Archive for the “Cub Report” Category

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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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Over the last few weeks, I’ve mentioned that the tables have been turned.

Cassie and I have alts we are playing through Outlands and now Northrend, and Alex has been providing runs through instances for us both.

To Alex, this means that even though he is an Unholy Death Knight with a permanent pet, he is “the tank” for our groups.

He takes this very seriously.

I don’t have a lot of experience with other children, but I really try and be open to his mood and his interests, and help him pursue what he wants to do and encourage him rather than redirect him to what I *think* he should be doing.

I’m aware that oftentimes what he wants to do is whatever activity Cassie and I are doing. But not always, he has plenty of other toys and shows and outdoor activities with us as well, it’s not all WoW, all the time.

One thing that really is universal though, is he wants to be the leader. He wants to be the one actively charging ahead, taking the initiative, guiding us, showing US how to do things, not the other way around.

So, he loves being able to pop dragon form and have me ride his back all the way to somewhere… seeing what he wants to show me along the way.

In point of fact, he found in his explorations the mountain of Uldis in the Storm Peaks, where there is a side ari lock that leads into the massive mecahnized guts of the mountain.

He loves that place, and his delight in taking me there and flying inside, showing me around was extreme. A hollow, mechanized mountain full of gears! And bad guys! Look, dad!

He likes to be the one to invite others to group, and to set dungeon difficulties, loot rules, etc.

He wants to be the one to tank us through runs.

I like him to feel that level of control, and see where it takes him.

For all of Outlands and most of Northrend, Alex really enjoyed running us both through instances. He wasn’t really tanking, as such, because the mechanics of the instances all left the fights at ‘overpower = instagib’.

He led us, and he made it happen, but he wasn’t really a tank with the pressures a tank feels.

I’ve seen many wonderful things that I love from him during this time.

He is very observant. I know the attitude many adults have is to discount the awareness of children, as though youth automatically means someone who is shallow or oblivious.

Alex, and I’m sure he is far from the only youngster who is this sharp, notices things and pays attention to detail. He has a very sharp eye.

One of the first signs is how he sees the armor other NPCs and players wear, and recognizes either where he has seen it before, or what it is. He makes connections from the armor one of the players in our Sunday ICC raid wears to the armor on an NPC to that same armor on a Mega Bloks character (the Worgen DK) all matching.

He asks me, in the middle of a fight, if I noticed how such-and-so’s armor is so cool, look at those shoulders, those are the same ones that NPC X was wearing in Underbog.

Me, I’m sitting in lala land, “Armor? Who? What? Oh, um, yeah.” Then I check on Wowhead later, no shit, he was right.

Similarly, in Violet Hold, he has already caught on that each portal spawn location will only ever be a group or a single summoner,  it’s not random. If you have a portal in front of the puppy dog, it will ALWAYS be a single summoner. So we run to a portal and he’s saying along the way to me, “This will be a group, Death and Decay!”

He notices the small things… just because he doesn’t TALK about what he sees all the time, or tells you he’s making a connection doesn’t mean he hasn’t.

Well, as I said he was ‘tanking’ us through Northrend instances, doing his best, and we came to Halls of Stone.

Halls of Stone we’ve done a few times as a group of three level 85s, in order to work on the Glory of the Hero achievement. He understands the fight and the escort of Brann Bronzebeard, but up to this point he had me Bearcatting, and I’m here to tell you there is in my opinion no more powerful low level content tank than a Bearcat. Swipe alone in cat form with fast run speed makes for ridiculous on-the-fly aggro retension over low level characters.

So I had been Bearcatting it up in Halls of Stone heroic, and Alex had seen the waves but hadn’t really dealt with it as a tank before.

Suddenly doing the Brann Bronzebeard escort quest, fighting off waves of incoming adds all trying to run past to get to Brann, with two level 76 squishies while in Unholy was not good. Death and Decay has a very long cooldown, and stuff in single target mode dies too fast to spread stuff around.

Cassie and I both died during the run.

It was inevitable, even if Alex was an uber-tank it wouldn’t have mattered, we were both getting shot by beams of light the entire time, and none of us are healers. I didn’t even have pots or bandages, I haven’t needed them before. Cassie bandaged me twice before we went down, but down we went, leaving Alex to finish it up on his own and then Mass Ress us.

Today, as we were running around doing chores, I saw that he was kind of down about something.

I asked him what was wrong, and he told me he was really sorry he let us both die while running Halls of Stone. He was really sad that we’d both died while he was the tank.

He followed that up by asking me if we could work on getting him tanking gear, so he would have gear designed to be a better tank.

He was really sad that he, as the tank, had tried really, really hard, but couldn’t keep some of the people in his group from dying.

Does that sound familiar to any of you fine tanks out there?

I explained to him that to me, that meant he had what it takes to be one the best tanks there is.

To me, the heart of a tank isn’t someone that wants to be the boss or run fast leading the way.

To me, the true heart of the tank is someone that cares that everyone in the group succeeds, and lives to make it to the end of the run.

A true tank takes it hard if someone else dies along the way, even if there was nothing the tank could do about it.

All the best tanks I’ve ever known have been more concerned about keeping the party together and making it through as a team.

The saying goes, if the tank dies, blame the healer, if the healer dies, blame the tank.

The good tank, in his heart, blames himself if ANYONE dies, including him or her self. Even when this is silly.

Maybe it’s a feeling of personal responsibility, and maybe it’s something else.

I get to talk to quite a few people who tank, and a common feeling is that even when someone dies by standing in the fire, the frustration of the tank comes at least in part from wishing there was some way the tank could Leap of Faith or Thunderclap the bastard out of that fire and save them despite themselves.

I spent quite some time explaining to Alex how proud of him I was. You can pretend a lot, but it’s hard to pretend you care. You either do or you don’t.

How to tank can be learned, gear can be grabbed, specs can be changed, skills can be moved.

You can’t just spec into ‘give a shit about others’.

On a side note, explaining how it wasn’t the gear, it was the spec that helps provide threat causing and damage reducing powers was interesting. Now I think he understands that he can buy dual spec, build a blood talent spec, and be able to use AoE abilities and have more damage reduction to make tanking easier, regardless of what gear he’s wearing.

Now that I’ve had that conversation, I wonder if in the future he’ll go the other way, and assume that it doesn’t matter what gear he’s wearing to tank as long as he’s in the right spec?

Ah, every new day brings new adventures.

Like right now. He’s decided he’d like to get the Cataclysmic Gladiator’s Desecration set, so I explained about Conquest points. Now he is, right this second, in a random battleground. Isle of Conquest.

This probably won’t end well.

Update: He won! Miracles do happen.

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