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!


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!


That elusive crafted belt pattern

Most hunters with Tier 16 set-bonus considerations are probably only looking for one of the new 5.4 crafted pieces. While the legs would be a not-insignificant upgrade, I’m not terribly excited about the prospect of using my hard-earned mats (28 Hardened Magnificent Hides) for something that could be replaced by a tier piece. With that in mind, I’m basically aiming for the belt.

As luck would have it, I’m all set on Int-mail, Int-leather, and Agi-leather patterns as of this morning. Yay…

Of course, since I’m a hunter and this is not World of Wear Whatever (WoWW), I’m not interested in those patterns. I have two Leatherworkers: two chances a day to proc the pattern I need.

Granted, the chance that I get that one belt pattern is small – smaller than it is for any other current-patch daily crafting cooldown, in fact. The Hardened Magnificent Hide cooldown teaches 82 patterns, minus the one you possibly learn the first day. Blacksmithing (41 patterns) and Tailoring (40 patterns) take a great deal less time to complete, which is understandable since there are only three PvE spec-types for BS (tank, melee, heal; and only melee and heal plate for the PvP gear) and two for Tailoring (caster, heal), as opposed to LW (Agi-leather, Agi-mail, Int-leather, Int-mail). Without going into the probability math, it’s safe to say that Leatherworkers have, in general, the smallest chance of getting the pattern they’re looking for as soon as possible.

There’s a profession design post somewhere in that last paragraph, but I’m not going to write it – it’s been written by better writers than me, on both blogs and the forums. Some people, however, may not realize that there’s a lack of equality in the mechanics of epic-pattern-learning.

Anyway, that’s not why I’m here talking about this today. Well, it sort of is, because, between my two LWs, I’ve got 3 of 4 belt patterns on the hunter…

...And belts for all... almost.

…And belts for all… almost.

…and 3 of 4 leg patterns on the druid…

Hehe... britches...

Hehe… britches…

…but no Agility mail. Yet.

Since we’re well past the point where these items can be crafted – September 30th was the first day belts could be made, and October 7th the first day for legs – I’ve thought about other options.

35k? Drop in the bucket.

35k? Drop in the bucket.

For instance, the belt I’m looking to make – Gorge Stalker Belt – is on the Auction House. It’s 35-40k gold, depending on the day. At this point in the game, I would normally drop that kind of gold for new gear without the slightest regret. In fact, I’ve dropped way more for that in the past. I like getting gear upgrades, whatever the method. I dropped 22k on the Ranseur of Hatred 4.2 (and again for my druid), 40k on the Lava-Bolt Gun Sound Maker Crossbow in 4.2, and much more than that on several Darkmoon trinkets early in this expansion. But there’s something different about this…

There’s something about making your own gear. It’s not a very big part of the game right now. We only get a couple of pieces per tier, and other than PvP/starter/leveling gear, there isn’t a whole lot else that really makes a difference. Which is kind of boring, given the huge amount of recipes that one learns (see the “82 pattern” thing from above). And this is the second time this expansion we’ve grinded this number of patterns through daily CDs.

However, despite the problems that exist in profession design, I do enjoy crafting. I especially enjoy crafting for myself. There’s something particularly satisfying about crafting: getting the last piece(s) you need for an item, watching the materials disappear as they turn into the item, and then equipping and enhancing it as necessary.

Reading back through that last paragraph, it seems like a pretty boring thing. And perhaps it’s nigh impossible to explain why I get a small bit of enjoyment out of that particular activity, but when I make a piece of gear for myself, it gives me a feeling of fulfillment, and lends to feeling a little more immersed in the game. That feeling may not last long, but it’s certainly not something I don’t care about.

As it stands, with no pattern to make anything useful with yet, there are only three options: 1) wait patiently for the pattern to happen; 2) toss aside my desire to make it myself and buy the item on the AH; 3) find a way to trade with someone.

I’ve already managed Option 3 one time this patch, and it was on a plate piece. Due to a combination of luck and, oh, the fact that there is a smaller pool of Blacksmithing patterns to learn than Leatherworking, I learned all six 553 patterns on my warrior fairly quickly. I had made a deal with Somb, my teammate, that if I learned the melee DPS belt before he did, I’d make it for him if he made me a tanking belt once he had learned that one. We had ourselves a deal, and so, on the Saturday night before last, I made him the DPS belt. Then, this past Thursday morning, I opened my mail to find this:

Tank belt!

Tank belt!

Now the fact is, even if it had taken him a month or two to get the mats, I wouldn’t have minded since my plate tanks are somewhat dormant alts right now. I wanted to make him the belt, because we’re good friends and because it helps our team. The fact that he was able to get a belt back to me so soon was a bonus.

Trading is certainly an attractive option for me. Why? Because, as much as there is satisfaction in making something for yourself, there is even greater pleasure in mutually benefiting from crafting items for one another. It’s a bond-strengthening experience, and it involves interacting and working together, which is a big draw of the game for me.

However, unlike the Blacksmithing situation, I don’t know any Leatherworkers who have the pattern and would be willing or able to trade me a Gorge Stalker Belt for a similar item. We have a resto druid who is a LW, but he only has two patterns, neither of which either of us can use. And the worst part? I found out this morning that my girlfriend’s druid LW has the Gorge Stalker Belt pattern(!!), but when I asked her how many pieces of leather she has, she said “Oh… four.”

/sigh…

I was all ready to suggest a trade – “I’ll make you the shammy belt/druid belt if you make me the hunter one…” – but no. At the rate she is remembering to do the daily CD (lol!), I’ll know the belt pattern before she has enough leathers to make me one.

But if she did have the mats, I would have been happy making the trade, and she would have been happy with a new piece of gear as well. There’s a positive (and partly intangible) element to trading crafted items that I feel Blizzard doesn’t allow us to fully explore with crafting (on a certain, “epic” level…).

I could certainly just buy the piece and be done with it, if I were impatient enough. But it’s not a BoE drop, and it’s not a weapon, or a big enough upgrade that it’s almost essential. And so I am determined to have the pleasure of either making one for myself or trading a crafted leather/mail piece for one with a friend. I’m determined to have that small slice of satisfaction from a portion of the game that could provide so much more of it.

Is this the best decision from a pure-performance standpoint? No, probably not – and I begrudge nobody’s decision to do so. But because I could soon make it myself, performance is not an important-enough reason to just spend the gold. If the wait proves to be worth it, on a good-for-the-soul level, then I’ll take the wait.

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


Raiding again! First kills in Siege of Orgrimmar

Siege of Orgrimmar

Siege of Orgrimmar

This past weekend, after more than a month where our raiding activity has been sporadic, we finally entered Siege of Orgrimmar for some normals-action… and it was sort of by accident.

Attendance boss tangent

We have a guy on our team who, as far as I know, is done raiding with us. He was out the Saturday night of the week we killed Lei Shen; we got something like nine bosses down the first night with a friend filling in, and the decision was made to bring that substitute with us the second night to try for the full clear (in fairness to the sub), and we got it… and since then this guy has been salty. Other than the next time after our guild took down Lei Shen, he has declined every invite. He plays all the time, and then the morning of the raid he declines the invite and is nowhere to be seen at raid time.

Whatever. Shit like that pisses me off, particularly when excuses are made to the raid leader, things are shrouded in secrecy, rumors are going around, and him not being available means I don’t get to raid. It all stinks of bull crap to me. So I’m calling it as I see it, based on what I know… I’m done with it. Moving on.

At any rate, this past Saturday, we were also missing our resto druid – a planned absence – and so after a long delay, we grabbed some friends and hit up Flex again. We managed the first wing with no problem, and then ran into the wall that is Galakras… and since we had started so late, we called it after a couple of pulls and planned to regroup on Sunday.

Sunday arrived, and we were at nine people. I was ready to call it after waiting almost 40 minutes for someone to log in when a healer popped online. A quick discussion later, we determined that having four healers and four DPS wasn’t the best situation for the Galakras fight. So we agreed to go give Immerseus a try.

And, with that, we had backed into the place I actually wanted to be… by accident…

Yes!!

I was happy.

Immerseus

Immerseus down

Immerseus, purified

The fight worked as intended. It was a typical Morchok/Jin’rokh-type of intro fight: fairly simple once you know what you’re doing as a group. My girlfriend, who was one of the healers on this fight, was scoffing at our ability to do it, even after I pointed out that the group had nice symmetry for floor coverage, and we had four very strong, Legendary-cloaked damage dealers, even if there were only four. Whatever – I was proven correct as we downed the boss on the second attempt. We had healers spread out to all four quarters of the floor, DPS similarly, and we had absolutely no problem beating the berserk timer.

With that, it was on to

The Fallen Protectors

Fallen Protectors, relieved of their corruption

Fallen Protectors, relieved of their corruption

Unlike Throne of Thunder, Siege doesn’t have a Horridon, a second boss that is a completely epic and impenetrable wall to keep us from progressing normally. Instead, we get the Fallen Protectors, which is a busy fight but really isn’t that difficult. We one-shotted it.

It wasn’t the prettiest kill: for instance, I almost bit it when I got Inferno Strike and took it into the group killing the add we were working on, only to have people move out of range. I didn’t die, but I lost about 85% of my health when it exploded. I think from now on, we will either execute that correctly, or I’ll try to Deterrence through it alone. Things like that made the fight a little bit of a wild ride, but having done it on Flex a couple of times and knowing what to look for certainly helped.

Anyway, with that, we made our way to Norushen. We made several attempts, but failed to get the boss down. We’ll make some adjustments next week, and should have our druid back, so I don’t foresee that boss being much of a problem next weekend.

What could have been a lost weekend ended up being a pretty successful one. We were all happy to have gotten a couple of normal kills in, and are looking forward to further success.

Personally, it was a good week. I picked up the Warforged Smoldering Eye from Ordos and the tier gloves from Xuen on Tuesday, Death Lotus Crossbow from the Protectors in Flex on Saturday, and the Puddle Punishers (boots) from normal Immerseus on Sunday. I couldn’t really have hoped for a better week, loot-wise.

Raiding again is exciting! Looking forward to more.

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


Revised plans

Vale of Eternal Sorrows

Vale of Eternal Sorrows

We’re a week and change into Patch 5.4 as of this writing, and if there’s one thing that’s become quite apparent about the patch, it’s that there is no shortage of Stuff To Do.

While I went into 5.4 prepared on some fronts, I did willfully remain ignorant about certain features that were coming, including the Timeless Isle and its quests/coins/etc. and Proving Grounds (which I tried the other night when I was bored, and found to be a nice challenge). However, I did have plans that were falling into place over the course of the last three weeks, and some of those sort of went into the toilet about 90 minutes after I logged in on Tuesday night.

As I wrote a couple of weeks ago, with loot tables remaining uniform aside from item level (and heirloom weapons) in all formats of Siege of Orgrimmar, I felt that it was my duty to take my hunter into SoO LFR once a week, in order to try to acquire upgrade items such as Assurance of Consequence and any of the 528 weapons. While the quality of LFR started out poor and has gotten worse over the course of the expansion, I was hoping for some positive experiences, at least on Tuesdays early on in the patch.

However, I was disabused of that fantasy after a 48 minute wait to get into Vale of Eternal Sorrows on Tuesday. The group was on Norushen and had apparently lost almost all of its original members, according to what I could gather from chat. There were four stacks of Determination, which I didn’t notice until after we wiped once on said encounter (at which point, five stacks…). At that point, I decided to use a flask…

Take 2 for me – Take 6 for the group – was a success, and we managed to one-shot the Sha of Pride. But it was rough going: it was as if we were still in Throne of Thunder LFR two weeks ago, rather than something new. The truth is that Flexible Raiding seems to have further decimated the ranks of LFR raiders, making the transition from ToT LFR to SoO LFR a fairly seemless one, unfortunately.

“Maybe you just hit a bad group,” one could say. And that person could be right – and is probably correct, actually. But I’ve seen enough.

So my plans for raiding on my toons are being revised.

Mushan in LFR

On my main, Mushan, I’m going to relax and be satisfied that it’s not going to make much of a difference if I don’t get anything out of LFR this tier. Time to put that “I feel forced” feeling in the grave. I’m not going to have fun in LFR, so I’m not going to do it – Assurance of Consequence be damned.

Will that come back to bite me down the road? It’s hard to tell at this point, but given that I’ve completed the legendary and acquired my T16 two-piece bonus already, Assurance of Consequence (528) is a very minor upgrade over my normal mode trinket, and a downgrade from my Thunderforged one, so I don’t think it’s worth the effort.

Now, Haromm’s Talisman (528, Kor’kron Dark Shaman) is a definite upgrade, so I may feel a tinge of regret if I have problems scoring that one in Flex at some point…

…but then again, I might not, after all.

One of the things that I noticed when I started putting together gear lists for my hunter was that with three levels of raiding (raiding, FR, LFR), your overall Warforged Seal “spending power” is diluted if you run all three every week. So, for instance, if I’m targeting certain items like weapons, tier pieces, and trinkets, then choices have to be made as to which pieces I will take a bonus roll on. Since I plan on running Flex every week anyway, I’ll want to save my Seals for that – or for normal – rather than LFR, since I’ll definitely be looking for weapons/trinkets/tier there until I replace my ToT gear. So LFR would provide only one opportunity per boss, no matter what, since I’ve made that decision and have the FR/normal opportunities. And if LFR continues to largely be the way I experienced it on Tuesday night, it’s a drop opportunity that I’m generally willing to forego.

Alts in LFR

As I thought over all of this after my foray into LFR, it suddenly hit me that this will also affect my plans for alt play.

Originally, I was planning to regularly take my Resto druid and my mage into SoO. However, now I find myself not looking forward to taking either. This doesn’t mean I won’t; however, I no longer think I’m going to make doing so a priority. I’ve still been having fun playing both toons, the mage in particular. However, I may have to find some other avenue for them, although right now I don’t know that I have that many options that appeal. For the druid, at least, I can generally count on short queues, which, in my experience, reduce the overall stress level going into an LFR. However, I’m not going to commit to doing it regularly with either toon, like I had previously done. I just think that doing so has the potential to ruin my enjoyment of the game / those toons, and I don’t really want to do that.

So, we’ll see what happens, how much time I have, and how much desire I have to take them in at some point…

Flex

We did the first wing of Flex last weekend. It wasn’t bad – we took 13 people, and five!! of them were healers.  After wiping on a sloppy first pull of Immerseus, we ran the table up through Sha and called it a night. Many of us got some nice upgrades; I actually got three pieces, although only one of them – the tier chest – was usable.

Although we were healer-heavy, it was easy to see how Flex is different from both LFR and normal modes. I think Blizzard struck a nice balance between the three levels. To my eyes, though, Flex is going to be about the gear for people like me, and not for the challenge.

I’m not the raid leader, so I don’t know what the plan is, but I am hoping that we at least go in and try Immerseus this weekend on normal mode. I do think that there is a benefit to taking time to run Flex as a team for a few weeks, because we’re not a team that is going to out-play most raid bosses’ mechanics. The gear will help us progress, particularly for our newer and lesser-geared players who are coming from a little bit behind. That being said, however, I’m itching to raid. Last week we were missing a couple of key people, so we didn’t, but I’d prefer to be the team that killed Jin’rokh the first week of 5.3 and went 12/12N in ToT before 5.4 than to not kill bosses for a few weeks, particularly since Fallen Protectors is not supposed to be the wall that Horridon was at the beginning of the patch. We’re not world-beaters or progressive, but we are competent, and I’m itching to raid.

Then again, when am I not?  :)

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


Assurance of Consequence

The idea for this post came to me several weeks ago, when I first looked through the list of hunter-eligible gear from raids on WoWDB.com. At that time, I made a list of pertinent gear – that is, gear that I have a chance to get, gear that is potentially an upgrade over my own. And I was struck by one particular piece. No, it wasn’t the heirloom weapon…

It was a trinket called Assurance of Consequence.

Assurance of Consequence

Assurance of Consequence

This trinket drops from the Sha of Pride, the final boss in the first wing of Siege of Orgrimmar. Which means it also drops in the first wing of flex, which is named Vale of Eternal Sorrows. This is also the name of the first wing of Siege of Orgrimmar, LFR edition.

The skinny

According to Perculia at WoWhead, the latest news on which abilities have reduced cooldowns is that, as of last week, all six abilities have been named for most, if not all, of the potential specs. Since I play Survival, I’ll list the abilities for that spec (to date):

Black Arrow, Camouflage, Disengage, Feign Death, Rapid Fire, Stampede.

It’s a pretty good list, although for PvE, Camouflage does very little for me. But the 35%-plus cooldown reduction of the other abilities with any and every version of this trinket (the reduction improves as the trinket’s ilevel goes up) makes it very tasty.

Of course, the effect is called Readiness

The drop

When I found out about these trinkets, I knew that I wanted to write this post… but I wanted confirmation on something first, so I put it on the back burner.

That confirmation came this week. The Siege of Orgrimmar raid release schedule was announced. The Normal, LFR, and Heroic mode release schedule is exactly the same as it was in 5.2. Click the link if you haven’t seen it yet.

The aftermath

My best hope, or dream-scenario, is that the flex version of this trinket will drop for me next week, and I will never have to set foot in LFR in hopes of getting it.

My reasonable hope is that it drops for me over the next few weeks in flex or LFR.

My reality is that I will probably be grinding out LFR and flex for the next ten weeks, praying for a drop that never comes like I did with the T14 shoulder token from Lei Shi. I fought her to the bitter end on Mushan, and never saw it. I hope it doesn’t come to that with this thing.

Thoughts

Unfortunately, the more things change, the more they stay the same. This trinket looks so good that it seems like a must-have for the performance improvement it potentially affords. As such, until I have one in my grimy clutches, I will be farming the crap out of it.

I didn’t want it to be this way. I wanted to avoid LFR totally on my hunter this tier, and had already made the decision not to chase tier tokens in SoO LFR. But since Blizzard made no alterations to the release schedule, and that trinket becomes a potential LFR drop only a week after the patch starts, I will at least be running LFR for that one. It’s a no-brainer.

Those skeptical of my logic may ask, what difference does it make? They release LFR on 9/17, or they release it a month or two later: either way, you don’t have to run it! Either way, if you can’t/don’t run it, you have the same gear…

I understand that logic.

But I feel a responsibility to making my team the best that it can be. And if being able to move better and do more damage faster - sooner – means I slog it in LFR against my desires, than so be it. I consider myself a leader on my team, at least on the offensive side of the ball, and as a leader, I try to be my best. And this trinket has both DPS and tactical implications that I want to be able to take advantage of as soon as possible: more Rapid Fires and Black Arrows and Stampedes mean more DPS, more Disengages mean possibly more self-healing and better movement options, more FDs mean better survival. So bringing that better Mushan to the table – to the team – is important to me.

Now, if Blizzard had decided to either hold back the release of LFR or not put potentially game-changing items in LFR, then of course I wouldn’t worry about it. But if a piece of gear can help my team, I’m generally going to chase after it every time. I would have a hard time foregoing the opportunity when it’s there. It feels different going into a 10-man team with a goal of progressing without doing your homework than it does knowing you did everything you could to prepare, in my experience.

I wish the game was a little different. But I understand the reasoning behind / arguments for why it is the way it is.

In reality, I have nothing major to complain about. While I personally would prefer that LFR be moot for my main toon for an entire tier, it’s exciting that there will be things to do again, and fun new gear to acquire. I do enjoy playing my hunter over any other toon, after all!

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


Thinking stat-less gear while fighting H Tortos

The past few weeks, I’ve been filling in with a heroic raiding guild on my alt hunter, Ghilleadh.

Ghilleadh isn’t the best geared wolf out there. While his ilvl has risen to 508 over the past few weeks, with a Thunderforged weapon and 2p T15 bonus, he has nothing from the legendary questline, still has two blue pieces, and so on. Compared with Mushan, he’s still almost a tier behind, average ilevel-wise. And of course, he is way behind on the legendary.

The experience of bringing this alt with that guild has been mostly positive, with large doses of caveat-ish-ness stemming from the fact that it feels like I’m playing with my arm tied behind my back. I get absolutely smoked on the meters, which is symptomatic of the fact that I simply do not have the kind of power that I am accustomed to playing with, relative to the content.

Other symptoms include feeling like I am shooting the adds on H Horridon with a wet noodle, shooting the turtles on H Tortos with a wet noodle… in other words, Mushan has many advantages – although those advantages are largely the result of many months of persistence and hard work – over Ghilleadh when it comes to gear and power and so on.

I’m trying not to let it bother me when I run with these people, and, in all honesty, it’s relatively easy to do so for farm content, where my under-geared presence doesn’t necessarily hamper their evening.

However, on heroic progression content, each person’s damage matters. And when poor damage directly affects mechanical performance during the fight, my predicament with Ghilleadh and his poor gear is laid bare.

Case in point: H Tortos.

Last week and this week, we’ve been smashing our faces against H Tortos. As a ranged player, my responsibility is to ensure that turtles die. As the worst damage dealer (by a long shot), my other responsibility is to ensure that turtles are kicked at appropriate times. And as a person on the team, my third responsibility is to ensure that I get a Crystal Shell on me in enough time that it can be fully charged before each Quake Stomp.

There is no priority for this. They are all my number one priorities…

I’m fine with the Crystal Shell. Although there are times when the turtles are buttholes and knock me around while I’m trying to have my shell charged, it’s something I can generally handle.

Kicking turtles and killing turtles are a little more difficult. By the way, this is not because I stink at kicking turtles, per se. I’ve been kicking turtles just fine for weeks, and when I consider all of the experience I’ve gotten with them, the isolated act of aiming and kicking is pretty simple. However, since I am not very powerful, it takes longer than I would like it to, just to kill them. I mean, I pop CDs on turtles in order to help us not wipe on the first Ferocious Stone Breath. And although we can almost always accomplish that, there are the other turtles to deal with – including the fact that sometimes, they will take me out right when I’m ready to interrupt the breath, in spite of my best efforts to make them think I’m not going to be there (at the point of the kicking) when the time comes. This is the joy of H Tortos; or rather, it is one of them.

I have a hard time not believing that if I were attempting the same task with Mushan (and his much-better damage), Skull Turtle would be long-dead, and X Turtle would be dead – or close to it – by the time I needed to interrupt the first breath.

This is what I mean when I talk about gear affecting mechanical performance.

Last night, during our many attempts on this repair-bill-piñata, I started thinking about my situation (under-geared heroic raiding) and its relevance to the far-fetched (for WoW) notion of getting rid of stats altogether, and the raid tuning issues that could come from massive changes to the way WoW works in this regard.

(It may have been a huge stretch, but bear with me, because even if it is, I still thought about it!)

As the game stands, here’s what I bring to the table with Mushan: a good player with generally good awareness, knowledge of the fight, properly gemmed/enchanted/reforged, and appropriate gear level.

With Ghilleadh, it looks similar: same player, same awareness, same knowledge, same gemming/enchanting/reforging, not very close to the proper gear level.

With Mushan, whose gear is fairly close to the levels of the other toons, I would fit in seemlessly. I am at the same level, relatively, in almost every regard, to the other team members – including having reached the end of the legendary questline to-date.

With Ghilleadh, there is one glaring issue. Mentally I fit in, but physically (in game) I just cannot approach the level of power that the rest of the team has.

OK, I think that’s fairly clear.

So I was thinking: what if, in a vacuum, Blizzard demolished the idea of stats on gear, while leaving the raiding structure the same? Meaning, of course, that leveling < heroic dungeons < Raid Finder < raids < heroic raids, as far as the hierarchy of group content goes…

The reason behind this thought was, if it was all about skill, and I were a good enough player, I could take my other hunter into a heroic raid, learn the fight, and perform as well as my main hunter would. (Ah, the simplistic thoughts we think sometimes…)

I could kill turtles just as fast, kill adds on Horridon just as fast… There’s no place like home… there’s no place like home…

Wait, what? Sorry, I was fading off there for a moment…

It couldn’t actually happen in a vacuum, obviously. While some people have advocated for such a change in WoW, Ghostcrawler has consistently maintained that gear progression is so ingrained in the game that it would be tough to remove it. (I’m paraphrasing here).

I don’t have a quote for that, but I know that I’ve seen his short comments about it here and there, and my interpretation of those comments has always been something along the lines of “Yeah, I guess people are so used to looting and bringing their item level/gear score up that it would take a huge chunk of fun out of the game, and I guess they’d have to come up with new ways for us to get our power, and, ah, yeah, (I guess I don’t care about this enough to think about it much more than I already have)…”

But last night, as I was thinking about it, I realized that, on the surface, GC’s words (as I remember them) only hint at how this would affect the game. Because the truth is that this would fundamentally change the game at its core.

At its core… beyond the “me want lootz” nature of WoW as we have always known it. :)

Changing WoW to a game without stats on gear would not be as simple as we might think. The tuning process for everything combat-related would have to be rebuilt. This includes PvP, where, in a vacuum-like situation (with the game as it is), if we just took all our armor off, wore tuxedos and/or holiday/RP (stat-less) clothing, and fought one another at level 90 with starting zone weapons, players might never die. We’d have a lot less health, but we’d have much, much less power.

There would have to be major changes to how players get their power. There has to be some power in the game, after all. It might be a system similar to talents, like in other video games where you put points into abilities you want to use, or where you fill up a strength or magic or skill bar with experience until it is full.

There would have to be major changes to bosses and boss progression. In my example, while Mushan is geared for heroic T15 content, Ghilleadh is not. In our new version of WoW, it seems to me that boss fights would have to be based less on power and more on skill. People might complain about “the Dance (TM)” in the current game, but our new WoW’s bosses would be all about strategy, skill, execution… heroic bosses couldn’t be X times as powerful as normal bosses, because we might not be X times more powerful than we were when we took on their regular counterparts, because we weren’t getting “better” gear.

Now, I could see some change where, in a 12 boss raid, you get a slightly more powerful weapon when you kill the third, sixth, ninth, and twelfth bosses, each with more power than the one before, allowing for some power progression. But ultimately, boss fighting would become even less about power and more about skill and execution than it is now, possibly vastly more so.

I’m just scratching the surface of this topic. And, while I wrote the first half-dozen paragraphs of this post last night after two hours of smash-face-against-H-Tortos, I don’t remember everything that went through my mind during and after the raid, unfortunately.

But that doesn’t matter. What does matter is that I understand that the notion of a stat-less gear version WoW is a notion of a very different game, to the point where if it happened, it would probably have to happen in a WoW 2 or something.

People float the idea of getting rid of stats on gear from time to time, and it’s an interesting idea. However, the amount of work that would have to go into it is difficult to fathom from this side of the dev/player divide, because of how such a fundamental change to how we kill things in-game would affect so many parts of the game, including how drastically the things we kill would have to be changed as well.

Additionally, it would be a huge change for players. After years of progression, in part, through gear – at every combat-related level of gameplay, from leveling to HMs – such a change, if pulled off by the devs, would still be a massive shock to players’ familiarity with WoW. Financially, it would probably not be a good idea, both from the perspectives of “time investment vs. moving the game/story/action forward” and whether all of that work would be worth the money for them as a company / attract new players / retain old ones…

…although it sounds like a fantastic idea for a new game.

P.S.

The item squish theme is making the rounds again in the worldwide WoW community, and many are predicting that it will be a significant feature in 6.0 and the as-yet-unannounced next expansion. I don’t generally have any pressing thoughts about the subject, because I would rather hear what the devs have to say now – as opposed to what they were saying about it two or three years ago – before I ponder it too much. I am interested to see where they go with it, if it is indeed something that we’re going to see in the near future.

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


Lei Shen!

Nos Consensio, victorious over Lei Shen at last!

Nos Consensio, victorious over Lei Shen at last!

The month of July saw my guild methodically work through the first nine bosses of Throne of Thunder. All nine bosses, all the trash, all the fun. Again and again.

With progression in mind, Squido decided to extend last week’s lockout in order to put some time in on Iron Qon. After a late start on Saturday night, we downed IQ in just a few tries, one-shot the Twin Consorts (unsurprisingly), and pulled Lei Shen a few times.

On Sunday night, we started at our normal time. I didn’t think to keep track of how many pulls we made, but I think it was around 10 or 12. Each couple of pulls, we made significant progress – tanks coordinating taunts and movement, people handling their quadrant assignments better and better – and on one of the final pulls, we made it out of the end of the second intermission, only to suffer massive deaths at or around the first Thunderstruck on phase 3.

Then, it all came together. We lost a healer at the beginning of phase 3, when the server lagged hard for several seconds. We thought all was lost… but when the server caught up to us, 9 were still alive, and we persevered through the Lightning Whips and Thunderstrucks and Ball Lightnings and Gale Winds to take him down!

In addition to my teammates who were seeing the fight for the first time rapidly familiarizing with the mechanics, what was great was the level of communication over vent. In spite all of the calls for stacks and taunts and so on, it never got really chaotic on that final attempt, and so the communication was extremely effective.

Despite the fact that I’ve already killed Lei Shen with friends in another raid group a few times, killing him last night and getting the guild first was the most epic boss kill experience I’ve been a part of in MoP! Just getting it done with my friends was awesome, but overcoming that lag spike in phase 3 made it that much more thrilling, and I was super-pumped!

After a very slow start to the expansion – we started Tier 15 having gone a grueling 10/16 in Tier 14 – we are just about where we need to be going into 5.4. It’s great to see the true progress we’ve made in the last several months. This is what we play for!

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


Growing pains on Heroic Ji-Kun

When doing H Ji-Kun last week on my alt hunter, I made a lot of stupid mistakes as part of nest group 2, as I mentioned in my previous post. These mistakes led to wipes at times, and I was beyond frustrated.

My frustration was probably exacerbated by the fact that, while this group has killed H Ji-Kun several times, and I had no real experience with the fight, I was expecting to be successful without much experience. In reality, I hadn’t gone through the learning process at the same time they did. I was, in fact, way behind. And on heroic fights, not having mastered mechanics is even less forgiving than it is on normals, and I was making all kinds of dumb mistakes. The worst was not jumping down to nest two (also nest eight) correctly. I would not get the jump off the platform correctly and miss the nest entirely, resulting in periods of pulling at my hair helplessly while my hunter spun upwards towards death during Quills. As I said in that post, it was very, very frustrating. My self confidence was pretty low at that point.

It was probably a somewhat unreasonable way to think about myself, but, if nothing else, it motivated me.

After the fact, I reflected on it, and reminded myself that it was really my first time. And I thought about some fixes to my problem, with the idea that I would make staying alive and correctly getting to nests my top priorities the next time we did the fight.

Last night, after spending three hours wiping on H Tortos the previous night, I got my chance to prove that I had learned something. And in one pull, I proved to myself that I had somewhat overreacted (internally/emotionally) to my failures during the previous week’s attempts.

The keys to my successes/failures were two-fold: 1) I needed to use or take advantage of a speed boost when going to lower nests, and 2) I needed to have an awareness of which nests I was responsible for.

Part 2 was easy enough. Nest team 2 only has four nests, and so once I got into my head that nest 9 is both upper and lower, and watched my timers, and kept track of the tanks, I was fine.

Part 1 was an execution thing, and I managed to get it down just fine. On the first lower nest, I used Darkflight. On the second one, I ran with the Down Draft and got a nice jump. And aside from that, everything went fine.

It was kind of lame, probably. But I had to go with what I had.

For the upper nests, I found that jumping down and then disengaging onto the main platform was a perfect solution.

The end result was a one-shot – in spite of my still-pathetic damage on that toon – and I didn’t die! I was very happy with the results. Sometimes, the best thing is to step back and think about the situation again, and make adjustments, rather than expecting that ramming yourself against the barrier will somehow produce a different result at some point. I’m glad that I gave it some thought, instead of going in and hoping that I’d simply ‘make the jumps’ this time.

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


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