Happy Belated New Year!

Happy Belated New Year!

I remember 2013 like it was just a few weeks ago. I trust the holidays and the subsequent post holidays have been kind to everyone? My apologies for being radio silent. It’s been quite the busy few weeks for the guild and I. Prior to the holidays, we had only mustered 3 heroic kills in Siege. Entering next week, we’ll be at 7/14 heroic (while expecting an 8th on Monday). The holiday season is the second biggest offender when it comes to roster turnover (with school and early Fall being my first pick as the top time for players leaving).

Every so often, I still get emails and messages from people asking about the Matticast and what’s going on with it. Every time, I have to respond saying that there’s no chance it’s coming back. We had a good run but everyone involved has moved on. I myself miss the podcasting circuit but to be frank, I lack the technical skillsets to really pull it off. That doesn’t mean I’m not willing to participate though (but more on this later).

This last week I made an appearance on the Starting Zone in their Hearthstone episode.

On a personal front, I’ve just recently made the move out on my own! Scored a condo within the same city. I call it… the Matt-chelor pad (or the Mattcave for short).

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The view from my balcony. Vancouver’s being slowly enveloped in fog. Kinda Sleepy Hollow-esque (and I stopped watching that show after the 2nd episode because I was too scared).

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One of the first meals I made was a pizza in the oven. I uh, didn’t realize I could rearrange the toppings when they were still frozen. Ah well, I consider it a half pepperoni, half cheese pizza!

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My battlestation above.

I’m learning a ton of things now that I’m on my own. My own guild’s facepalmed at some of the questions they’ve heard from me so no way am I going to share that here!

Hearthstone

The first test season ended not too long ago. I managed to hit the fifth rank (no, not legendary). On top of that, they changed and nerfed several cards. That more or less neutered my mage and warlock decks. Right now I’m sitting at a paltry rank 15 and slowly working my way back up. There’s way more people playing now especially since Blizzard has opened the floodgates for everyone that has opted in.

World of Warcraft

Conquest has eliminated every boss in order from Immerseus to Dark Shamans on heroic mode. Looks like the holiday break didn’t take too much wind out of our sails. We lost a number of players but also gained a few. Oddly enough, my old raid leader back from Burning Crusade had returned to the game and wanted to raid again (several expansions later). Another friend from an old guild (which used to be the top guild on the server) also came back.

With those pickups and others, we’ve had to revise our recruiting standards a bit. Now we’re looking for players who have at least acquired their meta and soon we’ll be changing that to having legendary cloaks. We’re pushing into the second half of Siege which means less time farming and backtracking for all that stuff. If a recruit isn’t able to contribute right now, then they’re not going to see much action in raids since we need those cloak effects in there.

We’ll be working on General Nazgrim come Monday. Hoping to add another notch on the Conquest belt. Speaking of recruiting, we’re looking for DPS players for now and for Warlords (especially Warlocks, ret Paladins, and Death Knights).

The Raid Mechanics

Okay, let’s circle back to the podcasting bit for a moment. I mentioned that I wasn’t interested in the technical production side of things but I still love talking about the game. A while ago, I applied as a co-host for the Twizzcast.

Alas, I didn’t make the cut. He mentioned something about being overqualified, but I bet it’s most likely because I was Canadian (or Alliance). That’s okay though because it turns out he was working on a side project and felt that I was best suited for that.

It’s called the Raid Mechanics (on Twitch). You’ll find it soon on BlizzPro.TV.

In a nutshell, it’s a show devoted primarily for raiders who are just starting or who are already experienced. We’re not even going to try to target anyone at the server first level or higher because those guilds don’t need us. What we want to do here is provide a resource for players who tank, heal, or DPS and offer our insight along with tips to help them get through encounters easier. We do plan to touch upon the overarching strategy of each boss on both normal and heroic for 10s and 25s players.

One aspect of the Matticast I really missed was when all the hosts were just sitting around and talking about general guild and raid problems. I’m not referring to problems with the strategy, but more around philosophy and personnel management. This is something I’m hoping to get back into again on the Raid Mechanics show. For example, issues that come up related to recruiting, systems, or day-to-day guild stuff. I couldn’t get enough of it so expect to see some of that.

The New Hearthstone Patch!

With the release of the new Hearthstone patch, the entire ranking system has been revamped. No more of this Masters 3 star business. No more seeing “I got to Masters 3 with an 85% win rate using [your class type here]”. With the previous system, it was entirely possible to grind to the very top by virtue of dogged resilience. You never lost rating even if you did lose matches! I just hit ranked 14 and it is a dog fight to climb to the top. Mages seem to be the hew flavour of the month. For every 5 mage decks, I play some other random class. It’s getting to the point where I need to put together an anti-mage deck.

In the business of Warcraft, Conquest continues to steadily progress. Heroic Sha of Pride fell to our arms. I was drafted to heal tonight since a few of our regular and backup healers weren’t around. I made the switch back to discipline from holy. It isn’t as much fun for me to play but I can’t deny the results either. We’ve started making pulls on heroic Galakras but if the first few pulls are any indication, it’s going to be an endurance race. We went up to 10 minutes before we were eventually overwhelmed.

Any heroic level healers looking for a raiding guild? I’m looking to pick up some non-priests since that would free me up and allow me to play shadow again. We’re about to enter the holiday stretch anyway.

Happy holidays, everyone!

How does a 25 player guild handle Mythic raiding?

How does a 25 player guild handle Mythic raiding?

Ever since the announcement of BlizzCon with the revisions to raid, I’ve been asked countless times (both in guild and from players out of guild) what I was going to do.

Are we going to just stick to heroic raiding?

Are we going to have to make cuts for mythic?

What will our raid plans be since they’re all on separate lockouts now?

Before we get into that, I wanted to offer my thoughts on Mythic raiding in general. Suffice it to say, it was a long time coming. Back when SWTOR came out and there were players raiding, I felt that 16 players was a solid raid size. There weren’t that many people involved and it still captured the feelings of “epicness” when it comes to taking down monsters. Discussing it with my friends, I hoped that Blizzard would eventually make that jump down to 20 or 15. Little did I know, they did allow for that.

new-raid

The new Flex raid system that came out with patch 5.4 was simply the first step. You could have a 12 man raiding guild or a 17 player or whatever you wanted and the encounter would dynamically scale. 10 player guilds didn’t have to feel bad about benching their friends. 25 player guilds didn’t have to struggle when a player or two needed to take a night off. As far as I can tell, the reaction to Flex raiding was overwhelmingly positive.

This leads us to Warlords of Draenor and the new Mythic raiding difficulty level. Why did they decide on 20?

We chose to put Mythic at 20 largely for the function of raid design. One of the biggest issues we’re currently facing with 10-player Heroic raiding is that of raid composition. It’s impossible for every group to have every class, and often that means they’re lacking in certain tools, which in turn means that we can’t design encounters around those tools (or if we do, it becomes extremely frustrating for the 10-player Heroic guild that suddenly needs a Paladin for Hand of Protection).

We want to be able to use those sorts of mechanics again. Those of you who have been with us for a while might remember things like Mage tanks on High King Maulgar, or Priests using Mind Control on Instructor Razuvious. We want it to be okay when, say, the Paladin can use Hand of Protection to clear a dangerous debuff, because we can reasonably assume that most guilds will have at least one Paladin in their raid. We like it when someone gets to feel awesome and have a special task on a fight because of class abilities that otherwise wouldn’t get much use.

We can’t do that when we’re designing with a 10-player raid size in mind. We don’t think we’d be able to get away with it at 15 either. At 20, it becomes a lot more acceptable for us to say “you should probably bring a Mage to Spellsteal this.” And honestly, that’s just one example of the sort of encounter mechanics we can start to utilize in a larger group size.

I’d also call into question the statement of “It’s easier to drop people than it is to recruit them.” It’s technically true, yes — finding new raiders is harder than just not inviting the ones you have — but totally ignores the fact that cutting people from your roster often means losing people you like. Which feels better: making new friends, or telling your current ones that they don’t get to play with you any more? We’re already asking a lot of many 25-player Heroic groups to cut 5 people.

As I mentioned before, this was not a decision we came to lightly. It’s definitely going to be a very scary transition for a lot of people. We knew that when we made the decision. We just also feel quite strongly that, when the dust settles, we’ll be able to provide a better raiding experience for everyone.

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That highlighted selection is the problem I have on my hands. Granted, the expansion is still an extremely long time away. I understand that there’s a few 10 man guilds that are upset by this change going up. Maybe it’s server population reasons or that they just don’t like the idea of doubling their roster for mythic. For most normal mode raiding guilds, that’s not going to be a problem here since the heroic mode of Warlords still allows for that.  If Conquest was primarily a 10 man organization, I’d have no problems upscaling it. The problem is that we’re a 25 and I have to tell ~20% of my team that I have to rebalance the raid group and they’re not going to be on the starting lineup.

If there’s one thing I know about guild leaders though, is that they’re usually resilient. If they want something badly enough, they’ll find a way to make it happen.

Will Conquest just stick to heroic raiding?

No. During the opening week of the expansion, Mythic will not be available until the second week. We’ll start with heroic raiding first to get everyone acclimated. The first chance we get to duck into Mythic, we will. Our current plans are to fall back to Heroic raiding in the event of holiday weeks or extremely low attendance. The second option is to have a rotating bi-weekly schedule where we work on Heroic raids on week one, Mythic raids on week two (or get as far as we can). Gear is still important and we need to make sure every player has the tools that they need. The last option is we utilize Heroic raiding on the first two days of our schedule before switching to Mythic on the last day (or vice versa depending on our progression). It really is too soon to say because any number of things could change between now and the release of Warlords.

Bottom line? Both Heroic and Mythic will be on the table.

Are we going to have to make cuts for Mythic?

Yes. It’s math, right? We’re raiding 25s right now but we’ll have to eventually rebalance and downsize. I told everyone in guild to not worry about as much that we had months to go before the expansion.

The truth is that I’m already evaluating players between now and then. Based on what? Oh you know, the usual fare like DPS or other performance metrics. There’s also a secret Matt tolerance factor. Is that person fun to raid with or are they just downright annoying? Do they increase my rage meter? We’ll see what happens! There’s still a long way to go! Maybe I’ll do a secret Hunger games style thing.

Anyway, those are my thoughts on Mythic raiding. I’ve handled the transition from 40 to 25 before. I’m no stranger to making the jump in raid sizes if I have to. The players who don’t end up being on my protected list won’t be ejected out or anything. There’s still Heroic mode raiding to do plus there’s all sorts of other activities to participate in-game with. I have no plans to outright punt anyone outside of the guild. Some of our longer term players were surprised to find that their characters were still sporting our guild tag. I guess they expected me to have kicked them out at some point due to inactivity. Of course, I told them that I would never do that because I knew that one day they’d return.

In reality, I’m actually that lazy.

Back from BlizzCon 2013

Back from BlizzCon 2013

I’m exchanging the 20° of Anaheim for the much more comfortable 10° of Canada. Not sure how those people do it with those temperatures! I need my climate control.

In any case, I had a fantastic time at BlizzCon and it was great to meet up with the Conquest crew (past and present). I think we had around 30 members representing this year who’ve been with us at some point or other. Since it was around two years the last time I saw them, it was refreshing to see everyone again.

Here’s a quick recap of the whole week:

Day 1 (Wednesday)

The first day is practically a necessity for me now. I have to get acclimated to the surroundings. It’s also a great time to take care of administrative stuff like getting a US SIM card and stocking up on alcohol! Never ceases to amaze me how much more affordable this stuff is compared to us back home. The Jamaican Appleton I picked up didn’t last the rest of the week. It’s virtually a quieter day where I link up with the guildies who are here and we just catchup and chat about stuff.

I also pre-pre-gamed. Never drinking any fireballs again. Learned my lesson. Threw up twice but at least I knew what my limits were and I managed to get that out of the way.

Day 2 (Thursday)

This is when everything starts to pick up. With the WoW Insider party in the evening, I met up with the rest of the team to sketch out battle plans and strats for the next two days. It’s important to help minimize overlap and ensure that we’re as efficient as possible with coverage. The remote teams were the heroes here as they helped make any edits and corrections. After that, it’s partying the rest of the night! Ran into several blues and other prominent figures in the Warcraft community. The drink lines were long but the secret to that is tipping really well the first time, waving cash, and knowing exactly what you want.

Day 3 (Friday)

BlizzCon opening! I volunteered to be one of the demo testers in obtaining a first impression of Warlords of Draenor. Skipped out on the opening ceremony and lined up right by the bank of machines that were all deceptively idle. The desktop icon showed WoW PTR 6.0. Caught the cinematics to Heroes of the Storm and the Warlords presentation. There were three selections for the demo: Alliance questing, Horde questing, or putting together a 5 man and running the dungeon. Thankfully, I’m familiar with healing and reconfiguring the UI on the go. Our party consisted of me, Sarah Pine, and three other attendees as we all opted to put together a team for the dungeon. It was a bit of a tough start because I kept missing certain keys and had to rebind on the fly, but we did decently toward the end. The rest of that day was spent attending various panels and special meetings with developers (Press only). Wanted to play  Heroes of the Storm but I couldn’t get away early enough. So much to do so I opted to go next day. In the evening, our guild dinner was at a local restaurant with taxi distance. From previous years, I knew that getting a booking for a large group of people in nearby convention restaurants was going to be almost impossible.

Other than my slightly extra nuked steak, it was a great moment to just unwind and unburden myself of being a GM or being Matticus. I could just be Matt.

Day 4 (Saturday)

With the first day of BlizzCon in the books, the second day is a little more relaxed. I can hit the floor and check out some of the other demos or pick up other gear. The Heroes of the Storm line was easily two hours long. Wish they had a fast pass system like Disney but I wandered around instead before waltzing into the BlizzPro/TwizzCast meetup at 2 PM then returned later at 4 PM for the WoW Insider meet and greet for the fans that missed out on Thursday. After that, it was dinner again! I love ribeye. It was a smaller and more intimate group of friends and then we bounced back to the Hilton where the real festivities began. The Hilton after party is always a must. It can be suffocating and it’s definitely not for everyone. But I relish in the atmosphere and chatted with my guild along with other friends (old and new) who were around and about. Excellent time to catch up and collect everyone’s thoughts for the upcoming expansion. I also met Watcher for the first time!

Day 5 (Sunday)

Disneyland was the final destination. The last time I was here was when I was 2 years old so I wasn’t able to really appreciate the parks. I just did the Disney side mostly. Only had time for three attractions: Space Mountain, Pirates of the Caribbean, and the Teacup ride. Really wanted to do Indiana Jones but that was closed (only to be reopened not long after I left).

Can’t wait for next year!

I’ll go over my thoughts in more detail in the upcoming days. But for now, here’s what I liked and what I didn’t.

Yay’s

  • Garrisons
  • Reviving the in-game raid browser
  • Racial re-balance
  • One instant level 90
  • Removal of hit, expertise, dodge, and parry
  • Heroes of the Storm

Nay’s

  • Mythic raiding’s reduced roster size
  • Removal of reforging (Although I suspect I’ll change my mind fast)
  • Garrosh again
  • Nerfs to Hearthstone’s hunter cards
Hearthstone: Hunter Beast Mastery

Hearthstone: Hunter Beast Mastery

Looking for a decent yet affordable deck to start with? I’ve been piloting the Hunter deck mostly to start with as I start climbing my way back up to Masters and on. It’s a straightforward deck and easy to play. It relies heavily on minions to deliver the finishing blow and you have to be able to time your attacks as well as your targets or else it will cost you. Of course, a little luck never hurts either. The great thing about this though is that you’re either going to win fast or lose fast. The only majorly expensive thing is King Krush, but he’s more of a luxury. Scroll down to the bottom to see a narrated video of this in action!

Overview

You’ve got a hunter deck that’s full of mostly beasts. They’re all midrange costing beasts and they all have some utility. Your Ironbeak Owls can help control and ability threats. Your Buzzards help you draw cards. Animal Companions and Ironfur Grizzlies have their own thing going. Your spells consist of ways to either control the board or accelerate into draws you need.

Deck list

The Cards

Flare and Tracking: Tracking is pretty straight forward. Cast it and you can use it to help cycle and fish for options. There a taunt minion in the way? Hope you draw into a Hunter’s Mark or a Kill Command. Low on minions yourself? Fish the next three possible cards for some beasts to help power your offense.

Hunter’s Mark: Such a good card. For one, it’s free. Second, it allows any of your minions to trade with any of your opponent’s creatures. How pissed off are they going to be when their 4/7 Twilight Drake just got brought down to size and taken down with your 1/1 Snake?

Timber Wolf and Unleash the Hounds: Ideally, you don’t want to see Unleash the Hounds in your opening hand. Timber Wolf is a toss up. You can drop it turn 1, but I find it usually gets blown up early game. The +1 buff does come in handy mid to late game as it strengthens the rest of your minions. However, if you have a Buzzard in your hand, you can use it as a way to feed your hand size.

Snake Trap: I’ll almost always play this turn 2. If I can pair it with a Buzzard in play, even better. This deck needs cards to really keep going.

Ironbeak Owl: Do not play these willy nilly. Sit on these until there’s an actual threat on the board or if it can secure you a win. If your opponent’s big tree druid thing is in the way, silence it and let your army through.

Scavenging Hyena: This is insurance. If your opponents take out other minions, your Hyena gets larger. It’ll definitely attract removal because your opponent won’t want this to get large. What do they do if there’s a Buzzard and a Hyena and play with enough mana for only kill?

Starving Buzzard: I’ll almost always play these around turns 4 – 6. I make sure I have at least 1 beast to follow up with it (ideally 2). If possible, you want to try to protect it or make it really hard for your opponent to kill it (like forcing them to decide between that or a Timber Wolf or a Hyena).

Animal Companion: AC is a random card which can give you either Misha, Leokk, or Huffer. They’re all beneficial in their own ways and you’ll find your plays will

Kill Command and Multi-Shot: These are your direct removal spells. Kill Command has the benefit of being used directly against the player. So when calculating the amount of damage output your beasts have, keep this in mind.

Ironfur Grizzly: The Grizzly is like your best friend. Dependable and will usually take a shot for you (or two if you’re lucky). Don’t expect much more out of it then that since it’s mainly supposed to be a meat shield.

Houndmaster: Turns any of your beasts into meat shields. Great well to help defend your Buzzards.

Savannah Highmane: Throw these away from your opening hand if you see them. It’s a dead card until mid to late game anyway. But it plays right into the theme of your deck and provides durability against any board clears.

King Krush: Your finishing blow. Your upper cut. Your People’s Elbow. Your coup de grace. Need I say more?

Playing the deck

Opening draws: Throw away Unleash the Hounds, King Krush, Savannah Highmanes. You should definitely keep Tracking, Buzzards, Snake Traps, and almost every other minion. Keep Flare against mages, paladins, and other hunters. Keep Kill Command and Multi-Shot against hunters, warriors, and priests.

Everything you do should be used to either go straight to the opponent’s face, clear a path to your opponent’s face, or eliminate any threats that are bigger then you. Certain classes will give you a harder time than others. Know what other class capabilities are and identify what spells they have which can be used against you and play accordingly. Priests have Mind Control. Bait out your 4/3 Starving Hyena so they won’t steal your Highmane when you drop it next turn.

Know when to hold your beasts. If you already have board supremacy (like 3+ creatures) and are in good position, don’t overplay your hand! Your opponent might have a mass removal spell. Suddenly, those extra hyenas and owls you played are dead for no reason because you didn’t have to play them. If all your minions are dead, you have no other offense and you’re in top deck mode. Playing against a mage? Watch out for Blizzard. Against Warlocks? Hold them against Hellfire.

Your hero power is straight forward. 2 mana, 2 damage to the other player. Use it if you have nothing else to do. You should be able to get a few early ones in during the early and late game stage.

Learn how to maximize your minions abilities. For example, the Grizzly’s taunt is great at attracting attention. Your opponent must go through it. So if your opponent has a 4/3 on board without a taunt staring down your Grizzly, and it’s your turn, what should you do? You can attack into the 4/3 and suicide it. Or you can attack your opponent directly and let them attack into your Grizzly. In both scenarios, the opponent’s minion and your Grizzly are both dead. But in the second case, both are dead and you dealt 3 damage to your opponent resulting in steps closer to a win.

If you’re playing from behind, there is some hope but it depends on what your disadvantage is. If you’re behind on cards (as in your opponent has more cards in your hand then you) and a neutral board, it’s not going to look good. Don’t worry about your life total as much so long as it’s above zero, you’re okay. The strength of Hunter decks is based on their ability to burst opponents down in a turn or two. Well timed minion drops with an Unleash the Hounds can help tremendously even the score and even bring it back in your favor. Buzzards are the key to digging yourself out of a hole.

Good luck and good hunting!

Behind the Blogging Scenes Interview: Rohan

It’s been quite a long time since I last featured a blogger from the community. My fault though as I’ve been wrapped up in so many projects and works. But I do plan on getting back to these when I can especially now that my schedule has cleared up a bit. The blogger we’re looking at today is Rohan of Blessing of Kings

 So who exactly are you and what do you do?

My name is Rohan, and I’m a software developer in Vancouver, Canada. I work on financial software, usually in Java. It’s pretty dry and boring, really. Rounding numbers is the bane of my existence.

MMO-wise, I’m a PvE raider, currently playing a Holy Paladin in WoW, and an Imperial Agent Sniper in The Old Republic.

What do you feel are your strongest post types as a blogger?

Probably the posts that try to examine “why” we do what we do in games. This is the part of MMOs that most interests me, how human behavior reacts to the rules of the game. And then how the rules of game get modified in reaction to that behavior.

Where can we find your work?

My writing is on my site, Blessing of Kings.

Productivity

 How much time do you spend on a weekly basis just reading and researching for blog posts?

I write mainly opinion pieces, so there’s not a whole lot of research involved, other than just reading what all the internet news is and what other people are writing. And also thinking through posts in my head. Probably an average of an hour a day or so.

 How do you prepare yourself before blogging?

I mainly just sit down and start writing. I’ll have the general idea of a post in my head, usually because it has been percolating for a few days.

I do try to maintain a list of ideas for posts, but inevitably I find reasons to ignore the remaining ideas on the list.

How would you advise a blogger to beat procrastination?

Heh, this is something I’m not very good at. I’m a terrible procrastinator. The key I’ve found is just to start writing, and try to get into a routine. I tend to write steadily for a stretch, then “fall off the wagon” for a week or two.

Also, don’t try to perfect the idea in your head. The moment you start writing the idea changes. The thoughts in your head always change when they hit the paper.

When is the best time of day for you to blog?

I generally write posts at about 9pm or so. That’s really just when I have the block of free time available. Plus it’s nice and quiet, and you get the post up in time for the next day when everyone comes into work and checks the internet.

The downside of this is that the post never gets edited properly. I always notice tons of mistakes when I go to check it the next morning.

How many hours a week do you spend actually blogging? How many days a week?

Ideally, I would write a post each day. In reality, I probably average 3 posts a week. Each post takes about half an hour, so 1.5 hours a week. I would like to get it up to 3.5 hours or so.

Who are your favorite inspirations and authors?

Blogging-wise, I am a fan of Megan McArdle. She writes about a wide variety of subjects in a fairly dispassionate way that is unusual for writers who touch on politics. In particular, I find she is one of the few mainstream writers who is willing to outline the trade-offs inherent in every question.

That “dispassion” and attention to trade-offs is something that I aspire to in my writing.

As for authors, my favorite is probably Lois McMaster Bujold. I adore her books, and she has a knack for writing pithy quotes that just seem to sum up and contain a great amount of wisdom.

What quote best defines you?

Lately, I have been strongly influenced by the following quote from G. K. Chesterton’s The Thing:

In the matter of reforming things, as distinct from deforming them, there is one plain and simple principle; a principle which will probably be called a paradox. There exists in such a case a certain institution or law; let us say, for the sake of simplicity, a fence or gate erected across a road. The more modern type of reformer goes gaily up to it and says, “I don’t see the use of this; let us clear it away.” To which the more intelligent type of reformer will do well to answer: “If you don’t see the use of it, I certainly won’t let you clear it away. Go away and think. Then, when you can come back and tell me that you do see the use of it, I may allow you to destroy it.”

This paradox rests on the most elementary common sense. The gate or fence did not grow there. It was not set up by somnambulists who built it in their sleep. It is highly improbable that it was put there by escaped lunatics who were for some reason loose in the street. Some person had some reason for thinking it would be a good thing for somebody. And until we know what the reason was, we really cannot judge whether the reason was reasonable. It is extremely probable that we have overlooked some whole aspect of the question, if something set up by human beings like ourselves seems to be entirely meaningless and mysterious.

John F. Kennedy summarized it as:

“Don’t ever take a fence down until you know the reason why it was put up.”

What type of music do you like to listen to when you write (or none at all)?

I don’t listen to music while writing. I’m not very good at multi-tasking. I find that when I’m focused on writing I end up tuning out any music that is playing. So I don’t really bother with music.

Are there any areas you’re looking to expand into as a blogger?

I am thinking about starting a blog about real-life topics. But I don’t really like to make really controversial posts about topics that matter (as opposed to videogames), so I don’t think anything is going to happen with that.

I would like to be able to make graphs and simple illustrations more easily. Walls of text are all very well, but a good illustration is very useful. Unfortunately, my attempts at illustrations seem to take an inordinate amount of time. I am very envious of those people who can dash up quick sketches.

How do you crush writer’s block (if you believe in it)?

Just sit down and write something trivial. You never know where an idea is going to take you once you start writing it down. Also, don’t underestimate “trivial” posts. They’re often the posts that the audience relates to the most.

Where do you go when you’re drawing a blank on ideas?

My favorite technique is to go down my blogroll and read the latest posts. When I find a post that I’d like to comment on, instead of commenting on that site, I write up the comment as a post on my site, linking to the original post.

Not only does this provide an easy post, but the other blogger will like it, as getting linked by someone else is always nice. In some ways, it helps build the community.

Are you a risk taker or do you play it safe when it comes to broaching potentially controversial topics?

I’m a total coward when it comes to real-life controversial topics. (In-game controversies are another matter.)

On blogging

How would you define a truly great blogger?

Someone who writes fairly often, and writes posts which are interesting to read. I read primarily for new ideas, so I like people who introduce new ideas or new ways of looking at things.

What platform do you blog on?

I use Blogger, which is Google’s free platform. It’s simple and easy to use. It doesn’t allow you as much control as some of the other options. However, I feel that you get the best results from writing more, rather than tinkering with your site.

Which blogs do you try to keep up with the most and why?

Kurn and Liore, definitely. I do try to keep up with pretty much everyone on my blogroll.

But I’d like to specifically call out Gevlon at Greedy Goblin. He gets a lot of flak in the blogosphere, but there are three reasons I enjoy reading his posts:

  1. I really admire how fearless he is about writing about controversial topics. As I’ve noted above, I shy away from controversial topics. I rather wish I could be more like Gevlon and not care about the prevailing orthodoxies.

  2. He has genuinely new ideas and ways of looking at things. I don’t always agree with his perspective, but it is a unique perspective on things, at least among the bloggers.

  3. I find that I usually agree with Gevlon at the start of a post, but by the end of the post I  disagree with him. I am never quite sure if this is because Gevlon took a wrong turn somewhere, or because I am unwilling to follow the argument to the logical conclusion.

Is there a specific program you use for blogging?

No, I just use the editor with Blogger. I am technically inclined, so I have no issues with dropping down into HTML, which does make some things a little easier.

Other than using a focus macro, how do you stay focused on your task?

I don’t multi-task well, so I tend to tune out any distractions until my task is finished. My problem is procrastination, and not starting the task at all.

What challenges or problems have you run into when blogging?

The biggest problem I have is that I will get “stuck” on a post. I’ll have an idea for a post, but it isn’t fully fledged, or is more controversial than I am comfortable with posting. So I’ll try and write about something else, but my mind stays stuck on that post, and it’s all I can think about.

Have any strategies on staying organized?

Not really. Try to keep things simple. Juggling many things is a lot harder than only needing to worry about a couple things. Making lists is always useful.

How do you unwind after your day is over?

I play video games, specifically Massively Multiplayer Online games. I also read a fair bit, mostly science fiction, fantasy, and older regency novels.

For fun

What is your biggest annoyance right now (blogging or otherwise)?

Twitter. I hate trying to trace Twitter “t.co/HASH” links to my site back to the original tweet.

Actually, I’m growing somewhat disenchanted with the way the web is closing off as a whole into walled gardens. I can see people linking to my site from Facebook, Google+, and Twitter, but it’s really hard to see the specific reaction. In contrast, I can follow a link back to a normal site, see their discussion of my ideas, and respond. It’s all about feedback. I can use the feedback from the “normal” web to refine my ideas, but Facebook, et al, are just black boxes.

Do you have a slogan that you adhere to?

No.

What has been your proudest achievement?

I don’t really know.

Choose a celebrity (alive or dead) that you would like to have dinner with.

I’m always thrown for loop by these types of questions. I can’t help but think about the celebrity’s reaction to having dinner with me.

Albert Einstein: I developed the theory of Special and General Relavity, and won a Nobel Prize.

Me: I write blog posts about elves.

Seems very unequal, and probably an awkward dinner for the both of us.

My attitude towards celebrities is the same as my attitude towards bears. I will leave the bears alone, and the bears will leave me alone.

What do you wish to do more of (or get started doing) this year?

I’d like to get out more, maybe leave my city more often. I’d also like to program a bit more, do some simple side projects in some of the newer languages like Erlang or Go.

You travel back in time to meet your younger self when you started blogging. What piece of advice would you offer?

Get fixed in the habit of writing one post every day. Buy Apple stock. Don’t take the job with the mobile gaming company or the real estate company.

Also, pay more attention to the high end raiders, and don’t try to fight against theorycraft results. You won’t truly learn to raid effectively until you’ve raided with the high end, and so you should aim to join them as soon as possible, because you’ll really enjoy efficient, competent raiding.

Where can readers find you online?

Mostly at my blog, Blessing of Kings.

What else would you like readers to know?

I’m really not very good with these wide-open questions. My mind simply blanks out.

Thanks to Rohan for taking the time out of his day to help offer a behind the scenes look at his blogging process and methods! Don’t forget to visit his blog at Blessing of Kings!

Hearthstone: Artosis Shaman Control

Hearthstone: Artosis Shaman Control

This is a deck I ran into one late evening piloted by none other than famous Starcraft caster Artosis! I kept queuing up and played against him repeatedly. My guess is that there wasn’t that many people online at the time playing so I had a little fun trying to alternate decks. I played my Beast Aggro deck, my Murlock deck, and Brewmaster Control but nothing came even close and I was unable to take even one game off of him! I’m sure his deck list has changed since but I managed to put together most of it from memory.

Overview

At the core of it, this deck is designed to control the board. The reason why control decks are called control decks are because you get to have a say on whether the cards your opponent has will stay on the board or not. This isn’t a cheap deck to play though since it has Al’Akir, Ragnaros, Doomhammer, Cairne Bloodhoof, and Sylvanas. It relies on assorted damage spells that usually hit two or more targets for quick controlling efficiency. No other card options? That’s okay as you can make some totems to help! Let’s go through the decklist, shall we?

Deck list

Earth Shock, Forked Lightning, Hex, Lightning Storm: These are your bread and butter removal spells. The Earth Shock is great at shutting down Questing Adventurer, or Twilight Drake or other creatures that have that type of effect (since it silences, then deals damage). Forked Lightning is cheap but has a one turn penalty. You can use it early on if you need to. Keep Hex in reserve against larger threats. Never know when your opponent is going to have a legendary of their own especially in upper divisions. The thing about using Hex is to remember to attack first (assuming your opponent has no taunt cards in play) before playing the Hex. Otherwise you have to waste damage killing it before getting through to your opponent. Lastly, Lightning Storm is your board clear. It’ll do the job against most minions especially if you happen to have an Azure Drake or a Wrath of Air Totem in play.

Rockbiter Weapon: It’s a cheap spell that gives Thrall the ability to clear out any innocuous threats (like a low health Questing Adventurer. Or I can combine it with Doomhammer for a total of 10 damage back to back. Or put it on Al’Akir. Either way, the Rockbiter makes whatever creatures I have on the board just a little stronger to go after minions that might normally be beyond reach.

Feral Spirit: I like the Feral Spirits because it gives you two 2/3 wolves with Taunt. It’s enough to stave off an early rush. The extra 1 toughness lets the wolves walk away from Kobold Geomancers, Ironbeak Owls, and Starving Buzzards.

Defender of Argus: Helps make your totems actually useful. If you happen to have a few of them up, it’ll let totems intercept any attacks coming your way. Sometimes I’ll follow up the Feral Spirits with a Defender and turn them into a 3/4 if I have nothing else on the board.

Sen’jin Shieldmasta: Only included this as a 1 of because of the lone taunt. It’s mainly used to help mitigate any early aggression, just like the Feral Spirit Wolves.

Bloodlust: Great card as it lets you just rush and overwhelming your opponent. If you happen to have a field with totems, it can be a surprise finisher.

Cairne Bloodhoof: Cairne is a basic insurance card against most removal spells. Even if Cairne is killed, Baine will show up to take over from his dear ol’ dad. The only way to really mitigate Cairne is with a Hex or a Polymorph of some sort. You can silence him to remove Baine from showing up, but you still need to deal with the fact that he’s a 4/5 who can go head to head and trade well with other minions.

Sylvanas Windrunner: I’m still not quite sold on Sylvanas yet. I’ve managed to put her Deathrattle effect to great use in maybe 20% of my games. Still, 5 mana for a 5/5 is pretty decent and depending on what my opponent has on the board, it’ll make them think twice before taking her out.

Ragnaros the Firelord: Essentially 8 free damage per turn! If you really need to win the game and focus his efforts, you can Earth Shock your own minions. I’ve played against a number of players who used an Ironbark Owl against Ragnaros to silence him only to realize that instead of the 8 damage getting randomly fired at one of their minions, I can end the game by directing Rag straight to the opponent’s dome.

Al’Akir the Windlord: Great card! The Divine Shield means it’ll survive first contact with most minions. The Windfury allows it to strike twice for six damage off the bat coupled with the Charge. Or you can keep it there as a defender until the next turn when you play something even more dangerous since the Divine Shield basically means it’ll soak the first bit of incoming damage for free. Only real way to deal with Al’Akir is a silence or an outright polymorph type spell.

Twilight Drake: If you can get this out turn 4, great. If you can whip out the Drake earlier in turn 3 with a coin, even better. This forces your opponent to react to a minion that’s at least going to be 4/4 or more. In the later parts of the match, remember to play it first before your other cards to take advantage of the Battlecry effect.

Azure Drake: Cycles for a card and is a 4/4. The Spell Power effect will help buff up your Earth Shock, Forked Lightning, and Lightning Storm spells. Plus, y’know, dragon.

Mana Tide Totem and Gadgetzan Auctioneer: Both of these cards should be played in the middle or late game. You might not need cards early on but as you approach the later stages, you still want that card advantage over your opponent so you can draw into more threats or removal. Ideally, by that stage, if you have a few taunt minions up, you can protect them long enough for them to supply you with a few more cards.

Doomhammer and Stormforged Axe: Both of these turn Thrall into another source of damage. You can use him to clear out any annoying taunts or aim them straight at your opponent’s face. Doomhammer alone represents 16 possible points of damage and has Windfury meaning you can clear out minions. Yes Thrall will take damage the other way, but sometimes it’s worth it to take early damage back in order to prevent taking massive damage later.

Playing the deck

Much of your early game is going to be spent controlling the board. It’s not uncommon to pass the first turn and generate a totem on the second turn. Ideally, you want to set up for Drakes between turns 4 – 6 as they provide a nice threat and allow you to start setting up your attacks. It’ll also draw removal spells towards them as you slowly migrate to the end game and start getting in range of dropping your legendary bombs. Keep making totems if you can afford to. Bloodlust is your ace and you might have the opportunity to finish a game by attacking with all totems. Don’t drop a Mana Tide or an Auctioneer until you can protect them with a few taunts like your Frost Wolves or totems buffed by Defender of Argus. Your weapons should be used to help maintain board control or to go after your opponent.

Playing with Confidence

I know, it’s been a while since the last update. We’re up 8 bosses into Siege. I’m hoping to rack up at least one or two more on Monday. I’m not sure what happened between Throne of Thunder and SIege of Orgrimmar, but the raid has been playing much tighter and more disciplined. It wasn’t uncommon for us to take down a progression boss and then just wipe on trash successively. I mean, it still happens from time to time but not as often. We have a tendency in making our own hard modes, that’s for sure. Dark Shaman definitely a pain in the backside for us and I was worried we’d hit another road block but managed to punch through it. Nazgrim took but a few shots for us before we buried him into the ground. That was an enjoyable encounter with the amount of control and restraint we had to exercise throughout the encounter.

Another team composition adjustment that was made is that we’re now regularly running five healers instead of our standard six. Running an 18 DPS lineup means we can simply apply brute force to bosses and negate some of the tighter enrage checks. The only exception was Dark Shaman where I switched from Shadow to Holy to help heal. Having the opportunity to both heal and DPS these fights means I get to enjoy the challenges from two different roles.

Maybe the Flex raid wings are helping along with the preparation. By being exposed to some of the later bosses in a slightly tiered down version, it adds extra familiarity when we tackle these encounters in normal. Whatever it is, the raid train is humming along nicely. This just might end up being an easier tier compared to Throne of Thunder.

Day 1: Siege of Orgrimmar

My glyphs! They’ve been changed! Ever since Dark Binding went baseline, I had to make some changes to my shadow glyphs! Now I’m using Glyph of Fade, Glyph of Mind Flay, and Glyph of Vampiric Embrace

For healing, I removed my Glyph of Lightwell (so that Lightspring is now baseline). I switched back to using Glyph of Renew and kept Glyph of Mending along with Glyph of Circle of Healing.

Our day 1 in Siege of Orgrimmar was a blast! Immerseus was two-shotted and the Protectors of the Vale was taken down in one shot (even with a third of the raid dead). Ran into a wall with Norushen but after multiple attempts and hitting the enrage timer with about 10% left, I think he’s well within range for a kill on Thursday. Just have to stack the deck a little bit more in terms of who gets sent to the other side.

How did your day 1 go?

Where we kill Heroic Tortos and Iron Qon

Two weeks ago on a Monday night, the biggest (and most annoying) turtle since Firelands went down on heroic mode. Took us over 70 attempts before we were finally able to kill the oversized shell. It’s the same thing for about 6 minutes non-stop and it demands an unbelievable amount of focus from really key players. If even one person stops thinking or loses sight, it’s an automatic wipe. I probably caused maybe 20% of the wipes due to bad calls, mis-kicks or other stuff. The DBM option which automarks turtles is a god send.

I had three total kickers including myself and my job was to tell the kickers which shell to kick for breaths and for debuffs. In addition, I had to direct ranged DPS traffic. We were consistently getting him low to around 25 to 30% but we kept losing our kite tank (we used a Death Knight for this as we didn’t have a tanking Monk available). What’s funny is that ont he final attempt of the night, I errantly forgot to refresh my shield (or it was taken out by a rock fall or a turtle spinning and I didn’t see it). At that moment, my duties were absolved of all kicking and I was able to instantly focus on directing traffic and set up a specific order on which shells would be used when.

Maybe I should die more often.

This is indeed a fight where the fate of the many rest on the shoulders of the few.

Things that can go wrong

  • Your kite tank dying
  • Your main tank dying
  • Your main tank pulling bat aggro somehow
  • Your misdirectors unable to misdirect bats
  • Your kickers not kicking
  • Your kickers missing
  • Your shields not being refreshed on people

The lockout was subsequently extended and we made a large push towards Iron Qon. We actually were able to pick up where we left off since we last worked on him about two months ago. We hit phase 4 a few times, jockeyed around with the DPS order. Turns out killing Fire Quillen guy first might not be the best idea since the shields from the Ice Quillen caused us to miss a whole bunch. We switched our targets, delayed our Heroism into that phase and unloaded everything. This was one of the few attempts where we had just about everyone alive and managed to stay stable throughout it.

Thank goodness. That put us to 6/13. Now we have two more days to make it 7. I feel like we’ve made a really strong push at the end of the tier and helped make up for lost time. I just hope that it’s enough momentum to really get us going into Siege. Rumors are that other Alliance guilds are either switching servers or switching factions. A shame really. Our server’s going to slowly shift towards faction imbalance if it does go through.