around like funny smoke at a Grateful Dead show…OK, maybe nowhere near that thick, but you get the idea.

So you can say I’m a little bit concerned.  I remember how things got leading up to the release of Wrath of the Lich King.  The Anvil eventually suspended our raiding without ever killing Kael’thas, Archimonde, Illidan, or Kil’jaeden before 3.0 came out.  (Our final tally pre-3.0 was, IIRC, full clear SSC, all but Kael in TK, 3/5 Hyjal, 0/9 BT, 0/whatever Sunwell.  Post-3.0, we killed Kael easily and then went 7/9 BT in our one visit.)  That felt like a long time to be coasting, and I remember hardly logging in for good chunks of it.

I have no fear for the long-term health of the game, or the WoW blogging community, or The Anvil.  Cataclysm will bring everybody back and things will ignite to a fever pitch once again.  I know we’ll kill Arthas in 25-man someday, whether it’s before Cataclysm or after–although everybody is still dedicated to doing it beforehand, that much I know.  I just can’t help but wonder if it’s going to be a very long spring and summer in Azeroth.


The obligatory ZOMGWARRIORCHNAGES post

Yeah.  Everybody else is going to be dissecting these bad boys like a bucket of frogs in biology class, so why shouldn’t I, right?  Just remember:  half this stuff will never happen as written. Seriously.  We in the WoW playerbase have a tendency to hang on Blue Words as if they’re embossed on stone tablets, carried down the side of Mount Sinai by Moses “Ghostcrawler” Heston.  Yeah, well, read Exodus 32 sometime.  The original tablets?  They got broken. So don’t get too worked up.

That having been said, banzai, my peeps, here we go…
(more…)


Breaking bad habits

As Cataclysm draws nearer and nearer, Blizzard has been releasing information about projected class and game mechanic changes, one class at a time.  Everybody should have theirs within a few days of me posting this…except paladins, who for some reason, have to bubblehearth until April 16.  Warriors haven’t gotten ours yet got ours about three minutes after I initially hit “Publish”, dammit, but we, along with beartanks, did get some very pertinent (and interesting) information regarding rage and on-next-swing mechanic changes.  I’m not going to go digging into huge detail on those just yet–instead I’ll just refer you to Matthew Rossi’s wow.com article on the changes, and save my comments for later after the full warrior preview is released.

But still, reading those changes got me thinking about a few things…not so much nuts-and-bolts warrior and tanking things, but more general things about Cataclysm and what happens when we finally get to the 80-to-85 grind and new content.  And an incident this morning crystallized those thoughts into this blog post.

This morning, I got up at zero-dark-thirty because, with the weather the way it’s been in North Carolina this week, it’s the only time that our sunroom-converted-into-computer-room is actually tolerably cool.  I got on Linedan and ran a heroic (perfectly unexceptional, smooth Forge of Souls) and then switched over to Illithanis to do her daily heroic–she’s very close to being able to get the frost badge belt so I wanted to make sure I got hers in today.

After the obligatory 11-minute wait, what should appear but the Gundrak splash screen.  And then it happened.  Before I could run a quarter of the way down the ramp (I run down the ramp instead of jump, because, y’know, I have a freaking pet), the healy shaman is screaming at the warrior tank “rush gogogogogo.”  And so he did.  He ran into Sladran’s room and pulled all three patrolling three-snake groups before I could even get down to the doorway.

Nine and a half minutes later, we were standing over the end boss’s corpse.  In that time, nobody died, nobody said a word, nobody ever stopped, and my DPS sucked because the fights were half over before I could even get there and start firing…and forget about Misdirects, who had time?  I didn’t get a chance to loot half my mobs, and they didn’t wait for me to dismiss my pet before the two shortcut jump-downs everybody does after the Colossus and Moorabi.  It wasn’t a bad group, truth be told.  We got the job done, got our two Frost and three Triumph badges and our shards, and moved on.  But it got me to thinking…

Thinking about the bad habits that we’ve picked up in Wrath of the Lich King, especially how we run our random heroics that are all the rage these days.  Think about it.  How do your groups do heroics?  Probably the same way just about everybody else’s do.  Foot-to-the-floor, balls-to-the-wall speed runs.  The first pull probably happens so fast, the tank leaves skid marks behind like a muscle car peeling out.  From there on, it’s a mad dash through the instance like the hounds of Hell themselves are nipping at your feet, quite possibly punctuated by shouts of “gogogogogo” from random party members if the tank dares to take a second to actually, y’know, loot something to cover his repair bill.

Pulls are generally done by the tank:  (a) charging into the center of the group and spamming every AOE move he’s got; (b) running into the middle of the group and spamming every AOE move he’s got; (c) death-gripping one member of the group to him, then meeting the rest of the group halfway and spamming every AOE move he’s got, assuming the DPS hasn’t already scattered the rest of the pack to the four winds.  Most of the time, the damage is all AoE…Volley, Seed of Corruption, Blizzard, Flamestrike, Whirlwind, Cleave, Thunderstorm (grumble), insert your favorite hits-lots-of-targets button here.  Cooldowns are blown every time they’re up.  Meters are linked after not just boss fights, but some trash pulls as well.  If the tank loses agro while the mage has popped two trinkets and started firing Blizzards 0.6 seconds after entering combat, then it’s obviously the tank’s fault.  Polymorphs, Hexes, and Frost Traps, on the rare occasion they’re seen, are usually followed by “oops, wrong button.”  Healers can often be seen sneakily dropping Holy Novas and Smites in between casting heals, to avoid falling asleep at the keyboard.

Yep, kids, let’s face it…a lot of us overgear the content.  A lot. There’s only so many times that we can run Violet Hold or Gundrak before we get bored and just want to get it the hell over with, not spending one single extra second in the place because we’ve got four other alts to do random heroics on as well.  I get that.  We do it for the badges, not the challenge or the mob loot.  It’s all about speed and efficiency.  And that’s all well and good.

So what happens when, after 6+ months of speed-grinding heroics, Cataclysm drops on our heads and we head back into instances that we don’t overgear?

We saw a bit of that when the ICC five-mans came out, particularly Halls of Reflection (Pit of Saron and Forge of Souls to a lesser extent).  Those three are a good bit tougher than the older WotLK five-mans.  HoR is the only instance now where I see crowd control used at all (the rare priest shackle, usually).  Those instances gave people fits for a few weeks until even the densest PUG idiot figured out that, hey, line-of-sighting the Falric/Marwyn trash spawns actually works! And it’s OK to shackle and polymorph and frost-trap stuff, really it is!

Cataclysm has the potential to be Halls of Reflection times a lot.  Why?  Because we don’t know what sort of things Blizzard is going to do in terms of tank threat.  Right now, even warriors can generally put out enough AoE threat to handle tough multiple pulls like, say, HoR–that is, assuming the party focuses targets correctly.  What happens if we can’t?  What happens if things slide back to a more Burning Crusade-like level where some or all tank classes don’t have the massive Velcro AoE threat that they do now…and yes, fancylads, I’m looking squarely at you.  What happens if the “AoE it all down” paradigm we’ve been learning since Naxx-freaking-ramas suddenly goes right out the window and we’re back to the TBC days of “kill order is skull, X, square, sheep the moon, trap the circle, shackle the star?”  Will people be able to adapt?

Personally, I would love to see crowd control make something of a comeback, but it’s a risky strategy.  Because when you do that, you start laying restrictions down on group composition.  I’d like to see something more than “burn it” as strategy, but I also don’t want to return to “well, I’d love to do Shattered Halls, but all we can find is a warrior tank and no mages for sheeping, so we can’t.”

The “AoE is all down” strategy may be here to stay, I’m not sure.  If it is, then we’ll have to see what the changes bring for the various tank classes in Cataclysm to see if we can keep pace with DPS threat.  But while I never want to go back to the TBC days of skipping Outland heroics because they were just too damn difficult for this average warrior to tank, part of me secretly yearns to have to do a little bit more than Charge, Thunderclap, Revenge, and Cleave-spam…and make the nine-and-a-half minute brute-force “RUSH GOGOGOGO” instance a thing of the past, at least for a little while.


A little randomness never hurt

Lately, my blogging Muse seems to have deserted me.  So while I wait for her to return from wherever she’s gone off to–my guess, personally, is that she’s on a bus heading for a gambling weekend at the Harrah’s casino down near Cherokee–here’s some random and semi-coherent rantings for a Good Friday:

- 0.9% wipe on Putricide last night in The Anvil’s 25-man.  ZERO POINT NINE BLEEPING PERCENT.  Maybe 400,000 health from our first Putricide kill after weeks of trying.  That’s just brutal, especially given our track record of being short on people for Friday raids (and this week looks to be no exception).  We executed near-perfectly on him last night on all attempts, for the most part, but even with Hellscream’s New and Improved Buff of Pity, we wiped at 3% and 0.9%, among a few others.  It can get frustrating as hell when you do everything (or almost everything, as close as you’ll get with 25 people and lag and whatnot) correctly, the abomination driver noms up all the slime and keeps Putricide slashed up, nobody dies to the oozes, and come phase 3, you still can’t quite seal the deal.  And that’s the killer part–we know we own this dweeb, he just hasn’t actually fallen over and coughed up the loot yet.  We need to get The Good News Man down so we can move on to Valithria Dreamwalker, Team Edward, and Blood Queen Gaga.

- I guess the Random Dungeon Gods like me.  I haven’t had any truly bad LFD groups in a couple of weeks.  Oh, there’s always some with some durp durp here and some durp durp there, here a durp, there a durp, everywhere a durp durp, but in general, I haven’t run across any real mind-bending Stupid for a while now.  In fact, since I run almost all my randoms as DPS (yes, even on Linedan–sometimes I just can’t be arsed dealing with tanking when I’m tired), I’ve been fortunate to get a string of modestly-geared yet extremely competent tanks.  It warms my heart to see a warrior tank with 32k health do a whale of a job tanking Forge of Souls–not an easy dungeon to PUG even at Lin’s inflated gear level–and have the other four people in the group work with him, not bitch him out for being geared at the appropriate level for an ICC heroic.  Of course, the next night, I get Lin-as-Fury into a FoS group where he’s out-DPSed by the tank…a druid with 58,000 health pulling 4300 dps, while Lin did 3900.  Wow.

- Speaking of Forge of Souls…I’ve taken to random specific heroics on a few characters, in addition to random dailies.  Linedan is stacking armor penetration as part of his Fury build…hence, trips to Forge of Souls for the tasty Needle-Encrusted Scorpion.  (Irony:  Beltar, my dwarf MM hunter who isn’t stacking passive arpen?  Got the Scorpion last week.)  My blood elf BM hunter Illithanis runs one of the three ICC heroics, because there’s something for her in each one–the Scorpion from Forge, the Felglacier Bolter from Pit of Saron, or the Orca-Hunter’s Harpoon from Halls of Waves of Trash.  For RP purposes, I’d prefer to get Illy one or two swords, as they seem more “elvish” a weapon than polearms or staves, but I’m not sure where I can even find hunter-itemized 1H or (especially) 2H swords these days without raiding.  No luck on the up-gearing yet, but it’s only a matter of time, right?

- I don’t get all the BM hunter hate.  Yes, I know, BM is weak sister to marks and survival in SRS BSNS progression raiding right now.  (Although we have a BM hunter in The Anvil who is absolutely wrecking shit…and proving a few people wrong about BM and raiding, at least in our behind-the-cutting-edge way, in the process.)  Personally, I think BM as a spec is slightly harder to raid with than MM.  I’ve got limited raiding experience in both, and honestly, I’ll take the somewhat trickier shot rotation of MM over the pet micromanagement of BM if I’m looking for “easy.”  MM feels like I’m more powerful because I’m seeing these crazy large numbers spamming down the right center of my screen…then I go look at Recount, and Illithanis, with modest gear compared to Beltar, is within 500 dps of the dwarf in heroics, and pulling solid numbers on her very rare ventures into Big Round Room.  Consistently.

- Highest Revenge crit since 3.3.3:  12,294.  Oh yeah.  I think I like this.

- But not even New Revenge compares to the power that is death nuggets’ new boosted Icy Touch–or, as the Twitterati have dubbed it, Icy Dickpunch.  Moody over at Death Grip My Heart (warning:  possible NSFW artwork of hot dead blood elf chick) has a pretty good post on it.  Short version:  It’s doing up to fourteen and a half times more threat than it did pre-patch.  And I believe it.  Revenge’s high damage has boosted our threat gen considerably, but now, our raid DK tank can accidentally pull mobs off me with Icy Touch crits.  Beforehand, if I could gain the threat lead on a mob we were both tanking, like Festergut or Saurfang, I could hold it without difficulty.  Now?  I lost the handle on Saurfang twice last night because of Icy Dickpunch crits pulling him back over onto the DK immediately after a taunt.  I thought I was suddenly missing taunts, but instead, it was just good old-fashioned accidental agro pong.

- Tamarind wrote a fantastic post over at Righteous Orbs on why “casual” raiding doesn’t–or shouldn’t–mean “roll in 15 minutes late and then go AFK to pinch a loaf.”  He said it a lot better than that, of course.  He’s British.  They do that.  Say things better, I mean.  (BTW, if you are not reading Tamarind and Chastity over at RO, you should.  You’re missing out.)

That’s pretty much it from the Panzercow Bunker.  Here’s hoping my Muse catches the bus back from Harrah’s, hopefully not too broke, next week.  Have a happy Easter weekend, kids.


Serious post is serious

Well, here we are.  April 1.  April Fools’ Day.  I suppose this is the time now where I’m supposed to post some semi-plausible joke post…y’know, something like, say, “I’ve decided to move all my characters off of Feathermoon to a PvP server, change Linedan from a Tauren Prot warrior to a female human holy paladin, and rename the blog Achtung Sparklymaedchen” or some such silliness.  That wouldn’t work.  You guys know I’d go Draenei instead of human if I did that, so that wouldn’t fool anybody.

Nope.  Not me.  We Prot warriors are serious types, after all.  We hold the fate of entire raids in our large, studly, calloused hands.  We mash more buttons before 9 a.m. than prot paladins mash all day.  We don’t have time for frivolity.  We constantly train, we constantly theorycraft, we constantly prepare.  We study video of boss fights like an NFL defensive back watches game film of the opposing quarterback.  This is an awesome, crushing responsibility that we bear, and we take it very damn seriously, people.

Which is why I’ll just take today to link to this excellent explanation of the latest WoW feature Blizzard has under development.  Maybe we’ll even see it before Cataclysm!


Patch 3.3.3: Revenge of the Revenge

YO DAWG. I HEARD YOU LIKE TO REVENGE SO HERE'S SOME REVENGE SO YOU CAN REVENGE WHILE YOU REVENGE.

Yesterday, after the servers came back up and people got to start playing with patch 3.3.3, I felt a great disturbance in the Force.  No, really.  It felt as if millions of Prot warriors simultaneously hit their Revenge button…and suddenly went all Rotface and screamed “WHEEEEEEEEE!”

There was some serious giddiness around the Prot warrior side of the WoW blogosphere yesterday, and no doubt it’ll continue to today.  This is mostly because of the massive double buff that our Revenge ability received in 3.3.3.  Revenge had its damage improved by 50% anyway…and then the Improved Revenge talent was modified to remove the random stun chance, but now buffs Revenge’s damage by a further 30/60% and allows the ability to hit an adjacent target for 50/100% damage.  As I said yesterday, this makes patch 3.3.3 “Revenge of the Revenge.”

I think I can best sum up my opinion of what they did by recycling a tweet I did yesterday afternoon:

“Revenge used to hit like a truck. Now it hits like a truck towing a truck. Full of explosives. Driven by angry bears.”

Seriously.  In terms of raw, single-event damage, talented Revenge has leapt to the top of the charts.  Between these changes and the 3.3.2 damage reductions on Shield Slam, from the numbers I’m seeing in various spots around the Intertubes, Revenge is now top dog, dawg.  For some gear combinations, the change is so drastic that there’s actually talk of moving Revenge ahead of Shield Slam (including Sword and Board procs) in the Prot warrior priority system.  Veneretio espouses this in his post on the buffed Revenge.  He states test numbers of ~3800 damage on Revenge versus ~2000 damage on Shield Slam.  That’s huge.

I decided to try some informal testing of my own.  So I took Linedan out and played around with the big level 82 elite undead giants (Pustulent Horrors) that patrol the top of the Ironwall Dam in Icecrown.  They’re not hard to solo at his T9/T10 gear level, drop decent money, and have 68,000 health so the fights last long enough to get an idea of how things work.

I was surprised to find that my Shield Slams were averaging about 2800-2900 per normal hit.  My Revenges were averaging slightly over that, at around 3000.  That surprised me enough, but when I went back and thought about it, I came up with three things that put Revenge in an even better light:

  • Linedan has 4315 unbuffed attack power–that’s a bit low for his gear level.  He’s short on bonus armor (which translates to AP through Armored to the Teeth).  Revenge scales off AP; Shield Slam scales off shield block value.
  • He’s wearing two-piece T10, which provides a set bonus that boosts Shield Slam damage by 20%.
  • He only had one point in Improved Revenge, not two.  That means he was only getting a +30% damage boost to Revenge, not the full +60%.  (I have since rectified that problem by moving a point from Shield Specialization into Improved Revenge.)

And despite all that, it still scraped out higher than Shield Slam.  So it’s a no-brainer, right?  Revenge moves up in the rotation, Shield Slam goes and sits in the corner for a while.  Right?

Well, allow me to put on my best Jeremy Clarkson voice and say…not so fast.

Here’s the reasons why Shield Slam may still be better than Revenge for threat, even if it isn’t for damage:

  • Remember that Shield Slam, after patch 3.3.2, had its damage reduced but had bonus threat added.  Per folks on Tankspot, Shield Slam gets an extra 770 threat added to the damage, and then that sum is multiplied by 1.3.  Revenge doesn’t get the same bonus threat, it just gets the normal boost from being in Defensive Stance, as does Shield Slam, so that cancels out.
  • Shield Slam’s cooldown is 6 seconds compared to Revenge’s 5, but remember that Shield Slam can also come off cooldown at any time thanks to Sword and Board procs.  I have no numbers to back this up, but it wouldn’t surprise me if, factoring in SnB procs, Shield Slam’s “effective” cooldown is less than 5 seconds, meaning that’s how often you get to use it in a fight.
  • Shield Slam gets +15% crit chance thanks to Critical Block.  In fact, Revenge is one of the few big warrior heavy hitters that don’t get a +15% critical boost from either Incite, Critical Block, or Sword and Board–Heroic Strike, Shield Slam, Devastate, Thunder Clap, and Cleave all do.  Revenge doesn’t.  When you’re a tank like Lin with a base crit chance under 8%, and maybe 16.5% raid-buffed, that extra 15% is massive.

Some of the boffins over at Tankspot have been taking a few pokes at grinding out numbers, and so far, the preliminary results seem to indicate…it’s close.  Very close.  Close enough that there is no one hard-and-fast answer for whether you should prioritize Shield Slam over Revenge.  It’ll largely depend on gear (higher AP favors Revenge, higher shield block value favors Shield Slam), and whether you’re pushing for raw damage or threat.  Personally, I’m probably going to stick with Shield Slam before Revenge on Linedan due to his two-piece T10 set bonus (he’s routinely critting SS for over 10k in raids now), and the fact that I’m old and set in my ways.

One other point of interest.  These changes have revised interest in one of the weirder warrior specs that popped up initially about a year ago…the 37/2/32 (or thereabouts) Unrelenting Assault Arms/Prot hybrid.  Veneretio had an article on it last year.  The spec is designed around the Arms Unrelenting Assault talent–which reduces the cooldown of Overpower and Revenge by four seconds–so you can see why 3.3.3 has brought it out of stasis.  The ability to hit this immensely powerful buffed Revenge every single time you dodge, block, or parry, with no cooldown to speak of, is pretty tempting, and makes the spec capable of simultaneously boss-tanking and putting out high DPS.  There’s a significant cost to pay, though.  It’s horrible on trash, doesn’t work if you aren’t tanking, gives up a lot of the best Prot warrior toys (Devastate, Sword and Board, Critical Block, Shockwave), and requires a lot of avoidance to keep Revenge constantly lit up.  It doesn’t sound like a viable everyday tank spec, but for certain fights, it may be worth playing with.

There’s a bit of irony to this whole thing, at least for me as an old-school warrior who played a bit of Prot during the days of vanilla WoW.  Revenge used to be nothing but a threat ability.  The damage it did was beyond negligible.  It lit up, you hit it, you basically tickled the mob but it pissed it off that much more.  Well, five years on, we’ve gone from tickling with a feather to hitting with a cruise missile.  And I, for one, welcome our new vengeful overlords.


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