It’s a Rental

The big news this week is that I managed to qualify for and run all of heart of Fear and Terrace LFR on Monday, before the reset, thereby getting a bonus chance.

How that happened? Ah, therein lies a tale.

When my Warlock reached level 90, it didn’t take long to get iLevel 460, which grants access to the first range of LFR; Mogushan Vaults.

That was great, and I even got a belt upgrade on my first full run, but it’s a long road from there to 470, the threshold for Heart of Fear and Terrace of the Endless Spring… you know, where the GOOD shit is.

I spent much of my play time for the week running heroics and doing Operation: Shieldwall dailies, but when Monday night rolled around I was still a few iLevels shy of that blessed 470.

A bunch of great guildies were willing to do some Heart of Fear LFR with me that night, if I could just get over the hump… so I pulled the trigger and bought an iLevel 489 Valor Point cloak.

That did the trick, and off we went.

So, what do you think dropped during the run through Heart of Fear?

That’s right, of course… a cloak. An iLevel 483 cloak, and good lord, what are the odds. Right? Well, there went some good Valor Points, used at full face value instead of after the half-priced sale, pissed right down the drain. Should have bought a ring instead. Oh damn, I could have bought an Operation: Shieldwall 496 ring, the Shieldwall stuff didn’t show up on the universal Valor point vendor list at the Ox Temple so it didn’t even occur to me. Ugh, what a dumbass!

But wait… is it possible?

Maybe, just maybe, I has me an idea.

When you buy items from the Valor Point vendors, the items come with a built in timer, telling you that if you were to sell back the item to a vendor within 2 hours of the time of purchase, you’ll get yourself a full refund.

That run was about an hour long… but I used it hard in that raid. You don’t think…

I approached the vendor, and I imagine the conversation went something like this.

“Hey, how’s it going? Remember me?”

“Yes, I do. You were the one with the large purple horns and glowing circle under your feet reminiscent of the most foul of sha energies. How could I possibly forget.”

“Um, yeah, right… right. Hey, you remember that cloak you sold me? The one you said I could return within two hours if I wasn’t completely satisfied? Yeah, I’d like to return that.”

“I see. Do you mind if I ask what was wrong with the cloak? Was the fit a tad off? Were the spells not up to snuff?”

“Oh, no… no. Nothing like that. Perfectly fine cloak, nice thread count, good stuff. I just found something I liked a little better, that’s all, more in line with, um. You know, my budget sort of thing.”

“Ah. Of course, I understand. Looking at your current attire, I should have known. Let me just take that off your… wait. What is that? Is that a stain?”

“What?!? Oh no, it couldn’t be…”

“It is, isn’t it! And that’s blood! And those are black sha energies dripping from the fabric, do you have any idea how hard those are to get out? You have to Martinize. You fought Empress Shek’zeer wearing this cloak, didn’t you?”

“No, of course not. I’d never wear something once and then return it, not me!”

“Uf course, of course. And what do you call this, then?” [holds up a corner of the cloak, from which dangles a broken off mandible, piercing the hem and dripping green gore].

Accessories. Haven’t you heard of swatches? It’s foreign. Ups the value, very trendy. Straight edge all the way.”

“Sigh. Very well. Take your Valor Points and go, and don’t let your shade darken my door anytime soon.”

“Hey, thanks, you’re swell!”

“See you next patch!”

[shudders]

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Shut Up About Warlocks Already!

I know, I know. I’m accused of having a crush on Warlocks.

It’s what I’m doing most right now. I’d talk about my Hunter, but aside from raid night on Friday, where we entered Terrace of the Endless Spring normal for the first time and successfully downed the first boss fight, I haven’t been on my Hunter much.

Until 5.2 comes out, I’m pretty cool on my Hunter. That’s what’s giving me the freedom to do other weird shit.

So, a new Warlock update.

I have apparently gushed enough that now Cassie is trying one as well. She’s up to level 32, Demonology with Dark Apotheosis. The hardest part for her? Trying to find someplace to level that she’s not sick of.

I don’t care how great a game is, there is an upper limit on how many times we can play the same stuff. Azeroth, even with the revamp, well… I think we’ve milked that tauren dry. And Outlands lies like a big turd right in the middle of questing progression.

‘Nuff said about that.

I was Valor capped on my Warlock by Friday. Then I ran heroics and did dailies all weekend anyway. I ran heroics even though I wasn’t getting anymore Valor Points at all. Yeah, I know.

It feels really strange to be running dailies and heroics just because, hey, it’s fun.¬†It feels wrong. I’m supposed to have to be bribed to do stuffs with strangers.

I know I’ve been sidetracked by Destruction and chain running heroics, but what did I say my whole point with the Warlock was going to be?

Oh yeah… soloing old raids!

I fired up that Demonology spec, trained the Mannoroth Talent for +500% AoE range, and went into Molten Core.

Molten Core was cleared ridiculously easy. The hounds especially, I ran through all the packs and popped Hellfire for a complete burn. All packs dead, none bursting back to life.

I didn’t get a single piece of Warlock tier on the run, but I did get two of the pets to cage and send to Cassie. Which I just realized I haven’t done yet, I was distracted at the mailbox by a heroic queue popping.

Um. Right, note to self, remember to cage new pets before queuing tonight.

After Molten Core, and I was in the area anyway… why not go do Blackwing Lair?

Really, why not? What’s the worst that can happen? So I fail to get past the first boss, Razorgore the Untamed, that would be nothing new.

I spent about four hours on it one night about a month back, on both my Druid and on my Hunter trying to get past the first boss. I wasn’t able to swing it. I just couldn’t get all the eggs destroyed before the adds killed my mind-controlled Dragonkin.

I tried timing it, 30 seconds controlling, 20 seconds add clearing, controlling again…

I got close a few times, but just couldn’t close escrow on the bastard.

I felt like a failure, to tell the truth. Other people seem to have no problems soloing the first boss in Blackwing Lair, it’s ‘just tricky’.

Well, I wasn’t getting the trick. I could kill the adds easy enough, I just couldn’t kill the adds AND keep the boss alive until all the eggs were destroyed.

I even tried Spirit Beast healing the boss on my Hunter. Couldn’t get that to work right either.

I felt pretty dispirited about the whole thing at the time, I’d like to farm pets in there to give to Cassie and Alex. And gear from there looks so, so sweet.

So, enter the Warlock.

After getting my UBRS attunement so I could get into Blackwing Lair via the Orb whenever I wanted, I stood there, hands on hips, and made sure I was prepared.

Mannoroth Talent all trained for maximum AoE range? Check.

Demonology aspect up? Check.

Dark Apotheosis on for maximum survivability while being pounded on by adds? Check.

Improved Drain Life tier 1 Talent? Check. ūüôā

Glyph of Sacrifice for more personal AoE DPS? Oh, heck yes. Check.

Soulstone? No, I did not have a Soulstone, I’m a moron. I started it without one.

All right, let’s kick this pig.

Cassie walked up when I was about 30 seconds into the pull, and she mocked me for trying it on my Warlock solo. She knows how bad I sucked at this the first time around on my Druid and Hunter. And my Warlock, while fun, has nowhere near the gear my Hunter does.

She started out laughing at my impending doom, but her chuckles fell into silence as the fight went on.

Here is how it went.

The Warlock in Dark Apotheosis puts out enhanced threat. Hellfire with the Mannoroth talent puts out an insane ring of AoE fire, and the meteors spawned by Hand of Gul’dan are pretty impressive, too.

I took control of Razorgore, and the mechanic let me stay in Dark Apotheosis form. Sometimes, some mechanics kick you out of forms, this mind control did not.

As adds came in, they would take one or two shots at my mind controlled Razorgore, but then they’d lose interest and come running to my character on the platform. The increased threat was working.

I worked my way down one side of the room, destroying eggs, until Razorgore was close to the far platform, then dropped mind control and popped Hellfire and a few meteors.

All the adds died instantly, and I went back to controlling.

It was just that simple. Easy, no muss, no fuss, I finished the encounter with Razorgore never dropping below half health the entire fight, and the adds for the most part ignored Razorgore in favor of eating my Warlock.

How did my Warlock stand up to the pounding of all those adds?

My health bar barely twitched. I could have stood there forever, if all we were worried about was health. The spell and physical damage reductions of Dark Apotheosis, plus the high health levels really make a difference.

Victory on my very first try! And the pet dropped, WOOT!

Cassie just shook her head in sadness. I think she said something like “that’s just wrong” before she left the room.

What? If killing all the things with fire is wrong, I don’t wanna be right!

I then proceeded directly to Vaelastrasz the Corrupt, who killed my ass stone dead.

Wait, what?

Oh, Burning Adrenaline kills suckers dead as roadkill in a cookpot. Percentage based, not flat health value. Whoops! Better deeps harder.

Dead again. Aha! I has a Soulstone! Whoops, dead times three! Soulstone means die faster!

Okay, maybe I need my pet out.

Dead again.

Umm… maybe in a more boomy spec?

Destruction spec activated, captain… ah NOW Vaelastrasz is dead… quick, loot the body! And then dead again.

Sigh. Okay, I’m an engineer… Jeeves up!

Okay, next boss… oh shit, those pillars of stupid slowing.

Oooh… Demonic Leap, a Demonology ability, WORKS! Leapfrogging through the slows, mua ha ha ha… and AoE ALL the whelps!

Hah ha ha, screw you guys! Revenge!

Okay, now to the room where I can get some Elementium Ore off the Blackwing Technicians if I’m lucky… I’m even a Miner, I can learn to smelt Elementium. Just because.

Wow, this Blackwing Spellbinder is kicking my ass. What is he, he’s just some add, wtf… huh, he’s still at full health.

Wow, he just won’t go down, what the unholy fuck… wait, is this guy immune to ALL MAGIC?

Shit, what have I got that ain’t magic…

Well, I guess let’s try smacking him in the face with my staff.

Oh my god, he IS immune to magic. I have to smack him in the face with a stick. I wish I had a fishing pole to equip, if I’m going to derp it up this bad, I should really do it up right.

Wait… what the hell is wrong with me, I have PETS, damnit. I’m a Demonology Warlock, I can haz Felguard and AoE bladestorm.

Ahhh…. THERE we go. Punk ass Spellbinder.

Just in time to pull my head out of my butt, the next room is full of Spellbinders, and yay. Felguard for the win! If I would have had to auto-attack with my staff to kill them all, I would have pulled the cord on my router.

Okay, time to kill Chromaggus… oooh, no problem at all. I wonder why I remember it as being important to have that dust of time stuff? I don’t have any bronze debuff… oh shit, I have 10 minute long WHAT debuffs? Oops.

Well, shoot. Now I’m taking fire damage, losing mana, have healing reduced by half and slowed casting time for the next ten minutes.

Screw it, pull Nefarion anyway, I’ve got some friends that are willing to chain run some heroics, I don’t have time for this. How bad could it be?

Yes, I said “How bad could it be”.

The answer? I was punished appropriately.

The kill itself was easy as hell, even with all the debuffs. No problems at all.

Then I chain ran heroics with friends for a few hours and didn’t get a single usable drop. Giggity.

Blackwing Lair, done. And of course, me being me, the one boss I expected to be a problem was easy, it was everything else that kept killing me.

Lessons learned. Next step, me and my Felguard soloing AQ 40.

What’s that, Twin Emperors? Did I hear you say one immune to magic, the other immune to physical? I have you covered THIS time.

Oh, and by all means, bring the adds. I like adds. I eat ’em like candy.

And, you know… I’m durable. You gots to be durable. Most ain’t.

‘Locking It Up, Feeling The Burn

My head is still filled with little starbursts of amazement from last night.

I played my ‘Lock, and the experience was completely different. AGAIN!

The Warlock is proving to be the class that is teaching me how many different ways you can do the same thing.

It’s one class, and the foundation is a Warlock channeling fel powers and communing/summoning demons.

Just how different can it be?

Completely different, one Warlock is three different character playstyles all sharing one overall theme.

It’s tripping me out. I mean, Hunters, we got three DPS specs, but still a pet, bang bang, same core shots and shared Focus mechanic, just a little variation in some spells between ’em.

Not Warlocks though, oh no. No, Warlocks have three different DPS specs, each are viable, and each are way different from the others, right down to the core mechanic.

The resources each uses, Burning Embers versus Demonic Fury versus Soul Shards, it’s as different as Mana versus Rage.

But they all do DPS, damnit!

It’s freaking cool. Still blows my mind.

Here’s where I’m at.

I leveled and loved Demonology. The spec uses Demonic Fury, it’s very much like having a Rage mechanic, except unlike the screwed over tanks, Demonology Warlocks have a base minimum Demonic Fury that they get to start with, it refills when they’re out of combat. It would be similar to if Bear Druids always started a fight with 30 Rage in the bar, ready to go.

I know. I KNOW! How bullshit is that? How many years did we ask for something to let Bear tanks get some burst aggro off the bounce on groups, begging for maybe a minimum Rage when out of combat or get some Rage generated by our Feral Charge. Oh, hell no, but Warlocks? Nothing is too good for Warlocks. Troubled by a lack of burst out of the gate? Awww, poor little guy, let’s give you a minimum Demonic Fury level so you don’t get Fury starved. All better? And here’s a lollipop for being such a good boy! Oh yes you were! ‘rubs spiky jaws’.

Still, lovin’ Demonology. Tons of fun, great for questing, lots of toys and survivability and easy to use AoE. At level 90 with the Mannoroth talent that extends the range of your AoE abilities by 500%, it’s ridiculous for blowing through old raids.

I had that talent on for last weeks run through Karazhan, and the ball room right before Moroes was hilarious! Shit, the AoE of my Hellfire, channeled while running around, was damn near as big as the room.

Note to self from questing in the cave for Operation: Shieldwall the next day – bring Tomes of the Clear Mind and take that shit off of there before going into cramped places filled with level 90 mobs next time, dumbass. That goes double for the upgraded Life Drain talent from Tier 1. Holy crap. Talk about a mistake that’ll wake your ass up, light off Hellfire and watch as the entire cave complex fills with flames. SHIT! Try to get a Life Drain going to top off and watch as two different groups of slaves come from both sides.

At which point, your only recourse is to bear down and Deeps Harder. Oh, and wonder why you’re given a Soulstone ability you never freaking use. Is it so you can die and feel like an idiot, both at the same time?

Okay, that’s great. But I did some instance and scenario work, and while I like the Demonology for Scenarios, the DPS output is a little low when in tanking form the whole time, and in instances or raiding I didn’t really LIKE having the Metamorphosis form and Demonic Fury as my resource.

Demonology was doable certainly, and had good points, but at the heart of it it felt like I was playing a Cat Form Druid style that only let me use my cool form in between bouts of normal form casting.

It’s not bad, it’s a feel thing. When I’m kitty Druid DPS, I’m a kitty.¬†Switching in and out of forms is something I stopped liking to do as a kitty a long time ago. I wouldn’t want to have to stand in Night Elf caster form to cast spells to build up Energy, then switch to the fun Kitty part and tear up the boss until I ran out of Energy, and then flip back to caster to build up some more. Not when you’re in caster form more than kitty. And that’s what you do as a Demonology/Metamorphosis Warlock.

So, I asked you folks for suggestions, and was told to try Affliction. “It’s got the best DPS of the three in raids right now.”

A word about that.

I play a Beastmaster Hunter as my main… and it’s supposed to be the best single target Hunter DPS right now.

But I was BM before Pandaria. And before Cataclysm. And before Wrath.

I haven’t changed specs to go with the higher numbers because that’s not why I play a spec or class. I play what I feel to be fun. Right now my chosen playstyle happens to be in phase with the moon, and shining amongst the stars ascendant. Supposedly. The times will change, things will swing, and I’ll still be BM regardless.

Now, I know that there will always be specs that theorycrafting show to have the potential to have higher output than the others.

The question I think we should ask ourselves if we’re going for DPS isn’t “which spec has the highest theorycrafted DPS”, the question should be, “Which spec do *I* perform the best on?”

The answer to that comes not from theorycrafting number-crunching spreadsheets but from actual testing, you on your character on training dummies and on actual bosses, trying to do your best.

If you find the flow of one spec fits your abilities or interests or comfort level better than another, you WILL see a difference in the results. The thing you should look at is not potential, it’s the reality of your results.

Also, maybe when you try to play the ‘flavor’ spec, you’re not doing it quite right, and your actual results won’t match what you’ve been told to expect. You have to try it yourself.

Coming back to Affliction.

I did some reading, set up a second spec, got it all gemmed and reforged and did LFR.

Not just once, but twice.

The results weren’t bad, and I thought there was quite a bit of fun involved. It was interesting to see the effects of quickly putting a passel o’ dots on multiple targets, getting Seeds going all over and generally trying to manage DoT timers when on adds, then switching up the management on single targets.

But it didn’t gel with me. And I didn’t even know it at first. My feelings were clouded with that new class smell.

How I figured it out was when I sat in front of my monitor, knowing I needed lots of gear from Scenarios and Heroics, and I didn’t want to queue. I dreaded queuing. I didn’t want to do it.

I found myself wondering if I could just stay Demonology and get enough valor and drops from Scenarios in tank mode to make up for not queuing in Heroics.

That made me take a mental step back. Why am I dreading Heroics? If I don’t want to run in a Heroic, why run in a raid? It’s the same group thing, just with more peeps and better loots. If Heroics sound sucky and unfun, then what does that mean for raiding?

I evaluated my feelings about this. I’ve done LFR MSV twice now, both halves, and I did a few heroics, and what it comes down to is, ¬†I don’t like the management of adds. Single targets were fine, but not FUN. The DoT management isn’t something that was blowing my skirt up. So, Heroics felt like a chore as Affliction, and I didn’t want to go.

Last night, after reading some more comments left by you fine folks, I decided to try Destruction, see what the other spec looked like. Yes, it’s supposed to be less DPS potential, but how does it feel? What’s it like to play?

Turns out, Destruction lights my fire, baby.

In fact, it lit a fire under my butt so I was having way too much fun, and when Alex saw what I was doing over my shoulder, he insisted I dual spec HIS 82 Warlock and trick it out the same way, with the spells on the bars and stuff, and I left him happily blowing up Training Dummies with flaming green dragon heads from Chaos Bolt.

Last thing he was doing before going to bed, he was in Deepholm questing as Destruction, and all buzzing with glee over blowing stuffs up with fire and showing me the latest neat Destruction thing.

Me, I had a similar experience.

I ran a Scenario as Destruction while queued for a Heroic.

Then I ran a Scenario/Heroic duo again. And again.

I had trouble pulling myself away. I kept doing the same thing, queue for a Heroic then queue for a Scenario to fill the time waiting, and shit, that was the most fun I’ve had playing in months.

I didn’t want to stop running heroics in PuGs. ME. *I* am saying that I didn’t want to stop chain running in Pug Heroics.

I only stopped because it was late, my eyes were pits of burning pain, and I had to get up early to go to the gym before work, we were expecting a snow storm so I had to budget enough time to snowblow the driveway first so we could escape.

What am I looking forward to tonight?

More damn Heroics, hopefully squeezed in before I have to stop and do a boring old raid. What once I looked forward to on my Hunter, now is something standing between me and Destruction Warlock Pug goodness.

I love it. I can’t express quite why, though. Have I gone insane?

There is something about being able to use a Burning Ember to activate a ‘your next attack with be shared among all enemies within 15 yards for x% of the damage’, then drop a Rain of Fire on them, then start lighting something up with instant cast or super-fast cast attacks, and just keep on rolling, rolling on.

It feels fast right out of the gate, no waiting, no warning, I’m blowing shit up off the pull. And after I get cooking, CHAOS BOLT!

Now, sure I know it is supposed to have worse DPS than Affliction, and I’m sure that’s true.

But here are my results, based on my comfort level.

Same exact gear, reforged appropriately for the weighting for each spec, and as Affliction I was sometimes hitting 34k on a single target, more often around 24k – 28k sustained.

As Destruction, I was pulling down 41k reliably, and cackling like a witch one step from the gingerbread house and the oven with the lockable door.

The stress involved in trying to do my best as Affliction was replaced with my delight at blowing shit up, and then seeing good results afterwards.

There is the key difference.

As Affliction, I felt stressed to manage everything properly in order to do my best, but I was doing it to be rewarded with strong performance. I wasn’t doing it for the fun of it. The abilities did not naturally lend themselves to the way I flow, or some shit.

As Destruction, I felt delighted and gleeful at roasting poor fools in heroics, and then I was handed good performance just for showing up and having fun.

So, um. Yeah.

For those who love Affliction, I appreciate your skills, I acknowledge your awesomeness, but you lost me at glowing green dragon heads of doom.

I’ve said it before, and clearly I hold the lesson close to my heart.

There are few problems so large that they can’t be solved by the use of more explosive.

What Does Progression Mean To You?

Progression.

It means just one thing – moving further than you’ve gone before. Or does it?

In World of Warcraft it’s usually used to talk about raiding, but it’s not just what boss you’re on.

I’ve been raiding on my Beastmaster Hunter now for a few months, and I’m fortunate enough to be playing with a team that has been¬†able to successfully (and repeatedly!) kill all the bosses in Mogushan Vaults.

So, progression. We started with no bosses, and kept working on them one at a time, getting better each week until now we’re able¬†to clear the entire raid instance in a single 2-hour run.

Some groups out there are far further along than we are, killing bosses in harder raids or heroic modes, and some folks out there aren’t¬†yet as far along as we, still working on earlier bosses.

S’all good.

The fact remains, we have progressed and succeeded. We haven’t fallen apart, we haven’t had a lucky kill that we can’t duplicate,¬†we’re still moving forward.

I’m very happy about that.

But that doesn’t mean everyone in the team is happy.

It’s about expectations.

Last night we had a rough night in some respects. There are bosses we have on farm that we usually one-shot, well we had some wipes¬†to ’em. We still killed them, but it slowed us down more than expected.

I could tell it was disheartening. I could feel it, some folks felt we WERE moving backward, falling behind…¬†losing progression.

We didn’t fall apart into whining and finger pointing. We dug in and went again. And again. And we succeeded, killing¬†them all and ending the day with another complete clear.

not just a clear, but the last fight of the evening on Will of the Emperor was also one of our smoothest ever. The timing on the end phase was freaking perfect. Not a close one, not a squeaker, we destroyed Will of the Emperor.

What was the progression that made me happy? We didn’t kill any bosses that we hadn’t done before, and in some respects we were slower than usual.

The progression came from doing better on the fights that we have the least experience in. Sure, some of the early ‘farm’ fights¬†were flopping around, but Elegon and Will of the Emperor were great. Better than we’ve done before.

On a purely personal level, I had a great night.

I’ve been trying to do my best as a Beastmaster Hunter on these raids each week, and my DPS has been okay, even good, but I’ve always felt¬†that I was not coordinating my cooldowns and priorities and Focus management quite right. I could do better.

Last night, on every pull I tried my hardest to nail down my timing, figure out where I wasn’t hitting the right transitions.

Frostheim has said it before, and it is so true, we have a lot of buttons to manage. A lot of things to prioritize, and every attack or cooldown you use is a GCD that means everything else waits a skosh.

Last night my goal was to get every single one of them perfect. To have my Focus at the exact point that the moment Kill Command or Glaive were up, I was using them, no moments wasted. Cobra Shot used only as much as necessary to get the Focus needed, and no more.

No wasted GCDs. Uptime of the best shots. That was the goal.

I’m sure most folks don’t think it’s that big a thing and do it as a matter of course, but not me.

I worked hard on it, and I had a few good runs last night where I feel I nailed it. And I also learned what was working right and what rhythm helped me move in sync with my cooldowns.

At one point, I used all of my utility, did everything I was supposed to do, hit every point and ended with 86k DPS for the boss fight. I was so damn happy with myself, I had to whisper a friend, bursting with excitement, ¬†“86 freaking K freaking DPS, bitch!”

Keep in mind, other folks in our group regularly have higher DPS that I do, and last night was no exception. Monstre alone came in and did over 250k DPS on one of the fights last night. So I’m not whispering because I’m el numero uno head honcho. I was genuinely delighted because it wasn’t about being better than someone else, it was about setting a new bar for me to reach. A damn good bar. I played in the zone, as perfect as I could, and THAT was where I was at. From now on, that is the new goal for me to try and beat, and every fight I’ll still be looking at my abilities trying to see where I can switch something or prioritize something to do better.

Bosses were going to die anyway. In reality, I probably could have been half drunk and pushing buttons randomly, and we would have still won, and at about the same pace.

My progression, my satisfaction was in doing better than I had ever done before, and that left me on a natural high.

Well, goodie for me. I talked to one of our raiders a little later, just a quick chat about next week, and she seemed really down. I was genuinely surprised, we cleared all of Mogushan Vaults, whole thing in two hours. Sure, could have been faster, but in my book that ain’t failsauce.

I’ve been in first half LFRs that have taken longer than that, no lie.

But they were still down about it. Sounded kind of bummed. And that comes back to expectations and what progression means to each of us.

Just because I’m happy we cleared MSV, and just because I had a good time because I felt I was improving my skills and refining my technique doesn’t mean other people in the raid group had the same goals… or the same measure of success.

If your goal is to reach a certain point, clear a raid just so you can have a certain number of attempts on one difficult boss you’d like to get past before the new patch reduces the challenge, then anything less than meeting that goal is a failure, isn’t it?

What if you have your heart set on reaching Garalon? You don’t expect any difficulties in getting there, you’re not concerned with the old stuff, you have your sights set on this one goal. Get Garalon.

If that’s what you need to feel you have progressed, then not reaching that goal will suck. It will be a big downer, because you failed to reach that goal when you expected to.

Same raid team. But some are going home happy and others are going home depressed.

It’s just something to think about. Everyone has their own goals and definitions for progression and success, and while you are focused on trying to meet your own goals, it’s good to take a look at what the goal for your TEAM is, and do your best to make that happen too.

If your goal is to be better at your own role in the group, but other people in the team have the goal of reaching Garalon, then part of being a good teammate is doing what you can to help the whole team get all the goals met, not just yours.

So, yeah, we ended the night well. We didn’t slide backwards, we didn’t choke on a boss or hit a wall.

But we ended the night down, because we could have gone further, faster. And for at least one person, we didn’t progress. And that SUCKS.

Next time, hopefully we’ll get it done and meet the goals everyone has, and then everyone in the team can walk away happy, feeling that glow from a job well done.

Why Talion: Revenant should be on your bookshelf

This is an entirely unpaid endorsement, and a plea for you to do yourself a favor and go buy a book.

Do you like fantasy novels? Do you?

There are a good number of books I’ve enjoyed reading over the years, and I have a place for many of them on my bookshelves.

Then there are those special books, the ones that I have loved so dearly that I re-read them at least once a year, and will probably continue doing so forever.

Talion: Revenant by Michael A. Stackpole is just such a book.

Cassie mocks me for doing it, and probably rightly so.

You know you’ve got it bad when your wife can simply glance at the cover of the book you’re holding in your hand and say, “You just read that four months ago, wtf did I buy you a Kindle for? Why won’t you get some new books for a change instead of re-reading those endlessly?”

But I don’t re-read everything endlessly. Just, well….

The Sten series by Allan Cole and Chris Bunch. Yep, losing one of those from my collection would be like losing a hand. The good one, not the butt-wiping one. All it takes is for Cassie to see my hand ANYWHERE NEAR a book from the Sten series and the eyes start rolling. I can’t help it! They’re just so gooood.

Or the Guards/Sam Vimes books by Terry Pratchett. A life without Sam Vimes would be a cold, colorless life not worth living. My signed/stamped hardcover of Night Watch is my most treasured artifact. Reminder to self: Still must buy “Where’s My Cow?” once I’m done done reading the last Tiffany Aching book to Alex. And perhaps The World of Poo, if I can, er, slip that one by the missus.

And of course high on my list of books to re-read is Talion: Revenant by Michael A. Stackpole.

Stackpole actually has two books on my yearly (or more often than yearly) re-read list; Talion: Revenant and Once A Hero.

Damn, I like Once A Hero. It’s so freaking good. [shivers]

Here is why I’m talking about these.

I’m thinking what it would have been like if I’d never heard of or tried Talion: Revenant before. If I’d never heard from friends about this kickass author who wrote the only good Star Wars books at the time, the first Rogue Squadron series, and how he had some other books in worlds of his own creation I might like.

I didn’t read Star Wars fan fiction or tie-in books, but I had friends who did. I didn’t read the Rogue Squadrons at first, because Star Wars non-canon books, meh. Really? Splinter in the Mind’s Eye, remember that crapfest? But a great writer, I like to hear about that, so I read his OTHER books. Then the bastard hooked me with his great writing and I went back and bought the Rogue Squadron books and read them too.

Damn him. Yes, they were good, but later authors couldn’t maintain actual quality, so I had a sad once he left the series.

What if I’d never had a friend tell me about this great author, Michael A. Stackpole? What if nobody ever suggested I read Guards, Guards by Terry Pratchett?

What if I’d never taken a chance on a book with a generic cheesy Sci-Fi cover like Sten, only to find within it’s pages sheer fucking genius?

I’d have missed out on what I think is some of the finest science fiction and fantasy writing in existence. Period.

These books have, each in their own way, changed my life because I have loved them and made each of them a part of me. I truly feel my life is richer for having had those worlds to discover.

Okay, so what.

This is relevant to you, because while it was out of print for a long time, you can buy Talion: Revenant right now, brand new, in e-book form on Amazon for the Kindle and at other places. You can get Once A Hero as well.

And here is a bonus reason, a selfish reason to shout this from the rooftops. Stackpole says that if he sees just a few thousand more sales of the book, a total of 5000, that will showhim enough interest to justify a sequel.

A sequel to Talion: Revenant. Dear lord. I don’t know if my heart could take it. So. Much. Awesome.

If you read the books I’m mentioning, you’ll notice they all share a few things in common.

The writing is brilliant, and the dialogue is fast and fun. The deft wordplay between characters in all of these books is probably the biggest reason I love them so much. The characters are not there to drive forward the story, the characters are there because the characters ARE, and have a love of life. They seem real, and also seem like people it would be interesting to meet if Robert Heinlein were right about the World as Fiction.

That’s it. That’s my plug. I love Talion: Revenant with a passion, I’m re-reading it again right now, and a chance comment made me go look and see if Stackpole had a webpage, which is how I saw his mentioning of the e-books and the Talion 5000 book Challenge. That post went up in mid-2011, so I’ve only re-read Talion about 4 times since then.

I can’t recall ever asking anyone to buy anything on this blog before, but I’m asking you now. If you have never read Talion: Revenant, if you enjoy fantasy novels, AND if you can afford it, I strongly encourage you to buy the ebook and try it.

Warning. You might enjoy it so much it leads to more book buying.

Oh, and if you wanted to read Sten, good news!. Last time I went to buy a second copy of every book in the series for emergency backup purposes they were all out of print and insanely expensive. But, I now see you can buy then for Kindle, at reasonable prices! At least you can get the first book, I am off to check the other six in the series. If they can be gotten for Kindle now, HOORAY!!!!

OMG, you can get the whole Sten series on Kindle. I may cry. So many books, lost to the world like bolts of lightning, brief flashes illuminating the heavens only to vanish forever. Now, the lightning can be captured and held for all time. We are so blessed to be living in this digital age.

Now if only I had a bazillion dollars to buy every book I wanted on Kindle. Err, and some of them would be new books Cassie, I promise. No really. Honest.

Signs of the End Times

Best hunt a hole, pards, the number one sign of the impending apocalypse has occured; I’ve leveled a Warlock to completion WITHOUT killing it.

Here is the ridiculous part; within an hour of reaching level 90, I was in LFR… without ever stepping foot in a single heroic OR regular instance other than the Chemical Brothers valentines event.

Let that sink in for a moment. My first real Pandaria group was LFR.

How that happened isn’t all that interesting, but in order to save a snapshot in time of how I was able to pull that off at least once in Pandaria, here we go;

When I reached 90, I looked to see what I had available to throw together.

I leveled Engineering to max, so I had the 476 Goggles.
I did Sha of Anger at level 89, so I had the Claw drop quest starter to turn in with the Shado-Pan for boots.
My friend Lilbigears and his wife Em chain-ran the Chemical Brothers with me until I got my 480 necklace. (An easy to get alternative for alts is to wait a few days of dailies until Exalted with the Klaxxi for the 489 necklace).
I had the Inscription-crafted Bind on Account staff I’d made (and upgraded) for my Priest, so I had a non-optimal weapon ready to use. Ew, spirit.

So, four epics all ready to go.

Then, the surprise epics.

I planned on making iLevel 450 PvP Contender Tailoring items to go with them, but when I checked my Tailoring skill I had ‘discovered’ recipes for epic Chest and Glove items, and the only mats needed were Imperial Silk. Oh, and what is that in my bags? A convenient stack of Imperial Silk gathered while I was leveling my Priest slowly over a month or more. !

SIX epics ready to equip within minutes. Crazy.

Throw in the Tailoring 450 PvP items, the Ghost Iron Dragonling, two crafted rings from my Jewelcrafter all from mats I had lying around, and there I was – iLevel 459.

FOUR FIFTY NINE? One damn point away? Oh noes… I’m going to have to run a heroic after all!

Except, I had a BoE 450 cloak sitting in my bank unsold. It’s a Strength/Stam cloak, but if I just leave it in my inventory, will it still count?

IT DOES!

Boom, LFR here I come!

And LFR there I went, after I did the reforge, gem, enchant dance.

So, yeah. Theres that. No reputation items, nothing that needed grinding or dailies in any way on this character. Just running Chemical Brothers at 89 in groups, and I could have avoided that for the 489 necklace from Klaxxi.

I’m not saying this is a ‘level a main and go to LFR’ plan, because it depended on having alts that I’d already leveled professions and farmed mats for.

Not everyone has a max level Tailor with the epic recipes and a big stackof Imperial Silk just sitting around gathering dust. but you might have enough gold on your main to buy those crafted items on the AH, so it still counts.

Also, those Jewelcrafting rings I made were crafted from mats just sitting around on my Hunter, and I was glad of it because there was only one ring on the Auction House, and it was a ridiculous 1200 gold. Ouch!

The point remains, I leveled an alt for fun while my Hunter main is coasting along fully decked out, and I was able to reap the benefits of having done the reputations and professions on my other characters.

Fact: the game is not necessarily as alt-unfriendly as has been said elsewhere.

What is still alt-unfriendly is if I wanted to pursue the Legendary questline on more than one character.

Go figure, a Legendary questline requires commitment and time investment. Oh noes!

I think I’ll keep that something special for my Hunter to do.

My next goals are to take this Warlock for a spin in old content, seeing what I can and cannot do. My son wants to get his Warlock the tier hat from Karazhan, so I’ll probably try and run that tonight with some folks to give him another shot.

Yes, Alex loves his Warlock. Truth be told, he likes his Warlock more than his Death Knight, by a lot. I think part of it is the cool pets, and the other parts are how cool Worgen Warlocks look, and how great the transmog sets look.

Warlocks have the ‘it’ factor going for them.

Death Knights suffer from not having historical tier sets added for content that was out before they existed. He loves running old content, but without Tier drops to chase, he gets bummed.

Anyway, my other goal is to continue to raid with my Warlock in LFR, and to that end, I’m thinking it’s time to buy a second spec… one to configure just for raiding.

So, help me write the next chapter for my Warlock. Experienced Warlockery types, what spec should I go with for raiding?

Oh PLEASE Let Me Kill My Guild Leader!

I was just reading the latest post by Rohan, which is about new the PvP quests and zone in Star Wars: The Old Republic.

He grabbed my attention with these words;

“The PvP area is interesting. It’s a free-for-all zone, so you can attack your own faction. Only 4-person groups are permitted in the area. Larger raids get disbanded automagically.”

Oh my God.

Rohan’s post title asks the question, Genius or Madness?

He also goes on to make it clear that, yes, a four player group CAN and in fact WILL attack other groups of their own faction, and kill them. Happily.

I’ve long had the opinion that Blizzard looks to other games for inspiration at times. They let some other game company be the test bed for new or wacky concepts in MMOs, wait to see what gets attention or works out successfully, then adopts parts for World of Warcraft.

Just my own opinion, and I don’t see anything wrong in it. Why not try and learn from success to grow your own offering?

Here is a perfect concept to steal… I mean, be inspired by.

If a Battleground were added that wasn’t faction based but group based set up as a free-for-all, and you could attack and kill teams of your own faction as well as the opposite, I promise you I would start playing it.

It wouldn’t even be difficult to justify in the lore. Both factions are already familiar with Adarrah and her mercenary band, and journeyed with them on a hunt for treasure into Uldum.

How hard would it be to have a Battleground where teams were ‘recruited’ by Adarrah to go in, hunt for and ‘secure’ priceless artifacts as sub-contractors for the mercenaries?

You put together your own merry band of cutthroats and head off to some forsaken island in search of ancient Mogu treasure, and once there you find you’re not the only crew that had the same idea. Suddenly, you’re fighting the island fauna and the other teams of BOTH factions to be the first to find and hold the treasure, winner take all.

I would love to have the chance to run across some particularly obnoxious player of my same faction on another team, recognize them, hunt them down and kill them.

Or, better yet, have the guild set up multiple teams and all queue at the same time, hopefully to end up in the same Battleground and hunt each other down for keeps.

Awww yeah.

Oh, and mighty master Rohan?

Genius. Sheer genius.