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New and (slightly) improved

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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.”


The Latisha Experiment, Update #3

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Patch 3.3.3: Revenge of the Revenge

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Gobble this

No, this post actually has nothing whatsoever to do with Pilgrim’s Bounty.  I could care less about most seasonal achievements.

It’s just to wish all of you out there (here in the USA, anyway) a happy and safe Thanksgiving weekend.  The Panzercow family is relocating to a new bunker this weekend (starting as soon as my wife picks me up from work) so there may not be any new stuff until next week.  Maybe.  We’ll see.

In the meantime, here’s what I’m thankful for.  I’m thankful for a God that loves me, an awesome wife and kid, an amazing set of friends out here in the Intertubes, and of course, I’m thankful that prot warriors got buffed in Wrath of the Lich King and kick so much ass now.

Don’t eat too much, kids.  It leaves more for me!


Swamp of Sorrows was merely a setback

HELL.  FUCKING.  YES.

She has lurked in her lair and done battle with the many brave adventurers who travelled to that familiar location over the years. Now, in honor of the World of Warcraft 5-year anniversary, the dreaded brood mother Onyxia is being revamped to make a return to the forefront of Azeroth, as part of our big plans for the upcoming 3.2.2 content patch.

This permanent update to Onyxia will convert the dungeon into 10- and 25-player modes. We will be adding new items to Onyxia’s loot table that have the same model as some of the classic loot from this dungeon, like Tier 2 helms, with stats updated to match the current level of content. There will be a special new item too: a normal drake-sized 310% speed flying mount modeled after Onyxia herself called an Onyxia Broodling. We will also be updating the encounter mechanics to be more fitting for modern raiding, but we can guarantee players will get to experience the frightening horror of deep breaths once again.

The first time I ever ran with an Onyxia raid, it was the scariest, most amazing experience I’d ever been a part of in World of Warcraft.  It’s still right up there at the top over three years later.  If you didn’t play back when Ony was end-game content, you missed something pretty special.  The old girl was hard.  I mean, wipe-all-night hard.  But more than that, the feel of the fight was just incredibly epic.  This humongous dragon flying around dropping firebombs everywhere, clouds of whelps eating everybody’s face, the third phase of the fight where she’s fear-bombing and the floor’s shaking and lava is spewing out of cracks and the sound is deafening…daaaamn.  It was amazing.

You have no idea how happy I am Blizzard’s going to dust off Lady Prestor and make her back into the bitch she’s meant to be.

AFTER-THE-FACT EDIT:  Thanks to Spinks for pointing out that I got my swamps mixed up.  Too late to change the title now, so I’ll just have to save face by claiming I did it for the alliteration and hope that y’all buy my line of bullshit.


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.


Today I didn’t even have to use my AK…

I gotta say it was a good day.

We finally got ourselves back on track last night in The Anvil…two, count ‘em, two new bosses tasted floor.

First, Auriaya the Crazy Cat Lady.  We’ve been working on her, when we had the people, for three weeks.  And it took us about that long to finally work out the logistics of the pull.  This fight is a lot like old High King Maulgar…it’s all about the complex pull.  Get the pull right, and you’re well on your way.  Get the pull wrong, and you’re kibble.  Literally.  Those four cats following her around in 25-man mode will kill a single tank with 40k health, through a Shield Wall, in one second if they aren’t split apart immediately.  (Don’t ask how I know this.  Just don’t.)

So we did it by having hunters and shamans lay down a veritable forest of traps and totems on the lower platform to one side of the stairway, at the end of her pathing.  (One of our tree druids also threw in an exploding bunny decoy for lulz.  Cats love it!)  Meanwhile, the rest of the party cowered stealthily hid themselves in ambush behind the wall to the right of the stairs.  When Auriaya saw the mess we left and stopped to angrily clean it up, two hunters targeted two of the cats and misdirected them onto we two offtanks, and we had to taunt the other two, while the MT grabbed Auriaya and pulled her off to one side.  The whole thing, of course, had to be executed without anybody getting in line of sight of the cats too early, otherwise it was nomnomnom time.

That part, we got, although a badly-timed fear killed me once (not good to have all the healers feared when I’m taking 16k damage per tick from Rip Flesh).  What kept kicking our asses was the Feral Defender.  Oh, Feral Defender, how I hate you.  Hate hate haaaaaate.  How in the name of Friskies do you fracking control this thing as an offtank?  They tasked me and the DK offtank with trying to hang onto it at first, and let the DPS focus on Auriaya.  That didn’t work.  I’ve never had a mob go immune to Taunt due to diminishing returns before, but damned if that cat didn’t do it.  Even with the trick of keeping Vigilance on the MT for faster Taunt refreshes, I couldn’t hang onto the dumbass thing for longer than a second.

After the first wipe, new plan:  We’d kill it and just deal with the big pile of voidpoo it leaves behind every time it dies and resses.  OK, good enough.  But it was still curbstomping its way through the DPS.  I just couldn’t handle it, which annoyed the piss out of me.

On our successful attempt, the other offtank, a DK, did most of the work on kitteh.  He was able to handle it much better than I did; whether through my own incompetence, the general overpoweredness of death nuggets, or a better suitability for that particular task, he did a better job of keeping it out of the DPS.  On its fourth incarnation, we just decided to leave it up because by that time, Auriaya was down to 30% anyway.  And then, with a bloodcurdling scream, she was dead and coughing up our lootses.

After that, we paid a visit to the Iron Council.  Generally it’s a pretty easy fight, which of course means I managed to find a way to cock it up at least once.  Our MT handled the big golem and his FALCON–uh, FUSION POOOOOONCH, I handled the vyrkul and his runes, and the DK played with the flying iron dwarf.  Two wipes ensued while the healers worked through the insane damage of Fusion Punch and we learned the fight in general.

On our third attempt, we were sailing along, having just dropped the golem, when I was a half-second slow in getting my guy out of a Blue Rune of Pwn.  31k to the side of the head, GOOD NIGHT CLEVELAND WE LOVE YOU YOU ROCK.  The ensuing conversation went like this:

Druid 1:  “My res is up, who should I get?”  (We had me and a rogue dead at this point.)

Raid officer:  “Shukir.” (the rogue)

Druid 2:  “Should I get Lin?”

Raid officer:  “No need.”

*sigh*

So I got to watch the rest of the fight, and the raid first kill of the Council, from the Sprawl of Shame.  Although I think I did win an Internets when I mentioned on Vent that when he’s flying around the room, the iron dwarf looks like some kind of bizarre electrified Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade balloon.  “Garfield, noooooo!”

I got some loot, namely Veranus’ Bane from Razorscale and Mimiron’s Inferno Couplings from Flame Leviathan.  That’s cool.  More importantly, though, the raid felt better than it had in weeks.  Even on the repeated Auriaya wipes, people kept a good attitude and made constructive suggestions, and sure enough, we had our “click” moment and got a first kill.  Iron Council, even with the first two wipes, never felt like it was in doubt before the night was over.

So tonight, we visit Captain Crotchpocket, and after that it’s on to Freya.  I’ll bring the Weed-B-Gon.


So you want to be a prot warrior: Levels 41-50

18746458(You might want to wear a little more armor than this, no matter how studly you think you are.)

Hokai.  I think I’ve given you, my faithful little tanky padawans, suitable time to get caught up to level 40 and ready to push forward through your next 10 levels of Prot warrior l33tness.  By the time you get to level 50, you will (if you’re not just getting blendered) have gained a decent amount of tanking experience in instances, have long replaced all your mail armor with plate, and in general will really be beginning to unlock the power inherent in the post-Lich King Protection tree.

We’ve had some spec divergence in the last couple of SYWTBAPW posts, so in the interest of my own sanity, I’m going to use this 0/0/31 Prot spec as a baseline to work with today.  Yours may be slightly different, depending on if you took Improved Disarm earlier on or tried something else, and that’s OK.  There isn’t that much flexibility in the cookie-cutter 15/5/51 spec we’re heading toward, but there’s a little.  But I’ll use this one spec as a baseline.  OK, off we go!

Levels 41-42:  3/3 Focused Rage.  We’ll go ahead and finish out Focused Rage so all our offensive abilities now cost 3 less rage.  It doesn’t sound like much, but trust me, it adds up fast.

Levels 43-44:  2/2 Improved Defensive Stance.  This is another subtle little talent that is totally passive, but a big help.  Not only does it cut your spell damage taken by 6%, whenever you block, parry, or dodge an attack, you pick up an Enrage effect that boosts your damage by 10% for 12 seconds.  At later levels in particular, with good gear, the Enrage effect is almost constant.

Level 45:  1/1 Vigilance.  I’m assuming that you are doing a bit of tanking and not just questing or getting blendered through your 40s.  If you are tanking or running with a friend quite a bit, then it’s time to go ahead and get Vigilance.  If you are mostly grinding solo, then you won’t see any immediate help from this ability.  When you put it on a party member, it reduces their damage taken by 3%; more importantly, it does two things that help your tanking.  It takes 10% of their threat away from them and transfers it to you, and also, if they do somehow manage to get hit, your Taunt cooldown is instantly refreshed.  If you have DPS in your party that is pushing you on threat, put this on them; you’ll bogart some of their threat to help you stay ahead, and if they do still manage to get agro, your Taunt will instantly be available to save them.  Y’know, unless you want to see them die, which is occasionally very tempting.

Levels 46-48:  3/3 Vitality.  +6% strength, +6% stamina, and 6 free expertise.  Yum yum.

Level 49:  5/5 Toughness.  We’re finally filling this out to get maximum armor value from our items.

Level 50:  1/1 Devastate.  You can now remove Sunder Armor from your bars, because this replaces it.  Think of it as Sunder with benefits; it Sunders, and it does half your normal weapon damage, plus an extra amount for each stack of the Sunder effect on the target.  It’s not as important as it used to be pre-3.0 when it was our best spammable, always-there threat move; with the changes to the class, and its relatively inefficient rage-to-damage ratio, it’s now pretty much the “if nothing else is off cooldown” move.  But, you do still keep using it.  The armor reduction helps you and your melee friends, and in a few levels, this skill becomes even more important because of its synergy with Sword and Board.

We’ve now got a build that looks like this, 0/0/41.  There’s some wiggle room in there, for example, taking two points out of Toughness and moving it into Improved Disarm, or possibly swapping the point in Vigilance for, say, another point of Shield Specialization or one in Puncture.  If you’re doing much tanking, though, I’d take Vigilance instead.  It’s pretty handy.

Believe it or not, between levels 41 and 50, you only get one new skill.  It’s at level 50, and it’s called Recklessness.  This is a Berserker Stance-only skill on a 5-minute cooldown; when hit, your next three special attacks within 12 seconds have +100% to crit (basically, guaranteed if they don’t miss), but you take +20% damage for that time period.  You won’t use it all that much, but on those (rare) occasions where you’re DPSing and not getting hit, it can give you a nice boost, especially near the end of a fight where you’d be getting into spamming Executes.

At level 50 you also get a second minor glyph.  There really aren’t all that many good warrior minor glyphs; I tend to prefer the Glyph of Battle because you’ll still be using Battle Shout a lot unless you have a paladin for a Siamese twin, the Glyph of Thunder Clap to give you two yards extra range on those, or the Glyph of Bloodrage so your Bloodrage ability gives you 20 free rage a minute without damaging your health.

Your tanking rotation doesn’t change much from level 40, when you got Shield Slam.  You just slot Devastate in there in place of Sunder Armor, and you’re good to go.  You should see a decent damage bump when you do get Devastate at level 50, but other than that, you’re fairly steady through your 40s.

Tanking in the 40s can be a pain.  In my clanky opinion, there’s only one non-terrible instance for that level range, and that’s Zul’farrak.  Zul’farrak has some fun fights, and will keep a level-appropriate group on its toes in terms of crowd control and pulling (it’s a good instance for learning things like line-of-sight pulling and how not to get multiple groups).  Uldaman is at the low end of the 40s, and it’s confusing and has way too much outside-the-instance non-elite trash to slog through.  Mauradon is a giant festering piece of suck; a few strange people like it, but to me it’s just too big, too convoluted, and ugly, not to mention it’s in one of the ugliest zones in the game, Desolace.  At the high end of the 40s is Sunken Temple, although I wouldn’t go in there until the low 50s.  Again, Sunken Temple shows a lot of things wrong with “vanilla WoW” instance design, namely being very large, hard to find your way around in, and absolutely jam-packed with trash.  IMO, however, it’s a distinct improvement over Mauradon–at least Sunken Temple looks cool to wander around lost in.

Next up, we’ll talk about levels 51 through 60, and the last 10 points you’ll spend in the Prot tree–the tasty, creamy, luscious dessert after the hearty meat-and-potatoes dinner of the last 40 levels.


I’m still here, honest

Apologies for the lack of posts lately, peeps…things on this side of the 22″ LCD portal to Azeroth have been wobbling between crazy and insane.  I will mount a furious comeback and drown you in theorycrafting and snark shortly, worry not.


So this makes me a twit, right?

In my never-ending quest to find ways to screw up my productivity even more, I’ve started playing around with Twitter.  I’m on there as @Linedan, assuming I set things up right.  I have no bloody clue what I’m doing, so be gentle.  And I can’t install any applications on my work machine, so I don’t even know if I can really use it.  We’ll see.


A brief real-world intrusion

My wife, the lovely and talented player behind the lovely and talented Rashona (80 feral druid) on Feathermoon-US, makes handwoven bead jewelry for a living.  It’s very good stuff.  She has it listed on Etsy.com here.  You should go look at it.  Now.  Before you forget.

That’s it.  You can go back to your rep-grinding after you look at the pretty sparklies.  Thank you!


Anna’s RP Friday Five – The Three R’s

It’s Friday morning, so it must be time for another wonderful Friday Five from Too Many Annas.  This week it’s about…edumacashun.

  • Can your character read and write?

Actually, all of my various characters can to one degree or another.  Maybe it’s laziness on my part, but I just can’t seem to work up the energy to play a good illiterate.  Moktor is probably the closest I’ll ever get to a functional illiterate, and hers is more just a fifth-grade education than anything else.  But it’s not like you really need to read and write so much when you can command the powers of frost, disease, and blood.

  • Is he/she good with numbers and business-like things?

Linedan and Moktor, no.  They can do normal math if you give them a minute, Lin more so than Moktor.  Illithanis is a little better just because she’s brighter and has a formal education from Silvermoon (albeit nothing more than your average elven high school diploma with a 2.8 GPA).  Beltar, oddly enough, would be my best numbers guy.  He’s smarter than he looks and acts, and has hung around enough merchants and criminals for a century that he’s picked up a nose for numbers and how to manipulate them.

  • Does your character have a formal (schooled) education or an informal (apprenticed/learned by experience) education? Or both?

Hard to say with Linedan…I imagine Tauren education is largely informal.  Beltar’s basically a ninth-grade dropout with a century of classes in the School of Hard Knocks on top of it.  Illithanis, as stated above, has a formal secondary-level education but her “practical” skills with bow, animal, and skinning knife are family-taught.  Moktor’s an elementary-school dropout street urchin.

  • Has he/she learned another language than the one they grew up speaking (in full or in part)?

Linedan, yes because he knows Orcish in addition to Taurahe; his spoken Orcish is very precise and somewhat formal.  Beltar, yes because he knows Common in addition to Dwarven, and has also picked up a very small smattering of expressive cursewords in Darnassian, Thalassian, Orcish, and Tarquinese/Jolstraerian.  (His latest project is a Lordaeron-to-Common dictionary, entitled “The Apostrophe, Why It Is Half The Northmen’s Alphabette.”)  Illithanis, again, yes because she can speak/read/write in Orcish and Thalassian quite fluently, and in fact rather oddly likes the harsh Orcish language.  Moktor, nope, just Orcish for her.

  • What does your character’s handwriting look like?

Linedan:  Block printing, very slow and precise, because that’s how he learns–not by gift of intelligence, but by sheer bloody-minded hellbent rote persistence.  Beltar:  Doctor-level semi-intelligible high-speed scribble, but the spelling is usually close to right at least.  Illithanis:  Small yet flowing, somewhat sloppy because she writes quickly (a Farstrider talent of quickly making scouting notes).  Moktor:  Ten-year-old all-over-the-page badly misspelled scrawl.


The Sixth Screenshot

So Anna tagged me with a variation on a WoWblog meme that’s been going around the WoW blogosphere the past few days, starting here:  Post the sixth screenshot in your sixth folder under screenshots.

Well, I don’t have but one screenshot folder for WoW.  And sorting alphabetically, which I do in that folder, I get this as my sixth screenie:

This is another shot of the Anvil Raid last Friday night after our first kill on Kel’Thuzad.  And no, I don’t know why Balmora decided to strip to her underwear.


Oh noes!

The Ice Stone has melted.

Damn global warming.


Ooooh, it’s so shiny…and epic…

I think you can get this if you stand in enough puddles of slime/fire/voidpoo/shadow fissures.  Or, if you’re like me, keep wiping on the “ledge boss” in Thaddius’ room.

(Photoshop by the amazingly talented Anna over at Too Many Annas.  Idea conceived from some epic RP last night, work boredom, and Google Chat.)


Ten Commandments for DPS

DPS Plate speaks truth.  Follow them, or yay verily, you wilst be known as That Guy.  And you will be cast out into the realm of bad trade-channel PUGs where there will be weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth.


How good is +defense?

Here’s an interesting post on +defense rating over at Tanking Tips.  Veneretio makes the point that +defense rating is better than either +parry or +dodge rating individually, due to (a) its inclusion of +block, +parry, and +dodge in one stat, and (b) the fact that the included +block rating isn’t affected by the new 3.0 “diminishing returns” mechanic.


Humble beginnings

Welcome to Achtung Panzercow, yet another World of Warcraft player blog.  Because the world needs more of them, amirite?

The inspiration for this blog was provided by the lovely and talented Anna* (the “*” being a wildcard) over at Too Many Annas.  She has a great blog that’s a fun mixture of raid information, random roleplay snippets, thought-provoking questions, and badly-needed silliness.  I can’t do it any better than she does, probably not even as well, but maybe I can be entertaining, and provide a look at things from a different perspective.

Achtung Panzercow is where I’m going to place all my WoWgeek stuff, instead of cluttering up my “real life” blog, Moose DroppingsMoose Droppings is where I go off about stuff on this side of the monitor.  This blog, I’ll reserve for the stuff that’s related to the excessive amount of time I spend staring at Azeroth through a 22″ widescreen LCD portal.

The title is something that leapt into my sleep-deprived head this morning while coming up with the idea for the blog.  It comes from the fact that my main is Linedan, a level 80 Tauren prot warrior.  Picture a Tauren, eight feet or more tall, five hundred pounds, clad in humongous spiky plate armor, coming at you behind a giant shield and carrying a HOLYSHITTHAT’SABIGAXE in his right hand…I think “panzercow” seems pretty appropriate.  I have lots of other alts, of course, chief among them Beltar Forgebreaker, level 75 dwarf hunter.  Beltar doesn’t get enough love these days, as I’m trying to gear Linedan up (the subject of a rant all its own), but the dwarf runs with a fantastic guild called the Wildfire Riders (also on Feathermoon) and will be getting some more playtime after I pimp Lin out a bit more.

So here we are.  And as the Draenei vendors sometimes say, “welcome, browse at your leisure!”


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