Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Failure Tuning

Spinks wrote a very thought-provoking article today.  She's discussing gimmicky raids, old content, and learning.  The comments continue the discussion and are definitely worth reading, as some very good points are raised and elaborated on.

I'm not sure there is any one "right" opinion here.  I think I've touched on this issue in various ways before, but the crux of things revolves around what combination, exactly, of boss mechanics make encounters fun.  There are a ton of ways to slice this.  We could look at individual encounters, or take a raid instance as a whole.  We could look at each tier, or each patch, or each expansion.  We could talk in terms of progression raiders, or casual guildies, or true PuGs.  Heck, we don't even have a solid definition of what "gimmicky" means.

The problem is: it's all opinion.  What's fun for one person, may not be fun for another.  The nature of the beast is that in pleasing some people, you're going to lose others.  Yet, there has to be a maximized middle ground.  Hasn't there?

Perhaps the most interesting thought I gleaned from the discussion was that maybe in despairing of simpler encounters, we've mired ourselves in less forgiving bosses that make us even more unhappy.  To some extent, it's the age-old case of "the grass is always greener," but is there a such thing as a healthy mix? 

If I were to complain (and I try to keep that at a minimum), it would be along the lines of what one of the commenters pointed out about "failure tolerance."  It may be that the simple answer is that things have become too finely tuned on the individual.  I would wonder if this doesn't reflect a bunch of 25-man design ideas ported to 10-man groups.  Blizz says they've kept both in mind, but that's an inherently difficult task to begin with.  When things are simply scaled down, you go from a 3 person responsibility, to just one.  You lose forgiveness at the small end of raiding.  Do 25-man groups feel the same pressure to preform?

Maybe instead of simply scaling an encounter and preserving most of the mechanics, some need to simply be lost.  Still, I think this has been done too, and how has it helped?  Is there even a good solution here?  It seems like Blizz has tried a lot of different things.  Perhaps they're just as frustrated as we are, trying to walk the finest line ever drawn in MMO design.

I don't have a good answer here.  I simply agree that I feel frustrated when I can't fill a difficult role though I may have learned the fight, and we're forced to put someone there who is simply trying to learn the basics of it.  I also still feel like raid gearing is too slow, especially given the somewhat overused options (Z's, heroics to some extent).  I don't have a solution there either, though.

Learning, explaining, remembering... they've become the true gimmicks of current encounters.  And I'm not sure there is any digital fix for the human element.  Is it simply that we'd rather be failing to non-human elements than human ones?

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

QOTD: Legendary Tips

We finally downed our first Firelands boss last night. We had been working on Beth'tilac, but after two weeks of wiping (and much tweaking of strategies), we decided that we just didn't have the gear for it. Beth'tilac is a gear check, and we just weren't getting the adds down fast enough.

Most of us are over 359 average ilevel, but not by a whole lot.  Many have stopped running heroics out of sheer boredom with them.  We try to do a few a week, but we are definitely not capping VP (and we don't require that).  If we were less casual, that average gear level is probably enough. After all, I've seen stories of folks going in with that sort of gear and doing just fine. Being pretty casual, we probably need a bit more gear.  It was doubly frustrating because everyone else seems to think that this fight is cake.  Well, the cake is a lie.  If your group is struggling, feel in good company.

So, in the last half hour, we decided to swap over to Shannox.  The only reason we didn't do him first was because we didn't want to waste a bunch of time clearing the trash to get him to spawn.  We've done enough trash runs that most of the trash no longer gives rep, so there's little drive to do it.  Still, it was time to try another boss.  The hunter's horn sounded thrice, and then... 

We one shot him.  Yeah.  It went something like this:

/Ful starts reading strat over vent
/Shannox pats into range halfway through the reading
/We say "screw it" and pull
/yadda yadda yadda
/Shannox dies

I know, I yadda'ed over the best part.  Well, we killed one dog early.  The second dog we dragged out until Shannox had like 35% health left.  Then, we finished them both off.  We were just sort of winging it with only the vaguest idea of what we were supposed to do, and it worked.

So, I have to say: Shannox is far easier than Beth'tilac... especially if you're not high on the gear curve.

The side effect of an unexpected one-shot is that we got out first chance to see one of the BoP embers needed for the caster Legendary.  As one might guess, we found ourselves ill-prepared to deal with it.  I don't know if you've ever been in a casual raid group before, but it's been my experience that whenever something special like this drops, there's this moment of mini-panic where everyone is thinking "oh shit, now what do we do."

You see, casual folks tend to have a wide array of different opinions when it comes to gearing.  And Legendaries can cause guild-stress even for the prepared.  It's just one of the truths of the game.

Fortunately, rational heads prevailed and after a few moments of collective flailing, we had it narrowed down to three people who both wanted the opportunity (not everyone wants the responsibility... you're pretty much saying you'll be there for every raid and then some) and could make good use of the resulting item.  The three rolled and, well, yours truly came out on top.  So, if our ragtag guild somehow manages to construct the Legendary, I will get it.

I'm super-psyched about this.  I don't think I've ever had a shot for anything cool in the many years I've played this game.  Generally, there hasn't been a whole lot unique and cool for casters, but also I've never been in a position where it was really possible.  I hesitate to get too excited, because actually being able to do this is a long way off, and could never happen, but it feels nice to even have the chance.  I've been a dedicated guildy for a lot of years now, and my current guild-mates are some of my very best friends, so though they may give me crap about it... I'm thankful nonetheless.

Which brings me to my question of the day.  Now that I have a shot at the Legendary... does anyone have any tips?  Is there anything I can do to be ready for it?  Are there any other Warlocks out there rocking this bad boy?

Friday, August 26, 2011

An Exit Strategy

Harrison cracks the door, peeking out into the cool Ramkahen night. Valentis stands resolute on the windward side, staring anxiously back.

"A moment?" he asks.

Harrison glances behind him.  The room is clear, so he widens the door.  Decedereful has fled to the back room.

Valentis strides into the room and removes his hat.  He glances around as if seeing the club for the first time.  Finally, placing a hand on the back of a chair, he turns to find Harrison regarding him.

"I do apologize for the lateness of my call, but I'm afraid it couldn't be helped," the Gilnean says.

Harrison nods, but says nothing.

"Mr. Jones... there is something we need to discuss."  Valentis twists his hat nervously in his hands.

"All right, then."

Valentis sets the hat on the table.  "I've gotten the gen that you're the man to ask about some papers of great value to me."

Harrison shrugs.  "And if I am?"

"How much do you want for them?"

Harrison frowns.  "Even if I had these papers, what makes you think they are for sale."

Valentis smiles.  "Everything is for sale in Ramkahen, Mr. Jones."

Harrison's eyes stray toward the door in the back.  "Not everything."

It is at that moment that they both notice that jacket thrown across an adjacent table.  A long moment of silence stretches as they both stare at it, Valentis in curiosity and Harrison in horror.  The Gilnean's eyes rise to meet Harrison's.  They seem to soften.

"Mr. Jones," Valentis begins after a moment, "I know a good deal more about you than you suspect.  I know, for instance, that you're in love with a woman."

Valentis pauses, but Harrison betrays nothing. 

"It is perhaps a strange circumstance that we both should be in love with the same woman," he continues.  Harrison's eyes widen, but Valentis barrels on.  "The first evening I came to this club, I knew there was something between you and Dece.  Since no one is to blame, I-I demand no explanation.  I ask only one thing."  His eyes burn with sincerity.  "You won't give the papers to me: all right.  But I want my fiancee to be safe.  I ask you as a favor.  Use the papers to take her away from Ramkahen."

Harrison cocks his head.  "You love her that much?"

Valentis smiles sadly.  "Apparently you think of me only as the leader of a cause.  Well, I'm also a human being.  Yes, I love her that much."

Harrison turns away.  His mind reels.  He needs a moment to digest the new information.  A saunter over to retrieve the wayward jacket fills the time.  He folds it neatly and places it on the bar.  It smells like her.

"Let's say I can help in the way you ask," Harrison says.  "Then what?"

"There is a plane, Gnomish, leaving tomorrow night," Valentis confides.  "The papers will get Dece and a companion safely into Stormwind.  It launches from the flats north of Ramkahen."

"I know the place," Harrison says.  He has been witness to other flights under cloak of darkness.  "I shall have to procure these papers, but I believe I can have them by tomorrow."

"That is all I can ask, Mr. Jones."  Valentis picks his had back up.  "I am most grateful."

Harrison waves a hand.  "You just make sure she's there."

"I will," Valentis replies as he moves to the door.  "You can be certain of that."  He opens the door.  "Good night, Mr. Jones, and thank you."

Harrison nods as the man slips out, his mind churning.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

QOTD: Meaningful Decrease is Meaningful?

Is there such a thing as "too much" meaning? I've been paying only divided attention to the information coming out about the whole Deathwing patch thing. After all, I still have plenty to do in the current raiding patch. We've yet to down our first boss.

Still, one of the things I keep seeing repeated is the following line:
"The next expansion should be released with a "meaningful difference" in the release timeline compared to previous expansions."
Maybe it's just me, but when I read this, several red flags go off in my head.

First of all, we're getting the Deathwing patch already.  Doesn't that seem fast to anyone?  I hardly feel like we've gotten rolling.  I suppose I expected to visit other elemental planes first.

I keep seeing comparisons to Ulduar.  Shouldn't we be making comparisons to ICC?  Isn't this raid supposed to be this expansion's ICC?  We're basically going, Naxx (The three initial raids), Uld (FL), no ToC, ICC (Deathwing).  Does anyone else feel like we're missing a step?  Not that the ToC step will be all that missed, but it did sort provide a chance to catch our breath and set up for ICC.  I wouldn't it mind it sped up, but having fully expected "steps" removed bugs me. 

Maybe that's an unfair comparison though. 

Another red flag is that they keep strongly hinting that we're going to get another expansion a lot sooner than in years past.  I think it's pretty safe to assume that they mean to announce it at Blizzcon and then perhaps release it next year.  That's almost a full year early.

Does that mean we're going to get a break on price?  Before, I was paying a large amount of money (in addition to a monthly fee) for (essentially) two years of content.  I'm okay with that, but is it fair to the consumer to expect them to pay the same amount for essentially one year of equivalent content (on top of a monthly fee), with no real explanation (other than: hey, faster is better, right?)?  At what point is this worrisome?

I'm not usually one to cry wolf around here.  I don't really like to complain about being "nickle and dimed" or anything, because I've generally felt like we've gotten good value for what we pay.   Lately, however, the cost per hour seems to be going up.  Drastically.  A strategic change like this would represent a 100% increase in expansion pricing. 

Maybe they plan to give a discount, though.  Or give some bonus, neat swag with the purchase (discounting the swag-free digital release, since isn't that just another patch?).  Maybe the quality will be completely superb, even better than we've become to expect (however, I think one could make a valid case that quality has been declining.  Still great, but perhaps a bit of a slide from what once was).  

At what point should red flags be waving?

I only ask because I've not see this asked elsewhere.  We all seem to be taking this projected news in stride without blinking an eye.  I'm not trying to be a cranky old-timer here, I just think I have some valid concerns about what seems to be a major paradigm shift.  Change can be good, but I'm always wary of it.  I'm willing to adapt and I'm not going to sit here and glorify the olden days, but when something is wrapped up with a "this is what you want" package, I find myself having to ask:

Is it really?

You tell me.  Surely, this has piqued other minds. 

Monday, August 22, 2011

Another Tequila Monday

I wish I had tequila. Instead, I'm in the office, doing officey things. By that, I mean day-dreaming about killing giant spiders.  (And humming Eagles tunes).  Here are some random, unrelated things to consider:
  • Hot Topic 1: Threat.  I have no feelings about this either way.  I can see both sides of the coin here.  For me, it gives me something to needle Fuu about.  "You got 300% threat and I'm still pulling aggro!"  Course, I was in demon form with immolation aura, shadowflame dot ticking, and ROF'ing all over the place.
  • Hot Topic 2: Trans-googly-moogly.  That stuff wherein you may change the look of your gears (presumably to be implemented with 4.3).  I generally feel positive here.  It's a neat option and I think it'll actually lead to a greater diversity of looks out there.  Aion had this, and it made things visually interesting as toons tended to reflect the tastes of the player more than simply boasting end-game gear.  For every run-of-the-mill tier set, you'll likely have a pirate with an eye-patch.  Or the Monopoly guy (as a Gnome of course).
  • My Topic 1: Demo vs Affliction.  We're getting to the point in the game where I start running as Demo at least 50% of the time.  This generally happens when I feel comfortable with Affliction and simply want the change of pace.  The major difference between the two?  I feel like Demo is still more forgiving.  It was rocky when they first did the talent revamp, but it seems like the Demo rotation has been slowly ironed out.  With Demo being raid viable too, it really gives me an interesting choice.  On nights when I RL (and thus do subpar DPS because my focus is divided), Demo might be there better option.  I feel like with Affliction, you either play hardcore or not at all.  DPS drops off sharply if you're not playing well.  With Demo, the "minimum" (if you will) is set a bit higher.  That's just a personal observation though.
  • My Topic 2: I hate, hate, hate that one change to DK's where our frosty thing has a cast time.  SEE! I can't even remember its name now because of how little I use it (Hungering Cold).  I used to love that spell, but now it's pretty much worthless in PvP.  Or, at least, not nearly as dependable as it once was.
That is all.  Take it easy.  It is Monday, after all.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Caught in a Storm

It is the following evening, several hours after closing that Harrison sees her again.  Decedereful and her fiancee had been curiously absent all night, but now she sneaks in through the front doors.  She peers behind her as if worried of pursuit, and then resolutely shuts and locks the door.

Harrison stands frozen in the midst of wiping down the bar.  He had already sent the help home, and was simply finishing up a few last chores.  When she turns and spears him with her beautiful blue eyes, she freezes like cornered animal.  There is something wild about her appearance, and it serves only to enhance her ravishing beauty.

She wears a long jacket, having just removed the wide brimmed hat from her head and letting her dark hair spill out over her shoulders.  Moments ago, before she'd spun around, Harrison might have thought her one of Renault's henchmen, come to pay him an unsavory night's visit.  Instead, one look at her chases all thoughts of self-preservation from his mind.

His face remains impassive.  He watches as Decedereful gathers her courage and approaches him across the club.  When she nears, she slips the jacket from her shoulders and drapes it over a chair.  The dress she wears beneath is enough to set Harrison's blood on fire.  His heart thumps painfully against his chest, and he struggles to stay calm.  She continues forward until she stands before him, regarding him with burning, doe-eyes.  Harrison keeps the counter between them.

"Why did you come back?" Harrison asks.  "To tell me why you ran out on me at the railway station?"

A look crossing her beautiful face.  "...Yes."

"Well, you can tell me now.  I'm reasonably sober."  Harrison replaces several full bottles to the area he'd just been wiping.

"If I am to be honest with you, you must promise me something," Dece says.

"What is that?"  Harrison asks.

"That you ask no questions of me that I cannot answer," Dece replies.

"No questions, then.  Okay."

There is a pause as she gathers herself.

"I would not have returned," she says, "would not have chanced causing you even the smallest hurt, were the situation not dire.  Valentis, he needs to get out of here if he is to continue his work.  And it's important work, you know that, Harrison."

Harrison nods, but says nothing and crosses his arms.  Her eyes contain nothing but sincerity.

Decedereful continues, "As it is, I come to you because of the love we once shared, the love that still burns deep within me, in the hopes of eliciting your help."  She smiles.  "When I left the Lost City-"

"I wouldn't bring up the Lost City if I were you.  It's poor salesmanship," Harrison interrupts.

The smile melts away and she takes a deep breath.  "Leaving you was the hardest thing I've ever done.  Please, believe that.  And now it seems that fate has brought me back to you.  I'm not the same girl that you knew, but I love you all the same.  These times make for complicated situations."

Harrison can no longer stand it.  "Who are you really, and what were you before?  What did you do and what did you think, huh?"  It is obvious a war rages inside of him.

Decedereful shakes her head.  "We said no questions."

Harrison frowns and lifts a clean glass, "...Here's looking at you, kid."

Decedereful smiles.  Like a cat stalking her prey, she moves smoothly around the end of the bar to join Harrison on his side.  She steps in close.  Harrison peers down into the face he once loved so well.  His features soften.

"I'm sorry for asking.  I forgot we said no questions," he says.

"Well, only one answer can take care of all our questions."

Decedereful rises up on her toes and pulls his head in, kissing him.  Their lips mingle as words flee.  The room swirls in Harrison's vision as he loses himself.  He brings one hand up on her smooth, cold back, pressing her into him.  Her fingers worm down into his hair, gripping as if her life depended on it.

A knock pulls them apart.

"Does anyone know you are here?" Harrison asks breathlessly.  His first thought is of henchmen, and that perhaps he's put Dece in danger.

"No.  No one," she replies.

Harrison disentangles himself and approaches the door.  The knock sounds again.

"Who is there?" Harrison says in a loud voice.

"Valentis," comes the muffled reply.

Harrison turns to find Decedereful with a look of panic on her face.  And also, perhaps, just the slightest hint of something else.  Harrison despairs to name it, but cannot deny it.


Thursday, August 18, 2011

Writing Contest? I need your help!

Tanking! And threat! And MOAR TANKING!

Okay, that's all I'm going to say about that.  Shows you how much I care about the recent change that seems to be on the tips of everyone's fingers.  I don't really play a tank, and I've never really had a problem moderating my own threat so as not to get myself killed.  Admittedly, I don't go back and run dungeons with PuGs at a high level of gear.  I generally have a well-geared tanking familiar with me (my wife).  Fuu might have some opinions about this... maybe I'll prod her to come back and write.  I know y'all miss her.

No, what I want to mention today is the Writing Contest that Blizzard announced.  I have an admission to make.  I've never entered a writing contest before.  I can't really say why.  Most of it is probably due to laziness.  Also a lack of confidence in my own work.  I've never thought of myself as award-winning.  I just like telling stories.  I'm no Hemingway.

Yet, a lot of you have given me strongly positive feedback.  It's been great for those black days many writers have (wherein all that is, was, and can be... is crap).  It's gotten me thinking: maybe I should be considering the contest.  If nothing else, it could be fun.

As I was contemplating what I might write, or what I might possibly be able to submit, I began to despair again.  I have 112 marked IC Friday posts, and I lovehate them all.  Yes, lovehate is a word.  I think it's the closest a Warlock gets to true love.

In any case, I figured I'd turn to you, fair readers.  Has anything I've written in the WoW universe stuck out to you?  Would it make a good submission?  Now, the word guideline calls for 2500 - 7500 words.  My single posts are nowhere near that.  Thus, we'd be looking for a string of maybe 5 posts that told a neat story.

So, I figured I'd make you guys a deal.  You pick the posts, and I'll do whatever else needs to be done to pretty them up and submit them to Blizz.  If we win, we'll throw a cake party or something.  If no-one one comes up with anything, that's fine too.  I'm not sure what I write translates well to contests anyhoo.  Entertaining? Yes.  Hemingway?  No.  No biggy.

I just wanted to put this out there for kicks and giggles.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

A Warlocky Beth'tilac Strat

I mentioned I might do a strat post today. However, instead of BH, I substituted Beth'tilac. Apparently there's a good write-up for BH on WoW Insider that I've not had time to look at yet, but it's not a hard fight.

I like to make my own strats, so this is as much for me as it is for any of you.  Likely, you're all beyond this big arachnid anyway.  One thing I like to try to do when I'm attacking a strat write-up is to condense and make it funny/interesting.  There are tons of dry strats out there.  Most of the times, those strats won't hold the attention of our raiders (myself included).  There is definitely a point where my eye cross and I start thinking about lolcats (killing them, of course).  Thus, here is my somewhat irreverent strat for Beth'tilac.

Big boss spider sits up on top of the web and rains AoE down until a tank picks her up.  Medium sized spiders (spinners) drop down. Once they are taunted off their strings (or killed), the strings can be used to ascend to the top.  Small spiders (spiderlings) spawn in a group and run to a big spider (drone).
This happens in a series of three waves. Each wave consists of 1 drone, a half dozen spinners, and 2-3 waves of little spiderlings (~12).

That is all just for Phase 1. We'll get to P2 in a sec, but don't worry it's easy.

In P1, the name of the game is add/damage control. This is a "live through it" phase. We send three folks up top to keep the big bitch occupied (tank, heals, deeps) while the remainder of the group struggles below. You need to assign someone to get the spinners off their strings (their spit hurts more than their melee, and they don't really require a tank). You need to kill the spiderlings before they get to the drone, or the drone will gain a stacking damage buff from each eaten. You also need to kill all spiderlings before the boss comes down for P2.

Thus, we have the following assignments, with 2 tanks, 3 heals, 5 deeps:
  • Tank 1 is up top with Healer 1 and Mad Deeps 1. I would suggest Mad Deeps 1 be an Aff'lock because of course you have one and Aff'locks are (nearly) worthless on trash.  Instead, they excel at sustained damage with moderate movement. Leave the burstier melee deeps downstairs for sure.
  • Tank 2 (your tank with the best situational awareness) remains down and focuses on tanking the drone and avoiding the spiderlings. It is on this tank to keep his/her head on a swivel and puzzle out the spiderling spawn points (they are finite, but I'm not sure exactly where they occur). 
  • The people up top simple need to live by avoiding meteors, keep her engaged, and the deeps needs to deeps. Deeps now helps us in P2 later.
  • Healers 2 and 3 are downstairs split between raid and tank, doing their thang.
  • (Melee) Deeps 2 with the worst combination of taunt/AoE (or best deeps) would be assigned to be on the drone when it pops, deepsing his/her heart out.
  • (Melee) Deeps 3 with taunt (DKs are good for this) with Deeps 4 (Hunter) focus on the hanging spinners. The goal is to get them off strings and then kill them. Hunter MDs to DK and the world keeps on spinning. Ha, get it? Like I said, their melee bark is far worse than the bite. Don't need tank gear here, but will need some heals, especially if we get behind.
  • This leaves Deeps 5 (best AoE) to focus on getting those spiderlings down when they spawn. Other deeps should drop their AoE's if they can. Deeps 4 could slide over to help if we're both ahead on the spinners and/or behind on the 'lings. Deeps 2 could help finish off any that get close too.
So 3 waves of this chaos. In between waves, the folks from the top will have to jump back down to avoid death and we do a bit of rinse/repeat, jumping back up and resuming the dance.

After the 3rd wave, she'll deign descend from on high to fight us for reals. Likely, there will be a very last spiderling spawn right before this. It'll be key that we down all those 'lings so that the big girl doesn't eat them, otherwise she'll heal up per 'ling lunch.

This, if you haven't guessed, puts us into Phase 2. P2, thankfully, is pretty simple. Burn like fel. She'll get a stacking buff that works as a "soft" enrage timer. Longer we take, the harder she hits, until splat.

Questions/Comments? Call the hotline: 1-555-Bethsux.  (Sounds like a 900 number, but it isn't, for safety reasons).

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Caught Up

Well, we did it. As a guild, our extremely casual 10-man group is now officially in Firelands. In the span of two weeks, we knocked out the latter half of all of the previous tier's raiding content. I'm sure the nerf had a lot to do with it, as well as the low-hanging gear improvements (from dailies/questing).  We even owned TB (as alliance!) last night, so we got to roflstomp BH.

Yes, we have our Defenders of a Shattered World title, and our shiny new mounts.  They may be slightly stale, but for us the taste is still just as sweet.  On our off nights, we'll probably go back and polish off the personal achievements for some of our subs and the people who couldn't make it on a given night.  But, as a guild, we're there.  Hanging on by the skin of our teeth.

I'm excited to see where we get to before the next major content patch drops.  Can we polish off FL in the interim?  To me, and to most of my guild (I think), our success always seems a sort of "proof of concept."  That is to say, a lot of us wouldn't be raiding at all if we had to conform to a more traditional schedule.  Theoretically speaking, we shouldn't be successful.  We don't spend the time in-game wiping and learning that everyone else says is necessary.

We're not on the bleeding edge, but we're seeing the content.  We're experiencing it.  We're not being carried by a half-hardcore team.  We're working together toward a goal.  Heck, our small guild still has yet to hit level 20, and it isn't for lack of trying.

We did get about 45 minutes to work on Beth'tilac last night.  That seems a fun fight.  Here are my initial impressions:
  • Kill the hangy spiders and get up top... I'm sick of being puked on.
  • Small spiders, AoE.
  • Big guy... kill?
  • So many spiders.  Why couldn't it have been snakes?
  • Aaannd we're dying.
  • More spiders? Argh.
  • Wipe.
I feel like we're struggling for DPS.  We send a tank, a healer, and a melee DPS up.  I wonder if that is wise.  I was the leader last night, so this is me questioning my own decisions (instead of arm-chair quarterbacking).  We were pretty successful at getting the spiderlings down before the reached the drone, but we didn't seem to get the drone down before a second one spawned.  Then, it seemed like people started dying because we were too far behind.  Needless to say, we have some learning to do, and some strat analysis.

I think maybe I'll do a quick write up of the BH boss tomorrow.  It was pretty easy, but I didn't see many written strats out there.  Link me with a good one and I'll make sure to point to that (I know there are good videos, but I like a write up).

It feels good to be "caught up."

Friday, August 12, 2011

Simception II

Fulguralis was surrounded. By Mages.  Over there was a short, pigtailed Gnome.  Here was a sinewy Night Elf.  Clustered to the left was a group of five seemingly identical dark-haired Humans.  Perhaps mirror images?  A female Draenei puffed out her chest to the right, joined by a giant, hulking Worgen.

The crowd wasn't limited to members of the Alliance either.  Fulguralis spotted a flamboyant Blood Elf, a husky Tauren, even a slimy Goblin.  He could have sworn he saw a Naga in there somewhere as well.  It was a forest of colorful staffs.  A sea of cloth.

Elementals dotted the room between the more or less intelligent denizens.  There was a low hum beneath the silence.  It was the sound of rocks moving, water flowing, fires burning, breezes... breezing?

The room itself seemed endless.  There were no discernible supports, yet a ceiling loomed high overhead.  Fulguralis could not glimpse any walls, but surely they were there.  White tile ran underfoot.  In the air, the Warlock smelled fear.  Fear and just the sweetest hint of Corruption.

Fulguralis was the lone Warlock in an endless desert of Magery.  A dark and shadowy oasis.  He smiled.

When he moved, all fel broke loose.  An army of elements charged at him, while their wielders waved their hands in the back.  Fulguralis danced and spun between them, his robes whipping around him.  Affliction radiated outward from him in waves.  The entire room seemed to dim until there were only glowing eyes in the darkness.

Flames marred the black tapestry, exploding when they hit the ground and providing the only illumination.  Shards of ice reflected the light, shining missiles streaking by.  The wind was a gust in the Warlock's ear; water pelted his face in fat drops.

And he danced the dance of Death.  Shadow flew from his fingers.  Those nearest were the first to fall.  Shrieking, they succumbed to the Corruption within them and keeled over, clawing at their faces.  Limbs detached themselves from torsos, rotten to the core.  Darkness swallowed them whole and tore them apart in a soundless explosion.  As they died, Fulguralis grew stronger.

Like a line of dominoes they toppled, one after the other.  The wetness spraying the Warlock's face turned from clear to red.  Fulguralis cracked open his soul and power rushed out in a torrent.  He rose above the carnage, an unstable whirl of agony and doom.  Demons dotted the landscape below.  The fires continued to burn.

It was a thing of beauty.  Arcane, Fire, and Frost, they could not touch him.  He was armored in the demonic, wreathed in shadow, with a fire burning inside of him.  He was invincible.

When his feet finally touched the ground, there was a wet squish.  Slowly, the light returned to reveal the reaper's toll.  The tile was no longer white, but a mottled red and black.  The air was burnt, and a hint of iron tickled the nostril.  Fulguralis stretched his wings and inhaled deeply.  With regret, he squelched the fire in his palms.

* * *

He woke up.  To his left, a ruined piece of equipment smoldered.  Bewildered Gnomes clustered around the slag, mouths agape, speechless for once.  They turned saucer eyes on him

Fulguralis raised himself up out of the chair and tossed the goggles at the attendant nearest him.  They clattered at the pink-pigtailed Gnome's feet.  No one moved.

"Thanks," he said, and then walked out.

* * *

He woke up.  To his left, Fuubaar lay sleeping.  Fulguralis snuggled up against her back.

"Hmmm?" she purred, still mostly asleep.

The Warlock smiled.  "Nothing honey.  Just had another simulation within a dream."

"That's nice," she answered.

"Yes, yes it was."

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Why Rivs Is Wrong

I know, I'm probably feeding the Troll Mage here. Fact is, I generally like Rivs over at High Latency Life,* and I'm willing to excuse one terribly awful no-good very-bad post. After all, don't random gratuitous pictures of scantily clad women make up for a lack of journalistic research and integrity every time?** 

I swear, some people just love drama.  And oranges.

So this is me, pulling myself up from the bowels of the city, rising to the occasion to defend my honor. 

Honor?  Pssch.  You think Warlocks give a shit about honor?  Nah, this is just going to be plain fun.  And let me tell you something about the bowels.  The Light is well... light.  I like cool shades as much as the next guy, but I burn in the light.  And it's hot outside.  Nice and cool down here in the "bowels."

You say bowels.  I say super-awesome man cave.  We've got leather recliners made with REAL BABY SEAL.  Also, with your well-publicized fondness of skanky women, Rivs, I'm 666% sure you frequent the "bowels" as much as we do.  Who do you think organizes and dresses all those women?  It certainly ain't the Paladins on staff.

But let's get to the meat of the post.  The six points.  (Six because that's all you could grope for.)

6. You're penalizing us because you don't speak demonic?  Live a little.  Strike up a conversation with some of those bowel-women instead of just raining ice on their heads and calling 'em twenties.  Besides, what are you going to do when the Burning Legion shows up again and screws with things?  We'll be the ones out there taunting them appropriately.  IN THEIR OWN LANGUAGE.

5. The party is where we are.  (Did you see the green disco ball?)  Hence, summoning.  You get portals so that everyone can flee from your "awesomeness."  Also, Flasher Phonebooth >> Whatever-the-hell-nickname-ports-have.  Probably something Tyrion has called Cersei Lannister's mommy parts at some point.

4.  I don't know a self-respecting Warlock alive that uses conjured anything.  Heck, we don't use regular food/water.  That's right, we cut ourselves.  And then resupply ourselves from our enemies.  Your tears are our sustenance.  Have fun in your little magical kitchen, Top Chef.  We'll be out baking cookies from SOULS.

3.  I love how you reference Shaman here.  Like they're somehow related to Warlocks.  Then you flaunt Rocky Horror Picture like it gives you some sort of street cred.  Go back to 1973.  Did you know we have our own self-heroism?  It's called Demon Soul.  It doesn't help anyone else, doesn't stack with your shit, and we like it that way.  You can take your Time Warp and shove it.  We'll be just fine.  Not pretending we're in a musical, but killing... slowly.

2.  Did you forget we can still Soulstone?  Sure we could save it to use as a b-rez for others... but why would we?  We can fight 'till the death, die, then pop back up with health to spare.  Run away you little ice-blocking, Rogue-like cowards.  We've conquered Death.  That shit was so vanilla.  Go talk to Xenophilius Lovegood about the Deathly Hallows or something.  Get a glove, get in the game.

1. Wait, what's this?  You couldn't even come up with six?  Well, that's a shame.  Does anyone even use portals anymore?  Between hearthstones, guild shrouds, permanent ports in the main cities, the "leave instance" option in dungeons, and quest chains that take you exactly where you need to go... who ports?  Maybe you're trying to bring back the "glory days" when y'all used to be able to charge everyone because there was no other way to get around.  You opportunistic bastards.  No, we haven't forgiven you for that.

0. Oh, there's more?  You betcha.  I could go all day.  Let's look at pets.  The devs had to give you one just so you could attempt to keep up with us.  While you're over there trying to coax an itty-bitty elemental from the planes next-door like a Shaman (oops, I did it too), we're ripping our minion forcefully from across the felling Nether.  THE TWISTED DAMNED NETHER.  (No association with the blogcast of the same name.) 

-1.  Gettin' deeper into the bowels now.  Let's take a look at famous Mages.  I've done this one before so it's sort of cheating.  Here's a recap:  Enjoy Kel'Thuzad and Jaina Proudmoore.  Stellar cast you've got there.

-2. Pop quiz: Which are better, councils or covens?  If you chose councils, go debate about it for 6 months and get back to me with a debt-reduction plan.

-3. You make cuddly sheep.  We skip the shape-changing sparkly crap and just make mobs too scared to move.  It's so OP that Blizz still makes it pull aggro, just to even things out.

-4.We turn into a frickin' Demon.  You turn into a block of ice.  Handy, if we're all sitting around drinking Coke.

-5. You have normal orange fire.  We have that, plus green fire, plus purple fire that shoots from a demon head of awesome.  (You know, the one you've seen in every guild pic ever with a Warlock.)

-6. To finish with a strike home where we believe your heart may reside: Warlock women will do things that Mage women think are gross.  'Nuff said.

I went to negative six.  Pretty deep in the bowels.  Also, that gives me a grand total of 13... which is a little more than double and a pretty lucky number.

Gnomer, you'd better come back and help out your boy, Rivs.  He needs some sort of 10-step program, I think.


* I do.  Seriously.  You should be reading over there if you're not.  He's a great guy/writer/picture-chooser.

Also, unrelated: Twitterati - Yes, I'm a dude, too.  Though I got some of my writing analyzed over at Gender Genie, and it thought I was a girl too.  Raised by wolves, say I.

**(Like we're all doing responsible journalism here...)

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Raiding Status Update

This may be boring, and I try not to do simply "this is what I'm up to" posts, but I feel like some of you out there may be interested to know where our raid group stands.  Mostly, I think it due to our unique schedule.  Perhaps I'm giving us too much importance, but I feel like we represent the very bottom end of casual raiding (in terms of time spent).  Recap for those that may not know: we only raid for two hours each week.  That's it.  And it works for us.

Case in point: we just downed Nef and Cho'gall last night, leaving only Al'Akir left from the old content.  This, considering we've had to cancel (or 8-man FL trash runs) as often as we've raided over the summer.  Summer is always a rough patch, so I feel like we took it in stride and got a couple new, solid subs hanging around now as a result.

We've pulled each other through dailies and crafted new items for folks.  Thus, we'll likely spend one more week on Al'Akir and then hit the ground running in FL.  We already know the trash.  If we continue with the average amount of time we spend learning a boss, we should be through all the current raid content by Christmas if not sooner.  It may be an optimistic goal, but it's achievable from where I'm sitting.

We're very slightly off the "main" progression path.  That is, our aim is to try to be on current content and finish it just before the next patch.  To me, this is the perfect playstyle.  We're stringing stuff out so that there is always something to do.  We rarely get bored with raiding because there is no farming or downtime.  We also enjoy a lot of other areas in the game.

I'm not saying this as an advertisement for us, but more to broadcast that there are "other" ways than the typical schedules.  We do one night for a scant two hours.  And it works.  We play the game our way, and have a blast doing it.  If you're not raiding right now and want to, don't be afraid to think outside the box.  Chances are you'll find others in the same boat.

Also, sometimes it's interesting to see where you stand with respect to other groups.  I'm sure a lot of people are beyond us, but I'd bet there are just as many that didn't finish off the old content before jumping into FL.  For us, it's a point of pride.  It doesn't matter that the encounters have been nerfed; we just want to say we've "been there."  And we're one boss away from focusing solely on Firelands.  Ragnaros better watch out.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Stupid Harbinger

It's been a busy one around the Manor this last week.  This Warlock has basically been working two jobs to make 13 hour days, leaving me only time enough for small tasks in WoW before I collapse.  I can't whine too much, though, because the second job is a volunteer position.  It isn't like someone forced me into it.  (For those who might not know, I coach HS football in the fall.  It's two-a-day time right now.  This is also why I didn't get to an IC Friday post last week.  Apologies.)

Fortunately, I'm to the point on my main toon that I don't need to do dailies anymore.  Everything is unlocked.  All I have left is to finish up the achievements because I'd like the Flamecaller title.  Most of them have been pretty easy.  Things you can knock out one day at a time.  I'd been tracking three achievements on my screen at a time, knocking them out as I go.  I saved the hardest (and longest) for last.  Those happened to be Ready for Raiding II and Death from Above.

I wouldn't say these are the hardest skill-wise, but they do rely on random daily spawns and just getting the appropriate quest in the first place.  Thus, you're not always in control of your destiny when it comes to completing these.  Still, I wanted to share a few tricks I picked up from various places that may help if you're looking to finish these up too.
  • If you need to wave at folks, remember that you can use "/tar name" to find them.  It doesn't even have to be the full name.  For about a week, I was flying around the roost typing "/tar man" every time I logged in.  Mankrik was my unicorn for that one.
  • If you're having trouble with Ludicrous Speed, after you turn in the quest (but before you kill the mini-boss for the next part and thus lose the ability to become a flying something-or-other) you can keep trying.  You also have no specific bird limits at this point, which is nice.  You can nab hawks for a 15 stacks each (instead of stupid owls at 5 or songbirds at a paltry 1).  Rule the skies!
  • For Ready for Raiding II, you do NOT need to pick up the quest to get the achievement.  I unlocked the ancients last (and thus the kill quest), but I was working on these guys long before that.  As long as someone else comes along to start the event, you can get in on it.
  • For that same one, most of them are pretty easy.  Just avoid the bad.  If you screw it up the first time, wait for the next round.  Or be lazy and tag it and run away (works for most).  For the Harbinger, I had a really hard time.  I pulled out all the tricks.  I waited for the last 10% to tag.  I sandbagged it.  I tried to burn.  We had a warrior interrupting.  I think on that day, it was simply bugged for me.  The next day I logged to find the Harbinger still up (wewt) and got it first try.  You have to avoid the flames, and I think jumping makes sure the meteor doesn't hit you.  I just ran around and jumped a lot.  I guess the tip here is that if you've tried and you think you are avoiding the bad yet don't get it... maybe come back a different day?  This one drove me nuts.
  • When all you have left is the bombing run achievement (if this is not your last one, you've either planned very well or gotten very lucky.  The odds are totally against you.  You have to get the quest, which isn't always up, and then get the spawns you need, one per day.  Ugh), you can simplify the process by not turning in the quest.  Thus, it should remain active for you.  Obviously, you're sacrificing marks, but if you're done, who cares?  The downside here is that you'll need to log out near the quest giver because the fire comes back every day (or do some clever corpse running to get there).  If you don't, then you can still get there by completing the pre-requisite dailies, but that's sort of a pain.
  • Apparently the bombing run guy switches twice per day.  I've not really checked this, but it may be worth your time to pop in both the morning and the evening.  (I think they swap at like 1pm and 4am or something, server time.)
 I still have three guys left to hit on the bombing run, but that is all.  Then, I'll have acheesed my way to another title.  I've grown fond of the quest achievements, and so far have gotten all of the Cataclysm ones.  For people who enjoy questing, I think they're balanced well.  That is, they're not super-impossible as a ranged clothy and solo-able by a Pally.  Not that has ever happened before.  Oh no.

Anyway, are there any other title chasers out there?  (Titles, Mr. Connery.  Famous Titles.)  Got any tips I missed?

Thursday, August 4, 2011

QotD: Has Anyone Tried Real ID Grouping?

Saga has a good post over at Spellbound in which she talks about feeling Torn. She is referring to the general feeling I think many of us can sympathize with where we have friends or relatives on other servers that we'd love to play with, but we can't ditch our "home," so to speak.  I've been relatively fortunate over the years to be involved enough in my guilds that people have come to me to join up. 

Still, I do have a cousin on another server that helps run a guild as well, and we are always sharing raiding stories at family gatherings.  We've rolled toons on each other's server, but rarely get over there.  We have active guilds and generally not a lot of "free" gaming time; we're always working toward some goal or another. 

Also, I can't count on two hands the number of bloggers I would like to play with from time to time.  There have been several blogger guilds that have sprung up over the last half-decade, and we've generally tried to at least pop in.  They've always been a blast, but short-lived.  I think a lot of that is because people have a hard time being away from "home" for any sort of extended period, no matter how fun the company.

Alleviating this is, I believe, a big reason for the whole Real ID invite option.  I've read some about it, but I've not had an opportunity to try it yet.  It appears to be installed, I think.  When chatting with my cousin once, I was able to right-click her Real ID name and shoot her an invite.  She was busy with a group in a rated BG at the moment, so she couldn't accept.  Thus, we really didn't get to try, but it seemed to be there and functional.

Is there anyone out there that uses this function on a regular basis?  Have you discovered any caveats?  It works with raids, dungeons, and BGs, right?  I've only had a passing curiosity about it, but am looking for some practical experience.  I can't help but think that if the function is smooth and effective, it should do quite a bit to alleviate feeling Torn.  You should be able to have your cake and eat it too.  Unless the cake is a lie because I'm missing something here.  Let me know.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

So, I'm Dumb.

This is a follow-up on yesterday's post and the ensuing discussion in comments.  Thankfully, sharp readers caught my idiocy, and gently steered me in the right direction.  (Have I mentioned how much I appreciate my readers/commenters around here?  I am continually impressed by the thoughtfulness and consideration that goes into comments around here.  It really does seem to break the troll statistics.  Not all Internet communication is flawed!)

First of all, the most helpful thing to most Warlocks is probably recognition that, unless you get a fortunate drop or go AH'ing, the bracer slot seems to be one of the worst for epic'ing out.  Generally, we're all saving our VP for that, because there just really isn't much out there.  I hear that shoulders come in a close second.

My goof comes when talking about Mr. Robot and hit cap.  I'll try to make a long story short.

There is, apparently, ranged hit.  I'm not sure what ranged hit is or where it came from.  It just showed up one day (likely with Cataclysm, and I've been oblivious of it).  Now, when the stat changes first swept through, I certainly had a small bit of trouble with confusing Melee and Spell hit.  Unless you're cognizant of the little heating in the stat column, it can be an easy mix up.

Lately, I've apparently been looking at this Ranged hit.  I made sure I wasn't doing Melee, but I guess it never dawned on me that ranged hit does not equal spell hit.  After all, it seemed to me that the ranged hit cap was 14%, which was the number to hit back when we got 3% from talents.  We no longer get any hit from talents.  Or racials.  Thus, you need a straight 17%.

My confusion, then, was that I was still showing 14% in the hit column, and mousing over confirmed that my chance to miss a raid boss was 0.  The scaling of ranged hit is such that while in reality, I had around 16.5% hit, ranged hit is around 14%.  Thus, following the advice of Mr. Robot, I was in the correct ballpark.  Enough away to think that something was screwy, but close enough that I didn't realize how screwy.  I figured it was just some minor glitch from something I was doing just a bit differently.  Such things have been known to happen in Azeroth from time to time.

Finally, I decided to write about the odd occurrence.  What better way to puzzle something out than throw yourself on the mercy of the interwebs (also, it just so happens that I have a WoW blog).  I would have liked to troll EJ, the Den, and the Mr. Robot forums, but I'd just not had time at non-blocked-internet-home to be able to do it.  Hence a cry for help.

The first suggestion was that I was looking at Melee hit.  Nay, said I.  Falleth for that farce again, I did not.  What ho?  Ranged hit, you say?  (The saying being done by my armory iPhone app.)  What sort of devilry is this?

Once I'd sorted out my confusion, it became obvious: I needed to expand one more drop down on my stat screen.  I did as much last night during my daily run.  Sure enough, I was just below hit cap... to the tune of about, oh, say the one piece I'd neglected to reforge because I believed I was already capped.  Ugh.

Fortunately, I finished the Firelands dailies last night, unlocking the ancients as the last of my three.  There's a ring there that's a minor upgrade.  So, I picked it up and reforged the night away.  Now I sit safely at 16.99% hit (Mr. Robot hath been vindicated in my mind, and I'm sorry for every doubting), and my haste doth overfloweth.

All is well that ends well.

(Thanks again for the comments that helped me along the way)

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

If I Could Only Get Rid of Those Blue Bracers...

I finally achieved friendly with the new Firelands faction the other day.  Thus, I was able to pick up the epic cloak from the vendor, which is currently listed as best-in-slot for me (not including T12 Heroics).  Cape in tow, I ventured off to my local reforgery.  I also took the opportunity to pop in my Moonwell Chalice.

(Side note: it took me a while to figure out that the small, lightwell-like thingy that popped up next to me was my newly equipped trinket "on use."  Fuu kept asking about it and I kept saying "must be a quest or something."  It was the trinket... duh.  Pretty neat effect, if not very warlocky.)

I consulted Mr. Robot and made the necessary adjustments.  I feel compelled to note that I'm still having a bit of a "hit issue" with Mr. Robot right now.  Basically, he is having me over-stack hit by almost exactly one piece.  I haven't had the time to really puzzle out why this is.  My solution for now has been to simply ignore the reforge on my helm.  I'm still showing above cap on my character sheet (14% and hovering over confirms that I have 0% chance of missing a raid boss), and I'm not wasting the extra hit form that reforge.  I'm not entirely sure why Mr. Robot is having me do this, since wasting his seems sub-optimal.  I'm sitting at like 14.1% and the helm would put me at around 14.5%.  That's ~40 points of waste.

Now, perhaps there's a good reason for this.  Maybe there's a legit bug that people have been talking about on the forums.  Were I a good Warlock with extra time, I would go over and start up a conversation with Mr. Robot himself.  He has been great about addressing concerns in the past.  I just haven't had the time to give it proper attention.  And I'm pretty sure that, minus the one oddity, the reforging is correct.  I did have to double-check though.  You should probably do the same, or let me know what I'm missing here.

With cloak and chalice, I ran a FL trash clear and definitely saw some improvement.  It wasn't massive, as the cloak upgrade ends up being minor (what with the epic quest reward), and the chalice isn't head-and-shoulders above the Soul Casket that I replaced... but I'd say maybe a couple hundred more DPS on average.  I'm running Affliction, so I'm simply popping the mastery bonus up front.  Demo folks may want to bind the trinket to meta somehow, as I guess it rolls through.

In other news, you should check out Cynwise's new other blog.  As opposed to the Battlefield Manual, these are his Field Notes.  It's still Cynwise, only shorter (sometimes) and more personal (IHMO).  He's been writing more often over there as a result, and that is a "win" in my book.  If you haven't checked it out, I suggested you give it a look.  Being (personally) less PvP and Wall-of-Text inclined... I'm quite enjoying it.  In fact, I think I may have to go tour Lakeshire sometime soon.