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The Possible Return

So…uh, hi.  Miss me?

Yep, I abandoned the blog for a while.  There’s reasons behind it, good ones, but they’re too complicated to go into right now.

The short version is, I’ve been dealing with Stuff.  That Stuff includes health issues, a severe case of WoW burnout, and the realization that I am probably a lot more mentally fucked up than I thought I was.  I am, near as I can tell, fighting depression that has taken a heavy toll on my mentally-intensive recreational activities, and that includes blogging, especially blogging about WoW.  I actually took over a month off from tanking for my current 10-man raid, Doom and Blet, because of that burnout.  I’m back, and we’re now 6/7 normal Firelands and beating our heads against Ragnaros, but I pretty much only log in to raid these days.  The spark, the Warcrack addiction, the all-consuming gotta-have-it, is largely, if not completely, gone.  These days, I like talking about WoW more than playing it.  (Although, in a good sign for my WoW enjoyment, I did log in this weekend to do Firelands dailies, because Linedan is only about six or seven days’ worth away from getting the fiery hippogryph mount.  And the dailies are dead easy when I do them on him in Fury spec.)

So after dawdling and thinking on it for a while, here’s what’s going to happen going forward.  Achtung Panzercow is not going away.  But it will become a more general gaming blog and not be 100% WoW, all the time.  I have a wide variety of gaming interests besides logging in two nights a week to slap the denizens of the Firelands around and take their lunch money.  Currently I’m dabbling, to various degrees, in Lord of the Rings Online, Rift, EVE Online, and my newest addiction, the online racing sim iRacing.  And looming on the horizon like the Death Star is the Big Kahuna, the 800-pound Wookiee that’s going to turn me into a shut-in and has made me damn glad I’ve got the entire last week of the year off…Star Wars: The Old Republic.  I have been in the beta for several months now, and since the NDA is lifted I can say this much:  It’s a good game.  Very good.

In the meantime, in lieu of actual, y’know, content, I’m going to be revising the tags and categories on existing posts to allow for non-World of Warcraft posting.  And trying to think of good posting ideas.  That’s always the hard part, even harder than finding the time to write good content.  Hopefully, I can come up with enough to get this here blog thang back off the ground, because I do love writing when I feel like I’ve got something good to say.  Here’s hoping I can get back to doing that on a regular basis.


Sic transit gloria mundi

The title of this post is a Latin phrase that means “thus passes the glory of the world.”  (Sadly, I had to use Wikipedia to get that instead of my five years of high school Latin.  Five years of memorization and translation and I can’t get past “Britannia est insula” anymore.  Durp.)  It’s generally used to mean “the things of this world are fleeting.”

It’s a phrase that immediately popped into my head, for whatever strange reason, when I read the announcement yesterday that The Anvil, the 25-man raid on Feathermoon that I’ve been a member of for the better part of five years, is shutting its doors permanently.  The end of The Anvil came out of left field as a real shock to all of us; we already knew that the raid was having issues getting spun up for Cataclysm raiding, and that we’d probably have to drop back to two 10-mans from a 25 at least for now, and that we really didn’t quite have the people even to do two 10s at least in the immediate future.  But to get the word that the officers had decided to pull the plug entirely was a stunner…and yet, looking in retrospect at the signs, it’s completely understandable.

The Anvil, you see, is something of an unusual raid.  It originally started as a cooperative effort between three smallish Feathermoon RP guilds–the Thundering Hammer Clan, Noxilite, and the Prophecy of Shadow–to form a Molten Core 40-man raid in late 2005/early 2006.  It was then, and always has been, a non-guild raid.  It’s never been a requirement to be in a particular guild to be a part of The Anvil.  The raid leadership team, originally under the baritone command of THC’s Malkavet, is a separate entity from the leadership of any of the guilds that may be involved (although most of the raid officers are also officers in their respective guilds).

From the start, The Anvil’s principles were pretty simple.  We knew we weren’t going to be a server-leading progression raid, but we were going to come prepared and do our best.  Raiding usually went two days a week, three to four hours a day.  Roleplay was not required, but was allowed and would be respected.  Real life came before raid life, since most of the raid’s members were young professionals, many with families.  Using those simple rules, The Anvil went into Molten Core again…and again…and again, and eventually downed Ragnaros many times.  (There are Anvillains that still won’t go to Molten Core even today because they’re so sick of it.)  Then there was Blackwing Lair, with Nefarian eventually falling.

In Burning Crusade, The Anvil broke into a couple of 10-mans for Karazhan, then reformed and plowed through much of the 25-man content.  Serpentshrine Cavern was eventually conquered, but not without Vashj holding us up for a month and a half.  Kael’thas, sadly, didn’t get punked until after patch 3.0 dropped and mega-nerfed the fight.  The raid also went 3/5 in Hyjal, and (after patch 3.0) 7/9 in one trip to the Black Temple.  Sunwell?  Nope.

But it was in Wrath of the Lich King where I think The Anvil really came into our own.  Yes, we needed the 30% buff to kill Arthas, and we didn’t do it until mid-September of last year.  Yes, it took us four months of hard work to get even that single LK kill.  But what was great, as a grunt in the raid, was to watch us, as a raid, improve as we moved through Wrath’s 25-man content, from Naxxramas to Ulduar to Trial of the Trashless to Icecrown Citadel.  As the fights got more difficult and technical through the years, we got better.  We became less of a brute-force group (The Anvil’s early Molten Core nickname was “The DPS Raid,” because of how much we brought in comparison to healers and tanks) and more of a “kill the boss despite a log parse that’d make other raids laugh” raid.

So how did we go from the high of an Arthas kill to disbanding the raid in less than four months?  A few reasons, I guess, plus some I’m sure I’m not privy to since I’m not an officer.  The changes in Cataclysm raiding greatly favor 10-man raids.  They’re simpler, easier to put together, much less strain on leaders, and now drop the same loot, just less of it.  We lost several people who wanted to stick with 10-mans instead of the more chaotic 25.  Another reason, one that has rankled me since it was announced, is guild achievements and perks.  The cross-guild raid is apparently quite rare in the wider world of WoW, but there’ve been many of them on Feathermoon for some reason–we don’t find them unusual.  However, with members scattered from several different guilds (or even no guild), our 25-man can’t provide any one guild the guild rep, guild XP, or guild acheesements that a straight one-guild raid can.  Combine that with the fact that several of the component guilds in the greater Anvil circle of friends are now, or soon will be, capable of putting together 8 people to form the core of a balanced guild-focused 10-man, and that’s another strike against a cross-guild 25-man.  Blizzard could have solved this with some sort of support for guild alliances, much as corporations in EVE Online can form alliances to gain benefits, but they said early on in the Cataclysm development cycle that guild alliance support was right out.

In the end, though, I guess the biggest reason is probably burnout.  Some of our officer group have been in place for three or four years.  That’s a long time to have to herd cats.  There’s always some drama with a raid, even a laid-back one like ours, and it wears after a while.  When you’ve been fighting through various 25-man dramas for a couple of years, and then you’re looking at a raid composition for Cataclysm that simply will not allow a 25-man, and then have to deal with shortages in various classes and splitting people into 10-mans and longtime raiders hanging it up due to burnout of their own and getting people geared up and ready…I don’t blame them for pulling the plug, honestly.  It took a near-superhuman effort by our officers to get us through WotLK and get us that Arthas kill.  They’re volunteers.  They just want to play the game again.  Who can begrudge them that?

Now, my personal views on the Anvil are well-documented on the post celebrating that Lich King-25 kill.  It’s not just “a raid” to me, it’s a large extended group of friends that have given me the opportunity to transform from the terrible warrior who stumbled into Molten Core in mid-2006 to the reasonably competent tank who was on point the night that Arthas Menethil finally fell.  Despite all the hard times, despite almost losing my raid spot a couple of times and having to improve to stay, despite all the wipes and struggles and late nights and mistakes, The Anvil has been a wonderful and awesome ride for me over four and a half years.  Every Thursday and Friday night for a couple of years now, I’ve known where I’d be and what I’d be doing…sitting on Ventrilo with 24 or so other people, several of them drunk, listening to a cavalcade of “your mom’s face” jokes, our Chief Cat Herder‘s shouts of “Defile, MOVE!”, arguments about whether Batman or Superman was the better superhero, and all the rest.  And now that’s gone.

It’s not all bad.  At least two 10-mans, maybe more, are going to be forming out of the dispersion of the main 25-man.  We still have our in-game chat channel and Vent, and we’re still friends and acquaintances who will heroic or raid with each other from time to time.  The people are still there.  But the big 25-man, the central focus of The Anvil, is gone, and that’s going to take some getting used to.  It felt like something permanent, something that would never go away.  But one thing that all of us need to remind ourselves about in a game like WoW…everything is transitory.  Change is the only constant.  And the things of this world (of Warcraft) are fleeting indeed.

The Anvil Raid.  January 6, 2006 – January 11, 2011.  Just write on its tombstone “never has a finer group of friends had so much fun kicking a moderate amount of ass.”


I feel for the poor guy, but…

With three weeks to go until Cataclysm drops, this is the time where people start looking back at the epic two-year ride that Blizzard’s given us with Wrath of the Lich King. And what a ride it was.  Blizzard, in my opinion, did an excellent job with Wrath. Sure, there were some clunkers (hello, Icecrown County Fair and Trial of the Big Round Room!), but in general, Wrath was great.  Even the quests were awesome.  Well, mostly…

The poor bastard in the picture above is Crusader Bridenbrad.  We first hear about Bridenbrad from Highlord Tirion Fordring of the Argent Crusade after we’ve helped the Crusade cleanse and secure Crusader’s Pinnacle in Icecrown.  Apparently, during the fierce battle on the Broken Front, Bridenbrad distinguished himself by dragging “more than a dozen” Argents to safety after their column was scattered.  Fordring wants you to go find Bridenbrad, up in the northeast of Icecrown, and bring him back so he can be honored for his bravery.

Thus begins one of the more interesting–and, for some of us, maddening–questlines in Wrath of the Lich King.  First you find Bridenbrad alone in a small cul-de-sac in northeast Icecrown (the subzone is called “Silent Vigil”).  Unfortunately, Bridenbrad was wounded by Scourge, and is dying of some sort of Scourge taint.  He sends you back to Tirion with his best Jewish-grandmother impersation, something like, “no, you just go, you kids go and have your fun, I’ll be fine.  Really.  I’ll be OK, just go.  I’ll stay here.  Alone.  In the snow.  Turning into a ghoul that you’ll never call or come visit.  But I’ll be fine, no, really, it’s OK, I’ll learn to like eating brains.”  Tirion, upon your return to Crusader’s Pinnacle, says “fuck that noise” (not in so many words) and sends you on a world-spanning fly-and-fetch questline to bring back something to save the noble Crusader.

Your first stop will be Moonglade, where Keeper Remulos will have you enter the Nightmare to gather some acorns.  He will then make the acorns into some sort of chicken soup that he thinks may be able to save Bridenbrad, although he doesn’t sound too optimistic.  You go back to Icecrown, Fordring sends you back out to Silent Vigil, and you give Bridenbrad the chicken soup.  It’s yummy, and it makes him feel a little better, but he’s still, unfortunately, on the express train to Ghoulville.

Fordring, upon your return to the Pinnacle, then decides to escalate the problem to higher management…that would be Alexstrasza, the Life-Binder, her own twelve-foot-tall bikini-clad self, who agrees to help you if you go to the Ruby Dragonshrine and pick up a Dahlia’s Tear for her.  She takes the Tear and creates the Breath of Alexstrasza (which, by the way, Blizz, would be a great name for seriously hot hot sauce–Mr. Morhaime, you can pay me for that idea later), sends you back to Fordring, and he sends you back to Bridenbrad.  He takes the hot sauce, which is so spicy that it actually melts the snow and makes flowers grow around him…but all the Scoville units in the world aren’t going to burn the Scourge taint out of him.  So far the score is Cooties 2, Major Lore Figures 0.

Tirion, however, won’t give up.  He pulls his trump card and sends you to speak to A’dal, the chief naaru in Shattrath.  The naaru, after all, are literally personifications of the Light…if anyone would know how to remove the plague of impending undeath from a man, it would be A’dal. So you head to Shattrath and speak with A’dal.  A’dal, being the somewhat annoying NPC that he is, says he knows why you’ve come (don’t they always?), and then says this:

I am pleased that you have come to me, Linedan. I know of Crusader Bridenbrad, and of your travels in hope of saving him. Bridenbrad’s valor has sparked remarkable selflessness in you, and this is a miracle unto itself.

The Light will take care of its own. I will extend my blessing to Bridenbrad and he shall not endure the corruption of undeath. I shall return you to Dalaran, and you shall return to him. Know that I remain with you.

This is great news.  Sounds like Fordring’s persistence has paid off, right?  You catch a portal back to Dalaran (empty-handed) and fly back out to Bridenbrad.  By that time, the poor Crusader is very close to death.  He thanks you for your Herculean efforts on his behalf, and then…

You have returned to me, warrior. I must admit… it is good to see you again… your face renews my hope that this land will be free of Arthas’s grasp one day soon. I’m proud to have met you…

Bridenbrad’s words trail off, a dim smile on his face. As life seems to slip from him, a gentle ringing fills your ears.

At that point, A’dal and his two sidekicks K’uri and M’ori appear floating over Bridenbrad’s dying body.  Instead of the Crusader being healed and standing up, Bridenbrad’s spirit floats out of his body and ascends in a pillar of light as A’dal speaks:

A’dal says: Fear not, young one, for this crusader shall not taste death.
A’dal says: In life, Bridenbrad was the bearer of great deeds. Now, in passing, he shall taste only paradise.
A’dal says: The light does not abandon its champions.

And that’s it.  The naaru wink out.  Bridenbrad’s dead body disappears.  You’re left standing in a snowy wasteland with a dying campfire and a box of possessions that you then take back to Tirion, and receive one of them as a reward.

The first time I did this quest, on Linedan, I just stood there blinking for a minute.  I was confused.  Apparently A’dal, the most powerful of the naaru, the slightly creepy Shattrath windchimes that basically are the material representation of the vaunted Light, couldn’t be arsed to de-Scourgify Bridenbrad?  Or perhaps the taint is so strong that not even A’dal could save him?  OK, that makes more sense then.  Can’t save the guy, A’dal figured, so why not just vacuum the spirit out of his body so he won’t have to experience being a mindless servant of Arthas?

That sound you heard was the top popping on a big ol’ fresh can of worms.

First of all, one of A’dal’s lines…“in passing, he shall taste only paradise.” I’ve been digging around all day when I could get time, and I can’t find anything on followers of the Light (be they mainline Church of the Holy Light or spin-offs like the Argents or Scarlets) holding a belief in an afterlife or paradise.  Shamans talk about the “spirit world,” where there are departed spirits of all kinds running around; troll priests have their Loas, and there are references here and there to ghosts and spirits and such, that’s all well-known.  But I can’t find a single thing talking about any sort of afterlife, especially a “paradise,” for Light-worshippers.  Maybe I missed it, I don’t know.  Maybe Bridenbrad is just so special that he gets into the VIP room in the back of Club Naaru, where the Dom Perignon flows like water and the playahs and ballahs chill with their groupies, while the garden-variety good people are waiting in line out front under the watchful eye of Aldor bouncers in black T-shirts.  Something about the whole thing just does not seem to fit into Light lore, at least in my fairly limited view of it.  I admit, my knowledge of Warcraftish lore is not all that great–I have access to the usual Internet sources, but don’t own any of the Warcraft d20 sourcebooks or anything like that.

But then, we get to the real kicker…when A’dal says, “The Light does not abandon its champions.”

Reeeealllly.

Then please explain to the court, Mr. A’dal, why there are a metric asston of former Argent paladins walking around Scourgeholme as skeletons, bouncing Hammers of Injustice off my dome willy-nilly.  Please explain what happened to the thousands of good, solid, Light-worshipping folk in Lordaeron and environs who did not get the Heavenly Elevator but instead got a few days’ rest in the clay of Tirisfal before rising back up as Arthas’ infantry.  Please explain why you can’t swing a dead gnome in north central Icecrown without hitting a Converted Hero, doomed to wander in anguish until somebody on a daily quest to get Valiants’ Seals comes along and puts them out of their misery.  Were they not “champions of the Light?”  No one’s doubting that Crusader Bridenbrad is an exceptional hero.  But haven’t a lot of heroes fallen before the Scourge and been doomed to serve it?  Why didn’t they get to “taste only paradise?”

And on top of the potential lore-bending, and the issues caused by the “why him and not them” question, there’s an even more ridiculous element to it.  When Bridenbrad was put into the game initially in Wrath, there was nothing up in his neck of the woods but Sindragosa’s Fall, meaning his nearest neighbors were vry’kul and creepy cultists.  But with the subsequent 3.1 and 3.2 patches, Blizzard gave us the Argent Tournament (or, as I like to call it, the Icecrown County Fair).  And they happened to put it right over the rise from Bridenbrad’s campfire.

So you can imagine…here’s this poor sod, dying out in the snow, leagues from nowhere…and now he sees this steady stream of gryphons and windriders flying north and south over him.  He hears on the wind the sounds of hammering, the shouts of workers, the clang of arms…and then the sounds of cheering from the Tournament proper.  Hey, maybe if there was an onshore northerly wind, he could even get a whiff of the concessions.  A three-minute stagger north of him, hundreds of Argents and adventurers are gathered in what became for a while the focal point of the assault on the Lich King.  And there was poor Bridenbrad, alone and forgotten (assuming you hadn’t already done the quests and phased him out).

Ridiculous?  Yeah, maybe I’m being ridiculous, or picky, or whatever.  But something about that questline has never completely sat right with me.  I’ve had trouble articulating it, which is why I haven’t ranted about it until now.  Maybe it weirds me out because of my own Christian beliefs, and I’m not comfortable with A’dal pretending to be God and Bridenbrad pretending to be Enoch.  The whole thing seemed to bend lore in directions that I didn’t think it should be bent.

But it wasn’t until this morning, when doing some research for this post, that the Wowpedia entry for Bridenbrad snapped this whole thing into focus for me:

Bridenbrad is named for Bradford C. Bridenbecker, the brother of Robert Bridenbecker, Blizzard’s Vice President of Online Technologies. He was the city manager of La Habra, California, not far from Blizzard’s offices in Irvine, from 2002 until his death from cancer in 2007. He was also an avid player of World of Warcraft. In the Wrath of the Lich King manual, he is listed under “Special Thanks” as “Bradford C. Bridenbecker R.I.P. 6.18.2007″.

Robert Bridenbecker revealed in the World of Warcraft 5th anniversary interviews that shortly after his brother’s death, he sent an e-mail to Blizzard to request a character be created in his honor. Chris Metzen, who had attended Brad Bridenbecker’s funeral, heard of this and offered one of two ways: To add him as part of the main storyline for World of Warcraft: Wrath of the Lich King, or to give him his own epic quest chain. Under the direction of Metzen and Alex Afrasiabi, the Bridenbrad quest chain was created in tribute to Brad Bridenbecker’s battle against his illness.

I never knew that.  Now it all makes sense.  This isn’t some silly thing that was casually thrown in…it’s a real tribute, to a real man, who fought a real battle against a real disease, and lost. Knowing that, all my worries about lore and continuity and such things seem rather petty.  I still have issues with the way the questline was put into the game, but honestly, they don’t really matter all that much now that I know the real story behind Crusader Bridenbrad.

I hope and pray that the real “Bridenbrad”–Bradford Bridenbecker–just like his fictional counterpart, was able, in the end, to “taste only paradise.”  After all, in my own beliefs, the Light doesn’t abandon its fallen champions, either.


Random Acts of Friday II

I swear I’ve got some good posts percolating.  Somewhere.  No, seriously.  Really.  But in the meantime, have another fun-size grab-bag of “oh shit I really should post something” desperation…

- Bad news, melee DPS and tanks:  Nerfs are on the horizon with the latest 4.0.3 PTR patch build 13245.  MMO Champion has the details…it looks like that passive self-healing took a hit across the board, but none were worse than the nerf to Blood Craze in the Fury tree.  Previously it would heal 2.5% of max health per talent point over 10 seconds (so 2.5/5/7.5%); with 2/2 Field Dressing, that netted out to 9.6% of maximum health restored over 10 seconds, on a 10% chance per hit taken.  Build 13245 slashes that healing to 1/2/3%.  I don’t know what the final number will be with maxed Field Dressing, but I think it’ll be somewhere just north of 4%.  Obviously that’s a significant cut, and it remains to be seen whether that will render Blood Craze a much less “mandatory” talent.  I’ve been of the opinion that it’s a no-brainer to take it just to lessen the strain on our healers, but so far, our healers haven’t been straining, even on ICC-level content.  That may change once we head into Cataclysm and see the instances there.  In the meantime, I’m giving serious thought to dropping Blood Craze at least temporarily and loading those points over into maxing Shield Specialization in the hope of solving some of the occasional rage issues Linedan and Latisha are both running into.

- The Anvil, our 25-man raid, folded up shop for the duration last night with a final run through the raid weekly (Malygos).  We’re now on hiatus and will be back in action for Cataclysm around January 13, 2011.  Our final scorecard:  Cleared Naxx, cleared Ulduar normal with a few hardmodes here and there, cleared Trial of the Wake Me Up When It’s Over, and never bothered with Trial of the Wake Me Up OH GOD MY FACE (the heroic version).  We completed normal 25-man ICC with our single hard-fought and emotional Arthas kill, and did get two heroic encounters in there done, Lootship and Rotface.  It’s not exactly a record that the Paragons or Ensidias of the world would find impressive, but it’s by far the best we’ve ever done for an expansion, and I wouldn’t trade the fun and hilarity we had for all the world-firsts in the, uh, world.  It was a hell of a ride, kids, and I’m glad I was along for it.

- That doesn’t mean I’m quite done with raiding, though.  I tank a 10-man that runs for three hours each Saturday afternoon, and with The Anvil shutting down temporarily, that means we’ll be going back into ICC for more heroic modes (we’re currently 7/12 HM) and a crack at those tasty proto-drakes.  Of course, that means heroic Putricide…and heroic Sindragosa…and what I know is going to be the bane of my existence, All You Can Eat.  Oh God.

- There was a minor kerfuffle in the WoWosphere over the past couple days when Frostheim, WoW Insider hunter columnist and main guy over at the Warcraft Hunter’s Union blog, posted a story about running heroic Old Kingdom and what happened therein.  (It’s too complicated to rehash here…go read Frostheim’s post and the rest of this will make sense.)  Most of his commenters backed him up on it, or at least thought it was funny (and honestly, I can see that).  Well, Amber at I Like Bubbles offers the counterpoint, in which she brings up the valid (and, IMO, accurate) point that when you’re a higher-visibility member of a community, you really shouldn’t go around acting like a penis.  Not that you ever should anyway, but you get the idea.

And, here’s a few random gems from the Interwebs:

Y’all have a good weekend, and remember, it’s all fun and games until Deathwing puts somebody’s eye out.


Random acts of Friday

I don’t know if this is going to become a regular feature of Achtung Panzercow or not–is anything ever regular around here?–but hey, it’s Friday, and I’m feeling random.  So here’s a grab bag of stuff.

- I ran ICC 25N last night with Linedan in our “third tank” position.  Basically, it’s the utility infielder job, where sometimes I tank and sometimes I DPS.  I think I swapped specs six times in three hours, going Prot for Marrowgar, Deathwhisper + trash, Putricide, and Team Edward Sparkle Disco Party and Blood Wing trash, and Fury for everything else.  (We cleared everything but Sindragosa and Arthas.)  It’s kind of a crappy job, because being the third tank on fights like Marrowgar and Putricide is pretty boring.  You stand there, you do lousy DPS.  And the constant spec-switching makes it hard to get into a good rhythm.  But, since we rotate our four tanks around week to week, everybody gets to do it.

- Last night was my first raid trying out Fury in 4.0.  It’s…interesting.  My damage was up from 3.x, not as far up as the casters of course (warlock sustaining 18k for the first half of ICC…wtf?) but still up about 15%.  The rotation’s changed a bit, with Whirlwind’s damage nerf removing it from common use in favor of Raging Blow on single targets, I guess.  The numbers I saw flying across the screen were impressively big, with lots of five-digit crits bouncing around, but the overall damage wasn’t reflecting that.  I’m guessing that’s because I no longer have Deep Wounds ticking constantly, and the change to Bloodsurge (only firing off Bloodthirst hits and not Heroic Strike hits) means a lot fewer free Slams.  Still, I managed to crack 10k DPS on Saurfang and 12k on Festergut.  Frighteningly, 12k DPS was only good for tenth place on Festergut.

- Further on Fury…the damage feels “lumpy,” for lack of a better word.  It comes in bursts, like when Raging Blow and Heroic Strike come off cooldown at the same time, or when I get a lucky streak of Bloodsurge procs.  There aren’t a whole lot of dead spots, and in general it feels a bit more active than the 3.x “Bloodthirst, Whirlwind, oh look, let’s spam Heroic Strike/Cleave and pray I get a Bloodsurge proc before I fall asleep” setup.  However, I was surprised to find that my rotation wasn’t always cooldown-limited, but rage-limited.  I rarely had rage issues as Fury in 3.x.  There were a fair number of points last night where everything on my bar was either dark or on cooldown, and the waits to rebuild rage were agonizing.  Just like with Prot, overuse of Heroic Strike or Cleave for Fury left me in a bad spot quite a bit.  Finding the balance of when to HS and when not to HS is going to take me some time.

- One more thing on Fury…Execute spam is back with a vengeance.  The tooltip seemed to indicate that it would only do about 4000 damage.  I was dropping regular hits in the 13-17k range, with crits as high as 34,000.  On Blood Queen Lana’thel, when I got bitten late in the fight, I hit a lucky streak and was able to land six Execute crits in a row for between 55,000 and 65,000 damage each.   I AM A LARGE FURRY VAMPIRIC GOD.

- I am in the process of doing some adjustments on Linedan and I need help from the Prot community.  When in his normal tank gear, which is mostly ilevel 264ish, he runs about 50k health, 22% dodge and parry, 30% block (no mastery yet), 4.5% hit, and 12 expertise.  I’ve decided I need to boost his hit and expertise back up toward the caps in this brave new world of lower tank threat and higher DPS.  I actually reforged him out of about 1.2% of dodge this morning to get him to a bit over 6% hit and 15 expertise, and am seriously considering replacing the Mongoose enchant on his tank weapon with Accuracy (+25 hit, +25 crit).  Right now, he’s gemmed straight +30 stamina except for other stuff to get his meta activated.  If anyone wants to take a look at his Armory (link over to the right in the sidebar) and toss out an opinion on where I can close the gaps to 8% hit and 23 expertise, it’d be appreciated.

- Speaking of tanking, we got some fairly significant shield-related changes announced yesterday.  MMO Champion has the blue posts on Shield Block changes reposted here, and Zellviren over at The Dead Good Tanking Guide has an explanation of why the reduction of the Shield Block bonus block chance from +100% to +25% really isn’t that big a nerf.  (Zellviren’s excellent link courtesy of Rhidach at Righteous Defense.)  In addition, the latest beta build 13221 has significantly increased the base damage on Shield Slam–as in, a 125% increase, about 1100 points before attack power’s added in.  But, the catch is that Shield Slam damage now scales less with attack power.  So my guess is that our normal Shield Slams will hit harder, which is good, because they’ve been behind Revenge for a while in beta now.  But once we get our Vengeance on and are wandering around with five-digit attack power and Shield Block activated (with 2/2 Heavy Repercussions), we probably won’t see those massive wood-inducing crits anymore.  Good-bye, 46k Shield Slam crits.  I’ll always remember our crazy nights together.

- Have a few other great blog posts from this past week, around the WoWosphere:

  • Vosskah at Sword and Board talks about his first impressions of 4.0.1 tanking.
  • Kadomi at Tank Like a Girl is putting together a list of warrior blogs for all specs, not just Prot.  DPS warriors in particular seem very underserved in the WoWosphere, so if you know of a good warrior blog, send it her way.
  • Amber at I Like Bubbles has cat macros.  What else do you need?
  • The saga of Gerald continues at Righteous Orbs.
  • Finally, the community is losing two outstanding bloggers.  Laranya at Root and Branch has decided to pack it in after a short but spectacular run; thank you, Laranya, and keep hanging out on Twitter, we miss you!
  • And one of the best warrior tank resources, Tanking Tips, is closing its doors.  Veneretio has been bringing the theory for a long time now, and his departure is going to leave a big void.  Vene, as one of the tanks who have been immeasurably helped by your hard work, thank you, and we’ll really miss your insight.

- And, in closing, I can announce that yours truly, the Panzercow, has completed his first attempt at podcasting!  I will be doing a segment on Prot warriors on the WoWPhiles Podcast that should be out this weekend.  Keep an eye out for it, and you too can hear that, in fact, I sound absolutely nothing like a Tauren.  (Plus, Liala from Disciplinary Action is on there too!)


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.


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.


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.


The obligatory UI post

I’m pretty sure that there’s a rule of WoW blogging, buried somewhere in the middle of the handbook between sections on “How to Handle Trolls” and “Things You May and May Not Call Ghostcrawler,” that sooner or later, you’re required to show your UI off to the world.  I have successfully avoided doing this for 15 months because, quite frankly, most of the various iterations of my UI are a horrible mess that are sure to cause panic in the aisles like the original screenings of King Kong.  Brave men will go weak in the knees, frail women will get the vapors and faint, children will be scarred for life, and pets will hide under the furniture and not come out, all because my UI finally saw the light of public scrutiny.

The hell with it.  A little chaos is good for the world every now and then.

Plus, I’ve actually got it kitbashed up to the point where, while it’s not super-polished and pretty, and still has some problems, I actually get good use out of it.  It’s not the most elegant use of phospors and pixels out there, but it actually works for me, and that’s the most important thing, right?

See, my UI, like many, is a work of evolution, and my evolution only occurs when something I already have doesn’t work.  Patch days are when my UI takes steps forward out of the primordial ooze.  I have this cycle:  I find something I like and I use it, and won’t change…until a patch breaks it and there’s no update available.  Then I grumble a bit, go find something to “temporarily” replace that function, and fall in love with it so the “temporary” replacement becomes permanent.  That’s just how I roll.

So.  Without any further stalling, here’s the business.  Click to see my UI during a 10-man Saurfang at 1024×768, click again for it in all its dubious full-sized 1680×1050 glory:

I’ve numbered each feature, or at least most of them, so let’s go through them one by one:

(more…)


Shutting down the haters

Today, I bring you an “it came from the PUG” story with a happy ending.

Our setting:  The Nexus.  I was there on my enhancement fail!shaman Sakula, who is geared…modestly, let’s just put it that way.  Can’t recall offhand if he’s got any greens left, but he’s just gotten his second piece of base T9 and is otherwise mostly rocking item level 187/200 blues and the occasional 200 epic.

We all zoned in, and as always, I scanned my party frame to pick out the tank.  It’s a reflex that comes from having two hunters–on them, the very first thing I always do is target the tank and make him/her/it my focus target so my Misdirect macro works properly.  I saw that our tank was a female blood elf paladin…and she had 22,600 health.

I moused over her, and my tooltip told me she was prot spec.  I looked, figuring she had her ret gear on…nope, that’s a shield and a one-handed mace.  Hmm, this is cool.  Maybe we can get her some upgrades!  I mean, sheesh, it’s Nexus, right?  We’re not exactly talking heroic Halls of Reflection here.  So I dropped target on her and went back to making sure my totems were set the way I wanted them.

Next thing I see is the party healer, a tree druid, say:  “You’ve got to be fucking kidding me.”

Ah, it never fails.  A tank with less than 40k unbuffed health walks into a heroic, and people start crapping themselves.  Before the first pull, before the tank had a chance to prove themselves, the tree took one look at the tank’s gear and immediately thought “fail.”

To her credit, the paladin stood her ground and said, “Is there a problem?” or something similar.  Oh yeah, you go pallytank.  The druid didn’t say anything.  The paladin, honor apparently satisfied, turned around and headed off to pull the first drake.

And so, off we went toward the Halls of Stasis.  The only other comment the druid made the entire time was, a couple pulls in, another snide comment to the tank:  “Could you at least buff yourself so I have something to heal?”  Oh, this guy’s a real douchetree.  One Blessing of Kings later, she was up to about 24.5k health, and on we continued.

We took the usual route through Nexus, and other than the undergeared-worse-than-me mage dying twice on Grand Magus Telestra trash, it was a solid, unexceptional heroic Nexus run.  The paladin tank did a solid job holding agro and other than one somewhat cocked-up trash pull where agro went wonky (causing us to scramble like hell, me to bring out the spirit doggies early, etc.), everything hummed along in the fine boring manner you’d expect.

20 minutes later, we stood in front of Keristrasza’s corpse.  And I couldn’t resist, after seeing the “undergeared” paladin tank shut up Mr. “you’ve got to be fucking kidding me” Treebag with a great tank job.  I turned to the paladin and said “Great tanking, Renai, thank you.”  Other than a “thank you” from Renai, want to know what the two replies I got were?

Rogue:  “lol easy with tricks”

Druid:  “pfft great heals more like” *drop group*

Sadly, I didn’t get a chance to ignore the druid, or to personally compliment the tank before she dropped group.  So I’ll say it here instead, and hope there’s a 1-in-1000 chance it gets back to him/her/it:  Renai of Suramar, I salute you for a job well done.  And, most importantly, I salute you for standing your ground in the face of Non-Overgeared Tank Hate, and for shutting down the haters.


The dreaded B-word

Burnout. It’s one word that all of us as gamers are familiar with.  And make no mistake, Gentle Reader…it will happen to you.  Nothing lasts forever, and that includes the obsession that you’re feeling with whatever is your current favorite game.  Even WoW.

In case you haven’t noticed, the content here on Achtung Panzercow has slowed down a fair bit.  This is partially due to a busy real life schedule that’s cut into my blogging time, but it’s mainly because I’ve hit a bit of burnout with WoW and with the blog simultaneously.  My gaming time over the past month has shifted more toward a brief fling with Star Trek Online (verdict:  good chance I won’t resubscribe when my free month ends on March 11) and finally, after three months of it sitting on my hard drive, making progress in Dragon Age:  Origins.  And even then I haven’t finished the game–I shelved my original human noble warrior and am now attempting to make a go of it with, of all things, a dwarf rogue ranger.  Yep, that’s right, kids…I’m playing my dwarf huntard in DA:O. So far, things are going well, except I’m still waiting for archery to actually be worth something.  Half the time he ends up drawing swords and running in to kick darkspawn in their rotted jubblies instead of standing at range and plinking with his crossbow.  But I digress.

I am a cyclical gamer–always have been, probably always will be.  My tendency, for the 21 years I’ve had a PC sitting on my desk at home and games to put on it, is to grab onto one New Thing, sink my teeth into it like a frenzied terrier, and go nuts on it.  That works with both single-player games and MMOs, by the way.  I “hit it like I mean it” for a period of time, playing it to the exclusion of most any other recreational gaming, and, depending on the game, to the exclusion of some sleep as well.

Then at some point, from a week to a few months later, the passion fades.  I still play, but not with the same intensity.  I go through a period where I hesitate to fire the game up, then to where I actually am sick of the game.  That’s usually when the Next New Thing comes along…or, as often as not, when an Old Thing comes back to life and snags me again.  The Great Wheel turns yet again, or, as we say in consumer-driven America, “lather, rinse, repeat.”

This cycle is why I still have a sub to EVE Online even though I rarely fire the game up anymore.  Every so often I get this jones to jump back in my Dominix or Retriever and mission or mine hard for a few days…and then I get over it, and I go a month only logging on to train skills.  (It’s why my EVE character damn near has more skill points than he does money.)  I do the same thing with flight simulation.  I have over 70 gigabytes of installed addons for Microsoft Flight Simulator 2004 and Flight Simulator X, accumulated over a seven-year span.  I’ll go months without firing up either program, and suddenly one day I’ll get the urge to fly virtually again.  And then I’m in the “cockpit” every night for weeks.

The one game that has partially broken that pattern is World of Warcraft.  My interest in WoW waxes and wanes, as anyone’s does, but I’ve never put the Warcrack down and gone on a complete hiatus in the five years I’ve been playing–not for more than a few days, anyway.  I sat back over the weekend and thought about this, and there’s a few reasons for it.

The biggest, of course, is the people.  If you don’t fire up Dragon Age for a few weeks, Leiliana isn’t going to get worried where her main man went.  But in an MMORPG, those are real people on the other side of that monitor.  I’ve been fortunate to make a lot of acquaintances in five years on Feathermoon, and I enjoy their company.  I don’t want to let any burnout feelings I’m having with WoW affect my communication with them…I’m not tired of them, I’m tired of the game.  Big difference.

The second reason ties in with the first one, and that’s my raid.  I raid three times during the week right now, all on Linedan–Thursday and Friday night ICC 25 with The Anvil, and then a Saturday-afternoon ICC 10 (plus weekly raid quest) with some other Anvillains, including a few alts.  Now while tanks are somewhat rare these days, we’ve got four in our 25-man and some spares available for the 10 as well, so I’m by no means indispensable.  But I’ve always taken seriously the fact that by signing up each week to raid, I’m making a commitment to attend and to do my best in whatever role I’m assigned, be it tank or DPS or whatever.  Real life takes priority, of course.  If I’m sick, or an emergency comes up, or anything like that, I don’t raid–they’d chew me out if I did.  But if I’ve got 24 other people counting on me being there, especially if I’m slotted to tank?  What does it say about me if I just decide to blow that off without a good reason?

The third reason is a corollary to the second.  I’ve raided with The Anvil for well over three years now (except for a period early in TBC where I was part of another Karazhan raid).  I’ve persisted, and improved, and just hung in there, and slowly, glacially, geologically, moved from the days of being “Garr offtank #6″ and bottom-of-the-heap hybrid DPS warrior in Molten Core, to being professional #2 offtank all through Tier 4, 5, and 6 25-man content, to being part of our current four-man tank rotation as we poke and prod at Icecrown Citadel.  I don’t want to lose that.  I don’t want to disappear and then come back in a month to find that I’ve (rightfully) lost my spot to someone willing to put forth the effort to be there every night and now I have to go find another raid.  I don’t know even if I’d raid if that happened.

So I’ve got a lot of very good reasons to stay…but can those hold burnout at bay forever?  I don’t know.  So what I try to do, to mitigate the burnout, is reduce my WoW time outside of raiding.  But that runs into another problem.  Raiding nowadays is expensive. Working on progression content for three days usually costs me 150-200 gold in repair bills.  Even taking advantage of my wife having a flask-spec alchemist and a jewelcrafter, and The Anvil being incredibly generous with enchants and gems, and me being able to make Lin’s own sockets and buckles as a blacksmith, upgrades can cost a few hundred gold in raw gems for cutting or materials for enchanting.  Linedan rarely has more than 400 gold to his name.  I spent the couple thousand that he’d accumulated during the first month of the LFD system as I was able to rapidly upgrade several pieces of his then-deficient DPS set.  So I have to keep playing, at least a bit, in order to have the resources to stay on top of my game for the nine hours a week that I raid.

At this point, I don’t think I’m in any real danger of quitting the game anytime soon.  I still have a lot of fun.  But at the same time, the warning signs are there.  I have five level 80s and am leveling two more characters through Borean Tundra and Howling Fjord…and the thought of the grind through Dragonblight, to Grizzly Hills or Zul’drak, to Storm Peaks or Icecrown, isn’t exactly filling me with glee and happiness.  I have “been there, done that” many, many times.  My non-raid playtimes tend toward doing a lot of PUG dungeons, flying around herbing or mining while waiting 15 minutes to get in a random dungeon with people of random intelligence, skill, and personality.  I should break it up by roleplaying more, I know.  But roleplaying takes effort, and due to a myriad number of real-life things, mental effort is not something I’ve got a lot of right now…as witnessed by the fact that I started writing this blog post one week ago and am only now finishing it.

So how do you handle burnout?  What do you do when you feel it creeping up on you?  How do you handle your commitments to your guildmates and friends when your thoughts of logging on to raid change from “wow” to “meh?”  What do you do to make your WoW experience feel different after you’ve been through the content multiple times?

(And finally, as for the blog–Achtung Panzercow is going nowhere. I’m still here.  Updates may slow down a bit from time to time, but I have no intention of leaving either the game or this blog unless something radical happens.)


Tirion Fordring is the Marlin Perkins of Icecrown.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Or back at the Crusader’s Coliseum:

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

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


Cross-server PUG culture shock

From my lovely wife on Google chat just now:

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

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

Next stop, frozen hell

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

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

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

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

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

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

…at least until the next raid reset.


The Raid for the Cure

Every now and then, you run across something that reminds you that at its best, World of Warcraft is more than just an online game with 11+ million subscribers.  In its best moments, it becomes a community of friends who care about each other.

John “Big Bear Butt” Patricelli has one of those moments up over at Big Bear Butt Blogger now.  A member of his guild, Sidhe Devils on Kael’thas-US (one of the more active guilds in the WoW blogosphere), has been diagnosed with breast cancer, so the Devils have decided to do a little more than just mere moral support.  Go check it out:  World of Warcraft Raid for the Cure!


The Zombiepocalypse, One Year On

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.


In the grim future of Panzercow 40,000…

Sometime late on Sunday night, Achtung Panzercow passed the forty thousand pageview mark in just under 11 months of existence.  I still don’t know how.  I mean, it’s just me, one fat guy in the American South, taking time out of his occasionally-busy workday to randomly wank about WoW, right?  A little roleplay here, some warrior advice there (some of which is even, on occasion, almost correct!), a bit of raiding in the middle, all garnished by snark and profanity?  Doesn’t exactly sound like a winning combination…and yet, a couple hundred people a day troop through here, day after day.  (And half of you forget to wipe your feet.)  Thank you all, so much.  I couldn’t do this without the folks who come through here and read and comment, and I wouldn’t want to anyway.

The Anvil’s raiding this past weekend was a mixed bag.  This was the weekend we decided we were going to start making serious pushes on some Ulduar hardmodes.  But first on Thursday night, we stopped through ToC for our weekly visit.  They really just need to put a vending machine outside the place…we do a retinal scan, it gives us our 15 Triumph badges, and we head on to something actually, y’know, interesting, instead of spending an hour and a half staring at the same room and listening to Garrosh and Wrynn stroke their peens.  (OK, an hour ten minutes staring at the same room and then 20 minutes in Anub’arak’s pad.  Whatev.)  We went five for five on one-shots, including the hated Faction Champions, culminating on a nice clean kill on Anub’arak.  We are, unfortunately, falling into that large gap between Trial of the Crusader and Trial of the Grand Crusader.  We’re able to cruise through 25 normal with relative ease now,  but 25 heroic would probably gut us like a fish.  It’s a somewhat awkward position to be in.

The second half of Thursday night was spent in Ulduar.  We went for Shutout on Flame Leviathan, with no towers up–a pure speed kill.  Well, how does fifty-four seconds flat sound for a speed kill?  (Pyrite spam is love, baby.)  Then it was on to XT, where we forced his hardmode for the first time by finally bringing enough deeps to destroy his heart.  We couldn’t quite bring him down–our best wipe was about 35%–but that’s OK, as it was the first time a lot of us had seen hardmode on XT and we’re still learning how to handle Life Sparks and voidpoo and whatnot.  We rounded out the night with Kologarn and Razorscale.

Thursday was interesting for me because it’s one of the few times–maybe the only time, come to think of it–that I’ve been pure DPS for every one of those fights except Faction Champions (where prot > everything).  My Arms gear is still at least a full tier below where it needs to be, not to mention badly itemized, and Arms is not a killer DPS spec for personal glory anyway.  But I managed, according to World of Logs, to squeeze out around 3500 DPS for the entire three hours, and actually beat a couple of other people on aggregate damage and DPS for the first time.  It’s still not my favorite thing to do, but all four of us who tank for The Anvil rotate in and out, and all four of us get our turn in the deeps barrel occasionally.  I got some deeps upgrades, ditched some of my excess +hit (maybe too much!), and once I get my new toys enchanted and gemmed, should be able to see a bit of an increase.

Now, Fridays have been our bane lately.  We’ve really had to scramble to fill 24 or 25 slots.  Because of the number of subs we were running, we pretty much knew that hardmodes weren’t going to work on Friday, so it ended up being a relatively laid-back three-hour tour of Onyxia, Auriaya, Hodir, Thorim (who gave us a fair amount of trouble, more than usual), Freya, and Ignis.  I’m pretty sure our officers are going to extend the Ulduar lockout so we can take cracks at Mimiron (NO FIREFIGHTER), one of the IC hardmodes, Vezax, and Yoggy next week.

Personally, I’m pleased that Lin is closing in on a second piece of T9.25, because the warrior Tier 9 set bonuses are sweet.  My problem is, I don’t have a ToC 10-man.  All the 10-mans that my guildies, raidmates, and friends run are completely locked-in for tanks.  So I’m only getting 15 badges a week, meaning it takes quite a while to accumulate 45 or 75 for a T9.25 piece (or even 30 or 50 for the vanilla T9).  My wonderful wife tried to throw a 10-man ToC together on Saturday afternoon…yeeeah, it didn’t go well.  It’s easy to get cocky when your raid group walks through Northrend Beasts like a tank through a sheet of paper, and then you take a mixture of friends’ alts and a couple pickups in and Gormok hands you your ass after he’s bitten it off and had a snobold roast it.  It helps you remember that yes, it’s quite possible to dominate on Thursday night and look like a scrub on Saturday afternoon.

Oh, and Linedan, Azeroth’s Most Humorless Cow, has Hallow’s End wands.  Whether he actually uses them or not, we’ll have to see.  More than likely, he’ll accidentally hit somebody with one and be mortified.


The Sweet and the Bitter

The sweet:  Friday night, The Anvil, on the sixth try of the night, dropped Yogg-Saron to complete our run through normal 25-man Ulduar.  We had to extend our lockout two weeks to do it, so we’d have enough time on Friday to get some good attempts in on the Old God, and finally, everything came together.

The bitter:  While the rest of The Anvil was beating the Yoggy out of, uh, Yoggy…my lovely wife, my charming daughter Nublet, and I were in a motel room in Perry, Georgia, asleep.  We would be getting up the next day to sell my wife’s handmade shinies at a very cold but very fun craft festival.  (Aside:  54 degrees, 15 mph north wind, wind chill in the low 40s.  30 miles south of Macon.  In fucking October.  Global warming, my big fat hairy ass.)

Finding out on Saturday evening that the raid killed Yoggy gave me some mixed emotions.  Of course, I’m happy that “we” finally got the chance, by extending the raid lockout another week and creatively scheduling, to get enough attempts in to work through the chaos of the fight and bring it to a successful conclusion.  Even though I missed part of the week before as well due to catching a cold or hamthrax or plague or cooties or something that I’m still not quite over yet, I was still a part of clearing at least the front of Ulduar in that lockout, and had been there for our earlier attempts on Yogg as well.  We’re a pretty tight group, and like most good raids (cutting-edge progression or not), we live or die as a team, and team accomplishments are more important than individual glory.

But I’d be lying if I said I didn’t feel a tiny pang of “well, shit.”

I wasn’t there.  I wasn’t there for our first Yoggy kill.  I had a legitimate reason for not being there, of course…we do this craft show every year on the third weekend in October, it’s basically a (hard-)working vacation for us because my wife grew up going to it–her mom sold her handmade cornhusk dolls at every show for twenty-seven straight years until she got too sick to go.  In fact, we even now have her mom’s old booth spot…booth A1, right by the entrance gate.  It’s vastly more important that we be there–to make some money, to see old friends, to watch Nublet have the time of her life charming people and playing in dirt and riding hayrides and petting cows–than to attend our raid.  My raid friends understand that.  It was all planned out ahead of time, and honestly, my attendance has been so good in the past, even missing two weeks (one sick, one traveling) isn’t an issue.

But I wasn’t there for the first kill.  I wasn’t there to see my chat window vomit forth 25 peoples’ achievement spam.  I wasn’t there for the obligatory celebratory screenshot.  We’ll kill Yoggy again, I have no doubt, but when we do, it won’t be the first time.  It’ll be smoother and less painful, but it won’t be the first time.  (Draw your own analogies.  They’re glaringly obvious.)

And then there’s The Voice In The Back Of My Head.  I hate that bastard.  He’s the one that says things like, “see, they killed Yogg-Saron without you and we’re running a four-tank rotation as it is, they don’t need you.”  I don’t listen to him as much as I used to when he’d make me doubt myself and have me half-convinced every week that the raid was about to dump me for poor performance, but he’s still there, and there’s still a little part of the ol’ brain that buys into his bullshit.  Yes, I have a bit of a gear gap to the other three tanks because they’re all in 10-mans in addition to our 25, and none of the 10-mans I know have any tank slots available.  Yes, I am still the Minister of Silly Mistakes.  Yes, when I’m assigned DPS, my DPS is laughably bad, and when tanking my DPS is below our warrior tank and far below our paladin and DK.  But I’ve also successfully MT’d everything in Ulduar 25 up through Vezax and everything but Anub in ToC 25.  I’m not uber, but dammit, I don’t suck.

So here’s today’s topic for discussion.  How have you felt when you haven’t been there for a big important raid first–a first kill, a first clear, a first achievement or hardmode?  I think it’s natural to have a little undertone of bitter along with the sweet when knowing that your team pulled it off, but they did it without you.  Deep down, I think we all want to feel a little indispensable.  But the most important thing is that the team, the raid, pulled it off.  And even if you weren’t there for the actual kill, you did your part to help them get there.


But I don’t want to go in the cart!

Hello, little blog.  My, you’re looking a bit dusty.

So yeah.  One of the “rules of blogging” is that you’re never supposed to make a post about why you haven’t been blogging when you drop off the face of the Earth for a few weeks.  I guess you’re just supposed to pick up and move on and hope nobody noticed that you’ve been gone.  Well, that’s not how I roll.  I figure if you’re interested, or bored, or crazy enough to read this here blog thang, you deserve an explanation of why things have been very quiet in the Panzercow Bunker since mid-August.

First of all, there’s the work stuff.  I probably shouldn’t admit this, but I do most of my blogging at work when things are slow; when I’m at home in front of the computer, generally, I’m either gaming or performing other activities that don’t require a brain, since a full day of work plus a couple hours of my daughter destroys any brain I’ve got.  Let’s just say that things have not been slow at my job over the past month.  They have, in fact, been pretty damn crazy.  Logged on from home at 1:30 in the morning crazy.  Working Saturdays crazy.  No time for me to write posts crazy.

Then, there is the Great Circle of Gaming Life.  I don’t know if anybody else works like this, but my interest in any recrecational activity, especially a computer game, is very cyclical.  I’ll get something and hit it hard for a period of time–a couple of weeks, maybe a month, even longer if it really grabs me.  But sooner or later, I’ll get tired of it and move on to something else.  Eventually, if I like it, I may come back to it.

I’m split several different ways on my game interest.  There’s WoW, of course, which has been the Big Kahuna since February 2005.  There’s EVE Online, my other MMO.  But the Second Biggest Kahuna, for almost six years now, is flight simulation–Microsoft Flight Simulator 2004, and a couple weeks back, I bought and installed Flight Simulator X (the latest and greatest).  From the time I was but a wee little armored car, I’ve been a frustrated fantasy pilot.  Airplanes and aviation have always fascinated me.  I know way more about them than I should considering I’ve been off the ground maybe eight times in my 43 years on the planet  I have 71 gigabytes of addons installed for FS2004.  Yeah, I’m an addict.  I haven’t been doing much with it this year, but lately, the jones has come back.

Tack on to this the fact that my adorable wife bought me Bioshock for our 8th anniversary a couple months ago.  Normally I’m not much on shooters, but that game really hooked me in.  The artwork, the graphics, the voice acting, the story, all of them are great.  Then she bugged me to try out her copy of Mass Effect…and there went more late nights.  Again, stunning visuals, great dialogue and voice acting, and a killer story.  And honestly, saving the galaxy surrounded by hot babes didn’t hurt.  (Get over here, Ashley.  Booyah.)

Third, there’s WoW itself.  I wouldn’t call what I’m feeling “burnout.”  That’s too strong a word.  It’s not even really “boredom.”  I still raid with The Anvil and have fun doing it, and we’ve recently shifted to a four-tank rotation system that means some weeks I’ll be MT, some weeks I’ll be OT, some weeks I’ll be laughably attempting to DPS.  We haven’t headed into the Coliseum yet, but we will starting next week, and I’m looking forward to it.  No, call what I’m feeling “pre-burnout” if you will; that feeling that yeah, I really should be grinding Hodir faction on Beltar or working on getting Linedan his third faction Champion title or leveling Latisha past 51, but…meh.  I can’t work up the enthusiasm to see the same content again for the umptysquillionth time.

And finally, there’s the personal stuff.  I can’t and won’t go too deep into it because, well, it’s personal.  But I can say that the Panzercow family has been dealing with some issues.  Nothing earth-shattering–no divorce, no health problems, nothing like that.  We’re worn down from the little day-to-day shit that’ll pile up and bury you, really.  Money issues, raising a kid issues, the “fun” of being in a town where you don’t know very many people and trying to do everything with no family and almost no backup.  Some days it feels like the two of us are trying to two-man raid content and we’re wiping repeatedly.  Deal with that for a couple years and it’ll mess up anybody, and that’s where we are now.  It’s not a state of mind that’s particularly conducive to creativity.  My writing’s suffered, my roleplaying’s suffered, and my creative output in general has suffered.  It’s hard for me to bring USDA Grade A Choice snark when I’m so mentally bludgeoned down that I can’t even think straight, y’know?

So that’s why things have been quiet.  And no, you don’t get a TL;DR version.  You knew going in that I ramble, deal with it.

My promise to you, the folks who read Achtung Panzercow, is that I’ll do my best to keep good, useful, funny content coming out, even if it’s at a somewhat reduced pace for a while.  I’m not leaving blogging, and I’m not leaving WoW.  I have a lot still to do here–more So You Want to Be a Prot Warrior, more on the Latisha Experiment, more on everything.  I might even broaden my horizons and do a few posts on other things, who knows.

Thanks for bearing with me, and please don’t leave.  Because I’m not.


You know it’s going to be a bad night when…

…you’re Arms DPS on Hodir, you get a Storm Cloud buff, you reach for Bladestorm that you’ve bound to Shift-6…

…and you hit Mocking Blow that you’ve bound to Shift-5.

Just like you did last week.


Hi, my name is Linedan…

…and I’m an addon addict.

(“Hiiii, Linedan.”)

It’s pretty amazing, really, that Blizzard made the WoW interface so extensible.  I remember in the old days of the original Everquest, where the UI was the UI and that was that, period, end of sentence, and attempts to alter it one tiny bit would get you banhammered with lightning speed.  (And what a godawful UI it was, at least before changes in one of the early expansions.)  But not so with WoW.  Here, you can download literally thousands of different addons to tweak your experience in Azeroth exactly the way you like it.  Don’t like how–or where–your character’s health is displayed?  No sweat, take your pick of unitframes.  Don’t like that big clunky bottom actionbar with the dargons on the end?  Here, have umptysquillion different bar mods.

But there’s a dangerous, inconvenient downside to this endless tweakability.  Without fail, come time for a patch, especially a big “point-zero” content patch like the one that dropped yesterday…your shit is gonna break sooooo hard.

So that’s why I was up at 5:30 this morning, hitting Curse and WoW Interface before they get slashdotted later in the day, for new copies of all my addons.  And sadly, I run a lot of addons.

It started off small, as most addictions do.  In the beginning, there was Cosmos.  But Cosmos kept trashing my chat channels, and eventually, I found the nice, all-in-one CTMod, pieces of which I still run 3+ years later.  Then I decided I wanted a better set of action bars, so I tried a few different bar mods before settling on Trinity.  Then I discovered the sheer Heaven-sent high of XPerl Unit Frames.  After that, it wasn’t long before I was waking up in dark alleys after a bender of chugging BigWigs modules and mainlining Titan Bar plugins.

One of these days I’ll do a detailed “here’s my UI, you can stop laughing now dammit” post.  But here’s just a partial list of what I ran during 3.1.x, unlinked because I just can’t be arsed to link everything…

  • Unitframes:  XPerl
  • Bar mod:  Bartender4
  • Timers/buff mods:  ElkBuffBars, DoTimer, Quartz, OmniCC, NeedToKnow
  • Gear:  ItemRack, Rating Buster
  • Raid and combat mods:  Grid, oRA2, Deadly Boss Mods, Scrolling Combat Text, Omen, Recount
  • RP:  FlagRSP2
  • Appearance mods:  Tekticles, TipTop, FuBar plus a lot of Fu stuff

You get the idea.  Now I know there’s some duplication there; I don’t really need four timer mods, probably.  I only use NeedToKnow for timers when I’m in Arms spec and need to keep Rend up on my target–and honestly, I may switch to Power Auras for that anyway, given the good stuff I’ve heard about that addon.  (See?  It just gets worse!)  But after all that tweaking and downloading, I had a fully-custom UI that was set up just the way I wanted it, with everything arranged just so…more or less.

The problem is, of course, the administrative nightmare of keeping all that drek current.  It’s hard.  Half my addons were out of date before 3.2 even dropped.  I’m slack about updating stuff like DBM that changes frequently, unless it’s obviously broken.  Now throw in a large content patch that will cause half or more of those addons to break, sometimes spectacularly, and you see why I completely write off doing any playing on the day and night of a patch release.  (Well, that and lately, Feathermoon and the Cyclone battlegroup in general have been down longer and more often than any other set of servers when Patch Day comes.)

So there I was this morning, in front of the computer at oh-dark-what-the-fuck, starting to pull down addons to get ready to raid with No Bads tonight, assuming they get some new hamsters to power the server.  I got a few unpleasant shocks, as usual, worst of which was that XPerl, my beloved, awesome unitframe, wasn’t yet updated for 3.2.  This is Not Good, friends.  My UI, like a lot of others I’ve seen, has all the frames down near the bottom, where I can see them without having to flick my eyes to the top of the screen.  (The layout is largely inspired by Anna’s UI, though it’s not nearly as cleanly laid-out.)  Moving those frames back to the top left with the Blizzard default frames…uh-uh, kids.  It would not be a good thing with me trying to tank Ulduar.

So, somewhat frantic, I grabbed the Pitbull unitframe package…and then spent 45 sleepy, sunrisey minutes beating the damn thing into submission with all sorts of virtual sledgehammers until I got it looking the way I wanted it.  I still miss my XPerl, but this’ll do for now, and who knows, it might grow on me.  That’s how I’ve tried many other addons…a patch breaks one and it’s not updated on release day, so I grab something else just to try and wind up sticking with it.

(I note that even as I write this on Wednesday afternoon, XPerl has been updated to version 3.0.4a, which is patch 3.2 compatible.  I think I’ll probably try Pitbull tonight, and then if I don’t like it, back to XPerl I go.)

I know some people who have broken their addiction to addons and have gone back to a more vanilla interface.  Blizzard is actually making it easier to do so, really, as they seem to be very attentive to the better user-written addons out there and incorporate their functionality into newer versions of the game (without breaking the ability to use the user-written versions, which is a damn nice touch).  Me, I’m too weak.  I can’t do it.  I’m too used to the crutch of having Omen dancing in one corner of my screen while my target frame sits near the bottom with pretty cast bars in between, and having six or seven nicely lined-up small 12-button bars bottom center.  To me, the default UI looks like a hideously inefficient use of space.

But take heart, default UI-users.  There’s always my wife.  She has seven level 80s, that’s three more than I do.  She raids with me on her feral druid Rashona and is consistent top-two DPS in 10-man and top-four in 25-man, cranking out 4500+ dps with ease.  And she does it with a UI that’s 100% bone-stock except for FlagRSP2 and Deadly Boss Mods.

Oh yeah…and she clicks half her abilities, too.  How’s that taste?


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