Paying the Way to Dinging

Man, you play one week of WoW and you have blogging material coming out your ears!

Today’s topic is about that survey some players are getting, about how much you might be willing to pay to have a character instantly boosted to Level 90 (in Warlords of Draenor, where the level cap is 100).

During this year’s BlizzCon, Blizzard announced that purchasing Warlords of Draenor would come with one free character boost to 90. Why 90? Because that would enable you to skip all the previous content and jump right into content that comes with the expansion and, ultimately, that’s what they want you to do — get through previous content and be able to play with your friends faster if you ever took a break from the game.

So there’s a survey going out that’s asking people what they think a fair price is for the expansion (with and without the one character boost to 90) and what they think a fair price is for the boost alone.

Naturally, I have Things to Say. ;)

On the One Hand: No. Just… No.

While I do think there are some good points (which I will explore below), let me first tell you the story of Gneiss.

My brother, Fog, played a resto druid for most of Vanilla. Actually, he played a feral/bear druid and then was forced to swap specs to heal for raiding (as was the way of things back then) by the guild he joined. In order to avoid being asked to heal MORE often, he decided to level a dwarf priest (fear ward!) for fun, not yet understanding that he’d still have to heal as a priest at 60. So he played the priest, Gneiss, as his alt, playing as shadow, primarily. He soon tired of people asking him to heal in groups (this was pre-LFG, remember), so he abandoned Gneiss and started playing Slovotsky, a rogue. He loved his rogue and got him to 60 and geared him pretty well and showed up to some raids as a rogue (although he’d usually heal if asked). Gneiss lay abandoned and unused.

When Burning Crusade came around, my brother was focused entirely on his rogue, abandoning his druid, Fog, and never touching his priest.

Meanwhile, I was interested in learning more about the priest. So I took the priest and levelled Gneiss (who I name-changed to something else) to 70 and spent a lot of time running around Nagrand mining ore and collecting motes of air (Gneiss was a miner/engineer) after my raids, chatting with my Real Life Friend the Resto Druid as she wiped her way through Black Temple and Sunwell progression.

I didn’t do a whole lot with the priest, although I joined a guild for a short period of time and did a tiny bit of Tier 4 raiding as a holy priest.

Still, I never felt as though I really understood the class. So when Wrath of the Lich King had been out for a while, my brother reclaimed his priest, but then promptly abandoned it again to level a paladin tank. And, naturally, this meant that I was going to level a character with him. As I already had a paladin, a shaman and a druid, I elected to level a priest. We dungeoned our way through everything together and eventually both got to 80.

I thought I knew “enough” about priests during the bit of time I did stuff (apart from mining and such in Nagrand) in Burning Crusade, but I hadn’t really levelled the toon. My brother had. He had learned some important bits that I felt I didn’t know. I know I didn’t know that Dispel Magic was able to be used offensively until someone informed me of it. (Should read tooltips…)

I never really felt “prepared” on Gneiss. Not the way that I felt “prepared” on Kurn or on Madrana. But when I created my own priest, that sense of preparation came back. It’s as though the levelling process allowed me to really acclimate to the character and learn how to play it better than when I’d basically taken over my brother’s priest somewhere in the 40s or something.

So while I find the idea of instantly dinging 90 to be fairly appealing, I can’t help but think what it means for the community at large. Is the community going to suffer because of brand-new 90s running around who don’t know how to play their new classes at all? I can only guess that the answer is “yes”.

On the Other Hand: Hells to the Yes!

At present, I have several characters in World of Warcraft spread out over three main servers (Eldre’Thalas, Skywall, Proudmoore).

90s: Kurn & my shaman alt.
85s: Madrana, Baby Pally Madrana, mage, disc priest, guardian/resto druid
80: Prot warrior
58: Death knight (bank alt)
53: Mage
5: Rogue (bank alt)

And then I have a bunch of level 1s for storage/bank alt goodness.

I still don’t know who is going to receive my level 90 boost for Warlords of Draenor, but it might be the prot warrior (since I literally keep her around for inscription/profession stuff). Or maybe I’ll roll a DK on Eldre’Thalas and boost that to 90 and pick up engineering/blacksmithing, which are the only two professions I don’t have covered. However, it’s clear that I have a lot of characters who would greatly benefit from being bumped up to 90 instantly. And I still think it would be hilarious if my rogue bank alt hit level 90. Hilarious. He’s been level 5 for, oh, seven years. And he’s only level 5 because that was the level you needed to be to pick up a profession. So I picked up enchanting and was able to disenchant just about anything — until they put in a level restriction for the professions, meaning he will forever have enchanting no higher than 75 unless I ding him.

Anyhow, I digress.

For the experienced player, perhaps, a level 90 boost isn’t terrible. But even then, I wouldn’t queue up as, say, a death knight tank if I boosted to 90 on that character, because I wouldn’t want to inflict myself on others.

Other people are perhaps not quite so polite.

But would I make use of a pay-to-ding feature? To avoid going through umpteen expansions? Almost certainly. Hell, back in 2010, I was writing about how I would pay Blizzard $25 to start a toon at 68

It’s not an elegant solution to the fact that you have to go through Vanilla content (1-60), BC content (60-70), Wrath content (70-80), Cata content (80-85) and then MoP content (85-90) before you’re ready to participate in Warlords of Draenor, but it’s a solution. There are two kinds of people I think would take advantage of this: the new people who want to play with friends who are already there and people like me who have been through the other expansions’ content so often they want to cry at the thought of saving Corki again or trudging through Grizzly Hills once more or dealing with Vashj’ir yet again or even slogging through the Dread Wastes even one more time.

So is it a Good Thing or a Bad Thing?

Selfishly, I think it’s wonderful. If I were playing consistently and that was available, I would probably take advantage of it more often than not, were it something able to be purchased from the Blizzard store. If I ever wanted to roll a monk (not really something that’s interested me), that’s certainly something I would do.

But as I explained above, I do think it’s not going to be great for the community as a whole. Will it be good for Blizzard and for their bottom line? Sure. People get to play with friends, people can pay for a shortcut to the current expansion, all that jazz, it’s great. People are happy they don’t have to do Borean Tundra (and let me tell you, there is a LOT boring about Borean!) and Blizzard is happy to take their money. Everyone wins, right?

But I’m not convinced that’s the case. I’m concerned that it will lower the overall skill of the playerbase which, to be honest, is already pretty poor, when you look at people in random, transient content (LFG, LFR). I’ll write more about this tomorrow, but in one of my LFR adventures last week, there was another survival hunter in the raid with me… who used Explosive Shot a single time. Once.

I would argue that, as painful and tiring as the slog is, levelling is worth the time and effort if only to learn how to play your class.

The trouble is, of course, that people aren’t bothering to do that now. They have 90 levels in which they get to learn how to play and they still don’t know how to play.

It’s not a “casual” vs. “hardcore” thing, either. We’re talking about the core ability for a survival hunter. Not using Explosive Shot is, well, not how the spec was meant to be played. It’s like Cory Stockton said, about the talent trees when they announced Mists of Pandaria, a fury warrior who didn’t take the Raging Blow talent wasn’t being unique, but was being a bad fury warrior. Now you have people who have the abilities given to them, baked into the specs themselves, and they’re still not using them.

Is boosting these people to 90, throwing them into the deep end, really going to make those people worse players? I’m not sure that’s possible. But what boosting people to 90 will do is it’ll inflict them upon other people more quickly. Hit 90, start questing, queue up for new dungeons and then wipe your group because you are doing 300 DPS instead of 3000 DPS. Or, worse, they queue up as tanks and healers (for the faster queue) and then wipe their groups because they don’t know how to hold aggro on more than one mob at a time or don’t know how to cast on someone. (The latter does happen, even now. Trust me.)

I guess what I’m saying here is that the underlying problem, which has been increasingly apparent ever since LFG came to be in Wrath of the Lich King, is that people don’t know (or care) how to play their classes and these people are being let loose upon the game. Boosting to 90 will be incredibly beneficial to a lot of people, believe me, but, especially at the start of the expansion when so many people will have that boost to 90, I expect to see a lot of failure stemming from fresh 90s.

I don’t think it’s a problem that’s easily solvable, per se, but one way it can be addressed is to force the boosted 90s to pass Silver Proving Grounds for any spec they’re going to queue up for, forcing them to repeat it for a spec they haven’t queued up for yet. Silver is something most people should be able to easily attain and since Proving Grounds were made for 90s, it’s perfect for fresh, boosted-to-90 characters. Let them quest alone, sure, but make them prove themselves before inflicting them on other people who play the game. Even if the person is level 96 before they queue up, scale up the Proving Grounds for that level and make them work for it a little bit.

I’m someone who spent something like six months straight doing a daily heroic dungeon on Madrana once that feature launched in Wrath of the Lich King. I would queue up as a tank AND a healer (because I had enough gear and knowledge at the time to be able to tank or heal “heroic” dungeons adequately) and would invariably have anywhere between 1 and 3 people who didn’t know what they were doing. I’ve done my fair share of random dungeons throughout Cata. I did a bunch of LFRs back when that was first introduced. I’ve just spent a week doing a bunch of LFRs of MoP content. In short, I’ve spent a lot of time playing with random people in this game and, honestly, I’m not looking forward to fresh 90s who don’t know what they’re doing at the start of Warlords of Draenor. If Blizzard isn’t willing to educate them, I hope they’ll use the existing technology to restrict people from inflicting themselves on others. It’s an artificial barrier to entry, but if you just skipped 90 levels, can you really complain about the idea of doing proving grounds to show you know how to do your role appropriately? I don’t think that’s too much to ask. I would welcome the challenge, myself. If that (and, say, $25) was the price to pay to skip 90 levels? Bring it on!

What are your thoughts about boosting to 90? What repercussions do you think this could have on the larger community? Would you pay for a boost?

World of Zandalaricraft?

When 4.2 dropped, a lot of things simultaneously happened for those of us interested in the PVE side of things. Let’s summarize, shall we?

1) Valor Points turned into Justice Points, capping out at 4000, and all the 359 gear that had previously been available through Valor Points is now available for purchase with Justice Points.

2) New gear that was item level 378 appeared on the Valor Point vendor, including the pants, gloves and chest from T12 armor.

3) Our new Valor Point cap became 980, down from the 1250 from Tier 11 content. (Normal T11 content will also only give out Justice Points versus Valor Points.)

4) Raid boss kills got a bump in VP earned. On 25-man, this value got bumped from 90 VP per kill to 140 VP per kill and 10-man kills got a bump from 70 VP per kill to 120 VP per kill.

5) New dailies came out that will, eventually, open up vendors selling 365 gear.

Therefore, what every responsible PVE raider should do each week to min/max everything is:

a) Get 980 Valor Points by way of 7 troll dungeons, each of which give you 140 VP, making it the most efficient way (in theory) of capping. (Each boss you down in Firelands on 25-man and each Occu’thar 25-man kill reduces this number of runs by one, so killing two bosses and Occu’thar on 25-man means only 4 troll dungeons.)

b) Get 980 Valor Points on an alt, to cap out VP so that you can buy your main raiding toon some bracers, which are BOE. And after that, continue to do so in order to exploit the market of people who don’t want to use up their VP for a BOE item but are too lazy to do what you’re doing right now. (Being crazy enough to complete 14 troll dungeons, or close to it!)

c) Molten Front dailies! If you’re not all in 372s or higher, the Molten Front rewards will give you access to 365 level items. This is great for that one slot you never upgraded if you’re a current content raider or FANTASTIC if you’re trying to gear yourself up to get into Firelands raids.

d) Speaking of Firelands, trash runs! Before getting yourself saved to your regular raid group (assuming you do actively raid), it’s suddenly a great idea to farm trash for rep, at least up until 5999/6000 into Honored (which is when trash stops giving you rep for each mob). Getting to Friendly is easy and gives you access to a 378 cloak. Honored is a little longer, but will give you access to a 378 belt.

Who on earth has that kind of time? I don’t. I’m not even in school or working full-time at the moment and I can tell you right now that the above is a significant enough time investment that I can’t do it all.

The dailies don’t take terribly long to do, maybe half an hour if you’re terrible at DPSing the way I am on my baby paladin. The issue is that they’re dailies, so yes, you need to do them every single day to maximize the rate at which you’re getting Marks of the World Tree and get vendors open sooner. That is, of course, assuming you want to bother opening the vendors. Honestly, I don’t need or want anything from them on Madrana (the one on Eldre’Thalas, that is). I went through this post at MMO-Champion to see if I actually needed to do these dailies.

The one upgrade that is actually potentially viable for me is a ring. Spirit Fragment Band, from Varlan Highbough. No haste, no spirit. If I was absolutely desperate to upgrade rings, I guess this could be potentially useful.

So out of all the rewards (barring pets, mounts, recipes), the poorly-itemized-for-healers caster ring is the one ilvl 365 item that could potentially be worth having for me. Is that one ring worth spending 30+ days doing dailies? Abso-freaking-lutely not. So guess what? Madrana isn’t touching dailies in Hyjal and the Molten Front.

However, a lot of what I mentioned are decent (not amazing, but decent) upgrades for the baby paladin. So I’m doing my dailies with her most days (probably 4-5 days out of 7). Since I only raid (at most) two nights a week on the baby paladin, I’m not earning Valor Points through raids as quickly, nor am I as geared as most people in Choice, so I have to rely on my own efforts to bring her up to par. This meant spending 15,000g on my BOE bracers, but you know what? I was okay with that. (I ended up doing the same for my not-so-baby pally, too, actually!) Of course, keeping up with everything on Skywall is more than a little exhausting and my priority absolutely has to lie with Apotheosis.

It’s easier with Apotheosis, though. I’m not fighting for a raid spot, I’m already geared fairly well as compared to my fellow guildies and while I think I’ll sit out of Shannox and Lord Rhyolith next week, I can usually count on getting the maximum amount of Valor Points possible for our group from raiding, which in our case is 560 so far (Occu’thar, Shannox, Beth’tilac, Lord Rhyolith) and a good chance of getting another 140 tonight by killing Alysrazor. While I don’t mind supplementing my Valor Points from raiding with heroics (although I don’t always have the time to do so), I feel that we should be getting Valor Points primarily FROM raiding.

Let’s look at 25-man Tier 11 content for a moment, shall we?

We had 12 normal-mode bosses and one heroic-only boss, plus Argaloth. Bosses killed on 25-man difficulty gave you the same amount of Valor Points whether you killed them normal or heroic. So, if you were clearing all available content on 25-man difficulty, you could conceivably get 90 VP x 14 boss encounters = 1260 Valor Points. Only the cap was 1250.

In 4.1, you could run 7 troll dungeons randomly (Zul’Aman or Zul’Gurub) and get 140 VP for the success of each one. Alternatively, you could run something like 14 random regular heroics and get 70 VP upon successfully completing each other. Or, you could run a mix of the two, like four Zandalari dungeons and six regular heroics and get to the 980 cap you can get from running random heroics.

That still left you 270 Valor Points to earn from raids. That was 3 bosses on 25-man or 4 on 10-man.

As of 4.2, you can now cap Valor Points exclusively from running dungeons, meaning you don’t have to set foot in a raid instance at all. You can earn up to 490 Valor Points from the heroic dungeons that came with Cataclysm’s launch, running 7 of them getting 70 VP per successful run and then run four Zandalaris… or you can just run the Zandalari dungeons 7 times.

Hm. 11 dungeons versus 7 dungeons… Since time is not infinite, I strongly suspect most people will do the math and decide to do the seven Zandalari dungeons, or rather, exclusively run Zandalari dungeons to fill in the gaps from their raids.

Wrath of the Lich King did not do the playerbase a lot of favours, but one thing it did do all right at was having the random dungeon finder help supplement raiding in terms of Emblems. (What we now know as Valor Points.) Don’t get me wrong, I like that you can run all your VP-rewarding instances in one day, if you so desire, but the problem is that, as of 4.2, random heroics stopped being a supplement to VP earned from raids and became the primary method in which everyone can and should earn them for maximum efficiency. In theory. (I have horror stories about my random Zandalari dungeons to share. But that’s a post for another time.)

As a guild master and a raid leader, I am absolutely astounded that you are awarded the same amount of Valor Points for completing Zul’Gurub or Zul’Aman as you are for killing one Firelands boss (or Occu’thar) on 25-man difficulty. You actually get MORE Valor Points for getting through ZG or ZA than you do in killing any raid boss on 10-man difficulty. What the hell? Five-man random heroics reward you with MORE VP over the course of a week than a ten-man guild who CLEARS Firelands and does Occu’thar? Yep, that’s right. You can get 980 VP from the Zandalari dungeons versus 960 VP for clearing all 7 Firelands bosses and Occu’thar on 10-man difficulty.

Let’s see. Taking at least 2 hours of planning and organizing in order to go down Shannox for the first time, not to mention 45 minutes to clear trash to spawn him, plus several wipes… versus waiting in queue for a maximum of about 35-45 minutes (as a DPS, much less if you’re a healer or a tank) and then go kill a few dungeon bosses in a run that’ll take maybe an hour at most, and that’s if you wipe a couple of times or are sadly paired with truly incompetent individuals. With guildmates in a raiding guild, this is made exceptionally easy.

The time and effort invested is nowhere near the same. Absolutely nowhere. Even if you run a 10-man guild (which is usually a bit easier than 25s, logistically speaking), where everyone shows up all of the time and you don’t have a bench and you’re all amazing players, you’ll still wipe while learning the encounters. And yet, the dungeon-running crowd is getting access to many of the same rewards as the raiding crowd at exactly the same potential pace.

I won’t say “that’s not fair”, because we all have the OPTION to go run dungeons. However, something about this just doesn’t sit right for me. I feel as though the raiders should have the ability to get more VP (1250 vs. 980, as in previous Cataclysm patches?) than those who exclusively run dungeons. Or something. Anything!

Why?

It’s hard to run a raiding guild. Like, really hard. Very time intensive. In putting together a lineup for any boss encounter, you have to first ensure you have maximized your raid’s potential by having all the appropriate buffs and debuffs in there. Then you have to take things like performance and gear and possibly loot priority into consideration. Not to mention the whole question of making sure that your group is actually capable of bringing down the boss. That usually means making sure you don’t have four holy paladins in the raid to “raid heal” or six demonology warlocks (barring heroic Maloriak, of course!) as well as researching and communicating strategy. It’s also hard to be a raider (not just a GM/officer of a raiding guild). You’re constantly juggling your stats on your gear, reforging in and out of stats, theorycrafting some, keeping up on changes and always trying to figure out what YOU can do to be better.

We get a lot of in-game benefits for raiding, though, don’t we?

- Boss loot! The best gear in the game is still available by raiding. You can cap out VP all you want, but it’s not going to give you the heroic versions of loot. Not to mention that you cannot get a 4pc set bonus for T12 armor without killing bosses in the Firelands, since the shoulders and helms are only available from the raid instance.

- Living Embers. As of right now, Living Embers only drop off of bosses in Firelands. Whereas Primordial Saronites were available to everyone who had any Emblems of Frost to spare, Living Embers are only for the raiding crowd or those who put them up at the Auction House. In that way, the raiders are getting more for their trouble. But how is this different from regular boss loot that dungeon-runners miss out on? It’s not.

- Dragonwrath, Tarecgosa’s Rest is another hallmark of raiders. You want the shiny orange staff? Can’t do it unless you raid. But again, this is just like regular boss loot.

Essentially, we have precisely one thing that rewards us more for raiding right now than by doing dungeons to cap out VP and that is boss loot out of Firelands (or slight variations thereon, which include mounts, pets, titles).

We don’t have any other “tangible” in-game rewards than extra loot. Don’t get me wrong, I like that I’m going to get a shield off Beth’tilac rather than through crafting like I did in Tier 11, but seriously? Dungeon-runners can cap out VP with less time and energy than raiders is another indication that Blizzard is catering to the casuals.

There, I said it. It took me nearly 2000 words to get to my point, but I finally got there. Blizzard is continuing to open this game up to some of the least-skilled players that exist in their playerbase. Yes, there are some “casuals” that are great players who don’t raid because they don’t like to raid, preferring to hone their skills in other ways, etc, but the fact remains that the “casual” players out there who are running dungeons to cap out on VP are not the cream of the crop. And forcing mid-level raiders to go to these dungeons WITH these “casuals”, for the exact same rewards, is a recipe for disaster. (See an upcoming post about my nightmarish Zandalari runs.)

Raiding is but one facet of this game, I know, but it’s the most time-consuming facet and the most difficult one to coordinate, at least historically. I know that Rated Battlegrounds and other PVP endeavours are challenging as well, but in the PVE sense, raiding is the end-game. It’s through raids that we killed Arthas and will kill Deathwing. It’s in the presence of 39 others that I first killed Ragnaros and it’ll be in the presence of 24 others when I kill him again. To have 10 or 25 people working in perfect concert together to defeat the raid encounters is difficult! It’s challenging! I adore that particular challenge more than any other in this game and that’s why I consistently throw myself at a boss, three nights a week with Apotheosis and up to two nights a week with Choice.

25-man raiding has dropped off a lot since Cataclysm launched. Gear normalization between 10s and 25s has made a lot of guilds re-think their decisions to have a 25-man roster and we’ve seen many guilds shrink down from 25 to 10. I sense that my beloved large raids are in danger of being phased out. Heck, at this rate, it feels as though 10-man raiding is in danger of being phased out. I still cannot believe that seven random Zandalari dungeons gives MORE Valor Points than clearing Firelands and Occu’thar as a 10-man raiding team.

The message we’re getting from Blizzard is, in my opinion, this:

“Oh, here’s some raid content. It’s bad-ass. But if you want Valor Points for some sweet rewards (and, in many cases, some necessary ones, even for raiders!), you’re best off farming THESE AWESOME TROLL DUNGEONS. And look, if you can’t raid for some reason, regardless of whether your schedule is weird or if you’re just THAT BAD a player, you can gain the exact same rewards from the VP vendor by running THESE AWESOME TROLL DUNGEONS. In fact, THESE AWESOME TROLL DUNGEONS are the best part of the game right now! We’re making EVERYONE run THESE AWESOME TROLL DUNGEONS. Usually with people they don’t know, but it doesn’t matter because THESE AWESOME TROLL DUNGEONS are totally AWESOME and TROLLTASTIC.”

In my opinion, it should be this (well, not really — I’d tone down the troll dungeons some, but the people in charge are obviously still madly in love with them):

“Oh, here’s some raid content. It’s bad-ass. And because we’re not total dicks, you can still get some awesome raid-level gear through Valor Points. You’ll only be able to earn them as quickly as possible if you raid, but if you want to get as close as you can, run THESE AWESOME TROLL DUNGEONS! And if you can’t quite clear your raid instance but still want to cap, you should run THESE AWESOME TROLL DUNGEONS! That way, everyone’s running THESE AWESOME TROLL DUNGEONS and we’re also allowing non-raiders to eventually get to the same point of saturation as the raiders with the Valor Point stuff.”

Of course, none of this really matters in the long run, does it? Nope. I need 8850 Valor Points (if I’m not lucky with Occu’thar drops and if I hadn’t bought the BOE bracers) to gear up my paladin in the way I want her geared. Once I reach that point, I don’t need to cap out on Valor Points. That’s nine weeks of VP capping before it’ll cease to matter for me on a practical level that affects my in-game character.

But the knowledge that dungeon-runners will cap out on VP much more easily than I will for the remainder of this tier of content will last a lot longer than nine weeks. This is, in my opinion, a dangerous precedent that screws with the natural progression of things.

They are taking dungeons, which have typically been a stepping stone on the way to raiding, and making them easier, faster, more efficient ways to earn many of the same rewards. I am firmly of the belief that dungeons should remain a stepping stone. I don’t mind them coming out with new dungeons and I don’t mind those dungeons helping to catch people up to current raiders, but earning 980 VP for doing 7 clears of ZA or ZG when you have to clear Firelands AND Occu’thar on 10-man to get 960 VP is just distasteful to me. It’s a lack of respect for the hard work raiders and raid organizers put into their characters and their raid teams. I sincerely hope we’ll see a change in this for the next tier of raiding.

(This actually started out as a rant about feeling as though I had to cap out VP on three separate characters and then turned into this monster as I was writing it. Sorry for the 3000 word crit and if you got to this part without skipping any of it, I owe you a cookie.)

Edited on July 14th, 2011 to add: There are certain comments that I have not approved and will not approve. You’re welcome to disagree with me and anyone else here, but you need to do so respectfully. Please see my Comment Policy. Thanks!

New computer, baby pally update and such.

Well, one thing Archaeology has going for it is that I get time to write stuff (blog posts, forum posts, responses to people’s PMs and emails) while flying back and forth across Kalimdor in search of Tol’Vir sites for the Ring of the Boy Emperor.

At any rate, I ordered a new computer in early April. It arrived on May 25th. It’s an Alienware from Dell and I will, at this time, ask you to refrain from criticizing my decision to get a pre-made (albeit custom-built) machine and for choosing to get it from Dell. (I know all of the above can be polarizing topics.)

I adore it.

I have two 23″ screens, 9 GB of RAM, dual 1GB GDDR5 NVIDIA GeForce GTX 460 (SLI enabled), a regular 1TB HD and a 300GB 10k RPM HD (Dayden – I was obviously wrong and was looking at one of the 17 different builds I’d assembled before placing the order.).

It’s awesome.

Let’s be clear, here. I have been playing WoW on a laptop with an integrated video card for pretty much the entirety of the last five and a half years. Exceptions have included stints of housesitting for my parents and two short periods of time where I raided from an internet cafe because my laptop(s) had to go to the shop for various reasons.

Playing with spell details up is insane. Water is GORGEOUS in this game and I never knew! How smooth things are, when I can experience them at 60 FPS or higher as opposed to my traditional 7-12 FPS! And SHADOWS.

So, as you can imagine, I am super excited about my purchase and even MORE excited to raid on this thing!

So far, I’ve done Magmaw, ODS, Chim, Maloriak  on official raid nights on the pally (all but ODS on heroic) and Halfus, V&T and Council (with many Cho’gall attempts) on Monday night on the hunter. (Hilarious! I am not completely huntarded!)

The changes are amazing. Dark Sludge is really easily visible. Blaze and shadow crash are easy to avoid. I cannot WAIT to do Atramedes and Nefarian on my new computer. CANNOT WAIT.

And in the meantime, I’ve hit 85 on my baby paladin. I basically did Uldum for the Ramkahen rep and have ignored any other quests (except the various quests to open the portal to Twilight Highlands, plus Crucible of Carnage) and have randomed my way to 85 by way of healing.

A lot of groups are filled with fail. Fail failfailfailfailfafwftgtwfgishf.

Ahem.

People who can’t do Corla’s beams, people whose pets are on aggressive, people who don’t understand how the pyramid packs (damn you, Majik) work in Vortex Pinnacle…

However, there are the occasional groups who are AWESOME. Tanks who ask about my mana and ask if I need CC, skilled DPS who can zerg the last guy in Blackrock Caverns while pulling the adds off JUST long enough for me to heal the tank…

Some very pro groups and some very fail groups.

The baby pally, who still needs a self-deprecating nickname, is gearing up nicely and has 7 346/359 pieces already.

Erudax, in Grim Batol, has already denied me his bracers (333 on normal) once. We’ll see if this gets to be a trend…

So that’s going nicely. I’ve even livestreamed a few times: http://www.livestream.com/kurnmogh

In other news, Apotheosis had a rough week last week, failing to repeat on heroic Magmaw or heroic Atramedes. The former due to a lot of mistakes, the latter because we ran out of time.

This week, we walked in and one-shot heroic Magmaw.

I’ll take it. >.>

And speaking of Apotheosis, June 1st is a fourth anniversary! Granted, we weren’t really a guild, per se, during most of Wrath, but we’ve been a guild since October or November of 2010 and we were certainly kicking back in Burning Crusade. So it’s time to celebrate what we’ve accomplished together and remember the laughter we’ve had during the last several months. I’m planning a retrospective that includes videos (!) and the like. I just need to get videos to render properly and finish going through some screenshots. Should be fun and hopefully done this weekend at the latest.

Having responded to most of my outstanding PMs and emails and having done about as much archaeology as I can stomach for now, I’m going to head to bed, but that’s what’s up with me, lately.

Upcoming blog post topics include: keys/attunement, ZA/ZG gear and T12 gear. Probably not in that order.

80! Again.

Ding! My baby paladin is now 80. (Actually, 81, but anyways…)

Regardless of whether or not I end up transferring my baby paladin to Skywall, to help out the fine people of Choice, I’m really glad I started a new paladin.

I know, you think I have a screw loose, but it’s given me some FANTASTIC perspective.

I tanked my way from 68-80, which was alternately amazing and failtastic. Getting Oculus about 9 times in two days, completing it only three times and having my drake bug out on me no less than seven times was pretty bad. By “bug out”, I mean that, at different times, I could not dismount or, shockingly, I could not use my abilities on the drake AND I couldn’t dismount.

The only thing that worked — and even then, it wasn’t guaranteed — was logging off and logging back in.

Only I would log back in and I wouldn’t be in The Oculus. Nope. Nor would I be in the location I was in when I accepted the LFG queue. No, all of that would make sense!

I would end up in the Sentinel Hill graveyard in Westfall. Alive.

Each and every time this happened, that’s where I would end up.

I maintain that Sentinel Hill is the black hole of Azeroth.

At any rate…

So I hit 80 in The Oculus, wherein my drake bugged out TWICE, and then finished up the group. I wasn’t going to abandon these poor people without a tank in Oculus. That’s just mean.

After the run, I race-changed from dwarf (as adorable as male dwarves are) and went human female, as I usually prefer to be, regardless of the class. There are a few reasons for it — Diplomacy, The Human Spirit, Every Man for Himself — but also because I don’t think I could get used to being that short as a dwarf in a raid situation…

Anyhow! Then I started scrambling for gear so that I could queue up as a healer for Cataclysm instances.

Problem 1) Heirlooms listed 1-80 do not work at 80 any longer. They might have, once upon a time, but that no longer works.

Problem 2) I had essentially nothing in a few spots and spent some cash here and there. My shoulders, sadly, are now the Ornate Saronite Pauldrons.

The ilvl requirement for Blackrock Caverns and Throne of the Tides is 226. I laughed. That’s 25-man Ulduar-level stuff! It’s kind of neat to see how much gear has changed so much. I did Ulduar two years ago and 226 ilvl stuff is now what your average should be in order to get into the entry level dungeons for Cataclysm.

I suppose it’s because it was just so easy to gear up to T10 at the end of Wrath but they also wanted to let those who maybe hadn’t done anything since Ulduar come in and get right into things.

I managed to get that ilvl up to 230 and finally, I could queue up. That was ALSO very strange to me. That I had to try to gear up for these starter dungeons? I walked straight into BRC, TotT, Stonecore and Vortex Pinnacle on Madrana without being challenged by the LFG tool. I guess being in mostly 277 gear will do that. Even Kurn, who was in mostly 251 gear, had zero issues queueing.

Things are blurring together for me. I dinged 80 and picked up the Patina-Coated Breastplate and the Bands of Fading Light. It seemed very weird to pick up those items to head towards Blackrock Caverns or Throne of the Tides instead of Naxxramas, let me tell you. I feel as though I’m skipping current content by skipping out on the WotLK raids, although I know I’m not. It just seems so strange to not raid those instances at 80. The disconnect between my “normal” pally and my “baby” pally is messing with my head.

I finally was ready to queue up for the entry-level Cataclysm dungeons and I looked, in horror, at my mana bar.

I had about 30,000 mana.

Do you know the last time I saw the number “30,000″ next to my mana bar on Madrana? I was raid-buffed in Ulduar as we worked on Vezax. My raid thought that I had bribed a GM to give me extra mana.

So I queued up and was teleported to BRC and realized I was pulled in to a group that had lost their healer.

I took the portal that was up and found myself at the forge area.

The mage, who was the group leader, was an offensive jackass, whose first words are not “Hi, guys” or anything, but rather “dk i hope you know this fight cuz the last 3 tanks didnt.”

“I know all the fights,” he responds.

“we’ll see,” says the mage.

I’m like “wtf did I just walk into here?”

The DK pulls the boss, since the trash is done, and he, himself, stands on the grated outer ring. And the boss is, you know, nowhere near the center flame area.

After about 10 seconds of this, the mage says “lol might as well give up he will never die”

And I got pissed, because all of this could have been prevented if only the mage had said “please don’t forget to move the boss in and out of the fire in the middle so he gets the debuff.”

But he didn’t. Instead, he was like “I hope you know the fight” and the poor tank is then forced to be on the defensive.

So, while healing, I manage to type out “(tank’s name), please move him in and out of the central fire to debuff him.”

Instantly, the DK drags the boss into the central fire.

And proceeds to stand there.

And wipe us.

So I release and run and NO ONE ELSE IS. “Run back, please,” I say.

Two people (the tank and a DPS) release, one person goes offline and the obnoxious mage says “no i’m waiting for the tank to drop group because i’m not fucking running with him”

I tried to vote-kick the mage, but couldn’t initiate any more party kicks (I guess that means they vote-kicked people out before?). And when he still wouldn’t release after the rest of us got back to the instance, I dropped group.

LFG tool: 1, Kurn: 0.

My next queue took me to a partly-finished Throne of the Tides where the group was at Erunak. The paladin tank was all KINDS of vile, spouting profanity (which I don’t generally have an issue with) and teaming it up with perjorative terms against a variety of minorities, gay people in particular.

He pulled the boss and then, partway through the fight, dropped group. >.>

Not that I was upset to be rid of him or anything, but wow. What a champ.

The mage then remarked, “what a fuckin homo”.

I was about halfway through typing something along the lines of how equating “gay” and the like with “stupid” is not cool, but the rogue in the group beat me to it.

“Homophobic much?”

“yea,” responded the mage.

“Did you know that over 800 species on the planet can be gay, but only one can be homophobic?”

I LAUGHED. “Well-said. I’m with you, man.”

That effectively shut up the mage and the rogue and I chatted a bit in whispers about why homophobes are annoying mouth-breathers. Good times.

Finally, we get a new tank, a druid. And the group is suddenly awesome.

We had zero issues with Erunak or the last dude and then requeued for BRC specifically. Easy full clear, then randomed up again and got BRC again, whereupon I got a tanking shield and a healing shield. Then another requeue and we ran a full TotT run.

The fifth member of the group changed a bit — it was a DK, then it was a DPS warrior, then it was an enhancement shaman — but the druid, the rogue, myself and even that mage made a pretty good team, despite the earlier ugliness.

I went on one more BRC run later on, whereupon the tank pulled one of the fire elementals around Karsh and accidentally pulled Karsh, too. I was like “greaaaaaat, that’s going to be a wipe,” BUT NO.

The tank was superb. Not only did he make sure to get the boss debuffed, but he picked up the other add when it approached us and marked it with a skull. He used Divine Guardian, used all of his own cooldowns. I used Aura Mastery and HoSac (OH GOD, I have missed that spell!) and everything was fine. HORRIBLE pull. FANTASTIC execution.

The one major complaint I have about my experiences getting to 81 through the dungeon finder tool is this:

No one seems to know how the hell to interrupt.

Every conceivable BAD spell that could be cast DID get cast, without interruption, almost without exception.

I was that exception and Rebuke has a 10s cooldown.

Shadow Strikes on the Evolved Twilight guys in BRC? All me. Never could reach Corla to interrupt that Dark Command and, as a result, got feared and my worshipper evolved at one point, but anyways.

And that’s even asking them to do so. Like, “Hey guys, it’d be really useful if you could interrupt that Healing Wave on that mob, or Bore on this mob or Shadow Strike…”

Nothing.

Alas.

Still. Level 81. Getting there!

My ilvl is now 270, which is HILARIOUS, considering it’s all greens and some blues and my beautiful Vibrant Alchemist Stone. I keep looking at the ilvl and going “so that’s midway between ICC25 and ICC H25…” and wondering if I could heal heroic Dreamwalker. ;)

I’ve also been digging like a fool on Kurn (for the baby pally, for the Ring of the Boy Emperor and potentially Tyrande’s Favorite Doll. I’ll reforge the mastery to spirit on the ring and the doll will be useful while I wait to make/turn in a Tsunami deck.) and I am sad to report I got the More Skills to Pay the Bills achievement the other day. 525 in all four secondaries. I kind of hate myself.

There are guild updates, too. I need to boast about our heroic Magmaw kill and such, but we’ll see if we can nail heroic Atramedes tonight, too and then I’ll put it all in a single post.

More Baby Paladin Adventures!

At this point, the “baby” paladin isn’t all that little. Well. He’s still a dwarf, so he’s little in that sense, but he’s, er, level 70.

I told you. I must have a screw loose!

Of note, at level 64, I soloed Banthar, Bach’lor and Gutripper as ret.

At 65, right after Gutripper’s quest dinged me, I soloed Tusker.

/flex

Bach’lor was actually rough due to the knockbacks, but I kited a bit, stunned a bit, used WoG, Flash of Light, Lay on Hands… Win. Tusker was a bit rough too, but I got through that in three tries rather than the SEVEN Bach’lor required.

If I ever see Mana Tombs or Auchenai Crypts again, I will cry and/or scream. I had never been so happy in my LIFE to see Sethekk Halls after a certain point. Hell, I was even HAPPY to get Escape from Durnholde. The first two times, anyways.

As soon as I hit 68, I started selecting Utgarde Keep specifically in the dungeon finder. There was no WAY I was going back to Auchindoun!

And before you knew it, I was 69.

That is where the suck began.

I had so many awesome tanks in the 60s, in BC content. (Lots of crappy ones, too, but mostly the DPS were crappy versus the tanks.) And as soon as I set foot in Utgarde Keep, I started getting idiots. I’ve run UK about 14 times now. I have had two good tanks from pugs. I’ve run it three times with the pally tank alt of a guild rogue, Tikari, which is great, but the realization slowly dawned on me: if I want a good tank, I’m going to have to do it myself.

Trouble was, my ret gear consisted largely of the heirloom Shadowcraft (leather) stuff. Farm heroics for Justice Points? Me? Hah! Why would I do that when I had a bonus 20% XP anyways and would never, ever inflict my fail retness on others?

I had the heirloom valor helm and the heirloom agi cloak, so if I was going to tank, I needed the tanking cloak ($$$), the tanking heirloom chest and tanking heirloom shoulders. I could deal with the helm, even if it’s mostly geared for DPS. At least it’s stam and strength and it’s plate.

Thus began the grind.

I can’t tell you how many heroics I’ve run in the last two days. Probably about 13 or so. I capped out Madrana’s VP via dungeons and then two more because healers had Call to Arms (3 Golemblood Potions and an Obsidian Hatchling for my troubles) and then did several on Kurn. At least four, since I got three Chaos Orbs and lost out on one.

That is more level 85 heroic dungeons in 48 hours than I’ve done since December.

And along the way, some notable groups:

- An all-guild group consisting of four people who were incredibly racist and vulgar, all of whom I reported after the run. They tried to recruit me, since I was healing on Madrana. Despite their douchebagginess, they were spectacular players and heroic SFK went quickly and smoothly.

- By contrast, a heroic SFK I got today had a “tank” who had less health than I did. Now, I know, I’m in some heroic raid gear, but I should almost never have more health than the tank. Really. After he got me to blow Lay on Hands AND Hand of Sacrifice on him IN THE SAME PULL, I looked at his gear, saw it was almost all the ret PVP gear, none of it gemmed or enchanted and he was using a spellpower sword. Vote-kicking him felt good.

Having said that, I think he might have been better than a fail DK tank I had in UK on the baby pally, though. Imagine, if you will, a level 71 worgen death knight “tank” who is:

* dual wielding
* not using Death and Decay or, apparently, spreading any diseases, meaning that any time I dropped even a HOLY SHOCK on him, the other 3-4 mobs would charge me and kill me
* using Rune of Lichbane on his two weapons and only using Death Strike and Heart Strike
* apparently unable to use Dark Command or Death Grip

Vote-kicking him felt less good than the fail pally “tank” from H SFK because this guy wasn’t even 80 ot 85 yet. 71. He clearly didn’t know his class that well, but my feeling bad for him evaporated the third time we wiped because mobs killed me and he didn’t know how to taunt.

- Oh, and there was that dipstick of a druid tank in heroic Lost City. He berated everyone (except me) in the group repeatedly for being “fucking retarded” and “total fail, epic fail!”. They weren’t that bad, they just weren’t putting out much more than 7-8k damage each.

This caused the tank to yell at the ret pally so much that when the tank DEMANDED the ret pally leave… he did. I feel bad for the ret, even if he only did 5k DPS on the first boss.

We had a trash wipe on our way to the third boss and the tank just LOST it on the DK (who had replaced the paladin) and I’d had enough at that point. I initiated a vote kick and the reason I gave? “Jackass.”

It passed in about 2 seconds.

We got a very nice (albeit less geared and less skilled) DK tank to replace the abusive druid tank and finished up the instance without any issues.

- On Kurn, there was a fail H Deadmines run that actually was finished successfully, but in the middle of the nightmares, my bow broke. That’s how bad the run was and how often I died. I actually tried to rez people with Mass Rez and it was still on cooldown. Squishy tank who didn’t know the instance very well and undergeared healer. Like, my resto shaman who is just barely qualified for heroics has about 15k more mana than the resto shaman who was healing us.

- Also on Kurn, a group where the shaman healer didn’t know he could (and should!) keep Flame Shock up on Ozruk in Stonecore. So he kept getting stunned (and I did, too, at the start). I don’t know WHY, but Serpent Sting doesn’t count as damage or whatever and it’s been that way for quite some time. Luckily, I always keep some Sulfuron Slammers on me, which breaks the paralysis.

So yeah, lots of “interesting” runs.

But mission accomplished! The heirloom Might chest and shoulders are mine!

And I’ve tanked!

I actually tanked with just the chest, the tanking heirloom cloak and the valor helm (and my ring, of course) twice and then once I got the shoulders, I couldn’t resist going again.

This is the first time I’ve tanked on a paladin since 4.0 dropped.

I’m still not great, I’ve never been a GREAT paladin tank. I’ve been at least adequate most of the time, though.

I gotta say, it’s a little horrifying to realize you don’t REALLY know what the hell buttons you’re supposed to be pushing. Apart from anything else, I FORGET to Word of Glory myself to keep Holy Shield up and I keep hitting Shield of the Righteous when I only have one charge of Holy Power. I know, I know… fail!

So the baby pally is almost 71 and is tanking ’till 80ish. At that point, time to race change to human and then we’ll see how the tanking situation is. The Wrath content tanks are awful from just about every run I’ve done and I KNOW that content as a tank (thanks to tanking on Madrana in heroics back in the day and thanks to tanking on my druid, also back in the day), so it’s just easier to adjust to the new pally tanking methods and going to town on Wrath instances.

I just hope no one looks at my trinkets. They’re level 60ish blue healing trinkets…

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