My favorite raid encounters as a hunter in Mists…

All of them.

Ok, well not really – that’s just my own predilection for hunters shining through!

Today, The Grumpy Elf wrote about his three favorite raid encounters as a hunter in MoP, and Delirium followed with his top five. As I read each of those great posts, I got to thinking about some of the fights I particularly enjoyed because I was playing a hunter, even if I wasn’t in love with the fights themselves. Here then, in no particular order, are some favorite moments/mechanics:

Imperial Vizier Zor’lok

  • Disengage to the furthest shield during Force and Verve on Platform 1? Check.
  • Continue rotation uninterrupted – by casting on the move – while avoiding discs during Attenuation on Platform 2? Check.
  • Quickly change targets to burst down Converted players on Platform 3? Check
  • Combine all three on the floor in Phase 2? Good fun.
  • Jump-Disengage from platforms –> Deterrence to avoid Pheromones of Zeal damage when transitioning between platforms? Check.

T14 was a butt for my raid team. We struggled to get past certain bosses like Stone Guard, Elegon, Blade-Lord, Garalon… yeah. It was rough. But I had fun on Zor’lok.

I used to try to Disengage directly into my assigned shield during Force and Verve. The first time I did it, I called it a ‘three-pointer,’ although it was more like a hole-in-one. It’s the simple things, right? Not an amazing feat, but fun nonetheless. But while Zor’lok wasn’t necessarily a ‘use all the tools in your toolbox’-type of fight, I really appreciated being a hunter on that fight.

Lei Shi

Let’s see here… how about I start with running while casting during Get Away! ? Yeah, that was great. I enjoyed that benefit while playing my hunter, but my appreciation for cast-on-the-move grew when I took my frost mage and resto druid into ToES. What a difference.

I also got to use Wyvern Sting to CC Animated Protectors during Protect, because it was instant / more reliable than Freezing Trap.

On the other hand, one of the more annoying things was having virtually nothing to do during Hide. Watching mages and warlocks rain down ice and fire made me nostalgic for good ol’ Volley in that case. And, in general, that fight was a pain with all of the phase changes and so on, so I didn’t necessarily enjoy it. However, being a hunter certainly served me well against Lei Shi.

Thok

Thok has “hunter fight” written all over it. Both Grumpy Elf and Delirium wrote about how great that fight is for hunters, and with more detail and expertise than I could. Nonetheless, it has to be mentioned here. Casting not interrupted? Jump-Disengaging with Posthaste when Fixated, while still damaging Thok on the move? Tranq Shot if necessary on the adds? The fight is a lot of fun for hunters. I’ve only ever done the fight on one other toon – my resto druid – and it’s a complete pain in the ass. But for hunters, Thok is definitely a good time.

* * *

I could continue with my list, but most of it would just rehash the posts that inspired it. I have to agree with Grumpy Elf that Sha of Pride was great for hunters. Additionally, I absolutely love his ‘welcome’ speech:

“Come, face me. Give in to your pride. Show me your ‘Greatness’.”

So, so condescending. I love it.

So many other fights were good for hunters. Gara’jal, Tsulong, and Immerseus come to mind immediately when I think about taking out adds in something akin to a turret-style manner. There are many abilities one can use during Will of the Emperor for add-control. Disengage is handy in so many fights, from Feng to Sha of Fear, Jin’rokh to Lei Shen, and throughout SoO. I’ve used Deterrence a lot on Stone Guard, H Jin’rokh, Dark Shaman, Lei Shen, and so on; Concussive Shot on Tortos, Will, Immerseus…

It’s been great to be able to interrupt/silence, slow, root, and otherwise impede mobs in raids - while almost continuously dealing sweet, sweet damage – throughout this expansion. It’ll be interesting to see how that kind of thing pans out in Warlords with a less diverse toolbox. In the meantime, it’s fun to look back and remember how, in spite of variable class balance *cough*, Mists has been a pretty fun expansion in which to play a hunter.

Thanks to The Grumpy Elf and Delirium for the inspiration for this post, and for sparking some good memories!

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Thanks for reading this post by Mushan at Mushan, Etc. You can follow me on Twitter at @MushanEtc. Comments are welcome!


Things fall apart

Away

* * *

Practically, nothing is happening right now.

Raiding

We still haven’t raided since early November.

Those of us that are left have either moved on to other teams (one person) or resigned ourselves to the fact that a long break is in the cards (the rest of us). There’s nothing happening on this front.

I did have the chance to raid with an old friend in her guild about a month ago. We knocked over Nazgrim, Malkorok, and Spoils that night. It was nice to reconnect with her, but I was just a fill-in.

Oh yeah, and last Thursday, this happened:

Ahead of the curve!

I got to fill a spot with my girlfriend’s team, which is halfway through heroic content. We downed the last seven bosses on normal mode in fairly short order (and no wipes), and I managed to finally complete my four piece bonus. I also didn’t suck, which was a relief considering that, in addition to worrying that I would be rusty, I had never seen the final two bosses before that night. It was pretty fun!

It was nice to raid again on both occasions, but neither is something that will happen regularly. I was just helping out.

Warlords

The January beta that some were hoping for post-Blizzcon didn’t happen, just as I suspected it wouldn’t. Since Blizzard announced last week that PvP Season 14 is ending “in a couple of weeks” (or so), the month of February will be comprised of two weeks (or so) of that happening, plus another two weeks (or so) of sorting out the titles and such. By then, we’re either very near or already into March. Twenty weeks (give or take) of Season 15 puts us around the middle of July. With Patch 6.0 presumably happening around that time, a few weeks of that puts us into August, making the time between the launches of MoP and WoD longer than the time between the Cata and MoP launches.

And that’s if everything goes as it usually does. We could be waiting even longer…

This will also mean at least an eleven-month period where Siege of Orgrimmar is end-game – possibly longer. This would put it longer than Dragon Soul (~10 months), and almost as long as ICC (1 year). So much for shorter turnarounds (and best laid plans).

As Jasyla said, “Lather, Rinse, Repeat” (a great post, by the way). Another thought: the news of another PvP season came down over a month ago. The current season is still not over yet. We’re definitely seeing more of the same.

This is me, beating a dead horse

Did I mention that nothing is happening? I don’t PvP regularly, so a new season is a definite stretch of four or five months (or more) where there is guaranteed to be zero new content. By the time that stretch starts, we will already be on the long side of five months with no new content. Without raiding, what’s left? Archaeology? LFR? Pet battles? Obsessing daily on the when? Waiting, breath to breath, for the promise/fallacy of “faster content” to morph into reality? “Faffing”?!

Yeah, I don’t think so. Not for me.

I love many parts of this game, but I’ve already done almost all that I want to do in Mists. My friends and I haven’t made it to Garrosh’s (temporary) downfall together, but that’s basically off the table at this point. And without raiding, my motivation to explore “other” just isn’t there. People I love to play with are absent. Pandaria itself has been done to death during my too-many journeys through the leveling and gearing process. If the expansion dropped next week, I have the five toons that I care about, geared* and perfectly ready to start the journey to level 100. I’ve already done “other.” Five, six, seven more months of lonely solo play (and crappy / repetitive PuG group play) through overly familiar content has no appeal for me right now.

*Geared means “out of greens.” I maintain that we will not need heirloom weapons to level.

Break time

I’ve been playing for seven years as of this month. I’ve taken a couple of breaks during that time, but I believe that the longest period I’ve ever gone without being subscribed was five or six weeks. I remained subscribed for the entire time between the release of Diablo III and Patch 5.0, even though I was relegated to playing on my girlfriend’s computer (when I could) because mine was broken. I created my hunter during the eternity of downtime before Cataclysm launched. Good things have happened in times like this.

But I can’t do it again. I can’t justify four to six more months of subscription payments when the game isn’t bringing me much enjoyment; when there is no new story, dungeon, or raid content, no raid team, and virtually nothing that I’ve left unexplored about MoP. And as much as I want to believe that getting hard-core into my Outland hunter (or another new toon, for that matter) right now could be worth it, I’m just not feeling it.

So I’ll be letting my subscription expire when payment comes due soon. And for the most part, I’ll be putting the blog on the shelf for a while.

* * *

The idea is to come back shortly before Patch 6.0 arrives. At that point, I can change my hunter’s second profession if I decide to move forward with that, finish bag-space-clearing, and do any other prep that I feel I need to do. This will give me time to adjust to the forthcoming class changes, and allow me to take part in any pre-launch event, if they decide to give us one.

In the meantime, I have plenty to do. I’ve been working on an unrelated blog recently, playing more guitar, and spending more time reading. I just picked up Fable Anniversary for the 360, and will definitely be playing through that a few times. I’ll also spend time with several other games that I recently picked up on the cheap. And baseball’s Spring Training is around the corner, which is great, because I’ve got some serious baseball fever right now!

I think this break will be good for me. Perhaps when I come back – refreshed – I can find a better situation (or the situation will have improved within my guild) for raiding. If not, I’m still excited about playing through the Warlords launch content, checking out dungeons and so on, and most likely writing about it! And then I’ll move on.

In the meantime: peace. I’ll see you on the other side of the desert.

P.S. Thanks (belatedly) for the encouragement, Kheldul. I appreciate it!

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Thanks for reading this post by Mushan at Mushan, Etc. Comments are welcome!


Revisiting Outland with a new hunter

Ah, the low level greens

In my “free time” – which, in World of Warcraft, generally constitutes time spent “not advancing” my level 90 characters or professions in some shape or form – lately, I’ve been leveling a new hunter.

Now, there is no need for me to make a new hunter, at least for the sake of hunters per se. I already have three hunters on my realm, and two of them are max level. However, I do love the class, and so when the time came to work on a new project, it was a fairly easy choice for me.

Anyway, I’ve got this new hunter. And this hunter has a purpose. Due to this purpose, it’s extremely likely that he will never reach max level.

* * *

If I think about the history of my experience in WoW, with an eye toward my favorite parts of the leveling experience, something interesting happens.

Some people love(d) Vanilla WoW. And, the truth is, I did too; I didn’t start playing WoW until the month after TBC launched, but I did spend a ton of time leveling through the “Vanilla” parts of the game when I started playing – I didn’t have my first level 70 toon until just over a month before Wrath launched! And while there were frustrating and faulty aspects of that part of the game, I have a lot of good – fuzzy, but good – memories from that time.

However, that part of the game is gone. Forever.

It’s not 100% gone, of course: there are areas of the game that survived the revamp (the “kill 10 Young Stranglethorn Tigers -> Stranglethorn Tigers -> Elder Stranglethorn Tigers”-type questlines come to mind, for one), but they’re relatively few in number. As a whole, the Vanilla WoW experience no longer exists.

As such – and this is the interesting thing that I realized – the earliest “nostalgia-era” content that is still available in anything collectively resembling its original form is The Burning Crusade. And Wrath follows that, of course… and those two zones are the reasons that I made this new hunter.

If you’ve read some of my previous posts, as well as some of those from before, you may know that I’m at something of a crisis point as far as the game goes with me. A lot of times, what’s needed in these situations is a break from the everyday endgame experience (or lack thereof), and that’s what I’ve been looking for lately. Looking at the game, I realized recently that I had no characters that could play in Outland at-level – seven 90s, an 85, and two toons at or below 30. One of those lowbies is a hunter, and the other a shaman. I don’t enjoy the shaman as much as I had hoped, and the other hunter is reserved for a different project, should I ever return to it.

Anyway, I decided that, while I’m not a fan of leveling the revamped content on Azeroth, I wanted to take another toon into Outland and Northrend… and I didn’t feel like leveling a second DK (not that that isn’t fun, but my DK is the last toon I leveled, so I’d like to give DKs a bit of a rest for the moment). So, hunter it was.

But, why Outland?

When I look back at the past few years and think about the toons I’ve brought to max level, starting with Mushan and including a (now deleted) mage, warrior, replacement mage, second hunter, and DK, I realized that my favorite zones to revisit during the leveling process are Outland and Northrend. They were the continents/expansions that I played before I raided, which means “back when I sucked.” Back when I had no idea what was going on, or how to play. Back when the world was a complete wonder to me. When things were scary and new.

For some reason, nostalgia brings me back to those zones, to those expansions’ content. To a simpler time. That’s the number one reason. The revamped Vanilla content was okay for the first play-through, but there are certain aspects to the leveling process that make the experience uninteresting to me, including the lack of virtually any challenges along the way and the updating of the content to the current-as-of-Cataclysm time period.

* * *

I’ve set some parameters to encourage discovery, exploration, and learning… and also to ensure that I do not simply blow through to the higher levels like I usually do.

Heirlooms

No heirlooms past level 58. I did use several heirlooms through level 57, because the goal here was absolutely to zip through large chunks of the pre-58 content at a time. Once I hit 58, I did away with them, replacing them with quest greens I had saved for exactly that purpose. I even equipped a level 15 (ilvl 22) cloak as I prepared for Outland, because that was the last one I had saved. Not that that mattered – everything has been nerfed, so the simple fact that I had something appropriate equipped in every slot ensured that questing would still be very easy.

I’m also not in a guild, for guild perk reasons (including the bonus XP perk).

Locking XP

Based on past (post-4.0) experience, a player can hit Hellfire, Terrokar, Nagrand, and SMV or Netherstorm, run a couple of dungeons along the way, and easily be 68 (and ready for Northrend) before completing any zones, and skipping the vast majority of the Outland content. My aim with this toon is to spend time in Outland, so skipping content is anathema in that scenario. Therefore, I went to Wowhead and looked up the required levels for quests in each zone. For instance, virtually all of the quests in Hellfire are available by the time players hit 61; thus, when I hit 61, I lock my XP. This means that, once I finish the zone, I can unlock my XP, move on to Zangarmarsh, and continue gaining XP until I get to 62 (when all quests in Zangar become available). Then, when I finish Zangar, I can start Terrokar with unlocked XP and re-lock it again at 64 for Nagrand. This preserves some semblance of “I’m playing at-level,” which is another goal that I have. I could do each zone and run each dungeon without locking XP, but I would quickly outgrow each zone well before I finish it if I did it that way. I’m likely going to spend more time in Outland with my XP locked than unlocked, but that’s ok.

By the way, I discovered the other day that locking XP also interrupts the accrual of “rest,” which, for these purposes, does not disappoint me. Knowing that I won’t be out-leveling a zone quite so fast makes for more fluid progression within the zone than 30 bars of rest would – to a point, of course.

Mounts

Ground mounts only. Some people may think this is crazy, but I’m determined to play it very much like I did when I first took Anacrusa through it in 2007-08. And I couldn’t fly back then. Taxis (flight paths) are allowed, of course.

Additionally, while I do have a vendor mount, I will not use it with this toon.

Dungeons

There are quests in zones, once you get to a certain point/level, that send you to a dungeon that corresponds with the story; in Hellfire, it’s Hellfire Ramparts. In the interest of playing through the story, I will run the dungeons. However, I will only do this while XP-locked.

It’s fairly clear, at this point, that managing the throttling of XP-gain is a large part of this endeavor. Part of this is an experiment to see how it affects immersion; I’m of the opinion that while going back several times to Stormwind to (un)lock XP is a slight annoyance, it’s no more immersion-breaking than any other non-core activity in the game, such as doing my farms every day on max-level toons, or raiding the same instance every week.

* * *

It’s an imperfect science, obviously: there are several aspects of the game that are impossible to recreate. LFD didn’t exist back then, there were group quest elites, stats and specs and talents have been revamped, glyphs have been added, and things have been heavily nerfed. There’s no way to go back 100%, but that’s something I was fully aware of as I began the project.

The goal is to immerse myself in Outland. Revisit and enjoy the lore, and experience it as authentically as possible from a playstyle perspective. Revisit some memories of formative times in my WoW-childhood. There really isn’t a way to completely and accurately replicate that experience any more, but I can do things to mitigate the hyper-leveling paradigm that plagues** old content.

** “Plague” indicating a certain perspective; I know that there are many who are absolutely done with Outland in every way, but I also know that there are a lot of people who love TBC and love spending time there. So for my purposes, leveling quickly is the opposite of what I’m interested in. However, for others, it’s a necessity.

At any rate, along the way, I am taking a lot of screenshots, reading quest text, and completing each zone the best I can.

By the way, I’m leveling as Marksman on this hunter, which is what I leveled Mushan and Ghilleadh with back in the day. I don’t play Marks anymore on those toons, but it is absolutely killer for leveling. I approach the mob. I plant, and (unglyphed) Aim, and Shoot. 95% of the time, the mob either dies from a single shot or is critically injured (and is subsequently finished off with a Kill Shot). For elites or higher-level-than-me mobs, I do the “Aimed/Chimera” combo, and if it doesn’t kill them, it usually does serious damage. Even without heirlooms, the damage is punishing if it crits, and with Careful Aim, that happens quite often…

Playing this way makes me feel more like a ranger than just about anything else in the game. And that’s a fun aspect of this project, too.

* * *

As I mentioned above (and in a previous post), there’s no way to 100% accurately replicate the experience of playing WoW or a new expansion for the first time – once you’ve done it, you’ve done it. However, there are ways to revisit it. I’m a leave-my-poor-arms-at-the-emergency-room-afterward raider, but I also love leveling, and I love some of the old parts of the game. It’s fun and relaxing to lose myself in my new character, imagining him seeing this content for the first time and experiencing that wonder and awe with him. I’ve seen it before, but I also like seeing it again. And perhaps I’ll learn something new along the way.

Of course, this dovetails somewhat nicely with the idea that it’s nice to see Outland as it was a couple of years ago on the eve of Warlords of Draenor, since a great deal of that lore (along with that of the relevant books) will be somewhat pertinent to that expansion as well…

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Thanks for reading this post by Mushan at Mushan, Etc. Comments are welcome!


Psynister’s heirloom guide (pre-Warlords)

For anyone who’s interested in leveling alts between now and when everything turns upside-down for Warlords of Draenor – and hasn’t seen Psynister’s heirloom guides yet – and is looking for information on “what to buy” when picking up heirlooms for power-leveling an alt, GO HERE:

FireShot Screen Capture #013 - 'Guide to Heirlooms_ Mists of Pandaria I Psynister's Notebook' - psynister_wordpress_com_2011_05_02_guide-to-heirlooms-4-1

[Psynister's Guide to Heirlooms]

Amazingly enough, I recently started a new dwarf Protection paladin (to the complete/genuine shock of the entire world, I know…), and I immediately went to Psynister’s site for heirloom info. Psynister, to my knowledge, doesn’t play WoW on a regular basis anymore, but he has made attempts – at least, up through the enchanting changes in 5.3 – to keep his heirloom guide up to date.

Psynister is a long-time leveling aficionado, whose articles I have devoured for a long time. He loves leveling, and it was through him that I learned (after a short hiatus from everything-WoW) about the Ironman Challenge (after it kind of had already happened…) in 2011. Every piece of heirloom gear in this post is linked to Wowhead, which makes it a very nice resource for checking out the pieces for yourself and finding the vendors and required currency for said items.

I generally don’t use heirlooms – particularly during what is, for me, the leveling sweet spot of questing (TBC/Wrath) – but I’ll often use them to get to that point. Whatever your PvE-leveling method, Psynister’s site is a great resource for gear info, so I thought I’d pass it along. Check it out!

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Thanks for reading this PSA by Mushan at Mushan, Etc. Comments are welcome!


My alt and profession mindset for Warlords

Many alts

On Wednesday, I wrote a ton of words about nerfing myself for the launch of Warlords of Draenor. Today, I’d like to elaborate more on some of the more structural changes I’d like to make, with respect to some other aspects of how I play the game.

I’ve reached a point in my life where the rat race like the one I embarked upon in Mists of Pandaria isn’t appealing, practical, or enjoyable. At the time, I did it, but I was looking forward to better times – and they have certainly come, to some extent. But the way I played in Cataclysm and MoP – many level-capped alts, all ten professions capped (sometimes more than once), seven full farms, plenty of Auction House action, and so on – is something that I just don’t have the energy or interest in anymore. So, while I still farm those farms, post those auctions, use those profs, etc., I am winding down as the expansion does, with an eye toward a more streamlined experience in WoD.

Originally, I had intended to write this post in point-by-point sections, but with the nature of alts and how I play/use them, everything is connected. So, one section it is.

. . .

Like many players who have several alts and most/all professions, I use my professions to support both my raiding toon(s) and each other. Miners provide ore for Blacksmithing, Engineering, and Jewelcrafting. Skinners provide leather for Leatherworkers. Herbalism provides herbs for Alchemy and Inscription. Tailors, um, tail stuff, or something. And all of those profs benefit each of my toons, directly or indirectly. Additionally, they support my gold-making activities. And while I am no AH expert, and do not use addons for that activity, I’ve done well for myself casually auctioning my wares.

In fact, I’ve done so well this xpac that I could probably not sell anything on the Auction House for the entirety of WoD, spend gold like I usually do (which includes paying for all of my own repairs, by the way), and still have more than I need left.

In the absence of an active interest in the gold-making meta-game, there are diminishing returns the longer someone like me continues to fight the AH fight. Unlike some of my peers, I don’t do much wholesale raw material buying, flipping, min-maxing my profit margins, and so on. I’ve done a little bit of that in isolated circumstances, but for the most part I’ve sold what I had/farmed/made, and left it at that. Going further – toward anything remotely approaching the gold cap – just doesn’t interest me much. So with a tidy savings in the bank, I think it could be time for a rest.

With that in mind, I’m planning to chop the number of professions that I max out in WoD to less than half. I currently have 15 primary profs maxed over eight toons, so I’m thinking six-to-eight total would be good…

Before I go further, I’ll also say that that number will correspond approximately with the number of toons that I take to 100, or even into Draenor. Of my current seven 90s and one 85, only three or four of them will likely be heading to 100. Certain profs will hit the chopping block as a result of this.

My 85 druid scribe is the first to come to mind. I’ve never really enjoyed Inscription, other than the concept itself and the convenience of making my own glyphs. I don’t really need a second druid any more, since I made her for the express purpose of leveling as a healer back in the day, and now that I heal on Ana, the other druid has no purpose other than those conveniences and the fact that she has a guild bank. I haven’t decided if I will delete her – for now, she stays, but that could change on a whim. But I’m done putting any effort into Inscription – that much is certain.

Anyway, one of the themes of the next expansion for me will be, as I wrote in my notes for this post, “Less alts. Period.” I should have written “Less alts at max level with maxed profs. Period.” but… I knew what I meant when I wrote it. When something is as much of a time/energy drain as alts have been this xpac, you don’t forget.

Aside from Inscription, I don’t necessarily dislike the other professions, since I finally got an Engineer (DK) to max-level. That was a rough one to level, but now that it’s up there, I don’t hate it. But it won’t be a priority in WoD, in part because my DK will itself probably not be a priority.

. . .

My priorities, in fact, will look something like this:

Mushan – hunter, main raider; LW/BS.

Anacrusa – druid (healer), potential raider; LW/SK.

Droignon – warrior (tank), potential raider; BS/MI.

Those toons will be my three level 100 toons in all likelihood. And, because I probably won’t be able to resist, I’ll probably level my mage (TA/JC) at some point, because I like playing him. But he’s not a priority. His profs will also not be a priority.

Additional profs that have potential to be leveled at some point include Enchanting (2nd hunter), Alchemy (paladin), and Engineering (DK). However, unless I decide to level the DK instead of the warrior for tanking purposes, all three of those toons will be sitting in SW collecting dust for the foreseeable future, and their professions will be leveled incidentally (particularly Enchanting, because of, you know, Disenchanting…) if at all.

So, with those things in mind, if I level the three main toons, I’ll have five different professions maxed. Six if I’m able to level Enchanting while my worgen hunter sits on his butt in a tavern. Eight if I level the mage’s professions. Eight is enough… right? Right?

. . .

It’s my hope that by not letting gold/prof concerns drive my playing activities, I will cut down on wasted time and enjoy a higher percentage of my playing time. I pretty much hate playing the paladin, the 2nd hunter will be unnecessary, and the DK will be dormant until some unknown point until I get very bored. Cutting out a lot of that “toon-bloat” should make me something more of a lean, mean playing machine, or something.

And anything I need that I can’t make myself or have made by a friend, I’ll buy. I sold all that stuff for a reason. This will be the time to use the proceeds.

. . .

Thanks for reading this post by Mushan at Mushan, Etc. Comments are welcome!


Crossroads

Things have been quiet lately, here at the blog. Not apologizing for that… just acknowledging it. I know that there are people who regularly read what I have to say, and I’m grateful to you. The truth is, I’ve not said anything lately because I haven’t known how to say what I want to say… (the BBB post notwithstanding: that was a special circumstance, where distractions fell by the wayside in lieu of “I need to write this – now”).

There’s a reason that things have been quiet. There’s been something of a small cataclysm within my raid team lately, personnel-wise. It’s something that I won’t talk about in detail on the blog. The personnel changes don’t specifically pertain to me – I’m still there, with the other members of the core – but they have hit me very close to home nonetheless. And so we’ve gone from a team rolling with the changes to a team trying to rebound from some big changes.

Changes, meaning defections. Or, rather, abandonments.

By my count, we’ve lost eight people (more if I include substitutes) since we started raiding in November 2012. In business terms, we’ve had more than 80% turnover in the past year. This isn’t an entirely accurate number, since there is one tank position and 3 DPS positions that have been constant since the very first week. But if we had gone through that many people at the company I work for, it would be classified as more than 80% turnover. And it’s a lot of turnover.

Nonetheless, in World of Warcraft, on a “casual guild” level, it’s not necessarily unexpected. People come and go. It’s the nature of the game.

However, there is a personal nature to several of these departures. While Roy and Ben left of their own accord (Roy simply retired from the game; Ben left to go to dental school), I have a hard time not feeling responsible for others leaving. I can’t necessarily prove that I am responsible… but I find myself feeling guilty about them all the same, and all I can do is play on and try to contribute, in spite of all of that.

Anyway, the bottom line is that people left – and if it wasn’t one of the two above-named peeps, it was mainly because of substitution issues**, which is also a common thing around the game.

**In a conversation recently, Squid noted that most of these issues would have been moot if Flexible-Normal had rolled out with MoP instead of WoD. If that had been the case, we likely wouldn’t have lost a few of our teammates along the way.

The most recent cases of abandonment have seriously left us in the lurch. It has now been three weeks since we killed Nazgrim in 10N, and we haven’t been back. On Blizzcon weekend, we killed the first seven bosses in one night with some friendly substitutes from around the server, and had to cancel the second night due to lack of attendance. This past weekend, courtesy of Somb and his affinity for OQueue, we killed Malkorok through Siegemaster Blackfuse with 10-12 people in Flex…

…And, you know what? We had more fun than we’ve had in weeks and weeks, and weeks. We brought seven of our normal peeps – the most recent defectors had weeded themselves out. Sunday night, the seven of us joined with three friendly peeps from Uldaman-US and an extra healer, and spent a short evening learning the Siegemaster fight. And – I’ll be honest – it felt really good to get that kill. We had a good time, communicated well, learned the fight, made adjustments… and it felt like progression. And there was no drama.

I’ll confess, there were things about this past raid weekend that were awesome, and things that sucked on a personal level. We had fun and made progress – 12/14 flex, with 4 new bosses down that we’ve never seen before – but the gear thing…

Yeah… I know I’m probably alone on my team in this way, but I’ve only got two pieces as low as 540 (base ilvl) right now. So, while the Flex kills are very rewarding – and I did have fun getting them – there’s really almost no gear that I want out of Flex.

I find that I’ve got that typical “I’d like to bring my alt” feeling creeping in from time to time when it comes to Flex. I certainly don’t make it an issue, because I can help the team most, 99.99% of the time, by bringing my hunter. But there is still a nagging feeling that I’m overgearing it… and so I think, “hey, I could bring my resto druid; she could use the gear, but is already geared enough to contribute…” which is something that is, at this point, somewhat hard-wired into our brains as raiders, as the carrot on the stick that makes raiding that much more special on a personal-character level.

Of course, that’s all silly: my favorite toon is Mushan, and I love playing him, and my team probably needs him more than it needs the druid. And I had no problems playing him in Flex. I’m just saying there’s that itch to bring the druid…

(anyway…)

(OK, it’s gone… for now…)

Ultimately, killing those four new bosses was progression for us. It was fun and rewarding on an achievement level. But the fact remains that there are relationships that have been harmed as a result of recent events – and that sucks.

And that’s why it’s been quiet here lately. While I can speak in generalities and evasively, as I have in this post, I have otherwise not really known what to say. And the “has affected me personally” thing has really affected me enormously, to the point where I’ve been considering taking an indefinite sabbatical from the game itself. Any thought of blogging about WoW has been out-shined by all of these raid-related things that have affected me so. And so, while I’ve come to WordPress with fully-completed posts over the past week or so (twice, before this one) where I address Warlords of Draenor, I haven’t been able to polish and publish them. Every time I’ve tried to do so, I’ve found myself attempting to instead avoid despair and inner conflict regarding the subject (which drives me away from the keyboard and to some other activity, for my own emotional well-being), as well as trying to avoid saying something that I could regret later. And those feelings are not going to magically go away for a while yet.

At any rate, I’ve pulled into my shell a little bit, lately. I’m leveling a new hunter. I’d like to talk more about him later. I’m raiding whatever my friends can raid. But I don’t know what the future holds, beyond the start of the next xpac. At this point, I’m taking it little bit by little bit, enjoying the company of my friends and doing other things as the spirit moves me.

Thanks for reading this post by Mushan at Mushan, Etc. Comments are welcome!


RNG has a funny sense of humor

The day finally arrived. Friday was the day that my girlfriend finished making 21 Hardened Magnificent Hides, so we got together and exchanged mail belts in the evening.

First, she made the belt for me on her druid…

My Gorge Stalker Belt - yay!

My Gorge Stalker Belt – yay!

Then, she switched over to her shaman, and I made her the Int Mail belt…

Krasari Prowler Belt

Her Krasari Prowler Belt – yay!

And then, I finally ditched my Tier 15 2-piece gear by equipping some new shoulders and making myself the mail legs. I figured, what the heck – it’s just a game, and these hides couldn’t possibly mean more to me if used for anything other than new hunter pants, even if only for a short while.

This trade was necessary because, betwixt my two Leatherworkers, I still had not learned the belt pattern on either (in 50 days X 2 worth of cooldowns). It worked out, because she was able to help me and I was able to make her a belt to compensate her – she was able to get her belt as soon as she was able to make it, and I was able to get mine in the face of possibly never learning the darn pattern. As I said in a previous post, there’s something fun and immersive – and elusive – about mutually beneficial activity when it comes to professions, and I’m glad I waited for the experience, rather than just buying a belt at the Auction House.

Of course, the next morning, this happened:

"Congratulations, you have learned a now-virtually-useless pattern!"

“Congratulations, you have learned a now-virtually-useless pattern!”

*and palm met face*

Ah well, at least we each got our belts – no harm, no foul. Although, regarding the legs, I fully expect to win the tier legs or some Warforged ones during the next week, now that I’ve used four weeks worth of mats to make the crafted ones. That’s how RNG works, right? Manipulative, playing with our emotions, torturing our hopes and dreams, laughing in our faces… It would not surprise me in the least!

Thanks for reading this post by Mushan at Mushan, Etc. Comments are welcome!


Patch 5.4: Over before it arrived?

With Blizzcon drawing nigh, there is a lot of excitement and buzz about the unveiling of a new expansion to come. And with the announcement that the new MOBA – formerly Blizzard All-Stars – will be called Heroes of the Storm, which was trademarked in September, there are no actual titles out there…

…taunting us with their “I’ve been trademarked, so I could be the title, but nothing’s official” statuses at this point.

I’m personally having a hard time getting excited about all the speculation. In fact, I’m fighting this feeling inside – the feeling that the current expansion is already done. And I’ve been fighting it for a couple of months now.

Don’t get me wrong: I do certainly think about the next expansion. I’ve variously referred to it as “BC2,” “6.0.Whatever,” and “World of Warcraft: 100″ in previous posts that have touched on a smattering of topics that relate to what’s coming in the future. But that doesn’t change the fact that it feels like Patch 5.4 came out and was “over with” in a week.

  • August: Blizzcon buzz starts to really pick up steam, along with “when is 5.4 coming?”
  • September 10: Patch 5.4 released. Lots of commentary over the next week or so about Siege of Orgrimmar, Flex, Timeless Isle, Timeless Isle, Timeless Isle…
  • September 17: LFR wing 1 and Heroic SoO released. The race to world first becomes almost secondary to the rapidly-ongoing transition from Timeless Isle and LFR to the next expansion amongst the community.
  • As weeks pass, most of what I read becomes about the next expansion. I’ve never seen a major raid patch swept under the rug as fast as this one…

Obviously, this is just a general impression, not hard numbers. Nonetheless, it’s the impression I’ve gotten.

This contrasts to where I am in-game. In Siege of Orgrimmar, we’re 8/14 and making our typical “march to the end-boss” – and we’ve still only done the first eight bosses in Flex. And so on. At any rate, there’s a lot more raiding to be done before we complete the tier/expansion.

So for me, the story is still going on. We’re going at our own pace. And since we’re less than two months into the patch, it feels like we’re in a fairly normal place.

But it seems like all of that is moot in the big picture. More than with Dragon Soul, and even more than that compared with Icecrown Citadel, it seems like this particular “final raid patch” has happened under the cloud of future content.

I’m not criticizing the community, by the way. Rather, I think that this probably stems from two basic circumstances:

1) The calendar vs. the game. Blizzard released 5.4 two months before Blizzcon – the first Blizzcon in two years, by the way – and the several months before Blizzcon are usually abuzz with speculation about what they’re going to announce, quite understandably. As a result, Blizzard has somewhat drowned their own content by releasing it under the cloud of anticipation about the announcement of more new content – content, by the way, that more people are interested in than what is happening in the game right now.

This is a consequence of pushing content out at this pace after taking forever to release patches/expansions in the past. This year, the calendar has lined up unfavorably for Patch 5.4.

2) More than ever, it seems that people are looking to the next expansion as something of a “make or break” expansion. Fairly or not, since MoP continues the downward trend in subscription numbers since Wrath and has had it’s share of problems, people are looking to the new xpac to cure those ills. If too many problem-aspects of the current game remain, people will leave. If the theme and/or story and/or raids aren’t awesome, people will be disappointed.

There are legitimate problems with the game, and many players are anxious to see how Blizzard is going to fix them. And to look at it from another view, people love the game and are simply excited to see where the story will take them. I am definitely in both of those camps.

Speculation is a natural part of this whole experience, and I am no exception. As I said, this post is not intended as any type of criticism of current community discussion. Speculate on! I know I will, to some extent. However, I can’t help feeling like 5.4 was over before it started – like Mists of Pandaria is already over, already on the back burner in the minds of many – and that feels like a shame to me. Perhaps it’s just the calendar/release schedule, or perhaps it speaks to the flaws in the game and things like the Timeless Isle, but this feels different than it felt in the past for me.

Thanks for reading this post by Mushan at Mushan, Etc. Comments are welcome!


Raiding update: 13 months in

Iron Juggernaut goes down in a plume of oily smoke.

Iron Juggernaut goes down in a plume of oily smoke.

This is a late update, but as of last Sunday (October 20th), we’re now 6/14 in Siege of Orgrimmar.

Last week, we aborted our normal “Saturday Night Flex” run when someone dropped after one wing and we found ourselves with just our core 10-person group. The suggestion was made to burn through the first four bosses in order to finally spend some quality time on, and get past, Galakras. Said suggestion was readily agreed upon, and said mission was duly executed that evening.

Sunday night, we managed to kill Galakras, and then Iron Juggernaut died as well. After a prolonged delay – when one of our healers went afk and never returned – we then spent some time checking out the Kor’kron Dark Shaman encounter. I think it’s not going to take us a whole lot of work to get that fight. Having ten people will help…

I like Siege of Orgrimmar. I feel we could be further along, but I’m happy that we’re not stuck. It’s not my favorite raid ever, but it seems to be going well.

Outside of raiding, the game has slowed down quite a bit for me. This is mainly, I think, due to the fact that a few of my friends only play on raid nights / weekends, along with other factors such as the ‘lack of new dungeons’ thing and other issues that I have with Mist of Pandaria’s end-game. Also, the expansion has been out for 13 months as of today, and I’ve put a lot of time into it.* So there’s that.

*See: my last year’s worth of posts.

While I don’t decide what we do on raid nights, I’m hoping we can take a week off from Flex and work on maybe getting seven bosses down this week, so we can start working on Nazgrim. This will depend, of course, on who shows up and other factors, but we shall see…

Thanks for reading this post by Mushan at Mushan, Etc. Comments are welcome!


Alts: what do you do best, and where?

Second attempt on Armsmaster Harlan. Yes, you read that right.

Second-attempt kill on Armsmaster Harlan. Yes, you read that right.

During each week, I have certain priorities that I like to complete on my main:

  • Cap Valor Points
  • Kill a Celestial and Ordos
  • Be supplied and ready to raid
  • Raid

Additionally, there are professions to take care of on a daily basis:

  • 2 Blacksmithing cooldowns
  • 2 x 2 Leatherworking cooldowns
  • 1 cooldown each for Alchemy, Engineering, Enchanting, Jewelcrafting
  • 2 Tailoring cooldowns
  • 7 x farms
  • Check raid/food supplies and shuffle items accordingly

Beyond that, though, my time is basically mine to use as I wish. Since the second week of 5.4, I’ve mainly used it to play my Resto druid, although my Prot warrior has gotten some love lately, and I’ve played my mage on and off. One thing I’ve noticed is that, although I’m moderately proficient with each of these toons in certain areas, there are certain places where I do well, and others that I enjoy less.

Healing

This really started to come to mind when I began taking my druid into heroic dungeons for Valor Points recently. Until a couple of weeks ago, I had healed exactly zero dungeons. I had tanked a couple of dungeons early on in the expansion with that toon, but virtually all of my healing has come in LFR. Since the druid is an alt – and therefore Valor Points are not vital – I’ve simply gotten my healing fix in LFR and left it at that.

However, I have healed a few dungeons recently. And there have been mixed results.

Don’t get me wrong – I am overgeared for these dungeons. Grossly overgeared. I’m geared enough that I can heal in wing #1 of Flex (and have done so, a little) and not do too badly. This means that when I go into a dungeon, usually one of two things happens: A) if the tank is overgeared for the dungeon, I’m bored. B) if the tank is grossly undergeared for the dungeon, or does things he/she can’t handle relative to his/her gear, that tank can still die… much to my chagrine.

In my limited experience thus far, I’ve mostly run into tanks who are fine and can handle whatever they try. However, last night I ran into a Prot paladin who had 387k health (buffed), but played like he had twice as much.

Pro tip: if you’re at the level where most of the gear that drops for your spec in heroic dungeons is still an upgrade, and you’re the tank, chain-pulling and repeatedly going out of line-of-sight of the healer is not going to be a good recipe for continued survival.

Things came to a head in this instance – which was Heroic Scarlet Halls – when we got to Armsmaster Harlan. I was still halfway up the stairs across the hallway when this tank jumped down into the pit and lost almost all of his health. I barely made it into the room before the door shut, and kept him alive, but then he was smart enough to get caught up in Blades of Light (and died). He also did this on the second pull, although the DPS managed to still kill the boss. The DPS then kicked him, and we finished the dungeon with our DK, who switched to Blood and pulled things in a more manageable fashion.

Anyway, I was frustrated with the tank, but I was also frustrated with myself, because I couldn’t keep him alive. Then again, I suppose that even great healers might have a problem with a tank in bad gear playing badly.

LFR/raiding is a different story. I think I enjoy it more. Perhaps I would feel differently if I were running dungeons with friends, but that doesn’t happen anymore in my circle of friends/guildies – if any such grouping happens, it’s usually for LFR. And whether I’m running with friends or not, I generally enjoy LFR more on my healer. LFR still sucks – don’t get me wrong – but since it’s not imperative that I finish it, and I’m doing it because I want to rather than because I have to, I can just go in and do heal-y stuff and not worry about it too much.

Gekkan bites it in a timely fashion

Gekkan bites it in a timely fashion

Tanking

Things are pretty much totally opposite for me when it comes to tanking.

I’ve always preferred tanking dungeons to tanking raids, especially LFR. I can generally tank just fine in any situation, but I prefer dungeons because I’m in control. It doesn’t matter if there’s someone there with a legendary cloak or if everyone else’s average ilvl is 450: the dungeon will be completed if the tank is moderately skilled, around or above ilvl 500, and doesn’t make boneheaded mistakes.

As a tank, the group goes through at my pace, and I’m comfortable enough with both the dungeon and my own familiarity with Protection warriors that I can gauge how much we can pull at one time, which way we’ll go, and how to handle emergency situations on the fly.

Of course, I’m to the point where I’m tired of all of these year-old dungeons, so I’m not the dungeon-running nut that I would like to be at this point in the xpac. However, if I’m in the mood, I can do a few, snag some VP, and have a decent time along the way.

This is my preferred tanking mode. I’m just not interested in tanking enough to do so in LFR. I expect many tank-players feel the same way. If necessary, I would tank in normals or flex, but that would involve coordination with familiar players, which has its own enjoyable qualities. And at this point, I’m not needed for tanking.

Ranged vs. Melee DPS

I play a hunter. I’m pretty good at it. I enjoy the ranged aspects of playing the class. I also enjoy not having to be up close to the boss’s hit box* in order to be doing damage.

*Obviously, you have to be close to the boss to tank. But if you’re tanking correctly, the boss wants to be close to your hit box, so it’s a win-win situation.

While mages have a different toolkit than hunters, I do enjoy playing my mage, in part because it’s also ranged, so I don’t have to deviate much from my positioning habits in general as I play. With both my hunter and mage, I am proficient at both raids and dungeons. So I don’t necessarily have a preference, although I will say that I’ve usually taken my druid into LFR rather than my mage, in part because of queue times. But if I’m going with a group of friends, I’ll bring the mage along, and he’ll do fine.

Melee, on the other hand, is a different story. At this point in the game, just about the only melee I enjoy playing is as a tank. Perhaps it’s because I’m out of practice, or because I’ve only tried it on a warrior this xpac (I suck at warrior DPS, period). But in general, I’m not a fan of the limitations of melee. Perhaps it’s something I should explore more, perhaps in PvP…

Anyway, if I’m going to DPS at this point, I’m either going to DPS at range, or I’m not going to DPS at all.

“Conclusion”

Things are pretty clear for me, with regard to the alts I play the most.

DPS: I like ranged, without question; doesn’t matter where.

Healing: I’d rather be raiding, but I can heal dungeons I suppose.

Tanking: Dungeons all the way – unless I’m tanking with a friend-tank. Which rarely happens.

Here’s my question for you. What do you do best, and where?

Thanks for reading this post by Mushan at Mushan, Etc. Comments are welcome!


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