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September 2009

Taking Attendance: Raid Signup Etiquette 101

Whenever a guild has a few raid instance on farm, it seems counter-intuitive, but inevitably happens-- raid attendance issues flair up. Raids that had folks offering up bribes to get into can't fill. Half a raid team no shows. Backups can't be spotted online by even the sharpest-eyed raid leader. But those fair-weather raiders should know that like an elephant, the raid leader never forgets the serial flakers or the altoholic naggers. So don't be one of them!

I'll give folks the benefit of the doubt. I've seen enough "it's only a game -- why so serious?" comments in forums over the years to realize some folks are just clueless as to how their behavior affects the other 9/24 people who sign up and show up for a raid ready to go. Thus, some food for thought.

Mains>Alts

You should be signing up for regular raids on your main. If your raid has a shortage of healers, for example, and have an alt who can comeptantly fill that role and who can meet the requirements, your raid leader may ask you to bring that character instead, in order to make the run happen.

Unless a run is flagged as an alt run, you should not be signing up your alt for it. Often, a raider whose main has gotten all the gear upgrades they wanted from the highest level raid currently on farm will start whining abut wanting to bring their alt. Or even pushing to have their alt be their new main. Please do not think your raid leaders and fellow raiders are idiots. This transparent behavior can turn even the mildest-mannered guildie into a seething flamebot.

If you really do want to switch raiding mains, keep these rules of thumb in mind:

  • Expansion time is an ideal time to make a main change. Often guilds have turnover around expansions which can leave specific classes and roles lacking.
  • If you do get permission to change your main, you should not expect they will be plugged into the raids you previously attended on the character you geared out if they do not fill the same roles or have the same level of gear.

Respect the Sanctity of the Signup

If you sign up for a raid and are slotted to attend, it is a reasonable expectation for your raid team to expect you to honor that signup. That said, if an emergency comes up, just let someone know (forum post, email, IM, twitter, carrier pigeon) so your raid team is not sitting around waiting 15-30 minutes wondering if/when you are going to show up. That's plain vanilla courtesy.

Things that do not constitute an emergency:

  • I need to go to the store to buy beer/cookies for the wife/new tires bb in 10 min
  • I went on a raid earlier today and got the piece of loot I wanted from tonight's raid so I am not going to bother to come
  • I got a better offer for another raid on a different toon so I am flaking
  • I am pouting about a comment someone made in the forums so I am taking my toys and going home

If your alt gets saved to a current raid the guild is running, that's fine. But if your main gets saved to one of the raids we are running, that you signed up for, people are going to be mad at you. Why? Because now your RL has to scramble to replace you. Once a roster is posted, those not included often make other plans, which can make it hard to fill that raid you signed up for.

When in Doubt, Sit it Out

When in doubt about whether or not you will be able to attend, don't sign up for a raid so folks won't plan on your helping to make it happen.This is the most basic DBAD rule there is in raiding. If you happen to be able to attend and a slot is still available -- great! If not, you don't have a raid team full of folks sticking pins into your avatar's voodoo doll. We call that a win-win.

Raid Start Time is not a Good AFK Time

At the raid start time, it is reasonably expected that you will be:

  • at the raid instance door waiting for an invitation
  • repaired and with repair money for the evening
  • prepared to stay until raid's end, or have notified a raid leader already that you need to leave at a specific time (bonus points for having a fill-in lined up for when you leave)
  • in possession of several hours worth of reagents for any buffs you may reasonably be expected to provide

Accepting a raid invitation then needing 10 min AFK to go eat dinner, or walk the dog, or go buy cigarettes is not usually met with enthusiasm. This may seem obvious, gentle reader, but these are true life examples from raids past.

No raid is a Herculean effort on the part of any one member. It is a true team effort. And to be successful, it requires everyone put forth their best efforts, understand your raid's expectations, and be aware of how their actions affect the rest of the team.

Happy raiding.


Addressing Growing Pains Before You Need a Splint

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With all the progress our casual guild has made over the past few months, it was inevitable we would have some growing pains. If you've ever been a part of a guild that was slowly but surely progressing into uncharted territory raiding-wise you've probably been through something similar:

  • Raid team has first half of raid on farm; previously disinterested guildies start signing up for farm night
  • A surge of new guild applicants all wanting to raid
  • As you near the final raid boss, the core raiding team members whom made the progress possible finds themselves losing rolls on major upgrades -- or on raid spots for that matter -- to folks who have attended one raid in three months
  • Forums drama ensues

A guild that lacks strong leadership or vision often crumbles in the midst of these sort of growing pains. Luckily for us, our thoughtful and inclusive officer team talked out these frustrations, and allowed us all as a guild to transform our vision of the guild's approach to end game raiding.

The officers, after taking in guild discussion, came back to the forums with proposals -- not mandates-- that they received additional feedback on. A primary issue they addressed was we were leaning heavily upon three guildies for all our raid leading and strategy. In addition to burning them ut, it gave some less frequent raiders a sense they could show up, go through the motions, loot, and profit. We needed more raiding team involvement in making the raids happen and to thus lead to better engagement (and ultimately, have a strong end game raid team ready for Icecrown Citadel, and to be fielding a strong 25 man raid of some sort in house.)

Not All Raiders Are Created Equal

The first major task that was undertaken was to evaluate the raiding performance of all our frequent raiders over the past few months. From that evaluation, we came up with 2 separate lists of raiders -- those ready for hard modes and the top tier of raiding instances, and those better suited for Ulduar and our "farm" raiding. These two lists also came with updated performance standards, which I am sharing here as I realize how much time it took to get a good SWAG going for them (and in some cases, we are still trying to nail down the numbers).

  • Trial of the Crusader/25
    Tanks: Uncrittable, Armor TBD, Health TBD
    Heals: 2400 Bonus Healing (unbuffed), 400 Mana Regen (while casting).
    DPS: 3000 dps
  • Trial of the Crusader/10
    Tanks: Uncrittable, Armor 24k, Health 31k (unbuffed)
    Heals: 2300 Bonus Healing (unbuffed), 400 Mana Regen (while casting).
    DPS: 2500 dps
  •  Ulduar
    Tanks: Uncrittable, Armor 23k, Health 28k (unbuffed)
    Heals: 2000 Bonus Healing (unbuffed), 250 Mana Regen (while casting).
    DPS: Day1: 2200 dps. Day 2: 2400 dps.

These numbers seem pretty readily attainable for anyone willing to put in the time. My newly faction-transferred elemental/resto shaman, who sat in some Naxx gear, unplayed, since January, is Ulduar ready after a few weeks of badges and ToC 5-man drops. And with her totems down she meets the ToC 10 healing minimums, which means that is within reach soon as well, were she to have been my raiding toon.

Get a Job

The second major component of our raiding revamp was to actively solicit more raid member involvement in planning and running the raids. Our initial list of proposed roles for the two tiers of raiding included:

  • Raid Scheduler
  • Raid Strategist
  • Raid Reporting
  • Raid Role Captain (i.e. Heal Lead, Tank Lead, DPS Lead)
  • Raid Recruiter
  • Loot Master
  • Raid Leaders

The final component of our changes is the introduction in the end game raids of EPGP points accrual and loot bidding. Taking into account compensating those heading into uncharted territory for a night of wiping, and making it less frequently possible that an occasional raider would attend a raid and scoop up the one item for which a core raider had been waiting.

Our approach isn't a cure-all for these issues, and won't work in a guild with officers whose sense of self-worth is tied to wielding their power over the raids. But for our passionate, engaged raiders, it's going to be a welcome change. I'll keep you posted on how it goes.


Friday Five: Five Goals for this Weekend

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  1. Get a couple of levels on the mage. She is stuck at 4 bars from 76. She deserves some attention.

  2. Install and configure Grid for the shaman to make healing easier (to compensate for the large real estate of this screen.)
  3. If the mage finishes Sholazar Basin, drop the skinning and train up the alchemy.
  4. Gem and enchant the ToC chest I won the other night so I can swap out my existing T8 chest. Adjust hit rating via swapping out gems and enchants on all other gear, again.
  5. Get some more tries at Coren Direbrew. Want kodo!!


Rank and File: What Kind of Officer Ranks Does a Guild Need?

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Officer Ranks -- what do they mean in your guild? What should they mean? These two questions have been top of mind for me over the past week as our guild has been discussing a need for new ranks that reflect the hard work folks put in to make our raids successful, and to empower some of the new volunteer positions that are proposed to be filled. But it's clear even with the limited discussion thus far around ranks, that not everyone is in favor of adding a rank of officers to the mix with clearly defined roles and responsibilities.

Given my past experiences with progression raiding, I found that to be surprising. When you have raid members who go above and beyond in fulfilling raid assistant roles, if they do not have an official rank that gives them some sort of authority, they are put in the position too many of us are put in at work -- trying to persuade others over whom we have no real influence to see things our way. And that can have limited success.

In my most progression-focused guild, in vanilla, we probably had what seemed like too many officers. There was the GL, the class officers, the raid officers,, and guild crafters for each profession. Additionally the main raid and the secondary raid had their own guild bank alts. But then again, that guild fronted 1 progression raid, 2-3 MC raids per week, 2 Ony runs per week, and often had 100+ members logged on at any one point over the weekend. They needed the officers just to keep things moving smoothly from an administrative perspective. The RL didn't want to be scheduling the 5-6 druids each week in addition to everything else he was doing.

I've been a class leader, in charge of picking druids for raids and coaching them on gear and their rotations. I've been the guild enchanter, tapped to DE (and usually ML) in every raid for 2 years. I've been a plain old Officer, in charge of recruiting ad raid readiness. And I've been an enforcer in a recurring ad hoc raid, inviting folks, helping keep things moving, and doling out potty break time.

Throughout my 4 years of playing WoW, has my Officer title affected how I play, or how much energy I put into improving myself and helping my guild? No. However, when I have worked my tushy off for my guild, and have just been expected to do so and seen Officers whose official duties seem to extend only to chatting in O, inviting people to the guild and shooting down any new idea brought to the officer council because it wasn't their own, that *has* made me unhappy, and even caused me to /gquit. 

Then there was the guild that had class officers and a swath of general officers. The class officers included a tree druid who outgeared me and healed, I kid you not, 50% of what I did as an officially (per armory) hybrid spec druid. A few months after I joined, they announced they were consolidating officers since the 25-man raid size didn't merit having so many officers. That's great, right? Except that it meant is the GL kept all his buddy officers and cut the rest of the slate free. And the really bad tree? She got to stay. Cronyism is the way of the world, including in guild officer politics, but it's still a disappointment no matter how you slice it.

So what's the right balance between enough officers and not enough? Should officers have clearly defined roles and responsibilities or just be responsible for broad governance? What's worked the best for your guild?


Creating a Guild Application With Some Oomph

In my almost 4 years of playing WoW, I’ve had occasion to read a number of applications that had widely varying degrees of success in providing folks with a picture of who I am and what I am looking for in a guild. Too few of the applications got to many of the core considerations that help a guild – an guild members—determine what makes a good fit. But all it takes is a little bit of reflection and a few minutes of editing to give your guild application a makeover to help it better present what the guild is looking for while helping screen for guildies who are a good fit.

The Basics

At a minimum, an application should always include:

  • What is your main character’s name, class, spec and level? Nip future drama in the bud by having a permanent record of what role the applicant said they wanted to fill as well as who their main character is.
  • What are your professions and their level? A max level character without any professions trained smells like eBay. If the professions are confusing (tailoring on a plat wearer) or far from completion, it merits a follow-up to determine why (i.e. do they lack follow-through, they are confused about armor proficiencies, etc.)
  • Please provide your armory link. Yes, you could go search for it yourself. This is one of those ease of the reviewer questions that also gets to the applicant’s ability and willingess to follow instructions and do a little something extra for the officers.
  • Why are you leaving/why did you leave your last guild? People almost always lie on this question, or at least soften up their reasons, but there is usually a kernel of truth to it. If you know anyone in their most recent guild, send a tell to inquire about this person.
  • Who do you know in the Guild? Follow-up with those named to see if they personally endorse the application.
  • If you don’t know anyone in the guild, what is prompting your application? This question goes beyond tracking whether your guild forum or Live Journal or WoW Insider recruitment posts are working. If someone noticed your nicely geared 80s hovering at Krasus’ Landing on your drakes and app’d because they want to get them some, you may want to consider that motive and how it fits in with your guild environment.
  • What is your RL age? Or, are you over the age of 18/21? I personally hate the "how old are you" question, but some variation of it is good to see if the applicant is in the same age bracket as your other players, or if your guild has an adults only policy, to see that they are (or at least are pretending) to be old enough to join.

Applicant’s Personal Play Style and Expectations

  • What level of content have you completed on your main character (i.e. highest level raid, heroics, etc.)? Always good to see how they describe their playing background, and to see how it stacks up to their armory. Ask me about the applicant who said they had done "all the raids" and "knew all the bosses."
  • What is your level of interest in running heroics? 10-man raids? 25-man raids? And which instances? You want to see an interest level in line with their experience, i.e. not a brand new 80 without heroics wanting in on ToC.
  • In general, describe your perfect day of playing WoW. How would you ideally spend 8 hours of playtime? A getting to know you question to ferret out if their interests lie in instancing, PvP, alts or what have you.
  • What are you looking for a guild to provide you with? If the answer is free repairs, free enchants, and T9 and that's not how your guild rolls, at least you found out now. Setting expectations on what the guild will do for its members is crucial at the applciation stage.
  • What skills, accomplishments or other assets would you bring to the guild if invited? This is their chance to strut their stuff and share their strengths and experience with the guild.

Your Guild’s Raiding and/or Grouping Expectations

  • For our raids, we have minimum requirements you must meet before being invited. Those minimums are here [link]. Do you meet our minimums for the content in which you are interested in participating? If not, how do you plan to gear up to meet them? If someone is a new 80, and wanting to raid ToC 10, unless they are a missing link you are motivated to gear up in Ulduar to fill that spot, you'd like to see a realistic gearing up plan, involving badges and a serious heroic grind to get them.
  • We require the following mods and tools for our raids [list]. Is there any reason you would not be able to use them? This question is to identify the stubborn, those who will never be on Vent, and the folks who have 2fps in a raid.
  • Our raiding days are YYYDAY StartTime-EndTime. How often do you think you would ideally be able to attend at those days/times? Don't hide away this information -- let folks evaluate at the application stage if your raid days and times will work for them or not.
  • We use the Suicide Kings/DKP/Loot Council/Roll distribution system for loot in our raids and 1 epic/1blue/Roll in groups. Would you agree to abide by that? You rarely see loot rules on the application but a lot of loot drama happens from new recruits who don't like the loot system and seem to have not known what they were getting into.

Guild Flavor

Most of the guild applications I've seen excel in the flavor questions. What I like about them is it makes it pretty easy for me to see if a guild is a place I'd fit in well. For instance, if the application asks about the weirdest pace I've had sex, and that is question #1 on the application, well, it's probably not the place for me.

Since I don't know your guild, I can't give you sample questions, but I can give you some ideas on where to start:

  • If most of your guildies share some other commonality or interest, ask about it
  • If there is a running joke in your guild that involves an either/or/would you rather, put it in the application
  • Have a question that has to do with your guild's name
  • Do you have any infamous current or past members? Have a question on them to

If you build a strong guild application, that reflects what you and your guild are looking for in new members, you greatly increase your chances of recruiting members who are a good fit -- and who stick.

Other Guild Management Entries in this Blog


Brewfest Incoming!

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Hot on the Heels of our Pirate's Day debauchery, we have the start of Brewfest on Sunday! That's right -- time to dig out your mole machines and get ready for beer and trekking to BRD.

The early word from the blues is many of the quests from years past are back (pink elekks???), and that a baby pink elekk pet has been added. And Coren Direbrew's loot table has been updated for a level 80 target audience.


Friday Five: Five Signs That a WoW Friend May Actually Be a Frenemy

KanyeAnub

With friends like Kanye, you wouldn't really need enemies. All the Kanye memes this week got me to thinking that many of us have folks like him on our friends list. For those of you not familiar with the term, frenemy, popularized by the episode of the same name in Season 3 of Sex and the City, is a term comprised of the words fri(end) and enemy, giving you a term that refers to someone who pretends to be a friend but actually is an enemy.

And thus, I bring you, five signs that your "friend" is actually more of a frenemey:

  1. They've replied to your squee about an achievement or a rare drop more than once with a reply that reminds you they've already been there and done that.
  2. They never seem to actually ever compliment you on anything you do, giving you a backhanded compliment at best. In fact, often rather than gratzing you personally for your achievements, they've given you an ungrats-- congratulating your guild or your raid on your accomplishments, or worse yet, using that old uncompliment "I haven't had a chance to congratulate you on..." which is still not a congratulations any way you shake it.
  3. They listened to you when you sighed about needing only a Malygos run for your Frozen Wastes title then made sure to set up a raid for the one day they knew you couldn't make it.
  4. You are up for a guild promotion but they don't say anything in your favor. No, wait they did say that for the amount of time you have available and have been playing you aren't that bad at your class.
  5. They cry bitter tears in blog posts and tweets when a raid fails due to your not being able to be there yet on a day-to-day basis you are never sent a tell, or directly invited to come to heroics, or given any indication at all that you are an important person in their grand scheme of things.

    BONUS: They leave a horse head in your bed.

Once you've identified a frenemy, there are two options open to you: call them on it or cut them loose. If you think the frenemy's irrational competitiveness and jealousy of you may be due to some sort of misunderstanding on their part, sitting them down for a chat can be a good tact to take. But often, it's not something you can sort out. You'll never be on the same page as some folks. And that's when it's important to give yourself permission to cut them loose. Turn that frenemy into a non-entity and save yourself some stress/lower your blood pressure!

For more true stories on frenemies and how to spot them, check out the most recent edition of the always compelling This American Life podcast.

Kanye meme graphic posted by cosmic_iris on Wow Ladies.


Small Victories: Wrathgate Edition

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This weekend, my SO and I got ourselves through the Wrathgate chain. Although this is my fourth time completing it (second time horde-side), I still sit through the entire video, eyes glued to the screen. Yes, I know what's going to happen, but it doesn't make the cinematic any less engrossing.

If somehow you haven't actually made it through the Wrathgate chain and are reading this, stop reading now lest it be spoiled for you.

It is such a great moment watching Saurfang the younger lead the horde in to join the battle with the Alliance forces. Lok'tar ogar! United and fearless, they challenge Arthas together, but are no match for the Lich. Arthas, who sucks out Saurfang Jr.'s soul with Frostmourne after slaying him. But that's not the moment that gets to me the most. It's the plight of the Foresaken.

My first time through on my undead, when Putress showed up on the hill and said "Did you think we had forgotten? Did you think we had forgiven?" I have to admit I empathized with him some. As a group, could the Foresaken hate anyone more than Arthas? And didn't we all have an inkling as we ran errands for the Royal Apothecary Society that it was quite probably not going to be used for humanitarian purposes? Like that cat we changed into a radioactive wildcat for them in Felwood?

"Behold, now, the terrible vengeance of the Forsaken! Death to the Scourge! And death to the living!"

But that's where the sympathy ends. My Forsaken ladies don't want to cull the earth of the living and the scourge. They mostly want to be left alone. As Bolvar is overcome with the plague, falling to his knees, I am sad that the Horde and the Alliance will both come to mistrust the Forsaken as a result of Putris' treachery. Sure, we grab Thrall and Lady Sylvanas (Now! With not improved! More emo! Voice acting!) and help take back Undercity, but it's the Alliance who goes after Putress. And Varian Wrynn wants more than ever to purge the earth of all horde. Can a man who insults Thrall and Sylvanas with "Trash like you and this evil witch were allowed to roam free -- unchecked." ever ally with us? 

The Cinematic and the Battle for the Undercity event pulled us into Wrath of the Lich King like no other quest chain had before. The closest event that comes to mind would be the completion of the Alliance Onyxia keying chain wherein you escorted Marshall Windsor into Stormwind. Unmasking the treachery of Lady Katrina Prestor who then murders Windsor in cold blood, summoning her dragons and beating a hasty retreat. Incidentally that s where many Alliance meet Bolvar Fordragon the first time -- as he single-handedly fought back her dragon guards, avenging his friend's death. I had hoped we'd cross paths with Bolvar again and am alwaays sad that we do, only to see him cut down. Could he have helped unite the horde and alliance forces? We'll never know now.

Thank you Blizzard for this gift to the players. It makes slogging through the leveling worth it each time.


Friday Five: Five Things for Which I am Thankful

I wasn't going to do a Friday Five today.

Honestly, it will be hard enough to go in to work given how many folks were personally impacted by the events that took place early in the morning 8 Septembers ago. It was a turning point for me as it was for so many others. BUt it is not a topic for this blog.

Since this day does give pause for much reflection, I decided to share five things related to WoW that I am personally grateful for right now:

  1. My guild. They're not all perfect and I could sometimes happily virtually strangle a few of them, but this is, overall, the best fit I've had in a guild. The day-to-day Pirate officers and raid leaders are thoughtful and open to feedback and are looking out for the best interests of the guild at large.
  2. My ladies. While I am at work, I have you on twitter to give me a smile or two (or a scoop on the latest data mined vanity pets). And in game I have your ribald comments, your more than competent playing backing me up in our many adventures, and your encouragement when leveling my alt hits a plateau of never ending quest-induced tunnel vision. Special shout outs to Sawyer, Tryn, and Norm. You ladies are the bestest.
  3. My ISP. I used to suffer through with a national DSL provider whose service "mysteriously" took a nose dive every night by 9:00. I had 2 fps in 25-man raids and a migraine whenever I called to complain about it and their offshore support would tell me it was definitely my old modem causing the nightly slowdowns but they could sell me a new router for only $100...I now am a Speakeasy customer. Yes, it's a lot more expensive. But it's also reliable and you get to talk to a company employee who seems to genuinely want to help you if you have a question or issue.
  4. My iMac. For three years, I played WoW on the very last PowerBook PowerBook. But when I saw that WotLK's specs did not seem to be 3-year-old laptop friendly, I took the plunge and upgraded to an iMac and have been astounded by the beautiful screenshots I am able to take thanks to having all my graphics settings cranked up, and the high FPS even while AOEing in a 25-man raid. It has improved my gameplay -- and my posture-- immensely.
  5. My SO. I would not have started playing WoW if it were not for watching him raid ZG when it first came out. And without his ongoing support and partnership, it wouldn't be nearly as fun as it has been. I can't think of any other regular activity that has kept me engaged for almost four years. When I decided to swap to the horde, he leveled up a new toon to play with me, and quickly became a pro at it. His tenacity, and his willingness to partake in the WoW math side game have helped make him the great player he is today-- and have rubbed off on me alittle bit too. Much love to you, Guld.
Happy Friday. Give someone you love a hug.

I Took the Faction Change Plunge and Lived to Tell About it

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My Draenie shaman is no more. As I had pretty much decided when they announced faction changes, I took the plunge and faction changed her so she could be a part of my horde pirate family. The hardest part of the endeavor was saying goodbye to the friends I have Alliance-side, accumulated over the past almost four years. I still have my druid on the server, but honestly, I mostly logged on this lady to do Jewelcrafting dailies and say hello to folks. Moving her to the horde cements my transition for them, and for me. I will try to chip away at them over time to get them to come play with us horde-side...this means YOU Milch and Thar and El and Jay!!

The overall process was easy enough, though it took me some extra time due to not being aware that read mail in my box would be an issue. Once it was safely deleted, my faction change went through within a couple of hours, and the server move within minutes after that. And thus, on Saturday morning, I was on a zeppelin to Northrend. I had almost all of the Northrend horde FPs, minus Gundrak and one of the Argent Crusade quest hubs. I retained my achievements for number of quests completed but my running tally halved itself. Good thing I am not pursuing loremaster! The contents of my bags all switched over without incident, except for my mechano hog. A GM ticket and a 24-hour wait were all it took, however, for that to be resolved so my SP could be riding in style.

My alliance characters, with so many years under their belts and a wide assortment of professions across them as well, are more prosperous than my hordies. And I had stashed a variety of cloth items for my not-yet-leveled up alts (who may never be leveled at this point.) So I made sure to consolidate all the goodies on my shaman to bring them with me. An especially fortuitous score was the Tome of Polymorph Turtle, on the AH for 350g. I have probably lost rolls on that thing a half dozen times over the course of my many ZG fishing boss summons.

It's been 8 months since I played my shaman for more than a few minutes time. Thus it took me a while to get back into the swing of things. For one thing, I hadn't healed on her since I was on my wee laptop and see I will need to install grid or some unit frames to not lose my mind doing that. I am getting her DPS well sorted, tho somehow she only had healing gear -- except for the heroic CoS pants. Her sorry state of gear is due in large part to the fact that she and my druid swapped in and out, boss-by-boss for our tiny 10-man guild's Naxx runs at the beginning of the year.

But even if I am DPSing ToC primarily in healing gear, and white-knuckle healing through the other heroics, it's nice to actually have the opportunity to get her out and about and playing again. I've really missed playing her. And it's nice to have my pocket JC available whenever needed. It has been strange for me to only have 1 level cap character for the past 6 months horde-side. Ever since vanilla, I've always had a stable of alts to choose from -- so i could be a swiss-army knife for whatever activity our friends and guildies were up for. It feels great to have that flexibility again.

My verdict? Well worth the money.

Next up: getting the mage to 80!

P.S. I took the shaman for one last chopper joy ride with her main squeeze right before I transferred:

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<3 that Wrenzil.


What to Wear: the Shadow Priest's Guide to Gear from Trial of the Champion

Patch 3.2 landed like a Loot Reaver pinata. Everywhere you looked were mains and alts alike running instances like mad and jumping significant WoW Heroes levels. While it is all very awesome, it's also left many folks a little uncertain as to what is available to them and from where. We'll start to tackle that problem here.

Trial of the Crusader (normal)

Dropping all iLvl 200 items on regular mode, just like the raid instance Naxxaramas, some have said this 5-man instance has made Naxx obsolete. I disagree since the raiding experience Naxx provides is invaluable. However, this instance is a great way to quickly gear up your alts, or stock up on your Abyss Crystals as the case may be.

  • Abyssal Rune. If you have had bad trinket luck like me, you will be excited to see this haste and chance on cast to increase dps trinket drop.
  • Belt of the Churning Blaze. Good to bank for hit swapping.
  • Bindings of the Wicked. Another good item to keep on hand for hit swapping.
  • Handwraps of Surrendered Hope. These gloves are slightly better itemized for healers, but grab if they are an upgrade.
  • Leggings of the Haggard Apprentice. The leggings have good stats plus 2 gem slots, including the ever elusive blue gem slot.
  • Mantle of Inconsolable Fear. This shoulder piece is slightly better itemized for healers, but worth grabbing if it is an overall upgrade.
  • Signet of Purity. Solid ring though its spirit means you will be up against the druid and priest healers.
  • The Confessors Binding. Good waist, but will want to bypass the gem slot bonus to put a ruby in this spot. Its  spirit means you will be up against the druid and priest healers.

Trial of the Crusader (heroic)

Dropping all ilvl 219 items, this heroic 5-man instance even provides upgrades for folks who've gone through Naxx 10.


Friday Five: Five Things to Do to Get Ready for a Faction Change

If you're like me, and have decided to make the faction jump with one of your characters, you were probably itching to go as soon as the news broke on Wednesday that Faction Changes were now available. But before you hit the "Faction Change link on your account management page, there are a few to do's to make the experience a better one:

  1. Read the FAQs. Even if you're not a reading the instructions kind of a person. They link out to conversion tables for gear, achievements, and mounts. This way you'll be mentally prepared for all the changes ahead and not wndering why you have a bunch of chocobo mounts
  2. Since you read the FAQs, you'll know you can only bring over 20,000 gold on your level 70-80s. So if you have more than that, you'll have to convert it into items you can use or sell once your change is complete.
  3. To make the most of #2, CLEAN OUT YOUR BAGS! Delete every easily-replaceable food/drink, thread or other cheap crafting materials, etc. Are you really ever going to use those old clown pants? Are you? Be ruthless in your assessment.
  4. If you plan on a server change after your faction change, determine if your name is avialable. If not, put some thought into alternative names you'd like, and see if they are available. The easiest way to do this is to /friend mycoolname while logged on to that server. What you want to see returned is player not found.
  5. OK your bags and bank have been purged, your name researched, and you're ready to go. There's one last thing you should do: document the moment. Take a screenshot of your character in one of your favorite faction-specific places to remember them by.

I'm moving my shaman over this weekend and am really excited. I'll be saying goodbye to an old friend in doing so, but will actually get to avoid the leveling slog to get to play her. At this point, it's highly unlikely I'll make a return to the Alliance, and certainly not on my server home of the past 3.75 years.I'm excited at the new possibilities.

Cheers!


Are Hard Modes the New Line in the Sand Between Casual and Hardcore?

Once upon a time, in vanilla WoW, raiding was the line drawn between the casual and the hardcore player. It was a big deal to be in MC/BWL/AQ and ultimately Naxx.

But over the years, Blizzard actively made changes to make raiding be in the grasp of most -- if not all -- of the players who wanted to participate in end game content. PUGable raid instances replaced high-learning curve instances. And there was little left activity-wise to differentiate between the casual and the hardcore player.

But then there was the introduction of Ulduar and its hard modes. My casual guild has yet to actively go after them, despite at least a few being pretty readily attainable with a good crew. It would be lovely to see Algalon eventually, but I just don't have the expectation that enough of my casual guildies would be up for wiping for 3 hours to attain a hard mode kill.

So, does that make hard modes the new line in the sand between casual and hardcore? Are many casual guilds going after the hard modes? Or are they, after killing Yogg, swapping in alts or lesser-experienced players instead?


Loot Systems Pros and Cons

Let's face it - even if your primary motivator in raiding is hanging out with your friends and making progress through instances, it feels good to get that upgrade you've been needing. And on the flipside, seeing that upgrade you've needed for moths pass you by for the eighth time can be frustrating. If you are finding that you and your core raiders are having more of the latter feelings than the former, it may be time to re-evaluate what loot system would be the best fit for your raid team.   In roughly the order of complexity and officer intervention, the most prevalent options are: 
  •     /roll
  •     Suicide Kings (SK)
  •     DKP
  •     Loot Council

I have not included the pure wish list option despite it having been one of the most successful loot distribution systems I've participated in. My 40-man guild used it for BWL and AQ. We consistently had the same 40 people week-in and week-out. And after some officer abuse, locked down the ability to change one's wish list. The maintenance of the wish list Excel spreadsheet was onerous and time consuming. And bringing in new people as a guild is midway through progression in an instance could results in a lack of parity in loot distribution.

Full discussion after the jump.

Continue reading "Loot Systems Pros and Cons" »