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Archive for March, 2010

Patch 3.3.3: Revenge of the Revenge


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

3.3.3 goes live

It’s Tuesday, and that means…IT CAN BE PATCH TIEMS NAO?  WoW patch 3.3.3 drops today, no doubt bringing with it the usual headaches of extended extended maintenance, broken addons, and crippling lag.  I guess you have to think of it as the pain we go through to get our new toys.

And for those of us of the warrior-ly persuasion, there are a few new toys in the box this time.  Straight from the talbuk’s mouth, here’s the last set of PTR patch notes for 3.3.3, which should be pretty close to, if not exactly the same as, what’s hitting the servers today:

  • Revenge: Damage done by this ability (base and scaling) increased by 50%.
  • Thunderclap: This ability now counts as a ranged attack, granting it double damage on critical strikes instead of 150% and ranged miss chance, and still cannot be dodged or parried.
  • Talents
    • Arms
      • Bladestorm: Warriors can now be Disarmed while under the effects of this ability.
      • Trauma: The debuff from this talent now lasts 60 seconds, up from 15 seconds.
    • Fury
      • Rampage: This effect is now passive instead of being a proc from critical strikes.
    • Protection
      • Improved Revenge: This talent can no longer trigger a stun, and instead causes Revenge to strike an additional target for 50/100% of Revenge’s damage.
  • Vitality: Now boosts Stamina by 3/6/9%, up from 2/4/6%. Strength and expertise benefits have not changed.

That’s a nice little set of changes…and if you’re an old-school warrior like me, you might be shocked to see that they’re all positive except the Bladestorm change.  Only one nerf out of a bunch of changes that big is not something I’m used to.

Of course, we’ll talk about the Prot warrior changes first, starting with Revenge.  Revenge post-Wrath has always hit like a truck.  For some combinations of gear, especially while leveling, Revenge is a Prot warrior’s hardest-hitting ability, outstripping Shield Slam.  In the endgame, however, with the recent big boost to Devastate damage, Revenge fell a bit down the priority list.  One Devastate, with nothing other than the global cooldown, could hit almost as hard as a Revenge, with a five-second cooldown.  Plus Devastate was always available, while Revenge requires a block, dodge, or parry in order to activate (which means, practically, it’s almost always available).

Well, call this patch Revenge of the Revenge.  A flat 50% scaling damage buff is big.  Very big.  Old Revenge hit for ([1454 + AP * 0.207] to [1776 + AP * 0.207]) damage at top rank.  New, improved Revenge hits for ([1635 + AP * 0.310] to [1998 + AP * 0.310]) damage, according to WoWHead’s PTR site.  Now that doesn’t look like a complete 50% damage buff to me because the fixed portions of the equation only went up about 200 points, so take these numbers with a grain of salt…but the scaling factor off of attack power indeed went from 0.207 to 0.310, a 50% increase.  And considering that a raid-buffed Prot warrior is going to have high attack power (Linedan, in ICC-25, buffs out over 7000), even if we don’t see a 50% damage increase, we’ll see a substantial one for sure.  I expect it’ll be quite possible to get close to five-digit Revenge crits…off a talent that costs two points of rage if you’ve taken 3/3 Focused Rage, which you should’ve.

This is combined with a change to the Improved Revenge talent to make it useful again…maybe.  The old 2-point talent had a 25/50% chance to proc a 3-second stun.  The new talent instead functions like a Cleave, and spreads 50/100% of the Revenge damage to a second target.  Obviously, this is Blizzard’s attempt to assuage those of us who continually mumble about Prot warriors’ worst-in-role AoE tanking capability.  But it’s really not a big help.  Yes, the ability to drop a big whammy on two targets at once is nice, especially for an economical 2 rage.  But we can already do that with Cleave, albeit at a much higher rage cost.  One extra target doesn’t help us that much when we’re fighting to handle a four-mob pull, or (even worse) one of those humongous trash packs in the Lower Spire in ICC.  I’ve found the stun to be very handy while leveling Latisha, and it’s literally saved her life more than once (including a fight in the Wintergarde Mausoleum just yesterday, in fact).  But you have to admit, this is smart on Blizzard’s part.  It provides a damage and two-target control buff for PvE Prot warriors, while removing one of the control mechanics (the stun) that had PvPers up in arms over PvP Prot warriors.  It’s a win, I just don’t think it’s a very big win.

The Thunder Clap change might sound odd, but here’s why this is important.  Thunder Clap has apparently always been considered a spell, not a ranged attack.  That’s meant it uses the spell hit cap, which is over 100 points higher than the melee hit cap of 263 hit rating.  It also used the spell crit rule of 150% damage on crit, not 200% as for melee and physical ranged attacks.  With it being classified (finally!) as a physical ranged attack, it will use the same hit and crit percentages as all our other attacks.  It will crit harder.  And, we may finally be able to use TC while silenced.  That’s a nice buff.

Finally, there’s Vitality now giving Prot warriors an extra 1/2/3% stamina boost.  I think this means that Lin should be able to buff out around 58,500 to 59,000 health when we hit ICC this week, if Hellscream’s Buff of Pity is still at +5%.  If it goes up to +10%, which is not in the patch notes?  60k, baby.

Arms warriors get one good and one bad in this patch.  The Bladestorm nerf is, obviously, a PvP nerf.  Why it’s needed, I don’t know; Lin’s offspec isn’t Arms anymore and I never PvP’d with it anyway.  (I wonder if the Bladestorm-happy Arms warrior in ToC’s Faction Champions can be disarmed now.  Hmm.)  This is made up for by having the Trauma bleed-enhancing buff last 60 seconds instead of 12.  Druids also get this change to Mangle, which makes my wife happy; that will slightly simplify her hellishly complex feral DPS rotation.

The Fury warrior change, making Rampage a passive aura, is in line with what Blizzard has done with other similar “on-hit” or “on-crit” abilities.  I don’t believe this stacks with Leader of the Pack; it didn’t used to, and I can’t see that changing.  Still, if you don’t have a bear or kitteh in your group or raid, bringing an always-on passive “4 to 5 percent” (huh?) crit buff is a happy thing.  Rampage is generally up almost 100% of the time with a high-crit Fury warrior anyway, but I can’t complain about them removing the “almost.”

So as always, enjoy crashing the addon sites, and good luck in your office pool for “when will my server be back up.”  Tonight should be an excellent night to sit around and roleplay!  It probably won’t be an excellent night for doing much else.

Visiting roads less traveled


For some unknown, masochistic reason, I’ve always had the long-term goal of getting Linedan both the Loremaster and Seeker (3000 quests completed) titles.  Call me a “completionist,” call me a perfectionist, call me an idiot, whatever.  But from the time I first saw the Loremaster achievement, I said to myself, “you will be mine someday.  Oh yes.  You will be mine.”

Apparently, 15 March 2010 is “someday.”  After months of off-and-on work to backtrack through the old world, he is Loremaster Linedan, achieved when turning in overall quest number three thousand and ten in Stonard.

This title is the culmination not just of several months of going on quest-completing binges in zones seventy levels too low.  In a way, it’s the end of a chapter–and the beginning of another–in Linedan’s entire story.

Linedan is five years old this month.  When he first embarked on his career at Red Cloud Mesa in March 2005, the world was yet young and very, well, “vanilla.”  Mobs outside instances were still elite.  Escorts were group quests.  Getting to Camp Taurajo required a long and marginally dangerous run instead of a short flight.  And the world was a big, dangerous place for a simple Tauren warrior with no sugar daddy to support him.  There were times, around level 13 or 14, where Linedan literally did not have enough copper to pay his repair bills, because I didn’t know anything about this “auction house” I kept hearing of, and was dying way too much.

Later on, about level 18 or so, I joined a guild called Hand of the Forsaken.  HotF was the biggest guild Hordeside on Feathermoon at the time, but the majority of the members were level 35+.  They were pushing their top people to level 60 and preparing to hit the endgame–Onyxia and Molten Core at the time–and there wasn’t a lot of time for a lowbie warrior who didn’t have anybody else his level in the guild to pair with.  So I soloed through Lin’s 20s and 30s and into his 40s, always broke and always behind on gear.  It wasn’t until I left Hand and joined an insanely fun bunch called The Sidewinder Band that I actually got to tank instances (they didn’t go well) and run a few group quests with people my level.  A month later, Linedan was in Noxilite–the guild he’s still in today, four and a half years later–and finally hanging with a semi-regular group of friends with whom I could instance or do group quests.

I relived a lot of those memories as I went back to places he hadn’t been in years…or ever, in some cases.  I marveled at the sheer number of quests that he hadn’t done in Stranglethorn the first time through because he’d always been alone.  It felt like I’d had him there for bloody years, and yet he apparently never did any of the Nesingwary quests.  He’d never killed the ship captains off Booty Bay, or the giant up the coast, or saved Yenniku, or retrieved that gnome’s damned Pupellyverbos Port from the sands of the Hinterlands.  He ran through Silvermoon, Tranquilien, Durotar, Tirisfal, Silverpine…doing kid’s errands for a few copper.

He stalked the burning streets of Stratholme and the sweltering halls of Blackrock Depths, doing by himself in minutes what used to take five friends several hours.  He “saved” Bronzebeard’s get from Dagran Thaurissian, and slew Baron Rivendare, and retrieved Atal’ai artifacts, and got some damn weird (and annoyed) looks from level 20s who watched him one-shotting bears.

Ironically, he still did most of it alone.  I had a lot of help along the way, true, but in the end, Lin still cleared his final Northrend stumbling block in Icecrown by soloing all the five-man group quests there save one.

And so, after chipping away at it for months, last night, Linedan crossed the finish line.  His reward is a title, a nice note from Cairne Bloodhoof, and a very ugly tabard.  That title is now in front of his name, and will stay there in preference to any others–yes, even Kingslayer–until Cataclysm comes along.  It’s one thing that I’ve done that actually feels like a significant accomplishment.

This will also play into Linedan’s roleplay quite nicely.  Lin is clanless, and has been something of an exile from Tauren society because of it.  Well, not only is he Exalted with Thunder Bluff and all the other Horde factions, now he’s got the Seeker and Loremaster titles to back it up, and that note from Cairne (which I saved).  I haven’t decided yet how or if I’m going to use this going forward…maybe he’ll have a last name again?  Who knows.  Maybe I’ll finally integrate him back into Tauren society in time for Cataclysm to come along and go Cro Threadstrong on the whole apple cart.

Now what?  I’m not sure.  The next logical thing for me to work on is the World Explorer achievement.  Outland and Northrend were no problem, of course, with flying mounts.  Kalimdor and Eastern Kingdoms?  That’ll be a bit tougher considering that I’ll be groundbound…and repair bills due to guard death can hurt when a death costs 12 gold, not to mention the chances of having to spirit rez.  That means I’d have to go naked, or at least with no armor.  Hmm.

So over the next couple of months, if you’re on Feathermoon, and you see a Tauren in a Pink Mageweave Shirt and a Haliscan Brimmed Hat riding through Alliance-controlled territory…could you give me a few seconds to make sure I get the discovery of where we’re currently sitting before you gank me?  Thanks.  I appreciate it.

The obligatory UI post

I’m pretty sure that there’s a rule of WoW blogging, buried somewhere in the middle of the handbook between sections on “How to Handle Trolls” and “Things You May and May Not Call Ghostcrawler,” that sooner or later, you’re required to show your UI off to the world.  I have successfully avoided doing this for 15 months because, quite frankly, most of the various iterations of my UI are a horrible mess that are sure to cause panic in the aisles like the original screenings of King Kong.  Brave men will go weak in the knees, frail women will get the vapors and faint, children will be scarred for life, and pets will hide under the furniture and not come out, all because my UI finally saw the light of public scrutiny.

The hell with it.  A little chaos is good for the world every now and then.

Plus, I’ve actually got it kitbashed up to the point where, while it’s not super-polished and pretty, and still has some problems, I actually get good use out of it.  It’s not the most elegant use of phospors and pixels out there, but it actually works for me, and that’s the most important thing, right?

See, my UI, like many, is a work of evolution, and my evolution only occurs when something I already have doesn’t work.  Patch days are when my UI takes steps forward out of the primordial ooze.  I have this cycle:  I find something I like and I use it, and won’t change…until a patch breaks it and there’s no update available.  Then I grumble a bit, go find something to “temporarily” replace that function, and fall in love with it so the “temporary” replacement becomes permanent.  That’s just how I roll.

So.  Without any further stalling, here’s the business.  Click to see my UI during a 10-man Saurfang at 1024×768, click again for it in all its dubious full-sized 1680×1050 glory:

I’ve numbered each feature, or at least most of them, so let’s go through them one by one:


Shutting down the haters

Today, I bring you an “it came from the PUG” story with a happy ending.

Our setting:  The Nexus.  I was there on my enhancement fail!shaman Sakula, who is geared…modestly, let’s just put it that way.  Can’t recall offhand if he’s got any greens left, but he’s just gotten his second piece of base T9 and is otherwise mostly rocking item level 187/200 blues and the occasional 200 epic.

We all zoned in, and as always, I scanned my party frame to pick out the tank.  It’s a reflex that comes from having two hunters–on them, the very first thing I always do is target the tank and make him/her/it my focus target so my Misdirect macro works properly.  I saw that our tank was a female blood elf paladin…and she had 22,600 health.

I moused over her, and my tooltip told me she was prot spec.  I looked, figuring she had her ret gear on…nope, that’s a shield and a one-handed mace.  Hmm, this is cool.  Maybe we can get her some upgrades!  I mean, sheesh, it’s Nexus, right?  We’re not exactly talking heroic Halls of Reflection here.  So I dropped target on her and went back to making sure my totems were set the way I wanted them.

Next thing I see is the party healer, a tree druid, say:  “You’ve got to be fucking kidding me.”

Ah, it never fails.  A tank with less than 40k unbuffed health walks into a heroic, and people start crapping themselves.  Before the first pull, before the tank had a chance to prove themselves, the tree took one look at the tank’s gear and immediately thought “fail.”

To her credit, the paladin stood her ground and said, “Is there a problem?” or something similar.  Oh yeah, you go pallytank.  The druid didn’t say anything.  The paladin, honor apparently satisfied, turned around and headed off to pull the first drake.

And so, off we went toward the Halls of Stasis.  The only other comment the druid made the entire time was, a couple pulls in, another snide comment to the tank:  “Could you at least buff yourself so I have something to heal?”  Oh, this guy’s a real douchetree.  One Blessing of Kings later, she was up to about 24.5k health, and on we continued.

We took the usual route through Nexus, and other than the undergeared-worse-than-me mage dying twice on Grand Magus Telestra trash, it was a solid, unexceptional heroic Nexus run.  The paladin tank did a solid job holding agro and other than one somewhat cocked-up trash pull where agro went wonky (causing us to scramble like hell, me to bring out the spirit doggies early, etc.), everything hummed along in the fine boring manner you’d expect.

20 minutes later, we stood in front of Keristrasza’s corpse.  And I couldn’t resist, after seeing the “undergeared” paladin tank shut up Mr. “you’ve got to be fucking kidding me” Treebag with a great tank job.  I turned to the paladin and said “Great tanking, Renai, thank you.”  Other than a “thank you” from Renai, want to know what the two replies I got were?

Rogue:  “lol easy with tricks”

Druid:  “pfft great heals more like” *drop group*

Sadly, I didn’t get a chance to ignore the druid, or to personally compliment the tank before she dropped group.  So I’ll say it here instead, and hope there’s a 1-in-1000 chance it gets back to him/her/it:  Renai of Suramar, I salute you for a job well done.  And, most importantly, I salute you for standing your ground in the face of Non-Overgeared Tank Hate, and for shutting down the haters.

/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.

The dreaded B-word

Burnout. It’s one word that all of us as gamers are familiar with.  And make no mistake, Gentle Reader…it will happen to you.  Nothing lasts forever, and that includes the obsession that you’re feeling with whatever is your current favorite game.  Even WoW.

In case you haven’t noticed, the content here on Achtung Panzercow has slowed down a fair bit.  This is partially due to a busy real life schedule that’s cut into my blogging time, but it’s mainly because I’ve hit a bit of burnout with WoW and with the blog simultaneously.  My gaming time over the past month has shifted more toward a brief fling with Star Trek Online (verdict:  good chance I won’t resubscribe when my free month ends on March 11) and finally, after three months of it sitting on my hard drive, making progress in Dragon Age:  Origins.  And even then I haven’t finished the game–I shelved my original human noble warrior and am now attempting to make a go of it with, of all things, a dwarf rogue ranger.  Yep, that’s right, kids…I’m playing my dwarf huntard in DA:O. So far, things are going well, except I’m still waiting for archery to actually be worth something.  Half the time he ends up drawing swords and running in to kick darkspawn in their rotted jubblies instead of standing at range and plinking with his crossbow.  But I digress.

I am a cyclical gamer–always have been, probably always will be.  My tendency, for the 21 years I’ve had a PC sitting on my desk at home and games to put on it, is to grab onto one New Thing, sink my teeth into it like a frenzied terrier, and go nuts on it.  That works with both single-player games and MMOs, by the way.  I “hit it like I mean it” for a period of time, playing it to the exclusion of most any other recreational gaming, and, depending on the game, to the exclusion of some sleep as well.

Then at some point, from a week to a few months later, the passion fades.  I still play, but not with the same intensity.  I go through a period where I hesitate to fire the game up, then to where I actually am sick of the game.  That’s usually when the Next New Thing comes along…or, as often as not, when an Old Thing comes back to life and snags me again.  The Great Wheel turns yet again, or, as we say in consumer-driven America, “lather, rinse, repeat.”

This cycle is why I still have a sub to EVE Online even though I rarely fire the game up anymore.  Every so often I get this jones to jump back in my Dominix or Retriever and mission or mine hard for a few days…and then I get over it, and I go a month only logging on to train skills.  (It’s why my EVE character damn near has more skill points than he does money.)  I do the same thing with flight simulation.  I have over 70 gigabytes of installed addons for Microsoft Flight Simulator 2004 and Flight Simulator X, accumulated over a seven-year span.  I’ll go months without firing up either program, and suddenly one day I’ll get the urge to fly virtually again.  And then I’m in the “cockpit” every night for weeks.

The one game that has partially broken that pattern is World of Warcraft.  My interest in WoW waxes and wanes, as anyone’s does, but I’ve never put the Warcrack down and gone on a complete hiatus in the five years I’ve been playing–not for more than a few days, anyway.  I sat back over the weekend and thought about this, and there’s a few reasons for it.

The biggest, of course, is the people.  If you don’t fire up Dragon Age for a few weeks, Leiliana isn’t going to get worried where her main man went.  But in an MMORPG, those are real people on the other side of that monitor.  I’ve been fortunate to make a lot of acquaintances in five years on Feathermoon, and I enjoy their company.  I don’t want to let any burnout feelings I’m having with WoW affect my communication with them…I’m not tired of them, I’m tired of the game.  Big difference.

The second reason ties in with the first one, and that’s my raid.  I raid three times during the week right now, all on Linedan–Thursday and Friday night ICC 25 with The Anvil, and then a Saturday-afternoon ICC 10 (plus weekly raid quest) with some other Anvillains, including a few alts.  Now while tanks are somewhat rare these days, we’ve got four in our 25-man and some spares available for the 10 as well, so I’m by no means indispensable.  But I’ve always taken seriously the fact that by signing up each week to raid, I’m making a commitment to attend and to do my best in whatever role I’m assigned, be it tank or DPS or whatever.  Real life takes priority, of course.  If I’m sick, or an emergency comes up, or anything like that, I don’t raid–they’d chew me out if I did.  But if I’ve got 24 other people counting on me being there, especially if I’m slotted to tank?  What does it say about me if I just decide to blow that off without a good reason?

The third reason is a corollary to the second.  I’ve raided with The Anvil for well over three years now (except for a period early in TBC where I was part of another Karazhan raid).  I’ve persisted, and improved, and just hung in there, and slowly, glacially, geologically, moved from the days of being “Garr offtank #6” and bottom-of-the-heap hybrid DPS warrior in Molten Core, to being professional #2 offtank all through Tier 4, 5, and 6 25-man content, to being part of our current four-man tank rotation as we poke and prod at Icecrown Citadel.  I don’t want to lose that.  I don’t want to disappear and then come back in a month to find that I’ve (rightfully) lost my spot to someone willing to put forth the effort to be there every night and now I have to go find another raid.  I don’t know even if I’d raid if that happened.

So I’ve got a lot of very good reasons to stay…but can those hold burnout at bay forever?  I don’t know.  So what I try to do, to mitigate the burnout, is reduce my WoW time outside of raiding.  But that runs into another problem.  Raiding nowadays is expensive. Working on progression content for three days usually costs me 150-200 gold in repair bills.  Even taking advantage of my wife having a flask-spec alchemist and a jewelcrafter, and The Anvil being incredibly generous with enchants and gems, and me being able to make Lin’s own sockets and buckles as a blacksmith, upgrades can cost a few hundred gold in raw gems for cutting or materials for enchanting.  Linedan rarely has more than 400 gold to his name.  I spent the couple thousand that he’d accumulated during the first month of the LFD system as I was able to rapidly upgrade several pieces of his then-deficient DPS set.  So I have to keep playing, at least a bit, in order to have the resources to stay on top of my game for the nine hours a week that I raid.

At this point, I don’t think I’m in any real danger of quitting the game anytime soon.  I still have a lot of fun.  But at the same time, the warning signs are there.  I have five level 80s and am leveling two more characters through Borean Tundra and Howling Fjord…and the thought of the grind through Dragonblight, to Grizzly Hills or Zul’drak, to Storm Peaks or Icecrown, isn’t exactly filling me with glee and happiness.  I have “been there, done that” many, many times.  My non-raid playtimes tend toward doing a lot of PUG dungeons, flying around herbing or mining while waiting 15 minutes to get in a random dungeon with people of random intelligence, skill, and personality.  I should break it up by roleplaying more, I know.  But roleplaying takes effort, and due to a myriad number of real-life things, mental effort is not something I’ve got a lot of right now…as witnessed by the fact that I started writing this blog post one week ago and am only now finishing it.

So how do you handle burnout?  What do you do when you feel it creeping up on you?  How do you handle your commitments to your guildmates and friends when your thoughts of logging on to raid change from “wow” to “meh?”  What do you do to make your WoW experience feel different after you’ve been through the content multiple times?

(And finally, as for the blog–Achtung Panzercow is going nowhere. I’m still here.  Updates may slow down a bit from time to time, but I have no intention of leaving either the game or this blog unless something radical happens.)