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Archive for May, 2009

Of unicorns and other imaginary things

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

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

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

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

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

Until last night.

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

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

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

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

A milestone, and a thank you

At some point over the long holiday weekend, Achtung Panzercow hit a milestone I never thought it would.

We passed ten thousand hits.  About 10,100 as I type this on Tuesday, actually.  In less than half a year, even.

I started doing this blog five months ago with some inspiration from Anna over at Too Many Annas and a healthy dose of “I have no clue what I’m doing.”  At the time, I didn’t really know what direction I wanted to take it…and honestly, I still don’t.  There’s already a ton of good warrior blogs, and good raiding blogs, and good RP blogs.  Can I beat any of those at their own game?  Probably not.

So more than likely, for the time being, Achtung Panzercow will simply continue being the slightly disjointed and hopefully entertaining and educational rantings of one WoW addict and his stable of characters, with me writing about whatever I feel like at the time.

Thank all of you who have commented here, linked me, and blogrolled me.  And most of all, thank all of you who have stopped by and read the blog.  I hope you’ve liked what you’ve seen, and that you’re coming back for more.  I’m not going anywhere.

Lessthanthree, folks.  So much lessthanthree.

Feathermoon blog convergence

That’s me and Zulfon from The Stoppable Force, chilling outside Ulduar waiting for our respective raids to start.  Netherdrakes FTW, baby.

BTW, looks like The Anvil’s not hitting Ulduar off this week…only 20 people at pull time.  DAMN YOU, WARM WEATHER AND SUNSHINE AND HOLIDAY WEEKENDS.  DAMN YOU ALL TO HELL.

I’m not a bad anymore…I think?

My wife runs Wednesday nights with a 10-man raid that’s made up of folks from our normal The Anvil 25-man Thursday/Friday raid.  The raid’s called “No Bads.”  I like to joke around with her that this means that I’m “a bad,” since I’m not running with “No Bads.”  Get it?  Yeah, it’s not that funny to her, either.

Last night about 8:45, as I’m messing around Alliance-side on my dwarf, she asks me, “you have any interest in 10-man Ulduar?”  I was shocked, as I’ve never been part of this raid before; their tank rotation is set and very reliable–our 25-man MT, Gorebash, and the raid organizer, Haicu the DK.  “What, Gore’s busy tonight?”, I asked, surprised.

“No,” she replied.  “Haicu says he needs you as DPS.”

Now, you’ve got to understand, yes, I do have a secondary DPS spec on Lin, 54/17/0 Arms.  But I’ve never been able to squeeze more than 2400 dps overall out of him in a 10-man Naxx.  Ever.  His best performance on Patchwerk, a good benchmark, was 3700 dps a couple weeks back; not bad for a part-time DPSer, but way under what all the other DPS in this well-geared, well-running 10-man can do.  His weapon was a Wraith Spear that I hadn’t had a chance to get enchanted.  He’s still rocking a couple of ilevel 187 crafted blues.  And I’m still learning my way around the spec.

Still, I’m friends with this crew, and they needed people.  So if they needed a bad No Bad, then a bad No Bad I would be.

It was a good run–Flame Leviathan, XT-002, Kologarn, Auriaya, all one-shots.  We had some trouble on Hodir but got him on the third try, then went back and cleared out the Iron Council, Razorscale, and Ignis and called the raid 30 minutes early.  I understand Haicu calling it early; we were doing very well, but out of our five DPS, I was a full 1300 below the fourth-ranked deeps on my Recount.  I scraped out about 2200 for the entire raid and barely beat Haicu as the offtank, in fact.  (By comparison, on my Recount, all four of the other DPS were between 3400 and 3800 for the entire night, trash included.)  Throw in two of us never having seen Freya before, and we gladly took our 8 kills and ran.  In fact, this was the first time I got to see the Iron Council, Auriaya, and Hodir, as our 25-man hasn’t killed Auriaya yet.  So I had fun, and nobody seemed to mind the fact that I was sadly lacking in the painbringing department.

And there were lootses, yes, precious, there were lootses.  For my tanky side, there were new pants:

Yep, Lin’s first piece of T8.  Despite the socket bonus being very nice, those gem slots will hold two +24 stamina blues, and with an armor kit, they’ll be a slight upgrade over the T7.5 pants he’s got now.  My biggest priority on him right now is stacking stamina, as he’s just over 30.2k unbuffed and running about 1000 health behind our other warrior tank.

And his DPS offspec picked up some new pieces of kit as well.  A good cloak upgrade that looks fantastic to boot:

And, finally, a bit of a weapon upgrade.  Granted, this is more of a hunter weapon than an Arms warrior weapon.  The speed’s too fast and the top end damage is a bit low, actually 12 points lower than the Wraith Spear I had, so a Death’s Bite or other very slow 200ish dps weapon might be a little better.  But, I think the higher DPS should still make it something of an upgrade over the Wraith Spear.  Plus, we’re on an RP server, and looks do count for something…and it looks good.  It’ll look better when I get Berserking on it tomorrow night.  Besides, I was at the bottom of the loot list anyway, and nobody else wanted it, so why not?  I can’t Mortal Strike people with an Abyss Crystal.

So thanks to Haicu for having me along and letting me see three fights I’d never seen before, and pick up some loot.  The only downside is, now I have Michael Jackson’s “Bad” stuck in my head.  And I’m mentally rewriting the lyrics into “I’m A Bad.”

Well, maybe it’ll give me something to do at work today when I’m not actually working.

When it all goes horribly wrong


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

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

We got ours out of the way last week.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The joy of searches

It’s a fairly common meme in the WoW blogosphere.  Every so often, it’s fun to go through and see what the most popular search terms are that bring people to your blog.  I don’t know about how it works with you folks hosted on other services, but here on WordPress, we’ve got stats we can access that tell us what our most popular search terms are, every day.  So here’s a smattering:

“breakfast club” and variations thereof:  Ever since I did this post on Malygos and threw in some gratuitious references to the 1980s movie The Breakfast Club, this has been far and away my #1 search term.  I guess a lot of folks are maybe looking for some Molly Ringwald/Ally Sheedy pr0n, but wind up on a website with pictures of a male Tauren.  Sorry.

“panzercow” or “achtung panzercow”: Well, durr.

“80 tauren warrior,” “level 80 tauren warrior,” etc.: Again, durr.  I also get a fair number of searches for “hunter” variations since I occasionally mention my two huntards.

“about moose physical characteristics”: Hmm.  Well, my RL nickname is “Moose,” and my other (rarely-updated) blog is called Moose Droppings.

“honey rider”: Ah, this one comes from my gratuitious Illithanis bikini pic in her character introduction.

“castration big boar youtube”: Uhhhh…DO.  NOT.  WANT.

“honest to the point of recklessness”: Well, I do try.

And probably the worst one of all, which turned up twice today:

“black mageweave thong”

On a Tauren warrior?  OH GOD.  MY EYES, THEY BURN.

Congrats to the Wildfire Riders

I have to give a major shout-out here…big congratulations to the Wildfire Riders, my dwarf Beltar’s guild on Feathermoon.  The Riders have been chosen as WoW Insider’s Guild of the Month, and let me tell you, they deserve it.  There aren’t that many guilds out there that can deliver great roleplay one night and then go kick Ulduar in the nuts the next, and I’m damn fortunate to be in two–the Riders on Beltar, and Noxilite on Linedan.

So you want to be a prot warrior: Levels 51-60


What you aspire to be.


Hey kids!  Are we ready to get out our prot warriors and level some more?


I thought you little rugrats were up for it!  Come on, let’s go!

OK, now that I’ve finished channeling my bad cable access kid’s TV show host…on with the grind!  We last left off SYWTBAPW at level 50.  Our build was this 0/0/41 setup right here, and we’d just picked up tasty, tasty Devastate.  Well, let me tell you, if you thought Devastate was good, you ain’t seen nothin’ yet.  These last 10 points in the Protection tree are going to give you some new and very creative ways to dish out pain in amounts that Prot warriors could only dream of prior to patch 3.0’s release.  So grab your talent pane and come along, and let’s see where these last 10 points go…

Level 51:  1/1 Warbringer.  Say hello to mobility.  Warbringer is one of those talents that you won’t think about after a while, but if you ever change specs, you’ll miss it so damn much.  It lets you Charge, Intercept, or Intervene in any stance–and any time you use any of those three abilities, you’ll remove all movement-impairing effects.  The simplest application of this talent just lets you Charge in combat (that’s mainly what I use it for).  But with some macro fu which is beyond the scope of this guide, you can stagger the use of those three abilities and become a steel-covered pinball of death.  And needless to say, the PvP applications of this are pretty staggering.  Master the use of this, and you become a mage’s worst nightmare.

Levels 52-54:  3/3 Critical Block.  This gives you a 30% chance to block double your normal amount on any successful block.  It also increases the critical strike chance on Shield Slam by 15%.  Remember last time how I said that Shield Slam is your big whammy?  It just got a metric crapton bigger.  And yes, Critical Block stacks with Shield Block when it’s up, occasionally allowing you to block obscene amounts of damage.  (At level 80, raid-buffed, my record block is well above 5000.)

Levels 55-57:  3/3 Sword and Board.  Free things are always good, right?  Well, Sword and Board gives you free things.  Most importantly, whenever you connect with a Revenge or Devastate and deal damage, you have a 30% chance of “refreshing the cooldown of Shield Slam and reducing the rage cost by 100% for 5 seconds”–in effect, giving you five seconds to get off a rage-free Shield Slam.  This is a very important ability, and in fact, becomes top dog in your priority system due to the short window of use.  You’ll know it procs because of the “clunk” noise and swirling band of shield icons that pop up around you.

Levels 58-59:  2/2 Damage Shield.  Warrior thorns, basically.  Any time you’re hit, or block, a melee attack, you reflect back 20% of your current Shield Block Value as physical damage, which the target then mitigates normally.  And yes, it can crit.  (The fact that Damage Shield can crit becomes important later on.)  This ability only works if you’ve got a shield on, as far as I can tell…and it is affected by Shield Block, so popping Shield Block gives your Damage Shield damage a noticeable boost.  It can have some interesting side effects; for example, if you get attacked by a PvP-flagged mob, even if you don’t do anything, your Damage Shield will do damage to it and thus flag you.

Level 60:  1/1 Shockwave.  And here’s the Pinnacle of Prot, Shockwave.  It’s a frontal cone attack with an alleged range of 10 yards; in actuality, it’s more like 7 to 8 yards because the cone starts slightly behind you.  The base damage is 75% of your Attack Power, and it also stuns anything it hits for 4 seconds.  This is a really handy tool, in addition to being a decent source of damage.  It provides reasonable AOE threat, it can stun to buy your healers a couple of seconds to patch you up, and it’s great for positioning mobs.  On a pull, just gather them all in front of you, and kapowie.  It does have a 20-second cooldown, so pick your shots with it.

In terms of new spells…there are none between 50 and 60.  You gain new ranks of a lot of your old friends, some of them twice during this period.  But there’s nothing shiny and new until Victory Rush at level 62.  Your only new active toy will be Shockwave at level 60, plus any reconfiguration you do of your bars and keybindings to take advantage of Warbringer.

The addition of Warbringer, Sword and Board, and Shockwave lays another level or two of complexity on your tanking priority system, and also gives you much more flexibility on pulling and positioning.  You now don’t have to worry about changing stances if you want to Charge-pull, which is nice.  A typical initial pull might go something like this:  Charge one mob, immediately Thunder Clap.  As you’re positioning the mobs, hit Shield Block; in addition to mitigating damage (thus reducing the healing you need, thus reducing healing agro) this will increase the amount of Damage Shield damage you’re reflecting back on the bad guys.  Perform your usual dance, spreading the love around as much as you can, until 10 seconds is up and Shield Block is down…then make sure everybody’s in front of you, and Shockwave.

Why do it this way?  Because you’re getting rage from being hit.  When you Shockwave, you aren’t being hit.  Getting beaten on for the first 10 seconds of the fight while you’ve got Shield Block up gives you more rage, puts more Damage Shield damage on the off-targets, and lets you drop two Thunder Claps for AOE agro in addition to everything else you’re doing.  If Shield Block is up, and you Shockwave and stun all the targets, you’re just wasting four seconds of your precious 10-second Shield Block uptime.

Your normal tanking priority system looks like this now:

  • Is Sword and Board up?  This comes first due to the short uptime and high damage potential.  For some gear configurations Revenge may hit slightly harder than Shield Slam, but Shield Slam has the +15% crit from Critical Block.
  • Is Revenge up?  Revenge is now your solid #2 move.  As always, if you have a Glyph of Revenge, follow the Revenge with an immediate Heroic Strike, since it costs no rage.
  • Is Thunder Clap off cooldown and I’m facing multiple targets? Use Thunder Clap to try and keep other mobs beside your current target on you, and for damage mitigation by the 20% attack speed slow.
  • Is Shockwave off cooldown and I’m facing multiple targets stacked in front of me?  Go for it.  Just don’t do it if you need rage from taking a few hits.
  • Is Shield Slam up?  Give ’em the pimp hand.
  • Do I have more than 40 rage? If so, it’s time for Heroic Strike or Cleave to convert it into damage.
  • None of the above? Devastate, for threat and extra physical damage.
  • Debuffs:  Don’t forget to drop Demoralizing Shout if you have a spare global cooldown.
  • Long-cooldown attacks:  If Concussion Blow is off cooldown, and you don’t need it to stun casters or runners?  Heck, use it if nothing else is handy.  It’s extra damage and a stun, why not?

Also, remember, you will certainly have to target-switch and spread the love among the multiple targets you’re no doubt tanking.  One trick I find helpful is, when possible, to orient myself so that I have no other mobs than my tank targets in my screen view.  Ye olde TAB key is notoriously weird about tabbing to a mob 20 yards away when you’ve got four nomming on your face, so only having those four mobs on the screen helps prevent that.

For instancing, the old world is your oyster by the time you hit 60.  You leave behind the piles of suck that are Mauradon and Sunken Temple and head into the Blackrock instances, Stratholme, Scholomance, or Dire Maul.  Strat and Scholo in particular will challenge your multi-target tanking skills and push you to improve.  Not that many people head into BRD, LBRS, or UBRS anymore, but go if you get the chance.  Even though they’re too damn big and too damn long, personally, I still like them just for the look.  One thing I wouldn’t do is tank Outland instances until you’re about 61 and have replaced most of your gear with Outland items–then you can look into Hellfire Ramparts and Blood Furnace.

Your gearing priorities start to shift subtly in the high 50s.  At 58 you head to Outland, and don’t worry about whatever you’re wearing at the time, it’ll be gone by the time you hit 61–you’ll replace everything in short order.  You should start looking, in addition to strength and stamina, for pieces with some +hit and +defense on them.  We’ll talk more about this in the next post in the series, which is about tank gearing for the 60-80 stretch.

Now go forth and Shockwave, my minions!

Now why didn’t I think of this?

This idea from Llanion at Mad Cow Chronicles may be the greatest thing I’ve ever heard.  Get some friends together, strip down naked, start at Ragefire Chasm (or Deadmines for you Alliance types), and tear through instances of increasing difficulty, equipping only what you loot.  How cool is this?

The Tao of the Click

I don’t know how anybody else’s raid works, but something I’ve noticed about The Anvil over the years is that we’re subject to an occasional phenomenon I call The Click.  It goes something like this: 

We’re beating ourselves bloody on a boss encounter, wiping repeatedly, making slow progress with the occasional backslide or silly wipe.  We reform and buff up for our third or fifth or eighth attempt of the night, maybe we make a few minor strategy tweaks, possibly we get a pep talk from an officer.  Nothing, outwardly, appears to distinguish this attempt from any of our other unsuccessful ones.

Then we pull, and something just…happens.

All the adds get picked up exactly when, where, and how they’re supposed to.  Nobody pulls agro, nobody stands in fire/poison/voidpoo (well, not much).  The DPS are hitting on all cylinders, the healing is perfect.  We’ve got 25 people executing their designated roles like we’ve seen this fight a hundred times before instead of just, say, ten.  And a few minutes later, we’ve got a dead boss at our feet, well before any enrage timers, with very few or no deaths in the process.

That’s The Click.  We try an encounter again and again with minimal progress, and then out of the blue, on one particular attempt, everything just clicks and we slap down the boss like he owes us money.  (Which, if you think about it, he does.)

And for today’s example of The Click, I submit, as Exhibit A (for asshole)…


…Ignis the Furnace Master.  Also known as “Captain Crotchpocket.”  (Picture courtesy of WoWWiki.)  Ignis is an optional boss in the front end of Ulduar, a friggin’ huge fire giant who’s wearing a giant wiggling pot of boiling slag in front of his package.  I can almost picture him standing in front of his furnace, humming a little Justin Timberlake…”one, cut a hole in the pot…two, put your junk in the pot…three, throw an elf in the pot…”

Anyhoo, Ignis is a “don’t stand in shit” fight with a twist.  Every so often he spawns a golem construct from the side of the room.  That construct has to be parked in the fire that Ignis leaves behind (I guess it’s spilled crotchslag), which eventually turns it “molten” and drops its agro.  The molten construct then has to be pulled over into a pool of water on either side of the room, turning it “brittle,” and leaving it vulnerable to being shattered by a strong attack.

Ignis was our stumbling block for two weeks.  When we went in there a week ago last Friday, we got, not to put too fine a point on it, owned.  Our best attempt out of six or seven was 55%.  This past Thursday was more of the same.  We tried a variety of different placements and kiting patterns, two tanks on the constructs, one tank on the constructs, but nothing seemed to work.  We were still just getting savaged, including one of our better wipes in recent memory–a 33-second, start-to-finish, wipe where he Scorched the entire raid before our tank could get him turned around.

We came in Friday night with a refined strategy for handling constructs and a revised pattern for our MT to move Ignis around, making it easier to get constructs molten while keeping the raid from standing in, y’know, fire.  Our DK offtank would use Chains of Ice to park the constructs in fire and, once they were molten, use his handy-dandy Death Grip to yoink them over to the pools where our mages would then dispatch them.  (It also didn’t hurt that they recently made the constructs go molten in half the time they did pre-nerf.  This one-tank technique may not have worked otherwise.)  Since my services were not needed to tank (*sniff*), I got to try out my Arms spec for the first time in a 25-man.

From the first five seconds of the first attempt, all the failures and foul-ups of the previous two nights disappeared.  It was perfect.  People didn’t stand in fire much, everybody who got thrown into the crotchpot got healed, our DK/mage team handled the constructs with apparent ease.  We were rolling.  After never getting him below about 50%, we dropped him on our first attempt of the night, with no deaths.  Everybody was still talking about it when we broke up a couple hours later.  That, my friends, is a prime example of The Click.  We went from flailing to fantastic in the space of six minutes.

The problem is, The Click is not controllable.  All you can do is know your role and perform it to the best of your ability, all the officers can do is work up coherent strategies and make sure people are assigned where they need to be.  You can do all that and still wipe nine times straight on a progression boss.  It just happens.  And yet, you can go into the tenth pull, do the exact same things the exact same way, and bang, you give the boss the pimp hand and look like you’re one of those world-first EU guilds doing it.

You can’t really summon The Click on demand, but you can give yourselves the best opportunity for it to happen.  Just be your best.  Be geared properly, have your enchants and gems and buff food and potions squared away, be attentive, know the fight and know exactly what you are expected to do by your raid.  Then just go out there and do your best, every time.  Execute the strategy to the best of your ability.  And if 10 or 25 people do that all at the same time, with a bit of luck sprinkled in…well, maybe The Click is a little more controllable than I thought.

It’s a young man’s game

In 1990, when I was 24 years old, I moved back to central Virginia, where I grew up, from the Washington, DC suburbs.  This brought me back into touch with a crew that I had done pen-and-paper gaming with whenever I was back home from college, or visiting from DC.  We always met and played at the same house, out in the middle of God-forsaken nowhere about four miles from civilization, down a quarter-mile of steep, rutted, bodywork-busting rock-and-dirt “driveway.”

Oddly enough, none of us ever drank much booze.  We loaded up on Diet Coke and Mountain Dew and tap water, on gigantic bowls of popcorn and gobs of fried rice and bags of Doritos and the occasional supermarket pizza as a “real meal.”  And we gamed.  God, did we game.  AD&D much of the time, with rotating DMs through a whole series of homebuilt adventures mixed in with some classics like the old Against the Giants modules–probably still my favorite packaged AD&D adventures of all time.  Sometimes, we’d shift over to FASA’s Mechwarrior.  Weekend after weekend, the floor was cleared off, the 30mm hex grid was laid down, miniatures were placed, dice flew, and the saga of the First Guardians Mercenary Mechwarrior Company unfolded in imaginary fire and steel.  I was the GM, most of the time.  And I always lost–not just because the players were supposed to win, but because I am, quite probably, the worst Battletech player of all fricking time.

We did this most Friday and some Saturday nights.  If we got done before 1 am, it was early.  2:00 was about average.  And several times, after some particularly epic adventure or tense roleplay, we’d stagger out into the damp morning air down by the James River, jittery with caffeine and reeking of cigarette smoke, and drive to our respective homes with the Saturday or Sunday morning sun to greet us.  I’d get home, stagger down to my apartment, throw my stinky clothes in the washer, and faceplant into my pillow.  And about six hours later, I’d wake up, cocked locked and ready to rock, feeling like a million bucks, ready to do it again.

That was a long time ago.

Now I’m 42.  I have a three-year-old daughter, and a job where they occasionally expect me to be coherent.  I 25-man raid two nights a week, 9:00 – 12:00 Eastern on Thursdays and 9:30 – 12:30 Eastern on Fridays, with occasional 10-mans about 8:30 – 12:30 on Saturdays.  Afterward, of course, there needs to be some time to chill and slow the brain down, so I’m rarely in bed before 1:00, sometimes as late as 1:30.  Minimal snack food, minimal caffeine (but some, I’m still an addict), just me and my wife at our computers and 23 friends on the other side of the screen.  I hit the sack, and I get up six hours later…

…and I feel like shit.  I’m sitting here right now thinking that I really should be doing some work, or at least finishing up an RP forum post I owe my Alliance guild, or working on next month’s budget, or reading Iron Council strats in case we finally get by Ignus tonight…and all I can do is sit here in a half-stupor and bang out this semi-rambling post about, well, sitting here in a half-stupor.

I have friends who seem to be able to get by on ridiculously small amounts of sleep–not just “get by,” but function fully.  I’m not one of them.  I have no idea why.

I very rarely wish I was 25 again.  I’m pretty comfortable with who I am and where I am, and try not to look back and second-guess things very often.  But this is one of those times.  I remember those days of being able to shrug off 11 solid hours of D&D in a smoke-filled living room like it was nothing…and wonder why 3 1/2 hours of a WoW raid kicks my ass so hard.