A dream for tank mechanic changes

If I’m going to contemplate changes to tank mechanics, I’d like to be honest for a moment.

I’d like to really present my dream.

I’d like to move away from avoidance. I would like to move away from Dodge.

I am a big freaking bear butt Druid. My butt is large and in charge.

The idea that my butt is Dodging attacks with fast moving is ridonkulous.

I would like to move towards mitigation.

But I want control over balancing mitigation with health and avoidance.

I want a system where physical and magic mitigation are tied to the same source, and that there are variables I can control to increase my mitigation at the cost of health or avoidance.

As an example, a pure example from my dreaming.

I’d like a percentage of armor value to apply to magic mitigation.

I’d like enchants and gems that provide armor value.

I’d like the gem cuts and enchants to be valuable enough to compare with the benefits of other sources of damage prevention, such as Agility and Defense Rating and Dodge Rating and Stamina. They do not need to be affected by the multiplier, because every tanking class could use them to help seize control of their own tanking destiny.

NOW… let’s go back over my dreaming. “It can’t be armor, you fool!” I hear you cry.

That’s fine.

As we remove Block and Defense, let’s call it something other than armor that we can use, shall we?

Let’s call it Damage Reduction.

Let’s have Damage Reduction apply to both magic and physical damage, and if you wish the formula can vary based on class, exactly the way it does right now for Dodge from Agility, and the amount of physical damage reduction per point of DR can be at a different value than magic damage reduction per point of DR.

And make the gem cuts and enchants be called Damage Reduction, and allow us to decide, do we want more Stamina, or do we want to reduce overall damage by adding DR?

It is my dream, it is not necessarily yours in any way.

But I yearn for a change, where I have three aspects of survivability… mitigation, avoidance and health.

And I want a means to control, or tweak, all three aspects. If I’m weak in any one, I’d like to balance it back in line with the other two.

I think that removing Defense Skill and Block, reducing the avoidance benefit of stats contributing to Dodge or Parry, if you add a Damage Reduction I wouldn’t feel you were making things overly confusing.

I think, quite the contrary, it would make more sense. We know we can add Agility, Defense Rating, Stamina… why not DR?

I don’t want to have a big dancing bear butt Dodging all those attacks. I want a big bear butt that absorbs them all with that nice, hibernating fatty layer.

I’d also love a big bear snack, that after eating gives a Damage Reduction buff for 30 minutes, as long as I’m dreaming.

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Chill of the Throne thoughts

Thanks once again to the wonderful talents at MMO Champion, I woke up to all of this today.

The critical quote;

For Icecrown Citadel, we are implementing a spell that will affect every enemy creature in the raid. The spell, called Chill of the Throne, will allow creatures to ignore 20% of the dodge chance of their melee targets. So if a raid’s main tank had 30% dodge normally, in Icecrown Citadel they will effectively have 10%.

I will share all of the information MMO Champion shared as posted by Ghostcrawler further below so you can see all the details and reasoning. I just wanted to kick the big announcement out first so you can prime your mind. If you’re all caught up on this already, just mosey on down the post for some discussion!

For Icecrown Citadel, we are implementing a spell that will affect every enemy creature in the raid. The spell, called Chill of the Throne, will allow creatures to ignore 20% of the dodge chance of their melee targets. So if a raid’s main tank had 30% dodge normally, in Icecrown Citadel they will effectively have 10%.

Why are we doing this?

The high levels of tank avoidance players have obtained is making the incoming damage a tank DOES take more “spiky” than is healthy for raiding. Ideally, tanks would be receiving a relatively constant stream of damage over time. This allows healers to better plan their healing strategy, broaden their spell options, and simply give more time to react. Tanks could use their cooldowns more reactively. Instead, the current situation is that if we make a hard hitting melee boss and a tank doesn’t avoid two successive swings then the tank could very well be dead in that 1-2 second window. The use of reactive defensive abilities instead becomes a methodically planned affair, healers have to spam their largest heals just in case the huge damage spike happens.

We’ve been trying to do a fair amount to mitigate the effect of high tank avoidance on the encounter side of things during this expansion with faster melee swings, additional melee strikes, dual wielding, narrowing the normal variance of melee swing damage, and various other tricks. There’s a limit to what we can do, however. So to give us a bit of breathing room we’ve implemented Chill of the Throne. Going forward past Icecrown Citadel, we have plans to keep tank avoidance from growing so high again.

We’ll have this on the PTR soon so players can see the effects inside Icecrown Raid.

Our original estimations for tank avoidance would have worked fine had we not decided to add extra tiers of gear to reward heroic boss kills halfway through the expansion.

The Cataclysm design will keep tank avoidance at more manageable levels. The loss of defense skill counts for a lot right there. We are also considering giving bosses expertise or other ways of baking in Icewell Radiance — basically the concept that bosses scale with gear rather than just hitting harder and taking more hits.

Player comment: It would still be fine if the itemization team had designed the gear accordingly. In a full 258 setup for warrior tanks, precisely two pieces have anything but a 3 way split of pure avoidance stats on them. There’s 3 different avoidance stats on 3 different diminishing returns, and pumping them all up like that can really make avoidance numbers go way out of whack. Meanwhile, we lose out on things like Expertise, and the preciously rare Hit Rating which is available on *1* piece of 258 tanking gear and end up having to swap gear around to cover those deficiencies.
You are making the common mistake in thinking that our goal for itemization is to give you the best possible gear that we can. Itemizing your character is supposed to be a choice. There will be better pieces and worse pieces. There will be pieces that combine stats your really want with stats you don’t really need. Wearing the best gear for their character (which is not the same as wearing the best gear) is one way players have to demonstrate mastery of the game.

This is also why I always preach to take BiS lists with a grain of salt. Merely reaching for the item declared to be BiS by a spreadsheet or system you might not even understand could lead you to making bad gear choices, often of the variety of passing over the good upgrade because it’s not the best possible upgrade.

Player comment: Also, if you’re going to give mobs expertise, can you please make a spell or some kind of method to determine the level of expertise without us having to do parses?
Yes. We would probably just let you see the numbers directly. I consider it a design flaw that players have to experiment to determine thinks like hit and expertise caps. We’re all for experimentation and theorycrafting, but we don’t think it’s fair to require some players to go out and do a lot of work to generate specific numbers that all players feel like they need to know.

Player comment: Putting so much avoidance on gear isn’t a bad idea because other stats are better. It was a bad idea because it causes tank scaling to fail and makes Radiance necessary.
That logic doesn’t really work. It’s like saying instead of nerfing armor pen, we should have just put less and less on higher level gear.

If we had avoided avoidance on tank gear, then every piece of tank gear would have hit and expertise (and maybe crit, haste and armor pen). Stamina and armor are static amounts, and if they were not, then those pieces immediately become the only pieces players would pay attention to.

Player comment: If you want ICC damage to be steadier, why don’t you just walk over to the item team and say “Hey, we’d like less avoidance, can you cut out half of the avoidance from the ICC gear and replace it with stamina?” Or if you’re worried people will get too much stamina, make it Frost Resistance and put in so much Frost damage you couldn’t hope to survive long with TotGC gear alone.

We just don’t think that works. If you put very unattractive stats on gear then players just go back the previous tier of gear and complain that we don’t know how to itemize. If you put bonus stamina on the tier 10 gear, then that means the next tier of gear better have bonus stamina as well. If it has avoidance instead of that bonus stamina, tanks just shrug and go back to the tier 10 gear.

This is not a tank only problem. Casters won’t upgrade to gear that doesn’t have more spell power on it, because spell power tends to trump everything else for purposes of their dps or healing.

We put a little bonus armor on non-armor items (necks, rings, trinkets and the occasional cloak). We don’t put bonus armor on gloves and chests because that gear would be too good.

It’s an item level problem. If we added another raid tier to Lich King, we couldn’t just keep avoiding avoidance and avoid it for every tier going forward. We just need a system where you avoid a Naxx boss 30% of the time and an Icecrown boss 30% of the time, the same way the Icecrown bosses have e.g. 30% larger health bars and thus take 30% more damage to kill. Otherwise the stats don’t scale and bad thing happen (in this case the boss having to land so much damage to account for the fact that it misses so often).

Reasons behind the change
I’ll address this one more time and then leave it because I think players are more interested in trying to turn this into a huge tanking nerf than understand what’s going on.

We would not have this problem if Icecrown gear had been item level 245 or so, as we originally intended. We added a few extra tiers of gear to support heroic modes. We felt like we had to do that to have different difficulty levels and make raiding more accessible overall. We felt like we had to reward the harder modes with the better gear or nobody would have been very interested.

The proportions of relative stats on your gear are not the problem. They are proportional, give or take a little, at every tier except for stats like hit that cap out. The problem is not the class and item teams being out of sync. In fact, they are the same team.

Diminishing returns
The 20% nerf is applied after diminishing returns. That is why I am saying it won’t affect the relative value of dodge and parry. The Icewell Radiance won’t get you closer to diminishing returns by itself.

The whole point of this change is so bosses can hit less hard but more often, for the same damage over time but with fewer deadly spikes. That should feel better to everyone overall. The reason I am reluctant to say that is because some players are going to go into Icecrown, find it hard, and then expect us to buff their class.

It won’t be Brutallus hard, at least most of the bosses and at least on normal mode. We’re not going to be particularly sympathetic to players who find heroic mode too hard.

Stamina less important?
It arguably makes stam less important (though it will always be important for tanks). Many players are probably telling you right now that only stamina and armor are important because if you ever fail to avoid two boss hits in a row that you’re going to die. Under that environment, avoidance loses a lot of value.

If bosses hit for less in IC (which they will, since they will hit more often) then the value of avoidance for purposes of survival increases.

I still expect many tanks will die in two hits until they get geared up a little. But they will, and then the ability to survive two hits in a row won’t be as big an issue.

Effective Health
I am going to attempt to explain the disconnect the community and the developers have over effective health.

When I first learned to tank, long before I came to Blizzard, I learned that effective health is a measurement of your stamina in relationship to your armor. This is a pretty easy number to generate. It’s reasonable to include say shield block and other simple forms of mitigation into the calculation.

However, you cannot directly translate effective health into best tank. Avoidance matters. If it didn’t, we would have no reason to nerf it in Icecrown. Good tanks don’t depend too much on avoidance, but great tanks understand its value.

Furthermore, your estimations of effective health become less and less accurate the more variables you try to factor in. Most saliently, you can’t easily account for cooldowns. You can’t compare a short duration that reduces damage by 80% to a long duration that reduces damage by 10%. Mathematically they might generate the same effective health number, but in reality they work pretty differently and each has their own benefits in certain situations, which vary depending on boss mechanics. (I’d generally take the first one though.)

We purposely made the cooldowns difficult to compare from class to class. You shouldn’t then be surprised when we take your effective health calculations based on direct comparisons of said cooldowns with a grain of salt.

It’s fine to compare health, armor, avoidance or cooldowns. I would not recommend putting too much faith in one ubernumber that you generate by combining all of them.

Icecrown isn’t Naxxramas
I am pretty sure on day one of 3.3 going live this forum will be filled with tanks who died and respond with “I thought bosses weren’t going to hit hard.”

It’s Icecrown. It’s not going to be Naxx.

Avoidance relative value
If you conclusion is that anything that improves your avoidance is now bad as a result of this change, you should think through it a little more. If you didn’t like avoidance before, nothing changes. If you liked avoidance before, nothing changes. You just have less of it now. The relative value should not change, unless you get to the point where bosses no longer two-shot tanks so much, in which case the relative value of avoidance increases. (Source)

The first thing I want to draw your attention to, is the true shape of the discussion. This is not about nerfs or buffs. This is not about discussing how much or to what extent to change things. This is about combat design philosophy and mechanics.

The base issue is the way tanks in general endure damage in an end game raid encounter.

With the combat design system in place, and the gear itemization designs implemented to date, there are two methods of dealing with incoming damage; enduring but mitigating (lessening) the damage from a blow, or avoiding all damage from a blow entirely.

What we are being told is that mitigation is the design that Blizzard prefers to build around for scaling, because it’s easier to streamline.

Avoidance will still have it’s place, but if the current design to challenge tanks and healers tries to include Dodge as is in the equation for damage sustained over time, then if the random number generator decides to clump Dodges and hits taken rather than spread them out, you take more damage in a short time than planned, Healers get stressed more than intended, and tanks die from a situation that was out of their direct control to manage.

That’s the key. They want the encounters to be challenging, but they don’t want success or failure to depend so much on random, uncontrollable events.

We are being told that they will make things more challenging in the short term by reducing one avoidance stat, Dodge, by 20% for the purposes of this one raid alone, but leave us our full power levels for other content.

This is a novel idea. Ghostcrawler addresses changing stat balancing on items, and how if they changed stats allocation on one Tier people would just fall back on the previous Tier as a reason, but that argument neglects to mention one way they HAVE handled the avoidance issue in the past; a global formula change that affected avoidance at all levels of gear.

In the past Blizzard has changed the base formula used to determine how much Agility or other stats contribute to each classes’ Dodge, and they have also changed the base multiplier used in the Dodge calculation formula per class. 

Doing so would affect all Dodge, all across the board. I think they hesitate to do this because then all current Wrath content would be unbalanced except for Icecrown. Good reason? Yeah, I think so too. It’s still something they may decide to do when Cataclysm comes along, if Defense alone is not enough.

This is not about nerfing stats that are too good, this is about trying to find a way to balance end game raid challenges with a preference for mitigation, when trying to handle avoidance is causing balance issues. 

Now, one of the things I’d like to point out as we continue, is a comment Ghostcrawler made about how, in Cataclysm, part of this will be resolved with the removal of Defense skill.

When the removal of Defense was first mentioned at Blizzcon, I think that I, as well as other people, had thought they meant that the mechanic of Defense and how it works was being removed, but that something else was going to take it’s place. Something such as the Druid Survival of the Fittest talent, for example. This would be a direct case of foreshadowing removal of an avoidance mechanic in favor of a mitigation Talent.

I did not actually take the Blizzcon announcement as meaning that Defense skill is being removed with nothing taking it’s place. That’s kinda how Ghsotcrawler’s comment made it sound.

Obviously, if that’s really what they are thinking, then itemization priorities for other tanks will be hit a lot harder than Feral Druids. Just something else to think about.

What I’d like to point out here, is that the intent of this Chill of the Throne change is to cause tanks in general to take a lot more hits, and to have to rely more on mitigation to handle it.

They’re saying, “Yes, we WANT you to get hit a lot, we want Healers to be healing constantly, and we don’t want a tank to be one shot or two shot if we have encounter design that takes healers out of the equation for one split second at the wrong time.”

I’m sure we’re going to see a ton of commentary on this.

What I really wanted to address is how this affects Feral Druids.

I’ve seen a lot of sudden panic that this is a terrible nerf of Druid tanks, that this will hit Druids harder than other tanks based on our love of Dodge.

I’d like to remind you that this is actually a lot easier for us to deal with than you might think.

Remember, looking forward, we already do not rely on Defense skill for the bulk of our tanking survival. If there is a Defense change in Cataclysm, we are already prepared for it mentally.

As far as a Druid reliance on Dodge.

Our gear, based as it is on Rogue DPS leather, as much simpler tanking stat foundations than other classes.

We have armor value that we pursue for mitigation. We have Survival of the Fittest Talent, as well as other Talents for mitigation.

We do have a ton of Agility alongside our Stamina, and we do not have Parry, Block, or a requirement to have Defense Rating for being uncrittable.

Edited for clarity: What this means for us is that, by regemming and changing enchants from Agility and Dodge Rating to prioritize Stamina then we can increase our buffer that gives healers time to bring us back up, and by pursuing trinkets, rings and weapons that have armor value on them, we can work towards increasing our mitigation. I’m sure everyone is already working towards having the highest armor value on leather gear as it is.

So we CAN quickly modify our style to prioritize increased health and mitigation over Dodge. 

Also don’t forget that compared to other classes, our Dodge is huge. Even if we do reprioritize a bit, we’ll still have a big Dodge after 20% is cut off the top.

Yes, moving from loving Dodge to loving mitigation SUCKS, based on historical yoyo bouncing. We WERE the mitigation masters. It’s what we pursued from our leather gear, based on armor value multipliers for years. Just the knowledge that they nerfed the shit out of our armor multipliers and mitigation, just to announce that we really should focus on mitigation, is annoying as hell.

Yes, we know. You changed our focus for us to be the best we could. You know, that mastering the gear aspect? So we mastered it too well, you nerfed it in response, that’s kind of flattering, really. But to come back now and say that everything is messed up because we moved away from mitigation. Grrr.

Still, you deal with the hand you’re dealt. 

Flexibility. It’s our strength.

Let’s read what’s said, remember the lessons ot the past, anticipate how they may again change their minds when they approach future raid design, but always remember that we are the class of flexibility.

Semper Gumby!

Neither fish nor flesh nor good red herring

Carrying on our wonderful conversation from yesterday! With the great insights so many of you shared, how could we not?

I’ll let you decide why I named the post the way I did

Some of the things that struck me in your comments, were how grateful many folks were to be able to take a break from raiding due to real life concerns, or play a character at a different pace than others, and feel that when they came back they could come reasonably close to catching up to their friends without causing their guilds to stop on a dime and go back to re-run 25 person content just to catch them up.

Of course, the flip side to that was how sad many folks were that the current system encourages skipped content to remain skipped forever if you missed it at first release, because the raiding guild you’ve caught up to has little incentive to really run Naxx or Ulduar once there aren’t any desirable shinies from it. As one person put it (paraphrased) it’s sad that a gorgeous, spectacularly designed raid like Ulduar was passed over as obsolete so quickly after release, in favor of arena battles in ToC.

There also were a lot of comments from folks that felt that the Emblem system had, perhaps, gone just a little too far in allowing people to bypass recent content entirely, and that the Badge system in Burning Crusade had hit just the right balance.

Lots of great points in your comments, loved reading them all. Well, almost all. There’s always one that has to interject some pissyness. You know, what we in the Marines called the 10% rule. I’ve mentioned it before on the blog years ago, no matter how kick ass the group of people you gather together, there’s always that 10% that, umm… mess it up for the others.

Let’s move past the “love it or hate it” aspect, though, and move on to motivation. Current motivation to run content.

We’re in the middle of a lot of things right now. We’re not at the leading edge of newly released content, ToC 10s and 25s has been out for a while now. Emblems of Conquest have been out long enough that if you really wanted to, at least one character can easily be fully decked out now. I know I don’t play all that much, I’ve got three specs I gear up at 80, and I’ve still got a solid mix of Conquest gear, heroic ToC stuff, and a couple Triumph pieces on all three. I could be even stronger, I spent a lot of my Druid’s Conquest downranking to get Heirloom chestpieces and daggers and stuff.

Folks doing ToC 10s and 25s are liable to already have things pure Triumph can get them. Or are at least getting close to it.

So we’re at the tail end of one content cycle… but we’re not yet at the next one, and it’s hard to tell just when it will come. We know Triumph Emblems will fall like gentle rain in Patch 3.3, and right now it’s a clawing struggle to get them from Heroic Daily quests if that’s the level of content you’re doing.

According to WoW.com/WoW Insider, it could be the end of December before we see Patch 3.3, based on their analysis of Icecrown Citadel boss testing schedules on the PTR.

Two more months of playing where we are just now… or maybe the Patch will come next week! (Okay, not really, but seriously… who knows?)

So how do you feel when in between these stages? Are you motivated to run things, and if so, what is driving you on?

Are you driven to run ToC or other raids as much as you can, in a desire to see the content, ahem, “As it was intended”? I saw a few comments suggesting that quite a few of you feel that having ever higher gear levels for existing content cheapens the experience.

I’m torn, myself. I really feel the in-betweens right now.

Intellectually, I know that very soon things will change, there will be neat new 5 person instances in Icecrown to have fun with, there will be new loot dropping, and there will be Triumph Emblems dropping in large amounts from normal heroics.

But still… I find myself trying to do the daily heroic on my Hunter as much as possible, clawing my way towards getting 30 Emblems of Triumph so I can get the Tier 9 shoulders. I still have reputation blue shoulders on my Hunter, squatting there like a turd amidst my other pretty shiny gear… and it torques me right the hell off. I don’t even play my Hunter for anything other than fun, and it still irritates me.

For a while, I dreamed of seeing the Hunter shoulders in heroic ToC drop… HAH! I used up my loot luck for the next year getting a turtle mount.

Now I’m at 26 Emblems of Triumph on a character that I really feel bad trying to get guild runs with when it’s the daily, because my Druid is simply more helpful to getting groups going for everyone. We’ve got a lot of tanks, but we’re still a little short on healers from day to day.

I still feel motivated to run the heroic daily on my Hunter, trying to get those silly Emblems of Triumph, for no other reason than because I am annoyed at blue shoulders on my Hunter, and apparently I’m too stupid to just wait a few weeks when I could run a single heroic Nexus in a pug and be done.

I even know what’s going to happen. I’m going to finally get those Tier shoulders on my Hunter, gem and enchant them… and the character will go back to sitting on the shelf. It’s like I’ve got this itch right between my shoulderblades, and once it’s scratched I’ll be able to relax.

How are you handling this period? What is motivating your decisions as to what you play once you log in? I’ll put aside the big one of having fun with friends, I think that’s the big reason we login in the first place. 

From reading some of the comments from previous periods right before big content patches, I see that this is when a lot of folks say they’re bored with WoW or are burnt out or are tired of achieving big things only to have the bar raised yet again, and are intending to stop playing.

Is that where you’re at? If so, are you coming back?

Or are you having fun the same as always, because something that has nothing to do with patch content motivates your fun?

How do you feel about gear resets?

Something I’ve been kicking around myself, and I’m wondering what you think about gear resets.

No, really. I know what I think, but I only do a certain amount of content with friends. And I’d rather not assume I know what everyone else really thinks.

We have had what we call gear resets many times in WoW.

A gear reset is when the gear that can be acquired from means other than raid progression allows a character to skip pre-existing content and still be equipped for raiding.

Original WoW had a certain amount of top end gear available at release, and with each additional high end raid, there were new levels of gear. Often, these had been accompanied by different hoops you had to jump through to get the final gear piece.

Anyone remember with fondness the intricate contortions AQ put us through in order to get incremental upgrades?

Love it or hate it, Molten Core, Blackwing Lair and AQ brought us incremental upgrades, building on previous raiding success, so that better gear was pretty tightly tuned and it was clear how the people who had it, got it.

With the Burning Crusade expansion, boom! Blue became the new Purple. People frequently tossed out their last top end raid epics for Blues at the level 65 to 67 mark. Sure, some of the most cutting players may have still been nailing Serpentshrine Cavern in some of their AQ gear, but I think I’m safe in saying it wasn’t that widespread.

 The content releases weren’t gear resets. You had to have existing content done to advance to the new gear released in higher end raids.

Burning Crusade WAS a gear reset, because you could create a new character and level through questing to acquire the gear that was better than raid rewards previously seen.

The release of Badge of Justice awards, both levels, could constitute another gear reset, as people could acquire them from Heroics and gain gear that allowed them to progress faster and skip some existing content.

Wrath of the Lich King of course brought another, but this time, it wasn’t quite as drastic. There were still many top end raiding guilds using their level 70 epics to raid as soon as they hit 80. Cassie acquired the tier helm from The Battle for Mount Hyjal, and at the time it was an upgrade for her level 80 Rogue over other level 80 Rare quality heroic drops.

We also had the new Emblem rewards to hunt for, and there were content specific Emblems at multiple levels, so your Emblem rewards were conceivably tied to your progression. 

I think there is little question that the recent change to cause all previous content to drop Emblems of Conquest, and the addition of Emblems of Triumph available from daily quests constituted an intentional gear reset.

Suddenly, by playing the game at a level open to new level 80s in quest reward greens and blues, you could obtain a complete set of Tier gear and other rewards consistent with Naxx 25/Ulduar 10 raiding. Coupling this with the epic weapons of the Argent Tournament, and the rewards from normal/Heroic ToC 5 person instance runs, and we had a solid gear reset. Nobody has to run Ulduar or Naxxramus to prepare for the ToC 10/25 raids or beyond unless they want to.

Yes, there will be drops that people want, but the bulk of the equipment raiders want can be acquired in places other than raids.

That’s where we are now. Everyone’s adjusted just fine.

Now, we’re being told that in the next content patch, patch 3.3, all existing content will drop Emblems of Triumph instead of Conquest and they’re adding a new Emblem level. Plus, there will be weekly raid quests from early bosses in existing raids that drop the new Emblems.

This means that a character that dings 80 can run heroic 5 person instances, and once a week hit some of the easier raid bosses, and over perhaps three weeks or less completely equip themselves in Tier 9 gear, coinciding with the opening of the new Icecrown Citadel raids.

So.

What do you think of all this?

And if you disagree with me, I’m not going to get upset. Not at all. You pays your money to play the game same as everybody else, your point of view and how you feel about these changes is just as valid as anyone else’s.

I will share my feelings on it, for what they’re worth.

I’m quite happy about it. In fact, I’m very excited.

I see it as an opportunity to focus on gearing my Druid for both tank and healing specs so that I can help my casual guild see the existing raid content that, presumably, the gear reset is intended to let us skip over.

No, really. When everyone else will be looking upwards to Icecrown, I expect our guild will be heading into Ulduar and Eye of Eternity and Sarth +3, and the ToC 10 man runs at a more relaxed pace.

I also see it as an opportunity for my alts to run 5 person content, and not take up raid spots, but still be able to gain rewards that would make them reasonably helpful if we needed one on a guild run. My Hunter doesn’t really raid with the guild, but if called upon, it would be very nice to have a solid set of Tier 9 to bring in at need.

Finally… I’m very glad to be able to stop worrying about running enough to save up Emblems of Conquest to convert to Valor, to fill in the Tier spots for tank, healer, and hunter gear sets. That’s a LOT of running. I’m much happier just running as normal for one level of Triumph gear.

But please, what do you think?

If you raid, do you see this as helpful in offsetting spots in your team’s gear where you just haven’t been lucky in the drops? Do you see it as a good way to help bring your own alts up to speed without fighting over raid spots? Or do you maybe feel that it cheapens your accomlishments when you did the content the way it was intended, and won? Or something else entirely?

If you don’t raid, do you care that there are higher levels of gear you can get by doing the same content? How do you feel about it?

I love your blog, but…

This is an open letter to The Bear Flank druid blog.

I love your blog. I really do.

Great writing, fun attitude, open sharing of your feelings. Great stuff.

Here’s the deal.

I’ve tried commenting, and your comment system keeps eating it. It doesn’t say I’m a big meanie and have been sent to spam or anything, instead it says my request cannot be processed at this time.

I tried to find a contact thingie, and can’t find any way to email you directly, so, umm… hi!

Please, pretty please, see if there is something that can be updated on your comment system? I wanna post comments!

Gratefully yours,

BBB

Still inspiring, after all these years

Inspiration.

It’s a word used a lot these days, mainly by salesmen and politicians, but at it’s heart, it means an energy or driving emotion that was caused or influenced by an outside agency.

It doesn’t have to be a positive influence. You can be inspired towards acts of hate or destruction. When I think of inspiration, though, for me it is any positive influence that spurred new ideas and concepts. 

When I discussed getting into fishing in the game yesterday, the inpiration for me was being told that it was now easier to get the fishing pets from Crocolisk in the City. My love of pets was the foundation, and the idea that I could get pets that had long eluded me inspired me to begin fishing again.

I got Chuck’s Bucket yesterday. 🙂

Inspiration comes in many ways, though. Sometimes it’s hard to pin down what had ever inspired me (or you) to follow the paths we have.

I’d like to tell a story about inspiration.

I was inspired to write this from watching The Amazing Race this season. Seeing what’s been going on this season has brought back a lot of old feelings and memories I’d buried away, and I wanted to take a moment out of my life to say a thank you in this form, even though the people concerned will never see it.

I’m a fan of the TV series, “The Amazing Race”. Whether you love it or hate it yourself, I really enjoy the show.

I’ve traveled pretty extensively myself, and I find watching American teams facing culture shock, tackling challenges based on regional and cultural life, and dealing with travel planning challenges to be a truly engaging combination.

As with other reality competitions, I find myself interested only so long as there is still a team or player in the race that I respect or admire. 

Once I no longer like or respect any of the competitors that remain in the race, I no longer care what happens to them, and I don’t watch anymore.

I have only watched three seasons of Survivor. The first one, where I cheered on Rudy Boesch, and the Pearl Islands and All Stars seasons where I cheered on Rupert. I check out the lineup of contestants each season, and so far none of the others held any appeal for me.

But I’m not talking about Survivor, this is about The Amazing Race.

Each season, I enjoy seeing which countries the contestants travel to, what they’ll do once there, and I enjoy it. Often, the competition is without direct nastiness, which I also appreciate. The teams rarely spend a lot of time conniving and backstabbing. There’s some, of course, but not much. There was one season where those idiots that won Survivor were on, and spent their time trying to hurt the other teams, but they didn’t win that season, so I was pleased. 

The season currently underway has been one heck of a fun time for me.

I can explain why in just two words.

Harlem Globetrotters.

I’m sure Cassie had no idea why, when the lineup scrolled by on the season opener, I was jubilant when they announced that two of the contestants were Flight Time and Big Easy of the current incarnation of the Harlem Globetrotters.

I’m all shouting, “Woot! Rock on! Hot damn!” at the screen, and she’s just giving me that Look.

I was overjoyed… but I’ll admit, I was also afraid.

See, the Harlem Globetrotters were one of my biggest inspirations when I was a child. They were a huge influence on me.

And it had absolutely nothing to do with sports.

When I was growing up, a large part of my home life in poor inner city Miami consisted of being told how worthless I was, and how I’d never amount to anything. My mother had custody of me after the divorce, (not the firefighter, that was my step-mother) and she tried to beat into my head that if you weren’t born to priviledge, you were nothing, and never would be. More specifically, that since *I* was not born of a wealthy and priviledged family, that *I* would never amount to anything.

Around the time I was 8 years old, the Harlem Globetrotters came to Miami to host one of their exhibition games, and the church we attended got a supply of tickets and organized a bus to take members of the Sunday School class there.

I went, not really having any idea who we were going to see or what this was all about.

There were several things about seeing the team perform in the arena that really hit me hard.

First, the grace, the amazing beauty of watching them play. Even at the age of eight I was a cynical little bastard, and I knew that nothing that awesome just came easy for anybody. These players were beautiful in action, and Curly Neal was still a vital part of the team. His dribbling, yeah, it really was that amazing. Seeing how incredibly precise they all moved and worked together as a team, the way they made it look easy and effortless, was just astounding.

Second, they did all this crazy stuff on the court, showed the results of what I just knew was insanely hard work, and they were still having fun.

They were that damn good, and they dared to be that good and still were enjoying themselves out there and hamming it up and having a blast

I think it was the first time in my life I’d ever realized you could work your ass off, and do something very difficult, and still have fun doing it. That work or a career didn’t have to deaden the soul. When you’re surrounded by the daily grind of drudge work, and everyone around you is killing themselves to support themselves and their family, seeing that you can work that hard and still have a lot of fun was an eye opener. I had no idea that you were, ahem, “allowed” to enjoy what you did for a living.

Third, these players were all supposed to have come from backgrounds just like mine, crappy neighborhoods, hard streets, no handouts, bleak and depressing. And yet, there they were, stunning a capacity crowd, people in the stands all roaring and cheering them on. They did it on their own, they worked hard, and they achieved success on their own terms, based on their own merits.

It’s a big concept to get through to an eight year old, but it hit me damn hard. I didn’t have to be what I was told. I could dream, and dream big, and I didn’t have to let anybody hold me back or tell me I would never succeed, I didn’t have to believe I was destined to be a failure. They took their dreams and ran with them, there they were right there. And there wasn’t a damn reason in the world why I couldn’t do it too, as long as I started ignoring the people that stood in my way and started believing in myself.

Finally, and the biggest thing to me, they were genuinely nice people.

You’d think that to an eight year old, these towering giants would be terrifying, but after the game they took the time to let kids like me visit with them, get autographs, ask questions, and pose for pictures. And they made a big deal out of us kids, they didn’t act like “Oh, here we go again, damnit, I’ve got a hot date in the bar, let’s get it over with.”

They acted as though spending time with kids was more important for them at that moment than anything else they had going on.

Those guys were so nice, so funny and charming and kind to us kids, it was all just amazing.

I walked away from that exhibition game, not wanting to grow up to be a Harlem Globetrotter, but determined to grow up to be me, whoever the hell that was going to be, and not what someone else told me to be.

As the Rage Against the Machine song goes, “Fuck you, I won’t do what you tell me.” Hey Esther, that song is for you.

It was one of the most inspirational moments of my life. When I think of how they made so much time to visit with kids after the game, and how nice they were, relaxed and cheerful and friendly and patient. I really can’t say enough about how nice they were.

I really feel that I can credit the Harlem Globetrotters for inspiring me, for helping me to really believe in my heart that you can succeed on your own, that you CAN make a difference in your life, and you can chase your dreams.

I really do think it was then that I started to think of anyone that wanted to put me down, and put me “in my place”, as obstacles to be ignored or pushed through or pushed aside. 

So yeah, I got a big thrill immediately on seeing that two of the current Globetrotters were gonna be on the Amazing Race.

And yes, I was also afraid.

It was a long damn time ago that I was eight years old. All this time, and I’ve managed to hold onto my love of the Harlem Globetrotters, and my respect for the hard work they do, traveling all over the world holding their inspirational exhibition games. It’s been way down in my heart, but all along I’ve had a soft spot for the Harlem Globetrotters. Damn straight.

Seeing that there would be two players competing in the Amazing Race brought back all those old feelings, but it also was filtered through my adult cynicism; time passes, and the stress of game show competition often brings out the true nature of people, right there on camera. What happens if these guys are exposed as hateful or nasty, like so many others are?

If there is one thing that I believe to be true, it’s that there’s no better time to see what someone is really like than when they’re under tons of stress.

I firmly believe that you can snow people most of the time, but when everything is on the wire and the pressure begins crushing you, time is short and you’ve got to act and act now, then that’s when a person’s true nature is clearly seen.

You are, what you do, when it counts the most. Your instincts give you away.

I’m sure nobody ever went on a reality show thinking, “Oh boy, I can’t wait to look like an abusive wife-beater on national TV.”

I’m sure each competitor figured they’d be able to show themselves in the best possible light at all times. But when the crunch came, you see them crack and start tearing at each other, all on camera.

So what will the Globetrotters be like when the shit hits the fan? Will they stand up to my impossible memories of a bunch of the nicest, hardest working guys in the world, or will they have feet of clay and be dicks?

So far this season, they certainly haven’t disappointed me.

Throughout the ups and downs of the race, they’ve both been pretty cheerful, optimistic, hard working and successful. No matter what’s happened, they have faced it all with a smile on their faces. They’ve risen to the challenge and fought hard to stay in the race.

They have that competitive spirit, but they keep it friendly. That’s the amazing thing, the great thing I remember from my youth. Yes, damn straight they want to win, they want to smash through the challenges and win it all. But all along the way, they’ve played as though it’s just as important to them to be nice, friendly, and helpful to the other teams.

Almost as though that’s who they really are.

The episode that aired on Sunday night was my favorite.

During the very first challenge, the Globetrotters started in 3rd, but the cab driver took them to the wrong destination, and they lost some time. Then, on the challenge itself, Big Easy was supposed to open a briefcase, figuring out the clues based on a wristwatch he was given, and he just couldn’t get it.

The combo of the briefcase was the time on the face of the watch, but Big Easy read too much into the challenge, thought it was the time and day of the month, and kept trying the wrong combination.

Each of the other teams came, did it, opened their briefcase and kept going, leaving the Globetrotters in the dust. The other teams even made it look simple, like, “Hey dummy, you can’t figure this out? Bwa hah hah ha.”

You could see the incredible frustration building in Big Easy as everyone else left them behind.

Did he lose it? Did he go into a crying fit, or break down, or get angry, or rage at fate? Did he bitch piss and moan about life being unfair?

No.

No, he got more and more frustrated, yes, but he kept trying to keep himself calm, and work the problem, over and over. He refused to burn out, he refused to give up, and he refused to go nuts and lose his temper.

Eventually, he did get it. He managed to clear his head of what he KNEW the solution had to be, and took a fresh look at it, and got it done.

But now the Globetrotters are in the weeds. My favorite team is sunk unless someone else screws up.

Did Flight Time, his teammate, get all pissed off and hostile at losing so much time, starting out 3rd and ending up dead last, because Big Easy misread a watch? Ware there recriminations and hostility?

No, they’re in the cab heading to the next challenge, and yes they’re worried and they’re hustling to get to the next stop, but the both of them are in there laughing their asses off at themselves for how stupid it was to get hung up on a watch. They were able to laugh at themselves for screwing up, and move on with good humor, and a renewed deterination not to give up.

Hell, I want those guys on my team, I don’t give a shit what it is we’re going to do.

So off to the next challenge, and it’s either build 12 glass hookahs, or measure $500,000 dollars worth of gold on a scale based on the current exchange rate per ounce, an amount that changes every couple of minutes.

I’m watching this with Cassie, as some teams do the gold, and some do the hookahs, and as usual, I’m wincing at the galactic level of ignorance of some people.

This takes the form of me shouting at the screen, “You divide the 500,000 by the amount per ounce to find out how many ounces you need! It’s not rocket science! It’s barely elementary school math! You do know how to divide, don’t you? Holy shit, people!”

Yes, I yell at the people on the screen. I went to movies in Miami. Everyone yelled advice at the screen. No, really, maybe this time the idiots will hear our advice and do it right. What, you can shout advice at the football players on TV in the bar, but I’M the crazy one? Ahem. Okay, let’s move on, shall we?

So the Globetrotters head for the hookas first, take one look at how long it’s taken other teams to get to where they are, and say, “Nah, let’s hit the gold.”

And they’re laughing on the way, saying, “We screwed up telling time from a watch, the other teams must think we’re crazy going to do the math challenge.”

Seriously. They’re laughing at how stupid the other teams must think they are for screwing up the watch challenge.

They get there, and yes I know that what you see on the show is heavily edited. You never really know just how long something takes somebody.

The fact remains, the Globetrotters walked in, asked to borrow a calculator, took a look at the screen, and one of them said, “Okay, so we divide $500,000 by the price per ounce, and start getting the gold on the scale. Here, give me the calculator.”

I’m sorry, it took them about 5 minutes and they were gone. There was no confusion, they looked at the problem and nailed the solution instantly. The other teams (aside from the professional poker players) just stared at the scales in dumbfounded disbelief, and then gave up.

So on they go to the last challenge, still in dead last place, and every other team but one is finished.

The last challenge is simply to go down a tall waterslide.

Now, I’ll grant you, it’s a psychological challenge for some. The waterslide is 6 stories straight down, at a 90° slope. And at the bottom, it goes under a shark tank, so from above, it looks like you’d be in the water with the sharks.

Still, this wasn’t designed to be a nightmare inducing freakshow on Fear Factor. It’s a waterslide for recreational purposes. Of course there’s no actual danger.

The team before the Globetrotters, Mika and Canaan, stop dead at the waterslide.

Mika, it turns out, is both afraid of the water, AND afraid of heights.

Oooookaaaaay. And you’ve never seen the show before? Every season there are water and height based challenges.

I can totally understand being afraid of heights and afraid of water and sharks. I saw Jaws in the big screen as a, what, 6 year old? For a long time I was afraid to swim in pools because I couldn’t see into the deep end to make sure there weren’t sharks down there. Yes, chlorinated pools. With great white sharks. It’s my psychosis, I’ll believe in great white sharks in chlorinated pools if I want to.

And I hate heights too. I’ve been fighting that all my life, ever since the first time I fell off a very high tree branch and busted my arm when I was… you know, come to think of it, six years old was a bad year for me, wasn’t it?

I still hate climbing very tall ladders, ones that are more than two stories, or going up in lifts.

Trying to face my fears is probably the single biggest reason I did rock climbing and parachuting. To face my fears and try and conquer them. So, heck yes, I can perfectly understand being afraid of water and heights. And sharks, too, lol. Being afraid is a lot different than giving in to your fears.  

As I mentioned earlier, things you see on the show are edited. It’s rarely possible to know just how close teams really are to each other. Part of the fun is seeing the start of each episode, when they reveal what each team’s start time is, so you know how far apart they REALLY were when they checked in at the last leg.

In this case, it looked like Mika was refusing to go through the waterslide, and the Globetrotters were coming up fast behind. But I was positive… POSITIVE that the Globetrotters were really about an hour or more behind, and out of the race. Never, never in my wildest dreams did I think it’d take Mika more than 15 minutes to summon up the intestinal fortitude to do a recreational waterslide to stay in the race.

Now, here is where that “show us what you’re really like in the clutch” thing comes into play. Mika refuses to go… and Canaan, billed as her newly dating boyfriend and teammate, grabs her and tries to forcibly throw her into the chute headfirst, while she’s screaming “Oh my god no!”

He tried doing that a couple times, too. Once, she’d almost gotten the courage to go, you could see her just about ready to launch herself down the slide… and he rushed at her and tried to push her to get her going. Needless to say, she freaked and scrambled out of the chute.

Suddenly, the Globetrotters caught up. They made it! Holy crap, they really were that close and got caught up.

But wait! It’s not over yet! The Globetrotters don’t get to cut in line. They still have to wait.

There is a 2 minute delay, starting once the next team has caught up and is in line waiting. The team currently on the slide has 2 minutes to suck it up and go, and only if they don’t, will Big Easy and Flight Time get to take a turn.

And then it happens.

As Canaan tries to psyche up Mika to go, telling her she can do it, go for it… Flight Time starts calling out, “Hell no, girl, look how high up that is! Damn, you don’t want to do that! I know I wouldn’t do it! Think about how high up you are! Do you really want to risk it?”

He starts working on her mind. He starts playing on her fears. He’s good humored about it, he’s not mean, he doesn’t say you CAN’T do it, he tells her she doesn’t WANT to do it. And he’s right.

Canaan just about shits a brick.

Whether it had any affect or not, it works. She dithers for the two minutes, and doesn’t go down the slide. 

Seconds later, two minutes are up, and Flight Time and Big Easy are on the slide and gone, baby, blink and you’ll miss it.

Canaan calls out as a parting shot, as Flight Time hits the slide at a run, “I thought you were a nice guy, but you’re just a piece of crap”.

Now, I can see how Canaan might think that. He was clearly furious that they got passed. I still cannot believe he tried to throw her physically down the slide.

But I was laughing my ass off and cheering at Flight Time.

Working on an opponents’ mind, helping them to feed on their own fears is part of competition. Even friendly competition.

Pushing past your fears is part of competition. Pushing yourself farther than you ever thought you could go. Giving up, giving in to doubt and fear is not how you win.

After sliding down, Flight Time said in the pool he hated making her cry, and he really seemed sincere about it. But it was a competition.

It may seem strange, but I felt that it was perfectly in keeping, and I see nothing wrong with it at all. I certainly don’t think he was a piece of crap. I was laughing and cheering him on… because she had the power, at every moment, to push through her fears and win.

She chose to listen to her fear, and she lost. In the end, she flat out refused to go. She walked back down the stairs the long way.

According to news reports afterward, Canaan said that they were stuck up on that slide for 45 minutes before the Globetrotters caught up, while he tried to encourage Mika to go down the chute. 45 minutes, and no go.

They had the victory in their hands, with all the power to make it happen.

I just don’t ever get any vibe from the two of them that they have a single mean or vicious bone in their bodies. Flight Time seemed genuinely sorry to have taken advantage of the situation, to feed Mika’s fears. But he saw the chance to work on an opponent’s mind to win a game, and I applaud him for it.

I’ll be a sad, sad man if they don’t make it to the final three, but whatever else happens, I’m delighted to see that the tradition of the Harlem Globetrotters being the kind of men that I would want my son to look up to as role models and inspirations lives on.

Even when it comes to recognising fear for what it is… and conquering it instead of giving in.

Fishing for fun, feeling weird

This last weekend was a very strange one for me.

Out of the blue, without warning, I suddenly wanted to go fishing in game.

I’ve got no freaking idea why.

I still don’t understand it, and yet when I get home I’m looking forward to logging in and doing the fishing dailies for Dalaran and Shattrath.

It started innocuously enough.

Friday, I think it was, I decided to start doing the fishing daily in Shattrath every day, in the hopes of getting Crocolisk in the City. I’ve been told that the drop rate for the old Bucket pets from that one daily quest was drastically increased in a recent patch. Like, a 50% chance of a drop.

Suddenly, I’m logging in and hitting Shat to fish.

Hey, it’s not that bad. I’ve got a whopping huge fishing skill of something like 225 to start, but pop a +100 Fishing Skill Aquadynamic dealiebob on there and we’re good to go.

Fishing for pets, it turns out, is a gateway drug.

From there, I started doing the Dalaran fishing daily.

My cooking is already maxed with most of the recipies, including the Fish Feast, but I never made any fish recipies unless Cassie gave me the fish. I never fish. Ever, ever, ever.

Well, now that I’m fishing, my guilt comes rushing to the surface.

“You know, Bear, you’re a Fish Feast mooch. Everyone else brings a Feast to groups, and you never do. You’re not pulling your weight in Fish.”

Hey! I bring my own Blackened Dragonfin!

“Yeah, but when you’re healing, if nobody brings a Fish Feast, you don’t use food.”

But I don’t know where to get the fish. That’s a lot of fish.

“Oh shut up. What, you’ve never heard of Wowhead? Go find the maps, and go get some fish.”

Fine. /fume.

I did both dailies, and then started asking where in Wintergrasp people get those damn Fish Feast fish.

Myrx came and showed me a spot, and next thing I knew, I’d fished enough to make 3 Fish Feasts in Wintergrasp.

But that ain’t enough. Oh, heck no.

Off I go again last night, after spending the day out and about.

I’ve got a bigger, more ambitious plan.

This time, I’m going to fish up 30 fish of each kind from where their pools spawn about Northrend, and make 15 more Fish Feasts. Ninety fish. Let’s go!

Grizzly Hills first for some Glacial Salmon pools. Done. Next!

Sholozar Basin for some Nettlefish pools. Done. Next!

Borean Tundra for some thingiemabobs. Musscl… scuttle… whatever the hell they are. The fish!

25 fish in, and BOOM!

I fish me up a Turtle Mount!

That’s right, yes I did. I got the Turtle Mount.

Me, the guy that has only one character that has ever fished, and that fishing skill after five years was LONG stalled at 225. And I only got that far because I felt silly that Cassie had maxed fishing skill in Burning Crusade and made it look easy.

I’ve got a Turtle Mount.

It’s almost embarrassing.

That didn’t stop me from riding it around Dalaran for a half hour last night, though. 🙂

He’s sooo cute!

I’d post a picture, but I’ve been told I need to do a movie. So I’ll do that instead, lol.

I ended the night with a fishing skill of around 314 – 315 and I STILL want to fish some more!

Where will it end?

What’s next… PvP?

I think I’ve gone crazy.