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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.


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