Recently I’ve had something of a yen to start playing my sorely neglected dwarf hunter Beltar. Now Beltar has finished all the Cataclysm zone and quest content, pretty much, and is walking around with a typical mixture of quest rewards and a very few dungeon pieces, giving him an ilevel of 346. That’s good enough to do normal heroics, but not good enough for patch 4.3 heroics or anything bigger than that. So if I wanted to gear him up–and improve my somewhat marginal huntarding skills in the process–there was really only one place for the grizzled old gunbunny to go.
The Dungeon Finder.
So last night I decided that it would be Dungeon Finder night. I would queue and queue and queue again in LFD. Normally I avoid LFD like I’d avoid, say, a glass-shard lollipop drizzled in Ebola and tetanus. But that’s as a tank on Linedan. I figured, with gearing to the point where normal Cataclysm heroics are starting to approach faceroll status, a semi-competent knowledge of Basic Marks Huntering 101, and 340-level gear, I could hold my own, work on improving my rotations and DPS, pick up the Ramkahen rep I need to hit Exalted and get the +agi head enchant, and score at least one piece of loot.
I don’t know when I turned into such a raving optimist. I really don’t.
So with his Harkoa-cat Longpaw by his side and his newly transmogged gun-that’s-actually-a-crossbow cocked and locked, I hit “I”, clicked “Enter Queue,” waited 10 minutes, and set off on my adventure…
First dungeon: Blackrock Caverns. It set the tone for how the rest of the evening would go that the poor DK tank couldn’t hold agro on anything, even with my Misdirects, from a geared and aggressive mage. (He wasn’t trying to be a jerk, he was just putting out a lot of pain.) We wiped on Rom’ogg Bonecrusher but got him on the second try after I stupidly ate a Skullcracker and died. Then when we were heading down to Corla, we shortcut down the rough ground to the left instead of going down the ramp to the right. Guess which way Longpaw went and brought some friends? Yeah. Stupid cat + stupid hunter = fail. After the wipe, I dropped group to save them the trouble of votekicking me over it.
Second dungeon: Deadmines. I cringed when I saw this one. I always hated tanking heroic DM. Fortunately we had a monster of a tank, a death nugget with over 200,000 health that was simultaneously doing over 16,000 DPS. (I’m fine. Really. That totally didn’t rekindle my deep-seated hatred of DK tanks who can top the DPS charts while tanking. At all.) We started off, of course, at “gogogogogo” pace, the tank not even waiting for the healer to be in line-of-sight to do pulls because, hey, he’s a DK with over 200k health, he can do that. Everything was going pretty well and I was starting to get into something resembling a groove–even though the healer dropped without a word in mid-trash-pull after we killed Helix. The DK survived because, hey, he’s a DK with over 200k health, he can do that. Then we got to the Foe Reaper 5000.
We wiped on him the first time because nobody got into the Prototype Reaper to handle the Molten Slag adds. The tank linked the Recount from the fight…because, hey, he’s a DK with over 200k health, he can do that. The healer dropped without a word, as did the tank. We got another tank, a warrior, who promptly pulled FR5000 while the mage and myself were standing around the Prototype Reaver at the top of the room. Again, nobody got into the Reaver and we died. The warrior asks “wtf have any of you done this before?” As it turns out? The mage hadn’t seen the instance before. Everybody else but me and him instantly drop.
Third dungeon: Deadmines again, because the RNG is laughing at me. This time, the tank was a feral druid, and he was even healthier (207k!) and better than the previous run’s death nugget. And he pulled even faster. Healer around the corner? Didn’t matter, he was a BARE STORNG 4 FITE. And truly, it didn’t. We demolished our way up to Foe Reaper again. And again, on the first attempt, nobody got in the damn Prototype and we wiped.
On the second attempt, this time, I got in the Prototype. I had never done it before and had no clue what to do, but fortunately, Rashona the Aggrokitty was at her computer next to me and talked me through it. I did a truly shitty job of Molten Slag control, but we got FR5000 down. Somehow.
We moved on, and got to Ripsnarl. We dropped him and he dropped his two-handed agility axe, Rockslicer. Now Beltar is still using the blue ilevel 318 polearm quest reward from Deepholm, so that axe would’ve been a nice upgrade, the first I’d seen in the heroic runs. So I rolled Need.
So did the fury warrior.
Oh, and on Vanessa? I missed the rope on the first rope phase, fell off the boat, walked through fire, swam around, and got back up top just in time for her to die, greeted by a chorus of “lol” and “wtf” from my teammates. But at least I finally finished a heroic and got my 150 Valor Points.
Fourth dungeon: Once more into the durp, dear friends, and this time, it was Stonecore. Cool, I thought, I never did finish off the quest to kill the end boss in there. Unfortunately, I realized quickly that this wasn’t going to be a full instance run, because when I blipped in, I saw myself staring at Ozruk, along with two DPS. We picked up another healer and a high-health feral tank, and pulled.
The tank promptly faced Ozruk toward us at point-blank range with us penned into a corner. Ozruk then Ground Slammed before we could find a clear spot and killed both me and the healer, and the rest of the group wiped shortly after. The tank yelled at us “wtf does nobody know how to play wow anymore” and dropped group. (Obviously, that was a rhetorical question on his part.) So did one of the DPS.
We got a replacement DPS and another tank, a paladin this time, and even though the pally had much less health than the bear, his tank job on Ozruk was absolutely perfect. Ozruk and Azil fell easily and for the second time I got myself 150 sweet tasty Valor Points. We did so well, in fact, that we requeued as a group save the healer. Things were finally starting to look up!
Fifth dungeon: Lost City of the Tol’vir. Excellent, another dungeon that I had a leftover quest in (Oathsworn Captains). The run started off completely uneventful. We killed the first boss without issue. Then we hit the trash pack after the boss. The tank immediately keeled over. We wiped. The healer dropped without a word, as did the tank, and the group fell apart.
Sixth dungeon: Grim Batol. Fun times. With our DK tank in the lead, we set off and proceed to have a fairly uneventful run…until after the second boss. Then the healer, who had been catching a bit of flak from the tank, drops and we pick up another. We keep going and then we get to the third boss, Dragha Shadowburner.
We ended up winning, but the fight didn’t go well. Our fury warrior died, got battle-rezzed, and died again. The fight seemed to take absolutely forever compared to the other times I’ve done it. And then after the fight, the tank went nuts. He linked the Recount for the fight, showing him doing 11k dps, me doing 10k, the fury warrior doing 8k, and the lock doing 6k. He started berating the warrior, testing the limits of the profanity filter in a way that’d make R. Lee Ermey sit up and take notice. He screamed at the fury warrior for dying twice (the warrior said he was hung over), then screamed at the warlock for only doing about 6k dps on the fight. The lock dropped group. Then the tank said “votekick plz.”
And I found myself standing in a field in Western Plaguelands where I’d been doing archeology when the queue popped.
I got votekicked.
For doing more DPS on a boss fight than the other two DPS.
At which point, I said “fuck it,” went back to Stormwind, hung out in the Pig and Whistle, RP’d with a few of the Wildfire Riders, and got Beltar shitfaced. (See picture above.)
And thus ended my evening of dungeoning. The final totals?
Six instances. Two completed (one partial). 300 Valor Points. Around 600 Justice Points. About 7,000 Ramkahen rep. 120 gold in repair bills from all the wipes. One piece of greed loot (an agi sword) that I can use as RP gear and nothing else. And 25 points in Archeology in between queue pops.
So what did I learn from my three hours of sheer heroic hell?
1. I have the worst luck in the universe. This isn’t new, I’ve known this since my D&D days, where it was a complete certainty that if I needed a good dice roll–as player or DM, didn’t matter–I wouldn’t get it. I was the Master of the Badly-Timed Fumble. My dice logged a lot of frequent flyer miles after being thrown through the air in frustration. Rashona, who runs LFD almost every day on one of her immense stable of alts, was boggled at the run of bad groups I had. She has issues in LFD, who doesn’t? But never that many, that fast.
2. I’m not a very good hunter. I need to get better. People are telling me that the 10-11k DPS range I typically do is low for Beltar’s level of gearing. I need to go do some spec and rotation theorycrafting for marks.
3. LFD is even worse now than it was during Wrath. I didn’t think that was possible, but it is. It’s not so much the skill or gear level of the players, because that’s always going to be a mixed bag. It’s the attitudes. I really couldn’t imagine people being less patient than they were when we were running Halls of Whatever in our sleep, but they are. If the slightest little thing goes wrong, people will drop. There’s no thought toward just sticking it out with a group and succeeding. It’s all me, me, me, me, me.
4. Please, let me apologize on behalf of the good and kindly tanks out there, of which I think a few may still exist. I refused to believe it, but yes, we tanks really have turned into a bunch of entitled prima donna douchebags.
5. I’m going to keep trying. Why not? I won’t get any better on Beltar, or won’t get him any better geared, if I don’t run instances, and Looking for Dumbassery is still the quickest and easiest way to gear him up and work on my huntering, if also the most soul-crushing occasionally.
6. Tanks who can simultaneously tank an instance in their sleep and blow away the DPS meters still piss me off. It’s not you guys, it’s me. I’m just jealous.
My wife has the best attitude toward PUGs, because she (bless her heart) tanks a lot of them on her various druids. She just says, “I don’t see it as a dungeon group. I see it as an escort quest.”
A little over three years ago, in the build-up events to the release of Wrath of the Lich King, Blizzard inflicted upon World of Warcraft the ultimate zombie plague. At the time, the Zombiepocalypse had a lot of bad things going on with it, as well as a lot of good–I covered that in a post on the one-year anniversary of the end of the event. But to me, the best thing it provided was some awesome roleplaying opportunity, more so on my dwarf hunter Beltar than on my main Linedan. Lin was a prot warrior, and, well, a melee class with no self-cleansing really didn’t do very well against things that could turn you into a ghoul in just a few hits. But Beltar, now he and his pet boar Squealer, they were a zombie-killing machine.
Our Alliance guild, the Wildfire Riders, did a collaborative writing project we called The Longest Night, based on the final night of the zombie event in Stormwind. This was my contribution to it. The events here, including finding the zombie in the room inside the Rose, actually happened. The zombie in question was a level 15 character who’d been turned, and who I one-shotted. (He whispered me to bitch me out about it later. My response is, dude, you were a freaking zombie. What was I supposed to do, invite you over for tea and crumpets?)
I repost my part of it here because (a) I like it, and (b) it provides some context to another piece I’ll post later. At the time, Beltar was running around with a Wolfslayer Sniper Rifle off the Big Bad Wolf in Karazhan. It’s always been one of my favorite gun models in the entire game. Well, now, with transmogrification in 4.3, his Wolfslayer–which he named “Black Death”–rides again. But that’s a little later. Here’s the story of Black Death’s busiest night.
Beltar Forgebreaker limped over to the edge of the plaza that overlooked Stormwind Harbor. It hadn’t been light for long, perhaps half an hour…it was hard to tell, with the unnatural overcast that covered the sky overhead. In the dimness, everything looked normal from this great height. The ships still rode at anchor, quietly creaking as gentle waves moved them in their berths. Gulls wheeled and screeched. Save for clouds that looked almost like a gathering summer thunderstorm, all looked as it should be.
Except no one moved.
Not a single shape moved except the seabirds. No porters moved packages, no crews readied or cleaned their ships, no merchants haggled deals, no prostitutes plied their trade. The docks were deserted of life, and of unlife.
He let his eyes travel to the hills above the harbor, outside the city walls. They were dotted with bright glows of fire. Five, six, seven…nope, there’s eight, Beltar counted to himself as the eighth one sprung into life. Each one of those, he knew, was a funeral pyre, and each one was burning dozens, if not hundreds, of bodies, undead and otherwise.
He’d climbed on Mountain at dawn and ridden out alone, Squealer obediently following, and picked his way through the streets to the Harbor, thankful for the surefootedness of a Khaz Modan ram on cobbles slicked by blood and ichor. No zombies showed themselves, no clash of arms rent the heavy, chill air on his journey. The Scourge, for the moment, had been beaten from Stormwind.
But it damn sure hadn’t been easy…
The Trade District. Just after sundown.
“They got the healer! THEY GOT THE HEALER! RUN! RUUAAAAAAAHHLIIIIIIGHT…”
The screams out of the Gilded Rose snapped Beltar out of thought as he finished loading his rifle. He looked over at Tarquin, who was leaning against the wall of the arms shop nearby, catching his breath after finishing off another zombie. The lanky Northman sighed and raised his hood, and bellowed, “There’s a Dawnsman by th’gryphon master, y’ken? Need healin’, go there!” The hood came back down, and he faded into the shadows cast by the overhanging roof.
None too soon. A wave of zombies poured out of the Rose like rats, falling on guardsmen and those too slow to run from the screams. Shouts and clangs sounded, and the Stormwind Guard fought yet another doomed battle as Beltar snapped his weapon shut. He issued the barest of whistles from one side of his mouth, and smoothly brought the rifle to his shoulder.
His boar launched himself forward from a dead stop, streaking across the plaza in a black, squealing blur and slamming into the pile of zombies like some bizarre game of bowls. As Squealer began tearing at one in a fury of black fur and white tusks, Beltar’s rifle roared again and again. Three feet of black wood and gray steel, with an extra foot of bayonet poking under the barrel, it was the most masterful boomstick Beltar had ever seen, much less ever owned. He’d found it in Medivh’s ruined castle. He named it–with feeling, if not with originality–Black Death.
This night, Black Death would earn that name many times over.
The first zombie crumpled to the cobbles headless. Squealer plunged tusks into another one and Beltar kept up his steady drumbeat of fire, killing the second zombie before it figured out that the black form goring it wasn’t the only thing causing it pain. But the third zombie must have retained some tiny modicum of its previous intelligence. It ignored Squealer and saw Beltar forty paces away, and started lurching toward him.
The dwarf stood his ground. He fanned the hammer, and Black Death ripped off three shots into three zombies. He fired again, and again, but the zombie kept coming, and then leapt.
Sheer reflex saved him; he thrust the rifle upward as the zombie lunged, and it slammed directly into the bayonet. It impaled itself, flailing long clawed hands at Beltar as he fought to stay upright with ten stone of zombie trying to push him over.
“I AIN’T DYIN’ T’NIGHT, Y’BASTARD!”, Beltar roared, and pulled the trigger. The zombie flew backward, a hole through most of its chest, and crashed to the stones to finally lie still.
The sound died down. Paladins and shamans in the square had finished off the rest, and for the moment, no zombies moved. Squealer returned to Beltar’s side, fur matted with Shapers-only-knew-what. Beltar tried to calm his breathing and concentrate. Aright, y’fuckers, he thought to himself. Lessee…any more’a'ya ’bout? Concentrate…yes, one more, at least. Inside the Rose. He started walking past the fountain toward the inn.
“Are you crazy?”, a guardsman tried to block him. “You can’t go in there!”
“There’s one more of ‘em in there, lad,” Beltar snarled. “We don’t get it now, it comes out here when y’ain’t lookin’, infects other people, whole shitpile starts up ‘gin. Now, you wanna go kill it, ‘r y’stay out here an’ let me do it?”
The guard, wisely, backed up. Beltar just nodded at him once, and stumped forward into the Rose, Squealer trailing behind.
The common room was a charnel house. Bodies and parts of bodies–human, elf, and zombie–were everywhere. The floor, on the tables, even a zombie arm stuck in the overhead chandelier. The body of the Argent Healer lay in two pieces, torn apart at the waist, near the kitchen entrance. Nothing moved here. But he heard a faint scrabble from upstairs.
He crept up the stairs as quietly as he could, stopping at the top to listen. He heard it again…second door on the left. Black Death came out from over his shoulder and into his right hand as he walked toward the door. Taking a deep breath, he spun around the jamb into the doorway.
The door itself was gone, shattered inward into the room. It was a small room, one of the Rose’s cheaper ones, utterly demolished. Splintered furniture, pooled blood, and a zombie corpse on the floor made it obvious what had happened.
There was another zombie in the far corner, near the bed. It snapped its head up as it saw Beltar…but it didn’t attack. It looked at him, almost quizzically, as if saying, “Who are you and why are you in my room. And more importantly…who am I?”
For a few seconds, the two stood looking at each other. For a second, in the zombie’s face, Beltar swore he saw…fear? Sadness? Confusion, maybe?
Then Beltar sighed. “Sorry, lad.”
And Black Death roared yet again.
A single gunshot from back toward the Cathedral snapped Beltar out of his Harbor-side reverie. No more followed it. The only sounds were the creak of the ships and the scream of the gulls.
Beltar looked out over the ships, to the sea. Out there, somewhere, was the cause of all this. Arthas Menethil. The Lich King. Defender, and then damn-near destroyer, of the Alliance. And Beltar knew without seeing, sure as the sun had risen behind that thick blanket of cloud, that the Riders were going North, and he was going with them. Time to be heroes.
“Heroes,” he snorted. “Gods, I don’t feel like no hero.” He looked at the big black boar standing beside him, flecks of gray bristle appearing around its snout. “I feel old, boy. Leg’s botherin’ me worse’n'anytime since Anvilmar. I’m feelin’ ever’ one’a these hunnert’an’twenty-six years o’mine. Too old fer bein’ a hero, right now, anyways.”
Squealer just looked up at him with that calm, neutral look he always gave Beltar.
“An’ I’m standin’ in th’chill, in a city runnin’ wild w’zombies, talkin’ wi’a pig. Heroes do crazy shit like that, y’think?” He laughed without humor. “Aright, piss on it. Back t’Old Town w’us.”
Using Black Death’s stock as a makeshift walking stick, he began limping back toward the stairs, where Mountain waited at the top to take him back through the streets of a waking city of the dead, back to the Pig and Whistle, and life.
…’cause Beltar’s got a gun. (Sorry, Aerosmith fans.)
Beltar, my poor somewhat-neglected dwarf marksman hunter, like guns. A lot. No surprise there, right…after all, he is a dwarf, and he’s been single-spec marksman since day one. But he’s also not so set in his ways that he’d turn down an upgrade. So on one of his rare forays into Icecrown Citadel in a 10-man a few months ago, when a Njorndar Bone Bow dropped to replace his beloved rifle from the Big Round Room, The Diplomat, he took it–albeit reluctantly.
When 4.0 dropped, he had enough Justice Points saved up (thanks to a stack of over 240 Badges of Triumph, the Insult Comic Dog) to immediately upgrade to four-piece T10 (one of them ilevel 264, the rest basic ilevel 251). But obviously, there’s no guns available with badges. The bow has done him well, but it just didn’t look right to see this old fart who’d been humping a gun of some sort around the Eastern Kingdoms forever throwing his shoulder out of joint to use a bow…not even a crossbow, a stinking elfy bow. As Beltar might say, “dammit, ain’t proper fer a dwarf t’be seen w’a stick an’ a string, ‘cept in emergencies, o’course.”
Well, I was chatting with Rilgon from Stabilized Effort Scope–a guy who lives, breathes, eats, pees, poops, and probably has carnal thoughts about marks huntering when he’s not having them about gnomes–on Twitter a couple days ago, and when I mentioned something about wanting to replace that bow with a gun but being very short on options due to Beltar not having access to any raids on Alliance-side Feathermoon, he suggested that I look at the Wrathful Gladiator’s Rifle. This is the ilevel 264 version of the season 8 arena reward weapon. During the arena season, it required an arena rating of 1800 to purchase. I don’t do arenas, so I hadn’t paid PvP rewards any mind. Rilgon said that the lower Wrathful items, the ilevel 264 versions, could now be bought with honor only, 2550 points to be precise…this despite the fact that when I checked, they still had a big red blurb on the tooltip that said “requires a personal or team arena rating of 1800.”
Thanks to a stupidly huge number of Stone Keeper’s Shards he’d built up, Beltar had something like 1700 honor saved up. He needed 2550 for the gun. And I said to myself five fateful words that I just know I should never say, but I always do it anyway…
“How hard can it be?”
The correct answer is “plenty,” when you’re on the Alliance side in the Cyclone battlegroup (where Horde tend to dominate most battlegrounds except Alterac Valley), and you’re an MM hunter with zero resilience in ilevel 245/251/264 PvE gear, and you have no damn idea how to PvP on a hunter because you’ve got maybe 400 lifetime HKs to start with, and you’ve never even been in Strand of the Ancients or Isle of Conquest.
There’s a word for people like me. That word is “noob.”
I won my first-ever trip to Isle of Conquest by following my normal AV strategy–find the biggest group of friendlies I can, stay in the middle of them, and shoot stuff with a red tag. Could be a healer, could be a warrior, could be a water elemental, could be a cat, could be a felguard–doesn’t matter. Hit “tab” and open up like Rambo with an M60 (including the guttural yelling) on the first thing that I randomly target, that’s how I roll. (Hey, I said I was bad at this.) I then stand there and shoot until either it dies or its friends show up, I completely forget where Disengage and Deterrence and all my trap keys are, and I die.
It was, in a word, a painful two days. With everybody stacking huge resilience, that bow might as well have been shooting Nerf arrows…while with my zero resilience, I was all but two-shotted by mages more than once. (Seriously, frost mages, wtf. 15k and 11k simultaneous crits? Daaaamn.) I was in the first AV I’ve ever seen where the Horde actually out-zerged the Alliance. Normally, if both sides bumrush to the opposite end of the map without stopping, the Alliance always wins. Well, that doesn’t work when you get 15 people into Drek’s room, the tank pulls…and nobody heals him, either because there’s no healers there or the healers are all standing around looking at each other saying, “I thought you were going to do it.” We spawn all the way back at the north end of the map, Horde kill Vandar, gee gee noob, here’s your consolation-prize 15 honor instead of 45 because you were afflicted with teh dumb.
And that chat. Oh dear sweet zombie Arthas, battleground chat is so stupid it hurts. Especially in AV, when all the amateur Pattons and Rommels get into arguments first about strategy, then about parentage. “ALL ON O RUSH RUSH RUSH” followed by “NO NEED D AT STONEHEARTH AND BALINDA” followed by “stfu noob, ur mom neds d lol”…do you guys on PvP servers have to put up with this level of dumbass constantly? If you do, my God, I feel for you and can’t believe you can stand it.
The only thing that saved me from giving up on the upgrade was a Feathermoon peculiarity–the Alliance own Lake Wintergrasp probably 95% of the time. It’s really rather ridiculous. There are a ton of very good Horde PvPers on Feathermoon, but they just don’t care much about Wintergrasp any more. So as Alliance, it’s relatively easy to go into a WG, rip out a few quests, tear up the towers, sponge a bit of honor, retain the fort, sponge more honor, and come out with 100-125 quick and easy honor points for very little effort.
So after two days of frustration and idiocy, I finally cracked 2550 honor, and immediately ran to the vendor under Dalaran. And lo and behold, tooltip be damned, Beltar could buy and equip his new Wrathful Gladiator’s Rifle. The dwarf had a gun, and all was right with the world.
Now, all it needed was a name. His old rifle from Karazhan had picked up the name “Black Death.” So this charming little boomstick, with its huge stock and spikes sticking everywhere, needed a name too. I thought for a few seconds, and then remembered how generally unpleasant getting it had been, how stupid the chat had been in all the battlegrounds, and how tactically moronic so many of the losing sides had been, and I had my answer.
Say hello…to the Durpinator.
(Before we begin, please observe a moment of silence for my home computer’s hard drive, whose crappy firmware last night decided to depart this fallen earth and leave behind its bricked metal shell. This may also be used as a cautionary tale…if you’ve got a Seagate Barracuda 7200.11 SATA drive in your machine, back the damn thing up now. This is the second one I’ve had fail in less than eighteen months. DIAF, Seagate, I’m done with you. It’s off to Worst Buy tonight for some Western Digital lovin’ and an evening spent reinstalling everydamnthing on my computer instead of hanging out with my guild for our in-game Winterveil party.)
Obviously, a lot of the chatter in the WoW blogosphere has been about patch 3.3′s awesome new Looking for Dungeon cross-server instancing tool. It is, after all, simplicity itself. It removes anything resembling thought, effort, or social interaction from running your favorite five-man instances! Just push a few buttons, sit back and wait (note: the waiting part is optional if you are a tank or healer), and voila. You too will be thrown into a wonderful garden spot like Utgarde Keep or Gun’drak with four total strangers with whom you will engage in 10 to 30 minutes of frenzied activity and then never see again. As others are wondering, is this what casual sex feels like?
I have run about, eh, 25 or so random heroics since the patch went in. About half have been on Beltar, my dwarf hunter, with the remainder split between Linedan and my other level 80 alts. I’ve only tanked three randoms on Lin–the others, I’ve gone as DPS to practice on his new offspec (more on that in another post). And much to my surprise, generally, my experiences have been neutral to pleasant.
Now, I’m not generally accused of a huge amount of charity toward my fellow WoW players. I never liked to PUG that much before the LFD tool came along. But suddenly, I find it strangely addicting. Part of it, I think, is that I’m finding that my two most undergeared alts–Illithanis the BM hunter and Moktor the blood DK–don’t actually suck as much as I thought they did, or perhaps I don’t suck as much at playing them as I thought I did, or some of both. (The links are to their respective Armory pages, so you may gaze upon them and laugh.) Both of them are generally running with a good bit of ilevel 200 gear, Illy more so because she actually got into a few 10-man Naxx runs several months back. Both seem capable of consistently bringing 1800-2200 dps in heroics, despite Illy’s wasp dying regularly and my seeming inability to grasp the DK concept of “PS – IT - HS – HS - DS - RP // DS – HS – HS – HS – HS - RP”. (I get my DS before my HS, or I stop and RP instead of actually using runic power, or some such. Letturs r hard.) Anyhoo, while neither of them are going to rizzock the hizzouse in Ulduar or higher anytime soon, so far, they’ve not even been laughed at by a heroic group, much less votekicked. In fact, Illy, with her pedestrian 2k dps, has topped the meters more than once.
No, really, I’ve only seen one person get kicked (a rogue, in full Hateful Gladiator’s with 25k health, only doing 800 dps), and no massive displays of incompetence. Now what I have seen are a few examples of some pretty serious douchebag ex machina, and the one overriding thing…silence.
Let’s talk about the d-bags. There haven’t been many, and contrary to what some of us RP-server types might think, these weren’t primarily from PvP servers. Probably the biggest example I saw was when I had dps!Linedan on a heroic Azjol-Nerub run. The tank was a death nugget that had about 29,500 health buffed out. Nobody said anything, even though there seems to be this unspoken rule that if your tank has less than about 45k health, THERE IS NO WAY YOU CAN POSSIBLY TANK A HEROIC AZJOL AMG WE’RE ALL GONNA DIE. Never mind that I tanked heroic AN back in the day with 25k in crafted blues and epics. Poorly, but I did it. And I had to walk uphill in the snow four miles each way to do it.
So off we went, and it was a perfectly normal dungeon run. Nobody died, we killed Anub v1.0 and everything was peachy. Then the following conversation ensued between the healer, a tree druid from Uldum, and the tank:
Tree says, “hey, (tank name here)?”
Tank says, “huh?”
Tree says, “Nothing. I just wanted you to respond so I could ignore you and never group with you again. Get some gear, noob.”
Now mind you, nobody died. We never wiped. The tank never lost agro, even on the trash-filled last part of Anub, which can still get a little bit pear-shaped even in high-zoot Tier gear. Apparently, the tree actually might’ve had to work a little at healing the DK, and we can’t possibly have that.
I tried to buck up the DK by telling him, “look, my main spec is prot, I’ve got 4/5 T9.25, I tank ToGC and Icecrown. I know tanking even if I don’t know how DKs do it. You did fine. Screw the haters.” I hope he believed me. I wish I could remember the guy’s name and server, so I could give him a shout-out.
And speaking of shouts or the lack thereof…that’s the other creepy thing about LFD. The total silence. I’ve gone complete instance runs without anybody in the party–me included–saying a damn thing. We land at the entrance, buffs fly, and then the tank wordlessly runs off and grabs the first trash group without saying a word. And off we go to the races, the tank setting a blistering pace (almost without exception) while the DPS and the healer pant along behind. Chain-pulling is the order of the day, crowd control is not needed. No strategy, no breaks, no drinking. I’m damn glad my only mana-using class I’ve taken through randoms has been a hunter, because the ability to regen on the run with Aspect of the Viper is the only thing keeping me from ending up half a mile behind the main group.
Eventually we’ll kill the final boss, get some screen spam and extra emblems…and then, maybe, somebody will say “thanks” or “gg”, and that’s it. The group’s dissolved, and I’m back wherever I was before I queued, richer by some enchanting mats and badgers, and maybe, on my lesser-geared characters, some new toys. It’s a fun experience, but it’s oddly empty. I console myself with the thought that probably I don’t really want to talk to the other four people I just grouped with…but that’s not much of a way to play, and not a very good thought to have, now is it?
I really don’t like only having one roleplay server per battlegroup. I would love to be able to instance-group with RPers from places like Argent Dawn and Sentinels and Moon Guard (leave your vampire catgirls and sons of Arthas at home plox), and do some of these heroics at a slightly more relaxed pace in-character. Instead, this is a strictly OOC business we’re in, running these randoms. It’s all about speed. I know on the ones that I’ve tanked, I feel pushed because I’m not normally a chain-puller. I cut my teeth as an undergeared tank that had to wait for healers and DPS to fill their tanks before pulling again, and that’s carried over into Lin’s current pimped-out status. My very first tank run, I had a DK “helpfully” start pulling “for” me. Nothing frosts my cornflakes faster than somebody else doing the pulling when I’m the tank. My theory is simple: I’d rather take two minutes longer to finish the instance than risk a wipe that’ll cost us five minutes. So in randoms, I do pull faster, but I always check that there’s at least some blue in the blue bars in my party frames, and that we’re all gathered, before pulling.
Heck, sometimes, I even say things in party chat. RANK HERESY!
For the past few weeks, I’ve been pretty short on blogfodder. I’ve been going through a mild burnout with the game and been dabbling in EVE Online and Dragon Age instead. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I love my friends in game, raiding with The Anvil, all that fun stuff. But things had stalled a bit.
For Linedan, the satisfaction was bleeding out of raiding. Trial of the Crusader was, frankly, nothing more than a one-hour expedition to dispense 15 badges. Trial of the Grand Crusader was nothing more than Trial of the Crusader with the red numbers on my screen turned up to ridiculous levels…and maybe it’s just me, but there’s something about taking a fight that we usually roflstomp on normal (Beasts) and having it pimpslap us into the ground on heroic that just grates me a bit. I don’t get mad at my raid, I just get annoyed with Blizzard for undertuning ToC so badly that they left a cliff wall the size of El Capitan between normal and heroic. I could, and should, RP with him more, but Lin is not exactly Captain Happy Fun Tiems in his personal interactions. Besides, a schedule change has left me unable to attend Noxilite’s Monday night storytelling/guild meetup in the Barrens.
With Beltar, it was kind of the opposite. He doesn’t have a regular raid. He’s largely a roleplay character these days, and a great one. But at the same time, I am serious about advancing him gear-wise. On the rare occasions I can raid with him, I do. That doesn’t happen often, though…and once you’re through the solo quest content, which he mostly is except for some Icecrown stuff, and you’re already wearing a mix of stuff from a few Naxxes 6-7 months ago and some loot-trashcan pieces from the rare Ulduar, what then? So while I’ve been having fun roleplaying him, I often wonder just what the little guy could do if he was geared up like Linedan was.
And then there’s my stable of alts–Illithanis (80 BM hunter), Moktor (80 orc death nugget), my up-and-comers like Sakula (77 troll shaman and ladies’ man) and my prot warrior experiment Latisha (currently 68, and yes, she’s wearing Outland slut plate). They need some love too. But after the fourth or fifth time, even Storm Peaks gets old. What to do with them after cap? All of them are sub-Naxx geared. They’ll never get into raids–too much of a gear gap to overcome, I’m needed as a tank where I am now, and I don’t have time to raid on any more than two characters as it is. So why put forth the time?
Enter Patch 3.3: Fail of the Lich King. (Yes, I know it’s “Fall of the Lich King.” Look at the font on the logo when you open your Launcher and tell me it doesn’t look like “Fail of the Lich King,” dammit.)
Suddenly, most of these problems have been solved.
Linedan has a new raid to play with. No more Trial of the Big Round Room With Two Settings, Too Easy and Too Hard. Welcome to Icecrown Citadel, and kids, let me tell you, it kicks so much ass it’s painful. I rang up over 200 gold in repairs in there over the weekend and we only downed one boss (Lord Marrowgar)…and I don’t care. It’s fantastic. You’d better bring your “A” game, because Arthas is not playing flag football. Crowd control is back, with a vengeance…most of the trash pulls we’ve seen so far are between six and nine mobs. (Priests, time to get your shackles out for more than just private fun in the cloisters.) Lord Marrowgar is challenging but doesn’t seem to be over-the-top impossible once you use a little brainpower and figure out a good movement/tanking strategy. The two fights we’ve seen so far on 25-man require three tanks–oh frabjous joy for a raid that carries four tanks every week, fewer people forced into their secondary role!
And for a second, ditch the mechanics, ditch the loot…this is Icecrown, people. That’s Arthas up there. That’s the Big Bad who’s been hovering over the Warcraft franchise for nigh on ten years now. The special guest stars are everywhere…Tirion Fordring, Saurfang the Elder (and his son, in a way), Bolvar Fordragon, Muradin Bronzebeard. Lore whores and roleplayers like me are loving this. It looks good. It sounds good. It is good.
And then there’s the five-mans. Forge of Souls, Pit of Saron, Halls of Reflection. I’ve only run them once, on normal, with one other attempt (unsuccessful) at the HoR gauntlet on heroic. Forge of Souls looks big, but actually is fairly small and linear, and doesn’t appear too awful hard, though all these instances are considerably harder than existing level 80 5-mans, both normal and heroic–think Magister’s Terrace for the difficulty jump. Pit of Saron is my favorite, a giant outdoor quarry full of Alliance and Horde slaves, with some awesome NPC interaction, funny boss fights (leper gnomes with mohawks FTW), a nasty but cool gauntlet, and twists near the end.
And then there’s Halls of Reflection. Any instance that can simultaneously have me gushing at how awesome it is and literally screaming in frustration is probably doing something right. HoR is brutal on tanks from a technical standpoint. The first boss fight in there left me with an aching wrist and exhausted…and then I had to turn around and flee for my life while holding off waves of undead with the Lich King his own mother-humping self coming to eat my face. The final gauntlet in HoR is simultaneously brilliant and frustrating, at least if you’re a warrior or a bear.
What about Beltar and the alts? Looking for Dungeon, baby. Random heroics. It works brilliantly. You can accumulate badges at a ridiculous rate, and at least so far, the idiot quotient seems to be quite low. Most people I’ve run with have been quiet, and none have been RPers, but they’re mostly at least competent enough to get the job done. The tanks and healers I’ve run with have, for the most part, actually been quite good. Oh, and how ridiculous is “a ridiculous rate?” Ridiculous as in, in one weekend, Beltar has gotten two pieces of Tier 9 (gloves/shoulders), a new gun from heroic Coliseum, a bronze drake from CoS, and the Northrend Dungeonmaster achievement. In one weekend.
So the final score for WoW over the past four days?
Thursday: Icecrown Citadel 25-man on Linedan, downed Lord Marrowgar.
Friday: Icecrown Citadel 25-man and Trial of the Crusader 25-man on Linedan. Full clear on ToC, didn’t quite get Lady Deathwhisper in ICC but we’re doing better.
Saturday: Trial of the Crusader 10-man (full clear, 5 for 5 on one-shots), Onyxia 10-man, Naxx 10-man (weekly raid quest, just Anub’rekhan) and ICC 10-man on Linedan with Lord Marrowgar one-shotted. Plus a couple random heroics on Beltar, and all three of the new 5-mans on normal with Linedan.
Sunday: 7 random heroics on Beltar, two on Moktor my DK, one on Linedan.
Soooo…what do you guys think? Think I’m burned out any more?
I’ve got a bunch more 3.3 posts mentally lining up. One on the LFD system and its quirks, one on the five-mans in which I fully accept that Halls of Reflection has made me its bitch and I don’t mind, and one on Icecrown’s first two bosses with a little about strategery and a little about tanking. Stay tuned.
“Right, lad, I hear what yer sayin’. It’s a nice bow, ain’t denyin’ it. I know it’s better’n me old gun. But it’s a bow, lad. Dwarves, we don’t use ‘ese here things, aye? Bent sticks’o'wood w’strings onna back, ‘em’s fer poncy elves prancin’ round th’forest. A dwarf needs th’ feel o’a boomstick in ‘is hand, boy. ‘Sides, last time I tried t’go on campaign w’a bow, ’bout damn threw m’shoulder outta joint fer a week.”
(EDIT AFTER THE FACT): OK, the quick story behind this, and why Beltar is the Wildfire Riders’ resident loot trashcan extraordinaire. While on last night, the call went out for a ranged DPS to help in Ulduar because Yva‘s connection crapped itself and she couldn’t get back on. So I volunteered. Despite his somewhat marginal gear compared to the rest of the 10-man, we got Hodir hardmode…and he got a nice cloak when the guy who won the roll saw that Beltar was still wearing a blue Cloak of Holy Extermination. (Vent: “BELTAR, GODDAMMIT, YOU ARE TAKING THIS CLOAK NOW.”) Then we cleared Vezax trash…and the Golemheart Longbow dropped. At that point, Yva got back on and I headed back out so she could take her spot back and they went on to get hardmode Vezax.
Everybody’s got pick-up group (“PUG”) horror stories. If you’ve played WoW for any length of time, and grouped with total strangers to try and get a quest or instance or raid completed, you’ll quickly start building a list of tales of woe. If nothing else, PUGs should make you feel much better about yourself, I think…after all, since you’re smart enough to be reading this fine blog, obviously you are a top-notch human being in general and WoW player in particular, and do not deserve to group with people so stupid that they have to put a sticky note on their monitor to remind themselves to breathe.
But even the best of us–and I–sometimes have to PUG. And last night, I ran across a doozy.
I was on my hunter alt, and wanted to run the daily heroic, which was Gundrak. Now Gundrak isn’t the easiest WotLK heroic out there, in my opinion. Slad’ran (the poison snake boss) has wiped me more times than I care to think about; even with excellent players and a top healer in T7/T8 raid gear, his Poison Nova can throw out more damage than we can power through. The Drakkari Colossus is a pain-in-the-ass pray-your-and-your-healer’s-latency-is-low movement fight. Even Gal’darah, who’s pretty straightforward, will gib a strong tank if the tank has a brain fart and doesn’t get out of whirlwinds. (Don’t ask me how I know this. Please.)
But, against my better judgement, I joined the LFG queue for it anyway. And a couple of minutes later, I got a whisper–”h gun?”
Let’s see. No complete words, all lowercase, and this on an RP server. I feel a winner of a run coming on. Eh, toujours de l’audace, dude, what the hell…”Sure!”, I replied. I immediately found myself in a group with the group leader (a boomchicken), a warlock, and a male human paladin–obviously the tank, since he had over 40,000 health–named…Hotbox.
Ohhhhh yeah. The stench of quality is overpowering with this one.
I flew for Gundrak while the leader druid rustled up a healer (another druid), and the five of us headed inside. I was immediately greeted with Blizzard’s lovely new feature…the “ZOMG are you sure you want to save to this instance??!?!?11?” dialog box. Hmm. That’s not supposed to happen. Well, we were all a bit confused by this, but all of us accepted and thus saved ourselves to that heroic Gundrak instance. And down the stairs we went toward Slad’ran’s area.
We got to the entrance, ate a Fish Feast, and the paladin “Hotbox” pulled. Without warning. Two groups. Hoo boy. A frenetic and confused fight ensued in which the warlock and tree died, but we got both the trash groups. The resto druid popped (yay soulstones) and started rezzing the warlock…as the paladin pulled more trash without saying anything. Ugh. We four-manned the trash, got the warlock back in…and then the tree said, “no boss.”
We looked. Slad’ran wasn’t in his alcove. We walked over to the alcove and saw that the alcove bridge gizmo had been activated. In fact, all the gizmos had been activated, the bridge to Gal’darah’s ramp was aligned, and had the trolls and rhinos in position. That meant that Slad’ran, the Colossus, and Moorabi were all dead.
Now people started getting pissed. The critchicken who had the “hat” denied vehemently that he’d been in Gundrak that day, as did the rest of us. And yet somehow, we were looking at an instance where the trash was up, but the bosses weren’t, the worst possible combination.
So the rest of the party started jumping off the ledge into the water. I was last because, of course, I had to dismiss my pet. In that period of time, people started getting eaten by the fish. A clusterfuck ensued, resulting eventually in us getting to the ramp with two more deaths, to which the group leader said, and I quote exactly, “lol.”
We formed back up, buffed, and fought our way up the ramp to Gal’darah’s area…
…and he wasn’t there. His bodyguards and their rhinos were. But he wasn’t.
The paladin pulled the rhinos (without saying anything) anyway, and nearly died because we were all too busy going “wtf?!?” in party chat, but we got them. A ferocious argument ensued where the boomkin protested his innocence and swore he hadn’t been in Gundrak for at least a week. Hotbox also said he hadn’t been in Gundrak for at least a week. The other two said it had been longer than that, and I hadn’t had my dwarf in there for literally a couple of months.
So there our tale ends. Hotbox (!) the male paladin, plus the other four of us, all hearthed our separate ways, probably to never see each other again except amidst the bustling crowds of Dalaran…or in the LFG tool someday, God forbid. I had a pittance of silver and a locked instance with no way to score the two Triumph badges I wanted. Either somebody was lying their ass off, or had gotten tricked, or we had a bugged instance. And it was 25 minutes of my life that I’ll never get back.
I balmed my wounded soul by wandering off to the Pig and Whistle in Old Town Stormwind for four hours of the best RP I’ve had in many a month…culminating in a raid by the Stormwind Guard, two near-arrests, three strained marriages, a couple of damaged friendships, and one of the Wildfire Riders’ red-haired paladins telling another of the Wildfire Riders’ red-haired paladins to go fuck themselves, while the third of the Wildfire Riders’ red-haired paladins stood there and shook her head in disbelief.
What’s two Triumph badges in comparison to that?
This time last year in WoW, we were fighting for our lives. Or, maybe running for our lives might’ve been more appropriate. Our towns and cities were overrun by gigantic hordes of shambling, terrifying zombies, and they only wanted one thing…braaaaaiiiinnnnss.
Yep. Last year, in the runup to Wrath of the Lich King, Blizzard decided to give us a world event we’d never forget. Forget the 2008 recycle of the 2006 Naxxramas opening event, where you got to go out to various zones and then get camps of undead stolen from you so you couldn’t get those l33t [Jockstraps of Undead Slaying]. No, Arthas had a little more in mind this time than sitting there and waiting for us to smash up some crystals and scream at people for jacking our mobs.
Remember how it started? Boxes of tainted food started appearing, mysteriously, in towns. And then came the zombies…well, OK, ghouls, but they were called zombies, because zombies are cooler than ghouls. If a zombie bit you, or you messed with a food box, or you splattered a tainted bug or rat, you got cooties. If you didn’t get cured by the time the cootie timer ran out, you became a zombie, with a whole new set of abilities…including having to fight nearly-constantly or your health would drain away and you’d die. Zombies aren’t exactly known for just standing around and chillaxin’, y’know? They feel the need…the need to feed.
At first, the disease timer was 10 minutes and it was easy to cure…no worries. Then the disease timer dropped to 5 minutes, and then two minutes, and then one minute. By that time, it was World War Z time, baby. There were zombies everyfrickinwhere, man. Cities became deathtraps as guards and NPCs got zombified by the dozens. Death and undeath were spread across Azeroth and Outland.
And just like that, it was over. Grand Apothecary Putress came up with the cure, and the Argent Dawn delivered it…and all that was left was to clean up the streets of Orgrimmar and Stormwind, burn the bodies, and count the cost.
There’s no doubt that Blizzard absolutely swung for the fences with what we’ve termed the “Zombiepocalypse.” This was not just another holiday, or some optional event for certain levels. This was specifically designed to get the point across that the Lich King wants your ass dead. Yes, you. And he doesn’t much care about your daily quest grind or your current assignment to retrieve eight [Bear Asses] for some idiot in Thelsamar. This is total war, son.
There’s also no doubt that the Zombiepocalypse was the most contentious and divisive world event Blizzard’s ever done. It affected almost everyone who played during that week last October, whether you wanted to be affected or not. The only way to “opt out” was not to play. The potency of the disease in the last few days, plus the ease of catching and spreading it, made Hakkar’s old Corrupted Blood look like a minor sniffle. You either loved the Zombie Invasion of 2008, or you hated it. There was no in between.
Well, except for me. I can find the in-between on anything. (Yes, I am the world’s only wishy-washy tank.)
Let’s take a look at the bad, and then the good, that came out of the Zombiepocalypse, and what lessons Blizzard can hopefully take away from it for any world-shattering–literally–events they may want to try for Cataclysm’s ramp-up. First, the bad:
- Griefing. The Zombiepocalypse proved that there’s a population of people on every server who are nothing but raving assholes who get a good laugh out of ruining other people’s fun…but can’t handle it when their own plans get thwarted. Stories ran rife of groups of level 70 player zombies tearing a swath through newbie towns, infecting the guards, causing level 1-5 characters to get one-shotted again and again. Questgivers and flightmasters were dead or undead for extended periods. Auction house bombing (run into an AH and zombie-explode, thus infecting everyone around) became an art form. Protests from the affected parties brought forth streams of “lololol cry more noob.” And yet, when a paladin or priest would “fight back” by actually, y’know, cleansing the disease off the zombie, oh, the four- and five- and twelve-letter bombs that flew from the newly de-zombified! Newsflash, Griefer Boy: If you get to run around and make life miserable for level 10s, then we get to cure you back from zombie form into douchebag form, even though your spelling and grammar is better when you’re screaming “braaaaiiiinnnnsss lol.” Yes, I know the event was designed to force people out of a comfort zone–I get that (see below). But like every other thing that griefers get a hold of, many times, zombiedom was turned into nothing more than an excuse to be a dong.
- Non-consensual PvP. Here you are, Joe Noob, level 11 mage, rolling around Westfall wondering why the hell Old Blanchy can’t just graze her own oats and HAY WTF LEVEL 70 ZOMBIE ZOMG I’M DED. Zombies, see, know not of your PvP flags. A zombie could attack, and be attacked by, anybody, anytime. They were, effectively, their own faction…and you were always flagged to them. Don’t want to PvP? Tough toenails. If a player zombie wants to PvP with you, you can outrun him, yeah, because he’s a zombie, but other than that, you’re PvPing regardless.
- Shattrath. Nowhere did the problems with the event loom larger than Shattrath City. Shattrath, of course, is a Sanctuary–no PvP combat allowed. This included zombies. Which means that once a player turned into a zombie, they were, for all intents, immune from attack from other players. Similarly, player zombies could not infect other players directly…but they could chain the infection among the hordes of Aldor and Scryer and refugee NPCs running around, and those NPC zombie swarms could zombify or kill a player in short order, because of the additive nature of zombie bites–the more you get hit, the more it cuts the timer down. As long as the player zombies could find the occasional NPC to nomnomnom, there wasn’t a damned thing zombie-fighters could do to stop the root cause of the problem. It was a gaping hole in the “ruleset” for Zombiepocalypse, if you will, and it was exploited to the utmost.
- Melee need not apply. That week was an awesome time to be a priest, or especially a paladin. Everybody snuggled up close to you because, hey, hordes of undead are what you live for, right? You can heal the sick, or you can protect the innocent, or you can just ret up and kick massive zombie ass. Well, conversely, trust me, it was a shitty time to be a warrior. The last couple days of the plague, the infection timer was a mere one minute…and each zombie bite cut it down by something like ten seconds. Just a few nibbles and you were a zombie, whether you wanted to be or not. There was no place for warriors in particular (although I’m not sure shamans could clear it off themselves, or if rogues could CoS out of it). Even if I had a paladin behind me spamming cleansing on me while fighting a zombie horde, all it’d take is one resist or one lag spike, and poof, Zombiepanzercow. I had really wanted to play Linedan through the end of the Zombie Invasion, but it quickly became so obviously pointless that my fearless Panzercow ended up not logging on for the last two days of the fight. Beltar, my dwarf hunter, became my primary character, and I had a much better time.
Now, all that said, do I think Zombiepocalypse was a failure? Hell no. Here’s the good stuff:
- Arthas wants to eat your face. Nothing drives home the fact that Arthas is the Big Bad like having your entire city overrun by brain-eating zombies. We, as players of WoW (especially if we never played any of the Warcraft RTS games, as I didn’t), will never really feel the despair and desperation of the Third War, of the loss of Lordaeron and Stratholme and Darrowshire, the scouring of the Ghostlands and Eversong and the desperate stand at the gates of Silvermoon. That one week, a week of increasing disruption and violence and vicious fighting in the streets, is the closest we’ll get. If you’re a bit of a lore nerd like I am, that alone makes putting up with the negatives a ton easier.
- The RP was awesome. Since I ended up on my dwarf for most of the latter half of the Zombiepocalypse, I ended up fighting in Stormwind along with his guild, the Wildfire Riders. And there was crazy fighting going on. The zombie-lovers were constantly infecting the Trade District and Old Town. There were pitched battles in the streets all that last night, literally for hours. Zombies were popping out of every building as vendors got infected. The “front” shifted constantly, from the Trade District to the Harbor to Old Town and back to the Trade District. We gave it a name…”The Longest Night.” And the roleplay and stories that came out of the last night of the event still resonate among us to this day, so much that we’re having a little in-game get-together soon to remember the night that the Pig and Whistle became Old Town’s last redoubt against the forces of undeath.
- You got to be a zombie! I had a rule of thumb. I’d fight like hell against any zombie I saw, but if they got me, they got me fair, and I proceeded to go all-out as a zombie. (My exception was Shattrath…the situation was so screwed up there thanks to the Sanctuary rules, I’d just go off in a corner and suicide.) Why not? Being a zombie, if you’re reasonable about it, is hella fun. You can control NPC zombies, you can lurch around yelling “BRAAAAAIIIIINS,” you eat tasty human fase to regain health. What’s not to like about it?
- Beltar got to pretend he was Bruce Campbell. Sort of. Shooting zombies in the middle of the Trade District while ripping off one-liners in /say? Hell yeah.
I really hope that Blizzard has something as epic as the Zombiepocalypse planned for the Cataclysm rollout. I just hope that if they do, they take a hard look at what went wrong last year (and there was a lot) and don’t just dismiss the legitimate complaints as “a bunch of noob carebear whiners,” like a lot of the forum idiots do. Obviously you can’t have something like this without disrupting people’s play, at least some. But with some thought, they should be able to at least mitigate some of the griefing and make it more enjoyable for more people, of all levels.
Linedan is my main–he always has been and barring catastrophe, he always will be. But my “Alliance main,” the dwarf hunter Beltar Forgebreaker, is probably my most fun character to roleplay.
On the surface, he looks like your typical fantasy dwarf…irascible, sarcastic, a bit on the greedy side, inordinately in love with his guns. But dig deeper and you’ll find that Beltar’s not exactly a stout-hearted dwarven hero in the Gimli mode. For over a hundred years, he’s wandered the Eastern Kingdoms as a gun for hire, on both sides of the law (sometimes simultaneously), not settling in any one place for long. He’s been a mercenary, an assassin, a guard, a hitman, a bodyguard, and more. His idea of a fair fight has always been one where he shoots his opponent in the head without ever being seen. And now, late in his life, he’s found his calling as an adventurer and general ne’er-do-well with the Wildfire Riders.
But even anti-heroes have to start somewhere. And in a fashion typical of the accidental nature of his wanderings, Beltar’s first steps on his wandering path didn’t happen the way you’d envision they might.
“Redemption” was a story that I wrote in late 2005, a few months after Beltar’s creation in August. I don’t remember how this backstory came to me, really It just popped into my head and I had to take some time out and write it right now dammit…so I did. I always knew Beltar was oldish, and a wanderer, but until this story body-checked me out of nowhere, I had no clue as to what started him on his lifelong odyssey of the gun.
It’s below a cut, because it’s hella long–4400 words. In case you haven’t noticed, I do tend to run on a bit.
I hope you enjoy it.
Illy hit 80 over the weekend, I just hadn’t gotten around to the post before now. She’s my third level 80 (as compared to my wife’s four, probably five in a couple weeks when her now-71 resto druid gets there). As you can tell from her stats, she’s not exactly uber-geared…most all that stuff is a mixture of mid-70s instance and quest reward blues, with the exception of a couple of heroic pieces and one incredibly lucky drop, her new mainhand sword, Avool’s Sword of Jin. Because, hey, fresh 80 beastmastery hunters need a 143 dps mainhand, amirite?
She can limp along through heroics…she plus her new pet (a purple wasp named Indigo) can combine for about 1400-1500 dps if I push it as hard as I can, hit Bestial Wrath and Kill Command every time they’re up, and keep my rotations tight. Not great, but I’ve seen worse. I’d like to get her ready to be able to sub on Naxx runs, but that ain’t happenin’ anytime soon unless I can radically gear her up.
(Wasps, by the way, are just cool as hell hunter pets. They don’t scale down in size very much when you tame them, so she’s got this eight-foot-long insect following her around constantly cleaning its mandibles. And when she hits Bestial Wrath, let’s just say Indigo gets pretty intimidating. And hurty. I find my love of a wasp as a pet ironic, considering I’m phobic around stinging insects in real life.)
It’s time for another installment of “Dramatis Personae,” where I introduce my various characters that I occasionally mention here on Panzercow. Today, meet my blood elf hunter Illithanis.
- Full name: Illithanis Jadehawk
- Created: November 2007
- Level/race/class: Level 76 blood elf hunter
- Spec: Beastmastery (currently 53/14/0)
- Age: 119 (human equivalent 20)
“Illy,” as I call her (and she does not call herself), grew up in Quel’thalas, where her family, the Jadehawks, had considerable land and holdings south of Silvermoon in what is currently the central portion of Eversong Woods, on the western edge of the Dead Scar. Many generations of Jadehawks before Illithanis served proudly as Farstriders, the ranger corps of the quel’dorei, dating back three thousand years to the Troll Wars. Skill with bow and sword, and a great affinity with taming and training winged animals such as dragonhawks, ran in the family.
All that changed when Arthas showed up seven years ago and led his assault on the Sunwell. Illithanis and her fraternal-twin brother Althoris were sent to Sunstrider Isle in a last-ditch effort to preserve the family line–both were very indignant at this fact, as they wished to fight the Scourge. In the end, they were two of the few survivors of the quel’dorei, renamed the sin’dorei–blood elves. (Miraculously, both Illithanis’ parents also survived, though their landholdings were all but destroyed and the elder Jadehawks were forced to abandon the rest, and now live inside the rebuilt city of Silvermoon in moderate circumstances.)
Illithanis attempted to follow in her family tradition and join the Farstriders. But with the ascension of the Blood Knights and the Magisters, the Farstriders found themselves greatly diminished in power, prestige, and size. In addition, Illithanis’ rather negative opinions of Lor’themar Theron and the post-Kael’thas administration of Quel’thalas rendered her politically “unfit” for service. She became the first Jadehawk in three thousand years not to serve Silvermoon as a Farstrider, and made her own way out into the world as a free agent. Her brother Althoris, on the other hand, became an eager young Blood Knight.
Physically, Illy is fairly unexceptional; attractive, but not memorably beautiful, with regular features, something of a long face, pointy chin, and thinner lips than she’d like. She’s of a normal blood elven build and height, perhaps a bit more athletic than a caster-type but by no means muscular (“wiry” would be a good word). She has jet-black hair of just over shoulder-length, held back of her ears with a jade-encrusted clasp. She’s got the complexion of someone who spends a lot of time outdoors. She hardly ever wears makeup, and her only jewelry besides her hairband, rings, and trinkets is a small jade hawk earring in her right ear. That doesn’t mean she’s slovenly; far from it, she bathes as regularly as she can, and her clothing and equipment are always repaired and as neat as she can possibly keep them.
I’m still working on Illy’s personality. Some things I know about her, and some things she’s steadfastly refused to reveal. I know she’s a generally decent sort, especially for a blood elf (which fits in with what lore says about Farstriders in general). She can be arrogant and doesn’t suffer fools well. She despises what she sees as the lazy, indolent, corrupt culture of the “elite” in Silvermoon and fumes at what’s been done to her beloved Farstriders, especially by the Blood Knights–and yet, up until patch 2.4, she was an unrepentant Kael’thas fangirl. We’re talking poster-on-the-ceiling levels of squee here. She saw him as the savior of Quel’thalas in the Third War (such as was saved), and constantly wished he would return from Outland, sweep aside Theron and the Blood Knights, and reset the sin’dorei on the path toward greatness yet again.
Then came patch 2.4. Whoopsie. Come to find out that Kael really is a bastard who stole his own people’s naaru and left them starving for magic. Illy’s still getting over the betrayal. It’s left her with a huge distrust of kings and magisters in general, and deepened her hatred for her native Silvermoon even more. She only comes there now to occasionally visit her parents and sometimes to train with the Farstriders.
I do know that Illy has taken to the Horde more than a lot of blood elves. She respects the warrior tradition of orcs even as she’s repulsed by some of their bloodier aspects. Tauren culture fascinates her, but it’s in sort of a patronizing Jane-Goodall-and-her-chimps kind of way. She stays well away from trolls–hey, 3000 years of conditioning is hard to break–and Forsaken squick her, even though her #2 idol, Ranger-General Sylvanas Windrunner, is one. She’s neutral on dwarves, gnomes, and Draenei. Humans infuriate her for what she sees as Garithos’ betrayal, and she really looks down her nose at night elves, thinking them stupid redneck country-bumpkin tree-humping idiots. If she calls you a night elf, she just insulted the hell out of you.
The other hook I’m trying to hang onto with her (but may not be able to) is that she only tames and works with flying animals. She started with a dragonhawk, then switched to a Thousand Needles venomous cloud serpent at level 28. At level 44, I found her a beautiful red Feralas rogue vale screecher, named it Bloodwing, and she’s used it until now. (And yes, I admit it, I tamed it because at the time, her armor was all red, and they matched.) Bloodwing may get honorable retirement, though. Yesterday I tamed an Emerald Skytalon from the Emerald Dragonshrine and named it…Emerald. C’mon, her last name’s Jadehawk, how could I not tame a bright green bird of prey?
And for slogging through this wall of text, you get a bonus…my tribute to one of the greatest scenes in movie history, Ursula Andress’ famous entrance as Honey Rider in the first James Bond movie, Dr. No, done WoW style:
Hey look, SURPRISE BUTTSE…uh, I mean, hey, look, a patch. 3.0.9 patch notes are not up on Blizzard’s normal patch notes page as of Tuesday morning EST, but are available here at MMO Champion and the other usual spots around teh Intertubes. So expect “extended expanded extended maintenance” today; my guess for server uptime is no earlier than about 4:45 pm EST, which oddly enough, is about the time I leave work.
Oddly enough, this is one of the few patches I’ve seen that doesn’t touch warriors at all, good or bad. There are changes to most other classes, including the reversal of a couple of 3.0.8 BM hunter nerfs. Serpent’s Swiftness is now back up to +20% pet haste at max rank, and Kindred Spirits is now back up to +20% pet damage. I think Blizzard figured out that they dropped the hammer too hard on BM hunters. These are countered by two ability nerfs–Lava Breath and Poison Spit only slow target casting speed by -25%, down from -50%. (Several other cast-slow effects like Slow and Mind-Numbing Poison got halved as well; this looks to be a PvP adjustment for squishies.)
One more semi-related hunter tidbit: Big Red Kitty, your one-stop shop for all things huntrish, commissioned an interesting WoW Armory-mining survey of hunter specs and just what 3.0.8 did to the BM/MM/SV proportions. The results shocked the hell out of me. Looks like survival hunters definitely win the Flavor of the Month award for January.
Continuing my character introduction series, next we have my second WoW character on Feathermoon, my Alliance-side main, the cranky old hunter with a heart of bronze and a liver of steel…Beltar.
- Full name: Beltar Forgebreaker
- Created: August 2005
- Level/race/class: Level 77 dwarf hunter
- Spec: Marksmanship (currently 16/52/0)
- Age: 127 (human equivalent ~55)
Beltar is a fairly stereotypical dwarf. He’s cranky, he’s curmudgeonly, he’s loud, he’s profane, he’s often drunk, and he occasionally smells faintly like stale beer and pig. Physically he’s not imposing–a bit on the scrawny side for a dwarf, maybe an inch shorter than average, with a craggy, wrinkled face, hazel eyes, bad teeth, and mostly-gray hair that hangs straight to below his shoulders. His skin is weathered from a lifetime outdoors. He likes hats, and has a garish red fedora (Mirren’s Drinking Hat) that he often wears with dark-colored shirts and pants when not geared up for killing.
When I wrote Beltar’s history, I knew basically nothing about Blizzard canon history in the Warcraft universe prior to WoW. So I left it very vague. For the past century or so, after leaving home (the circumstances of which are explained in a story here), Beltar wandered all over the Eastern Kingdoms selling his skill with an axe or a gun. At various times, he was a merchant guard, bandit, hired killer, bodyguard, mercenary soldier, watchman, and much more. Because of his work with various merchants, he managed to miss both the First and Second War; before the Third War, he was grievously injured while bodyguarding someone, and ended up stuck in Anvilmar recuperating. By the time he was up and around again, it was years later, and he had to start regaining his skills again…from level 1.
Beltar’s one constant is his pet boar, Squealer. He tamed Squealer in Dun Morogh at level 10 and he’s had him ever since. He’s dabbled in other pets (he currently has an as-yet-unnamed Sholazar dreadsaber as a DPS pet) but keeps coming back to the big black crag boar, lousy DPS and all.
Beltar is simultaneously fun and frustrating to play. He’s my favorite character to roleplay, above and beyond even Linedan. Lin is quiet, he’s serious, he blends in to backgrounds. Beltar, at times, is loud, abrasive, profane, insulting–generally socially inept, and what’s more, he doesn’t give a damn. On those relatively rare occasions where I can just lay back and have fun being a drunk-ass crotchety gun-toting dwarven redneck, he’s an absolute hoot. And, unlike the basically noble and decent Linedan, Beltar is an amoral little son of a gun. He doesn’t really get the chance to show it off, but I’ve always envisioned him as being a perfect Mafia hitman. He’s not into dark magic, he’s not really into torture for the sake of torture, he likes puppies and kittens and rainbows well enough. But cross him or those he considers his–like his guild, the Wildfire Riders–and he’ll castrate you, nail you to a barn door, pull your guts out through your throat, and feed them to his dreadsaber while you watch…then head down to the Pig and Whistle in Old Town Stormwind and pound back some ale like nothing ever happened.
Even his accent is fun. His accent isn’t quite the normal faux-Scottish Blizzard-standard Dwarven; I figured his speech patterns in Common have gotten munged up by a century of exposure to humans from Lordaeron to Stormwind and everywhere in between. So his accent is similarly twisted; inside my head, it’s a bizarre mixture of Blizzard Dwarven, combined with some occasionally swallowed vowels and clipped endings (so “y’r” instead of “your,” “findin’” instead of “finding”), a bit of Minnesotan or Canadian prairie thrown in (he tends to pronounce things like “house” as almost “heouse,” if that makes any sense–it’s a linguistic thing peculiar to the part of Virginia I grew up in), and grammar patterns based off folks I grew up with in rural Virginia and those I knew in South Carolina.
The frustration part comes more from actually trying to play him. He’s always been a marks hunter, and always will be; I have Illithanis, my blood elf, to scratch my beastmastery hunter itch. Beltar is a gunbunny. It’s what he does. But marks hunters are generally inferior to BM hunters in a lot of circumstances, without any real “oh shit” buttons like Bestial Wrath if things go sideways, and they’re harder to level solo because their pets are much less effective. And with most of my time being taken up by Lin, Beltar almost exclusively solos. One look at his craptacular Armory tells you that; at 77, he’s still wearing lots of Karazhan pieces. He’s done exactly one instance run since entering Northrend. With only being able to play him a few nights a week, and with the majority of his acquaintances already long since 80 and gone onto heroics, he’s lagging, and his low gear level makes leveling him a bit of a slog. Beltar may make me break my “I don’t pickup group” pledge just to get the massive backlog of low-level instance quests out of his quest log.
I’d love to be able to put more time into him. But there aren’t enough hours in the day, really. So I roleplay with him when I can, and grind out a few hundred thousand xp when I can, and keep hoping I can pick up some instance runs or help with group quests, usually without too much luck. But as befits a dwarf who’s led a rough life on the road for over a century, I keep on keeping on.