Your big beautiful beefy bulwark of badass.

rant

Looking For Durp

Recently I’ve had something of a yen to start playing my sorely neglected dwarf hunter Beltar.  Now Beltar has finished all the Cataclysm zone and quest content, pretty much, and is walking around with a typical mixture of quest rewards and a very few dungeon pieces, giving him an ilevel of 346.  That’s good enough to do normal heroics, but not good enough for patch 4.3 heroics or anything bigger than that.  So if I wanted to gear him up–and improve my somewhat marginal huntarding skills in the process–there was really only one place for the grizzled old gunbunny to go.

The Dungeon Finder.

So last night I decided that it would be Dungeon Finder night.  I would queue and queue and queue again in LFD.  Normally I avoid LFD like I’d avoid, say, a glass-shard lollipop drizzled in Ebola and tetanus.  But that’s as a tank on Linedan.  I figured, with gearing to the point where normal Cataclysm heroics are starting to approach faceroll status, a semi-competent knowledge of Basic Marks Huntering 101, and 340-level gear, I could hold my own, work on improving my rotations and DPS, pick up the Ramkahen rep I need to hit Exalted and get the +agi head enchant, and score at least one piece of loot.

I don’t know when I turned into such a raving optimist.  I really don’t.

So with his Harkoa-cat Longpaw by his side and his newly transmogged gun-that’s-actually-a-crossbow cocked and locked, I hit “I”, clicked “Enter Queue,” waited 10 minutes, and set off on my adventure…

First dungeon:  Blackrock Caverns.  It set the tone for how the rest of the evening would go that the poor DK tank couldn’t hold agro on anything, even with my Misdirects, from a geared and aggressive mage.  (He wasn’t trying to be a jerk, he was just putting out a lot of pain.)  We wiped on Rom’ogg Bonecrusher but got him on the second try after I stupidly ate a Skullcracker and died.  Then when we were heading down to Corla, we shortcut down the rough ground to the left instead of going down the ramp to the right.  Guess which way Longpaw went and brought some friends?  Yeah.  Stupid cat + stupid hunter = fail.  After the wipe, I dropped group to save them the trouble of votekicking me over it.

Second dungeon:  Deadmines.  I cringed when I saw this one.  I always hated tanking heroic DM.  Fortunately we had a monster of a tank, a death nugget with over 200,000 health that was simultaneously doing over 16,000 DPS.  (I’m fine.  Really.  That totally didn’t rekindle my deep-seated hatred of DK tanks who can top the DPS charts while tanking.  At all.)  We started off, of course, at “gogogogogo” pace, the tank not even waiting for the healer to be in line-of-sight to do pulls because, hey, he’s a DK with over 200k health, he can do that.  Everything was going pretty well and I was starting to get into something resembling a groove–even though the healer dropped without a word in mid-trash-pull after we killed Helix.  The DK survived because, hey, he’s a DK with over 200k health, he can do that.  Then we got to the Foe Reaper 5000.

We wiped on him the first time because nobody got into the Prototype Reaper to handle the Molten Slag adds.  The tank linked the Recount from the fight…because, hey, he’s a DK with over 200k health, he can do that.  The healer dropped without a word, as did the tank.  We got another tank, a warrior, who promptly pulled FR5000 while the mage and myself were standing around the Prototype Reaver at the top of the room.  Again, nobody got into the Reaver and we died.  The warrior asks “wtf have any of you done this before?”  As it turns out?  The mage hadn’t seen the instance before.  Everybody else but me and him instantly drop.

Third dungeon:  Deadmines again, because the RNG is laughing at me.  This time, the tank was a feral druid, and he was even healthier (207k!) and better than the previous run’s death nugget.  And he pulled even faster.  Healer around the corner?  Didn’t matter, he was a BARE STORNG 4 FITE.  And truly, it didn’t.  We demolished our way up to Foe Reaper again.  And again, on the first attempt, nobody got in the damn Prototype and we wiped.

On the second attempt, this time, I got in the Prototype.  I had never done it before and had no clue what to do, but fortunately, Rashona the Aggrokitty was at her computer next to me and talked me through it.  I did a truly shitty job of Molten Slag control, but we got FR5000 down.  Somehow.

We moved on, and got to Ripsnarl.  We dropped him and he dropped his two-handed agility axe, Rockslicer.  Now Beltar is still using the blue ilevel 318 polearm quest reward from Deepholm, so that axe would’ve been a nice upgrade, the first I’d seen in the heroic runs.  So I rolled Need.

So did the fury warrior.

He won.

Oh, and on Vanessa?  I missed the rope on the first rope phase, fell off the boat, walked through fire, swam around, and got back up top just in time for her to die, greeted by a chorus of “lol” and “wtf” from my teammates.  But at least I finally finished a heroic and got my 150 Valor Points.

Fourth dungeon:  Once more into the durp, dear friends, and this time, it was Stonecore.  Cool, I thought, I never did finish off the quest to kill the end boss in there.  Unfortunately, I realized quickly that this wasn’t going to be a full instance run, because when I blipped in, I saw myself staring at Ozruk, along with two DPS.  We picked up another healer and a high-health feral tank, and pulled.

The tank promptly faced Ozruk toward us at point-blank range with us penned into a corner.  Ozruk then Ground Slammed before we could find a clear spot and killed both me and the healer, and the rest of the group wiped shortly after.  The tank yelled at us “wtf does nobody know how to play wow anymore” and dropped group.  (Obviously, that was a rhetorical question on his part.)  So did one of the DPS.

We got a replacement DPS and another tank, a paladin this time, and even though the pally had much less health than the bear, his tank job on Ozruk was absolutely perfect.  Ozruk and Azil fell easily and for the second time I got myself 150 sweet tasty Valor Points.  We did so well, in fact, that we requeued as a group save the healer.  Things were finally starting to look up!

Fifth dungeon:  Lost City of the Tol’vir.  Excellent, another dungeon that I had a leftover quest in (Oathsworn Captains).  The run started off completely uneventful.  We killed the first boss without issue.  Then we hit the trash pack after the boss.  The tank immediately keeled over.  We wiped.  The healer dropped without a word, as did the tank, and the group fell apart.

Sixth dungeon:  Grim Batol.  Fun times.  With our DK tank in the lead, we set off and proceed to have a fairly uneventful run…until after the second boss.  Then the healer, who had been catching a bit of flak from the tank, drops and we pick up another.  We keep going and then we get to the third boss, Dragha Shadowburner.

We ended up winning, but the fight didn’t go well.  Our fury warrior died, got battle-rezzed, and died again.  The fight seemed to take absolutely forever compared to the other times I’ve done it.  And then after the fight, the tank went nuts.  He linked the Recount for the fight, showing him doing 11k dps, me doing 10k, the fury warrior doing 8k, and the lock doing 6k.  He started berating the warrior, testing the limits of the profanity filter in a way that’d make R. Lee Ermey sit up and take notice.  He screamed at the fury warrior for dying twice (the warrior said he was hung over), then screamed at the warlock for only doing about 6k dps on the fight.  The lock dropped group.  Then the tank said “votekick plz.”

And I found myself standing in a field in Western Plaguelands where I’d been doing archeology when the queue popped.

I got votekicked.

For doing more DPS on a boss fight than the other two DPS.

At which point, I said “fuck it,” went back to Stormwind, hung out in the Pig and Whistle, RP’d with a few of the Wildfire Riders, and got Beltar shitfaced.  (See picture above.)

And thus ended my evening of dungeoning.  The final totals?

Six instances.  Two completed (one partial).  300 Valor Points.  Around 600 Justice Points.  About 7,000 Ramkahen rep.  120 gold in repair bills from all the wipes.  One piece of greed loot (an agi sword) that I can use as RP gear and nothing else.  And 25 points in Archeology in between queue pops.

So what did I learn from my three hours of sheer heroic hell?

1.  I have the worst luck in the universe.  This isn’t new, I’ve known this since my D&D days, where it was a complete certainty that if I needed a good dice roll–as player or DM, didn’t matter–I wouldn’t get it.  I was the Master of the Badly-Timed Fumble.  My dice logged a lot of frequent flyer miles after being thrown through the air in frustration.  Rashona, who runs LFD almost every day on one of her immense stable of alts, was boggled at the run of bad groups I had.  She has issues in LFD, who doesn’t?  But never that many, that fast.

2.  I’m not a very good hunter.  I need to get better.  People are telling me that the 10-11k DPS range I typically do is low for Beltar’s level of gearing.  I need to go do some spec and rotation theorycrafting for marks.

3.  LFD is even worse now than it was during Wrath.  I didn’t think that was possible, but it is.  It’s not so much the skill or gear level of the players, because that’s always going to be a mixed bag.  It’s the attitudes.  I really couldn’t imagine people being less patient than they were when we were running Halls of Whatever in our sleep, but they are.  If the slightest little thing goes wrong, people will drop.  There’s no thought toward just sticking it out with a group and succeeding.  It’s all me, me, me, me, me.

4.  Please, let me apologize on behalf of the good and kindly tanks out there, of which I think a few may still exist.  I refused to believe it, but yes, we tanks really have turned into a bunch of entitled prima donna douchebags.

5.  I’m going to keep trying.  Why not?  I won’t get any better on Beltar, or won’t get him any better geared, if I don’t run instances, and Looking for Dumbassery is still the quickest and easiest way to gear him up and work on my huntering, if also the most soul-crushing occasionally.

6.  Tanks who can simultaneously tank an instance in their sleep and blow away the DPS meters still piss me off.  It’s not you guys, it’s me.  I’m just jealous.

My wife has the best attitude toward PUGs, because she (bless her heart) tanks a lot of them on her various druids.  She just says, “I don’t see it as a dungeon group.  I see it as an escort quest.”


Tis the season…to be jerks

Well, here it is.  Christmas.  The day where lots of us celebrate the birth of our Savior Jesus Christ.  Or where we come together with our families for togetherness, football, and excessive alcohol consumption.  Or even where you don’t believe in either of the above, but appreciate a couple of days off from work.  It’s supposed to be a time of fellowship and good cheer, right?  Fa la la la and all that.

Unfortunately, Dear Readers, I bring you a tale that proves that assholishness is a 24/7/365.25 kind of thing.  It comes, not surprisingly, from the WoW random dungeon finder.  And it involves not me, your humble Panzercow, but my wife, your slightly less humble (with good reason) Aggro Kitty.

A bit of background on my wife.  She’s been playing WoW almost as long as I have, a bit over five years.  In that time, her main has always been Rashona the Tauren druid.  And Rashona has always been feral.  She was feral before feral was cool.  She was feral when being feral meant “lol, shut up and heal me.”  She has catted and beared her way through vanilla and three expansions now.  She knows her feralness.  (Ferality?  Feralosity?)  She raids with The Anvil 25-man, as feral kitteh DPS, and I daresay, she’s pretty damn good at it.  In a class with one of the two nastiest rotations for DPS in Wrath of the Lich King, she was a consistent performer in our raid.  She may not be a theorycrafter and number-cruncher at an Elitist Jerks level, but she’s a solid, competent, skilled feral cat durid, and is very, very storng 4 fite.  (She also has seven level 80s to my six, because she actually likes leveling.  Yeah, I don’t get it either.)

So like me, she’s been running normals here lately to get her gear up to the magic number of 329…which is the average item level, as calculated by the client, that lets you use the LFD tool to queue for heroics.  Yesterday, she hit it.  So last night, while I was flying around Twilight Highlands strip-mining it of its valuable natural resources, she entered the interminable DPS queue for her first heroic.  And 30 minutes later, she got it.  She landed in an in-progress heroic Blackrock Caverns with four others, all from the Mug’thol (US) server.  Their names were Butternuts (hunter), Soad (mage), Cartol (paladin tank), and…wait for it…Dudeihealu (holy paladin).

Now my wife, being the polite Georgia girl that she is, said hello, and then asked something like “btw, this is my first heroic…is there anything special you need me to do?”  This was the result:

Well.  Sort of defeats the purpose of the random dungeon finder being, uh, random, doesn’t it?  “Yeah, listen, we don’t know anything about you other than you can type in complete sentences with punctuation, which scares the hell out of us.  But you look too scrubby in our considered opinion, so could you please eat a deserter debuff after waiting 30 minutes in the queue to get in, so we could get some deeps that lives up to our arbitrary standards of l33t, plox?  Thanks ever so much.”  (Please note that she has done BRC on normal at least four times on two different characters, so she knows the basic layout and mechanics of the place.)

Now my wife is no wilting flower.  She’s a steel magnolia.  So she stood her ground.  That resulted in:

“Man up get over here and prove your feathers.”  Fair enough.  A little difficult when you’re feral, but, hey, “w/e i don’t c around it.”

At this point, I imagine she was torn between standing her ground to “prove her feathers,” and running screaming away from the stupid.  (Even though I was sitting just a few feet to her right, I heard nothing about this.  I was too busy drooling over elementium nodes.)

So they pulled Corla, Herald of Twilight, aka Netherspite with Boobs.  And for whatever reason, they wiped on her.  And that caused this one final example of Christmas good cheer:

At this point, even my wife had had enough and left our four heroes from Mug’thol to pick up the pieces.  Then she told me about what happened.  And as you can probably guess by the fact that I’m writing this on Christmas Eve, I was furious. My Southern chivalry kicked in, I guess, even though Rashona is perfectly capable of defending herself.  Stuff like this sits at the conjunction of three things that make me rage:  insults against my family or friends, unwarranted gear elitism, and general assholier-than-thou behavior.

So listen here, you Mug’tholian Four Horsemen of the Dumbassaclypse.  The LFD tool is random, you jackholes.  You don’t get to pick and choose “340+ ilevel, PST armory link and notarized letter.”  You take what you get and you work with it…a fact those of us with actual functioning brain cells are far too aware of when we end up stuck with droolers like you.  You couldn’t find one other magically l33t DPS on your server to avoid having to PUG a fifth?  Clearly you guys had already run off at least one DPS since Rashona fell into a BRC where you’d already killed the first boss.  Nope.  Y’all get a DPS out of the queue who is technically capable of entering the instance, with ilevel 329, and decide that’s not good enough.  I guess you guys didn’t think you were good enough to cover for her, huh?  Wanting to get carried, maybe?

Oh, and Cartol.  The tank.  The one who kept repeating “leave rashona” over and over again like some sort of yoga mantra for the socially deficient.  You get special attention, son.  If I were churlish, I could mention that you didn’t even qualify for your own group’s internal ilevel 340+ restriction because you’re just at ilevel 334.  Or I could mention that you don’t have a single gem or enchant anywhere on your gear as I write this, even on stuff that the activity feed says you’ve had for days.  Or I could mention that you’re showing six empty glyph slots.  Karma is a bitch, homeboy, and so is the Armory.  I would actually understand your pretensions to l33th00d if you’d actually take the time to fix your own shit up before jumping on somebody just six item level points under you, with more glyphs, more enchants, and more gems.

Fortunately, there is a happy ending to this tale of stupidity.  After taking a few minutes to calm down, Rashona got into a group of friends running heroic Lost City of Tol’vir (thank you, Destril, for making room for her–you did not need to do that and it was very sweet of you to do so <3 ) and had quite a good time.  As for what happened to the other four…who cares?

Then the Ghosts of Dickheads Future disappear in a rattle of chains and a wail of “6.6k gs wtf,” snow starts to fall, a gnome limps into the frame and shouts “God bless us, every one!”, and we all go have a happy Christmas holiday.

Rant completed.  I have to start wrapping presents, go to Christmas Eve service tonight, and get ready to make a 125-mile drive tomorrow morning for Christmas with the in-laws’ family.  So from here in the Dumpster of Love, deep in the maybe-snowy urban wilds of North Carolina…from the Panzercow family, Linedan, Rashona, and Nublet, may you all have a merry and blessed Christmas.  May your drops always be purple and your groups be durp-free.  Love ya, guys.


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.


Now everybody is on the run…

…’cause Beltar’s got a gun.  (Sorry, Aerosmith fans.)

Beltar, my poor somewhat-neglected dwarf marksman hunter, like guns.  A lot.  No surprise there, right…after all, he is a dwarf, and he’s been single-spec marksman since day one.  But he’s also not so set in his ways that he’d turn down an upgrade.  So on one of his rare forays into Icecrown Citadel in a 10-man a few months ago, when a Njorndar Bone Bow dropped to replace his beloved rifle from the Big Round Room, The Diplomat, he took it–albeit reluctantly.

When 4.0 dropped, he had enough Justice Points saved up (thanks to a stack of over 240 Badges of Triumph, the Insult Comic Dog) to immediately upgrade to four-piece T10 (one of them ilevel 264, the rest basic ilevel 251).  But obviously, there’s no guns available with badges.  The bow has done him well, but it just didn’t look right to see this old fart who’d been humping a gun of some sort around the Eastern Kingdoms forever throwing his shoulder out of joint to use a bow…not even a crossbow, a stinking elfy bow. As Beltar might say, “dammit, ain’t proper fer a dwarf t’be seen w’a stick an’ a string, ‘cept in emergencies, o’course.”

Well, I was chatting with Rilgon from Stabilized Effort Scope–a guy who lives, breathes, eats, pees, poops, and probably has carnal thoughts about marks huntering when he’s not having them about gnomes–on Twitter a couple days ago, and when I mentioned something about wanting to replace that bow with a gun but being very short on options due to Beltar not having access to any raids on Alliance-side Feathermoon, he suggested that I look at the Wrathful Gladiator’s Rifle.  This is the ilevel 264 version of the season 8 arena reward weapon.  During the arena season, it required an arena rating of 1800 to purchase.  I don’t do arenas, so I hadn’t paid PvP rewards any mind.  Rilgon said that the lower Wrathful items, the ilevel 264 versions, could now be bought with honor only, 2550 points to be precise…this despite the fact that when I checked, they still had a big red blurb on the tooltip that said “requires a personal or team arena rating of 1800.”

Thanks to a stupidly huge number of Stone Keeper’s Shards he’d built up, Beltar had something like 1700 honor saved up.  He needed 2550 for the gun.  And I said to myself five fateful words that I just know I should never say, but I always do it anyway…

“How hard can it be?”

The correct answer is “plenty,” when you’re on the Alliance side in the Cyclone battlegroup (where Horde tend to dominate most battlegrounds except Alterac Valley), and you’re an MM hunter with zero resilience in ilevel 245/251/264 PvE gear, and you have no damn idea how to PvP on a hunter because you’ve got maybe 400 lifetime HKs to start with, and you’ve never even been in Strand of the Ancients or Isle of Conquest.

There’s a word for people like me.  That word is “noob.”

I won my first-ever trip to Isle of Conquest by following my normal AV strategy–find the biggest group of friendlies I can, stay in the middle of them, and shoot stuff with a red tag.  Could be a healer, could be a warrior, could be a water elemental, could be a cat, could be a felguard–doesn’t matter.  Hit “tab” and open up like Rambo with an M60 (including the guttural yelling) on the first thing that I randomly target, that’s how I roll.  (Hey, I said I was bad at this.)  I then stand there and shoot until either it dies or its friends show up, I completely forget where Disengage and Deterrence and all my trap keys are, and I die.

It was, in a word, a painful two days.  With everybody stacking huge resilience, that bow might as well have been shooting Nerf arrows…while with my zero resilience, I was all but two-shotted by mages more than once.  (Seriously, frost mages, wtf.  15k and 11k simultaneous crits?  Daaaamn.)  I was in the first AV I’ve ever seen where the Horde actually out-zerged the Alliance.  Normally, if both sides bumrush to the opposite end of the map without stopping, the Alliance always wins.  Well, that doesn’t work when you get 15 people into Drek’s room, the tank pulls…and nobody heals him, either because there’s no healers there or the healers are all standing around looking at each other saying, “I thought you were going to do it.”  We spawn all the way back at the north end of the map, Horde kill Vandar, gee gee noob, here’s your consolation-prize 15 honor instead of 45 because you were afflicted with teh dumb.

And that chat.  Oh dear sweet zombie Arthas, battleground chat is so stupid it hurts. Especially in AV, when all the amateur Pattons and Rommels get into arguments first about strategy, then about parentage.  “ALL ON O RUSH RUSH RUSH” followed by “NO NEED D AT STONEHEARTH AND BALINDA” followed by “stfu noob, ur mom neds d lol”…do you guys on PvP servers have to put up with this level of dumbass constantly? If you do, my God, I feel for you and can’t believe you can stand it.

The only thing that saved me from giving up on the upgrade was a Feathermoon peculiarity–the Alliance own Lake Wintergrasp probably 95% of the time.  It’s really rather ridiculous.  There are a ton of very good Horde PvPers on Feathermoon, but they just don’t care much about Wintergrasp any more.  So as Alliance, it’s relatively easy to go into a WG, rip out a few quests, tear up the towers, sponge a bit of honor, retain the fort, sponge more honor, and come out with 100-125 quick and easy honor points for very little effort.

So after two days of frustration and idiocy, I finally cracked 2550 honor, and immediately ran to the vendor under Dalaran.  And lo and behold, tooltip be damned, Beltar could buy and equip his new Wrathful Gladiator’s Rifle.  The dwarf had a gun, and all was right with the world.

Now, all it needed was a name.  His old rifle from Karazhan had picked up the name “Black Death.”  So this charming little boomstick, with its huge stock and spikes sticking everywhere, needed a name too.  I thought for a few seconds, and then remembered how generally unpleasant getting it had been, how stupid the chat had been in all the battlegrounds, and how tactically moronic so many of the losing sides had been, and I had my answer.

Say hello…to the Durpinator.


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.


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.)


The nerfing will not be televised

I think I’ve left this world behind and fallen through some bizarre space-time portal into a mirror universe.  Seriously.  Superman’s a bad guy, pizza is good for you, and hey, there’s Mr. Spock in a goatee and carrying some neural torturer device thing.

How else can I possibly explain seeing this little nugget pop up from the esteemed Ghostcrawler:

– Protection warriors have too much utility and damage for PvP. (We don’t want to hurt their tanking in PvE of course.)

…wut?  I mean, wut? Protection.  Warriors.  Too.  Much.  Damage.  DOES NOT COMPUTE.

As near as I can tell, this was brought on by the fact that somebody actually got killed in an arena match by a Prot warrior–probably a mage.  This is apparently a violation of some sort of arena rule that Prot warriors are not ever actually allowed to kill anything, or be anything more than “annoying.”

Now, frankly?  Arenas can go die in a toxic waste spill for all I care.  My only arena experience was helping a couple of friends intentionally wreck their 3v3 rating to see how low they could go.  (799, btw.  Do you know how freaking hard it is to actually lose a match in the 900 bracket, even if you’re trying?)  As a PvE player, arenas have done nothing for me except to screw up various and sundry of my toons in various and sundry ways, as they get nerfed to compensate for the hardcore e-sporters screaming “zomg unbalanced!”

And now, this.  Protection warriors–protection warriors, people–are doing too much damage in PvP and have to get nerfed.  So just how does Blizzard think they’re going to nerf us incredibly overpowered Prot warriors, as we go slaughtering everything in sight in PvP (cough cough)?  Well, here’s some info from Bornakk about it:

In the next content patch the current plan is to change Warbringer a bit so that it no longer allows Charge and Intercept to break roots or snares but Intervene would remain unaffected.

We’ll see if any further changes come down the pipeline.

Not a massive nerf for PvE.  I like having Charge and Intercept bust me out of snares, but I could live without it.  As long as we can still use all our abilities without having to switch stances…meh, it’s a nerf, but not a huge one.

We are also considering some changes to Shield Slam to where it won’t affect players in normal tanking gear but it will affect the scaling of block value for those who are stacking it. This isn’t guaranteed as we still want to make sure it doesn’t have a real negative effect on PvE, but in turn we may have the threat caused by Shield Slam just straight increased. We’ll see how this goes as we test it internally.

DANGER.  DANGER, WILL ROBINSON.  DAMAGE NERF INCOMING.

There seems to be some confusion on what changes we are currently looking at that will affect Shield Slam.

What we are changing is block’s scaling on Shield Slam and not block value itself. Shield Slam’s scaling is being altered so this includes Shield Block Value, but it also includes all of the Strength on the PvE dps gear.

For players wearing normal PvE tanking gear, they should not see much of a difference, but we are increasing the threat of Shield Slam to make sure. Anybody stacking a lot of damage gear will probably notice a difference in their Shield Slams though.

Spock:  “Captain, sensors identify a damage nerf incoming, bearing two two six mark eight five, speed Warp Six.”

The problem with the PvP side of Warbringer is that when you consider prot warrior versus mage (just as an example), there was nothing a mage could do to a well versed warrior. The warrior carries a lot of stuns, silences, and then any attempt to root him is broken by multiple abilities. So then the warrior’s teammate (like a hunter) is just doing tons of damage while the target has no defenses.

Um…wait.  Wasn’t there a word for what used to happen when a warrior chased after a mage and couldn’t catch up because of roots or snares and the mage could just /point, /laugh, and /nuke?  Oh yeah, kiting. Apparently it is preferable for a mage to be able to kite a warrior than a warrior to be able to bitchslap the mage.  I guess the mages have a better political action committee than we do.

Here are some more specifics on the (possible) Shield Slam changed. Remember, nothing is finalized at this point.

The diminishing returns on shield slam damage now starts to kick in when shield block value is more than 1960 (at level 80). It maxes at behaving as if your shield block value is 2072 when your block value is actually 3160 (again, at level 80). Remember this includes the scaling from both shield block value on gear AND shield block value from Strength.

Oh, but “it won’t affect us in PvE.”  Uh…yes it fucking will.

Linedan’s tank gear–not stacked for shield block value at all–has almost 2000 SBV when he’s raid buffed.  His threat set, which stacks strength and SBV to maximize damage, has closer to 3000.  In his threat set, he’s already gotten nerfed damage-wise once.  And now he’s about to take another one.

All of this might not send me into the realm of a full rage bar IRL except for one undeniable, cold, hard fact:  warriors are already the lowest-damage class out of the four tanking classes. Look at your raid’s or guild’s tanks on Recount sometime.  Compare what the death nuggets and paladins and even druids can do compared to a warrior.  Boy, I’d sure love to be able to crank out 3500 dps while tanking a raid boss.  I do, typically, somewhere in the low 2000s…less if it’s a fight where I have to switch off with another tank (Saurfang) and spend significant time not being hit, even less if I’m offtanking and have to run around and gather adds without the benefit of Consecrate or Death & Decay or Death Grip.

“But your job isn’t to do damage, it’s to hold threat!”  Yes, I know.  That’s a frequent argument that DPS throws at tanks.  It’s a correct one…to a point.  But answer me this, Gentle Reader…if you’ve got two capable tanks, and you’re staring a DPS race like Festergut in the face, who would you rather have?  The death nugget who can push 4k DPS on the fight, or the warrior who does 2k?  What if you’re the offtank, what do you do during the part of the fight when it’s not your job to hold threat?  Have your damage lowered even more?  Would you rather have “bonus threat” instead of damage?  I wouldn’t.  Screw “bonus threat.”  I want to generate my threat the way that Blizzard said that threat would be generated in Wrath of the Lich Kingthrough damage. Instead, I get lowered damage and “bonus threat.”

So here we are, the lowest-damage tanking class by a mile…and Blizzard is talking about lowering our Shield Slam damage even more because of fucking arenas. Well yay.  Excuse me if I’m not sitting in the stands at the next MLG event.

Guess it was our turn in the gunsights sooner or later.


Holding patterns

So here in the States, it’s Thanksgiving week…a time where we take trips to see family members we really don’t want to see, eat until we’d want to puke except the l-tryptophan in the turkey’s made us too sleepy to lean over the toilet, and, oh yeah, watch the Detroit Lions lose.  Again.  (In the Panzercow family’s case, this Thanksgiving week will be taken up by packing, cleaning, and moving into a new bunker across town, broken by Thanksgiving dinner at Maggiano’s.  Something tells me by Saturday, I’ll be thankful for Ben-Gay.)

A lot of raids, including The Anvil, are off this week–in our case, because we raid Thursday and Friday, taking the week off is a no-brainer.  This enforced rest is a good time to sit and think about what we’ve done in the past near-year of Wrath of the Lich King, and start planning for what’s coming over the horizon…patch 3.3 and Icecrown Citadel, the last big raid before Blizzard blows the whole thing up with Cataclysm sometime next year.

Let’s talk about Lich King raids.  In the beginning, of course, there was Naxxramas.  Yeah, Blizzard grabbed Naxxramas out of the bottom of one of those bright blue plastic recycling bins and ran it through the crusher to reform it into Wrath of the Lich King’s first raid.  But Naxx in and of itself is, I think, a fairly well-designed raid instance.  You can tell it’s an old-world vanilla WoW raid because of the amount of trash inside…overall, though, they did a pretty good job freshening it up for level 80s.

The thing that shocked people upon starting to play around in Naxxramas was how fecking easy it was, by design.  Naxxramas was proof that Blizzard wanted to make raiding accessible to far more people in WotLK, and they succeeded.  Any raid group that wasn’t made up of people who ate lots of lead-based paint as a child could walk in there and clear two wings the very first night.  Get yourself a reasonable amount of heroic dungeon or ilevel 200 crafted gear, and lrn2play, and yes, you too could stand astride Naxxramas like a colossus.  We didn’t exactly dominate the entire place in one night when we started 25-mans in there, but it didn’t take us that long.  We went from a standing stop to dropping Kel’Thuzad in something like five weeks.  In BC, with largely the same cast of characters, we spent longer than that working on Lady Vashj in Serpentshrine Cavern alone.  We never did get Kael’thas down until the 3.0 patch went in, at which point we were able to roflstomp him.  After SSC and TK, Naxxramas was a Caribbean vacation, complete with college girls (or cabana boys, if you’d prefer).

Enter Ulduar.  Ulduar was a return–somewhat–to old-school raiding.  Unlike Naxxramas, Ulduar made you work, at least a little, for your rewards.  I wrote about this a few times back in April when The Anvil started on 25-man Ulduar.  It still wasn’t SSC or TK or Hyjal or Black Temple, and nowhere close to the oh-God-kill-me-now difficulty in Sunwell Plateau.  But compared to Naxx, it was challenging.

And Ulduar itself, I think, is Blizzard’s crowning achievement in raid instances, just barely displacing Karazhan from that spot.  It’s big, it feels grand and epic.  It’s pretty.  There’s enough trash to help you make your repair bills back, and the trash will bite you if you get lazy.  And the boss fights are varied and interesting.  There’s a vehicle fight that, unlike Malygos, doesn’t suck a bowling ball through a silly straw.  There’s fights that require offtanking, fights that require tank-switching, fights that require splitting your group, fights that require mobility, fights that are straight-up tank-and-spanks…and Yogg-Saron, which is up to fifteen minutes of pure craziness on crystal meth.  And with the introduction of “hard modes,” once you’d mastered the basic content, you could start ramping up the difficulty at your own pace and ability, in order to score achievements and some extra loot.  I’m not a big fan of hard modes in general because it feels like I’m only getting half the content I would be otherwise, but even I have to admit, in Ulduar, it worked.  We’ve been raiding Ulduar for seven months and we’ve only just now been able to get XT-002′s Heartbreaker, for example…and are still working on things like Freya +2, Thorim hardmode, or (oh God the pain) Mimiron’s Firefighter.

And then, we got patch 3.2.  And we got the Icecrown County Fair…uh, Trial of the Crusader.  In which Blizzard took all the good stuff about Ulduar and threw it right out the window into a passing garbage truck.

Now, I know that 3.2 was “filler” content between Ulduar in 3.1 and Icecrown Citadel in 3.3.  To ask for a Double Stuf Oreo’s worth of filling in between those two crunchy cookies, eh, that may be a bit much.  But ToC isn’t even a real Oreo.  It’s one of those crappy store-brand versions that’s got about 0.3 mm of godawful fake-vanilla stuff in between two stale soggy wafers.

Where to start.  Well, how about…it’s one room? That’s it.  One big round room.  It might as well be a Coke machine.  Right-click human dude to insert $1.25, machine dispenses refreshing beverage…uh, pissy magmataur, two huge-ass worms, and a yeti.  (Don’t stand in the yeti.)  What’s worse?  They recycled the same frigging room for the 5-man heroic dungeon.  Art fail.

But the real screwup isn’t how it looks, it’s how it plays.  When we finally headed into ToC for the first time, we dropped the first three encounters in about 2 1/2 hours.  That’s pretty good for a first time into a raid instance.  But here’s the trick–we got loot off those three encounters that absolutely peed all over the loot we were getting out of Ulduar at the time…where we were still working on difficult fights like Thorim and Vezax.

The fights in ToC aren’t difficult.  They’re stupidly easy for the rewards that you’re given.  They’re gimmick fights…learn the gimmick, and they’re yawners.  Only Faction Champions (the ultimate broken-ass faux-PvP nerdrage fight, now nerfed down to Faction Declawed Kittens) and Anub’arak will keep you awake in normal ToC.  Pretty soon, we were sharding two-thirds of the loot we picked up in Ulduar because our core group had already blown past that tier of stuff and were picking up ilevel 239/245 things out of 10- or 25-man ToC every week.

We cleared normal ToC after four weeks of work.  That’s right, kids, we cleared a Tier 9 instance faster than we did Naxxramas.  And all that time, we were scoring ilevel 245 loot and Tier 9 badges at a feverish pace.  This wasn’t just a vending machine, it was a stuck vending machine that kept dropping cold Cokes on our feet.  We can now walk into normal ToC and clear the whole thing out in less than an hour and fifteen minutes…and get around sixteen piece of ilevel 245 loot and 15 Badges of Triumph, the Insult Comic Dog.  Were it not for hard modes, we wouldn’t even be going to Ulduar any more.  And even when we do get the hard modes, it’s just to say we did it.  The rewards from them simply can’t compare to what we get sleepwalking our way through ToC.  Mudflation, much?

But ToC has one final kick in the nuts to deliver.  Switch it to heroic.

Our raid group could demolish ToC normal, no sweat.  Then we walked in there on heroic and got owned. As in, couldn’t get Gormok past 35%, forget the Twin Jormungar or Icehowl.  Gormok’s Impales were landing for 40k–that was 85% of my buffed health, in one shot–near the end of the fight.  Yes, I know, you’re supposed to use a rotation similar to what the tank gets on Mimiron’s Shock Blast–Hand of Something, Pain Suppression, Shield Wall, etc.  But I am not, to put it mildly, a fan of fights that basically come down to “if the priest lags for a half-second, and the RNG hates your dodge%, you’re dead and there’s damn all you can do about it.”  That issue aside, now this is the beat-your-face-in difficulty level I expect from a Tier 9 instance that can give me ilevel 245+ stuff.

The difficulty gap between Trial of the Crusader and Trial of the Grand Crusader is the size of the Grand Canyon.  And it’s not so much because ToGC is too hard, although I’ve got issues with some of the fight designs (see Gormok above).  It’s because ToC is way, way, waaaaaay too easy for the rewards you get.

It is horrific design all around, and even though I go every week and tank it or DPS it for The Anvil, I am most heartily sick of it.  I do my job so we can get out of there faster and get on to something else that is actually fun and challenging…be it Ulduar, be it Onyxia (which still rocks my socks off), be it even Trial of the Grand Oh God Not The Face.

This leaves us, as a raid, in a holding pattern, and the strain may be starting to show.  We’re doing ToC every week to gear up for Icecrown, but it’s not like we can try hardmodes on normal ToC a la Ulduar.  We grind through our 15 badges, and then we go to the familiar confines of Ulduar to work on hardmodes, which are still actually hard to us, or Onyxia.  Every so often we take another poke at ToGC to see if we’ve ramped up our DPS and strategy for Beasts, but I don’t know how much heart we’ve got in that right now…because that will be a long grind to power through, given how hard it is, and 3.3 draws ever closer.

You have no idea how much I’m looking forward to Icecrown Citadel.  Bring it on, Arthas, I’m waiting.


Faction Champions: a “worthless scrub” of a fight

I’ve decided that I, the player behind your kindly, warm, fuzzy Panzercow, am going to learn a foreign language.  Maybe Russian, that sounds pretty macho.  Or German…lots of glottal stops and hard vowels and eleventy-syllable compound words, and besides, my wife majored in it in college.  Heck, maybe I’ll just have some fun and go for Klingon.  Klingon is pretty metal.

Why, you ask?  Because English, as wonderful a language as it is, simply does not have enough nasty-sounding words for me to express just how incredibly fucking much I hate the Faction Champions fight in the Crusader’s Coliseum. 

Not even “fucking,” that wonderful all-purpose spiked warhammer of a dirty word, quite gets the point across just how much I despise the Delrissa-on-Steroids encounter–even if I use italics.  Let’s take a look at all the various bits and pieces of this lovely little ten minutes of computerized Hell and see how they combine to turn the entire thing into a giant toasted turd sandwich garnished with fail and lovingly drizzled in noobsauce, shall we?

First, there’s the setup.  My thoughts about the entire Icecrown County Fair in general have been well-documented, and need not be repeated in depth here–overall, I think it’s kind of stupid.  The principle behind the Crusader’s Coliseum kicks it up a notch…gee, Tirion, I thought your Light-worshipping kinder-and-gentler human kind had evolved beyond bloody gladiatorial spectacles.  And then there’s Varian “The Chin” Wrynn–former slave gladiator–standing up there getting off on the entire thing having a grand old time like he’s parked on the fifty-yard line on NFL game day.  I can see Garrosh thinking the entire thing is great fun, but Wrynn?  A guy who’s literally “been there, done that, got the scars to prove it” is standing up there whooping it up with a big blue “Alliance #1″ foam finger and watching people die?  I don’t doubt for a second that Wrynn’s various ordeals have knocked a few things out of alignment upstairs, but I have a hard time believing that somebody who was enslaved and fought beasts to the death for a living would wish it on anybody else, at least on his own Alliance.  (OK, he probably would love to see us Horde get nommed by not one, but two Jormungar.)

So then the entire thing takes a bit of a turn after Lord Jaraxxus eats dirt.  (As an aside, why don’t we just kill the gnome?  It’s more fun and saves a lot of trouble.)  Garrosh gets his ass up on his shoulders about the Alliance summoning a demon…well, duh, Einstein, Tirion Fordring said the gnome was a warlock and that he was working for the Crusade, not for the Alliance.  But of course, Wrynn loses his cookies like a seven-year-old at the swingset, and the “nuh-uhhh” “uh-huh” “no u” “no u” “ur mom” “no ur mom” flies back and forth over our heads for a minute until Fordring has to sigh and say, “OK, Varian, send your people down to fight their people if it’ll shut you two the fuck up.  Oy, I’m getting a headache.”

(An aside:  Where are Thrall and Jaina through all this?  Why doesn’t Thrall turn around and lay the Doomhammer upside Garrosh’s punk head?  Why doesn’t Jaina raise one perfectly manicured hand and tell Wrynn he’s being a doosh?  Listen, you two, stop making goo-goo eyes at each other from across the arena and act like you run things, k?  K.)

The concept behind the fight itself is simple enough.  25 of you, 10 of them from the opposing faction, chosen from 14 different characters.  (On 25-man heroic, I think it’s supposed to be 25v13.)  It is a pretty straight copy of the Delrissa encounter from Magister’s Terrace.  The faction champions don’t have normal agro tables.  They switch targets frequently.  They have, and use, almost all the capabilities of their designated class–especially the annoying ones.  So the arms warrior pops Retaliation, Bladestorms, Mortal Strikes, Hamstrings, etc.  The resto druid pops various heals, thorns, etc.  The shamans (one resto, one enhancement) drop appropriate totems, they pop Heroism or Bloodlust, they heal, etc.  It’s a fight where you can’t simply say “tank this, offtank this, burn down this,” because you can’t control their agro.  It favors crowd control over raw DPS.

That’s the theory.  In practice, it combines the worst elements of PvE and PvP into one big spring roll of suck.

Where it runs into difficulty is in the entire concept of “locking down” certain faction champions, and the concept of “diminishing returns.”  We all know that things like taunts and stuns are on diminishing returns timers…by the fourth time or so that you use any one of them in rapid succession, the target is immune.  Now in PvP, that’s not always that big a problem, because your target’s got maybe 40 or 45 thousand health, max.  If you can keep them stunlocked or controlled and you have a couple of people to focus fire on them, by the time your control mechanisms become ineffective, your target’s going to be dead.

Try that when the target has 1.9 million health.

With 10 (or more) champions to worry about, unless you dogpile everybody on one or two and let the others roam free, you can’t truly “lock down” any of them, even the healers.  They will get heals off.  You can partially control them, but not totally.  Your hope is to reduce their effectiveness to the point that they aren’t contributing too much to things.

Meanwhile, it doesn’t matter if you’re a tank or not.  You’re getting stunned.  You’re getting shept.  You’re getting crowd-controlled and bitchslapped by bladestorming warriors and FoKing rogues.  Your AoE damage is reduced by 75% to keep you from just piling them up in the center and having everybody burn them down.  Their AoE damage isn’t reduced at all.  They have 2 million health each.  You have 25 to 45 thousand.

People call this a “PvP fight,” because certain pieces of PvP gear like CC-breaking trinkets help.  But it’s not.  It’s nothing more than a clusterfuck of a PvE fight where agro control is basically unworkable, where you have to try to use certain PvP-like mechanics to survive.  As a tank, these types of fights are mind-blowingly frustrating to me, because our job–the entire damn reason we’re even in the raid with our l33t 2000 dps–is control.  We are the controllers.  We make order out of chaos.  We control who attacks what (on both sides) and where and how the fight happens.  If you take the ability to control out of the fight…I think you can see how infuriating that can be.

And then, there’s the folks who just don’t really like PvP all that much.  Yes, skilled PvPers can be more effective in this fight because they’re used to the total chaos of it all, the fast target-switching, the situational awareness.  If you’re a raider who doesn’t PvP, doesn’t like it, and never learned it, why should you suddenly have to act like you’ve got a 5v5 rating of 1900 in order to get through a PvE raid fight?

Another reason I hate it?  I hate what it does to my raid.  We’re a fairly even-keeled bunch.  Yeah, we get frustrated after repeated wipes, but for the most part, we constructively channel it into thinking about strategy and how we can do better next attempt.  The first week we did Faction Champions, it took us seven tries to beat it.  By the fifth one, our Chief Cat Herder was probably thinking “if you kids don’t stop, I’m going to turn this raid around right now.”  People were snapping at each other like I hadn’t heard in quite a while.  Faction Champions raises the frustration and anger level of people like no other fight I’ve ever seen.

Finally–and tied in with the previous point–there’s a little piece of atmosphere Blizzard throws in for good measure.  Every time one of you dies, Wrynn (in our case) says something.  Sometimes it’s just “HAH!”  More commonly, it’s “Worthless scrub!”  Think about that.  The King of Stormwind, Big Cheese Kahuna of All Humanity and the Alliance and Yes, Even Gnomes, is using the word “scrub.”  (I’m sure Garrosh is equally charming when my Alliance friends have to go through this little ordeal.)  Hey, Blizz, was that really necessary?  You’ve already constructed a fight that sends PvEers like me into rabid convulsions of anger, do you really need to add that little extra cherry on top of Varian Wrynn verbally teabagging the casualties from the peanut gallery?

It’s all enough to make me convinced that the Alliance should’ve just let Wrynn get eaten in his slave pit, and I should’ve left Garrosh sitting in the dirt in Garadar those many months ago, listening to Simple Plan and cutting himself.  The world would’ve been made brighter thereby.


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?


Patch 3.2: All Argents, all the time

Random Friday afternoon thoughts as I try to make it through my last hour and a half at work this week, laying low with the Robert Earl Keen turned up to 11…

So this week, the WoWosphere exploded with the release of the first round of release 3.2 PTR patch notes.  Now I’m not going to go over them bit by bit by bit here; everybody’s already dissected those notes like a frog in biology class.  I don’t get too bent about class changes in preliminary PTR notes like these, because they always get tweaked, at least a little, based on testing on the test realm.  I’m not even going to go into the mount changes except to say “woot!”, or the badge changes except to say “boy, the Blizzard general forums are full of tardburgers.”

No, my thoughts today are about everybody’s favorite Scourge-slaying, scrupulously-neutral, joust-loving party animals, the Argent Crusade.  More specifically, about the little place that they’ve put up on the ass end of Northrend…yup, the Argent Tournament, or as I call it sometimes, the Icecrown County Fair.

When I read the 3.1 patch description talking about the Argent Tournament, I’ll admit it, my WTFometer pegged.  Not because of anything to do with the actual game itself, mind you–even though jousting could, IMO, be done better, and I despise the “before the gate” dailies, especially the Champion version.  No, the mechanics were fine.  My bogglement at the Argent Tournament was strictly, I assure you, rooted in roleplay and lore.

Think about it.  The Argent Crusade, Horde, and Alliance are standing before the seat of the Lich King’s power.  Icecrown requires a massive cleansing that will require an immense amount of effort and the blood, sweat, and lives of thousands of heroes.  The Crusade’s job is made more complicated by escalating tensions between the Horde and Alliance in the wake of the Wrathgate (thanks ever so much, Putress and Varian), forcing the Crusade to rely more and more on the death knights of the Ebon Blade, their own smaller armies, and free agents–that’d be us, kids–and less on the elite forces of Thrall and Varian.  The financial and logistical strain is immense…the personal one, even more so.

So with this incredibly daunting task ahead of them, the leadership of the Argent Crusade decides to take their precious, limited resources…

…and build a fucking jousting tournament.  On the wrong end of the glacier from both their own base, and from Arthas’ doorstep.  Sweet jumping holy goblin Jesus on a friggin’ pogo stick, are you kidding me?

Excuse me, folks, but exactly how is this going to kick Arthas’ undead ass?  “Oh, but we’re seeing who the greatest champions of the Horde and Alliance are!”, you might respond.  Riiiiight.  Sitting on the back of a wolf or kodo or chicken, beating each other over the head with a blunt lance (that does 0.3 dps, by the way), is going to show you who’s capable of leading the charge against the Lich King.  Boy howdy, I know I’d be scared of seeing a line of Argent Jousters, pennants flying, riding their mighty war chickens toward the gates of Icecrown Citadel.

Actually, no.  I’d be laughing my ass off right before Scourge Happened and I’d have both new ghoul soldiers for my army and Kentucky Fried Hawkstrider for dinner.

OK, I’m exaggerating a bit, but not much.  Do you see why I thought (and think) the concept of the Argent Tournament made no sense?  It’s jarring to me to put this thing in Icecrown given everything else that’s going on.  It doesn’t fit.  You’re engaged in, literally, a life and death struggle for the future of the entire world against Azeroth’s biggest home-grown evil Big Bad and his endless armies, and you’re taking time out to freaking joust?  Do you seriously think that Thrall wouldn’t take one look at this and laugh himself silly?  Tirion Fordring is really going to buy into this fluff?

(Now this hasn’t stopped me from getting Linedan involved, because hey, excellence in combat–any kind–is what the Panzercow is about, so he’s a Champion of Thunder Bluff and is currently working on Silvermoon.  If I ever ratchet up any more interest in the daily grind-a-thon, he’ll eventually be an Exalted Champion or whatever the title is for five Champions and all factions exalted.)

Enter patch 3.2.  The Icecrown County Fairgrounds expand with a new big arena, and I somehow think it’s not going to be used to hold L70ETC concerts.  All the new content in this patch centers around the Tournament.  A new 5-man instance.  A new raid instance involving the Colosseum–or as Anna called it, “Onyxia v4.0.”  New dailies.  A Cult of the Damned camp attacking the Tournament (took ‘em long enough).  The return of the Black Knight!  (Uh…woo.)  Other than defensive operations against the Cult of the Damned, I haven’t yet seen anything to indicate that any of this content actually involves…wait for it…a substantive fight against the Scourge.

Please note that as far as we know, the war against the Lich King hasn’t moved forward much at all.  Arthas sits inviolate in the Citadel.  He’s still holding us off at Corp’rethar.  The forges at Malykriss are still producing.  The Vrykul still hold Ymirheim and new slaves trickle into the saronite mines, no matter how many we free.  The only real success you see as you proceed through Icecrown’s questlines, after the establishment of Crusader’s Pinnacle, are the opening of the Shadow Vault and the destruction of the Fleshwerks…and both of those were courtesy of the Ebon Blade, who seem to be out doing the actual dirty work while the Argent Crusade goes into the fourth month of their little Ren Faire on the north coast.

Maybe it’s me.  I dunno.  But from a lore standpoint, the whole Argent Tournament concept just doesn’t fit, and dumping all this extra content into it for patch 3.2 makes it even worse.  It may well be because I only have one character who, from a roleplay standpoint, gives a damn about the Tournament.  Beltar, my dwarf, has not done a single AT quest and may never; he’s old, he’s crotchety, and he would much prefer blowing a jouster’s head off at thirty paces than running the risk of getting unseated from a ram.  Illithanis would be offended that they won’t let her use her wasp pet, and Moktor’s never met a fair fight in her entire life and subsequent unlife.

Maybe my sense of lore and roleplay is offended.  Or it could be that it’s 4:30 on a Friday afternoon and DAMMIT I WANT HOMETIEMS NAO.  I dunno.

Discuss among yourselves.  Peace out.


What I think of healers

He'd probably let me die to the boss, but at least there'd be Vicodin afterward.

He'd probably let me die to the boss, but at least there'd be Vicodin afterward.

The folks over at Blog Azeroth have an interesting shared topic this week:  What do non-healers think of healers?  It’s a thought-provoking subject that’s spawned some great thoughts, but it’s one that I’m not sure I’m qualified to blog upon.

You see, I have a dirty little secret.  I’ve never played a healer.  Never.

I have three healing-capable alts, a 70 druid, a 69 shaman, and a 32ish paladin.  They have never for one second of their lives been resto, resto, or holy respectively.  They’re feral, enhancement, and lolret.  I’ve never offspec healed an instance with any of them. 

What’s worse, the even dirtier part of my dirty little secret is that basically, I’m a DPS whore.  Yes, I have a prot warrior as my main, and I have no plans to change that aside from continuing to develop Linedan’s arms offspec so he can contribute more on one-tank raid fights.  But my other high-level alts–two hunters, one blood DK, one feral druid, and one enhancement shaman–are all about various ways of bringing the pain.  The thought of trying to heal even a weak normal instance, on any class/spec combination, scares me far worse than tanking any heroic raid encounter in the game.

So this leaves me in a quandary.  How can I possibly discuss “what a non-healer thinks of healers” when I’ve never played a healer and have only the vaguest idea of the strengths and weaknesses of the various classes and specs?

The fact is, I really don’t care how a healer keeps me standing, only that they do.  You can use big heals, medium heals, little heals, pew-pew heals, bubbles, shields, HOTs, bandages, duct tape, spackle, grout, little cartoon Thrall Band-Aids, Red Bull, medkits from Half-Life 2, Class II controlled substances…I.  Don’t.  Care.  Just keep me alive to keep the mobs off you, and I’ll let you worry about the mechanics of how you do it.  You don’t tell me how to tank, I don’t tell you how to heal, and together, we will rule the galaxy as…uh…tank and squishy or something.

I trust my healer(s) implicitly when I tank.  I picked up a bad habit in vanilla WoW that’s carried through Burning Crusade and into Wrath, and while I’ve gotten better about it, I’ve yet to completely shake it.  I don’t pay as much attention to my own health as I should.  This came about because when I was learning to tank, at level 60, I had to focus every one of my few remaining brain cells on gaining and holding agro on multiple mobs…while tanking for one of the highest-DPS rogues on the entire server.  (This was, of course, back when dinosaurs roamed the earth and warriors’ multiple-target tanking required a hell of a lot of work.  And I could barely stay ahead of this guy on a single boss target, much less multiples.)  Combine that with the fact that we had a couple of really solid healers in the crew, and I tended to just forget about my health, put it in their hands, and focused everything forward on the mobs.

I still do it, more than I should.  I dutifully get a healthstone at the start of every raid, and every raid, no matter how many times I die, I still have it when I log out.  I accumulate redonkulous amounts of healing potions.  I still lug around a single Nightmare Seed that I haven’t used in months.  I just have a simple faith that no matter how deep the kimchi gets, if I’m doing my job and intelligently using my cooldowns like Shield Wall and Shield Block, and if I’m not standing in Bad Stuff, the healer or healers that I’ve got behind me are always going to save my ass.  Period.  And the best part is, 99.9% of the time, I’m right.

I have a lot of respect for healers.  It’s not nearly as much fun as DPS and just as, maybe more, stressful than tanking.  The players who are hardcore dedicated to the art of green glowy whack-a-mole or shiny golden PEWPEWPEW have my undying lessthanthree and my eternal gratitude.

But if you want to know whether I think a holy paladin or a disc priest is better for healing me?  Brother, I have no damn idea.  I love you all equally.


Of unicorns and other imaginary things

See that right there?  That, my friends, is the Commendation of Kael’thas.  Back during the last part of Burning Crusade, this little trinket was the shizzle if you were a tank that, like me, had no real hope of seeing Sunwell or even much of Black Temple.  +57 stamina?  Awesome.  And look at all that automatic emergency ass-saving dodge!  I literally can’t count how many times this thing kept me alive when things went pear-shaped.

I got that on my first run into heroic Magister’s Terrace, believe it or not.  (Yes, that’s it, drink the tasty Haterade, peeps.)  And it was my constant tanky companion through Serpentshrine Cavern and Tempest Keep.  It was awesome to be rocking one of these back then.

When you’re offtanking Ulduar 25-man?  Not.  So.  Freaking.  Much.

My wife knows that if she wants to hear me rant, all she’s got to do is mention the words “tank trinket” and then dive behind the sofa.  Trinkets for raid-geared plate tanks are hard as hell to find.  There’s the Seal of the Pantheon from Halls of Lightning, of course, which is generally considered to be a necessary “entry-level” trinket just because of the massive +65 defense rating (Lin’s still wearing one, because stacking +defense is actually quite effective).  But getting into Naxx, well, there isn’t much.  There’s the Repelling Charge from Thaddius on 10-man…assuming you’re in a 10-man that can get to Thaddius, which I wasn’t for quite a while, and that it drops, which I’ve only seen once in 4+ months.  There’s the Defender’s Code, which is more of a druid trinket with the static +850 armor and the on-demand hefty +dodge, but doesn’t have any +stamina.  The badge trinket, the Valor Medal of the First War…again, all +dodge, and no stamina.

Which is why, weeks into Ulduar 25, with every other piece of Linedan’s gear at ilevel 200 or higher, he was running around with a damned item level 115 level 70 trinket still firmly glued into his first trinket slot.  Because tank trinket upgrades, like unicorns, leprechauns, and politicians that actually want to cut government spending, don’t really exist.  They’re just imaginary figures.

Until last night.

I’d like to thank Captain Crotchpocket, aka Ignis the Furnace Master, for supplying me with this lovely little item, the Heart of Iron.  Yep, that’s right, kids, that’s not a misprint…one hundred and sixty-two points of tasty, tasty stamina.  1717 health off one trinket, and some emergency dodge thrown in. 

Linedan now has almost 32,000 unbuffed health, and with full 25-man raid buffs is up over 41,000, competitive with our other two raid tanks.  And y’know, it still doesn’t feel like enough on some fights.  I’m beginning to wonder if Ulduar is harkening back to the Burning Crusade days where if you were a warrior, there was only one gem you ever put in your gem slots unless you had to activate a meta–stamina uber alles.  It seems that Ulduar is all about BIG NUMBERS…even the trash routinely spanks a pimped-out tank for well into five digits per hit.

Lin’s now one belt away from the Epic achievement.

It felt good to see the Anvil get back out of the ditch and put the hammer down last night.  Loot Leviathan, Razorscale, Ignis, XT, and Kologarn all went down without too much fuss.  Now we’re working on Auriaya, the Crazy Cat Lady.  And all I have to say about that fight is, now I think I know what a yarn ball feels like.


When it all goes horribly wrong

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Not long ago, I wrote a post on the Tao of the Click…”the Click” being that magical moment when, after working on a raid encounter for a while, suddenly everything “clicks” into place and you not just beat it, but beat it smoothly and convincingly.  It’s one of the best feelings you can have in raiding.

But as the ancient philosophers of the East have taught us, for every yin there is a yang.  If there is a Tao of the Click, then as Bhelgast over at Tales of the Aggronaut put it, there must be a Tao of the Clunk.  Sooner or later, you’re going to have one of those headache-inducing, wipe-filled disasters that leave you sitting in front of your keyboard shaking your head and wondering why you didn’t take up something less stressful like open-heart surgery or less painful like javelin catching.

We got ours out of the way last week.

The Anvil’s Thursday night foray into Ulduar started off well.  We had solid one-shots on Flame Leviathan, Razorscale, and Ignis.  Our kill of XT-002 wasn’t anything to write home about (anytime you’re battle-rezzing your MT, that’s not good) and would have been a pre-nerf wipe, but we hung in there, stayed with it, and ended up getting him with over half the raid dead due to a bad combination of a too-close gravity bomb and a tantrum.

And then there was Kologarn.  We’ve killed Kologarn twice before, so we set up for the fight figuring we’d get him in one or two tries, and move on to the challenge of Auriaya, aka Crazy Cat Lady.

We wiped eight times on Kologarn.  And on none of those fights did we even get him to 50% health.

One time, I had trouble hanging on to the rubble that spawns when his right arm dies (I was designated rubble tank, our warrior MT and DK tank traded off on Kologarn proper).  Sometimes, the tanks died fast.  Eyebeams were constantly tearing us up.  Healers were disconnecting.  The relative smoothness of the Razorscale and Ignis kills was replaced with missteps, mistakes, and wipes.  The banter on Ventrilo fell away, replaced by silence after each wipe.  The whole thing was probably best summed up by one of our officers after about the fifth or sixth wipe:  “OK, guys, talk to me.  We’ve done this before, we know we can do it, so what’s going wrong?

It wasn’t a situation where you could point at a person and say, “this person is causing issues.”  (Unlike, say, the week before, when my problems holding rubble caused a fair bit of difficulty before we finally got Kologarn down.  I did a lot better on it last week.)  The fail was spread far and wide, and it was feeding off itself.  Eventually, after eight wipes, we hit our hard stop time of midnight Eastern, and that was that.  We’d have to try again the next night, Friday.

Now Friday nights have not been kind to us recently.  Two weeks ago, the premiere of Star Trek cost us so many people that we could only field 19, and ended up trying to get the sub-21-man achievement in Naxx (and failing, due to problems on Gluth).  Last week, at start time, we only had 23 people.  But 23, we figured, was close enough to 25, and in we went.

We couldn’t get past the trash leading to Kologarn.

Let me repeat that, because reading it, even I don’t believe I had to type it:  We couldn’t get past the trash leading to Kologarn.

Now yes, Antechamber of Ulduar trash can be tricky.  They actually remind me a lot of those three bitchy six-pulls in the entrance hallway of Tempest Keep–not hard if you have good crowd control, but nightmarish if you don’t.  Thursday night, we were blessed with four mages in the group, so keeping the stuff crowd-controlled while we smacked it down two at a time was trivial.  Friday night, we still had two mages, a hunter, three tanks, enough druids to start a small zoo…yeah, you’d think, we got this.  Or not.

Honestly, I couldn’t tell what kept happening.  I tend to bear down and focus on my job instead of looking at Big Pictures, and my job was to grab what I was told to grab and go tank it in a corner so it wouldn’t eat squishy fase.  And I did.  And then I’d look up and my Grid was mostly covered in “DEAD.”

After the second wipe, things started getting snippy, just a bit, on Ventrilo.  The snippy quotient got much higher after the third wipe.  After the fourth wipe, I could just tell that things were about to go bad in a big way.  I could hear it in peoples’ voices as a bit of an argument started up.  One person actually just left the raid and the Vent channel.  And that was when mercifully, one of our Chief Cat Herders, the beloved Dorritow, came back over from the officer channel and sent us home for the evening.  It was a good call.  The atmosphere was getting so poisonous and tense that we weren’t going to be good for anything else but more wipes.

Now as I’ve stated before, The Anvil is no Ensidia.  We’re no server-first guild even on Feathermoon, which is firmly mid-pack in terms of raiding (not bad for an RP server, actually).  But we’re a solid raid with a core that’s been together since the days when Gehennas and Baron Geddon were progression content.  We just don’t crash and burn like we did last week…and yet we did.

It’s a sobering experience, and it’s also a reminder that killing a boss a few times doesn’t necessarily make it “farm” content.  (And also, that even “farm” content can occasionally reach out and trip you badly.)  It’s something of a call for each person in the raid to focus on what they’re assigned to do, stay aware of what’s going on around them, and know what to do in every possible situation, otherwise known as “don’t stand in shit.”

So here’s the discussion topic, dear readers.  Have you ever had this happen in your raid?  (If you answer “no,” by the way, I’m pretty sure you’re lying.)  I’m not just talking an “off night.”  I’m talking a night so bad, so chock full of caramel-covered fail, so utterly under your normal performance standards that it leaves you scratching your head as to how it could have possibly happened.  It’s not one or two people repeatedly making mistakes, though that may happen.  It’s a situation where everybody, or nearly everybody, is just not “on,” and it builds on itself until the whole raid’s performance falls apart like a Yugo.  How do you handle it, as a raidleader, as an officer, as just a grunt like me?  When do you keep trying and when do you just throw in the towel and send everybody home?  What do you do?  What can you do?

But hey.  Tomorrow night, we’re going to go back into Ulduar.  And this time, we’re going to pwn Kologarn in the face, boyyyyy and take his itamz.  Because we are resilient, and because we’re not going to let one bad week define who we are.  So we’ll walk right up to the “grumpy old troll who lives under the bridge” (a little Dora the Explorer reference for all you parents up in this heezy), do a /flex, and say:

“Ve are da Anvil, und ve are heah to fuck *clap* you up!


This ain’t your mama’s raid anymore, son

I’m glad I read this before I started writing my own thoughts on the same subject, because Elleiras over at Fel Fire just saved me a whole lot of typing:  The problem with Ulduar is Naxxramas.

So, no, the problem isn’t Ulduar itself.

The problem is that Naxxramas was so easy by comparison to the raids that preceded it that we actually forgot what it was like to progress through new content.  Once upon a tier, we congratulated ourselves when it “only” took a week or two of raiding to defeat a new boss.  Now, we feel like we’ve failed if it takes more than two or three attempts, let alone nights.

I was thinking about this last week as I made my first foray into Ulduar-25 (our raid’s second week).  The Anvil had killed Flame Leviathan the week before but nothing else, mainly due to the instability of the server.  So on Thursday we headed in, one-shotted Flame Leviathan, then after several wipes got Razorscale, then ran out of time before we could get XT-002, though we got the little (ok, big) brat to 3%.  Friday night, we dropped XT-002, then slammed our hands in the car door known as Ignis for about two hours before admitting defeat (best attempt, 55%).  So right now, we’ve done three bosses and are still working out what we need to do for Mister Crotchpocket.

I could tell people were getting snippy and stressed both nights.  Ventrilo on Friday night was awesome because our main tank was wasted at the start of the run–he tanks better drunk, seriously.  But after a few wipes on XT-002, and then never getting Ignis below about 55%, the good humor was gone and things were quiet and a bit tense.

How soon we forget, huh?  I remember wiping on Vashj for six weeks before we finally got her, and it may have been more than that, come to think of it, but that’s all I was there for.  We tried Kael’thas for over two months and never did get him before 3.0 dropped and turned that fight from nightmare to easymode.  Just mention the words “Leotheras the Blind” around me and I’m liable to turn around and deck you, that’s how much I despised wiping on that fight again and again and again.  And please note, The Anvil is not a “fail raid”; we’re no server first on anything, but considering that we raid just two nights a week for three hours a night, we do well.  When we come, we come correct, dawg.

The fact is, folks, yes, Ulduar is a gigantic difficulty leap up from Naxxramas.  Flame Leviathan isn’t very hard on “easy” mode, but from there, it gets much more difficult quickly–and I haven’t even seen the bosses in the second and third “wings” yet.  But you know what?  It’s not harder than Burning Crusade content.  It just isn’t.  None of the first four fights in Ulduar even begin to approach the sheer bloody chaos of Lady Vashj or Kael’thas, much less the massive gear checks of Sunwell.  Hell, M’uru literally broke some of the best raiding guilds on Feathermoon.

What Ulduar is, is a Monday after a long weekend of Naxxramas.  It’s a 4:30 am wakeup call.  It’s a splash of ice water to the face.  It’s a reminder that no, it’s not really normal for a 25-man pickup raid to be able to clear an instance in four hours, or a 10-man starter raid to get seven bosses in their very first night.  It is a clarion call that successful raiding requires coordination, effort, and patience.  It’s your indication that playtime is over, school is in session, and that now it’s time to start taking a hard look at your raid preparation.  What gear do I need, for both my primary spec and dual spec if any?  Are my enchants and gems what they need to be for my role(s)?  Can I get a hold of the correct potions, food, and other buffs?  Am I doing what my raid officers ask, reading up on strats if they want me to, paying attention during the fights?  Do I know what I’m supposed to do for this boss?  And of course, the most important question:  Am I standing in shit?

What Ulduar isn’t is some new frontier of ZOMGHARD.  Maybe the “hard modes” are brutal, we haven’t gotten there yet.  But the next time you start to get frustrated wiping in there, and watching your repair bills mount, remember back to Serpentshrine Cavern and Tempest Keep and Mount Hyjal and Black Temple, and Sunwell Plateau if you were fortunate enough to go.  There were no “hard” and “easy” modes in those raids.  You slammed your head against the wall in any of those instances for weeks at a time, with some exceptions, and just accepted it.

But boy, did your head feel good when that wall finally crumbled, right?


I can’t go, Coach

I love my raid.  Notice I didn’t say I love raiding…my interest in raiding, and WoW in general, waxes and wanes with time.  But even if I’m not playing WoW every night and indulging in other timesinks, I still love my raid.  We’ve had the same core of good people together for almost three years now, and honestly, it’s been really good to me from every standpoint I can see–it’s made me a better player, gotten me lots of phat virtual loot, let me see and experience things in the game that I never thought I would, and given me some awesome memories.

Because of all this, I’m loyal to them.  I want to be there for every raid that I can possibly make, real life permitting.  (We have a very strict “real life first” policy…missing raids due to RL scheduling interference is understood and expected.)  Admittedly, part of my pushing for 100% attendance is because I have that lovely little phenomenon known as Performance Issues…even after all this time, I can’t quite shut up that annoying little voice at the back of my head that says “if you aren’t there, they’ll figure out they do better without you and you’ll never get invited again…”  It’s BS, and rationally I know it’s wrong, but rationality is not always the Panzercow’s strong suit.

So at 8:00 Eastern last night, I faithfully answered the call for whispers, and was at Naxx well before 9:00 for first pull.  This, despite the fact that I felt like, to dredge up a term from my old Star Wars fan days, bantha poodoo.

See, sometimes I get headaches.  Nasty headaches.  Not the classic migraine where you get incredibly photosensitive and have to lie down in a dark and quiet room.  Just slowly building headaches that get worse and worse until nausea kicks in and sometimes I throw up.  I used to get them more when I was a kid, but I grew out of them; nowadays they’re exceedingly rare.  This was the first one in a couple of years or more.  I know that if I don’t nip these things in the bud and take some painkiller–just a couple of Advil work fine–early on, and I let them go, they get ugly.  Problem was, we had nothing in the house but some Tylenol PM, and I’m not taking sleepytime medicine before a raid.

So I figured I’d tough it out.  And at first I didn’t feel too bad, but I could tell I was definitely off.  The pain wasn’t intense, but it was enough that I was out of it, a tick slow here and there.  That all culminated 30 minutes into the raid where I got assigned to tank the frontside of Four Horsemen…and made a massive cock-up on a target handoff that wiped the raid.  (Protip:  If you’re tanking Rivendare and supposed to switch to Korthazz with the other tank, mis-targeting and taunting Rivendare again is counter-productive.)

Now I screw up a lot, more than I should.  I’m hard on my own performance.  But rarely do I epic fail so hard that I actually, demonstrably, wipe the snecking raid.  If my headache wasn’t bad before, it sure as hell got worse on that long quiet run back from the entrance.

The second time through 4H, I bore down, concentrated, and did my job right that time.  And indeed, we went on to have one of our better Naxx runs ever.  We cleared all four downstairs wings in 2 hours and 54 minutes, a first.  I tanked Loatheb, Gluth, and Anub’rekhan without difficulty, nobody died on Patchwerk, we even got a couple of achievements along the way.  I picked up a couple of nice pieces of loot, and in general the raid was steamrolling everything in our path.  It was a good raid night.

And I was miserable the whole way.  It was taking a massive effort to keep focused and do my job while railroad spikes pounded into my left temple and I wondered if that Quiznos sub I had for dinner was going to come back up and visit me.  I hung on by my thumbnails, and when we dropped Maexxna at three minutes to midnight, I was grabbing my emblem and hitting my hearthstone before her legs stopped twitching.  I didn’t do any of my usual post-raid ritual of repairing, selling, checking Recount and post-morteming things with my wife.  I landed in Dalaran, logged off, took two Tylenol PM, laid down in bed, and spent an unpleasant hour waiting for the acetaminophen and sleep aid to kick in.

Now, I don’t tell this story to show that I’m some kind of studmuffin.  I’m not.  Ask my wife, I’m a freaking miserable SOB when I get sick.  I tell it to illustrate a point–I probably shouldn’t have been there in the first place.  As much as I love my raid and want to give 100% for it every time I’m there, I might’ve been more of a liability than an asset in the shape I was in.

And that’s the topic for discussion, Gentle Readers.  Most of us want to be there for our friends and raidmates, and we want to do our best even if we aren’t at our best.  At what point do you go to your raid officers and say, “Sorry, guys, I feel like crap tonight, you might be better off taking somebody else?”  To use the sports analogy, when do you bench yourself?  Pro athletes almost never do it…but for them, it’s a livelihood.  For us, it’s a diversion.  The rules are a little different.

Discuss among yourselves!


Keeping it in perspective

Tarsus over at Tanking for Dummies has a great post up about the achievement system and why it’s not always a good thing.  I don’t have a whole lot to add other than that, he nailed it:

I have made no mystery about how yawn worthy I think Achievements are.  I have even recommended that guilds (and the players that want to be part of them) need to build achievements into their charters and core concepts because they be downright divisive. This is a design issue.  Achievements should be an assessment of your skill as a player, but far too many of them depend on luck or persistence or both.  Raid achievements are particularly pithy and either represent more of a gear check, or a ping count.  Some of them outright require that you piss off your fellow raiders.  The new measure of dedication to your WoW buddies must be if you’re still friends after you’ve gotten your Proto-drake.

The thing that I think is perhaps most laughable about this situation is the pursuit of achievements can fly in the face of what, by more practical considerations, are actual achievements.  Did the raid get an upgrade in terms of gear?  Did you finish the raid quickly with minimal deaths?  Did you make efficient use of consumables?  Did you run every raid you could?  Including Archavon?  Did you find a new raider to add to your raid team?

Is your raid stronger today because of what you have done?


Just a game? Not exactly

Without going into too much detail, things here at the Panzercow Bunker are not exactly sunshine and peacebloom all the time.  Money is tight, cars break down, children are recalcitrant, family disputes happen.  Real Life can, as Real Life often does, suck like an EF5 tornado and do about as much damage.  Oh, all the truly important stuff is still there.  We’ve still got a roof over our heads, I’ve still got a job (for now, you never know with this economy), we’ve got our health, we’ve got each other, we’ve got a shaken, but intact, faith in a God that loves us.  But like that storm-hit house, we’re missing a ton of shingles right now, a few windows are broken, there’s water damage here and there.

So every now and then, after we take care of the important things, it’s fun to sit down in front of the computer and fire up World of Warcraft, and disappear into Azeroth for a few hours.  It’s fun, it’s colorful, it’s entertaining, it’s a nice diversion, right?  But it’s just a game, isn’t it?  It’s just a game.

Not hardly.

If it was “just a game,” I seriously doubt I’d still be playing almost every night after four years.  I wouldn’t have two level 80s, a 78, two 70s, and a 67.  My wife wouldn’t have four 80s, a 72, and a 60-something (she’s leveling so fast I can’t keep track).

If it was “just a game,” I wouldn’t have a very long list of people that I’ve met in WoW that I call “friend” and really want to meet face-to-face someday, just to hang out and talk and maybe have some adult beverages with.  They live in Boston, and Austin, and Portland, and Seattle, and Chicago, and St. Louis, and Atlanta, and Australia, and New Zealand, and tons of other places.  And I wouldn’t have met a single one of them had I not bought World of Warcraft in February 2005 and stuck with it since.

If it was “just a game,” I wouldn’t have characters in a bunch of kick-ass guilds and a fantastic raid.

If it was “just a game,” we wouldn’t have gotten cards and letters and care packages when my wife’s mom died.  We wouldn’t have had friends send us little presents to help us through the tough times.  We wouldn’t have had two members of our raid offer my wife a place to stay to visit her dying mother–sight unseen, no strings–when her own family hardly helped her out.  I wouldn’t have friends that I chat with online almost every day not just about game stuff, but about real problems, big and little.

If it was “just a game,” I wouldn’t be writing this blog.

Just a game?  Yeah.  And Everest is “just a mountain.”

So here’s my advice to you, unsolicited, and worth exactly what you’ve paid to read it.  Keep WoW in perspective in your life.  It is entertainment, after all, and not a substitute for any of the important things in your life like family, work, religion, outside time, children–whatever’s in that category for you.  Always, always, be careful and use suitable discretion when online.

But remember that while there is a game there, where you kill monsters and take their lunch money and gather eight [Bear Asses] and turn them in to gain the [Gigantic Hammer of E-Peenage]…there’s also a community there, of real people.  Good people, bad people, shy people, loud people, young people, old people, in-between people.  Never forget that.

And it’s the people that make WoW more than “just a game.”


Ruminations on the Wrathgate

This morning, after wiping on the Insomnia boss, I got my blood elf hunter Illithanis through the last part of the Wrathgate questline, saw the Cutscene of Cool (SPOILER ALERT!!), and completed the Battle for the Undercity (gaining level 75 in the process).  Illy is the third character I’ve run through the Wrathgate (now two Horde, one Alliance) and it’s still pretty much made of awesome.  But as I helped Thrall clean up the mess in Undercity, my sleep-deprived mind started wandering, as it is wont to do, and got me to thinking…

(CAUTION: Spoilers lie under the cut.  If you are one of the, eh, fourteen or so people out of 11+ million who don’t know how the whole Wrathgate/Undercity event goes and want to wait until you see it for yourself, then you may want to skip this and read some of the other fine content on this here blog thang or check out the blogroll.)

Spoilers lie within. And random thoughts. You’ve been warned.


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