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Cataclysm Plans: The Hard Push

6 Dec

We’re all thinking the same thing here.  We’re all refreshing countdown timers and counting the minutes.  In a matter of moments we’ll be leveling again.  For a number of us, this is the first serious leveling we’ve done in almost two years.

Leveling!

My ambition is to take a group of 277 ilvl geared raiders and lead them through chained dungeons.  This might not be the fastest XP / hour method, but its a surefire way to replace epics with blues and see firsthand the layout of the new heroics we’ll be running to get raid ready.  I’d also trust my team over myself any day.  We’re stronger as a group.  Aside from this, there are a few other motivating factors for this method:

  • We’re on a PvP server, and questing can be tricky
  • Getting ahead of the main leveling teams using instanced content could let us quest the last level in an underpopulated Twilight Highlands
  • Completing all the quests at a leisurely pace once we hit 85 let’s us enjoy them more and provides a windfall of gold (quests at max level reward gold in place of XP)
  • We can all keep each other talking and awake.

I’ll let everyone know how it works once I have some post-Cata down time.  I hope to report successes.

PvP Heroes!

I’d like to hit arena on launch week (launch of arena, not Cata launch.  This will be the following Tuesday).  These means a decent mix of honor gear and purchasable crafted items.  Blasting a solid team through to high ratings by killing players in greens is the plan.  At the very least I’ll learn something about how everything has changed in the new “mana matters” style of play.  On the table right now are Shatterplay, RPS, and Afflic/rDruid/sPriest.  Part of this is going to depend on the players willing to push as hard as I am for this.

I will admit I need to develop skills.  I’m not perfect, but i’m a lot stronger than last year.  I’ve done my homework.  If it takes 10000 hours to become an expert, I’m starting to count them down.

Guild Achievements

We have a core of players interested in pushing server first achievements.  This is exciting, but for the rest of the guild I’ve set a more tentative goal of 25 player raid readiness by January 11th.  Our entire officer team is on board with this, which is impressive given that many have children/classes/families/jobs, etc.

We also plan to implement guild achievement bounties.  This will look like a group (or single) player being rewarded for completing a task that either awards an achievement for the guild or takes us closer to one.  We should be able to afford to give players and extra incentive, especially after we unlock Cash Flow (guild level four).  I still have no clear idea how fast a guild levels.

A big item on this list for me is the new fish feast.  Unlocking the recipe currently requires the guild to fish up 10000 pools (not fish, pools).  I’m not certain on the best way to motivate this, but broken into 20 players fishing up 500 pools each makes this feel a lot more manageable.

Time will tell.  How’s everyone else’s push?

Patch Day Ponderings

24 Aug

Image by SFU Public Affairs and Media Relations via Flickr

Raiding

… is a team sport.  And having a full team in our guild now, rocking steady with a fleshed out core, feel great.  When getting nostalgic about old content we tend to block out the bad and recall only the good.  Our roster for this stage of ICC work will be something I remember going into Cata.  I like our people, and they know what they’re doing.

Arena

At least one of the best players I’ve arena-ed with is having a baby soon.  While that’s fantastic (babies are cool and his relationship with his wife is likely to improve) I will miss being about to play regularly with him.  I haven’t met many of my significant personal arena goals, but I feel like I will–some day.  I’ve learned a ton!

Property Ownership

Isn’t always fun.  My roommate flooded our kitchen and it leaked into the drywall of the folks downstairs.  Only two pieces of insulation and some ceiling fell victim to this week’s biblical disaster, but fixing any damage costs money.  /sigh

That is all for today.  This week I hope to have time to meet my WoW goals, blog on a few interesting topics, and go see a concert in Vancouver (Vampire Weekend.  Yay!)

Patch Day Ponderings

17 Aug

Starcraft 2

I’ve been playing with some WoW friends and some real friends.  Our GM created a vent channel, and its seeing some action.  Custom maps are a blast, and I’m slowly developing the skills to be half decent at this game.

My friend over at Pugnacious Priest already talked about Nexus Wars, and I’ve been loving it.  I’ve also been playing Income Wars and Battlecraft, although the map for Battlecraft appears to have wandered away.

Arenas

The biggest challenge of 5v5s seems to be scheduling.  We can put together an amazing team and still get in only a few hours a week.  You can’t hit 2200 with a few hours a week.  That’s the bottom line.

Is it just me, or are serious PvPers more flaky than raiders?  The certainly tend to put more emphasis on individual skill over team efforts.

Raiding

Yes, we’re still doing it.  We threw a 10 player group together last night that got a few hard modes done with some people who had never seen them.  I forget that our guild is much farther progressed than most of the server.  We’re an establish and strong core of talented players, even if there are a few guilds who have more boss kills than us.  Its easy to evaluate a guild based exclusively on boss kill progression, but I feel like that leaves something out.

Those are my un-constructed thoughts for patch day.  I intent to (and have partially written) three new posts for later this week.  My work schedule will dictate the pace at which they get posted.

Weapons that would forever change humanity… I was one of those weapons

7 Aug

Obligatory James Cameron reference in the title there.  5 bonus points if you figure out what non-Avatar work it’s from and why I quoted it.

So I posted some thoughts on current talents, and Blizzard went along and shook them up.  All the changes are good!  We saw some serious lover here, and I’m excited about it.

Shadow Power is “gone” from the talent tree.  I know I said I was a little mixed about this, but felt it was an important part of feeling like a damage class.  This:

Shadow Power
Shadow Power is now called “Blackout” and is a passive talent tree bonus for picking the tree. It provides 200% crits to Shadow spells.

I also appreciate the “Blackout” label coming back.  It turns out we can use synonyms for shadow, without constantly just calling everything “improved shadowiness.”

The early Discipline Tree changes are what have me most excited.  Evangelism and Archangel got something of a rework.  Casting Mind Flay will now proc “Dark Evangelism” which increases the periodic damage of shadow spells.  This is great for three reasons.  First, its a not-completely-passive damage boost that can be relied upon for sustained damage.  Second, it makes getting talents in the Disc tree exciting, rather than “now where do I put these points?”  Finally, the buff is to our periodic damage; I’ve always felt, as DoT casters, we deserved more attention paid to our DoTs being a bigger part of our damage pie.

So that’s all sorts of win.  Guess what else is?  The companion talent, Archangel.  Assuming one is in Shadowform, releasing stacks of Dark Evangelism will place you in a state called “Dark Archangel.”  This restores a chance of mana and gives a temporary damage boost.  I’m assuming this would be used during burn phases, with a potion, during bloodlust, or on a target swap.  As a class that’s asked for some serious burst for a while, this is a welcome talent.

Darkness and Improved Shadow Word: Pain are both still in tier one.  Spirit Tap is gone, which I’m 100% okay with.  I have to force myself to respect leveling talents.  I think good class design should let your playstyle while leveling teach you valuable skills while raiding.  Raiding shouldn’t take away all the crutches you had and just throw you into the fire.

Veiled Shadows also made it to tier one, which I think is great.  I’ve always hated that there was nothing compelling for other specs of priests in our tree.  It makes shadow feel like a reject tree.  Holy or disc priests being able to drop the cooldown on one of our most powerful mana return abilities?  Sounds like it could be handy in the more mana-harsh environment of Cataclysm.  Of course, we’ll take it for damage.

The old “improved shadowform” is now Phantasm.  I must say, while this talent is one of the ones raiding spriests may pick up as filler utility on the way to 31 points, the name is golden.  Snaring us?  Oh no, didn’t we mention?  We’re as ethereal as air.  With the options for advancing being this or Improved Psychic Scream, I’ll be taking this talent.

Some talents have been moved around a little, or had the number of points invested in them reduced.  New and shiny?  Sin and Punishment!  (As an aside, did Blizzard just hire a dedicated “shadow priest naming consultant?”  SaP is awesome.)  This talent is something I’ve wished for for a while, but felt wouldn’t work.  Affliction warlocks have a silence effect tied to Unstable Affliction.  Dispelling this ability silences the dispeller and does a chunk of damage to her.  Vampiric Touch, our big damage DoT requiring a cast time, as a slight damaging effect that everyone worth their salt just powers through.

No longer!  Sin and Punishment fears the dispeller of your VT (and everyone within 6 yards) for 3 seconds.  Gonna chain dispel me, Mr Holy Paladin?  How about a mini Psychic Scream right in your face!  As can be expected, I’m entering a state of girlish giddiness about this talent.

Thing are looking promising.  Check out the tentative talent build I’ve put forward, and feel free to make your own and post it in the comments.

Music and the World of Warcraft

19 Jul

Naturally, a proviso: all posts this week are inspired, directly or indirectly, by my recent trip to the Vancouver Folk Music Festival.  Today the connection is loose, but obvious.  For anyone who hates music, or the thought of listening to it, you should skip today’s post.

Music is almost everywhere we go.  At its most basic, its a rhythm or a sound.  At the most complex, its a soulful expression of human creativity.  That’s a pretty large continuum, and anyone who listens to Pop music has likely hear everything on that spectrum.

I’ve talked to a lot of arena players who make a point of getting “pumped up” with some music before a set of matches.  This does a few good things.

First, it builds confidence.  Confidence is an important a stat in arena as haste, spellpower, or resilience.  Confidence is the difference between someone who knows what they’re doing, and someone who knows they can do it.

Second, it puts a rhythm in your brain.  In fast paced arena play, its easy to get out of step.  Its easy to miss a global as you try to figure out why you’re dying so swiftly.  A rhythm gives you something to track back to.  It lets the pace in your head define the pace of your match.  Try it.  You’ll see what I mean.

In a raid, music can help tune you into a fight.  Let me explain what I mean.  At a low volume (low enough that one almost can’t hear it) I play one song or album on repeat during a new boss attempt.  I continue to listen to it throughout all of our wiping, gradually associating the shifts in the music with the phases of our encounter.

Day two, we return to this fight.  Before going in, I briefly listen to that same song.  My mind is quickly flooded with all the learning points of the previous night; I am right back there without any need for warm-up or re-explanation.

This is quite possibly an extreme example, but sounds and music are a powerful cue.  Anyone using DBMs will understand the power of sound to keep everyone awake and alive.

While we’re staying awake and alive… I thought I’d share with you some of the music I got to encounter this weekend.  These folks are pretty amazing.

Save a Dragon: PVP

10 Jul

I’ve been doing 3s as shadow, frost mage, rshaman with two very talented PVPers.  Their respective mains are Holy paladin and Arms warrior, on which they’ve played together a lot.

My gear is solid.  My performance is getting better.  We’ve reached a place where they’re both getting used to the toolboxes of these new classes they’ve rolled.  A few nights ago we broke 1800 and called it for the week.  Next week, with new weapons in the hands of each of my partners, we’ll push for 2k.

Its baby steps.  I’m not a Glad, but I study hard and I’ve got the theory well worked out.  The team doesn’t rely on my, so much as it depends on the strong play of my two partners, but I want to contribute every possible global I can.

After running frost mage / shadow priest twos for a while tonight I grabbed a rogue new to our guild and did dome 2s with him.  He’s new to serious arena, and I’m new to playing with a rogue, so we both did some learning.

Battlegrounds and Leadership: How Can We Do Better?

30 Jun

In response to this shared topic, and because we’re all going to be taking BGs a lot more seriously in Cataclysm’s rated environment, I thought we’d talk today about the Battleground leader (aka, that person with a different font colour who is allegedly in charge).

Much like a randomly formed party from a dungeon finder, or even a pugged raid, it is possible for the “leader” to do little or nothing.  In fact, this is common in BGs.  That said, the most effective environments have someone stepping up to take some ownership.

If this could be you (and it can be!), know that your role is never to scold, belittle, tell-off, or insult other players.  Far too much of that already happens in a Battleground of anonymous players.  No one wants to play with a second mum telling them what to do.  Don’t be that person.AV is Serious Business

A good leader gives the group some helpful direction and effective knowledge.  “Blacksmith is undefended.  Can one person stay at mine, and the rest go for blacksmith?”  A leader also knows when to quit.  If the entire team in EotS is camping the flag location, don’t ramble at them about how bases are the key to victory.  Gently remind them they’ll need a base to cap, and try to help figure out which one or ones that will be.

Don’t be afraid to thank people, especially healers.  Folks who assist in your directions and goals deserve some gratitude, and a quick, “great job on defense guys.  Nice heals!” goes a long way.

In closing, there is a lot of good one can do as any sort of leader, but only if you serve those you’re leading.  Be an inspiration, not a director, and guide—don’t bully.

Happy Ganking!