Screenshots

Coming out of a Flu-Fueled Fog

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Yes, I have been slapped around by a really nasty flu bug for the past few days.  Thus radio silence here and over on twitter.

Right before this plague came down upon me, I *finally* rolled a Goblin lady, seen here joyfully making her way into beautiful Silverpine Forest.

I wasn't sure how I'd like to Goblin starting area, having heard in turns that it was the best thing since sliced bread and that it was way too cartoony to suspend disbelief. In the end, I think both were true, but I had a great time out there, cruising around in my hot rod with Riz.

Finally having a horde lowbie also means I am finally starting on all the Silverpine Forest quests I'd wanted to see. Unfortunately, the chain got spoiled for me some time ago, but it will still be cool to see it all for myself.

The one thing I *had* seen before was the unnecessary exchange between Garrosh and Sylvanas. I still don't think the B-word was necessary-- or, frankly, in keeping with the overall tone of the game. This isn't Grand Theft Auto -- it's world of Warcraft. And last time I checked, characters and NPCs didn't go around using swear words, or calling each other derogatory terms.

*steps down off soap box*

Anyhoo, I'm totally looking forward to leveling this lady and getting to see new content. I could have done the same on one of max level toons, but it's truly not the same as seeing things through the fresh eyes of a lowbie character starting fresh without heirlooms or cash on a new server.

Wish me luck!


Disappointed, But Not Surprised

these are the moments I raid for

This time last month, I wrote about waiting it out to see how our raiding schedule played out for my shadow priest horde-side. Here's how it shook out:

  • Second early start time raid night added, for a total of 4 EP earning nights per week*
  • No additional Pacific Time weeknight progression/EP earning raid night added (Note: Pacific Time was the raid time for all the Wrath raids, which was a key factor in my joining the guild circa Ulduar)
  • An incredible # of DPS signing up for every raid night, with half those signed up, on average, being sat
  • Early start time raiders also signing up for and being seated in Pacific Time raids
  • After I got sat from my only raid signup one week, the raid scheduler tweaked the signup spreadsheet in a way that will probably usually (but not always) mean that I will be seated for the 1 weeknight I can sign up for.

Over the course of the past month, I've gotten to attend 3 EP earning raids. That was my typical weekly raid count for BC and Wrath. And in Wrath, the other raid officer and I were neck and neck the entire time after EP was implemented for the most EP. i.e. if there was a raid, I was there. If there was a first kill screenshot to stand in, I was in it.

Now, I'm "a casual." And not at all by choice.What does this change for me? It means I go to raids and am killing content that other folks have already been working on for a few nights, or have killed. I have to play catch up-- learning how the raid is approaching the fight, and getting into the groove with a boss fight, well behind the learning curve. I like to lead the charge. To figure things out. To be ahead of the curve. And that's simply not what's possible for me with this schedule.

Yes, I could raid on Saturday night if the seating chart gods aligned. However, Saturday is the 1 weekend day my SO and I both have off, and we often *gasp* -- do things offline on Saturday date night. So I don't want to commit to spending my Saturday nights in a raid group. And more to the point, I don't want to not know until 24 hours beforehand if I am going to spend my Saturday night in a raid group. 24 hours notice is not enough advance time to make a dinner reservation, or buy advance movie tickets, or make plans to grab a City Carshare in this busy city of mine. It just doesn't work that way.

If it was Sunday night instead, I'd be there. And I'd totally be there for the raid nights that are early starts now -- but I have this thing called work that I do that pays the Internet and WoW subscription fees, and makes it impossible for me to be able to raid at the time I typically leave work each night.

And thus, I find myself without much of a reason to log in to my beloved shadow priest.

Because it's the raiding I love. The raiding that gets my adrenaline flowing. The raiding that I spent so much time planning for and prepping for and writing about. And now it's out of my grasp. And I am disappointed. So very disappointed.

 

*the significance here is if you receive points (EP) for time spent in raid and for killing bosses. Thus, if you are not able to attend raids, you are not earning points. If you are not earning points you will have no points to spend to buy any gear in raids. If you do not gear up in this tier of raids, you will be woefully unprepared for the next tier of raids. And so on.


Friday Five: Five of My Favorite WoW Websites

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You know how some folks seem to always have the answers to every WoW question that comes up? And are always recommending a blog post to you to read? It's probably not just because they have an encyclopedic knowledge of the game. I'd bet they have a well-worn list of WoW bookmarks, like I do. The following are the five resources I can't get by without:

  1. Wowhead.
    I used to be a thottbot fan. But eventually, I became a WoWhead believer and fangirl. They have a frequently updated item database, great comments that inevitably address whatever annoyance sent you there. And they have some timely and informative blog posts too.
  2. MMO Champion.
    I remember WoW life before MMO Champion, but just barely. It's truly become the Gawker and CNN rolled together of Azeroth. I go here to keep up on what the blues have to say, keep track of patch note changes, and to get a sneak peek at the bling future raids and instances will provide us.
  3. WoWpedia/WoWiki.
    This is where I go whenever I have a burning question about an NPC or bit of lore, or want to read a profession guide. And if I have extra time, I go on a bit of a click safari here, moving through related topics, learning more about Azeroth and its inhabitants.
  4. Tankspot.
    Despite its name and original purpose, Tankspot has become the defacto boss strategy resource for most folks I know, not ust for tanks. If I had a quarter for every time I've heard someone say "Did you watch the tankspot video" or "Go watch the tank spot video" I'd have laundry money for months!
  5. The Daily Quest.
    This occasional column on WoW Insider rocks for drawing attention to thought provoking (or just plain fun) posts throughout the greater blogosphere. There are days when I really need a good WoW read. And this is where I always look first.

What are your favorite WoW resources?


How I Finally Got My Archaeology Groove On

  oh hey look who followed me home! wonder how that happened...

I first tried out Archaeology on my druid, right after the expansion hit. Despite the nice little hits of experience every time she surveyed, I quickly grew antsy about completing the new content. And left her Archaeology hovering in the low 100s.

I tried out archaeology again on my undead shadow priest, using it to pass time between dungeon queues. But the PUGs for my horde battlegroup were uniformly horrible, so that didn't last long either. I think she may have just barely hit 100.

Fast forward to my gnome mage hitting 83, and my not being enthusiastic about pushing a 4th character through all the Cataclysm content again so soon. Dutifully, I headed over to the archaeology trainer, then set out on my flight path to my first dig site. And this time, it stuck. I spent hours zooming from place to place on my mage, herbing as I went. Racking up the experience. I got my first rare pretty quickly-- the Fossilized Hatchling. At which point I started to get the crazy gleam in my eye-- oh yes, Vial of the Sands, one day, I could have you!

And the rest, as they say, was history. I kept at the archaeology, and hit 525 with it not too long after the mage hit 85. Almost all of it just from surveying dig sites.

And no, I don't have the Vial of the Sands yet. But I know if anyone can extract that from the Uldum sands, it's my lucky little mage.


Screenshot Friday: My Favorite Gnomey

still life with gnome and night elf


 This little gnome makes my heart go pitter patter.

We just celebrated our 6 year anniversary this week. And believe it or not, we've been playing WoW together for five of those years.

He's been by my side through ridiculous guild meltdowns, megalomaniac raid leaders, passive aggressive guild leaders, three expansions, and untold numbers of ridiculous guild (and guild forums) dramas. We've fought side-by-side to save Bolvar, ridden our motorcycles all over Azeroth together, and cleared out ZF I don't know how many times.

When I'm feeling down, his sexy gnome dance can usually bring a smile. I mean how can you resist the sexy gnome dance?

For all these things and so much more, I am so lucky. Love you, Wrenz.

aren't these goggles the awesome?


Providing Constructive Criticism Without Being a Jerk

shadow priest versus the world

So you've decided you need to provide someone in your raid team with some constructive criticism. My first word of advice: put that thought on simmer on the back-burner for a while before doing so. Seriously. No matter how well-intentioned, "constructive feedback" given in the heat of the moment is rarely effective. Instead, take some time to think through what you have to say to the person, and how you're going to say it. Here are some thoughts to guide you through that process.

First, Evaluate if You are the Right Person to Give the Feedback, and If It is Warranted

Once upon a time, I was filling in on a ToC25, healing on my shaman. An elemental shaman in our guild, mid-Jaraxus fight, started telling me everything I should be doing differently. On my alt. In the middle of a boss fight I was healing. This person was just another teammate. Not the raid leader. And I wasn't failing either mind you-- my shaman was 3 out of 5 healers, which I was pretty proud of given her limited play time that expansion and her crappy gear. This unsolicited criticism was ill timed, came from someone who had no business telling me what to do, and was directed at an alt that was actually doing just fine. This was a great example of how NOT to give constructive criticism.

In general, if someone is playing an alt to fill in for a role your raid needs, you should consider carefully how you give feedback. The player is less comfortable with that role generally, and is doing it as a favor to the raid. If you did want to help them boost their future performance, it would be appropriate, after the raid, to say "hey if you think you are going to be healing on your shaman a lot moving forward, I read a great blog post on healing you might be interested in."

Make Sure You're Providing an Expert Opinion, Not Just Your Opinion

Yup, that's right. Holding the title of raid leader or guild leader does not, in fact, make you an expert in every class and spec. If you have a hunter who is struggling, have your guild's best hunter talk to them. No one wants to hear someone who doesn't play their class regurgitate a well-meaning blog post they read somewhere, and being told to "just do that." Likewise, no one wants to be told how to improve by someone who uses another class/spec as their example for what to do. Each class and spec is different, and takes different finessing. If you don't have an expert in your guild on that class, do some online homework: start with Elitist Jerks and from there fan out to class and spec-specific resources. If you're not sure where to start, WoW Insider has a nice big list of WoW resources, including bloggers by class.

Praise Publicly, Coach Privately

This one should be obvious, but I have many times heard a raid leader berate a player and give them detailed instructions on how to improve in the middle of a raid, over vent. this is fail. How would you like it if your boss came up to you, in front of all your coworkers, to tell you you were doing a sucky job and should change X, Y and Z immediately? Yes, WoW is not a job, but the scenario still applies. No one wants to be taken to task in front of their peers. By doing that, it is unlikely that even good, well-intentioned advice will be heard by that player. Instead, they'll remember how they got chewed out by that jerk (YOU) in front of their raid team.

Make Your Feedback Specific and Actionable

Bad Feedback: Your DPS sucks, improve or we kick you from the raid team.

Good Feedback: Elitist Jerks is modeling a player with your spec and gear level at about 2k DPS higher than we're seeing you perform. I think we can do some fine tuning to your spec/gems/enchants/rotation to get you to where you need to be.

See what I did there? I gave specific feedback on what needs to be improved, and by how much, and laid out a possible check list to start with, and offered up a partnership with the person to help them improve.

Be Sure to Praise the Improvement

Once you give the feedback and support, and the person improves, you have one last constructive feedback task ahead of you: Praising the person for their improvement. This reinforces the change and shows the player that you are paying attention, and are aware of the efforts they made, and their progress. If you don't say anything, the player can feel as though they wasted their time and efforts trying to meet your standards. It's a small thing to do and doesn't take much time, so make sure to acknoledge your teammate's progress.


Friday Five: Five Reasons I Raid

oh hey Maloriak, your momma dresses you funny

Last night I went in and killed this guy, a guild first. I had that awesome heart-pounding adrenaline rush, and thought it would be fun to share the 5 primary reasons I raid.

  1. I love the adrenaline rush of a new boss kill. First you make steady progress. Then you get the wipe at 17%. Then you get the attempt where everyone is in the flow. No one has died. You are in phase 2. Everything's smooth. The raid leader says "BURN HIM!" and you do. You push your character, micromanaging every GCD, You find that volcanic potion you forgot you'd stashed in your bag. Push, push push...and he's dead!
  2. I love the teamwork. The world is full of plenty of ways to be an individual contributor. Raiding on the other hand is very much about the entire team doing the dance, ebbing and flowing together. And I love being part of a team accomplishing a goal together. I also love all the silly inside jokes you have after a year or more of raiding with the same folks. See also why I never let my horde guild's paladin tank Dreb off the hook without making at least 1 funny voice for me.
  3. I love seeing new places. And taking many many screenshots.
  4. I like to push myself to be a better player. And raids have endless room for fine tuning and experimentation. You can raid on the same character for an entire expansion and still have room to fiddle with things you do in the raids to keep it interesting. And of course raiding has the potential, RNG willing, of your getting new gear with which to improve your character, which feeds back into this reason.
  5. I like to have the opportunity to shadow priest tank. What, your raid doesn't have any shadow priest tanking? My raids *always* have some shadow priest tanking. Like when both tanks die at 3%, and someone needs to keep the boss engaged long enough to finish him off. Or when a nasty dragon trash mob kills the entire raid and I get to DoT and kite him down a long hallway until he keels over. Those are incredible moments of fun and joyfulness for me.

So why do you raid?


Friday Five: Five Things to Remember if the Game is Getting You Down

why can't I use this pretty seahorse in all watery areas?

  1. It's not just a game -- it's YOUR game and it's supposed to be fun. What makes you smile in game? What in-game activities pop up in your dreams or daydreams? That's what you should be doing regardless of what other people tell you you should be doing.
  2. It's not just the game-- it's the people you play it with. Sometimes, you may do something such as choose guild progression over playing with people you like. But I've found that playing with people I like eventually trumps progression without camaraderie and friendship. Find people you like to play with then stick to them like Krazy Glue. And the people whose behavior annoys you to no end? Put them on ignore.
  3. You can always roll another character. You can even do this on another server. To play with people you've met through the blogosphere or twitterverse. So if you hate mechanics changes to your class or your guild is overrun with SpecX, you can always putter around and do something new. It's never too late to roll another toon!
  4. If your friends behave terribly to you in game, then they weren't really your friends. Write them off and move on. No amount of analyzing or dwelling can ever tell you why people behave the way they do online. If people treat you poorly, cut your losses and move on.
  5. The only constant is change. Chances are whatever it is that is really bothering you in game at this very moment will be a small blip in your rearview mirror in a very short amount of time. Take a deep breath, keep calm, and carry on.

It's Too Soon for ICC to be a "Retro Raid" for me

wasn't this shadow priest just in this place?

Last night, the scheduled 10s ended up morphing into 25-man ICC. "Retro Raid!" was the call to battle. "No thank you!" was my atypical but firm reply.

There is just not enough distance between me and ICC for it to live in that rosy pink nostalgia haze in my brain where the other retro raids like kara and BWL live. I don't get the warm fuzzies at the idea of going in there.

I knocked my head against the ICC wall, in 10 and 25, for 9+ months, finally taking a break from it only a month or so prior to the Cataclysm. Anexxia alone had 30+ kills of Marrowgar in 25. I'm tired of the icy winds of Northwind consuming my soul. It's going to take ma at least a solid year -- if not two-- before a big smile will come across my face when someone suggests heading in there.

Right now, I want to do new content. See new instances, kill new bosses. ICC will still be there in the morning. And I need to give it some serious space for its absence to make my heart grow fonder.


Waiting it Out

shadow priest hiding in plain sight

Right now, I'm playing the waiting game on my undead shadow priest Anexxia. Specifically, I am waiting to see how our raiding schedule shakes out. And this is why I have had a sad as of late.

You see, I love raiding. I've been raiding ever since my first character hit 58 in vanilla WoW days and was goaded into coming along to a guild alliance's MC run. I've been hooked on it ever since. Fast Forward to WotLK. I finally found a good server and home for my shadow priest, in a guild for whom I am currently serving as an officer. I managed to complete all of the WotLK raid content, including getting my Starcaller title. Some pretty amazing and rewarding accomplishments.

I'm still wearing my Starcaller title but I don't feel much like a raider at the moment. My work schedule has been erratic and unpredictable, and we've done some changing up in our schedule.

One of the things that I really liked about our guild's raiding schedule was it offered up 4 or even 5 possible raiding nights per week, all of which started at 6:15 Pacific. Even if I got waylaid a bit at work, I could get home in time for the raid. But even before the expansion hit, we had some East Coasters lobby for an earlier start time. And thus, we now have a 5 Pacific start time raid night, soon to be 2 raid nights.

So, depending upon how things shake out, that leaves us with either 1 or 2 Pacific time raid nights during the week. And Saturday which starts at 6 Pacific. There aren't too many folks who work on the weekends, and for those who do, 6 Pacific on Saturday is no better or no worse than any other time on Saturday. Although I used to count Saturday as one of my raid nights, RL schedule changes on my SO's part mean I would be choosing raiding over the one weekend night we both have to go do something, so that's out.

This leaves me at 1 or 2 nights per week I could possibly raid. Which is usually about how much I want to raid. but here's the wrench: we're going back to our old seating system that seats you based upon how many times you sign up and seated versus other folks. So, back when I could sign up for 4 raids per week, I'd get seated once or even twice depending upon signups. Now, I could sign up for our 1 or 2 nights, and be sat half the time or more often depending on how the math works out. That could put me at raiding 4 times per month on Anexxia. unless of course, like my schedule for the next 2 weeks, I have work-related events that either spill over past 5 or mean I will be stuck working late to make up the time after 5 on those few possible raid nights.

That's just not going to work for me. I don't see that I can improve my character, learn the fights, and be a rel part of the team if i am seated in 4 raids per month. I get that could work for other folks but for me, it's like being a visitor, not being an active member of the team.

So for now, I wait and see what happens. I am signing up for raids when I know for sure I can attend, and I am crossing my fingers it will work out. I've spent the entire weekend stressing and bummed about this. And there's absolutely nothing I can do to influence the outcome one way or another.

Wish me luck.


Friday Five: Vanity Pet Edition

Who's a cute little fuzzy wuzzy? No, not you miss boomkin, I was talking to the spectral tiger cub!

I know I shouldn't love any of my vanity pets more than others, but I have to admit it: I do have my favorites. here are my top 5 favorite vanity pets, not in order because I really can't rank them:

  • Spectral Tiger Cub. I wanted this guy ever sine I saw him previewed on a TCG promo back in the day. This little guy also wins the prize for being least expected birthay present ever.
  • Hippogryph Hatchling. This was my first ever super rare vanity pet. I'd received a box of the TCG cards as a gift from my SO after a particularly tough week traveling for work, and this loot card was in it. Totally unexpected and so adorable. I was totally annoyed when a vanilla WoW guild mate's boyfriend bought her one of the cards off eBay after she'd admired mine in our raids.
  • Wind Rider Cub. Yet another awesome present from my SO. He is so adorable, and I love it when he flies along behnid me.
  • Singing Sunflower. It's so nice to be out in the middle of nowhere and have this little pet start singing to you. You're never lonely in Azeroth with this little lady by your side.
  • Moonkin Hatchling. I whined and pined and dreamt of having a mini me for my boomkin. And then this year, our dreams came true with the adorable moonkin baby! I seriously stood around in Dalaran dancing with this little cutey for a solid half hour after getting him in the mail.

What's your favorite vanity pet?


What's Your WoW Theme Song?

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This weekend on twitter, I noticed a certain someone using the tag #ThemeSongsForWoWClasses. And it got me to thinking, if my favorite WoW characters had theme songs, what should/would they be? Of course, upon close inspection, almost all of my characters are actually named after the musical inspiration I had in mind when I created them. All except for Anexxia that is.

Anexxia
WHAT SONG: Silent Hedges by Bauhaus.
WHY? Too many reasons. First of all, she adores Peter Murphy. Because he is an amazing singer, whose songs encompass her many moods. The song not only sets the dark and moody scene for her explorations of Azeroth...the words speak to her as well: Looking into purple eyes / Sadness at the corners / Works of art with a minimum of steel.

What would your primary character's theme song be?


What Does it Take to be a Great Raid Leader?

the fact that this shadow priest is sitting in the big chair doesn't mean she's the raid leader

Leading raids is not my favorite task. I like to focus on playing and having a good time, while when in the role of raid leader I have to focus on what everyone else is doing. But somebody has to lead the raids to keep us all marching in the right direction. Which got me to thinking about what it takes to be a great raid leader.

It's easiest to start with a list of the qualities that do not make for a great leader:

  • Unwilling to listen to feedback from others
  • Unable to objectively evaluate if the issue at hand is the strategy or the execution of the strategy
  • Not a team player in groups where they are not a leader
  • Desire to be raid leader driven by wanting to be in charge
  • Use of bullying and shouting down others to banish opposing view points
  • Prone to yelling over Vent/TeamSpeak/Mumble
  • Impatient; unclear that learning new fights takes time
  • Uncomfortable with giving constructive criticism or assigning necessary but not glamorous tasks to friends/relatives/significant others

 7 Habits of Bad Raid Leaders

  1. Yell "WIPE IT" whenever a strategy is not absolutely perfectly executed.
  2. Kick out raiders for making even tiny mistakes.
  3. Kick out the lowest DPS every half hour if you are not making progress.
  4. Force the entire raid to compensate for any areas of weakness your BFF or significant other has.
  5. Come to raids without knowing the strategy backwards and forwards (or without having it printed out and in hand to read to the team.)
  6. Change loot rules after seeing what loot has dropped or who has won it.
  7. Arbitrarily add new raid nights and change what content people are raiding and when, based upon what you feel like doing.

Raid Leaders Need to be Someone the Team Wants to Follow

The success of any team, be it in World of Warcraft or in real life, hinges upon the leader of that team earning the respect of the team, and being someone the team chooses to follow. People do not choose to follow people who rule the raid with an iron fist, belittling others and shouting down anyone who dares question -- even privately-- their proposed strategies or decisions. Those people are called tyrants or dictators, not chosen leaders.

So what does it take to be the kind of raid leader whose members will happily follow them to the ends of Azeroth? For starters, a good leader will:

  • Communicate clearly with the team. This includes coming to raids prepared, and with a strategy in mind. Ideally you will have shared that strategy with the team for input a few days prior to the raid. This allows folks to read it, and to ask questions or make suggestions based upon their experience and your group's makeup. Be sure to assign specific people to specific tasks that need to be done, and ensure they are clear on what they are being asked to do.
  • Be ready to adjust strategies if they are not working as expected. That Tank Spot video you cribbed your strategy from probably doesn't have the same class make-up or skill sets as your actual raid team; be ready to adapt as needed. This can include having to ask your friends or SO to step out if they are not fulfilling their role. This is a delicate area, for sure, but your team expects you to apply the same standards across the board.
  • Listen to team members and try to understand their POV. The fact that it is sometimes not your POV does not make it wrong. Try to understand where others are coming from. And if you don't understand, ask questions that show you have been listening that will also help you better understand that person's perspective.
  • Be approachable. Your team needs to feel it is OK to come to you with an issue or concern or an idea, without fear of retribution or receiving a dressing down. 
  • Understand it's not all about them. Raiding is a team effort. Yes, the raid leader herded those cats, but the glory is not all upon the raid leader's shoulders -- and likewise, neither are the disappointing defeats. Also, don't take requests or comments personally. It's not all about you. As an example, if someone asks you to please give them an equal dose of progression raids and farm nights, respect their request. Not everyone wants to go full tilt at progression targets every night of the week after coming home from a demanding job. This doesn't make them a slacker. It is not a slap in your face. It is just someone else's POV. 
  • Discuss raid related issues and concerns, or strategy changes, in a professional, mature manner. On the Internet, all too often people take offense to -- and wage war against-- any opinion that is not in line with theirs. All I can say here is: GROW UP! In the course of your life, you are likely to meet many people who have different perspectives and opinions. They are entitled to them as you are entitled to yours. If you are incapable of being civil in discussions when you disagree with others, you are not cut out to be a leader.

I expect a lot from my raiding time. I expect to make progress against the goal of killing the boss upon whom we are working. I expect to have a good time, in a positive social atmosphere. I expect to have a sense of accomplishment and excitement when we kill a boss for the first time. I expect to feel like a valued and important member of a team. And if I don't feel this way, I eventually lose interest in raiding with that team. The raid leader sets the tone of the raid and the standard of behavior for the team. Having a positive raid leader, who strives to be the kind of leader others want to follow is key to making these expectations come true. You know how it's said that people don't quit their job, they quit their boss? That's frequently the case with raids too.

Food for thought. And this gives me a homework assignment: think through what a volunteer job description would be for an ideal raid leader.


Friday Five: Five Things I Love About my Shadow Priests

shadow priest blending in to the Lost City of the Tol'Vir Scenery

  1. We blend in with the scenery. This means we can sneak up on you in PvP.
  2. We always look well dressed. Even if we are wearing a mismatched Outands clown suit.
  3. Those shadowy apparitions scare the bejeezus out of folks running an instance with you for the first time. Especially in Vortex Pinnacle if you DoT those balls that you run past. A legion of shadowy gnomes trailing behind you is scary stuff folks!
  4. We have incredible survivability. We can shield, disperse, self-heal. This may be why in certain instances (*looks at Heroic Stonecore*) my shadow priests have tanked bosses. I can usually keep myself alive and bouncing around from 9% to dead boss, provided I have a healer who knows my determination to not wipe who tosses me some heals.
  5. Embrace the Shadow! It's one of the best calls to action ever. And it's mine. All my mine. /cackle.

Happy Friday!

P.S. The title is not a typo, I have two level 85 shadow priests, baby!


Friday Five: The Five Patch Changes to Which I am Most Looking Forward

shadow priests eyes magmaw, and suddenly realizes she is not sure where her shadowfiend has run off to

Have you been eagerly lapping up the revised 4.0.6 patch notes as they are released by the devs? I know I have. Here are the five that I'm most excited about so far:

  1. WHAT: The guild reward Armadillo Pup now requires revered faction instead of exalted.
    WHY I CARE: I have a pet collector with 100+ pets horde-side and Alliance-side. They both want this pet, and having to wait until I slowly and painfully leveled them each to exalted (slowed by the fact that I also have alts to play and level) would have been torture.
  2. WHAT: The night elf racial trait Shadowmeld can now be used while shapeshifted.
    WHY I CARE: It's rare that I am standing around in night elf form when I need to stop drop and roll off some aggro and hide.
  3. WHAT: Mount Up: This guild perk now applies to Flight Form and Swift Flight Form as well.
    WHY I CARE: I don't fly around on mounts on my druids b/c it's a lot prettier and more efficient for skinning to be in flight form.
  4. WHAT: Mind Sear can now be channeled on friendly targets in addition to enemy targets. In addition, Mind Sear's damage has been increased by roughly 15%.
    WHY I CARE: In its current state I rarely bother to use mind sear, my formerly most beloved spell. Its damage is too wimpy and it doesn't damage the target I am channeling it on. Thank you Blizz for realizing this spell was over-nerfed, and giving us back an AOE.
  5. WHAT: The number of herbs required to create flasks has been reduced, while the Volatile Life needed has been increased slightly.
    WHY I CARE: I like to be prepared when I go to raids. And it sucks to blow a flask that takes @250g worth of mats for 30 minutes of attempts in the final countdown of a raid. this will make it a little less painful.

What change has gotten you the most excited?


Are You Ready to Raid?

before you step through that raid portal...

More and more folks are seeing raid signups on their calendars now, as even many casual guilds are starting to get the raiding itch. Chances are, you may be feeling like you want to get back into raiding and pronto. but that doesn't necessarily mean that you -- or your fellow guildies-- are actually ready to raid.

Once an expansion gets to be more mature, it gets a lot easier to set minimum requirements. With this one still shiny and new, and based upon my own experience with two level 85 shadowpriests and one level 85 boomkin, here's what I am seeing as being raid-ready.

Check Your Gear

Although the trade recruiters are specifying ilvl 345 minimum, that's not necessary, or in some cases attainable pre-raiding, for some casters. Wand-users have a tough time of it as compared to the relic equippers who can have a 346 item crafted. One of my shadow priests lucked out and got the wand from Grim Batol. The other is stuck with an ilvlv 318 green wand. That green brings down her ilvl (she's 340, wearing 2 epics) and keeps her from the Cataclysmically Superior achievement. It doesn't make me a bad player or her not raid ready. She's smoked people with higher ilvl gear in heroics. This is specifically why I would discourage raid leaders from having across the board hard-and-fast requirements at this point in the game. Better gear can help you eek out a little bit more damage, but it can't play for you.

Shooting for ilvl 339 and above is probably a better target goal for your shadow priest. This is reachable through running the max level dungeons, crafting some gear, buying some badge pieces, and having a few lucky heroic drops. Next, you'll want to make sure you gem your pieces with blue quality gems, enchant them, and reforge off any extra stats (such as mastery or extra spirit/hit.) If you are about to object and say "but why would I waste time enchanting gear I am just going to replace?" you might want to reconsider starting raiding at this point. Start of an expansion raiding is not a cakewalk. It needs everyone to give 110%. You will be wiping, and repairing, and rinsing and repeating. If you think you are being put out by spending $100g on a gem for your gear, you may want to wait til you can outgear the content.

Check Your Output

I have been grouped with folks in heroics through LFD who can only eek out about 4-5k. This doesn't cut it in most heroics, unless your other 2 DPS are rock stars, and your healer's mana pool can support a protracted boss kill. In a raid, no one can afford to carry you. If you are not able to hit 9-11k consistently in heroics, you are not ready to be thinking about raiding.

If you are close to the 9k, start looking at how you can fine tune. Try pulling back on some of that hit, shooting for closer to 10% hit than 14-17%. This means having to keep an eagle-eye watch on your debuffs to ensure you cast another Vampiric Touch if the first one doesn't land, but it can make a boost in your DPS in the long run. I swapped out my glyph of dispersion, which I loved for leveling, for the SW:D glyph. I also make sure I have my personal buff food on hand (Severed Sagefish Head) in case there isn't a feast or BBQ put out. I also come armed with a flask of the draconic mind or a stack of speed elixirs. Yes, these consumables cost a ton. But a raid is a team effort.

Try and Try Again, but Know When to Quit

So you are invited to your first raid -- awesome! Get in there and modify your rotation and work on adapting your playstyle for the on-the-move style of these new raids. It can take some time to get into the groove and to understand a new encounter. But you will also want to make sure you are able to ID when you are not up to the challenge.

For instance, if your team is repeatedly coming very close to killing the boss, but not quite making it, take a look at the damage meter. Are you hitting your target DPS? What about overall damage? In the event that you see there is a wide gulf between you and the DPS right above you -- or worse yet, there is a tank above you in the raid encounter -- you may need to give yourself a time out before your raid leader has to. It is important to understand the difference between needing some fine tuning or needing to focus a little harder, versus being in denial about not coming close to the requirements for an encounter, and having the expectation that someone else will pick up the slack.


Friday Five: Five Posts You Should Read if You're About to Start Raiding

this is a good place for a shadow priest to hide

It's about that time again. Time to start thinking about putting together successful raid teams, or plotting how to get into your guild's raids. That's why this week's five are five of my favorite raiding advice posts that you can read and share with your raiding team to get things off on the right foot.

In addition to the above bits of advice from moi, there have been some pretty helpful and thoughtful posts in my feedreader that pertained to raiding, as my favorite bloggers get back into raiding. Here are a few of the highlights:


The Tyrrany of the LFD Dungeon Leader Tag

no, u stand there, not there

This past weekend, I zoned in to a Heroic Grim Batol that was already in progress, on the second boss. There was a player DC'd who was summarily kicked out. After the next wipe, I started to see what was going on.

The healer, who had the Dungeon Guide tag, immediately started laying down the blame for the wipe. Berating the tank, making fun of his gear including a green or two. The tank dropped.

We went again, with the new tank, and another wipe. This time, the healer started heckling the lowest DPS, who also dropped. 10 min into the instance and I had already seen this person make nasty comments to and bully out the entire group other than myself.

His behavior continued. As the healer, no wipe (and there were several) was ever his fault. It was all the fault of the bad DPS. Or someone standing in something. His tirades went on and on. After one especially nasty run of his mouth, I put forth a vote kick, which did not pass. Apparently, the abuse he was heaping on everyone was OK by the rest of the group.

As we got towards the end of the instance and his name calling and blaming escalated I asked him to chill out. "This is actually a team effort. You have cycled through more than a full group of players so far today; you need to hold up some responsibility on your end as well for the success of the group."

I detailed for him how if he was running out of mana mid fight, he should consider using his mana replenishment tool at half mana, not waiting until he was out (which was his M.O., and when we would lose a player.) I also pointed out he could ask for an innervate from the druid and a hymn of hope from me -- we have a number of mana replenishment tricks, but all need to be managed and planned for -- not done at the last minute.

After that discussion, things went more smoothly. Until the final boss. Our little LFD tyrant sprouted an extra head. He changed positioning of players multiple times, and when I tried to confirm which side he wanted me on, I was blasted with 15-rows of "Priest shut up and move." I'd really about had it with this brat.

We had several tries, and saw his placements were not working-- one side was not getting down their add. Somewhere in there, I died early, during a shadow gale (where it looked on my screen and others as though we were all stacked in the middle) and thus started to get a rain of abuse heaped upon me. I was a moron. I should stop playing. Am I blind? And worse. The litany of insults was shocking and left me stunned. I had honestly never encountered this level of nastiness in my five years of playing this game.

Pages of this abuse from some foul mouthed LFD healer who had bullied out almost two full LFD groups worth of players. Who then complained he could not vote kick me because we were on the final boss.I asked him to calm down and stop being a bully, to which he retorted I must be 5-years old. I held my tongue. And I did what any rational player would do when confronted with an extreme case of jerkiness: I put that person on ignore.

I took to whispers to organize strat with the good players. They finally started telling the nasty healer to shut it. And we defeated the boss.

And I avoided the LFD queue for the rest of the weekend. I don't have the stomach for another run-in of that kind.

What is interesting to me, is that player was the dungeon guide, and clearly felt that he was the most qualified person in the group to lead us through the dungeon. But he was not, despite knowing the fights in a general manner (everything was a tank and spank plus something everyone other than him needed to watch for.) His primary deficit? A total lack of leadership skills and subpar communication abilities.

Shouting down other peopls or bullying them into leaving is not productive in any scenario. Name calling doesn't help anyone identify how a pull went wrong. Yet in this guy's mind, he was in the right and we were all a bunch of morons who couldn't have gotten through it without him.

People like this bully are why I am not a fan of the new crop of player rating tools that are cropping up, both in action and in discussion. From his POV, everyone he grouped with, including myself (and I was doing 11k DPS and kicking ass other than my one death for whatever reason) was a total moron whom should never be allowed in a heroic.

And from my POV, someone who behaves the way he does, with such a negative attitude and a taste for doling out abuse on strangers, should never be subjected on anyone else.

I love the idea of the LFD tool, and its ability to help folks find a group when there isn't enough interest in their own guild, but incidents like this, make me wish we were grouped only with folks on our own servers, whereby we could have a little bit of recourse if hit up by the crazy rants and insults.

I love to do instances, and my 85s are all at the heroic level from gear and performance standpoints, but I've lost my taste for randoming without buddies. Because waiting in a 45 minute queue to have a truly awful hour with some horrible person is just not my idea of fun.


Friday Five: Five Things to Multitask in WoW While You are on the Phone

Deepholm can be pretty

Don't you hate sitting on hold? The jaunty muzak, the boringness of it all? Just as deadly is when you get roped into a phone conversation that mostly consists of you being a recipient of someone else's non-stop monologue. These situations do not lend themselves to your joining a 5-man. However, there are a number of things you *can* easily and comeptantly do while stuck ont he phone for an undetermined amount of time:

  1. Gathering professions. Make a loop of your favorite zone and pick up herbs or mining nodes. This sort of farming does so much better while multitasking.
  2. Fishing. You can fly around searching for pools, or you can just go to the spot that provides your favorite fish, and cast+click then cast again. Heroics and raids are raraely a one-food affair these days, so it's nice to have a stack or two on hand. And if that's not enough to motivate you, you can get an achievement for maxing out fishing, and your guild can get an achievement for you fishing up every pool that crosses your path for the next few months.
  3. Profession chores. Milling herbs. Making bolts of cloth. Doing your daily transmute. Check! Check! Check!
  4. Bank maintenance. Toss all those old pieces of non-dress up gear from WotLK. You won't need them. Also toss out those quest reward greens you weren't sure about equipping along the way. You won't use them either. Are those some non-BOP stackable items I see in your bank too? Send that to your bank alt!
  5. Exploration through Archaeology. Are you a world explorer yet? If not, now's the time to go see the many landscape changes, while picking up relics from Azeroth's past. Archaeology likes to send you to there and back again, and provides a great excuse to do fly-bys of all your old haunts.

Top Thing NOT to Do While on the Phone: Queue in LFD. Those 4 other people do not look kindly upon someone who is standing at the front of the instance for 5-10 minutes, unresponsive, or who distractedly walks into another group of mobs. If you are on the phone (or at work for that matter) don't queue. Go do something solo until you can give WoW your close to full attention.

This post brought to you courtesy of my having spent way too much time on hold this past week, trying to get a firm to stop spamming me with their direct mail welcome packages (25 packages and counting so far). I feel welcomed already! Stop with the dead tree deluge! Gah!


What do you Expect from Your Guild and its Officers?

  Boomkin being harassed by Thrall for not having the massive anti-Deathwing pewpew power.

This is that point in a new expansion when beleagured officers come face to face with foaming at the mouth guildies. Already I have seen friends' guilds break up, splitting off into 10-man raid teams. I have seen friends nerd rage at being left out again from a guild heroic. I've heard people rage about the horrors of trying to complete a quest in HoO that actually requires killing all the bosses...oh wait, that last person was me.

All this excitement naturally got me thinking about the expectations we all place on our guild officers.And the expectations they have for their guilds in return.

What I Expect From My Guilds

I have to start by saying that, of course, there are more flavors of guilds with a more diverse palette of objectives than there are flavors of Ben and Jerry's ice cream. These are my opinions based upon my five years of playing WoW. From my perspective,  people join a guild in order to either be a part of a group activity (such as raiding or RP or BGs), and/or to have a supportive social environment in which to pursue their goals.

For me personally, my list of guild expectations goes something like this:

  • Good players with whom to go do stuff. That stuff may include 5mans and raids, or BGs, or lowbie antics.
  • Raiding. Sooner or later, I know I always want to raid. I am fine with not being in a progression raiding guild, having done that in the past when my schedule allowed, but that's not a primary motivator for me now.
  • Nice people to talk to in G. Not PC people, or suck-ups, mind you, but genuinely pleasant people with whom I can talk about WoW, or in the best case, RL topics of interest.
  • Vent or some other sort of voice chat. Communication is key for raiding or BG groups,; and text only just doesn't cut it.
  • Twitter and/or forums/guild website. Some topics need to be talked through outside of game. And strategies need to be shared for raiding. Some folks like to fly by the seat of their pants and just listen to the RL tell them the fight. I am not one of them. I like to be prepared.
  • Reciprocity. I try to be helpful whenever I can, be it with my time, helping out in an area I am familiar with, or with crafting. I don't expect tit for tat, but an environment wherein I'm always helping or donating to the guild but can't obtain any help myself becomes tiresome.
  • Personal accountability. It's hard to find. And many folks tell me to get over it and deal with those looking to live in their own little bubble. But this is one of my core beliefs, so I'm not backing down on it.

What I Expect From My Officers

 As someone who has both been an officer and not been an officer in a variety of guilds across both factions and several servers, I've seen many different guild management styles. And let's just say I've seen some pretty cringe-worthy officer behavior. But I've also seen some rock stars. Hence, my list:

  • Acknowledgement. I kick butt. I show up to raids on time and prepared. I help out. Like anyone, I do want some acknowledgement for what I bring to the table. No one wants to feel taken for granted, or worse yet, invisible.
  • Open communication. I was in a serious raiding guild run by officers that several of us referred to as "the shadow council." Not only did they not share information out to the guild, they didn't share it amongst themselves. I want to be able to talk to my officers about issues that arise, and have them listen. This doesn't mean I expect everything to be changed to how I'd like it, but I do want to be heard.
  • Organization and Management of the Guild. I like my officers to be thinking about guild activities and getting them going. I like a moderated forum if it's a big active guild. I like an Officer presence in G chat to quell uprisings and dramas before they boil over. And I like a guild bank that's somewhat organized and not full of junk no one could sell in the AH.
  • Consistency. I am not a fan of guild policies that fluctuate. Or decisions based upon whom a GL likes best that day. I expect consistency in policies and procedures.

What I Expect, as an Officer, from my Guildies

That's right -- your officers have some expectations of you too. They're volunteers, after all, putting in extra time and effort to make the game more fun for themselves and for you. Here are some of my expectations of my guildies:

  •  Patience. Yes, I know you really want that shiny item from the gbank. But it is not, in fact, an emergency. I am happy to help you when I am free, but if I am in the middle of doing something else, you will need to wait, and not to have a hissy fit.
  • Acknowledgement. You do realize that officers spend a bunch of time behind the scenes keeping things running smoothly, right? You do know those raid strats didn't magically find their way into the raid's ears, yes? When all you hear is complaints, it becomes a lot less rewarding to be an officer.
  • Assistance. If you know of drama brewing, tell an officer sooner rather than later. That goes double if you are the person with an issue -- talk to an officer. And if you want some rare item crafted for which I don't yet have the pattern, rather than complaining about my not having it yet, offer to help me attain it. An officer is not your personal dungeon slave or crafting bee; you want some assitance, offer us some as well.
  • Maturity. Please understand that I am not your mommy. And that your guildmates do not owe you anything. A guild is not just a captive audience for you to talk at and to harangue about doing runs with you. Please do not behave like a two year old. Becuase it does not please me to have to treat you like a naughty child who needs a scolding. Really, it doesn't.

What about you? What are some of your key expectations from your guild and its officers?


My Warcraft Year in Review

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

I moved my Alliance druid and favorite Alliance alts off my original WoW server to go play with Psynister and Cynwise over on Durotan. I figured that if I liked chatting with these folks in blog comments and on twitter I'd probably also like being guilded with them. I was correct.

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

Hanging in Uldum with my crew

New Azeroth. There are too many fabulous new sights to mention, so I won't even start. Here's a picture instead.

3) What would you like to have in 2011 that you lacked in 2010?

 Better balance. And less drama. Our raiding was very successful in 2010. However, the interpersonal drama in our horde guild, much of it played out on forums, was a lot to stomach. I almost left the guild last Spring over the nasty behavior of several guildies. In 2011 I hope for a chill yet still progressing raid slate without all the BS, and to have time to raid. As of right now, having time to raid is honestly up in the air, pending how crazy work is.

4) What was your biggest achievement of the year?

Starcaller. Hands down. But I am still tickled that my Alliance druid got her Kingslayer title. Never would've seen that coming. From the feel-good POV, saving Bolvar that first time was unmatched in its awesomeness.

5) What was your biggest failure?

Working my butt off on the recruitment and raid readiness fronts, to a deafening lack of appreciation other than from my fellow officers. It was a significant time sink, the results of which I was very proud, but in retrospect it didn't seem that most folks cared at all, which means it was time wasted that could have been better spent elsewhere.

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

My many awesome new vanity pets and mounts.

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

Reading/writing in guild forums during the dramas.

8) What was your favorite WoW blog or podcast?

I absolutely loved all the Oddcraft Warchief Elections coverage. I was totally Team Basic Campfire right up until Sylvanas threw her helm into the ring...nice creative posts that were a lot of fun to read.

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

I learned that on the whole, guild forums can be more hassle than they are worth. And that you may think you know people you've been playing with for a year, but if you truly only know them online, you best be prepared for the crazy. And it will strike in the least expected ways/most inopportune times. I'm not closing myself off to new online friends, but I am definitely a lot more cautious.


What to Wear: The Shadow Priest's Guide to Cataclysm's Crafted Gear

shadow priest fishing up volatiles to craft some new clothes

Note that I am not including rare quality tailoring gear here at this time since it is PvP oriented, or ilvl 333 and under. Also note that overall, until there's data showing that mastery is worth it for shadow priests, I am leaning towards gear without it when there is a choice to be made.

ilvl 359 Tailoring Epics

ilvl 346 Blacksmithing Weapon

ilvl 346 Jewelcrafting Accessories

ilvl 346 Inscription Off Hands



What Motivates You to Level?

I hope this mine car has brakes...

Two weeks into this expansion, I have my druid to 85, my shadow priest to 83, tailoring maxed out on Horde and Alliance sides, and my druid's cooking, enchanting, fishing and skinning maxed out as well. This is how I can say with complete certainty that it is the professions that motivate me to level.

I already knew that was true for lowbies. Because nothing can push me through 5 levels in a sitting on a low level alt like knowing I can skill up a crafting profession at the end of it. But it is funny to see that's true of the primary characters as well.

If I think back to the launch of Wrath of the Lich King, I think I had two 80s before I did a big professions push. But this time, it was simultaneous. Yes the new phased linear questing and all the new things to see and do kept me out there and racking up the XP. But truth be told I got just as excited at making it out to Twilight Highlands and buying my first pattern (for the enchanting rod. second purchase? the lamp pet recipe.)

This has made it easy to see that the next character I need to level Alliance side is my wee shaman. Why? Because we really need a leatherworker...

;)


Friday Five: Five Things NOT to Do in LFD Groups

Camel-back Boomkin in Halls of Origination


Cataclysm has marked the return to random dungeon groups for many people. Some of whom seem to to be unclear on some of the common courtesy's of grouping with strangers. This Friday Five goes out to them...

  1. DON'T queue until you are ready. This is especially true for tanks and healers: you know you will get an instance almost immediately. So don't queue, come on inside, then tell us you need a 5 minute AFK. We hate you. And will kick you out of there as soon as the timer allows us to for that.
  2. DON'T be afraid to ask questions. You know how right before a boss fight, the party leader will often say "so has everybody done this?" I know it can bruise one's ePeen to be the only one raising their hand, but if it's your first time in Vortex Pinnacle, speak up. Heck, even if it's not, if you are running with a bunch of strangers, ask them how they want to handle the fight. Make sure you understand who is in charge of cc'ing the diamond. Double check if this is a go stand in something or a kite through or a run away from fight.
  3. DON'T run back to the entrance to turn in your quests. No, the group doesn't want to wait 5 minutes for you to go turn in your quest, no matter how excited you are about that quest reward item. This is a pretty surefire way to get kicked out.
  4. DON'T ignore party chat, especially when it is directed towards you. If someone is asking you a question, you need to respond to it. "Paladin X, are you lost?" crickets. "Paladin X, why are you back at the entrance to the instance?" crickets. "Paladin X you aren't keeping us all waiting here for 4 minutes now turning in your quests and not replying to us are you?" crickets. /vote to kick.
  5. DON'T be a primadonna. We don't care that you blew your uber mega DPS cooldown on that last boss 200 feet over there and it won't be up again for 5 minutes. Your meter humping is of little interest to the group. Really. I promise. It's up to you to manage your CDs and buffs, not the group's obligation to stand around waiting for your to feel everything is optimal for you for each fight.

BONUS: DON'T tell the group how every other group you've done this instance with has done it faster/more smoothly/without the boss casting meteor/whatever. The expansion has been out for a little over a week. Saying stuff like this marks you as a pretentious git. Get over yourself and learn how to have a good time!

So far I am enjoying the new dungeons. I especially liked being able to run around in boomkin form on a camel in a dungeon, as seen above. Now THAT's what I call a fun time in a dungeon -- boomkin DPSing from a camel's back.