Cub Down! Cub Down!

We may have lost the Cub.

Alex had a birthday shortly before we left on vacation, and along with some toys he acquired a fistful of Target dollars. Er, gift card thingies.

So, armed with gelt we took him to Target and let him run loose in the toy department.

What he wanted more than anything was the Mega Bloks Goblin Shredder, which Target’s website showed was in stock.

Yeah. They lied. Nope, nope, nope.

Not anywhere in the toy area, the clearance shelves, hidden behind something else. Might have had one in another department, but none in Toys.

Standing in the store we called around to other Targets that showed it as being in stock. We got the store clerks involved. We networked.

Nope, nope, nope.

This isn’t a rant on Target, but what turned out to have happened is funny, and Target Corporate has sure paid the price.

See, the Mega Bloks World of Warcraft Goblin Shredder is a new toy priced at $24.99. And as such, it is at the same price point as the old Mega Bloks World of Warcraft Barrens Chase set.

The old Barrens Chase set, along with ALL the old Mega Bloks World of Warcraft stuff has been clearanced out. it’s the same at Walmart, I saw a Goblin Zeppelin for $22 at Walmart the week before.

Whoever handled the toy purchasing for Target at the corporate level made absolutely no distinction between old series toys and brand new cutting edge releases. And to make it more fun, the store doesn’t track inventory by SKU, or by name… but by ‘assortment’.

They put all Mega Bloks World of Warcraft ‘assortments’ priced at $24.99 on clearance, so they clearanced the Goblin Shredders. At half off.

Plus this weeks advertisement had a 30% discount coupon for Mega Bloks sets.

Yeah, Target took that one in the shorts. Well done, sir and ma’am. No need for me to rub salt in the wound by letting everyone know how badly you messed up… but what the heck, if you’re going to be that ignorant, so be it.

Next time, might want to make an effort to know the difference between older toys and newer toys and track by SKU or name. Us customers certainly know the difference, and we thank you for funding our eBay sales.

Well, not mine, but I’m sure somebody saw that one and chortled with glee.

Oh, and if you search, make sure and use the correct spelling. Apparently, it’s a “Goblin Schreder“.

Yeah, we can tell Target has their finger on the pulse of the toy market. Might be squeezing a bit tight, though.

We ordered the toy online, so no worries there. But that still left our son with cash in hand and no new toy to get that new car smell.

After he wandered the aisles with no result, because it makes a difference when the toy you buy is with your OWN money instead of momma moneybags, I mentioned that there were also video games for 3DS or PS3 or even the Wii he could check out.

Oh, boy.

Our son, blessed that he is, finds exactly what he wants, and it came as no surprise since he’s wanted it for two years.

Skylanders. In this case, Skylanders Giants.

Ah, shit.

Cassie has fought this battle for two years. Skylanders is another way of saying, “Parents, just hand over your wallets, you’re fucked.”

As Cassie began to explain first that we were planning on buying into the Disney Infinity version soon to be released (and thus if we buy Skylanders there would be no money for the Disney version) and second that there was no way his $50 or so was going to stretch to a $75 starter set, plus you need at least one of each of the eight types of power characters to unlock every area, which go for $10 to $15 A POP, I called a halt to the discussion.

That day, Saturday, the last day of the sale week… the Skylanders Giants PS3 starter set was $40. It was $35 off. That one day. And all sets were buy two get one free.

A huddle formed, because the truth was clear.

If this shit is getting bought, it’s happening today, because we ain’t paying $75 ever in the future. But $40… he could afford $40.

Cassie said Amazon usually price matched when a big chain did this kind of thing. I checked, sure as heck she was right as usual, they were price matching… and she said that if they did, again they would stop as soon as the big store sale was over.

Move your ass and decide now, or forever hold your peace.

But does he really want the game? Is he sure?

What it came down to, as we discussed it over lunch, was he didn’t want it if it meant he couldn’t get the Goblin Schreder (sic). He was almost in tears at the pain of this decision. Goblin Schreder or Skylanders Giants?

When Cassie assured him that his money, if he pushed it and used some allowance, would stretch to both… well, he went for it.

With that decision made, Cassie became directly involved.

I might not have ever mentioned this before, but I do not handle the family finances. Cassie does. She is a master at knowing when to hold ’em, and when to go all in. It’s because of her diligent efforts that we have a house, because if it were up to me we’d have lost the mortgage due to a Battlemech miniature game addiction years ago or something equally stupid.

No, I’m not kidding. I grew up so poor you’ve got no freaking idea. Living in the ghetto poor. I have within me this destructive little thing that whispers to me, “Buy that. You know you want it. You’ll feel better if you have it. You won’t be able to stop thinking about it until you do. Go ahead, what’ll it hurt.”

I’m a lot better these days, but there are still those moments where I feel the yearning to impulse buy something to feel good. And for those moments, there is the Auction House, where I can blow my gold and ask Cassie for a loan until the cash from my dailies comes in, lol.

So she has the veto. She has the sense as well as the cents.

She took a good, hard look at the Target special, checked for price matching at Toys R Us, Walmart and Best Buy, looked at Gamestop, and ultimately decided on a course of action that had us purchase the PS3 Skylanders Giants starter set, three more Giants (Crusher, the Whale and the Cubs ultimate favorite, Eye-brawl) and three of the 3-packs.

One of the 3 packs had all series 2 characters that included a Gear and a Magic, the other two sets were adventure sets from the first Spyro’s Adventures game with the pirate ship and the Dragon Peak, which gave us a fire character too.

This careful balancing act left us with at least one of each type for maximum game unlocks, two adventure sets for expansion, and the most value for the money.

It also left our wallets weeping, but it was on sale! We didn’t spend money, we SAVED money! Yeah!

Oh dear lord what have we done… even I’m wincing at the memory.

Anyway, the Cub now has a level 10 Eye-brawl and is having a blast.

I asked him last night if he wanted to play some more Skylanders, or if he wanted to log in and do LFR on his Death Knight with me for the very first time before the reset.

He chose Skylanders, so, yeah. He might be gone.

On the other hand, I was watching him play, and he let me take the controls a few times…

That Cynder is pretty cool. I like the way he turns into a shadow to scoot along underground, and leaves a trail of ghosts behind.

And if you blast sheep with lightning bolts, they puff up like cotton balls and you can roll them around!

And, and, and…

You know, I might not be logging on for a while.

Take care of my alts, feed my dinosaur, and water my garden, okay?

And if you don’t hear from me after a month or so…

No, you can’t have my stuffs.

The Cub Codacil

As an addendum to the Cub Report, I present to you a pictorial journey through the first structures of Alex’s imagination.

Island - A Distant Shore

The journey begins, with a view of the island from shore. Notice the torches, and how he started with wood, then began upgrading afterwards to stone.


Island - A beacon to light my way home - first version

Here we see, close up, the first rough signal tower he built with torches to be seen from a distance.


Island - Upstairs bedroom with emergency trapdoor

Here is the upstairs bedroom of his cozy island house. And, like all proper bedrooms, there is a trapdoor emergency hatch so you can escape if cornered by bad guys… or homework.


Island - now thats a treehouse

Here we see, from the island bridge, his first forays into building a treehouse. Oh yes, those are stone stairs circling that tree. Yes they are.


Island - treehouse stairs

No, really, those are stone stairs to be proud of. Curious fact, chickens can and WILL hop onto and follow you up stairs all the way to the top… and if you then remove blocks from behind them, you’ve got a treed chicken.

At least, so I’ve been told by the under ten set.


Fortress - At night

And now we see the fortress that Alex has made in Creative mode. It started out as being open, and the most recent addition is that massive wall circling the whole damn thing. From this view you can see how tall the whole thing is, the two glowstone towers with trapdoors in the foreground that lead to the underwater viewing chambers, the lava and water towers, and the distant lighthouse with glowstone on top.


Fortress - visible lava and water towers

A closer view, easier to see the lava and water towers. You know, if enemies storm that courtyard and he opens the bottom bricks to release all that water and lava at once, I think they’d be pretty steamed up about it. You’d have to be half baked to even consider attacking it.


Fortress - Wolf followed to top of tower

Here you can see how, once landed on top of a glowstone tower (with trapdoor), Wolfie has decided to show up. How does that dog do dat?


Fortress - Dawn

From this view, you can get a better idea how tall the lava tower is, and how far down that grassy courtyard is. Those are double doors leading into the fully furnished multi-story redstone castle.


Fortress - petting Zoo

What castle would be complete without petting zoo? And yep, those are eggs. Lots of torches too, guess zoo critters don’t need sleep much.


Fortress - dummies

Here we see a lovely interior shot of the dog house, with low one block size entryway that the wolf can walk through, but not Alex, because as he put it, “Sometimes I bet Wolfie would like some privacy.” Also note the WoW-style training dummies in lime green, clearly marked with bow and arrow signs, so you know what weapons you’re supposed to use here.

And yes there are bows and arrows, and when arrows hit something, they stay stuck there until you brush them off. A nice touch, that one.


Fortress - Wolfie

And finally, a closer picture of Wolfie. He does seem happy with his home, doesn’t he?

I can’t wait to see what he comes up with next.

The Cub Report – DeGei Corrupts the Innocent

I’ve been chatting a lot with DeGei, who you might know from listening to the Group Quest podcast.

Quick plug, if you haven’t listened to it, it’s a great roundtable discussion of things in WoW. There are always great discussions that get me thinking.

DeGei and I have mostly been talking about pet battling and old school raiding, but one day he turned the topic, quite subtly, to what Alex was doing lately.

“Alex is mostly playing with toys and the 3DS, or tablet games like Star Wars Angry Birds. He pops in and out of Warcraft, but the complexity and difficulty of the game this expansion is hampering things.”

I should have been suspicious. I should have suspected something, but no.

Oh no, not me. Blind fool.

“Well, has he ever tried Minecraft? I think he’d really like it.”

Uh oh. Another one of THOSE freaks.

He hasn’t played Minecraft, but I grudgingly admitted that the option was available.

Back in August of 2011, Cassie asked if I’d heard of ‘this Minecraft thing’, and said the game was on sale, buy the game and get a gift code for a free second account. We could buy it, try it, and if it seemed cool give it to Alex, AND one of us could play it too.

I bought it and tried it out a bit… and I was totally lost.

No quests? No breadcrumbs? No instruction manual on how to make shit? What the hell was I supposed to do with nobody there to hold my hand?

I read a little about it on the internet… Survival mode, monsters that would come to eat me and I had to scramble to try and build a crude shelter, light a fire, say what now?

Where are the menu of commands? How do I make anything? OMIGOD I’M SO CONFUSED.

it wasn’t for me because, hello, Warcraft, and Alex does NOT like survival zombie apocalypse ‘grue will eat you’ kinds of stuff at all. Alex was really loving World of Warcraft at the time, so I decided to shelve Minecraft and leave it the heck alone.

Fast forward to today, a year and a half later, and an uncomfortable conversation.

“No, he has never played Minecraft, but, um… we own it. So I don’t have a real good excuse as to why not.”

I signed off, and decided to dust the install off and give it another try. I knew it was still on my computer somewhere, because the Curse Gaming downloader saw it and added it to my list of games that had addons available. Curse knows my computer better than I do.

I found it, dug up my old email with login info, loaded Minecraft up and started trying to figure it out.

I would have given up again, except I decided to use my leet WoW skills. Namely, I went looking for a website that would tell me what to do.

Ah, the lessons learnt from WoW. If something takes more than 3 seconds to figure out, look for an internet guide.

With the beginner’s guide from the Minecraft Wiki open, I began to puzzle things out. Hey, this game is pretty cool, this is neat, you can…

“What are you playing, Daddy?”

Oh, shit. Busted. Cold, flat busted.

“Umm, it’s a game called Minecraft.”


Aw, shit.

It turns out EVERY KID IN HIS CLASS plays Minecraft, and talks about it sharing stories and tips.

They compare notes. They brag about hidden things they’ve discovered, as kids do.

I was asked, could I, maybe, just possibly, install it on Alex’s computer so he could play? Maybe? PUH-leeze?

Yeah, he’s gone.

Here’s the thing about Minecraft.

Minecraft is the LEGO of video games, before LEGO became all about movie video games done in block style.

You get out of it what you bring to it, and you really do tear down and build up anything you can imagine, one block at a time.

Yes, the graphics are primitive, but once the switch flips in your noggin and you realize this is a world made of LEGO blocks, and YOU can tear the existing blocks down and build whatever the hell you want, that’s it.

So, that’s what Alex has been playing lately. And I blame DeGei, damnit.

Alex started in the default game mode, ‘Survival’, and had a lot of fun with it. He learned how to mine, make torches, tunnel caves, make doors, and grasped the idea of ‘hide when it’s dark’ better than I might have wished. The game has taught him to be afraid of the dark and cower in a cave.

What’s really interesting is, he wasn’t even in danger at the beginning. He never saw a bad guy, but he had heard enough to know to fear what creatures the darkness would bring, so he’d build a shelter and focus on making it defensible, and being inside by lights out.

He was on the easiest difficulty, where he can’t starve, or really die except from falling or lava, and where monsters don’t even spawn in the game to hunt him. He could travel in the dark with impunity, he just didn’t know it.

Once he found that out, he got a bit more adventurous, although he had a rough time when he got lost far from his crafted home once.

I left him to it. I used the Minecraft Wiki to teach him how to make various things like torches and better pickaxes, and a crafting table and furnace, but other than that he was on his own.

A couple of days of busy activity, and he proudly showed off his new island home.

He’d found a small island off the coast, installed a stone road lined with torches, built a stone multi-storied house with real doors that you could open and close, put in a trapdoor to the basement with a pressure-plate for an ‘escape hatch’, built up a massive tower with torches all up the sides so he could see it like a lighthouse leading him home at night, and he even led chickens from the mainland to his island.

Just… amazing. And all of it from his imagination.

So, he was happy, but in order to advance, I was going to have to really break out the crafting item wiki to figure out what else he could do.

Then, chatting with Tish Tosh Tesh about Minecraft, it turns out Tesh plays it with HIS kids, and they play the ‘Creative’ mode.

Um, the what mode?

Oh, Creative mode! Where you can’t die, you start with infinite amounts of every item/block in the game, and can fly. So, you can build ANYTHING, anywhere.


Wow. Can Alex handle that? What if having everything so easy without having to mine materials and make it by crafting ruins the experience?

Hah. HAH.


It’s been about a week.

He has made a massive multi-level walled fortress with turrets, minarets and battlements. He has one tower filled with lava, and another tower next to it filled with water.

He has a basement chamber that is the petting zoo, filled with various animals like chicken and sheep.

He has a wolf that he tamed, using a technique taught to him from a school friend.

He built a special doghouse in the castle for his tamed wolf, and spent two days frustrated as heck that the Wolf kept escaping the doghouse, despite walls or whatever, until his classmates shared the cause… tamed wolves teleport to your location if you get too far away.

He dug down into the ocean, built a sub-basement and installed glass windows so he could look out at the sea and the swimming squid.

He built soaring towers of glowstone as a beacon and floors of glowing magma rock.

He has a big bed in his bedroom, and he’s got this chicken that seems to like hanging out there, because every tie he logs in, there’s the chicken… in his bed.

He’s got winding staircases and signs and… wow.

He loves it. And he loves it even more because he is able to talk with his classmates about the shared experience, all of them playing the same game, having something in common.

It turns out that the modern peer activity isn’t hockey, or football, or any other kind of sports.

The peer activity for his class, the NORMAL activity is video games, and specifically a creative video game called Minecraft.

I have a small sliver of hope for our future.

What will the world look like, or this corner of it, when it’s hard to call someone derogatory names based on being a geek when everyone grew up doing ‘geek things’ and there is no stigma of ‘the other’ attached to it?

He loves it, and he likes that he can talk about it with friends at school.

DeGei has told me about addons and modifications, but I’m really confused about that stuff. I don’t want to change things on Alex too much all at once, and most addon packs seem to have a ton of stuff all rolled together. I’m sure he’d like some additional items, but how to choose what, and not go too far?

Enough. It’s a great game, and I’m sure once he starts to wander, addons will bring more for him to excited about. Time enough to worry about it then.

Wait, World of Warcraft in there somewhere?

As far as World of Warcraft is concerned, he still likes the game, but this expansion has been very hard.

Some of the quests are designed to be challenging for normal players to negotiate, so he’s been running into some problems that lead to frustration.

He gets through them eventually, but when the stress level is that high, he takes his WoW in small doses.

He was really jamming the pet battles and taming, but he’s stalled a bit on that because he’s in the 19 range, and it gets hard to tell where to travel to for your next pet tames, and it can take a while to grind some levels on those pets. When you’re leveling in Pandaria and everything is 23 – 25, your team of 19’s don’t help.

He’s at the point now where he plays his Death Knight just a little bit questing, but he really looks forward to playing with us in places like Molten Core, AQ40 or Karazhan, where his level doesn’t matter because we’re all overpowered there anyway.

He still likes World of Warcraft, but it’s for playing as a family.

For everything else, it’s Minecraft. It’s all about creating his own thing fresh, and proudly showing it to Cassie and I.

What lesson could we learn from this?

I know one lesson… if there was an area in World of Warcraft where he could easily design his own house, walls, basement and barnyard, and populate it with animals and plants and whatever else, he’d stay in WoW all the time, too.

When it’s just visiting something someone else designed, if there isn’t something to kill, quest or craft, it’s only so good for so long.

Maybe that is where your farm in Halfhill is heading, but there will have to be one hell of a step up to compete with the world building in Minecraft.

Just saying.

The Cub Report: Because Evil is Cool, Mmkay?

The Cub has been spending minimal time playing WoW since Pandaria released. He’s found the questing in Pandaria to be too crowded and dangerous to be fun.

He stops to read quest text, to read the quest description, and to check his location on a map a lot.

In most places in the early areas, that means you get jumped every time you try to get your bearings. He hates it, and so he stopped playing.

I’d watch him get a quest, open his map to look where to go, and get jumped immediately. So, he’d have to close the map, kill it, move a bit away where it looks clear, open the map… and respawns jump him again right away.

Frustrating as heck.

If you like to take a few minutes to get oriented before charging out into the world to do your next quest, it can be a huge pain… especially when you’re used to simply hopping on your mount and getting some elevation so you can check your map or read your quest text in relative safety.

It is what it is. The game isn’t aimed at challenging a nine year old, it’s aimed at challenging teens plus. As in the old line about the horse, we shouldn’t be dissapointed that the horse has a thick accent, we should just be grateful the horse can talk at all. I’m proud at how well Alex has learned to read, understand and develop his own strategies for playing the game. He’s getting better at typing replies if someone says ‘grats’ to him, and he’s even created a few macros to do the /chicken and /dance and such.

This little person was watching Maizy Mouse not that long ago. It’s amazing.

Since he doesn’t like the questing, he’s spent most of his time since the expansion playing during Sunday evening cross-server raids, and sometimes at night queuing his Death Knight for random Pandaria dungeons.

In the cross-server raids, we were finishing out Burning Crusade, and he’s been running on his Warlock. Just this last week he completed the Tier 5 Corrupter Warlock set, and I’ll grant you, it looks impressive on a male Worgen. Very cool, very “I will tear your soul apart” Warlocky. He loves it, and he’s happy to have completed such a great looking set. The helm actually looks decent on a big wolf snout.

In Pandaria, when he plays on his Death Knight he’s taken to avoiding the Jade Forest quest zones and just queues for random normal Dungeons to get XP.

He did Stormstout Brewery a few nights ago, and I watched over his shoulder without giving him any tips at all… until he got to the final boss.

At that point, I just gave him a few pointers, because that fight kinda blows. “Make sure you don’t stand still when you’ve got the brown stuff. When you see the lines of green waves coming at you, jump high to let them pass underneath. Kill the adds.”

Lots of stuff for a melee to deal with, but he did well.

Before the boss even died, I told him, “Whatever you do, don’t leave the instance.”

The boss died, loot was rolled on, and one by one the rest of the people left.

“Okay, now get back to the entrance, where the little old lady sells tea.”

He did that, and I had him get the ‘special’ brew that lets you see stuff, you can have up to five in your bags at a time.

I showed him that if you drink that tea, you get a buff that lets you see Golden Hoplings… and if you find all thirty in the instance, you get a Hopling pet mailed to you!

“Is the pet a Golden Hopling?!?”

“No, it’s a white-colored Hopling.”


“Yes, I know, a Golden Hopling mailed to you like it was one of the ones you found, that would make too much sense. Just roll with it, and get your butt out there and find those Golden Hoplings!”

“How long do I have?”

“As long as you like. When the tea buff wears off, drink another. If you run out of tea, go to the beginning and buy more.”

The hunt for the Golden Hoplings is, I think, the most fun he’s had in the game in a long time. He found almost all of them the first time, only missing one. That actually made it cooler, because it wasn’t just some easy snooze to victory. When he realized that he’d missed one, he got that “I’m really concentrating now” look on his face, with the tip of his tongue sticking out of the corner of his mouth while he systematically tore that place apart looking for missing Hoplings.

He got ’em all, too. Heck yes he did.

Once he won, he tore up the stairs to let mommy know that “I went through looking for all the Golden Hoplings, and I found them all so they mailed me a Hopling pet! Except it’s not gold, it’s white.”

Just an FYI. If you haven’t done that achievement yet, you can do it in Stormstout Brewery on normal, you can wait until the place is cleared and all your teammates have left the group, and you can take as long as you’d like. And your children may like to do it for you. :)

Alex having a Warlock at level 81, and the fun toys he got,  has had me itching to level one. There seem to be so many changes since I last tried one out. 

I have all the Heirlooms, even the pants, and with the WoW 8th Anniversary 8% XP (and Rep) buff, I put a lot of my gaming time into leveling one this weekend.

I had a level 30 female Worgen, the one I was leveling with Alex, but I had to delete it and start over Thursday. The Worgen casting animations I could deal with, but the transmog pieces? That snout had to go!

If I’m going to be evil, damn it, I’m going to look good doing it.

With that WoW 8th Anniversary 8% XP buff, the heirlooms… it’s been crazy. I reached level 40 last night, not really trying that hard. Most instances give me two levels. I barely have time to get through the starter quests in a zone while queueing before I move on to the next quest zone.

Let me tell you something about Warlocks.

They’re fun. They didn’t used to be this fun to level.

Part of it is, there has been a lot of attention to detail put into the fun extras. It’s not just a race to the end, where they suddenly turn cool. They get lots of fun, crazy stuff right off the bat that make them fun to level up.

Let me give you an example.

I’m leveling and playing Demonology. Much like my Hunter, I feel that if the core aspect that sets a class apart is a pet, then go for the gusto, really go full bore pet.

Demonology is all about a powerful demon pet, and about being a powerful demon yourself.

To transform into a demon, you need to build up some Demonic Power. As you do damage and use abilities, your Demonic Power increases. If you’re out of combat for a while it fades down to a minimum level.

Turning into a demon looks neat, and your abilities transform into slightly different versions, but there is more coolness than that.

If your Demonic Power builds but you don’t unleash it by metamorphosing into a demon, there are visual cues that show you’re bursting with power.

One of the earliest signs is that you grow two glowing purple horns out of your head. Still in normal form, you just suddenly have honking big purple horns.

Then your hands start to glow all the time with swirling purple energy.

Once your Demonic Power is maxed out, you’re veritably exploding with purple smoke trails, horns, and a big evil pattern on the floor like the opposite of a Priest sigil of power. It’s freaking cool.

Also, you seem to get an 8% passive damage buff when you’re full of Demonic Power but not actually in demon form. I haven’t really checked into it, I’m just going off the wording of the tooltip.

All the graphic changes don’t serve any actual utilitarian purpose, but it looks absolutely awesome, and it feels like a direct consequence of building up all of that power internally and not giving it a release.

There are plenty of other things too, small things like a Glyph that lets your special flaming demon horse run over water, leaving a flaming trail behind it. Or a Major Glyph that gives you, as far as I can tell, an almost-tanking form suitable for clearing old school raids all on your own. With taunt and everything. I haven’t tried it out, but talking with guildies about it last night makes it sound very interesting.

Think about that for a second. A Glyph that can give a spell caster an “I’m a tank!” button, with new abilities.

That is potentially a game changer, in a very real way. Taunts aren’t for PvP, so it must be to let Warlocks play in dungeons or raids as a tank, even if it’s not official and if it’s not current content.

What other possibilities are there then, if we can set Glyphs to be spec-specific, and add new forms and abilities that change a classes core functionality?

Could we have, as Baddmojo suggests, a Glyph of the Swashbuckler for Combat Rogues to let them actually tank with high Dodge and Parry, if they have Swords equipped? Because tanking with daggers would be just silly.

I say, if you’re going to be a Rogue Tank, you should have chainsaw fist weapons like Ash from Evil Dead. Just, go for the gusto. If you’re gonna be crazy, be BIG crazy.

That’s right, I’m bringing gusto back. It’s a great word, use it today!

Or what about a Glyph of the Mountain for Enhancement Shamans, letting them transform into a giant stone elemental granting immense durability/mitigation, whirlwind to act as a dodge/deflection/parry, with an avalanche for AoE threat?

So many possibilities, so much potential.

Blizzard adds something like this to the game, I remember all the excited furor about it when it was even more powerful in the Beta, but instead of speculating over future awesomeness, here we are, stuck talking about dailies and valor grinds and reputation.


I fully intend to get Alex’s Warlock a Dual spec, get him all set to be a Demonology Tank, and let him lead me into Molten Core. Go for it!

Let’s take some of this stuff out for a spin, and do something NEW for a change! Screw the reputation grinds.

The Cub Report: Don’t Look Kids! Scaaaaary!

This year as usual we visited the Pumpkin Festival so Alex could pick out the perfect pumpkin. He chose one that is this mutant pumpkin thing that grew lying on it’s side. So, the top is what is normally the side, and it ended up having this wierd stretched shape with big ears.

We asked Alex to sit down with a piece of paper and draw the design he wanted his pumpkin to be carved with.

Yep. Seven eyes, three noses, three eyebrows. “I could do the wide face that I’ve always wanted because we got a wide pumpkin.”

Who says kids can’t engage in forward planning? I know he was planning on that face from the moment he saw the big pumpkin. “Finally, a pumpkin big enough to take all the eyeballs I’ve ever wanted!”

So, Happy Halloween, everyone!

Speaking of Alex, forward planning, and of spooky things….

Well before Mists of Pandaria came out, the revamped Scroll of Resurrection process was revealed.

At the time, my family had all the fun we could handle, but we were lucky enough to have a few people accept Scrolls from us and pay for game time, resulting in free mounts we never use.

Those rewards if you were the recipient of a Scroll were pretty amazing, though. They made me think.

If you had an inactive account that had once been paid, and it had been inactive for over a month, someone could give you a Scroll (to your email account) and you could apply it, giving you…

  • An instant free boost to your registered expansions to include everything up to and through Cataclysm.
  • Seven free days of full game time, instant, without needing to provide payment info.
  • One character on your account, of your choice including newly made level ones, that would be instantly boosted to level 80 with full 20 slot bags, 75 gold, reasonable level 80 starter gear, and 280% flying speed pre-trained.
  • A server transfer to the server of the person who gave you the Scroll, free, if you so choose.

That’s… that is pretty crazy.

In the back of my head was the thought that, if Alex ever showed a lot of interest in a character class, this might be something we could do. Someday.

Thanks to the sometimes Byzantine billing and account systems Blizzard uses, Alex does have more than one account. He began with the starter account that had free game time that we gave him to see if he liked the game.

That first account was the one he had made his former favorite character on, the character that he worked so hard to level just to get the Creepy Crate pet that I once blogged about.

Well, when the time came and we agreed to get him his own account… because that account had already been created, we could not convert that to a paid account ON THE RECRUIT A FRIEND PLAN.

As I blogged about at the time, to have a RAF account, it has to be created from the RAF invite. You can’t convert an existing account, even if that existing one was a free one or gifted one in the first place.

Also, the RAF plan does not have the option of being Recruit a Family. :)

Wouldn’t it be nice if there was an option for the invitee to accept more than one RAF at a time, so two sponsors (or more) could all be linked together, where all three (or more) would share the rewards?

But then I suppose that would unleash the floodgates, and you’d find people with multiple kids all wanting to do RAF together, or groups of teens all wanting to start accounts linked as a group of friends so you’d have 10 brand new accounts all wanting to share instant teleporting and enhanced leveling and all that stuff, and oh my God the horror, so much money and so many new players all with those rewards the cranky old people in the Forums didn’t get to have back when God was a corporal and Naxx was in Vanilla, it would be terrible!

I can see why Blizzard would never do such a thing. The horror! /lol

Anyway, we got Alex his own account through Recruit a Friend with me. that is where his Druid and, eventually, our Death Knights came from.

Then I activated his original account, for the grand sum of $5 thanks to a previous bundle sale, and paid to transfer his Shaman who had the Creepy Crate, so Alex had everything on one bloody account. :)

Such a convoluted process. Silly, really. When I log into his Battlenet account, he’s actually got three sub accounts, WoW1, WoW2 and WoW3. WoW1 was the free starter, WoW2 was the one you could gift to a friend to give them a full access account as a trial, and then WoW3 was the RAF account that is now the full paid account.

I called and asked once if I could have WoW1 and WoW2 deleted, since, you know, why? And I was told no, suck it up and deal with it.

I thought long and hard before I paid to move his Shaman just because, you know, pet. What it came down to was, I had the money in my savings account at the time, and I have paid for pets (and a mount) from the Blizzard store for myself before. When it came time to consider this move, I had to balance how hard Alex worked to get the Creepy Crate and how much he loved it against what I would be willing to pay for a pet. Put that way, it felt worth it to me that he have the critter-munching monstrosity.

Even though, now that I sit me down and describe it, the idea of spending $25 so he could have a Creepy Crate pet seems hard to explain. Ah well, one more thing Cassie gets to use when she takes me to court to show my ‘fragile’ state of mind.

Fast forward to this week. Alex just happens to have, through all this complicated concatenation of account shenanigans, a formerly paid account that has been sitting inactive for many months.

Topic shift…

Since Mists of Pandaria came out, Alex has done very little in the game. He has done pet battles, and gotten a team up pretty good, but he barely entered Jade Forest on his Death Knight before it just got too complicated and frenetic with all the crowds and kill stealing and crap.

Basically, he doesn’t want to spend any more time in Mists on his DK until we can do it together.

He did get far enough into it to do the Alliance chain where he played as a little dwarf who encounters a few raccoons along the way. That part he liked. I guided him to Halfhill where he learned to farm, and enjoyed it. He even was the first of our family to find an Ominous Seed and grow his own Terrible Turnip pet.

He started a Panda Hunter, and leveled through the entire Turtle Island chain, ending up as a level 12 Panda outside the gates of Stormwind, and eventually laying a good one on King Wrynn.

He’s done a good bit of stuff, but nothing has had any staying power. It’s all cute little vignettes instead of a single engrossing novel that would draw him in.

He’s spent more time doing other things, and more power to him. That’s the way I think it should be, with him trying all sorts of different stuff in real life instead of getting hooked into only one thing. I want for him to have a broad range of interests and the chance to do it all. Let him wait until he gets old before he settles down into one hobby.

At the same time… he kept coming back to the game to log into his Warlock, the alt that we had made and were playing together. He started playing it by himself, and having fun. He was full of excitement at how cool the stuff they could get seemed to be.

He really got fixated on wanting to get to the level as Demonology where he could ‘upgrade’ his pets to their super-powered versions.

I had originally thought you got access to that at around level 40 or 50, and he was putting forth a pretty good run at reaching that goal.

I happened to look at the Talent list one day, and realized… oh shit, you don’t get that Talent until level 75. Oh, damn. He was really looking forward to that…

Oh wait.

Two nights ago, I asked him out of the blue, just to test the waters, “If you could have any character race or class instantly at level 80, what would it be?”

As a rhetorical question, not linked to anything at all.

“WARLOCK!!!! A worgen warlock!”

“Really? You wouldn’t want, maybe, a warrior or your druid or a mage?”

“No, I would want a warlock!”

“Well, maybe we could do something that would let you try one out for a week.”

That was a very exciting idea.

So, I sent over a Scroll of Resurrection to his old account, and told him that he could create any character he wanted, any at all, and once he was really happy with it, we could make it level 80 instantly to enjoy for one week and see what it was like.

He spent at least an hour fussing with the character creator. :) I love seeing it when he takes the creative process seriously. He gets into imagining things, it’s so cool. 

I thought he was going to go Gnome for a minute there. He also played around with the Blood Elves, which surprised me. He really thought about it.

Then he went back to big and looming with a worgen, and was all set.

Last night I made sure he was positive that was the character he wanted boosted, and then thump, up to 80 it went.

Holy crap, people.

So yes, the characters do get 75 gold and four 20 slot Frostweave bags just given to them. I’ve got characters I’ve played to level 85 that don’t have bags that good. And the gear set he got as a level 80 warlock looks really cool, too.

Here was my first major shock; when he went to look at his mounts, he had access to ALL of the mounts from his OTHER, ACTIVE ACCOUNT.

Yes, his mounts were not just shared on all the characters of one sub-account but on all the other accounts attached to that one Blizzard Battlenet account!

So he’s on an account with only two level 8s and a level 80 warlock, with the mounts from Glory of the Raider and stuff all available to him. WTF?

Then the second surprise was all the abilities warlocks get.

I’ll be the first to admit, I don’t know anything about warlocks. I really don’t. It is the only class I have never, ever leveled past 30. And I don’t PvP, so I’ve never had to learn about them to defend against them. I don’t plot their destruction, I leave that to Gnomer.

Almost nobody I know or play witha ctively even has a warlock, so I don’t get to see them in action, either. It’s wierd.

But I thought I knew the basics… at least, up to the last great patch 5.0 revamp.

Just, wow!

He loves the Dreadsteed, but even more than that, he’s got the ability to drop a circle on the ground and then run around, instantly teleporting back to it! Yeah, that was a hit.

And the upgraded demons? I thought he was going to spend an hour just summoning each of them and gushing over what they look like and what their names are. He is very impressed that his blueberry is now a Void LORD. it’s not just a Voidwalker, it is a LORD of Voidwalkers.

Basically, he is now able, for free, to try out the abilities at level 80 and see if it’s really something that he loves.

So far, I’d say it’s a big hit.

A few things he said last night included wondering why he bothered making a hunter when the warlock pets are so much cooler. And teleporting!

When I showed him the two special guardian pets he can summon once every ten minutes, he was just amazed. His first question? ‘When I get to max level, will I be able to have one of my pets look like the huge fire rock guy permanently?”

I have no idea. I doubt it, but really, who can say? Someone who knows more about warlocks than I do, clearly. I was shocked that Death Knights could Glyph a new appearance to their Ghouls to make them Ghasts, and Army of the Dead to be different undead critters, so hell, maybe?

Here is the funniest thing. I didn’t even show him that he can now bind other NPC demons to his will. But I’m going to take him out to Nagrand and show him the demon infested area out to the west of the zone, and let him go nuts.

Warlocks have so many fun toys to play with, it’s scary.

His biggest thrill? He can cast a spell and breathe underwater. FOREVER.

So funny. Who would have imagined he’d have found a home in the eeeeevil side of town?

Scroll of Resurrection. It’s not just for friends anymore.

My biggest surprise? I mean, just really surprised?

I expected his Warlock on the other sub-account to be a ‘play it now and then forget about it’ thing, because the Scroll only levels your account to Cataclysm levels. I assumed, before you could pay to transfer a character from one account to another, both would have to be at the same expansion level, and no I was not going to buy a fourth MoP expansion box just so i could then pay to move a warlock. Not just no but KISS MY BUTT.

The surprise is, no you do NOT have to have both accounts at the same level. I have checked very thoroughly, and yes, I could pay to transfer the warlock from a Cataclysm account directly to one that already has MoP on it without upgrading first. 

Think about that. You could buy the Warcraft Battle Chest for $5, activate it and then let it go dormant and inactive for over a month, and then for $25 boom, you’ve got a brand new level 80 on your main account.

I know people who pay more than that on appearance changes. IN A MONTH. Baddmojo, I’m looking at you.

You just never know.

Kids these days, and their evil warlocky ways.

Next thing you know, he’s going to be showing me all the demons in the entire world that he could control, and drag them around behind him.

He’s already a menace in ICC, every time we go to fight something, it’s “Don’t fight the frost whelp, it’s my pet!”.

“But Alex, if you keep it as your pet, the wave never ends and we can’t activate the Sindragosa fight.”

“Oh, all right. I wish I could have one of those Frost Whelps as a real pet though, they’re cute!”

Thank GOD he didn’t hear the person in our ICC raid vent who announced that you could, if you’d bought Wrath as the Collectors Edition. I have enough of a pain explaining why no, he can’t have his own pet Deathy.

At some point, enough is enough. And I draw the line at having ancient uber-powerful world-shattering metal-jawed or undead frosty dragon whelps as pets.

He can stick to his pet-eating box, and just deal with the occasional cloud of green fart smoke.

Brrrr. Scary.

The Cub Report – Controlling ALL The Things!

So, you probably think all we’ve been doing this week is running the Fall of Theramore.

Honestly, the scenario was exactly what a scenario should be – a cute little thing to do together for fun, no big deal. Oh look, a cool Tabard and some, er, fireworks.

Or, as Alex said at the time, “Did they just give us fireworks to celebrate Theramore getting destroyed?”

Well put.

No, my friends, oh no. Fall of Theramore was a good topic of conversation for a day, but that is small potatoes, of no consequence before the fires of a boy’s imagination.

Since the 5.0.4 patch, and the Talent/Skill revamp, Alex has been going through his spellbook, looking at his skills and reading descriptions.

It was while doing this that he came across a cool looking icon with a skull on a black background.

The name of the ability was “Control Undead”.

All of you Death Knight players out there, you know what happened next.

He didn’t say anything to me, he just took it upon himself to fly up to Icecrown and experiment.

I was doing a little Archaeology, and happened to glance over at his screen.

“Son”, I asked, “Where did you get an undead puppy for a pet?”

Well, it turns out he’s been controlling, well, everything. Everywhere.

So, I asked him to take me on a guided tour of all of his favorite undead to tame and control. Just, go ahead and show me your favorites.

What follows is your Death Knight Control Undead Travelogue.


It Begins.

The Pustulant Horror

Alex started off by bringing me to one of the closest undead to Dalaran to tame, the Pustulant Horror. It was here he instructed me on the basics. They replaced your existing pet while you controlled them, they would stay controlled for up to five minutes, if you controlled something else they would either vanish or attack you, and if you tried to take the really big ones off walls carelessly they would bug out in midair instead of following you anywhere… like Dalaran.

Yes, he tried.

Malefic Necromancers – Gotta Catch ‘Em All

It turns out, there are three colors of malefic Necromancers wandering the Icecrown valleys. Yes, Alex was very careful to capture one of every color for me to take a picture of. Yes, this is important.

Risen Alliance Soldier

The Risen Alliance Soldier that Alex controlled is clearly a Paladin of some sort… awesome armor, very badass. As you can see, this captured a tense moment, as the Risen Alliance Soldier was about to be ganked from behind. Oh no! What will happen! Will our hero survive? Alex couldn’t just control one of the normal ones, oh no, he went for the gold.

Hulking Abomination

The Hulking Abomination was interesting. Alex pointed out that, if you wait, he grabs his stomach in both hands and kinda jiggles it. I couldn’t help noticing that the third arm, the one sticking out of his shoulder and holding the hook? Yeah, he periodically uses it to scratch his own back, right in that hard to reach spot.


Frostbrood Skytalon

Up to that point, all was about what you’d expect. Ho hum, Death knight sees random undead, controls undead. Then, he flew through a pack of Skytalons intentionally, brought one down and tamed it. It followed him around as he flew on his ICC 25 mount, and damn if that didn’t look cool.

Fallen Spiderlord

Bugs… why’d it have to be bugs. That there is the worlds largest undead cockroach… and my son had to tame it and make it his pet. I’m so proud.

Frostbrood Matriarch

Then he went for a target, and all I could say was, no freaking way.

Yes, yes he did. He tamed a Frostbrood Matriarch to be his ‘pet’. That shot doesn’t really do justice to the concept…

So by way of comparison, I had Alex get on his mount, and circled him. He’s that teeny circled Death Knight down there, completely hidden in that giant honking shadow. That thing is HUGE.

Bone Sentinel

Oh, I’m sorry, did I say the Frostbrood was huge? Sorry, my mistake. Thanks for clearing that up by showing me what REALLY huge is like.

That’s right. If you look closely, Alex comes up to the top of his BOOT. Just, WTF, and Blizzard, please make this a permanent pet when Control Undead is Glyphed. Or make Unholy be a “tame undead and have a stable like Hunters” spec. Unholy argleblargle. They’ll never do it, how could you fit that thing through a dungeon door? But god, couldn’t you just SEE Arathi Basin with a few of those giving away your position?

Coprous The Defiled – The Saga

This will be a series of shots. See, Alex wanted to show me this cool trick Coprous does.

He drops his left arm… and, well, you can’t be having with that, now can you?

A Boy and His Dog

As he ran up to this one to tame him, Alex called out, “Here boy! Come on! Who’s a good boy, huh? Who’s a good boy! Oh yes you are!” We may just need to get him a puppy. Our three cats might not like that, though.

The best moment, he really did save for last.

Acherus Deathcharger

I almost missed it at first.

He ran up to one of the mounted Death Knights outside the gate, and he controlled… the mount.


If you look up there, you can see the pitiful broken body of the Death Knight there in the corner. All the dude was doing was cruising along, thinking wormy thoughts, next thing he knows his OWN MOUNT throws him and goes running off to a new master.

That’s cold, man. That’s really cold.

What is it about Arthas, that everything he raises has to be… bigger?

He seems to have a real thing about size. I don’t like to mention it, but he also seemed to be really obsessed with the… performance of his minions.

Let’s choose not to speculate on why he may have turned to evil after his tryst with Jaina, shall we?

I hope you have enjoyed this completely out of character visual journey through the adventures of a Cub and his Control Undead games. You can be sure that, from now on, every undead we see will be a lab rat for his experiments.

Look at it this way. We finally found something to experiment on that people care less about than lawyers. Do you see PETA coming up to Icecrown to complain?

I think not!

The Cub Report – Dragons Shape Our Tactics

For a while now, we’ve been going into Onyxia’s lair, Cassie and Alex and I.

To me, the Onyxia encounter is one of the single finest encounters in the game.

It has a little bit of everything.

To begin with, the aesthetics are awesome.

A single, remote cavern in the backwoods swampy marshland. A foreboding entrance, in the shape of a dragon’s skull, the passageway barred by massive teeth that move aside with a grinding snarl.

A dimly lit tunnel, dark and still, with the smoking remains of prior victims still frozen in postures of terror.

A massive cavern, with an enormous black dragon, sleeping the hours away. Sleep helps in digesting all those crunchy plate bits, didn’t you know?

The mechanics are awesome, too.

Once you begin the fight, you’re facing a pissed off, fearing, flame breathing dragon that knocks you into the wall, smacks people around with it’s tail, takes to the sky to rain destruction down upon you, summons waves of whelplings to swarm you and big bruising dragonkin to stomp you, and it even shatters the very ground beneath your feet with it’s roar, causing spurts of lava to jet up to fry you.

It’s awesome!

One of the things that could sometimes cheapen early pen and paper D&D games was the prevalence of dragons. Dragons here, dragons there, ho hum another dragon in a cave, let’s kill it and see what the loot table gives us this time.

To me, and I know some of my friends who gamed shared this gripe, the big thing about a dragon was supposed to be that they were the very top of the food chain. They were Smaug, old and wise and powerful, nearly invulnerable, and cruel if they thought they were disrespected.

If you wanted something from a dragon, you tried to finesse it. You snuck around, you riddled, you lured it away or distracted it with tricks. If you intended to fight a dragon in a stand up battle, you brought out the army, the siege equipment, and packed a lunch.

You also brought a lot of burn ointment.

If the dragon came on you unexpected? Well, better hope you’ve got a good friend with a strong bow and a lucky arrow, and a keen-eyed bird that likes to spy weaknesses and gossips, all I’m saying.

In pen and paper RPGs, we hated seeing dragons treated as just another loot piñata.

So, Onyxia. This was a dragon you treated with respect.

You wanted to bring this proud lady down, you brought 40 people, a plan, and prepared for a long night.

She would throw your tank up against the wall like a rag doll, if you annoyed her too much she wold flat out ignore the tank and EAT you, her tail would swipe you across the room, she would scream sending you running around in a blind panic that, if it drove you into the whelp caves, saw you then running around being eaten alive, pecked to death by little winged lizards, and too bad for you, boyo.

And then, omigod and then, she showed us that she had wings, and lived in a big cavern for a reason. She would say, to hell with this noise, and take to the air. Death from above, my friends. Ahhhh. Deep breath, where is she looking, because I do NOT want to be standing anywhere near.

I do not need to outrun Onyxia, I just to outrun YOU, dragonbait.

The first time taking down Onyxia, I don’t care what level you are, that is a satisfying battle. You fought a dragon, and that dragon did not just roll over and show you the bare spot missing an armored scale, with a little arrow and a sign saying “Insert sword here. If you’re a Paladin, the pointy end goes first.”

The first time we took Alex in there, this was my opportunity to give Alex Dragonfighting 101.

This was the bestest thing ever. This is why a geek spawns.

I told him, “Okay, now you don’t want to get in front of a dragon, because they will breath fire and destroy you. And you don’t want to stand behind a dragon, because they will whomp you with the tail, a tailwhomp if you will, and knock you across the room.”

He looks at me, eyes wide. “Really?!?”

“Oh, yes. You don’t mess around with a dragon.”

“Where is it safe to stand then?”

“You have to get in the middle, get in right at the ribs, far enough back to be safe from the flaming breath and the jaws that shred, claws that catch, and far enough forward to be safe from the tail.”

“But what if I have to move?”

“Well then, you’ll likely die, son. I mean, it is a dragon.”



The best part of this training for Alex, aside from how awesome fighting a dragon is, was that it taught him that the dragon was to be treated not as a big black blob, but as a living creature with multiple avenues of attack.

This was a dragon. It was a relevation to him that the back of the dragon, where there was a big spiky tail, could be dangerous too.

This, to him, was only right and proper, but too often in video games in general, the enemy you fight does not seem to be able to do all that his graphics promise. They react like… big blobs of color with a dangerous side, a safe side, and no brains.

He loves that for a dragon, you fight it as if you were fighting, well, a dragon. You don’t get behind it, good lord, that tail is the size of a tree. Can you imagine what it’d be like getting hit by that? And the front, whoo, flaming breath, claws, halitosis, big shiny teeth, you get the picture.

To have to be careful where you stand when attacking, in case you get stepped on… well, that makes it all feel more real.

He wants things to be able to be reasoned out. He wants to be able to look at something, and to infer from visual cues what it may be able to do, and how to try and attack it safely and successfully.

I have to say, Onyxia was designed magnificently with that in mind.

I don’t want to be overly critical, but I do find myself wishing we had more intuitive boss encounters like that, and fewer of the “Deadly Boss Mods says there will be tentacles so run in. Yes, the boss is standing there, but it’s okay, he can’t step on you. It’s just graphics looking like a giant. Stand wherever you like.”

You know… if you only have Warlocks dot her up and the rest of the casters use white damage wands, when she Deep Breaths it will be 33.3% more likely to be on the left side of the cave. Yup, true story.