Raid Leading Backbone

**Image from “Patton” courtesy of 20th Century Fox Films**

I have a fault. Well, I have lots, but the one I’m going to talk about is my propensity to be “too nice”. Ever since I was a kid, I’ve hated confrontation. I wanted everyone to be happy. People in Team Sport (my guild) have called me “The Politician” (without all of the negative stigma from current American politics). I try to make sure everyone is listened to and catered to as much as possible.

However, with regard to leading Team Sport’s Raid Team, I’ve hit the biggest snag. I can’t be “The Politician”. I have to be a leader. Previous incarnations of Team Sport raiding were very casual. If people happened to be online that night, we raided. If not, no big deal. As time went on, I noticed a few of us were very passionate about getting a raid going, while others were very lackluster about the whole ordeal. I always tried to get us raiding while not being inconsiderate to those that weren’t interested that particular night. Everytime we came close to getting something solid going, it would fall apart. Someone would have a real life issue (totally understandable) or just randomly disappear on a WoW break. Each time it would fall apart, I would most likely take my raiding desires elsewhere but found myself always back in Team Sport once it looked like raiding was possible again.

With about 2 months left to the expansion, I worked with a buddy of mine to throw some much-needed structure into the system. It started out great. We did a merge with another small guild that had the same issues, and we killed 10-man Arthas within one month. This proved to me that our team has what it takes to be a good progression crew. We just need some structure and drive.

The Present

We’ve had a good amount of guildies return to the game from “retirement”. A lot of them seem incredibly excited to raid the current content. However, when I mention this new structure (scheduling, accountability, responsibility), a few have balked at it. The main goal of the team is to actually progress through content while it’s still current, not eventually bash through it when it’s old news and nerfed to the ground. To do that, I’ve been working diligently to implement some guidelines:

  • Consistency – I justly understand and sympathize with real-life issues. Sometimes I have to work late, or I have something important that needs to be taken care of on a raid night. However, the core of us have done what we can to work our schedules around being able to raid together. We raid 3 hours each night, 2 nights each week. I don’t think it’s too much to ask for core raiders to be consistently available (within reason…don’t miss the birth of your child or risk getting fired).
  • Responsibility – A cardinal rule of raiding is being prepared. Make sure your gear is enchanted and you have flask and food available. Take the time to look up the fights. Don’t take unannounced AFK breaks or breaks that are longer than what the Raid Leader has set forth. Pay attention and look for ways that you can contribute.

If a Team Sport raider can’t consistently be available, or just lacks responsibility and preparedness, they’ll be placed in a standby slot (at best) or just not on the team (at worst). I’ve made it clear that we’ll do more casual raiding nights any other evening of the week (akin to the “if we have people on, we raid” mentality), but the Raid Team core wants Tues/Thurs night to be focused and dedicated.

The Challenge

There are some that have thought that it is too much to ask. I’ve been told that I’m making raiding “feel too much like a job” and that I’m “taking the fun out of it”. Frankly, I expected this out of some. These are people that have always enjoyed the “casual” mentality of our old raid style. I don’t blame them. It was fun when we all had the time and were just kind of strolling around Azeroth, hittin’ up a raid when we could. However, many of us don’t have that kind of time or mentality any longer. That is the precise reason these changes were made.

I’ve been recruiting to fill those spots that were once occupied by the more casual players or ones with unpredictable schedules. It does pain me to be looking for other people instead of the long-standing Team Sport members that I’ve been playing with for 3+ years, but it’s just not fun for the Raid Team core to log on, and find out we’re not raiding because of people that we can’t rely on.

So the challenge I face: How do I institute this structure and work toward the raid’s success, while still maintaining in-game friendships with those that simply don’t want to be a part of a Raid Team like that?

Matticus already told me: “Don’t be friends with your raiders.” I get that. It makes sense. It’s why there are corporate rules of management not fraternizing with employees. It muddies the water. However, I feel it’s possible that I can be strict and firm with regard to the raid, and then just be myself whenever it’s not about the raid. The trick is to let them all know that’s what’s going on.

I need to continue to be firm on what the goal of the raid team is, and how we plan on achieving that. I also need to be diligent about communicating what’s going on with the raid and its raiders. If I make sure everyone’s aware of what’s expected, then they can’t legitimately get angry when something is not up to snuff.  I have to hold the raid accountable, as well as hold myself accountable.

Have you ever dealt with being a Raid Leader of your friends? What tricks have you used to keep things moving forward without sacrificing friendship?

On that note, Team Sport is looking for a melee DPS or two for core slots. Other roles are full. However, if you’re interested in being a part of the team in a standby role, those applicants are always welcome. Outside of raiding, we’re very active in PvP and regular casual gameplay. We’re an Alliance guild on the Ner’zhul server (PvP-PST). Further info and an application @ http://teamsport.guildlaunch.com.

Keeping Up With The Paragons

One of my major character flaws is that I am a relentless overachiever. I don’t know how to be bad at something. When I find myself in situations that involve concepts that I’m not grasping or that I don’t understand, I get very frustrated and I start to lash out. At the same time, I also don’t know how to stop and enjoy any achievements that I have earned for myself, because I’m always chasing the next big thing.

It’s really tempting to buy into this behavior, in a game like WoW. All around you are examples of people who are possibly doing better than you. Realm forums have progression threads, Twitter is abuzz with bloggers and other players boasting about their achievements and discussing strategies, the Dungeon Finder has a minimum iLevel to participate in certain activities. All of those things can conspire to bring out a nasty voice in your head that screams “You’re not good enough!”

I remember during the heyday of Icecrown Citadel , I took a three month break from the game. I was severely burnt out. I wasn’t sure I wanted to heal anymore. Hell, I wasn’t even sure that I wanted to play the game, period. I went into hiding with a friend’s guild and decided to try the more casual side of things for once. It didn’t take long for people from previous guilds to find me and for them to try and engage me in conversation to find out what I had been up to all this time.

Ex-guildie: “Well, well. Oestrus. What marvelous things have you been up to lately?”
Me: “Oh you know… I’ve been leveling a shaman alt that I really enjoy and my guild is raiding. They raid three days a week and it’s fun.”
EG: “Fascinating! How far into Icecrown Citadel are you?”
Me: “We’re on Sindragosa, actually. It’s going really well!”
EG: “Well, well. Heroic Sindragosa! It’s good to see you’re keeping up with the rest of us!”
Me: “Erm, no. Regular Sindragosa. Just… regular.”
EG: “Oh dear. You haven’t even gotten a Lich King kill yet?”
Me: “I did on 10 man! See?!”
EG: “Heh, nobody counts 10 mans as progression and I’ll bet you haven’t even completed your Val’anyr yet.
Me: “But we’re doing hard modes on 10 man and I have 23 fragments and I’m pugging Ulduar for the rest and…”
EG: “Pugging Ulduar? Tsk tsk. How the mighty have fallen!”

I didn’t know what to say to that. I went from being a top tier raider in some serious minded guilds to wiping week after week on Sindragosa, followed by the Lich King, when other guilds were six months ahead of that (at least) in terms of becoming Kingslayers and pugging Ulduar in my spare time. Nothing I could say in my defense seemed to hold a candle to not only the criticism I was facing from others, but the criticism I was directing at myself. Needless to say, that nasty little voice in my head was having a field day.

“They’re really great people!” “That’s nice, they can’t even kill the Lich King.”
“I have a lot of fun here!” “Failing is never fun.”
“I have responsibilities and I manage stuff.” “It’s not your job to do that.”
“They’ll get it eventually.” “They will never get it.”

I didn’t know how to deal with the fact that there were people in guilds I used to be in, that I may or may not have ended on good terms with, that I knew I was as good as or better than that were seeing more content than I was. That infuriated me. I should be there. That should be me. I deserve those things! Why don’t I have that?!

So, I left that guild and joined a guild on another server that I ended up seeing a lot of progression with, very quickly and then I found myself in the opposite situation. My inner monologue now went a little something like this:

“Look at this great gear I have!” “You were fine without that gear.”
“I finally have my Val’anyr!” “Yeah, but now the other healers hate you for it.”
“We’re #5 on the server!” “For how long?”
“They really like me!” “These people are not your friends.”

In my never ending quest to be the best and show up my rivals and frenemies that I had made through the years, I blinded myself to what I really wanted in this game. I wasn’t even sure I knew what I wanted. I gave up the opportunity to run with really great people, who liked me for me (and I can be a handful), where I had some small amount of power, responsibility and clout and I threw it all away for a few more epics, a handful of extra boss kills, some credibility and a bump to my image. Was it really worth it?

I have learned a lot in my travels and before joining my current guild, I had a revelation of sorts. I want it all. I want to be in a guild where I can be myself and be around like-minded people, who want to raid and see content, but not at the cost of being something we’re not or being less than human beings. I don’t want to be at the pinnacle of progression, but I don’t want to be scraping the barrel in terms of that, either. I want to be relied upon and trusted and given some amount of responsibility, to share my opinions and thoughts on how I think things should be run or could be improved upon. I want to be part of a guild with strong leadership that I can rely on and that I can put my faith into and that I know has the best interests of myself and the guild in mind. I don’t feel that’s asking for too much.

I really feel like after all this time that I may have found the right guild for me. Of course, I’m probably jinxing it by saying that and I will have a seriously hearty laugh if things fall apart four months from now and I’m guildless and using this blog as a way to find a new home. But it feels right for now. It’s mighty tempting to go on to the websites of other guilds and see what they’re doing. I still seethe a little bit when I see what others have that I don’t. I still have to resist the urge to feel bad about myself and to secretly see if they’re looking for holy priests anytime soon. The temptations and frustrations are still there, but I’m working on quelling those and appreciating what I have. We start officially raiding in 25 mans next week and to say I’m hungry for it is an understatement.

I want it. I want it so bad that it hurts. I want to kick ass and have a slew of stories to tell. I want to share advice about my experiences and what I have learned. It will happen in time. I know it will. For the first time in a long time I am happy with what I have.

You should be, too.  And if you’re not maybe it’s time for you to also re-examine what it is you want out of your guild and try to find out if it’s there.  If that doesn’t work, it may be time to move on.

Friends and Raiders: Saying goodbye to guildies

How to properly leave a guild has been a topic often talked about, and even more so as of late with the imminent expansion. It’s that time of year when some folks try to find a better fit than the guild there in, others are taking the opportunity to step away from the game and focus on real life more and some are just out-right quitting the game. No matter the reason, it’s never an easy choice to make. You’re effectively stepping back from one thing you love to focus on something else that you likely care about equally.

Let’s be honest here for a minute. It is incredibly rare for someone to play a game contractually, and in the case of an MMO until the servers go dark. I said incredibly rare because even though you hear of players (or you may very well be one) that still play EQ, for the most part that is a small cross-section of the modern gamer totals. Entering into an MMO you have to have an expectation that people have the potential to leave. Yes, making friends in an MMO can be an extremely rewarding experience, but if you aren’t prepared for the possibility that the person may walk away from the game, you can be left quite devastated.

Minimizing impact

People leaving the game  can be tough on a guild as well, especially if it is a person in a leadership position or someone who has become a person that others depend on in a raid. It’s even harder when it’s someone you consider a close friend.

Let us say that an officer is leaving the game in any serious capacity for what may very well be forever to pursue activities in the real world. Let us also say that said officer is an integral part in the running of the guild, like recruitment, raid leadership or any of the various other administration tasks. That leaves a gap in leadership that has to be filled, and in most cases, pretty quickly. The same holds true for a raider, let’s say the top DPS in the raid decides it’s time to leave. Depending on the rest of the guild and group composition it can leave you with a hell of a damage gap to fill. That affects the rest of the guild’s progression through content later on. This becomes compounded when the departures are unannounced or rather sudden. If people think others are leaving out of the blue, it can sometimes cause a panic attack and cause enough of a stir to leave lasting ripples with other members.

If you are considering leaving a guild or quitting the game, the most important thing to keep in mind is communication. This is especially true if you are in any position of power, or importance, within the structure of a guild. You should never feel you have no choice but to play the game. While some of us have chosen to make a profession out of gaming, for most people it is a source of relaxation and venting. A safe haven if you will. That said, if a game becomes no longer fun, or if you need to find a better place in order to have that fun you should be allowed to do so. The same goes for real life. Anything that happens out of the game should take precedence over any obligations in game. One of the key things when even considering breaking off from a guild or the game in general is communication. Letting key people know ahead of time can help lessen the impact of your departure, and it can afford you some much needed piece of mind in making your decision. Talk to your GM about it, if there is a morale officer in the guild talk to them about it as well, maybe even your class lead if your guild has implemented those ranks.

The point is talking about it, even if you’re just considering it, will not only give people a heads up, but give you an outlet to talk things out. It may help to make you feel a lot better about your choice if you decide to move on. If your guild has forums set up, it is advisable to make a going away or stepping down/back post just to let people know where you’re going. You may be surprised how your leaving affects people around you in game on a personal level, and how much just knowing ahead of time that you’re leaving can help them cope.

Story time

I’ve made a lot of friends in game over the years. On several of those occasions it has turned into a real life friendship. In my previous installments of Friends and Raiders I’ve discussed making lasting friendships, walking the balance between friends and leadership and I’ve even introduced you to my healing team. One of my best friends, Eromon, I met through the game, and found out we lived in the same city. He has since left the game mostly but we still remain in touch. Before he left, we talked about his departure in great detail before anything was said to the guild. It helped him know he was making the right decision, and helped with being able to answer guildie question.

So about a month ago, Unpossible decided it was time to take a break from raiding. We’ve been hitting ICC pretty hard since it was released with little to now time off. Officers gathered and decided that a break before Cataclysm was a good idea and would give people a chance to unwind, relax and have fun doing random things like achievements or *gasp* play other games and maybe leave the house! ( I kid, I kid.) Before this break, one of our top DPS and an officer expressed that he felt it was time to leave the game behind, or at least step back from it. He felt that it was time to focus on other things in his life. We showed him how much we loved him at BlizzCon this year by playing one hell of a prank on him. For the last two weeks, he has been true to his word and hasn’t logged in. Not only is he a big chunk of our DPS and an officer, he is a really good friend of mine. He was one of the first people I met in Unpossible 6 years ago, and was always someone I had great respect for and someone I’ve grown to call a friend. Him leaving marks a hole in our DPS, our leadership structure, and our guild. We’ll still keep in touch over media like facebook and email, so at least on a personal level I’ll still have contact with him.

A few days ago, another two members of our guild announced that they too would be stepping back. One, a rogue who was consistently in our top 3 slots for DPS for as long as I can remember. The second is his wife, and a core member of my healing team. She is also an officer in our guild. Losing him is another big hit on our DPS, and honestly he’s one heck of a guildie and a great guy. His wife, for me, puts a very large hole in my healing team that I will need to fill as well as marking the falling of another tree from my “Forest of Win™”. On a personal level, I will miss them both in game dearly but will try to keep in touch with them via other media.

When I heard that these three were leaving, to be honest I was a bit devastated. It took a little bit for me to work it all out. With Zabos I at least had time to let it sink in and get used to the idea. Because we talked about it before hand. With our rogue and his wife, I had zero warning. These are people that I had come to rely on in raids, in guild structure and honestly were people that I had grown so accustomed to talking to during raids I couldn’t imagine not having them around. When I saw their post declaring that they were essentially stepping back that day,  it hit me all at once and in between personal feelings about their departure, I had to start planning to replace at least my lost healer to make my raiding heal team whole again. It’s something I’m still a little at odds with, just because it blindsided me. Thankfully their posts were very comprehensive, so there are no questions as to why they are stepping down. I know a lot of people in the guild are sad at their leaving, and many have already started asking how we are going to fill those gaps in our raid team.

The difference between the two really is simply that Zabos talked to me about it well before coming to a decision. It didn’t hit nearly as hard, and I was better prepared to deal with it. The other two really hit hard especially on a personal level. I had no idea they were even considering stepping back from the game. Both however communicated why they were leaving so that when guildies found out, there was not mass panic, and no jumping off the proverbial cliff.

Endings are just new beginnings

The world still turns and the server hamsters are still, hopefully, running. Cataclysm is less than a week away, and everyone is getting excited to have new quests, new dungeons and to have that fresh new game smell. Unpossible will still be there. We’ve survived since the game was brand-spanking-new, and we’ll likely be around until the server go dark. Sure, we’ll lose members along the way, but we’ll gain more friends as well. We’ll promote new people to officer as it’s needed and continue to thrive. People are already beginning to step up to try to take the place of those that left, and we’ll be able to fill the raid rolls and keep the ball rolling. That’s the nature of the game after all. We’re going to go ahead and punch Deathwing in the face, and chew through whatever the game throws at us. We’ll miss those that have left, and we’ll tell new guildies all the awesome stories about those that came before them. It’s like keeping an oral tradition alive, their stories will live on. For me though,  I know this newly minted Dwarf Shaman is a lifer. I’m in until the world goes dark.

So how about you? Have you lost any important members to your guild? Did they let you know they were leaving before hand? Have you left a guild and let them know?

Well that’s it for this week. Until next time, Happy Healing!

What I did at BlizzCon 2010

Well, I’ve been sufficiently jet lagged for a little bit, but I am happy to say that I’ve fully recovered. BlizzCon 2010 was an amazing time, and I am quite happy I got to meet many of you at the various meetups. For those of you who bought me beer, thank you! For those of you who bought Matt beer, thank you for the free entertainment!

Seriously though it was a great time, and I hope that next year I’ll get to meet even more of you. I got to hang out with Matt’s guild a little bit, and those guys know how to have fun. Never let it be said that Conquest doesn’t know how to party, I will fight you to the death on that one! I got to meet other bloggers as well, and really just had a good time chewing the fat with everyone.

My guildies were also in attendance, and we had something like 22 show up. That in and of itself may have been the most fun. You see, this year, one of our officers announced that he will be leaving us come Cataclysm. Well, at least as far as raiding is concerned. For those of you who have followed me over the years, you may recognize the name. Zabos, our hunter class lead, one of our DKP officers, and guild scapegoat has intentions of leaving us. He’s been around since this game started, and was a founding member of Unpossible. He was the reason for our very first lady Vashj low percentage wipe.  This announcement, of course, made us all very, very sad. So with all the guildies heading to BlizzCon, we decided that we simply had to show Zabos how much we loved him. And a plot was formed. Let me share with you a message sent to all guildies attending BlizzCon 2010 from the guild leader himself.

If you look carefully through the list of people I’ve sent this message to, you may notice the absence of one name in particular. This is no coincidence, and this brings us to the contest itself. This year, I’m going to be holding a competition among those Unpossible members who will be in Anaheim, all of them but Zabos. IF YOU HAVE TROUBLE KEEPING A SECRET, DO NOT READ FURTHER!

Objective: To successfully concoct and carry out a unique and hilarious practical joke on Zabos, in person, in Anaheim.

Group Size: This is a team competition. Group sizes can be anywhere from 2 to 4 people. Prior to the 21st, you must let me know who will be in your team.

Restrictions:
In the interest of keeping everything legal, and prevent any kind of nastiness after the fact, here are the restrictions and general guidelines of the competition:

  • The jokes can not result in bodily harm
  • The jokes can not result in permanent damage to property
  • The jokes can not be malicious in natures: example – no racial slurs, no emergencies in the family, etc.
  • The general tone of the jokes needs to be mischievous. At the end of the day, we don’t want to piss him off too much.
  • Sabotaging another team’s efforts is NOT allowed. The more successful jokes, the better.

Any breaking of the above rules will cause your team to be disqualified.

How Jokes Will Be Judged: In order to receive credit for the entries, jokes must be documented. Judges will need to have visual or audio proof of the jokes themselves. Acceptable forms of documentation are:

  • Audio – recorded conversation from the joke itself
  • Video – live-action video of the joke
  • Photograph – self explanatory. If the joke is staged, a before and after picture for example

This was met with great cheers from the guildies, and the game was on. Teams were chosen and shenanigans were afoot. At least, we started as teams. Shortly after arriving in Anaheim, it turned into a guild wide effort. It eventually ended with a marriage license, a lot of gunk on his car in various NSFW images, and some very, very interesting pictures. I’ll spare you the details for the sake of tact. Moral of the story though, if you intend to leave us, expect to be shown how much we love you… in force.

In the end we had a great time and it was really good to see my guildies face to face. It’s something I know a lot of people take for granted, but putting a face to that voice on vent can be pretty cool. I had met most of the guildies before hand but there were some new faces, and I finally got to hang out with my entire Forest of Win which made me very happy.

So what about you? Any BlizzCon 2010 stories to share?

It Can’t Come Any Quicker

I remember this period during Burning Crusade. It was the final month leading up to Wrath. The wait gets harder as the days go by because you just want Deathwing to blow up the world already. Everyone is anxious. I’ve set a date on the cessation of raiding operations (November 22nd). We’re going to use the final weeks to wrap up any outstanding drakes and then take it easy for a bit. It’ll take every ounce (joule?) of energy I have to stay focused. Cataclysm debuts on the 7th. My exams are on the 8th and the 11th. I was the first player in my guild to reach 80 and it pains me to know that I cannot defend my title as guild first max level player.

It seems silly, but it’s one of the few things I take pride in. Some players prefer to take their time and enjoy the scenery. Why not explore the world and visit the areas that have changed, right? But I already did that in beta. I just find the 80-85 grind exhilarating and even more so when under a clock. Some of the members in my guild are ambitious. They’re anticipating reaching 85 on the Friday morning. I wonder how many work hours will be lost due to people exercising their sick day options.

Not only that, it’s NaNoWriMo. Every year I tell myself I want to participate and try it. Every year, I discover that the amount of time I have continues to dwindle. One of these years, I will place my blog in stasis and actually do it. I love writing guides, opinion and advice. The two styles of writing I never really got into: Poetry and fiction. I don’t expect to write a sonnet any time soon. But a dwarven special operations team? Possibilities.

The guild atmosphere is restless yet restrained. The search continues for the ever elusive holy pally. I want another one. I also want an elemental shaman, a rogue, and a warlock.

Things I’m working on:

Videos on how to get to the new instances – With commentary. Completely improv. Maybe I’ll RP it. If these bode well, I’m tempted to create additional videos of other aspects of WoW.
Craftable loot list – More for the guild. Identifying which items we can craft at max level. The more items we can create, the less reliance we’ll have on the RNGness of dungeons for the appropriate drops.
A getting started guide on what zones to hit – I won’t tell you how to do which quests, but I can point you in the right direction
Facebook fan page – Why not? No link yet, but I’m sure if you’re determined you’ll be able to find it easily. I need some time to add extra screenshots and videos to it. It needs some kind of substance.
Healing in a Z-Axis environment – An underwater zone. A raid boss who is the wind itself. Healing in all 3 dimensions isn’t the easiest thing to do but there are some things to keep in mind.

Happy tuesday! Good luck hunting down those stray elementals. I have yet to see one.

Is it here yet?

Memories of BlizzCon 2010

Memories of BlizzCon 2010

Another year, another BlizzCon, and another set of memories. Even though there wasn’t a ton of breaking news from the convention, I had a huge blast. I saw some old friends again and made some new ones.

Most of the team that was from out of town stayed at Eden Roc. It ain’t exactly the Hilton, but for our purposes it was perfect. It had a dorm room type of atmosphere. We had 10 beds spread out over 3 suites (some rooms had 3, some had 5, etc). If you’re planning on going with a large group of people, I would recommend it. The wireless was limited to only a few areas but I spoke to the manager about it and I’m hoping there’ll be increased coverage next year. The staff was friendly and down to earth.

From my Guild

I met up with Viktory, Loganw, Erushia, Bisquic, Xonthebeach, Tessah, Ophelie, and Bruherd. Retired players such as Dannamoth, Mythik and Neru were on hand.

First thing we did when we all got there was get lunch.

I demolished my burger. The guild was stunned.

IMG_1296Getting iced – So apparently this is some phenomenon that’s been making its way around. I’d only just heard of it now. It’s a drinking game where if someone hands you a Smirnoff Ice or if you spot one, you have to get down on one knee and chug it. However, if you happen to be carrying one on you, you can make like a Mage and “Ice Block” where the attacker must then chug the one he planted along with the one the defender had.

This can happen at any time. The ice can be planted anywhere. The first person who sees it, and if they’re in the presence of someone else, must do it.

Why Smirnoff? Because its ugh.

My guild iced me once. I just got out of the shower and we were discussing stuff. They asked me about my Macbook. And sure enough, I rounded the corner and there it was right in front of my computer.

Guildies icing their GM. All I can say is, mango flavour sucks.

One of the perks of being on Conquest? I bought them all drinks.

“Hey guys, what do you want?”

“1 Jack and Coke!”
”Make that 2”
”Hey I want one!”
”I’ll take one as well!”
”Six!”
”Seven!”

Oh what the hell.

HEY AJ! TEN JACK AND COKES!”

I am too generous. But they’re a great team.

Things to do next year

Business cards – Spoke with players who were interested in joining a steady guild looking to progress. I’ll need to be better armed next year with guild business cards. All I had were blog cards. Judging by all the recent apps, it seemed as if the people I spoke with were mostly Death Knights.

Track jackets – Heh, this I had a nice chuckle about. The team wanted guild shirts for next year. One of the guys said “Screw tshirts. Let’s go for Conquest track jackets!”. Not a bad idea. Something I’m going to look at for the future. Then Lodur comes along asks “Can I be an honorary Conquest member for a jacket?” Totally, it can be done. But that got me thinking, maybe I should get a Team Matticus track jacket instead for both friends and guild members that might be interested.

The convention

Most of day 1 was spent observing the panels.

2sbw

Some people call it taking notes. I call it analog live blogging.

As for the demos, I didn’t bother with Diablo 3. The line for that was longer then the line for the mens room. Checked out Starcraft Bejewled and Blizzard DoTA though. Those were fun maps. Can’t wait for them to come out. Met with an editor from the WoW Magazine.

The meetups

WoW Insider Reader Meetup

Had the whole patio and the whole pool area. Unbelievable turnout. It was great to see the whole WI crew in person once again. Managed to snag a picture with Felicia Day and Ghostcrawler! I got to meet and hang out with Dawn and I saw Lodur there. The guy forgot to give me the list of movies I need to see to get pop culturally educated.

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* I still owe the SC2 guy a drink, but wasn’t able to hunt him down. You know who you are! Next year!

Twisted Nether Meetup

I dropped by to say hi to the TnB folks again at Bubba Gump. It was good to finally see Stop, some of the Big Crits fellas, Beru, Hydra, Saresa, and others.

Raid Warning Meetup

Hung out with Brian, Seven and more people. It was located at Dave and Busters in a nice 200ish seat VIP room. Roomy and spacious. Somehow, I got conned into a drinking contest. The person who could beat me downing a Corona got a 30 day time card.

And there were a lot of people that wanted that time card. Like seriously, it doesn’t take much effort. I knew there was no way I was going to get it. Not with that lime that was stuck in the neck of the bottle. 20 minutes later, I finished the Corona. Yay!

I also wish to extend my gratitude to both Dannamoth and Erushia for giving the new friends we met a lift home. Way to represent. Very proud.

I was extremely humbled by the amount of people who recognized me and who came up to say hi, exchange handshakes, high fives and hugs. Thank you for making it a truly surreal experience.

Good seeing Daewin, anafielle, Saresa, BeruHeals, EntropiaWoW, Shandris, StoneyBaby, ModernMage, StoppableForce, Fimlys, Shadowembrace, Strio13, Hydra, Brian, Seven, the entire WI crew, some of the blues, and there are undoubtedly more people that I missed.

 

Can’t wait for BlizzCon 2011! I hope to see you again next year (or for the first time)!

 

 

What were your most memorable moments from BlizzCon? And more importantly, do you plan on going (again) next year?

Blizzcon Meetups and my Schedule

Time’s winding down and I’m frantically trying to finalize everything. Guess who has exams on both sides of BlizzCon.

Yeah.

Meetups that I know about

Anyway, here’s the list of meetups that are going on which I’ll be crashing attending.

Thursday 21/10/10

7:00 PM – WoW Insider BlizzCon Reader Meetup

Where: The patio near the poolside of the Anabella hotel
When: Thursday, Oct. 21 at 7 p.m.
What: Mingling, toasts, guest stars, joy

I need to get a picture with Nog.

Yeah. That Nog.

Friday 22/10/10

9:00 PM – Twisted Nether meetup

When: Friday, Oct 22, 2010 9:00pm
Where: Bubba Gump Shrimp (head to the bar if you see no signs outside)

9:00 PM – Raid Warning Live Show meetup

When: Friday, October 22nd, 2010. 9PM – 1AM
Where: Dave and Busters: The Block at Orange 20 City Blvd. G, Suite 1
Space for TWO HUNDRED people!

My schedule

I’m trying to plan out my itinerary. Something tells me I’m not exactly going to stick to it.

Thursday

11:11 AM – Land in LA
11:15 AM – Clear customs (Hopefully).
11:45 AM – Meet up with guildies and get carried picked up
12:00 PM – 1:00 PM – Lunch! (Perhaps In and Out as I resolve to have it at least once while I’m here)
1:00 PM – 2:00 PM – Drop stuff off at the hotel. Buy some beer. Maybe nap.
2:00 PM – 5:00 PM – Lineup for tickets.
5:00 PM – 6:00 PM – Nap some more.
6:00 PM – 11:00 PM – WoW Insider meetup! Worried about what stunt my guildies will pull. They randomly chanted “Matticus!” last year during the meetup. The team was confused and had “WTF” looks. I had no idea it was them until they told me.
11:00 PM – 1:00 AM – Poker with the guildies.

Friday

6:30 AM – Wake up, shower, coffee x 3
6:45 AM – Breakfast. More coffee.
8:00 AM – Lineup to enter BlizzCon.
10:00 AM – Actually enter BlizzCon, ninja seats for opening ceremony.
11:00 AM – Wander around, and then camp seats for Dungeons and Raids panel, camp seats for Quest and Lore, then check out various demos and cool stuff.
6:00 PM – 8:00 PM – Dinner! Maaaaybe with the guildies? If they behave. And not embarrass me.
9:00 PM – 9:30 PM – Check in with Twisted Nether folks and say hi!
9:30 PM – 12:00 AM – Raid Warning meetup next. (I went to the Twisted Nether meet last year)
12:00 AM – 1:00 AM – Rock Band party in our hotel room

Saturday

6:30 AM – Wake up, shower, coffee x 3
6:45 AM – Breakfast. More coffee.
7:00 AM – 9:00 AM – Blog for a while, relax for a bit.
10:00 AM – Enter BlizzCon, check out more demos (TCG and the magazine areas)
11:30 AM – 2:30 PM – Class Q&A, Open Q&A

That’s all I got planned for now. Probably going to go out the window. I better make sure I sleep with 1 eye open. I have a feeling I might get sharpied.

4.0.1 shaman glyphs and an Ode to Sentry Totem

4.0.1 shaman glyphs and an Ode to Sentry Totem

Sentry totem is gone. Too often those who love us and hold us dear go before their time =(. Seriously though I already miss sentry totem. I did use it for a few things, like disarming bombs in SoTA. My recent grief over the loss of my beloved companion sparked the idea of composing an epic poem to commemorate its passing. Special thanks to @ianbroadfo for the inspiration on this one, and William Blake for composing the original.

Totem! Totem! sitting tight;
in the flag-room, on the right.
What designer’s hand or eye;
dare remove you from my UI?

In what distant Aerie Peaks,
What found on weathered wing and beak?
On what wings dare he aspire?
What the hand dare seize desire?

And what purpose misunderstood.
Could twist the grains of thy wood?
And when thy eye began to seek,
What dread loss, this feeling bleak?

What the stone work? what the gain?
In what forge was thy brain?
What the anvil? what dread light?
Do steal this purposeful insight?

When the Titans threw down their blaze,
And blinded heaven with their gaze,
Did they smile, this lost to naught?
Did they who made the totem wrought?

Totem! Totem! sitting tight;
in the flag-room, on the right.
What designer’s hand or eye;
dare remove you from my UI?

So yes, I will miss sentry totem. That little bugger was actually pretty useful. With the new patch, not only did Sentry Totem go away, but we got a bunch of new glyphs and a new glyph system. Check out Matt’s post on the the new system and priest glyphs for the run down. So what do shaman glyphs look like after the patch? Let’s take a look!

Prime Glyphs

Prime glyphs are the ones that give you the most improvement to your specialization.

Those are the prime glyphs you’re likely to be interested in. The restoration ones are pretty self explanatory, but you’re likely asking; “But Joe, why is Shocking and Lightning bolt on the list” ? Easy answer, because of Focused Insight and Telluric Currents. Let’s face it, if you get to a point where you out-gear a fight, you’re likely  throwing around some DPS to help out. At this late in the current expansion, unless you are a fresh 80, you’re likely to have content that you out-gear. Whether it is a heroic or a raid, these may be choices for you depending on what you’re doing. The most common setup I’m seeing among resto shaman is Earth Shield, Riptide (which just makes the spell ridiculously efficient) and Earthliving Weapon. Plan to move one of them to Water Mastery when Cataclysm drops, but until then mana isn’t an issue.

Major Glyphs

They augment your abilities, but not a large degree as prime glyphs.

Some interesting options here. Grounding Totem is in the list simply because there are a surprising number of boss abilities in heroics and raid that can absorbed by grounding totem. The fun of the glyph is that it makes it into a spell reflect. Nothing says I love you like throwing a fireball back from where-which-it-came-from. Hex is on the list because, well, we have a CC and its awesome. If you find yourself using Hex a lot *cough*heroicladydeathwhisper*cough*, this may be a good choice for you. Frost Shock is on the list again because of FI. Most common setup I’m seeing throughout the resto community is Chain Heal, Healing Stream Totem and Healing Wave. When Cataclysm goes live, you may want to swap one out for Totemic Recall just for mana conservation purposes.

I have to be honest, out of all the glyphs we got, I like the Healing Stream Totem one the best. I mean, I’ve always been a fan of HST, even before it was the cool-kids thing to do. The fact that it can add a series of resists is just beastly. It heals, it provides resist auras, it’s like a pocket paladin but with less QQ (I kid, I kid!).  With about every fight now having some form of elemental damage, there’s no reason not to have this glyph.

Minor Glyphs

These have little impact on your chosen role.

Basic stuff really, removal of reagent needs, and a shortening of our character class hearth cooldown. The new kid on the block though is Arctic Wolf. This turns your Ghost Wolf into a ghostly version of the winter wolves found throughout Azeroth. This glyph was originally slated to be released in Wrath alongside another glyph that allowed you to transform into a black wolf. They were scrapped before release, but at least one has found its way back. This is important for two reasons. One, it marks the inclusion of fun flavor items to help personalize your character. Two, it just looks cool!

Glyphs are becoming more about personal choice rather than what is best, which quite honestly is how it should be.

How has your patch 4.0.1 experience been so far? What do you love? What do you hate? Do you miss Sentry Totem too?

He’s only mostly dead

He’s only mostly dead

Some of you may have been wondering where I’ve been and have been pretty curious as to what Lodur has been up to. Ok, well probably none of have been overly concerned at my absence and probably didn’t even notice I was gone =P

Honestly though I’ve been a busy busy shaman. You see I’ve learned a few things from Matt. Chief among them is a love of projects. To that end I’ve been pretty hard at work launching a new site that just went live on September 1st, 2010. I’ve been killing myself trying to fit in filling in content there among my other obligations, and it hasn’t been easy.

The site is called Bow Down To Us, and it is a geek site. You want comics? We have you covered! Want to know more about what games are coming up? We have you covered there! Want to kick back on a gamer forum and just shoot the breeze? We have you covered there too! From general news all the way up to a section devoted to WoW, we are hoping to grow the site into something awesome. So if you get a chance, check out the site.

Aside from that I’ve been doing my normal gig at WoW.com with recent articles detailing Healing Rain, and some Cataclysm updates and Blue posts. When I haven’t been working hard on articles for the new site, I’ve been spending time in the Cataclysm beta. I’ll be honest, I’m hooked. It feels so fresh and so new. Not just the 80+ content, but even leveling from 1 up. I’ve been leveling my Dwarf Shaman (because they are ridiculously awesome and the best shaman ever), and my Worgen Druid. If you have beta access and are looking for any groups or anything feel free to hit me up. Lodurzj is the 83 shaman, Lodurious is the Dwarf Shaman, and Lodurwolf is the Worgen Druid.

I’ve also been spending some time over at Totemspot. If you haven’t heard about it, shame on you! It is the community created for Shaman, by Shaman. All walks of life are present there and there are some awesome people there. I’ve been trying to answer as many restoration questions about the beta on the forum, and in my articles, as possible. That does take up a lot of time.

Things are going back to normal, so you’ll see more posts from me back here again. I’ll be continuing my posts on WoW.com, and you can also find me at BDTU and Totemspot. With things returning back to normal I’m also going to hit some SC2 multiplayer. To that end I still need a 2v2 partner. So if you’re interested let me know!

So how about you guys? What have you been up to? Anything fun?

 

Second Verse, Different than the First

Second Verse, Different than the First

**Image is text from one of my favorite Shakespeare plays, “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”.

In the week since the infamous post, I’ve been able to see the wide spectrum of responses and views on the topic. I’ve been condemned and praised for it. The praise came mostly because of points made in the post; the condemnation referred to the tone I used. I let the post simmer a few days, and it’s become clear to me that the tone definitely deserves the condemnation. Anyone that has read my posts here before has come to expect different of me (I hope). That’s true. I normally don’t write with vehemence, but this time I let my professionalism go and was wrong to do so.

The Apology

It was unprofessional of me to “attack” Dills as I did. Funny enough, those that know me in real life knew my tone was lighter than it’s been made out to be. That doesn’t excuse it, nor does it allow me to assume that anyone else would be able to tell the playfulness from some letters on a screen.  We talk all the time about how it’s impossible to tell tone from a text message or an email. Something that’s meant as a tongue-in-cheek comment could be taken the complete opposite; something meant as an important conversation could be shrugged off as an “April Fool’s”-style joke. That’s the danger of writing/blogging like we do. Especially with the type of person I am outside of this game, I lost the foresight that I usually exemplify in my posts. It was never meant to be a “lol noob” type of phrasing at all (I’ll explain the Billy Madison quote in a minute). Was it meant to be a sharp criticism? Absolutely. However, the extra teeth–which came across even worse than intended–were uncalled for. I’m perfectly capable of writing a post that reflects my viewpoints and expresses my counterpoints in a clear and concise argument. Well, the argument got lost. My “bridge” comment was never meant to imply that anyone (including me) should jump off it. In Chicago, the Chicago River is actually used to move some of our sewage. People are not allowed to swim in it for fear of infection. I didn’t write the comparison to imply suicide but to simply say, “I could do this, but it wouldn’t be smart because it’s a gross river.”

The Billy Madison quote: I admit that this was a huge mistake. In drafting that post, that quote came into my head–not as a means to further slam someone but as a sort of ironic chuckle. It made me think of a movie that I know I get a kick out of. When I transcribed it, I never thought, “Ha! This’ll really show him!! RAWR!”. I thought it was a funny reference, and WoW!! was I wrong. Since I didn’t realize how my words would be interpreted, I also didn’t see the poor taste of that joke. Matt was right to remove it. I didn’t remove it originally because I was defensive and felt compelled to stand up for what I wrote. I was standing up for the wrong reasons.

Minus the tone, I still maintain the points I made about Dills’s post. It was unfair of me to attack him, but no one should be immune from criticism (even me, of course). In “An Instance of Fail”, there were rumblings of true debate in the comment section. This, to me, signified that there is real discussion in the points and counterpoints that were made. In writing the post, and even in the days following, I continued to read Dills’s entry. With all due respect, I stand by the inferences I made. There is nothing in the post that lead me to believe otherwise. I’d like to make my points in a much more civil way.

Lightwell

I really have no problem with Lightwell either coming or going. I think it’s a very interesting mechanic and can be situationally used. If it were fixed, I’m sure it’d be a great spell. It could be dropped right before a Bone Storm in Marrowgar or dropped behind the ice blocks in Sindragosa. It would be very beneficial during the 3rd phase of Professor Putricide for casters moving out of slime. Just a quick click as they’re running to the closest safe spot.  Essentially, it could benefit any fight situation where the ability to dps is hindered by movement or transition phases. It’s a great alternative to spells like Divine Hymn or Tranquility. With both of those spells, the caster (Priest and Druid, respectively) has to remain still to channel it. This allows the Priest or Druid to continue moving during a transition, put distance between himself/herself and “the bad”, or simply cast spells on others that are nearer to visiting the graveyard.

Although the fate of Lightwell doesn’t really matter, I disagree with the following phrases:

“I know when I’m dpsing or tanking the last thing I want to think about is healing.”

“That’s what the healer is for.”

I remember when I was a lowly Warlock back in SSC/TK, I was excited to start a Priest, because I wanted to be a help to the raid in whatever way I could; healing seemed to be a great fit for me. Leveling to 70 wasn’t instantaneous, obviously. I then looked at my own Warlock spellbook to see how I could help the raid beyond just my Shadow Bolt spam. When it was deemed appropriate, I would put Curse of Weakness on the boss. I was always happy to throw up Curse of Tongues on Fathom-Guard Caribdis (in the Fathom-Lord fight in SSC) to give the Shaman and Rogues enough time to interrupt his huge heal. If everyone was taking a lot of damage, I would throw Siphon Life (when it was a spell) and then Drain Life the boss to give healers some more wiggle room. I would do this even if it was a hit to my DPS. Whatever was the best way for the raid to succeed, I did it.

It’s how I continue to play today. Even when I’m DPS’ing on my Enhancement Shaman, I’ll throw out an instant Healing Wave (via Maelstrom Weapon) to help out the healers when they need it.  When I heal, if I have global cooldowns and mana to spare, I readily start DPSing the boss.  It’s the mentality that I try to encourage in the people I play with. Of course it’s our job to fill our roles, but it’s also our job to help out the rest of the raid where we can. I remember when raid members carried bandages, and used health pots (when you could chain-pot, anyways). It was always more about “us” rather than “you” and “me.” It’s the “us” mindset that helps make our in-game community strong.

Dampen/Amplify Magic

“I know, we use Amplify Magic on the Saurfang fight.  I’m aware of that.  However; one fight does not make a spell useful or necessary.”

Although that may or may not be true for the current level of progression, look at other older bosses that stood to benefit from Amplify magic: Gruul, Patchwerk, General Vezax, Icehowl. Gruul hammers on the tank for physical damage. He doesn’t have a dedicated enrage. With Amplify Magic, you were able to squeeze a couple more Growths out of him. When Patchwerk was the gear check, we worked hard to gear up our off-tank to take the Hateful Strikes. Having Amplify Magic on the off-tanks made our heals hit harder, thereby saving our mana so we could make it to the enrage, if need be. As for Vezax, a fight where mana regen is negligible, any additional help for the healer was welcomed with open arms, especially on heroic when you’re not using the Saronite Vapor mechanic. There’s usually always at least one boss in each tier of progression that uses purely (or mostly) physical damage. If it can be used, there’s really no reason it shouldn’t be cast on a tank (or the raid, for that matter) that’s taking mostly physical damage. It’s hugely beneficial on Valithria Dreamwalker. Cast it on her and heal her quickly to 100%. Makes heroic a lot more manageable (more on this later).

“Dampen Magic is especially useless unless you are in pvp and there are no healers which usually means you will be failing no matter what you do.”

As for Dampen Magic, well of course it’s situational. A lot of mages use it for leveling. My friend Andrew plays a mage. Anytime he’s on his 56 mage and I’m on my 56 warrior, we have Dampen Magic on. It helps us out quite a bit. Some use it for farming. In those situations, less incoming damage means less time bandaging/eating. Like Dills says, it’s beneficial in PvP as well, especially world PvP or certain arena matchups. There’s some misinformation that PvP is pointless without a healer, and that’s actually not the case.  When I’m up against a mage, Dampen Magic (or Amplify, too) is just one more thing I have to dispel off of him to get to his Ice Barrier. PvP is not necessarily who has the heals, but who plays his/her character better. ArenaJunkies.com is peppered heavily with purely dps teams. A team combining a mage with any other non-healing class(es) stands to gain a lot from Dampen Magic. Everytime I see a Mage/Rogue pairing that knows how to play, it’s very tough to beat. All of that CC, and then Dampen Magic makes it that much harder. Especially in PvP, people look for whatever edge they can get, no matter how small. It doesn’t serve the PvE benefit that many would like, but that doesn’t mean it’s useless by any means.

“I do think the idea is solid but in practicality it comes up so rarely that these spells are often completely forgotten about by many Mages.”

My argument: Just because a spell is used only on the occasional fight or on a situational basis, it does not mean it’s useless. People choose not to use it, and that’s fine. However, that doesn’t mean it’s a wasted spot in the spellbook. That’s the fun of the game. Each encounter is different and calls for different abilities. I would find the game pretty boring if I had to do the same thing each and every fight. It makes me sad that interesting abilities like these are being shed.

Mind Soothe/Soothe Animal

I have to admit, I never really knew about the value of Mind Soothe and Soothe Animal until I was in SSC back in Burning Crusade. Those were the days when CC was absolutely needed. Humanoids feared us, Beasts bled us, Dragonkin healed their friends. We had to have Saps, Sheeps, Repents, and anything we could think of. My friend Jayme plays a mage. A nice, squishy clothie. I could tell he’d be nervous stepping up to ready his Polymorph. One wrong step, and that pack comes charging at him. Death would be his likely end. I could even feel the anxiety across vent. A Priest and Druid then stepped up to Mind Soothe and Soothe Animal the mobs nearest to my friend. A sense of ease fell over him. Now, it didn’t need to be so precise where his character was placed. He had a little wiggle room. The pull went as planned, and no one died.

That brings us to Instructor Razuvious, the first boss in the Military Quarter of Naxxramas. Obviously, in 25man, you need to have two Priests to Mind Control two of his Understudies. Because of their aggro range and the range of Mind Control, this pull has the potential to be hectic. The first time I tried this fight, we had to have a countdown on when to run in, hoping that my Mind Control was able to take hold before the Understudy decided I’d be better used as a doormat.  Another tactic was for our tank to run in, grab everything (and run his own risk of becoming a doormat) and possibly pull the mobs out of our range. It got frustrating, and it got frustrating fast, even with a team that I felt confident raiding. Once Mind Soothe was brought into the mix, it made everyone’s lives so much easier. I could settle into my spot, and the countdown was now when to cast Mind Control, not frantically to set up.

How about Zul’Aman? I always was so sad when they removed the Amani War Bear. We never were able to get ahead of the timer after a little while. That raid was full of Humanoids, as well as Beasts. The perfect place to use both of those spells to sneak by mobs and get the edge on that timer. Someone commented on Dills’s post that using those two spells was a great way to solidify that awesome bear for someone in his raid. I wish I would’ve thought of it at the time.

It serves a much bigger benefit than what Dills refers to as “…spells that sneaked in there because Blizzard need to give players something new around level 20 and ran out of ideas” or as a “[d]umb spell with almost no uses at all.” Keep in mind that we’re heading into an expansion that Blizzard wants to have more dependent on crowd control. I know I’d much rather be settled and ready for each pull in the new raids than have each one be a mad dash to gain control. Pulls like those lead to sloppy wipes and wasted raid time. As my buddy Dralo says, “Slow is smooth. Smooth is fast. Fast is deadly.” I’ve always found that Mind Soothe and Soothe Animal help that.

Thinking Outside the Box

Lodur’s guild, Unpossible, is still hammering proudly through ICC hardmodes. Valithria Dreamwalker is no cakewalk. The Emerald Dream is actually the Nightmare. Each orb applies a DoT to whoever consumes it. Simply being in the Nightmare ticks away at your health. VD’s health decays over time, which means you need more bang for your buck. Your heals need to hit has hard as possible in order to assure victory. Unpossible utilized an unorthodox technique also used by other guilds in order to get the job done. They took a BM Hunter with a bear pet. Tenacity pets have a 2-point talent called Blood of the Rhino. All heals on the pet are increased by 40%. They coupled that with Beacon of Light from their Holy Paladin. Beaconing the dragon and healing the bear resulted in a huge boost in healing. It saved mana and helped counteract the health decay. Needless to say, they won the day. That’s the beauty of this game. It’s not simply point and shoot. Takes some thinking to come up with a strategy like that. Post note: I’m aware that the mechanic was nerfed. Still took some brains to think of using those skills together, which is the point.

There are tons of ways that we can all use different spells in the game to make our playtime more enjoyable and unique. Rather than dismiss certain spells as “useless” and “dumb”, we should look for unique ways to utilize our spellbooks and challenge our minds. If someone new to the game wants advice on how to begin this journey, I try to encourage him/her to think about team before self.  Don’t shrug things off as “my job” and “your job”. Embrace the idea that defeating the raid is “our job”. Look for how your class’s lesser-known abilities could stand to help the group. Read your spellbook; try different things out. I think you might be surprised what you might find. Remember, raiding is a Team Sport. Let’s welcome the newest WoW generation with that in mind.

Email: Elder.Thespius@gmail.com | Twitter: @Thespius