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December 2009

ICC by the Skin of Our Teeth

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Last night, after weeks of banging our heads against 25-man Lady RepairBill, as Moober affectionately nicknamed her, my guild finally took her down, and did a gunship 1-shot victory lap to celebrate. To say that we were pleased is an understatement. I think shocked was a little more like it.

In the first 45 minutes of our raid, we had wiped fully or partially on the trash 3 or 4 times before getting to Marrowgar. We had ass-pulling of mobs, face pulling of giants, AOE pulling of every mob in the room. Oh yes, we had fun times. And Marrowgar wasn't a cakewalk either. Although we'd previously 1-shot him on 25-man, it took us 4 goes, losing our MT multiple times, bone spikes staying up too long, switching around our tanks and adding in an off-spec healer so we could get him down on our fourth attempt.

Despite all that noobing it up, this week's raid was able to finally take down Lady Deathwhisper where previous raids with better execution could not. Why? Logs point to the fact that we went up 15k in overall DPS from our previous best attempt. A good deal of that seems to be from having had a raid that was stacked with melee, who completely kicked butt on the meters overall for the night. I don't think the difference was in gear, despite the fact that we clear three ICC 10s every week, because we've had 30+ raiders in ICC ready gear for over a month now.

The gear component is one that comes up a lot though, with lots of wishful thinking hoping that if only we do another legacy raid of 25-man ToC and get a last little pinch of gear, that will make a difference. But our guild at least has shown that isn't our block. We do have some folks in our raids doing well under 4k DPS. We're casual and inclusive, so this happens. But it is important to note that those folks are not at the bottom due to having poor gear. Their gear scores put them neck and neck with folks outperforming them. And our weekly raid quests, which usually end up being two 25s and a few 10s worth of mains and alts before the week is through, have shown many undergeared alts performing as well as - or even better than -- their well-geared counterparts.

It's hard to determine why one DPS pulls 2500 while another of their class pulls 4k+ when their gear is not disparate. Could be lag or low FPS on their computer. Could be they don't watch their threat meters and spend their time hugging the floor. Could be that they have Skype or IM open on their computer and are distracted. Or they could be like that former guildie of mine who was always watching a movie or television during our raids, interjecting Vent chat with commentary to that effect. Perhaps they're not doing the optimal DPS rotation, or their spec needs some work.

It's impossible to troubleshoot what's going on from the outside. But the fact remains that at this point, we're not able to carry folks through the content and succeed. The past three weeks of wiping on Lady Deathwhisper showed that pretty clearly. Folks need to bring their A game. Being casual doesn't mean it's OK to not be flasking up, or coming to a raid wearing gear that is unenchanted or poorly gemmed. Casual is not a bandaid to cover up not trying. Yes, casual is putting having a good time first. And it is about having a life outside of the game. We don't have minimum attendance, or spec requirements, or any of the standard rules a raiding guild has. But the fact that we are casual that way shouldn't absolve anyone who raids from having personal accountability for doing their best.

Next week, a new wing of ICC opens up. I know our 10-mans will be up for the challenge. As for our 25-man? We'll see. I am optimistic that last night's victory will push folks to give Saurfang their all on Monday. But putting your best foot forward in raids isn't a one-time event. It's something you need to do every time you head in the door to a raid instance. Here's hoping we continue to be up for the challenge.


New Toys for Me (not involving Ulduar)

This year's Christmas holiday was all about the in-game toys for me. I not only found a wide range of the holiday toys under the tree from Santa, I also found a few in my mailbox from friends. My favorite druid, Elvenia, sent my neglected Alliance druid a Gundrak Hatchling. My SO gave my shadow priest the adorable Teldrassil Sproutling, and my leveling partner gave me the white moth I'd somehow overlooked in my pet collection.

On Christmas Eve day, as I leveled the baby druid with her shaman buddy, we received an Orb of Deception from a chest. Although it was tempting to keep it for the druid, I sent it to my undead shadow priest, who had to try it out. See for yourself what happened:

And that wasn't all of the fun and frivolity either.I'd gotten my SO a box of the World of Warcraft Trading Card game cards, which meant an influx of new UDE points to spend. So while I was redeeming my Landro's Pet Chest code (I got some Papa Hummel's Pet Biscuits), I also finally cashed in my Sandbox Tiger and Path of Cenarius loot cards.

The sandbox tiger will be a fun toy to pull out the next time our raid group is attacked by a plague of DCs. I had to try it out for myself first though, of course:

I hope Father Winter gave you some fun over this long holiday weekend as well.


Warcraft Year in Review Meme Goes Shared Topic

I forgot to mention it here earlier, but my Warcraft Year in Review Meme, in addition to spreading organically through peeps tagging each other with it, was the holiday time shared topic over on Blog Azeroth. Lots of great year end wrap-up posts both in my post's comments and on the BA site.

If you're not familiar with Blog Azeroth already, and you're blogging about Warcraft, I encourage you to head over there and check it out. Lots of good resources for many of the popular blogging platforms, plus lots of ideas for getting post ideas flowing, including the weekly/biweekly shared topics. They also maintain a twitter warcraft blogger list.


What to Wear: A Shadow Priest's Guide to 25-man Icecrown Citadel Gear

As previously noted, I'm not a math geek so I am not going to argue BiS (best in Slot) with the maths here. Rather, I am going to discuss your gearing up opportunities by boss, to help you prep your wish list. If you want to see BiS across all available 10-man and 25-man raids, including ICC hard mode boss drops, shadowpriest.com has an excellent list. With more math than you can shake a stick at.

Words of Caution: As with ToC, you will want to be picking up some haste gear from ICC which means doing the hit-swapping dance, so don't be quick to shard or sell your existing gear when you receive an upgrade. You will likely have to swap gear around for raids to ensure you stay hit capped.

Your boss-by-boss gear guide, after the jump.

Continue reading "What to Wear: A Shadow Priest's Guide to 25-man Icecrown Citadel Gear" »


Handling the Primordial Saronite

If you haven't already made your way into Icecrown Citadel and checked out the quartermaster, you may not be aware that unlike ToC and Ulduar 25-mans, wherein many yummy crafting patterns fell from the bosses, you will be needing to purchase your 3.3 epic crafting patterns. Specifically, you will need to have appropriate reputation levels (honored for one pair, revered for another pair or patterns) plus a primordial saronite to purchase each pattern.

There are two ways to obtain the primordial saronite -- they drop at 50% or less off the bosses in Icecrown Citadel 25-man raids, or you can buy them for 23 emblems of frost. Personally, I don't see a lot of folks taking the latter route straight out of the gate since we'll all be needing to spend hundreds of those emblems on purchasing our tier 10 gear.

Our guild is still undecided about how to handle the saronites as they drop. We do have a guild crafter rank, Swashbuckler, already in place. For runed orbs, our guild sold them to guildies, from the gbank, at half the going auction house price. I've proposed that we either give them to the guild crafters, as they hit the appropriate rep levels,  or sell them to them at no more thank 1/4 the going auction house price. Even the latter would be a pricey proposition for crafters.

Personally, having acquired a substantial number of patterns both before and after being named a guild crafter, and so far having made about a dozen pieces for guildies and friends of the guild, and nothing for myself, find it a little hard to rationalized spending my gold on buying primal saronite for four patterns, when it's unlikely I will make the items for myself (at best, I could see myself crafting a pair of boots.)

One of the rules of being a guild crafter is that since you get priority on dropped patterns you don't charge guildies for crafting the items. Thus, if we don't give guild crafters the saronite, we are basically saying "oh hai please spend 3k per pattern in costs you will not be able to recoup unless you shop yourself out in trade chat for a few weeks." I doubt most of the folks would do so -- or would even have the cash reserves to do so even if they wanted to.

How's your guild handling the primal saronite? Or how would you like to see it go?


Lower Spire Cleared

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We had a rough start to the new content. We spent an entire evening in the 25-man wiping on Marrowgar due to folks 1) not keeping impaled folks healed and 2) many DPS not switching over to freeing the impaled folks. We split up into two 10-mans over the weekend to try again. The other team got off to a great start, clearing 3 bosses the first night.

My team? We kept losing the OT after the first whirlwind. Every go. And losing team members to unexplained/unannounced AFKs. We spent 3 hours and got nowhere. Except for fat repair bills.

It was especially frustrating because we had amazing DPS. Our impaled folks could barely announce on vent they'd been spiked before we got them out. My SO's DK had gone unholy, which, along with the haste change to affect DP and VT DoTs, meant I was rocking the DPS. So the fail was especially hard to swallow. Even in vanilla content, I was lucky to have raid teams that were good at identifying and fixing our strategy holes. It was discouraging to have not seen any sort of improvement over the course of the attempts.

Sunday night, with one of our more geared and experienced pally tanks at the helm, we stepped back into ICC and smashed through 3 bosses. Last night we came back in to tackle Saurfang. And after only a couple tries, we stomped him.

Hooray!

I am thrilled to have challenging and fun content to raid again. This should keep me happy for a good while.

As a parting gift for this Tuesday, I leave you with this shot of my schmancy new mace, courtesy of the Quel'Delar quest chain.

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Friday Five: 5 Things in Patch 3.3 that Made me Happy

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  1. Core Hound Puppy! I can not gush enough about how adorable -- and active -- this vanity pet is.
  2. The return of story-based instance content. The three five mans' serial content seamlessly leads you directly into the raid content. And when you first step foot inside the raid instance, as I did last night, you are given a story, including a reason to fight onward. A goal to reach. A reason to fight with all your heart. It's been a while since I've felt that way on night one.
  3. The Dungeon Finder. Yeah, last night we got a guy who needed on the frozen orb we all greeded, and need rolled the tanking sword his tank offspec wouldn't be able to put to use. But all my other experiences thus far have been great. No more waiting around for 45 minutes looking for more peeps. Whoohoo!

  4. Vote to Kick. In the old days, you had to send whispers all around and then the party leader had to manually kick out the annoying group member. But now, we can vote to kick. I initiated this last night after one of our PUG DPS, a DK, kept running in front of the tank, aggroing mobs he didn't see, and in one case, death-grip pulling a mob that was not the one the tank was pulling. After letting him die for that last transgression, we voted to kick him out. And had a replacement in 1 minute thanks to the Dungeon Finder tool.
  5. More mana for my lowbie casters all the time! My baby alts, all casters across the lot of them, are now less of a drinking time-sink. Thank you thank you Blizzard.
Bonus: Haste + Shadow Priest DoTs = win. And Mind Sear in ICC25 on those 10 pack pulls? mwahahahahaha. Oh yeah, that was fun.

Keeping it to Yourself: Request for a Spoiler-Free Patch

As progress has been made on Patch 3.3, and files have been datamined and PTR time has been sent, a lot of Lore-related content has been posted on the Interwebs. And I made the decision not to read any of it. I want my first forays into Icecrown Citadel to be ones of discovery. In fact, that's a big reason why I didn't try  out the PTR.

My SO was lucky enough to have been part of WotLK BETA for a few months. I was able to poke around and learn everything I wanted to know about the profession and talent changes. And yes, I worked out my 3.0 build, my leveling build, and my lvl 80 build for my main well before the expansion hit the shelves. But even then I drew the line at spoiling the content for myself.

My first time through the Wrathgate cinematic, for instance, was amazing and moving. And it wouldn't have been as much so if I had seen it for the first time on Youtube. It involved my favorite Alliance hero, Bolvar Fordragon, who plays a large part in the new raid instance to come. And that is already more than I wanted to know in advance, but it was pretty much unavoidable.

Not all of us will hop into the 5-mans tonight when the servers come up. And my raid team is not scheduled to start content until Thursday. And thus, I make a small plea: when talking about content and Lore spoilers that this patch introduces, for at least this first week or so, please mark your post clearly with SPOILER. Hide spoiler content behind a cut or a jump.

Just like you don't want to find out what you're getting for Christmas by seeing a receipt in the trash can, I don't want to glean everything that is in store for me in 3.3 second or third-hand.

May your adventures in Icecrown be fruitful.

cheers,

Anexxia


Guild Retention Strategies

This post was written in response to a recent Blog Azeroth Shared Topic.

With Patch 3.3 and the Icecrown Citadel raids and 5-man looming on the horizon, and Cataclysm still pre-BETA, guilds are likely to be in for some growing pains. Players leaving because they want to do hard modes or change mains or raid on all their characters. And then there's those folks who hadn't shown much interest in improving their playing or gearing their characters since Naxx was on the schedule who have suddenly reappeared and started to rattle their sabers about being included in ICC raids.

Although the competing agendas of your guildies may be enough to make an officer want to stick their head in the sand and wait for the Cataclysm to hit, that's not your best strategy if you want your guild to stay strong and active between now and then. The key to making that happen is:

  • make a concerted effort on the part of your leadership team to keep players engaged
  • keep guildies apprised of the road map for the content ahead
  • make an effort to reach out to guildies who might be on the fence as to their future with your guild

Keeping Players Engaged

It can feel daunting, especially if you have a large, active guild, to do a pulse check with all of your guildies to ensure they're still feeling like part of the team. But the bigger the guild, perhaps the more important that officers divide and conquer and do just that.

One way to hit up a number of guildies all at once is to put a poll up on your guild forums. Allow the guild at large to help make some decisions about how the guild will spend its time as a group once 3.3 hits.  Be sure to schedule time for low-impact fun runs and events to make sure even those who can't make as much time for raids can feel like they have a chance to participate with the guild.

Our guild fun runs through old raid content allows players not ready for prime time raids to get to know players they might not otherwise have much opportunity to play with, and gives friends of the guild an opportunity to see if they might want to jump aboard at some point.

Officers can also make a point of trying to informally check-in with one guildie per day (split them up according to class, who knows whom or whatever feels right for your guild.) Ask them what they're most looking forward to doing once 3.3 hits -- it's a topic most of us are more than happy to talk to you about.

Outlining Your 3.3 Road Map

Once you have a good idea as to what content -- and with what frequency -- your guildies want to see, define the requirements for participation then put up an activity schedule so they can plan for it, and stick with it. Spontaneously deciding to pull in your best 10 players for an extra night's shot on a new raid boss is a surefire way to lose friends and alienate guildies -- don't do it! Transparency is key if you want to keep your guildies excited about learning the new content and in your guild.

Consider planning an activity schedule that is a mix of weeknights post-work and weekend days, again, to allow for more participation. Many times you can lose good players who are highly engaged with the guild over an inability to make key raid nights. No raid schedule will make everyone happy, but it's good to do a check-in with your most engage players to see how your plans measure up to their expectations, and adjust accordingly when possible.

If you have more players interested in content than you can handle in your raids, decide how you plan to handle it. Options include cycling players in and out on a set schedule (i.e. rotating nights/weeks), recruiting to start an additional raid team, and coaching players not quite ready for prime time so they can fill out additional teams. Be sure you clearly state your sign-up policies in advance and again, stick with them, to ensure no hard feelings.

Reach Out to Players on the Fence

Much online ink has been spilled over guilds who have shockingly just lost their main tank/ lead healer/best DPS. It's typically seen as "coming out of nowhere" leaving everyone surprised and scrambling for a fix. Frankly, I don't buy it. I'm not in the first guild I joined. And when I think back to when/why I left prior guilds, not even one of them was an impulsive decision. Especially the raiding guilds.

As an officer, you should be paying attention to your assigned guild duties. You should notice if a formerly talkative player has gotten quiet. Or if you've received a number of concerned mails from a guildie who is unhappy over a change in policy or another member's behavior. A raid leader should notice if a player stops signing up (or showing up for) raids. Or if someone is fixated on loot, and complaining about other team members getting a drop they felt entitled to. These are all pretty common signs you have a player who's on the fence about their future in your guild.

It may be they're not feeling the guild is a good fit. Or they have RL issues that have come up and aren't comfortable bringing them up with an officer. Regardless, if you want to retain a member who is showing signs they may not be as engaged as they previously were, you are going to have to make the first move. Reach out and acknowledge you've seen/heard their issue, and ask them if they want to talk about it. This small bit of effort on your part is not a fix-all. But a failure to reach out to a player who has either directly or indirectly let you know tat something is bothering them will frequently lead to a /gquit, or perhaps worse yet, festering resentment and snippy /whisper commentary.

With a little extra care and feeding, patch 3.3 should be an opportunity for your guild to thrive. You've got multi-winged 5-man, 10-man and 25-man content to tear through, lore aplenty to soak up, and a shiny new expansion a ways off in the horizon. Safe travels.


Friday Five: The First Five Things I'm Doing After Patch 3.3 Drops

  1. Hop on my shadow priest and head out in search of an elite to kill to test out how my ton of haste will impact VT and DP adn thus affect my usual rotation.
  2. Sign up to PUG a random dungeon with the new Dungeon Finder tool and get started on the path to my very own perky pug pup. Even though he drags his butt, he's a cutie.
  3. Buy my two lazy 80s Sons of Hodir exalted shoulder enchants.
  4. Tweet to my favorite tank that now would be a good time to fake an illness and come home so we can go do the new 3-winged 5-man dungeon in Icecrown Citadel.
  5. Go look at my shiny new troll totems.

My Warcraft Year in Review Meme

For the better part of this decade, I have been blogging this meme for myself. This year, I thought I'd do this with a Warcraft spin, and tag some of you to complete it too.

xo

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My Warcraft Year in Review Meme

Please leave a link to your meme post in the comments here. Please tag 5 other folks to complete the meme and copy these instructions and the questions into your blog with your answers.
  1. What did you do in the World of Warcraft in 2009 that you'd never done before?
  2. What was your favorite new place that you visited?
  3. What would you like to have in 2010 that you lacked in 2009?
  4. What was your biggest achievement of the year?
  5. What was your biggest failure?
  6. What did you get really, really, really excited about?
  7. What do you wish you'd done less of?
  8. What was your favorite WoW blog or podcast?
  9. Tell us a valuable WoW lesson you learned in 2009.

1) What did you do in the World of Warcraft in 2009 that you'd never done before?

I left my accomplished druid and my Alliance server -- where I knew a ton of people and had been raiding for 2 1/2 years -- and started playing my horde shadow priest full time, on a new server where I "knew" folks only from the Livejournal WoW Ladies community. Best. Decision. Ever. I've met so many awesome folks on the new server and wouldn't trade the fun we've had this year for anything.

2) What was your favorite new place that you visited?

Hmmm. I don't know that I visited many new places in 2009 really, since I'd had my first two 80s by the end of 2008. So, I guess I'll go with Ulduar. It had some pretty vistas.

3) What would you like to have in 2010 that you lacked in 2009?

I would like to have more opportunity to share my raiding experience and my passion for the game. Be that more blogging / podcasts / guild role I can't say. But it is a definite want. And I would like to have more time to write here.

4) What was your biggest achievement of the year?

Hmmm. I got my 4th character to 80, built my second motorcycle, and got to finish up the two BC instances my poor druid never got to see the final bosses die in (BT and MH) due to her having a scheming asshat warrior raid leader that drove her away from raiding and eventually out of that guild. Heh.

5) What was your biggest failure?

I suppose that would be the dissolution of my 10-man Alliance guild, in which I was an officer. But that was due primarily to a female guild member who was sad that the GM stopped spending all his in game time with her, caused a ton of drama and killed the guild. Remind me I need to post about married GMs with their borderline inappropriate in-game main squeezes.

6) What did you get really, really, really excited about?

Killing KT in 25-man for the first time on my shadow priest. It was the culmination of march hard work and effort, and was shared with some awesome folks. Kwick and Norm I am especially looking at you. Oh, and the first time we did Ony 25 and I did a million billion DPS on the whelps. MINNNNDDDDDDD SSEEEEEAAAAARRRRRRRR! Cough.

7) What do you wish you'd done less of?

Sitting around waiting for raids that didn't end up going. And the 45 levels I put into my shaman before the faction change service went into effect. I do love playing a shaman at level cap but I HATE HATE HATE leveling them.

8) What was your favorite WoW blog or podcast?

The WoW site I visited the most was definitely MMO Champion, hands-down. And all my favorite blogs are on the WoW Blog list to the right of this post. RAWR! It's awesome to have found so many new, interesting bloggers to read this year. They have each had a hand in making my WoW playing and blogging time a lot more interesting to be sure.

9) Tell us a valuable WoW lesson you learned in 2009.

I learned that it is not worth it to offer up constructive criticism or unsolicited advice. Even if you think you are friends with someone and see themselves repeatedly shooting themselves in the foot with their poor communication skills. Even if you see them run folks off with their communication style and their lack of respect for others' ideas and opinions. Just keep your mouth shut. Because all you'll get is a black eye for trying to help someone be more aware of how others are perceiving them.

5 Folks I'm tagging to Complete this Meme