7 Fun Activities to do on the Bench

7 Fun Activities to do on the Bench

6 PM rolls around which means it’s time to raid.

Potions? Check.

Buff food? Check.

Drinks? Ginger Ale for me, not sure what the rest of you go with.

You get the invite to raid and glance at your party frames before doing a double take. Your name isn’t anywhere in the first five groups. Guess what? You’re in the ever elusive group 6. Your WoW Instant Messenger springs to life with a message from the boss. Looks like they’re going for a new composition which means you need to take a seat on the bench for the first few encounters.

At this stage in the expansion, compositions vary wildly based on bosses, who needs what, and number of trial players (if any). It’s pretty darn dejecting to warm the seats. It’s not done out of malice or hate. Your guild has decided on that specific configuration to get them through that specific challenge (or if it’s a farm boss, it’s they need to grab someone specifically for loot or trial reasons).

Hey, your guild is counting on you, too!

Even I, thee Matticus, gets called upon to sit. On the evenings I do sit, I have a myriad of activities at my disposal.

  • Reading: It seems as if there’s not enough time for people to read as much as they want. Right now, I’m working on the third book in the Kane Chronicles (The Serpent’s Shadow). If not books, I’ll catch up on various blogs around the internet via Google Reader.
  • Gaming: I don’t think I’ll be get in a full League of Legends match, but I can squeeze in a game of Draw Something or Scramble with Friends on my iPhone. On the computer, I’ll pounce onto the guild Minecraft server (I’m working on a personal fortress but I need more cobblestone).
  • Alts: Great time to work on some questing or getting in some leveling time on an alt. Don’t have an alt? Great time to start one!
  • Watch a movie or a TV show: Netflix anyone? Been rewatching a few episodes of Family Guy (Be a banana!). If the raiding group needs me, they can just holler. Enough time for me to pause and switch back to the game.
  • Writing: So many post ideas and so many things to write, just not enough time to do it all! Great time for me to work on a post like what I do when I’m chilling on the side.
  • Raiding: Raid Finder on an alt? Working on my 5th Priest now.
  • Watching the livestream: The guild has several streamers now. I’ll usually have a monitor up to keep track of progress while doing one of the other activities above.

What if you need gear?

No problem! Send a tell to your raid leader letting them know that you’re really interested in coming in for a future attempt.

Here, let me write you a template. Use the terms appropriate to your guild’s atmosphere.

Dear [boss/captain/fearless leader/a**hole]

This is just a tell to let you know that I would really like to come in for the next boss. There’s an item that I want because it [upgrades an item/is off spec/is for transmog/makes my character look 5 pounds lighter than I actually am]. Could you find it in your [heart/soul/noggin’] to bring me in so that I might benefit from the spoils?

Sincerely,

Your favourite [player/monkey/badass/<class> of all time]

Anyway, tell me about your bench experiences. You cool with watching from the side? What do you like to do or work on when you’re on the bench?

Are Easier Heroics Better in the Long Run?

Are Easier Heroics Better in the Long Run?

Image Courtesy of Geico Insurance

The patch 3.3.2 includes a few amendments to Heroic Dungeons and how they’re played.  Entire packs of mobs are being deleted.  Bosses abilities are being shortened or being made less frequent.  Fight mechanics are being made easier.  In essence, Blizzard is giving us more opportunities to blow through these dungeons with little to no effort.

I’m an educator at heart.  Seeing as though my life “endgame” is to be at the front of a classroom, it’s important to me that people learn the skills necessary to go through life.  How to write a proper business letter, how to analyze a novel or article, or how to put your thoughts in order and present them in a proper argument.

How does this translate into WoW?  Teaching players how to follow a kill order, how to manage small and large cooldowns, or how to CC a mob.  Remember some of the cardinal rules of this game that we’ve all learned?

  • If the ground changes, get out of it. Pretty standard stuff, except for rare circumstances
  • If the boss starts spinning with his huge weapon, move away from it.
  • If a really annoying mob is causing havoc, CC it. If possible, avoid DoT’ing it.

We learn these the hard way.  And, we have to utilize and execute what we’ve learned in the current content.  Ground changes?  Sounds like Rotface’s ooze pools on the ground.  Spinning mobs?  Marrowgar.  The need to CC a mob?  The mind controls in Lady Deathwhisper.

“You are not prepared!”

With the level of difficulty amongst the endgame content, more and more groups are getting frustrated with the lack of skill within the community of 80s.  I equate this to meeting people in the real world that don’t demonstrate even a sliver of mastery of their native language (slang and colloquialisms are fun choices but shouldn’t be your foundation).  How do you get through school without being able to speak or write properly?  How do you get to start raiding without having a knowledge of the fundementals?

Take Ahn’kahet (AKA “Old Kingdom”) for example.  Jedoga Shadowseeker is the boss that floats in the air, summoning an add to sacrifice.  If she succeeds, she hits a temporary enrage.  I remember wiping to that when people first started doing heroics.  The tank had to manage a cooldown; the healer was spamming big heals. This fight demonstrated the need for DPS to turn up the heat to down the add.  Even I as a healer would Smite/Lightning Bolt the add.

Now, it seems that Madame Shadowseeker only does this once.  Does this just mean everyone blows all their cooldowns (Shield Wall, Survival Instincts, Frenzied Regeneration, etc) to endure her short enrage and then they’re done?  The key to earning respect as a player with me is demonstrate a finesse of your skills, not be all RAWR OMG WTFBBQ DPSPWNAGE!!  You can be great player and still utilize all of your classes abilities efficiently.

“Time is of the essence!”

As these Heroics are being made easier and easier, that means people will be blowing through them faster and faster.  Making the value of the gear that people are getting lower and lower.  Follow this math:

Average of 4 badges (+ 2 from random) = 6 badges per run.

Clearing an instance in 15 minutes means 24 emblems an hour.

A whole set of T9 costs 210 emblems.

210 emblems / 24 emblems per hour = 8.75 hours.

Even if you play 3 hours/day, you could have full tier 9 in 3 days.

Given that, do I think it’s possible to really have a grasp of how to exist in a raid setting, possibly having an aspect of the fight rest on your shoulders?  I won’t say a flat-out “no”, but I’m hesitant.  I learned how to play my class through dungeons and heroics.  A fight like Rotface or Blood Princes is going to confuse players that haven’t had the ability to build an understanding of their class.

Consider it a slightly less horrifying version of a person who just bought their character on eBay that day.  Regardless if you’re a completely new player, or just levelling an alt, I fear that we’re starting to lose the building blocks to being a good raider to the ease of too much convenience.  (Sidenote: Notice I said “too much”.  I’m all for crafting the game so everyone has a shot, but there is a point when it goes too far.  I don’t want to go back to the days of needing to run alts through Karazhan to begin the gearing process for Black Temple.)

It’s like the economy (I know, a touchy subject).  If you start pumping more gear into the game faster, it devalues what’s already out there.  I guess the good thing is that people will be less freaked out by GearScore.  If everyone has a high gear score, more emphasis will need to be placed on player skill.  What good is a high GearScore if everyone has it?

“Lazy Sunday!”

“…WAKE UP IN THE LATE AFTERNOON!”  Sorry, a little sidetracked.  I love that skit.

Anyways, with Blizzard making things easier and easier, I fear they’re going too far.  ICC trash is already becoming AOE-able.  People are complaining about there being too much trash (yet, people complained about Trial of the Crusader not having ANY trash and being too boring).  Oculus is getting even bigger rewards.

I don’t want this game to become “just go in and blow stuff up”.  I like the challenge.  I like the dedication.  I like the workout.  I like the strategy.  Do I know how to create a balance with this?  Of course not.  If I did, I would be working for Blizzard.  I just don’t want the laziest crowd in the game to win over the hearts and minds of the game designers.

Now, I enjoy the mechanic of earlier ICC wings getting easier over time, allowing less progressed guilds to see the endgame content, but the latest epidemic of clueless raiders is troublesome to me.  How do you make the game more appealing to everyone, while still teaching those fundemental rules that we’ve all learned over the years?

What do you think?  Do you feel heroics are being made too easy?  How do you promote an understanding of class and basic fight mechanics amongst your raiders?

4 Questions to Answer on the Respec Policy

4 Questions to Answer on the Respec Policy

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote a post detailing the freedom that players had in their own play. Reader Revaan wrote a series of questions that I wanted to answer but I never got around to it until now. I’ll divide that post into two parts: One with a direct Q & A to his questions and the second half with a more detailed thought process.

Q&A

Revaan: The debating about consequences of respeccing seems to make it clear that every guild should have a policy about respecs. Do you require approval from anyone? If so who?

Matt: Yes and no. Players are free to respec on their own time for PvP or just for general farting around. I impose no conditions on their respecs. When it comes to raids however, they’re required to go back to the original spec they asked to be in when they joined the guild. I’ll elaborate more on this later.

Revaan: Do you have some sort of trial period with the new spec?

Matt: I usually give it a raid. I’ll compare that day’s performance with data from past raids and see if there’s a significant difference. If both specs are about the same, it’s a wash. I’ll let them decide what’s better for their style of play.

Revaan: What if the chosen role is full?

Matt: Tough. It’s first come first serve, usually. If there’s a set amount of tanks and another player wants to go Prot, it’s highly unlikely they’ll ever get a spot unless one of the tanks decides to retire or spontaneously gets their account hacked. But that rarely happens.

(Actually, at the time of this writing, I just found out one of my main tanks had his account compromised. Go figure.)

Revaan: Are they first up if that role opens up or will the guild recruit and you need to compete with applicants?

Matt: Typically no. Players tend to have a certain amount of gear invested in them. For them to change roles like that is a messy undertaking for the guild because not only do we have to find a replacement for the spec they switched from, we also have to gear up that player again. It would be as if we were gearing up two players again instead of one. I would much rather recruit from outside but I will never say never. Situations like these are often resolved in a case by case basis.

Explanation

I don’t like asking people to re-talent themselves unless I have a very good reason to do so. I prefer to let players come to their own conclusion about what’s best for them.

Here is a list of the 3 goals for the 3 different roles in the game.

  • DPS: To deal an insane amount of damage
  • Heal: To heal or mitigate an insane amount of damage
  • Tanking: To survive an insane amount of damage

Respeccing within the role

Let me give you an example of a case where I approved a respec.

During the infant stages of Conquest when we were working our way through Naxxramas, we picked up a Rogue named Derek. He’s an extremely bright and skilled player. He wanted to try out a new spec because he had reason to believe that he could increase his DPS output.

I don’t know much about Rogues. But I figured I had nothing to lose. I was essentially trading a DPS spec for a DPS spec.

After the raid was done, I pulled up the Patchwerk notes for that day along with notes from previous raids and compared them.

Sure enough, Derek’s performance improved notably. It was partly due to gear and partly his style. But it seemed the spec helped a lot. Alas, from what I’ve been told, this upcoming patch may nerf it. You Rogues probably know what I’m talking about because I don’t know what I’m talking about. All I know is, he respecced and his damage spiked upwards.

Derek did an insane amount of damage before. After the respec, he did an insanely higher amount.

Allow your raiders to innovate and test new specs that allow them to excel at the same role. I had a Warlock (let’s call him Tom) who tried a new spec every raid for the first few weeks because he wasn’t sure what the optimum spec was.

What’s cookie cutter now could become outdated later.

As my former mentor Blori once told me,

There ain’t a problem in the world that can’t be solved without more DPS.

Inform your GM

Let your raid leader know. I guarantee you that they will generally be supportive (the good ones at least). Here’s the process:

Derek: Hey Matt, I’d like to respec.
Matt: Why’s that?
Derek: I think I can do more damage
Matt: Sure, go for it and let me know what you need.
Derek: Don’t forget to log me for Patchwerk so I can compare it to last week.

It’s that simple.

Respeccing roles

This one I am not as receptive as. A raid composition consists of a simple equation:

X healers + Y DPS + Z tanks = Dead boss.

By changing the equation, you risk rendering the problem unsolvable. A great tank does not necessarily make a great healer and you may find yourself short stacked on bosses from time to time.

It is an extremely tough sell to a GM. But that’s when everything is good.

On the other hand, if your raid has a few key role players absent, requesting a respec could end up being favorable.

If I’m short on healers and a DPS hybrid requests to go healing to help alleviate the stress, I am way more likely to approve it.

  1. Keeps the raid in house. I don’t have to outsource my important roles to trade chat.
  2. Solves a problem with little effort: It’s a good reflection on the guild member.

I guess my underlying philosophy towards respeccing can be boiled down to one line:

If it improves the raid group in any way, ask.

Image courtesy of marcello99

Alts and the Raider: An Officer’s Perspective

Alts and the Raider: An Officer’s Perspective

the_alt_parade

Who are all these unsavory characters, you might ask? Well, all WoW players–particularly raiders–have a closet full of skeletons, or, to be more specific, absolutely terrible alts. These just happen to be mine, and not a one of them is as good as my main. There are the few exceptional players who play their holy priest as well as their frost mage, but those are few and far between. For the most of us, we have one character to raid with, whose mechanics we know inside and out, and a motley crew of has-beens, might-have-beens, and never-will-bes to tool around with outside of raid time. Usually, alts are harmless, though my paladin’s mailbox macarenas HAVE been known to cause temporary insanity. However, especially when burnout or boredom threatens, alts start to look pretty attractive. I’ve just taken Isidora the Fail Warlock on a little tour of Borean Tundra. Sure, level 68 mages can kill me one-on-one because I can’t find my fear button. But I can pick Goldclover!

This post explores what happens when raiders get attached to their alts. The fascination can go far beyond leveling a convenient profession or two. It is a truth universally acknowledged that when a guild starts spending a significant amount of time every week on farm content, at least one raider will want to bring in an alt.

Change is Good, Right?

From the perspective of the player, a change of main, or even a few trips to a dungeon on an alt, can help refresh interest in the game. On rare occasions, this can work out well for the guild as well. Sometimes a player is even more successful at raiding on a rerolled character than they were on their original main. I saw this happen in Collateral Damage with Allagash, a wonderful shaman who rerolled from priest in mid-T5 when she saw the potential of the shaman class. Those kinds of Cinderella stories can happen, but what I’m really interested in talking about are the rotten pumpkins that can result from an excessive love of alts.

Speaking Hypothetically

What if I were to decide tomorrow that Sydera has plenty of gear and experience, and that I’d like to start raiding on one of my alts? Maybe, since my guild has only one raiding shaman, I’ll powerlevel Zoraida (now at a stout level 7) and work my butt off to help my guild stack Chain Heal. Or, I’ll decide that even though I’ve become pretty decent at healing, it’s my destiny to hit things in the ankle with an axe. So, I’ll level my retribution paladin from 70 to 80 and add myself to an already bloated melee team. But I’m a good player, right, so my guild will work me in just to keep me. In either case, I’d ding 80 in little more than my underwear (yes, those are healing boots on the ret pally) and I’d want some runthroughs of heroics and Naxx 10 to get up to the minimum standard for raid gear. I’m sure, though, that the whole project would be engaging. Some players seek out just such a long slog so that they have enough in-game struggles to hold their interest. However, at the end of the line, when a new alt is at level 80 and in a basic raid kit, has it been worth the sacrifice?

Giving your Guild Leader a Giant Headache

Nothing causes Guild and Raid Leaders to lose more sleep than the prospect of changing the raid lineup. Anyone who makes a raid roster wants to be able to count on a consistent team, and alts ad chaos to the mixture. Most guilds don’t min/max every situation, so they will do what they can to keep a player they like, even if it means letting a healer come to raids on a ret paladin. However, that player has probably cost their guild a good bit of time and effort for a very uncertain return. Often, the end result is that the new main contributes less to the raid than the old one did.

Didn’t Ghostcrawler tell us to Take the Player, Not the Class?

syd-states-clearly-noYes, he sure did. However, when we’re talking about a rerolled character or an alt, there are a lot of reasons for guild leaders to say no. For example, let’s take Sydera. She’s been all the way through TBC and the current Wrath content, and somewhere along the way, her operator learned a thing or two about healing on a druid. When I take my warlock out for questing, I’m less quick to react than I am on Syd. It’s like playing a stranger. I might be able to learn another healer, but I don’t think I’d ever post great numbers as a raiding warlock. For high-end raiding, the absolute optimum scenario is for everyone to play one class of their choice and to build the team based on those choices. Changing things up mid-stream is uncomfortable both for the leadership and for other players.

But What if My Main is Already Geared?

In my mind, this is the worst reason to bring an alt to a raid, unless it’s a raid specifically designated for alts. In guilds with DKP lists, alts can sometimes bid on loot, often sharing a DKP pool with the main. Let’s imagine that a well-established guild has many long-time members with lots of DKP and a few new members with very little. One of these new members loses an item for their main spec to someone’s alt. How are they going to feel? And what will the effect on team morale be? This can be a hard lesson, because we all love our alts and get bored of farm content, but a guild has to think about the good of the whole. As painful as it might be, and as much as I’d like to go to Naxx someday on my alts, it’s best to keep alts out of raiding entirely. The exception, as I said, are raids designed to carry alts. If the guild is revisiting old content for giggles, then why not let everyone take their alts? But if the raid’s purpose is to gear up the players for the next level, you’re much better off with a full group of mains, even if some loot gets sharded as a consequence.

What if I Want to Switch Mains?

Sometimes a change in mains is the only thing that will make a player happy. In my mind, players should seek their bliss–but they should so so while being aware of other people’s needs. I can imagine two possible scenarios that allow a player to switch and keep his or her integrity intact.

1. The player who wants to switch is able to do so in a way that supports the guild.

If one of Conquest’s four resto druids really, truly wanted to switch to another healing class, and was willing to let that class be paladin or shaman, I would support them. Sure, I’d be skeptical until the alt in question reached 80, but I would be willing to do a little extra personal work to support the new character. However, once the person switched, I’d hold them to it. There would be no going back to the former main once the new main had an acceptable gear set. That essentially causes the guild to have to re-make its plans twice. I’ve been burned in the past by asking people to switch to an alt either temporarily or permanently in order to ensure better class balance for a raid. I’ll never do that again–and I’ll keep people from switching themselves to a character they don’t really like if at all possible. I’d only support a change of main if it was permanent and favorable for both the individual and the team.

2. The player switches mains and respectfully leaves for a guild that needs a player in that role.

One of the hard lessons I’ve learned this year is that sometimes you have to say goodbye to your guild–for the good of both that guild and the raider involved. I believe in everyone’s right to find happiness, and if that sense of in-game satisfaction is only available with a new class and role that your current raiding group doesn’t need, well, it makes sense to say good luck and goodbye. There are respectful ways to g-quit. It’s better, in fact, to quit if staying would mean that the guild has to radically change itself in order to accommodate you. My earlier example of healer-to-melee would probably require a wholesale shakeup of Conquest to accomplish. So, have a heart-to-heart with the Guild Master or Raid Leader. Find out if your new main will be able to contribute something useful to your raiding team. If not, give a notice of a couple weeks if you can and then start looking for a new home.

Would I Ever Switch Mains?

Probably not. I’m rather attached to Syd, and I’ve found something I’m good at. Alts are nice for dreaming. I like to imagine what it would be like to Chain Heal with Zoraida in a 10-man, though I’m not likely to get there. I might someday pug a Naxx 10, or go on an all-alt run of old content. That sort of thing is fun. However, when it comes to progression raiding, I might daydream sometimes about switching, but then my better angel kicks in and tells me to get back to lifeblooming. Another question entirely is whether I’d reroll if Matticus asked me to. Yes, I would, because if the guild leader asks, that means it’s best for the team–but he’s not likely to do that. After all, I’m an incredibly slow leveler, and the guild would have to wait a long long time for their new team member.