Happy Saint Patrick’s Day!

I wish everyone a wonderful Saint Patrick’s Day today, wherever you may be,  and wherever you may be from.

Here in the United States, it’s an interesting occasion, as a lot of folks consider it an excuse to get drunk and act the fool, without any appreciat for or understanding of what the heck it’s supposedly all about.

I ain’t gonna get into any of that “What it’s all about” stuff meself, since you either know already, or you most likely dinnae care.

I heard one statistic this morning on the way in to work that the population of Ireland, where, like, actual Irish people live, is around 4.5 million, while the number of Americans that consider themselves Irish-American, or of Irish descent and are proud enough of it to mark such on their census/statistics forms numbers over 35 million.

So… are we Ireland in exile? Or just a whole bunch of people that wished we were more exotic than we actually are?

“Oh, I’m not JUST an American… I’m an IRISH American! I’m different! I’m a special little snowflake!”

Yep, just like the other 34 million, 999 thousand, 999 people.

And I’m one of ’em!

Today, in celebration of Saint Patrick’s Day, I shall spend the day not in wild drunken debauchery, but instead involved in a more subdued, yet still honest series of micro-actions. Kinda like my own subversive, anti-establishment version of observance.

First, I am not “wearing green”, as the tradition over here goes. Instead, under my uniform shirt, I am wearing my “Irish Brigade” t-shirt that I bought while visiting Gettysburg a couple of years ago. It’s quite tasteful, and I love it dearly.

Second, I shall take home with me a very small quantity of the Guinness, and tonight, after Alex is in bed and sleeping the sleep of the innocent, I shall drink it while enjoying that awesome classic film, “The Quiet Man” on DvD.

Ah, I do love that movie, and it’s entirely different pace. The fact it includes the most awesomest battle sequence on the planet is just a bonus.

Yes, “most awesomest” is a real phrase. Well, at least it should be.

I’d like to attribute my more relaxed enjoyment of the day as being a reflection on how I’m getting more mature as I get older… but I think I’m just boring. 🙂

It’s been a long, long time since I spent Saint Patrick’s Day on River Street in Savannah, Georgia, getting completely obliterated and having an insane time. A long time, and lot of water under the bridge.

To any Marines that stagger down to River Street this week for the festivities, or for anyone anywhere that takes a few moments to enjoy the day in some special way, Sláinte!

Saint Patrick was a gentleman,
Who through strategy and stealth,
Drove all the snakes from Ireland,
Here’s a toasting to his health.

But not too many toastings
Lest you lose yourself and then
Forget the good Saint Patrick
And see all those snakes again.

‘Beannachtam na Feile Padraig!’
Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

Retro raids, revisited!

I’d mentioned a long time ago that one of the things we like to do instead of actual raids, is to have fun in older, less frequently visited content.

Along those lines, Cassie put up the Black Temple on our raid calender, and the Sidhe Devils went in tonight and for the first time sought to explore it’s vast, cavernous interior.

Most of us had never seen it, and of those that had, we didn’t have any that had gone the distance. Most of the boss explanations we gleaned from World of Raids or Wowwiki, and then we winged it.

There were anywhere from 12 to 15 of us at any given moment, all but 2 level 80.

We had two tanks to start, myself as Feral Druid and Caladorn as Prot Paladin, and Sux as Feral Druid backup in case we needed a third. We quickly changed the plan to being one tank, me, and Sux as second tank if and when we needed one, which was rarely.

We went in with three healers, Jardal on Tree duty, Shadewynn on Priest and Kitsen as Shaman for a nice rounded mix.

Everyone else was DPS, and a lot of that was melee.

We cleared Black Temple, a new group learning as we went, in 3.5 hours exactly (30 minutes of that spent taking an afk break for bio), without a single wipe.

In fact, the only fight that we found truly taxing was Mother, and the Illidari Council of course.

Over the course of the evening, we reached Honored with the Ashtongue, we witnessed epic struggles, took part in bringing down Illidan Stormrage himself…

…and saw the drop of a legendary Warglaive go to Kaelynn the Rogue.

It was a wonderful night, sure to be remembered for a long time. Having nothing but friends by your side as you fight legendary battles, rather than pugging another meaningless heroic, is a priceless gift.

If you’re in a guild with a bunch of friends, and you occasionally find yourself at loose ends trying to think of something fun and different to do… why not give it a try?

I leave you with a few parting snapshots. 🙂

Blacktemple1

Motherdown

Weareprepared

Illidandown

Thank you, Veterans!

United_States_Department_of_Veterans_Affairs_Veterans_Day_2009_posterTo all Veterans, I offer you my heartfelt thanks on this day, and all days, for all that you do and have done in the name of liberty, freedom, duty and justice.

I strive to remember, on this day and all days, that the liberties I enjoy, the freedom that I have to live my life, to spend time with my family in peace, to work for a better life, and even to spend time in idle play within the virtual world of a video game  or to blog about it endlessly, is all due to your hard work and personal sacrifice.

Veterans, truly, for all that you have done, and all that you continue to do, you have my gratitude, freely and without reservation.

God bless you.

And as a veteran myself, thank you to Dechion for your well wishes today, and for being far more eloquent than me. 🙂

WTFUSMCOMGBBQ?!?

I have no f’ing words for this one.

Except maybe… “When the frak is December gonna get here?!?”

I loved the guy early on wearing the olive drab t-shirt with the muted old skool Eagle, Globe & Anchor on it…. damn, that sent a little thrill through me.

http://l.yimg.com/cosmos.bcst.yahoo.com/up/fop/embedflv/swf/fop.swf

No, hell with that, I’ve watched it like 5 times now, and yes I DO have the words.

Watching that trailor, for the very first time since a day in a movie theater in Atlanta in the mid-eighties, I feel that exact same thrill race through me that I felt when watching Aliens for the first time. Watching, and knowing that what I am seeing is not only up to my expectations, but has blown way past them to set a new freaking benchmark.

That feeling, sitting there and watching, unable to form a coherent thought other than “Omigod that is so cool, that is so cool, that is so cool, that is so cool.”

Trial of the Champion: Yikes!

I may have that name wrong, but if I say that I’m talking about the new 5 person normal/heroic instance, I’m sure you’ll know what I’m talking about.

It’s been a bit of a busy week, but that’s no excuse for not having set foot in the new 5 person instance. Last night, Cassie and I wanted to rectify the situation, so we asked some folks in the guild if they’d be willing to give it a try.

We went into normal mode first, with Falromord as a warrior tank, myself as a resto healer, and Wetfoot, Cassieann and Pushpin for DPS, a Survival Hunter, Combat Rogue and Death Knight, respectively.

Normal mode was a comedy of errors as I relearned healing on the fly in a brand new instance, after tanking a lot recently. “What does this button do again? Where the hell is the button for Nature’s Swiftness? Shit, I forgot treeform for the whole run! Aw shoot, I forgot to use Swiftmend instead of Nourish again.”

Sigh.

Okay, it wasn’t really that bad, but it was pretty frantic.

About the time I pulled myself together, we’d finished normal mode Trials, and had some interesting perceptions of the run.

Then we went right back in on Heroic mode, and… umm, well, we won? 

I wouldn’t call it a smackdown, but we were still standing and had loot at the end of it, so woot!

Whether in normal or heroic, the first section consists of fighting as a group while mounted with a lance, followed by being dismounted and fighting as a normal team with tank, DPS and healers.

When you enter the instance, there is someone you talk to for starting the fights. Before that, you might look around and notice the lance racks and mounts around the edge of the large circular chamber where ALL of the fighting takes place.

You can come in, if you don’t have a Lance you can grab one from a rack, mount up, and start stacking Armor/Defend.

When you start the encounter, three champions of the opposing faction, races varying per encounter just as Moroes’ guests do, come out. Each has an entourage of three suckups with them.

You get one champion sending a wave of three suckups at you, and once those are down the next three come, and then the last three. Once all the suckups are downed, the three champions come out to get lanced.

As I’m sure you know, once a champion is dismounted, he’s on the ground and stunned for about ten seconds (much less in heroic mode… or maybe it only felt that way). Then he gets back up, and heads for the nearest mount at the wall, ready to get mounted and return to battle.

Once a champion is dismounted, you can run over him with your valiant steed to trample him back down again. There are no special commands, buttons or abilities to trigger. You literally ride over him, and he gets flattened.

In your favor, if YOUR mount loses health and you get dismounted YOU can run over to a mount along the wall and remount and get right back in the fray. Watch out, if you are on foot and they run over you, YOU get trampled. Word to the wise.. DUCK!

One other thing, and something we abused the heck out of… throughout the entire instance fight, whether on a boss or not, whether in heroic or not, if you die, you can release to graveyard nearby and come RIGHT BACK IN IMMEDIATELY.

Warning, if you release and THEN the boss dies before you come back in and gets looted, you might still be able to get your Emblems, but you won’t be able to roll on loot. So folks, please don’t be fast to loot. Remember, rez/recover first.

Anyway, what we did on heroic, that we worked out on the normal run, was to have two designated ‘tramplers’. Cassie was trampler #1, and I believe Pushpins was trampler #2. As soon as the first champion was downed, Cassie just ran over that bastard endlessly.

As soon as the second champion was downed, Push ran over that one. The rest of us just kept repeatedly charging and breaking the third champion. Zero problems.

Zero problems until all three went down, at any rate. We were dismounted instantly, and even though we knew it was coming, we all died from being spread out when the standard part of the fight began.

I think for our next shot, we need to have the person with aggro work on using melee attack to kite the champion to one constant location, while the rest use shield breakers to keep them weak, and make them die in one pile, then rinse and repeat, so that we’ve got one controllable pile. They hit hard enough to damn near oneshot cloth.

Anyway, once we all died on the dismount, we came back in and easily beat them once prepared. Just made sure to kill the Orc (we’re Alliance) first, since his Whirlwind attack is pretty brutal on a melee heavy group.  

Now, I could try and go into detail on fights two and three… but I think this post has gotten pretty long, and I’d rather tackle it a few more times to nail down the ins and outs.

What I will say, is that on the Black Knight, we found kiting the boss around was successful, because when he drops the green crop circle with wisps of smoke, it does a lot of damage over time plus has a big slow effect, and when lots of people are in it, healing the whole group gets VERY tough. It makes bears whine about healing stress. It’s ugly. Also, on the final encounter, Shadow Resistance is awesome, because he does a Shadowbolt volley on everyone that hurts hefty amounts.

The fights stress a healer a ton… at least, in my iLevel 200 gear I felt it stressed me out a lot, I healed my butt off, in many cases simply spamming Nourish on the main tank and letting DPS drop like flies to try and make it through. As I said earlier, we heavily abused the fact you can run in from the graveyard in mid-fight.

Damn, that instance is fun, though.

I’m sure that folks that are in Naxx 25 gear or higher probably do it on snooze mode, which is as it should be considering the quality of gear it drops. But for a 5 person team in Naxx 10 gear and heroic epics and crafted, it’s tuned really well. It’s a heck of a challenge, but you know that it CAN be done, and done well, once you get it down. And it is very fast.

Oh, one other thing if you haven’t done it yet. There are three encounters, but it drops not three epics, but five. The first encounter has one epic drop, and each of the next encounters drops two. Five iLevel 219 epic drops for one heroic run of 30 minutes is… well, expect it to be the new standard instance for an evening, yes?

Share your own tips, let us know the different things that you found that work well on that. I think it was a lot of fun fighting Onyxia in our nightmares… even if she DID fear us all over the place.

The Bear goes on a spiritual journey and asks you to Name That Pet!

I have been doing a teeny little bit of looking for a certain something-something, and I just happened to get lucky tonight.

Say hello to my leetle frien’.

spirit

Wait, what did you think I was talking about?

Never mind, I don’t think I want to know.

That’s right, I now have a wonderfully pretty purple ghost tiger Spirit Beast, and he’s very pretty. I don’t know why, but he is a he. Roll with it.

All I did was visit that marvelous website Petopia, hit her recently added pets page, move on down to that gorgeous image of Gondria the Spirit Beast that was added in the latest patch, and checked out the particulars.

Petopia told me that I could find these beauties in Zul’drak, that they were tameable, and that my normal kitty chow would do just fine.

Moving on to Wowhead’s entry on Gondria, I learned that there were 5 spawn locations Gondria was known to frequent, I found a nice /target macro Nuker had created to help search for Gondria, and Cassie (God bless her) read further and told me that Gondria is a Neutral Beast. That last bit turned out to be important.

First thing I did was add waypoints in my Cartographer map  for the five points (63.4, 42.5) (69.4, 48.7) (62, 62) (66.4, 78.4) (77, 70).

I then added the macro that Nuker wrote, which he displayed as follows;

/tar Gondria
/stopmacro [noexists]
/w [Your Name Here] You’ve FOUND >%t<

I of course modified it so it said;

/tar Gondria
/stopmacro [noexists]
/w Windstar You’ve FOUND >%t<

Now, I spent a bit of time cruising around those points looking for him, spamming the macro. No luck.

Then, after a little Obsidian Sanctum run, Cassie came downstairs for a neck rub, and told me about the Spirit Beast being Neutral instead of Hostile.

The importance of this turns out to be that all of the other beasts in the area ARE Hostile… and Hostile beasts are Red dots on your minimap when you have Track Beasts on. Neutral ones are Yellow/Gold.

So, if I turn my Track Beasts on as I cruise my route of 5 marks, Gondria should stand out as a nice pretty gold amidst the red. Neat, huh?

I said that sounded like a great idea… I logged in, put it on, and was chatting to Cassie when she said “What’s that there?”

“What’s what where who huh?”

I looked at the screen. That there was a gold dot amidst the red, sure enough. I hovered my mouse over the dot on the minimap, and the name Gondria stood out bold as brass.

I had logged out over one of the spawn points, 66.4, 78.4 to be exact, because it seemed one of the two with the most critters, and to my mind meant one of the two most likely to see a kitty spawn. Lo and behold the beastie was right there under my flying feet. If it wasn’t for Cassie, I never would have logged in, in the first place, let alone noticed the little gold dot.

A few hand shaking moments later, a dismissed gorilla (bah bye, sucka!) and I had myself a beautiful purple glowy kitty.

With the joy this brings, as you can see from the picture, I’ve still got a problem.

A kitty that pretty needs a damn fine name.

That’s where I hope you can help me out, because I used up the last of my imagination when I came up with Moonclaw for my Ghost Saber when he was only level 20.

This kitty deserves a powerful name, resonating with majesty and soul.

I sure hope you’ve got a few suggestions for me!

The BBB Arthas book contest – the winners announced!

The decisions were difficult to make. I want to be very clear about this. We received a lot of great entries, and every single one of them was very well written, and in almost all cases it was easy to tell that a lot of energy, a lot of enthusiasm, and a lot of your personal thoughts and imagination were caught up into your stories.

In choosing the winners of the contest, we tried to pick the stories that we loved the most that embraced and ran with the concept of bringing your own character into a personal moment with Arthas, as we defined in the original post.

There were a great many stories that were extremely well written and imaginative, that we felt were great… but just did not fulfill that one rule, that it be about you interacting directly with Arthas.

In the end, however, we could not simply disregard every entry because they chose to write about or around arthas rather than face to face. It was also about imagination, after all.

So we chose four winners from the group that wrote a story of their character directly interacting with Arthas, and one winner that wrote an extremely imaginative story weaving their in game activities with the recent patch shenanigans, into a story where the presence of Arthas was there, but there had been no true interaction between them.

So here we go, the list of winners who will be receiving a book. Over the course of the weekend, I will be sharing those stories with you, one story per post. I think their work deserves it.

A huge thank you to everyone that entered. I only wish I could give every one of you a book, because you far surpassed my wildest dreams with your creativity, your ingenuity, and your passion.

In no particular order the winners are –

Malphailuron of Eredar (also known as Warriorpanda) with a story about the desire of preventing the evil that would be the Lich King… tempered with a love and trust in the faithfulness of the Light.

Hannelore with a story that, while short, invested an incredible amount of emotional power, of passion and dread into her brief encounter with the Lich King that made me want to see a lot more of her adventures.

Cowsareus of the Twilight Hammer EU, who wrote a stirring story of a Druid seeking to work in the way of nature, preparing for a future spring right at the start of the most brutal winter.

Kraggette of Anvilmar with a story of intrigue and betrayal on the very eve of war against the Banshee Queen.

And, last but not least, Ærynn Lómëhtar with the entry that, as I said, may not have quite fulfilled the concept of a face to face encounter with Arthas… but was our choice to represent all those that went nuts with great stories that just didn’t follow the rules.

Congratulations to all of you, and to everyone that wrote such stirring stories.

All of the entries will eventually be posted in an archived format later, so that all of them can be enjoyed as they should. Just because these five were the winners in no way means the other stories were bad. Far from it. Some of them were just incredibly wonderful, including the POEtic efforts of Krizzlybear, and the explosive fun of Honorshammer. Those stories certainly should NOT just vanish into the darkness.

But in the meantime, the winning five will be here on the blog this weekend!

Grats!

I'm planning a raid! Err, I mean live group event!

The votes are in, and I’ll definitely get another group event going, hopefully within the next two weeks. 

It’s really nice to see so many folks saying they’d like to come chat for a bit. I have days when I start to feel that writing the blog is pretty silly, and that the folks that take the time to read, while really nice and super friendly… are just here because they’re utterly bored.

That someone would really take real world time to come by and have fun talking about the game and stuff with someone that is, technically, a wierdo internet writing stranger is very cool.

Hey, if some of you are really willing to hang out for a bit and have fun, that’s good enough for me to show up.

Keep in mind though, this is more than just a friendly get together.

We all share one thing. WoW. And WoW is srs bsnss…. we are srs people doing srs things. When we get together, it’s not to do something silly like have a damby pamby ice cream social, dangit, when WoW players get together like this it’s for a RAID!

Kinda like vikings.  Pick a target and descend to loot, pillage and destroy.

So we’re planning a raid, and planning a raid is srs bsnss too!

Even if all we raid is the buffet line.

We all play WoW. Many folks have scheduled raids every week, some folks are in guilds where attending scheduled raids is mandatory.

Others are going to need some reasonable advance warning to arrange for a babysitter, or spousal approval, or just to make sure it’s not the same time as their regular family bowling night.

I’m not kidding on that one… I know Cassie would be unthrilled if I just sprung on her “Hey, oh love of my life, this guy is having a thing at a place tomorrow, can I go?”, especially if the next night would just happen to be my turn to make dinner, give Alex a bath, or generally do normal day to day things. It might seem.. awfully convenient.

So as with any WoW raid… gotta have advance warning to give people time to prepare. Also have to set the time and date for when it hopefully won’t interfere with most folks in-game raiding nights. And also want to be convenient for folks that work during the day, or even would like to visit from an area close to but not actually IN the Twin Cities.

And finally, as in any raid… we gotta figure out what luckless establishment we are going to descend upon like a ravening horde.

It should be a location that is fairly reasonable for folks in different areas of the Twin Cities to get to, be open and friendly to everyone of any age, and still be kind of fun to hang out in.

Thankfully, everywhere in the Twin Cities is a smoke free establishment. Some of you may smoke, but I don’t, not for a very, very long time.

(Cigars with the Mannyac once or twice a year don’t count. Hmmm…. wonder if I can sucker Melpo into coming to a Tim Malloys night with me and having a cigar and drinking Guinness? MUST look into that. By the way Melpo, how you liking the Planetary comics I lent ya?)

I am open to suggestions on places we could meet, and on when would be an appropriate time. I’d normally think an evening in the middle of the week, but then I don’t know if the folks from the Chicago area or Des Moines would be able to make it. Assuming they were serious about coming, of course.

As far as when… I’m thinking in about two to three weeks.

Ooh! We also need a cute name for the raid! It can’t be a blogging raid without a cute codename!

So I now do what a good raid leader does… make someone else do the real work.

The suggestion line is now open open!

I now return you to your regularly scheduled blog reading, already in progress.