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Posts tagged “The Anvil

Loading Up the Kodo

I just wanted to toss out a quick note here, with a longer post to follow somewhere down the road…I have server transferred Linedan, the titular Panzercow of this blog and the smiling (?) face you see in the banner above, from his 7 1/2-year home of Feathermoon-US over to another roleplay server, Sentinels-US.  There he will be joining Portent Alliance to tank in whatever 10-man adventures they may face in the upcoming WoW expansion, My Little Panda:  Friendship is Overrated.

All the rest of my myriad characters will be staying on Feathermoon.  Beltar is still going to be killing things at a distance and getting into trouble along with the other “legitimate businessmen” of the Wildfire Riders, and my other three 85s have their own stories to tell and adventures to write.  But as for Lin, well, I had an opportunity to shake things up and raid with some folks that I know from Twitter and have met in meatspace a couple of times and hit it off with, and decided to go for it.

So come tomorrow when the Mists of Pandaria finally part, the Panzercow will have a new group of compatriots to beat things up with.  He leaves behind on Feathermoon 6+ years of awesome raid memories in Dissonant’s Softcore Raiders, The Anvil, and Doom and Blet, and hopefully will be creating new ones to add to that formidable stack.


Gracefully letting go

You see me now, a veteran of a thousand psychic wars
I’ve been living on the edge so long, where the winds of limbo roar
And I’m young enough to look at, and far too old to see
All the scars are on the inside
I’m not sure that there’s anything left of me

Don’t let these shakes go on, it’s time we had a break from it
It’s time we had some leave
We’ve been living in the flames
We’ve been eating up our brains
Oh please, don’t let these shakes go on

Sometime in the early fall of 2005, a level 60 warrior walked into Molten Core for the first time.  He was wearing a mixture of low- and mid-50s green and blue gear, maybe one or two pieces of Tier 0 dungeon set stuff, a few “of the” bits here and there.  In his giant, three-fingered hands, he wielded a Fist of Omokk; in his backpack, a shield and some one-hand weapon infinitely worse than even the Fist.  He was spec’d 31/5/15, back in the days of vanilla WoW when warriors occasionally tried a hybrid spec to off-tank while still doing DPS.  He had been level 60 for less than two months, and existed in Azeroth overall for maybe six.

His player had taken him from Arms, to Fury, to Prot, and back to Arms, and now Arms/Prot hybrid.  His player had no clue what he was doing.  His player was scared and excited as he got on Ventrilo with 39 other people and headed toward his very first raid pull.

Last week, a level 85 warrior walked onto the top of Wyrmrest Temple for the fifth time and peered down at the fallen corpse of Ultraxion, Deathwing’s ultimate creation.  He was wearing three pieces of Tier 13 armor, with a token for a fourth just placed in his bags.  He carried a sword and shield torn from the depths of the Firelands.  His average ilevel of the gear on his body and in his bags was 388.  He was a dedicated, skilled Prot warrior, four years running, with a Fury offspec that he never used, because he was the raid’s tank on single-tank fights and shared duties with a longtime paladin friend on the tank-swap fights.

His player had played him for going on seven years.  His player had a blog now, and had written guides about How to Be a Prot Warrior (even if those guides were one expansion old).

His player was miserable and burned out.  And had been for months.

How did it come to this?

You ask me why I’m weary, why I can’t speak to you
You blame me for my silence, say it’s time I changed and grew
But the war’s still going on, dear, and there’s nowhen that I know
And I can’t stand forever
I can’t say if we’re ever gonna be free

Don’t let these shakes go on, it’s time we had a break from it
It’s time we had some leave
We’ve been living in the flames
We’ve been eating up our brains
Oh please, don’t let these shakes go on

I took a long and convoluted path through raiding over my years in WoW.  In the beginning I had no intention of taking Linedan protection, I always wanted him to be a DPS warrior.  But the downsizing from 40- to 25-man raiding in The Burning Crusade, and having to hook up with a friend’s Karazhan 10-man as a tank because The Anvil, my current raid, had no room in the two Kara groups they’d formed, forced me to take Lin tanky…and the rest is history, I guess.  I grew to like it, then love it.  And I was able to work my way back into The Anvil and hang on to a spot as an offtank through TBC and into Wrath of the Lich King.

In Wrath, the raid went from three tanks to four in a rotation system.  There was tank drama as two different death knights came in at various times and moved into my raid role as #2 offtank.  Hence the rotation system, so they could keep four tanks on staff.  Despite that, I nearly lost my spot a couple of times and had to step my performance up.  But the rotation also meant that I got to actually main tank some fights for the first time.  And I was one of the two tanks the night The Anvil reached its crowning achievement, our lone Arthas 25-man kill.

Then the Cataclysm hit, in more ways then one.  The Anvil fell apart as people headed to guild 10-mans and the officers, after five hard years of cat herding, burned out.  Some of us formed two 10-man raids out of it, sharing some people but run separately one night a week, one on Wednesday and one on Friday.  After just a couple months, though, the two raids effectively merged into one two-night-a-week, three-hour-a-night raid.  With that raid, we moved through Tier 11 and 12 content.

It was partway through Bastion of Twilight/Blackrock Caverns that I began to notice that I wasn’t having as much fun in the 10s as I did in our old 25.  At first I chalked it up to less activity on Ventrilo and a slightly higher level of sobriety (but only slightly).  But as we slowly ground our way toward Cho’gall and Nefarian, the fun continued to lessen.  Then I thought that maybe I was just bored with the instances, and that it would pick back up when patch 4.2 dropped and we got to go to the Firelands.

It didn’t.  Firelands felt more like a slog than a fun way of overcoming challenges with friends.  I began to come to a horrifying realization.  After years of struggling and working to become a good tank, after finally achieving what I’d always wanted–a secure spot as a raid main tank–I was burned out.  Just when I’d hit my goal, I’d lost the fun of it.

So I went to our officers–my guildleader Ghaar and our Chief Cat Herder Dorritow–and asked for a sabbatical.  It would be the first true raid break I’d taken in over five years.  They approved, and so partway through Firelands I took a month off to recharge my batteries, the first time that I’d ever not attempted to raid when I was at home and the raid was going on.  And it helped.

But not enough.

When I came back, I fell back into my deepening spiral of burnout, made worse by the depression I’ve been flirting on-and-off with for years.  I only logged on during the week to raid, not even logging on alts to roleplay or Lin to accept calendar invites.  Instead of my old chatterbox self on Vent, I became more and more monosyllabic.  I found myself crossing my fingers that we wouldn’t find enough people so the raid would be cancelled.  When that tenth spot filled in, and the call went out to head to Firelands or Dragon Soul, I would sigh, shift in my chair, grumble a little bit, and head on inside.  Things that I never gave a damn about before–turns of phrase, certain fight mechanics, etc.–grated on my nerves like crunk in an old folks’ home.  My right hand was giving me low-grade chronic trouble on raid nights after a couple hours of hard tanking.  The second the raid was over, I would hearth back to Orgrimmar and immediately log out of WoW and Vent with nary a “good night.”  And I came to the dawning realization that this wasn’t salvageable.

I was done.  My raiding days, at least for quite a while, were over.

But obligation and pride are tough things to overcome.  Obligation, because I follow through on my commitments; me not wanting to be there didn’t matter, because the rest of my raid did, and therefore I was going to do what I always did–my best, whatever that was.  I worked hard to make sure that my performance never suffered no matter how badly I felt, and I think I pulled it off, if I’m honest.  Not to mention, these people are my friends, I’ve been raiding with most of them for years.  If I couldn’t raid for me, then I would suffer through the burnout and raid for them.

And pride, because I had finally “made it.”  I’d spent years falsely worrying that I was one step from being dropped from the raid every time I made a mistake.  I watched death knights move into my tanking spot and shatter my confidence because I thought the raid officers had brought them in to replace me instead of supplement us.  And through attrition and sheer dogged persistence more than anything else, I came out the other side as one of “the” two tanks in the surviving 10-man.  It is a very hard thing to let go of that after years of struggle.  I like being the main tank.  I like being on point.  I’m not the greatest tank in the world, never have been, never will be.  But I do the job that’s put in front of me to the best of my ability, and that’s gotten me to tanking a fairly successful (5/8 normal) T13 ten-man, so I guess I’m not that bad.

Well, matters came to a head this week.  There was no drama, no meltdown, no spectacular failure.  Dorri simply came to me and said that the officers had noticed the shape I was in–it wasn’t much of a secret, as I’m a very bad actor–and that if I needed to drop out, I could, they could find another tank.  And after we talked it out, I realized that she was right…that I was doing a disservice to myself and my friends in Doom and Blet if I kept digging myself into a hole and coming when I just wasn’t having any enjoyment with it.  It can have a subtle, corrosive effect on a raid over time when someone is so obviously down and depressed about being there.  I should know, I’ve seen it happen.  And now they were seeing it happen with me.

And so, I made the hardest decision I’ve ever had to make in World of Warcraft.

The mighty Panzercow hung up his sword and shield.

You see me now, a veteran of a thousand psychic wars
My energy is spent at last, and my armor is destroyed
I have used up all my weapons, and I’m helpless and bereaved
Wounds are all I’m made of
Did I hear you say that this is victory?

Don’t let these shakes go on, it’s time we had a break from it
Send me to the rear
Where the tides of madness swell
And men sliding into hell
Oh please, don’t let these shakes go on

So is this the end of WoW for me?  Not quite.  While I’m done with the raid effective immediately, I’m going to give it a month before I decide whether to suspend my account or not.  I haven’t had any desire to level alts so far in Cataclysm–my goblin is level 6, my worgen doesn’t exist, and my little dwarf tribute to the Tiny Angry Woman is only level 15–but maybe now I might.  I still should log Beltar on more to RP with the Wildfire Riders.  And it’s not like my game-playing schedule is empty outside of WoW.  Old Republic, iRacing, Skyrim, Mass Effect 3 coming out on March 6…trust me, my leisure time can be as full as I want it to be right now.  I’ll see most of my WoW raiding friends in Old Republic, and continue to follow WoW news through my hundreds of Twitterati.

And even if I do cancel my account and leave the game, it’s not necessarily permanent.  Rumor has it there’s a mysterious island full of pandaren out there, and I’m fairly sure that when the Mists of Pandaria finally lift and there’s evil to be fought there, a certain very large cow in very heavy armor will be on the first boat heading that way.  I don’t think Linedan’s story in Azeroth is quite done yet.

But even if it is, it’s been one hell of a ride.  Seven years, 85 levels, and thousands of memories.

I figure the big guy deserves a little R&R well off the front lines.  And, in the end, so do I.


Sic transit gloria mundi

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Get this heavy cow off me

Well, I think that’s what it looks like the dragon is saying, anyway.

That is a Bloodbathed Frostbrood Vanquisher, and yes, that’s the Panzercow on the back of it.  The 10-man raid that I tank for made one last run into Icecrown Citadel on Saturday afternoon to clear the final obstacle we needed to get 10-player Glory of the Icecrown Raider…heroic Sindragosa.

I know there are those who are strict 10-man raiders who say that having 25-man gear, as most of our raid did, “trivializes” the 10-man content.  I can see that; we can pretty much roflstomp most of ICC on normal, even normal Arthas didn’t give us too much trouble.  And the more straightforward heroic-mode fights pushed us a little bit, but still, we were making solid progress toward our raidleader’s goal of getting drakes before Cataclysm dropped.  We even, amazingly, downed heroic Putricide after just five attempts.  Some of the acheesements gave us trouble (Been Waiting a Long Time For This was particularly annoying) but not too much…we even got Sindy’s acheesement, All You Can Eat, by just zerging her down from 35% instead of actually attempting to do the normal tank-switch method.

Heroic Sindy, however, was a different matter entirely.  It’s a brutally unforgiving fight, the already-intolerant mechanics turned up to 11 by frostbombs that can one-shot even the tanks, debuffs that cause casters to asplode, and frost breath that hits like a very icy truck once the Mystic Buffet is opened for dinner.  We threw ourselves at Sindy hard week before last, without success.  So if we were going to get her before Cataclysm released and everybody quit caring about “old” content, we had three hours on a Saturday to do it.

For two hours and fifty-six minutes, things didn’t look good for our heroes.  We wiped, and wiped, and wiped.  The best we’d done was get her to 18%.  Phase 2, at 35%, was just not working.  We couldn’t time the tank transitions right, or I’d forget a cooldown and get ganked by her frost breath, or a badly-timed Blistering Cold would slaughter half the raid, or she’d drop a bomb right on top of us during an air phase…it was always something.  None of the attempts had that smooth, well-oiled feel to them that you need to beat a fight like heroic Sindragosa.  I was frustrated and absolutely furious with myself.  I hadn’t played in several days leading up to the raid and it showed.  I made a lot of avoidable dumbass mistakes.  I don’t think I actually cost us a kill at that point, but it sure wasn’t helping.

So then, there we were.  4:57 pm Eastern with a stop time of 5:00.  The last attempt, on the last boss, on the last day, of the last raid before the expansion.  One shot.  All or nothing.  It looked like fourth-and-11 on our own 41 with one second on the clock…time to load up three receivers to the left and let fly a Hail Mary downfield.

And we did it.

That fight, that three hours of stress and wipes, was, in a way, this entire raiding expansion for me in miniature.  Starting off flailing and failing, making mistakes, then hanging in there and keeping on digging, grinding it out, persevering, and at the end, at the last possible moment, somehow it just all comes together.

I’ve always said that the two accomplishments I’m proudest of on Linedan in Wrath of the Lich King are his Loremaster title first and his one Arthas 25-man kill second.  That hasn’t changed.  This achievement, however–Glory of the Icecrown Raider–is a very, very close third.  It took us several months, but our little 10-man raid that ran for just three hours, just one afternoon a week, ended up the expansion as 11/12 heroic ICC.  That is an achievement to be very proud of indeed.  And this one comes with a big, bony, loud-flapping tangible reminder that I’ll see as I enter the brave new world of Cataclysm.

So to Ghaar, Grizz, Tahlian, Dorritow, Nikara, and all the rest–and to our regulars who never were able to get their drakes, Ghorr, Alanth, and Seijitsu–thank you.  It was a privilege to get hit in the face for you guys.  See you on the other side.


Random Acts of Friday II

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Random acts of Friday

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


With great Vengeance

“And I will strike down upon thee with great vengeance and furious anger those who attempt to poison and destroy my brothers! And you will know my name is the Lord [pulls out his gun and aims it at Brett] when I lay my vengeance upon thee!”    –Samuel L. Jackson, “Pulp Fiction”

I’ve been a bit behind the curve on getting up to speed with the changes that hit us in patch 4.0.1–being out of town for five days just after the patch dropped will do that, since it meant I missed The Anvil’s first 25-man raid last Thursday.  But I was there for this week’s hoedown, and I was front and center in the main tank slot for Sindragosa and Arthas.  It was, in several ways, a very edumacashunal (as we said back in the sticks where I grew up) evening.

Really, tanking last night didn’t feel very different from when I tanked Sindy and Arthas in 3.3.  As a prot warrior, my priority system has changed very little; less Heroic Strike, one Rend at the start of a fight followed by a Thunder Clap to stick it on all mobs, and other than that, it’s the same old same old.  Sword and Board proc’d Shield Slams come first, then Shield Slam, then Revenge, with Devastate as the filler, Heroic Strike to bleed rage, and at least one Thunder Clap every 12-15 seconds to keep Rend and the slow up.  The biggest change to my years of muscle memory is that I now have to unlearn something that it took me two years to learn, which is Heroic Strike spam.  I never used to hit it enough.  Now I’m hitting it too much.  I actually found myself badly rage-starved early in the Lich King fight on two or three occasions, when I got an avoidance streak combined with overaggressive HS use.  Since Lin doesn’t have any points in Shield Specialization, he doesn’t get any rage back when he blocks.  If I’m careful with HS, no problem.  If I’m not, I can dig myself a momentary hole.

The biggest changes had to do with threat.  My main education last night was seeing how threat works in the 4.0 world, and what I need to do as the tank–and what the DPS needs to do–to make everything go smoothly.

Our first Arthas pull was a disaster.  One of our ret paladins ripped agro off me in less than ten seconds.  Then a warlock pulled off her, then a feral druid pulled off him…two people dead almost instantly.  And the DPS didn’t back off to let me get him back.  I admit I let out a growl that scared the cats and probably made my poor wife think I was turning into a worgen IRL.  I hate losing agro…I don’t generally get mad at the person who pulled unless they did some serious durp, I just generally chalk it up to me not being able to put out the threat.

After that, the raid leaders asked the DPS to wait before unloading, both to give me more solid threat time and to give the offtank more time to get more ghouls on him, for Necrotic Plague stacks.  I didn’t have any more significant threat issues after that, but I did notice something.  My snap agro at the beginning of a fight is definitely off from the world of 3.x.  My usual opening combo of Heroic Throw/Shield Slam just wasn’t sticking mobs to me like it used to.  Combine that with the huge DPS gains that certain classes (I’m looking at you, warlocks) have received in 4.0, and the old adage of “wait for the sunders” suddenly becomes more important than ever.  Opening with a big nuke is going to get your face eaten.

And the reason for this, I believe, is the Vengeance mechanic.  It’s a mastery that all tank class/spec combos–blood death nuggets, prot pallies, beardurids, and prot warriors–get in Cataclysm.  Put simply, whenever you take damage, 5% of that damage number is added to your attack power for 10 seconds, up to a total maximum of 10% of your maximum health.  So if Arthas smacks you upside the head for 20,000 damage, you get 1000 added to your attack power for 10 seconds.

When Vengeance first came out in the alpha, it looked pretty much like it does now.  And I was convinced at the time that it would never go live in that form, because the numbers shaped up to be ridiculous.  When tanking ICC, Linedan typically buffs out at over 72,000 health.  So merely by getting hit by Arthas a few times, he could pick up as much as 7200 attack power?  That would put him well over ten thousand AP.  No way that Blizzard would ever let a tank have that much AP, right?

Shows you how much I know.

My first indication of the effect that Vengeance was having was when I started seeing some big yellow numbers float up on my screen during Arthas phase 1.  I mean, big yellow numbers.  Five-digit big.  As a prot warrior, I rarely see five-digit yellow numbers on Lin, so out of curiosity, I opened up his character pane.

Attack power?  Wobbling between 12,000 and 12,500.  His base AP with buffs at pull time was roughly 4700.  Throw in a few other buffs in combat, and the difference would be around 7,000…indicating that he’d hit the ceiling on Vengeance.

You can imagine what a prot warrior with twelve thousand AP was doing.  18k Revenge crits.  15k normal Shield Slam hits without Shield Block up.  The night’s crowning glory was a Shield Blocked Shield Slam crit for precisely 41,564.  On one Arthas attempt where we never got out of phase 1 due to the OT dying, Lin did well over 8000 dps.  On the attempts where we got well into phase 2 before it all fell apart, he was still doing around 6000 dps.  That’s double what he was doing in 3.3.

And here’s the kicker…he needed it.  Because once the DPS got the clearance to put their foot to the floor, that six to eight thousand DPS was giving me the threat-per-second I needed to stay ahead.  Without it, there’s no way.  We had three warlocks each doing well north of 10,000 DPS consistently.  That’s a lot of threat to have to overcome.  At Lin’s normal 3000 DPS, I really don’t think he could have stayed ahead of them.  But at 6000, 7000, 8000 DPS?  He did.  If they gave me 10 to 15 seconds of light DPS at the beginning–not even no DPS, just taking it easy–then dropped the hammer, I could stay ahead of them easily.  If they went for it right from the start?  No chance I could hang on.

So it seems obvious to me after this experience that Blizzard is now balancing tank threat around the Vengeance mechanic.  On boss fights, they are expecting the tank to have a huge boost in attack power thanks to Vengeance, and be putting out damage that’s pretty insane compared to pre-4.0 levels.  DPS threat will be tuned around that.  If we take that as a given–and it’s not, it’s just my observation and opinion, but let’s just roll with it–it leads to a couple of interesting conclusions.

First, every tank class, even prot warriors, the previous “kings of snap agro,” now has a ramp-up time on their maximum threat.  Beforehand, if we had enough rage, we could just unload a couple of high-threat moves and get a solid hold on the target, or a DK could just inappropriately Icy Touch something and it would be stuck on him like glue.  No more.  If our threat in relation to the DPS’ is balanced around us having six or seven or eight thousand more attack power than we do at the start of a fight, where they don’t have the same restrictions, it means we will always need a period of time to take a few hits to the head and get good and pissed off before we’re putting out enough pain to let the DPS go nuts.  This is an important point for DPS to remember.  We massively overgear heroics now and can just durp our way through them (that’s my next rant, coming soon), but that stuff won’t even work in 80+ normals from what I’ve seen in the beta.

Second, tank-swap fights just got a little more interesting.  We saw this on Arthas last night when Haicu (my DK tank partner) and I would swap Arthas at Soul Reaver time.  It’s similar to the problems tanks deal with on Festergut and his damage-increasing Gastric Bloat.  The tank who has just taunted has not taken huge amounts of damage so he hasn’t had time to ramp up his Vengeance.  The tank who has just been taunted from, on the other hand, is probably maxed out on his attack power and hitting like a dump truck with no brakes, full of angry burning bears.  The “from” tank is going to have to watch himself for about 10 to 12 seconds after the swap and perhaps not go full-out, especially if he significantly outgears the other tank, or he may rip agro right back.

It’s very easy to dismiss Vengeance if all you do is normal questing or even random heroics.  Current non-raid content simply doesn’t hit hard enough for long enough to give you the most benefit from the mastery.  But when you get into a situation where you’re on a big boss, especially a raid boss, Vengeance comes into its own.

Now, does a 41k Shield Slam crit make up for not being at Blizzcon this weekend?  No.  But it does soothe the pain, just a little bit…


Checking up

What follows, Dear Reader, is a cautionary tale about staying on top of your game, proof that, yes, even Kingslayers can come off looking like that doofball from your Halls of Stone random PUG last week.  I don’t tell it just to be funny, though it is (in retrospect).  I tell it to make a point, which I’ll get to further on.

So.  Last week was The Anvil’s first post-Kingslaying raid sequence.  Thursday night was a run back into ICC, in which we did our first heroic modes (just Lootship and Rotface, but, hey, you have to start somewhere, right?).  On Friday night, real life dickpunched us again and left us with only about 20 people.  So our officers did what we’ve done so often on Friday nights this summer…stalled by doing the weekly in the hopes that competent raiders would hear our pleas, magically drop from the sky, let us fill our slots, and head on to ICC.  (They didn’t.)

The weekly was Razorscale.  Ho hum, right?  Lawl T8 content and all that.  So we ended up with a lot of people switching over to alts, and a raid that was about half mains (including Linedan as one of the two tanks) in mostly ilevel 264 items, and half alts of various gear levels, still mostly part-Triumph-geared at worst.  Not a group that you would expect to have trouble on Razorscale, considering the last time we had her on the weekly, she dropped like the housing market.

So we cruised through Flame Lootviathan, formed up on Razorscale’s platform, started the encounter…

…and it all went horribly wrong.

There were iron dwarves running loose everywhere.  The big Sentinel was whirlwinding its way through the raid slaughtering alts.  Gorebash, our longtime warrior MT, was doing fine, but for some reason, I couldn’t hold agro on anything to save my, or anyone else’s, life.  I had no clue what was going on until just before I finally died…and that’s when I saw my bar was totally wrong.

I was in Berserker Stance.  So I hit F6 and swapped myself over to Defensive Stance…and my bar was still wrong.  And then I died.

And that’s when I figured out what had happened.  I’d run a random on Linedan earlier in the evening.

As DPS.

And I’d never changed back to Prot spec from his Fury spec.

I’d switched to his Prot gear.  But I hadn’t gone in and switched his spec.  So he was running around, in his full T10 kit, trying to tank things while generating no threat and no rage, in the wrong stance.

I’ve done some dumb shit in my time in WoW.  I mean, really dumb shit.  Dumber than you’ve probably done, or at least will admit to like this.  But that right there–getting a raid half-full of Kingslayers to wipe on Razorscale, for God’s sake?  That’s top 5 all-time, kids.

Well, I fessed up immediately.  And actually, everyone was so shocked, we all (well, almost all) had a good laugh about it.  And of course we went right back in there and killed us a dargon, with no more fatalities, so we could get our badges and 26 gold and pretend that the whole embarassment never happened.

The whole mess got me thinking, though.  Earlier, on Flame Leviathan, I’d been confused.  I had my Prot gear on, but Lin’s health wasn’t adding up.  He normally has, in the gear he has as I write this, 45,687 health.  But while we were waiting to start FL, I noticed he had only a bit over 42,000 health.  I checked his ItemRack, because it bugs out sometimes, but nope, he had his Prot gear on.  Before I could check any further, we started FL, and off we went.  The health difference, obviously, was because he wasn’t in Prot spec and didn’t have his Vitality talent.

This is where another one of my geeky hobbies enters the picture…aviation.

I’m not a real pilot, but I’ve always wanted to be one.  I love airplanes and aviation.  There’s a reason my Microsoft Flight Simulator 2004 and Flight Simulator X installs, combined, are pushing 100 GB…way too many add-ons, planes, terrain, etc.  I’ve used MSFS to learn just a little bit about how commercial aviation works.

Everything in a commercial airliner is done “by the book.”  Pilots, in addition to all the pilot training they go through, have to learn a lot of aircraft-specific (and airline-specific) procedures.  And most all of it is codified in those wonderful things called “checklists.”  The checklists are there so all the flight crew on the same type of airplane at the same airline do things the same way (since pilots and copilots aren’t assigned as a unit).  There are checklists in an airliner for damn near everything. There are checklists for first accepting the plane at the start of a day, before engine start, engine start, after engine start, taxi, takeoff, climb, descent, approach, landing, after landing…and that’s just the normal ones.  Then there’s an emergency checklist for almost any possible situation you can imagine.  Strange indication on one of the engine instruments?  Checklist.  Engine failure?  Checklist.  Flight instruments go wonky?  Checklist.  Fire in the bathroom?  Checklist.  Pressurization goes kablooey?  Checklist.  Flight crew eats the fish?  Checklist.  You get the idea…there are literally hundreds of the damn things, in big books stored in the cockpit.

When the time for a checklist comes around, or something hits the fan, the copilot grabs the Big Book of Checklists (or on the newest planes, pulls them up on screens), finds the right one, and starts reading it off.  Each item on a checklist is read, and the checklist says who is supposed to respond and what the result should be–and they don’t go on to the next one until the current one is done and checked.  So if the first item on the checklist says “disgronification switch – ON,” the copilot says “disgronification switch,” the pilot reaches up, turns it on, and says, “on.”  Then the copilot checks it.  Then they go to the next line.  And the next.  And so on.  There is no variation, and there is no exception.  By the book, step 1, step 2, through to step N.  Boring?  Well, maybe.  But if checklist items get skipped, and something important gets missed, people can and will die.  It’s serious business.

WoW, of course, is not that serious (for most people).  But thinking about it…what’s wrong with the idea of a little mental checklist before you start your raid or instance run or PvP?  No, you don’t need to put on a white shirt and tie and epaulettes and get your significant other to read the Pre-Raid Checklist to you after she does the safety briefing.  (“In the event of Serpentshrine Cavern, the Draenei female members of your raid can be used as a flotation device.”)  But what’s wrong with training yourself to make sure that everything’s squared away before first pull?

Let’s go back to Linedan and my unfortunate derp before Razorscale.  What might Lin’s little pre-pull checklist look like?  Here’s my quick stab at one:

  • Spec – verify that it’s correct for the role he’s assigned tonight (Prot for tank, Fury for DPS).  If not, change it.
  • Gear – verify that it’s correct for the same role.  If not, go into Itemrack and change it.
  • Stance – verify correct, Defensive for tank, Berserker for DPS.  Hit F6/F7 to change appropriately.
  • Flask – use as needed (before boss pulls).
  • Repair – 100% repair at the start of an instance.  At the least, nothing should be showing yellow.
  • Buffs – all necessary buffs on, including Feasts if we’ve got them.  If not, start bothering slacker paladins.
  • Encounter – understand what his role is in the encounter, strategy, what color poo not to stand in.

That whole sequence can be done in, what, maybe twenty to thirty seconds max?  Had I done that, I would’ve caught the problem in the very first second when I saw I was still in Fury spec, I would’ve swapped spec, we wouldn’t have wiped on Razorscale, and I wouldn’t have a blog post topic for today.

So basically, I do stupid shit for you, people.  All for you.


What a long, strange trip it’s been

Back before Wrath of the Lich King was released, the officers of The Anvil, the 25-man Horde raid on Feathermoon that I tank for, sat down and set one simple goal:  The Anvil 25-man would kill Arthas before the next expansion came out.  That was it.  Everything, all the other raid instances, all our activity as a raid, was pointed toward that goal.  Naxxramas, Ulduar, Trial of the Big Round Room…they were steppingstones toward Icecrown Citadel and our ultimate goal of doing something we’d never done before:  beating “the” boss of an expansion while that expansion was still current content, and making the Lich King our Bitch King.

Now this was a stretch for us.  Since the days of 40-man raiding, we’ve never been a cutting-edge progression raid…call us “hardcore casual” if you will.  In vanilla, we never cleared Blackwing Lair, much less Naxxramas 1.0; Nefarian only died after The Burning Crusade came out.  When we hit Outland, we stalled at the end of both Serpentshrine Cavern and Tempest Keep.  Vashj eventually went down after six or seven weeks, but we never really even got close to killing Kael’thas until patch 3.0 dropped, at which point the fight instantly turned from a near-impossible exercise to a stupidly easy no-death one-shot.  We managed to get 3/5 in Hyjal before 3.0 hit, but never visited Black Temple except for one visit post-patch, where we one-shotted the first seven bosses and couldn’t get past the Illidari Council.  Linedan’s still never seen or killed Illidan, Archimonde, or anything in Sunwell Plateau.

Four months ago we dropped Sindragosa for the first time and took the teleporter up to stand before our final goal.  That night, we began working on the fight.  And through the summer, we kept at it.  Again.  And again.  And again. I started likening progress on the Lich King fight to the Battle of the Somme…immense casualties for just a few yards, or in this case percent, gained.  We extended lockouts and threw ourselves at him for three straight hours some nights.  I counted fifteen wipes one night, that’s a 200 gold repair bill for me.  We tried several different strategies regarding Defiles and val’kyr handling, with varying degrees of success.  Time and again normal summer schedule issues ravaged our lists and left us frantically pulling in subs, or dropping back to clear lower ICC again, or even calling the raid entirely.

Last night, we faced down Arthas again.  We started off with two excellent attempts that moved efficiently through phase 2 and got into phase 3 with most of the raid still standing.  Our DPS was the highest I’d ever seen it, across the board.  Unfortunately, both times things fell apart fast and we died quickly in phase 3, not getting Arthas below about 35%.  Then we started backsliding into the pattern that’s dogged us the whole time…mistakes in phase 2, bad placement of Defiles, unlucky timing on the different cooldowns for valks vs. Defile, stuff like that.  After a few more of those, we took a break, came back, and went at it again.

It was the sixth, or seventh, or eighth attempt, I’d lost track at that point.  We started off same as the others–me on Arthas, our paladin tank Keltyr on the ghouls and horrors in phase 1.  Phase 1 was dispatched quickly and smoothly, likewise the 1-2 transition.  We hit phase 2, and the real fight began.

You know that feeling you get when you just know that everything is starting to fall into place?  We had that.  Defile placement wasn’t perfect, but it was workable.  Everyone adjusted, standing behind Arthas, all facing the same direction to keep the valks clustered together.  For once, the timers worked properly so that we weren’t all clustered up for valks and getting hit with Defile instead.  We shifted, we adjusted, we moved in and moved out, and we got to 45% with everybody still up.

Then at 43%, here came the valks.  And the shout went out from our Chief Cat Herder:  “Forget them, burn Arthas down!”  It was a crapshoot.  If we couldn’t get him to 40% while dodging the upcoming Defile, we’d lose two DPS and a healer.  Everybody ran for Defile, ran back in and laid into the Lich King while I drug him toward one edge…

..at the last possible second, he dropped to 40%, ran back to the center, and started the phase 2-3 transition.  The ledge reappeared, and all three of our raidmates landed on solid ice with just mere feet to spare.

The spirits came up and we laid into them like we never had before.  At the end of the transition, two were dead, one was at 30%, and the fourth was full up.  I had the weaker spirit on me, so I headed back in and said hi to Arthas again, and phase 3 began.

The next few minutes are still a blur in my sleep-deprived mind.  Phase 2 is barely-controlled chaos.  Phase 3 felt like it removed the “barely-controlled” part.  People were scattering everywhere to avoid Vile Spirits and Defile.  We were handling tanking differently in the 25 than we did when I got Arthas in my 10, and I had only the vaguest of ideas when to taunt Arthas and move him.  More than once I taunted Arthas and immediately got a Soul Reaper countdown, and only Keltyr’s fast action saved me.

Things were getting nuts.  We had a death or two.  The fight devolved into a screaming mass of taunting, moving, and keyspamming.  Calls of “I can’t reach the tanks!” followed by another healer saying “I’ve got ‘em.”  Vile Spirits exploding everywhere.  “Defile, move!”  “Spirits coming down!”  “Gore’s harvested!”  And all the while, I saw that big Threat Plate over Arthas’ head slowly count down numbers.  Twenty-three percent.  Twenty percent.  Eighteen percent.  Fifteen percent.  Holy shit, are we actually going to do this?

I taunted him back at about 13%.  I was getting ready to hit Vent and say “a million to go, guys, WE’VE GOT THIS”…and I died.  I got too damn far away from my healers trying to get Arthas clear of the Vile Spirits, and there I was, in the Sprawl of Shame, with the Lich King at 12% health.

“Shit, Lin’s down!”

“Want me to pick him up?”

About four of us (me included) said “No!” at the same time.  He was at 7.1 million health, under 12%, one tank up, don’t shift out to battle rez just burn his ass down.  One million more health to go, dear God please don’t let me dying fuck this up now go go GO GO GO DAMMIT GO…

His health on the plate ticked over to 9%.

I won’t spoil the fight for anyone who hasn’t yet seen it, but let’s just say, if you get him to 10%, you’ve won, despite appearances.  There’s a pause for some in-game exposition that you get to watch.  When that started, there was a second of stunned silence, as if all 25 of us couldn’t believe we were seeing what we saw, and then Vent erupted with screams.  And just as quickly, was shushed…after all, many people there hadn’t had a chance to see the show before.

I didn’t say a word.  I was too busy sitting there, staring at the screen in slack-jawed shock, my hands shaking and tears forming in my eyes.  We had done it.  We killed the Lich King.

Two minutes later, the hoedown was over, and the fight entered the last 10%, aka Pinata Mode.  And then, it was truly over, cue the acheesement spam.  At 11:33 pm Eastern time, Thursday, September 16, 2010, Arthas Menethil, the Lich King, whatever you want to call him, lay dead at The Anvil’s feet, and we sat in silent shock and relief while Cutscene Happened.

We were Kingslayers.

We had won the game.

I spent the rest of the evening in an advanced state of shock.  It took my hands half an hour to stop shaking and I didn’t get to bed until well past 1:00.  The happy crew gradually dropped off Vent and out of WoW, off to bed.

While that happened, I sat and reflected, and got hit by an incredible wave of emotion that almost started me crying.  The realization of what we’d just done, and my small part in it, hit me.

A bit over four years ago, I first started running with The Anvil as a scrubstitute, a few months after the raid initially formed.  I had no business being in Molten Core given that my gear was mostly greens and I was a pretty shitty warrior, but in 40-mans, you could carry scrubs, and after weeks of not being selected to go, my wife Rashona and I finally wormed our way in.  Back then, our daughter Nublet was only an infant so Rashona and I basically had to alternate weeks to go on those Sunday afternoon MC runs…one of us raided while the other tended the baby.  We switched weeks, sometimes we even switched mid-run if the officers were OK with it.

I hung in there and kept getting invites despite the fact I really did suck.  My DPS was lousy, I couldn’t offtank rock elementals on Garr to save my ass (or anyone else’s), I wiped the raid running the wrong way on Geddon more than once.  Slowly, on the long grind through Molten Core to Ragnaros and then into Blackwing Lair, I got better.  Not good, but better.

The Burning Crusade came out.  By the time I made it to 70, I was behind most of the other Anvillains.  The Anvil had formed two 10-man Karazhan raids and didn’t have enough people for a third, leaving me and Rashonakitty screwed.  Fortunately a friend of ours was starting up her own Kara (called “Dissonant’s Softcore Raiders”) and the wife and I came on as the two tanks.  I went Prot, and never looked back.  We helped take that raid from wiping all night on Attumen all the way to one-night full clears and lots of Prince kills.  It was a fantastic experience.

When The Anvil went back to running 25-mans in Gruul’s Lair, I got in again despite the raid being overloaded on tanks.  And somehow, I guess through just sheer attrition and my own stubbornness, by the time our TBC raiding career ended, I was the permanent second offtank.

Wrath of the Lich King brought us death nuggets, and one of our warriors switched to DK (realm first 80 DK, in fact) and became astoundingly good at DK tanking–so good that he pushed me down to the #3 offtank, in an instance (Naxx 2.0) where few fights needed four tanks and dual specs hadn’t come in yet.  The raid officers kept me on, thank God, and we’ve carried four tanks all through Wrath (the original DK left and has been replaced by an even better DK), eventually going to a rotation system where we all take turns tanking and DPSing.

The Anvil took me in when I had no business raiding.  They let me back in after I took time to head to greener pastures in Karazhan.  They kept me on and rewarded my persistence with a permanent slot.  They kept me on again when better-geared, better-skilled tanks “took my jerb.”  They kicked my ass when I needed it and reassured me when I needed it.  They had faith in me when I had lost my own faith in my ability to play this game.  They gave me the room and opportunity to develop the confidence to turn, eventually, into a pretty decent warrior tank.  They are my friends, and I’ll do anything for them.

And last night, the scrubby hybrid-spec warrior in the mismatched level 55 greens…now transformed into the fully-sanctified-T10-wearing badass tank he never thought he could become…tanked the bloody Lich King. And won.

All of the problems that were spinning around me yesterday are still there this morning.  Our one working vehicle is still laid up at the mechanic and we don’t know how we’re going to pay to fix it.  One of our cats is still a bit sick in his tummy and stinking up the place.  We’re still broke.  The house is a mess.  I still have four projects at work in various stages of “oh shit.”  None of that has changed.

But for a few magical minutes last night, none of it existed.  There was nothing but a group of friends, accomplishing a task set in front of them, and culminating a journey that started four and a half years ago.  Winning the game.

For now, the world can bite my shiny metal ass.  I’m a Kingslayer, biatch.


The finish line is in sight

Yes, there are naked people up there. Beating Arthas makes one do strange things.

It’s been a strange weekend here at the Bunker of Love, no doubt about that.

See, North Carolina has been getting hammered by a nasty heat wave.  Now yes, it’s the South, and yes, of course it gets hot in the summer.  I know this.  I’m Virginia-born and -bred, with the added resume entries of surviving three summers near Washington, DC (why did we build our nation’s capital in a bloody swamp?) and seven years in Columbia, South Carolina, a place that you could use for testing manned expeditions to Venus.  I know from hot, people.

But you see, the Bunker of Love, nice as it is, does not have central air conditioning.  This is a small, old house with “character” (translation:  a disturbing number of corners that aren’t 90 degrees) in an older neighborhood.  It was built before the word “insulation” entered the national consciousness.  Hot and cold just seeps in, despite our best efforts.  And what’s worse, our computers are in the only available space for them–a converted sunporch that was added on sometime after the house was built.  There are several large windows in this room.  They’re old and single-pane.  Do the math.  We have two small window units (one in our bedroom, and one in the living room behind us) and one box fan trying to push the output of the living room A/C in here.  It works reasonably well, as long as the temperature is a more normal, say, 90 degrees.  100 degrees with a heat index over 110, not so much.

And thus it was that on Thursday night, The Anvil spent three hours on Arthas with me as main tank, keeping one eye on the Lich King and one eye on the display of my Logitech G15 keyboard watching my video card temperature skyrocket, while sweating like a pig and trying to hydrate in between wipes.  Yes, I know how stupid it sounds talking about sweating my ass off while playing a video game.  Remember–I’m a fat white pasty guy, it was pushing 85F in here, and it’s the motherhumpin’ Lich King, people.  Things get a little intense even for keyboard warriors.  We did make some good progress, with some strategy adjustment on phase 2 of the fight, but we’re still getting our asses kicked by badly-placed Defiles or losing people to val’kyr.  We’re consistently getting late into phase 2, and we got to see the 40% transition a couple times.

Friday hit 101 degrees.  My wife and I ended up doing something I’m still sad about–we bailed on the raid due to the heat.  I take my raiding commitments seriously.  When I sign up, I show up, even if I don’t really want to.  But with the temperature in the room pushing the mid- to high 80s, and my video card reporting 83 degrees Celsius just while sitting looking out over the porch at Ulduar, we both knew that a couple hours of this, and we’d be not only miserable, but making serious mistakes when we tried Arthas again.  I can’t rationalize and say we did it for “the good of the raid” though.  Fact was, it was just too damn hot in here.

Now, come Saturday afternoon for the 10-man that I MT on Linedan, the temperature had not abated outside–heading for 100 again.  But since it doesn’t get really intolerable in here until about 5 or 6 pm, and the raid runs from 2 to 5, I figured I’d be able to hang in OK on our all-Arthas-all-the-time attempts.  (Side note:  I love extended lockouts.  Awesome invention, Blizz.)  So we got to work.

As you can guess from the picture up top, we got the bastard. Linedan is now, at least for a day, Linedan the Kingslayer.  (Then I’ll switch it back to Loremaster.)

We got him, in fact, despite most of us never really having gotten good looks at phase 3, the Vile Spirits phase, before.  I know that phase 2 is the hard part, and that phase 3 is easier, but still, we wiped a good 10 times in that phase before we worked out a strategy for saving me from getting my face eaten by Soul Reaper.  Once we did that?  I’m not going to say it was easy, because it wasn’t.  But our killshot wasn’t one of those nail-biting super-close shaves.  We just…got him.  Fairly smooth, no big issues.

That fight is so much easier on 10-man than on 25-man.  As are, in fact, most fights that require a lot of maneuvering.  To me it seems pretty obvious why.  You’ve got the same area of platform to drop Bad(tm) in, but 40% of the people taking up the room.  You’re less likely to get a Defile in a bad place, and if you do, you’re less likely to get somebody moving through it or standing in it and expanding it.  And yes, I’ll admit, a good chunk of us in this raid are wearing 25-man gear, and yes, having a nice big rack of ilevel 264 stuff does help compared to doing it in 251s or lower.

So now that Arthas has fallen in 10-man, I have one goal left in Wrath of the Lich King for Linedan…Kingslayer 25-man.  That’s it.  As soon as we get that, I will have accomplished everything I set out to accomplish for him in this expansion.  I called it the Four Big Titles–World Explorer, Seeker, Loremaster, Kingslayer.  Well, right now, he’s three-and-a-half out of four.  We’ll keep raiding after The Anvil drops Arthas, I’m sure of it, and our 10-man is going to start on hard modes in at least a few fights next week.  But after I get that 25-man Kingslayer title attached to Linedan’s name, everything else is just sprinkles on the cupcake, and the Cataclysm countdown begins.


A little randomness never hurt

Lately, my blogging Muse seems to have deserted me.  So while I wait for her to return from wherever she’s gone off to–my guess, personally, is that she’s on a bus heading for a gambling weekend at the Harrah’s casino down near Cherokee–here’s some random and semi-coherent rantings for a Good Friday:

- 0.9% wipe on Putricide last night in The Anvil’s 25-man.  ZERO POINT NINE BLEEPING PERCENT.  Maybe 400,000 health from our first Putricide kill after weeks of trying.  That’s just brutal, especially given our track record of being short on people for Friday raids (and this week looks to be no exception).  We executed near-perfectly on him last night on all attempts, for the most part, but even with Hellscream’s New and Improved Buff of Pity, we wiped at 3% and 0.9%, among a few others.  It can get frustrating as hell when you do everything (or almost everything, as close as you’ll get with 25 people and lag and whatnot) correctly, the abomination driver noms up all the slime and keeps Putricide slashed up, nobody dies to the oozes, and come phase 3, you still can’t quite seal the deal.  And that’s the killer part–we know we own this dweeb, he just hasn’t actually fallen over and coughed up the loot yet.  We need to get The Good News Man down so we can move on to Valithria Dreamwalker, Team Edward, and Blood Queen Gaga.

- I guess the Random Dungeon Gods like me.  I haven’t had any truly bad LFD groups in a couple of weeks.  Oh, there’s always some with some durp durp here and some durp durp there, here a durp, there a durp, everywhere a durp durp, but in general, I haven’t run across any real mind-bending Stupid for a while now.  In fact, since I run almost all my randoms as DPS (yes, even on Linedan–sometimes I just can’t be arsed dealing with tanking when I’m tired), I’ve been fortunate to get a string of modestly-geared yet extremely competent tanks.  It warms my heart to see a warrior tank with 32k health do a whale of a job tanking Forge of Souls–not an easy dungeon to PUG even at Lin’s inflated gear level–and have the other four people in the group work with him, not bitch him out for being geared at the appropriate level for an ICC heroic.  Of course, the next night, I get Lin-as-Fury into a FoS group where he’s out-DPSed by the tank…a druid with 58,000 health pulling 4300 dps, while Lin did 3900.  Wow.

- Speaking of Forge of Souls…I’ve taken to random specific heroics on a few characters, in addition to random dailies.  Linedan is stacking armor penetration as part of his Fury build…hence, trips to Forge of Souls for the tasty Needle-Encrusted Scorpion.  (Irony:  Beltar, my dwarf MM hunter who isn’t stacking passive arpen?  Got the Scorpion last week.)  My blood elf BM hunter Illithanis runs one of the three ICC heroics, because there’s something for her in each one–the Scorpion from Forge, the Felglacier Bolter from Pit of Saron, or the Orca-Hunter’s Harpoon from Halls of Waves of Trash.  For RP purposes, I’d prefer to get Illy one or two swords, as they seem more “elvish” a weapon than polearms or staves, but I’m not sure where I can even find hunter-itemized 1H or (especially) 2H swords these days without raiding.  No luck on the up-gearing yet, but it’s only a matter of time, right?

- I don’t get all the BM hunter hate.  Yes, I know, BM is weak sister to marks and survival in SRS BSNS progression raiding right now.  (Although we have a BM hunter in The Anvil who is absolutely wrecking shit…and proving a few people wrong about BM and raiding, at least in our behind-the-cutting-edge way, in the process.)  Personally, I think BM as a spec is slightly harder to raid with than MM.  I’ve got limited raiding experience in both, and honestly, I’ll take the somewhat trickier shot rotation of MM over the pet micromanagement of BM if I’m looking for “easy.”  MM feels like I’m more powerful because I’m seeing these crazy large numbers spamming down the right center of my screen…then I go look at Recount, and Illithanis, with modest gear compared to Beltar, is within 500 dps of the dwarf in heroics, and pulling solid numbers on her very rare ventures into Big Round Room.  Consistently.

- Highest Revenge crit since 3.3.3:  12,294.  Oh yeah.  I think I like this.

- But not even New Revenge compares to the power that is death nuggets’ new boosted Icy Touch–or, as the Twitterati have dubbed it, Icy Dickpunch.  Moody over at Death Grip My Heart (warning:  possible NSFW artwork of hot dead blood elf chick) has a pretty good post on it.  Short version:  It’s doing up to fourteen and a half times more threat than it did pre-patch.  And I believe it.  Revenge’s high damage has boosted our threat gen considerably, but now, our raid DK tank can accidentally pull mobs off me with Icy Touch crits.  Beforehand, if I could gain the threat lead on a mob we were both tanking, like Festergut or Saurfang, I could hold it without difficulty.  Now?  I lost the handle on Saurfang twice last night because of Icy Dickpunch crits pulling him back over onto the DK immediately after a taunt.  I thought I was suddenly missing taunts, but instead, it was just good old-fashioned accidental agro pong.

- Tamarind wrote a fantastic post over at Righteous Orbs on why “casual” raiding doesn’t–or shouldn’t–mean “roll in 15 minutes late and then go AFK to pinch a loaf.”  He said it a lot better than that, of course.  He’s British.  They do that.  Say things better, I mean.  (BTW, if you are not reading Tamarind and Chastity over at RO, you should.  You’re missing out.)

That’s pretty much it from the Panzercow Bunker.  Here’s hoping my Muse catches the bus back from Harrah’s, hopefully not too broke, next week.  Have a happy Easter weekend, kids.


/cast Hellscream’s Buff of Pity (Rank 1)

Welcome to the new Icecrown Citadel…this week, the new zonewide raid buff has gone liveHellscream’s Warsong (or Strength of Wrynn, for you Chin-following types) will grant your 10- or 25-man ICC raid group a flat +5% to health, healing done, and damage.  Over time, this buff will slowly increase in strength–the maximum isn’t definite, but Wowhead has it listed up to a +30% increase.

Now, if you’ve been around the WoW community anytime, you know that one thing we’re really good at is looking gift horses in the mouth, and this is no exception.  A lot of people are, surprisingly, disappointed that this buff has come along this soon.  It’s understandable, I guess; nobody really wants to think that their raid had to get helped along by an artificial boost from the game developers.  But as a member of a raid that’s been hammering on Festergut for a month now and has wiped multiple times by him hitting the enrage timer at between 4 and 6 percent health?  That +5% damage output is looking mighty darn tasty right about now.  I want to see us move forward to play with Professor Putricide, and I want to see us move forward on getting somebody in the raid a Shadowmourne.

It’s pretty obvious that Blizzard realizes they had a bit of a problem with the previous expansion-ending raids, Naxxramas v1.0 and Sunwell Plateau.  The entry requirements for both of them were very steep, and in both cases, the number of people who actually were able to see the content and at least get a good shot at completing it were very low.  (Personally, I’ve still never seen one inch of the inside of Sunwell Plateau–I missed the “retro raids” we did back through there several months ago.)  They don’t want to spend dozens of man-months and a ton of money to create a big, intricate instance like Icecrown Citadel and have it end up visited by a fraction of one percent of the playerbase.

So think of the buff as the logical progression of the other things they’re doing, such as making Tier 9 gear rain from the sky via the LFD system.  They want more people to say that they gave the Lich King the ass-kicking he so richly deserves than ever got to save the world from Kil’jaeden or Kel’thuzad the first time around.  The hardcore, high-speed raiding guilds have pushed through the content on normal, killed Arthas, and are now working on heroics.  With the buff, you will now see the “second wave” of raids, the ones like The Anvil, coming through the content and working our way toward the end, so we too can say we were there on top of the spire when Cutscene Happened.

And one more thing–Blizzard left one nice feature in regarding these buffs.  You can turn them off. Personally, when the buffs reach higher levels, I think there should be achievements or perhaps an extra cache or something similar for completing the instance without the buff–sort of an overdrive gear for the guilds working on heroic mode.

In the meantime, The Anvil will walk into Icecrown tonight, fortified by not only the 11-foot-tall presence of Tirion Fordring (seriously, wtf, did he get exposed to Gnomeregan radiation or something?), but by Hellscream’s Warsong.  And we’ll take that buff and stomp Festergut with it…

…even if we’d really rather it was called Basic Campfire’s Warsong.


Let me axe you something

Awww yeah. That's one FINE piece of axe right there.

I haven’t been blogging a whole lot about raiding with The Anvil lately.  That’s because we’ve managed to get our collective ankles wedged firmly into a gap that Blizzard’s left in the content.

We didn’t have too much trouble getting through the Lower Spire in ICC 25-man.  Marrowgar, Lady Deathwhisper, the Gunship Battle, and even Saurfang fell before us with relative ease.  I wouldn’t call them pushovers the way that, say, Trial of the Wake Me When It’s Over was when we first started.  But we moved through Icecrown’s first four bosses in fairly good time, and prepared to assault the rest of the Lich King’s stronghold.

Then we slammed head-on into the Plagueworks.

If you’re just getting ready to head into Icecrown, 10- or 25-man, consider this a warning:  There is a big jump in difficulty between the first four bosses and the middle portion of the instance, the Plagueworks (Festergut, Rotface, and Professor Putricide) and the Crimson Halls (Blood Princes, Blood Queen Lana’thel).  That jump in difficulty has stopped us dead in our tracks.

We quickly reached a very unpleasant realization on Festergut, supposedly the “easiest” of the bosses…we couldn’t kill him.  Not “we can’t kill him because we’re making too many mistakes”–a totally unqualified “we can’t do this right now.”  We ran up against cold, hard math.  Festergut’s enrage timer is so short (5 minutes) and he has so much health (40.44 million) that how well we handled the mechanical aspects of the fight with gas spores and healing through his insane damage didn’t matter.  You need a five-minute average of roughly 135,000 dps from your raid to drop Festergut before he splats you.  Before last night, on our best attempt, we had 91,000.  No amount of sleight of hand or focusing on eliminating mistakes could get around the fact that if you don’t bring that 135,000 dps, you don’t kill Festergut.  Full stop.  Before last night, our best attempt on Festergut was hitting the enrage timer at 30%.  Not.  Even.  Close.

Rotface isn’t quite the insane DPS race that Festergut is, but it’s a crazy fight–Grobbulus on speed, with even more raid-wide damage and shadow-crash-style flying angry exploding poo-poos to dodge.  And you still need a ton of DPS, because otherwise, you get so many oozes running around that your coordination breaks down in terms of the kiting that’s required.  Our best attempt to date on Rotface is around 17%, which, considering the insanity of the fight and our relative DPS level, ain’t shabby.

Well, last night, we went to try and sell Arthas encyclopedias yet again.  We did it in the middle of the godawful crippling lag that has had the entire Cyclone battlegroup by the balls since the Love is in the Air event started up.  (Servers in Cyclone, Ruin, Bloodlust, and Reckoning have been getting crushed for days now with 5+ minute zone times, minutes-long loot lag and mailbox lag, etc.  Multiple maintenance downtimes haven’t done a damn thing to fix it.)  The lag was so bad that my wife couldn’t even join the raid, and then we lost two more regulars due to illness.  We managed to pick up enough subs to fill out the roster, and gave it a try.

Go figure, but it was the best raid night we’ve had in a month and a half.  Maybe the lag got people to dial it in and focus, or maybe the phase of the moon was just right, I don’t know.  Not only did we one-shot all four bosses in the front, but we had two near-perfect Festergut attempts and got him to 8%, and then 6%, before he enraged.  Magically, we’ve somehow picked up over 30,000 dps on that fight in just a few weeks.  If we find about 10,000 more in the glovebox and under the sofa cushions, we’ll own that mutant potato right in his ugly face…uh, OK, one of his ugly faces.  He’s got spares.

It was one of those nights that invigorates my desire to raid with this awesome bunch of maniacs I run with, because we were hitting on all cylinders and having a great time doing it.  The one sad part was that my wife missed it…especially when the druid loot dropped.

And out of all that, I got a new toy to play with:

Now, I got a whisper last night asking me why I’d blow a “suicide” on a one-handed DPS weapon that wasn’t a tank weapon, when my DPS offspec is Fury and thus needs two-handers.  It’s a legit question, deserving of an answer.  The short version is, despite it not being a tank weapon, it’s a significant upgrade for me.  Now, the long version–half because I’m paranoid and still justifying to myself why I took it, and half as explanation of why a tank sometimes gets very good use out of a “non-tank” weapon.

Right now, Lin’s tank weapons are a Titanguard and a Burnished Quel’serrar from 25-man Ony.  The Titanguard has been Lin’s bread-and-butter tank sword for almost a full year now, and while it’s an excellent item (it was our first hard-mode Ulduar loot ever), it’s a tier or a tier-and-a-half behind current content.  I picked the BQ up to use as a situational weapon when I had to bring more DPS as Prot; it’s been part of my block-heavy gear set, and also has been what I use to tank heroics.  But it’s not well-itemized, and despite the old-school cool factor of it being a Quel’serrar, I’ve never warmed to it.

True, the Scourgeborne Waraxe isn’t a classic +str/+sta/+defense/avoidance tank weapon.  It is, first and foremost, a rogue axe in no uncertain terms–not really itemized awesomely for hunters and way, way too fast for enhancement shamans.  But for starters, 48 dps more on the tooltip is damned hard to ignore.  It’s even faster than the Titanguard (1.5 vs. 1.6), and fast for a tank weapon is good.  The stat tradeoff is surprisingly even–I lose the +str from the Titanguard costing me 24 shield block value, but I end up net gaining about 10 attack power, the stamina is close to even (loss of ~110 health), and the extra agility gives me enough dodge that even after losing the 33 parry rating from the sword, I only lose a net of 0.30% total avoidance.  In return, I get a huge burst of +crit (over 2%), a token bit of armor penetration, and a sizeable damage increase over the Titanguard, both overall and at the top end for attacks like Devastate.  It’s going to be a significant bump in my threat generation.  And I’m already running with so much excess Defense (578 with the sword), I can afford to lose 7 points of it.

In the end, I had to make a quick decision when interest in the weapon was called; using Rating Buster‘s breakout of stat pluses and minuses (which I trimmed from the tooltip screenshot), I decided to go for it.  And once I get that new axe Mongoosed, it’s going to become my primary heroic and trash tanking weapon.  The Titanguard stays in my bag for situations where absolute maximum avoidance and health are needed and threat is less of an issue–for example, if I’m kiting on Rotface, playing kissyface with Muradin on the Gunship Battle, or eating saber lashes on Marrowgar.

Besides, just look at it, peeps. It’s beautiful.  It’s huge.  It’s so big it goes over my back instead of on my belt.  It’s not standard-issue Wrath of the Lich King Tier 9 Brown, unlike everything else Lin wears.  It has frigging spikes on the blade. How can I not have my Panzercow walking around with something that utterly badass in his humongous three-fingered hand?


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.


In the grim future of Panzercow 40,000…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


The Sweet and the Bitter

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Four whole seconds to spare

Yeah, uh, Orkin here, were gonna have to charge extra for this one...

Yeah, uh, Mr. Fordring? Orkin here. Listen, we're gonna have to charge extra for this one...

Well, actually, four and a half seconds if you’re being really precise.

That’s how much time The Anvil had left on the enrage timer last night when we finally downed Anub’arak in 25-man normal Coliseum, after three weeks of trying.

To say that Anub’arak was a notch higher on the difficulty scale than the rest of the fights in the Coliseum (Faction Champions excluded, but more on that later) would be an understatement.  After all, Northrend Beasts is basically three gimmick fights in a row.  Lord Jaraxxus makes the healers cry, but as long as people know to run toward the wall and not stand in Bad(tm), it’s not too rough.  Twin Val’kyrs?  The ultimate gimmick fight, but if you can tell light from dark and can interrupt Twin’s Pact, it’s no big thing.

The Nub is a little rougher.  We’d gotten several good shots at him last week but the healers were having real trouble keeping the offtanks up.  Our plan was to have the offtanks grab and hold both pairs of Burrowers so DPS could focus on the big guy; otherwise we had no shot at dropping him inside his short enrage timer.  But despite having excellent healers in the raid, our DK offtank (who’s got more health than any of the other three of us) kept falling over.

It was then that our raid officers, looking through the logs, discovered what Spinks posted about over at Welcome to Spinksville yesterday:  The Anub’arak fight is one of the only encounters in WoW where Shield Block rules.

The Nerubian Burrowers stack a debuff called Expose Weakness.  Each stack causes you to take 25% more damage, up to a maximum of 225% (9 stacks, down from 10 pre-3.2.2).  But the catch is, apparently if you block one of their attacks, your shield block value is subtracted from their damage before the Expose Weakness debuff multiplier is added.  Burrowers only hit for about 2500 to 3000.  See where this is going?  Our 46,000-health DK, with no shield, had no way to mitigate the 12,000 to 15,000 he was taking per hit from two burrowers except his jealousy-inducing 33%+ dodge.  Our warrior, the other offtank, did.  The DK died.  The warrior didn’t.

So last night I was the #3 tank, and I was on burrower duty.  I dutifully loaded up my “trash” set instead of my normal boss-tanking set.  My trash set is a real hash of things, built for block value over even block rating.  I still rock the T7 helm with it, plus some of my four T8 pieces, other bits and pieces from Ulduar and maybe one other from Naxx still.  It isn’t so much designed for block tanking as it is designed for DPS…I even normally run two crit trinkets instead of tank trinkets (although for this fight, I strapped my tank trinkets back on) because it’s a set designed for light-hitting trash and any situation where I need to rip an 11k Shield Slam out of my ass.  I ended up losing about 10 points of Defense, a crapton of dodge%, and maybe 1500 health from my boss set, but my buffed shield block value was a tasty 2593, and I was still at 543 Defense and 42,200 fully buffed health.  My block rating was a bit low at 22.78%, but as a warrior, I’ve got two other tricks up my sleeve for that–Shield Block, for almost complete immunity to damage for 10 seconds out of 40, and 3/3 in the recently-buffed Critical Block talent, meaning 60% of those blocks wouldn’t be for 2593, they’d be for almost 5200.  I couldn’t block everything, but when I did block, I made it count.

The strategy, I’m pleased to say, works like a charm, and you don’t have to build a super-block set that gimps everything else to do it…well, on normal, at least.  (On heroic, yeah, you probably do.)  We did run into trouble on the first time we got Anub’arak to phase 3 when we had four burrowers up.  As good as our healers are, keeping up a tank with two burrowers, with 50% haste, and 9 stacks of Expose Weakness, and Swarming Leech, just wasn’t happening.

The last two attempts we got him to phase 3 with only one set of burrowers up, and as long as we kept the burrowers separated so they didn’t buff each other, the healers could keep myself and the other OT (paladin) up without much trouble.  Tanking one burrower, even with 9 stacks of Expose Weakness, isn’t too bad.  The first attempt, we just ran out of time and he enraged at 4%, finishing the last of us at 2%.  On the killshot, I thought we weren’t going to make it because he was still at 18% health with one minute left.  A couple of the healers shifted over to DPS, we lowered everybody else’s health in the raid even more to slow down the Leeching Swarm, and all of us blew everydamnthing we had (I was tanking a burrower while beating up on Anub).  And he fell over with precisely 4.5 seconds left on the enrage timer.

Now is Blizzard going to “fix” this little trick?  I don’t know.  Shield Block has evolved into a mechanic that doesn’t really fit with anything…it’s overpowered against trash and underpowered against bosses.  It’s good to see a fight where it actually matters, and fortunately Anub’arak is quite easy for a druid or DK to tank so there’s still great use for them there.  It seems mighty cheesy to be able to build a set that allows one warrior to tank four burrowers–on heroic, no less, as Spinks documented–with impunity, but that’s a very extreme example.  I wouldn’t put it past Blizzard to break our little Shield Block trick, but if they don’t, and until they do, we’re going to take full advantage of one of the few bones they throw us on a fairly challenging fight.

Oh, and as you may remember from the rant immediately below this one, I kinda hate Faction Champions.  And by “kinda,” I mean I’d like to find the guy at Blizzard who thought this was a good idea and beat him silly with a wiffleball bat.  Well, there was a little patch note in the 3.2.2 release that mentioned some changes had been made to this fight.  We didn’t know what to expect going in last night.  But here’s what you need to know.

First week, seven wipes.  Second week, five wipes.  Third week, three deaths.

Faction Champions got nerfed TO THE GROUND, BABY.

The biggest change?  Taunts no longer have diminishing returns on them.  Think about that for a second.  That one change alone, not even including the damage reduction they put in, turns the fight into cheesymode.  Seriously.  They assigned me to harass the death nugget.  I could just spam Taunt every 8 seconds, with total impunity, to pull him off of a squishy for a few…enough time for me to drop a Charge or Intercept on him, or Shield Bash him to slow him down, or Concussion Blow or Shockwave to stun…oh, and they didn’t go immune to my stuns, either.

Sure, there were times where the DK got away from me.  But not many.  And when he did, I got him right back.

As much as I hate that fight–and I still do, with every flabby fiber of my being–I almost felt dirty at the end of it, that’s how easy it was.  It reminded me of an AB match when a premade runs up against a PUG, except the Faction Champions didn’t /afk out halfway through.  Yep, after whooping it up at our expense for a couple of weeks, ol’ Wrynn the Chin saw his boys and girls get a straight-outta-Compton gangsta beatdown, Hordesiyyyyyde style.  Word up, yo.

Finally…so what reward does ol’ Tirion Fordring give us for completing the Trial of the Crusader?  The chance to do it all over again on heroic!  Well fuckin’ yay there big guy, excuse me if I’m somewhat less than enthused about going Groundhog Day on your little spectacle.  Catch me next week and we’ll talk about it.


The Anvil Wants You, Part Deux

Hi. I’m Linedan.  And it’s time for my every-so-often raid recruiting blog post.

The Anvil is a Hordeside 25-man raid on Feathermoon-US (a Pacific timezone RP server).  We are currently 12/14 Ulduar, with only The Yoggster left to go on non-hard-mode 25, and 4/5 25-normal ToC (more on that later) with a few Ulduar hardish modes under our belt.  We raid Thursday nights from 6 to 9, and Friday nights from 6:30 to 9:30 (Pacific time).  We also have a couple of 10-mans that are not technically part of the Anvil but are run by and composed of Anvil members, and we have a chat channel and Ventrilo available for use for raids, instances, PvP, Silvermoon cyb0rz, whatever.  You do not need to join one of our component guilds to be a part of the raid.  

Right now, Real Life has cost us a couple of our regular healers.  So, we needs us some replacements.  We need healers, of any class, that are good, competent, strong, and secure in the knowledge that the big cow in the plate is the one that should really be getting most of the heals. Really.

I know nothing about healing other than needing a lot of it, so as far as I know, here are the prerequisites for the job:

- You need some spellpower. I think somewhere between “a lot” and “a metric shitload” (which is, as you know, 0.6 of an Imperial shitload) is sufficient.
- The more flashy procs, effects and symbols that happen when you cast, the better. If you can singlehandedly cause an epileptic seizure by casting a Flash Heal, that’s bonus points.
- Disc priests are wonderful, but Regatta may challenge you to a trial by combat, or a bake-off, her choice.  Watch out for the pig, he’ll cheat. 
- Bonus points also if you’ve got a DPS spec and would be willing to pew-pew or bonk-bonk on some occasions. Flexibility is always good. And remember, Smite is a valid spell.
- The ability to psychically interpret what Ghaar says during healing assignments and understand that when he says “whelps,” he means “you’re healing the raid.”
- A love for burop soup, burop fish, burop chowder, burop strudel, and burop fish chowder strudel a la mode.
- The ability to keep both tanks alive while simultaneously cranking out bad puns.  Also, a deep and heartfelt desire to teabag Varian Wrynn is a huge plus, especially if you want to rip his own testicles off and use them to do it. 

If you would like to join our merry band of maniacs as we prepare to turn Yogg-Saron into so much gelatinous loot pinata and impress the hell outta the ladies in the crowd at the Argent Tournament of What the Fuck Are We Doing Here Instead of Kicking Arthas’ Ass, please head over to the Thundering Hammer Clan forums to get in touch with one of our highly-trained raid occifers for an interview, drug screening, psychological profile, and prostate exam. Bribes happily accepted.  Operators are standing by, call now! 

Mmmmbuhbye!


Revenge of the fuzzy kitten

Yes, Gentle Readers, someday I will get back to solid, practical posting on warriors and whatnot.  But after being repeatedly kicked in the mental nuts by Real Life over the past couple weeks, today is not that day.  Instead, have a funny story from The Anvil’s Ulduar-25 last night.

I was the main tank.  So you could say I was a bit of a stress puppy, because that’s how I am (as I tell my wife, it’s part of my endearing charm, dammit).  We’d gotten through Flame Leviathan, XT, Auriaya, Hodir, and Thorim, and with a few minutes left before stop time, we went back to clean up Ignis.

So there I was, tanking Ignis around in a little triangle, leaving scorch spots on the ground for the construct tanks.  We were just tra-la-la-ing along, and then…I died.

Me dying on some content is not unusual, but on Ignis?  That wasn’t supposed to happen.

See, I have this pocket disc priest, Regatta, who is so good she smells like awesome wrapped in bacon.  Seriously.  When Reggie’s around, I don’t worry about my health, at all.  I’ll get a heal or a bubble exactly when and where I need it; if the situation is salvageable, she’ll salvage it.  She is a wicked good tank healer, and she was assigned to me for Ignis.  And yet there I was in the Sprawl of Shame(tm), in the middle of a Scorch patch.

So the rest of the raid cleaned up Ignis and then Reggie started apologizing profusely on Vent…something to the effect of, “Lin, I’m so sorry, my kitten just killed you.”

*blink*  “Uh…what?”

See, Reggie has a new kitten.  Her (yes, her) name is Radical Edward.  Radical Edward, being a kitten, gets into everything.  So it turns out that mid-Ignis-fight, Radical Edward climbed a nearby lamp and started playing with the lampshade.  Reggie tried to remove her from the lampshade.  Radical Edward, taking offense, proceeded to jump on Reggie’s head, knock her glasses off her face, and start dancing.

While she was healing me, she suddenly had a kitten doing a Mexican hat dance, with claws, on her exposed head, dangerously close to her eyes.  There was shrieking and flailing and flying kitten.  And when she could look back down, there was dead Panzercow.

I still love me some Regatta, and I still love me some fuzzy kitten.  But I am going to suggest that maybe she needs to wear safety goggles and a hard hat for the raid tonight…


I got yer mountains, right here

The Anvil has been working on Thorim 25-man, off and on, for something like eight weeks now.  Now granted, in that eight weeks, we’ve been unable to even take a shot at him three times due to roster issues.  But still, that’s five weeks of hearing “…in the moooounntaaaiiiinnsss…”  several times a night, followed by the most painful wipes this side of a bad case of hemorrhoids.  “Cockblock” may be a vulgar term, but in Thorim’s case, it was appropriate.  Only Kael’thas in Tempest Keep ever held us up this long…we even got Vashj in less calendar time, although IMO, Vashj was a hell of a lot harder.

We went back in to Ulduar on Thursday night with a full raid (for once) and a determination that we were going to beat the Yoggy out of(tm) Thorim.  Once again, I was your friendly neighborhood gauntlet tank, preparing to lead an eight-man group to deal with happy fun trash and big fire-spewing minibosses while the other 17 folks chilled out in Thorim’s Mosh Pit and rocked out to Slayer under a big pile of about five hundred squillion iron dwarves.  With lightning.  And mullets.

By the end of the evening I was pretty much ready to give up and go find another line of work.  Something less stressful and more tolerant of failure, like, say, brain surgery or nuclear weapon handling.  The arena group, originally our Achilles’ heel, was on a roll, keeping great control of the dwarves and holding up under the heavy punishment.  No, Gentle Reader, our problems on Thursday night were primarily with the gauntlet group.

And that means, with me.

Holy Saurfang, was I a failtank Thursday night.  I broke sheep.  I lost agro on Iron Ring Guards and let them eat squishy fase.  I didn’t grab stuff fast enough when it followed us down the tunnel from the arena (that’s a new post-3.2 “feature” of Thorim–healers can agro stuff in the stands above the hallway in certain spots, through the ceiling, and when it starts moving, it’ll jump down and run into the hallway and hit the group from behind).  I got tripped up and dropped on my butt right in front of flame pulses.  I would’ve probably run across the center of the circles getting to Thorim and gotten paralyzed…had we even gotten that far.  I had the leader on the gauntlet side ready to kill me, I’m pretty sure.

And after all that, we still got him to phase 2 for the first time ever…and wiped when we hit the hard enrage with him at 3%.  Had we still had a warlock and mage alive that got killed in the hallway–because I lost agro on a guard–we would’ve gotten him.

That dwelled in my headspace all day Friday.  I couldn’t shake it off at work, or after I got home, or at prep time for the raid.  And as we were waiting for invites, I finally managed to focus and convert the “you suck”–which is not an easy task for me because I always think I suck–into “this will not happen again tonight, dammit.”  We had our strategy worked out–adding one more DPS, my wife Rashona, to the hallway group for a total of nine people–and this time, I was determined, if we failed, it was not going to be because of me.

We went in with 24 people, including several subs and first-timers, making jokes about “the Anvil man-down rule” that we usually do better with 24 than we do with 25.  We blew through Ignis and Freya, and soon we stood before Thorim again.  We charged in and massacred his little gladiatorial party.  He launched into his “…in the moooounntaaaiiiinnsss…” bad voice-acting again, and off we went through the opening gate.

First group.  Sheep left, let the hunter misdirect the acolyte toward me, don’t worry about him, grab the ring guard, tank him.  DPS burns down the acolyte (he hits like he’s got pillows on his hands), then my guard.  Bust the sheep, grab it, oh fuck get away from the fire.  OK, it’s dead, lather rinse and repeat on the second group.

Boss tiems.  Grab him, turn him, tank him, easymode.  Oh snap, Runic Barrier, call across the room for Rashonakitty to get out.  Sweet, he’s at 80k.  “First boss going down” over Vent, and I’m already turning and opening the door to bitchslap a guard across the face with my shield before the big guy even eats floor.  Two steps up, grab the second group, back up, Shockwave, booyah.  Not tonight.

“Get the boss, Lin.”  Right.  Drag the two up the stairs while a hunter and my pocket priest go with me.  Here comes the boss.  Shield Block and settle in for the tank, tab target, spread the love, oh fuck a guard is getting loose, Challenging Shout, GET BACK HERE BITCH.  Thunder Clap, Shockwave, DPS is burning down the guards first, not exactly the way you’re “supposed” to do it but it makes things easier on the healers, and besides, they’re shredding like paper.  Quick glance at Grid, nobody’s dead, way to kick ass arena group.

Second boss keels over…holy crap, we’re gonna hit phase 2 on our first attempt.  Run to Thorim, the shouts of “NOT THE MIDDLE, LIN!” still echoing in my head from two weeks ago.  One of the hunters agros him as they jump down, I pat him on the back as I go too.  He lands.  PHASE 2, BABY!

Settle in again.  Watch DBM for Unbalancing Strike messages and the telltale “doooong,” hit Taunt when it comes up.  Sometimes I get him, sometimes one of the other tanks do, no worries.  People on Vent yelling about the adds, “no, we killed them all.”  Constant calls of “lines!”, “move move move!”, “taunt!”  Eighty percent.  Sixty percent.  Forty percent.

I try and do the math in my head of the delta on his health versus the enrage timer, and the equation’s coming out in our favor…barely.  Thirty percent.  “Ten stacks.”  He’s hitting hard as hell now, 14k or more.  Get on those taunts, dude, remember, if we fail tonight, it won’t be because of me.  Twenty percent.  A couple of people are dead, our DPS slows.

Dooong.  Taunt.  “Twelve stacks.”  Fifteen percent.  Reach for Shield Wall on general principle–I’m not really even at low health but it’ll help stretch the healers’ mana–and FUCK I’M DEAD WHAT KILLED ME.  I’m face-down in the Sprawl of Shame and he’s still at twelve percent.  Two tanks left…”Gore, Kel, it’s on you guys, go go go.”  Ten percent.  Eight.  Five.  “Fourteen stacks!”, a note of panic creeping in.  Less than one minute to enrage.

Three.  Our other offtank drops dead.  Two.  Shit, our MT just died, no, dammit, no no no!  One…

“Stay your arms!  I yield!”

I slump back in my chair, put my face in my hands, and realize that they’re shaking.  I don’t cry tears of joy and relief…but it’s a close thing.

————–

Epilogue:  We got Mimiron to 22% in phase 3 the very first time we saw him.  I’m not getting cocky yet, as phase 4 of that fight is supposed to be total chaos, but I think we’re in pretty good shape on him.  Make out your will, you shrimpy little twerp, you’re next.


We interrupt our irregularly unscheduled programming…

…for an advertisement.

You’ve read here on Achtung Panzercow about my adventures with my Hordeside raid, The Anvil.  The Anvil is a long-standing multi-guild Horde raid on the Feathermoon (US) role-playing server…and if you’re a responsible, knowledgeable player who wants to kick some ass but only has a few hours a week to do it, we want YOU! 

Currently we are 8/14 Ulduar 25-man, working on Thorim and Mimiron.  The Anvil raids twice a week, from 9:00 pm to 12 midnight Eastern on Thursday, and from 9:30 pm to 12:30 am Eastern on Friday.  (Feathermoon is a Pacific timezone server, so server time is EDT-3 hours, or GMT-7 hours.)  Whispers for invites start one hour prior to pull time, with invites going out about 25 minutes ahead.

We use a Suicide Kings system for loot.  The raid keeps two lists, one for tier tokens and one for everything else.  When a piece of loot drops, people who are interested whisper the loot officer; whoever’s highest on the list gets the loot and then they drop to the bottom of the list and everybody else who’s there that night moves up one.  That’s it.  It’s a very simple system and works well for us, with basically no drama.

Now, there’s a few things you should know about The Anvil and Feathermoon:

- Feathermoon is a roleplaying server.  While The Anvil is not an “RP raid” per se and raid chat is out of character, most of the raiders are roleplayers of one sort or another.  RP in /say is encouraged.  RP griefers are not welcome, period, full stop. 

- You do not have to join a guild to be part of The Anvil.  We have officers and members from several different guilds.

- We are flexible in terms of attendance.  “Real life > raid life” has always been a motto of ours.  However, obviously, if you’re a prospect, we’ll need you to be there more regularly so you can be evaluated.

- Just because we only raid two nights a week in our main 25-man doesn’t mean the fun stops there.  We have a community chat channel and Ventrilo that are home to a larger extended “family” where you can find 10-mans (including one that has downed Yoggy and one that is close), heroic runs, “retro raids,” and PvP…including the occasional legendary city raid.

- Also, just because we are on an RP server and only raid for six hours a week doesn’t mean we’re soft.  You will be expected to demonstrate a knowledge of your class and proper gearing for Ulduar-25 level content (through Armory, etc.).  You’ll have to show appropriate ability in DPS or healing or tanking or whatever and will be expected to read up on fights ahead of time and know your role in them.  And you’ll be expected to come prepared with proper gems, enchants, consumables, etc., though the raid is more than willing to help out where we can.

- Raid chat and Vent can get decidedly R-rated at times.  Yes, we get raunchy.  We’ve raised the “your mom” joke to an art form.  If you can’t handle that, then we may not be the raid for you.  (Because of this, we generally only accept applicants 18 and over.)

- Finally, the most important things we look for are maturity and friendship.  It’s a lot easier to take a decent person and gear them up and teach them how to play their class than it is to take a great player who’s a douchemuffin and un-douche them.  Save the drama for yo’ mama because we don’t want it.

Now, what are we looking for?  Primarily ranged DPS.  Elemental shamans, mages, warlocks, hunters, and thunderchickens are our biggest need right now.  That’s not to say that melee DPS, healers, or tanks won’t get looked at, but our biggest holes to fill are ranged DPS first, and melee DPS (rogues, enhancement shamans, and DPS warriors primarily–we’re full up on DKs) second.  The summer raiding boss is wiping us hard about now, and we’ve had a few recent departures that have stretched us even further.

No, we’re not a cutting-edge raid.  8/13 Ulduar with our only hard mode being FL +1 is not earthshatteringly awesome.  But for a six-hour-a-week raid, we do pretty damn well.  When we bring it, we bring it hard (that’s what your mom said!) and we bring it right.  We have a lot of fun doing it, too, and really, we’re a lot more than just a two-night 25-man raid.  We’re a big extended group of friends who do lots of other things together as well.

If this sounds like it might interest you, check out this post on our forums by our raidleader Malkavet.  It talks more about the raid’s Core Values and how you can get in touch with an officer to talk about joining The Anvil.  If you’re already on Feathermoon Hordeside, look for Malkavet, Dorritow, Fyriat, Davien, Nikkei, Ghaar, or Ambika.

My name is Linedan, and I came here to kick ass and punt gnomes.  And the last gnome just went over the cliff.


Vanity, for once, thy name is Linedan

I normally don’t care much about fashion on Linedan.  Some of my characters do care about how they look; I admit, somewhat grudgingly, that I picked one of my hunter Illithanis’ pets because it was red and most of her armor was matching red mail at the time.  But Lin?  Nah.  He’s a function-over-form kind of cow.  Besides, so much armor just looks strange on the weird proportions of the male Tauren–bracers disappear completely under the gloves, the legs are so small that pants are hard to even see much less admire, stuff like that.

So it is a rare moment indeed when I have a squee like this.  The Anvil did Flame Leviathan with one tower up for our first hard mode attempt in Ulduar last night.  (It really should be called “sorta kinda hard” mode…even with a tower up, Loot Leviathan still isn’t too bad.)  And he gave us a little something for our extra effort…the Anvil’s first ilevel 232 epic loot.

A Titanguard.

You can't see it, but there's a big stupid grin under that helmet.

You can't see it, but there's a big stupid grin under that helmet.

HOLY SWEET ZOMBIE JESUS DOES THAT THING LOOK INCREDIBLE OR WHAT.

Forget that it’s an epic.  Forget that unlike my old Broken Promise, it actually looks like a fecking sword you use to stab people with instead of a railroad signal.  Forget that I’m enjoying actually tanking with a fast weapon (1.6) again instead of a slow Broken Promise (2.5).  Just look at it, man.  It’s bacon-wrapped badass.  It screams, “hi, I’m Linedan, and I’m going to gut you like a fish and then hit you in the face with my shield until you stop moving.”

I have not been this stupid giddy gleeful happy about an upgrade in a long time.  And it’s not even because it’s a good weapon.  It’s just because of how it looks.  Crikey, next thing you know, I’ll be taking Linedan to the barber shop.

…nah.

(FYI, question for you cutting-edge tank types–what enchant should I put on this beast?  Right now I have a self-made Titanium Weapon Chain on it, which hit-caps me in my block gear and over-hit-caps me in my boss tank gear.  Is Blade Ward worth the ridiculous prices it commands, considering nobody in our raid can apparently do it yet (we’ve had lousy luck on drops)?  What about our old BC friend Mongoose?  You can see his Armory from the link at the top of the page if you’re curious.  Thank you!)


Gardening and snowblowing, Ulduar style

When The Anvil walked into Ulduar Friday night–with a full 25-man Friday complement for the first time in nearly a month–we’d already had what could be classified as a good weekend.  We’d shaken off the failkarma of a few weeks prior and downed Auriaya and the Iron Council for first-time kills on Thursday night.  Friday’s menu was a spicy appetizer of Crotch Pockets (Ignis), followed by a vegetarian main course (Freya) and some tasty ices for dessert (Hodir).

And we had extra incentive.  One of our raid officers, the gracious and charming Dorritow, told us that if we cleared Freya, Hodir, and Thorim, and got to Mimiron trash, she’d dye her hair purple.  Not in-game.  In real life.

Clearly, we had incentive.

A good primary tanking weapon for the Conservatory of Life.

A good primary tanking weapon for the Conservatory of Life.

Ignis fell, and so it was on to see Freya.  If Auriaya is Crazy Cat Lady, Freya is that woman who calls in to the local AM radio gardening show every Saturday morning and rambles on about her begonias before the host has to gently tell her that 7:45 am is too early to be spiking her Ensure with vodka, and then hangs up on her.  Her area is filled with different plant adds, all of whom are out to get revenge for every bite of salad you’ve ever eaten and every bouquet of roses you’ve ever given your significant other.  Basically, it’s PETA–Plants Eating Terrified Attackers.

Now many of us in the raid had never seen the Conservatory before, at all.  I sure hadn’t, in 10- or 25-man.  So you know how it goes on your first time into a place.  Wipe on the trash, steady things up, clear the trash, start grinding down the boss and do a little better each time until you hit your stop time or the boss dies.  Well, surprisingly, we cleared the trash with no wipes (though a few deaths), and set up for our first pull on Freya and her six exciting and dynamic waves of trash ™.

We dropped her.

Let me repeat…we kicked her ass the first time we ever saw her.

It was as close to a perfect performance as I have ever seen us give.  We never got behind on the waves of adds.  Each one died with a couple of seconds to go before the next one spawned in.  Once we got a hold of Freya, it was all over…we quite literally beat the Yoggy out of her in short order.  And everybody was standing at the end!

…for about one second.  That’s how long it took the little bombs that I couldn’t see to go off right next to me, hitting me for about 35k damage and leaving me in the Sprawl of Shame(tm) as the raid celebrated our awesome one-shot.  That is, if you’re keeping track at home, the third new boss kill of the lockout period, and the second which I was face down at the end of due to a lack of being observant.

We're calling this Hodir's Bane.  Obviously it's an epic.

We're calling this Hodir's Bane. We're going to put Berserking on it.

After Freya, it was time for Hodir.  Now we knew that Hodir wasn’t going to be as much of a pushover as his sister…uh, cousin…uh, common-law wife…?  was.  Despite the fact that pretty much all of us had conned his Sons into believing that we were generally cool and froody individuals who should get 20% discounts on their monopoly shoulder enchant prices, Hodir didn’t take it too well when we asked, “so, big guy, what’s in the box?”  Frozen pain ensued.

I lost count of how many times we wiped on the big blue bastard–five or six, maybe seven, I dunno.  This was raiding old-school, biyatch.  This was grinding and grinding and grinding some more, refining our strategy, tweaking assignments here and there, learning things the hard way that weren’t in the explanation–after all, you can read about a fight, and even see movies of it, but until you’re actually there, it just isn’t as good for learning, at least not for me.  Plus, I was in “roflcowpter” mode for this one (arms spec) since it’s a one-tank fight, so I had to shift gears and remember my “waiting for Godot” rotation that I hadn’t played in a few weeks.

But y’know what?  We eventually beat the Yoggy out of him, too.  Our fourth new kill of the weekend, and a great way to end an awesome lockout period.  Sadly, we didn’t have time to attempt Thorim, so Dorritow gets to keep her hair its natural color.  For now.  Doom comes for you, darlin’, and it comes with a bottle of purple hair dye.


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.


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