Wednesday, March 30, 2022

It Belongs in a Museum!

Saturday's Zul'Aman run came and went.

We survived. Barely.

It was not a pleasant experience, that's for certain.


Okay, I should clarify things a bit. 

We had enough people sign up that we were able to field two Zul'Aman teams, and how the teams broke down the three remaining Monday raid lead team people were on Team 1, and I found myself riding solo as Raid Lead on Team 2.

I saw that and cursed; I knew I was going to have to put in some extra time studying the entire ZA raid if I was going to be going live without backup.

So, most of my free time on Friday and Saturday was spent reviewing videos and walkthroughs, making notes, and then comparing those notes with the "official" ZA raid guide assembled by the "other" progression raid lead team, as they'd gone into the PTR and run it a couple of times beforehand.*

Saturday evening arrived, we assembled, and then we were off.

"Greetings, Doctor Jones...."



For those who haven't a clue about Zul'Aman --such as me-- it is what is known as a "catch up" raid. Supposedly, Zul'Aman allows a player to gear a toon quickly so they can then jump into the current "main" raids without having to spend all sorts of time running the four previous raids. The raid operates on a completely different lockout than the "main" raids, 3 days per lockout rather than 7 days, so it allows a player to run Zul'Aman multiple times per week.

Sounds great in theory, right?

Well, in practice Zul'Aman is harder than it looks.

Part of that is the main reason why progression raiders want to run Z'A: the warbear mount timed event.

It's less a Warbear and more of a Tank.
Put a gun turret on top and you'd have your
own personal Sherman tank.
(From Wowhead.)


Akin to the timed events in Stratholme and Shattered Halls, a captured person is going to be executed by the Big Bad if you don't engage a specific boss before the timer runs out. Unlike the other two events, the Zul'Aman version actually has a bit of flexibility built in, because of the following conditions:

  • You have to defeat the first four of six bosses, not the last one, to finish the event.
  • Two of the four bosses you defeat in the event will actually add time to your timer.

However, completing a "Bear Run" as it's known means avoiding trash where you can, moving and deafeating trash and bosses quickly, and one more thing:


And yes, in case you're wondering. We got lost. Or rather, the main tank and I BOTH got lost.

It's not very difficult to get lost in Zul'Aman, especially if you're running it for the first time, but that was not a warm fuzzy feeling when running around and the main tank is going "I thought it was this way."

"Yeah," I replied, "I thought it was too."

"It's over here," the Hunter spoke up. "I thought we were running the wrong way, but...."

"Dude," I said, "if you want to say something don't hesitate to say it. I'm not gonna be offended or anything."

In spite of all that, we actually got really close to making it on time to the last boss. Alas that we accidentally pulled the last two groups at once and wiped, causing us to miss the timer by 1-2 minutes.

Oh, and just so you know, part of the Bear Run strategy is to leave some of the chests behind for you to pick up afterward, and, well.....



But I'm not here to discuss my map reading foibles, but rather the misadventures after the Bear Run portion of Zul'Aman.

You'd think that with the Bear Run finished --one way or another-- the next two bosses wouldn't be that hard.


Let me introduce you to Hex Lord Malacrass.

The Hex Lord has four mini-bosses with him, supposedly people he's hexxed into being his slaves, and he has a very annoying mechanic: the longer you fight him, the harder it is to do damage against him and the harder he hits you.

Yes, you read that right. The longer the fight goes on, he puts a stacking buff/debuff out that mitigates damage against him and amplifies damage against you. 

So you have to kill him off as quickly as you can, and those four mini bosses stand in the way.

Oh, and to make things even more fun, he'll steal the abilities of a class that's attacking him (it's a random selection) and use those abilities against the raid. So he could steal a healer's abilities and constantly heal himself, which is bad enough, but if he steals a Paladin's DPS abilities he gets to use such abilities as Consecrate against all the melee.

And guess who kept dying to Consecrate because he couldn't see it being laid down because the main tank --a Protection Paladin-- was also using Consecrate?

I just realized that my gear hasn't
changed since before the New Year,
over three full months ago. /sigh

Yeah, this woman.

The first couple of wipes things would start out well and then the main tank would bite it, and that was pretty much that.

So after the second wipe the off tank (also a Prot Pally) decided to step back and heal, since they weren't really adding DPS value to the fight.

That got us farther, but after a certain point I would die and without the interrupts I'd provide as an Enhancement Shaman the raid would eventually wipe by slow attrition.

After that happening about 3 more times, the main tank asked me what I was dying to. 

"I'm dying to.... Consecrate??"

"Aha! It thought it might be that."

I should have known better. I mean, 30% of the raid were Paladins, so it was highly likely that the Hex Lord was going to steal a Pally's abilities. "Okay, I'm going to stay back and just pretend I'm elemental. That should keep me alive."

We made that switch just as one of the raid team spoke up and said that they were going to have to leave soon. "I wasn't expecting this to take more than 2 hours," he admitted. 

"Neither did I," I added. "We'll have about 1-2 more pulls with you around, and we'll see if we can pull this off."

The first attempt with only the main tank in melee ended in a wipe, but we got much farther than we had before, so I felt confident on the very next pull.

It was going to be the last pull with our off tank around, so we had to make it count.

And, wonder of wonders, it did. In gymnastics slang, we stuck the landing and got the Hex Lord down.

"That had to be the hardest boss here," the main tank said after the cheering had died down.

"I agree," I replied. "That was nuts."


After the Hex Lord, Zul'Jin was a walk in the park.

Well, relatively speaking.

We did wipe once or twice, and our Mage announced that he had another raid in about 10 minutes so he was going to have to leave, so we managed to get Zul'Jin down with 9 raiders at the very last possible moment before the Time and Date Boss got us.

Team 2 finished Zul'Aman by the skin of our teeth.


Throughout the whole raid, I was receiving updates from my questing buddy. She was originally supposed to be on my raid team, but because of a last minute swap she got pulled into Team 1. Right about the point where we were about to engage the last boss in the Bear Run, Halazzi, she began whispering me about how they kept dying to trash.

It was really discouraging, she admitted, that they weren't going to finish the Bear Run.

And then, while we were busy keeping everybody's bank accounts low by wiping on the Hex Lord, she was telling me about a whole lot of other wipes they were having. In the end, Team 1 ran out of time before people had to leave for other commitments, and they only got down 4 of the 6 bosses.

That kind of weighed on me, because if you'd have asked me which raid would have had an easier time of it, it was Team 1. It certainly wasn't due to my brilliance, but afterward when people congregated into the same Discord channel we felt that the presence of a Priest on Team 2 helped us considerably, given that Team 1 didn't have a Priest at all. 

But that didn't help the Monday's overall raid lead, who was crushed by her team's inability to finish the raid.

I spent some time in a side channel consoling her, because it's one of those things that just happens. Some of it is being new to the raid, some of it is composition, and some of it is thinking that we can steamroll through content that turned out to be harder than we thought.

And in my heart, I knew that gear definitely played a part in this.

The Monday raid had been falling farther and farther behind in gear compared to the 2x/week raid, and this was the most obvious manifestation of the gear discrepancy.

I mentioned that I didn't expect this raid to be this hard, and our main tank pointed out that "In the videos it's easy to steamroll it when you're in Black Temple BiS gear."

As for this raid being a "catch up raid", I have to wonder if a raid team composed of people who are fresh L70 toons could complete Zul'Aman, never mind the Bear Run, without fine tuning the raid's composition and having plenty of experience. If you've got your critical pieces to the raid in at least some Serpentshrine Cavern/Tempest Keep pieces, yes you can do this. After all, Team 2 did. Even then, you probably have to give up the Bear Run until you get plenty of experience running ZA. 


I want to keep running Zul'Aman, because I think that the raid composition can be fine tuned to a significant degree, and once we get used to the raid itself we'll be that much better of a team for it. Gear can hide a lot of significant problems, and it's better that we as a team without all that gear learn how the raid runs and what strategies work so that as raiders come and go we will be better off to handle them.

As long as we don't end up like this...



*This is the 2x/week team. They'd also run ZA on Thursday with two teams of their own, so they all had a lot more experience in ZA than I had. And if you're wondering why I didn't get into the PTR myself to check out the raid beforehand, there are two reasons: I didn't have the time, and even if I did have the time I'm not a fan of PTR environments in general. I'd rather not have the story and/or raid spoiled just so I could speed run something. That second piece is kind of at odds with my raid lead position, but I've also found it easier to take notes while examining videos rather than trying to stop and take notes while actually running it myself.

Thursday, March 24, 2022

B.F. Skinner Would be Proud

Last Monday night I was woken up by a ping on my phone.

I'd gone to sleep --again-- after another Monday evening spent with an early-ish bedtime followed by waking up at around 11:15 PM and then a second time around 1:00 AM, from which I couldn't get back to anything resembling slumber until 3 AM once more.

This has been kind of a constant theme lately, where I wake up involuntarily and can't get back to sleep while the Monday raid is going on. It kind of puts a lie to my excuse of needing to get more rest because of the new job, but it appears to be something I simply can't control. 

"You miss us," my questing buddy whispered to me while I was --naturally-- on WoW, waiting to get tired enough to go back to sleep. 

I wasn't doing much --just some reading for work as well as questing and grinding so I could level my weapon skills and get enough gold for a flying mount for Linna*-- but this happening for much of the past month has forced my hand.

"Okay," I replied, "I'll admit it. I miss y'all."

"Hehe... win!!"

"A true win would be to come back."

"Do you want to? We're 1 short tonight."

"But I'm the kid from A Christmas Story with his face against the glass window. Can't. No Kael kill."

"I know. :-("

She then asked, "Is it the Kael kill keeping you from BT?"

"Without a Kael kill, no Hyjal. Without Hyjal, no BT."

"Ah, right."**

So, with that on my mind, I finally was able to get to sleep right after the raid concluded. If I were in the raid, however, my night wouldn't be over until after 4 AM EST, when the raid lead team would have finished their analysis of how things went. So while I do miss the raid, I don't miss the afterparty that much.


When my phone went off, I was certain it was work.

And I was totally ready to be able to tell people at my old position to basically "fuck off", because I had a little over a week left in my old job and --with the blessing of my administrative manager-- I could tell them to contact my successor instead.


Instead, I discovered it was from Shintar, who contacted me directly about a comment I made on Kaylriene's post about whether the WoW Community itself is doing okay. (Spoiler alert, it's not.) 

You see, Shintar had commented about one regular commenter on her blog(s) who only would come on to comment about how the game sucks and that it used to be good but it isn't now. Not mean spirited, mind you, and polite about it, but it wears on a body to see that all the time.

And yes, I thought that person was me.

Because of that comment (and the post itself), I began to do some soul searching about why I feel the way I do about WoW --both Retail and Classic-- as well as other MMOs. Shintar's comment via Discord led to a relatively short conversation that I honestly hardly remember at all were it not for the entire collection of text in Discord itself.

One of the things that stood out to me the most about the conversation, reading it in the morning while drinking coffee, was that I said that Kaylriene is right; I really wanted WoW to get better, but I didn't know how to do so. I also mentioned that every time WoW is at a juncture, it makes a turn to embrace the hardcore raiding crowd. And that after a certain point, [the game] can't find [its] way back to anything else.

Shintar disputed that, saying that she does not get the same vibe out of Retail playing now as a non-raider.

That being said, my observation was that everything was oriented toward a raid at the end, and WoW's design was to get you into a raid. Unlike, say, Wrath, where you'd get new instances as well as new raids with each major patch, as well as new non-raid content (such as the Quel'Delar questline).****

But Shintar pointed out two things that I thought, upon reading them again, were quite important: that Retail has tourist mode raids so that more people can see the content, which Wrath definitely didn't have, and that we're seeing the same player behavior in TBC Classic as we saw in Retail, so in her opinion raiding hasn't changed much over the years other than the fact that Retail allows people to see the raid with minimal effort nowadays.

But that, and my reaction to that, makes me think of conditioning.


It may sound like a simple question, but it is at the heart of why MMOs --and to a lesser extent a LOT of other video games-- operate: do we play the way we play because we have been conditioned to play that way? The positive reinforcement of how MMOs are designed, with the "do this get a reward" does hand things out bite sized chunks, but it also conditions us to expect those things. And not just the rewards, but how a game is supposed to be. 

The joke about all of the Zelda games is that Link goes around smashing pottery, and there isn't a piece of pottery throughout the kingdom that is safe from him. But when you think about it, have we as players come to expect to have to smash pottery in a Zelda game? That smashing pottery is the way to find rupees and items? And that if Link doesn't go smashing pottery, is it really a Zelda game? That if the next installment of The Legend of Zelda didn't allow Link to smash pottery willy-nilly, would the fans of the game raise havoc?

MMOs have their own conditioning based on how "things have always been done" in game worlds. Things such as:

  • Quests follow a specific cadence, in packs of 3-4 quests of increasing difficulty, until you the final quest is a mini-boss.
  • Speeding through content to get to Endgame.
  • The game begins at Endgame.
  • MMOs must have raiding as the primary focus of Endgame.
  • How other things to do in an MMO, such as crafting, side quests, and reputation grinding, affects raiding.
  • To be a good player, you must follow the metagame.

Or, for more game specific conditioning:*****

  • WoW must always have a Horde vs. Alliance conflict.
  • Once you reach Endgame, you're expected to run dailies and grind to gain access to raids.
  • Every major content patch in WoW must have new gear to grind/raid/whatever for.
  • The only real raiding in WoW is Heroic or harder.
  • Each new expansion in WoW must have new systems, so that you start the grinding/learning rotations/etc. all over.

Perhaps this is why things remain the way they are in MMOs, and WoW in particular, because we as players are conditioned to expect things and do things in a specific way, and we see those patterns even when they weren't fully fleshed out back in the day. Which would explain a bit as to why people are playing TBC Classic as if they were playing Retail: we were conditioned to do this over the decades of MMO playing.


Subverting the conditioning, however, is hard.

Some games, such as Elden Ring, can pull it off despite deviating from the expected open world formula we've come to expect. The articles that swept gamer space a week or two ago, about how Horizon: Forbidden West developers threw shade at Elden Ring for quest development, shows how ingrained the conditioning is.

And no matter how many new things there are to do in WoW, ostensibly designed to let people do things other than simply raid, people feel obligated to do all the things because they're conditioned to believe that's how it's done. There is no easy way out of that mentality.

It would be one thing if video games themselves were performing the conditioning process, but with the advent of social media, the behavioral reinforcement comes from a myriad of places. If you put "things to do before the next patch drops" into Google, you get a ton of results from all sorts of places that look something like this:

  • "Things to do and NOT to do before Patch 9.2 Drops"
  • "What things can I do before pre-patch drops?"
  • "4 Goldmaking Things to do before 9.1!"
  • "7 Things You Need to Finish Before FF XIV Endwalker"
  • "First Things to do at LVL 60 in Classic WoW: Get Raid Ready!"

Yes, these were all real article names, taken across YouTube videos, Reddit posts, blog posts, and gamer website articles.

This isn't limited to MMOs mind you, because just about any video game has this sort of output, whether it's tutorials on how to play, how to get good, how to win, or just how to do things the way you're expected to.

I remember back in the day when I frequented Boardgame Geek, there was a certain subset of Eurogame player who would rip a new person playing Puerto Rico for "not doing it right" if you didn't play the game the "right way". Some of that is based on the metagame for Puerto Rico, but other parts of it was due to the conditioning behind how things were supposed to flow in a game of Puerto Rico.******


As for what to do about this I have no good answer.

I can sit here, typing away, missing the raid, but realizing that I don't miss a lot of the work that I would have to do to actually raid in progression.

Lot of people are perfectly happy to play the way they have been playing, and get the game they have been expecting, and I can respect that. 

But for those who see problems with their favorite game, whether it be an MMO (like WoW), an RPG (like Assassin's Creed), or a boardgame (such as Puerto Rico), it's a fair question to ask whether the conditioning has locked us into an unsatisfying realization:

Is the problem not with the game, but is it us?

*I have a goal of 1200 gold before I spring for basic flying for her. I don't want her to be so cash poor afterward that she can't buy food/water (or other things) on her own, and 1200 has a nice round number to it. Of course, having said that, I'll probably end up getting close and telling myself I could wait until she has 1500 gold. Or make up some other excuse to delay the inevitable, I suppose.

**I corrected some of the grammar during the exchange. I suppose I can't help myself there either. And yes, I'm completely aware that --supposedly-- the attunements were removed for Hyjal and BT, although it wasn't mentioned in the official post.

***I can be polite whenever I need to, but I really really wanted to let certain people know what I really felt about them going around behind everyone's back and backstabbing me.

****I found it interesting that TBC did NOT add any new instances or non-raid content that didn't end in a daily grindfest until the last patch, with the addition of the Magister's Terrace instance. I'd taken my cues from Wrath, having been my first exposure to WoW, so it seemed natural to me that the Serpentshrine Cavern instances would drop when the SSC raid would, etc.

*****Some of these are more generic as well, such as the Sith Empire vs. Republic in SWTOR. Well, except for Knights of the Fallen Empire and it's immediate successor expansion, that is.

******And yes, a good portion of it was people just being assholes.

Monday, March 21, 2022

Looking Ahead, Part Deux

After my last post, I figured that a follow up deserved one too. After all, I spend enough time complaining --under the guise of 'commenting'-- that I figured I ought to post when things actually go well for a change.

When we last saw our heroes, I had a rude awakening when I discovered Friday morning that the name of my raid had been changed to a Zul'Aman raid, and a raid for the OTHER progression raid team.

Oh yes, who needs coffee when you discover that you're not only squeezed out of the one raid that you are able to run, but you're squeezed out of a raid so that the OTHER team --the one that can make our progression raid team feel like the "backups" or "reserves" because they run twice a week, get more than twice as much gear, and have most of the sweatiest players-- booted you out of your raid without any notification whatsoever?

Yeah, I was not pleased.


I blew off some steam by cursing up a blue streak, sighed, and more politely followed up in the raid leadership channel that I was planning on running Karazhan until there was no more interest in doing so. After all, while Zul'Aman may have only a 3 day lockout, Karazhan in Phase 4 will have upwards of 22 badges available. This is the largest number of badges available in a single raid/instance in TBC Classic, so for those that like badges this will keep interest for quite a while.

What I didn't say is that the people who are my 'regulars' show up because they like the laid back atmosphere and the overall lack of pressure to speed run the damn place. I call them my regulars, because they seem to always have a new alt to run through and gear up in Kara.* 

Given the name change, I knew which of the co-GMs did the work, so I waited to see what was going to happen.


Well, I didn't have to wait long. Before 9 AM ST the other co-GM had changed the raid name back.

And a few hours later I received an apology in the chat from the other co-GM, as she wasn't aware that I was still running Karazhan.

I accepted the apology at face value, but given my regular drumbeats of getting the Friday raid filled on Wednesday and Thursday on the guild's Discord LFG channel, I don't know how you could not know.**


And so I figured that was that. I got my raid back, along with an apology, and I could still have my Friday nights.


That evening, while I was relaxing prior to the raid, I received a ping from the Monday Raid Lead. Would I be interested in running a Zul'Aman raid with her on a Saturday afternoon, Server Time?

This means that the raid would start at 6 PM EST and run until 8 PM EST (roughly) so as not to interfere with another friend's proposed SSC raid at 11 EST.

I didn't hesitate. 


At about this point, I was starting to wonder whether I should buy a lottery ticket or something, because I wasn't expecting to have all of this drop in my lap on Friday.

And to top it off, there was apparently a guild leadership discussion, and the outcome of that was to allow the raid leads a bit more internal power within the guild itself. Not that it's anything I'd use and definitely not anything I asked for, but it does exist now.

So... Yay?


And yes, I did go out and buy a lottery ticket today, because I figured why not? It was nice to have lady luck smile on me for a change, and on the extremely unlikely chance I actually win something I can use those winnings to help some other people out. Pay it forward and all that.

*I honestly don't know how they do it, but then again if you had a lot of alts sitting at L60 when TBC Classic dropped, that'd make it easier to level, I suppose.

**And yes, I can fill in the blanks. I'm just going to be better than that.

Friday, March 18, 2022

Looking Ahead

Looks like Phase 4 and Zul'Aman drop next week.

Go figure.

And here I thought I had an opportunity to chill for a while before I started to feel the pressure about Zul'Aman runs.

I guess that means that Wrath Classic will drop in the Fall, probably in the October/November time frame.


I'm not sure what to make of all this. One one hand, if I wanted to get back into progression raiding when I finally am no longer drinking from a fire hose with all of my new job stuff, now would be a good time. On the other hand, I'm simply not wanting to rejoin the raid and find myself back at the bottom of the DPS stack again. 

Let's look at this with a critical eye rather than a sentimental one. 

To be "good" again, I would need upgrades to just about everything I'm carrying. 

Before anybody calls bullshit on this, here's the Phase Three singular best piece I have, courtesy of

My best piece was bought using
Badges of Justice.

Now, to be fair, seventyupgrades doesn't handle trinkets very well, and yes, I do have the Dragonspine Trophy (DST for short). Before you ask, I almost didn't roll on it because I wanted to defer to others who had better gear and DPS than me. Think about it: if someone with better DPS gets the DST, they'll do significantly better compared to me winning it. If there's a similar percentage applied to crits and DPS, the one with the larger DPS pool will benefit more than one with less DPS. That was my thought process about not rolling on the DST, but I was pretty much beat over the head by people wanting me to roll until I finally did. And I actually won it.

Yes, it's a nice little trinket, but you have to combine it with the Bloodlust Brooch and then pop both the Brooch and Shamanistic Rage at the same time to get full benefits from it (mana back as well as all the other nice bonuses in a fight.)
But outside of the trinkets, this is my singular best piece of gear for Phase 3: 

Yes, the Tier 5 gloves. No, I don't have
four pieces of T5 gear to get the highly
sought after T5 bonus. I only have two pieces.

Oh, and the Edgewalker boots that drop in Karazhan. They're almost as good, proportionally speaking.

Most of my other pieces barely register on the charts. 

For the record, I checked the listings after I added the Zul'Aman raid into the mix, and hardly any ZA pieces register. A cloak, a belt, and maybe a ring, but that's about it. So for me, "catch up" is a relative thing as I've already got gear that's as good or better than what drops in ZA.

And that's kind of sad, really, because it means that I'd need SSC/TK and Hyjal/BT runs to get geared.

Without a Kael'Thas kill, Phase 3 raids are pretty much off the table anyway, and it's actually hard to find a SSC/TK raid that fits into my schedule.


All of this was just to show what an uphill climb I'd have ahead of me to actually get some real gear to get out of the basement in the DPS listings.

The couple of crafted pieces that use the Nether Vortex are possible, but when it was presented to me as "upgrades" in a long list of ways to improve my DPS, I was told "it'll get me 10 more DPS" for each piece.

Whoop de fucking doo.

When your DPS is 200-300 lower than most everybody else, and I'm told that I should be getting in 3+ more Stormstrikes over the same time frame to bring myself in alignment with other Enhance Shamans, then I know the problem isn't just with gear, it's my own physical abilities. I'm being compared with people who are young enough to be my own children (or grandchildren, for pete's sake), and I know I don't have the same physical skills I had when I was in my 30s. (Or 40s, for that matter.)

So why would I rejoin a progression raid when I'm going to be reminded that I'm old?


I do receive a couple of whispers or Discord messages every so often, telling me that I'm missed in the raid. Which is nice, but I've seen how the sausage is made, and it can't be unseen. 

About the only reason why it would make sense to come back from a critical standpoint is because they want me for my body.

"Not this again. Shush, Card.
It's not what you thi-- Oh, nevermind."

Right now, the raid is hamstrung in their DPS utility classes. As in there aren't any.

The raid does not have a single one of these classes present:

  • Enhancement Shaman (Enh Shammy)
  • Retribution Paladin (Ret Pally)
  • Balance Druid (Boomkin)

And not for lack of trying to recruit, either.*

If you know how TBC progression raids work, all of this adds up to some significant DPS being lost. Your own DPS might not be great, but you make others in your party/raid better. 

Yeah, like this BASF commercial from 1991:

And apparently in Mount Hyjal, the Archimonde fight** has a steady stream of fears being cast that are alleviated by Shamans in each group dropping Tremor Totems throughout the fight. That means a minimum of five Shamans per raid team, because of 5 groups of 5 in each raid. 

Our raid team only has three Shamans.

My presence would make it four, which would go a long way to getting the raid team over the hump and finishing the Mount Hyjal raid. 

On the flip side, they'd have to bench someone who was bringing a significant amount of extra DPS to the raid. And I'm not sure even my presence, doing a rotation that keeps the melee boosted in DPS, would overcome that DPS loss. After all, TBC Classic is not a very melee friendly expansion to raiders.


And now with Zul'Aman on the docket, it seems that my Karazhan raid might be squeezed out anyway.

I awoke this morning to find that the Friday Karazhan's sign up page in Discord was renamed to the "other" raid's "Thursday ZA Run".

I was initially annoyed, and posted in the raid leadership chat that I was planning on running the Friday Karazan until there's no interest --badges are badges after all, and it's hard to beat Karazhan for the sheer volume of badges-- but I have no idea if it'll get changed back. If not, and I've been squeezed out by a GM who pre-epmtively did this, then there's literally nothing keeping me in the guild anymore. Especially since my time is considered so unimportant that nobody thought to inform me that I was going to get my run yanked before it actually happened.

Well, I guess I'll find out today what's going to happen to the sole raid I have left.

*There simply aren't a lot of those three out there that aren't currently raiding in TBC Classic. I've likened finding an Enhance Shaman looking for a raid to finding a unicorn. Usually it's people looking to raid an alt, and given the transition from Classic to TBC Classic, a lot of those looking are classes that used to be on the hit parade for Vanilla Classic but have fallen a bit to the side: Warriors and Mages. To be fair, Mages still do good DPS, but there were so many of them progression raiding in Vanilla Classic that there's not enough space for them all in TBC Classic.

**The final boss in that raid instance. Yes, the demon from Warcraft 3.

Tuesday, March 15, 2022

Why I Play the Way I do, Part Whatever

Age of Conan.

Now there was an MMO that shaped my in-game playing over the years, despite the bugs and mishandling of the Conan property by Funcom. 

That opening beach area. The graphics
still look good even after 14 years.

There was so much promise in that game, and I'd sung its praises before, especially in the starting zone, and I've been disappointed how the game played out. From the delay in the button pushes to the bait-and-switch from Tortage to the rest of the leveling content, it's a damn depressing situation at times. But that game simply won't die.

Ah yes, the character creation screen. And
the boob slider, which starts at roughly
a C cup and goes to 'How is she walking?'
From the IGN Age of Conan Wiki.

No, I haven't logged into the game in the past couple of days; I believe my time at logging in at all is at an end. But what sparked my musing about the game was how the mobs in WoW behave compared to AoC, and because of that I have a hard time following through on some of these YouTube videos showing how people can solo farm stuff in various instances/locales.

A couple of weeks ago --when Linna was still in the mid-60s*-- my questing buddy was trying and failing to accomplish some farming that she'd seen another guildie perform in Slave Pens. She'd also checked out some YouTube videos, and she kept dying. So I dropped by and kept her buffed, rezzing when necessary, for about an hour or two. During that time she showed me a couple of the tricks, showing how you can run from one point to another and not have to worry about the mobs following you. 

Yes, this is one of the sole pics that show
Linna around an instance. So far, that evening
spent in Slave Pens' opening area has been
the only time she's been in a BC instance.
(And for the record, we were talking about
the guinea pigs, not any human grandchildren.)


"Oh!" I replied. "And here I thought there was a barrier there or something."

"Nope! They just won't aggro here." A bit later, when we were in Dire Maul: East, she pointed out a location and said that was a reset point there. In both cases I kind of shook my head and muttered to myself that these two things would never work in Age of Conan. 


The mobs in Age of Conan are pretty brutal at level. Compared to other mainstream MMOs, they're on the Dark Souls end of difficulty in that it's not just a primary enemy you have to deal with, but how nearby enemies react as well. Back in the day, if you pulled one baddie, depending on how you pulled you might end up with 4-5 additional enemies ganging up on you. The mobs aren't linked per se, they just react to whatever nearby mobs are doing. It's quite impressive --especially for the era, when you'd not expect MMOs to behave in that advanced a fashion-- but it instilled in me an extra amount of caution in how I leveled out in the field. And in Age of Conan, you are most definitely not on the "superhero" end of power while leveling. Even Neve and Linna, who were both leveling in quest greens acquired from what must be 5-10 levels ago, feel more powerful than the average Age of Conan toon.

And tips and tricks that work in a game such as WoW simply will. not. work. in Age of Conan. 

AoC was designed with the hardcore in mind, back when PvE hardcore content meant more than "very long attunement processes".**


If Blizz wanted to, they could close out these gaps in the system that allows certain reset points and solo farming items to exist. The key point here is "wanted to", because I suspect that the Blizz devs themselves take advantage of these little quirks in the system, so why would they shoot themselves in the foot? And it's also important to note that since these little flaws in the WoW matrix were discovered, it's become a bit of a game to find these semi-legal loopholes. If those loopholes were closed when WoW was young, the devs would have at least had history on their side, but by letting them stand they're now considered part of the game. 

Some people would call it inventiveness, others laziness, and still others would call it 'cheats'. 

Like, oh, using the Immature Venom Sacs to deal with Viscidus in AQ40. 

Someone had to figure out not only would those sacs work with Viscidus, that they were tradable among people in a raid, but also that people had to farm the damn things in Lower Blackrock Spire by using quirks in the system to get the spider mobs down quickly enough so that the timer on the sacs they acquired wouldn't expire. Is it a kludge? Yes, of course it is. Does it work? Yes, it does. Is it what was intended by Blizz to fix the challenge? No, likely not, but that's the point. It was a solution that presented itself by someone who knew the reset points and could quickly farm a lot of sacs instead of farming mats for poison cleaning potions.***


I guess you could say that because those little quirks and gaps exist in WoW, it makes WoW more appealing to a certain type of player: one who likes a challenge and thinks outside the box. Age of Conan taught me how to pull conservatively and at the right angles for solo play, and WoW hasn't rid me of that just yet.

*Boy, it might have been even less time ago than that. Feels like a bit of a blur.

**And nudity. Don't forget the people who like nudity in their MMOs. But seriously, I wrote this back in 2011 --before SWTOR released-- on my first real post about Age of Conan: WoW, by comparison, is pretty tame stuff.  Sure, you have shades of gray with NPCs' morals, but you also have discernable good and bad guys.  There's nothing like dark and darker imagery that you get out of Age of Conan.  Considering that WoW is doing something completely different with it's blend of High Fantasy and Steampunk, that's to be expected.  Blizzard doesn't take itself too seriously, while AoC is like the student dressed all in black sitting at a table in a dimly lit coffeehouse, grousing about 'art'.

***Or didn't have access to the poison removal totem that Shamans have.

EtA: Fixed a grammatical mistake.

Friday, March 11, 2022

Hope Comes in Many Forms

(This is a rare occasion, where I inserted a jump break to keep this post from overwhelming the main page of the blog. Just wanted to warn you ahead of time.)


One of the things on my bucket list for WoW Classic was to experience the class quests as they were originally intended: to provide a unique flavor to each class. I realized that some classes had it better than others, such as the Priest and Hunter class quests being superior to the Rogue class quests*, but I was fine with that. I just wanted to see how things were before Cataclysm destroyed all of the unique little quirks that made the Old World so good.

I realize that the Mage quests don't have the same level of interest of some of these other class quests, but the biggest challenge is trying to do them at level on an underpowered Mage for the zone you're in, heading into the swamps beyond Theramore and Brackenwall Village searching for Tabetha's Hut**. That challenge makes the exploration portion of the game shine, but as in just about every other aspect of pre-Cataclysm WoW addons take out all of the guesswork and fun in a search in the unknown. If you do it as Blizz intended, a lot of these quests are more challenging than they seem in a meta created and addon filled (aka Questie) environment.***

"...says the person who DIDN'T get
struck by lightning..."

Another metagame issue that impacts whether people do the class quests is "Are the class quest rewards any good?"

Yes, even I use (and its predecessor, to determine if my rewards are decent or not for the quest I finished. But the difference in my usage versus others' is that I don't plan my questing based on upgrades; I just quest, and if it works out that I can get an upgrade, great. If not, I'm not gonna bitch that I should have done some other quest that yielded a better item.

The class quests I just do, because they're class quests. They represent a big part of why I play WoW Classic and not Retail: I want the flavor of Azeroth without it being beaten into me by a system designed to get me to Endgame as quickly as possible. The class quests are --by their nature-- unique and not a part of a zone story or anything of that sort. I choose to do these quests for the same reasons why I play the way I play, even though it costs me time to do so****, because I'm not doing any Endgame more complex than Kara right now. And probably won't for the conceivable future unless a friend's Saturday Night SSC runs start up.*****


Okay, with that as the prologue, you probably know where this is going.


Tuesday, March 8, 2022

The Future is.... Right After Tax Season?


Instead of a Blizzcon for making announcements, Blizzard is going to have a presentation on April 19th 2022 to cover the future of the Warcraft franchise

The post covered Classic Season of Mastery, TBC Classic, and Retail, so I presume that we'll see presentations on all three iterations of WoW.

This is my completely uninformed speculation as to what will be presented:

  • Season of Mastery will conclude and there will be another WoW Classic reboot.
  • TBC Classic will conclude by December 2022 and will be replaced by Wrath Classic in time for Christmas 2022.
  • A TBC Classic reboot --akin to Season of Mastery-- will be presented.
  • A new Retail expansion, set for release in Q1 2023, will be revealed.
  • There will be a boosting service for Wrath Classic in the same vein as the Deluxe Edition for TBC Classic.

It's entirely feasible that Wrath Classic and Retail might switch positions in the timeline, but that's my feel at the moment. It's also possible that the Retail expac is released in Q3 2022 instead of Q4 2022 or Q1 2023, but given the silence out of Blizzard I kind of doubt it.

Despite the hue and cry over the Deluxe Edition for TBC Classic, enough people bought it that Blizz is definitely bringing it back for Wrath Classic. Yes, that means that bots will swarm all over Utgarde Keep, The Nexus, and Ajol-Nerub, because that's what they do.

I also expect Wrath Classic to follow in the same vein as TBC Classic and drop earlier in the launch event than expected, meaning that a mini-version of the Left Overs --featuring Death Knights-- is going to experience what we experienced. That being said, starting in the mid L50s makes the leveling experience much easier, so probably not as much of a mental meat grinder as what was experienced last Summer. 

(Was it really just last Summer? Yeah, yeah it was. Sheesh, my TBC progression raid experience didn't even last a full calendar year.)

So sit down, prop your feet up, and reach for that bowl of popcorn on April 19th. (Y'all can have that; I'll just have a salad, thank you.) Maybe we should create a Blizzard Bingo to see just how many Blizzard buzzwords are covered in the presentation.

Sunday, March 6, 2022

Busy Hands

I have a confession to make.

The urge to build, to construct, to create is deep inside my bones. 

Among the stories that my mom uses to embarrass me with* is the one that when I was about six, my great uncle came over to help my dad with some of the chairs around the house. There were two chairs that could spin around and then rock back and forth. My dad and my great uncle were going to try to lock down the chairs so that they didn't rock, because we'd had a few "incidents" with my brother and me wreaking havoc with those chairs. 

They looked a bit like this, only one was
red and the other was blue.


While my brother quickly got bored and wandered off, I stuck around, watching, while they tried and failed to figure out how to prevent the chairs from rocking back and forth. After a while, I spoke up and suggested that they bolt the two plates together by drilling holes in the plates and using bolts to tighten and hold the plates together. My dad and my great uncle looked at each other for a moment and went "Ohh....." Within about 45 minutes they had both chairs locked down properly.

A year or so later I was given for my birthday two items: a bonsai kit and a Handy Andy junior handyman set. The former had some seeds that turned out to be dead already --I planted and watered them according to the instructions, so I know-- and the latter had a real screwdriver, a hammer, a plane**, two saws*** and just enough wood and nails to build a toolbox to hold everything. 

Perusing the internet for a while yielded this.
Although it has a triangle and only one saw,
this model also had its own metal box.

I had to wait a week --a sheer eternity to a little kid-- before my dad had the time to help me build the toolbox. Once that was built, I wandered around the house for days, looking for things to build. Sadly, there wasn't anything to work on, and my parents weren't interested in suggesting things for me to build (something about me hurting myself), and my toolset eventually sat in a corner of the garage, gathering dust. I couldn't afford to buy any wood without assistance, because my parents seemed to think that we lived in 1957 instead of 1977 and would only give my brother and I a quarter per week for our chores****

Pleas for a chemistry set yielded a big fat "no", but I did get one of those 175-in-1 electronic sets from Radio Shack for Christmas a year later. Alas that my parents did not like the beep sounds it made when I built the circuits in the instruction book and took the batteries away from the set, again rendering the damn thing useless. 

This was the story of my childhood: I'd get something to foster my urge to build things, get partway along, and then my parents would step in and neuter the project before I could finish it. I think this is the origin story of my vast amount of incomplete projects lying around the house, because I was trained to expect to get hamstrung or sidetracked by my interests.

That being said, by the time I graduated college I began to build a few things using my own money, such as a bookcase I designed to hold mass market paperbacks. The entirety of my F&SF book collection was in mass market paperbacks, so I knew exactly what I needed and built the thing from scratch.

Here's the proof. It's still in
my basement, 30 years later.

My interest in building things isn't limited to woodworking, as I'd posted in the past about my attempts to repair/recap an old Sony AM/FM radio, but I've also been called upon to perform emergency sewing for school projects. Such as the one time I made a dalmatian outfit for the youngest mini-Red to wear for her school play, or the time my son wanted to go as Tom Baker, the 4th Doctor, for Halloween. If you know Classic Doctor Who, you know that means the scarf. Since I didn't (and still don't) know how to knit, I bought a ton of cheap felt and stitched it together using a sewing machine, using the lengths found on as a guide.*****

Among my other hobbies/projects are my on again, off again affair with homebrewing, building/repairing stuff around the house (including putting a replacement roof on the back porch after Hurricane Ike hit back in 2008), stereo speaker building, and gardening. 


Living proof that I can actually complete
a project. And they actually sound good, too!

But one thing that has always caught my eye but I never followed through on was garb/cosplay creation.


If you've ever been to a Renaissance Fair you've seen people --some performers, some just fair goers-- dressed in costume. To someone outside of the community it appears to be just that, a costume. But to someone involved --or someone from the Society for Creative Anachronism (SCA)-- that's known as garb. I've known SCAdians who rummage through various patterns at a Ren Faire, looking for that one pattern that would complete their formal outfit. Or people who take great pains to study costume and clothing from the Middle Ages to get something exactly historically correct.

The link I provided above shows Faire goers as well as Faire staff (from the Ohio Renaissance Festival), and obviously not everything is historically accurate, but it certainly appears quite fun. For me, however, I've an urge to create garb and/or cosplay just because. 

Oh, I wish. The T2 Paladin Cosplay from Svetlana and Benni
work their collective asses off, and it's amazing
what they can achieve.


But, and this is the sticking point, not for me personally. I know, given my build, I'd be more of a candidate for mimicking Falstaff or, say, Henry VIII, but I'd rather not do that.****** I would like to make stuff for someone else, however, time --and most importantly, money-- willing.


Thanks a LOT, Shakespeare. From
the Mary Evans Picture Library, via

I need practice with a myriad amount of skills, which is kind of a sticking point. Like, say, sewing. Or foam armor making. Or dying/painting. Or simply "not burning the house down".

But I look at the compositions that Kamalia puts together on her blog Kamalia et Alia, and can't help but wonder how I'd put together that sort of transmog into a real costume. Like her current one, which includes outfits entitled "Restless Dreams" and "Like, Totally, Not a Death Cultist, Okay?"

Just, wow. Kamalia, I bow to you.

I think I really need to brew some beer to take the edge off of this urge to create. Or maybe design an RPG setting. Or something, because I simply don't have the money or space to create new hobbies for myself.

(I bet when you saw this title that I was going to talk about Elden Ring or something, right? Well, if you want to read about an older person trying the game, go to Tobold's Blog to read about his attempts to play an action RPG that's as unforgiving as the Dark Souls/Elden Ring games as a person whose physical skills aren't what they used to be. Like him, or me.)

*There was one time, about a decade ago, when I was helping my parents out around the house with something and my mom wandered by and said "Oh, you were breastfed as a baby." I looked around, bewildered, saying "Where on earth did THAT come from?" My dad just sighed.

**My parents, in their quest to make sure I didn't kill myself by age 10, immediately took the sharp edge out of. Which, of course, rendered it useless.

***One was a coping saw and the other a "regular" saw, which they took away from me as well. Okay, they let me keep the frame of the coping saw but took away the blade portion, rendering that useless too.

****One of the reasons why I wasn't big on making the kids do any chores for money was because my time was worth so little to my parents that they simply gave us a pittance, even for 1977, to spend. I mean, I could play exactly one game of Pac-Man on that quarter allowance, which lasted up until high school for me in the mid 80s. And if I wanted to buy a paperback book, they ran $2.50 in the late 70s and then $2.95 in the early-mid 80s. (Plus tax, you know.) That'd take me 3+ months to get the money for a single book.

*****If you try to put in https, your AV program might complain about the site because it only has an http version available. Just a note.

******And while it's going to be a very long time before I lose enough weight to get my health issues under control without drugs, if I did manage to do that I'd actually consider wearing something. 


EtA: Corrected a grammatical error.

Friday, March 4, 2022

Letters from Outland Part 2

Dear Card--

Sorry about not writing sooner; I've been busier in Outland than I thought.

The Legion is still causing trouble in the peninsula staging area, but we've been pushing them back throughout the rest of this Light forsaken zone. Because of that, I've been sent onward to help with an expedition the Cenarion Circle has sent here to Outland.

"Knight Linnawyn reporting in, ma'am."

You remember Ysiel, don't you? She organized the Outriders based out of Cenarion Hold in Silithus. She's out here now, leading the Cenarion Expedition from their base in a wetlands area, and she has her hands full with Naga and some mysterious occurrences throughout the region. 

In addition to the Draenei and Orcs in Outland, there are other races that seem to be the Draenei's cousins. There are the Broken, who are very close to the Draenei but have their contact to the Light severed, which withered them a bit. Honestly, I didn't know that a race that had a direct connection to the Light existed, and my friend Zarleigha described it as basically feeling the warmth of the Light on you at all times. To her, it's about as normal as walking, so losing it would be devastating to her. The Broken have learned to live without that connection, just like the rest of us, and some of the Broken have turned to listening to the elements as a substitute for that direct connection to the Light. 

Still, there is a third group that we have seen in Azeroth, the so called Lost Ones, who have descended to barely above barbarism. They're the people who give the Cenarions the most trouble.

I was scouting one of these Lost One groups south of the Expedition's base when I discovered that they'd captured a friend of Kitwynn's, Kayra Longmane. I swear, Kit seems to know everybody out here. I freed Kayra from the hut she'd been tossed into and we escaped north, but not without a few adventures.

The Light protects.

While scouting farther west of the Expedition's base, I came across a friend of yours, Watcher Leesa'Oh.

"You're Card's sister?" she replied. "Oh, I miss
the time when she visited us in Darnassus!"

She and her lovable cat, Buddy, were studying a race native to the swamp that she calls the Sporelings, and how they interact with another race, the Bog Lords. 

Things are not going well here. The Bog Lords have been entering the Sporelings' territory and have been eating the Sporelings. I couldn't sit idly by when a cry for help came from a nearby Sporeling, so I sprang into action.

Leesa'oh had discovered that a tribe of Ogres had moved into the northwestern part of the swamp and from there I scouted and discovered that they displaced the Bog Lords, who then took it out on the Sporelings.

"Who are you calling puny?"

We stole back some of their mushroom stores and proceeded to start a new feeding area for the Bog Lords south of the Ogres' territory.

Still, the presence of the Naga here is the real problem in the swamps. They seem to be draining the swamps, and Ysiel can't quite fathom why. She had me return to the Cenarion staging area west of Honor Hold to ask for help, but when I arrived I found the Circle's hands are still tied up with the Silithids and the Scourge. Unfortunately, the Expedition is on its own.

"Who we need," Ysiel told me, "is someone
like your sister to help us put the puzzle together."

I told Ysiel that you're staying put at the moment, and she was stuck with me instead. 

And don't you dare come out here yet, Sis. Mom told me in her last letter that you're still having flashbacks and nightmares from inside Naxxramas, and there is no way you're coming out here until you're properly healed. I'll take care of myself, and when I finally catch a short reprieve I'll be sure to come back home for a week's worth of leave.

Ysiel is going to send me to the Draenei city southeast of here, called Shattrath, to look for assistance with the Naga. I'm still getting used to seeing so many Draenei around, and I've heard rumors that a significant chunk of Blood Elves defected from Illidan and joined forces with the Draenei in the city. If that's true, it just might be our first big break out here. Southwest of here is a large encampment of these Mag'har Orcs, the ones that follow the Old Ways and refused the Burning Legion back in what feels like ancient history. Even though they distrust --at best-- anyone who isn't an Orc, I've heard that the Frostwolves have established some ties with the Mag'har. If the Frostwolf Clan can get them on our side, we've got a chance here. A real chance.

Be well, and send me more drawings that the kids have done! I save them in my pack to take out whenever I'm missing home. And you say that Trevor visited? You can't just leave me hanging like that! Are you two finally going to get together? I know you've got it bad for him, and having another Knight in the family is a good thing in my book. I expect details! Nothing is off limits!!

Your loving sister,


EtA: Corrected a caption; restoring it's original message.

Tuesday, March 1, 2022

The Curse of Cassandra's Foresight

There are times when it feels strange, knowing the future. 

Sure, there are plenty of times where I play a game more than once, such as Baldur's Gate, and I know what will happen. And that doesn't bother me much, even though I know I'll end up making the same story selections in spite of plenty of incentive to do otherwise.* 

Even playing WoW Classic and visiting places such as Theramore, knowing what happens to them in Retail, doesn't bother me too much because I just simply refuse to accept the Retail storyline from Cataclysm forward. I just look on that as a story in need of a massive reboot and retelling, because of poor decisions made by Blizzard to.... what? Look edgy? Provide drama? Give the faction leaders something to do? Make more money by placing the story in novel/comic form, and going off the rails by focusing solely on faction leadership?

Sorry, got sidetracked there.

But still, there are times when I read the in game story for someone such as Illidan, known to just about everyone else as The Betrayer, and think that he got a raw deal.

In this timeline, Illidan's end comes as the final boss in Black Temple, and think of everything he gets screwed out of along the way:

  • A suitor for Tyrande, and loses out to his own brother (Malfurion).
  • A powerful (arguably the most powerful and influential) Highborne Mage, and loses the Well of Eternity due to the War of the Ancients.
  • Tries to play the Burning Legion by "going over" to their side and then sticking a metaphorical knife in their backs at a critical juncture in the War of the Ancients. As a result, is trusted by no one.
  • Creates a second Well of Eternity to restore the Well to its original glory, and is imprisoned.
  • Is sprung from prison by Tyrande and Malfurion to assist with the Burning Legion, is turned into a demon by the Skull of Gul'dan so he could defeat a dreadlord, and is banished by Malfurion.
  • Tries to play both sides once more by feigning allegiance to the Burning Legion, and is given the thankless task of defeating the Lich King. (He fails.)
  • Turns against the Legion on arriving in Outland, but in the end becomes yet another Overlord of Outland who ruins the damn place.

Getting screwed out of your love, your craft, your people, etc., will tend to make a person bitter. Since he tended to exercise bad judgement in service of a good cause, I frequently see him as an Azerothian version of Albrecht Dürer's Melancholia.

Been there, Melancolia.
Oh, I've been there.
From the Google Art Project via Wikipedia.


It's kind of ironic that, for decades, I've kind of identified with the personification of Melancolia as she broods over inspiration. Being in awe over people who have that creative spark and can seemingly summon it at will, it always helps to know that waiting for inspiration to strike is not merely a pastime of the rest of us, but also afflicts the gifted.

But I can see a character such as Illidan in this print, particularly when he is seen in the BC trailer, brooding over the Skull of Gul'dan in a Hamlet-esque way. His inspiration only led him so far, to making bad decisions that he has to reflect upon for the rest of his life. 

Which is coming to an end at the conclusion of Phase 3.


On days like yesterday, when I stumbled across a post in Blizzard Watch about alternate Hearthstone skins that shine a window on what could have been in the Warcraft universe. Such as Illidan as a Sabertender, or Anduin as a heartthrob (or an SI:7 operative). 

I think that Cardwyn could get behind
the SI:7 Anduin. (From Blizzard Watch.)

But what attracted me most was seeing Festival Jaina. Not that it's interesting on its own merits, but that she's happy.

I could definitely see Jaina at my envisioning
of the Goldshire Harvest Festival. Minus
Cardwyn's 'Pig Incident' as an adolescent.
(From Blizzard Watch.)


I can't recall when I've ever seen her happy before, and if there's someone who definitely fits the bill as a gloomy Eeyore-esque Mary Sue type, it's Jaina.

Uh... Let me explain that part.

She (and Thrall) are both Mary Sues (or is that Mary Sue and Marty Stu) in that they seem to be magically free of weaknesses, are über-powerful**, and they skate along in the Warcraft universe whereas just about everyone else seems to die off or be corrupted. And that's not even talking about Jaina having a blue dragon for a boyfriend. I guess you can tell that the two of them are the favorites of Blizzard simply because they take a licking and keep on ticking. 

That doesn't mean that all is peaches and cream for Jaina, because Blizz has spent a lot of time trying to throw tons of emotional and physical tragedy in her direction. It's almost as if Blizz is trying to say "No, she's NOT a Mary Sue at all! See? She's constantly buffeted by tragedy! She can't help but dwell on her failures!" 

This art, however? What I see in her face is someone who has cautiously let her guard down for a while. It's not relief, nor is it abandon, but more of an "yeah, I can do this for a while", with a bit of strain still on the cheeks and her smile.

She's freed from her shackles for a while.


Ironically enough, that freedom from shackles was something that Illidan was never able to achieve. I looked at Jaina's portrait and instead of just saying "Oh, nice" and moving on, I thought of Illidan instead.

And Johnny Cash.

I suppose I should have said Trent Reznor, since I was thinking of Johnny Cash's version of Hurt, but I honestly do prefer Cash's interpretation more than Reznor's Nine Inch Nails original. 


When the Cash version was released, I was still in my early 30s, with three small kids, a wife who suffered from depression, neighbors who judged us by whether we went to the right schools or played the right sports or went to the right church***, and I didn't know how we were going to survive long term. 

Cash's Hurt changed Reznor's young adult spiraling into addiction into an older person at the end of their life, watching things fade away. The lines "I wear my Crown of Thorns upon my liars chair" and "everyone I know goes away in the end" spoke to my existential angst at the time, and in some small way it helped me realize that I'm not the only one who struggles, who has guilt and regrets. I've returned to Hurt from time to time when I'm feeling low, just so I can rekindle that realization once more in a therapeutic fashion.

But a character such as Illidan doesn't have that catharsis. He is our catharsis, if we only let him in. And I can't help but feel his tragedy when I'm roaming around in Outland, questing, although I should be thinking about other things. I know the future of this place, and it saddens me that I am unable to change it. Like how I know what is coming, Wrath of the Lich King, and I know that all of the excesses such as Gearscore and automated LFG will be there with it, and I'm powerless to stop it.

Questing, thinking, and listening are therapeutic, but only once we accept things that we cannot change.

*Such as in Stardew Valley, where I have soft spots for Penny and Leah.

**Without any real limits. Or at least it seems to be the case.

***Narrator: They didn't.