wow-challengerphoenixes

Short notice, but here goes.

I have a group that is all set and ready to go for taking on Challenge modes.

The plan is simple; help Suicune’s fiance achieve silver in the Challenge modes, get the Phoenix mount.

We have a tank and three DPS… what we don’t have is a healer, a skilled healer that plays Alliance US that would like to join us and complete these modes with us.

And the biggest catch? We want to start Monday night at 8:30 central time. We’d like to blow through these THIS WEEK. Or make a damn good effort.

Are you willing to take the challenge with us?

Your gear is automatically scaled down to 463, but there are things you can do to maximize what you’ve got. The key is the skills, not the OP gear. Which means I’m in trouble, but I’ll be studying, you can bet your butt.

We’re not worrying so much about going for the Gold, it’s all about those sexy phoenix mounts. We’re deadly serious about those phoenix mounts.

If you’re up for this, please send me an email at thebigbearbutt@gmail.com, let me know.

I’m not kidding when I say we want to be hitting it today, Monday, at 8:30 central time PM if at all possible.

Here is a link to the Challenge mode guide on WoWhead.

Here is a link to the WoW Challenger  website that Suicune says is a badass resource for best gems and itemized pieces, etc.

I understand that Resto Druids and Discipline Priests are kicking the most ass as healers in there, but obviously I’m open to anyone that is up to really go for it.

I hope I hear from you!

Update- it looks like we have a healer, the talented Joonces will be bringing some Resto Shaman goodness on board.

If you have contacted me since I heard from Joonces, I will certainly keep your name close in case something comes up.

I guess now it’s time for hilarity and hi jinks?

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Punchingismagic

As we near the home stretch, I keep eyeballing the two last characters that I haven’t leveled to 90; my Mage and my Rogue.

The Mage would seem to be the obvious choice to try, since I’ve got an Heirloom Staff from Garrosh I could pass off at 90.

Somehow, I can’t bring myself to do it. It feels so damned painful to even contemplate leveling a squishy ranged caster with long cast-time attacks.

There was something that tipped the scales over to the Rogue, and it wasn’t just that she looks fabulous in Midnight Blue.

Kittiana is my Leatherworker, and in Warlords of Draenor, it has been revealed that a max level Leatherworker will be able to craft a Riding Harness, to obtain a Dustmane Direwolf mount.

If I’m willing to kill dinosaurs for 9999 bones to get a mount that I personally think is butt ugly and will never, ever use, what do you think I’d be willing to do to get a gorgeous Dustmane Wolf with the new WoD wolf model?

Yeah, I’d even be willing to play a Rogue.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve always loved the Rogue class… as a concept. I just always hate them at the start of every expansion, when stats and gear get reset and all their haste is sucked away so they SUCK to play with the most horrendous sit and wait bullshit for Energy Regen.

Nothing says fast killing machine like having to wait for 5 seconds or more before I have enough Energy for every attack, and of course it’s lovely having to sit and eat food to heal after every fight.

I still say speed of attack recovery should be baseline. Haste shouldn’t be a stat, so a character plays slow as shit like you’re in molasses at the beginning of an expansion, and then plays FUN once you get to the very end. Just, funcrushing. Who thinks that way? Who thinks that the way to run a game is to have your character be weak AND slow? Weak is fine at low levels, just not slow.

“Boy, I was slicker than greased owl shit when I killed Deathwing last month. Now I get my ass handed to me fighting a crocodile in a jungle. WTF just happened?”

Anyway. Didn’t mean to break into a rant, just sometimes design decisions make me wonder if the developers actually LIKE players and want us to have fun. I’ve always assumed players having fun was, like, a design goal or something. Maybe I’ve been wrong all these years, who knows.

As you can imagine, if I know going in I’m not going to enjoy the leveling experience, I’m damn well gonna find SOMETHING to have fun with.

I WAS planning on taking my Guild Leaders’ advice (Baddmojo, best damn Rogue i’ve ever seen) and level Assassination. Welp, that went out the window when I got a pair of iLevel 450 Fist of Fate fist weapons, and there isn’t a dagger to be seen.

If the spec is weapon dependant, and I ain’t got the weapons, then I guess I ain’t playin’ it.

Leveling Combat is apparently my destiny. Because Mutilate? Hell no.

Fist of Fate. Nice power for a level 85 starter weapon, isn’t it? But kinda drab. Needs a transmog.

I have a nice Axe, but hell no! I didn’t realize fist weapons were still locked to transmog with fists only.

Hmmm…

What are my options.

Apparently, my Rogue has only one fist weapon in all of her bags… Theldurin’s Fist. Alovely, massive spiked boxing glove you can get as a reward from the ‘Punch Deathwing in the face’ quest in the Badlands.

I kept it because it looked awesome, but sadly you can’t use it to transmog.

At least… it USED to be you couldn’t!

They didn’t… holy shit, they did! They changed it!

Awwwyeah….

A pair of massive spiked boxing gloves, can it get any better than that?

I dare say it can.

It should go without saying that the complete Dungeon Set 2 that Cassie and I worked together to get, me on my Rogue and she on her Paladin, are what I will wear for gear.

But what if we enchant those boxing gloves with the rainbow-hued Windsong?

Oh. Oh my.

Oh, that’s freaking hilarious!

I swing into action, and I shit you not, it looks like I’m punching my enemies to death with rainbow sparkles!

That’s it, time to go full Brony on their asses. “Friendship is magic, bitch! Be my friend or I’ll beat you to death!”

Suddenly, playing my Rogue looks a whole lot more inviting.

If you’ll excuse me, I have to go make friends with the natives of the Jade Forest. Somehow I just KNOW they’re gonna love me.

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Slim Pickens Eat Your Heart Out

Slim Pickens Eat Your Heart Out

For many years, I’ve played World of Warcraft more as a dedicated but solo gamer than as a raider, hardcore or otherwise.

I say dedicated because, to paraphrase an old Marine Corps line, I’ve got more time in the shitter in Grizzly Hills than you’ve got in the game, sunshine. For a given value of ‘you’, of course.

I say solo gamer because while I’ve been in great guilds and known a lot of cool people, I log in, do my own thing and log the hell out on my own time. Coordinating things with other people on the internet is something that mostly happens to other people.

Which is funny, since these days that’s my day job. Scheduling other people tasks to do when I want them done.

Ah, but that’s a job, and the game is (in my headspace) meant to be fun, so maybe that’s why I hate scheduling shit with other people in game. It’s supposed to be fun, not a job where people have to show up and clock in and put in their time. It’s a game, fun, crazy, we’re being wacky over here, spontaneity and shit, y’know?

For the longest time, I didn’t raid. When I did raid, I did what raiding can be done by a bunch of goofballs who put friendship and playing with family and spending time arranging everything to suit everyone’s schedule over downing bosses.

Newsflash; it’s a lot of fun if you don’t care if you ever kill any internet bosses, but if you’d like to see some content or get some loot, it’s not really a blueprint to craft an engine of boss killing destruction.

It’s the Hello Kitty of raiding, and that can be all right. But sometimes, I found myself hungering for more.

But I refuse to compromise my principles. The main principle being life is too short to waste it spending time gritting my teeth and pretending I can’t hear the AMAZING ASSHOLE that is talking in vent right now, just so I can kill shit and get shinies.

Way too short. WAY too short.

Remember back when Blizzard was going to make it mandatory that real names were revealed when you posted on their official forums?

I know why they relented. It’s easy and obvious.

Someone at Blizzard finally ran a progression raid and realized if that forum name shit went live, people in raid teams all over the world would be taking planes, trains and automobiles to hunt down that ONE ASSHOLE in their raid team and kill him. Or her, or her, let’s not discriminate.

Principles. It ain’t much, but it’s there.

Years I’ve spent playing this game. Years playing everything I could do, but stopping short of progression raiding.

Whatever the current raid tier would be, I’d usually be found about two steps back. Or more, lol, Outlands and endless Karazhan runs I’m looking at you.

This last year, all that changed. I’m in a guild of generally awesome people, and eventually I was invited to be a warm body to fill a gap made when someone with actual SKILL left the progression raid team, and somehow I have clawed my way into sticking around.

They haven’t booted my ass yet, but there is always tomorrow.

The way things are looking, I might even still be raiding with Team Wanda when level 100 and 20 person Mythic raids roll around. That’s my plan, anyway. they may have other ideas.

It helps that the raid schedule is one that I can commit to and maintain happy family wavelengths.

So. All those years as a filthy casual (as some seem determined to keep calling it), and now over a year of killing shit on the front lines. Well, the reasonably close to current lines.

It’s a total change in perspective.

Here’s the deal.

I’m not in a raid team that is, like, farming Heroic Garrosh kills or some crazy shit.

At the start of summer, the 10 man team added a flood of new people, converted to raiding 25’s in anticipation of Mythic in Warlords, and have gone from a complete reboot to farming Heroic Siege through General Nazgrim, and knocking hard on Malkorok’s noggin. That ain’t too bad when you consider that aside from the core, the team formed over summer, a normally dead time for playing.

Good people. Still that one on vent, but you know, it’s not that bad. I just remind myself that even in the Marines we had to deal with that 10%, and in a 25 person team, only one on vent means we’re ahead of the curve on asshats. Hur hur Ahead of the Curve. Yeah, sorry.

My item level on my raiding main Ursinerate is 580, compared to my non-raiding characters like Beartrap, who even with lots of Flex items and drops from Ordos is only at 557.

In the old days, Beartrap would be my fantastically geared main, my ‘woah this is Keanu god-level Matrix type shit’ main, and it would have required tons of time investment from raiding a lot of Flex with friends, crafting, reputation grinds, etc.

The other thing to consider…. normally, by the time I would get a character like Beartrap to where he is now, it would be the very tail end of that Tier of gear. I would have gone through most of the expansion with the early range of gear, patiently working up to a stronger set, so that just when I finally qualified for an entry level position on a raid team, they were all bored with clearing all heroic modes and quit until the next expansion.

Not so as a progression raider. There is no delay, no year-long ramp up.

As soon as new raid content comes out, you tear into it. You start learning it, and wiping on it, but you get victories and loot.

As a raider, you start getting the very strong gear right at the beginning when the new content is fresh and tasty, and there are fewer folks competing for the rare spawns.

What I want to tell you is, I had no idea for all of those years what a huge impact that has on quality of life in the game. Just, no idea.

Yeah, I know you can imagine how ‘ooh neat’ it must be, so leet, very cool, who gives a shit. But I’m trying to say, don’t write off raiding if you’ve never really tried it, ESPECIALLY now that the normal raids will all be open to cross-server raiding right out of the gate.

I want you to open your mind to the possibilities if you’ve never done this before. OpenRaid is an excellent community of people that have cross-server raids of all kinds, from achievement runs in old content all the way up to regular raiding of current stuffs. If you can’t find a pre-forming raid with the perfect times for you, try starting your own, and even say up front what days/times you’ll go and if you’re looking for a raid leader if that role scares you. Give it a shot.

It’s been over a year of my having one character that was a progression raider and the rest being my alts.

Such a difference

Challenges are good in the game, but having strong gear means that when you’re playing on your own, you can go do something you could never do before without finding a bunch of friends that have the time AND the interest in joining you right then.

This last year, as new content came out I was able to charge right in on one character, while the others had to do the usual build up.

Here are some of the differences that really stood out.

LFuckingR

To try and get desired loot upgrades, I would have to queue for LFR on my alts. Before the multi-queue situation, it would take at least 30 minutes of waiting before I could get into just one raid, and then you never knew if it would be at the beginning or in the middle, and remember what I said about life being too short for assholes? Omigod.

LFR is a social experiment designed to prove that there is no bottom to the lowest common denominator, that negative numbers truly exist. I’ve seen good people log off the game, hands shaking they were so upset at what went down in an LFR. Good people who swore, “Fuck this game, and fuck those people.”

Nobody needs that in their life.

In a scheduled raid with my normal raid team, there is none of that. NONE of that. Plus, there is no pressure to raid at any other time. No thoughts of, “I really should be queued for LFR right now, I need to try for that weapon to drop, my 502 is so crappy. I should be trying to get more Legendary item drops, ugh, I need all the wings.”

Scheduled raiding with friends not only eliminates that asshole factor, but it frees up ALL of your other time to do whatever the hell you want except raid. Raiding and possible upgrades and team fun is already covered, so go farm dinosaurs for 3 hours guilt free!

Progress Matching Pace

When you’re raiding and getting current gear drops, your power level stays strong in comparison to your new foes.

New content comes out with parts designed to still be challenging six months after it is released. It’s expected to take most players several months, maybe longer before their gear becomes powerful enough to trivialize all the new stuff.

When you’re raiding and getting those drops, the grinding stuff is already trivial. Blow through it in a few minutes, get it out of the way, move on to the fun stuff. It’s the hard stuff that is now a legitimate challenge and fun to do. You get to leap right into it.

A few examples? Soloing Primal Devilsaurs and all the other dinos on the Isle of Giants, hunting down and soloing the Zandalari Warbringers, going back and soloing achievements or farming transmog gear in old raids that are still sort of not that old, taking out rares on the Timeless Isle like Garnia for the Ruby Droplet, all without having to wait for someone else to join you just to survive. Soloing old raids like Eye of Eternity and Tempest Keep each week for mount drops.

Power Overwhelming

It also means that when you only have a few friends to run with, there are more possibilities in what you can do together.

It was just a week ago that Cassie, the Cub and myself went and completed Blackrock Descent, from start to finish, just the three of us. There was I think once or twice someone died, but the end result was never in doubt, and it wasn’t all that hard either. We all had a good time, took our time looking around, and got some nice transmog gear to boot.

So yeah, good gear is fun, it changes the game in almost every way. And raiding with a regular team of people you know is a real game changer, because it takes so much of the stress out of raiding through LFR and having a new week reset hanging over your head. And having a raid already scheduled means you don’t have to worry about what you should be doing but don’t want to, you can just do what you feel like.

Do what feels good for you.

Looking Ahead

There is one other thing raiding regularly does as well.

It gives me something to look forward to each week, something to steer towards. Whether it be food, flasks, farming new transmog to display at the raid, or whatever. Having that raid coming up gives you something to look forward to in the coming week that keeps you logging in and staying current with whats up. There continues to be a purpose to playing.

And as long as you don’t have the ENTIRE current raid and all of it’s achievements on farm, you continue to have a challenge to strive to overcome.

Blah Blah Blah already

We’re coming up fast on Warlords of Draenor.

We’ve got a character level reset, gear reset, everything reset coming up.

Now is the time to consider, if you’ve never raided before… would you like to? If you would, what’s holding you back?

Is it not finding anything that works with your schedule? Maybe you can figure out one or two days where you’ve got some time you could commit to having free, and then look for the right fit on OpenRaid?

Is it not liking how your current main plays, and not wanting to raid with him or her? Warlords gives you that perfect opportunity to dump the old and begin anew!

It’s Orange Fishwrap

Whatever you do, I hope that you try to do one thing before Warlords.

I hope that you try to find some raid group that you can join that does Flex or better, and that can kill Garrosh, and do it before the pre-expansion patch comes around.

Maybe Blizzard will change their mind, but the last word was, once the pre-expansion patch is released, your character’s very first Garrosh kill (on each difficulty setting) is a guaranteed drop of an Heirloom weapon appropriate for your class and selected spec, an Heirloom that will scale from level 90 all the way to 100.

Don’t discount how nice that will be for questing when the expansion comes out. You will have plenty of other gear to worry about replacing, but wouldn’t it be real nice to know that when you finally hit level 100, and face having to attain Silver on a challenge mode just to enter five person dungeons, you’ll at least have a strong weapon to do it with?

I’m being totally honest here. Being able to just swing around Pandaria and bully Warbringers to farm the dinosaur mounts whenever I wanted, that was crazy. And yes, I did get all the mounts, something I doubt I ever could have done if I had never gotten back into raiding.

Now I’m farming dinosaurs on the Isle of Giants, to get 9999 bones. And I’m getting a thousand bones a day, so at the end of ten days, no problem.

I can absolutely assure you there is no freaking way I would ever do this if I had to try to find people willing to farm three times the number of these dinosaurs so we could all share out enough bones to accomplish it. Talk about a grindfest horror show, blech!

For those of you who have always raided all along…. yeah, I’m loving it too.

But never forget, raiding doesn’t give you an excuse to be an elitist asshat. The people who don’t actually raid mostly don’t do it because they can’t find the time, not because they lack the skill.

Raiding success does not grant anyone the right to be a douche. Fight the stereotype. Be a progression raider that’s cool and friendly.

All right, you can still do it from the back of your Heroic Garrosh kill mount.

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I went to the midnight showing of A Walk Among The Tombstones last night (henceforth #AWATT), the new movie starring Liam Neeson based on the book by Lawrence Block.

Total disclosure, this movie is based on one of my favorite books, in one of my favorite series.

I’m not going to be unbiased here. There are a handful of series that are close to my heart, series that I frequently re-read. The Matthew Scudder series of books by Lawrence Block is one of them, and #AWATT is, in my opinion, one of the best books in the series, closely followed by A Dance at the Slaughterhouse.

I’m saying that I probably read the book this movie is based on over thirty times before they announced a movie was in production. That makes this a weird movie for me to see on the screen.

So, how was it?

Short answer, I loved it, but I think this is going to tank on the big screen in this short-attention-span Expendables action flick era.

I hope I’m wrong. Maybe I’m selling audiences short, maybe there are a lot more people out there that will enjoy this movie than I think.

Everyone I’ve talked to at work today has taken everything I’ve said and wanted to watch it even more, so either I’m too damn cynical, or I should have more faith in people.

So, why should you see it? What does this movie bring that you haven’t already had before?

This is a damn good thriller, a powerful character study, an immersive period piece and a detective saga grounded in real people with real attitudes and motivations.

Why do I think it’s not going to do well in theaters?

One word; expectations.

When talking to friends that were looking forward to it, people who haven’t read the books, most of them seemed to assume this would be a Taken clone.

Okay, so what does that mean? Taken was a great film, I loved it, most people loved it, so why does that expectation hurt this film? Am I saying this isn’t as good as Taken?

No, I’m saying this is a completely different film from Taken and it’s not coming from the same place.

What was Taken? It was a film starring a flawed father superhero badass killing his way through a thousand cardboard villains on his way to an ultimate revenge-fantasy and princess-saving fulfillment.

Was it satisfying? Yes it was, and for me a large part of that was the character portrayal by Liam Neeson. I loved Taken. It’s a great film. Solid action, great suspense.

So, what is #AWATT that makes it so different?

Two things.

First, the characters are not cardboard cutouts, not a single one. All of them are based on Lawrence Block’s novel, and all of his characters are seemingly real people, with a lifetime of history, complex motivations and unfathomable backstory. There may be and probably is a lot to see on the surface, just like your initial impressions when meeting anyone.

Look a little closer, see how people act to others, what people do, the decisions they make and you’ll find a lot more is going on here. A lot of subtlety in the characters.

One of the strengths of this movie is that it isn’t about a superhero, flawed or not. Matthew Scudder is not a hero, he’s not an anti-hero, he’s not an unstoppable badass, and he’s not possessed of some indomitable will that is more than human. He is exactly human, and he’s fucked up a lot in his life and he knows it. He’s trying to be a man, and be himself, and not fuck up, and get through each day one day at a time because that’s how life throws them at you.

So a large portion of this movie is a subtle character study with a powerfully nuanced performance by Liam Neeson. I don’t know that modern audiences can handle a movie where more than 5 minutes goes by between gunfights in crowded alleys. Just saying.

The second thing is, this is a period piece. When they see this, the audiences are going to lose their shit.

This is a thriller and has a ton of action, but it doesn’t follow the modern formula of filming in foreign countries for the cheaper costs and tax breaks (I’m looking at you, A Good Day To Die Hard).

A Walk Among the Tombstones is a period piece set in New York City in 1999, and if you think a movie set only 15 years ago can’t be a period piece, you’ve got a rude awakening coming.

A lot has changed in the last fifteen years, and I know I haven’t noticed quite so much because I’ve been living with the changes taking them as they come.

This movie, this is a movie in love with New York, but the love isn’t blind. It’s all encompassing. It shows you New York City of 1999 exactly as it was, and watching it, the cinematography, the music, the images and graffiti and talk and hair and just… just everything sucks you in and you are in 1999 New York City.

I can’t even really grasp the effort this film must have taken to achieve this. These are not generic locations, every place is distinctive, every setting possesses a rich character that makes it truly unique. But it’s not glossy, it’s not slick. It is brutally honest with how crappy life can be in the city at the bottom level, making your living day to day, side by side with those in glamorous homes.

It also, if you’re paying attention, draws subtle attention to how a shithole in New York can be more expensive than living anywhere else. You see one apartment Scudder visits, and it looks like a shithole a college student would put up with at a flyover state school, and then you take a closer look at the furniture and decorations, and realize this is a shithole that is probably a million bucks a year and the guy is decorating it accordingly.

The setting nails the mood.

I think about the action and the story and how powerful but subtle everything is, and then I think of a modern audience watching a character study period piece with bursts of action, and I have to wonder how many are going to get it?

I don’t know. I haven’t looked at a single review, been too busy working, and writing this out to get my thoughts in order.

I really liked it. I have always thought the strengths of the Matthew Scudder books was that they feel like slices of real life, windows into a world of real people thrust into bad shit, and that the books linger lovingly over a New York City that lives in brilliant color in Lawrence Block’s mind, and he lets me come to visit once in a while.

Will you like it? I have no idea. I hope you will. If you’ve been reading my blog a while and like some of the same things I do, share some of the same attitudes I’ve shared over the years, then I think you will.

I hope you give it a chance.

For me, all of the heart and soul of the book was there. It was well worth a midnight showing on a work night.

For fans of the books, you should be excited to know that while Elaine wasn’t in this movie, they fully developed a different character relationship so they left it perfectly poised to introduce Elaine and her full story from A Ticket To The Boneyard if they do a sequel.

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Quick alert, remember that when patch 6.0 goes live, Justice Points and Valor Points are going away.

If you have Justice Points on you right now, please make sure you spend them quickly for the best benefit. If you WANT Justice Points and the things they can buy, it’s very easy to farm them fast by running normal Pandarian instances. Each boss kill gives you quite a lot (more if you have the guild bonus) and normal instances can pop fast. If you have solid LFR or Flex (or better) raid gear on your character, they fly by.

A few tips on spending Justice wisely;

Heirloom Items are currently bought with Justice Points. DO NOT spend them on Heirlooms right now, when patch 6.0 goes live you’ll be able to buy all Heirlooms and upgraded Heirlooms with gold. GOLD. So don’t spend Justice on these.

You can upgrade blue quality weapons with Justice, but honestly, why would you want to? If you need a weapon upgrade that bad, consider going to the Timeless isle and farming Timeless Coins to buy one of the epic weapons there, they are a better deal.

You can purchase Honor Points with your Justice Points. This can be a great deal for you, IF you don’t like to PvP.

More on Justice to Honor.

500 Justice Points will buy you 250 Honor Points at a vendor in your faction capital city.

You can buy PvP mounts with 2000 Honor Points each, so for every 4000 Justice Points you can buy a nice PvP mount. Looking for a few more mounts? Don’t pass these up!

There are many cool looking PvP armor sets that you can buy with minimal Honor Points. The old sets are discounted heavily. You can find a really nice list by looking at Transmog sets on Wowhead.

On some of those PvP sets, especially the Outlands ones, you can exchange normal PvE tier tokens for the PvP armor version. That means, for many Outlands PvP armor sets, you can run the old raids solo, get tier drops, trade those in for PvP versions of the armor, and only need Honor Points to buy Boots, Belt, etc. Doing this saves you quite a lot of Honor Points on building a set.

I just wanted to give you this heads up. Don’t forget to use ‘em before you lose ‘em.

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