Wednesday, December 23, 2020

Oh, for Pete's Sake, 2020....

One of the few guildies left in my current guild actually put in an appearance today. He'd been consumed with binge watching a television series or two, so he'd been away from WoW Classic during that time. But what really pushed him into logging back in was that he is kind of in "rest mode" due to injury.

He broke his pelvis skydiving.

As he put it, there was a malfunction in the skydiving equipment, so he took the landing harder than it should have. When he landed, the force of the landing drove his femur up and into his pelvis, blasting through it to the other side. So he had to have the pelvis repaired and the joint reconstructed.

By the miracle of modern medicine, he was up and walking with a walker 3 days later. 

He still has a 3+ month road back to health, however, but at least he's moving in the right direction. It could have been worse --much worse-- but at least he's expected to make a full recovery.

I blame 2020 for this, as he'd skydived tons of times over the years, so this should have been a no-brainer.

And as an ironic aside, if I'd have left the guild, I'd have missed this story. So go figure; 2020 is conspiring to keep things exactly the same as they are.

Monday, December 21, 2020

Ghosts of the Past

For all of the highs I've experienced as a gamer this year, 2020 has massively sucked in general.

And Friday brought more bad news in that one of my wife's friends died of breast cancer.

It wasn't unexpected, as she'd taken one last trip this Autumn to Gatlinburg, Tennessee to say farewell to a part of the country she loved, and you could tell from the photos she posted that the disease had ravaged her. But people still held out hope that she'd live to see one last Christmas.

Needless to say, thoughts of mortality dominated my weekend.*

This was taken on Monday, but it also
exemplifies what I was up to last weekend.


I decided early on to not dwell on her suffering, because there wasn't anything I personally could have done. The only people who could have done something were her caregivers, and I had to assume that they did the best they could with the cards they were dealt. I also thought of what her family went through, and watching her decline reminded me so much of what happened to my father in May/June 2017.** He fell and was admitted to the hospital on Derby Day (First Saturday in May), and was gone before Father's Day (Third Sunday in June). When the oncologist told my Dad in early June there was nothing he could do, he asked what my Dad wanted. "That I go quickly," Dad replied.

But what I kept coming back to was the concept of "a life well lived".  

I've heard people describe it as "working to live rather than living to work", but A Life Well Lived is more than that. It's about finding and keeping meaningful relationships, exploring and doing new things, and doing things because you want to do them rather than having to do them. If a lot of that sounds like you'd have to have a lot of money to basically thumb your nose at American Corporate Culture, you're right. You would have to be independently wealthy to do that. 

Or poor and have no attachments. A modern day hobo, if you will.

Okay, it's not really that bad, because exploring and doing new things doesn't require you to have a lot of money to accomplish. After all, there's libraries, parks, free concerts, etc. to be explored. Still, telling your boss to get bent and going off and doing your own thing, ala American Beauty, is a dream that very few get a chance to fulfill until retirement.

Ah yes, Homer Simpson did live that out.
From The Simpsons' Treehouse
of Horror. I think fourth season.


It's one thing to experience death in a pandemic from members of our extended family, whom we may talk to once every year (if that), and then quite another from someone that the family regularly converses with. The stench of death that surrounded 2020 can depress even the hardiest of optimists, but it can also force a re-evaluation of your own life, leading you to ask whether your life has truly been a Life Well Lived.


And that it has.

My wife has issues playing around on the computer when it's nice outside and there's places you can go. So did my father, who was a certified golf nut.*** If it wasn't raining, he was golfing. If he wasn't golfing, he'd be at a driving range. If he wasn't there, he was outside in the front yard or back yard, practicing with a pitching wedge. And if he wasn't doing that, he'd be watching golf on television.

He loved golf even more than his beloved Xavier Musketeers basketball team, and if you knew my dad, that's saying quite a lot.

But at the same time, Dad subscribed to the Puritan work ethic, which I liked to sum up by using the H.L. Mencken quip that Puritans had "the haunting fear that someone somewhere might be happy." He worked long hours, was a perfectionist, and was never satisfied that something he worked on was "good enough". 

If you know me, either in MMOs or in real life, then this meme has probably popped into your head:

Yeah yeah yeah... I get it.

I have tried very hard not to burden my kids with my faults, and I think I've largely succeeded. They study, they play, and they work hard, but they don't overdo it. The girls are obsessive and perfectionists at music, but as long as it's limited to just that localized area, I consider that a success.

But still, my dad didn't have a father figure growing up, and his uncle (who never had kids) was the closest one he had. So he basically imprinted himself upon me, and as time has gone on I've had to fight that Puritan ethic that tells me that playing games without any real focus other than pure fun is a waste of time.**** 

My wife hasn't exactly helped either, as I can't tell you the number of times we've had a lazy day off and sometime at the end of the day she gets upset that we didn't do anything. She's so used to her parents always doing things outside, visiting places, and simply doing things that the concept of just screwing around and decompressing frequently has the opposite of its intended effect. If we go on vacation, if we're not where we are supposed to be bright and early so that we can maximize "fun" she gets really upset.*****

And if you think you know where this is going, yeah....

I spent the weekend alternating between two wildly contrasting views: that I should stop being an ass and join the guild I raid with (and have Az join another guild comprised of friends I group with on a regular basis); or that I should stop playing MMOs entirely and focus on "better things to do with the life I have left."

There was absolutely no fucking middle ground here.

Both have compelling arguments to them, and when you're listening to sad music from Simon and Garfunkel, the Carpenters, and other staples of my parents' record collection, both feel equally valid. 

Or this song from Fannigan's Isle,
A local Irish band.


One one side, it only makes sense that I'd finally join the guild I raid with, and at the same time place Az in a guild that has several other friends I run with. After all, they're acquaintances and friends that I enjoy hanging with, and it only makes sense to finally join the club.

However, there's also the risk of burnout.

I've seen some of the guilds currently raiding Naxxramas out there raiding Naxx 5 or 6 nights a week. The sheer number of mats and potions to keep that grind up is absolutely insane, and I don't see how guilds can keep that pace up without cracking soon. 

And likewise, I do raid a ton myself. That's because I want to see a lot of the smaller raids put on succeed, such as ZG twice a week and AQ20 on Sundays. Then there's Molten Core Thursday Fun Runs, which I also know need regular raiders to succeed. So I show up because that's what friends do, they support each other. And to be fair, I don't buff myself much for those runs because I'm geared well enough to not require it. Yet I can see where I can't simply keep this going week in and week out. 

There's also the push to get "sweatier", as in working harder and harder to get to the top of my raiding game for the progression raids. Other Mages in the guild diligently farmed Necrotic Runes in the Scourge Invasion event and ended up with 6 to 8 stacks (or more) of Blessed Wizard Oil, so they'll have BiS oils for Naxx raids practically going into BC. Me? I had real life to deal with, and managed 3 stacks, which should get me to February. I say to myself that should be good enough, but is it really? Do I really know if I'm measuring up if I'm constantly 6/6?

And there's the perpetual gear grind, and I'm sitting here wondering when I'll ever catch up to the rest of the Mages. I've been assured repeatedly that I'm doing fine, but as I pointed out above, I'm my Dad's son, and that "I'm not good enough" mantra is alive and well within my psyche.


For the other side, it kind of goes without saying. Save some dollars, free up some time to do other things, such as read or fix things around the house, and maybe go out and get back in shape. Without my MMO habit, I'd not be seriously considering building my own PC. That's saving quite a few dollars right there, that could be better spent on "more important stuff". 

Like studying my work more, I suppose. I've been told I need to brush up on this or that, or pick up a new skill to keep myself relevant. Dropping MMOs would free up the time for me to do that, and to take the certification exams that do keep me relevant.

And yet, do I want to become my father? Do I want to be dead at age 69? I spent my life running from having "He Did a Good Job at Work" chiseled on my tombstone, so why should I change now?

Do I want to become sweaty at work instead of in a game?


What will I do? 


Fuck all if I know.

I don't have any answers, which is why I wrote this all down. 

I am my father's son, for better or worse, and because of that I have my own demons to overcome. And there are plenty of times when that inner voice shouts louder than any voice of reason, whether it comes from myself or my friends or my family. And no matter what I do that voice will still be with me, sowing doubt.

Like I told some of my fellow Mages when I tried to explain what's going on right now, "I need to get my head screwed on straight first, and then maybe I'll be able to do something."

(But it wouldn't surprise me if I just remain in purgatory, in this wandering between the two ends. Because my inner voice would like it like that.)



*At times like this, I pour gasoline onto my internal fire by playing this piece from the Ken Burns' documentary The Civil War. I first heard it about 30 years ago, and every time I listen it feels sadder and sadder, so be warned. And for pete's sake, don't listen to this if you've a couple of drinks in you.


**If you wondered why the blog output declined during that time, now you know.

***When he was growing up, he'd even play golf in the snow; his uncle would take him out to the golf course near old Lunken Airport and they'd play there. My dad was very very good at golf; he could have been a local PGA pro at one of the courses around the county if he wanted to, but he never considered himself good enough to be able to do that. Hell, I'd have liked to have seen him try out for the US Open on the amateur side. As a measure of how good a player he was, he's played at both Pebble Beach (California) and Valhalla (in Louisville, KY), both places on the PGA Tour, and he's either made par or gotten under par. No handicap, just skill.

****How he reconciled his golf obsession (and college basketball obsession) with that work ethic is beyond me, so don't ask.

*****Yeah, vacations are anything but relaxing.

EtA: Added an extra pic.
EtA: Corrected some grammar.

Wednesday, December 16, 2020

A Proud Day

The Scourge Invasion continues, with tons of (re) dead Scourge in our wake...

Shouldn't we be burning these piles?

And yesterday was the first day of The Feast of Winter Veil, so I got into the holiday spirit in Ironforge:

Take that, Ao!
(Yes, we do know each other in game.)

Another acquaintance decided to continue
the fight while his toon was wearing a fancy dress.

But for me, the highlight of the day was this:

It sure looked better before I took
the screenshot. Now it looks like Card
is hiding her face.

Yes, that is the oldest mini-Red with her first WoW/WoW Classic toon, a baby Hunter.

Her finals are over*, and we obtained a replacement laptop, so here we are.

She was amused that her Night Elf is taller than Card, and made certain to let me know. But she also thought it awesome to actually meet Card in game.

I deliberately laid off a bit so that she could explore on her own. Having played LOTRO for years, she's familiar with more of the Old School MMOs than most people her age, but Classic was even more Old School than that. 

You know, with the lack of pointers telling you where to go for a quest. 

I did suggest Questie, the add-on that takes care of that, but she said she was fine with learning it the old fashioned way. She was really impressed that even though it's a very old game she felt it was so well put together, which even after all these years I remain impressed by with Vanilla/Classic.

So if I'm on a low level toon in some low level place, you'll know what I'm up to.

And boy, if she thinks she'll be anonymous for long, there are some friends of mine in-game who want to meet her...

*Yes, she's a senior at college. Not so mini anymore.


EtA: added an extra line for clarification.

Friday, December 11, 2020

Well, That was Weird

Early this past Sunday morning, after my wife had left for work, I was catching up on some work* when Discord pinged and I saw that Azuregos had spawned. I've been involved in raids that killed two of the Dragons of Nightmare, but I hadn't had the chance to kill Azuregos yet. So, I quickly responded with an "I'm getting online" and hopped on Cardwyn. I received the raid invite almost as soon as the loading screen finished, and I headed out for Azshara for a morning breakfast with a blue dragon.

Sunday mornings EST on a PST server aren't a great time for a pug, much less a raid for a World Boss, and we made an attempt after temporarily stalling out at 9-10 people. Without any true healers the raid wiped, so as we bandaged our wounded pride we waited for more people to join up. We eventually got about 17 - 18 people, and our decision to wait for 20 was made for us when a couple of scouts for the top guilds on the server began to appear. 

We pulled, and once everything settled down, we were able to grind out a kill.

About midway through the fight, someone from the top guild on the server dropped in and asked if we needed a healer. I didn't notice any response --and I wasn't the raid leader either-- so I focused on doing my part to down Azuregos.

Afterward, however, said player struck up a conversation with me. 

On the surface of it, the chat was pretty general in nature: how'd we do, any decent drops, how's your guild doing on Naxx, etc. etc. But at the same time, the toon was chatting me up in that he'd seen me around, have I run with his guild before**, what do I think of several different bosses, etc. etc.

At some point the lightbulb went off in my head*** and I thought to myself "Am I being recruited?"

I almost immediately followed that with: "WTF, has he even seen what my DPS is? He's hitting on the wrong player in my raid."

I kept the conversation aboveboard and polite, and eventually it ended and we went our separate ways, but the entire thing was so surreal that I still can't quite wrap my head around it. (Hence this post.) On the one hand, it was entirely likely it was completely innocent conversation. But on the other, after having described it to a friend on the server, he said "Oh yeah, Card, you were definitely being recruited. They just don't want to come out and say it, as some guilds take poaching seriously."

So maybe that was my "brush with greatness" on the server. But I could also say that "There, but for the love of God, go I." That guild is also known as being the sweatiest of the sweaty guilds, and the amount of prep and training and practice that'd take to appear semi-competent in that guild would burn me out faster than you'd believe.

It was flattering, but I vastly prefer the raid team I currently run with. I know my role, I know the people, and the raid suits me well.

And really, nobody wants to be near me if I'm sweaty.

*Don't judge me. I'm not a workaholic, and I knew going into the weekend it had to get done.

**Yes, I've been in some 5-man runs with his guild. Never had a problem there. But at the same time, this was the same guild that the tank from THAT AQ20 run was from. so make of that what you will.

***No, I hadn't had coffee yet. Does it show?

Wednesday, December 9, 2020

"Hey, I'm Dead but I'm Early!"*

You won't break me
You won't make me
You won't take me
Under blood red skies

You won't break me
You won't take me
I'll fight you under
Blood red skies

--Judas Priest, "Blood Red Skies"**


Okay, I can breathe again.

Our first night in Naxxramas is over, and it only took an hour for me to shake off the adrenaline and finally get some sleep. 

Ironically enough, the couple of hours of sleep that I got turned out to be pretty good sleep, because when I woke up and got some coffee in me, I was able to keep plugging along all day without any need for rest.


Where to start?

How about 5 days before, on December 3rd, when the Scourge Invasion began.

The view a minute before it started.

Just a normal day in Azeroth, I suppose. Obviously we players all knew what was coming, but the NPCs were blissfully ignorant.

Of course, all that changed.

The skies darkened and the Argent Dawn
began the call to arms.

I joined up with a group of my fellow raiders, and our first order of business was to fly up to Light's Hope Chapel to check in and discover what needed to be done to beat the Scourge back.

We arrived to find people across Azeroth
answering the call.

We scanned our maps and found that our best bet was to go to Burning Steppes where the region close to Morgan's Vigil was swarming with Scourge. But first, a side trip to Ironforge for a few of us to get some gear, trinkets, and extra potions.

Flying out of Ironforge, we were confronted
with a floating necropolis. That's when you
realize this is a big deal.

When we landed and rode out to the first invasion site, it was chaos. Just like that first battleground I ever found myself in, I just said "go out there and hit somebody."

Blood Red Skies indeed.

This continued for about 45 minutes until I had to drop for other things, but you kind of get the idea.


The next day, while Az was farming herbs in Eastern Plaguelands, she came across our goal:

"Young Mage, I have seen Hell. Elune
be with you in that seat of vile darkness."


I spent the weekend doing some of the Scourge Invasion, but ironically enough I wasn't able to get online very much as I had other errands to run around town. Even in a pandemic, stuff needs to get done.

But come Monday night, I was nervous. Were we going to be okay? Was I going to be okay? Was I going to look like an idiot in there? Did I have enough gold to cover all the potions I needed?

That last one was bothering me all the way up until an hour before invites went out, and I had to sell some Large Brilliant Shards I'd been stockpiling in order to squeeze all of my requirements in, leaving barely enough gold to cover two or three hefty repair bills. Between all of my toons, I think I had about 25 gold total.

And that 15 gold Card was carrying (Clothies don't need nearly as much gold as Plate wearers for repairs) vanished pretty quickly when I did need to repair my almost completely broken gear twice.

I'm pretty sure I drove my wife nuts by wandering back and forth around the house, sitting down to read up on the strategies, and then getting up again to pace aimlessly. Normally I take a nap to get some rest in, but I simply couldn't do it. So when I zoned in, I was nervous as hell.

Before we buffed and pulled, however, our raid leader had a surprise for us.

Like the Songs from the Raid CD (coming soon, honest!), our raid leader added an extra Discord mic, pulled out a guitar, and sang a Naxxramas and guild themed riff on "Hey There Delilah" by Plain White T's entitled "Hey There Valhalla". I hope someone captured the performance, because it was really good. Even the oldest mini-Red approved of Lojze's performance, especially given that Discord isn't the greatest platform for musicality.

"Freebird!" one of my fellow raiders called out after the song was over. If I could have held up a lighter in game, I'd have done it.

After that performance, I calmed down. It was going to be okay. We were gonna do this.

I'm in there somewhere.

We pulled our first piece of trash, and I lived to tell the tale.

That didn't last long, however.

After 3.5 hours, we downed four bosses but were stymied on Heigan the Unclean, wiping 4 times before throwing in the towel as we hit our raid endpoint. In between, we learned that yes, we were ready for this raid, and yes, we are going to die a lot.

I did not win the Turkey Award, much to my surprise. I finished 4th. Ahead of me were three of my fellow Mages, with 17, 15, and 15 deaths each.

Sure, I had to spend almost all of my gold to repair, but it was worth it.

We are going to get better, and we'll figure this out. During my time raiding in AQ40, that's been a staple of this raid team: we wipe, we get back up, we figure things out, and we improve.

We've got this. 

*From Dennis Miller's "The Off-White Album", circa 1987. Back in the 80s and 90s, comic Dennis Miller was well known for his encyclopedic knowledge of trivia, and put it to use in his stand-up. This line comes from his commentary about how you live your life following the traffic rules, but in a cruel irony they let your funeral procession run the red lights on the way to the cemetery. "Hey, I'm dead but I'm early!"

**Trust Judas Priest to come up with a piece of music appropriate for the occasion.

Monday, December 7, 2020

A Bit of Raiding Pride

I'll have other posts on the last couple of days later, but in the time (currently 1:20 before first pull) before our first try at Naxx I wanted to point out this little post on Wowhead Classic:

Comparing Kel'Thuzad Strategies from 2006 to Classic WoW's Modern Approach

The reason why I'm pointing this out is that Redditor Marmotzero is also the co-GM of Valhalla (Myzrael-US) and the Raid Leader for the progression raid team. Yes, it's our beloved Lojze*, who keeps the raid going in a smooth and practiced hand. (And if he finds this post, I'd like for him to explain the origin of the "beer pack", which is the tradition of him drinking a beer (his choice) if we complete a tough pull without any deaths.)

And I should mention that the Wowhead article itself does have one glaring error, that Atiesh was not crafted prior to the fight, but the guild in question had all of the components assembled so they could craft Atiesh right after the kill. (See Lojze's comment in the comments section.)

And for those curious about the original Reddit post, here it is.

So let's have a good first run, and maybe we'll see that beer pack tonight!


*Who is also the guy who finally convinced me to join as the sixth Mage in their AQ40 runs on Labor Day.


Saturday, December 5, 2020

Partway There

Before you ask, no, the blog hasn't been hacked.

And no, I don't believe this is the end point either.

I tried to put a background together, but Blogger just did not like the dimensions of my uploaded graphics, so I've got to come up with something that works.

But yes, after 2012 (roughly) I'm starting to make major changes to the blog design.

Back when black was edgy, the blog looked roughly current. But now, in the Age of Covid, it just looks like a funeral. And I've been to enough funerals this year.

So this is what I've got so far. 

It's.... okay. Serviceable, brighter than before, and something I can work with for the time being while I clean stuff up. I've never been able to get a GIF that I liked for the title graphic because it costs money to buy a product that allows me longer frame times, so I'm going to have to pick something out of my screenshots and run with it.

And, truth be told, I need to clean up the sheer size of the sidebars and make it a bit more PC friendly rather than it looking like a MySpace page.

But hey, the black is gone, and that's fine with me.

Tuesday, December 1, 2020


I don't often write about failpugs these days for two reasons: I've found them pretty rare in WoW Classic, and a lot of the runs I go on these days are with friends online.*

That doesn't mean those failpugs don't exist, however.

I was reminded of that in AQ20 last night. It was a sponsored run by said guild, and I attend regularly because I want to see these runs --Zul'Gurub and Ruins of Ahn'Qiraq-- to succeed. And for them to succeed, they need a core of people that the raid leader can depend upon to show up week in and week out. Plus, I really like the raid leader's work ethic and how she runs the raid, and this is my way of showing support.

I've done over 15 or so AQ20 runs, so I know the ebb and flow of these raids fairly well. I've even been both a runner and a clicker for Ossirian**, so you know I've been around a bit. We get about roughly half pugs in the AQ20 run, although about 4 or so puggers are regulars, so the number of "true" puggers number about 6. 

Last night, that included a tank pugger from one of the top guilds on the server. 

I realize that other people's experience may vary, but in my case I've frequently had good experiences with this particular guild, so my first impression was pretty good. And the first few boss events went well too. But by the time we got done with Buru, I began to notice some troubling signs. 

Even though this tank was technically the off tank, he'd kind of muscled his way into the main tanking role. Consequently he marked up Buru's eggs the way he wanted it rather than how the raid leader wanted it. After we cleared the two slimes that tend to wander back to Buru's area, the raid leader found the markings and rearranged them. No extra commentary other than "huh, someone already marked these".

I should have realized this was the opening salvo, but I figured it was a basic faux pas.

After Buru, the road to Moam has Obsidian Destroyers and packs of bugs. The strat is simple: burn down the Destroyers --and let the 305 level miners harvest the mining nodes that drop-- and AOE the bugs (standing in the middle so the bugs don't attack people at distance).

Simple, right?

Well, the pug tank decided to do some chain pulls --because we weren't pulling fast enough, I guess?-- with both bugs and Destroyers in the same pull. Of course, that upset the strategy a bit with some of us AOE-ing and others single targeting the Destroyer. For me, the biggest deal was to AOE the bugs because we weren't stacked in the middle, so to avoid their knockback we needed to eliminate them first. The melee could focus on the Destroyer, but of course with that additional time spent in AOE it meant the Destroyer came closer to getting a full mana bar that it ordinarily would. Still, we managed just fine.

Moam came and went without much incident, and the Anubisaths weren't that much of an issue either, except the tank did do some chain pulls without letting the healers breathe.

Oh, and BTW did I mention that we had at least 2 people who'd never been in AQ20 before? No? Well, neither did the tank, who expected everybody to follow his lead and ignore the raid leader's instructions.

Things came to a head against Ossirian, where the first wipe was caused because one of the runners was new to AQ20 and didn't understand that he was to click on the devices on the outer edge of the room, not closer to the middle. No worries, because it happens, but boy did the tank disapprove. He kind of blew up, saying the dude was an idiot and "let me do all the clicking." The second pull we proceeded to wipe because we didn't get the coordination down quite well enough, particularly because the tank expected to be able to do things his way rather than what was expected of him, and the guy started ripping on the main tank, the clicker, the raid leader, and "you don't know how to handle this boss, don't you!"

Well, enough was enough, and the raid leader kicked him from the raid and got the co-GM to kick him from the Discord. The co-GM joined the raid, and after he shook off his rust from not having tanked Ossirian in quite a while we got the boss down. The rest of the raid proceeded without incident.


At times like this, I am reminded of what I used to tell the (no longer) mini-Reds back when they were in elementary school: People will judge you by your actions, but if you are wearing clothing with a logo on it they will also judge that logo based on your behavior. Doesn't matter if it's a school or a sports team or even something you like (such as Star Wars): if you're wearing a hoodie with your school on it and you behave like an ass, people will judge that school based on your behavior. It's not fair, but that's how it goes. 

From AZ Quotes. Doesn't have quite the zing
as in the movie "Miracle". To spare people
from seeing it again, go watch the trailer for the
2004 movie if you're interested. Bonus points for
Disney using Blue Oyster Cult in the trailer.

I've seen this play out time and again in games and in real life.

If you act like a dick, everybody will associate your dickish behavior with whatever you're wearing or representing. And on the flip side, if you act well toward others people will remember that too.

Hell, Blizz has a version of that on loading screens: "Being polite while in a group with others will get you invited back!"

So why do some people continue to act like jerks?

Hell if I know. I try to always follow the Golden Rule***, so the concept of being a jerk is kind of foreign to me. And when it happens to me directly, I'm more shocked than anything else.

Like the time a week ago while I was farming herbs in Eastern Plaguelands, I stopped to pick up some herbs (want to say Dreamfoil but I'm not sure) and a nearby hound aggroed on me. While I was standing on the node killing the hound, another Alliance toon just rode up, took the herbs, and rode off. 

I even said "REALLY?" out loud in game, but that guy didn't give two shits and just rode off to the next node. I knew the person wasn't a bot because I saw him talking in the LFG channel, and I was tempted to call him out there for being a ninja looter. But the reality is that he didn't ninja it at all, because he brazenly rode up and did it.

What gets me the most about that sort of behavior are the taunts if you do call them out, showing that they really don't care: "Oh, look at the baby who can't handle real life" was once response I saw to a person being called out in Trade chat. "Go back to Retail" is another common refrain when being asked to not be an ass in game. 


I suppose you could say that this is a bit of an improvement from the old days, but when I'm referring to people being overtly racist and sexist in Trade Chat in Wrath, that's kind of a really low bar to jump over.

Still, there's only so much that I personally can do. And most of that is to behave the way I expect others to behave.

And for pete's sake, if you're in a pug or another guild's raid, remember that you're a freaking guest and behave accordingly. Just because you're from a "top guild" doesn't give you carte blanche to be an ass. And I'd hope that if you behaved like that in your own guild's raid/group that guild leadership would do something about that, because if they don't they're basically saying "we're a bunch of assholes and we don't care what you think". In Retail you can get away with that because of cross server grouping, but in Classic? You try that on a server you'll quickly find that you're ostracized.

At least I'd hope so.

Nevertheless, in the words of Bill and Ted:


*Yes, that includes the guild I raid with.

**Definitely prefer being the clicker, because if you end up with a Mage as a runner, you're really scraping the bottom of the barrel.

***And no, it's not "he who has the gold makes the rules", even if that is true in real life.

Monday, November 23, 2020

Some Mindfulness Would be Good

I've been busy at work, but that's not the reason why I've not not posted over the intervening time. I guess the best way of putting it is that I've had trouble trying to articulate what's been going on in my gaming life since even before my post celebrating Shintar's guild's 9/9 AQ40 kill.


Part of it is easy: I need to help the oldest mini-Red replace her (literally) creaky laptop. The machine is an old AMD A-10 that struggles to do anything beyond the basics: MS Office 360, browsers, etc.* You could argue that is all a college student needs in a laptop, but come on. Let's be real about this. You're going to want to play games and handle more graphic and processor intensive tasks, and you're going to want a machine that won't be functionally obsolete within a couple of years. Which all points to a more modern chipset + an actual separate graphics card.

Plus you'll want a laptop whose hinges don't stress the casing so much that screw heads have been stripped off of the case. I've dug into my supply of spare screws and come up with a computer screw long enough to add a couple of washers to and then used that screw to hold the case together, but every couple of months that screw works itself loose, and it's just a matter of time before the case itself breaks. And is it worth repairing at that point? Not really; the laptop is 6 years old and driver support is becoming hard to get.

So I've been haunting laptop reviews online and casing the rows of machines at Microcenter.**

When your dreams start looking like this,
you've been spending too much time doing
research. From



Visiting Microcenter that much hasn't helped me personally, because it has revived my desire to build a PC of my own so that my wife can use the "home" PC and not interrupt me whenever she wants to use it. Part of the reason why I game so late at night --US Eastern Time-- is because I don't have to worry about overlap whenever she wants to use the machine. With a new machine of my own, I won't have to worry about that so much. Additionally, her PC usage is very much limited to social media and browser activity --she games on our Nintendo Wii U-- so the current PC will be perfect for her for years to come.

But you know, there's this thing called a budget, and building a PC isn't part of it.

So I've been trying to beat that urge to build a PC back into the depths of my psyche from where it emerged.


That aside, gaming has been... Okay, I guess.

I mean, I hang around with friends, I raid a bit a lot, I run BGs a bit, and I run 5-man instances a bit. I even have managed to spend a little time on an alt or two.

 Oh, and I farm a lot to keep up gold for pots for raids, and to allow myself time to think.

With Naxx coming, I've been realizing I need to start work on prepping for that. And with Card's current gearset, she is ideally equipped.... to start running AQ40.

I am not kidding.

With the exception of the cloak and belt, all of my gear is BWL or lower. I've come a long way, but I've also just about gotten to the point where the rest of the Mage team was when they started raiding AQ40 back in August. And I'm only starting to get some of the pieces enchanted, because I figured they'd get replaced so why waste gold enchanting something that's gonna get replaced soon? And with Naxx coming --and our AQ40 runs shutting down shortly-- there's just about no reason to get my hopes up about getting all the mats needed to get the T2.5 Enigma pieces together.***

So I'm looking at taking a Bloodvine set at the core into Naxx. And if you think that's gonna work out well I'd point you to the fact that Bloodvine does not have any Stamina on a single piece. There's a reason when I go to half T1/half T2 for AOE work that my health bar gains 500-1000 health. Once I started going back to that T1/T2 mix for a lot of the AQ40 fights, my survivability went up by a lot.


Beyond Naxx I know BC is looming, and with it 25-man raids. Which means that Mages aren't going to be as dominant --DPS wise-- due to changes in the classes, and that dropping down from 40 to 25 means that at least 2 Mages will likely be put on the bench.**** Or, if I'm lucky, a spot on a second raid team, with people's alts and whatnot. Either way, I realize that my time with this current raid configuration is going to be coming to an end in the Spring/early Summer.

And of course somebody just had to post this in the WoW server Discord channel yesterday:

From the Myzrael-US Discord channel.
No idea who actually created this version.

As if I needed any reminders that friends of mine from Az's old MC group are struggling to clear content while others have gone back to Retail for the next 2-3 months (at least).


At times like this, listening to music is a salve. I can put on anything (in the case of Sunday morning, the Sunday Baroque program found on classical radio stations), begin farming, and just get lost in the music. It's not exactly meditation, but it works for me. Work, the pandemic, social upheaval, family concerns, gaming worries, personal issues#, repair work around the house/car(s), etc.: they all fall away to whatever I put on.

I've commented before on the zenlike nature of this sort of thing, but it doesn't work the same way for other people. Or even myself, for that matter, depending on the situation. Put the right music on before a raid or an instance, and I'll be inspired enough to want to run through a wall. (Well, Card running through a wall, but you get the idea.) But I'm not necessarily going to put on Black Sabbath when I want to chill, either. ##

I just wanted an excuse to post this
music video. After all these years, 
this song can still inspire me.

Still, farming to music is a coping mechanism for the situation we've found ourselves in late November, 2020. Here's to hoping you have a coping mechanism as well.

*I've no idea how well it can handle MS Teams, but I'd bet that it struggles there too.

**Our Microcenter store is the second oldest one in the country. I remember when they had their "Buck a Meg" sale back in the early 90s, when you could get a hard drive for the price of a dollar for each megabyte of storage, and everybody at my job thought it was a steal of a deal.

***Have you seen the prices on the auction house for some of these idols? Zoinks.

****And if you think I'm going to be one of the 3-4 kept on the main team, you're in for a surprise. I've been pulling in at 6/6 fairly regularly, and other classes are catching up to me since they've been getting more gear drops.

#Including, I suspect, a mild case of depression. The hints have been there for years, but it's only in the past few months that it's become more obvious to me.

##I know; your mileage may vary.

Tuesday, November 10, 2020

Another Slimeball Bites the Dust

My long time blogger friend Shintar of Priest with a Cause posted this video yesterday, showing her guild's final attempt at taking out the last boss in AQ40, Viscidus:

Congrats to Shintar and the rest of the Order of the Holy Fork for the kill!!!

I did notice that unlike how our raid got rid of the poisons, I believe they were using Elixir of Poison Resistance instead of Immature Venom Sacs, but outside of that we used a similar strategy.

Shintar, did everybody have a stack of 20 to work with?

Oh, and it does look weird to see your bars, with all of the Hunter abilities instead of my Mage (or Rogue) abilities. And I think the Tranq Shot addon is awesome.

Sunday, November 8, 2020

50 Ways to Cleave Your Mage

As my time in WoW Classic has progressed, I've discovered all sorts of interesting ways to die.

No, really.

It's become a running joke that whenever Card gets into a Zul'Gurub run, Card is going to die on the run up to Z'G itself. Az, of course, never has a an issue with this: stealth (and Vanish, when needed) works wonders for a Rogue.

There's the standard "run up and hope you can CC enough to make it through", which rarely works.

Then there's the "follow along behind someone else and hope you keep up and get in", which is awesome if you're following along behind a Warrior or Paladin. Not so much if you're following a Clothie.

Oh, and how can I forget the "help someone by CC-ing the trolls so they can get through and then the trolls aggro on you before you can get inside yourself"  death.

Yesterday was the "follow along behind someone and they get so far ahead that the elite trolls get reset and aggro on you" method.

I'm at the point where I really shouldn't bother with world buffs if I'm going into Z'G, but for some reason I never learn.


I have to admit that I have a slight addiction to Winterfall Firewater, not for any real useful effect for a spell caster, but because it turns Card into a WNBA prospect. However, I've since learned to temper that enthusiasm for the Firewater because there was one time where Card died trying to get into Blackrock Depths by jumping down to that ledge halfway down, and because she was so large from the Firewater she couldn't get a grip on the ledge and bounced off to her death below. The rest of the group I was in laughed their collective asses off as they witnessed that. 

"That's what happens when your chest is too large, Card!"

"Helluva way to find out the answer to 'is my ass too big?'"

"Yeah yeah yeah.... I get the hint."


But some of my more spectacular deaths have happened in raids, where Card finds herself in odd locations after having died.

Like the time where I was running away from a Dark Glare when fighting C'Thun and I got punted by a tentacle that appeared beneath me.... right into the Dark Glare.

Or the time where a tentacle appeared beneath me (same fight) and tossed me up and into C'Thun's stomach right as I was getting zapped from an Eye Tentacle on the other side of C'Thun. I died 20 feet up before I could even get into the stomach.

The Anubisaths leading up to the Twin Emperors fight are particularly nasty on Clothies, like the one time we're all supposed to run in and shadowbolts wiped almost the entire Mage contingent out.

"What happened to the Mages?" someone asked. "Was it a meteor?"

"No," I typed in Raid chat. "Shadowbolted."

"Ah, that'll do it."

"Yeah," I replied. "The drawback to Bloodvine sets are that you're extra squishy."

And then there was last Friday night, where during the egg section of fighting Razorgore I was casting away, DPSing down the adds, and I was vaguely hearing the chatter in raid about the orb controller having trouble staying in control of Razorgore. I'd never had a problem before, so I was just focusing on my job. Then all of a sudden Razorgore appeared before me.

"Wait, why is Razorgore here? He's usually over behind... Wait, what is.... OH NO."

Yeah, I got one-shot by Razorgore in the brief period of time when the orb controller lost control of Razorgore, and I happened to be the closest one to him. 

The Raid Leader interrupted the chatter, saying "Okay, lets clean this all up. What happened to Cardwyn?"

"Razorgore got him when he was loose," one of the Rogues replied.


Later in the Blackwing Lair raid, we had those goblin + Orc + Dragonkin packs, and anybody who's been in BWL knows the Goblins' AOE damage packs a whallop. There's the Rain of Fire and then the Goblins will toss bombs at people, keeping everybody on their toes. 

Naturally, I die on those pulls a bit. 

Sometimes I avoid the AOE, get into position, and a bomb wipes all of us nearby.

A whole lot of Mages and Warlocks,
with a couple of Resto Druids to keep us company.


Then there's the time I blinked away from AOE right into the middle of a bomb throw.

And there's also the ever famous blinking away from one AOE and landing in another AOE.

Yes, a Druid keeping me....
warm and snug. At least that's what they say.


And finally, there's the ever famous Molten Core death caused by suicide to burn down packs of Imps that got aggroed along with a Molten Surger. You not only get to give the Surger a hug, but burn down off the Surger's buddies.


At least I can laugh at the various ways I die, because it's not like the soul crushing grind of battlegrounds. And I do learn a bit more about fights this way, just not in the way I envisioned it.

And I also provide our druids the opportunity to sit on my dead body. To keep it warm, they say.

"Where's Card? I can't find the body."

"Oh, just look for Tany or Levie. They've got Card.... covered."

Friday, November 6, 2020

It's Not You, It's Me

About 3 months ago, I started reflecting on my first crush.

I hadn't thought about her --in depth-- in decades, so I wasn't exactly sure where this came from. I suppose you could say it came from some of the mini-Reds being involved in their own relationships, but I don't think that's the case.* And I do know that while most of my grade school classmates thought my first crush was a redhead in 7th Grade,** that's not true either.

My first real crush was in the summer after 6th Grade with a girl who lived down the street. She was two years older than me, and her parents were divorced, so I only saw her part time. She was pretty, and believe me she knew it.*** As long as I knew her she used to wheedle to get her way, and while I rolled my eyes at that most of the time, what she'd be asking for (such as to borrow my bike to ride around, as she didn't have one) was reasonable enough I'd have said okay without the extra spice.

If she knew I had a crush on her, she never seemed to give it away. But with me with my first onslaught of raging hormones took notice of everything about her and thought she was perfect. Even the fact that she listened to disco didn't deter me from crushing hard on her.

But time eventually did. 

As happens with first crushes, I eventually outgrew my infatuation and moved on to another crush. I still saw her around, and I thought she was still very beautiful and I retained a soft spot for her, but the age difference plus the total difference in interests ended all feelings for her.****


Ironically enough, reflections on my first crush started right around the time when the Shadowlands expac hype train began leaving the station on my WoW Classic server.*****

Retail WoW was my first MMO, and like my first crush, my feelings for Retail were pretty intense. I went through a long period where Blizz could do no wrong, and while others in Trade Chat griped endlessly about this and that, I'd defend Blizz as well as I could. I thought the game that Wrath represented as perfect as you could get, and the culmination of a trilogy that began with Vanilla, closing a huge chapter in the Warcraft story. 

But like many crushes, my infatuation with WoW began to fade as Cataclysm approached. Some of it was socially related, as some of my fellow bloggers began to close up shop, but other parts were game related as I realized that Cataclysm's release became a gigantic race to max level. Once people got there, the "I'm bored" calls in Trade Chat annoyed me to no end. I was spending my time at that point leveling two alts --one Alliance, one Horde-- and I was in Outland, so the gigantic wave was gone by the time I made it to the first Catalcysm zones. I enjoyed the ride, but the social aspect soured me a lot on WoW. And by the time I was entering the Cataclysm 5-man instances, the toxicity I found pretty much ended my crush on WoW. 

While I hung on through Mists, my heart wasn't in WoW by then. I was simply too close to the game, and invested in the blog, to see it.

Years (and several other MMOs) later, WoW Classic offered me a chance to play the game I once loved, but in a more raw state than what Wrath represented. And bumps aside, I've thoroughly enjoyed the ride. But like my first crush, I look at Retail from time to time, and wonder "what if?" on more than one occasion. 

When I went to go take that pic of Neve sitting at the bar in Dalaran about a year ago, my add-ons were so out of date that I had to disable all of them, so I got a chance to see the default UI in Retail for the first time since, oh, 2011. What surprised me was how much of it is similar to my modded UI now. What also surprised me was the sheer number of "Do this!" and "Do that!" and "Come do this other thing!" events that popped up on screen. It was as if Retail was determined that I was going to be doing something, boredom be damned. While I suppose the concept of sitting around somewhere, fishing, still existed, Retail overwhelmed you with so many things you could do that it felt like you had to do them.

I consequently "noped" my way right back to Classic and spent about an hour on Card, just hanging around Darnassus and fishing in one of the pools around the city.#

But months later, I still wonder. Not enough to spring for Shadowlands or even to play a non-Shadowlands Retail WoW, but I do wonder about my first MMO crush. 

And I ask myself "What if...."

*Sorry, not going to divulge anything here, but trust me on this.

**You know how cruel middle school kids can be? At Catholic grade schools, there's no difference. I was constantly harassed by my classmates to divulge "who I liked", so when I finally let the cat out of the bag at the end of 7th Grade, the reaction was pretty brutal. My 8th Grade year was a very miserable experience.

***She eventually became a cheerleader at the public high school.

****I'm absolutely certain she would not have been interested in most of my hobbies today, and I doubt we'd have much in common to talk about. I knew that even back then, but with crushes you tend to throw that out the window.

*****What, you thought this was going to be another post about guilds? At least give me some credit here.

#Yes, I do appreciate the irony here. But I'm probably the only person who played Mists and refused to play the destruction of Theramore event, so back in the day when I'd fly in and land in "old" Theramore, there were a couple of leveling toons but that was it. The place was a ghost town, but I liked it like that. Maybe that's why I like having Az use Theramore as her hearth location in Classic: I can continue to enjoy Theramore the way it once was.

EtA: I cleaned up some grammar in the second big paragraph. I missed that earlier.

Friday, October 30, 2020

Direct from K-TEL*

Coming soon to record stores near you!!!


Yes, music lovers and WoW fans, your wildest desires have come true! All of your in game favorite songs are now available on a special 2 Record Set!

Featuring such hits as:

Loot the Dog

Hey Now! (Keep to the Left and Around the Bend)

Heal Me, Maybe

The Ballad of Alterac Valley

Holding Out For a Healer

Semi-Chanted Gear

Bear Necessities

(Watch out for the) Voodoo


Hit Me Tanky One More Time

I'm on Fire

(I'm Your) Ashkandi Man

Long Cool Healer in a Blue Dress

(A Pair of) Square Hammers

If you act now, you'll get our special bonus record:


For those SWTOR fans, you get even more of the best that Operations have to offer, featuring:

The (Not So) Mighty Quinn

Here's a Revan There's a Revan

The Rakghoul Mash

Thank You, Next Queue

Cademimu Funk

All this now for the LOW LOW price of $29.95 + Shipping and Handling!

Operators are standing by!! (Not really)

*Most people significantly younger than me will say "WTF is K-TEL?" Before the "Now!" series of compilation albums, K-TEL was in the business of selling compilation albums. They were (in)famous for their commercials and infomercials, which included the "Act now and you'll get XXX bonus materials!!" style of sales pitch, including "Operators are standing by!" To my surprise, K-TEL is actually still around, although without the influence they once had.

And before you ask, yes, this post was inspired by certain individuals --who shall remain nameless-- singing in our MC run last night.

Tuesday, October 27, 2020

End of a Slimeball

 We finished Viscidus last night:

Kind of hard to get a screenshot of
a smudge on the ground, so we decided to lie
down instead. A couple of us took turns teabagging
that old slimeball.

So our raiding group (95+% Valhalla Myzrael-US*) is 9/9 AQ40.

And somewhere along the line I managed to become Exalted with the Brood of Nozdormu and Revered with the Cenarion Circle. Without doing a single quest in Silithus.

I looked at that and thought, "Oh, that's cool." 

Then I realized that I might want to do a few of those quests after all. I wasn't thinking of doing much in Silithus until, say, November or December because by then I figured I'd be geared enough to consider it. Of course, that thinking went out the window in September.


What I've got now are people occasionally asking when I'll switch guilds.


I understand where they're coming from, but while I raid with them they're not the only people I hang with in Classic. (See: My 11th Anniversary post.) I also hang with people from 9-10 different guilds, and I've even gotten invited into a guild run of Strat UD with the top Alliance guild on the server. (Four of them, one of me. I actually held my own and didn't behave like a jerk, so yay me.)

It's understandable that people would think that I'd eventually join another guild, especially since so few people in my own guild ever sign on. When I joined, there were about 20 active members, but as time has gone on people have left the game, split for other guilds, or simply vanished. Right now, we have 2-3 people --including me-- who login with regularity. I suppose that those people who thought that the guild was my own personal guild can be forgiven for that misconception, since I'm the only one they see around Azeroth.

And to be perfectly honest, I have trust issues concerning guilds in MMOs. It's not like I've never talked about them here, so I'm not gonna rehash them too much. And to be perfectly fair, the guild I run with has been nothing but welcoming to me and the few others who aren't guildies, so it's nothing they've done to make me feel that way. Instead, it's all about me. 

The TL;DR of my MMO guild history has been about series of guilds blowing up, guilds reforming, blowing up again, and guilds fading away as time has gone on. The situation I find myself in with Retail Orphans is a mirror of what I experienced in Mists, where the guild I'd joined in Cataclysm slowly faded away until I was the only person who regularly logged in. 

And while I see active guilds around that would love to have me join, I keep having the doubts in the back of my head. "Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me; fool me 4 or 5 times, what kind of sucker am I?"

So right now, where I'm at is where I'm likely to stay for a while. My WoW activity is (relatively) stable, and stability is nice.



*The rest are a few people like me who are part of different guilds.

Friday, October 23, 2020

I've Seen This Before

It goes without saying that Shadowlands is the talk of the blogosphere these days. Even blogs that rarely dabble in WoW at all have cast their eyes upon the upcoming WoW expac and have created posts on the level squish, the experience getting to L50, and discussions about the late (somewhat unlamented) expac, Battle for Azeroth.

This is not one of those posts.

If anything else, the hype feels like a huge case of deja vu*. 

Like, oh, Cataclysm.

Or for those of us who are pencil-and-paper RPGers, the Pathfinder/D&D 4e split.

All of these events promised us major changes in the game played, and yes, that was a completely accurate promise. But I also wonder whether the changes became a case in "be careful what you wish for, because you might get it".

Cataclysm revamped the original two continents of Azeroth, but at the cost of making the storyline disconnected from the Burning Crusade and Wrath zones. The revamped story in Azeroth made sense to older players, but left new ones scratching their heads in plenty of spots, wondering just what on earth they missed. In effect, Blizzard cut off their supply of new players by the Cataclysm revamp. 

Wizards of the Coast looked at the D&D 3.0/3.5 landscape, saw it was getting inundated with splatbooks and overloaded with feats and skills and whatnot, and decided to blow it all up with D&D 4e. 4e promised a total revamping of the system, and WotC delivered. Unfortunately, for many the "video game" nature of abilities in 4e drove long standing RPGers nuts, leading to the rise of Pathfinder**.

Pathfinder promised a similar, yet more streamlined system from D&D 3.5, and they delivered. But they also kept up the splatbook treadmill, which ended up with them back in the exact same problem that D&D 3.5 found itself in all those years ago.

So I look at Shadowlands as --effectively-- Cataclysm 2.0. It is Blizzard trying to forget their greatest advantage over every other MMO --the gigantic world of Azeroth itself, complete with questing and story and all sorts of other quirky things each zone has-- in favor of focusing on the newest expac. 


I know exactly what at least someone will say in response: all of that stuff is still there, and anybody can access it after having gone through the new intro zone and BfA. 

To which my response is: really? Do you really think that a new player is going to go back and examine all of the other areas after they get done with BfA and they get railroaded toward Shadowlands? Especially after you're so overleveled that your toon makes a mockery of the in-zone experience from previous expacs. Trying to make sense of the overall story in the Old World alone, so many expacs later, will cause an enormous amount of head scratching. Trying to figure out Burning Crusade vs Warlords of Draenor alone would be a huge problem.***

No, I don't think that is going to happen, and neither does Blizzard. They point you at Shadowlands because that's where they want you. Oh sure, they'll happily take your money**** for a subscription --they do that from me already, courtesy of Classic-- but they want you at Endgame. They want you doing all the things in Shadowlands, because they know that in WoW the game begins at Endgame. And every little subgame or whatnot that Blizzard introduces into WoW via Shadowlands becomes just one more thing that you have to do to get better at Endgame.

And if you're not happy with Shadowlands, there's Classic ready just for you: fewer races, fewer classes, no Cataclysm 1.0, no phasing, no proliferation of mini-games, etc.

*Or in this case, "deja vu all over again," as the late baseball player Yogi Berra once said.

**Known colloquially among pencil-and-paper RPGers as D&D 3.75.

***Then again, Marvel and DC have made their living on 'alternate Earths' for so long, maybe nobody will notice.

****The longer I've worked in Corporate America, the more obvious it's become that anything to increase profits is on the table when it comes to product development. My enjoyment of Classic aside, if I thought that Blizzard was doing this out of the goodness of their heart, I'd be next in line to buy a bridge in New York City. Blizzard likely views Classic as a hedge against the inevitable dropoff that comes when people get to max level in Shadowlands and the Trade Channels start becoming inundated with cries of "I'm bored!!"

Wednesday, October 21, 2020

Why Can't I Just Enjoy the Ride, Part Whatever

Work has been kicking my butt the past few weeks, and between that and the stress relief of raiding I've not had much time for writing.

Hopefully this post will get me back on track a bit.

I've been enjoying my time in Classic, and as (I believe) Shintar put it that it's more enjoyable when you're with a group of people --a guild or a cross-guild group-- that you enjoy hanging with. And in true WoW fashion, while the focus is on downing the last boss in AQ40 (Viscidus), raid chat has been filled with what's coming up. Not Naxxramas, mind you, but a bit farther down the road than that: Burning Crusade.

To say that people are excited for BC to drop is probably an understatement. Draenei, Alliance Shamans, Outland, Draenei, flying, Karazhan, and Draenei are just some of the things that people are excited about.

And did I mention Draenei?

Of course, all this excitement for the Burning Crusade left me with an uneasy feeling. Oh, not that I'd be not interested in playing through Outland when it was relevant, or any sort of other petty reasons. In fact, I'd love to see some of my long time blogger friends (Hi, Vidyala and Voss!!*) come back and get a chance to play Burning Crusade again. 

Then what's the problem?

In a word: guilds.

Yeah, I'm just a ray of effing sunshine.

What will happen when BC drops and people start raiding? The requirements will plummet from 20 and 40 man raids to 10 and 25 man raids, and dropping the number of people in a raiding team by 50% and 63% (respectively) is going to result in some tension. Remember, we're coming at BC from an entirely different place than Vanilla: from what I've been told by people who were there, raiding was something that few guilds were able to do in Vanilla, so dropping the raid requirements to 10 and 25 people were a godsend. But in Classic, the situation is reversed: a LOT of guilds raid in Classic, so when you take a raiding team and chop it down like that, there's going to be some tension. The larger guilds with multiple raiding teams can probably absorb this adjustment, but the smaller guilds that field only one? That's another kettle of fish. 

For example, I'm one of six Mages in our AQ40 team. I'm also quite aware that due to a combination of (lack of) experience, skill, and gear, I'm probably 5/6 or 6/6. So, when the time comes to make up raids for BC, I'm likely to be left off the main team. I'm okay with that, since you want the best people in your raid, but I'm also not a member of the guild either. Being demoted as a guildie, however, is going to have a completely different impact.

Guild leaderships throughout Classic are going to have to navigate this minefield, and I'm not sure a lot of guilds will survive. People will want to get a chance to raid and see the content they never got a chance to see, and to be put on the bench will hurt. Hell, look at sports: just how many sports figures take being pulled from the starting group well? You spend your life competing, you're a proud member of the starting lineup, and then the coach pulls you over and says "Look, we've got this kid here, and while we still value your contribution, we've gotta look to the future. It's a business, you understand."

Sure, some people handle a demotion with grace and think of the overall team as the important part. But there are others, lots of others, who still want to prove that they've still got it. They're upset and angry, and they've got instant motivation to prove their coach/manager wrong. They split for another team that gives them the chance they wanted.

And this is what worries me: the necessary demotion of people from a raid will cause drama, more drama than was experienced in the original BC. 


I suspect that the drama will be closer to what happened to guilds in Wrath, when the requirement to raid was only 10, and suddenly less than half of a guild was needed to put together a raid team. It could get ugly really fast, with a lot of guilds blowing up into chunks, effectively balkanizing the guild environment on Classic servers.

And seeing some of these guilds that I've run with breaking apart is not something I want to have happen.

There are a lot of great people I've gotten to know through raids, instances, BGs, and just goofing in general around Azeroth, and I would really prefer that my nightmare scenario never happen. I play to have fun and socialize, and dealing with drama is not what I signed up for. Sure, I realize that some drama is inevitable --we're talking people here, after all-- but the less drama the better.


Perhaps my concerns are overblown. Perhaps things will work out and there won't be an excessive amount of drama in Classic.

But if nothing else, the year 2020 has taught me to not be optimistic.

*I'm on Myzrael-US, in case you're wondering. It's West Coast time, so more in line with your own time zone. Just leaving it out there....

Sunday, October 11, 2020

This is Why I Don't Stream, Part Whatever

Oh sure, I've got a sense of humor about my limitations playing games, but this video illustrates perfectly why I don't do livestreams:

I really feel for the guy who was showing how to do a Slow Fall to get right to the Black Lotus location. I've done that exact thing and discovered too late that I don't have any feathers left.

Thursday, October 8, 2020

Know When to Hold 'Em

One of the major reasons why I like to play a Rogue* is the thrill of outsmarting the enemy. Not tactically, mind you, but being so clever that you can sneak around and bypass enemies to get where you need to go. It's that rush you get when you sneak through Timbermaw Hold and none of the Firbolg find you, or when you're sneaking around Orr in Guild Wars 2, trying to avoid having to fight your way through every five feet (or so it seems).

Being able to get all the way to Frostwolf Hold in Alterac Valley and drive the Horde nuts by moving back and forth and assaulting the two Frostwolf Towers --all without being seen-- is a huge rush.

So imagine my surprise when I discovered just how much of a gambler you have to be when you play a Fire Mage. 

You knew this was coming, didn't you?

One of the major reasons why I specced Frost all those years with Neve was because Frost is not only a great PvP spec but that it is the best spec for questing out in the field. All of the damage mitigation and defensive skills that Frost has means that a Frost Mage will typically not suffer much damage at all, or if she does she can quickly escape without much issue. And while speccing Frost is highly sought after for raiding in Molten Core and Blackwing Lair, for the rest of WoW Classic it is not seen as a "raider's spec" per se.

That's Fire's domain.

When you see a max level Fire Mage out and about in Azeroth, odds are good that Mage is raiding AQ20 or AQ40. A lone Fire Mage out in Blackwing Lair or Molten Core is at a disadvantage, because the reason why Fire Mages are so powerful is that their buffs stack based on the number of Fire Mages in a raid. Put that same lonely Fire Mage in AQ40 with 4-5 other Fire Mages, they can wreak havoc on enemies. 

Scratch one Anubisath.

A lone Fire Mage in a 5-man instance? Not a problem; only Blackrock Depths has bosses that resist fire spells. 

A lone Fire Mage questing in the field? Well... That's a completely different kettle of fish.

The reason why I say a Fire Mage is a Gambler's Spec is because a Fire Mage has no damage mitigation outside of the Fire Ward, Frost Ward, and Mana Shield spells. And let's be honest: the Mana Shield isn't used much because it sucks your Mage's mana dry to shield them, so it's typically looked on as a spell of last resort.

Add to that, a Fire Mage doesn't get the slowdown or freezes that a Frost Mage gets when utilizing Frost Spells, so dumping Blizzard or a Frostbolt on an enemy doesn't give you the slow debuff that a Frost Mage gets, which is a huge advantage when you want to escape from (or DPS down) an enemy.

No, the Fire Mage says "I bet I can throw more damage at you before you kill me" every single pull. 

I believe a Fire Mage's mantra is "Go Big or Go Home".

Bring it, you blowhard!

Am I comfortable with Card rolling the dice like this? After a month of speccing Fire, I'm still not really comfortable yet. Oh, I understand the rotation, and I don't die if I space out my pulls in the wild, but Card's survivability pulling a pack of 3 or more at level enemies has taken a bit of a hit. 

I guess I have to embrace my inner gambler a bit more.

*Or a class similar to one, such as a Shadowblade in Elder Scrolls Online. Guild Wars 2 has a Thief profession, and if you guessed I play that class in GW2 you'd be right. In Star Wars: The Old Republic my favorite class --and class story-- is the Smuggler; I've played both the Scoundrel (Healer) and Gunslinger (DPS) subclasses, and I've found both of them to be a blast. (Literally, at times.) Hmm... I've never played a Burglar in LOTRO, because I can't get into playing a Hobbit, but maybe I should try one out.

Friday, October 2, 2020

Getting Rid of the Blur

The past 3-4 weeks have been a bit of a blur.

Learning to play a Fire Mage, running raids I've never (or almost never) seen before, and trying to get geared enough to be useful have been akin to my head spinning around on a turntable like a Dee-lite video.

Groove is in the Heart,
featuring homeboy Bootsy Collins.

However, the longer my raiding has gone on, the more I've wondered just how much of my output is decided by gear and how much by skill. 

Okay, let's be real for a second: you have to know what the hell you're doing if you want to be useful in any group format in WoW. I don't mean that you have to know the entire rotation like the back of your hand, but you have to realize that --for instance-- if you're attacking a mob that has fairly low health, spamming Fireball isn't your best option. For one, it takes forever (3.5 seconds) to cast, and 3.5 seconds is a looong time for a cast on a trash mob. At that point, you're much better off spamming Scorch (1.5 second cast) to at least get some damage on a mob before they're cut down. So, that's the sort of basic understanding about your class that I'm aiming for here: once you get these basics down, you're 75% of the way there to maximizing your DPS output from skill. 

Yes, you can practice and improve your output from there, but I think at this point you get more bang for the buck by improving your gear. 

And using Cardwyn as an example, boy did my gear need improvement.


In order to understand the impact on gear, let me show you where Card stood when she was convinced to join the AQ40 raid:

I can thank the Mage Lead for showing me the site.

Um, yeah. I wasn't kidding when I said I wasn't ready for Blackwing Lair, much less AQ40.

The nice thing about Sixty Upgrades is that with a click you can see the impact of an upgrade on your gear. For example, clicking on the Star of Mystara (which I held onto because of the plus to hit) gives you this:

Yikes. The Star of Mystara doesn't
even the Top 6.

The table is easy to understand. The left column is the name of the piece, the middle is the impact the gear on the Fire Spec, and the right column is where the gear can be found. If you hover over the middle column, it gives you the details in the bonuses (Spell Power, Int, Hit, etc.) 

What I did was target gear that were (relatively) quick upgrades that had a big impact. Like that silly looking turban from Upper Blackrock Spire, that you'll never ever ever see Card wearing with "Show Helm" active. Or that Robe of the Archmage that I had in my bank, which (ironically enough) has better spell power than even the T2 Netherwind Robe. Or the Fire Wand I had (also in my bank) that gives a better boost than the wand I'd been using. 

Combine all this with a few lucky rolls and drops in MC and BWL and my gear looked a bit more, well, raid worthy.

The net result was that my output went up by a decent amount over the next few weeks, something like 18-20% per week.

That was just gear, mind you, because I don't think I've gotten that much better at handling "Fiery Cardwyn" over the past few weeks than my first week or so running with the spec.


I suppose you could say that both gear and skill have their upper limitations; gear has a hard upper limit while skill doesn't. But skill produces diminishing returns the higher up in skill you go. The effort it takes to go from 0 - 75% is less time than to go from 75% to 90%, because you have to work longer and harder to raise your skill to that sort of level. 

Gear is just a time grind without any performance pressure: you put in the time and the drops will come. Skill is a time grind as well, but one with no set ending: you're kind of limited by your physical skillset, and the older you get the greater the limitations.

But for me, gear had the biggest impact on my performance in raids. I'm still bringing up the rear in the Mage Crew, but the gap has lessened considerably. I can now focus on skill without worrying about being such a liability compared to before, and because I've gotten a bunch of easy upgrades I can now focus on specific ones that I can target in Molten Core that have a big bang-for-the-buck to them. 

Overall, things are much less chaotic and overwhelming. For which I'm eternally grateful.