The Weary Warlock Part 12 – Dysfunctional

The watching Paragons seemed content to sit tight so long as we didn’t try to get past them. We could simply walk away. We didn’t have to do this.

In every cycle of war with the Pandaren, it had been the Mantid that were the aggressors, the Pandaren that defended their homeland. The Pandaren defended their homes, their families, their way of life.

Their future.

Now it was the Klaxxi Paragons that stood firm, showing no sign of starting shit, but determined to protect their family, their chance of a future with their father, their creator returned to them.

If we were going to get to Garrosh Hellscream, then we would be the ones to break the peace. We would have to choose our vision of a future over theirs.

We would have to be the ones to break faith with our friends.

Kind of heavy existentialist crap to deal with, when all I wanted to do when I woke up in the morning was tear some shit up. You know, blow up some Orcs, burn down some huts, maybe deep fat fry a goblin or two.

Guess we got the bonus plan.

You know what? Fuck it.

As much as I admire the commitment and honor of the Klaxxi, its not a Klaxxi overlord I’m here to stop, it’s the return of an Old God with the spiritual power of the Vale and the military might of the Horde behind it.

If the Paragons were standing between us and a new Empress, sure, no problem mates, you go on about your business, ain’t none of mine.

But nope, when that door opens it’s not going to be some punk kid needing a spanking, we’re going to be going ten rounds with an Old God. Every moment that passes, it gets to gather its strength, soak up those Vale energies. Leave shit like this to fester, and you get what we had in Ulduar, or that whole mess with C’thun out in Silithis.

Oh, hell no. I am NOT going to go around for 6 more months fishing up Red Snapper again. And bandages! Rolling those fucking bandages. Oh, kiss my ass, that thing is going down today. Like, right now.

Monstre and Pankration moved forward, drawing the attention of the Klaxxi soldiers waiting in the chamber. Within moments, the soldiers were cut off from their comrades, overwhelmed and destroyed.

Leaving Kovok still stomping around in the rear.

Monstre ran forward and smashed Kovok in the carapace. I felt like the blows were hitting my own flesh, but it had to be done, and if it were to be done at all, we’d best do it before Kaz’tik got involved.

With our combined might on Kovok, he died within seconds. Kaz’tik said nothing, only looked down upon us without expression.

This was serious. They weren’t screwing around. Even now, with the ultimate provocation to Kaz’tik of killing his most treasured weapon, they were waiting for us to actually attack. We couldn’t goad them into making the first move.

This blood would be entirely on our hands. It would be us that broke faith, and at the end of the day, win or lose we’d have to deal with that fact for as long as we had left to us.

So fucking be it. No more Old Gods. Just, no more.

Pankration smashed the harmonizing crystal in the center of the chamber, making the walls ring with the discordant sound, breaking the beacon that bound any other Klaxxi troops to the Paragons. It was just us, no reinforcements to hear their call.

No one gets out of here alive. No one comes riding to the rescue.

We moved to the attack, and the Paragons finally joined the battle.

Hisek the Swarmkeeper, Skeer the Bloodseeker and Rik’kal the Dissector all flew down from their vantage points to engage us on the ground, all while the rest of the Paragons watched, and waited.

Hisek landed lightly, saying “Time for a little target practice…” and began rapidly firing multiple spines, most of them bouncing off of our armor. Rik’kal the Dissector called out “Yes, new test subjects!” and focused all of his attention on Monstre, who wisely drug him away from the rest of us. From the looks of things, Rik’kal was trying to get past Monstre’s defenses to inject him with something that looked truly foul. I didn’t know what it was, but I surely hoped Monstre could keep every bit of protection up he had.

Whatever Rik’kal was brewing, I doubted a shot of penicillin was going to make a dent. No, Rik’kal was nasty, and from the looks of the squirming crap in those vials he was trying to get into Monstre, he was shooting for a case of death by Candiru, and just no. “Hold on Monstre, just hold on! Don’t let him get that crap in you! And keep your pants on! For the love of Elune KEEP YOUR PANTS ON!”

In the rush to separate Rik’kal from the group, Skeer the Bloodseeker dropped in on us almost unnoticed. At least he did until he screamed out, “I will drink your blood!”, and summoned up two massive mounds of roiling blood from the sides of the room that rapidly advanced.

We all calmed down and settled in. We had made it this far using coordination, clear communication, and overwhelming firepower when we freaked the hell out.

Clearly, this situation called for the overwhelming firepower and the freaking out.

As Pankration got Skeer and Hisek under control, the rest of us switched to burning down the Bloods. They moved inexorably towards Skeer, intent on feeding their blood to him. We weren’t going to let that happen.

As soon as they went down, we returned our attention on Skeer to cut down on any more of those damn distractions. With our combined firepower, Skeer quickly died, and Hisek was looking pretty weak in the knees too.

As he fell, Skeer called out to the other Paragons waiting above, saying “Avenge me, brothers…” and in a bright burst of light, Ka’roz the Locust flew down to take his place.

It took a second for my eyes to adjust, but when they did I was finally scared. That flash of light when Skeer died had meant more than the fall of a Paragon. In that moment, the other two we had been fighting were fully healed of all their wounds.

We, on the other hand, weren’t so lucky.

Chron’s voice rose over the sounds of battle, calling out “Ignore the other two, we have to focus all of our efforts on bringing them down one at a time! They’re linked together, when one dies the rest are getting healed! Kill Ka’roz next!”

At that moment Hisek targeted me, and I got blasted, flying halfway across the room. I was frozen in place, the seconds slipping away as he focused in on me, preparing to unleash some kind of powerful blast of sonic force. Right before he fired, everyone nearby that could get there in time ran between us right into the line of fire, and somehow absorbed enough of the blow to enable me to survive. I staggered away, a little deafened but still in the fight. Whatever that was, getting in the way helped mute it, but it didn’t feel good at all.

With that kind of firepower, why the heck did Chron want us to take down Ka’roz next?

At least, that was what I was going to ask, when Ka’roz suddenly erupted in a flurry of attacks, darting all over the chamber to smack people down at random, and everyone he passed got caught up in a twisting, spinning vortex. Holy crap! Okay, kill him before the chaos gets to be too much.

Speaking of controlled chaos, Rik’kal turned from Monstre long enough to toss something at Summibs, and the next thing I see Mibs turns into a big Amber Scorpion. Oh shit, Summibs was one of our deadliest, if he starts to turn on us… oh, cool, he’s attacking Ka’roz too!

Um, what? Okay, so Rik’kal just turned Mibs into a scorpion, so instead of puking green fire all over the place, he’s ramming that stinger right up Ka’roz’s… hmm, I guess I don’t know what he’s ramming that into. On second thought, ew. Oh good, it’s worn off, he’s back to normal.

And there goes Ka’roz, down for the count. Ka’roz was so fast, so free, blazing around the room. Even lying there, battered from our attacks, his only thought was of the thrill of speed, the rush of the wind. As he fell, I heard his final words, “Curse this shell… I was not fast enough…”. He died wishing for just a touch more speed.

Another flash of light, Hisek and Rik’kal once more as fresh and ferocious as when the fight began, while we continued to tire.

And Korven the Prime jumped down, to land with a crash in the center of the chamber. “You now face the Prime. Bow down to your superior.”

Oh shit, this just got real. The Prime! Oh man, game over man, we are just well and truly fucked.

Korven slammed into Pankration, sending him reeling, but Chron rallied us, calling out “Everything you have on Korven! Blow heroes, blow cooldowns, blow whatever you have to but get him down!”

Rain of fire, rains of frogs, I even asked my pet Xu’fu to go bite him on his ankles. And it was working! His vicious assaults on Pankration were causing blood to splatter the walls, but Pumpken, Callaghan and Katilyn were keeping him alive and Korven had no support, nobody in his corner to feed him the gift of life. He was going down!

And then an Amber prism formed around him, and we all know what Amber means.

“That’s it! Burn the Amber down, don’t give him a chance to heal!”

We smashed through the Amber, shards flying anywhere, and Korven went down, the spikes of Arrakeen’s maces impaling his skull. He barely had time to whisper, “Return me to the amber…” before the death rattle shook his body.

A bright flash of light, and Iyyokuk the Lucid, Iyyokuk the freaking mentalist Mantid joined the fray.

I just…. I don’t even want to know what the hell he was going to do. Iyyokuk yelled out, “Chaos is order unrecognized by a lesser mind!” and blasted Katilyn with a powerful force that drove him to his knees, leaving him visibly diminished. Another blow like that, and he would be dead. We had to take him down!

And then these weird shapes, symbols and colors started appearing on our bodies.

“Um, guys?”

“Guys, I’m kind of freaking out here, what is he doing?!?”

The symbols aligned, and lines of light raced out, linking four of us together in burning fire. Everyone got the hell out-of-the-way of those bars of flame, while I shifted my attention to burning his bug ass down.

Chron yelled, “No! Not Iyyokuk, not yet, we can deal with that, just move out-of-the-way of the fire beams. Kill Hisek the hunter next, that sonic blast is causing too much damage, and it’s knocking us around!”

Fair enough. I mean, we all kept moving in closer, and every time Hisek aimed in on someone, they went flying and everyone but Monstre had to drop what they were doing and try to block the shot and soak that blast. It made a great deal of sense to go for him next… so long as Monstre still had secure pants.

It’s times like these that the case for emergency pants is clearly made.

Hisek went down, sighing “The hunter becomes the hunted,” and in the flash of light I strained to see who would join the battle next. There was one face I was dreading to see, but it was Xaril instead. Xaril of the Poisoned Mind.

Oh dear no, Xaril AND Iyyokuk? Geek squad up and ready for battle!

Xaril smiled at me, and said “Have you come to try my new concoctions, Wakener? I assure you, these are nothing like you’ve tasted before!”

Oh what fresh hell is this.

Xaril’s talons flew, and I felt the sting of a pinprick. I slapped at it at the same moment I saw several others doing the same. Oh shit, no, he got us!

I saw a blue haze rising from the pores of my skin, as others developed a red shimmer or a yellow tinge like graverot. Oh shit, oh shit, we’re all gonna die.

It looked like Pumpken was covered in a blood red haze, and then it flared, and fire actually leaped out from her engulfing the area around her with a 10 yard wide fireball. Oh shit!

As people scattered to get away from her and anyone else covered in a red haze, the people with yellow skin started farting, yellow clouds of gas blasting from their butts leaving a big, stationary cloud.

You know, its times like these that whirlwind or hurricane is contra-indicated. No high winds, please and thank you. A farting death cloud? Really? And why didn’t I think of that first. Just think of the fun at parties! “Holy crap, who died?” “Everyone standing behind Arrakeen.” “Don’t light a match!”

Chron called out, “We need Monstre free! Everyone, kill Rik’kal, quick, before the last layer of his pants fail.”

At this point, we were a well oiled machine. With Pankration and Monstre controlling each of the Paragons, the rest of us were free to focus all of our attacks on one target, and we didn’t have any distractions, any crazy chase scenes to worry about. It was all about getting some distance, and staying alive to kill.

And that was when I blew the hell up.

Blew? BLUE! The damn blue haze seeping from my pores, when it finally went off, it exploded with the force of a million slightly decaying suns. Well, maybe not that much.

I felt a second wind as I was brought back from the brink of death by Callaghan. “Next time, find someone covered in yellow to split the pain! A ‘splosion shared is a ‘splosion halved.”

Right, right. “Hey, I need a blow-up buddy!”

That didn’t come out sounding right, did it.

Rik’kal died, and I have to say he looked profoundly disappointed to have been unable to infect Monstre. I don’t know what those parasites he was trying to inject into him would have done, but I did NOT want to find out.

As Rik’kal died, Kaz’tik the Manipulator finally jumped down, and I learned a valuable lesson.

Kovok was not his only pet kunchong.

Kaz’tik raised his arms high overhead, and called “Come, little kunchongs! It’s feeding time!”

Little kunchongs came gliding out of the shadows from around the chamber, glowing in the light of their fully raised shields. Awww, they were so cute! Cute little kunchongs, I want to hug you and raise you to eat pandaren, oh yes I do! Who’s the cute little kunchong, oh yes you is!

And then one fixed it’s yellow gaze on me, and I found myself moving helplessly towards it. I heard, sort of, Kaz’tik call out, “Feed, my kunchong, feed!” but I didn’t let it bother me. He was so cute, I just had to hug him.

Everyone else on my team attacked the kunchong, and after weakening it a bit I felt the irresistible tug lessen, then fall away. Holy shit, I was going to be willing kunchong chow!

Can this day possibly get any better?

So of course, we killed Kaz’tik next, right?

No, of course not. No, Iyyokuk’s insane calculations and lines of blasting fire were causing us too many problems, and Chron called out for us to work on him next.

This was becoming quite simple, wasn’t it? And seriously, how many more Paragons can there be? This battle is all just a blur to me now, but surely we’ve got to be getting near the end.

Yes. Yes we were.

Iyyokuk fell, throat crushed by the steel grip of Pankration, and then HE flew down.


Kil’ruk the Wind Reaver.

My one, true friend among the Klazzi.

“I will carry you one last time, Wakener… to your doom.”

Okay, I guess I’ve come this far. I’ll go down this road to the end.

But I’m not going to hurry the meeting.

Under Chron’s direction, we killed Xaril of the Poisoned Mind, and we all breathed a little easier as the colors faded from our skin, and the yellow clouds began to dissipate in the air.

This left us, for the first time in this horrible battle, with only two opponents left standing, Kaztik the Manipulator and Kil’ruk.

Kil’ruk leaped into the air, and how many times had I seen him make that same move against our enemies? We all scattered out-of-the-way, crying “Death from above!” as he plunged down, narrowly missing Trajar. Trajar didn’t even blink, he just calmly leaped backwards like a leaf on the wind, turned and unleashed a hail of rounds into Kaz’tiks chest, blowing his organs out the back in a fine pink mist.

The sudden massive trauma seemed to make Kaz’tik forget what he was doing. He forgot about Y’shaarj, about us, about everything going on in that horrible chamber. Instead, he turned toward the mound of menace that had been Kovok. He staggered towards the body of the fallen mighty kunchong, one step, then two, before dropping to his knees. He reached out with one trembling talon, his voice a thin reed. “Kovok… Come to me… I… need…”

Kaz’tik the Manipulator shuddered once more, fell forward, and was still.

This was it. We were still strong, united, and determined to win.

The only one left to stop us was Kil’ruk.

Our friend, and our greatest enemy.

“Well fought, Wakener. Well fought.”

I didn’t expect any mercy, and I certainly didn’t expect him to give up. He unleashed everything he had, flying high into the air of the chamber only to plunge down with a killing scream, but we all knew him and his tactics too well. We had fought by his side against the sha-controlled Mantid too many times, killed too many along the trails of the Dread Wastes to be fooled now. With caution and the utmost respect, we stood our ground, we rolled out-of-the-way of his deadly blades, and we overwhelmed him.

We gave him the only gift we had left to give. We ended it clean, and to his face.

With his last breath, he did not condemn us, or threaten or plead. Why we fought was of no matter. What was important was we had fought with everything we had, and the fight was finished with honor.

“Well fought, Wakener… We will… meet… again…”

For a long time, we stood there over the body of our friend. This price, this was just a little too much. But we paid it, in full.

Time to collect what we’ve paid for.

“Garrosh! We’ve come for you!”

Pankration turned to us and said, “Did you hear that? It sounds like Thrall, yelling at someone up ahead the other side of that door!”

In the stillness of the chamber, there in the shadow of the crate of the Old God’s heart, I thought I heard it too.

How the bloody hell did Thrall slip past all of this and get there first?

“If it turns out there was a service entrance up there for Garrosh to get his milk and cookies delivered, I’m going to just quit.”

Summibs looked at me and said, “What, you think Thrall wouldn’t know where the secret entrance was, if there was one? Come on, let’s hurry, we should be just in time to see Garrosh get his ass handed to him. The big green death machine is back, and it’s time for spankings!”

Yeah, somehow I don’t think Garrosh is going down that easily.

Bare Butts on the Ready Check podcast!

As I continue to work out the epic battle of the Paragons of the Klaxxi, the blog stagnates.

Sorry about that.

Whilst I labor on, if you’d like a bit of bare bear bouncing may I direct your attention to the Ready Check podcast, where I was a recent guest. Very recent, like this last weekend. We had ourselves a big bear brawl of a good time. no, really, it was a freaking blast.

Cassie rates the podcast episode highly, saying “why is it the only time you’re funny and charming is when you’re on a podcast? Why do I get the bitter and nasty bear?”

You hear that? She clearly said I’m funny and charming!

So please, go visit Toman, Flaps and Hunni for season two, episode 8.

Stay awhile and listen as we explore;

The perils of the Paragons!

The torment of the Tournament!

The chills of the Challenge!

And so much more.

Come for the bear, stay for the brilliant podcast personalities.

Ready Check.

Voted #1 podcast crew I’d most like to go on a pub crawl with, paws down.

And speaking of pub crawls, if you’re in the UK, don’t miss out on your chance to attend the special event Ready Check has put together for Blizzcon on Saturday, November 9th in London, the Barcraft-on-Thames!

I’m told there will be prizes, Blizzard Blues, streaming Blizzcon and truly outstanding people. I wish I could see you there!

So go, tell me all about it. I bet it’s going to be a blast.

The Weary Warlock Part 11 – Family Reunion


We were a grim crew as we filed through the open arch. The Blackfuse Company and a mighty dinosaur. All of that just to guard a door? What else are we going to find up ahead, corrupted Celestials led by a sha-infested Sargeras?

I was past caring. I felt numb. All I wanted to do was get past all of these misguided fools that believed in Garrosh, get this thing done. If the Kor’kron stood and died or were smart enough to run screaming before us, no difference to me.

Throw them all at us, Garrosh. Send us your fine Orc warriors, your true believers in your vision of what a Horde should be. So many good men and women lost for nothing while you cower in your hole. Explain to their mothers and fathers, explain how all this will bring about the bright future of your True Horde.

Or better still, don’t bother trying to explain. They will find the answers for themselves when they see your head at the tip of our spear.

The battle against Thok must have beaten me down more than I thought, because I didn’t get that we were under attack until the hum of an edge whipped past my head.

I ducked, startled out of my thoughts and quickly tossed up a rain of fire to get some breathing room.

Shit, I knew that buzzing sound.

The passage before us was thick with mantid warriors, their razor-edged limbs flashing as they attacked, wings buzzing as some leaped to try and flank us from the left.


Why the bloody hell would the mantid be here? Empress Shek’zeer was dead and gone and the mantid were under the guidance of the Klaxxi while they awaited the birth of a new Empress.

The Klaxxi… yes. Even in the dim light, I could make out some of the markings on the carapaces of the mantid pushing against each other in their eagerness to get at us. These were Klaxxi, untouched by the taint of the sha.

But why?

The Klaxxi warriors we fought showed no sign of wanting to talk it over. They were intent on getting to us and tearing us to pieces. It seemed they had been set to guard the way, and now that we had penetrated past the doors they would kill us or fall. Absolutely fearless and dedicated to fulfilling the will of the Klaxxi’va and their duty, as a true Klaxxi should be.

As we forced our way deeper into the passage, mandibles and armor pieces flying past, I thought I knew what was going on, and it felt like I’d been punched in the gut. Had it really only been a short few hours since I’d jokingly wondered if we would have to fight our family next?

And for my sins, here we are.

I remembered clearly the last time I saw Kil’ruk, my first and best friend among the Klaxxi, the first of the champions I had labored to free from his amber prison.

He had taken me aside to where the great sealed door faced the resonating crystals of the Klaxxi. I had always assumed behind it lay the entombed remains of great Klaxxi warriors of the past, perhaps even the Empresses of previous dynasties. Or maybe that was where they stored the fluids of their champions for genetic manipulators like Rik’kal to work with, always trying to improve the race.

What I learned from my swarm brother was a far different tale.

Kil’ruk had opened the way for me, and led me deep beneath the Klaxxi mound to a carefully guarded chamber. There were decorous carvings on the walls showing scenes from the mantid past. Scenes of the origin of the mantid… and who they truly served.

Kil’ruk said to me, “Wakener, your deeds have earned you the trust of the Klaxxi. You are to be rewarded.”

“The mantid are an elder race. The pandaren you associate with – they are but children. They have their role to play.”

“Each cycle, our young swarm their walls. The pandaren slay the weak. The strong return. With each generation, we grow ever stronger.”

“Before your history began, our empire was vast. We shared this world with our sister kingdoms, Ahn’Qiraj and Azjol-Nerub. Our Gods were many, and powerful.”

“We mantid worshipped the seven heads of Y’shaarj. Great was the Old One, and terrible was His wrath. He consumed hope and begat despair; He inhaled courage and breathed fear.”

“When the usurpers came – the ones you call ‘Titans’ – Y’shaarj was destroyed.”

“His last terrible breath has haunted this land ever since, but the shadows he left behind are mere whispers of his former glory.”

“I tell you now, because you have earned this warning. Your gods are not our gods, outsider. If the Old Ones ever return, we mantid will once again stand by their side. The wisest among you will do the same.”

I had stood in that chamber for some time afterwards, coming to grips with what he meant.

From the moment I had freed Kil’ruk from the amber, I had done my best to be a true friend to the Klaxxi. Together we had been successful in freeing the mantid from their slavery to the Sha of Fear, and regaining their freedom.

The truth was, the Klaxxi were the people I felt most comfortable with. The Horde and the Alliance were full of themselves and their petty fears, their prejudices and their hatreds. They brought their crap everywhere they went, and if they looked to build something for others it was just to consolidate their strength or build alliances so they could have greater resources or more allies for the next time they wanted to fuck something up.

The Klaxxi didn’t play any of those games. They had duty, commitment, a sense of purpose. They followed orders, and put the good of the many before the needs of themselves. They looked for and recognized excellence; what mattered was what you did, not what you said you intended to do. You couldn’t bullshit the Klaxxi, you performed and were rewarded or failed and were tossed on the shit pile.

Everything was aimed towards building a stronger society, a more powerful people that could face any challenge and survive into the future.  They didn’t waste time proclaiming how fucking great they were or how perfect and awesome the current rulers were. No statues were built, no fawning tributes, none of that crap. The Klaxxi didn’t pretend the world had achieved perfection when a royal child was born. They looked to the future, always to the future.

Fuck Varian, and fuck the statue he built to himself at the entrance to his castle. How about the masses starving at the walls of Sentinel Hill? The history of Westfall was written by the blood of those cast aside. But a statue to the greatness that is Varian Wrynn? Oh yes, by all means, open the treasury and bring up the construction teams.

The Klaxxi are my people, I am the Wakener and their swarm brother.

That is what made the secrets he entrusted to me so hard to bear. For all their logic and order, for their goal of a stronger tomorrow, they were still trapped by their beginnings.

Even as they grew stronger, smarter, as they began to think for themselves and act independently, in their hearts they thought it was all in service to some old dead god they worshipped in a musty old chamber.

I had left that chamber grateful that Y’shaarj was dead and gone.

As strong as the Klaxxi were already, it seemed to me every generation that got farther from the days of Y’shaarj would grow more independent. Their efforts to improve the race were bearing unexpected fruit. Given enough time, I bet they’d become a people free of the influence of Y’shaarj and look for a way past the cycle of war with the pandaren on their own. They probably didn’t even realize they were doing it.

I snapped back from my memories in horror, as I realized what this meant.

The heart of Y’shaarj reborn. How could I have been so stupid as to miss what that would mean to the Klaxxi? For all their selfless attention to duty, they still looked for someone, the right someone to take charge and tell them what to do. With their Empress dead they would be even more desperate for a leader to follow. A leader that tradition supported.

Who better than someone consumed by the Heart of Y’shaarj itself? To the Klaxxi, it wouldn’t be Garrosh using the dark power of the heart, it would be the Heart of their One True God speaking to them at last, through a warm-blooded faceless puppet.

Shit. Shit, shit, shit!

My teammates killed the last of the Klaxxi warriors, leaving the rest of the tunnel clear.

We pushed on and stepped into a vast chamber, with, yep, another big fucking locked door on the other side.

The room was very large with a high domed ceiling and raised terraces to left and right. Plenty of room for all manner of flying, leaping and crawling critters to come swarming down on us. Joy.

The room was full of Klaxxi, but the very first thing that drew my eye was an empty wooden crate cast off and abandoned in the far corner of the room.

There lay the chest that had held the Heart of Y’shaarj, still glowing with the lingering purple essence of a dead god come back to life. Proof if I needed any that a remnant of Y’shaarj was returned, surrounded by a swarm of Klaxxi eager to defend the way against any who came.

Against me.

The room was filled with those I had come to call my friends.

My heart was lifted for a moment to see massive Kovok stomping around impatiently behind the Klaxxi warriors like a particularly impatient dog that had forgotten where he had buried a bone. Ah, the good times he and I had had!

But enough. The Klaxxi had their duty, but so did I. There was a reason we got along so well.

Arrayed about the high terraces, the nine surviving Klaxxi Paragons looked down upon us.

I had stood beside each and every one of these powerful champions in battle, and I had cause to respect their will. They had never known defeat, and were so committed to duty they had permitted themselves to be entombed in amber, possibly for all time, just to be ready against the day their might was needed in defense of their people. And in the hopes of a good bloodbath, too.

As I’d expected, the first to recognize me was Kil’ruk, the Wind-Reaver. The angel of death, he who had laid waste to countless pandaren and mogu. He called to the others around him, saying “Look, brothers! The Wakener is here!”

My heart sunk even further. I already knew there would be no talking around this. You don’t convince the Klaxxi, you don’t debate or plead. They make a decision, and then carry it out. You could point out an advantage they overlooked and hope the Klaxxi elders would see your point, but if not, tough shit.

Rik’kal the Dissector turned his head to stare at Kil’ruk in disbelief. “They made it this far? I TOLD you the others needed some microsonic genetic alterations!”

I had to chuckle at that. Ah, Rik’kal, always letting his desire to investigate come before the matter at hand. I still had to laugh at the way Kaz’tik shut him down when Rik’kal wanted to… investigate the source of Kovok’s great strength. At least he did before Kaz’tik pointed out his vulnerability to sonics and how fascinating he might find his own spleen.

Iyyokuk the Lucid was clearly irritated, as if the solution to a clearly foreseen problem hadn’t worked out after all. “How illogical… Did they not take your warning, Kil’ruk?”

Kil’ruk shrugged his winged shoulders as Xaril the Poisoned Mind reminded him, “We Mantid serve a power far greater than they or their gods.”

Kaz’tik finished the brief exchange between them, and in that moment I realized that my chance to speak was lost. I had just watched them discuss how far being the Wakener would carry us, and as Kaz’tik said, the answer was “It matters not. The Old One will not suffer their intrusion.”

The nine Paragons all turned to look at us, and Korven the Prime addressed us directly for the first time.

“We have endured the Usurpers, their children, the loss of the Old One, and soon… you.”

Ka’roz the Locust joined in, speaking as if continuing the same thought. As though all the Paragons were of one mind.

“We will slay you all as easily as we slew the pandaren of old!”

Skeer the Bloodseeker picked up the thread, saying “And then the Old One will remake this world, for the Mantid.”

Hisek the Swarmkeeper fluffed his wings, saying what we knew would surely follow.

“Come, children of the Titans… You face the Paragons.”

Buttflame, Conqueror of Orgrimmar

Siege of Orgrimmar mount reward

So, this thing happened last night.

This thing where I raided in Siege of Ogrimmar normal 10 with Team Wanda of the Band of Misfits, and we defeated Garrosh.

There were cutscenes and everything, there were final quest completion scenes with Loremaster Cho and Wrathion. It’s very cool, and no I won’t spoil it.

I usually don’t talk about raiding very much. Some folks raid, some don’t. Some would like to and can’t find the team or the time, others do raid and are flaming asshats and, for the sake of everyone around them, shouldn’t.

Used to be I never raided, then I raided a bit but had some bad experiences, then I didn’t raid again. At the moment I’m raiding quite a lot. A lot more than I ever expected for a guy ostensibly warming a bench.

I’m going to talk about raiding now because I think killing Garrosh on normal, a major event in current tier content, should damn well rate a mention on my blog. It’s a big deal to me.

I have NEVER in the years that I have played World of Warcraft defeated a final tier boss when it was still current un-nerfed content.

At least I hadn’t until now.

This ain’t a world or server first, but it’s a first for me, and the thrill of being a part of it on Sunday night is something that will be a favorite game memory for a long time to come.

What this means for you in the short term is now I can finish my Klaxxi and Garrosh story chapters this week. 🙂

I feel torn about this victory.

On the one hand, I fought as hard as I could and it was an incredible feeling when Garrosh went down. Things went so well on that pull, it felt at the time like everything was dropping right into place as planned. For a fight as chaotic as that can be on phase three, that is certainly saying something.

On the other hand… I am by far the lowest DPS on our team. My gear is not a factor. I have outstanding gear, when I look at where I am against the rest of the team, there is simply no comparison.

I’ve seen a brilliant Warlock, and it ain’t me. Summibs is simply amazing. He was the same spec as I was on the Garrosh encounter, and there is no question the difference in performance ain’t gear, it’s skill, and mine is not at the same level as anyone else on the team.

That leaves me very proud of having been a part of a major raid progression and enjoying the rewards of success, a title, a cool wolfie mount, and at the same time feeling that if I am not performing at the same level as everyone else is, then I was just carried to victory.

It doesn’t matter how hard I worked for it, or how focused I was, or how much I prepared. It’s not about who tried hardest, effort doesn’t get an A. If I can’t actually perform at that level, then someone else has to perform even better for the team to win.

I look at where we have come with these fights, and I look back on what used to be considered difficult (or at least annoying) fights like Shade of Aran or Prince Malchezaar, and it’s astonishing how far we’ve come in complexity and duration.

Paragons of the Klaxxi compared to Shade of Aran? Really? Not even close.

Every fight in the current raid tier I feel I have had to stretch, to learn, to get better and I can see improvement fight to fight. BUT. I think the fights are getting harder faster than I am improving.

I saw it with Garrosh. I could visibly see improvement every fight in how fast I can move and respond, especially when pulled into the other realm or moving in response to Desecrated Weapon throws. It’s like we’ve talked about before, PvP instant fire and manuever skills are desperately needed for this level of raiding, nothing is a ‘Patchwerk’ fight anymore, and the fights are all the better for it.

I do wonder when I’ll hit the wall in improving. I know, not just worry but know that the team can find a replacement for me pretty easy, someone that would do much better DPS. I’m sure right now the only thing preventing it is they’re all very nice, and they haven’t been looking very hard… yet. We’ve got some hellaciously skilled people in this guild, and any one of them could perform better.

I thought I was doing very well on Garrosh Hellscream, moving and responding exactly as I should in sync with everyone. Then I saw my DPS, and realized that everyone else in the team is at a higher level. They are doing all the same things, but they’re also maintaining top line damage output, or handling multiple adds and complex mechanics instantly every time.

I feel like the writing is on the wall. Sometime in the future I will hit a heroic mode where I can’t adapt fast enough, where the challenge has risen higher than my skill to overcome.

Happens to all of us eventually, but I hope before it happens to Team Wanda they are able to find someone they like as a replacement that can be an asset, and not a lead chain on the ankle of the team, dragging them down.

I know I’m old, but I’ve never felt old playing the game until now.

The Cub Report – Card Shark

I was fortunate enough to get a Hearthstone Beta key earlier this week. A completely new experience for the Bear household!

I’ve never played a collectible card game before, and neither has my son. We’ve both seen Pokemon cartoons though, so we know what they’re ALL about, amiright?

So, enter Hearthstone, our first ever foray into the world of collectible card games, and without even needing physical cards.

This is my first report on our experiences.

I installed the game on my computer and account, and started it up. Nice opening cinematic.

I started the tutorial, played the first two battles, and then noticed I had a quest progression bar at the bottom of the screen, and realized that I was ‘unlocking’ new cards each time I had a victory on the starter character, the Mage Jaina.

Uh oh.

From the beginning, I had expected Hearthstone to be something the Cub would enjoy doing more than me. I had only intended to mess around for a bit and get a feel for what it was before letting him have at it… and you kinda need a tutorial to learn the rules of a brand new game system.

I checked it out, I dithered for a few days. It turns out that no, you cannot ever replay the opening tutorial sequence. It introduces you to each concept, and then you can learn it more in depth when playing the Practise game to unlock all the character decks.

But I get ahead of myself.

I played the first two tutorial card battles, and I couldn’t go back. Those missions unlock new cards, and those cards go into your deck. There is currently no option to replay the tutorial missions, with pacing and explanation, over again.

I would like to see that added some day in the future. Include an option to replay tutorial battle sequence with the XP gain and card unlocks removed. It would be a great way to introduce the game to a friend of yours over for a visit. Let them sit down at your computer, and have them play the tutorial missions with your unlocked cards turned off, so it was clean as the first time.

We don’t have that option, so I could either continue to play through, then teach Alex directly. Or I could do what Cassie suggested, and find a Youtube or Twitch channel where someone filmed/recorded the entire sequence.

I decided to play the rest of the tutorial and then sit down with Alex and coach him on it afterwards.

I played through the Mage quests, and then took on two or three battles in the Practise section to try and unlock other character decks.

I also spent $10 in the store on the 7 expert deck combo, to lock in my own Beta bonus legendary card, Gelbin Mekkatorque.

In the practise room, you can play with either their basic decks or your own custom decks. I stuck with basics for my three fights… and I got my butt handed to me. So, I learned how to play by the tutorial, but I clearly didn’t really know what I was doing yet.

Good enough to bring Alex into it? Sure, why not. Can’t do worse than I was already, and as long as I didn’t try to teach him my mistakes or shoddy thinking we’d be good.Llet him develop his own understanding of the mechanics and I t should be fine.

Last night I interrupted his Minecraft Youtube video watching marathon to ask if he’d like to try Blizzard’s brand new digital card game. He didn’t seem all that excited about it, but I had it up on my computer already, so he could just plop his butt down and play.

I made it too convenient to blow off in favor of videos. Heh, this is a big deal! He doesn’t really play WoW anymore, he’s too busy playing Minecraft for a half hour, then watches Minecraft videos for a half hour, then asks for a mod or map he saw and plays Minecraft again.

Side note, the Minecraft 1.6.2 mod “The Aether II” is incredibly awesome. So is Galacticraft. If you like Minecraft, check them out, true winners.

He wanted to watch me play it through, see what it was like.

I went into a Practise battle with the Mage, who remained the only deck I unlocked, and I narrated what was going on while I did it and let him make decisions for me and asked his opinion.

Imagine his shock when I got my butt handed to me, and he learned that yes, in fact, that was normal for me and that I had yet to win a single real Practise battle.

Would he like to try? Why yes, yes he would in fact like to give it a go, thank you very much. He had found excitement in leading the way, so he could then teach me.

I sat with him while he did some battles. First one was against Garrosh, and he got his butt handed to him. Health and attack power were concepts easily picked up, it was the Mana Crystal and card cost concepts that had the learning curve.

He kept getting so excited at what HE was going to do next he forgot that once his Crystals were gone his turn was done. Understandable, right?

His next battle was against the Rogue. That was an excellent introduction to strategy.

Against the Rogue, he got the joy of having a big minion card in his deck, one of those big Mana Crystal cost minions with 6 attack power AND 6 health kind of thing. Wow, this is going to rock!

And as soon as he plays it, the Rogue casts Assassinate and insta-gibs it.

It happened again later in the match, fielded a super powerful minion expecting it to distract long enough to do something else, and on the next turn it was instantly Assassinated.

I explained that you could only have two of any card in your hand. In that battle, he at least now knew that the Rogue couldn’t do it to him again. And if he had another big card like a Legendary, he could’ve fielded it without worrying about Assassination because he’d already scared them both out of the Rogues hand.

I saw the wheels turning.

Legendary cards?

I showed him the collection tab, where you can browse through all of your cards. I showed him how each character deck had special ‘class only’ cards, and then there was a minions tab that could be drawn on by everyone.

And I showed him how, when I purchased my $10 batch o’ cards, I’d been lucky enough to get a Legendary, Ysera. So we had two Legendary minions in our deck.

Immediately he wanted to know how you make your own decks. I hadn’t done that, but I’d seen where the option was so I showed him, and showed him how you could build your own Mage deck by picking up to 30 cards.

Then I left him to it and walked away to talk with Cassie about how much fun he was having.

I came back about a half hour later, to find Alex had built his own Mage deck, making absolutely sure to include both legendaries in his deck.

Here was the shocker.

He used a lot of 1 Mana Crystal cards, at least six or seven. He made sure to include like 5 taunt/tank cards after the way he got crushed by the enemy using taunts. And he had almost no 2 or 3 point cards. Lots of 1s, a couple fours and a ton of 5s and up.

And he’d already defeated the Rogue and the Warlock.

As I watched, he finished kicking holy hell out of Anduin.

Mind you, this was before he’d reached level 7 and unlocked more basic mage deck cards. Yes, he had the cards we got from my $10 purchase to draw on (knyuck, knyuck) but still.

Um, yeah. Okay. So, time for me to get my son to teach me how to play.

He ended the night jubilant and wanting to keep at it forever.

My ending thoughts on this.

First, the beta key is tied to my account. For the Cub to play, he will have to log in through on the computer using my account.

I have found out, YES, you can have two computers both logged into the same account at the same time as long as the GAMES you eventually log into are two different games. This might be why you can’t transmit chat from within the interface, only from within a game. We had on with my login on two computers. He logged into Hearthstone on his computer, I logged into World of Warcraft.

When he took a break before bed to change to Starcraft II, he closed Hearthstone, started and logged into Starcraft II, all on my account, and all while I was in WoW. No problems.

The flip side to this is, until we get another beta key or the game goes live, he and I will not be able to play against each other, and all of his efforts are, yes, going into building decks on MY account. Heh.

So, when the game goes live he’ll get the wonderful opportunity to play through that tutorial he missed the first time…

And then when he’s ready to play, I’ll get to CRUSH him with the decks he built! Woot!

The Cub had the day off from school today, one of those whatever things schools do to make sure working parents who DARE not to stay home all day to play happy homemaker get screwed.

I was very helpful. I left the login name and password, and my authenticator, right there on his computer so if, oh, he felt like playing Hearthstone, he could do so with ease.

it’s okay. It’s safe. He won’t delete my characters, and he’s got more gold than I do, so it’s not like he can loot me blind.

What’s the worse that can happen?

Taming the Celestial Tournament – Bear Style

Enough time has now passed that I think it’s appropriate to release my own list of pets I use for the Celestial Tournament without unduly influencing anyone through exposure.

Granted, nobody wants me to expose myself, but it’s my blog and I can oh hell no I ain’t quoting that.

I’m going to do this quick and dirty. For once, I’ll spare you my rambling bullshit. If you’re reading this, you want an idea of what pets I use that I find consistently successful, and you’ll probably spin off of that for your own teams based on what pets you have access to.

I warn you up front, the pets I use against most of the Celestials aren’t going to help you much, unless you were as bored as I was and farmed based off my Val’kyr Tom Tom route post.

Anyway, let’s get to it.

All of my pets are upgraded to Rare and are level 25. If you’re fighting the Tournament, you don’t need me telling you what the enemy pets are. And I am going to respect you enough to assume you don’t need me teaching you things like the proper use of Decoy, Call Darkness with Blindness or Burrow.

Opposing Forces One; Sully, Dr Ion and Loremaster Cho.


Effervescent Glowfly (H/B) (1,1,1)
Direhorn Runt (P/B) (1,1,1)
Gilnean Raven (B/B) (1,2,1)

Dr. Ion

Celestial Dragon (H/H) (1,1,1)
Lil’ XT (H/P) (1,1,1)
Ghostly Skull (H/P) (2,1,1)

Loremaster Cho

Lesser Voidcaller (H/H) (2,2,2)
Mechanical Pandaren Dragonling (S/S) (1,1,2)
Anubisath Idol (H/H) (1,2,1)

Opposing Forces Two; Wrathion, Chen Stormstout, Taran Zhu


Grasslands Cottontail (S/S) (1,2,1)
Flayer Youngling (S/S) (1,1,1)
Anubisath Idol (H/H) (1,2,1)

Chen Stormstout

Darkmoon Zeppelin (H/B) (1,2,2)
Curious Wolvar Pup (P/P) (2,1,2)
Gnarly (H/P) (1,1,2)

Taran Zhu

Mr. Grubbs (H/P) (2,2,2) – Sticky Goo is critical to root that sucka and keep him from swapping out. Pin him and slam him!
Nether Ray Fry (P/P) (2,1,1)
Creepy Crate (H/H) (2,1,2)

Opposing Forces Three; Wise Mari, Blingtron 4000, Shademaster Kiryn

Wise Mari

Gilnean Raven (B/B) (2,2,1)
Onyxian Whelpling (P/B) (2,1,2)
Emperor Crab (P/P) (2,2,2)

Blingtron 4000

Eternal Strider (P/S) (1,2,2)
Cinder Kitten (B/B) (1,2,1)
Pandaren Fire Spirit (P/S) (1,1,2)

Shademaster Kiryn

Stitched Pup (H/P) (1,2,2)
Terrible Turnip (P/S) (2,1,1)
Son of Animus (P/P) (1,2,2)


Now, I know that this list isn’t going to be universally helpful. This is what I have used so far and had consistent success, and it’s drawn from what I have at level 25 and rare. So no, I am not saying you have to own a Son of Animus to defeat Shademaster Kiryn, or a Creepy Crate for Taran Zhu. I am simply showing what I use, and hoping that if you are looking for inspiration for a counter against a specific pet within a tamer’s team, this might help.

Each week, I take the team I used the week before, and root around looking for something a little different to try, see if I can’t get it even cleaner. So far working very well, though.

Now, some pets that you might think would be brilliant don’t show up here, right? I mean, I’m using an Emperor Crab against Wise Mari, when clearly a Pandaren Water Spirit would be more effective, what with having the two very powerful timed explosions.

Well, there is a reason I can’t use a Pandaren Water Spirit or a Chrominius for any of the tamer fights.

I don’t have one to spare.


The Celestials


Bonkers-A (P/P) (1,2,2)
Bonkers-B (P/P) (1,2,2)
Pandaren Monk (P/S) (1,2,1)

Yes, I have two Bonkers. Actually, I have three. The third ain’t a P/P breed, so I haven’t leveled him yet. Bonkers is freaking AMAZING, and I didn’t have anything better to do with those 30,000 coins than open chests. Getting through Yu’las Emerald Dream takes powa.

All three of the other Celestials =  three teams of;

Unborn Val’kyr (1,2,2) Curse of Doom, Unholy Ascension, die and switch to Water Spirit.
Pandaren Water Spirit (1,2,2) Geyser, Whisrlpool switch to Chrominius.
Chrominius (1,1,2) Howl, Bite, Surge of Power. Enemy dead.


Yep. That’s right. I have THREE TEAMS of the Unborn Val’kyr, Water Spirit and Chrominius. I was bored, and I had spent all that time making the Tom Tom route for the Unborn Val’kyr, and I got one for Alex, and well… I was weak, and I wasn’t raiding, so I kept rolling on the route and ended up with three of them trying for different breeds.

At that point, I mean I’m defeating the Tamers each day, and I’m clearing Blackwing Lair… there didn’t seem any reason NOT to have three of the Water Spirits or Chrominius. I figured while doing the Beasts of Fable dailies I could just rotate through my three teams so I didn’t have to waste Bandages, I could just wait the 8 minutes for my cooldown and still have a team or two ready for the next fight.

When the Celestial Tournament went live, well…. I looked at the four Celestials, picked one to build a ‘real’ team for, and figured I’d try the team designed by Phraide for the Beasts of Fable on the other three, see how they did.

It turned out that the team consistently crushes all of the other Celestial pets, even though they added the “can’t do more than 30% damage on a single attack” limitation.

No, I can’t defend it.

On the one hand, they are pets I have, and there would seem to be no reason to intentionally prevent myself from using every tool I have available to win. What, it’s okay to use Call Darkness and Nocturnal Strike as a way to bypass insane dodge abilities, but not to use Geyser and Howl?

My real problem with using three teams like this is it’s not my strategy. I learned about it from Phraide on the forums. Actually I learned about it from Josh Augustine on his WoW Pet Battle Crew podcast, he mentioned it in passing so I went and looked up what he was talking about on Warcraftpets. I tried it against the Beasts of Fable, and sure enough it was very effective in clearing them quickly every single day.

I figured there was no reason why it wouldn’t work on a Celestial since they’re single pet fights, and sure as heck it does.

Now, for the purpose of accuracy, you don’t have to have three Unborn Val’kyrs. The Ghostly Skull also has the Unholy Ascension ability, and can stay in to do some damage before popping it, ending up withe the same overall effect. And there are many more pets than Chrominius that have Howl, such as the new Moon Moon, Lil’ Bad Wolf, Tito, Core Hound Pup, a lot of Foxes, etc.

Those Pandaren Water Spirits? Those are pretty pro.

There you go. I have no secrets from you! Go forth my friends and conquer.

And by all means, share with me the teams you prefer for some of these tamers. I know that whatever you use will likely be different. That’s why I like pet battling so much!

I’m always leveling new pets and hoping to try them out in the roster, so if you’ve got a mix you particularly like, let me know and I’ll give it a whirl.

Good luck!

The Weary Warlock Part 10 – Thok Thok, Who’s There?


So! We left behind us the piped-in sounds of a deconstructed Blackfuse Company death dealer in search of the second and final part of the key we would need.

I’m normally the last person to be accused of having too much sense. Again, I chose to sell my soul for a minion to fetch me beer because I was too lazy to get off the couch. Long range planning and thinking about tomorrow aren’t high on my ‘to do’ list.

Despite that, I can’t help but wonder. If I wanted to seal a door so nobody could get to me, I might give one part of the key to the Blackfuse Company, and force a giant bloodthirsty dinosaur to eat the other.

But that’s because I’m an idiot, and it would only occur to me later when I ordered pizza to wonder how the hell I was going to open the door to get the delivery. You can’t be telling me Garrosh was so short-sighted that he locked his ass deep inside an impenetrable vault, and never gave a moments thought to the consequences of feeding one half of the key to a dinosaur.

On the other hand, that would explain so much.

What kind of lunatic declares war on the entire world, right? I mean, come on, it wasn’t enough to attack his traditional enemies, it wasn’t even enough to seek out a whole new continent to declare war on, oh no, he had to declare war on his own side… and then promptly crawl into the deepest hole he could find, lock the door, and feed the key to his pet dinosaur.

Yeah, that’s forward thinking and a strategic genius of galactic proportions.

Or, you know, a bloody loony.

Musing over the shortcomings of our enemy doesn’t get the job done. And if we wait too long, we’ll be digging through piles of dinosaur poop looking for the other half of the key before the day is done.

Not that I’m a stranger to rooting through piles of poop for loot, in fact at this point I consider myself a poop processing professional, a true poop loot scooper, but I’d rather deal with the front end of the critter if at all possible.

Back across the bridge through the spoils storeroom we ran!

Down the rough corridor we trotted, descending deeper into Garroshland with the growing scent of animal musk rising all around us. The screams and cries of caged beasts assaulted our ears, and we could sense that feeling of vibration you get in the air when you are near a lot of pissed off critters in very small cages.

We stopped just short of the lighted cavern and watched as Thok fought against a mass of Kor’kron tamers trying to force him back into his blown out cage.

Yup. That there is one big ass dinosaur, that there sure is.

It seemed fully preoccupied with the fun of trying to eat it’s handlers, but I have to tell you, I didn’t like the gleam I saw in it’s eye.

It looked like there was more to it than simply animal cunning.

It looked, well.

What it looked like was a 200 ton appetite with tooth and claw bits tacked on, a spiked tail, thoughtfully applied metal accessories that all the fashionable dinosaurs are wearing this season, powered by a 20 ton brain keen enough to know that quantity has a quality all it’s own.

There was a bountiful bonanza of tooth and claw with a bodacious booty on board. I guess Kor’kron tamers like big butts, but the veracity of their statements cannot be verified at this time. Since, you know. He ate ’em.

As the last Kor’kron tamer disappeared down Thok’s gullet, we all gave a little cheer. I found myself rooting for the dinosaur.

Is that wrong?

Pumpken spoke up with what I was thinking, saying “I don’t want to do this.”

Tom rejoined with, “But think of the loot!”

Pumpken was firm. “I don’t want to kill him. It’s not his fault. Can’t we go around?”

I had to stop and think about that one. I mean, we could find another way in, couldn’t we? Don’t we have, like, gnome tanks and shit? In fact, and this is just me, but I could swear we just left behind a room simply crawling with bombs and other illicit weapons of silly destruction.

Hell, I’m an engineer, Mibs is an engineer, it feels like half of our team are engineers because, hello, rocket belts and Jeeves, so I don’t see why we couldn’t just, um, appropriate a few of those portable tracking lasers. Maybe an electromagnet to rip the doors apart in some big hinge-warping time space thingie.

There is this term, maybe you’ve heard of it. Repurpose? I’d like to repurpose a tracking laser right through the locked door.

While I was lost in thought, Pumpken was fighting the good fight on behalf of dinosaur decency. I didn’t say anything, but secretly, my heart was with her.

After this, what will we have to do next? Kill our very bestest friends, all just to bring justice to one immature griefing orc with daddy issues?

But no, no, there is a way things must be done, and our feelings of regret must be pushed aside if we are to proceed further on our journey. We killed General Nazgrim rather than take the time to find the service elevators, so chances are good we’re not going to give a dino a pass.

There is a perverse part of me that can’t WAIT to see what he has to offer in the way of upgrades.No, not because I lust for power. Well, maybe just a little.

No, I’m curious to see what we find, where it’s at, and to settle a private bet I have.

I bet everything we find is Kor’kron-sized.

So into the jaws of certain death strode the ten. No, not the ten thousand. TEN.

Well, not into the jaws. In front of the jaws? Beside the jaws, but a little to the rear, near the leg closest to the center of the room, maybe.

Ten people without siege engines or war machines, strolling into a big room lined with cages full of cranky people, all to kill a ten story tall dinosaur.

I’d like to say that we had learned from all that we had endured up to this point.

I’d LIKE to say that we approached cautiously, analyzed the situation, and proceeded with a clear goal in mind. Short term tactical objectives, fire and manuever to use terrain and line of sight to our advantage, creative use of improvised materials found at hand.

But no. All that came later.

What we did at first was to charge in wands a’blazing to see what would happen.

What happened was, Pankration the Megamonk got out in front of it, waving his arms over his head to draw it’s attention, and the rest of us, and I do mean ALL the rest of us charged in to stand right in it’s blind spot behind it’s left foreleg and started pounding it in it’s side as hard as we could.

Right away, we had problems. It kept shouting, and shouting, and every single damn time it shouted the shock of it broke our concentration, interrupting whatever we were trying to do. Anything, anything that couldn’t be done in an instant would just get knocked right out of our heads. I found myself carefully synchronizing my spells, timing it so immediately after a shout I would cast a few times, then pause for a shout, then cast again, fitting in either a Chaos Bolt or a couple of Incinerates depending on how fast those shouts went off.

Thok kept speeding up, shouting faster and faster until it was all we could do to stand there and not cower in terror. About the only people who could do shit were Arrakeen and her axe, Monstre and Pankration. Trajar the hunter got in some good hits too, but for most of us this was not fun.

Every time that shout came out, it seemed the concussion was knocking us around or something too, because we all started bleeding out the ears, and the scent of it sent Thok into a rage.

It wasn’t long before we were all bloody appetizers, the healers couldn’t keep up anymore, and Thok went all Jurassic Park on us.

As soon as he roared and went nuts, we ran for it.

Most of us had something else to occupy our time. When Thok went wild, some kind of half-assed dino tamer came running into the room to try and regain control. Yeah, good luck with that.

Our more close-in fighters went after the tamer, while the rest of us chased after Thok, running like hell back and forth across the chamber.

Oh, did I forget to mention why we had to run around chasing after Thok?

One poor soul, it seemed, had a special destiny in store; dino chow.

As soon as Thok went bloodthirsty, he fixated on someone and just went barreling tail over talons after them.

The first time this happened, sadly enough, it was Pumpken, who paid for her attempts to spare Thok’s life by having to run like hell.

She quickly changed into a wolf and went blazing down the hall for dear life, 200 tons of angry dino hot on her paws. Tom followed to try healing her on the run, and we all shouted encouragement as we realized that in his bloodthirsty haze, Thok was slavering and chomping and looked ready to rend and shred anything in his path.

We soon found out how true that was.

When the tamer died, we rummaged in his pockets (yes, in the middle of a fight, what part of loot and scoot don’t you get yet?) and found a key to the full cages around us. We looked around and saw a group of Waterspeakers in a cage off to the side. We realized maybe we could free them, and they could help us in this fight!

We ran over to the Waterspeaker cage just about the same time as Thok was growing tired of chasing Pumpken all the way down that long, long hallway, and for whatever dino-brained reason he fixated on Chron, who was back in the big chamber. With us. Like, standing right next to us where we were opening the cage.

Thok came running like hell after Chron. The speed that dino made on flat ground was terrifying. No, really, the more he chased people around the faster he got. It was insane how fast he was getting, clearly every time he fixated on someone he got faster. We had to do something and like RIGHT NOW or there would be no way to stay ahead of him.

Chron saw a wall of dino bearing down on him, made a move towards the left, saw that Thok was about to cut him off, so he swerved to the right instead.

Running, coincidentally enough, through the rest of us.

We had just about enough time to scream “Oh Chron no!”, but it was too late. Buford T Dinosaur ate four of us before the rest had time to scatter, and, well… let’s just say that even if we could have recovered, the survivors were so shocked at this turn of events that we could barely get our hands up in time to scream in horror before becoming a mid-afternoon snack.

Thok ate us, ate us one and all.

That might seem disconcerting to hear, since, you know. I’m sitting here telling you the story of how it happened, but what can I say? We got better. Our dry cleaning bills are freaking EPIC.

This is a protip, but when you see 200 tons of dinosaur bearing down on you, get the hell out of the way, because if you get between him and a meal you will get eaten, right then and there, no waiting, no secret sauce, no sesame seed bun.

A corollary to the protip, if the lunch Thok is fixated on happens to be you, do not, ahem, DO NOT run Thok through the group of your friends.

And if your friends are like my friends, make sure you owe them all lots of money. You want your friends to have a vested interest in your remaining alive and earning wages.

We had plenty of time to face Thok again, this time better prepared to run. Also, we looked forward to opening the cage and releasing the Waterspeaker to help us.

Um, no.

As soon as we opened the cage, Thok took one whiff of fresh fish and forgot all about his fixated lunch. CHOMP CHOMP CHOMP. Who knew Thok was British? Fresh fish and chips sent him around the bend.

While Thok was temporarily sated by his dinner, we piled up on his flank and went back to work. He started yelling and screaming, just like before, but there was something new added to the mix. Ice!

Plumes of icy blood began to spurt from Thok’s wounds, and he started spraying Monstre with an icy breath that threatened to entomb him in a solid block.

Seriously? He gains the powers of whatever he eats? You can’t tell right now, because I look all fierce, but I’m crying on the inside. Fierce crying!

That’s kind of the way it went, though. If he ate one of us he just kept going, but if we unlocked a cage, he would eat whatever was inside and it would calm him right back down.

But whatever he ate, he became. Or some such portentous crap.

After letting the Waterspeakers out (sorry, Gorai!) we tried to look for assholes to release. After all, if you’re just looking for saurian supper, why feed him friends?

Fish should be friends, not food.

We let a bunch of skumblades led by Akolik out next, and sure as heck as soon as he was done munching them, it was acid acid everywhere. Blech.

Towards the end, we could tell we were getting to him. Thok was weakening, but he was still an incredibly fearsome foe. We dared not lessen our efforts. We had one cage key left, and we released Warmaster Montreal Fire Festival into the park.

Bonus. Our weapons caught on fire! All extra burny and stuff. But after Thok ate them, um… his blood caught on fire.

He started breathing flame like a dragon, his blood burst into flames, we all caught fire and puddles of burning blood pooled under our feet.

I know, right?

When I woke up this morning, I never thought the day would find me saying to anyone, “So there we were, fighting this giant fire-breathing dinosaur covered in flaming blood, and then we….”

On second thought, I seem to have those kinds of days a lot lately. I might need to upgrade my life insurance policy.

And borrow more money from all my friends.

Arrakeen spun into the air, twirling her two massive maces like drumsticks and played a Lars Ulrich-sized solo upside his scaly head. BAM! Down he goes!

Wait, when the hell did she get that mace? I thought she had axes. Good lord, the thing is the size of Thok’s leg!

Great, so now instead of filleted, the bosses be getting tenderized.

Once Thok had fallen, nothing stood between us and Garrosh. FINALLY!

We staggered to the massive door, broken, burnt and bleeding and missing several important bits.

We unlocked the door and kicked it painfully to the side.

We strode forward, determined to put an end to this fight and ensure the continued safety of Azeroth.

For my part, I was no longer fighting for king, country or revenge of the Vale.

I was fighting for one thing, and one thing only.

Time off to have an all day spa.

Mud bath, manicure, pedicure, and oh lord hot stone therapy. Massage.

I will fucking KILL for a massage.

Aromatherapy? I have smelled, RIGHT UP CLOSE AND PERSONAL, the halitosis of a building-sized dinosaur. I want some fucking aromatherapy.

Yeah, I’ve found something worth fighting for.

Why do we fight?

You really want to know why we fight, Lorewalker Cho?

I’ll tell you.

An herb-infused heated wrap around my face, hot stones on my back, and a steam tub for later.

With rose petals. And maybe a nice biscotti with tea.


Buttflame the Fierce

Revenge Is Oh So Sweet

I work as the project manager and service coordinator for a company that services Overhead Crane Equipment. We service and install everything from the hoist on your shipping dock to the massive installations at mine sites on the Minnesota Iron Range.

A part of being in this industry is having the proper training and certifications, and for people working on mine sites one of the key certs is the MSHA training, or Mine Safety and Health Administration.

You can take those courses online, but they are rated by hours of training, and part of the online deal is you have to sit in a chair in front of the computer with a webcam on you, so the instructor can verify visually that you are really there, paying attention 100% of the time.

In my office, I am the guy that sits in a chair and coordinates everything on the web or over the phone. Working with vendors, customers, service techs and invoicing all day long. I don’t go visit customers or work on the job site anymore, and when Minnesota winter rolls in, I’m damn happy about it. Snow is for snowmobiling, not replacing a hoist cable 50′ in the air on a bucket lift.

The two sales guys who work out of the office, however, DO visit those sites, and being cheap bastards who want as much of a commission as possible and resent the service tech labor hours taking their slice off, they try to do as much work themselves as they can. Even if that means being a ground guide for safety. They DO need MSHA training.

Our annual training program is due at the end of the month, and for the last month we’ve been told we had to login and get it done, on our own time of course, from home.

Guess who has the entire suite of MSHA training in his online basket? This guy.

Guess who DOESN’T have that training in their lists? Yeah, those other guys.

And guess who has been gloating about only having five eensy, weensy little classes to do, and has nevertheless been bitching constantly about having to do them on their own time?

Yeah, those guys.

I’ve been staring at, conservative estimate, over 19 hours of online training, fixed sitting in your chair watching videos without fast-forwarding options, while those guys have maybe four hours tops. And they’ve been bitching, AND gloating at my misfortune.

For a month.

Ah, but this morning. This wonderful, happy, frabjous day!

Our department manager, who works out of another city (and yes that is as glorious as it sounds) is in town for the monthly managers meeting for all the branches.

And my manager stopped in to give me a fresh Toby’s pecan caramel roll, and to see how it was going.

He brought up the training, reminding me that is has to get done by November 1st. Then he asked where my most gloating coworker was today.

“Oh, he said he was going to be taking the day at home to work on completing the training.”

“you do what you have to do. And John, if you have to do it on overtime, well, I’m not going to bitch about it.”

“Well you know, that’s fine but it’s hard to find a solid block of time to do it, what with all of that MSHA training added in among the normal office ergonomics and bloodborne pathogen stuff. That’s going to be over 20 hours, and you know I can’t be gone from work that long, so it’s going to have to be weekends.”

“Oh wow, you have MSHA on your training list, John? Oh, you don’t really need that. I’ll get that taken off your list, you should only have like five things.”

“Really? Oh, maybe my list got switched with Tim, then. He was saying just the other day how his list only had five items on it, and you know he spends all his time visiting mine sites.”

“Oh, thanks for letting me know, I’ll get that fixed and get that MSHA training on his list where it belongs.”

Oh my, yes.

Yes, it is going to be a most frabjous day.

I’m a very conscientous person, though.

I made sure to call Tim’s cell phone, and I left him a message to let him know that all of those courses would be added onto his required training list, so he didn’t have to worry about it anymore.

And I made sure to explain exactly how that came about.

Somewhere out there, very soon now, I expect the universe to echo to the cries of “JOOOOOOOOOOOHHHNNN!!!!!!!!”

That caramel roll is going to taste very sweet, indeed.

Your Experience May Vary

For as long as I’ve played, I’ve heard the phrase that ‘your game experience may vary’, based on the fact that however the game may be coded, much of how we experience the game is flavored by events beyond Blizzard’s expectations and outside of Blizzard’s control.

Or does anyone think erotic role-play in the Deeprun Tram tunnels was part of the original design doc? Anyone?

Think about it, you’re wandering round, exploring this massive world, you take the Deeprun Tram one day and see the windows opening out to the bottom of a seafloor. Wow! That was cool, but it was there and gone in the wink of an eye. You decide to walk down the tram tunnel to get a closer look, see if you can make out any features that would help you locate that spot from outside the game.

It’s vanilla, you don’t know the Tram is instanced and doesn’t actually look out on the game world.

You walk your way down the tunnel, and as you round the corner, there before you revealed in the shimmering greenish-blue light of the water are two figures, both engaged in some heavy /saying.

Booya! You done been ERPed.

If you got ganked with a facefull of ERP, your game experience MIGHT have varied.

So much of the social part of the game is out of Blizzard’s control, and when they have tried to implement some form of spanking on individuals or guilds that were doing things they didn’t want in their game environment, they’ve seen some heavy media interest.

World of Warcraft has long left the realm of a privately-owned game in the eyes of the media. It’s an alternate world where our subscription fee pays the taxes of our citizenship. When a group of Azerothian citizens get their behavior addressed by the Blizzard government, it’s reported as censorship.

I don’t recall reading the World of Warcraft Bill of Rights… oh wait, EULA. Mayhap I did.

Regardless, there is the legal reality and the media fiction. In law the EULA holds sway, but in the court of public opinion any attempt at restraint or coercion of guild behavior based on what we consider real world discrimination gets high visibility.

I’m not saying that is wrong, I’m using it as an example of how far past being a typical video game World of Warcraft has become. We treat it as a real place we go to, and we bring our baggage with us. We invest in it our expectations for a real world, and we bring it to life.

We call it logging in, but we could just as easily call it stepping over.

My point in bringing all of this up, other than rehashing what we already know, is that there is more than the social that changes our online experience.

How this game plays is powerfully affected by how successful you are in PvE raiding or PvP battlegrounds/arenas.

No, I know, obvious, but to me the difference has never been more stark than in the release of the Timeless Isles.

In the Timeless Isles, our power level has a new baseline, and any fresh character reaching level 90 can take a quick flight and reap the iLevel 496 storm.

In any other place in the world, that iLevel 496 gear is going to make you a contendor. Questing will be easier, dealing with adds on your farm will be trivial, even dealing with the occasional mob aggro while farming or pursuing Archeaology becomes so much easier.

But the isles itself assume that baseline of gear, and ups the intensity.

The Isles are a challenge and a half for any new player to make their way just to reach those chests for the new gear.

But what about the player that started raiding with success in the first week of patch 5.4, has their legendary cloak and is already pushing iLevel 550 or higher even without heroic modes?

A fifty point gear gap doesn’t sound like much, does it? Well, yes, yes it does.

I go to the Timeless Isle on a character that has iLevel 496 – 510, and it’s a struggle, a challenge, and I look for grouping opportunities. I don’t start shit with elites or rares, I watch my step, and getting two elites like the tigers or gulp frogs on me is a sure sign of impending doom. I follow the herd for the larger rares, and if Garnia were to spawn while I was all alone, no sense pulling at iLevel 496, I’m not going to survive that massive bolt of destruction more than twice.

But on my main, the character I am raiding on…

Game experience may vary wildly from baseline. Ridiculously.

The experience is night and day. The entire Isle opens up it’s possibilities, and anything can be soloed (except probably Evermaw, and really… why would you want to go that alone? Ugh.)

When your gear is from current raiding, Garnia is just another enemy to destroy as soon as she appears. The Scary Sprite encounter becomes a race to see how many you can get to spawn in the shortest possible time, using all out AoE to bring a few hundred enemies to your feet in a heap.

It’s liberating, but at the same time it’s an eye opener.

Going there on a squishy iLevel 496 character can get frustrating, but it’s also a tense stalk through a wild world filled with danger. You’ve got to be on your guard, hunting your prey while always aware that the prey might be you. It’s thrilling to be at risk, that thrill is part of the reward. But you have to accept a slower pace.

On a raiding or powerful PvP character, it becomes a blistering trek at high speed to get to the next rare spawn point, with some minor feelings of irritation when that tiger pounces you and you have to take a second to swat it down.

Both are fun ways to play, but both are vastly different experiences.

With such a wide disparity in power levels from baseline to raid, that is why I love the Burdens of Eternity as drops comparable to, and even more powerful than LFR gear (aside from it being random stats).

In a perfect world, everybody should be able to experience that shift in power.

Oh sure, people who raid and are working hard get there first, but their reward is they got there first. Raiding in my opinion shouldn’t confer ‘first class citizen’ status forever.

Put another way, non-raiding players aren’t second class or low class, and it’s nice that even without LFR you can enjoy the game and work towards those Burdens, becoming ever more powerful. Feeling for yourself the way things become less tense and you become more the master of your environment.

There isn’t a roadblock between you and the feeling of POWA! except how much time you spend doing things that bring you Timeless Coins to buy your 476 weapons and Burden upgrades.

Sure you have to raid in some way to get through the Legendary cloak quest, but even without it, nobody will stay at that starter baseline forever so long as they take part and play.

It’s amazing. I’ve seen so many people chugging away on alts now, just since the release of patch 5.4, leveling and questing on abandoned characters. Heck, I’ve seen a definite increase in people starting characters on the opposite faction now, somewhere fresh and new. That promise of gear at the end is a compelling incentive to a fresh start.

Game experience may vary. Damn well right it does, in every way. Great friends or all alone, asshats in guilds or way cool juniors. Tense ventures into uncharted territory or brutal domination of all who oppose you.

How can anyone sit back and make the claim ‘I played that game and it sucks’, without first clarifying which of the games World of Warcraft can be that they’re talking about?