The Cub Report: Tanking AAR

Over the last few weeks, I’ve mentioned that the tables have been turned.

Cassie and I have alts we are playing through Outlands and now Northrend, and Alex has been providing runs through instances for us both.

To Alex, this means that even though he is an Unholy Death Knight with a permanent pet, he is “the tank” for our groups.

He takes this very seriously.

I don’t have a lot of experience with other children, but I really try and be open to his mood and his interests, and help him pursue what he wants to do and encourage him rather than redirect him to what I *think* he should be doing.

I’m aware that oftentimes what he wants to do is whatever activity Cassie and I are doing. But not always, he has plenty of other toys and shows and outdoor activities with us as well, it’s not all WoW, all the time.

One thing that really is universal though, is he wants to be the leader. He wants to be the one actively charging ahead, taking the initiative, guiding us, showing US how to do things, not the other way around.

So, he loves being able to pop dragon form and have me ride his back all the way to somewhere… seeing what he wants to show me along the way.

In point of fact, he found in his explorations the mountain of Uldis in the Storm Peaks, where there is a side ari lock that leads into the massive mecahnized guts of the mountain.

He loves that place, and his delight in taking me there and flying inside, showing me around was extreme. A hollow, mechanized mountain full of gears! And bad guys! Look, dad!

He likes to be the one to invite others to group, and to set dungeon difficulties, loot rules, etc.

He wants to be the one to tank us through runs.

I like him to feel that level of control, and see where it takes him.

For all of Outlands and most of Northrend, Alex really enjoyed running us both through instances. He wasn’t really tanking, as such, because the mechanics of the instances all left the fights at ‘overpower = instagib’.

He led us, and he made it happen, but he wasn’t really a tank with the pressures a tank feels.

I’ve seen many wonderful things that I love from him during this time.

He is very observant. I know the attitude many adults have is to discount the awareness of children, as though youth automatically means someone who is shallow or oblivious.

Alex, and I’m sure he is far from the only youngster who is this sharp, notices things and pays attention to detail. He has a very sharp eye.

One of the first signs is how he sees the armor other NPCs and players wear, and recognizes either where he has seen it before, or what it is. He makes connections from the armor one of the players in our Sunday ICC raid wears to the armor on an NPC to that same armor on a Mega Bloks character (the Worgen DK) all matching.

He asks me, in the middle of a fight, if I noticed how such-and-so’s armor is so cool, look at those shoulders, those are the same ones that NPC X was wearing in Underbog.

Me, I’m sitting in lala land, “Armor? Who? What? Oh, um, yeah.” Then I check on Wowhead later, no shit, he was right.

Similarly, in Violet Hold, he has already caught on that each portal spawn location will only ever be a group or a single summoner,  it’s not random. If you have a portal in front of the puppy dog, it will ALWAYS be a single summoner. So we run to a portal and he’s saying along the way to me, “This will be a group, Death and Decay!”

He notices the small things… just because he doesn’t TALK about what he sees all the time, or tells you he’s making a connection doesn’t mean he hasn’t.

Well, as I said he was ‘tanking’ us through Northrend instances, doing his best, and we came to Halls of Stone.

Halls of Stone we’ve done a few times as a group of three level 85s, in order to work on the Glory of the Hero achievement. He understands the fight and the escort of Brann Bronzebeard, but up to this point he had me Bearcatting, and I’m here to tell you there is in my opinion no more powerful low level content tank than a Bearcat. Swipe alone in cat form with fast run speed makes for ridiculous on-the-fly aggro retension over low level characters.

So I had been Bearcatting it up in Halls of Stone heroic, and Alex had seen the waves but hadn’t really dealt with it as a tank before.

Suddenly doing the Brann Bronzebeard escort quest, fighting off waves of incoming adds all trying to run past to get to Brann, with two level 76 squishies while in Unholy was not good. Death and Decay has a very long cooldown, and stuff in single target mode dies too fast to spread stuff around.

Cassie and I both died during the run.

It was inevitable, even if Alex was an uber-tank it wouldn’t have mattered, we were both getting shot by beams of light the entire time, and none of us are healers. I didn’t even have pots or bandages, I haven’t needed them before. Cassie bandaged me twice before we went down, but down we went, leaving Alex to finish it up on his own and then Mass Ress us.

Today, as we were running around doing chores, I saw that he was kind of down about something.

I asked him what was wrong, and he told me he was really sorry he let us both die while running Halls of Stone. He was really sad that we’d both died while he was the tank.

He followed that up by asking me if we could work on getting him tanking gear, so he would have gear designed to be a better tank.

He was really sad that he, as the tank, had tried really, really hard, but couldn’t keep some of the people in his group from dying.

Does that sound familiar to any of you fine tanks out there?

I explained to him that to me, that meant he had what it takes to be one the best tanks there is.

To me, the heart of a tank isn’t someone that wants to be the boss or run fast leading the way.

To me, the true heart of the tank is someone that cares that everyone in the group succeeds, and lives to make it to the end of the run.

A true tank takes it hard if someone else dies along the way, even if there was nothing the tank could do about it.

All the best tanks I’ve ever known have been more concerned about keeping the party together and making it through as a team.

The saying goes, if the tank dies, blame the healer, if the healer dies, blame the tank.

The good tank, in his heart, blames himself if ANYONE dies, including him or her self. Even when this is silly.

Maybe it’s a feeling of personal responsibility, and maybe it’s something else.

I get to talk to quite a few people who tank, and a common feeling is that even when someone dies by standing in the fire, the frustration of the tank comes at least in part from wishing there was some way the tank could Leap of Faith or Thunderclap the bastard out of that fire and save them despite themselves.

I spent quite some time explaining to Alex how proud of him I was. You can pretend a lot, but it’s hard to pretend you care. You either do or you don’t.

How to tank can be learned, gear can be grabbed, specs can be changed, skills can be moved.

You can’t just spec into ‘give a shit about others’.

On a side note, explaining how it wasn’t the gear, it was the spec that helps provide threat causing and damage reducing powers was interesting. Now I think he understands that he can buy dual spec, build a blood talent spec, and be able to use AoE abilities and have more damage reduction to make tanking easier, regardless of what gear he’s wearing.

Now that I’ve had that conversation, I wonder if in the future he’ll go the other way, and assume that it doesn’t matter what gear he’s wearing to tank as long as he’s in the right spec?

Ah, every new day brings new adventures.

Like right now. He’s decided he’d like to get the Cataclysmic Gladiator’s Desecration set, so I explained about Conquest points. Now he is, right this second, in a random battleground. Isle of Conquest.

This probably won’t end well.

Update: He won! Miracles do happen.


The Cub Report – Backseat Game Designer for teh EPIC

I now return you to the ongoing adventures of Alex the Cub, already in progress.

In this weeks episode, the Cub has a great time while the Bear gets increasingly battle worn and weary.

Battlechicken wrote a very interesting article that touched in part on “What epic is to us”, and that really applies to what all has been going on lately.

Alex has become immersed in the WoW, and is getting his own ideas about what is and is not ‘epic’.

Alex has now raided Firelands a few times, done our Sunday evening Icecrown Citadel achievement runs, romped through Dragon Soul on LFR and saw a good bit of it on normal.

He ran Cassie and I through Hellfire Ramparts and Blood Furnace last week, and saw Magtheridon crouching in his lair down below. He got so excited that nothing would do but for us to run in and kill Magtheridon, so we spent a very fun time taking a swipe and coming up with maggies drawers.

Did you know Magtheridon can drop a polearm that just looks freaking fantastic? Yeah, that’s my new transmog, and I couldn’t be happier. 🙂

Then we stomped Gruul into the dust for good measure.

He has destroyed Ragnaros in the Molten Core, and he’s killed Sartharion so many times I think his armor is starting to rust from all the dragon blood.

Speaking of dragons, we have also killed Onyxia several times now, and he’s getting to be great on whelp control. He really, really likes Onyxia.

One of the absolute highlights of his adventures is that he was fortunate enough to do almost a full clear of Ulduar, and he HAS killed Algalon with the awesome folks at Eff the Ineffable.

There are still a few raids we’ve kept as a mystery to him, intentionally. He has not set foot in Karazhan, Naxxramas or the Black Temple yet, and when we do venture to one of them, I fully expect it to be a truly epic experience. Those aren’t places to just bop into on a whim, just like Ulduar you’ve got to savor your first time viewing the amazing scope of those places.

Even without those three, he has covered an incredible amount of raiding in a very short period of time. And there is so much more he could do! He has been inside Serpentshrine Cavern but we didn’t do a full clear or fish up that one boss, so there is an incredible experience still waiting for him there. He hasn’t done The Eye. He hasn’t seen Blackwing Lair yet, but he has done both Ahn’Qiraj raids… except Twin Emperors. He wasn’t max level for that yet, and we’d need a fourth person I think.

I could talk about some of the awesome stuff he’s done in instances, but you get the idea. He’s been a very, very active little raider because the sheer quantity of things possible to do that you outlevel takes my breath away.

I mean, Alex is almost done with all the achievements necessary for Glory of the Hero, which means he’s seen every Northrend instance at least once, and in some cases several times. Plus all the Outlands instances he has run Cassie and I through, and the Northrend instances like Hellfire Citadel, The Nexus, Azjol-Nerub and that other bug city thingie place.

He’s getting to feel how powerful he is by taking the lead on these runs, and on a personal note, I would like to say that he is very vocal when it comes to the rules Cassie and I must abide by when he is in charge and ‘tanking’ our run throughs.

I might be reaping my reward for how well I taught him what a “DPS” player should do when in an instance group. Bossy Alex is bossy!

Plus, I need to learn to stop running in front of the tank, apparently. And stop using Sheep.

While doing our Sunday evening Icecrown Citadel achievement runs, Alex completed the two handed axe that is part of the legendary questline, and he has fallen in love with the Death Knight ICC tier, all purple glowing highlighted plate, and has decided he must have the entire set. It’s inspired him to work hard at earning justice Points, which means he’s been running random Hour of Twilight instances with me. A lot. And he’s taken to asking me when we can try and run ICC 10 person heroic modes so he can get the matching Tier belt and boot drops.

Tired bear needs a nap. And bacon. Oh, wait, I had bacon last night. A nap, I definitely need a nap.

Sigh. I can’t wait for the expansion to come out so I can get some rest! When people told me kids would run me ragged, I thought they meant out on bicycles and stuff, playing catch. Not in a video game!

Mah point, I say mah point to all this flidderfaddle is, he has had a crash course in many of the things we consider “epic” that this game has to offer, all in a very short period of time.

He has gushed like a hardcore fan over the power of Deathwing, the still-burning scars of the towers of Stormwind, fighting on the back, all that stuff.

He’s had that fanboy phase, and then went right through to the other side… the armchair quarterbacking, backseat driving, second-guessing game of “if I was the designer I would…”.

The most epic moment of all for him was when he accepted the quest to go to the aid of Mount Hyjal. The moment I’m speaking of is when you are sent through a portal to Moonglade, and from there ride on the back of a dragon to Mount Hyjal.

Along the way, you pass the citadel in the middle of a lake of fire that is home to the Azerothian entrance to the Firelands. Your dragon pauses, and you witness, coming out of the sky, the majesty that is Deathwing, and you gaze upon the terrifying spectacle of Deathwing apparently raising Ragnaros from the dead.

That was an “epic” moment for him, to see the big boss of the current expansion apparently raise from the dead the ‘big bad’ from a previous expansion for you to have to fight.

That moment captured his imagination in a powerful way. Here is one big bad boss, raising ANOTHER big bad boss we’d killed in an earlier raid, bringing him back from the grave to challenge us again. This time, with feeling!

He is buzzing with the possibilities here.

If Deathwing can raise Ragnaros, then in the expansion after Mists, which doesn’t seem to have a big bad and is thus very, very lame except in pet battles and shared mounts, maybe a new big bad will come along and raise Ragnaros, the Lich King AND Deathwing for us to fight!

Oh yeah, Alex is all hot now, he says that would be epic!

Like, if all of these old super-powerful bosses that were tainted by the Old Gods were now owned by them, and in the expansion after Mists we would face the Old Gods and they bring back the spirits of all those they twisted and tainted to fight for them, and right at the head of this massive army of twisted shadowy beings were these old super bosses we had to face in a giant deathmatch.


I’d like to be clear about this… Alex understands the idea of there being a big bad superboss that is the story focus for an expansion, and he approves. Very much so. The slow buildup, the preparation, getting immersed in the story of why this is a big bad and why it’s important to take him down, then the raids leading up to taking him down, and the final battle itself.

This is a ‘progression’ he believes in, right down to having a login screen that constantly reminds you of your goal by showing you the big boss you need to fight every single time you come on.

And that is why he doesn’t ‘get’ Mists of Pandaria. There’s this dichotomy in how they’re packaging this one compared to the others. The others all had a big bad, the point was to get more powerful so you could face and kill the big bad, a very clear and very pure objective. Big bad threatens (insert maguffin here), we must experience personal growth and overcome adversity in order to challenge and defeat big bad. Strive, struggle, fight, WIN! Okay, done, bring on the next expansion!

He gets that. He has, ahem, internalized the concept.

He doesn’t get any of that in pandaland. He does not see a foe to overcome, a challenge to rise against, a threat to pit himself against… he sees a world of new discoveries to explore. And a war looming to break our world apart.

It’s all cool, and interesting, and there are threads to follow and things to do, but there is no single concept to bring the ‘pow!’.

It’s all messy and convoluted like a new chefs three egg western omelet.

He’s already talking in terms of what he hopes they do ‘in the expansion after Mists’, because he thinks of Mists as a pet battles and ponies expansion. A whole new land doesn’t grab him with thrills of delight because all of the currently existing game is damn near a whole new world to him as it is.

I know Blizzard has stated their reasons for not having a ‘big bad’ this time, but if my son is anything at all to go by for enthusiasm and nailing the point of an expansion’s story, they missed this one big time for the nine and under crowd. 🙂

He likes the individual pieces of what is coming out, and the game in my opinion is going to be vastly improved by what is being changed and added. But taking the focus off a single storypoint that captures the minds’ eye has left Alex cold.

More faction battles? “But”, he says, “we already have that. I can do PvP in a battleground whenever I want. We’re already at war. How is the war new? Or are we not really killing each other in PvP battlegrounds?”

I don’t really have an answer for him. Maybe that’s my fault, I don’t feel sold on the new storyline myself, so how can I sell it to him?

This is the expansion where they are adding a culture, a race, new improvements and expanded fuctionality, but I don’t feel there is something to really point at and say, “There! That is what our adventurers must do! This is the new legendary heroic journey, the new obstacle to overcome!”

Is it strange that I am very excited about the expansion coming out, but more for the way the existing game I love is going to change?

I really have little interest in the new world to level through. I’m interested in getting to 90 so the three of us can do more old content together as uber badasses.

I’m interested in getting to 90 and doing more group content like raiding.

I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again… this is the expansion where there are bears that can’t be bears.

Bears that cannot be bears? Is this a Bruce Lee teachable moment? Am I supposed to not look directly at the finger or else I’ll miss all the heavenly glory?

Facepalm, and give me mah pet battles Pokemon style, and account-wide mounts, and I’ll happily go shut the heck up.

Oh yeah, and Alex would specifically like at least one pet of each of the different elements similar to Pebble as a capturable pet. Like a flame pet, and a water elemental pet, and an ice pet, and a rock pet, and a lava pet…

Yes, I know some of those are reactions, not elements. Shush! I want those pets too.

Alex and I both love the “Wild Pets” series Bubbles of Mischief’s been posting, showing screenshots of new capturable pets in different areas, and we want to see more! Didja see? Didja see the green fire pet! WOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!

The Cub Report – Force Multipliers

We are right at the tail end of the expansion for World of Warcraft, you can tell by how all the talk is of other MMOs that are in beta or coming soon, and dribbles of news about what we will soon get to have fun playing… in a few months.

A few months from now, boy, we’re going to be having a BLAST!

It is my personal opinion that the lack of a final content/raid patch between Dragon Soul and Mists of Pandaria was a failure to provide value for money. It’s only my opinion, but that’s how I feel. I do not feel that Diablo III or access to a beta is an appropriate replacement for stuff I could have been doing that was fresh during this long, long, long drought of content.

Perhaps my expectations are skewed from the content frequency I see coming from other, fresher MMOs that are trying to claw out market share. Or, maybe I just remember the words of a previous WoW community manager that said we could expect more frequent content patches of smaller size in Cataclysm to give us things to do over the duration rather than run out 9 months before the next expansion…

… you know, exactly what happened here. Guess shame on me for believing it and congratulating them in advance.

I just never believed they really did intend to use annual pass to keep subscriber numbers up while leaving us a long gap in content before the next expansion.

Then again, I’m sure they have the best market research in existence for how many subscribers will be lost per month without new content, and have some serious analysis going on over just how long they can push it before they have to drop something new before the wound flows free. And also, research on how long they can keep people going with news teasers and beta in place of actual stuff to do.

“And this month, we’re going to tell them about new features coming to beta, then a week later show them screenshots, then a week after that show them a new feature in beta that will be playable for testing soon. We’ll get a month right there without having to let them so much as sniff a panda in game.”

I’m not angry or bitter, or even sad. It’s just what it is, and we all know it, but we love them anyway. Those crazy kids. 🙂

I’m fortunate. I may have mostly run out of fresh things to do solo in game, but I am blessed to have a family that can now do retro group content together.

I’m also blessed in having such a great group of folks that stop by and read the blog and hang out with me now and again.

If it weren’t for you and my family, let’s be honest, I’d still be playing because I’ve staked out my plot of land in Azeroth and I’ll live there ’til I die, but I’d be working a HELL of a lot harder to keep it feeling fresh and fun.

So thank you.

I’m deeply respectful of the world that Blizzard has created, I’m still stunned anew by the scope and depth of all there is in what has become a fully fleshed out world, complete and whole and with a rich history and unique cultures to explore.

At the same time… I pay a fee to access this world, and I do expect Blizzard to continue to invest in content for me to pay for to keep me interested in between times that they bring out a box to buy to upgrade the game. There will have been a ridiculously long time between content releases by the time we get patch 5.0, and that makes me sad.

For me, Blizzard fell down on the job. Dragon Soul was cool, VERY cool. But having run ICC and Ulduar and Firelands recently, it just doesn’t seem to have the legs to be expected to carry an entire year of monthly fees all on it’s own. That’s a lot to expect of any content patch.

God bless alts, RNG, LFR DS and other cryptic letter combinations, right?

Enough said about that, I know. I felt it was important to say, though, because I have a tendency to gush just a wee bit around here, but I assure you, I have a perspective on the bigger picture.

Still love this damn game, though.

On a personal front, between us Cassie and I got the materials, and Shadowson made for us a Vial of the Sands, which we gave to Alex.

He was overjoyed… but I think he’s catching on.

I’m leveling my Mage, I’m in Hellfire Peninsula and I called him over to allow him to run me through Ramparts a few times. Aren’t I nice?

He picked me up, and as I took the following screenshot, said, “I’m a taxi!”

Yes… yes you are.

Hey, don’t be like that. The stalwart band of intrepid adventurers strode boldly into 25 person Sartharion with three drakes up, and I won the Twilight Drake drop!

Which I promptly gave to Alex.

You call it a bribe, I call it tipping my taxi.

I know I’m very lucky to have the names of other active players to do things with.

I feel torn about doing any more of these updates, because sure I’m having fun, Alex and Cassie are having fun, but it’s not like it’s fun that we can actually share with you.

The solo stuff, going after the Tiny Shale Spider, hunting down Ghostcrawler in the wild, dancing next to Mylune while fireballing bunnies, these things I can share as ideas for you to go have fun, and ask you for your ideas.

Talking about fun I’m having in groups, though… if you don’t have a similar group to do the same thing, hey, it’s nice I’m having fun, now shut up, right?

BUT… we’ve been doing some stuff with friends and readers of the blog too, and that counts as shareable, right?

As a small group, just the three of us, we’ve gotten into some shenanigans.

We’ve almost completed Glory of the Hero, all of the level 80 heroic Northrend dungeon achievements. Even Alex is almost done. It’s funny, the only stoppers to steamrolling it turns out to be the RNG. We can’t get the water boss in Violet Hold to pop, not once in the last week.

And then Cassie says, “I’m pulling out my Sea Pony for good luck!”

What a great idea.

Let me be the first to start the rumor that doing Vuiolet Hold with your water globe pets out makes the water boss appear.


The three of us blew through the three Icecrown heroics. If you think the old stuff can’t give you that same fizzy feeling, watch a 9 year old get chased by Arthas for the first time, and get saved by a gunship unleashing hell.

We have gone after Onyxia in 10 person mode, and Alex got to see what a true dragon straight up “this is a D&D dragon to be respected and feared” fight can be. We won the encounter and had a lot of fun doing it, mostly due to Druid AoE and Cassie playing her Shadow Priest for moar dots. No, not the achieve, for moar dots, damnit!

We’ve gone through Molten Core, one step at a time, with my narrating what all the lore surrounding it was about. Alex was suitably impressed by the raid, he loves core hounds, I mean LOVES core hounds, his Core Hound Pup pet is one of his absolute favorites.

What was funny about Molten Core was the guild had a Firelands raid for Pumpken to get more of her mats for the legendary staff just a few days before, and they allowed the three of us to go along, WE allowed ALEX to stay up way way past bedtime to take part, and we also had a special guest, Mataoka on her Mage, Ceniza.

So Alex got to raid Firelands, and kill everything except for Ragnaros, who we wiped to a few times.

Honestly? Alex did better on Ragnaros that I did. The raid leader gave a very detailed description of what t expect in each of the phases and how to react.

I’m paying close attention with the speakers on, and I look over at Alex, and he’s not wathcing the screen, he’s playing with toys.

“You need to pay attention, Alex, he’s telling us what to do.”

“I AM paying attention, I can multitask, I can play with toys AND listen.”

He gets that from his mom, I swear.

Along comes the fight, he goes to the band of space near Raggie like he was told to, he avoids the fire waves from the sulfuron smash, he runs to one side, he runs back over to the other, he whacks Raggie…

Meanwhile, boom I get hit by a fire wave, whoops I was too slow in getting on that add, where am I going, what am I doing, and why is that, just omygod I want to curl up and make the hurting stop.

You know you’ve gotten old when your 9 year old is a better raider than you.

In other news, I need to design some bumper stickers, not kidding, that say “Proud Parent of a Dragon Soul Raider” or “Proud Parent of a Heroic Mode Raider”.

You know you want one.

Oh, the funny thing I mentioned? So we did Molten Core after we’d done Firelands with the guild, and Alex points out, “Hey, his shoulders don’t look nearly as cool. And where are his feet?”

I’ve also discovered that it’s fun to have a newly dinged max level son… because I can make him run my alt through instances, and he ain’t bored with it yet! He’s actually HAPPY to go!

He says the things that I only think, and that is part of what cracks me up.

For example… we’re blasting through Hellfire Ramparts, and as we go up the spiral staircase to the top level, he stops by the railing, and says to me, “It looks like the orcs dipped the fence spikes in blood to look extra scary.”

Then he says, “I wonder if they used goats to do that.”

No… no I don’t know either.

I love being the newbie Mage as he is running ME through. It was a fulfillment of his dream to be the boss in charge of our runs.

I made the mistake of getting ahead of him for a second… he tells me, “You KNOW what happens if you get some aggro… whack, whack dead.”

Well put.

But enough about that, let’s talk a bit about the night before, and that same stalwart band of adventurers, numbering twenty-five, that finizhed up heroic mode Icecrown Citadel last night.

Oh wait… no we didn’t because we got our asses handed to us by heroic mode Lich King! lol.

We did complete all of the heroic modes as far as the achievement is concerned, you don’t actually have to defeat the Lich King in heroic mode for the 25 person drake.

Still, solid massive congrats to anyone who actually completed that at level 80 when it was current content.

Just, holy shit, phase 1 we got the Twilght Traps down, phase 2 and we get past the Vrykul, and then phase 3 and WHERETHEHELLENDLESSPOOLSOFWIPAGE.

He looks so happy, right? Here are all these nice people come to visit, it’s been a long time, he’s been so lonely, right? He looks so proud.

We’re the Boy and Girl Scout troops getting our “I met Arthas badge”.

And then? He got hornswaggled!

Seriously, the crew I’m playing with on Sunday nights? The best! If enthusiasm keeps up, I may have to try and keep the Sunday night momentum going long term…. I’m sure people will bow out eventually, but that just means other people can have a chance to get in.

We’ll see how many are still interested once drakes start being won. 🙂

What we did to the Lich King isn’t as bad as what happened to poor Bolvar, though.

Poor Bolvar. Acid, flames, torture, endless anguish as the Lich King, frozen in a block of ice, no bathroom breaks, no chances at a date for the Frozen Prom.

Did you see his skin condition? Holy crap!

Does he look happy, though? He does, doesn’t he?

After all that has happened, Bolvar looks as though he has come to accept his fate, maybe even to be at peace with it. Wistful at what was lost, but at peace.

And then, my Dino has to go and…

That is just… Decoy! DOWN!

Hold on, I’ve got a paper bag and a little plastic glove somewhere…

The Cub Report – Riding a Dragon is Cool. Who knew?

Did you play World of Warcraft during the Wrath of the Lich King expansion?

Did you run Northrend heroic instances at the appropriate level?

Did you… were you one of the few, those few, that band of misfits that would stay in the instance when The Oculus appeared on LFD?

Do you remember those halcyon days of our LFD youth, when any instance was fair game except the Oculus, and you knew that you had a nice wait in store for you as people zoned in, saw which one it was, let loose with a psychic shriek of horror and dropped group like a Fire Salamander was dropped down their shorts?

I remember those days.

I remember when Blizzard did what was then almost unheard of, and added extra super special bribes in the form of extra Emblems for those who stuck out that hellish dragon-infested flailfest.

Can I admit to enjoying tanking it? Has enough time passed yet to say I liked it, and only dreaded the random groups of, well, idiots? Idiots that expected to brute force their way through instead of performing surgical dragonstrikes on the right target at the correct time?

Glory of the Hero has brought us back to The Oculus, in search of achievements.

The first time Alex got his hands on the reins of a Red Drake, I thought he was going to plotz with excitement.

Let me break something down for you.

Insanely high item levels of gear + drakes from old instances that scale with gear = let’s get it on dragonriders of the purple sage style.

The three of us were able to gun down Eregos using all Red Drakes easy as… easy as a thing that is almost as easy as breaking a yolk when you drop an egg. Almost.

The next day, flush with our success, we mounted all Bronze Drakes and stormed the heights, only to find that Eregos may hate being hit by bronze Drakes and their damage multipliers and stop times, but his whelps are most unimpressed.

Interestingly enough, plotz also adequately describes the sound our bodies made as they suddenly stopped plummeting from the skies after being swarmed, SWARMED by little blue freaking whelps.

Red Drakes do splash damage. I plumb forgot there WERE whelps on that fight. The first day with Red Drakes, they didn’t live long enough to show up.

Getting a “no Red Drake” achieve took the three of us using two Bronze and me on an Emerald. Which, frankly, was a lot of fun. I healed someone else! Whee!

Driving tanks and shooting cannons in Ulduar is great fun, but allow me to pass on a bit of feedback from Alex;

Riding Dragons is awesome when you feel as if you’re actually RIDING A POWERFUL DRAGON AND KILLING ALL THE THINGS WHEE!

Your dragon mount should not feel squishier than a Holy Priest in a Death Knight Mosh Pit during the half-price sale on spiked leather, Wednesdays only at Mosh Mart.

Having overpowered drakes means your dragonfighting experience against all the Blue Dragons in the middle feels… well, fun.

Flame breath all the things!

Gonna get back in there, gonna have me some fun. Gonna have me some fun.

Flame some!

The Cub Report – Bringing Back the Oldies

I’m not actually a blogger anymore, I just narrate the adventures of a nine year old WoW raider. How did my life take this turn?

I think the way this has happened is, now that he is level 85, my mind has been turning to things we can do together, a Bear tank and a powerful melee DPS. And when you factor in Cassie, who can get 30k DPS out of her Enhancement Shaman and also provide emergency heals, well then, what might we try?

So, as I said in the last post, we’re now doing the Glory of the Hero.

We’re not just dabbling our toe in those Vrykul-filled waters, either. We finished the handful I needed (including a feral Druid solo of the Incredible Hulk, that was fun figuring out), and we have a few more to do for Cassie to get her Red Proto-Drake, and from there, yes, we have committed to work together to get them all done for Alex as well.

I can certainly understand it. He’s got mount collecting fever, and I’ve said it before, those achievement mounts look awesome. The Red proto-Drake really looks cool.

This means a lot of Northrend instance runs, right when our Northrend burnout has finally started to fade.

But wait! Act now, and we’ll through in an Ulduar 25 run courtesy of Nymphy and Orvillius of Eff the Ineffable!

That’s right, we did an almost full clear of Ulduar 25. I say almost, because Alex had to leave for bedtime right after Kologarn. I stayed until the end, though.

And then there was that whole heroic Icecrown Citadel raiding last night, but y’know, why mention that, right?

When I stop to think of it, Alex has gotten in more raiding action in two weeks than I saw the entire last expansion. 

I loved this stuff when I saw it the first time, back when being level 80 and wearing blues was okay to do heroics. Remember those days? That crucial 15 minutes between blues being okay for random dungeons, and needing a 15k gearscore to do normal Occulus?

Wasn’t much middle ground there.

Huh, wonder how many people went running shrieking into the wilderness from gearscore flashbacks just now? Ah well.

It’s like the jackals saying “Mufasa” to each other in The Lion King, isn’t it?

“Gearscore” [shiver]. “Gearscore” [shiver].

Being with Alex, I’m not just seeing the Northrend stuff with his new eyes, there are things I never saw before too!

I’m not going to break everything down into some boring after-action report. Instead, I’m going to hit the absolute highlights, the things that he thought were awesome.

In Ulduar, with me driving a tank while he was shooting the cannon, blowing things up on the run and destroying Flame Leviathan?

Hands down, best thing ever. He was shooting down ALL the things. That was the winningest moment in WoW. Well, killing Deathwing might have been number one, but this was definitely a number two.

That didn’t come out right.

Shit. Stop it! Arrggghhh! It keeps coming out! Arrgh! Help me, dear lord help me before I innuendo again!

Whew! At least I got that behind me.


Look, let’s really talk about Ulduar.

Alex turned and looked at me about halfway in, and asked me, dead serious, if they were ever going to do anything that cool in the game again.

He wasn’t talking about a tank battle. He was talking about the endless awesome of driving tanks, fighting giants that shove players in the hot pocket (he didn’t get hot pocketed, and he was really hoping to be), fighting jumping jack robots with weird voices, giant stone robots, a cosmic being of pure light within a chamber floating in deep space, and the capper, a giant titanic being with hands thiiiiiiiiiiiiis big.

The epic scope of it. Boss after boss, deep space and teleporters and never knowing what’s beyond the next bend.

He spent time marveling over the artwork, the architecture, the marvelous grand destiny of the place. He was awestruck.

As I was tucking him into bed that night, he asked me sleepily, “Who is the end boss of Ulduar?”

“One of the Old Gods”, I answered, “You fight a giant brain in a room filled with tentacles that grab you, and the brain is so creepy that if you stare directly at it, your character starts to go insane, and you could turn into a big tentacly thing too! And to kill the boss, you have to have some people go into the brain and beat him up from the inside!”

Alex yawned, and as he settled into bed, he told me, ‘I hope I can go in his brain and beat him up some day, that would be neat.”


Algalon the Observer was an exciting fight as well, and we both wanted top spend more time sightseeing and less time frantically fighting.

The fight also pointed up a pretty strong failure on my part. Alex didn’t know how to battle rez someone. The ability wasn’t even on his bar. So we wiped on Algalon the first try, with a healer down and Alex and Cassie flipping through his spellbook trying to find the ability. We didn’t even remember off the top of our heads what it was called.

The second time someone died… Alex by golly rezzed them. His pride at doing it right was just perfect.

Do you remember feeling like that? Do you still feel it now? To learn a new skill, have a situation come up that requires that one skill, and then use it at just the right moment to help the group? He took a very simple, very real pleasure in knowing he did it right.

Kologarn blasting out was great, by the way. I knew it would be. The titan contruct popped up, hands spread wide, and Alex just turned and looked at me with eyes as big as dinner plates. That’s a money shot, right there.

So, Ulduar was a big hit.

The ICC run last night was pretty cool too, more great examples of interesting and exciting fights.

The trash packs before the first boss? That set the tone of the whole night. Random chaos, people running in panic and confusion, and killing all the things.

Rogues and traps? Dude, we’re a rolling raid of Druids and Hunters. We face pull all the things.

Okay, we had some token other classes. They kept us pointed in the right general direction, but otherwise, chaos ruled.

Giant undead bone whirlwinds with scythes? Freaking cool. Right?

Gunship battles? Hell yes.


Yeah, he loved those big old slobbery puppies, and enjoyed the fart-filled Festergut & Rotface extravaganza.

As we prepared to take down Professor Putricide, he was bringing me over towards the sides of the room, showing me how you xcould look down into the rooms where we fought Festergut and Rotface.

When we were fighting Putricide the first time, I askwed Alex what he was doing. He was standing over by the alchemy table, trying to drink the potion labeled “Drink me!”

Good thing he wasn’t there for Mimiron, or that big red button would have been pushed in record time.

Towards the end of the night, we faced down Velithria, and with his first words, I knew Blizzard had gotten the story of the world across very well.

Deathwing? Alex loves killing Deathwing. Cool dragon, has a huge poster on his wall, but Deathwing is an internet dragon meant for the killing.

As soon as Alex saw Valithria Dreamwalker, he said, “That dragon is friendly to us, look at the green name! And he’s sleeping. We’re not going to have to hurt the dragon, are we?”

“No Alex, you’re right, we’re not going to hurt this dragon. We’re here to save the dragon from the bad guys.”

His answer was a simple, “Good.”

You might think he doesn’t know what’s going on, but he does. He understands far more of the story and whats going on than you’d think.

Being a snotnose or an asshat is not a function of age, and when we call someone acting like that and call them immature, we’re diong the young a disservice.

Shit behavior isn’t excused by youth, an asshat is an asshat. I’m starting to notice that more and more. The young may not have the wealth of experience yet to integrate things the way an adult does, but youth does not automatically mean an asshat.

However, it does mean fart jokes equal instant giggling.

When Alex plays WoW, he knows we’re here to be the heroes, and he does pay attention. He keeps his eyes open for opportunities to be saving people, and likes that bgetter than always hunting them down and killing them.

When he finds an opportunity to aid rather than destroy, he prefers it.

He likes having the chance to save the lost and injured, to defend the weak.

I’m thinking, it would be nice to see a few more of those kinds of quests, to balance out all the assassinating.

He’s got no problem with being tasked with destroying a threat to the world, or to wading hip deep in dead slimes to save a village.

He just likes the option of choosing actions that are, without reservation, good.

We never did the torture quest Alliance side in Borean Tundra, and that quest would be one where he would prefer an alternate choice, hands down. He’s playing a hero, and while heroes make hard choices sometimes, they still have a choice to make, and consequences of their actions.

He worries about consequences,. He wants the power to make the choice. To know that we are not there to kill a friendly green dragon, but to try and find a way to save it, instead.

Thinking about some of my talks with him, I have an idea I’d like to throw out there.

When we do raids, the bosses now have a Looking For Raid version, a Normal version, and a Heroic version.

The way things are now, those difficulty settings simply change things like enemy health, how hard things hit, debuffs and constant AoE damage that affects the raid, numbers of adds that spawn, that kind of thing.

Wouldn’t it be interesting to have each setting be a different attempt at resolving an encounter?

To have LFR and Normal be “kill this guy like always, with brute force”, but heroic mode would be where you try and save someone, coerce someone, overwhelm and capture someone, or deceive someone instead?

Where the heroic version represents the fact that sometimes the easy route is to use a bigger hammer, but the hard route is to win without just dropping a big ass nuke. To capture instead of kill. To convert.

To face off against Deathwing, and take on the truly impossible task of redeeming him and purging him of the taint of the Old Gods rather than taking the easy route and killing him.

You want impossible? Redeem Deathwing. Restore him sanity, enlist him in the war against the Old Gods.

That would be impossible. And a challenge worthy of a heroic team of champions.

Two Minute Reviews – LEGO Batman 2 (Wii)

Two Minute Reviews – LEGO Batman 2 (Wii)

Quick preface – we have a nine year old boy in the house, and he likes video games. We as his parents like to find games that are appropriate for young players, but also, and how can I put this?

Games that don’t suck.

We’ve learned that ‘games for children’ tends to translate to “games we phoned in with 30 minutes of content, shitty controls, horrible graphics and terrible gameplay because your kids aren’t smart enough to know any better, and they don’t pay the money anyway, all we gotta do is sucker the parents with the pocketbooks with our license.”

Dora the Explorer and the Purple Planet, I’m looking at you.

So, the eternal challenge of the geek parent; find a video game appropriate for kids that doesn’t suck.

This brings me to the LEGO series of games, and specifically LEGO Batman 2 for the Wii.

The LEGO games have a hit or miss record. Some of them have been very good, like the LEGO Star Wars I and II games, bringing good gameplay and cute design with a lot of content.

Others have been okay, but short and kinda boring, like LEGO Indiana Jones.

Then there is the middle of the road, like LEGO Star Wars III.

Guess what true believers, there is a new bame out, it’s called LEGO Batman 2, and here is your two minute review.

It’s a very good game.

I’ll run down the positives, as told to me by my 9 year old LEGO game expert son.

1) Lots of funny cutscenes that rock. LOTS.
2) Plenty of missions that have a lot going on.
3) You can play as Batman, Robin, Superman, Green Lantern, The Flash, Wonder Woman, even Cyborg from the new Justice League line up.
4) Superman is invulnerable! And he has x-ray vision, heat vision, he can fly, and he can fly, and did I mention he can fly?
5) Batman has lots of costumes, he can even shoot rockets!
6) Robin can get a hazmat suit that lets him suck up this green or red or orange glowing acid goop, and then SHOOT IT AT PEOPLE.
7) There is an amusement park with fun rides, slides, ferris wheels, games where you can smash ducks with a hook to earn Gold Bricks, it’s awesome.
8) If you beat up bad guys extra awesome, they have a chance to surrender and you can buy them to join your crew for reals.

There you go. Alex endorsed, parent approved. LEGO Batman 2 for the Wii is actually worth the money they be asking for it, mon. Plus, hey, cooperative play!

The Cub Report – Raiding ALL the Things!

This Cub Report is fairly overdue, but I wanted to accumulate datas.

Yes, I said datas. I’ve noticed recently that adding a plural (s) to words that are plural without one is, apparently, cool. I, therefore, being the antithesis to cool, wanted to use it to kill that stupid fucking trend dead in its tracks.

You’re welcome.

In the last two weeks, Alex has enjoyed all that being level 85 means in the game.

We’ve run a lot of Twilight Heroics, and those are cool. It’s boiled down now, though, to wanting that damn two-handed axe that WILL NOT drop. Time takes time, and luck of the drop.

I’m waiting for the moment it drops, and a Paladin queued as healer wins it over him. That should bring his training in the dark side to it’s conclusion.

Until the day Darth Alex rises, we’ve also been doing many things to get pets.

Every single day, I group up with Cassie and Alex to tank Ahune to try and get them the pet. It’s a frosty Pebble, of course Alex would love it.

I refer you to previously mentioned affinities for ‘rock guys’.

So far, I got one on my Druid (who already has one), and I saved it in the bank.

Can anyone explain why the pets are not BoE? I thought this was already covered and announced to be a BoE future for pets and mounts, did Blizzard just totally phone in this seasonal event or what?

I’m saving my extra Ice Chip in the bank on the off chance that Alex or Cassie won’t win one before the end, and Blizzard decides to someday change the Soulbound to BoE after it’s too late to win it but could be bought on the AH for about 5000 gold..

Not that anything like that would ever happen. Sigh.

On the subject of Ahune… tanks? WTF, over?

I’m running it as a Druid tank, and I’m running it as a healer for a chance at the staff.

I am seeing tanks just acting like freaking beheaded chickens, are you kidding me?

I swear, I ought to Fraps a run just to show that chaos and panic does not have to be the rule of the day. At least I would if I had any idea how to turn Fraps video into a Youtube thing. It’s been years since I did one, I’ve forgotten.

Look, I understand, it’s not what you’re used to. But try to calm down and handle it, all right? It’s embarassing.

When the Ahune encounter starts, there will be one large add that hits harder than the others. Be ready and grab it. Lay down a solid whack to get threat and be prepared to be near the ice slick around the boss, but not in it, to grab the two new adds that will pop up.

Grab them, and huddle them together. They can cast at range but respond to threat as melee, you can gather them in. AoE them two times, then auto-attack to conserve Rage for the 1 second it takes for the next set of 2 adds to emerge.

Stay there at the edge of the ice slick. You can grab all of the adds as they emerge, if you just stay there on that boundary between ice and ground. If there is an ice spike forming beneath you, move further along the edge of the ice. Sometimes, if ranged DPS is really fast on the trigger, they may grab one that heads away from you fast, but that is what a ranged Taunt is for.

You don’t have to grab one like a terrier and ride it down to death. Focus as your prime task on gathering them in to you and hugging them, then looking for the next pair (or three on the second round of adds) to collect on the fly. The DPS are powerful, trust in them to finish the adds off, your job is to grab them and hold them and look for more.

Enough said about that, I hope. I’m starting to call Ahune ‘the chicken run” in my head when I queue to heal it, and that’s not a good sign.

Some of our other pet-related shenanigans have included doing the Troll quests in Stranglethorn Vale enough to get the Panther Cub, and sending hmi on an epic quest to…. get a chicken.

That one was hilarious. I showed him the chicken in my companion panel, and asked him, “You wanna go get some chicken?”

Ah yes, how fun. I just told him to head out to Westfall, and once he got there, i coached him on finding a chicken.

Then I told him he had to learn to talk chicken to get it to give him a quest, so he asked how he learned chicken.

There is only one way to learn to speak chicken. Practise.

I made him type out /chicken to the chicken, and then made a macro for him, and told him to get to it.

He started faltering in his resolve after no more than 15 or 20 /chickens, but I got through to him by explaining to him that the chicken can’t understand his accent. You gotta just keep practising on that chicken, it could take up to 200 times!

Pretty soon, sure enough, he got the chicken to takl to him, got the quest, got some special feed, got the egg, and boom! Fresh chicken.

He did this before I sent him after the Panther Cub, and this caused issues.

He rode his ground mount the whole way to the Stormwind Docks.


Well, he couldn’t take a flight or get on a flying mount, the chicken might vanish. Yes, he could resummon it, but that would hurt the chickens feelings.

So he rode all the way from Westfall to the Docks just so the chicken would stay at his side.

The whole time, he’s singing a purely improvised ‘chicken song’. Just singing uder his breath the whole way, ‘My chicken is the best, my chicken passed the test, my mount is slow, my chicken is fast, you better step away or he’ll peck at you next”.

So, pets are his big things. He wants all the pets he can get, and I’m trying to make a list of all the ones I can send him after.

the other thing he loves is raiding.

He wanted to do Dragon Soul for as long as he’s seen me do it.

A big part of that is simply wanting to do the same things mommy and daddy are doing, sure. But he’s also doing it because he likes it.

He loved Deathwing. Just flat out loves him. he loves seeing the fight, seeing us kill him, seeing screenshots and having the big image of Deathwing on his computer wallpaper.

He even got me to buy him a Deathwing poster for his wall.

Me, I hate the LFR for the second half. The fights are fun, but more often than not the groups just fall to crap. Sooo frustrating when you wipe from lack of give a shit in the group! The first four bosses, though, they seem to be too streamlined for even LFR groups to completely lose their cool over.

Ah well, it’s not about me. He likes the Deathwing.

Last week, my goal was to begin easing him into running the Twilight Heroics so he could get the gear he doesn’t know he needs to do the raid.

This is a point that others have made very well, but when you’re leveling up and even running instances, there isn’t a lot of emphasis on the need to gear up first. The gear upgrades are there, and they are nice, but for my son what the gear looks like is of more importance than how powerful it is. The numbers are just numbers, but cool looking shoulders, that’s something to cheer about!

Once he hit 85, he thought he could just play, do whatever. He thought the hard part was learning what to do, developing the skill he would need to do the raids. No worries, we got that straightened out, and he likes running the instances.

I’d gotten him all clear on the way that it works. I crafted a bunch of stuff so he could jump right into the Heroic Twilights. Then we’d run with him as DPS and me as tank until he had all the gear upgrades he could possibly get from the Twilights, plus some Valor and Justice upgrades, and then he’d be ready to step into LFR and try a raid for the very first time.

It made so much sense.

So of course, the second day he’s 85 or something like that, a week and a half ago, the alt night raid is forming up on Wednesday, and I’m asked if I’m up for going.

I let them know I’m hanging out with the youngster getting him geared, and they suggest I bring him along.

To normal Dragon Soul 10. The normal, full on raid.

Well, I guess patience hell, he’s gonna get to go in and kill somethin?

This is the point where a responsible adult would say, “Gee, thanks guys, but I think he should learn to do the Twilights and nail down his class a bit first.”

Instead I reminded them that he was brand new to 85 and undergeared, would have crap DPS, and they said, “Meh, bring him, we don’t care.”

Yep, an adult would put their foot down and say no, thanks just the same, right?


So there we were, in normal Dragon Soul 10, and…


Oh, shut up. I never said I was a responsible adult. Or, if I did, and you believed me? Bwahahahahaaha! Sucka.

So there we were, all plans of careful coaching and preliminary prepwork tossed right out the window. We ran with our computer desks side by side as usual, and blasted through boss after boss. In the few moments killing trash before a boss pull, I gave a briefing on the strategy on the boss, what to expect, and how we’d do it.

What was hilarious to me were some of the things he called our raid out on.

As an example, I’ve trained him to expect a star or icon over the main tank, so the DPS can see at all times where the lead tank is, and know where to shift when he moves instead of waiting to respond to the boss. If the tank is on one side, you get behind the tank’s target. If there is more than one target, you see who the tank is on, and that is who, in most cases, you focus on. From behind. On the butt.

So of course, we go running in and he’s right there saying, “But which one is the tank? None of them are marked and I don’t want to be on the wrong target and pull aggro.”

I’m so proud! Oh, and guys… can someone put a mark up on the tank? BTW, my son says lrn2play, noobs.

Before that night was through, our long-suffering guild endured a player that played as well as could be expected, but whose DPS was simply not up to snuff. We didn’t have any problems at all up to the ship, but once we hit Spine, it was tough. Too tough to continue.

Alex learned a lot, managed to make it all the way through Ultraxion alive and kicking, and did his best, but we just couldn’t quite hammer a nail into Spine. Can’t recall how many times we gave it a shot, but normal Dragon Soul is still a real raid, and a woefully undergeared Death Knight has no place being there. end of story. nice of the guild to have him along, but, no. Not until he is fully geared and pulling his own weight, in my opinion.

On the other hand, he got the tier leggings for his Death Knight set, so he gets to be the first Death Knight on his block with 397 tier pants, and a 347 blue mace.

We’ve run LFR since then, all of the run last week, and the first half again last night.

At first, he said he liked the first half better, and now last night he’s back to liking the second half better.

We tried to stack the deck in his favor for last night on tier drops, Cassie on her Rogue, me on my Druid, intending to do our damndest to roll and pass tier on to him.

Feel free to hate us for it, it’s okay. I’ve long been on the side of feeling that if you did your best performance to help the raid succeed, and the gear you just rolled on is for someone who will be able to actually USE it as a major upgrade, there should be no problem. Rolling just to trade for something else you want later isn’t quite the same to me, but not everyone feels the same way, I know, and I accept that.

What is funny is, we’re in LFR fully planning on rolling on gear to pass directly to Alex, and he goes and wins, with his own rolls, both the tier gloves AND the tier shoulders!

Now he’s got three piece of tier, almost enough Valor for the necklace, already got the Relic and Wrist and Boots, and STILL with the 347 mace!

Tonight, tonight by golly I’m going to get into the second half with him, and if you read something into my queueing on either my Ret Paladin or Fury Warrior, well, you might be onto something there. And Cassie might be on her Ret Paladin as well. No real reason. *cough* sword hacks *cough*  🙂

He’s so serious when it comes to raid. He soaks up the instructions like a sponge, and he’s right at that age where as soon as something is explained to him, it’s as if he knew it all along forever, so don’t come along later asking him if he remembers what to do, of course he does, duh. Just tell him, show him, then let him loose.

Sniff. My little boy is all grown up and killing internet dragons. Sniff.

They grow up so fast! Soon, he’ll be killing dragons all on his own, he’ll get his Druid up to max also, and he’ll be saying to me, “Hey dad, did you know that the target doesn’t have to be in front of you to use Growl on it? And that if you hit Berserk in bear form your Mangle hits THREE targets all at once?””

“No son, no I’d never heard that before. That’s very cool. Now, when you’re done with raid, can you help me program the VCR to record the Rockford Files? Thanks!”