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.


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!

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!

Through success and failure

In a post last week, I told you about how I was trying to speed-gear my “other” hunter, Ghilleadh.

There’s a story as to why that was happening, and since that story is winding down, I figure I can talk about it with more than a “this is what I’m going to try to do*” vibe to the post.

*One of my blogging faults, in my opinion.

Over the past month or so, our raid team has missed a couple of weeks. With that in mind, I brought Mushan to a couple of runs with a better-progressed guild, which I have written about already. I got my first full clear, first H Jin’rokh kill, and a couple of nice pieces along the way.

In that small bit of experience, there was some learning going on, on both sides. They learned that I was a competent player. I learned that they were good people to play with. And somewhere along the way, a couple of members of that team thought I was the full-time replacement for their recently-departed hunter. Of course, I was not.

However, getting to clear more content has been awesome. And so the idea was eventually floated, once certain people learned that I have two hunters, that we could gear up the second hunter fairly quickly, to run with them full-time on Tues-Thurs, with Mushan still running with my weekend team.

So last week I ran with them on Ghilleadh.

It was a largely frustrating experience.

Even going in at ilvl 486 – way below everyone else – I had a difficult time being carried. Being a non-contributor is tough for me. Perhaps that’s a personality flaw, at least in this situation, since I was not expected to contribute much. My biggest contributions that first day seemed to be kicking turtles on Tortos, the occasional well-timed Silencing Shot, and not doing dumb stuff to wipe the raid. In general, though, my DPS was, as expected, below the tanks’, despite my best efforts. The worst part, though, was when they decided to do H Ji-kun.

I had very little experience on that fight, and we just went into it, and I was assigned to the second nest team. And I failed all over the place on the nests, for dumb reasons. They are fixable issues, and I’m confident that I’ll be better for the experience when we tackle them this week. However, at the time, I was failing all around, and I hated the way I felt.

In spite of me, they downed Ji-Kun after several attempts, and we finished up the raid a couple of days later with few problems. Along the way, I got six pieces, including the Voice of the Quillen… which means that Ghilleadh already has a better weapon than Mushan. Which irks me. Of course.

Last weekend, my normal team raided, clearing up through Primordius on Saturday and spending most of Sunday night working on Iron Qon. Iron Qon, FYI, is a wall for our team. Just gonna say that right now. And as it stands, it’s on the docket for the entirety of this coming weekend, as we’re extending the lockout. Hopefully we can make some progress.

After the raid on Sunday night, one of the things I noticed was that my arms were very tight. This isn’t uncommon, since I tend to play a little more intensely than is perhaps good for me. However, with it being my fourth day of raiding in this lockout, as opposed to the second, the tightness and pain were a little more pronounced. And I started to think about how I was scheduled to raid again in less than 48 hours…

And I started thinking that a bad RSI (repetitive stress injury) might be in my near future with this type of schedule, which weighed heavily on my mind over the past couple of days. Because the more I thought about it, the more I realized that I was probably going to have to make a choice.

My choices were:

1) Continue as planned.

2) Pull Mushan out of Nos Consensio’s run and make the weekday raid my regular raid.

3) Decline the opportunity with the other guild and continue running with Nos Consensio, as I have for the past year-and-a-half-plus.

Choice 1 would be the easiest choice, socially. And not so much, physically.

With choice 2: I’m good friends with a couple of people in that guild, and becoming friends with a couple of others. And they even adjusted their raid time slightly to accommodate my potential work schedule. Those factors, combined with my natural predisposition to avoiding being a source of frustration to people (more than I may already be), made choice 2 tempting if choice 1 was going to be off the table.

That, and the fact that my best chance to kill Garrosh Hellscream before Christmas would be with that group, if we’re being totally honest here.

However, there are stronger ties in choice 3. Nos Consensio has given me a home for almost two years now. There are four people on that team (and one occasional substitute) that I’ve been raiding with for more than five years. I’ve built relationships to some degree or another with almost everyone else on the team as well. But the overwhelming factor is those four people in particular.

We are five people left from a splintered Wrath-era guild/raid team. We are good friends and good players. We have a good, long history. And there are two things I feel about playing with those people: a) I am personally committed to them, and have invested much time with them; and b) I want to play with those people.

I decided that I’m going to stay with the Nos Consensio run. I let the other guild know last night, and the raid leader respected my decision. It was tough, because killing at least some current content at heroic level is something I really want to be a part of. However, since I don’t think my hands will be able to handle the weekly stress for very long, and I have to make a choice, there really is no choice.

My girlfriend suggested I play more relaxed during raids. I don’t know if I can do that. If raids were easy mode – and our team was a great team running barely-challenging content – I could do that. Faceroll city would be a great raid for that. However, the point of all of this is to overcome challenges together, and I make sure that I do my part for our team. I don’t know how to not play intensely.

By the way, playing intensely doesn’t necessarily mean I am slamming (or spamming) the keys and mouse buttons. I just think that I am on edge, and my muscles are tense and poised to react, during raids. Sometimes I feel the tension up into my shoulders and neck. And I think that I probably need to have four or five days every week where I take a break from that type of sustained competitive tension.

I still took Ghilleadh with them last night, since I didn’t exactly give them much time to find an alternative. I got my first H Horridon kill with them on our second attempt (the wipe was a healer-DC issue), and did pretty well handling the pink elephant. And I’ll be running with them for the rest of the week, and I assume they will be looking at someone new next week. They have two people to replace by the time we descend on Orgrimmar, so they’ll want to get a look at someone as soon as possible.

It has been just under two weeks since the idea was hatched. In that time, I’ve put a lot of work in on Ghilleadh, between the raids and other gearing/Valor capping activities. And I’ll admit: right now, speed-gearing another hunter hasn’t been all that fun. The Valor cap, queue times, RNG, reputation gates on gear, and just the feeling of “been there, done that grind on a hunter already” lessen the general awesomeness that I felt taking Mushan through much of what’s happened in MoP.

And that’s not even considering that I’m so far from a legendary cloak on that toon that it’s not even worth thinking about any time soon.

I am certainly going to have regrets about this decision. I’ll get to sit aside as my girlfriend is killing bosses that I won’t see for weeks or months. I won’t be a part of that. But that won’t be a new experience for me, so I’m OK with it.

The toughest part of deciding the way I did was my fear of making those people angry. As I said, I have a strong aversion to causing disappointment or frustration. It was tough to not delay the decision, but nobody else was going to make it, and so being forthright was the best option, in my opinion.

Ultimately, I’m going to continue to be frustrated by my guild’s slow but steady progress, but if and when I have to choose, I wouldn’t trade raiding with Somb, Squid, Rain and Hass for a better progression opportunity unless they either came with the package or they were no longer playing. And I decided the same thing when Convert To Raid was starting up its guild(s). I only have so much energy, and I prefer to spend it with them, through success and failure.

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

Ahead of the Curve (T15) and other bits

This past week, with at least three people from our raid team scheduled to be out due to travel and whatnot, I was invited to run with my girlfriend’s guild, which is 3/13H, but has suffered some attrition recently. They ended up bringing three people from my guild for the bulk of the run on Tuesday.

Waiting for that final person, pre-H Jin'rokh

Waiting for that final person, pre-H Jin’rokh

Due to that attrition, we didn’t do a 3-heroic-kill run. Rather, we downed H Jin’rokh, which was fun, and made a few attempts on H Ji-kun, although we didn’t kill her (note: I suck at the nests. Horribly.), and otherwise farmed normal mode. When it was all over on Tuesday night, we had killed up through Dark Animus with few problems, all told.

9 of us died at the end of the Jin'rokh heroic kill, due to the nature of the heroic Ionization mechanic...

9 of us died at the very end of the Jin’rokh heroic kill, due to the nature of the heroic Ionization mechanic… as you can see in the corner of the screen, I didn’t do too badly!

Thursday night, they filled their raid team with eight normal team members, a substitute from their guild who would be a star on our guild’s team, and myself. We managed to down the final three bosses in slightly more than an hour – which was great, because it was my first-ever regular kill of Lei Shen, which got me the Feat of Strength “Ahead of the Curve: Lei Shen.” Sweet!

Additionally, we managed to grab another achievement along the way, on Twin Consorts…

From Dusk Till Dawn, Twin Consorts

From Dusk Till Dawn, Twin Consorts

And here’s a Lei Shen screen…

Ahead of the Curve: Lei Shen!

Ahead of the Curve: Lei Shen!

At that point, we’d been running for less than 70 minutes. People were tossing around big ideas (“Let’s clear H ToES!” “Let’s try H HoF!”), but after a couple of people expressed the desire to log for the night, we finally settled on snagging this bit of fun from the Protectors of the Endless:

So we killed Regail last... so we got an achievement... yay! :)

So we killed Regail last… so we got an achievement… yay! :)

Of course, with this team (of eight of us at this point), it was a pushover. But easy raid achieves are fine by me, especially with a group like this, which runs on all cylinders.

And finally, to cap off the screenshot spam in this post, I managed to get my final Titan Runestone on Wednesday evening, which allowed me to then get the Heart of Lei Shen, complete Wrathion’s (er, Yu’lon’s) challenge, and acquire my ilvl 600 cloak that night. Man, adding a 600 anything to my gear set at this point is nothing less than awesome!

Mushan, proud owner of the Tigerfang Wrap - courtesy of Wrathion, RNG, and persistence/hard work.

Mushan, proud owner of the Tigerfang Wrap – courtesy of Wrathion, RNG, and persistence/hard work.

*Note: I chuckled at how they just went ahead and actually mentioned Patch 5.4 in the next quest!!! ^^

All told, it was pretty great! I accomplished two goals that I’ve been working/wishing for:

1) the 600 cloak

2) Lei Shen (N) killed pre-5.4.

In the end, it was an exciting week playing Mushan. A couple of nice pieces of gear, a few nice achievements, and a great raiding experience overall. 

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

Heroic raiding as endgame for non-elite players like me

There has been a lot of discussion over the past couple of weeks about things like attunements, nostalgia, hardcore vs. casual, new raids vs. the good old days, and things of that nature.  And I find it very interesting to see what people have to say.

I’ve already started a couple of posts on the general topic, but I think I’m going to trash them because I don’t know if I can write a good argument about any of this.

However, I do have a perspective.

Over the past couple of months, I’ve had discussions with a couple of my friends on the merits of certain raids.  In general, my feeling is that Ulduar was a raiding highlight for me, and although Icecrown Citadel was not perfect, it was pretty epic, and killing the Lich King in April 2010 was one of the most exciting raid events I’ve been a part of.  Comparing ICC with Dragon Soul – those raids being the two end-game raids I’ve participated in when they were current – I have to say that downing Arthas was about as good as it has ever been for me as a raider, while killing Deathwing was pretty cool.  But it wasn’t the same.  It seemed quite a bit easier than ICC.

During this expansion, I’ve mainly raided with a 10-man team.  That team is about one-half the same team that I was on for the Lich King fight, and the other half are generally people who have long raided with the guild we are a part of now.  It’s a good guild atmosphere, and a strong team.

While talking with my raid leader about the issue, we came up with some reasons that could be.

Raid Finder

One of them seemed to be Raid Finder: with people able to get two piece or four piece set bonuses more quickly, along with 390 end-boss weapons, the overall strength of what I think of as the middle class of progression and casual raiding seems to be stronger overall.  In my case, I was able to start raiding T13 – joining the team at the beginning of April – doing heroic modes four months after the expansion dropped with an ilvl of 390 and my set bonus and pretty much all of my valor gear, and was able to contribute right away.  If that had been the case in Wrath, with no RF, jumping into regular modes that late would have been a much more difficult proposition.


Additionally, the raid was just easier than ICC, and we didn’t see any of the gating that came with ICC’s rollout.  All kinds of guilds cleared most or all of DS as soon as it was available, and heroic modes were underway right away.

One of the ideas that I’ve generally shared with my raid leader is that heroic modes weren’t something that we necessarily had to do.  The motivation wasn’t there.  And indeed, I had only killed a handful of heroic mode encounters before Tier 13.  However, with Dragon Soul, it sort of became a necessity in order to get anything out of the raiding game.

I don’t consider myself to be anywhere close to an elite player.  However, I’m a good player, at least with my hunter, and to me it seemed like heroic mode Dragon Soul fights were more like some of the fights in ICC than regular DS encounters were.  And so we collectively – players at and around my level, on teams at or around my team’s level – were forced* to look at heroic Dragon Soul as the real endgame challenge.  This was not the case in ICC – we had a good team, we worked hard for months, and we killed the Lich King midway through the buffing cycle.  And as I said, in contrast, Deathwing died to many thousands of guilds in the few weeks after 4.3 dropped.

*I’m not saying that was a bad thing.  I’m just saying it represented a shift in how we’d normally done things.

So anyway, that’s where my line of thinking is right now.  Heroic modes were, in fact, the new endgame for players/teams of my/our caliber.  In Tier 13, I almost doubled the number of heroic kills under my belt.


Now, a devil’s advocate could ask the questions:  a) Have you maybe just improved?  b) Is your overall team maybe just stronger than your Wrath team?

The answers to those questions are:

a) Yes, I’m pretty sure that I’ve improved as a player and raider – and I’m also playing a class that I enjoy more than before, and it’s a ranged class, to boot.

b) I don’t know.  Perhaps I could say that our current team is stronger, but I tend to think that it’s roughly the same quality team as the the one from Wrath.

We have a strong healer, three strong DPS including myself, and a strong tank / raid leader from our old ICC team.  Our other tank is also strong, perhaps a little better than the ICC tank, perhaps not.  Our other healers are roughly as strong as the ICC healers.  And the other two DPS on our DS team are awesome, but so were the other two DPS from the ICC team – in fact, they were both better than I was, and I did fine in ICC.  So in my opinion, I don’t know that the quality of the people we play with has jumped significantly in Dragon Soul as compared with ICC.

Difficulty (again), and missing that ‘final-raid edge’

I certainly do get the nostalgia bug on occasion, and I admit to wanting to see a better raid in MoP.  I loved the Ragnaros encounter in Firelands, and I generally liked Firelands anyway (although Rhyolith wasn’t a fave), and there were encounters in Tier 11 that I liked.  But Dragon Soul, while a fine raid, didn’t seem to have that feeling and edge, that special something that combines with excellent quality design to make an end-raid spectacular, and the fights only got really interesting for me when we started working on Ultraxion, Zon’ozz, Yor’sahj, and Hagara, in heroic mode.

Personal philosophy shift to heroic modes as end game

My point is this: all things being relative, perhaps it’s time for people like me to consider – from now until Blizzard adjusts its raid design philosophy and raid-wide buff/debuff execution – that Heroic modes are the actual end-game.  When we finished ICC back in April 2010, I was ready to take a break – a few weeks, a month – to cool down and recharge.  External circumstances made it so that I ended up taking a break for most of the rest of the year.

But now, banging our heads against a real challenge in Dragon Soul didn’t truly begin until HMs started, so perhaps we (my friends and I) need to look at HMs as the goal, and not as just a bonus.  Not that we have to consider ourselves failures if we don’t kill most or all of a tier’s heroic bosses, but that HMs become part of the conversation earlier.

Of course, that whole idea could be thrown out completely in MoP, depending on a host of factors including how many people come back for MoP, how raid difficulty vs. gear acquisition plays out, how well we play, things that Blizz does… there are too many for me to discuss right now.

As I said, this is just a thought – fell free to differ!

– – –

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

Done raiding for now

Last night, my girlfriend didn’t feel like playing Diablo, which allowed me to hijack her laptop, log in during prime time, and talk to a few of my guild mates for the first time in a while.

We had been on a break, calling the last two raids in June due to vacation (and apathy, etc.), and then my computer died the night before our next scheduled raid.  This week, I logged in to learn that it was decided to cancel raiding for the summer, with the idea that we would attempt to resume raiding a little once patch 5.0.1, the pre-Mists of Pandaria patch, goes live.  This was generally good news to me for a few reasons:

1) I don’t have a computer at the moment, so I simply can’t play right now.  Not having the burden of knowing I am holding people back every week is relieving, and gives me the opportunity to take time and make a good decision on a new machine.

2) While I like to think that I was one of the people who stayed interested and competitive, with regard to progression, the longest, in reality I was becoming as bored as those who were bored after the launch of Diablo III.  Which was basically everyone else that I raid with.  And seriously, the nerfage that has been going on in DS has made it something of an awkward proposition, anyway.

By the end of our journey through the latest tier, when the nerf was 20% and 25%, we got to a point where we were doing two different raids in one for a while – attempting heroics with the first five bosses, and regular mode on the last three encounters – and the differences were huge.  The last few times we did Madness, for instance, we had to slow or stop DPS on the fourth platform so that we didn’t end up with the bolt, the bloods and the tendons all at the same time.  We were just crushing each platform, and it became so much less fun to play that way.  Being 5/8 Heroic, we are all around ilvl 399 or higher, with one or two exceptions (varying from week to week), so normal modes were just ridiculous.  We’d attempt H Hagara several times, and then stomp her down on regular like she was an old tier boss, just to get a chance at H Ultraxion.  We eventually stopped doing the last three bosses, but then we happened to stop raiding entirely right after that.

3) I forgot my third reason – I think that my second reason sort of rolled my second and third into one, if you know what I mean…

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At any rate, if people come back to experience the pre-release patch – and I assume they will, for the most part – it will be a good experience to go back into Dragon Soul with our team, in order to acclimate ourselves with our toons.  With ability changes come rotational adjustments, and to have the opportunity to adjust to new mechanics, abilities, timers and cooldowns, and the stat changes, is something that will definitely help us when MoP raiding begins.  We won’t have the level 90 talents available, but the changes, along with a couple of months off, could make for a refreshing experience in Dragon Soul when that time comes.

In the meantime, I’ll be looking for a good value on a decent machine.  And hopefully, within the next couple of weeks, I’ll be back in business.  Being away from WoW has been good – it’s been nice to let go of it, and it’s interesting how little the game seems to matter when you are pulled away at a time that your friends aren’t playing anyway – so I’m sure I’ll be refreshed and ready when the time comes to get back into the swing of things.

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

Heroic Hagara is dead!

After four weeks of attempts (and one week – the weekend after Diablo III’s release – where we left the fight alone for the sake of time), we finally downed Heroic Hagara last night.

This was one of the tougher fights so far.  It took us just short of thirty tries to defeat her, with the 20% nerf.  But now, including the first three bosses and Ultraxion, we find ourselves 5/8 H.

We’ve made several adjustments over the past couple of weeks, and so I won’t go into detail about them.  Probably one of the biggest, though, was the one we made right before we killed her, and it involved handling the Ice Lances after the transition phases (Frost or Lightning).  We were taking a lot of damage; even with assignments, everything gets screwy when you come out of the transition, Hagara is in the middle, and people are everywhere.  Once we made a conscious effort to not worry about damaging Hagara as much as executing the Ice Lance switches correctly, things seemed to fall together with the rest of the work we’d done over the past several weeks.  Shortly before midnight, down she went.

Once again, I forgot to snap a screenshot, so that’s another /facepalm on my record.  However, there’s this:

The toughest Heroic boss so far…

Depending upon several factors – such as whether people continue to show up, and how well we actually have the Hagara fight nailed down – we may start Heroic Warmaster Blackhorn next weekend.  However, it honestly feels like the end is nigh, as far as progression goes.  Diablo III has really sucked the life out of WoW at the moment, and with the summer impending and no new content expected for at least a couple of months – content that will see us replace every piece of gear anyway – players have little gear-related reason to continue farming seven bosses and working on one.  I could be wrong, and maybe pride will continue to drive us as a group, but this could very well be my last “progression – woot!” post until we start downing bosses in Mists of Pandaria.

All told, though, it was a good win.  I like raiding with the team – we have some great talent – and I’m excited about the future, whether that means more Heroic Dragon Soul or progression in MoP.

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

Progression feels good

The hunter

When I started this blog about a month ago, I had just begun raiding again.  I’d been running Raid Finder Dragon Soul for months, and had gotten to a point where my item level was about as high as it could be without killing Alizabal or setting foot in Heroic Firelands or Normal DS: RF Tier 13 4-piece set, along with Zeherah’s Dragonskull Crown, Batwing Cloak, the crafted bracers, Valor ring / belt / boots / necklace, both RF weapons, and the Matrix Restabilizer.  That put me at around a 390 ilevel, perfectly fine for normal modes, but not quite high enough for progression.

Our guild raids the 10-player versions.  I had told my raid leader that I was available wherever he needed me, although we both agreed that I didn’t quite have the gear for much in the way of heroic progression.  Within a couple of weeks of alt raids, I had Kiril, Fury of Beasts, a 397 tier chest, the Valor trinket, and Destroyer’s End, as well as a Heroic Morchok kill.  A spot opened up on the progression raid team, and he asked me to run with them.

At the time, the team was 2/8 HM (Morchok/Ultraxion), and the raid invite instructed study for Zon’ozz and Yor’sahj.  I put in some time watching video, taking notes, and reading up the finer points of the fights at Icy Veins.  The raid team had decided collectively to focus on progression at the expense of clearing DS every week, due to time constraints, meaning that we would likely stop at Ultraxion for a while as we worked through the second, third and fourth bosses.  Despite our best efforts to get some Protector tokens in the alt raids, as well as a bow and Agility trinket from Madness and Spine, respectively, drops had been scarce, so I went in with them on that first night sitting at 393 and feeling that I would have to play very well in order to not hold the rest back.

The first week (4/22), we spent quite a bit of time on Zon’ozz before switching to normal and killing through Hagara, and then I got my Heroic Ultraxion achievement.  (During the next night’s alt raid, I switched out the druid after we killed Ultraxion for my hunter, in order to have another chance at the bow, etc.)  Last Sunday, we came back and, with some adjustments, killed Heroic Zon’ozz on our third attempt, which was pretty effective.  We then spent the rest of the evening working on Heroic Yor’sahj, coming fairly close to killing him once (~1.5%, if I recall correctly).  We decided to take an extra night and try again last Monday, and we did indeed come back and down him the next night, which we followed by completing the rest of the instance anyway since we had the time.

Not bad for one weekend.

(Still, no bow.  Ah well.)

It was very exciting – two heroic progression kills in one weekend, my second with the team!   Granted, it’s Dragon Soul – not any of the earlier tiers, which were more challenging in my opinion – but it was intense and gratifying.  It was also nice to get the Yor’sahj kill before Tuesday’s most recent Dragon Soul nerf.  Personally, I felt that I could hold my own with the rest of them, although I certainly didn’t play perfectly.  My damage was solid though relatively unspectacular, and since I was learning the fights along with many of them I didn’t feel like I was holding anybody back.

Tonight, we’re looking to work on Heroic Hagara.  It’s going to be tough, although the nerf will make it a little easier.  With new 397 shoulders, 410 gloves and the Starcatcher Compass, I’m sitting at 395, so I feel less like an underdog, gear-wise.  Once I post this, it’s time to revisit Fat Boss and Icy Veins to brush up on the Hagara strategy.

I’m running as Survival, which I’ve done for the entirety of the tier on Mushan.  I have run RF DS a few times as Marksmanship on my alt hunter, Ghilleadh, who has no set bonus yet, and the first alt raid I ran with Mushan had no paladins in the group, so I did respec for that night to bring Trueshot Aura.  That was crazy – I hadn’t ever tried MM with the set bonuses, so I was learning a ‘rotation’ on the fly.  I was able to hang with the rest of the group, although I’m sure I wasted a lot of focus, but I haven’t needed to do it since, and I don’t expect to, given that I think I’m going to be on this team for the duration and both of our tanks are paladins.  MM works, but SV is more flexible for both movement and focus management, and at this point there’s little question that I’m currently playing 4-piece Tier 13 better as SV.

I actually like the look of this druid tier. I think I’ll forgo transmog on this spec for a while.

The druid

Anacrusa is absolutely not a priority relative to my hunter and the main raid team, but after weeks of bad drops and continued mediocrity playing moonkin, I had a banner gear night last night.

With 2300 Valor points in my pocket, I’ve been waiting and waiting for a fourth tier piece, both in order to have the set bonus and so I knew which off-set piece to buy (helm, chest or gloves).  I’ve been faithfully running RF DS, but between bad rolls there and bad luck during alt runs (other than Lightning Rod, which is an awesome weapon), I hadn’t gotten the chest or gloves to complete the 4-piece bonus.

Well, last night, all of that waiting came back to pay its respects in spades!  Running with two better-geared druids, a better-geared rogue, and no DKs or mages, I picked up four(!!) tier tokens and the Will of Unbinding.  With those five pieces, I only had two ilevel 378 pieces to replace, so I upgraded them with the Valor belt and relic.  I spent more gold than I care to discuss filling those pieces with epic gems, reforged, and voila!  My druid is now slightly better geared than my hunter.

This… this makes me both laugh softly to myself and shake my head in disbelief.

On one hand, it’s just annoying, because obviously I’d prefer my hunter to have better gear – he needs it, in some ways, more than she does.  On the other hand, I’m a better hunter than I am a moonkin.  Balance is a bit more frustrating for me to play, because movement almost requires Moonfire spam, while Survival huntering just requires focus to allow for some high-powered instant shots while on the run.  So in some respects, she needs the gear more than he does.  So I guess that’s good.

Seriously, I have to admit that I’m excited to try this new gear out next weekend, to see how much it helps me (and how the four-piece changes the way the rotation works out).


Anyway, that’s an update on last week’s raid progress.  I’m grateful for the opportunity I’ve been given, and proud of the recent success we’ve had.  Hopefully we can continue to progress over the next several weeks; I’m confident we’ve got the team to do it.

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