Tales from the Truckstop III: New York City!

Welcome back, my friends, to Tales from the Truckstop.

For those of you just tuning in, and expecting some kind of WoW post, this is another one of my Storytime style posts, where I tell you a tale from my ill spent youth. These are true tales, but since I can’t prove it, hell with it. Call it a ‘no shitter’, if you wish.

This is a tale from my truck driving days that I wasn’t actually ever expecting to post.

You see, I figured if I told this tale, nobody would ever believe it. After all, it’s ludicrous. It’s stupid. Nobody would ever do what I’m gonna describe. The litigation risks alone would mean that I had to be making it up.

But today… today is a different day.

Today, I have a video to show as an example that, yes, this ain’t your normal town. This isn’t your normal place of business. These people… they don’t think like you or I do.

This? This is New York City!

First, the video that made me decide I could tell my story. It’s a video that went viral this morning, you might have already seen it, showing one tow truck trying to drag free a stuck snow mover during the current NYC blizzard dig out. And along the way… well, shenanigans. And some ugly ass legs. Seriously, dude, you couldn’t have edited your ugly legs out of the video first? Or put on some pants?

I ain’t gonna apologize for the quantity of profanity in it, since, first, it’s not me speaking, and second… it’s New York. Profanity is just punctuation in New York, just as it is in Miami, where I grew up, because of the cultural contamination of all the New York snowbirds that flutter down there every winter. Yes, swearing like this is how I and everyone I ever knew (including my mother) spoke. Yes, it is. Except teachers in schools, amusingly enough. Talk about swimming against the tide. I sure do respect teachers in Miami. I have to now, I never showed them any back then. 🙂

So, now that the video has primed you for reality, lets’ talk about trucking in New York City, shall we?

To recap, back in the day I drove an eighteen wheeler cross-country for Dick Simon Trucking. They specialized in refridgerated loads; almost every trailer was equipped with a diesel-powered chiller (or ‘reefer’) unit.

This meant that I hauled a lot of groceries, food products, vegetables and occasionally flowers all over the continental United States.

Most of my runs would start at one coast, pick stuff up, then begin hauling it across the country, maybe starting in Los Angeles, dropping and picking up a new cargo in St Louis, shipping up to Chicago, darting down and over to Atlanta, and then up to finish in Newport News. Then, time to start working my way back.

I typically didn’t shuffle back and forth between two points much, my dispatcher would route me all the way out, and then bring me all the way back. Their terminal was in Salt Lake City, Utah, so most runs would have me going through there at some point, I do love the mountains between Denver and Salt Lake City, but we had trailer yards and secondary terminals with facilities in Georgia and California as well. I’ve even had the pleasure of being out at the big Coors plant north of Denver, and hauling some silver bullets of beer all over. Good times. Amazingly enough, they didn’t slow me down, either. Imagine that.

One place that I had never been sent into for my entire first year, though, was New York City. For whatever reason, I never got a load that sent me into the Big Apple.

I heard a lot about it from other drivers, but I hadn’t been through there myself.

Some of the advice I was given by other truckers was, first, don’t head solo straight into the city. People hijack trucks running solo into there all the time, with a guy hopping up on your running board and sticking a gun in your face, and then telling you where to take the truck to. Since there are so many narrow streets with sharp corners, there are plenty of places you have to slow waaaay down, plenty of opportunities for a fast guy to get up on your cab. So, what you do is run into one of the big truck stops in Pennsylvania before you head into New Jersey, and hook up with other truckers planning to enter the city, convoy in as a group. Safety in numbers. 

Second, you do not, do not want to get into New York City during the day as a trucker. You’re just screwed if you do. You want to be heading in way late at night, like midnight or later, and hope like hell you can have your trailer unloaded and your next load picked up and your ass headed out of town before four AM.

Why?

Because people driving in New York City are f’ing insane, that’s why. They do not give a shit what they do, and will go anywhere, dart into any opening, leap into any perceived breach in the logjam snarl of traffic if they think it’ll get them one car length in front of the next asshole in line.

When you drive a truck, you ain’t driving a Ford GT or a nimble minx of a Mini. You’re a land whale worse than any Cadillac, and all you’ve got in your favor is the fear you inspire in people who care about their cars getting crushed.

New Yorkers HAVE NO FEAR, apparently their balls are just too damn big to allow any fear, and thus lies the core of the problem. They honestly drive like they cannot believe you would dare to mess with their car.

Yeah, so, I get a load of something heading out of the Purina plant in central Pennsylvania near Allentown, destination: New York City. WOOT!

Just call me Mr Big Time.

I then promptly proceed to blow off all advice, because while that shit may apply to other people, well, I’m me. I’m cool. Water off a duck’s back, man, I’ll experience no problems. Zero defects. Right?

Anyway, New York City! And after I drop off there and pick up my next load, they’re sending my ass to Niagara Falls in upstate New York! Are you shitting me? How cool is that!

It was news to me that there was a city there. Somehow, I always pictured Niagara Falls as being remote… inaccessible. Because all honeymoon destinations require a sherpa and pack mules, apparently. Yes, sometimes I’m an idiot.

“Niagara Falls at last! Slowly I turned, step by step, inch by inch… and then? I let him have it!”

Sorry, my favorite Three Stooges bit, there. Flashbacks. My bad. And on the topic… isn’t it insane what you can find on Wikipedia?

So I blow through Pennsylvania all night, and enter New York City first thing in the morning, bright eyed and bushy tailed after driving all night, my hands wet on the wheel. Or, well, not so much. More like eyes burning as two glowing pits of fire in my skull. Cities on flame with rock and roll, man.

There are only so many things Mountain Dew can take you through, and driving through eastern Pennsylvania all night leaving you eager and alert for the Big Apple ain’t one of them.

Yep, that’s me, right on time for the rush hour influx early in a weekday morning, I enter New York City.

I’m not completely stupid, so I’ve sat in a truck stop poring over my trucker’s edition massive map of the country, analyzing my optimum route through the city, eyeing height restrictions, one way roads, construction updates and toll bridges. This is long before GPS devices and cell phones in cabs, sadly. I had a paper map and my Qualcomm satellite keyboard to ask questions of my dispatcher, who, sitting in Salt Lake City, knew exactly jack and shit about driving anywhere.

But here we go, crawling carefully along my pre-planned route in New York City.

I’ve gotta admit, it was exciting. It was thrilling! Baby, if you can drive a truck here, you can drive a truck anywhere. This is the big time.

As I neared my destination, guess what happens?

If you guessed a jackass jumped up on my running board and stuck a gun in my face, why, you’d be right!

I had my window down, because weather permitting, I always rolled with my window down. I always do, even now. I love redneck driving; dead of winter, heater on full blast on my feet and my window open gusting frigid air in my face. I’ve always loved it.

I’ll drive with the rain pouring down and my side window open, and move rear windows up or down to get the perfect side draft suction so as to pull the rain away and back so it doesn’t get in my face too much.

My wife, bless her, hates having the windows open because it messes up her hair. Sigh.

So yeah, my window is wide open, and this dude jumps up on my running board and sticks a gun in my face. Was he a mob guy? A goombah? A mafiosa? No idea. they don’t carry cards, all I know is, dude was white, looked like a dirtbag, and had a shiny metal thingie with a barrel pointed in an uncomfortable direction for about a millisecond.

And I had a completely awesome knife stuck, sheath down, in the handle pouch of my door.

As Emo Philips might say, I juxtaposed the two.

It was an awesome knife, I really loved that thing. It was one of those Hibben designs I love so much (yes, that link is actually to the knife design I had, by the way, the Double Shadow), as a former knife collector and maker. Totally impractical for knife fighting, but from a fantasy and science fiction reader’s point of view, freaking cool looking. I’d bought it in a truck stop somewhere along the line, along with a gorgeous real meerschaum pipe carved in the shape of a saber toothed tiger’s head (which I still have), and  kept it in the cab of my truck with me.

I want to say, I did not keep that knife for personal protection. Not hardly. I bought it and kept it because it was cool.

For personal protection, I had a tire thumper. What that is, is simply a wooden handle with a steel head on the end that you use to ‘thump’ all eighteen of your tires to check that they’ve got air pressure. You spend so much time dropping off and picking up trailers, that you’re all the time checking to see if some jerk dropped a truck off with a flat tire and left it for some other guy to deal with. So, you hook up to the trailer, hop out and thump the tires to check ’em for pressure by sound and the feel of the impact.

They may be meant for thumping tires, but I’ve found in my experience that there are lots of other things you can thump with them, too. Pro tip; Thumping non-tire objects does not void the warranty on a piece of steel-reinforced pine.

I also sometimes tucked a tire iron alongside my seat, but hey… that’s traditional, you know?

So, back to the guy.

The flow went exactly like this, and about this fast.

I’m driving, I slow to make a right turn, I’m looking in the direction of the turn, a guy jumps on my running board on my left, grabs my rearview mirror with one hand, sticks a gun in my face with the other, my left hand drops down, grabs the Hibben knife, comes straight up and then straight out, sticking the knife out the window in his face, and bam, he’s no longer on my truck.

That’s about it.

When my hand went out, it had a knife in it.

When my hand came back in, it didn’t.

Before you ask, no, I did not stop and turn around to ask if the kind man would help me find it.

Um, no. No, I kept on trucking, my friend. I kept on trucking and I didn’t look back.

Let me check… uh huh, yep, been over fifteen years, pretty sure nobody is gonna call the cops on me for an unsolved crime for reading the post. It’s not exactly as though the knife would have been hard to track, anyway… screw DNA, it had my fingerprints all over the damn thing. As I said, not meant to be a weapon… it was just for fun.

So, after that, I was wide awake. Oh, yeah. Let me tell you, adrenaline is a mighty fine thing to get pumping, AFTER all the damn excitement is over and done with.

I continued on, made my delivery, went on a little further to make pickup, and then prepared to get my ass out of the city before something else happened. Like, I don’t know, Godzilla attacked or something. Martians, maybe. 

I mean, it happened that morning. I can sit here NOW and know it’s been over fifteen years, or more actually, but back then, it was hours away, and I did not want to explain to some mildly pissed polive officer why he had to fill out paperwork because my knife ended up, well, wherever the heck it ended up.

You know, it’s another funny thing. You can tell yourself that there is no way anyone could know it was you what did it, but in the end, your gut tells you that someone somewhere had a video camera, you dropped your wallet at the scene, or a grandma wrote down your license plate number just in case some nice gentleman from the police ever asked her if she remembered a truck with, oh I dunno, a 5 foot tall, totally inconspicuous SKUNK waving a skull and crossbones flag painted on the side of it?

Yeah, you blend.

I picked up my cargo and made a beeline for freedom… or for New Jersey, anyway.

New Jersey… the garden state. You know your life has taken a turn when you find yourself praying you make it to Jersey, don’t you?

I made my way at top speed for the border for all of, oh, ten minutes, when I hit, guess what?

That’s right, my failure to take trucker advice number two, the traffic. And the New York drivers.

These people are bug shit insane.

The roads are mostly one way in the sections I’m driving through. They are packed in like sardines. There is simply no room. No gaps. it’s a flood of lemmings, landlocked between canyons of glass and steel.

I’ve got my route planned in advance, because the very last thing I ever, ever want to be doing is driving in the downtown of a big city, moving a massive piece of steel on eighteen wheels through the sea of teeny tiny breakable smooshable cars, while trying to read a map to figure out my next turn. I did that once in Chicago, and the experience still leaves me shivering.

Here we go. I approach an intersection where I’m going to have to make a tight right hand turn to catch my next street.

I have planned this route in advance, so I knew I was going to be turning right. I made sure I’d moved over very early into the right most lane. I am prepared!

But there are two obstacles approaching that threaten to harsh my mellow.

The first obstacle is geographical features. The second is physics.

In New York, each corner is fairly sharp. They’re not exactly pointed corners with a sharp 90° angle, but they come damn close. On this particular corner was a lamp post with walk signs and street name signs and other stuffs, right on up there near that point. That’s the geographical feature.

The second obstacle is the physics of turns and angles, specifically the fact that the tires on the back of a trailer do not actually follow the curve the tires on the front of the truck make when taking a turn. They instead cut across the angle in the direction of the turn.

If a truck with a long trailer were to make a sharp right hand turn, what you would see is the front wheels and even the rear wheels of the tractor make the turn just fine, but the rear most wheels of the trailer will cut across the corner instead of continuing on in the original direction first.

You can adjust how sharp the trailer cuts the corner by sliding the trailer wheels forward or back. Most trailer wheels are on sliding racks with a pin to hold them in position. No kidding. You can balance the weight of your trailer’s load on the wheels in this way, by sliding the trailer forward or back on the wheels. It’s easy to adjust; you just pull the pin to unlock, engage the trailer brake, and then move the truck forward or back. The rear tires stay in position while the trailer slides forward or back on the rack. Once you’ve got the trailer where you want it on the wheels, you jump out of your truck and walk back to slide the pin into place. Most truckers use it for load balancing across axles for weigh station scales. You’ve got to make sure no single axle is too heavily laden; it’s worth a ticket.

But there are limits. The fifth wheel provides a pivot point that no amount of sliding can eliminate.

When faced with a sharp turn, and especially one with objects on the corner, such as, oh, a big f’ing lamp post, what truckers use is the manuever called the fishhook turn.

This is also physics. You move the line of the front tires that the trailer tires will be following out away from the corner, so that by the time they begin cutting that corner, they’ve gotten a lead out in front.

Here’s how it works, and it’s dead simple. The truck approaching the turn, in this case a right turn, starts out going straight ahead. Then, before you reach the turn, you swerve out to the left. How far varies depending on the position of the rear wheels and the sharpness of the turn, but generally you’ll go halfway into the left lane next to you for proper positioning on a sharp turn.

Then, once the front wheels of your tractor are actually past the corner and halfway into that left lane, you make your sharp right turn, completing a full, wide curve that eventually brings your cab into the lane heading right… but your rear trailer tires, trying to follow your original wide curve, son’t begin cutting the corner until they’re already a bit past. When done right, The tractor itself swerves out to the left before darting back in to the right, and the trailer swerves out to the left but just closes the corner, the rear wheels brushing but never coming onto the curb. 

It’s called a fishhook because it looks like one… a straight, then a loop around ending with the point going the new direction.

End result; no run over corners, or destroyed lamp posts.

The one downside? For a brief moment, while your tractor is making the hook part of the curve, there is a small gap between the center of your truck and the corner of the curb.

One brief, fate filled moment.

I am fearful of this approaching corner.

Why?

I’ve got to swerve out into the left lane to begin my turn, and there are cars there. There are cars everywhere!

And, omigod, there’s a cop car just two spaces behind me, behind that crappy green BMW! OH SHIT!!!!

Why, lord? Why me? I know instant karma is a bastard, but really?

Sigh.

I reach down, grab a pair and make sure they’re still with me, and begin to make the fishhook.

I swerve oh so gently into the left lane as I pass the right corner, making DAMN sure I am following the precise line, to the inch, to be able to clear the corner with my trailer but NOT touch the car in the left lane.

I am a freaking master. I’ve got this shit nailed.

As my trailer follows the line of the truck, and pulls away from the right hand curb., leaving that little gap of daylight for the split second before my cab blocks it off… the little son of a bitch in the shiny new BMW that is behind me jinks AROUND my trailer on the right between me and the sidewalk, making a mad dash for the corner, for all of four feet before  I have the corner blocked off with, you know, my truck making the turn, and my trailer tires close the gap of behind him.

I now have a BMW cradled in the small gap formed by the angle of my tractor and trailer making a turn.

That son of a bitch.

The sea of traffic immediately inches forward, preventing any possibility that anyone in the entire universe is going to be backing up any time soon.

I… I am screwed.

Oh God, am I screwed.

I am now stuck, immobile, in the heart of New York City, with a sea of traffic around me, no room to manuever, wrapped around a corner, the cab of my truck in the cross street, my trailer in the street I was leaving, with a shiny new BMW tucked damn near under my trailer.

That son of a bitch tried to dart into the opening my trailer made, not realizing I was turning. You know, because the HUGE BLINKING TURN SIGNAL DIDN’T GIVE IT AWAY.

And right behind the BMW… a New York City police officer.

And my knife is probably sticking in some guys’ face on the other side of town.

Oh man, am I screwed. I can’t even believe this.

I wish, at this moment, that I had a beer in the truck. If you’re gonna go down, might as well go big, right?

The cop, I shit you not, turns his blue flashers on.

Where, exactly, am I supposed to go? Are you kidding me? Really? WTF was that supposed to accomplish?

It’s not like anyone behind him is going to come barreling down the road.

The cop gets out of his car. I can clearly see this from out my right side window, which is how I saw the moron in the BMW cut inside my line in the first place.

I get out of the truck myself, and come around the right side to try and fiture out how to dig my way out of this landslide. Ticket? Hell, I’m hoping to avoid jail time. Who knows how the hell they treat truck drivers with salt lake City driver’s licences in NYC? you hear things, ya know? Rubber hoses and stuff, man.  

The cop walks up to the front of the BMW and gazes in, then looks at where the truck is, and I’ll be blunt, the expression on his face is one of total disgust at the sight of the BMW with it’s front end tucked into the underside of my trailer.

I almost get up to where he’s standing when he looks up at me and sticks his hand up in a big palm out ‘stop’ signal, and yells at me, saying “Get yuor ass back in your truck and get moving.”

I, having a stupid moment, keep coming, trying to figure out what I’m going to say to get my ass out of this. I can’t see how there was anything else I could do, but I’m blocking the entire street in the middle of downtown New York City. My ass, by definition, is grass.

The cop actually yells even louder, pissed this time, saying, “Get your ass back in your truck and get your ass moving, now!”

Oh shit.

I look at the car, I look at my truck, I look at the trailer and the corner and the surrounding traffic. If I move forward so much as a foot, my rear tires are going to drive OVER the BMW.

Oh damn, the cop wants me to complete the turn, driving over the BMW. But… shouldn’t we wait for a tow truck? I look at the lamp post and the traffic… there is simply no way I can see to get the BMW out of the way. The cop is right. I’ve got no choice.

I’ve got to drive over the BMW. Oh my God, I am sooo screwed.

I get back into the cab of my truck, I release my brakes, I rev the shit out of the engine, and then I pop the clutch and, well, I complete my turn.

As the truck moves forward, I drag the fully laden trailer forward, the tires move forward…. meet the side of the BMW right behind the wheel well, touch the side of the BMW… crunch INTO the side of the BMW… rise up ONTO the hood of the BMW, crushing the shit out of it… and then fall off the other side of the now fully crushed BMW hood, with the rear trailer steel crossbeam that serves as a bumper making a final ripping gut wrenching tearing sound as it comes down into the sheet metal. I move forward a little more to get out of the way and fully pull over to the side, completing my turn, and then park and get out to pay the price.

I swing down out of the cab, and head towards the cop, my heart heavy with foreboding. The cop sees me coming, and with serious anger in his voice now, he says, “I told you to get your ASS back in the TRUCK, and get it the FUCK out of here. NOW!”

WTF?

I stop dead, and my brain shuts off. I turn my ass around, veritably leaping into the cab. I rev that sucker up, and pop the clutch. The last thing I see, as I ride off into the sunset, is the cop standing next to the BMW, pulling a ticket book out of his back pocket, and lifting one foot to plant it firmly on the crushed right fender of the BMW as he began to write the driver a ticket.

And me?

I got the hell out of there, and never looked back until I reached Jersey, what the hell do you think I did?

Impressively professional

This is a Bearwall about professions. I don’t really know why, it just kept growing, so I guess why not. Let’s start the new year off with my first resolution… I’m just gonna roll with it.

As with most players, part of my enjoyment of the game post expansion has been in leveling professions on my main characters. As I’ve pursued profession upgrades, a few thoughts came to mind, and I’d like to share them with you, and also see if anyone would like to share their own impressions with me.

As with most players, I had a lot of characters entering Cataclysm that were level 80 with (previously) max level professions.

This is purely speculation, but I am guessing that one of the more common ways of handling professions across multiple characters, is to initially play your favorite character first, and along the way level that character’s professions as you go, as and how you happen to come across materials. You know, as an accompanyment to the natural playing thing.

Maybe you come across “Miracle Node Spawn Day”, that magic moment when it seems like every time you move an inch in the zone, you see another Ore node or Herb pop up, and you kind of mentally shrug your shoulders and figure Blizzard is trying to tell you something, and go farm while the nodes are a poppin’. But mostly, you’re questing and grabbing stuff as you come across it.

After a while, though, you get excited at leveling your profession, you’ve gathered a passel o’ mats, and you get to leveling… but you come across some mats you sure do wish you had more of. But wait! If my x leveled their profession up, they could make some/transmute some!

This brings in the alternate characters, where you decide to level them just enough to get their profession up to a useable state, and then abandon them again until you’re done having fun on your mains.

It’s just a guess. I know from seeing the first day announcements that lots of people felt it was awesome to powerlevel professions right from the beginning, before moving on to anything else. And I’ve seen lots of Assistant Professors out there, and even a few people advertising making Vial of the Sands on my server, which takes max Archeaology AND having found enough jars to get lucky on the recipe drop.

Amazing diligence in profession leveling.

Oh, and if you’re on Kael’thas-Alliance side, a character named Truth is the one advertising Vial of the Sands the most… for only 3,000 gold, plus you buy and provide the mats.

Maybe it’s just me, but 3k gold ain’t that bad a markup for such a unique item like the Vial of the Sands. Not when I’ve been selling the De-Weaponized Mechanical Companion for 1300 gold, and they sell as fast as I put them up on the AH. At least, they were… I ran out of things to spend gold on, so I stopped making them.

Regardless of how you’ve done it yourself, the fact remains I have a LOT of (previously) max level professions spread amongst my characters, and while playing and checking things out, I find myself thinking about the state of professions… and wondering why things seem so off balance.

There are three classes of professions – the Gathering professions, the Primary Crafting professions, and the Secondary professions.

The Gathering professions are all wonderfully straitforward. Or are they? You get to go out and gather raw materials, right?

The implementation, though, seems odd even here.

Herbalism… you harvest Herbs. Simple, right? The end result is an Herb, plus at max level a chance at Volatile Life. The Herbs are used as is, no further processing needed by the harvester; the end user has the ability to turn it into the form they need, Milling by Inscription and as is by Alchemists.

Mining, you harvest Ore, and a chance at some other Volatiles as well. Right away, it’s a different story than herbs. The end user might want the ore smelted into bars… or might not, if they are a Jewelcrafter looking to prospect for gems. As the Miner, do you put raw ore on the auction house, in case a Jewelcrafter needs it, or do you smelt it first? If you smelt it, then JCs can’t use it, but maybe people without a high enough Smelting skill trying to powerlevel Blacksmithing or Engineering will buy it up.

Skinning then goes the other way. The Skins you harvest from animals often come in the form of scraps… but the Skinner can’t convert them into the useable Leather, the end user with Leatherworking does. In the Wrath cycle, this meant that Skinners had to have a Leatherworker to take scraps and convert them so they could be sold at the Fur Trader in exchange for the most valuable pelts that sell great on the AH.

I mean, we’re not even at crafting professions, and it’s kinda all over the place, isn’t it?

What fascinates me is, Blizzard is helmed by some incredibly careful, thoughtful people. So, I don’t look at this and see it as an inconvenient mistake. I see it as an intentional variety by design… and I try and decipher the underlying intent.

Is it to keep things fresh and different? If so, that’s a good enough reason for me, but I do wonder. I’d love to know.

But about those crafting professions.

Let me give you a humorous example of thinking too damn hard when it comes to crafting.

One early Engineering item you can make, Electrostatic Condenser, is supposed to give your Engineer the chance to get some extra Volatile Air whenever they mine a node, skin a beastie or harvest an herb.

Volatile Air is a major choke point for leveling engineering. So, all excited, I make one and rush out to do a mining sweep.

In real life… not so much. Oh, I’m sure it’s fine for casual Engineering once you are at max level, and you are just gathering as you go, but when you actually want to level fast, the extra Air is just not nearly enough. I spent one afternoon mining for a few hours, slack time on the server getting lots of nodes in Deepholm, and I think I was seeing 2 Volatile Air for about every 15 nodes. You mix that into mining during peak times, and it’s a pretty rough drop rate.

Here’s the funny bit.

The thought occurs to me, “But wait! Maybe the drop rate is better on one of the other gathering professions!”

Ah yes, of such insidious thoughts are painful acts founded.

Immediately, I had to test this theory, which meant taking my Rogue, who, for reasons that seemed perfectly valid at the time, is a max level Engineering/Skinner, and level her to the point that I could skin enough in bulk to test the Volatile Air harvest rate.

About the time I was in Mount Hyjal and jousting against what looked like mounted buzzards, it occured to me that something is off when, in order to level a profession on the character I enjoy playing right now, I’m somehow playing on my Rogue instead in order to skin lots of Volatile Air. I need my head examined.

Cutting it short (ha!), I leveled my Rogues’ Engineering to the point that I could make the Volatile Air harvesting doohicky, and then went to what I found to be my personal favorite fast leather harvest point; Sethria’s Roost, which can be found in Mount Hyjal around coordinates 31/80. The dragonkin are skinnable, are on an INSANELY fast respawn timer, and most players coming through right now are in such a rush to level and blow past the content that they don’t bother hanging around to skin, even if they can.

I leveled my Skinning from nothing to damn near max in one go right there over the course of less than an hour, and what I discovered was, while it FELT like the Volatile Air dropped more in the strange bloated stomach, the truth is it only seemed that way because I skinned a lot more mobs in a short period of time than I was usually finding ore nodes. I was making it up in volume.

So, Volatile Air is a choke point.

So what do I do next? Cassie tells me her main character, an actual max level 525 Alchemist, can do element transmutes, and if she does it in Uldum, she can turn Volatile Life dropped from herbs into Volatile Air, on an almost 1 for 1 basis. Plus the chance to proc some extra random Volatiles!

So we do that for a few days, and she helps feed my Engineer.

But wait! I have a 450 Alchemist… my Enhancement Shaman.

Next thing I know, I’ve herbed enough on my Druid swimming around Vashj’ir that I can easily level my Alchemy on the Shaman to the point that I can park her out at Uldum to make me Air.

But then I look at my Shaman’s Alchemy at 510, and realise that in order to continue leveling Alchemy cheaply, I could do repeat transmutes of blue quality gems, so the next step is to mine ore on my Hunter to send to my Priest to prospect for gems to send to my Alchemist to transmute into blues… and the Dream Emeralds can then be sent to my Hunter to make Gnomish X-Ray Scopes.

Finally, I realize… this needs an intervention. OH MY GOD. Somebody, stop the insanity! All I wanna do is just play my Hunter, where the heck did the Priest come into the picture? What? ACK!

To bring my point around home, you look at how the different professions can feed each other, and it’s just amazing how deep you could get into this if you wanted to. The interconnectivity, the synergy between professions really impresses me even more with how canny Blizzard has been. And each profession works similarly to the others, but is still very different.

They’re not equal, mind you. Some professions, like Blacksmithing , Leatherworking, Enchanting and Tailoring once again have mile long recipe lists you can purchase for expensive mats. Engineering is, what you see is what you get. At least, so far. No surprise new recipes from end game vendors in Twilight Highlands for Engineering!

Then there are the poor Jewelcrafters, who once again end up having to buy their recipes using Tokens obtained from daily quests.. and not having access to that until Twilight Highlands is finally unlocked.

I’d be unhappy for my JC, except I was able to make a pair of some kickass fist weapons for my Enhancement Shaman to use almost right away, so hey, I’m good.

I wonder… why did Jewelcrafting get to be the bitch of the professions? Can anyone explain that one?

Inscription is just as bad at first if you didn’t have it to begin with, but they didn’t add any more Glyphs in Cataclysm. Glyphs don’t get superceded by new expansions. (Wait… an update. Yes, there are a small handful of new Glyphs since 3.0.3, a few through Books of Glyph Mastery, a few from minor research, a few from major. But there’s only, like, 6 or 7 spread across multiple methods of learning. Added for accuracy.) So Inscription is just fine now, making items and books and Darkmoon cards. And Origami Rocks. 🙂 It’s turned into another “fun” profession.

With how SOME professions only really get started at max level, I think it explains a little bit more why Cataclysm (or the patch right before it) introduced such a massive change in leveling professions; the inclusion of special recipes that can grant MULTIPLE skill points with one crafting.

You know, like this;

I love this change. I really do. It adds so much to the overall strategy of leveling a profession.

Plus, it’s a brilliant move for the overall economy. The items that are linked to bonus skill points are generally very expensive in terms of mats.

In the old pre-Cataclysm days, when given a choice between a dirt cheap piece of vendor trash to level a profession off of, or an item that would be useful to others players but expensive to make in mat costs, most players would go with cheap, dirty and vendored stuff.

With the addition of multiple skill points per crafting on making the ‘good’ stuff, it encourages at least some players to think about leveling by making the good stuff, and then recoup their expenses by selling the crafted items on the Auction House… where other characters might finally see something at their level they’d like to have.

Very nice innovation to encourage a livelier Auction House at lower levels. Bravo! And of course, the need for better mats just encourages a more lively market for such things, right? 

There are problems, of course, it’s not perfect. I’m sure everyone has at least one little pet peeve with their favorite profession that they wish would get changed.

I know that for me, my pet peeve is the Goblin Barbecue.

I had imagined that the Goblin Barbecue was going to work like a reuseable hibachi or grill, on a cooldown. You make the item once, and then after that, you’ve got it, but you have to use it at the right time. Kinda like Jeeves.

Unfortunately, what we got was a pretty expensive to make single use food item, with the bonus that everyone in the party can use it, but the downside is that it’s not going to have as good a stat boost as the actual high level Cooking food. So, it’s not going to see much play in raids, and it’s kind of expensive to use in pugs, but just right for 5 man runs with friends. It’s not exactly a poke in the eye with a sharp stick, but I sure had higher hopes for a fun item.

Was a hibachi with a one hour cooldown really that overpowered? I’d be happy to have had a much higher initial materials cost up front for a food item for my group that wasn’t quite as good as a max level Cooking recipe, but that I could reuse once an hour. And it would have been just fine with me if, after making the Goblin Barbeque, each use of it required some form of high level meat. Much like the High powered Bolt Gun, in fact. 

Of course, the little voice in my head then goes on to say, if you have a barbecue, and you use a type of meat evey time you use it… can you set it up like a Paladin’s Seals and Judgments, so that each type of meat used does a different thing? I mean, something light like Grilled Talapia might give you a Haste buff because it doesn’t fill you up with a heavy feeling, some serious protein like Steak or Ribs could give you a Strength buff, grilled vegetables could give you Intellect or Hit Rating (improved eyesight, dontcha know), and of course…  Death Fire Habanero spice-rubbed pork loin stuffed with chiles would give you massive Spellpower boosts. From the flames smoking out your nostrils. 🙂

Tanking food? Why, grilling a flank of a big bear’s butt provides the tanking buff. What, you had to ask?

That idea makes me so excited… but what we got was a single use food item. The Goblin Barbecue uses metal bars each time, but is apparently so flimsy it’s disposable.

It makes me a sad Bear. My one pet peeve… I wanted to hold regular cookouts, damnit!

Now, the thought occurs to me that maybe they kinda toned it down so that a cooking item that awesome wouldn’t be given to Engineers only. Maybe there was a teeny bit of “Okay, it’s cute, but max level non-Engineer cooks shouldn’t have to look at Engineers with envy over cooking stuff.”

Well, fair enough, fair enough. My answer to that would have been, “Why not make it like other Engineer and Alchemist items, or Enchanting items?”

Change it to an item that Engineers can make, but remove the Engineering skill level requirement? Just leave a 525 Cooking limitation. Then you could have your group food recipes require a Goblin Barbecue to make, with the addition of your own raw food materials per use. Then anyone could enjoy grilling for their friends, regardless of their crafting or gathering professions.

My one pet peeve aside, as I said… I’m very impressed with the state of professions. The improved multiple skill point system while leveling is, all by itself, a really fun advance. It adds a lot more depth to what used to be a grind. 

What are your thoughts? Are you having the same kinda fun… or are you feeling stressed out by something concerning professions?

Epic Loot!

I hope that all of you out there, no matter whether you observe Christmas as a holiday or not, got some presents today.
Any day is the right day to give and receive presents, in my opinion.

I figure, if Lewis Black can celebrate Christmas with his friends, there is no excuse for the rest of us. Plus, I just like to give people stuffs.

What does Cassie give the Bear who, while not having everything, DOES have access to a credit card and poor impulse control?

The Bear received the following awesome gifts, which probably say more about the state of my mental health and maturity at the age of forty-something than I’d really like.

John Ringo’s novel A Deeper Blue.

Damned Nation, a novel by Nick Pollotta, author of the Bureau 13 novels Mannyac and I both loved. This one is kinda a prequel to the original Bureau 13 books, set in the Civil War. Hmm, considering my cosmopolitan audience, let me specify the American Civil War. Or, as I’m increasingly coming to call it, the FIRST American Civil War.

Girl Genius book 7, which I didn’t have yet, and Girl Genius book 1 by Phil and Kaja Foglio. Yes, I already had book 1… but mine was in black and white, this one is in color! Yes, I put that on my list. Sad, I know. Oh, and if you go to buy book 1, which I heartily recommend… try and make sure yours is in color. Some resellers out there don’t mention there is a difference. When in doubt, buy direct!

The Order of the Stick book 4: Don’t Split the Party! Not much more than I can say about that, Girl Genius and Order of the Stick are perhaps the two greatest webcomics/stories/artistic endeavors I have ever had the priviledge of reading.

Ultimate Spider-Man, the Ultimate Collections books 1, 2 and 3. I’m a junkie for Brian Michael Bendis’ reboot of the Spider-Man comics, and Cassie kinda noticed that when we go to the library, I’d end up bringing SOMETHING from the Ultimate Spider-Man series home to reread. Either that, or my continual whining finally got on her nerves. Perhaps it’s goofy, but there is something very real about the personalities Bendis brought to the series. And now, I’ve got thousands of pages to read and reread while… strategizing. Yes, that’s it. Three years, 39 issues worth of the series, all in one go. I’ve never owned any of the Ultimate Spider-Man books before, so this is really pretty exciting for me.

Yes, yes my life is that chock full of excitement.

Finally, last but not least, and truly hilarious to find beneath the tree, The BIG Book of Top Gear 2010, imported from across the pond!

So, on the one hand all my presents are books, which would normally be quite erudite… but the vast majority have pictures in them, which kinda has to detract from the ‘mature’ angle.

Last year, I got the unabridged Count of Monte Cristo and Battle Cry of Freedom, plus Last Words by George Carlin and a biography of General James Longstreet. Oh, and lost of Lewis Black stuffs.

I think I’ve regressed in the last year. Count of Monte Cristo against Big Book of Top Gear… hmmm.

Which one has the Stig in it again? That’s the good ‘un!

Ah well, as I slide down into my second childhood, I hope you’ll ride along with me, the food is more fun down here.

Speaking of food, time to go cook some bacon and eggs for the family.

Also, time to go see who’s winning, Empire or Rebel Scum. Alex’s Christmas was mainly Star Wars: The Clone Wars themed, with lots of action figures, and the crowning centerpiece, the monstrous AT AT Walker. Cassie found it on a really, really good deal online about three months ago. Ah, the look in his eyes when he saw THAT box unwrapped. I can hear the foot stomping sound effects from down here in the Bearcave right now.

He was even more overjoyed to find the rolling ball Destroyer Droid action figure, though.

Damnit! I just realized I forgot to buy him a lightsaber! Shit! NOW what’s he gonna chase the kitties with?

/fail

I hope that the gifts that you gave were all well received, and that on this day of days you each have your heart’s desire… no matter what it might be. Unless it involves committing a felony.  And even then… here’s hoping that it’s a victimless crime, and you don’t get caught!

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas to you, blogger style!

I wish you all a very merry Christmas morning, wherever you may be.

May you all find yourselves safe and sound and full of hope, and if you are not home with the ones you love, may you be held close in their hearts and be home to see them soon.

In the spirit of sharing Christmas wishes on a blog, I leave you with this message of the day, in a form we can recognize all too well.

Again, Merry Christmas to you all, and God bless you and keep you safe from harm.

Thank you for the post texts!

I have received a veritible flood of emails from you sending me copies of my lost post. Thank you all so, so very much.

Thanks to you, that post is back up and live again, and can now be ignored in the archives with all 1300 of the rest of them. Or is it 1400? I keep forgetting.

Thank you all.

I know I say that a lot, but what that means to me is that you, each of you, keeps giving me a reason to remember how awesome you are.

It’s impossible for me to think of the game as being filled with asshats, when I keep meeting so many great people daily through the blog that also play WoW. Maybe that’s part of why I never despair of the people I see in trade chat or in bad pugs or racing to grab that one mob you needed now that you cleared all the rest for him.

It’s because those idiots aren’t the public face of the players of the game to me. You are.

And you all rock.

In other news, I’ve been letting everything stir around in my head about Terin’s next story turn in the Converging Forces tale, because something just wasn’t quite clicking. This morning, as I lay dozing, the last piece of the puzzle to make the next section flow right finally clicked into place in my mind. Finally, I’ll be able to write it and not have it feel like crap to me. Man, I was stuck.

Hunters and Druids and Fun, oh my! redux

Thank you very much for the wonderful folks that all emailed in so fast to give me a copy of my lost post, which is included below. I dearly appreciate it. Thank you specifically to Mee, Gregory L, Beefeater, Grimmtooth the Great, Bhal the awesome, Adamonius, Darth Solo, Dan M, Steven W and Ben O, the fastest emailers out there.

Again, thank you all very much.

~~~~~

I got an email this morning from one of my favoritest friends in or out of the game, whose name shall remain undivulged because I want to use a cool sounding pseudonym for him. Something like “Deep Throat”, but without the… interesting connotations.

I think I’ll henceforth call him…. “The Admiral”.

Anyway, so The Admiral had sent me an email, and while reading it, I was inspired to write this here post. Because what The Admiral wrote me about was a friend of his that had lost interest in playing his Hunter after the mechanics changes, and instead had found a new love… playing a Druid.

Playing a Feral Druid in Cataclysm

I can completely understand the fascination with a Feral Druid. Especially right now, if you are fortunate enough to start in the ‘right’ zone.

I am playing two characters through the new level 80+ content, my Druid and my Hunter.

I chose, completely arbitrarily, to start my Druid in Vashj’ir, and my Hunter in Mount Hyjal. I didn’t really know anything going into it, intentionally.

I’ve completed both zones now, and in hindsight, I’m insanely happy I chose to set them apart that way.

In Vashj’ir, it’s a Druid’s wet dream. Ahem.

The advantage to both mechanics and feel of having a character with instant cast swimming form in Vashj’ir cannot be overstated.

I never, ever used the seahorse mount in Vashj’ir. There was no point. With the press of a button I instantly become a svelte beastie of destruction, powering through the depths.

Herbing? Let me talk to you about herbing.

I leveled to 525 Herbalism just swimming superfast routes in the last zone of Vashj’ir, swoop in, herb and swoop off. Lots of times, I’d aggro things on the way to the Herb and not care, because I could scarf up that herb and be off before they got to me. 

Being able to fly around and Herb without leaving form in normal zones is nice, but it just feels like awesome to the tenth power to do it in swimming form. As a Druid, the water environment isn’t your enemy, it’s your advantage.

Of course, it need not be reiterated how awesome Bear Bouncing on the sea floor is. 🙂

Vashj’ir just feels like a Druid dominated zone to me. The other classes may visit, but we own it.

I started messing around in Vashj’ir on my Enhancement Shaman, and while I love the look of the seahorsie, it’s just not the same. Not even close. What, I have to actually dismount to pick something up? Really?

How quaint.

The Hunter side of things.

On the flip side, my Hunter has finished Mount Hyjal, and had a wonderful time doing it.

When the massive class changes came out, I really didn’t play any of my level 80s.  left them alone in favor of new race/class combinations. My single biggest pleasure was leveling a new Human Hunter.

I know a lot of players are dissatisfied with the changes that were made to Hunter mechanics, but I’m not one of them.

I have only ever been a Beastmaster, so of course I can only speak from my limited experience with only one spec. Also, I never really was much of a raider, so the performance at the upper echelons is not something I am familiar with. Please, don’t take this as a “there’s nothing wrong with Hunters so shush” commentary, it’s a statement that ”there’s nothing but awesome for my particular style of gameplay, but your mileage may vary.”

For my Hunter, the single biggest change, to me, wasn’t shifting from Mana to Focus.

It was nice, since I was able to empty my bags of worthless pots and mana food, and I’d never, ever have to worry about forgetting to switch from Viper back to Hawk again. But it wasn’t the biggest change for me.

No, the biggest change was putting the timing of pet threat control directly in my hands, finally.

Kill Command is wonderful.

Before the changes to mechanics, when I sent in my pet to attack, Growl was on auto-cast. In the old days, it served as a Taunt, automatically placing the pet highest on the mob’s threat list when it was cast, just like every player tank Taunt ability. Then, the mechanic of pet Growl was changed to be a hugh threat generating ability, rather than a true Taunt.

I’m sure the idea was, take the power of Taunting off of tanks away from Hunters in random pugs.

How many times did you as a tank experience that? “Could you please take your pet off Growl, he’s taunting off of me. It’s annoying.”

So, a good change. But not the best change. It only went halfway for me.

My core issue with the pet Growl mechanic had always been, the power was taken out of your hands, and placed on an autocast with a cooldown timer, OR you had to leave it shut off and activate it manually. Either a full loaf, or none at all.

Then the new patch changed the mechanics of Kill Command for me.

Now, I can leave Growl on all the time on autocast. It generates high threat for my pet every time it activates, which helps my pet generate more threat than I do over the course of a fight.

But I ALSO have Kill Command at my control, and when I use it, my pet does one hellacious instant CHOMP on the enemy, right when I want him to.

I have yet to see my pet not immediately grab aggro from the mob away from me when I give the command to Kill. And I love it.

I find that, WITH Kill Command, I never, ever use Intimidation. It’s superfluous for my solo play. Kill Command is where it’s at for me.

I don’t even wait for the pet to get to the mob anymore. I use Kill Command and timing to manuever the mob to die where I want it to.

I shoot the mob at range to get it to move towards me, use my send pet/mark target macro to get the pet moving, timed to intercept the mob at the appropriate point, and then at the precise point I want the mob to stop dead in it’s tracks, I pop Kill Command.

The feeling of control over the battlefield this gives me is a pleasure all on it’s own. It’s an illusion, of course, I’m not really in control, mobs could respawn, others cold charge in, etc, but it feels like it.

Even better, my Ferocity pets all seem to have enough health to hold their own JUST FINE against 3 to 4 mobs.

I now use my pets to pave the way clear before me as I race to an objective. You know, like an ore node deep in a cave.

As I went Ore farming in Hyjal, there’s this one cave full of ogres that always seems to have tons of ore.

It’s bloody well infested with ogres, though. I’d say the best solution is to roll in some canisters of VX and drop a boulder over the entrance, but what the heck. I’ll go in. Why not? My pet is badass.

I take that cave at a dead run. 

I’d run in and send the pet after the first mob in front of me to eat some face. I’d keep going, leaving my pet behind, and as I approach the next mob, I’d send my pet after that one as well. My pet would leave the first mob behind and go heading after mob two, and once in range, boom, Kill Command. I’d just keep going.

Four mobs in, and my pet has brought all four mobs to me, I’ve never been hit more than two or three times, I mine the node unbothered by interruptions, and then turn around and help my pet burn all four down to the ground.

No muss, no fuss. Plenty of health to endure.  

Seriously, I’m having a blast. My Hunter is better than ever for me, specifically because I feel that, win or lose, I have all the tools I could possibly want to control the flow of the battle, and keep myself out of trouble.

And don’t even get me started on Trap Launchers and new pets and more pet slots!

Play at your own pace

The new zones I’ve played in, Vashj’ir and Hyjal, are great. They’re very immersive, and have wonderful variation in quests. I liked them both.

I know that folks have been very concerned with the phasing, and how it may affect future replayability on alts. There is a worry out there that, on alts trying to level through the content fast, or on multiple characters that you want different experiences with, that the having the content be phased and require 100% conpletion of the previous quest hub before being able to move to the next will force everyone to have to do everything, all the time.

I can see it, but only time will tell how I feel about it.

What I am enjoying is how much fun, and I’ll be honest, how cute some of the quests are, especially in Hyjal.

I’ve been taking the game at my own pace, exactly as I said I would, and as a result my Druid is barely level 83, my Hunter is level 82, and both are at 0% in Deepholm.

Both are maxed at their gathering professions, but I am taking my time and enjoying the questing.

When I got to the forest fire part of Hyjal, being sent out to save bunnies and squirrels, I was delighted. But those little bastards can MOVE, man.

Then I got to go rescue three Fawns from the flames, and escort them back.

Tell you the truth?

I rescued more Fawns than I had to. And I didn’t revive a Fawn and then mount up and fly like hell back, forcing the little fawn to run like hell through fire to keep up, either. I carefully planned routes to keep the poor little woodland creature out of the fire and away from danger.

I really enjoyed that quest.

Then I encountered the Chuck A Bear quest.

Look, can I take a moment to ask wtf Blizzard is trying to say about me?

First, I run into the ‘go gather bear brains’ quest in Duskwood. Go out, kill bears, and bring back their brains.

Okay, that’s insulting, but then you loot a bear skull, and the tagline says, “This was a bear of very little brain.”

Now they’re sending me up in trees to throw bear cubs at a trampoline. I’m sure it’s perfectly safe.

I’m beginning to detect a trend. Ahem.

Okay, I’m just jealous, I’ll admit it. I wish the type of bear you were sent to kill to harvest brains in Duskwood also dropped flanks of big bear butt, just to make it clear who the bear of very little brain happened to be. That would make me very happy. 🙂

My point is, I’m taking my time, reading the quest text, and in some cases, I’m simply role playing my way through the quests. I’m not going for number of quests completed in the shortest time, I’m having fun at my own pace and enjoying the game. 

Along the way, I’m having a blast. It’s such a great game, and if there is fault, it’s simply that there is so MUCH I want to do, and I want to do it all right now.

Am I the only one?

How about you? Are you really enjoying the content of the game, exploring the world and the stories within it, taking your time?

Or are you really excited about reaching max level, getting geared up and taking on the end game group challenges together with your guild or your friends?

Or is it somewhere in between?

Do We Really Have to See ‘Casual’ Dug Up Again?

With the difficulties of the new Heroics being the topic of the day on many blogs and popular websites, and discussions on tanking and healing and threat and crowd control flaring up like nasty little brushfires, there’s something that’s been revived to go right along with it.

I’m talking about the word ‘casual’ being used to mean ‘not as skilled as me’. 

We’ve gone over this ground, people. Over it and over it and over it.

I had thought we’d beaten that horse to death.

No, really. Hell, I thought we led the horse out of the barn, beat it to death, raised it from the dead in a terrible ritual under the light of the new moon, beat it to death again, and then fed what was left to the sharks. Then fed the sharks to the seals.

Then we blew up the seals, boiled the oceans, nuked the coral beds, filled it all in with asphalt and gravel and held a “pave the earth’ party to celebrate. 

But nooo…. here we go again.

I even saw it in a recent post by Fox Van Allen on WoW Insider, and I know darn well he knows better.

It’s insidious, and not in a darthy way.

It seems to creep up on otherwise perfectly normal people, people who for whatever reason start using the term.

Not everyone that uses it buys into the whole idea that if you don’t live every waking moment in a raiding guild, you’re a scrub with no skills, easily flustered by any instance or raid that requires teamwork, coordination, knowledge of class abilities and talent. But using that term makes you come off as if you did.

So, hopefully for the last time, but I won’t hold my breath.

Time spent playing past a certain point DOES NOT EQUAL SKILL. Time spent playing in a raiding guild DOES NOT EQUAL SKILL.

SKILL EQUALS SKILL.

Just because a person can follow the directions of a raid leader while raiding, with the advantages that voice communications over Ventrilo brings, with clearly delineated roles and duties assigned to them, does not in any way mean that same person can play well while in a group of strangers, using solid personal judgment, displaying skill and timing in the proper use of class abilities, and following a stranger’s lead without copping an attitude because the tank doesn’t have a ‘kingslayer’ as a title. 

You can develop solid skill regardless of the amount of actual time you spend in the game raiding. Identifying your classes’ abilities, seeking out personal opportunities to practise those skills, and being clued in and able to turn a seconds’ crisis into an opportunity to ROCK does not require spending 20 hours a week plugged in.

What it requires is the dedication to be the best that you can be, the intelligence to know to identify what your class can do in advance of needing it, the wisdom to research the methods others have used to accomplish those things to find multiple ways and means, and the patience to go out and do it yourself with the time you have available.

From that point, it takes practise and the development of personal skill.

The only thing a player can not acquire without spending tons of time in a raiding guild is actual direct experience of the content of the day… something that many such skilled players overcome as best they can through watching videos of raiding guilds working through that same content, and reading strategy guides for individual bosses. Tankspot has long been a great source for these kinds of training and guidance videos.

So, can people please pull their heads out of their collective asses and stop using the term ‘casual’ to mean idiot, scrub, noob, moron or loser?

If you want to call someone an idiot, use the term idiot. God knows I’ve met a million of them from leet raiding guilds, people who have long grown used to substituting brute force and high gear levels for finesse and skill.

I hate to break it to some of you, but if you’re an idiot, you’re an idiot, and no amount of time spent being carried by a really good raiding guild will change that, any more than any amount of practise or trained leet skills will get a player awesome epic loot if that person never runs in a single raid.

Casual doesn’t automatically mean idiot any more than raider means skilled. Get over it.

If you have to use a term to describe the influx of poor players that are emerging in the level 85 Heroic pugging scene, how about you use “immature” or “bloody damn asshat wanting to be carried instead of having to think and play well for a change”. As descriptions go, they’re far more accurate.

Immature can be used in a sentence such as the following; “Boy, I was really excited when my pug dungeon finally popped after waiting in queue for 45 minutes, but it all fell apart when the immature tank dropped group in the middle of the first pull for no reason whatsoever. What an asshole.”

See what I did there? I used immature instead of casual, because casual would have been an unwarranted assumption on playing time I have no actual data to make, but immature is factual, based on my direct observations of the asshole in question.

Are there any further questions?

We’re Back

If you visited the Big Bear Butt website this morning while the redirect virus was still active, first, I apologize for the trouble. Our website was not directly targeted; we enjoyed the results of someone globally attacking WordPress installations hosted on GoDaddy because GoDaddy has crap security. Yay us, we just payed for our hosting through the entire next year. That doesn’t change the fact that, once again, we thanked you for visiting by trying to make your computer sick.

You’re welcome.

Second, I ask that, if you did get redirected, please make sure you clean the following cookies from your system, and then as an extra safety measure, run a viruscan.

The cookies you should make sure you remove are “bb2_screener_” and one called “s9aerzero”. Many thanks for the assistance from Nick aka Foxpaw for this info.

The site has been restored from one of our daily backups from before the hack, after the last hack a year ago we added a daily backup of the entire site as a security feature. Go Cassie! It took a long time to figure out how to actually USE the backup, as GoDaddy’s backend doesn’t play nice with, well, anybody. But she did it.

It’s amazing how frustrating it can be when you’ve diligently been backing up your work for a year, and the first time you really need to use that backup, you find out you don’t even know how, there’s no documentation, and the hosting site doesn’t like the file format anyway. Grrr.

Lastly, if someone happens to still have a copy of the text from my more recent post, “Hunters and Druids and fun”, possibly from a feedreader edition, I’d appreciate your emailing it to me at tigerlordgm AT yahoo DOT com, so I can repost that one. I’ve still got the picture of my Hunter, I may repost that as well, i like that pose. 🙂 I don’t need that mailed to me, though. It was short enough I got it covered.

Thanks for all the well wishes, my friends, and happy holidays to you this fine week. God bless.

Tanking with Style!

I’ve run some of the new instances in Cataclysm, and along the way I’ve seen a lot of really good tanking out there. It’s exciting the way the tanks I’ve found in random pugs are taking the content seriously and using some pretty solid movement, positioning and spell balance abilities in their play.

What is this ‘communication’ you speak of?

One thing I noticed in the pugs was that, while the tanks were individually skilled, and DPS players and healers played their roles well, each person played as individuals, without much in the way of teamwork or communication.

The only points where communication came into play was for a brief pause to ensure each player understood the strategy for the next boss encounter.

In a random pug, this is a fairly common story. But it shouldn’t be, and I’ll explain why I feel that way before getting into specifics.

In each pug, I had a different tank. Each tank controlled group pulls in a different way. There are two different core styles of  group tanking, and each tank used one of those styles, with personal variations, without telling the rest of the group what to expect.

The DPS players in these runs played with their own expectations of how the tank would be pulling, but in some of the cases, it was clear that what they expected, and what the tank was actually doing, were not the same thing.

That right there is where communication should come into play.

I’ll get into a more comprehensive breakdown of the two core styles of group tanking in a minute, I want to nail down why this is important first.

When the DPS players are unsure of what the tank is going to do next, or how the tank is handling the pulls, the single greatest effect is to instill confusion in the group during the transition from target to target.

I noticed some DPS players were trying to follow the tank’s lead and always stay on whichever mob the tank currently had targeted. This caused problems when the tank used a style that involved frequent switching of targets to apply threat evenly amongst an entire group using direct theat spells.

I also noticed that some DPS players were picking a mob and sticking with it during the entire course of each pull until that mob was dead. These players had higher overall DPS during the run due to being able to fully engage a DPS rotation on a single mob, but sometimes the DPS player picked the first mob the tank targeted in the pull and stayed there while the tank had moved on to another mob, and did not continue generating sufficient threat to hold aggro in the face of determined DPS. Also sometimes, but much rarer, the DPS player just picked something at random regardless of the actions of the tank, and fired away until the mob died. This caused problems when the tank wasn’t applying enough threat to that particular mob, which would happen pretty frequently.

My opinion is, if the tank took the time at the beginning of a run to explain how they would handle group pulls, and what their expectation of the rest of the group would be, then the likelihood of the group overall to succeed would improve.

Here is an example. If you do not communicate what you intend to do, the assumption for most DPS players will be, without a way to read the tank’s mind, to believe that whichever mob the tank is currently targeting is the mob having the most threat generated upon it. 

The logic flow is simple – DPS players can generate damage up to the limits imposed on them by the tank’s threat output. If they go over, intentionally or not, they pull the attention of the mob away from the tank.

In a group of four mobs, the one the tank is focusing his attention on tends to have the highest threat generated if the tank remains on that target and uses Direct Threat spells, and thus is the mob the DPS has the best chance of dealing massive damage to without pulling it’s attention off the tank.

If you, as the tank, intend to spread your threat amongst the mobs equally, and thus will not be focusing on and building threat more on one mob than any other, and you do not tell your group that’s what your plan is, then the other players will not know who they’re supposed to kill at any given moment. They’ll have to guess, based on direct observation.

“Is it this one? That’s the one the tank grabbed first. Okay, shooting, shooting, OOPS! Tank’s on someone else now. But this one is still over half health. Do I switch to his new target or stay? I don’t want to go over and pull, I’d better switch. Damn, now he’s moved on to a different one!”

This level of confusion results in reduced effectiveness at it’s best, and pulled aggro and an unhappy healer at it’s worst.

Why this is mostly directed at the tank

As the tank, you are going to be pulling or charging into mobs, either mobs you’ve personally selected or at the direction of a raid leader. 

Once you have engaged the group, how you generate your threat amongst those mobs is all in your paws.

Your threat generation is very important to the team. Every single member will be counting on you to hold threat on the mobs to prevent healer aggro, and to build sufficient threat to allow the DPS players in the group to perform their tasks to the best of their own abilities.

You are the one that the rest of the group takes their cue from. Everyone watches you to see where to focus their attention next.

As the tank, even if you are not the one directing or leading the raid, you ARE the one choosing how you will prioritize threat generation. 

As there is more than one valid way to generate and prioritize group threat, communicating to your team exactly how you intend to control the group of enemies will allow everyone to anticipate your actions, prepare themselves for the fight, understand their own responsibilities and help the entire team work together. 

Tanks lead from the front, no matter who sets the overall goal.

Laying a little groundwork on the terms

For the rest of the discussion, I’m going to talk about threat using two terms, direct threat and AoE threat.

Direct Threat is when you use a spell or ability that must be targeted on a specific mob, and when the majority of generated threat from that spell or ability is applied to that one targeted mob. Splash damage from a direct threat spell tends to affect other mobs less severely than the primary target. 

AoE Threat is when you use a spell or ability whose function is to generate threat amongst a group of mobs equally. The AoE may take the form of a circle targeted on a position on the ground, a cone in the direction the tank faces, or an area centered on the tank himself, and the threat may come from a persistent Damage Over Time effect, a single pulse or burst, or a combination of them both.

Got it? Let’s go.

Our tanking style is based on our intended goals

There is a reason we try to study how to generate threat, and look for ways to improve our style and technique.

It’s all about controlling what we can.

We don’t have any control over the rules of the game, the basic stats, the cooldowns, the spell effects, or the actions of the mobs.

What we can control is what gear we choose to seek out and equip, and how we play our own character using the tools provided.

Gear lists and stat prioritization are all about learning how the core rules work, and making sure we are personally seeking out and equipping the best gear we can, reforging the stats that are most important, enchanting and gemming most efficiently, and basically becoming as powerful as the rules of the game will allow us to be. It’s all about timing, stats, offense and defense, and can be mathematically calculated.

What cannot be mathematically calculated, and thus is frequently overlooked, is how to actually play our character using the tools provided.

If Blizzard chooses to reduce the effectiveness of an ability, we have no control over that. If some of our gear is buffed, or nerfed, or removed entirely, all we can do is recompute the importance of stats and make new lists.

What we do have control over is understanding how our abilities work, what situations or conditions they are most useful for, and using them to the best of our skill based on our intended goal for the fight. How to prioritize which abilities to use, based not on more powerful over less powerful, but more useful for one situation compared to another.

Intent. How we pull and handle a group is going to depend on our intent. 

The core styles of group threat

There are as many styles for tanking a group of mobs as there are tanks out there, but there are two core group tanking philosophies most commonly in use today.

Prioritized and Even Split.

Prioritized is what I call it when the intent of the tank is to build as much threat as possible on one target to give the DPS a double rainbow opportunity to go all out. The general technique is to identify a first kill target that you will focus the majority of your Direct Threat against, with the expectation that all DPS players will be focusing on that one target to kill it first. AoE Threat abilities will be used to maintain anti-healer threat on the rest of the group, and no more.

Split Evenly is what I call it when the intent of the tank is to try and spread the threat from all of your AoE Threat and Direct Threat abilities evenly across the entire group, to provide the DPS the ability to use AoE damage spells and target whoever they wish freely. 

Prioritized group tanking style breaks down in the following way.

The tank identifies a mob in the group that will be killed first. That mob is the first kill target.

The tank targets the first kill target, and charges into or otherwise pulls the group.

In the first few moments of the pull, the tank starts by dealing Direct Threat to the first kill target, immediately followed by AoE Threat to counteract healer threat amongst the remainder of the group of mobs.

Over the course of the next several global cooldowns, the tank focuses all Direct Threat on the first kill target, while using just enough AoE Threat to maintain a respectable lead over the threat generated by the healer.

At this time, it is the expectation that the DPS players are all focused solely on the first kill target. It is also expected that, because the tank is focusing his Direct Threat generating capabilities solely on the first kill target, that the DPS players are limiting themselves mostly to single target attacks rather than AoE, and if AoE is used, it is of the low-threat style.

Once the tank judges for herself that she has generated sufficient threat on the first kill target to hold aggro for the remainder of the fight until the mob is dead, no matter HOW much threat the DPS players cause, the tank switches over to a second kill target.

The tank begins using Direct Threat on the second target, and continues using AoE Threat as a secondary mission just to stay above the healer.

The rest of the DPS rides the first priority kill target down until it dies before switching over. They do NOT follow the tank to the new target.

By the time the first target dies, the tank will have built up sufficient advance threat on the second target that the DPS players will have a healthy cushion allowing them to go all out immediately.

The rest of the encounter is, for the tank, about watching and preparing for emergencies. With the continued use of AoE Threat for the duration of the fight, there is rarely any need to mark a third target to prioritize. The DPS players can focus on and burn down whichever remaining targets they wish. If someone begins to accrue high threat, well, that is what Taunt is for, along with Tidy Plates/ Threat Plates for pinpoint threat accuracy.

This style of tanking has several advantages. Every player knows who to be targeting at all times; whoever the tank has targeted first until it’s dead, then whoever the tank is on next. If the tank is practised in using them, this is the style that supports marking targets with Skulls and Stars and Green Nachos. Using these marks only improves the flow of the fight, because it ensures that every player remembers who the first priority kill target was supposed to be.

By knowing exactly who you should be paying attention to, it allows the tank to devote the majority of her Direct Threat spells to one target, providing the highest level of threat possible. This allows the DPS the best opportunity to go ‘all out’ on a target with a full rotation, and still stay under the threat threshold.

Confusion in the transition from one mob to another is HIGHLY reduced, and the chance that aggro will accidentally be pulled is minimized.

Another advantage to this style, is that it’s excellent practise for incorporating marking targets for Crowd Control. Once a team is comfortable with the idea of using single target damage spells and marked kill targets, it’s a small step to suggest that a target be marked as the “last to die”, and be crowd controlled by one of the DPS players for the duration of the fight.

There are drawbacks to this method, though.

The first issue is, this style is very rigid. The tank directs who the DPS is to kill, and the DPS players are expected to obey. There is very little room for independant decision making. For some DPS players, it can feel as though the tank is having fun, and the DPS players are merely along for the ride, and are not trusted to innovate or unleash the full potential of their characters. This is actually a pretty telling argument, as most characters have a wide variety of tools available, and many players are keen to experiment and vary their methods of play to enliven a run.

The second issue is, this style requires willing teamwork and coordination. If a player in the group decides they simply will not follow the marks or first kill target priority, then this style will result in a run that quickly degenerates into chaos. The tank is not focusing on building infinite threat on everyone; just the maximum possible on one mob. If a DPS player decides to go ‘off the mark’, they will easily blow past the tank’s threat on the secondary mobs and pull aggro.

Take as an example a pull of a group of four mobs, where the Prioritized system is being used, but one DPS player decides to ‘do his own thing’.

The tank marks a target with Skull as the first kill target, another with a Star, and leaves the last two untouched. The tank charges in, uses two instant cast Direct Threat spells on the Skull target, followed up with an AoE Threat spell, then a Direct Threat DoT, and another AoE Threat. From this point, healer aggro is counteracted, and some serious pounding on the Skull can begin for the next three global cooldowns.

Dri$$t the Night Elf Hunter decides the unmarked mob with the bow tie is looking at him funny, and goes all out on it. He blows right past the tank’s meager threat on the mob, and it goes running after him.

At this point, your average Dri$$t will panic, forget that he has Feign Death, and go nuts with even MORE DPS, in the hopes of killing the mob before it reaches him. If this fails, then he will begin running around the room screaming and wailing while the mob smashes him in the back, which, of course, means he’s not Parrying or Dodging.

The healer will change focus from the tank to the DPS in trouble, and begin chain casting like crazy to keep him alive. Most healers will, anyway. The instinct to try and save a life is strong with healers. It’s a pride thing. “You’re not dying on my watch” and stuffs.

The tank will stop attacking the Skull target in order to grab the loose mob, Taunt it, and get it back under control. Unfortunately, in such situations, the mob is frequently out of Taunt range, and the tank will have to go chasing the mob down first… leaving the group he was fighting to begin chasing the tank from behind… where, again, the tank has no Parry or Dodge chance. The tank thus takes accelerated damage. This happens because most tanks take their responsibility to hold aggro and protect the party very seriously, and like a hound can’t resist chasing that fox that he lost aggro on.

The healer sees the tanks’ health suddenly drop like a stone, the DPS player is dying, there’s running all over the place…. and since the tank is no longer on the Skull target, one of the DPS that were following the original game plan just got one sweet crit, and pulled aggro himself. Oh crap.

It is usually at this point the healer has a nervous breakdown, and Dri$$t says, “Learn to tank, noob.”

Does any of that sound familiar?

No. Of course not.

Split Evenly group tanking style breaks down like this.

The tank does not mark a target. The tank instead selects one for other reasons, spellcaster perhaps, and charges in/pulls.

The tank uses all AoE Threat abilities, uses one instant cast and one cooldown Direct Threat ability on the current target, and then switches to a different one.

The tank uses more AoE Threat, and then applies two more Direct Threat abilities, trying to include DoTs if possible. Then the tank switches to different target #3 and continues the process. The whole idea is to use AoE Threat at all times when off cooldown, and fill in with Direct Threat on every mob in rotation evenly. Spread all the threat out like cheese on a cracker.

The DPS players are given no direction as to which mob to attack. It is understood that each DPS player is on his or her own during this encounter.

The tank is operating under a much different priority list. First, the healer must be protected. Second, the tank must survive to deal threat and stay as still as possible to give the DPS players a clear field of view, and third, the tank must be on overwatch during the entire battle, prepared to shift attention to any mob that shows signs of breaking free…. if necessary.

This style is much more fluid, and puts more of the responsibility on skillful play and proper use of judgment on the DPS players.

This style is where you will frequently see a tank stand back and not interfere if a DPS player decides to go all out on a mob that is close to death, to try and burn it down before it reaches them.

The difference between doing that in this style as opposed to prioritization, is that in this one, the responsibility of NOT pulling threat is solidly on the DPS players. If they go over, that’s their ass. 

In this style, it is expected that a DPS player knows how to watch their own aggro on a targeted mob, and if they are getting close to going past the tank, they will simply switch targets to one they haven’t blasted yet.

The biggest advantage to this style is that it requires no teamwork or communication with the rest of the group at all. As long as everyone understands that all mobs will have threat spread evenly among them, and that it’s up to the DPS players to NOT go over the tank, then it doesn’t matter who attacks what when. Anyone can attack anything, and the tank’s main priorities are right up front; healer, then tank. 

The second main advantage to this style is that it really does open up the DPS players to pulling all the tools out of their toolbox. If a hunter decides to use a Frost Trap, or kite a mob around, or send in their pet on one mob while attacking another, it’s no problem at all. DPS players are trusted to know what they are doing, and that if they get into trouble and just can’t drop aggro, to run TO the tank to get the mob pulled off, and to use threat reducing abilities if possessed.

The main disadvantages is that the higher the individual DPS of the player, and the higher the health of the mobs, the harder it will be for the tank to generate enough threat spread out on all the mobs without having someone go over. It works best on groups of mobs with relatively low health that die quickly, so that even if a DPS player pulls, it’s a simple task to burn it down fast.

Another disadvantage is that it does not train groups in how to incorporate Crowd Control skills, at a group level. Individuals may see their use of CC increase as they play with their food, but it does not train a player how not to break another players’ trap. This style also encourages DPS players to use low threat AoE damage spells more than direct damage, and that is a bad mix to have been practising when it’s time to worry about Crowd Control.

With this style, as long as the tank focuses on AoE Threat and spreading Direct Threat out evenly, and watches the entire field of battle closely, then most group pulls will go very smoothly, with the additional frequent use of Intercepts, Charges and Taunts. This is not necessarily a bad thing, as playing in this fashion and succeeding can be just as exciting for the tank as for the DPS players.

The last major disadvantage, of course, is that with the hijinks of the DPS players to consider, the healer is likely to have a very, very rough time if they don’t prioritize their heals and give DPS players a chance to pull themselves out of the weeds on their own.

A Bit of Wrapup

Both core styles work very well depending on the intent of the players using them. Many long time tanks don’t even think of these as the seperate styles they are; they blend both styles together to greater or lesser degree, depending entirely on the situation. Perhaps they mark one particular mob with a Skull because of the special attack or property it has, but go half and half on Direct Threat and AoE Threat, and switch to a Split Evenly style as soon as that mob is dead.

The key thing about them, and blending them together, is that if your group has no idea why you are targeting the mob you are at any given time, they’re not going to know if they should go all out, or switch around, or follow your target on /assist, or anything else. This means that your groups aren’t playing to their full potential.

So, please do me a favor. If you actually care about tanking a smooth run, then take the two minutes at the start to let the party know your intention.

Macro a mini-speech if you like, or type a simple sentence, but do something to let them know, “Hey, I’m going to be spreading my threat around as evenly as I can, so attack whichever mob you want, but if you go over my threat and pull from me, you either better kill it yourself, feign it off or run it toward me to taunt.”

Or, alternately, “I’m going to be marking Skull as the first to die, stay on it until it’s dead, don’t worry if I switch my target to Star halfway through, it’s cool. Kill Star second, and Mage, please sheep the Moon, and everyone leave Moon untouched for last.”

A Last Word, or, Advanced Teamwork

The way I have described Prioritization and Split Evenly may sound melodramatic, but that’s because I used the extreme examples of the styles. As I mentioned briefly, many players already use both, blended together smoothly.

If you’re new to tanking, and these styles make sense but sound kind of boring, please keep in mind one thing; when you play with a team often, and get to know each other a little, everything loosens up and you all learn to trust each other.

Being able to trust each other means that, even when using the Prioritization style, your DPS players change up who they attack based on how they flow through mob transitions.

For example, you mark a Skull and a Star as first and second kill targets. All DPS players get on Skull to start, but once it is down to about 40% or less health and the tank has switched to Star, the melee DPS can feel comfortable switching over to Star and letting the ranged DPS burn Skull the rest of the way.

Why would this make sense and make your players happy?

It’s because the melee DPS players can use an extra two seconds to move over to and get properly behind the Star. During those two seconds, the ranged DPS can finish killing Skull, and then with a single click be already going to town on Star. No manuevering or physical repositioning necessary.

Those are the kinds of things that a group of players comfortable with each other, and trusting each other, do all the time without worrying about it.

But it all starts with clear communication of your intentions, and the understanding and cooperation of the rest of the team.

And above all else, having a healer with nerves of solid chrome-plated steel.

So Close to Epic… So Damn Close

Do you ever have that moment when you’re reading a book, or watching a movie, or playing a game, and it’s a REAL good book or movie or game, I mean cool as heck, but there’s this one thing that just leaps out at you, an opportunity lost, and you turn to a buddy and say, “Oh man, if they’d just done X, that would have been frikkin’ AWESOME!!!! Next level and then some!”

You know what I’m saying?

What they did is great, you’re really digging it, but this one thing just leaps out at you as an opportunity to go that step beyond, ludicrous speed, and you think, “oh wow, that would have just taken this shit to the next level, y’mean? Word.”

Okay, I’ll stop that. Sorry.

I had that moment today while chatting with Cassie about, of all things, Holy Paladin nerfs.

World of Warcraft is awesome. It’s amazing. They hit the ball right out of the park.

But can everyone be perfect all of the time, and think of EVERYTHING?

Nah. And we shouldn’t expect it. I know I don’t. I face every new challenge with a renewed appreciation for their excellence and imagination.

It’s a damn shame what they did to Old Blanchy.

Maybe in this case they DID think of it. Maybe they had a developer meeting where they weighed the pros and cons, with super awesome on one side, but some other issue on the other I can’t imagine bringing it down. Like limited long term utility maybe, not enough long term bang for the buck.

Because, you know, walking hand pets from max level Archeaology bring so much to the table. Whoops, a little snark backed up there, excuse me. [urp]

Me, as soon as it occured to me, I know if I’d been in a developer meeting, I would have gone for it. No half measures, no wimping out, this would have been my cause célèbre. I would have taken this to the streets, man.

Okay, my habitual teasing without specifics has gotten old, I’m sure. Cut to the chase, Bear, wtf are you talking about?

Three words:

‘Underwater only pets.’

Think about it.

C’mon, if you love anything about Hunters, just give it a second and think about it!

How totally freaking awesome would it be, as a Hunter falling into the deep water of Vashj’ir, your ship destroyed and you about to drown, to survive just by the skin of your teeth? And then, faced with living in this incredibly hostile underwater environment, to be able to tame an underwater swimming pet supremely adapted to thrive in these conditions and trained kill at your command?

Sure, a pet that you can ONLY summon underwater, but there to journey with you as you explore the underwater realms together?

HOW FREAKING COOL would it be to be a Hunter with a trained attack shark?

Or manta rays, or eels, or, dare I suggest it for the US Navy veterans in the crowd, a trained attack SEAL?

And of course, at level 85, I would make sure there would be the search for the ultimate in rare pets…

The rare Shark with FRIKKING LASER BEAMS attached to their heads!

Now, oviously this much awesome has to have limitations. I wouldn’t expect you to be able to summon it on land, for example.

But for the duration of your time underwater, you would have the ultimate killing machine on YOUR side for a change!

It’s not like it would be overpowered, I’d just make it be one of those flavor things, where you wouldn’t HAVE to abandon your favorite pet, but if you play a Hunter that you think of as the ultimate master of beasts, the supreme survivor, able to adapt to and overcome any environment, it would be the bestest.

Can you just imagine almost drowning, being saved, having a water breathing spell cast on you, and then having a nearby Hunter NPC named Mania standing nearby in the cavern, maybe over in the corner still half in the water with her shark near her idly swimming in endless circles, who if you approach and talk to her suggests… (suggests, mind you, NOT gives a quest), that “In an environment as hazardous as this, a smart Hunter learns to survive by taking advantage of the strengths of the local animal population. Oh, and have you met Fluffy, here? My, what big fangs you have, Fluffy! Oh yes you do! You’re just my little snookums, now aren’t you! Oh yes you are!”

(My apologies to Mania if this imagined characterization in any way annoys her. I do not know her well enough to know if she would ever have a pet attack shark named ‘Fluffy’ or ‘Snookums’. It’s nice to think so, though.)

Not a quest, of course, because the completionist within us would then make us want to do it, regardless of whether we ever want to tame another pet besides our beloved Snookums or not.

No, just a suggestion, almost like an easter egg, that maybe you might have something new you could try in this all new type of zone, if you really wanted to.

It would be a fun change of pace, it would feel incredibly true to the class and environment, and then once you leave Vashj’ir, you return to using other styles of pet that can, you know, breathe air, since while there ARE land sharks on shore, they generally come with rum drinks and the smell of tanning oil.

But when the time comes to do the Rock Lobster daily cooking quest in Stormwind, well, you’d have got a pet on hand to protect you while you swim around opening lobster traps under the docks. Right?

It would have been so incredibly epic, you know?

Blizzard’s developers can’t possibly think of everything, although they come damn close. This is just one little thing I certainly do wish would have made it.

I would have had a Hammerhead Shark pet named “TheStig”, renowned master of the hammerhead.