(This story came out of the convergence of two things. One is the Feathermoon Peace Summit, a bit of RP that’s happening tonight, Friday 7 September, in Dalaran; a group of PCs from both factions will be meeting to attempt to broker at least a tenuous peace and time to heal in the wake of Deathwing’s destruction and the end of the Cataclysm. It will, of course, all go spectacularly wrong in two weeks or so…but the characters don’t know that.
The second is trying to explain the fact that I haven’t played World of Warcraft for going on six months now, and hadn’t played my dwarf hunter Beltar for a few months before that. He’s been absent for almost a year. I offhandedly mentioned something about this on Twitter one day a few weeks back and Marty–the guy behind Bricu Bittertongue, driving force behind the Peace Summit, world’s most ascerbic paladin and Number Two of the Wildfire Riders–came up with this idea. I took it and ran with it. Combine the dwarf’s newfound love of archaeology and the heightened state of tension between the Horde and Alliance, and season it with my tendency to do horrible things to my own characters, and, well, here you are.
There are several other parts to the story, which will come in due time as I write them. And yes, this means that I hope to get back to WoW blogging, and blogging about other games as well, on a more consistent basis. I don’t know if I’m over my critical WoW burnout, and my head is still kind of fucked up in a lot of ways, but with a new job and living in a new town taking some of the pressure off things, I am somewhat optimistic–a rarity for me–that I can get my poop collected enough to get my blog groove back.
Oh, this story is rated “R” for language, thick dwarven accents, and exploding heads.)
Beltar Forgebreaker had never been very good with numbers.
Mathematics, advanced or otherwise, had never been a subject that the School of Hard Living had bothered to teach him. He could do what he termed “simple cipherin’,” if he had quill and paper, or perhaps charcoal and rock, or even stick and dirt, to hand. He tended to count on his fingers a lot, out loud. Someone had once told him that if he’d apply himself to learning some sort of bizarre form of science he only remembered as “trigganawhatthfuckever,” it would make him a better shot. But that was pigshit, he knew. He didn’t think about being lethal behind the stock of a gun, he just was. He sighted, he fired, things died, and he didn’t waste time or effort worrying about the whys and wherefores of it. “Why mess it up with thinkin’?” was his reply.
Fact was, he simply didn’t need to be good with numbers. He could count the coin in a purse given to him after killing a target or completing a job as a bodyguard, and when that was empty, he went on to the next one. The nuances of finance, of computing compound interest or balancing a ledger, that was best left to others. As long as he had enough to eat and drink and whore and buy what he needed, with a little stuffed away in a sock for emergencies, that was fine.
But there was one number, now, that Beltar never lost track of, and never forgot. He carried it with him, every waking second, and he knew exactly how to cipher it and how he had arrived at the result. That number was precisely three hundred and sixteen.
It was the number of days since the orcs had captured him.
(The Pig and Whistle, just shy of a year earlier.)
Taverns like the Pig don’t operate on the same schedule as the rest of Stormwind, or even the rest of Old Town. The quietest time inside the Pig isn’t the darkest part of the night, just before dawn, but instead is the brightest part of mid-morning, when the good citizens of Old Town (there are a few, believe it or not) are at work, and everyone else is still sleeping off the previous night’s adventures.
This sunny, quiet morning inside the Pig’s main room, there were just two people up and about. One was Reese Langston, doing what Reese had gone for gods alone knew how many years, even before the Wildfire Riders had come along and taken over…cleaning mugs, arranging taps, preparing the tavern for the day ahead. The other was Beltar Forgebreaker, perched awkwardly in a chair too tall for his dwarven frame as always, gun propped against the table and bulging pack taking up another chair nearby. He was enthusiastically polishing off the last of an egg-and-steak breakfast, letting fly with a huge belch as he put down his fork.
“You knock the mugs off my shelf burpin’ like that, Forgebreaker, they’re coming out of your beard,” Reese growled without even looking up.
“Bah,” Beltar replied. “This little trip o’ mine works out, I’d get ya sommat fancy glass t’replace ’em…y’know, fer ’em tea-drinkin’ mage types.” He wiggled his fingers at Reese.
The barkeep snorted. “You ain’t said where you’re goin’ on this trip, anyhow.”
Beltar eased down off the chair and began arranging items in his pack. “Kalimdor, ain’t as sure ‘zactly where yet. Hirin’ on w’ Explorer’s League, doin’ some ruins diggin’ over ‘ere. Turns out Deathwing, in addition t’damn near destroyin’ th’ world an’ all, cracked open a few ol’ night elf an’ dwarf ruins, an’ th’ League’s been lookin’ fer folks t’, ah, ‘freelance,’ shall we say. Y’know, workin’ fer ’em but not quite workin’ fer ’em, case th’ locals git techy ’bout it. ‘Plausible deniawhatsit,’ one ’em perfesser types called it.”
“Never pictured you as the archaeologist type, Forgebreaker,” Reese said, putting down the mug he’d been polishing. “I always thought you’d use artifacts for target practice.”
Now it was Beltar’s turn to snort. “I ain’t no pointy-headed Harrison Jones-type what can’t tie ‘is boots, lad. But…Nether, I dunno. Gotta have somethin’ t’do what with peace breakin’ out like a rash, aye? ‘At Jones ponce gave me a coupla books, I read ’em, dig some diggin’, found out I kinda liked it and apparently I ain’t ‘arf bad at it.” A shrug. “Must be in our blood ‘r’ somethin’, dwarves diggin’ up ancient shit.”
“You told Tarquin or Annie?”
“Nah. They don’t need t’know.” Beltar went back to arranging his pack.
“Ain’t nothin’ wrong.” Beltar didn’t turn around but kept working on the pack.
“Horseshit. Don’t lie to a bartender, Forgebreaker. You oughta know by now that never works.”
“Ain’t nothin’ what needs t’be talked about, Reese,” Beltar replied shortly, still not making eye contact.
The dwarf stopped working on the pack, hung his head, and sighed before looking back up at Reese. “Aright, lad. Y’want yer answer? The short of it is, it ain’t like they need me ’round here noway.”
“What are you on about?”
“Take a look ’round, Reese. Deathwing’s done. Shaw’s backed down. Boss’s turned legit, as close as that boy’ll ever git. Riders got ever’thin’ under control ’round here. Sevens ain’t even fuckin’ wi’ us no more, on account’a th’ Riders bein’ dragonslayers ‘n’ shit. I ain’t no dragonslayer. They didn’t need me fer any ovvit.” He turned back around and started yanking on straps and drawstrings on the bulging backpack. “Ain’t but three things I ever been good at, Reese—used t’be four but I’m gettin’ on too old fer ‘at one. Number one’s killin’, number two’s drinkin’, an’ turns out, number three’s diggin’. Got ’nuff people ’round here t’handle number one, an’ it ain’t like y’can make a livin’ outta number two. So I’mma go dig. Might help git m’head right, might not, who knows? But hangin’ ’round here w’ fuck all t’do surely ain’t.”
Beltar awkwardly hoisted the pack onto his back and began strapping it on. “Figger they all might notice I ain’t been ’round in a few days, ‘r maybe not. Reckon if they don’t, ain’t no loss on either side, aye? ‘S all covered either way. I ain’t left no notes ‘r’ nothin’, figger y’can tell anybody askin’.”
Reese stood there with his mouth half-open as the dwarf finished adjusting his backpack and started walking for the door. “That sounds damned final, Forgebreaker. You are comin’ back, right?”
Beltar shrugged as he picked up Black Death, his rifle. “Prolly. I ain’t plannin’ t’git m’self killed, if that’s what yer askin’. Guess…I dunno. Guess a change o’ scenery might do me some good, I reckon. Feel like I’m actually part o’ somethin’ again, y’know, ‘stead o’ just th’ ol’ dwarf in th’ corner wi’ a pig an’ a ale.”
He stopped and turned back as he reached the threshold and stared out into the bright Stormwind morning. “Take care o’ yerself, Reese. I’mma miss yer cookin’.” A forced grin. “An’ mornin’s like ‘is. Yer…yer a good man, lad. See ya soon.” He stepped forward and disappeared into the dusty sunlight of the street outside.
“You too, Forgebreaker,” Reese Langston said softly.
That afternoon, when Reese went back around to the stable, he saw a familiar black shape standing in a stall to greet him. Squealer oinked once, seemingly pleased at Reese’s expression of stunned exasperation. There was a note pinned to a string around the boar’s neck:
Reese. Take care of the fat bastard for me, Jolly the drool factory too. Dog’s downstairs, he knows to go out to pee and shit. Not so sure about Squealer even after all these years. He ain’t bacon so don’t even. Beltar.
(Stonetalon Mountains. Nine days later.)
The view, Beltar had to admit, was worth the trip it had taken to get here.
The cliff to the north dropped a hundred feet or more into a green valley, dotted with scrubby trees. Beltar knew that the sea was off to the northwest, but a wall of rocky hills similar to the one that surrounded him blocked sight of it. No one seemed to live down there, which was odd to him; he knew the soil in the Stonetalon Mountains was generally too poor for farming, but he also knew the Tauren were hunters, and he’d seen signs of game when they had explored down there a few days earlier. Ain’t bad country fer Kalimdor, he thought. Beats all outta Desolace fer damn sure, least until th’ Cenarions get done with ‘er.
He turned back around and looked at the ruins that had brought them out here to this northwestern corner of Stonetalon, a place that was so damned remote that the maps didn’t even bother to name it. The Cataclysm had partially opened up the high valley in which he now stood and revealed what might have been some sort of pre-Sundering elven town or outpost—so the “perfessers” said. To Beltar, the columns did resemble some ruins he’d seen while flying over Azshara years earlier, but that was about as far as his knowledge of architecture went.
He, two archaeologists, and two Explorer’s League guards had been here for three days, digging and cataloguing the old elven ruins. They’d ridden in following the lead of a goblin that they’d paid a damned exorbitant sum to lead them through a tortuous pass in the mountains up from Desolace. The journey had cost them one of the pack rams that had been shipped in special from Loch Modan, and that had just been the beginning. Their erstwhile guide, the day after he’d gotten them to the valley, had up and disappeared. Beltar had a good eye for terrain, and thought he could get them back out to Desolace when they broke camp tomorrow, but the goblin’s sudden vanishing act had him nervous. These lands, he knew, were not only wild, but a war zone between the orcs and the Alliance. And as near as he could figure, the Horde was winning.
The sounds of an animated discussion carried over to him. Beltar looked over at the great white worg next to him and sighed. “Fuckin’ eggheads, Furball,” he shook his head. “Better see what’s what afore the perfessers stab each other w’quill ‘r’ sommat.” He picked up his rifle and walked over to the other side of the ruins, Furball casually padding along behind.
The “perfessers”–Dolwin Longstride of the Explorer’s League, and a Kal’dorei from Darnassus who had just introduced himself as “Carnelius” and hardly said six words to Beltar since—were standing over a half-buried piece of statuary, having a heated argument.
“I’m telling you, Professor,” Carnelius said, drawing the title out in a way that made it quite clear what he thought of it. “This is not what you think it is. There is no possible way that this could have been used in elven worship. It is a simple ornamental house statue from a period no further back than two hundred years before the Sundering, and has no real historical value whatsoever!”
“Far be it from me to correct ye, Professor, about yer own people’s history, but yer full o’ dung!”, Longstride roared back. “I read every history yer own scholars wrote on late Azsharan religious practices, an’ I’d bet a week’s bar tab in Ironforge that this here is a temple offerin’ statue. An’ see those jewelry carvings? That went out of fashion five hundred years earlier than what you said. This is a find, ye stuffy ponce!”
“Um…”, Beltar interrupted, straddling the statue to stand between the two academics. “I don’t rightly know whether ‘is bit o’ furniture’s from a temple house ‘r a house house ‘r a fuckin’ shithouse. What I do know izzat twilight’s comin’ on, and y’d best keep yer damned voices down! Sound carries a ways off those rocks up there, and in case y’ hadn’t heard, there’s about a shitload o’ orcs two valleys over what ain’t gonna take kindly t’us furtherin’ yer academic study. So pack yer shit up, an’ be ready t’ ride outta here at first light, ‘cuz we’re pushin’ our luck bein’ up here. Unnerstand?”
In the tense, echoing silence that followed, the only sounds were the chirping of the birds and the suppressed snicker from one of the caravan guards.
“Now see here, dwarf,” Carnelius finally managed to grit out through clenched teeth. “I do not take orders from…”
“Fine, lad,” Beltar cut him off. “Y’ don’t take orders from th’ likes o’me? Tell Garrosh Hellscream all ’bout yer ornamental house statue while th’ rest of us ‘r halfway back t’Theramore. This ain’t a classroom, y’ poncy git! This…”
Beltar stopped. Furball was staring up into the rocks to the east, growling. His fur began to bristle.
“Fuck,” Beltar hissed, and that one word had a weight of meaning behind it.
“What’s…” Beltar cut Longstride off. “’That there worg can hear ‘n’ see better’n any of us, an’ th’ way he’s actin’, I’d say we got company.” He glanced up and saw that the guards had already drawn their blunderbusses and moved near some defensive positions. Good lads. He reached down beside the statue, where he’d set Black Death down when he’d first come over. “Find yerselves a place t’hide if y’ain’t innerested in gettin’ in a fight, lads. I’d say this might be ’bout t’git ugly.” Fuck, why am I not wearing my armor? Because you can’t dig in armor, dumbass, that’s why…
There was a hissing sound near Beltar’s right ear, just over his head, from behind him. Reflexively, he turned and brought Black Death to his shoulder. The sight settled on a red-clad troll that had just stood up from behind a rock forty paces up the shoulder of the valley to the west, the other direction from where Furball had been looking. The troll’s arm was extended forward. Details burned into his mind—teal skin, green hair, yellow tusks—as Beltar stroked the rifle’s trigger once. The crack of the gun boomed off the walls around them as the troll flung his arms wide and disappeared back behind his rock.
Beltar spun back around to see Carnelius still standing there looking down…not at Beltar, not at the statue, not at Longstride. He was looking at the throwing axe protruding out of his breastbone. He touched it, eyeing it with what could have almost been academic interest had it been buried in someone else‘s chest. He looked to the rock where the troll had stood, coughed once, and collapsed in a heap.
“Move!”, Beltar screamed, and dove for the excavated area around the statue, trying to find some cover. The others did the same, and even as they did, the hills around them—all around them—erupted in shouts and screams. A throwing spear clanked off the statue as the old dwarf landed awkwardly and rolled behind it. Booms from the guards’ guns mingled with battle cries as Beltar stuck his head up and tried to come to grips with what was going on.
Orcs, and the odd troll, were pouring down off the ledges overlooking the digsite. A couple dozen, maybe more, Beltar guessed, all wearing identical spiked brown shoulderguards and matching breastplates. Some were throwing spears, others were waving swords and axes. All of them had bloodlust in their eyes and curses on their lips.
Beltar felt no fear…there wasn’t time. Time slowed down and his actions became automatic, honed by decades of training and experience.
Find a target. He peeked up from cover and picked out a particularly large orc near the front of a group of five clambering down the western slope toward him.
Aim. Black Death’s unwieldy barrel and bayonet cleared the lip of the pit and the sight settled on the orc’s massive head.
Fire. One gentle squeeze of the trigger, a flash and crack, and the top of the orc’s head exploded as he turned to urge on the ones behind him. Bone and brains sprayed as the orc’s neck and shoulders snapped backward while his legs, improbably, carried forward another step. The net result was an almost laughable cartwheel, the orc’s bare feet flailing in mid-air for a split-second before his lifeless body, pitched parallel to the ground, crashed straight down into the rock. Beltar didn’t see it. He was already behind the top of the pit again, jacking another round into the chamber.
A scream from his right…the orcs had reached the column one of the two guards had been using for cover. He had thrown down his blunderbuss and drawn two hand axes to try and defend himself, but there were four of them and but one of him. One orc rolled on the ground in front of him clutching his stomach, but another smashed an axe through the young dwarf’s helmet and on into his skull even as a troll speared him through the gut so hard the guard’s feet left the ground.
Beltar aimed and fired again. The orc he’d picked out fell forward, dead before his face met rock, and the one behind him clutched his shoulder and spun backward—not dead but at least wounded. But still they kept coming, apparently not slowed by any fear of death.
A yelp, from his left this time. He saw Furball covered in blood—some his, some not, judging by the two motionless orcs in front of him. He leapt onto a third, driving him to the ground with fangs sunk into the orc’s huge neck. Then he disappeared under a wave of green skin, brown armor, and flashing blades.
No time to mourn. The fourth orc went down to a shot in the gut, and then the fifth was upon him with no time to reload. Beltar was no lover of close-quarters fighting, fair or unfair, but he wasn’t entirely unskilled at it. He couldn’t match the orc strength for strength, even in his younger days, and he was far from those. So he wasn’t even going to try.
The orc bellowed a war cry and brought his great two-handed axe down, trying for a single killing blow. Beltar side-rolled to one knee as best he could, using Black Death to parry the downstroke. Sparks flew and metal screeched as the parry pushed the axe aside just enough to send it sticking into the soft dirt at the edge of the pit. The orc, still carrying some forward momentum from his charge down the hill, couldn’t stop and went ass-over-elbows down the slope, crashing into the base of the statue leaving the axe stuck in the ground. Beltar staggered to his feet and bayoneted the orc in the throat before he had a chance to recover.
He dropped back to one knee and grabbed another round to reload. He faintly heard the noise of movement behind him, and turned around as he brought the rifle up to firing position.
He saw a huge orc with brown skin. He saw the flash of a hammer. And then he saw nothing.
Recently I’ve had something of a yen to start playing my sorely neglected dwarf hunter Beltar. Now Beltar has finished all the Cataclysm zone and quest content, pretty much, and is walking around with a typical mixture of quest rewards and a very few dungeon pieces, giving him an ilevel of 346. That’s good enough to do normal heroics, but not good enough for patch 4.3 heroics or anything bigger than that. So if I wanted to gear him up–and improve my somewhat marginal huntarding skills in the process–there was really only one place for the grizzled old gunbunny to go.
The Dungeon Finder.
So last night I decided that it would be Dungeon Finder night. I would queue and queue and queue again in LFD. Normally I avoid LFD like I’d avoid, say, a glass-shard lollipop drizzled in Ebola and tetanus. But that’s as a tank on Linedan. I figured, with gearing to the point where normal Cataclysm heroics are starting to approach faceroll status, a semi-competent knowledge of Basic Marks Huntering 101, and 340-level gear, I could hold my own, work on improving my rotations and DPS, pick up the Ramkahen rep I need to hit Exalted and get the +agi head enchant, and score at least one piece of loot.
I don’t know when I turned into such a raving optimist. I really don’t.
So with his Harkoa-cat Longpaw by his side and his newly transmogged gun-that’s-actually-a-crossbow cocked and locked, I hit “I”, clicked “Enter Queue,” waited 10 minutes, and set off on my adventure…
First dungeon: Blackrock Caverns. It set the tone for how the rest of the evening would go that the poor DK tank couldn’t hold agro on anything, even with my Misdirects, from a geared and aggressive mage. (He wasn’t trying to be a jerk, he was just putting out a lot of pain.) We wiped on Rom’ogg Bonecrusher but got him on the second try after I stupidly ate a Skullcracker and died. Then when we were heading down to Corla, we shortcut down the rough ground to the left instead of going down the ramp to the right. Guess which way Longpaw went and brought some friends? Yeah. Stupid cat + stupid hunter = fail. After the wipe, I dropped group to save them the trouble of votekicking me over it.
Second dungeon: Deadmines. I cringed when I saw this one. I always hated tanking heroic DM. Fortunately we had a monster of a tank, a death nugget with over 200,000 health that was simultaneously doing over 16,000 DPS. (I’m fine. Really. That totally didn’t rekindle my deep-seated hatred of DK tanks who can top the DPS charts while tanking. At all.) We started off, of course, at “gogogogogo” pace, the tank not even waiting for the healer to be in line-of-sight to do pulls because, hey, he’s a DK with over 200k health, he can do that. Everything was going pretty well and I was starting to get into something resembling a groove–even though the healer dropped without a word in mid-trash-pull after we killed Helix. The DK survived because, hey, he’s a DK with over 200k health, he can do that. Then we got to the Foe Reaper 5000.
We wiped on him the first time because nobody got into the Prototype Reaper to handle the Molten Slag adds. The tank linked the Recount from the fight…because, hey, he’s a DK with over 200k health, he can do that. The healer dropped without a word, as did the tank. We got another tank, a warrior, who promptly pulled FR5000 while the mage and myself were standing around the Prototype Reaver at the top of the room. Again, nobody got into the Reaver and we died. The warrior asks “wtf have any of you done this before?” As it turns out? The mage hadn’t seen the instance before. Everybody else but me and him instantly drop.
Third dungeon: Deadmines again, because the RNG is laughing at me. This time, the tank was a feral druid, and he was even healthier (207k!) and better than the previous run’s death nugget. And he pulled even faster. Healer around the corner? Didn’t matter, he was a BARE STORNG 4 FITE. And truly, it didn’t. We demolished our way up to Foe Reaper again. And again, on the first attempt, nobody got in the damn Prototype and we wiped.
On the second attempt, this time, I got in the Prototype. I had never done it before and had no clue what to do, but fortunately, Rashona the Aggrokitty was at her computer next to me and talked me through it. I did a truly shitty job of Molten Slag control, but we got FR5000 down. Somehow.
We moved on, and got to Ripsnarl. We dropped him and he dropped his two-handed agility axe, Rockslicer. Now Beltar is still using the blue ilevel 318 polearm quest reward from Deepholm, so that axe would’ve been a nice upgrade, the first I’d seen in the heroic runs. So I rolled Need.
So did the fury warrior.
Oh, and on Vanessa? I missed the rope on the first rope phase, fell off the boat, walked through fire, swam around, and got back up top just in time for her to die, greeted by a chorus of “lol” and “wtf” from my teammates. But at least I finally finished a heroic and got my 150 Valor Points.
Fourth dungeon: Once more into the durp, dear friends, and this time, it was Stonecore. Cool, I thought, I never did finish off the quest to kill the end boss in there. Unfortunately, I realized quickly that this wasn’t going to be a full instance run, because when I blipped in, I saw myself staring at Ozruk, along with two DPS. We picked up another healer and a high-health feral tank, and pulled.
The tank promptly faced Ozruk toward us at point-blank range with us penned into a corner. Ozruk then Ground Slammed before we could find a clear spot and killed both me and the healer, and the rest of the group wiped shortly after. The tank yelled at us “wtf does nobody know how to play wow anymore” and dropped group. (Obviously, that was a rhetorical question on his part.) So did one of the DPS.
We got a replacement DPS and another tank, a paladin this time, and even though the pally had much less health than the bear, his tank job on Ozruk was absolutely perfect. Ozruk and Azil fell easily and for the second time I got myself 150 sweet tasty Valor Points. We did so well, in fact, that we requeued as a group save the healer. Things were finally starting to look up!
Fifth dungeon: Lost City of the Tol’vir. Excellent, another dungeon that I had a leftover quest in (Oathsworn Captains). The run started off completely uneventful. We killed the first boss without issue. Then we hit the trash pack after the boss. The tank immediately keeled over. We wiped. The healer dropped without a word, as did the tank, and the group fell apart.
Sixth dungeon: Grim Batol. Fun times. With our DK tank in the lead, we set off and proceed to have a fairly uneventful run…until after the second boss. Then the healer, who had been catching a bit of flak from the tank, drops and we pick up another. We keep going and then we get to the third boss, Dragha Shadowburner.
We ended up winning, but the fight didn’t go well. Our fury warrior died, got battle-rezzed, and died again. The fight seemed to take absolutely forever compared to the other times I’ve done it. And then after the fight, the tank went nuts. He linked the Recount for the fight, showing him doing 11k dps, me doing 10k, the fury warrior doing 8k, and the lock doing 6k. He started berating the warrior, testing the limits of the profanity filter in a way that’d make R. Lee Ermey sit up and take notice. He screamed at the fury warrior for dying twice (the warrior said he was hung over), then screamed at the warlock for only doing about 6k dps on the fight. The lock dropped group. Then the tank said “votekick plz.”
And I found myself standing in a field in Western Plaguelands where I’d been doing archeology when the queue popped.
I got votekicked.
For doing more DPS on a boss fight than the other two DPS.
At which point, I said “fuck it,” went back to Stormwind, hung out in the Pig and Whistle, RP’d with a few of the Wildfire Riders, and got Beltar shitfaced. (See picture above.)
And thus ended my evening of dungeoning. The final totals?
Six instances. Two completed (one partial). 300 Valor Points. Around 600 Justice Points. About 7,000 Ramkahen rep. 120 gold in repair bills from all the wipes. One piece of greed loot (an agi sword) that I can use as RP gear and nothing else. And 25 points in Archeology in between queue pops.
So what did I learn from my three hours of sheer heroic hell?
1. I have the worst luck in the universe. This isn’t new, I’ve known this since my D&D days, where it was a complete certainty that if I needed a good dice roll–as player or DM, didn’t matter–I wouldn’t get it. I was the Master of the Badly-Timed Fumble. My dice logged a lot of frequent flyer miles after being thrown through the air in frustration. Rashona, who runs LFD almost every day on one of her immense stable of alts, was boggled at the run of bad groups I had. She has issues in LFD, who doesn’t? But never that many, that fast.
2. I’m not a very good hunter. I need to get better. People are telling me that the 10-11k DPS range I typically do is low for Beltar’s level of gearing. I need to go do some spec and rotation theorycrafting for marks.
3. LFD is even worse now than it was during Wrath. I didn’t think that was possible, but it is. It’s not so much the skill or gear level of the players, because that’s always going to be a mixed bag. It’s the attitudes. I really couldn’t imagine people being less patient than they were when we were running Halls of Whatever in our sleep, but they are. If the slightest little thing goes wrong, people will drop. There’s no thought toward just sticking it out with a group and succeeding. It’s all me, me, me, me, me.
4. Please, let me apologize on behalf of the good and kindly tanks out there, of which I think a few may still exist. I refused to believe it, but yes, we tanks really have turned into a bunch of entitled prima donna douchebags.
5. I’m going to keep trying. Why not? I won’t get any better on Beltar, or won’t get him any better geared, if I don’t run instances, and Looking for Dumbassery is still the quickest and easiest way to gear him up and work on my huntering, if also the most soul-crushing occasionally.
6. Tanks who can simultaneously tank an instance in their sleep and blow away the DPS meters still piss me off. It’s not you guys, it’s me. I’m just jealous.
My wife has the best attitude toward PUGs, because she (bless her heart) tanks a lot of them on her various druids. She just says, “I don’t see it as a dungeon group. I see it as an escort quest.”
A little over three years ago, in the build-up events to the release of Wrath of the Lich King, Blizzard inflicted upon World of Warcraft the ultimate zombie plague. At the time, the Zombiepocalypse had a lot of bad things going on with it, as well as a lot of good–I covered that in a post on the one-year anniversary of the end of the event. But to me, the best thing it provided was some awesome roleplaying opportunity, more so on my dwarf hunter Beltar than on my main Linedan. Lin was a prot warrior, and, well, a melee class with no self-cleansing really didn’t do very well against things that could turn you into a ghoul in just a few hits. But Beltar, now he and his pet boar Squealer, they were a zombie-killing machine.
Our Alliance guild, the Wildfire Riders, did a collaborative writing project we called The Longest Night, based on the final night of the zombie event in Stormwind. This was my contribution to it. The events here, including finding the zombie in the room inside the Rose, actually happened. The zombie in question was a level 15 character who’d been turned, and who I one-shotted. (He whispered me to bitch me out about it later. My response is, dude, you were a freaking zombie. What was I supposed to do, invite you over for tea and crumpets?)
I repost my part of it here because (a) I like it, and (b) it provides some context to another piece I’ll post later. At the time, Beltar was running around with a Wolfslayer Sniper Rifle off the Big Bad Wolf in Karazhan. It’s always been one of my favorite gun models in the entire game. Well, now, with transmogrification in 4.3, his Wolfslayer–which he named “Black Death”–rides again. But that’s a little later. Here’s the story of Black Death’s busiest night.
Beltar Forgebreaker limped over to the edge of the plaza that overlooked Stormwind Harbor. It hadn’t been light for long, perhaps half an hour…it was hard to tell, with the unnatural overcast that covered the sky overhead. In the dimness, everything looked normal from this great height. The ships still rode at anchor, quietly creaking as gentle waves moved them in their berths. Gulls wheeled and screeched. Save for clouds that looked almost like a gathering summer thunderstorm, all looked as it should be.
Except no one moved.
Not a single shape moved except the seabirds. No porters moved packages, no crews readied or cleaned their ships, no merchants haggled deals, no prostitutes plied their trade. The docks were deserted of life, and of unlife.
He let his eyes travel to the hills above the harbor, outside the city walls. They were dotted with bright glows of fire. Five, six, seven…nope, there’s eight, Beltar counted to himself as the eighth one sprung into life. Each one of those, he knew, was a funeral pyre, and each one was burning dozens, if not hundreds, of bodies, undead and otherwise.
He’d climbed on Mountain at dawn and ridden out alone, Squealer obediently following, and picked his way through the streets to the Harbor, thankful for the surefootedness of a Khaz Modan ram on cobbles slicked by blood and ichor. No zombies showed themselves, no clash of arms rent the heavy, chill air on his journey. The Scourge, for the moment, had been beaten from Stormwind.
But it damn sure hadn’t been easy…
The Trade District. Just after sundown.
“They got the healer! THEY GOT THE HEALER! RUN! RUUAAAAAAAHHLIIIIIIGHT…”
The screams out of the Gilded Rose snapped Beltar out of thought as he finished loading his rifle. He looked over at Tarquin, who was leaning against the wall of the arms shop nearby, catching his breath after finishing off another zombie. The lanky Northman sighed and raised his hood, and bellowed, “There’s a Dawnsman by th’gryphon master, y’ken? Need healin’, go there!” The hood came back down, and he faded into the shadows cast by the overhanging roof.
None too soon. A wave of zombies poured out of the Rose like rats, falling on guardsmen and those too slow to run from the screams. Shouts and clangs sounded, and the Stormwind Guard fought yet another doomed battle as Beltar snapped his weapon shut. He issued the barest of whistles from one side of his mouth, and smoothly brought the rifle to his shoulder.
His boar launched himself forward from a dead stop, streaking across the plaza in a black, squealing blur and slamming into the pile of zombies like some bizarre game of bowls. As Squealer began tearing at one in a fury of black fur and white tusks, Beltar’s rifle roared again and again. Three feet of black wood and gray steel, with an extra foot of bayonet poking under the barrel, it was the most masterful boomstick Beltar had ever seen, much less ever owned. He’d found it in Medivh’s ruined castle. He named it–with feeling, if not with originality–Black Death.
This night, Black Death would earn that name many times over.
The first zombie crumpled to the cobbles headless. Squealer plunged tusks into another one and Beltar kept up his steady drumbeat of fire, killing the second zombie before it figured out that the black form goring it wasn’t the only thing causing it pain. But the third zombie must have retained some tiny modicum of its previous intelligence. It ignored Squealer and saw Beltar forty paces away, and started lurching toward him.
The dwarf stood his ground. He fanned the hammer, and Black Death ripped off three shots into three zombies. He fired again, and again, but the zombie kept coming, and then leapt.
Sheer reflex saved him; he thrust the rifle upward as the zombie lunged, and it slammed directly into the bayonet. It impaled itself, flailing long clawed hands at Beltar as he fought to stay upright with ten stone of zombie trying to push him over.
“I AIN’T DYIN’ T’NIGHT, Y’BASTARD!”, Beltar roared, and pulled the trigger. The zombie flew backward, a hole through most of its chest, and crashed to the stones to finally lie still.
The sound died down. Paladins and shamans in the square had finished off the rest, and for the moment, no zombies moved. Squealer returned to Beltar’s side, fur matted with Shapers-only-knew-what. Beltar tried to calm his breathing and concentrate. Aright, y’fuckers, he thought to himself. Lessee…any more’a’ya ’bout? Concentrate…yes, one more, at least. Inside the Rose. He started walking past the fountain toward the inn.
“Are you crazy?”, a guardsman tried to block him. “You can’t go in there!”
“There’s one more of ’em in there, lad,” Beltar snarled. “We don’t get it now, it comes out here when y’ain’t lookin’, infects other people, whole shitpile starts up ‘gin. Now, you wanna go kill it, ‘r y’stay out here an’ let me do it?”
The guard, wisely, backed up. Beltar just nodded at him once, and stumped forward into the Rose, Squealer trailing behind.
The common room was a charnel house. Bodies and parts of bodies–human, elf, and zombie–were everywhere. The floor, on the tables, even a zombie arm stuck in the overhead chandelier. The body of the Argent Healer lay in two pieces, torn apart at the waist, near the kitchen entrance. Nothing moved here. But he heard a faint scrabble from upstairs.
He crept up the stairs as quietly as he could, stopping at the top to listen. He heard it again…second door on the left. Black Death came out from over his shoulder and into his right hand as he walked toward the door. Taking a deep breath, he spun around the jamb into the doorway.
The door itself was gone, shattered inward into the room. It was a small room, one of the Rose’s cheaper ones, utterly demolished. Splintered furniture, pooled blood, and a zombie corpse on the floor made it obvious what had happened.
There was another zombie in the far corner, near the bed. It snapped its head up as it saw Beltar…but it didn’t attack. It looked at him, almost quizzically, as if saying, “Who are you and why are you in my room. And more importantly…who am I?”
For a few seconds, the two stood looking at each other. For a second, in the zombie’s face, Beltar swore he saw…fear? Sadness? Confusion, maybe?
Then Beltar sighed. “Sorry, lad.”
And Black Death roared yet again.
A single gunshot from back toward the Cathedral snapped Beltar out of his Harbor-side reverie. No more followed it. The only sounds were the creak of the ships and the scream of the gulls.
Beltar looked out over the ships, to the sea. Out there, somewhere, was the cause of all this. Arthas Menethil. The Lich King. Defender, and then damn-near destroyer, of the Alliance. And Beltar knew without seeing, sure as the sun had risen behind that thick blanket of cloud, that the Riders were going North, and he was going with them. Time to be heroes.
“Heroes,” he snorted. “Gods, I don’t feel like no hero.” He looked at the big black boar standing beside him, flecks of gray bristle appearing around its snout. “I feel old, boy. Leg’s botherin’ me worse’n’anytime since Anvilmar. I’m feelin’ ever’ one’a these hunnert’an’twenty-six years o’mine. Too old fer bein’ a hero, right now, anyways.”
Squealer just looked up at him with that calm, neutral look he always gave Beltar.
“An’ I’m standin’ in th’chill, in a city runnin’ wild w’zombies, talkin’ wi’a pig. Heroes do crazy shit like that, y’think?” He laughed without humor. “Aright, piss on it. Back t’Old Town w’us.”
Using Black Death’s stock as a makeshift walking stick, he began limping back toward the stairs, where Mountain waited at the top to take him back through the streets of a waking city of the dead, back to the Pig and Whistle, and life.
…’cause Beltar’s got a gun. (Sorry, Aerosmith fans.)
Beltar, my poor somewhat-neglected dwarf marksman hunter, like guns. A lot. No surprise there, right…after all, he is a dwarf, and he’s been single-spec marksman since day one. But he’s also not so set in his ways that he’d turn down an upgrade. So on one of his rare forays into Icecrown Citadel in a 10-man a few months ago, when a Njorndar Bone Bow dropped to replace his beloved rifle from the Big Round Room, The Diplomat, he took it–albeit reluctantly.
When 4.0 dropped, he had enough Justice Points saved up (thanks to a stack of over 240 Badges of Triumph, the Insult Comic Dog) to immediately upgrade to four-piece T10 (one of them ilevel 264, the rest basic ilevel 251). But obviously, there’s no guns available with badges. The bow has done him well, but it just didn’t look right to see this old fart who’d been humping a gun of some sort around the Eastern Kingdoms forever throwing his shoulder out of joint to use a bow…not even a crossbow, a stinking elfy bow. As Beltar might say, “dammit, ain’t proper fer a dwarf t’be seen w’a stick an’ a string, ‘cept in emergencies, o’course.”
Well, I was chatting with Rilgon from Stabilized Effort Scope–a guy who lives, breathes, eats, pees, poops, and probably has carnal thoughts about marks huntering when he’s not having them about gnomes–on Twitter a couple days ago, and when I mentioned something about wanting to replace that bow with a gun but being very short on options due to Beltar not having access to any raids on Alliance-side Feathermoon, he suggested that I look at the Wrathful Gladiator’s Rifle. This is the ilevel 264 version of the season 8 arena reward weapon. During the arena season, it required an arena rating of 1800 to purchase. I don’t do arenas, so I hadn’t paid PvP rewards any mind. Rilgon said that the lower Wrathful items, the ilevel 264 versions, could now be bought with honor only, 2550 points to be precise…this despite the fact that when I checked, they still had a big red blurb on the tooltip that said “requires a personal or team arena rating of 1800.”
Thanks to a stupidly huge number of Stone Keeper’s Shards he’d built up, Beltar had something like 1700 honor saved up. He needed 2550 for the gun. And I said to myself five fateful words that I just know I should never say, but I always do it anyway…
“How hard can it be?”
The correct answer is “plenty,” when you’re on the Alliance side in the Cyclone battlegroup (where Horde tend to dominate most battlegrounds except Alterac Valley), and you’re an MM hunter with zero resilience in ilevel 245/251/264 PvE gear, and you have no damn idea how to PvP on a hunter because you’ve got maybe 400 lifetime HKs to start with, and you’ve never even been in Strand of the Ancients or Isle of Conquest.
There’s a word for people like me. That word is “noob.”
I won my first-ever trip to Isle of Conquest by following my normal AV strategy–find the biggest group of friendlies I can, stay in the middle of them, and shoot stuff with a red tag. Could be a healer, could be a warrior, could be a water elemental, could be a cat, could be a felguard–doesn’t matter. Hit “tab” and open up like Rambo with an M60 (including the guttural yelling) on the first thing that I randomly target, that’s how I roll. (Hey, I said I was bad at this.) I then stand there and shoot until either it dies or its friends show up, I completely forget where Disengage and Deterrence and all my trap keys are, and I die.
It was, in a word, a painful two days. With everybody stacking huge resilience, that bow might as well have been shooting Nerf arrows…while with my zero resilience, I was all but two-shotted by mages more than once. (Seriously, frost mages, wtf. 15k and 11k simultaneous crits? Daaaamn.) I was in the first AV I’ve ever seen where the Horde actually out-zerged the Alliance. Normally, if both sides bumrush to the opposite end of the map without stopping, the Alliance always wins. Well, that doesn’t work when you get 15 people into Drek’s room, the tank pulls…and nobody heals him, either because there’s no healers there or the healers are all standing around looking at each other saying, “I thought you were going to do it.” We spawn all the way back at the north end of the map, Horde kill Vandar, gee gee noob, here’s your consolation-prize 15 honor instead of 45 because you were afflicted with teh dumb.
And that chat. Oh dear sweet zombie Arthas, battleground chat is so stupid it hurts. Especially in AV, when all the amateur Pattons and Rommels get into arguments first about strategy, then about parentage. “ALL ON O RUSH RUSH RUSH” followed by “NO NEED D AT STONEHEARTH AND BALINDA” followed by “stfu noob, ur mom neds d lol”…do you guys on PvP servers have to put up with this level of dumbass constantly? If you do, my God, I feel for you and can’t believe you can stand it.
The only thing that saved me from giving up on the upgrade was a Feathermoon peculiarity–the Alliance own Lake Wintergrasp probably 95% of the time. It’s really rather ridiculous. There are a ton of very good Horde PvPers on Feathermoon, but they just don’t care much about Wintergrasp any more. So as Alliance, it’s relatively easy to go into a WG, rip out a few quests, tear up the towers, sponge a bit of honor, retain the fort, sponge more honor, and come out with 100-125 quick and easy honor points for very little effort.
So after two days of frustration and idiocy, I finally cracked 2550 honor, and immediately ran to the vendor under Dalaran. And lo and behold, tooltip be damned, Beltar could buy and equip his new Wrathful Gladiator’s Rifle. The dwarf had a gun, and all was right with the world.
Now, all it needed was a name. His old rifle from Karazhan had picked up the name “Black Death.” So this charming little boomstick, with its huge stock and spikes sticking everywhere, needed a name too. I thought for a few seconds, and then remembered how generally unpleasant getting it had been, how stupid the chat had been in all the battlegrounds, and how tactically moronic so many of the losing sides had been, and I had my answer.
Say hello…to the Durpinator.
I thought I was really rolling when I got Beltar into an ICC 10-man raid last week and got a Taldron’s Short-Sighted Helm, which uses the same model as the T10 helms for hunters. For some reason (I don’t even remember why, there was number-crunching involved, I guess), I got him the helmet, gemmed it, and enchanted it. Then, happy to ditch his old T9 helm which I never really liked the looks of, I put it on…
…that’s right. My dwarf now has a giant saronite Mr. Happy growing out of his forehead. I mean, yeah, he’s a dickhead sometimes, but damn, Blizzard, did you have to be that literal?
And if that wasn’t bad enough…over the weekend, my shaman Sakula finally got exalted with the Wyrmrest Accord while failing his way through heroic Oculus. That left him just one of the “big four” Northrend factions he needed rep with, the Kirin Tor. So I changed his tabard and finished the heroic run. Then I took a good look at what a Kirin Tor tabard looks like on a male troll…and /facepalmed.
Clearly, Rhonin felt the need to overcompensate for something, if you know what I mean (and I think you do).
Here’s a little message from me, your friendly neighborhood Panzercow, to all you other tanks out there currently doing heroic PUGs:
Check your healer’s mana before you pull.
A lot of you are probably saying, “well, durrrrrr, Panzercow,” right now. Yeah, it does seem pretty obvious, doesn’t it? But sometimes people miss even the obvious. When I was sixteen, I looked right at a pickup truck, didn’t “see” it, and then pulled out into an intersection directly in front of it and wound up shifting the front end of my car a foot to the right. You’d be surprised how often the “obvious” isn’t to some people.
This got brought home to me last night. I was on my dwarf hunter doing a random, and the Wheel of Suck came up Halls of Stone. We had a dwarf death nugget as our tank–yes, apparently, they do actually exist! He asked us “long or short run?”, by which I assumed he wanted to know whether we cared about Krystallus and Attack of the Fifty-Foot Tall Emo Woman. We didn’t.
And off he went, in classic heroic PUG fashion…straight ahead, pull pull pull, no time to even loot. Things were pretty uneventful, but as we got to the area leading up to Brann, I noticed that the healer, a holy priest, didn’t have much blue in her blue bar. And then she said, in party chat (and obviously macroed), something like “Please do not pull, I need mana!”
He pulled. She got a sip or two out of her Honeymint Tea, and then had to go back to healing the DK. By the time the fight ended, she was at around 10 to 15% mana. She said in party chat again, “Please do not pull, I need mana!”
He pulled the first two constructs in Brann’s room.
At which point, by one of those wonderful hivemind happenstances that pop up occasionally, we all just stood there and watched him die. It did take a while, I’ll give him that.
Then we ate the wipe.
As we were heading back in, here’s what the conversation looked like:
DK tank: wtf
me: Healer told you twice they were out of mana and you pulled, that’s wtf
DK tank: i don’t read chat
Yes, you read that right, kids. “i don’t read chat.” Well, tell me something there, Captain Speedpull, do you look at blue bars, your healer’s in particular? You don’t need things like, I don’t know, literacy to be able to look at your party frames and see that the healer doesn’t have much in the tank to keep your ass alive, now do you? (Then again, considering right as we pulled Sjonnir, he typed “i <3 wEED LOL”, there may have been another reason…)
It always amazes me that PUGs, when it comes to stuff like this, are much like the corporate world that I spend 40+ hours a week in. There’s never time to do something right, but somehow there’s always twice as much time to do it over when it gets cocked up. The priest would’ve been mana’d back up in twenty seconds, and we could’ve moved on with our run. You could’ve done what PUG tanks generally seem to do in those twenty-second pauses, and randomly bounced around, or inspected everybody, or whatever. Instead, Mr. Ants in his Pants put his blinders on, said “DAAAAAH GOTTA KEEP PULLIN’ GEORGE,” and ended up wiping us and costing us five minutes to recover and several gold in repairs. Contrary to what some people may think nowadays, yes, it is possible to go too fast in a heroic. This was proof.
So tanks, please. Yes, the chances are very good that your healer will never need you to stop. Most healers in random heroic groups nowadays never seem to run below 75% mana, ever. Hell, it’s the healers more than anyone else that are doing the “GOGOGOGOGOGO” that annoys me so much. But do not assume your healer can do that. You may be paired with an undergeared or inexperienced healer. Always check before the next pull, and if your healer’s mana is low, for the love of all that’s holy, wait. A few seconds’ pause every now and then so everybody can get mana’d back up for the next frantic stretch is not going to kill you. If everybody’s good, then pull fast and pull big. But never, never assume.
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.
(Before we begin, please observe a moment of silence for my home computer’s hard drive, whose crappy firmware last night decided to depart this fallen earth and leave behind its bricked metal shell. This may also be used as a cautionary tale…if you’ve got a Seagate Barracuda 7200.11 SATA drive in your machine, back the damn thing up now. This is the second one I’ve had fail in less than eighteen months. DIAF, Seagate, I’m done with you. It’s off to Worst Buy tonight for some Western Digital lovin’ and an evening spent reinstalling everydamnthing on my computer instead of hanging out with my guild for our in-game Winterveil party.)
Obviously, a lot of the chatter in the WoW blogosphere has been about patch 3.3’s awesome new Looking for Dungeon cross-server instancing tool. It is, after all, simplicity itself. It removes anything resembling thought, effort, or social interaction from running your favorite five-man instances! Just push a few buttons, sit back and wait (note: the waiting part is optional if you are a tank or healer), and voila. You too will be thrown into a wonderful garden spot like Utgarde Keep or Gun’drak with four total strangers with whom you will engage in 10 to 30 minutes of frenzied activity and then never see again. As others are wondering, is this what casual sex feels like?
I have run about, eh, 25 or so random heroics since the patch went in. About half have been on Beltar, my dwarf hunter, with the remainder split between Linedan and my other level 80 alts. I’ve only tanked three randoms on Lin–the others, I’ve gone as DPS to practice on his new offspec (more on that in another post). And much to my surprise, generally, my experiences have been neutral to pleasant.
Now, I’m not generally accused of a huge amount of charity toward my fellow WoW players. I never liked to PUG that much before the LFD tool came along. But suddenly, I find it strangely addicting. Part of it, I think, is that I’m finding that my two most undergeared alts–Illithanis the BM hunter and Moktor the blood DK–don’t actually suck as much as I thought they did, or perhaps I don’t suck as much at playing them as I thought I did, or some of both. (The links are to their respective Armory pages, so you may gaze upon them and laugh.) Both of them are generally running with a good bit of ilevel 200 gear, Illy more so because she actually got into a few 10-man Naxx runs several months back. Both seem capable of consistently bringing 1800-2200 dps in heroics, despite Illy’s wasp dying regularly and my seeming inability to grasp the DK concept of “PS – IT – HS – HS – DS – RP // DS – HS – HS – HS – HS – RP”. (I get my DS before my HS, or I stop and RP instead of actually using runic power, or some such. Letturs r hard.) Anyhoo, while neither of them are going to rizzock the hizzouse in Ulduar or higher anytime soon, so far, they’ve not even been laughed at by a heroic group, much less votekicked. In fact, Illy, with her pedestrian 2k dps, has topped the meters more than once.
No, really, I’ve only seen one person get kicked (a rogue, in full Hateful Gladiator’s with 25k health, only doing 800 dps), and no massive displays of incompetence. Now what I have seen are a few examples of some pretty serious douchebag ex machina, and the one overriding thing…silence.
Let’s talk about the d-bags. There haven’t been many, and contrary to what some of us RP-server types might think, these weren’t primarily from PvP servers. Probably the biggest example I saw was when I had dps!Linedan on a heroic Azjol-Nerub run. The tank was a death nugget that had about 29,500 health buffed out. Nobody said anything, even though there seems to be this unspoken rule that if your tank has less than about 45k health, THERE IS NO WAY YOU CAN POSSIBLY TANK A HEROIC AZJOL AMG WE’RE ALL GONNA DIE. Never mind that I tanked heroic AN back in the day with 25k in crafted blues and epics. Poorly, but I did it. And I had to walk uphill in the snow four miles each way to do it.
So off we went, and it was a perfectly normal dungeon run. Nobody died, we killed Anub v1.0 and everything was peachy. Then the following conversation ensued between the healer, a tree druid from Uldum, and the tank:
Tree says, “hey, (tank name here)?”
Tank says, “huh?”
Tree says, “Nothing. I just wanted you to respond so I could ignore you and never group with you again. Get some gear, noob.”
Now mind you, nobody died. We never wiped. The tank never lost agro, even on the trash-filled last part of Anub, which can still get a little bit pear-shaped even in high-zoot Tier gear. Apparently, the tree actually might’ve had to work a little at healing the DK, and we can’t possibly have that.
I tried to buck up the DK by telling him, “look, my main spec is prot, I’ve got 4/5 T9.25, I tank ToGC and Icecrown. I know tanking even if I don’t know how DKs do it. You did fine. Screw the haters.” I hope he believed me. I wish I could remember the guy’s name and server, so I could give him a shout-out.
And speaking of shouts or the lack thereof…that’s the other creepy thing about LFD. The total silence. I’ve gone complete instance runs without anybody in the party–me included–saying a damn thing. We land at the entrance, buffs fly, and then the tank wordlessly runs off and grabs the first trash group without saying a word. And off we go to the races, the tank setting a blistering pace (almost without exception) while the DPS and the healer pant along behind. Chain-pulling is the order of the day, crowd control is not needed. No strategy, no breaks, no drinking. I’m damn glad my only mana-using class I’ve taken through randoms has been a hunter, because the ability to regen on the run with Aspect of the Viper is the only thing keeping me from ending up half a mile behind the main group.
Eventually we’ll kill the final boss, get some screen spam and extra emblems…and then, maybe, somebody will say “thanks” or “gg”, and that’s it. The group’s dissolved, and I’m back wherever I was before I queued, richer by some enchanting mats and badgers, and maybe, on my lesser-geared characters, some new toys. It’s a fun experience, but it’s oddly empty. I console myself with the thought that probably I don’t really want to talk to the other four people I just grouped with…but that’s not much of a way to play, and not a very good thought to have, now is it?
I really don’t like only having one roleplay server per battlegroup. I would love to be able to instance-group with RPers from places like Argent Dawn and Sentinels and Moon Guard (leave your vampire catgirls and sons of Arthas at home plox), and do some of these heroics at a slightly more relaxed pace in-character. Instead, this is a strictly OOC business we’re in, running these randoms. It’s all about speed. I know on the ones that I’ve tanked, I feel pushed because I’m not normally a chain-puller. I cut my teeth as an undergeared tank that had to wait for healers and DPS to fill their tanks before pulling again, and that’s carried over into Lin’s current pimped-out status. My very first tank run, I had a DK “helpfully” start pulling “for” me. Nothing frosts my cornflakes faster than somebody else doing the pulling when I’m the tank. My theory is simple: I’d rather take two minutes longer to finish the instance than risk a wipe that’ll cost us five minutes. So in randoms, I do pull faster, but I always check that there’s at least some blue in the blue bars in my party frames, and that we’re all gathered, before pulling.
Heck, sometimes, I even say things in party chat. RANK HERESY!
For the past few weeks, I’ve been pretty short on blogfodder. I’ve been going through a mild burnout with the game and been dabbling in EVE Online and Dragon Age instead. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I love my friends in game, raiding with The Anvil, all that fun stuff. But things had stalled a bit.
For Linedan, the satisfaction was bleeding out of raiding. Trial of the Crusader was, frankly, nothing more than a one-hour expedition to dispense 15 badges. Trial of the Grand Crusader was nothing more than Trial of the Crusader with the red numbers on my screen turned up to ridiculous levels…and maybe it’s just me, but there’s something about taking a fight that we usually roflstomp on normal (Beasts) and having it pimpslap us into the ground on heroic that just grates me a bit. I don’t get mad at my raid, I just get annoyed with Blizzard for undertuning ToC so badly that they left a cliff wall the size of El Capitan between normal and heroic. I could, and should, RP with him more, but Lin is not exactly Captain Happy Fun Tiems in his personal interactions. Besides, a schedule change has left me unable to attend Noxilite’s Monday night storytelling/guild meetup in the Barrens.
With Beltar, it was kind of the opposite. He doesn’t have a regular raid. He’s largely a roleplay character these days, and a great one. But at the same time, I am serious about advancing him gear-wise. On the rare occasions I can raid with him, I do. That doesn’t happen often, though…and once you’re through the solo quest content, which he mostly is except for some Icecrown stuff, and you’re already wearing a mix of stuff from a few Naxxes 6-7 months ago and some loot-trashcan pieces from the rare Ulduar, what then? So while I’ve been having fun roleplaying him, I often wonder just what the little guy could do if he was geared up like Linedan was.
And then there’s my stable of alts–Illithanis (80 BM hunter), Moktor (80 orc death nugget), my up-and-comers like Sakula (77 troll shaman and ladies’ man) and my prot warrior experiment Latisha (currently 68, and yes, she’s wearing Outland slut plate). They need some love too. But after the fourth or fifth time, even Storm Peaks gets old. What to do with them after cap? All of them are sub-Naxx geared. They’ll never get into raids–too much of a gear gap to overcome, I’m needed as a tank where I am now, and I don’t have time to raid on any more than two characters as it is. So why put forth the time?
Enter Patch 3.3: Fail of the Lich King. (Yes, I know it’s “Fall of the Lich King.” Look at the font on the logo when you open your Launcher and tell me it doesn’t look like “Fail of the Lich King,” dammit.)
Suddenly, most of these problems have been solved.
Linedan has a new raid to play with. No more Trial of the Big Round Room With Two Settings, Too Easy and Too Hard. Welcome to Icecrown Citadel, and kids, let me tell you, it kicks so much ass it’s painful. I rang up over 200 gold in repairs in there over the weekend and we only downed one boss (Lord Marrowgar)…and I don’t care. It’s fantastic. You’d better bring your “A” game, because Arthas is not playing flag football. Crowd control is back, with a vengeance…most of the trash pulls we’ve seen so far are between six and nine mobs. (Priests, time to get your shackles out for more than just private fun in the cloisters.) Lord Marrowgar is challenging but doesn’t seem to be over-the-top impossible once you use a little brainpower and figure out a good movement/tanking strategy. The two fights we’ve seen so far on 25-man require three tanks–oh frabjous joy for a raid that carries four tanks every week, fewer people forced into their secondary role!
And for a second, ditch the mechanics, ditch the loot…this is Icecrown, people. That’s Arthas up there. That’s the Big Bad who’s been hovering over the Warcraft franchise for nigh on ten years now. The special guest stars are everywhere…Tirion Fordring, Saurfang the Elder (and his son, in a way), Bolvar Fordragon, Muradin Bronzebeard. Lore whores and roleplayers like me are loving this. It looks good. It sounds good. It is good.
And then there’s the five-mans. Forge of Souls, Pit of Saron, Halls of Reflection. I’ve only run them once, on normal, with one other attempt (unsuccessful) at the HoR gauntlet on heroic. Forge of Souls looks big, but actually is fairly small and linear, and doesn’t appear too awful hard, though all these instances are considerably harder than existing level 80 5-mans, both normal and heroic–think Magister’s Terrace for the difficulty jump. Pit of Saron is my favorite, a giant outdoor quarry full of Alliance and Horde slaves, with some awesome NPC interaction, funny boss fights (leper gnomes with mohawks FTW), a nasty but cool gauntlet, and twists near the end.
And then there’s Halls of Reflection. Any instance that can simultaneously have me gushing at how awesome it is and literally screaming in frustration is probably doing something right. HoR is brutal on tanks from a technical standpoint. The first boss fight in there left me with an aching wrist and exhausted…and then I had to turn around and flee for my life while holding off waves of undead with the Lich King his own mother-humping self coming to eat my face. The final gauntlet in HoR is simultaneously brilliant and frustrating, at least if you’re a warrior or a bear.
What about Beltar and the alts? Looking for Dungeon, baby. Random heroics. It works brilliantly. You can accumulate badges at a ridiculous rate, and at least so far, the idiot quotient seems to be quite low. Most people I’ve run with have been quiet, and none have been RPers, but they’re mostly at least competent enough to get the job done. The tanks and healers I’ve run with have, for the most part, actually been quite good. Oh, and how ridiculous is “a ridiculous rate?” Ridiculous as in, in one weekend, Beltar has gotten two pieces of Tier 9 (gloves/shoulders), a new gun from heroic Coliseum, a bronze drake from CoS, and the Northrend Dungeonmaster achievement. In one weekend.
So the final score for WoW over the past four days?
Thursday: Icecrown Citadel 25-man on Linedan, downed Lord Marrowgar.
Friday: Icecrown Citadel 25-man and Trial of the Crusader 25-man on Linedan. Full clear on ToC, didn’t quite get Lady Deathwhisper in ICC but we’re doing better.
Saturday: Trial of the Crusader 10-man (full clear, 5 for 5 on one-shots), Onyxia 10-man, Naxx 10-man (weekly raid quest, just Anub’rekhan) and ICC 10-man on Linedan with Lord Marrowgar one-shotted. Plus a couple random heroics on Beltar, and all three of the new 5-mans on normal with Linedan.
Sunday: 7 random heroics on Beltar, two on Moktor my DK, one on Linedan.
Soooo…what do you guys think? Think I’m burned out any more?
I’ve got a bunch more 3.3 posts mentally lining up. One on the LFD system and its quirks, one on the five-mans in which I fully accept that Halls of Reflection has made me its bitch and I don’t mind, and one on Icecrown’s first two bosses with a little about strategery and a little about tanking. Stay tuned.
“Right, lad, I hear what yer sayin’. It’s a nice bow, ain’t denyin’ it. I know it’s better’n me old gun. But it’s a bow, lad. Dwarves, we don’t use ‘ese here things, aye? Bent sticks’o’wood w’strings onna back, ’em’s fer poncy elves prancin’ round th’forest. A dwarf needs th’ feel o’a boomstick in ‘is hand, boy. ‘Sides, last time I tried t’go on campaign w’a bow, ’bout damn threw m’shoulder outta joint fer a week.”
(EDIT AFTER THE FACT): OK, the quick story behind this, and why Beltar is the Wildfire Riders’ resident loot trashcan extraordinaire. While on last night, the call went out for a ranged DPS to help in Ulduar because Yva‘s connection crapped itself and she couldn’t get back on. So I volunteered. Despite his somewhat marginal gear compared to the rest of the 10-man, we got Hodir hardmode…and he got a nice cloak when the guy who won the roll saw that Beltar was still wearing a blue Cloak of Holy Extermination. (Vent: “BELTAR, GODDAMMIT, YOU ARE TAKING THIS CLOAK NOW.”) Then we cleared Vezax trash…and the Golemheart Longbow dropped. At that point, Yva got back on and I headed back out so she could take her spot back and they went on to get hardmode Vezax.