Friday, August 29, 2008

How I overcame my phobia about battlegrounds

Until recently I’ve been just like a kitten whenever entering a battleground: cute and sweet but utterly defenceless. The claws and teeth just weren’t sharp enough to deal with the merciless combatants in those places. Or maybe a better description would be a chicken? A headless one, just running around like everybody else seems to be doing, pretending I know what I’m doing.

It’s really nothing I’m ashamed of – it’s just that I’ve chosen to explore and advance in another part of the game. I’ve always taken a pride in that I’m not one of those who have geared up in PvP and then want to go raiding. I’m PvE geared right through – mostly by badges, a few drops and some crafted stuff.

Forced to PvP
But lately I’ve more or less been forced to do some PvP. I realized I needed the Medal of the Alliance trinket badly for some raid encounters. And I also had to increase my stamina in certain raid situations – the best way seemed to get Guardians Silk Belt to replace my Belt of Blasting whenever needed.

This was nothing to question or think about – I simply had to do a bit of PvP to support my PvE progression.

So the last few weeks I’ve been around in quite a few Alterac Valleys and a decent amount of Arathi Basins (the 40 badges that belt requires is quite a lot when you lose most of the time) and just a few of the others as well, when it was the daily quest and I hoped for some additional honor.

And I haven’t only got the gear I wanted – at the same time I’ve gone from being completely hostile or even in war with those places to be at least friendly, if not yet honoured or revered.

The post of today is about what I do, as a PvE fan and PvP noob to make battlegrounds a bit more enjoyable. Maybe it can give some inspiration to others who’ll find themselves in the same situation.

I volunteer to watch the flags.

Running around as a headless chicken you don’t do much to help the raid group you’re in. Finally I found something that I actually could do: I volunteer as a flag and tower guardian.

It clearly needs to be done by someone, but many players seem to find it pretty boring – if you’re unlucky or lucky, depending on how you see it, it won’t give you many honorable kills or a nice position on the chart. I don’t mind the job at all.

I sort of get into the role as the lonely outpost, watching the battle at a distance. Especially in AB you can see the fight by the next flag. The nukes from the mages, the cries and the victories and losses in the horizon - the war frontier. You look out if someone is coming your way and pull the alarm if needed. You can even entertain yourself with some closet roleplaying, thinking about the ongoing war and why you’re into it, to protect the glorious city of Stormwind and the peaceful Elwynn Forest. Or whatever it is that you’re fighting for.

Sometimes it’s a lonely business. It’s just me and my vanity pet. I go around puffing some low rank AE from time to time to see if any rogue is trying to sneak up on me. But at other times I find myself in party with other fans of flag watching. And that brings us into the second thing I do to have a more enjoyable time:

I socialize.

If you’re on a watching assignment or if you’re perhaps waiting for the start signal to take down Drek in AV, you’ve got plenty of opportunities to get to know some other players from your realm.

The beginning is often just like when dogs greet each other, sniffing in… well… you know.
Our way of doing this is that we inspect each others gear and spec. This is often a nice opener for a little conversation, which runs along until some enemies turn up and we get our hands full.

If things work out well we manage to defend our flag until they’re gone – and then we chat a little bit again. It’s really very enjoyable for a talkative innkeeper like me.

Some players seem to draw this even further than I do. Like the rogue I met the other day, while I was watching one of the towers in AV. I had a look at his gear and was just about to complement him when I noticed he didn't have any head for some odd reason. And then suddenly it was all gone and replaced by a tuxedo, and he burst out in one of those peculiar nightelf dances. Luckily enough no enemies turned up for the minutes we stayed there, having a miniature party on our own. We kept in touch for the rest of that BG, talking about guild progression and stuff like that. And so, a little bit too quick in my opinon, Drek was down and we had won and that was the end of our friendship.

"See you" he said, but we both knew it was a lie. He was on another server of course, it's quite unlikely that we'll ever meet again. Still it was one of those random meetings which can make PvP a pleasure.

I stick to the things I’m fit to do.

Considering my talent build and gear is intended for raiding – not PvP – and that I lack experience and skill in duelling, arena and such stuff, there are things in the BGs that I’m more or less suited for. A perfect assignment for me in AV is to take down the NPC bosses, since my nuke power is pretty OK. I can take them down quicker and easier than many others. So I try to be around the bosses as much as I can.

Taking a mine, if it’s needed for reinforcements, is another perfect job for Larísa, provided I don’t get lost in the corridors, which happens from time to time.

A not-so-perfect job is to be right in the middle of those spots where there are 10 hordes and 10 allies in the middle of the road. I’ll be pretty likely to die if I run in there, without any frost shield or other skills and utilities to survive.

Sometimes I can sheep someone however, if I stick to one of the sides. But generally I try to avoid the huge crowds if I can and find better things for me to do.

I fight wholeheartedly even if the odds are against me. But I don’t expect victories.

PvP is much more fun if you actually try to win. Since I started to put in a bit more of feelings into it, to fight with passion, I enjoy it so much more. Even if we loose a lot most of the BGs if it isn’t an AV, it’s more fun to so when I know I’ve done the best I could.

I’m present not only with my char, but in my mind, and I’ve stopped looking upon the BG as something that just needs to be ended, something I wait for to be finished. The “I-really-hate-this-attitude” didn’t help me at all, it just made me miserable.

At the same time I try to keep my expectations low when it comes to how quickly I’ll gather the marks requested for a gear item. I don’t expect to get anything more than 1 mark out of every BG. Anything more than that is just a happy surprise, nothing else. This attitude saves me from feelings of disappointment and frustration.

Even if we loose I’ll get my reward and gear eventually, so there isn’t much to complain about. And I’m rewarded in other ways too. PvP is actually great training for my ability to react and improvise and I know it’s really what I need to perform better in raids.

I call for help from my tiny helper gnomes.

I know this sounds really silly, but it’s a fact. The BGs really became more fun since I got my Tiny Voodoo Mask trinket from Hex Lord in Zul Aman. It’s got a long cooldown so I can’t use it more than a couple of times in a BG, but oh how I enjoy it whenever I do it! OK, those three miniature gnomes that spawn aren’t any great damage dealers, but they sort of interrupt the enemies and do cause some confusion. And above all they make me smile.

I guess I can’t recommend everyone to get that trinket – it takes that you’re in a guild that regularly downs Hex Lord and that you’re a bit lucky with rolls. But perhaps you’ve got an old one collecting dust in the bank? The Ancient Cornerstone Grimoire from Onyxia could work the same way; it’s something fun to treat yourself with if you from time to time find the BG a bit dull.

The End of my PvP Career?
So, I’ve got my belt and my trinket and even a Stormpike Battle Charger as a nice bonus from all those AVs. Does this mean that my short PvP Career has come to an end? Nope.

I’m seriously thinking about getting the neck as well – Guardian’s Pendant of Subjuction with spellhaste or possibly Guardian’s Pendant of Conquest with crits.

I can’t say I’m totally thrilled at the expectations of running more BGs, but at least I’m not annoyed anymore. It’s pretty much an OK thing to do a raidless night when the LFG channel is empty and you just can’t bear the thought of picking another herb.

It’s a bit social from time to time. You see some fun stuff, and 1 out of 20 BG:s you can even enjoy some real cooperation going on, reminding a little of what's going on in a real party.

My days as a PvP hater are definitely over.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Ask Larísa: Where do I find info about gear progress?

This is a historical day.

A while ago I gave a game friend of mine some advice about how to organize a guild he was about to start. I then got the idea to do publish it on the blog, and gave it the label “Ask Larísa", not really expecting anyone to actually do it. I'm really not an authority. But now I’ve received my first letter from an unknown reader, asking me for advice!

Entropy wrote this letter to me:

I have a toon that just hit 69. To be honest I kind of have that feeling of "what is next". I have been working on an Alt that is a healer and to be honest that should have been my main. I love to heal instances and groups. I like my Hunter and all but I just get tired of playing it from time to time. My gear on my main is mainly in Greens.

The question I have for you is...Do you know of a good site that shows how to progress on gear? I do not see myself raiding because of family time restraints. So that pretty much leaves Instances, Battle Grounds and some questing that I have not done yet. Am I missing anything? Do you know of a site that would be able to outline this?

I know that I can go to the Armory and click on my gear to see what is better...It would just be nice if there was a site that has already shown the gear progression for a non raider. Yes, I know this kind of sounds lazy but I would rather play than research in my free time.

And here's Larísa's answer:

First of all: thank you for writing. I’m so honoured that you’re turning to me, especially since I’m not a healer, so I don’t know what to say. Luckily enough I know there are some healers who read this blog, so hopefully they can assist and give some more information in comments if I’ve missing something essential.

In your letter you don’t say what kind of healer you’re playing, and you don’t say anything about your professions. Maybe you should consider switching to a crafting profession in order to improve your gear. For instance if your healer is a priest, there’s currently some great healing gear, the Primal Mooncloth set and the Whitemend set. Possibly it’s a bit late to grind for those sets with the upcoming expansion, where gear will be outdated as you continue levelling, but I’m sure there will be craftable healing gear in Northrend as well which you can head for.

If you’ve got family constraints which make it impossible for you to play for long hours, gearing up by crafting really isn’t a bad alternative; you can do the grinding in small portions. But of course it also depends on what you enjoy in the game. If you find grinding mats a pain, but can find time to at least do instance runs – first normal and later heroics, well then that’s the way to go.

You ask about where to find progression plans for healers and I wish I had complete gearing plans ready for you right away, like the one that I have for the rogue class. Unfortunately I haven’t. But there’s a great source of information nowadays, where you can ask this kind of questions and get good answers without people raising their eyebrows, looking down on you. This new forum is called PlusHeal, and it’s live and kicking and if you won’t find what you’re looking for I’m sure you’ll get help if you just ask for it! (To be honest, the mage community is a bit envious about this awesome place.)

I had a look at this forum to see if I quickly could find the kind of thing you were looking for, and as a matter of fact I did! At least if you’re playing a paladin or shaman. There were links provided by a guy who has created great progression charts with gear comparison, for people just like you. Here’s the paladin chart, and here’s the shaman chart. Just enjoy if you’re playing one of those classes!

If you're playing a druid there's a great information spot for you, The Druid Wiki. Follow the link to Gear and you'll find several gearguides for you.

You should also have a look at some of the major healing blogs (I link to several of them in my blogroll). They may provide guides for your class. For instance Parttime Druid has a post, Fresh 70 Resto Druid: Gear Cheat Sheet, which should be useful, provided your healer is a druid.

Finally there’s a program called Rawr, which I think you should have a look at. You can download it for free from here. Shortly it helps you to compare gear that you already have or are thinking about to get. You can also get a good idea for instance about what gems would be most beneficial for you. This said, it may take a little time for you to do all the settings, even though you import your char from armory to begin with. So if you really don’t want to spend time on doing research and doing theorycrafting on your own I think asking PlusHeal is probably an easier way to go if you feel “lazy”.

Now I just want to wish you good luck with your progression! On behalf of all mages I thank you for healing us through instances with a smile on your face. We really depend on people like you.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

What is a skilled player?

I overheard a conversation in the guild chat a while ago. It was about skill. The general opinion was that skill > gear. I didn’t say anything, since I don’t regard myself as a God Sent Gift to the raiding community, just an ordinary player trying to do her best, step by step getting the hang of this game.

I just don’t think I’m entitled to do straightforward statements about the lack of skill I see in other players. Such comments will blow up in your face faster than you think. And after all it all depends on what you put into the word “skill”.

The traditional skill
One way to look at it, very simplified, is that for instance a skilled mage will know how to make maximal damage out the gear and consumables that are available to him. He’ll know how to survive the whole fight and use other utilities like counterspell and spellsteal whenever needed.

I’ve seen an example with my own eyes, a warlock who the same day as he dinged 70 went straight into Gruul and owned the damage chart. He was a veteran player. He had a few tailored epic items, but mostly he was in greens, and that didn’t stop him a second. He knew the fights by heart. He had a high level of situational awareness and could react quickly. He knew how to balance just below the threat limit, all skills that comes as a result of long experience and probably a bit of talent as well (not that I would tell him, his ego is big enough as it is). His skill definitely outweighed his so-and-so gear.

This kind of skill is what I think comes to most peoples mind when you use the word. But I think there are other kinds of skill which will never show up on a WWS report, but still matters a lot to how far a guild will be able to progress. I just want to point out a few of them:

Social skill
Exactly what this is isn’t easy to define. But I think it’s about more than just not swearing in guild chat – if you’re a guild that doesn’t swear – or swearing in guild chat, if that is what your guild does. A socially skilled player thinks and acts as a team member. He or she has a high empathic intelligence and can see issues from other players’ point of view. He can see potential conflicts, prevent them from blowing up, and if they still happen, help to calm the waters.

By intuition he knows when to talk and when it’s time to shut up, whether it’s in the guild chat or in a raid.

The socially skilled player helps to create the solid core of the guild, which is essential for a survival longer than a few months. He or she makes the raid or the guild into an attractive place where players like to spend their time.

Since those players tend to have huge friend lists and networks on the server, they can be of great help in recruitment and marketing for the guild or in forming alliances with other guilds if that becomes necessary.

Mental fitness
I’m not sure if it’s the right thing to call it mental fitness – perhaps it’s just the opposite, some kind of mental illness. Anyway, it takes a special set of mind to endure the hard work it takes for a guild to progress in 25 man raiding.

As I said the other day, you can very well facing 26 wipes during a night, repair bills that will make your pink pigtails turn grey and not a single boss kill. That’s the life of a raider.

You do corpse run after corpse run after corpse run. You buff up quickly after each run and then you go for it again, and on trial number 18 you should be just as much on your toes as on the first try – or hopefully even a bit sharper, since you’ve obviously got to shape up. You’ve got to cope with raid leaders yelling at you, you’ve got to cope with the discouraging comments from other players aren’t mentally prepared.

A mentally fit player can put up a shield and ignore those disturbances – or even better – use the energy that comes from frustration and anger in a better way, as fuel for the next fight.

A player who is every so skilled technically, but lacks the mental preparedness and starts sulking when things aren’t running smoothly is in my opinion a burden to the raid.

Organizational skills
It’s been said before and I say it again: to run a raiding guild is like to run a smaller company. To once or twice in a lifetime let a guild have a shot at Gruul is one thing. But to organize a 25 man raid several times a week, over and over again, month after month, to make it happen and to and actually make some progression– that takes not only commitment but also knowledge and talent for organizing things.

You need to make structures for everything from leadership to loot distribution to guild bank. You need to lay schemes and recruit in order that people will be able to raid as much as they want to, but not so much that it’s impossible to have a night off when real life claims you.

You need to plan things far ahead, so that people acquire the resistance gear and attunements they need in order to proceed. Some people can’t stand this side of the game since they find it utterly boring. Others just haven’t got any talent at all for it – their bags in the game look just as messy as their desk does in real life.

People who are skilled and committed to organisation deserve a bit more of our love than they normally get.

Other kinds of skills
In this post I’ve so far covered some of the skills that I think are valuable to a raiding guild. But of course there are many other kinds of skills that we tend to forget since we focus on a different part of the game.

Just an example: not being a role player myself, I can imagine that there are more or less skilled players when it comes to acting in character. If I were to role play I’d rather look for players who made interesting stories about their character and could improvise a chat in a fun way, than for players who just know how to play their class.

There are other players who specialize in a very small sector of the game, enjoy that immensely and develop a huge level of knowledge. Like the Businessmen, devoting more or less all of their game time in playing the Auction House, building up a huge fortune. Or the Collectors, who’re devoted to collect every single rare pet in the game and know everything about how to get them.

Those people may suck in battleground or in a raid instance, but it’s wrong to say that they aren’t skilled players. They’re just skilled in a different area.

The multi-skilled player vs the specialist
Finally I’d like to say a few words about depth as opposition to broadness in your skills. There are those people who are extremely skilled in one of the aspects I’ve mentioned and lack the others completely. And then there are others who aren’t the best in any of them, but show a high and even level in every category. You could compare it to the hepathlon athletes in the Olympic Games. They wouldn’t win any of the disciplines they’re competing in; still I hold them for being among the most admirable sportsmen you can think of.

I think there’s room for both in a raiding guild. You need the all-round players who won’t top the damage chart, but on the other hand will help the guild to develop thanks to their social skills, their talents for organization and who will stick to the raid to the bitter end every single time, without complaining.

You need a few of those specialists, especially of the first sort, the “traditional skilled player” who are just insanely talented when it comes to situational awareness, quick reacting and decision taking. Those who just do everything right every time and save your ass when you thought you were doomed.

Sometimes this people are so useful that you can oversee that they may act a bit too much as individual, that they may whine a bit and demand special treatment from time to time and that they’re really not good team members in all situations. It’s OK as long as you don’t get too many of them and you still have a solid core of multi-skilled players who balance and keep the guild together.

All in all of course it’s true that skill > gear. If you buy a well geared char at e-bay without having a clue how to play it I can guarantee you’ll fail. But skill is a lot more than what normally first comes into your mind. And I think that can be worth thinking about before we throw out allegations that other players lack skill.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Stormwind vs Ironforge – which one do you prefer?

Where do you feel most at home in the game? And I’m not talking about where you put your hearthstone – most level 70s have it in Shattrath to get access to the free portals.

I think about the place where you normally go when you need to do errands – like visiting AH in combination of sorting your bank and getting repairs and reagents. The place where you’ve been so many times that you could keep your eyes closed navigating in the streets, since you know all the turns and ways by instinct.

To me the player base seems to be split in those two categories: Ironforge lovers and Stormwind lovers. It’s just the same way it is about dogs and cats in real life. There are the dog-preferring kind of people and the cat-fans. They don’t necessarily have reasons for those preferences, it’s just something you’re born into.

Until now I’ve been a Stormwinder, probably mostly out of habit. I simply know this place after spending so much time here. Zakesh, my co-innkeeper, on the other hand is a sworn friend of Ironforge. When we discussed this a while ago it came to my mind that I didn’t have any logical arguments for my habit to go to SW.

Because of this I did some research to once for all determine which place is best. And here’s the result:

1. Distance to facilities
I’ve measured a few walks I usually do whenever I’m in town. When possible I used my epic mount. I haven’t tried to make any kind of speed record – you can probably do those distances faster if you try. My intention was to make it as realistic as possible – to do it the way I always do it.

Portal place (where I appear) – bank
Ironforge: 37 sec
Stormwind: 44 sec

Comment: It may not seem a big difference, those 7 seconds, but trust me, they feel very long and annoying, especially if you count in the quite impractical placing of the portal in Stormwind, way up in the mage tower. You have to watch out so that you don’t run in the wrong direction, ending up in a wall instead of going outdoors. And there’s this annoying ramp you have to run down – or jump, and then accept some loss of hp. This is a strong argument for Ironforge in my opinion.

Bank – battleground masters
Ironforge: 40 sec
Stormwind: 1 minute
Comment: It’s very annoying to have to run the whole way inside the building in Stormwind without my mount.

Auctionhouse – mailbox
Ironforge: 12 sec
Stormwind: 13 sec
Comment: Not a big deal.

Bank – reagent vendor:
Ironforge: 22 sec
Stormwind: 13 sec
Comment: To be fair there is a reagent vendor guy closer to the bank in Ironforge, just by the inn. I guess about at the same distans as in Stormwind. But he's only got arcane powder, he hasn't got the vials I need as an alchemist. To get them I have to go to a shop near the fp, at least I haven't found anyone closer. This is very annoying. I tend to buy to few of them and often run a few times between the bank, AH, postbox and reagent vendor when I'm up for making some drugs.
Bank – repair guy
Comment: I forgot to use my timer on this one. But I reckon it's about the same. At first I was frustrated in Ironforge since I only found the smith standing in the cellar. I thought it was ridiculous to have to take the stairs down. But then I found another one on the other side of the bank. He is a few steps up, but it's managable.

2. Looks and atmosphere
Both Stormwind and Ironforge offer majestic settings, not the least the entrances. But Stormwind also offers something more: it’s relaxed, peaceful and pretty, with the channels, green parks, small shops selling things like wine and flowers and a lot of civilians and even children hanging around. You can see the sun and breathe fresh outdoor air. Without being a master of lore I get the feeling that this is what the ongoing war in the game is about; this is what we’re striving to protect.

Ironforge on the other hand feels pretty hostile. It’s definitely not pleasurable for civilians; it feels like an outpost combined with some mine industries. According to Wowwiki you should feel very safe and at home in Ironforge, but honestly, to me it’s quite a dark place. Not beautiful and welcoming the way Stormwind is. The whole town is bathing in different shades of darkness. You never see the sun and the air definitely is polluted with all this industrial work going on everywhere.

On the other hand – some of us prefer to dwell in the darkness. We want that “close-to-the-front”-atmosphere. We maybe find Stormwind even a bit too idyllic, too much of beautiful surface, a bit too polished to be comfortable and cozy. And way too crowded. Mind you, Stormwind has about 200 000 inhabitants, compared to the 20 000 of Ironforge.

The difference is huge, just watch the screenshots I included for a comparsion. But all in all, it’s more a matter of taste and what mood you’re in.

3. Miscellaneous observations

  • Both Ironforge and Stormwind offer fishing opportunities. Not for the captures, it's just low level crap, but for levelling up. I must say though that standing by the channels a sunny day, watching the city life, seems much more enjoyable to me than to dwell all alone in the darkness of the Forlorn Cavern. What really speaks for Stormwind though is that you can complete the daily fishing q when it's the one where you catch a croc. It's ever so easy to do it while you’re still in town doing other errands.
  • The flight path in Stormwind is slightly closer to the AH/Bank area. On the other hand you can’t mount all the way to it, and you have to run up an annoying ramp to access it. The flight master in IF on the other hand is standing conveniently on the ground and also has a repair guy nearby. The availability to the gryphon master isn’t any real argument though for either of the city, since you probably visit him for a reason; you don’t want just to go anywhere, but to a specific place. And while IF offer the closest transport to Ghostlands/ZulAman and Sunwell, Stormwind is the right place to start for a Karazhan run. So I guess that makes it even.
  • There is a small advantage for Ironforge that it’s closer to the harbour if you need to take the boat to Theramore. Being a mage I don’t have to, and I also have rep to portal to Caverns of Time. But for other classes it could be something to consider.
  • The deeprun tram is easier available in Ironforge than in Stormwind, where it’s well hidden. But since I hardly ever use it I can’t say it’s an argument for either side.
  • I can’t help it but all the shops in Ironforge seem to look the same to me. It makes it harder to learn how to find your way.
  • If your HS is on cooldown and you need to transport yourself there's a special thing you can do in Stormwind: start a party for Stockades. Enter. Then leave the party. You'll be transported to where your HS is set. It's not a big deal, just a small detail in advantage of SW.

My conclusions
After looking at those figures I think I’ll give Ironforge an honest chance to compete for the title “hometown of Larísa”. It is a bit annoying that I have to walk a bit to get my vials. But especially if I intend to combine waiting for AV queues with browsing AH, it’s very attractive.

And the most important reason of all is the one I haven’t mentioned yet: I have a strong feeling that there are much fewer beggars and other annoying people in Ironforge than in Stormwind. You’re more likely to be left in peace, even as a mage.

And what about Darnassus?
You who have read this far may wonder what happened to Darnassus, the capital of the elves?
Is Larísa so noobish that she hasn’t even heard about it’s wonders? Or is she a sworn elf hater?

Neither. But seriously, I’ve never ever met a player who considers Darnassus to be their home town, the place where you do your everyday stuff. And that isn’t strange. It’s ridiculously spread out and totally impossible to get the grasp of, to learn where things are situated. Some of the platforms are even annoyingly hard to jump up on as a gnome.

I know I’ll probably be flamed now by some dedicated nightelf players, but I can live with it. Tell me that I’m wrong and I may do some serious studies and measure the distances in Darnassus as well. But for the time being I just can’t see how it could qualify as a hometown.

Monday, August 25, 2008

The heartbreaking farewell of a GM

I stumbled on a movie at You Tube the other day and it touched my heart and almost made me cry, this last message from a GM about to leave a guild falling apart.

Even though I don’t know the maker of this movie or anyone in the concerned guild, it says something about how at least I feel about the game and the people I meet there. So I thought I could as well share the link.

This is a love song to one of the top raiding guilds of my server, which recently broke down. There may be a few people around still wearing the guild tag, but what I know of in reality the guild is gone after quite a lot of guild drama which probably would qualify for the Guildwatch column.

It doesn't matter how or why it ended like it did. It's really not my buisness. The farewell is still brilliant. It’s a tribute to the friendship, the hardships, the adventures and experiences that this guild has been through during a long existence.

This guy really shows his bleading heart to the world. I can imagine that it seems a bit strange to players who’ve never been involved in a closely knit guild or raided at any extent. How can anyone get so emotional about a game?

But for me it’s very understandable. And I come to think about the epithet “hardcore”, which I guess people would use for this passed-away guild. I think it sort of gives you the wrong association. The very core of such a guild isn’t necessary as hard and cold as the word tells you. On the contrary. In the middle of it you may as well find a warm, pounding heart.

And here is the link:

Sunday, August 24, 2008

New campaign banner

I guess you can't miss it, the banner in the right column. Pugnaciouspriest made it for me and of course I couldn't resist it! Thank you!

It probably won't become permanent, since I'm kind of restrictive when it comes to bringing graphical elements into the blog. But it will be there for a while, as a stubborn exclamation on behalf of all other pink wow bloggers out there.

We're proud to be pink! No matter what sex we are.

Friday, August 22, 2008

What is a Raid Spec?

So Larisa wanted me to make another post and since a recent discussion in the guild about people not speccing correctly to benefit the raid I thought I write a post about my view on the subject.

So your guild is serious about raiding and expects everyone to spec to benefit the raid and progress of the guild, what is the correct way to spec then?

First let me say that this is mostly focused on T6 content and most benefit for the raid, some people just dont have fun with certain specs and might be more beneficial if they play something they like. The following post is what I would go after as raidleader picking a team to raid BT or MH.

Player skill > Spec
So this rogue is mutilate and tops of our dmg charts, does it mean that mutilate is the best raidspec? No, it doesnt. It just means that he severly outgears you or is just so much better playing mutilate than the other rogues is at playing combat swords. If he switched to combat swords with equal or even slightly worse swords he would do more damage. The best raidspecs is just simply math, what spec/rotation/gear will give the best effect. Skill makes a diffrence, gear makes a diffrence, but when those is equal there is always 1 spec that provides the greatest benefit.

Druids can be viable in all 3 specs actually, 1 boomkin can be in with the casters to boost them enough to earn a spot. You can really use a feral tank and a feral is great to boost the hunters in a dps group. And resto is just amazing healers.

First hunter should normally be a surivival hunter provided he has enough agility gear, 1k agility raidbuffed is a good starting number for T6 content. At 1k agility he provides around 600 dps extra for a normal 5 melee + 2 tanks+ another hunter. All the rest of the hunters should be BM spec for maximum dps.
Marksman hunters should go back to pvp.

Ok, I admit that mage knowledge is a weak link of mine since its the class I have never played seriously. From what I have seen from an outside view is basicly arcane spec if you provide them with alot of mana, otherwise Fire+icy veins spec. As you go higher in content you want all your mages to go fire.

Another class that actually all 3 specs is valid. 1 Prot pally is needed to have for many encounters, 1 ret pally can give enough boost to a melee group to earn a spot and holy spec is a good healer, holy it the only spec you can take more than one of though.

First priest in raid should spec divine spirit and is now hereafter refered to as DS bitch of the raid, the gimped healing is more than made up by the benefit from DS. At no point should more than 1 DS be allowed in the raid though. Shadow is a incredibly useful spec even it has fairly gimp dps, a raid can use up to 2 shadow spec. Holy spec is an great healing spec and you can have several in the raid.

Combat swords. There is only one spec for rogues that is valid and now that everyone can easily grind BGs for S2 swords there is no need to spec otherwise because of which weapons you have. Dragonstrike and Badge fist is better weapons os can be valid in a fist/mace+sword spec build but sword spec is much better and as soon as you get a decent sword you should switch. Sub and Mutilate rogues is for pvp only.

First shaman should be enhancement, the benefit for the melee group is huge. Even a 2nd enhancement in tank group is very valid because they also pump out very decent dps on their own. 1 elemental is somewhat valid in a caster group, but usally you can get almost as much benefit from having a resto shaman in that group, but if you have someone that really wants to play elemental let him because shaman buffs is huge. You want to keep every shaman you have. Resto shamans is amazing healers. Up to a total of 5 shamans in the raid is really useful.

1 warlock can be curse bitch, basicly speccing malediction for an extra 3% dmg from casters on single targets. This is a valid gimp spec but not as essential as an arms warrior or survival hunter. The diffrence in dps compared to a destro warlock is big enough that it wont pay off on all fights but it will in a majority of the bossfights. Depends a bit on raidsetup of course and number of casters. All remaining warlocks should be destro+sac spec.

First warrior should be arms spec for blood frenzy buff, 4% extra on physical dps is a great boost for the raid. 1 fury warrior can be worth it if there is room in melee group, but if there aint room and you cant give him windfury its not worth taking. 1 Prot warrior is very needed, there is many fights where warriors makes better tanks than the alternatives.

Utilty spec
The gimp specs that benefit the raid most is in order
Survival Hunter
Arms Warrior
DS priest
Malediction Warlock

Be nice to these people since the giving the joy of topping meters to help the raids, also remember that a 2nd person speccing like this is absolutely no benefit for the raid, none of those buffs stack with each other.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Proud to be pink

I finally came around to listen to the latest episode of the excellent podcast Twisted Nether. This week they featured an interview with Nibuca of Mystic Chicanery and I enjoyed it a lot, until I suddenly realized they were talking about The Pink Pigtail Inn. OMG!

They were into a discussion about why Nibuca advertise that she's actually a female gamer, by exposing the word "chic" and having a clarifying subtitle to the name of her blog. She - as well as the hosts of the show - said that she would never consider using pink color in her blog layout. And then they mentioned Larísa as an extreme example.

I just felt that I had to comment a bit on this to make a clarification. I had no intention at all to expose any kind of femininity by picking pink as a profile color. On the contrary: I would never consider naming my blog with something like "mum", "chick" or "girl" like some other female bloggers have done, simply because I think that my gender isn't a big issue . And I sincerely hope that my readers don't come here because (or in spite of) the fact that I'm a woman, but because they like my writing.

The reason why my blog is pink is that I happened to pick pink pigtails for my main and first love in this game. But I can't believe that pink pigtails are so special that only female players would consider picking it? There are tons of guys out there playing girl gnomes. I can't believe you're all into green, black or blue?

When I renamed and redesigned my blog a couple of months ago I had a vision in my head. I wanted my blog to be just like an inn. Cozy, simple, warm, a layed back place where you could relax and share thoughts in a comfortable armchair in front of the fire. It was Zakesh (a male by the way) who came up with the name, which I thought was brilliant. And with such a name it was pretty natural how the picture in the top should look.

Why is the blog all in pink then, even some of the headings? Couldn't I leave the rest black?

Well, I'm just a bit conservative when it comes to graphic design. I'm not comfortable with blogs which look like a toy store right before Christmas. If I was a webdesigner I would like to change the right column and give it a darker background, something like tree or leather, to improve the inn atmosphere. But since I'm not, I let the content speak for itself and leave the layout as it is for now. All pink.

You see, to me pink isn't necessary a girlish thing. Come on, it's 2008! Nowadays it should be perfectly possible to let a baby boy wear a pink shirt and a baby girl a blue one. At least in my opinion.

Anyway I'll stay pink and pig tailed. No matter what WotLK will offer when it comes to redesigning the hair of your toon.

I'm proud to be pink.
Edit: As Nibuca say's in the comment, I heard wrong. The poor blogger who was pointed out for the bad taste to use pink color wasn't me but Saresa. My bad! Anyway that doesn't change my opinion. That pink is just a color among others. Not necessarily something you use to point out your gender. I would really welcome some pink male blogs.

How I kept smiling through 20 wipes

It was one of those nights when progress and eventually a boss kill seem distant, just like a fantasy. We were doing Archimond, the end boss in Mount Hyjal. Over and over and over again. I think we had 20 tries before we called it night. And we weren’t even close to get him.

Some of the other guys in my guild were pretty pissed off. They had spent not one night like this, but several. So I really can’t blame them. It seemed like it was the same people who kept dying first. (And in this fight, anyone dying is a huge problem, since it hurts the whole raid and tends to create a chain reaction with more people dying. So staying alive is really your first duty, doing dps is secondary.)

But for my own part I was happily smiling. I just kept focusing on what was good about the raid.

  • It was my first time at this boss. I had to pinch myself understand that I was really doing this, that I had managed to replace Attuman by Archimond by one year of hard work and maybe a bit of luck. It was amazing to see him and really a fun fight.
  • There were no trash mobs to deal with! We could just concentrate on doing the boss, over and over again, learning how to master it.
  • The repair bills weren’t killing me. If they call a wipe and you die in the right place, the fire, your gear won’t take any damage. Thank you Blizzard!
  • I did some great personal progress. Well not exactly during the fight, but in the river jumping! You see on the way from where you enter the instance to where the boss is, you ride across a little river. The water in the river silences you for 30 seconds, which is quite annoying if you want to buff up the party quick. In the beginning I kept getting in touch with this water and I thought it was impossible to avoid. Until someone told me to jump over the river in a straight angle instead of coming from the side. And from that point I managed to jump it without getting my feet wet, almost every time, if I was careful in timing the jump-off. That’s some progress, yay!

When we called it night, I was still strangely happy, even though this raid hadn’t given me or anyone else any more than a bill for repairs and consumables.

And I was even happier when it turned out that I’d passed my trial and was accepted as a guild member. It really couldn’t be much better.

Or… it could of course. We could nail Archimond. But we will. Next time. There's always this glorious, shiny "next time". That's what keeps us going.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Dampen and amplify magic once again

The other day I wrote about my somewhat forgotten buffs, dampen and amplify magic. As I had hoped for I got some clarifying comments. And even better: Critical QQ made an excellent follow-up post, going a bit further into the maths behind those spells, giving support to the idea that it’s really worth it applying it to the raid, especially amplify magic.

He thought he had seen some kind of list of encounters where you should use those buffs. I did some googling and what I came up with was a thread at the Elitist Jerks forum.

On page 5 in this discussion there is some kind of compilation, though of course someone immediately questions a few of the statements in a posting below the list. Well, EJ is a sort of think tank after all, you’ve got to cope with the fact that there always is a “but” or “on the other hand” if you’re looking for advice at EJ.

Anyway reading this thread and the maths by Euripedes I come to the conclusion that I should probably apply amplify magic more often than I’ve done in the past while in raid and dampen magic more often while soloing.

This is really an example of why it’s so rewarding to run a blog. You actually learn stuff. Thanks everybody who contributed!

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

When I wipe there’s pinkish

Isn’t it just a beautiful sentence? When I wipe there’s pinkish.

It sort of summons what happens when a female gnome is torn into pieces of a mean raid boss. There’s pinkish. Not even blood – we sort of evaporate – I can see it in front of me.

It wasn’t I who came up with it. It was Feedburner who gave it to me, when I last checked about the visitors of The Pink Pigtail Inn, wondering where they all came from.

A growing number of hits come from Google searches. Since I’ve been around a little while now it seems like I’m advancing in the hit list hierarchy, don’t ask me why though, but it works that way.

And someone had apparently turned up on The Pink Pigtail Inn after a search for “When I wipe there’s pinkish”. I imagine it was a housekeeper having some trouble when cleaning the floors. Probably he or she pretty soon found out that there wasn’t much information on that kind if wipes to find here. Still. The sentence is brilliant.

Some searches are more on the spot. Those make me happy – I feel that I can deliver what’s asked for. “Skipping SSC for mount Hyjal”. Fine. Zakesh wrote about that a little while ago. “Mages pros and cons.” Horray! It lead to one of my first posts in March, which probably very few have read so far since it was originally in Swedish and later painstakingly translated to English. I'm glad someone found it. I hope you enjoyed it!

Then there are a few relevant searches where I unfortunately was unable to provide anything useful.

“Organizing a 25 man raid”. I’m afraid not. So far I’m a participant and not an organizer. But one day, who knows?

“Black Temple kill order skippable bosses”. Nope. Perhaps Zakesh can come up with something about that.

“Formula for suneater drop”. Does that exist? I guess you just run Mechanar so many times that you hate the place and then you run it again. And again. A formula? No idea what that would be.

The most common search without any competition is “Prepare for WotLK”. This tells me something. Even though we sometimes feel a bit overwhelmed by all the information from the Beta flowing through the blogs right now, there’s a good reason for it. People are craving for that kind of information. I’m afraid you’ll have to look in vain for it at The Pink Pigtail Inn. I’m not preparing at all, which I’ve said before, I’m just happily continuing to play the game as it is. I even haven’t got any Beta key, though almost every other blogger seems to have got one, so I haven’t got any juicy gossip to share.

Another category is the ones looking for advice about hairdressing and make up. “Pigtail different ways” is one of them. “How to use cuteness to my advantage” is another one. While I did write about the advantage of picking a cute character in the game I don’t really think that’s what the googling person was looking for. And I seriously wonder what the one searching for “Pigtail heaven” was after.

I like this one: “what color hair for my gnome rogue black or pink”. If you need advice for such a decision, I feel pretty sorry for you when it’s time to pick gear, talents and professions. Poor guy.

Last but not least there was one search that made me a bit upset and I just can’t understand how he or she could end up on The Pink Pigtail Inn. It’s a complete Google Failure.

“Female gnomes are ugly”.

No, they’re NOT. Get out! Use the backdoor and stay away from here. There are places out there for gnome haters like you. Go to BG, gank someone in STV, but stay away from here! THIS is the Pigtail heaven.

Monday, August 18, 2008

A little bit of love for my forgotten buffs

People love mages for our buffs. Or rather for The Buff: Arcane Brillliance. It’s really awesome for any manadepending class and it’s one of the reasons we’re brought to raids, except for the catering services and occasional transforming of mobs into cattle that we also entertain the crowd with.

But apart from that buff we haven’t got much of buffs on our menu. We’ve got ice armor/molten armor/mage armor, but that’s just something we treat ourselves with.

Then there are those other buffs. The buffs which at least I find so hard to figure out and above all remember how to use wisely, that I tend to skip them altogether. And I know I’m not alone.

Yeah, you’ve guessed it already. Today I’m going to talk a bit about Amplify Magic and Dampen Magic. The Buffs that God forgot or whatever you should call them.

I remember finding it hard to understand what they meant even when I first learned them.

Amplify Magic…? Who's magic? My own or the one of the mob? Could I put it on the mob and then my magical spells on him would hurt more? Or is that what’s happen if I put it on myself? It was all very unclear to me. And of course it was the same with the other one. Dampen the Magic of who? I don’t want to dampen MY magic spells, I know that for sure.. So why use it?

This is how it works
As time went by I managed to figure out how it worked a bit better. At least I think so. For all of you non-mages reading this I can tell you how it works:

Both of the buffs are something you put on yourself or on your party. It’s not like a debuff spell you can throw on a mob. And the effect is not about the damage you do yourself. The buff will affect how you react to spells that other cast on you no matter if it’s a mob or a friend.

This means that Amplify magic will increase any magic spell used against you. And this includes both friendly and unfriendly spells. You will get much better healing if you wear this buff. On the other hand, if the mob you’re seeing is using magic, you’ll also take greater damage. At the highest rank the damage taken will increase with 120 and the healing with 240. This means that the Amplify magic spell preferably should be used in encounters with mobs that only make physical damage. One great example of this is Gruul. Prior to taking him down, the whole party should be buffed with Amplify magic. And since it only lasts 10 minutes, you’ve got to be pretty quick in buffing – especially if you’re the only mage around (that sucks, trust me.)

And the other one then, Dampen magic? Well, it works the other way of course. The damage taken from spells will decrease for 120, but at the same time the healing will decrease for 240. You can use it if you’re meeting a mob that will cause a LOT of magical damage. There are situations where it may pay off, in spite of the fact that the buff also will affect the healing you take negatively. Actually this buff is quite good to use if you’re soloing, meeting casters. I used to remember to put it on while levelling, nowadays I must admit I never do it though.

And this is definitely a shame, since it’s as Wowwiki points out is one of the mage’s best defensive buffs. It doesn’t only reduce the affect of traditional spells, but also give you some protection against attacks like poison, diseases, curses, acid and even melee attacks by fire, frost and wind elements.

When to use them
You could have thought that I’d use those buffs more often, once that I’d figured them out a bit better. But in reality I don’t. I guess it’s partly a sign of laziness. I should make a habit to think about them – and above all – using them actively. This means also turning them off at appropriate times (unless they wear off by themselves, since they last so short).

Used in the right way those spells can give you a valuable buff. But used wrongly they can harm you and your party pretty badly. So I can pretend that it’s purely for safety reasons I don’t buff. (But you know the truth – that I’m a bit lazy.)

I’m trying to improve though. What I currently try to do is to at least memorize the boss fights where those buffs are useful. I come to think of the following ones (and please feel free to add others in your comments! I’m sure there are plenty I’m not aware of.)

  • Gruul - use Amplify magic on the whole raid. Find another mage to help you!
  • Nalorakk in Zul Aman - use Amplify magic on everyone – if you have time. If you’re on timer at least buff the tanks.
  • The Big Bad Wolf in Karazhan. He doesn’t know any spells the stupid beast. So put on some Amplify magic if you get the time to do it once you know which fight will come up.
  • Gurtogg Bloodboil in Black Temple. The guide at BossKillers suggests you put Amplify magic on the whole raid. There is some magic damage but the improved healing will outweigh it.
  • Maiden in Karazhan. Put some Dampen Magic on the melee DPS. It makes it easier to keep them alive.
  • Prince in Karazhan. If possible, buff Warlocks' minions and Hunters' pets with Dampen Magic to greatly reduce the damage they take from Shadow Nova as well as Shadow Word: Pain. (This definitely wasn’t my own idea – I just found it on Wowwiki, doing research for this post.)

Improve through talents
If you really love those spells you can improve them even more by putting a couple of points into Magic Attunement. At maximum level will increase the effect by 50%. It’s nothing I’ve seen as a standard in PvE/raiding Arcane builds though, and really nothing I’d recommend. It’s probably rather filler points.

All in all I think those buffs deserve a little more of love than they currently receive (at least from me). But not as much love that I’d spend talent points on them.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Discovered: Black Temple

I wish I’d been quick enough to take a screenshot of this yellow sentence shining in my face. It was one of the big epic moments of my time in Azeroth after all. But I missed it.

Ill make it up with a little picture of my romantic date with Supremus (he literary chased me around the place, so much did he love me. ). This is the proof that I tell you the truth: the other day Larísa entered Black Temple for the first time in her lifetime.

Who could ever have thought that would happen? Not me. Not the people who saw me corpse running in Westfall one and a half year ago, desperately trying to figure out how a squishy should deal with those mean Defias people without pulling three at a time and getting instantly killed every single time. A year ago my dream was to be able to clear Karazhan at least once before the expansion. Something I deep inside doubted would happen. And here I am.

It’s been a fantastic journey, an adventure, which is still going on. For the most of the other people in the raid I attended it was farming content and they sighed a bit at the ridiculous amount of trash mobs at the courtyard of Supremus. I on the other hand was in heaven, with a big smile on my face during the whole raid. I was doing the one thing in the world I love doing most.

A new exiting instance to get lost in! New bosses to learn how to master (three of them this night)! And I even got loot, woot! Ring of Ancient Knowledge. Not a bad one for a mage and it will be just awesome when I respec back to fire.

How come that I suddenly find myself in this spot? Has my guild started to make some very rapid progress? To be honest – no. I’ve actually switched guild.

I’m really not the guild jumping kind of person, so it was with a sad heart and very reluctantly that I did it. There are some awesome people there and I’ll miss them a lot, even though I hope we’ll keep in touch, I’m still on the server after all.

The challenge
There are several reasons for my decision. One was that I followed a friend who wanted a change. But it was also very much a choice of my own. Most of all I think the problem was that we were unable to recruit and that people already in the guild stopped to play – due to real life reasons, vacations, upcoming expansion, apathy, whatever. It's not an unusual situation - many, many guilds that want to keep raiding until the expansion have a pretty rough time these days.

I’ve also got a lot of support and input from the blogging community when I made up my mind. It isn’t something I’ve discussed, but I’ve been lurking around, reading about others who’ve been in similar situations. They've described how they've felt sort of stuck, not challenging themselves the way they’d like to, and what they've done about it.

Especially two posts by Lassirra at The Hunter’s Mark, Casual by Circumstance and More casual/hardcore musings made me think. Among other things Lassirra wrote:

Stop trying to convince yourself, for whatever reason, that things will change. That things will “get better”. You need to decide which you want more: a bunch of buddies in-game to chat with, or a guild that will fulfill your desire to progress.

Loronar of 35 yards out also wrote a post (inspired by Lassirra) how he pushed himself to aim a bit higher. I think this sentence of his is right on the spot:

“If we don’t get out of our comfort zone, we never get to experience what is out there.”

The difference
I’ve definitely got out of my comfort zone now, joining a small (but hopefully growing) raiding guild. It’s doesn’t openly define itself as “hardcore” and the required attendance isn’t more than two nights a week, which is exactly how much my real life allows me to raid. But it definitely isn’t casual.

It’s a guild where there’s no question that you’ve looked up on tactics, that you show up on time, ready to pull the very minute the raid is supposed to start. It’s a guild where the TS is pretty much silent during raids since people are focusing on what they’re supposed to do. It’s a guild where WWS reports are taken from every raid and analysed in detail. It’s in short very different from the casual environment I’ve been in until now.

Of course it’s a bit frightening when you’re not used to it. Every single encounter is new to me and the pace is very high (although some complain that it’s too slow – currently we’re raiding in a raid alliance which probably makes things a bit slower since there’s quite a rotation on players). I really have to keep focus every single second to keep up.

What if I fail?
What’s most scaring is the fact that I’m on trial. It’s very possible that I’ll fail, that I’m just not skilled enough playwise to pass and be accepted. And what will happen then? It really wouldn’t look nice in my next guild application: reason for leaving your former guild? “I sucked and they didn’t want me”.

It is a risk but I face it. I want to challenge myself, I want to aim a bit higher and see what I’m capable of. If I’ll fail it will be an epic failure. But I’ll learn something and I’ll hopefully recover in time, after some therapeutic ranting in this blog.

I discovered Black Temple the other night. It really happened.

I wouldn’t have done it if I hadn’t been willing to put myself under pressure. Even if I’ll fail it has been worth it.

To be continued….

Thursday, August 14, 2008

A piece of advice to the creator of a new old fashioned raiding guild

For the first time I’ve got a letter from a reader asking me for advice! Wohoo! Ask Larísa, isn’t that just a wonderful label to put on a post? Who knows, maybe there will be more to come in the future.

To tell truth it’s not a total stranger who’s heard about my arcane superior intellectual abilities and now come to consult me. It’s a game friend, Woulfie, a from my former server Kul Tiras, who once upon a time gave me some great advice and decent enchants when I was new to the game and very confused.

Now he in his turn asked me for a piece of advice. Why he turned to me I can’t really tell, but I guess I’ve been a little more into raiding and a bit of guild management during the last year, so maybe he thought I could help him.Or he just needed a second opinion to help to sort out his own thoughts. Anyway it’s very flattering and I’ll give it a shot, most of all in the hope that some of my readers will assist me and fill in what I’ve missed.

The issue
So what’s it all about? Well it turned out that he and his son has formed a new guild, “Old School Sixties”, with a very special purpose:

We are going to start advertising for new members this week. The idea is that from 1st September we will start raiding the old level 60 instances. No boosts and preferably no imba outlands gear. Level sixty only starting off. It would be better if the drops meant something to the players getting them.

The danger is that we will outlevel the instances rapidly, but lets see.

We will have to do some research, but it should be a good time to do it, with many players waiting about for the expansion.

Our mage Kinch is poised at level 60 ready to go, and we are levelling up our priest Molly Bloom in preparation. She will most likely respec holy for the instances.

I am looking forward to trying this out. It is the first time I have attempted leading anything in the game. In fact I could never figure out why guildleaders gave themselves the hardship of taking a position of authority. If you have any advice for me I would be glad to receive it.

Larísa’s answer:

I think it sounds like a great idea and I’m sure there are people who would think that was a fun thing to do - a last serious shot at the old raid instances before the expansion comes.

However, since you want to do this without boosting and über gear, it will be a challenge, it’s almost like starting any other raiding guild, except for that you will level and gear up faster, even if you’re not striving for it, thus making progress a bit easier.

So here are a few points that I come to think of:

Work out your guild concept

You seem to have a fair idea about the purpose of your guild. But it wouldn’t hurt to give it a deeper thought. Is this guild temporary? Will it cease to exist when you agree that you’re done with the old-fashioned raiding or when the expansion hits? Or could it be possible that you went on and raided also the level 70 raid instances in the same way after WotLK has arrived – non-overpowered, just a bit later than others?

What kind of guild do you see in front of you? To generalize terribly there are different kinds of guilds – social oriented or progression oriented. Where on that scale will you be? How does your landscape look? Have a look at this awesome post from Breana and you’ll see what I mean.

Choose your level of raiding
Raiding at level 60 can be a lot of different things. I’m a TBC player and I’ve only seen UBRS, Onyxia, Zul Gurub, AQ20, and AQ40 from that point of view, entering in a full epic level 70 gear party. That’s just a big laugh. You don’t have to care about tactics much, you’re so overpowered that you just nuke it out. But you’re doing this in a serious way and then you have to figure out your goals and the dimension of the raiding you’re about to do.

What are you aiming at really? Are you planning to run UBRS? AQ20 or even AQ40? Onyxia? Naxx?

Set up a goal from the beginning, which is interesting enough to be a challenge, but still is within the frame of what’s realistic and doable. It will direct you how much effort you should put into recruiting and how you’re going to present this idea to the world.

You also have to make sure that people share your vision to raid with the “right” gear level, whatever that is. I figure it will be a constant balance. On one hand you don’t want people to be over geared. On the other hand – raiding the old instances took a lot of job and dedication – where you were supposed to improve your gear out of the raids as well, by enchanting, getting blues from five man instances and so on. You have to be pretty serious about this if you’ll stick to the idea to stay away from Outland gear.

Organize yourself
Every guild needs some kind of infrastructure. Even if I guess you and you’re son will pull a heavy load you’ll need help with other officers. You need people who’re willing to lead the raids – I suggest you try find at least two who’re wiling to do it, so there’s a cover up available.

You need to sort out roles and you need to work out a scheme for your raids. I suggest at least two raids a week, else it will be hard for you to learn the encounters and make any progress..
To have fixed days for raiding is pretty necessary, since there are so many people involved in raiding. Coordination will be hopeless else. Bigger raiding guilds use out-of game systems for signups, for you I think a simple addon like GEM or Group Calendar will do.

You also need to set up some simple policies for how the guild should work, such as loot distribution (here’s an overview of the different systems), required addons and behaviour in the raid.

Sort out your communications
I can’t emphasise this enough. I think the single point that kills most guilds is bad communications. I could go on very long about this subject – I may be back on a special post about this one day. I’ll just mention a few important things:
  • A channel for out of game communications within the guild. Probably a guild website will do it (you could use other means like an e-mail list, but in a larger scale I’d prefer a website). You don’t have to overdo it, you can keep it as simple as a forum or even a blog if you want it, but there must be some means to reach out to the guild members with information about upcoming raids and some way they can give feedback and communicate to other guild members. It’s better to start out simple but do frequent updates than to build a mega-good-looking website with huge ambitions that inevitably fail. The hunters mark had a really good post about how to make a good guild website a little while ago
  • PR/marketing. Use the traditional recruiting channels – the official realm forum – and the inoffical one, I know there used to be one for Kul Tiras/EU. Inform in the guild recruitment channel in game. Spread the word. Make yourself noticed.
    This isn’t something you just do when you’re starting. You’ll have to do it continuously since you’ll always face a small leakage of players.
  • Voice communication. Raiding is very much facilitated if you can talk to each other, using TeamSpeak or Ventrilo. I’m not sure if the in game voice chat is a possible alternative; I haven’t tried it out myself. You wouldn’t need it if you raided with over geared lvl 70s, but since you’re doing it for real I figure you would benefit a lot from this.

A few last words
Finally: good luck on this project! Write me a letter and tell us all how it went. Was it a success or an epic failure? I’m sure the readers of The Pink Pigtail Inn would like to hear the end of the story.

And to the readers - feel free to send in new questions and I'll make this "Ask Larísa" a habit. You can ask about anything that comes into your mind.

How many toes has Larísa, now that we know that she's only got four fingers? What dishes do we really serve at the inn (peanut butter and jelly out of the question)? What's the meaning of raiding?

It isn't necessary to ask the Ultimate Question of Life, the Universe, and Everything. We all know the answer to that one. But except for that anything goes!

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

If I die for real, will anyone notice?

Today I’m a bit serious for a change. I read a beautiful and touching post by Pike, who told the story about a player that recently died and how the whole server made a memorial walk to honor his memory.

This guy has really made a foot print in the game. He’s now remembered in blogposts and forums.

This isn’t the first time I hear about players who die in real life and are honoured in the game. But I’m not sure how common it is. There are some 10 million people playing. Probably the game population is a bit younger than the average and therefore a less likely to die. But still, 10 million is a lot and probably there will be a few of us that die everywhere. How often do we notice?

And that leads to the next question, the one I ask myself: will anyone notice if I die?

I’ve knit some friendship bonds through WoW, but they’re mostly online and ingame. A few of my friends and former guildies have my private e-mail address or even telephone number. But my family doesn’t know them; they wouldn’t know this are people I cared about, people that should be informed if I die. They don’t know what guild I’m in, what server I play on, my login password or anything else. This world is my own where they don’t have (or want) access. I keep the worlds totally apart.

If I suddenly didn’t come online to the raids I’ve signed for, if I just didn’t show up in the game at all, what would people think? Would they assume that I had some major computer problems? Or that I’d just got bored ad quit the game without informing anyone? The players who know me well know I would never act like that; I’d never disappear without telling anyone. Probably they would get a bit worried. But for at least some of them it would be rather hard to find out the truth – they wouldn’t know how to get in contact with my family.

And what about the Blogosphere? I’ve got a few subscribers and some people who pop by into the inn and say hello regularly. If I suddenly went silent and didn’t post anymore, without any explanation, what would you think? Would you care at all? Or just think that it was another blogger who grew tired and lost inspiration – not the first one in history.

I hestitate a bit about the answer. There are moments when I think: yes, people would notice and get worried if I suddenly disappeared from the game. There could be problems for them to find out that I actually died, since my family wouldn’t care about informing about what happened or even know how to do it. I don’t know if my friends in game who know my name would be brave or interested enough to contact my relatives and ask what happened.
Probably it’s to expect too much from them.

But I would be missed. Not by a whole server, but by a few people I’ve met through my journeys in Azeroth. At least I know I would miss them deeply if the same thing happened to them. There probably wouldn’t be any parades to honour the memory of Larísa. I’m not a veteran player who’s made an impression on a whole server and know people in every guild. But someone would at least notice.

In my more black moments I think the opposite. No. People would see that I was absent, and they’d maybe wonder why, but I’d soon be forgotten, just like everyone else who closes his account. That’s the nature of MMOs. People come and people go and life in Azeroth will go on just as usual. This game’s just about entertainment anyway. Who bothers really?

I’m probably not the only one thinking about this, though very few would admit it. How come else that players time after other come up with the idea that you should be able to leave something lasting behind you in Azeroth? Some ask for guild houses, some want monuments and other stuff. I think it’s happened a few times that players or developers that have made significant things have been honoured in a very discrete way – like having a distant NPC named after them. But for ordinary players that’s not available today.

Could you create some kind of graveyard or memorial house where you in some way could remember and honour players you cared about that have died? I can’t help thinking that the thought is beautiful, however I doubt it’s doable. Sadly enough there are too many stupid, immature people out there who wouldn’t understand and would find a joy in harassing people paying it a visit or trying to misuse it somehow.

After all: the real footprints we leave in the game are not in the pixels. They’re in the hearts and the memories of the people we’ve met. I hope I’ve made a few.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

They made me leader of the raid

Believe it or not but I’ve taken another step in my personal WoW progression.

I’ve been a Raid Leader! Not for a whole raid and nothing more fancy than a Karazhan pug. But still. For a little while it was I who spoke in red letters in the raid chat and the others who spoke in orange. It was I who initiated the ready check. It was I who looked for replacements and I who made us move forward, who signalled “go” when it was time for boss fight.

I still can’t believe it really happened.

It all took place last Friday night. I was in a pug which looked promising with decently geared people who had done the instance too many times. Our only problem was that it had taken a couple of hours to form the raid, so it was honestly way too late in the night – or rather in the morning. People were starting to fall asleep by their computers.

So came the point where the raid leader had to leave because of some real life issues after Curator. And without asking, he turned over the leadership to me.

No escape
My spontaneous reaction was to try to get out of it, to hand it over to someone who knew how to lead raids. I’ve done Kara enough many times to pick up most of the badge gear there is (that will say WAY too many). But leading a raid is something different and until now I hadn’t even led a five man instance run. So I asked who wanted to lead. No one wanted.

What do you do in that situation? Normally I think I’d turn it over to the main tank anyway, in spite of his refusal. It’s sort of expected from them that they should be able to lead. But this time I thought a second time: hey, do I really have to turn it over? For some reason I had the feeling that the guy who gave me the leadership actually thought I’d be able to handle it.

If he trusted on me, why couldn’t I do it? And after all… what was there to loose? It wasn’t a progression night of a guild, it was a pleasure run of a pug, you know that quite easygoing sort of runs you get at the late hours Friday night. So I kept it.

Of course there were some things I didn’t know or hadn’t given much thought before since I’ve never been in command. Like how to set the loot in a raid (a few more choices than in a normal group). Or how to make a ready check. I’m so accustomed to do the box clicking, but I never knew how they were initiated. But luckily I’ve never been afraid to ask stupid question; I don’t care about the humiliation of showing my lack of knowledge, so I just asked and then they told me how to do it.

Marking and yelling
The marking has always been what has kept me off raid leading. I’ve been so focused on my own tasks in the raid that I haven’t really paid attention to how every single mob should be dealt with. Now that wasn’t any problem since the tank was assisting and could mark when needed, which he also did, without me having to tell him anything.

Some other stuff that Raid leaders do came automatically. I was fascinating to see those warning yells and orders in the raid chat coming from Larísa – it was my addons that for the first time ever could show what they were capable of. It wasn’t me who was doing anything, still I couldn’t help thinking it looked a little bit impressive when Larísa shouted to people what to do and what not to do. It gave an impression that I knew what I was doing.

So this was really raid leading in easy mode, just anything a RL newbie could wish for. I didn’t have to do much. Still I clearly felt the difference – the responsibility which gave the raid a very different flavour. You have to deal with the wholeness of the raid, while you can’t let go of your own responsibilities in your particular role. You have to perform as a raid leader and a raider at the same time. Keeping a double focus is, if not overwhelming, at least quite demanding.

Surprised myself
I wish I could say that we cleared the rest of the instance in no time at all thanks to my excellent leadership. But we didn’t. I don’t think it was my fault as a raid leader, it simply was way too late and people needed to sleep and weren’t that keen on completing it anyway (just there for the badges) so we broke up before finishing it.

We even did wipe on Aran because a guy moved during Flame wrath, something I’ve never ever seen before. How is it even possible to do that, with all the addon warnings around? But honestly I can’t say that was my fault as a raid leader. You do expect people to know not to move during flame wrath, don’t you? After that wipe I surprised myself and even got a bit harsh in my chat voice, telling the raid that this wasn’t acceptable, that it was late at night, but that they really needed to shape up.

Me – the cute little pink pigtailed gnome who never says a hard word in a raid, had suddenly become a bit strict. I sounded like an echo of a raid leader I used to have earlier and liked a lot because he didn’t hesitate to be a bit harsh when needed, even if it pissed some people off.
What had happened to me? The only explanation I can give is that it sort of came with the role.

What it gave me
What did this special raid night in Karazhan give me?

Well the biggest reward I got this night wasn’t the badges (I’ve got some 130 of them on the bank and nothing to do with them, except to buy some epic gems if I get a gear upgrade in the future). And it wasn’t even The Lightning Capacitor, which finally dropped for me, my last piece of interesting Kara loot. (But when I checked Rawr afterwards it adviced me against replacing Icon of the Silver Crescent and Sorcerer's Alchemist stone with it, I guess I got it a bit too late in my gear career).

No. The biggest reward was the whispers I got from a couple of the participants in the raid when we called it night. They thanked me in a very nice way for what I had done. One guy said you could tell I was new to this, but that I anyway had done it 100 times better then he would have. The other one told me it was a “valiant” effort I’d done trying to help us forward through the instance in spite of drop offs.

I can assure you Larísa grew at least 1 centimetre thanks to those whispers. Of course I still know my limits. I wouldn’t volunteer for leading a 25 man instance. And probably not even a 10 man if there were any alternatives available.

But to all of you out there who’re a bit scared of taking the lead I’d like to say: don’t underestimate yourself. It’s doable, especially if you have decent people around you who know to do their share of the job and can accept that you’re new in the role. It IS a bit scary – but it’s also fun and rewarding.

From now on I’ll also try to remember to give the people who volunteer as raid leaders a little more of feedback, love and appreciation. I've done it before, but I definitly could increase my efforts. The support means more than you can imagine and they certainly deserve it.
This was my first shot as a Raid Leader. Do you remember yours?

Monday, August 11, 2008

Just a little bit smarter

It’s time for another round in The Battle of the Mages. And I’m starting to see signs of desperation from some of the opponents.

After looking into the crystal orb (a little bit of a cheat in my opinion) Krizzlybear quickly tried to make an alliance between fire and frost to compete with Arcane.

Since the master minds of EJ now have taken position for deep arcane as an interesting alternative for raiding in WotLK, he must be pretty desperate. (I haven’t read this conclusion myself, the thread is in the moment I write this 153 pages and still growing, so I just trust on Krizzlybear about this).

Peanut butter with jelly – yak!
I didn’t quite follow Krizzlybear’s analogy that fire was to ice what peanut butter was to jelly. Actually I find that mixture rather appalling, but whenever I’ve been in Netherlands I’ve been fascinated to find ready-mixed spreads in the grocery store, mixing peanut butter and jelly into one can.. Yak. Can you really eat that stuff?
I always thought it was an odd thing about Dutch people, who obviously have a sweet tooth, but I understand now that this habit has spread all over the world, at least as far as to Canada? If that is the case I can predict we’ll see quite a bunch of firefrostmages running about in the expansion.

All of you peanut-butter-jelly eaters out there - I can assure you one thing: The Pink Pigtail Inn will NEVER have a sandwich with that spread on the menu. The interior of our restaurant may look simple but the chef just won’t serve it. He’s cares about his reputation.
Anyway, there’s no doubt that Krizzlybear has invested heavily in resistance gear in order not to be seduced to go the way of the arcanist. When it comes to me, I must admit I’d find it rather confusing making spell rotations including scorch as well as icy veins and frost bolts. Where’s the logic? Shouldn’t the water let out the fire leaving just a little harmless smoke cloud and some ashes? Shouldn’t the fire melt the ice into a useless swimming pool? Or possibly some kind of slush? I can’t approve of this. Peanut butter with jelly IS disgusting. (Though I must admit that Critical QQ did make some quite impressive calculations about those upcoming slush nukes the other day. But we haven't seen them for real yet. Perhaps some nerfs are to be expected?)
Street lamp lightener
After talking about the some of the easy-to-love talents in the fire tree, Gnomeaggedon finally had to deal with the more crappy talents. In a very eloquent post he tries to convince the audience the grandness of Fireblast. But even he admits that the best use of it is to light the Street lamps of the city, while taking a romantic stroll. Yep. You’re dead right, Gnome. Fire blast is best used out of battle, because of it’s lack of mana efficency. But to actually put talent points into it? Are you serious about this?

I can only explain it by the fact that the whole post suggests that he’s feverish. Poor guy. It happens often to fire mages. They get overheated, can't keep their minds cool like the rest of us.
The lonely control freak
Zupa seems to be a lonely guy. He just can’t trust anyone else in the raid but his dear water element. He finds the dependency arcane mages experience in the raid situation to have a decent mana regeneration frightening. What should you say about this?

Zupa - perhaps you’ve had some really traumatic experiences that have put you in this state of mind? But I assure you – for many of us raiding is actually about team work. About trusting and helping each other. Just as I expect to get some healing now and then I’m sure some wise raid leader will give me an extra mana battery if needed. There are good people out there who want to help you perform if you just give them the chance. Trust me. Stop isolating yourself.
He also has revealed his obsession of keeping things under control (which he’s wise enough to realize in this post where he admits he’s a freak.) This fixed idea makes him think it’s more fun to run around with the enemy just like a little child with his kite, seemingly trying to keep him alive as long as possibly, rather than simply taking him out with a few simple blasts.
Where does this idea about control come from? I consulted Wowwiki and got the picture.
“Magic corrupts the soul; if the humblest person in Azeroth became a practitioner of the arcane, by the time the practitioner reach the higher levels in their art, all traces of her humble roots would be lost. Magic breeds pride and arrogance. Magic corrupts the body; it ages the caster before their time and hastens the blight that the world inflicts on things fair and beautiful”.
So the whole explanation to the odd behaviour of Zupa is probably that he’s been looking a bit
too deep into the crystal orb, just as his frost fellow Krizzlybear did.
A little bit smarter
Now that we’re onto the subject about arrogance and superiority I think it’s time to bring up one of the special features of Arcane mages – the superiority of our intellect capacity. When I switched to arcane, this was one of the things that struck me most of all: where did all that intelligence – and the effect of it – the huge mana pool come from? Suddenly I had 12k mana, just using a self buff. And with the increased mana I also increased my bonus damage. A lot. Going over 1k isn’t any issue at all and you can pretty easily go way above that.

Let’s have a look into the arcane tree and you’ll get the explanation.

Do you see the portrait with the mystic looking guy with some pink eyes that seem to look right through you? That’s the Arcane Mind, which increases your total intellect by 15% at rank 5.

Then there’s another guy with a huge brain that seem to be about to burst, I guess that’s why he’s holding his head so tight. That’s Mind Mastery, which will increase your spell damage by up to 25 percent of your total intellect.

If you’ve been smart enough to pick a gnome for race (of course you have, at least if you’re arcane), you’ll get the increased intelligence by 5 % as an extra bonus.

And if you’re really taking it to an extreme you could gem up your gear with even more intelligence. I’ve done a coward version myself, gemming both with spell damage and intelligence (when spell hit capped of course, which is easy done if you’re arcane). There is an ongoing discussion among arcane mages if intelligence is the way to go. (If you’re interested, read the EJ thread Raiding as Arcane Mage post 2.4, which is very useful for any arcane mage. ) I guess a truly dedicated arcane mage who is ready to pull it to an extreme would ditch some of the damage stones and go for even more intelligence.

Arcane mages. There’s no doubt that we’re a bit smarter than the other mages. And what do we do with all that wisdom? We melt our enemies. They disassemble in front of our eyes, torn into pieces. Not by some sloppy piece of frozen water or little torches we throw. We use the very essence of magic, the arcane power just as it was from the beginning. Pure and straight from the power sources.
Make it simple. Make it smart. Make it the arcane way and rule the world. With the help of your superior intellect.
What now? Did I hear someone calling me arrogant?

Friday, August 8, 2008

You and your healer – a matter of trust

How would you feel as a mage if someone mid fight was yelling at you:

- Come on, let’s nuke a bit!
- Throw some frostbolts, will you?
- Yeah, you should try to damage the mobs. Do that!
- Nuke some more, will ya? Throw an arcane blast. Now.

Honestly, I’d be a bit annoyed. OK, if there had been a “cease fire” because of some special fase of a boss fight and we then got a clearance to start nuking again, with a short “Nuke.”, then I’d appreciate it. It’s necessary for coordination. But some random yelling, where people would remind me about doing my job, would feel quite unnecessary. I would take it as a sign that they didn’t count on me doing my job. A declaration of distrust.

Crying for heals
Now, so far a scenario like this has never happened to me. But I’ve seen it too many times when it comes to healers. And I feel so sorry for them.

- Heal me! Heal me!
- No, heal ME!
- Why don’t I get any heals, CRY!!!!

For heavens sake, you guys who are crying for heals, what do you think the healers are doing? Do you honestly think the holy priest has changed his mind and now is nuking and trying to make his way up on the damage list? Seriously? Or do you think the paladin has gone on strike and currently is sorting his bags or chatting with his girl friend?

No. Probably not. Of course they’re healing. They’re doing their job, just as I’m nuking and the tank is tanking. We sorted out our roles way back in Deadmines, didn’t we? Just because they’re not healing you for the moment being, it doesn’t mean they’re not doing some kind of healing. Believe it or not – there are other people in the fight and maybe there even are players that are crucial to keep alive. Maybe the best thing the healer can do in a certain situation actually is to sacrifice the guy who’s yelling most for healing, to heal a silent key player and actually kill the boss.

And, crying boy, did it ever cross your mind that they maybe - for some odd reason – actually believe in your own healing capacity? Maybe the healer relies on you, thinking that you’ve brought some bandages, pots and healthstones to the raid and know how to use them?

Healers take decisions all the time. Good and wise decisions, I assume. Probably much better decisions than I could take myself from my single focused, non-healing damage-dealing perspective. I guess it happens from time to time that they do mistakes. Just like we all do. If they constantly seem to do those errors over and over again or take decisions that you just don’t understand – then you could discuss it with them afterwards, giving constructive criticism. But this yelling during the fight: “Heal me, heal me” – do you sincerely think it helps the healer? Especially since they probably don’t even know who this “me”, yelling is, unless they know you very well and can identify you by your voice.

The essential trust
I think trust is an essential ingredient when you’re building and developing a successful raiding team.

When other people put their trust into us, the natural reaction is to try to live up to it or even surpassing it. You feel responsible. You don’t want to fail.

On the other hand – when people openly distrust you by yelling “heal me” when it’s not necessary, they encourage you not to feel any responsibility at all. Why should you care? You will probably stop thinking for yourself and leave it over to others.

If you want your healers to improve; show your trust to them. And think about what you’re doing yourself. Are YOU doing what they trust you to do? Do you move out of dangerous green and red and fiery stuff or black holes quickly enough? Do you bandage yourself whenever an opportunity is given? Do you use your cooldowns wisely so you’ve got health pots available in crucial parts of the fight?

Because you know something? The healer probably trusts on you. The same way that you should trust on them.