Well, things in the WoWosphere certainly look like they’re entering coasting mode, don’t they? I mean, they are for me. Of course, my two-week absence from this here blog thang is largely due to finally getting a true non-working vacation for the first time since, uh, I got married almost nine years ago. The wife grabbed her jewelry and Nublet, and headed off to her usual spring craft show in Georgia with a friend to help out instead of me. Meanwhile, I stayed here in the Bunker, put a sign up on the door that said “FUCK OFF UNLESS YOU’RE DELIVERING THE PIZZA I JUST ORDERED,” and engaged in five and a half days of hardcore wholesale nothing. And that “nothing” included a sabbatical from WoW. I even took a voluntary night off from raiding for the first time in, well, a damn long time. After my ICC 10-man finished on Saturday afternoon, I didn’t re-enter Azeroth until this morning, to start getting ready for ICC 25 tonight. I spent the time reveling in the silence of a house without a four-year-old in it, sleeping, getting back into EVE Online, sleeping, doing some virtual flying on Microsoft Flight Simulator, sleeping, watching way too many video clips on Youtube, pigging out, and sleeping. And occasionally taking a nap.
Isn’t that the way things kind of feel right now in and around Azeroth? We’re starting to hit the convergence of two things–the normal burnout-slash-holding-pattern that people seem to hit a few months before an expansion comes out…and that bane of raid leaders everywhere, summer. Blog posts are slowing down, mine included. More and more raids (including ours) are out there beating the bushes for people, whether for regular or sub spots, and the people just don’t seem to be as easy to find as they used to be.
The Anvil has, by my count, cancelled four out of our past seven Friday night ICC-25 runs due to lack of bodies. A combination of these Friday problems–which will probably only get worse with summer coming on–and the time it took us to finally clear the cockblock that was Professor Putricide have greatly slowed our progress through ICC. Right now, we’ve cleared Lower Spire and the Plagueworks, and easily one-shotted Team Edward. Blood Queen Bella is our new challenge, one we have not yet conquered…largely because by the time we get to her on Thursday, we’re close to our hard stop time of midnight EDT, and we’re not getting regular cracks at her on Friday. One of our component 10-mans has killed Arthas; the other, the one I tank, has cleared through Putricide and is working on the Sparkle Boys (which I don’t think is bad at all, considering that the other 10-man runs seven hours over two nights and the 10-man I tank only runs three hours on Saturdays with time carved out for the weekly).
This puts our officers into an impossible situation–do we start extending raid lockouts? Extending the lockout would give us the time to use a Thursday night to progress through Lana’thel and Valithria, but at the same time, a lot of us still need to nom as many Emblems of Frost as we can. In my case, it’s not so much more pieces of tank T10–I have better ilevel 264 pieces in both my remaining non-T10 slots, so I’d need a token to make getting the T10 worth it anyway. It’s more about getting the Primordial Saronite for Pillars of Might and then possibly looking at starting to get T10 for my DPS set…or the Primordials for my Shadow’s Edge. Our officers are going to have tough call over the next few weeks in terms of extending lockouts versus collecting badgers. We’re trying to recruit, and having some success, but our bench is still thin, and there are so many raids now, the pool of available raiders with the proper attitude, maturity, gear, and skill is small.
What I’ve been seeing around the wider WoW blogosphere is…well, fatigue is a good way to put it. People seem a bit bored, a bit tired, a bit snappish. Now that we’ve seen the shiny new class previews for Cataclysm, and we’re seeing beautiful new zones pop up on Blizzard’s site every week or two, going back into Icecrown yet again to work on the same content yet again may not hold the same appeal, nor may writing about it. There’s been blog drama popping up in places I never expected to see it. Old standbys are closing their doors. There’s this haze of ennui drifting around like funny smoke at a Grateful Dead show…OK, maybe nowhere near that thick, but you get the idea.
So you can say I’m a little bit concerned. I remember how things got leading up to the release of Wrath of the Lich King. The Anvil eventually suspended our raiding without ever killing Kael’thas, Archimonde, Illidan, or Kil’jaeden before 3.0 came out. (Our final tally pre-3.0 was, IIRC, full clear SSC, all but Kael in TK, 3/5 Hyjal, 0/9 BT, 0/whatever Sunwell. Post-3.0, we killed Kael easily and then went 7/9 BT in our one visit.) That felt like a long time to be coasting, and I remember hardly logging in for good chunks of it.
I have no fear for the long-term health of the game, or the WoW blogging community, or The Anvil. Cataclysm will bring everybody back and things will ignite to a fever pitch once again. I know we’ll kill Arthas in 25-man someday, whether it’s before Cataclysm or after–although everybody is still dedicated to doing it beforehand, that much I know. I just can’t help but wonder if it’s going to be a very long spring and summer in Azeroth.
Yeah. Everybody else is going to be dissecting these bad boys like a bucket of frogs in biology class, so why shouldn’t I, right? Just remember: half this stuff will never happen as written. Seriously. We in the WoW playerbase have a tendency to hang on Blue Words as if they’re embossed on stone tablets, carried down the side of Mount Sinai by Moses “Ghostcrawler” Heston. Yeah, well, read Exodus 32 sometime. The original tablets? They got broken. So don’t get too worked up.
That having been said, banzai, my peeps, here we go…
As Cataclysm draws nearer and nearer, Blizzard has been releasing information about projected class and game mechanic changes, one class at a time. Everybody should have theirs within a few days of me posting this…except paladins, who for some reason, have to bubblehearth until April 16. Warriors haven’t gotten ours yet got ours about three minutes after I initially hit “Publish”, dammit, but we, along with beartanks, did get some very pertinent (and interesting) information regarding rage and on-next-swing mechanic changes. I’m not going to go digging into huge detail on those just yet–instead I’ll just refer you to Matthew Rossi’s wow.com article on the changes, and save my comments for later after the full warrior preview is released.
But still, reading those changes got me thinking about a few things…not so much nuts-and-bolts warrior and tanking things, but more general things about Cataclysm and what happens when we finally get to the 80-to-85 grind and new content. And an incident this morning crystallized those thoughts into this blog post.
This morning, I got up at zero-dark-thirty because, with the weather the way it’s been in North Carolina this week, it’s the only time that our sunroom-converted-into-computer-room is actually tolerably cool. I got on Linedan and ran a heroic (perfectly unexceptional, smooth Forge of Souls) and then switched over to Illithanis to do her daily heroic–she’s very close to being able to get the frost badge belt so I wanted to make sure I got hers in today.
After the obligatory 11-minute wait, what should appear but the Gundrak splash screen. And then it happened. Before I could run a quarter of the way down the ramp (I run down the ramp instead of jump, because, y’know, I have a freaking pet), the healy shaman is screaming at the warrior tank “rush gogogogogo.” And so he did. He ran into Sladran’s room and pulled all three patrolling three-snake groups before I could even get down to the doorway.
Nine and a half minutes later, we were standing over the end boss’s corpse. In that time, nobody died, nobody said a word, nobody ever stopped, and my DPS sucked because the fights were half over before I could even get there and start firing…and forget about Misdirects, who had time? I didn’t get a chance to loot half my mobs, and they didn’t wait for me to dismiss my pet before the two shortcut jump-downs everybody does after the Colossus and Moorabi. It wasn’t a bad group, truth be told. We got the job done, got our two Frost and three Triumph badges and our shards, and moved on. But it got me to thinking…
Thinking about the bad habits that we’ve picked up in Wrath of the Lich King, especially how we run our random heroics that are all the rage these days. Think about it. How do your groups do heroics? Probably the same way just about everybody else’s do. Foot-to-the-floor, balls-to-the-wall speed runs. The first pull probably happens so fast, the tank leaves skid marks behind like a muscle car peeling out. From there on, it’s a mad dash through the instance like the hounds of Hell themselves are nipping at your feet, quite possibly punctuated by shouts of “gogogogogo” from random party members if the tank dares to take a second to actually, y’know, loot something to cover his repair bill.
Pulls are generally done by the tank: (a) charging into the center of the group and spamming every AOE move he’s got; (b) running into the middle of the group and spamming every AOE move he’s got; (c) death-gripping one member of the group to him, then meeting the rest of the group halfway and spamming every AOE move he’s got, assuming the DPS hasn’t already scattered the rest of the pack to the four winds. Most of the time, the damage is all AoE…Volley, Seed of Corruption, Blizzard, Flamestrike, Whirlwind, Cleave, Thunderstorm (grumble), insert your favorite hits-lots-of-targets button here. Cooldowns are blown every time they’re up. Meters are linked after not just boss fights, but some trash pulls as well. If the tank loses agro while the mage has popped two trinkets and started firing Blizzards 0.6 seconds after entering combat, then it’s obviously the tank’s fault. Polymorphs, Hexes, and Frost Traps, on the rare occasion they’re seen, are usually followed by “oops, wrong button.” Healers can often be seen sneakily dropping Holy Novas and Smites in between casting heals, to avoid falling asleep at the keyboard.
Yep, kids, let’s face it…a lot of us overgear the content. A lot. There’s only so many times that we can run Violet Hold or Gundrak before we get bored and just want to get it the hell over with, not spending one single extra second in the place because we’ve got four other alts to do random heroics on as well. I get that. We do it for the badges, not the challenge or the mob loot. It’s all about speed and efficiency. And that’s all well and good.
So what happens when, after 6+ months of speed-grinding heroics, Cataclysm drops on our heads and we head back into instances that we don’t overgear?
We saw a bit of that when the ICC five-mans came out, particularly Halls of Reflection (Pit of Saron and Forge of Souls to a lesser extent). Those three are a good bit tougher than the older WotLK five-mans. HoR is the only instance now where I see crowd control used at all (the rare priest shackle, usually). Those instances gave people fits for a few weeks until even the densest PUG idiot figured out that, hey, line-of-sighting the Falric/Marwyn trash spawns actually works! And it’s OK to shackle and polymorph and frost-trap stuff, really it is!
Cataclysm has the potential to be Halls of Reflection times a lot. Why? Because we don’t know what sort of things Blizzard is going to do in terms of tank threat. Right now, even warriors can generally put out enough AoE threat to handle tough multiple pulls like, say, HoR–that is, assuming the party focuses targets correctly. What happens if we can’t? What happens if things slide back to a more Burning Crusade-like level where some or all tank classes don’t have the massive Velcro AoE threat that they do now…and yes, fancylads, I’m looking squarely at you. What happens if the “AoE it all down” paradigm we’ve been learning since Naxx-freaking-ramas suddenly goes right out the window and we’re back to the TBC days of “kill order is skull, X, square, sheep the moon, trap the circle, shackle the star?” Will people be able to adapt?
Personally, I would love to see crowd control make something of a comeback, but it’s a risky strategy. Because when you do that, you start laying restrictions down on group composition. I’d like to see something more than “burn it” as strategy, but I also don’t want to return to “well, I’d love to do Shattered Halls, but all we can find is a warrior tank and no mages for sheeping, so we can’t.”
The “AoE is all down” strategy may be here to stay, I’m not sure. If it is, then we’ll have to see what the changes bring for the various tank classes in Cataclysm to see if we can keep pace with DPS threat. But while I never want to go back to the TBC days of skipping Outland heroics because they were just too damn difficult for this average warrior to tank, part of me secretly yearns to have to do a little bit more than Charge, Thunderclap, Revenge, and Cleave-spam…and make the nine-and-a-half minute brute-force “RUSH GOGOGOGO” instance a thing of the past, at least for a little while.
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.
Well, here we are. April 1. April Fools’ Day. I suppose this is the time now where I’m supposed to post some semi-plausible joke post…y’know, something like, say, “I’ve decided to move all my characters off of Feathermoon to a PvP server, change Linedan from a Tauren Prot warrior to a female human holy paladin, and rename the blog Achtung Sparklymaedchen” or some such silliness. That wouldn’t work. You guys know I’d go Draenei instead of human if I did that, so that wouldn’t fool anybody.
Nope. Not me. We Prot warriors are serious types, after all. We hold the fate of entire raids in our large, studly, calloused hands. We mash more buttons before 9 a.m. than prot paladins mash all day. We don’t have time for frivolity. We constantly train, we constantly theorycraft, we constantly prepare. We study video of boss fights like an NFL defensive back watches game film of the opposing quarterback. This is an awesome, crushing responsibility that we bear, and we take it very damn seriously, people.
Which is why I’ll just take today to link to this excellent explanation of the latest WoW feature Blizzard has under development. Maybe we’ll even see it before Cataclysm!