And the Winner is...Me! Blazing Hippogryph Mount is All Mine

  Priest on Blaxing Hippogryph TCG mount

That's right, your eyes are not deceiving you: that's an undead priest on a hippogryph mount. Mwahahahaha!

You see, over the course of the past month, I'd been retweeting the @rawrcast contest twitter phrase, for a chance to win a Blazing Hippogryph mount code, courtesy of the Wootloots.com peeps. (NOTE: I've been a subscriber to the Rawrcast podcast for a good while, and had been following them on twitter since I made my first serious effort to find all the folks whose blogs I read/podcasts I listened to and follow them.)

I certainly didn't expect to win -- after all I most commonly roll a 6 or a 7 whenever I want an item that drops in a raid. Lucky is *not* my middle name.

So it seriously made my week to get a DM that I'd won the mount from the June contest. For those of you not familiar with it, the mount is an exceptionally uncommon loot card from the WoW trading card game.

  Shadow Priest on Blaxing Hippogryph TCG mount

Her feet are even still on fire in shadowform! How cool is that?

When I told my guildies of my extreme good luck, my GM asked me "So, wait, did you set a hippogryph on fire, Anexxia?" "Uh..no! Of course not! It was on fire when I found it!" (likely story, yes?)

I don't think I'll be eligible to win their Blizzcon t-shirt slogan contest now, but that won't stop me from sending them my ideas...I am torn between a 2-sider with "I remember you..." on the front and "...in the mountains" on the back, or, in the sassy spirit their podcast embodies, maybe a naughty defile reference, but I am honestly too tired at the moment to think of one witty enough.

  Shadow Priest on Blaxing Hippogryph TCG mount

And yes, I milled around in Dalaran to show the guildies my new toy.

Thanks again Rawrcast -- you've made this pet and mount collector very very happy.


Mission Accomplished: Gnome Mage Dings 80!


With a lot of help from friends and guildies who patiently helped Fyn and I grind out XP and phat lewts in regular dungeons all day today, my wee gnome mage, who languished at 72 for the better part of a year and a half, hit 80 today. I am so proud. She will now be both ready and able to assist with the Gnomer liberation in a few months. Huzzah!

P.S. did you know penguins can fly? I had no idea:


Continue reading "Mission Accomplished: Gnome Mage Dings 80!" »

BQL25 and Dreamwalker25 Also Completed!

Wow. What a week for us Pirates...

Two new bosses down in 25-man tonight, and after killing Halion on Tuesday. I'm wiped out just thinking about all that raiding...


Blood Queen gave us a little trouble, thanks to blips with the bite order, then Dreamwaker was a relative cakewalk. I think we got her on our second try. Which was probably our third try ever on 25man. Thank you WoW Gods for a great night of raiding.


Halion Dead!


It was cool to get to sub in unexpectedly tonight when I got home. My second shot at him, and WHAM! Dead! Whooohoo!

I had an easy job -- stayed out in Phase 3 if I understand it correctly. Ran around and avoided that damn fire that gave me Mount Hyjal flashbacks. Avoided the General Vezax void crashes on the ground. Ran away from the fire circles. Had a great time. Not bad for a Tuesday night.

My Wrath of the Lich King Best Ofs...

  some things are better left alone. this lady is too big for the talbuk.
With the Wrath of the Lich King expansion all but completed, this felt like a good time to look back at WotLK and share my thoughts on what was most memorable and fun for me in this expansion.

Best Quest Chain Payoff: Wrathgate.

I've heard through the grapevine that some people I know actually avoid or skip this chain while leveling, but so far, I've completed it as soon as possible on each of my characters, be they Alliance or Horde.

I remember my first time through, which was Alliance-side. I was so proud when Bolvar Fordragon said to me, as an aside, Psychocandy, I remember what you did for me back in the day." (I paraphrase. but still.) Bolvar? Remember little ol' me? My heart fluttered, it truly did. And then I followed him into battle, only to watch him fall in battle, always the hero.

That would have been enough to give it the best of slot, but it's capped off with the Battle for the Undercity, which showed off their phasing capabilities, and truly made me feel I was an integral part of the storyline in a way nothing had previously.

Second runner up: The Wolvar and Gorlok chains in Sholozar basin."You see his face? He so scared!"

Best Addition to the Shadow Priest's Arsenal: Mind Sear.

Mind sear, how do I love thee? Let me count the ways...I love you when the tank mispulls two packs but holds onto them. I love you when the pack of geists comes in to Rotface/Festergut's corridor. I love you when they # gets to something unfathomable on recount. And I most especially loved you on Ony's whelps. How did shadow priests live without an AOE? oh that's right, everyone used to love us for being a mana battery and for having a passive heal that was often a solid third healer in raids. That's right...


Second runner up: Improved Devouring Plague. Spam it baby!

My Biggest Sense of Accomplishment, Raid Edition: Defeating Arthas.

I honestly can not think of any other boss that took as much time and trial and error as Arthas. This is partially due to the changing nature of our raid teams each night. My earlier WoW raiding was almost always with pretty much the same 25/40 people each week, which made progression a little more smooth and go a little more quickly. But it just made the victory over him that much sweeter. The fact that he popped up throughout the expansion, taunting us, also gave us more bloodthirst than I had for Illidan, for example. I actually felet somewhat bad about breaking into Illidan's house and stealing his stuff. Killing Arthas? We were doing the work of the Light, and freeing him.

My Biggest Sense of Accomplishment, Not About Raiding: Finally Making a Go of it Horde-side.a.k.a. the little shadow priest that could. This entire blog for the past year has, essentially, been a chronicle of that.

My Hero of the Expansion: Bolvar Fordragon.

Yes, I know I talk about Bolvar a lot. And I named my kitty after him too. But for good reason! He embodied the goodness of the light in all things he did. Starting initially with the end of the Onyxia chain, but in WotLK with the Wrathgate chain, and ending with the Lich King's death cut scene, Bolvar Fordragon was always a hero, sacrificing himself for the greater good. They don't make heroes like him often. A big thank you to Blizzard for keeping true to his character throughout the expansion. Even though you disregarded his final wish to keep things quiet *glances at Dalaran fountain.*

No one even came close for me, so no runners-up for this. Sorry Tirion Fordring, even though you were a great hulking Paladin you just didn't capture my heart. Especially not after the raid nicknamed you Captain Popsicle.

Best waste of my gold: The Mechanohog.

Yeah yeah yeah. It's a waste of gold. You don't need a motorcycle. But it's so shiny! I had to make it twice. And I have never thought to myself that I wanted back the 12,500G in vendor mats that I spent on it. It paid for itself in amusing me while waiting for Ulduar raids to start, as I jumped off stairwells and foothills with abandon.

Second Runner Up: Making my very first engineer her helicoptors.


I'll post more best ofs as they occur to me. Because Summertime is all about sequels, yes? But what about you? What are your WotLK Best ofs?

Friday Five: 5 Things I Accomplished with 5 FPS

Since I am still without my super awesome desktop computer, I bring you today's Friday Five, on the things I have managed to accomplish on my rickety old laptop, with its 5 FPS...

  1. I got my new DK out of the starting area. I know this doesn't sound like much to those of you with a whole army of alts, but have I mentioned here lately how I made a gnome DK on the day Wrath came out? And how she's still in the DK starting area? I blame the quest where you have to beat the living daylights out of those Scarlets for information...
  2. I got the DK's skinning to 300 and Mining to 254. She'll have her professions Outland-ready by the time before I get my computer back. And she's made a tidy pile of cash for my future Alliance alts on the new server.
  3. I braved the yellow to red latency and the low FPS to finish the last couple of pre-Wrathgate quests my gnome mage had. All because I wanted to go visit Bolvar. *sniffle* WTB more phased/instanced content like the Battle for Undercity. That was blissfully lag-free.
  4. Re-organized my bank alt guild's tab content, including throwing out some items I don't think I'll be needing for Cataclysm. It's a fine line between holding on to items for my future goblin hunter and having my bank be too full of crap that Cataclysm will render obsolete and worthless. See also why I've sold all my mithril casings. And yes, as @Shieldbreakr noted last week, I am obsessed with having an orderly bank!
  5. Survived what would have been tough WoW-withdrawl. Even with all there is to do here, especially on the days with the gorgeous weather, I do enjoy winding down my evening with some WoW time. I would have been bummed out to have been completely WoW-free for this past busy week. I cheered on my 25-man raid team from the sofa last night. Sad to not be in there with them, but happy to see that they

P.S. Achievement #1 is due entirely to the support of Psynister. Huzzah!

Small Moments: Raiding Traditions

Note: if you have never stepped foot inside of Icecrown Citadel, and would consider anything relating to the plotline therein to be a spoiler, please do not read further today as it contains a small spoiler.

  ICC Raid reduced to a herd of bouncing bunnies

It's the little things that can make or break a raid.

The guildie who turns everyone into bunnies or ninjas or pirates as you wait for your last raider to log in.

The nekkid danceparty screenshots for especially hard-won victories.

Ever since working on Chromaggus in Blackwing Lair, I've had my own small tradition: before a final or near-final boss fight, I make a basic campfire.

Back in the day that small spirit increase helped my druid eek out another few smidges of heals I'm sure. 4 1/2 years later, it helps rekindle the focus and excitement of inching closer to a kill. And it provides a great visual marker on the floor for whatever it is we're doing.

The first night we stepped foot in Icecrown citadel, however, a new tradition was born for me, due to this exchange started by Highlord Tirion Fordring:

    Highlord Tirion Fordring says: Our march upon Icecrown Citadel begins now!

    The Lich King says: You now stand upon the hallowed ground of the Scourge. The Light won't protect you here, paladin. Nothing will protect you...

    Highlord Tirion Fordring says: ARTHAS! I swore that I would see you dead and the Scourge dismantled! I'm going to finish what I started at Light's Hope.

    The Lich King says: You could've been my greatest champion, Fordring. A force of darkness that would wash over this world and deliver it into a new age of strife.

    The Lich King says: But that honor is no longer yours. Soon, I will have a new champion.
    The Lich King says: The breaking of this one has been taxing. The atrocities that I have committed upon his soul. He has resisted for so long, but he will bow down before his king soon.

    Highlord Bolvar Fordragon says: NEVER! I... I will never... serve... you.

    The Lich King says: In the end you will all serve me.

Bolvar! Here in ICC? Without thinking, in that split second, I yelled in reply: "BOLVAR! We will save you!"

And that became my rallying cry every first night in ICC, when we would hear that exchange. And finally, once we faced the Lich King, my rallying cry each night.

On the few occasions I did not make it to our weekly raid (vacation, or being sat out when we have an overflow of DPS), it got back to me that my battle cry was yelled in my stead. To say this warmed my heart immensely doesn't even begin to capture how it felt to hear that.

The night we defeated Arthas, I changed things up a bit. I said, "Bolvar! We will save you, TONIGHT!" And we did.

A small tradition, to be sure, but one that gave my raiding throughout ICC a purpose. Bolvar Fordragon had long been my most beloved hero of the Alliance, and thus inspired this small tradition, that I will remember always.

I'm sure I'm not the only one who has made their own raiding traditions. What are yours?

The King is Dead! Long Live the Lich King!

Last night, after 11 raiding nights, spread out over 5-6 weeks, at a cost of about $1,000 gold to those of us who came most nights (we had a few weeks with repairs turned on which was a blessing, but this is still our RL's ballpark cost), we defeated the Lich King.With 10/10 standing for the ending which feels pretty damn impressive to me for a first kill.

This also meant I FINALLY got to experience the cut scene and the ending of the fight myself. The cinematic was a perfect end cap to the Wrathgate cinematic, and an effective closure to this expansion.

Good job Blizzard. And thank you for keeping one of my favorite characters true to himself to the very end. Sniffle. That's all I am saying about the ending and the cinematic, to avoid spoiling it for anyone. And yes, at the end of the fight, I thanked my guildies for allowing me to make it through that fight to see the conclusion myself first-hand, without having it spoiled.

The spoilers from twitterland prepared me somewhat for the ending but did not totally ruin the impact for me. So that's a good thing. And thank you for Naie after that incident for encouraging me to keep hope alive I could attain my personal goal, retaining the rallying cry I yelled every night 1 of every ICC raid we've done as a team.

It's been a long road to the Lich King. My RL just reminded me it has been 3 tanks, 5 healers, and 10 dps that participated in the learning curve from start to finish too. A huge effort. But we're done. It feels pretty amazing to actually kill the final boss of an expansion before the next expansion (or all its uber talent changes hits -- hello patch 3.0 I am looking at you.)

I took a ton of screenshots, none of which I am posting here as most are incredibly spoilerific, like this one. And I sat down on the stairs of the frozen throne for a very long time, and got screenshots there with some of my favorite raiders.

How We Stack Up

Just for fun, here are some statistics regarding our server's raiding progress, courtesy of Guild Progress:

Ranked Guilds: 310
209 Alliance 101  Horde
Icecrown Citadel 10 Boss Kills
    • Lich King 5.81%
    • Sindragosa 10.65%
    • Rescue Valithiria 18.39%
    • Blood-Queen Lana'thel 15.81%
    • Blood Prince Council 18.39%
    • Professor Putricide 19.35%
    • Festergut 39.03%
    • Rotface 33.87%
    • The Deathbringer 44.84%
    • Gunship Battle 48.71%
    • Lady Deathwhisper 49.68%
    • Lord Marrowgar 50.97%

  • Bummer

    I managed to avoid the Lich King cut scene on the Dalaran fountain.

    I managed to avoid the comic contest spoiler.

    I managed to avoid the original MMO Champion dialogue and cut scene post spoiler.

    But in the excitement over the leaked Alpha screenshots MMO Champion posted today, I finally found out what I wanted to see for myself when we finally kill the Lich King.

    And I am bummed out.

    We got the Lich King to 32% last night. So we are very very close now.

    We go back in to see him tonight.

    But I won't be able to give my usual battle cry. because it's been spoiled for me. And it does bum me out a bit.

    Over the next 5 months or 6 months, the Internet is going to be filled with spoilers galore. And again I will implore folks to think twice about what you post that other folks can not avoid. Consider keeping your spoilers to your blogs where you can provide a spoiler alert. Twitter, alas, doesn't give folks a real opportunity to skip over the spoilers. And I for one don't want to have to stop reading twitter. So please do think twice before posting spoilers there.

    Thanks and safe travels.

    And P.S. Asros I know you didn't mean to spoil it for me.

    Lock Hits Level 70!


    Kandira was 2 bars away from 70 last night when I got pulled in to ICC 10, filling in for a raider's no show (our three standby folks had also not turned up.) Raid time was followed by dinner, then back to the Outland salt mines to finish up for the big ding.

    I dinged turning in a quest in Shadowmoon Valley, just a few minutes after completing my Outland exploration achievement. My first pit stop was my bank vault, to pullout the materials I'd been saving up for my turbo charged flyer. I was pretty close except in one area -- Khorium. Despite having mined a few nodes over the course of leveling, I had only 17 ores and had to buy the rest. OUCH! That's all we'll say about that.

    So now the little lock is almost grown up. I suspect that these last 10 levels in Northrend will take a while. I hope she won't sit out here a year like the poor neglected Alliance toons...

    Creating Benchmarks for Raid Performance

    How can you assess a raid's performance if you haven't identified and agreed upon the criteria for success? You can't, beyond "Did we kill the bosses?" And that's simply not enough when dealing with progression content you're learning.

    In my non-WoW life, once per month, I analyze a number of metrics to determine how successful a variety of communication campaigns were over the course of the month. Then I report out to my team to let them know what worked and what didn't, and we set about revising tactics as necessary. We're able to engage in this constructive dialogue thanks to having clearly defined benchmarks and performance expectations identified that we all agree upon.

    Frequently, the same can not be said for raider performance evaluations. If you've ever tried to nail down a set of criteria in a group setting, you may have found it impossible between healers saying their effectiveness could not be measured by data, DPS complaining about certain fights leaving them at a disadvantage, and the Off Tanks arguing that their role gimped their TPS. No one wants to be measured! Because we are all uniquely awesome snowflakes who want to measure and discuss how everyone else is doing.

    But as long as you are logging your raids (simply type /combatlog at the start of your raid and /combatlog after to have a log generated and saved into your World of Warcraft Logs folder), and uploading their results into a reporting tool like World of Logs or WoW Meter Online, you can set and measure against benchmarks.


    Although it has largely fallen out of favor due to it not being actively updated and maintained, I still upload a log each night to WWS because it has a lot it can tell you at-a-glance about your DPSers and help focus your attention for perusing the other logs.


    Your key takeaways from the main screen: 

    • Your top overall damage dealers/DPS
    • The percent of active time (lower numbers mean the person was dead/AFK/not DPSing)
    • How close each DPS was to the other in terms of their output percentages -- you want to see folks within a couple of percent of each other.
    • You don't want to see your top DPS doing 14% of the damage and the rest doing 7%.
    • And you would expect similarly geared players of the same spec to be close to each other in output. If they are not, those are the folks for you to deep dive into with the other logs.

    WoW Meter Online (WMO)

    Although some folks are put off by its gratuitous use of Engrish, I am still a fan of WoW Meter Online for its ease of use and a few features that are exclusive to it as of this writing. My first stop in a WMO log is the All Bosses link.

    From here you can check each players' presence (amount of time active in the raid), their DPS and overall damage, and their number of interrupts. Next, I pick whichever player I want to drill down on and click their name. This takes me to a control panel where I can see their damage and healing done and taken, plus all the debuffs and buffs they applied over the course of the evening. I typically drill down on that last tab. It allows you to see who was buffing the raid, how many flasks the person used, if they were in someway incapacitated during the raid (mind control, impale) which might account for a performance decrease on a fight, and if they were applying the requested slows/stuns/debuffs on any given boss fight.

    After checking out that tab, I head back to the main window, and pick a fight I want to analyze. From there, I click on an individual player's name. And this is where WMO excels at helping you determine whether or not the performance you are looking at is good, in line with the player's previous performance, and how it compares to others. Up at the top next to the person's name, is a link to Historical Report. Clicking on that link brings you to a summary page that graphs that individual player's performance against that boss over time. From here you can see:

    • How many times has the player fought this boss in 10/25
    • Their DPS/HPS/TPS charted over time in the 10 and 25-man settings.
    • What you want to see here is a line moving upwards to the right. That shows consistent improvement over time.
    • If you see a more erratic performance output graph, you need to determine if it is due to your raid being inconsistent with the available buffs from week-to-week, or if the player is not always as focused and prepared for some raid nights.

    Going back to the previous window with one character's performance showing, you can access the other unique feature -- Compare with Other. Clicking that link will bring up a page showing other performance logs for players of the same class and spec on that same fight. Pick a person to compare to. You'll generate a page that will allow you to see, side-by-side, how many casts of which spells that player performed in that boss fight, which can help you give players feedback about how their rotation might be improved. If you click on one of the actors names, you get brought to their homepage which includes a link out to their armory so you can also compare gear/spec to ensure you were comparing apples to apples.


    I personally consider these two WMO features to be some of your best tools for setting individual class/player benchmarks and coaching your raid members on their performance.

    World of Logs (WoL)

    World of Logs has been the favored combat log parser for the past year or so, and for good reason. It provides a lot of easy to digest information for raid leaders to digest.


    My first checkpoint on WoL is the survivability report. Dead raiders can't do their jobs. And although it is understandable if someone dies early from time-to-time, if you have a player sitting at 50% for the night, while the rest of your raid is in the 80s and 90s, that says someone needs to work on their moving-out-of-crap-that-can-kill-me skills.

    Picking a DPS and drilling down, I like to take a look at the Damage By Actor report tab. This is also known as the "proof you switched to the adds" check. If someone has no damage done to the Bone Spikes or the Blood Beasts or the Web Wraps, they need to receive the chat about meter humping not assisting the raid in being successful and that when the Raid Leader says Everyone switches to the adds, this means them as well. Like WMO, buffs gained and cast are shown as sub reports here as well so you can determine if a player has been coming to the raid prepared and staying focused on what they can do to maximize their performance.

    Now heading back to the main report page and choosing Healing Done as my report from the pulldown, I pick out a healer to drill down on. Note that the main healing page labels the HPS as DPS. You can again see how much of the player's healing done came from which spell as well as whom they were healing, which can help check if they were on their assigned targets.


    The final piece of benchmarking data you can glean from WoL is the data from their Ranking Info report. Based upon their compiling the top performers by DPS and healing on each fight uploaded to their website, this report shows you how close each of your players were to the max recorded #s for their spec on the fight, as expressed by a percentage. Depending upon your level of experience with the bosses, you may want to set your bar higher or lower. But again, overall, you'd want to see your players performing at similar percentages on the bosses.

    If you are seeing a significant percentage gap amongst your team, especially between 2 players of the same spec, you should take that as a coaching opportunity and suggest that the player with the performance gap might want to receive some coaching from the higher-performing player, or at a minimum, go and look at their armory and at the logs of the attempts to see what they were doing differently.

    The nice thing about this data is that it is, by its aggregated nature, neutral. If you have a player who maintains a specific fight is just impossible for their spec, it gives you a benchmark against which they can compare themselves to see if that's actually the case or if they have some room for improvement.

    Getting Started

    The absolute first step for evaluating your raid's performance and getting on the road to performance benchmarks is to make sure your raid team runs and uploads combat logs for every raid. Try not to get overwhelmed with the amount of data available to you, and start small, such as by setting overall HPS/DPS or overall healing and damage benchmarks for specific fights. This WMO Raid History report for a boss is a great starting place for setting your benchmark for what it takes to be successful for a boss.


    Avoid temptation to over-analyze your raid data, and drill down to individual-level benchmarking data only when you need to solve a problem you are having with a specific fight, or with a specific under-performing player. And encourage personal accountability -- challenge your raiders to keep an eye on how they are ding, and to strive to exceed their previous performance, and to experiment with small tweaks that can give themselves a boost.

    So Close...But Still Some Work Remains


    We are on our third raiding week of our Lich King 10 raid ID. We have been alternating weeks with this ID and a clear ID for one of our two 10 man teams.

    We've gotten phase 1 down (although last night we did bring a new healer into the mix, which meant some ramp up time, as to be expected), and are usually pretty solid for Phase 2, but typically have a defile-soaked meltdown right at the edge of transitioning into Phase 3. We have seen the special fight within the fight mechanic that shall remained undescribed to avoid the spoilers, but we have only gotten to that point once.

    Last night, as we chipped away on perfecting our LK attempts, our second 10-man raid team downed Putricide, earning a couple of folks their Plagueworks achievement. This leaves them open to work on the Blood Princes and BQL this Saturday, which will be a first peek at those bosses for many folks. Huzzah!

    It's a great feeling to see the little raid team that could keep chugging up this hill.

    It's hard to believe the guild did not get through SSC in BC. Or that they started out WotLK with ad hoc Naxxramas runs without the ability for the guild at large to sign up and participate in. Now, we have a fully transparent to everyone process, public signups and schedules. It is in fact one of the most above board raid processes I've ever particiapted in.

    It is awesome what putting some structure around raiding, having a committed core of folks who really wanted to see the content of the expansion, plus the hard work and dedication of the many raid schedulers and raid leaders helped make happen.


    Our Victory is Your Victory

    As those of you who read here regularly know, we've been making slow but sure progress through ICC10 on one ID. We typically run two 10 teams per week, but really only have enough top performing players to have 1 that's working on LK.

    But starting with the night we killed Blood Princes I've noticed something disheartening: the sour grapes. Not even as much in the realm of people complaining to Officers about not being included in the progression team (only had a handful of that.) And not a ton of folks, mind you. But enough that you take notice.

    More along the lines of peeps not saying grats when G chat lights up with an achievement for completing the wing. Or not giving a cheer in the kill thread on the forums. People who only have something positive to say if their nameplate is in the boss kill screenshot.

    I know it sucks to be sat, or to not be able to attend on the nights we are working on progression fights. I sat a lot in my first 4 months as a pirate. (I barely eeked out a solitary Vezax kill as a matter of fact.) And I still sit every few weeks now so we can cycle in other DPS on weeks we have a signups overflow.

    I feel like folks can forget we are a team. And the guild's success is OUR success as a whole. It's their $15, and I know I can't expect everyone to share my passion for the guild and our progress, but I would prefer to see all of our raiders enthusiastic and supportive of each other when one of our teams hits a milestone. Instead of just looking at what's in it for them.

    I am going to miss ICC 25, and a night of 10s for vacation week. It is entirely possible that there will be some new boss kills I miss out on. And I will be right there cheerleading for the guild if we are so lucky as to get to see some kill shots on the forum.

    Because the guild's success is MY success.


    P.S. Naie, I am looking at *YOU* to be in charge of nekkid screenshots in my absence.

    Thoughts on End of the Expansion Cycle Raiding

    Right around the time BETA starts for a WoW expansion, I've watched the seams and cracks start to show in my raiding teams, and in those of the folks I read in the blogosphere and on twitter. It was the same pre-Burning Crusade as pre-Wrath as it's starting to seem now pre-Cataclysm.

    You go from folks pitching a fit for cycling out on a raid night, positive this means they won't get that piece of gear they're coveting that would make their gearscore hit that magic number to those same folks no showing for raids, or not even signing up.

    You have officers and raid leaders burning out, and taking out their frustrations on their raid members and each other. Tempers flare in raids, leaving folks who were previously friends wishing each other would go die in a circle of fire somewhere already. Raids that had previously been fun and full of chit chat and joking around, are mostly silent other than a tank or raid leader yelling at someone else. Healers/Tanks/Ranged DPS or whatever your guild's weak link was become impossible to recruit for raids, and inspire frequent pleas for help online. Frustrated raiders leave casual guilds en masse to start their own raiders only guilds. Key members of raiding teams pack up and server transfer, looking for greener grass, all too often finding out it was astroturf.

    For every squee post I've seen on Kingslayer titles in hand, I've seen one on an imploded guild, plus one on a gquit and LFG ICC25/ICC10. And a third about an impending hiatus from WoW til Cataclysm lands.

    Have we reached the point of no return for Wrath of the Lich King? Are we doomed to frittering away our time (as we pine for an elusive BETA invite) in 5-man RDHs, watching GOGOGO tanks chain pull while we're out of mana, then complaining at us if we stop for a second to take a drink?

    If that's what I have to look forward to for the next 6 months, then that's certainly not a good use of my $15/mo.

    Luckily, I have a vacation week coming up soon, which will be low on the WoW and heavy on the getting out to enjoy the many fabulous cultural and scenic features of the city I live in. And there is always plenty to do outside of game, so I don't feel compelled to fritter away time online when the mojo isn't there.

    In-game, our progression 10 man is working on Arthas again this week. This puts the SO's soul gathering on hold for another week (he's only up to 300 or so souls since we've had a prior week of just Arthas, and a canceled 25 in the mix), but for a good cause. Making a valiant effort to save Bolvar Fodragon and defeating the Lich King is my primary driving goal in the game right now. I wants him dead. I wants him dead nao.

    I'm also working towards getting my warlock to 80 before the expansion, and to getting my gnome mage to 80 so she can help liberate Gnomeregan eventually. And I feel like I am finally getting a little traction with convincing my favorite druid to roll horde (or faction change) on our server once she heads back into the workforce and can't raid on my vanilla raiding guild's schedule.

    But I know for sure, having been here and done this before, that once any of it stops being fun, it's coming off the must-do list. I don't want to raid with burnt out, cranky people any more than they want to raid with me if I become one of said people either. It's important to keep pulse-checking yourself to make sure you're still having fun. And that you're enjoying playing with your team. Because having fun -- and working together to accomplish raid goals is the whole point of the raiding. It's not about ePeen as measure via Recount. Or achievement points. Or by your gear score. It's about having a good time playing with your friends and getting to the Frozen throne, together.

    Safe travels, adventurers.

    Friday Five: 5 Things to Keep in Mind on a Progression Raid Night


    We extended our raid ID this week, and hopped into ICC 10 on Wednesday night, easily 1-shotting the Dreamwalker encounter, then running back over to BQL, whom we dispatched in our second try. And then it was on to Sindragosa, whom most of those in attendance had not seen before, and whom we took down at the tail end of our extra Thursday night raid. And thus, I bring you my list of 5 things folks need to keep in mind when taking part in a progression night, fighting against a boss your raid team has not killed:

    1. Don't run off after the boss kill. We want screenshots! (See above for a screenshot of not 10 people as a case in point.)
    2. Do not start complaining/whining/sighing when you don't kill a new boss on the second attempt. News flash: progression bosses take more than 1 attempt for folks to figure things out on. Especially when you are talking about the boss before the Lich King. Buy some patience already! Or I will bore you with the story of how it took my old guild 3 weeks of non stop work to kill Lady Vashj back in the day.
    3. Keep quiet on vent if you're not the raid leader if you are calling out placements. 5 people talking at once, over the raid leader, leads to confusion and usually to someone dying. Save the chit chat for the run back.
    4. Ask questions early and often. If you are having a problem remembering what an ability is called or what you are supposed to do in a certain part of the fight, ask your raid leader.
    5. Be nice. If a member of your raid team asks the same question more than once, or has the same issue twice in a row, cut them some slack. They're not an idiot, or a loser, or a dumb ass or they wouldn't being there with you learning that new boss (unless your raid leader is a masochist). They are clearly grappling with something and need the assistance of the raid team. And thus you need to cut them some slack and try to be helpful, not rude. And if you don't, you may find a raid leader's foot coming into contact with your butt.

    Killing a progression boss is a major rush. And that rush is the reward for the hard work it took each member of your team to put in to get there. Keep your chin up, and a positive attitude, and you will succeed -- with a little help from your friends.

    Happy Friday! And congratulations Pirates for an amazing week of teamwork!

    What to Wear: Frost Emblem Gear for Shadow Priests

    Patch 3.3 brought with it a new top-end emblem (Emblem of Frost), and a nice assortment of gear to fill in some lingering holes or help with the never-ending hit-swap dance. Personally, for now, I am hanging on to my badges to see how my luck fares in our ICC 10 runs, and how our progress goes in ICC 25. I'm not at all tempted to purchase my first few pieces of tier gear. Overall, other than the shoulders, it's looking like it's not worth wearing until you have the 4-piece bonus, or have been able to upgrade pieces via the marks that drop off each wing's final boss. So, after giving it a couple more weeks, I'll decide if I want to take the plunge and upgrade my less than 245 iLvl pieces, or wait until I have the 300-something badges for 4 pieces of tier gear.

    Tier Set

    Non-Tier Gear

    • Volde's Cloak of the Night Sky (50 emblems). If you are not doing 25-man content, and do not have a heroic ToC cloak, this will be your best option for this slot. You will not want to purchase the other badge cloak, Drape of the Violet Tower (50 emblems), as its MP5 is not useful for damage dealing.
    • Meteor Chaser's Raiment (95 emblems). This is your third-best chest, bested only by a heroic chest and the max-upgraded tier chest. The other non-tier badge chest, Ermine Coronation Robes (95 emblems), is itemized a little better for healers.
    • Gloves of False Gestures (60 emblems). If you have all your hit taken care of in other slots, these are considered to be your second best gloves. The other emblem gloves, Gloves of Ambivalence (60 emblems), are better itemized for healers.
    • Circle of Ossus (60 emblems). If you are not doing ICC 25 or heroic ICC 10, this will be your BiS belt.
    • Belt of Omission (60 emblems). If you are looking for hit in this slot, this will be your best option.
    • Maghia's Misguided Quill (60 emblems). If you have been using the Ulduar hit trinket you may want to spend the badges to upgrade to this even larger dose of hit (thus freeing up other slots for non-hit gear.)

    If you purchased all 5 of your tier items, you would be looking at an emblem spend of 405.

    ICC by the Skin of Our Teeth


    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.

    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" »

    What's Next?


    I'm sort of in-between goals at the moment.

    I got the mage to 80.

    I faction changed the shaman, brought her to my horde server and got her a few upgrades plus a Black War bear.

    We've cleared all the available regular raid instances, and the guild is now working on hard modes in the search for Algalon.

    My shadow priest has her motorcycle, and finally got the Lil' Game hunter achievement.

    So now what?

    Yes, I have the wee druid in the wings, but I'm meh about leveling at the moment and have to give concentrated questing a time out to avoid burn out. Unless I have other crazy levelers willing to go 3-man at level instances. THAT is something I can never pass up (and something I always wayyy underestimate how much time to allot for.)

    I wonder why it is so hard to stop and smell the roses in WoW? Instead of just reveling in the moment, all too often I see folks in a similar mind set to where I am at right now saying "I'm bored." And find myself restless without a new goal to pursue. In retrospect, isn't it absurd for any of us to be bored with an MMO that has literally thousands of activities in which we could participate if only we motivated ourselves to think outside of our slef-defined box?

    Luckily, those moments, for me, pass quickly. And soon enough I have a new list of things I want to do. And for the most part, what I want to do is piddle around with the folks in my guild whose company makes me happy, piddling around, doing whatever, biding my time until we get to pay a visit on the Lich King. I'm ready and waiting.

    Patch 3.3 News

    There's been so much patch 3.3 News coming out this past week, courtesy of bloggers + MMO Champion. So far, in addition to the obvious draw of kicking some Lich King butt in Icecrown, there's a lot to look forward to. Here are what have been the highlights for me so far.

    Battlenet Accounts Required after November 12

    Not super happy about this but they are bribing us with a penguin mini pet so I guess I'll live with it.

    Shadow Priests

    • Glyphs
      • Glyph of Mind Flay now increases the damage done by your Mind Flay spell by 10% when your target is afflicted with Shadow Word: Pain.
      • Glyph of Shadow Word: Pain changed to - The periodic damage ticks of your Shadow Word: Pain spell restore 1% of your base mana.
      • Glyph of Shadow now increase your spell power by 30% of your spirit for 10 sec. (Up from 10%)
    • Talents/Spells
      • Power Word: Shield; This spell can now be cast on non-raid/party friendly targets. 
      • Improved Devouring Plague: This spell now deals 10/20/30% of its total periodic effect instantly, up from 5/10/15%. 
      • Shadowform: This talent also now causes Devouring Plague, Shadow Word: Pain, and Vampiric Touch to benefit from haste. Both the period length and the duration of these spells will be reduced by haste. In addition, the mana cost has been reduced from 32% to 13% of base mana. 
      • Vampiric Embrace: This ability is now provides a 30-minute buff that cannot be dispelled, instead of a target debuf


    • Rebirth: The cooldown on this spell has been lowered from 20 minutes down to 10 minutes. Cannot be used in Arenas.


    • Talents/Spells
      • Improved Scorch: The debuff from this talent no longer stacks, and instead can apply the full effect from a single cast of Scorch.
      • Frozen Core now also causes your Ice Lance criticals to reduce the cast time of your next Frostbolt or Frostfire Bolt by 0.4/0.7/1 sec.
    • Glyphs
      • Glyph of Improved Scorch is now named Glyph of Scorch and Increases the damage of your Scorch spell by 20%.
      • Glyph of Eternal Water - Your Summon Water Elemental now lasts indefinitely, but your Water Elemental can no longer cast Freeze.


    Interface Changes

    • Any party member may mark raid targets.
    • Users will be warned when their talents are reset due to a new patch.
    • “Tentative” status added for calendar responses.
    • Ignore list expanded to 50 to match the friends list.
    • Unit frames added for special encounters.
    • Interface element added next to the mini-map to show what dungeon you are in (ex: 10- and 25-player Heroic dungeons marked with a skull).
    • Experience earned for a quest will display in the Quest Rewards section.
    • Macro Change: Symbol “@” added as a synonym for “target=”;. For example, “/cast [@focus] Flash Heal”.