Archive for the ‘General WoW’ category

On Epicness: A Personal Take

July 29, 2013

Every week, A Paladin’s Tale does a Monday Morning Breakfast Topic. I really enjoyed their latest topic: “Why ‘epic’ no longer means epic, & what the WoW Dev team could do to resolve the issue to bring back some meaning to gear.

I find this general fixation on loot/gear to be a fascinating phenomenon, mainly because it kinda goes over my practical, practical head. Kurn also recently wrote about how loot has lost its value (and when someone who doesn’t even play the game is writing long dissertations on a topic, you know it’s a good a topic), which triggered a reaction from me.

Here is my confused interpretation of our conversation:

Me: But gear matters! It took my guild months to get our first heroic Horridon kill! Now that we have gear, he just falls over. Gear still makes a difference.
Kurn: It does matter for killing things, but with upgrades and resets every patch, gear in itself doesn’t matter.
Me: THAT MAKES NO SENSE!

What is “Epic”?

I vaguely remember in Vanilla, I’d sometimes find myself in trouble and some level 60 would stop and help me. Sometimes they would have purples. I would draw the following conclusions:

- They have a lot of time to play the game (it took me over a year to reach max level the first time).
– They have a lot of friends.
– They got lucky with the RNG.

Then I would thank them, be on my way and totally forget about the encounter.

Apparently that is the wrong reaction. The correct reaction should have supposedly been awe. But I don’t understand why I should be awed by someone who plays a lot of video games, has friends and is lucky.

I am awed by people sometimes. People with strong personalities. People who are much smarter than me. People who work hard and don’t give up. But I can’t draw any connections between those traits and having fancy WoW gear.

A Paladin’s Tale argues that LFR and crafting (and even normal mode raiding) should reward rare/blue gear instead of epic/purple (a side note on crafting, though, I find the higher level craftable gear a gazillion times harder to make than merely killing a heroic raid boss). Me, I really don’t care either way. Blue, purple, they’re just colours. What matters are the stats on them, how well those stats are used and how much those stats will assist me with a boss kill.

So, what is epic to me?

Facets of the game art, maybe. I mean, some gear pieces do look badass. (This is coming from someone who’s never transmogged anything in her WoW life, ha!) But the only things in game that feel really “epic” to me have very little, if nothing, to do with players: huge mysterious dungeons, creative bad guys (and gals), brave heroes, and beautiful details that you only notice when you stop and look around (check out Katherinne’s blog to see some of WoW’s cool details spotlighted)

In my mind, then, those worthy of my awe were never the best geared players, but rather WoW’s art, story and encounter design teams.

Motivation beyond gear

Conversation, circa the end of Dragon Soul, with a few interpretive liberties:

Healing lead: Do you need anything off Dragonwing?
Me: I thought we already killed the last boss this expansion.
Healing lead: Yeah, but do you still need anything off it?
Me: Why would I need anything? We already killed the boss.
Healing lead: You don’t make sense.
Me: YOU DON’T MAKE SENSE.

An argument that A Paladin Tale brings up, and that comes up fairly often in other discussions around the topic, is that WoW centers around making your character as strong as possible and loot is kinda the only motivation toward that.

I suppose it shouldn’t have, but the idea of the game being strong-character centric actually surprised me. I’d never thought about it in that way before.

Originally, WoW for me was just an escape from reality and thinking. Tired of writing stupid papers for school? Go kill 10 wolves. With some music playing in the background. In my early raiding days, playing the game became a fun learning experience (I love learning. It’s one of my favorite hobbies. My goal in life to learn EVERYTHING.) and an activity to do with cool people. When I got more serious about raiding, the game became about teamwork and perfecting my WoW gaming skills.

If I make my character stronger, my end goal is never her strength. I want her strong so she can keep up with the team, I want her strong as a result of me discovering how to be a better player, I want her strong so we can see content faster. Without a team, without a kill and without learning experience, her strength is worthless. WORTHLESS.

While a lot of gamers cling to the outdated notion of “people are motivated by epic gear“, I personally think that Blizzard is frontward thinking by moving away from archaically using player hierarchy as the ultimate motivator. Concentrating on making the game intrinsically fun to play and investing in potential teamwork situations (also known as “fun things to do with friends and maybe strangers who aren’t annoying“) will make the game far more adapted to the kind of gamer we want to be around in MMOs.

Me and my gear

The other day, I was in a heroic. You know, just Denouncing my way to easy VP, when the hunter whispered me.

Hunter: Sick gear!
Me (very awkward): Thank you….
Hunter: Have you been raiding long?
Me (still very awkward): Kinda. I love to raid.

I love to raid. I wanted to insist on that. Love it, love it, love it. I find working on raid days very difficult because I’m so excited to get home and raid. The hours just crawl by. The gear… The gear is nothing. I don’t want people to look at my character and be all”OMG she has fancy ilvls!“. I’d far, far rather people look at me and say “Wow, she sure loves what she does.

Some nights are rough. Raids have me in tears pretty often (one of the many reasons I’ll never stream!) and I don’t mind. In the end, I think getting through those tough moments just makes the experience more rewarding.

I love feeling us learn a new fight, I love that satisfaction when we finally “get it right” but above all, I love the teamwork. Discovering who my teammates are as people, adapting to more…difficult personalities and, most of all, sharing ups and the downs with fellow gamers from all walks of life. It’s like magic.

And there’s no loot colour in the world that could be more epic to me than that.

Long, Long Awaited Challenge Modes

July 23, 2013

A couple of weeks ago, this happened:

goldrun

That’s a Challenge Dungeon (or is it Dungeon Challenge?) Gold Run in case you’re wondering. My very first one.

At this point in the expansion, it’s probably a small feat. But to me, the little achievement was loaded in meaning. This (not exaggerated or overly dramatic at all) meaning:

Like my buddy Saif (though perhaps not as extreme as Saif), my early expansion sucked.

Challenge modes are exactly the kind of extracurricular WoW activities I love: small groups, an easy setting to display personalities, a not too straining mental exercise (but a mental exercise nonetheless) and an opportunity to heal a little differently. Normally I’d be all over this.

But Occasional Excellence was blown up by its leaders long before I had any time to turn my attention to non-raiding aspects of the game. Then I didn’t spend enough time in Conquest for it to be appropriate for me be all “Hei guys, make room for me in your Challenge Mode groups!

I suppose I could have sought out groups on open raid or something but, remember, this is me we’re talking about. I don’t talk to strangers. You have to twist my arm to get me to talk to non-strangers.

Since I don’t care about status (I was born awesome, no WoW achievement can improve on that! /modesty) or rewards (there are rewards for Challenge modes, right?) playing with non guildies kind of defeats the point anyway. What makes these kind of outside-of-raid activities fun for me is the opportunity to get to know some guidies, a small (non-scary) number at a time. The presence of a goal makes it all that much easier: mood gets awkward and you don’t know what to say? No problem! Just kill more things!

So when my fellow holy pally (who’s become a recurring character on this blog, readers of my WoL posts may remember him as “Copally”) asked me if I’d be interested in doing Challenge Modes, I felt like I’d hit the jackpot and was so excited I couldn’t sleep for a few nights (it’s a tad embarrassing how small of an exaggeration that is). Before I knew it, there were 5 of us dodging horde gankers in front of Niuzao Temple’s Summoning stone.

The first lesson we learned was that no NPC can compete, in terms of difficulty and complexity, with the Scheduler Boss. Especially with a half Australian-half North American team. I swear we spent more time with our calenders and maps open, calculating time zones, than we did watching videos and practicing pulls.

On our exploratory run, we wiped about 5 times, had a disconnect, had someone go afk and did a lot of pulls wrong. We got Bronze. Reassuring to know that, even if you do terribly, terribly, terribly bad, you still get a pretty flashy achievement and some bonus valour points.

It took us a few extra nights (I kinda lost count…a lot of our attempts were pretty short due to most of the team having exciting and demanding lives calling them away from the computer after 45-50 minutes), but eventually we got Gold (see above screenshot) and set a new guild record.

OF COURSE, our guild’s more experienced and mostly mainspecced (unlike us) Challenge mode team went to Niuzao Temple the following week and pretty much one-shot a Gold run (I didn’t check if they shattered our hard-earned guild record, but knowing them, they probably did), but hey, WE HAD FUN AND ITS THE FUN THAT COUNTS.

Since then, we put about an hour into learning Stormstout Brewery. On our exploratory run, we wiped just before the last boss and still won Silver, which was promising, but the Scheduler Boss wiped us before we could make another decent attempt, and every night we’ve planned since then has also been ruined by the same Scheduler Boss. I don’t know how many Golds we’ll manage before everyone gives up. I’m patient and can try forever, but apparently not everyone is like that, so I treasure my little Niuzao Temple Gold IN MY HEART.

Healing Challenge Modes a Holy Paladin

At this point, I’m far, faaaaaar from being a reference, but I did learn a few things about healing Challenge Modes from our (few) attempts.

A huge mistake I was making at first was trying to heal the 5 mans as I would heal a raid. You know, the Holy Shock-Holy Radiance-Eternal Flame trinity.

That’s bad. BAD!

I got flashbacks to my days of -just-dinged-90-when-MoP-was-young Heroic grinding where Holy Radiance did….not much.

So I stopped using Holy Radiance and looked up my long-forgotten key-bindings for Flash of Light. It was a bit more mana intensive but it did the trick. I didn’t think to Glyph Flash of Light at the time, but I’ll definitely do that on our next attempt.

I didn’t have too many issues with mana, but I did find that if I could run with or ahead of our tank, I could plop down and drink as she was pulling and get a good wack of mana back before heal spamming was needed. Whenever I could, I’d squeeze in the Shado Pan trinket on-use mana back as well as Divine Plea. (Mid-pull, Divine Plea should probably be only use in case of emergency, but while running between pulls, it is, well, Divine.)

Stack of potions (instant Mana, Potion of Focus, Intellect Potions – called Potions of the Jade Serpent or something) are always handy too. On one of our Niuzao attempts, where I was furiously Denouncing the last boss, we were a mere second away from a Gold. ONE SECOND. Had I remembered to use an Intellect Potion, we wouldn’t have set a (short lived) guild record, but we would have gotten our achievement much, much sooner.

I squeezed in DPS where I could, but I discovered pretty quickly that whenever I stopped healing to do damage, our ret pally (who, remember, is my fellow Holy Pally in raids) would give into his healer instinct and stop DPSing to cover for me. Still, a little Denounce goes a long way. Holy Shock, Denounce and Holy Prism all do a respectable amount of Holy damage. The damage of Judgement and Crusader Strike is neglectable, and I’d rather use Flash of Light to build Holy Power, UNLESS there’s time to switch to Seal of Truth and DoT up a target (sometimes possible on boss fights). Just don’t forget to switch Seals back to Insight.

As for Holy Prism vs Light’s Hammer, it’s hard to say which is better. Light’s Hammer was delightfully waaaaay lower maintenance, but was mostly wasted since we never stay in the same spot for twenty seconds. Holy Prism does sexy damage to mobs, makes for a good instant heal when needed and has a sweet, little, better than nothing, AoE effect, but I found I wasted a lot of time keeping an eye on its CD and making sure I had the right thing targeted whenever I cast it.

Other than that, any kind of damage mitigation CD is lovely. Hand of Purity, Hand of Sacrifice, Devotion Aura…they just can’t come off CD fast enough!

Speaking of CDs, you can usually only fit one Lay on Hands in. I found it helpful to just ask our tank when she’d prefer me to use it (bar any emergencies) since when I used it whenever, it would often go to waste.

Gear-wise, I’m told the Legendary Meta and Tier set bonuses don’t work, and that the only things helping you deal with the gear scaling down are sockets. So don’t use your raiding helm and pick up as many pieces with extra sockets as possible.

And yeah, that’s pretty much all I can think of.

Wish me luck next week for our Scheduler Boss encounter!

How I’m healing in MoP – Holy Pally 4eva: The UI

December 31, 2012

You have your gear (note that the gear post is somewhat outdated) and reforging in mind and you’ve picked out the Talents and Glyphs you want to start with. You’re ready to start pressing buttons!

Almost.

Before getting to the pressing buttons part, I want to make sure your UI (User Interface) needs are met. To heal effectively you want a proper interface. One that tells you what you need to know yet cuts down on useless, overwhelming information.

A good healer knows exactly what’s happening to each person in the raid at all times as well as what their own character is doing, while following the fight.

The key to that, friends, is a proper UI.

What to Add to the Addon Shopping List?

Here’s a screen shot of my UI (click on it on few times to make it bigger). This is obviously just an example and you are free (in fact, I encourage you!) to use your imagination to build your own interface.

raidui

1- Raid Frames

You want to see what’s going on in your raid. The more popular frames for healing are VuhDo, Healbot, Grid and Grid2. Shown in the above picture is Grid2.

Grid and Grid2 require an extra addon if you want to use the mouse to interact with the frames (Clique is the only one I’m aware of). The original Grid may require extra addons to track certain buffs and debuffs as well. For an elaborate breakdown of the major frame addons, check out Grimmtooth (the series may be a little outdated but the general gist is there).

Having tried all of the popular healing frames, I found them equally good, so go with whichever you find prettiest or whichever your friends use (so it’s easier to get answers if you have questions).

As a Holy Paladin, you want to track:

- Your Beacon of Light as well as the Beacons of other Holy Pallies in the raid (indicated separately)
Eternal Flame
Sacred Shield (If you are using the spell, otherwise it is optional)
– Your Illuminated Healing (Optional – nice to have but may be overwhelming)
– Range (Fade out at 40 yards)
– Aggro (Optional but helpful)
– Rezzed but not yet taken the rez (Called Resurrection on Grid2. Most players don’t track this, but I find it super helpful.)
– Fight specific buffs and debuffs (Such as Pungency on Garalon)
– Magic, Poison and Disease debuffs (Curse debuffs can be shown separately if desired)

As a side note, in the screenshot you can see the tanks on the default WoW frames. I do this in LFR to keep track of who the tanks are. I would hide the default frames in a guild raid.

2- Bar Organizer

The popular addons are Bartender 4 (shown in screenshot) and Dominos.

A good bar organizer will keep your game from vomiting buttons all over your screen. If you look closely, you can see my keybound abilities on the bottom (I rebound my movement keys to ESDF and use the surrounding keys to tap abilities) and my cooldowns (mostly) on the top. My mounts, professions and others are faded out to the right of my main bars, my seals are to the left, and my system buttons (Raid Finder, Raid Journal, Character, etc) are to the top left (hidden behind the WoW frames on the screenshot).

(The screenshot was taken during a time of winter cleaning so the layout isn’t ideal – there are a couple of suboptimal buttons and even an empty space. I am still working on perfecting my bars, so please don’t copy the screenshot.)

Ideally, I would have my cooldowns larger and more in the middle of my screen, but there are so many cooldowns and so little room on the screen. I’ve just gotten in the habit of glancing at my CDs as part of my regular screen visual sweep.

3- Personal Frames (Heads Up)

While you can keep track of yourself using your raid frames, many of us find it easier to track ourselves separately. I use mine for mana and Holy Power (it shows health too, but out of habit I tend to look at my raid frames for my health).

Shown in the picture above is IceHUD, but there are a lot of options to choose from. Once again, the awesome Grimmtooth has reviewed and cataloged the main ones (again, may be a little outdated but still relevent, see Grimmtooth’s comment on this post for some updates).

I have the bars set to fade out of combat so they are hard to see, but in the left circle is my mana bar, my health bar and my pet bar (not shown). On the right side, if I had a target, you’d be able to see my target’s health and mana.

In the bottom circle is my Holy Power bar. I love the location – right on my character, above my healing frames. I always know how much Holy Power I have!

Even if you choose not to use frames for yourself, you will have to track Holy Power near the center of your screen somehow. The tiny bar at the top left of the screen is too out of the way. You’ll waste a lot of time if you extend your visual sweep all the way up there just to look at your Holy Power.

4- Scrolling Battle Text

Some players will say this is optional, but I can’t play without battle text. On the rare occasion that my addon crashes, the difference in my healing output is noticeable.

I use MikScrollingBattleText (you can’t see it in the shot since I wasn’t doing anything at the time) and I have used Parrot in the past as well.

There are a lot of cool things you can do with your battle text, such as sounds for when your cooldowns come up, or when you have 3 Holy Power. You can also use it (mostly) out of the box, to keep an eye on your numbers or to notice when Beacon isn’t transferring heals.

5- Pally Power

Pally Power is truly optional, but I find it helpful for rebuffing after a rez or swapping a Seal. And it’s so small and cute that it doesn’t cause me any problems.

6- Combat Log

Not an addon, but a valuable part of an interface.

I love my Combat Log so much that I moved it to the right side of my screenkeep, separating it from my chat box. You can customize your Combat Log, but Blizzard has done a really good job fixing it up so that the default “What happened to me?” is all you really need.

It’s fantastic for diagnosing deaths (nothing sets me off more than people who don’t know what killed them…the Combat Log SPELLS IT OUT TO YOU DUMBASSES /fume), verifying damage type (physical/shadow/nature/etc) and seeing if the raid healers are slacking.

A Note on the Addon-Free School of Thought

Occasionally you’ll come across healers who refuse to use addons, for a variety of reasons. What they might not tell you, though, is that, if they are successfully healing in a competitive raid environment, they’re using other aids, like macros and optimized keybindings. If you choose to use macros instead of addons (addons are essentially, after all, pretty and precoded macros), you can heal well, however I won’t be able help you.

If you’re hesitant about adding to your game, think of it this way: designing an interface that’s both pleasant on the eyes (you’ll be staring at it a lot, it needs to be sexy) and informative is a skill in itself.

Building a super efficient UI does not take away from your talent as a player. Rather it highlights your ability by reflecting your understanding of the game and of your personal playstyle. A bad player who doesn’t know where or what to look for won’t be able to build a proper UI.

So stop worrying and start addon shopping.

Wrapping up Cataclysm

September 22, 2012

Not long now!

I’ve procrastinated tons and now I’m stuck with a long long to-do list:

- Collect 24 dailies to turn in
– Tune up my ret gear to make leveling faster
– Pre-order MoP
– Install MoP on my desktop and laptop
– Fix my laptop’s WoW UI

I think the only thing I’ve done so far is prepare enough food for me to not have to cook at all next week. (Why am I not surprised that food was my top priority?)

How do you measure an expansion?

In daylights, in sunsets
In midnights, in cups of coffee
In inches, in miles, in laughter, in strife
In five hundred twenty-five thousand six hundred minutes
How do you measure, a year in the life?

-“Seasons of Love” Rent

So many bloggers do their expansion recaps and it’s interesting to see who uses what as their expansion milestones. Some measure their expansions in class changes, some in game changes, some in tiers.

Me, when I think back on Cataclysm, the first thing that comes to mind is my guild chronology. I suppose then, that I follow the song and measure my expansion in love. Erm.

The Beginning of Cataclysm

Shortly before Cataclysm, the GM of my guild at the time asked me: “What are your plans? Are you staying with us? Will you still be playing your pally?”

I told him his questions were silly. I’d been happy in that guild for over a year. There’s no way I expected my feelings to turn very sour, very fast.

But they did, for a list of reasons too long for me to write out. So long, in fact, that I’m pretty sure I don’t even know all the whys to my change of heart.

I left, was devastated, held my ground, tried not to make an ass of myself (I slipped a few times), licked my wounds, checked out different raiding styles, got to know my inner-raider better, moved on, became a more grown up person.

More or less in that order.

I made up a lot of excuses for my not throwing much of a hissy fit. Mostly noble bullshit like how “I’m not like that” and “I’m going to be the bigger person” and “I learned my lesson last time”.

Yeah, that’s right! Bullshit!

The main reason I restricted my hard feelings to private conversations and comments on other blogs was because I didn’t want to burn my bridges.

Yep. Just in case I could be “just friends” with my ex guildies later on. It’s been a good plan so far. Since leaving the guild I’ve had good times with them at Blizzcon, in PuGs and occasional real life meetups. I’m proud to say I have the best ex-guildies in the world. So yeah, my advice to anyone grieving after a /gquit: never ruin the potential for perfectly good friendships down the road.

Those friendships might be a worth a lot more than your passing frustrations.

What else happened the beginning?

I remember there being a lot of bosses in three (four?) different dungeons. I liked that. On the progression race, having a lot of bosses clearly favoured guilds who raid more hours, but on the “I get bored of the same thing real fast” race, it was very satisfying. We didn’t have to start with the same boss every raid, or even the same dungeon. I like variety and I was served.

I remember the heroic 5s instances being a bit more challenging than we were used to. I liked that too. I didn’t find them particularly hard, even in PuGs, (maybe us holy pallies were just OP at the time), but they did force me to use all my spells, my teamwork skills and my favorite muscle, my brain.

Speaking of pallies and spells, the beginning of Cataclysm brought us Light of Dawn and Holy Radiance. Stirred us up a bit, after single-target healing for so long. I found we were still the most ideal single-target healers, but at least the addition of multi-target heals gave us the opportunity to take single-target healing vacations and try something new.

Then the middle of Cataclysm

I gave casual raiding a whirl. At the same time, I gave 10s raiding a try. Not that 10s are necessarily casual (apparently you get things thrown at your face, even through the computer screen, when you say offensive, sizist things like 10s = casual), this just happened to be a more laid back group who also did smaller sized raids.

My teammates were tons of fun (I do mean to crash their Mumble parties sometime in the near future!) but I learned pretty quickly that casual raiding is not for me. When I do something, I do it all the way. And while my pathological attachments to guilds may lead to believe otherwise, I’m not really a social person. Raid time is for raiding. Not telling stories, not waiting for people to log on, not reforging gear (unless there’s a strat change) and certainly not for going to the bathroom. I raided with them for about a year, but after some soul searching and a few entertaining (for everyone else) yelling matches between me and the main tank, I decided to be “just friends” with that guild too and move on to a more compatible team.

This is a good place to plug thoughts on 10s and 25s

Opinions on 10s vs 25s and on “the death of 25s raiding” never cease to be shared.

To me, it’s a personal thing. I’m a 25s raider. I like the occasional 10s as a side-raid to get to know my guildies (and more importantly, to get to know what my guildies are like when they’re drunk), but my little raider heart needs the beat of 24 teammates. I gave 10s a fair shot with Team Sport, but I missed having a large healing team, I missed being a single link in the chain, I missed the complex strategizing, I missed the large-scale wack-a-mole of 25s healing.

It’s not about what’s “harder” (I’ve found difficulty to depend more on who my teammates are rather than on my number of teammates), though I did wish 10s and 25s were treated like separate entities within the game. After all, the style of raiding is so different.

On those epeen sites, you can see the decline of number of 25s guilds. On recruitment forums, you can, however, see that there are plenty of 25s guilds. More guilds, in fact, then actual raiders. 25s raiding is not dead. Yet. Maybe one day Blizzard will decide that having a 25s tuning isn’t cost effective. I’ll totally understand and not be angry. However, I suspect that I’ll also stop playing WoW on that day.

What else happened in the Middle?

Heroic Ragnaros was a badass and gave lots of players nervous breakdowns. But not me. I was in a normal mode guild when the content was relevant. And when it stopped being relevant, I couldn’t really find the motivation to do extra hours when I could be doing so much fun stuff IRL.

There was a lot of questioning as to why Heroic Ragnaros was so much harder than final boss Heroic Madness. I question this questioning. It’s obvious, isn’t it? Heroic Madness is accessible to any somewhat disciplined raid team. Thus, for the first time, many, many players were able to end their expansion with a satisfying “I killed the last boss! On Heroic!”. And customer satisfaction is an important goal for a business, no?

I think it was a smart strategy to make the bragging rights boss (HRaggy) different than the satisfaction boss (HMaddy).

Also in Firelands, there was a lot of anger (and in my case, annoyance) when Blizzard decided to nerf Fireland by 20% in one go. I didn’t understand that one. The nerfs were supposed to accomodate guilds like the one I was in: normal mode with a slow and steady progression. Thing was, we were progressing just fine. We weren’t sick of the instance yet, we had to work for our kills but we weren’t discouraged either. Then Blizzard came in, yanked out the carpet, took away the discipline requirements for the bosses. We didn’t progress much faster after the nerfs, really. Once you take away the discipline requirements for a normal mode guild, you take away the discipline. Instead of killing bosses faster, we just goofed off more.

In the End of Cataclysm

When I left Team Sport, I went guild shopping which was scary and hard work. (I do have a post about it, but I never got around to finishing it. Post writing is also hard work.)

I did, in the end, find myself a home. I love my raidmates, I love the leadership, I love the raiding, I love my healing team, I love my fellow holy pally. They do tend to raid a tad early (I spend the beginning of my raids changing out of my work pants, stuffing my mouth full of food and trying to not to autorun into mobs), but otherwise I’m very happy.

I hope MoP does not have the same effect Cataclysm did.

ps. Important! If you are guild shopping and suspect your raiding interests to be similar to mine, I encourage you to check us out at http://www.occasional-excellence.com/ We still have a couple of open spots for MoP!

What else is at the End of Cataclysm?

Dragon Soul brought us LFR. I liked LFR. Early on, spending an extra night running it was tough, but I did like having it available if I missed a raid. It also made gearing up for my guild change much easier.

While, yes, the fights were stupidly easy and your LFRmates stupidly…stupid, I really didn’t mind LFR and I was glad to have that opportunity.

Dragon Soul wasn’t a well loved instance, and I do agree it lacked the epicness of Karahzhan, Ulduar and even Icecrown Citadel or the creativity of Zul’Aman (the original) and Black Temple. I didn’t hate it, though. I don’t think it would be my first pick for a final dungeon, but it had a few good moments. Notably the gamergasms Ultraxion’s Blue Crystal gave me time and time again, until Ultraxion started dying before the crystal came out (damn Ultraxion that minute-man!).

Of Blogging and Podcasting

I do miss blogging. I miss the excitement of watching my stat page, the amusement from reading search engine terms, the delight of discovering new comments and the satisfaction of publishing a Bossy Pally-approved post. And, most of all, I miss the friendships.

But at the same time, I don’t expect a sudden increase in post count. I’ve been having a lot of fun in the offline world – now that I’m no longer a student I’m finally living the life I’ve dreamed of since I was a kid. Between living it up and working a demanding job, I’m just too tired to be coherent. It’s a good thing, mostly, it just means that the blog will most likely keep its current posting rate and its current reader count of approximately 3.

I feel like I’ve grown away from the community too. I still subscribe to a lot of blogs, but it seems that everything I read triggers one of 3 reactions:

1) I’m not interested
2) I’m interested and I’m thinking about it, but I don’t have the energy to write a response
3) I want to throttle the writer and scream at them: “OMG HAVE YOU EVER EVEN LEFT YOUR HOUSE BEFORE!?!?”

I suppose that’s how life goes. You grow closer to some groups and away from others. I do plan to keep the blog somewhat alive, I’m not deleting the personal blog either (it may even get some extra attention in a couple of months when my big big big project/dream comes closer to fruition) and I’ve told Oestrus that I’m not against recording the odd episode of the Double O Podcast.

I think a post-MoP grind episode might be a good follow up to our pre-MoP episode. And who knows, maybe a reader/listener will suggest a topic they’d like to us discuss and we’ll be overcome with inspiration… It could happen!

Guest Post: A Christmas Story

December 28, 2011

W00t! As part of the Furtive Father Winter event at Blog Azeroth (hosted by Akabeko, who has done a fantastic job this year), I received a surprise guest post!

My Secret Santa was no other than Saif from Raiding after Dark. Saif’s a fantastic writer (WITH CREDENTIALS!) and he certainly delivered again this time. I got all goosebumpy and teary after reading his lovely story.

* * * * * * * *

I don’t know crap about Holy.

That was my first thought when I sat down to write this. Fear enveloped me. I hadn’t been writing about and theory-crafting Paladin healing for ages. What could I possibly have to say on one of the most popular and successful blogs in Azeroth?

Then I realized I didn’t know much about Christmas, let alone Winter’s Veil.

The real panic set in.

I thought back to the last few Winter’s Veil celebrations and the holiday has come and gone eliciting only the occasional “Bah-humbug” from me as my guild-mates ran about gathering their achievements, carefully wrapping gifts and sending them to one another. I was the Grinch in the guild, muttering darkly about commercialism and errant
dates and stolen culture. All those Winter’s Veils blended together into a gray blur of kill-joy.

But last year’s Winter’s Veil shines clearly in my memory. Last year was different.

Cataclysm was young and new, we were still struggling with Heroics, trying to gear up to take on Nefarian and I was having a terrible Christmas Eve. My car was broken into, a severe snow-storm was on its way, and near midnight, I finally got home from leaving my car at the garage, cold and tired. My family was all asleep yet I was jittery, so
I logged into WoW, and queued for a dungeon.

Before I could click “Enter”, I heard my son stir in his sleep. He was only 2 months old at the time, and as one does with their first child I suppose, every noise he made compelled me to check in on him. I saw he was awake, but content, blinking in the dim light of the monitor trying to make things out, and so I tried to pat him back to sleep but he was having none of it.

He squirmed and I picked him up, brought him back to my desk with me and he focused his eyes on the only part of the room that was illuminated – the screen. We sat down together, and he continued to stare, mesmerized by the colors.

With one arm occupied by the baby, I was left to wander Stormwind, trying to think of something I could do. As the clocks in Stormwind struck midnight, in the midst of drowsy exhaustion, I thought, “It’s Christmas.” Despite the fact that I don’t celebrate the holiday, nor do I have any childhood associations with it, at that moment, I wanted
to celebrate it with my son.

Running to my bank, I saw the plethora of enchants and cut gems that I had stored up from having leveled up my professions quickly. I took everything I had, stood on the bank steps in the Dwarven District and typed, “/join trade.”

The usual mixture of erratic, chaotic white-text flooded my screen but I began to link the cut gems and enchants, with a “Free! :-)” after them. People stopped by, some skeptically, others offering to buy them off of me, but I gave something to everyone who spoke to me.

I didn’t just want to do dailies or quest on an alt with my son watching. If I was in game at Christmas, I wanted him to see me do something even a tiny, little bit meaningful. That’s what sets Warcraft apart from all other games for me – I have the opportunity to engage with other people, and perhaps improve their experience in a tangible way. It lets you affect positive change, if you are of a mind to do it. And I wanted my son to see me smiling and trading with
people, not blinding clicking Accept Quest/Complete Quest on auto-pilot having no interaction with the people around me.

And for the next half hour or so, I emptied out my bag, and when I was done, I looked back to see my son was asleep.

I carefully walked him over to his crib, laid him down, and went back to run that dungeon after all.

This Winter’s Veil, I finished my Merrymaker title.

Happy Holidays!

* * * * *

Such a sweet story, I love it!

As for myself, if you were looking for a guest post from me on the participating blogs (right, I’m really THAT delusional ;D ) and couldn’t find one, well, someone did gift an anonymous guest post to Beruthiel. I WONDER WHO WOULD DO SOMETHING LIKE THAT, HMMMM?

A Little Chatting Over Coffee

August 11, 2011

I don’t feel like writing a coherent, thought out, potentially useful post today. So I’m not going to. Instead I’m going to sit here with some coffee (ok, I’m lying, I haven’t taken the coffee machine out of the moving boxes yet – I’m actually drinking beer) and ramble. I’d apologize but I’m not sorry and I know you don’t mind anyway.

I didn’t answer comments

I didn’t answer any comments from the last post. Don’t worry, I read them all and I love that so many of you took the time to share your own drinking-during-heroics strategies. I edited in a reply to one of the points that came up a few times (you can’t miss it: italics at the end!) but otherwise I thought it best to leave the comments section alone. I had already explained the logic behind my strategy and the comments were everyone else’s turn to share their own strategies.

I’ll say this, though: I like my heroics fast. Like really fast. Like once I even got annoyed at some dps who were eating instead of letting me heal them.

I think most healers underestimate themselves. Ok, I don’t know most healers. Let me rephrase that. I think most vocal-in-the-blogosphere healers underestimate themselves. You guys kick ass, you really do. You can squeeze way more out of yourselves than you believe. And it’s fun to be challenged at times.

Of course, just because you’re awesome doesn’t mean that its ok for your pug-teammates to be rude. And yes, standing in shit, hitting random mobs instead of the tanks’ target, breaking CC, ignoring the healer, etc. is rude. Just making sure I’m not misunderstood here!

Strength in Numbers

I’ve been getting all my Marks of the World Tree and capping my Valor Points for the past few weeks. There was a lot of chatting about To Cap or Not To Cap awhile back. Me, I stick with my Social Contract theory. If your team as a whole tends to cap VP, then you’ll want to cap VP. You don’t want to hold them back. If no one caps their VP and you do, though, it’s a different story. You need to be uber motivated or else you’ll get very frustrated very fast.

As I mentioned earlier, I’ve been capping my VP. And to my utter and deepest delight, so have most of my teammates.

Just not at the same time as me.

When you’re only killing one, maybe two raid bosses a week, running the same two instances 5-6 times every week is tedious. That’s when I discovered Real ID.

Real ID + Twitter = Weapon of mass dungeon obliteration!

Whenever I needed a friend, I shouted out it on Twitter. I’ve been teaming up with Entropia, Anslym and Jed over the past few weeks and it’s been wonderful. (I share my real name with a celebrity so if anyone googles me, they’ll think I’m a rather attractive gaming company CEO. I don’t mind being mistaken for her.) I’ve been getting to know them better, hanging out on vent with them and laughing with them about nothings. And after a few hours of good times with friends, I end up with all these Valor Points.

Lodur even joined Entropia, Jed and I one night, finally earning me the ZA bear run achievement. I’d been wanting to do it since forever, but I haven’t gotten lucky with pugs. (I also teamed up with Lodur for dailies- we’re on the same server- and OMG they’re so much smoother when you do them with a friend!)

Oh, and one night my raid leader fished in his Real ID list and pulled out WoW Insider’s Fox Van Allen! I got so giddy fangirly, you’d never believe it! I don’t think I was able to type in a single thing all run.

So I gotta say, going out of my way to VP cap every week has been frustrating at times, but it’s also has some really awesome moments. As proud as I am of my associalness, I have to admit I’ve been converted to Real ID.

Gossip Corner

If I were reading this post, my eyes would be instantly drawn to the gossip section.

So, the decision everyone (well, not everyone, but everyone who has to put up with me on a regular basis) has been waiting to hear! I decided to stay with my guild for now. The general sentiment has been one of wanting to get more serious about raiding. And my sentiment has been that I’ve been looking for a project. Also, if you remember my post on the kind of leaders I want to follow, you’ll be interested to hear that the post was inspired by the common traits of a few of the WoW leaders I’ve met in my life. Including my current raid leader. (He doesn’t read my blog, so I can flatter him all he wants without worrying that he’ll get embarrassed.) While I do miss 25 mans and more progressive raiding, I think that, at the moment, I’m pretty spoiled.

Oh and there is also certain, um, possibly good news IRL. Which has nothing to do with my guild. Or WoW even. But its very exciting and fun. And that’s about as much as I can say on the blog. For now…

The Key to Drinking on Borrowed Time

August 1, 2011

Clearly I’m talking about drinking for mana here. I don’t know what else you guys could be thinking…

And by “borrowed time“, I’m picturing 5-man heroic with one of those tanks who plays with his eyes closed and his finger on the forward button. And I’m picturing you, with your mana bar empty, cursing and swearing, trying to keep up.

I don’t get to look at other healers often. In 5 mans, I’m usually the healer. In raids, I’m too self centered to spy on my co-healer’s drinking habits. But I do like to talk to other healers, especially healers who are in guilds similar to mine, where we’re used to chilling a bit between pulls. And on the rare occasion where I’m not the healer in a 5 man, I’m watching my healer’s every move.

So, healers condemned to running 5-mans, tell me, which scenario is more like you?

Scenario 1:

1- Mob pack dies
2- Drink
3- Catch up to group
4- Heal next pull

Scenario 2:

1- Mob pack dies
2-Catch up to group
3- Drink
4- Heal next pull

Scenario 1 is the careful healers. The “when I make a mess I clean it up right away” folk. These people are probably very successful and organized in their offline life.

They probably really hate 5 mans though.

Scenario 2 seems riskier (what if the tank pulls and I’m not ready?), but you have to get over appearances. Consider the following:

1- You can’t sit down to drink while you’re in combat, but if you’re already drinking when someone pulls, you’ll keep drinking.

2- If you mana bar has boiled dry, you want to drink as long as possible, but still be able to get up and back to business if you need to.

And which scenario allows you to drink into combat and get up when your team needs some heals?

Right.

Scenario 2.

Plus, if you’re a paladin (I swear, holy paladins were designed with 5 mans in mind!), Scenario 2 allows you to regen some mana via Divine Plea so that when you do sit down to drink, your mana bar is already partially filled up.

So the key to dealing with hasty tank without running out of mana?

If you need to drink, drink before the pulls, not after.

EDIT: I’ve had a lot of people mention that a tank might pull if you’re nearby but would wait if you’re out of range. I’m not sure that a tank who can’t see you sitting down and drinking is going to notice you’re out of range. And unless I’m totally drained, I also don’t want a tank to stop pulling. I’ll drink for a few seconds into the pull, then stand up when I need to start healing. If I need more time, I’ll ask for it.


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