Why I don't like the weekly raid quest

When I first read that a weekly raid quest would be introduced in patch 3.3 I was very enthusiastic about the idea. Finally there'd be a reason to do all the WOTLK raids again, even if nobody was running them for their gear drops anymore!

From what I've seen in my guild, this weekly raid quest has been a resounding success in practice too. As soon as a new quest is out, groups for it form left and right, and then again because people want to do it on their alts as well. However, me personally? I haven't completed a single one so far, and it's not for a lack of grouping opportunities. I actually ended up disliking the whole concept!

The thing is, in the past few weeks the weekly raid quest on my server has been Ulduar three times in a row. First it was for Deconstructor, then for Razorscale, then for Flame Leviathan. So what did people do? They quickly formed a raid, went to Ulduar to kill just those bosses (they are all right by the entrance after all) and then went home again. It's encouraged people to go back to an instance they were starting to lose interest in, but only to kill the first and second boss, which I find extremely unsatisfying. When I go into a raid, I want to clear it, or at least make a decent effort at doing so. Going in with the expressed intent of just killing the first one or two bosses feels wrong to me in so many ways that I find it hard to describe it. Imagine if the daily random heroic gave you frost emblems just for killing the first boss in each instance. Nobody would ever run a complete heroic again!

I really think that Blizzard made a mistake in making those raid quests all about the entry bosses. It's like the weird loot issues with Trial of the Crusader all over again, where a way too easy and bland raid made a much more fun and interesting one completely redundant by outclassing its loot by a mile. It felt wrong because the best rewards came from something that was extremely easy and thus encouraged you to skip a lot of harder content.

Blizzard managed to make heroics relevant and popular again by rewarding you with top tier emblems for their completion. I thought that they would do the same for the "old" WOTLK raids, but in fact very little has changed - people still skip most of the instance because the emblem reward is given out right at the start. Why bother with killing any more bosses if the effort will result only in minimal rewards compared to just taking the time to kill the quest boss? I can only imagine that getting a "proper" group for any of those raids is now going to be harder than ever, because unless you manage to pull one together on the very first day after the reset, half your guild will already be saved to a dozen different raid IDs from pugging the first boss for the weekly quest.


The dungeon finder and role distribution

The dungeon finder has changed many things over the past weeks. One thing that I found particularly interesting is that it made it official that a lot more people want to play dps than tanks or healers. I mean, we always knew that it was harder to find a tank for your instance group than a random dps, but just how much harder it was could be difficult to qualify at times. Now, if the queue times in my battlegroup are any indication, I feel confident in saying that for every tank there are about three healers and thirty dpsers.

There's been some talk about how this will make tanking and healing more popular now, but I'm not so sure. I mean, we've always known that it's easier to get groups as a tank or a healer, so what's different?

In fairness, the new system has made the benefits of playing one of the more sought-after roles more obvious and more tangible than ever. With the way things used to be, even a much-needed tank could find himself in a position where he couldn't get a group going occasionally, for example because he just couldn't find a willing healer at that particular moment. And of course group-building in general was more of a hassle. If you use the new dungeon finder on the other hand and you are a tank, you will get a group immediately, guaranteed. Whereas if you queue up as dps only, you'll be forced to wait in line for a comparatively large amount of time. So there's definitely an added incentive to queue as tank or healer if you are able to fill either of those roles.

The dungeon finder has also made life for tanks and healers easier in general in some respects. During the first week after 3.3 release, I remember running heroic Culling of Stratholme with a massively overgeared raid tank who happily chattered away about how tanking random instances had become an amazing source of income for him: cash rewards, loot to sell, enchanting materials, and since he didn't need any of the badge gear anymore, he could use all of his emblems to buy crusader orbs and epic gems and then sell those too. It's basically the equivalent of daily quests designed specifically for tanks and healers.

Don't get me wrong, we are quite capable of doing normal daily quests too, and some of them don't even require you to kill anything... but let's be honest: most of them do, and then you'll always be faster doing them on a dps character than on your healer. Compare that to being teleported to an instance where you can do what you're specced for and then get paid for that. So much easier.

Still, the reason that I believe that we won't see a massive surge of tanks and healers any time soon is that the actual acts of tanking and healing themselves haven't changed at all, so if you hated performing either of those roles before, the new dungeon finder isn't going to change that. Being able to get a group faster might make it a little more beareable, but not much.

This is even more true since the finder strongly encourages you to only play the role(s) that you like. In the past, how many times did a dual-specced dpser agree to do something else just to get the group off the ground, because he was worried that the run might not happen at all otherwise? On the other hand, if you join the new LFG as dps only, then you'll be guaranteed to get a group in which you're allowed to dps, no questions asked. It might take a little longer than if you queued as a tank or healer, but it will happen.

I found that this has strongly encouraged me to give my hunter alt more playtime again for example. She's the only one of my alts at eighty who can't tank or heal, which used to make finding groups quite difficult and there was always this nagging voice at the back of my head telling me that I could actually get things done if only I switched to another one of my toons. With the dungeon finder - no more! If I feel like doing some pew pew on my hunter, I can do so and I know I'll get into a run even if it takes a while.

I think that this will encourage a lot of people to stick to their preferred dps playstyle and that way a potential influx of new tanks and healers lured in by shorter wait times will be balanced out, leaving us with the same inequality of roles in the end. Regardless, a World of Warcraft where we can all get instance groups more easily regardless of spec and role is still a much better one than we had before.


Seeing the world with new eyes

Merry Christmas to my fellow bloggers and all that.

For various reasons I decided to make myself a Christmas present this year, namely a shiny new gaming PC. Looking at WoW now and at the way it looked to me before, it's hard to put the sheer magnitude of the difference into words.

See, my old PC wasn't a complete piece of crap or anything. It was already a few years old however, and had never been a top of the line machine, not even when I got it. It served me well over the years, I played WoW with all the graphic settings set to something reasonably high throughout BC, and it never caused me any problems except for occasional slowness in Shattrath during peak times.

When I first set foot into Howling Fjord I was amazed at how pretty it all was and continued to marvel at every new WOTLK zone as I discovered it. Dalaran was pretty slow for me from the start, but I didn't mind too much at the time. But the first time I set foot into a twenty-five-man raid... hoo boy. It was nothing more than a slide show, and for a while I was seriously concerned whether I'd be able to continue raiding at all. In the end I managed to do so, but only by turning all my graphic settings down as much as possible, disabling certain addons during raids and adjusting my playstyle to a point where I mostly limited myself to instant-cast healing spells and often had to base my movement on mere predictions of what was going to happen instead of seeing what was actually going on.

During my everyday play, the loss that hit me the hardest was that of greater viewing distance. I don't know if you've ever played on the "low viewing distance" setting before, but what it basically means is that you'll perpetually be surrounded by grey mist. Whenever you fly, there's nothing but fog around you, and you can only really base your movement on your position on the map, and not anything you actually see around you. People with better PCs were often baffled by my helpless flailing around in Icecrown because the airship wasn't correctly showing up on the map and I couldn't actually see it until I bumped right into it, which sometimes meant circling it repeatedly without even noticing.

So yesterday I installed WoW on my new computer, jacked all the graphic options up to their highest settings, logged onto my druid in Dalaran, marvelled at the fact that her tabard looked like more than a brown blob, ran to Krasus' Landing, switched to flight form... and stopped. My boyfriend laughed at my gaping and exclamations of wonder, but it was seriously amazing to see Crystalsong Forest stretch out ahead of me, Stormpeaks and Icecrown off the the side - I was used to being greeted by nothing but a grey wall!

When I ended up healing a heroic Halls of Reflection I also noticed the increased performance: While I didn't have any major problems in five-mans before, even the slightly increased responsiveness already helped a lot with things like getting off that nourish when the tank's health plummets too quickly or casting a quick regrowth. I can now cast spells that aren't instant and they still go off within a reasonable amount of time, zomg! I can't wait to see the difference it will make to my performance in raids.

So this Christmas, my heart goes out to all of you who still have to struggle with PCs that limit your view of the World of Warcraft to about a circle of a hundred yards around you and that make it hard for you to play at your best. May you be able to experience the game in all its glory soon!


Cyclone EU battlegroup ponderings

Tamarind made a post about the new dungeon finder the other day, in which he noted as an aside that Crushridge seemed to be the one server in his battlegroup where "the tards come from". As I read this I nodded my head in agreement and thought about how I had observed something similar in my own battlegroup, except that I couldn't remember the exact name of the server at that moment. It was something starting with an S though.

So I went to have a look at all the servers on Cyclone, to see if I would recognise the culprit... and had to realise that no less than eight out of the fourteen servers in my battlegroup start with an S. Three of them start with "Storm" too. D'oh.

The problem was, now I was really curious. Which server was it that had caused most of my unpleasant experiences in pugs? So I started to take notes. And after grouping with more than one hundred and fifty different puggers, I came to a couple of interesting conclusions.

First off: Man, the official list of realms in the battlegroup as posted on the European forums is so outdated. I spent quite a while wondering why I never met anyone from Shadowmoon in my pugs, until I realised that that server was actually shut down over a year ago. It used to be one of the inofficial Russian servers until Blizzard created some official ones, and after everyone had transferred off it was shut down. Hello there, random piece of trivia!

After a while I started to wonder whether Silvermoon had already ceased to exist as well, but just as I was about to write it off, a Silvermoon player ended up in a normal-mode Ahn'kahet pug with my shaman. Still, she remained the only one. What's up, Silvermoon? Every other server showed up in my groups at least five times since I started counting. Is Silvermoon just that dead or are there any other factors at play? I can't help but wonder.

Enough yapping about dead servers, you say, which one ended up being the "black sheep" where all the jerks came from? Well, I feel a bit silly saying that, but there actually wasn't one. I mean, looking back at it now I was probably thinking of Stormscale, because I noted three negative experiences with Stormscale players during my "experiment" - however, one player also stood out as particularly nice and no less than thirty others simply did their job without leaving a mark one way or the other.

The thing about Stormscale is that for some reason it's massively over-represented in my Cyclone pugs: out of my one hundred and fifty-six puggers, no less than thirty-four were from Stormscale. (The second most represented server was Shattered Hand with twenty, which is already a fair bit behind.) My point is that when you run with a lot of people from a certain server, it's automatically also more likely that you'll run into some bad apples among them. I mean, the five players from Ravencrest and the five from Spinebreaker that I met didn't leave an impression one way or another, but does that mean that those servers are better or "nicer" than Stormscale? In all honesty, when you've only met such a small number, you can't really tell.

Also, contrary to what we people on roleplaying servers tend to believe sometimes, PvPers aren't all jerks and social rejects. I mean, Stormscale is a PvP server, and nobody does more pugging on Cyclone. In fact, nearly two thirds of my fellow puggers came from PvP servers. How surprising is that?

Before the release of the new dungeon finder there was some talk about how cross-server instancing would destroy the "local" server community. I can't really say that I've seen this happen yet, but only time will tell. However, after observing my fellow puggers from other servers in the battlegroup closely over the past week or so, I have to say that they don't quite feel like such a big anonymous mass either anymore. It's not that the battlegroup is becoming the new server, but it's like... having lived in the same city for all of your life and then travelling through the rest of your country. Some of it is strange, if you go far enough west the people start to talk funny, but some things are also familiar and there are certain cultural points of reference that you share. I'm curious how that will pan out for the WoW community in the long run.

How do you feel about your battlegroup?


Changing views of heroics

Running all those random heroics as of late has made me realise how much my opinion of a lot of them has changed over time.

Shortly after WOTLK's release, my favourite instances were those that tickled my inner explorer. I loved Old Kingdom because it seemed so vast and full of surprises, plus I thought that the last boss was hilarious. Culling of Stratholme was another favourite, simply because I loved all the instances involving a time-travelling setup so far, and also because working on the timed run for the bronze drake made for a good challenge back when everyone was wearing blues.

Halls of Stone and Halls of Lightning were instances that I didn't like very much because I didn't care too much about the whole backstory involving the titans (blasphemy, I know), and because Halls of Lightning was ridiculously hard to heal early on - especially the Loken fight, which always resulted in at least a couple of wipes per run. The Oculus was so scarring the first time around that hardly anyone ever wanted to go back there once they'd experienced the horror of "endless wipes on Eregos without knowing what the hell was going on" for the first time.

Once more powerful gear made everything easier and everyone was mostly running heroics for the next tier of emblems, I developed an appreciation for instances that facilitated this with the least amount of hassle. Old Kingdom slowly became less and less appealing, since killing all the trash seemed to take up an unnecessary amount of time. In fact, anything with slightly more trash became somewhat annoying, including places like Utgarde or the Nexus, while Azjol-Nerub and Gundrak became new favourites. Halls of Lightning became less painful once people didn't get one-shot by the lightning nova anymore, and the abilitiy to do it as a "double daily" added to the instance's appeal. The Oculus remained unpopular but became slightly less scary, as the only people daring to pug it were usually quite skilled at using the drakes and knew how to get through the instance quickly.

Now that things have changed once again, with the dungeon finder enabling people to jump right into a massively overgeared group and burn through any heroic in twenty minutes, my perception of what's most enjoyable has changed once again. Getting things done fast isn't really something special anymore, and the oh-so-popular break-neck speed often comes at the price of me (the healer) feeling stressed and having to worry about whether there's even enough time to loot before the tank charges off into the next room. So now my favourite instances have become the ones that simply don't allow for manic chain-pulling, either because of their overall setup (Trial of the Champion) or because the trash is on a timer, like in Violet Hold or Culling of Stratholme. I sigh with relief every time my random dungeon for the day presents me with the loading screen of one of those instances. Azjol-Nerub would be on that list too, but an overabundance of overconfident tanks has made the first boss in there a massive source of wipes due to careless achievement whoring.

I wonder which WOTLK instances will remain truly memorable and fun to do once the next expansion rolls around.


Strange five-man boss nerfs

While running multiple random heroics per day in the past week, I couldn't help noticing a couple of strange changes to some boss fights.

Ionar in Halls of Lightning only disperses once per fight now, instead of three times.
The Prophet Tharon'ja in Drak'tharon Keep only does his psychadelic "I'll turn you all into skeletons" thing once per fight now, instead of three times.
Grand Magus Telestra in the Nexus only splits once per fight now instead of twice.

I wonder if there have been more changes? These are the ones that I noticed anyway. I neither love nor hate them; more than anything I just find them confusing.

The first two changes were apparently part of a hotfix a few days ago, which immediately poses the question... why? Ionar and Tharon'ja have been among WOTLK's easiest dungeon bosses from the beginning (I'm not sure if I ever managed to wipe on either of them), so I don't understand why what little of interest there was left about their fight mechanics had to be taken away too. The only people that I can see benefitting from this are the manic badge farmers who were always sighing in exasperation about the way the bosses' abilities artificially extended the fight and prevented you from pwning him more quickly. But was that really such an issue?

As far as Telestra goes, looking at various websites they all claim that there's always been only a "possibility" for her to clone herself more than once on heroic, but in all the heroic Nexus runs I did before the latest patch she always split herself twice. I'm pretty sure it wasn't a lack of dps either, as it seemed to be tied to her health (first split at 66%, second split at 33%).

Telestra actually used to be pretty tough back in the day, and the double split certainly played a role in that, so I do consider this a "serious" nerf. However, once again I can only wonder about the reasons behind it, because people go into heroics with better gear than ever, so nothing is nearly as hard as it used to be anyway?

I can't help feeling that Blizzard is currently pushing the "farm everything into oblivion as quickly as possible" mindset a bit too much at the moment.


The tank, my enemy?

Once upon a time tanks and healers had a special relationship. They were both designed to be played in groups and sucked at doing anything on their own. When in groups they also had to take a lot more responsibility for everything going smoothly than the average dps, which could be a considerable burden sometimes. And of course they relied more on each other than on anyone else - if the healer died the tank would soon follow, and if the tank died the healer would soon follow. Having dpsers in the group wasn't irrelevant, but they simply didn't share that special connection.

One day Blizzard decided that healers and tanks shouldn't be quite so tedious to play solo, so they combined healing and spellpower so that healers could smite random mobs slightly faster. They were still mainly healers however, their damage didn't impress anyone and they could still get overwhelmed quite easily, so they continued to prefer not having to do things alone.

Tanks' damage was increased too, but since their reduced damage output had been a tradeoff for being nearly indestructible, they suddenly turned out to be better at killing tough mobs than even the best dps, because now they could withstand any amount of damage while dishing it out at the same time, more or less eliminating the need for assistance from anyone else.

As someone who plays all three roles at level eighty, I find it very striking that the tank is the one who's easiest to play solo and never, ever dies unless I accidentally hurl myself off a cliff. I wonder if this is part of the reason why tanks seem to become more and more uncaring as of late.

I remember a few months ago there was a sort of discussion going on among several bloggers about personality types behind different roles and who had to be the most caring. Many seemed to think that tanking was the role that required you to care the most about the rest of the group. I don't know if that was true then, but it certainly isn't true anymore now. In all the pugs I've run since the LFG change, I've once or twice run into a dps who complained about someone else not being quite as leet as them, but it's always a tank who

- completely refuses to even acknowledge the existence of the other party members. Greetings, questions, requests... he doesn't respond to any of them and might as well have the rest of the group on ignore.

- clicks "ready" on the random dungeon group popup and then drops group the moment he ports into the instance and realises that he didn't get his favourite, leaving four other people stranded. Sometimes he'll actually tank a few trash groups and then disappear without a word (see point one).

- treats the healer like complete garbage, not giving a crap about whether they have mana or are even in the same room. If called out on this, they'll say that they've got it all under control and that's what cooldowns are for. Clearly healers are obsolete and there should be an option to just run with four dps. After all, there's cooldowns!

- has an ego the size of Pangea and likes to wipe the group because he thinks that "I can solo tank this lol". Afterwards it's of course someone else's fault. I used to love heroic Azjol-Nerub for example because it's so quick, but since the introduction of the new dungeon finder I can never do it without at least one wipe on the first boss, as the tank will always go "I want achi, I just tank em all, kk", ignoring any warnings about things not being quite that easy. Only after a certain amount of wipes will he sigh and consent to do it the normal way because clearly everyone else in the group is made of fail.

I've been taking some notes about my pugs lately, and it's almost always dpsers these days who leave a positive impression. I guess that ten-minute wait in the queue is just enough to make them care at least a little about the people they run with (and whom they had to wait for).

Tanks on the other hand? They can solo better than anyone else, they are more desired for groups than anyone else, why should they give a crap about what anyone else thinks? They, more than anyone else, are given the feeling that everyone else is just there to make things a little more convenient for them, but that they could do it all on their own if they wanted to.

I have currently stopped tanking five-mans on my paladin and druid because even just being associated with this current "generation" of tanks is too embarrassing for me to bear. In pugs I spend most of the time healing, always keeping a wary eye on the tank to mentally prepare myself for the next act of dickishness that I'll have to endure to just get to the end of the instance. What happened to tanks and healers being friends?


The continuing conundrum of frozen orbs

Whether to need or greed on frozen orbs at the end of a cross-server instance run was a question that already came up in my very first post about the new system, and one that was also commented on in other places. I believe that WoW.com had an article about it too, but I can't be arsed to find it right now since their search engine sucks. Overall I got the impression that people explained different rolls away as the result of different server rules and that many were of the opinion that eventually, everybody would just settle on needing.

Over a week later, this is so not what's been happening in my battlegroup (Cyclone EU).

First off, I really can't fight the feeling that the argument about different server rules simply doesn't apply, or at least not on Cyclone. I've mostly been running with people from the same couple of servers, and there's been no rhyme or reason to their rolls. Sometimes I'd have multiple people from the same server in my party and they'd all roll differently. So how do you explain that?

I sort of already mentioned this in my previous post, but my theory is that it used to be "all greed" on all servers, but that some people started rolling need under the new system out of a mixture of fear and greed. You can't trust those strangers from the other servers, they'll surely try to ninja the orb so you better roll need to get ahead of them! Except that if they all end up rolling greed as usual, you are the one who'll end up looking like a ninja. Oops.

If this is indeed people's way of thinking, for everyone to switch to need-rolling, everyone would have to be sufficiently scared and greedy. This doesn't seem to be the case however; most people still roll greed simply out of habit and because they don't seem to be that bothered about what others do. I've had runs where a single person blatantly ninjaed the orb and still nobody even batted an eyelash. With the current frequency of pug runs the damn things are practically raining from the sky anyway, so who cares?

I have to admit that I'm still a greeder myself, and in a fair number of runs it works too - the ever growing pile of orbs in my bank is a testament to that. Just before rolling I tend to throw a quick look at what others have rolled and if I see nothing but needs I'll roll need too... but this is rare. I'm not very thorough either; sometimes I look at the rolls, see a greed, hit greed as well, and then it turns out that the other three people needed. Still, I just shrug at situations like that and continue to roll greed because I really don't care that much about winning, and needing on a fairly common BoE crafting item simply doesn't feel right.

I just find the whole thing damn fascinating.


You say goodbye and I say hello

This blog's focus was meant to be on instances right from the beginning since they are one of my favourite activities in the game, but since the introduction of the new dungeon finder I just can't stop writing about them. The amount of amusing and confusing pug experiences just never ends.

Today I got to experience first-hand just how ridiculously easy it is to swap people in and out with the new system - over and over again. It's both good and bad: I mean, obviously it's nice when someone just disconnected, you queue up to get a replacement and it appears instantly. On the other hand people's patience with mistakes or accidents of any kind has clearly reached an all-time low. It's a sad irony that the ones with the "The Patient" title are usually the worst offenders. Then again, if you get a new title that requires you to pug with fifty different people only a few days after it beomes available, you're very obviously everything but patient. But I digress.

After being without internet for nearly two weeks and thereby missing the 3.3 launch, my boyfriend was very keen on finally trying out some of the new content. He said that he wanted to see the new heroics on his rogue first, so I invited him to a party with my hunter and introduced him to the awesomeness that is the new LFG tool. After about fifteen minutes of waiting we got a group for heroic Forge of Souls, which isn't too bad as far as wait time for double dps goes I guess.

FoS being the easiest of the new heroics, we made it through that one without any trouble. About the worst thing that happened was that the warlock complained about people not having dpsed the corrupted soul fragments on Bronjahm fast enough (after the fact of course, until then not a single word about strategy - or anything at all - had been said). We finished quickly, thanked each other for a smooth run, and the group disbanded except for my boyfriend and me.

We continued through the portal into the Pit of Saron, queued up to fill our little party again for the next instance and had a full group within a minute. Things were going well enough up until Krick and Ick, then the healing priest told us to hurry up because he'd have a raid soon, so the death knight tank quickly pulled the next trash pack (you know the ones, the nasty ones with the fireballs and ewww). We wiped, the priest left the group. Surprise, surprise.

While we were corpse-running I put us into the queue for a healer replacement. The next instant the shaman who had healed us through Forge of Souls earlier joins the party.

"Hello again! :)" I greet him.

Shaman has left the group.

Rrright. Either I'm a lot scarier than I ever thought, or seeing dead people was simply way too terrifying for the shaman. Maybe he thought being dead was contagious or something. We had just got back into the instance when a holy paladin joined us to fill the once again vacated healer slot. We had another wipe on the annoying trash, after which point the tank instructed me to always pull with a freezing arrow and keep one of the casters trapped. I swear I haven't felt this useful since Burning Crusade; it was bittersweet. After that we cleared the rest of the instance without problems.

Several people in the party wanted to continue and it would have been nice for sure, but my hunter was already saved for heroic Halls of Reflection, so my boyfriend and I said our goodbyes, I logged on my druid to heal and we tried to form a new party for the instance instead.

After another ten-minute wait we were good to go with a paladin tank, a death knight and a warlock. The paladin's gear was pretty good and we downed the first boss without any wipes, which was encouraging. During one of the early waves preceding the second boss however, I end up standing too close to a footman, get shield-bashed while casting a regrowth and we wipe because I'm locked out of all my resto spells.

I explain this to the group as we run back and someone "lol"s, which I guess is better than expressing anger and frustration, so we get ready to try again. We start the event again, but the warlock just stands there in the middle of the room instead of joining the rest of the group. The tank makes an effort to save him but as it turns out he's been disconnected. We fight valiantly but eventually get overwhelmed due to lack of dps.

We boot the warlock and get a mage instead. We try again, but this time the paladin simply fails completely at picking up the mobs during one of the later waves, they all pile on me and I die instantly. She then leaves the group without another word - why, cause it's our fault when I get mugged by untanked mobs?

We get in line for another tank and get joined by a death knight of the silent variety who doesn't respond to our greetings. Still, he gets into position to start tanking the event so all seems good. The first wave of trash spawns and shiiit, what is this, why is my screen freezing up... "You have been disconnected from the server." I log back in right away but already the tank and the mage have dropped from the group. "Stupid DCs," I mutter. "We noticed :D," responds the death knight.

We use the dungeon finder to once again find a new tank and one more dps. A hunter joins as well as a tauren warrior called "Aggrobot". My boyfriend and I barely have time to consider the originality of that name (just between the two of us, not in chat or anything) when Aggrobot leaves again. Why? Who knows? This time it's not like we even had time to say or do anything at all to scare him off, and we were all alive.

The next tank follows soon afterwards, another tauren warrior with a less ridiculous name. He, too, is of the silent variety and decides to completely ignore our greetings. As it turns out he tanks reasonably well though, and while we end up facing Marwyn with one dps down, we finally do get to face him and I'm already sighing a sigh of relief when suddenly, the tank goes splat before I can even blink. What the hell? According to the log he got debuffed with corrupted flesh, which I was pretty sure wasn't supposed to go on the tank like, ever, and then got two-shotted. Good times. Unsurprisingly the warrior leaves the party, still without having said a single word.

We queue up for a new tank yet again. This time nothing happens for several minutes, except that we get spammed with messages informing us that someone has declined the group invite and we're being returned to the front of the queue. Is our bad reputation spreading already? My boyfriend suggested that they kept offering the slot to the same tank, who didn't want to join a run where the first boss had already been downed. The death knight started to giggle insanely, and the hunter expressed a burning determination to finish no matter what. "I didn't get saved to this for nothing!"

Finally... an undead warrior joins us. He, too, is of the completely silent variety who doesn't even return greetings. However, he turns out to be one hell of a tank, picks up all the mobs with ease and then keeps them, and we manage to down Marwyn without anyone dying. Orca Hunter's Harpoon drops, much to the delight of the hunter. At this point I was glad that someone got something out of this run, as I was starting to feel increasingly embarrassed about the whole affair, as if it was all my fault.

I was hoping that we'd be able to one-shot the escape from the Lich King after all that, but ended up wiping on the fourth wall (Is anyone else ever overcome by an urge to make jokes about breaking the fourth wall whenever that comes up?) because the dps overlooked a caster at the back and was wondering why the wall didn't come down.

I fully expected the tank to drop out at that point, but he stayed and actually spoke, telling the dps to ramp it up a bit! Oh. My. Gawd. Let's just say that we finished smoothly after that and it felt exhilarating.

Thank you, undead warrior tank, for being the guy who made it happen in the end.

Thank you, dps death knight, for being the one guy who stuck with us throughout this whole adventure and for shrugging off all the wipes with a sense of humour.

Thank you, hunter, for also being determined to stay until the end.

Throughout these three runs we ended up being grouped with no less than sixteen different people, seven of which were tanks. That's nearly a third towards "The Patient" as it is, though I think it only counts the people with whom you actually finish the instance for the achievement. Anyway, screw you people who have "The Patient" after two days and drop out of any party as soon as the slightest thing goes wrong. You clearly have no idea what patience is anyway.

Disclaimer: I might have missed a wipe or two somewhere and I'm not entirely sure I got the order of tanks completely right either. Apologies in either case, after the fifth tank it all got a bit fuzzy.


A tale of two non-heroic pugs

So we've all been talking a lot about how the dungeon finder allows people to chain heroics by the dozen, but how well does it work for low-level dungeons? In the first few days after the patch my shaman alt got a little neglected since I was focusing on getting some new shinies for my eighties instead, but when I logged onto her again yesterday I was pleasantly surprised to see that she was already eligible to run a random normal dungeon for two emblems of triumph - and that at level 72! For some reason I had assumed that the random normal dungeon feature would be like the old daily quest for normal dungeons: only for characters that are level 78 and up. But no! At this rate my shaman will hit eighty and be able to buy some tier nine the moment she dings.

Anyway, the first time I queued myself up as a healer I was baffled when I got a group pop-up literally instantly. I got dumped into an Azjol-Nerub run that was tanked by a level eighty death knight who, frankly, didn't give a shit about whether he had a healer or not. When I discovered to my horror that I was still in my enhancement spec and said as much, he just said that it didn't matter. Sadly he was right and I healed through the first couple of trash packs just fine anyway, until I managed to snag a couple of seconds out of combat to change specs.

On the trash pack before Anub'arak both of the mobs decided to cast their debuff on me at once, I exploded big time as I tried to heal myself and died. As I ankhed and sat down to drink up, the tank decided to rush the boss, thereby locking me out of the fight. Well done. I got killed as the adds came in and so did the slightly confused retri pally, but really, we were clearly dead weight anyway. The 80 death knight just pwned Anub and his adds without even breaking a sweat, grabbed the loot and disappeared while the pally and I ran back to our corpses. I wasn't too annoyed because I had still got credit for the kill and had received my first two emblems, but well, as far as fun pugs go, that one was an utter failure.

Today I decided to try again. This time I had a wait of a couple of minutes, during which I went off to do the Shattrath fishing daily, until a pop-up invited me to join an Utgarde Keep run already in progress.

As it turned out the group was about halfway to the second boss but I didn't really mind as Utgarde Keep has a bit much trash for WOTLK standards anyway. The question was just what had happened to their previous healer, but I decided not to ask. When I reached the rest of the party I was initially a little worried upon discovering that the druid tank had only slightly more health than me, even when in bear form, but as it turned out that wasn't a major problem. I think it's important to keep things in perspective: when you're used to running heroics with tanks who have 50k health, seeing a tank with only 11k will initially make you uneasy, but back in BC that would have been enough to start running Karazhan - and since Utgarde Keep is a level seventy instance, that's pretty much exactly what it's tuned for.

Other members in the group included a retri pally who loved to pull aggro and spam damage metres, a shadow priest and... I can't actually recall what the third dps was, how lame is that? Anyway, this run actually turned out to be a blast and reminded me of what I miss while just "farming" instances at eighty: the sense of adventure. I mean, I knew the instance and I think most of the others did as well, but it was obvious that a lot of them were new to their current role and having fun figuring out how it works. As it was I couldn't even begrudge the retri pally his aggro pulling and damage metre spam, because he was clearly excited about being able to do damage omg! There's something cute about that.

Our tank, Mr Bear, was the cutest of all however. He was clearly new to this whole tanking lark and took a lot of damage, but he tried. He messed up a few pulls and lost aggro on mobs more than once, but damn it, he tried. He kindly asked the dps to not start too early, taunted things occasionally, and after the last boss he said "maybe I'll be a tank one day". Awww! I told him that he'd been doing fine and that he should just keep practising. You can't encourage enthusiastic and humble newbie players nearly enough.

As for myself, I also had a blast healing. Since the tank was pretty squishy, just putting an earth shield and riptide on him didn't really cut it, so I often had to cast lesser and normal healing waves as well, chain heal if the pally stood on a bomb too and so on. Now that I've made it all the way down the resto tree I'm actually having a lot of fun trying to optimise my use of tidal waves. It's kind of like a priest's serendipity (in fact I believe that the priest talent was modelled after the shaman one), only more complex. It encourages you to use a sort of rotation on occasion without making it so repetitive that you could macro the whole thing.

Also, I came to the conclusion that shamans are the perfect healers for newbie tanks. I mean, when my priest or druid gets aggro I always have to spam heals on myself big time and still risk dying very quickly. Whenever my shaman got aggro on the other hand, I kind of pictured her standing there with her shield over her head, just waiting patiently and hoping that the tank would notice the problem within the next decade. Paladins are sturdy like that too, but since they have no HoTs and little AoE healing, getting interrupted by an add on themselves is quite annoying. A shaman can just cast a chain heal or let earth shield and riptide keep the tank alive in the meantime, taking that beating with unsurpassed stoicism. Go shamans!

I'll have to try getting into a low-level instance on one of my littlest alts soon just to see how well that works.


Naxxramas the theme park

Tamarind generously offered to give people some interesting subjects to write about a few days ago, and upon expressing interest in participating, I got tagged with something particularly bizarre:

I’m a goblin real estate investor (no, really I am) and I’m looking at the current raid dungeons, possibly with a view to turning one of them into the ultimate holiday destination or, perhaps, even a theme park. Which do you think would be my best bet, I’m willing to renovate as necessary…

Subsequently I gave this much more thought than any sane person should and came to the conclusion that no raid would really cut it "just" as a holiday destination, but I could see one being turned into a theme park. After considering all the WOTLK raids as potential candidates, I came to the conclusion that your best bet would be... Naxxramas!

I still remember the time I was standing in Noth's room with someone and we were contemplating who had done the interior decorating, what with all these curtains that were kinda shaped like skulls. It's all kind of borderline silly more than scary, which means that you won't actually have to do much redecorating to turn the place into something akin to one of those haunted house things at fun fairs - only better of course.

While thinking about it some more (oh god I can't stop now) it even ocurred to me that you could keep most of the bosses as well if you only pacified them a little - they'd make for some great fun events.

You start off in the spider wing by riding a big bug in circles, woo! Next you get to watch Faerlina and the Worshippers perform on stage, before having some fun with a big spider that hurls you around the room. Look Mum, I can fly! And now I'm glued to the wall...

In the plague wing, Noth doesn't really make for great entertainment even when you fight him, but he could probably sell drinks or work as a host. "Rise my customers, rise and ride once more!" Heigan is a no-brainer: fun in the dance studio! And Loatheb offers some entertainment for the little ones as they bounce his spores around and make them explode.

The construct quarter offers plenty of big and fluffy abominations to run around and cuddle the customers. Hey, it works for Disney World, right? If you survive a hug from Patchwerk, you get a free slime lollipop. The fun game of Frogger doesn't even need any adjustments. Grobbulus offers a misty maze of green poison clouds to navigate through... can you make it to the end before you choke? Gluth would be the equivalent of a petting zoo, and Thaddius offers a challenging game of follow-the-lights, if you pick the wrong side you'll be punished by being hit with a slight electric charge. Not enough to kill anyone though, if they made it this far they deserve a bit of a break.

The military wing offers you a chance to practice sword training with Instructor Razuvious, or put your charisma to the test by trying to convince one of his understudies to pinch his butt so you can watch them get slapped around. Gothic the Harvester offers an impressive light show, and the Four Horsemen display their horsemanship by hurling meteors around from horseback and leaping over funny circles on the floor.

I'm a bit unsure about what to do with the frostwyrm lair... a big boney dragon is freaking cool, but what do you do with it? Maybe you could just have Sapphiron fall to pieces and reassemble himself continuously, everyone always seemed to agree that that was the best part of the fight.

And finally, old KT offers a grand show that reminds you once again of all the best parts of the raidpark, huggable abominations, funny bugs and funky circles on the floor all at once! Enjoy it before he frost blasts you into oblivion.


Three things that I don't like about the dungeon finder

My first impressions of the new LFG tool were very positive overall and I'm continuing to have a blast with it most of the time, however - I've also noticed some aspects of this new feature that I don't like, or rather certain effects that it's had.

1. Off-spec? What's that?

This isn't something that has affected me personally (yet), but it was brought up in this post on Hots & Dots and it's been on my mind as well after dealing with the new pug loot rules for a few days.

On my server it used to be that greed was the option people selected if they wanted something for their off-spec, and if they didn't intend to or couldn't use an item at all, they just passed for the enchanter to pick it up. Only if it was established early on that there was no enchanter in the group to shard whatever got left on the corpse, people would greed for vendoring, and if you wanted something for your off-spec then, you could ask to roll need on it instead.

With the new system passing has become a thing of the past - if you want something to be disenchanted, you click the disenchant option, and if there's no disenchanter in the group you'll know because greed is the only thing that works anyway. Where has this left people who want to roll for something for their off-spec? They can hit greed and have a one in five chance of actually getting the item - which shouldn't be that bad, considering that you can still trade items afterwards now, but if there's an enchanter in the group and everybody else selected disenchant, there's a high chance that the item will be sharded before anyone even has a chance to have second thoughts about maybe trading the item to the off-spec needer. You can also hit need - but only if it's the right armour type. If you're, say, a paladin interested in a piece of healing mail, you're simply screwed, even if nobody else in the party wants it, because need before greed won't let you roll on gear below your highest armour level.

Obviously the system is lacking in that regard, but I'm not sure what would be a good solution. A separate "off-spec" option that isn't restricted by armour type? With four different ways of rolling the whole thing would start to become slightly complicated though.

2. Talk to me!

I'm usually not a massive chatterbox in game, but frankly the quietness of some of the pugs I've had has been bordering on freaky. Is it that much to ask that you greet your fellow group members upon joining? Thank them for a smooth run afterwards if it was one? With some of the pugs I've had I might as well have been playing with a bunch of bots for how quiet they were. I can't blame them for not having anything technical to discuss when everything is automated anyway, but would just a little bit of friendly chat hurt that much?

It's got to the point where I desperately latch onto anyone who offers even just a little bit of conversation in my pugs. Like the warlock in heroic ToTC who complained that the new cloak he just won was ugly. "Really? I guess it's kind of orange-y. Tell me more!"

3. Remember, the other group members are people too, and strangers at that.

This is kind of related to point two, in that the new system is just that convenient that some people seem to forget that there are other human beings playing with them, not bots created for their entertainment. With the way things used to be and everything being a lot more work, people were forced to communicate at least to a certain extent. Who goes to the summoning stone? Do we have a disenchanter? Does everyone know the tactics for this boss?

When you don't have to interact with people beforehand at all, many don't feel inspired to do so later either, sometimes with quite painful results. In other words, I have yet to join a pug where anyone was way undergeared or clueless, but I've had several wipes and unpleasant experiences due to people acting like arrogant pricks and not giving a toss that the other people in the party weren't able to read their minds and might have been used to doing things a different way.

Like the other night I was healing a heroic HoL pug and we had a tank from some top raid guild with more hitpoints than I've ever seen. We were advancing a bit on the rush-rush-rushy end but smoothly. Then we got to that last room before Loken, with the relatively densly packed trash groups and patrols. Now it's pretty standard that you don't clear the whole room, but this tank was somehow trying to go about it killing as little as possible, even weaving past the patrols, and that at top speed. I've never seen anyone do it like that before because it's a pretty unnecessary risk just to save a few seconds killing that extra trash pack, and apparently nobody else in the party was used to going about it like that either - promptly we accidentally aggroed a patrol after all, then someone took one step backwards into an extra group and we wiped.

What happened next? The tank started to spout abouse about how people were clearly too stupid to avoid the mobs while we all ran back. We finished the run alright after that, but I couldn't help thinking: Was that really necessary? It would have saved us all a repair bill and some unpleasantness if the tank had just taken those extra couple of seconds to be more considerate of the rest of the party, but I guess that's the kind of attitudes you get when everything is set up for automated "emblem farming" for the individual.

Don't get me wrong, I still love the new dungeon finder, but clearly the added conveniences are not without a price.


First impressions of the new five-mans

One of my guild's mages poked me tonight because he wanted me to help out in Halls of Reflection, and was horrified to find out that apparently I was the only person on the server who hadn't done any of the new five-mans yet (and thus wasn't attuned to HoR). Taking pity on me, he logged on his death knight tank soon afterwards to take me on a tour of the new instances. Since we were also feeling confident, we decided to go for heroic mode straight away.

In the end our group consisted of me on my priest, a feral druid main, death knight alt (who is quite well-geared), a pretty well-geared warlock alt and our main tank's crappy mage alt. And I do mean crappy, he's still in his levelling greens for the most part. Funnily enough, before we managed to rope the feral druid in, we wanted to pug a dps using the dungeon finder, but it wouldn't let us queue for heroic Forge of Souls because mage alt's gear was too crappy. Fear not, puggers, Blizzard won't inflict fools like us on any pug. Well, I thought it was kind of amusing anyway (if also sensible). Still, nothing prevented us from attempting heroic mode on our own.

Just to be clear, the following contains spoilers.

The Forge of Souls

My main impression of the Forge of Souls was that it's vast and kind of empty. The first boss, Bronjahm, wasn't particularly memorable to me either. Still, as a healer I had no reason to complain, as there was enough random damage going around to keep me busy. It was also enough damage to kill mage alt a few times on trash, as his health was very low even with buffs.

The second boss, Devourer of Souls, was pretty cool and a nice flashback to Black Temple's Reliquary of Souls. He also has an interesting ability called mirrored soul, which causes damage that he takes to be transferred to the party member he targetted, so if your dps isn't on the ball they might just end up nuking their own allies. Death knight tank tried to explain the boss's abilities as best as he could, but forgot to mention the evil death ray coming from the feminine face at certain intervals (called wailing souls), so I promptly got caught by that, died and we wiped.

While the rest of the party ran back, I spent the next ten minutes circling Icecrown Citadel on my ghostly gryphon, trying to find the instance entrance again. The warlock eventually took pity on me and came back out to guide me inside. On our next attempt we beat the Devourer of Souls without too much trouble, though two people still managed to get caught by the death ray (just not me this time).

Pit of Saron

We continued to the Pit of Saron (What kind of name is that anyway?), which turned out to be a big quarry outside. A sizeable group of Horde NPCs joined us there and promptly got wiped out, just to be raised as undead right after. So basically they are admitting that the Argent Tournament was pointless? Since this was exactly the kind of scenario it was supposed to prevent, wasn't it? Just saying.

Next we had to spend some time running around killing trash and freeing Horde slaves, and I seriously cracked up when one of freed slaves responded to my help with: "Have my babies." The Horde knows its weird slang, yo.

The first boss, Forgemaster Garfrost, was kind of annoying. He does some mildly damaging AoE all the time, and some big AoE every now and then that you are supposed to avoid by line-of-sighting him by hiding behind a lump of saronite. Which is all well and good, but in practice my party also ended up line-of-sighting each other a lot of the time, making it hard for me to keep everyone alive. While we one-shot him, it wasn't without deaths.

The Ick and Krick encounter was fun, but I'm starting to suspect that all boss fights that involve a gnome are simply automatically made of win. And I don't even like gnomes.

Afterwards we managed to wipe on some trash consisting almost exclusively of vyrkul casters who spammed mad fireballs and diseases. I reckon that using crowd control is prudent here.

The gauntlet leading up to Scourgelord Tyrannus wasn't too tough, though the boss himself certainly was. We ended up wiping due to me being unable to keep up with the incoming damage, though while talking about it afterwards it turned out that he too has a damage-redirecting ability, which essentially caused our dps to nuke our own tank. Once people knew to avoid that on the next attempt, the damage became much more manageable.

Then Horde NPCs came and cheered. Yay! Except then Sylvanas suddenly ported us away and everyone else got pwned. Sigh.

Halls of Reflection

We continued to Halls of Reflection, the last of the new five-mans. Sylvanas made a long speech and stuff happened with Frostmourne, which I might have enjoyed more if our death knight hadn't chattered away on Vent the whole time, saying how this was all really cool the first time but was bound to get tedious after so many runs. I pointedly reminded him that for some of us it was the first time and that I was trying to enjoy the show, thank you.

What followed next was probably the longest "boss fight" I've ever seen in a five-man. Five waves of annoying trash, one tank-and-spank boss, a brief pause to loot, then another five waves of trash and another tank-and-spank. It doesn't sound that bad on paper and I didn't actually time it, but I know that I used my shadowfiend twice and got innervated by the feral druid about four times, so in healer minutes the fight lasted a veeery long time. The rogue trash mobs were particularly nasty as they were fond of shadow-stepping behind a clothie. Unsurprisingly mage alt got one-shot more than once. Still, we managed to complete the event without wiping.

Afterwards we swiftly continued to the end of the hall, where Sylvanas was fighting Arthas, our feral druid charged him and was promptly one-shot. We laughed.

Next followed the infamous retreat to the airship, and damn it was intense. Basically you run along a relatively narrow ledge, and Arthas keeps erecting walls in front of you while slowly following you and sending undead armies to annoy you. Sylvanas gets the easy job of shooting at the walls while your party has to defend themselves against the undead. (I would have loved to trade places.)

There are four walls in total: The first one is easy to bring down, the second one a bit tougher but not too bad either, by the third one you'll start to sweat and if you make it to the fourth wall you'll likely be flailing and screaming by that point. Which is actually pretty cool if you think about it, I haven't had such an intense heroic experience in a while.

We had several wipes at the third and fourth wall respectively, but got better with each attempt as we adjusted our strategy. For example we found it wise to kill the casters before the abominations, since they put a lot of pressure on the healer with their shadow bolt volley spam. Getting wiped out by Arthas had a certain kind of amusement value as well, as he doesn't actually attack anyone in your party. He just walks up to Sylvanas, one-shots her, then looks at you lazily and wipes you by casting some mega spell with Frostmourne. You have to admit that it's got a certain amount of style.

Anyway, after five attempts or so we were squeezing ourselves against the fourth wall while desperately whittling down the health of the last abominations, Arthas' icy breath coming down our necks already... but just before he could kill Sylvanas we got the wall down and could make a run for it. And boy, I haven't run away from something in WoW with that much enthusiasm in a while.

Overall rating

I enjoyed all three of the instances, though the Forge of Souls was a little dull compared to the other two. I can see all of them becoming very popular however, as they allow you to participate in a nice little story and that's always fun. There's a reason Escape from Durnhole was the most popular BC dungeon by about a mile.

Difficulty-wise they are also quite tough and actually reminded me of BC heroics a bit. Halls of Reflection was definitely the most difficult one - and as much as I enjoy the new LFG tool, I don't think I'd want to pug that one on heroic just yet (though it's probably easier when you don't have to carry one dpser in greens).


Using the new dungeon finder, day 1

I kind of feel like I'm copying Spinks here since she made a post very much like this only a few hours ago, but to be honest I intended to write something like this long before I saw her entry - and I hope that many more people will do the same, because I'm very keen on hearing what experiences other people are having with the new dungeon finder.

First off, you can shake your head at people who take the day off work when cool new content is released on WoW just to be able to play more, but today I really wished that I could have been one of them. As it was, I was on afternoon shift at my workplace, which meant that I had just enough time to patch the game and see the servers come up before I had to leave for work, and that I didn't get a chance to actually log in until very late in the evening.

I knew that I'd want to turn my attention towards one of the new instance-related features first, so it was either pugging a random dungeon using the new dungeon finder or trying to get into one of the new Icecrown five-mans with some guildies. Seeing how I had found some unpleasant guild drama on the forums immediately upon logging in, I ended up preferring some distance from my guildies for the night and tried my luck with the pugs.

Random heroic #1: Azjol-Nerub on my priest

I started off by adding myself to the random heroic queue on my main, a healing priest. I got a "Your group is ready!" popup literally instantly, then got a loading screen for what I recognised as Azjol-Nerub, then found myself in a party but back in Dalaran. The name tags quickly made it apparent that it was indeed a cross-server pug and that we could chat just fine, but we were confused by the instance teleport apparently not working. Our tank then dropped group so we got thrown back into the queue, but found a new one within only a couple of minutes.

Someone in the group suggested that the tool was likely just buggy and that we should try making our way to the instance portal the old-fashioned way, as we should be able to meet up inside. I was the first to arrive at the Pit of Narjun but the instance portal acted like a solid wall to me. To make things worse I had accidentally got myself flagged myself for PvP by getting too close to Wintergrasp on the way, and before I could even grasp what was happening, a night elf druid had ganked my bewildered self as I was vainly trying to gain entrance to the instance.

While corpse-running back I realised that I had actually been greeted by an unpleasantly familiar error message: "Additional instances cannot be launched, please try again later." Argh, I thought we were past this! However, my party decided to valiantly try banging their heads against the instance portal for a few more minutes and eventually managed to snag a free instance ID. An interesting thing to note was that I could see their little dots right beside me on the mini-map, even though they were on a different server; I thought that was kind of cool.

I clearly wasn't the only one having ganking problems, as one hunter stumbled in and managed to die from an enemy dot a second later and right in front of me, which we both thought was kind of hilarious. At this point we had four people in the instance, but the fifth group member, a retribution paladin, was still sitting in Dalaran and apparently AFK, since he wasn't responding to chat and hadn't in fact said anything at all since the party got assembled. So we immediately got to try out the vote-kick feature as well, which worked nicely and we got a new dps from the queue instantly.

Happy to finally be ready to go, we proceeded to have a very fast and smooth run. Someone in the group must have been a disenchanter as the disenchant option came up and we got to try it. About half the group still selected greed though, more out of habit than anything else I suspect. I was also surprised to see the disenchant option pop up for bind-on-equip greens as well, I guess I can save my boyfriend's enchanter alt some work in the future then.

A guildie had warned me earlier that I should need on the frozen orb at the end because the other puggers were sure to do the same. Not wanting to be so cynical I hit greed, as did three of the others... but the fifth hit need and that was enough. Considering the low value of frozen orbs these days and the fact that it had been a nice run otherwise I decided not to say anything about it though.

Random heroic #2: The Nexus on my hunter

I decided to try my luck on my hunter next. Unsurprisingly damage ended up being a lot less in demand than healing, and despite of the tool's predicted wait time of two minutes, I spent a good ten minutes in the queue before a full group for heroic Ahn'kahet popped up. Still not too bad when you're a huntard I guess.

We ended up having the same problem with getting an instance ID, but I happily told my party that it shouldn't be a big deal if we just went to Dragonblight and poked the instance portal a bit, however I got no response. I still flew to the Pit of Narjun on my own and managed to get inside Old Kingdom after only a few attempts. Proudly I told my party that I had managed to snag an ID and if they'd only come over now... at which point several people went "meh" because clearly actually flying to an instance is too much fucking work, and quit the group. The remaining ones disconnected simultaneously, making it impossible for me to add new people to the group in the meantime (cause the tool wouldn't let me), and then disbanded the party as soon as they came back on without saying a word. I felt very sheepish as I stood there all alone on the ramp right behind the instance entrance.

When I complained about these events to my guildies, a couple of them helpfully pointed out to me that there had been no need to walk to the instance myself, as you can just click on the little eye icon next to the minimap and select "teleport to the instance". D'oh, if I had only been able to tell that to the other guys earlier... then again, I can pass on grouping with people that uncooperative and lazy anyway.

Nonetheless I was undeterred and hopped back into the queue. After another five minutes or so another group had been assembled for me, this time for the Nexus. Again we couldn't get an instance ID right away, but spamming the "teleport to the instance" command got us there after a few minutes.

Everyone was there and ready and we set off towards the dwarf mini boss. The resto shaman kept running ahead and pulling in place of the tank (What is it with the Nexus and annoying healers doing that?), complaining that we were going way too slowly. One of the dps responded with "quit your whinging", at which point the shaman decided that he didn't want to deal with "such attitude" and quit the group right in the middle of the boss fight. Fortunately we lived, and upon rejoining the LFG tool we got a priest healer as replacement immediately.

We plodded on happily, but only a few pulls later our mage messed up and brought some adds, causing us to wipe. In the Nexus, yeah. Still, it didn't have to be a big deal, but the mage "mystery-DCed" right afterwards, and the tank said that he had seen him log off on purpose outside the instance entrance (they must have been on the same server). So before I could even type out my suggestion to give the guy a minute or two to come back, the rest of the group had kicked him and got a replacement dps.

The rest of the run continued smoothly, though we didn't have a disenchanter and thus clicking on the "disenchant" option for drops did exactly nothing.

On a side note, I absolutely loved the revamped misdirection, even if the animation for it appearing over my head instead of that of my target confused me at first. Being able to transfer the threat of an entire volley salvo is simply amazing.

After Keristrasza's death we once again had just that one guy who rolled need on the frozen orb, and this time I couldn't resist at least asking about it. As it turned out he was quite apologetic and said that he'd only done it because he thought that's what everyone else would do too. Apparently people are only becoming cross-server ninjas if they are too scared of others ninjaing stuff from them. There was a happy ending though as we just ended up re-rolling for the orb and the priest won it.

Random heroic #3: The Oculus on my paladin

Once I was back in Dalaran, I decided that I had enough time for one more random heroic left, this time on my paladin. I queued up as both tank and healer and once again got a group instantly, though I was surprised that I had been assigned the healer spot. With the constant talk about tank shortages I was pretty sure that I would have to tank.

Once again a new instance couldn't be launched right away, but it didn't take us more than two or three tries to teleport inside. Also, for all the talking there's been about cross-realm LFG making it impossible to meet players repeatedly and to befriend them properly, I was amused to see the AFK pally from AN in my group again. He wasn't AFK this time but still didn't really talk - I think he said one sentence during the entire run, and that was in some nordic language that I didn't understand.

In fact at least three of my four temporary allies were Scandinavian, and happily chattering away in party chat in their native language throughout the whole run. To be honest I thought that was a bit rude - Earthen Ring has a large nordic population as well, but in mixed company it's generally considered polite to speak a lingua franca.

Performance-wise I really couldn't complain much about this group, except that it was maybe in a bit too much of a hurry. I barely had time to loot anything before the tank had once again rushed out of range and into the next group of mobs. The upside of this was that I got both the Experienced Drake Rider and the Make It Count achievements without even intending to. Oh, and nobody rolled need on the frozen orb this time.

The only other thing left to say about this run is that the Oculus really has been nerfed hard. From what I could make out, one of the Scandinavians actually asked if we had accidentally entered on normal mode, because it was just that easy. This was just as we were approaching Mage-Lord Urom, who died before he could even teleport once. Still, up to that point it might have been that we just had really good dps, but the last bit with the drakes had really changed quite noticeably.

The drakes have been scaling with gear for some time now, but as far as I recall that used to mean about a quarter more health for them if you were in top-end epics. Now on the other hand, not a single drake had less than one hundred thousand hit points, and I think the strongest one had nearly twice the "default" value of seventy-five thousand. There also seemed to be considerably fewer whelps around, and everything was just... weaker. I was riding a bronze drake, the one colour that I'm still not entirely comfortable with, and just hitting buttons randomly, yet we never got even close to dying. Also, I was making sure to save my time-stop for Eregos' enrage but it took ages until it actually happened and then we only had that one enrage during the whole fight. I couldn't help thinking of something my friend Scorch predicted when we were discussing what the incoming Oculus nerfs might be: "They removed all the dragons. All of them! You enter the dungeon and there's a mage there with a very big chest. The mage says: I will you give you my big chest, but about twenty minutes after I die, so you have to sit on your hands till then." That seems less and less unrealistic now...

So what's my verdict on the new dungeon finder so far?

Overall I'm happy to say that the quality of the players from the other servers in the battlegroup didn't strike me as any worse than that of Earthen Ring's. The over-sensitive shaman from the Nexus was a bit silly, but then I've had worse than that on ER too. The need-rolling on the frozen orbs and carefree chatter in a language that half the party can't understand struck me as signs of some servers simply having a different pug culture, and we'll see how things will develop in that regard now that we all have to find a common middle ground for the whole battlegroup.

The main advantage of the new tool is simply that it's incredibly fast. Being ported to and back from the instance instantly saves a lot of time (when it works), and things like getting a near-instant replacement for someone who threw a huff or disconnected are simply amazing.

The "additional instances cannot be launched" thing really annoyed me at first, but I have to cut Blizzard some slack. Considering just how many people were likely trying out the new tool they didn't do too badly, and as I said we were always able to snag an ID after a few minutes at the latest.

The few minor downsides I can think of is that not having an actual daily quest to hand in feels a lot less satisfying, plus it makes it impossible to kill two birds with one stone and do both the normal and the heroic daily at once, like you used to be able to on some days. Also, with the daily dungeon being unpredictably random, planning your runs will become harder to an extent. I used to be able to do stuff like run the daily heroic four times in two hours when I knew that it was Azjol-Nerub and thus really quick. When I queue for a random dungeon on the other hand, I might get Trial of the Champion and be done in fifteen minutes, but I might also get Old Kingdom and have to calculate for about an hour of run-time. Still, those seem like small trade-offs for the extreme increase in convenience.


It sucks to be melee

The other day I got a chance to participate in an Utgarde Keep run with my shaman - as melee dps, which was rather surprising considering that she can heal too and healers generally seem to be in higher demand than damage dealers.

As it happens, I was pretty terribad. I ended up at the bottom of the dps metres at the end of the run, caused a wipe by butt-pulling Prince Keleseth while we were still fighting the group of trash mobs in front of him, and consistently failed to drop my totems, which the other shaman in the group rightfully admonished me about.

Now, all of those issues are things that I'm sure could be improved with time and some practice, but to be honest I'm not sure I want to; the run also served as a stark reminder of the fact that I don't enjoy the role of being melee dps. (That's in group situations, mind you - while soloing I don't really care how I kill things, and melee classes generally seem to have the advantage of being less squishy, but in groups... ugh.)

After thinking about it a little, I think my main issue is one of control. When I play a healer or ranged dps, I stand at the back and have an excellent overview of everything that's going on, making it easy to pick out my targets and decide on which abilities to use. When I'm tanking, I'm lacking that, and it can be quite hard to take note of everything that's happening while you're surrounded by a bunch of mobs and half a dozen aoe spells are going off at the same time, but at least I'm in charge: I get to decide when the chaos begins, I determine the kill order, and even if I'm not entirely sure what's happening all the time, as long as I can keep the mobs focused on me, it's all good.

As melee dps, I just feel hopelessly confused and dependent on others all the time. I'm supposed to be at the front, but not at the very front, because I have to let the tank go first. Once he's pulled I have to make sure to quickly close the distance between myself and the mobs, but as soon as I, the tank or the mob itself takes a single step in a random direction I'll get "your target is out of range" messages and have to reposition myself. At the same time I'm of course supposed to keep things like kill order, threat, my dps rotation and nasty melee-range effects like whirlwinds in mind - and that while I'm right in the middle of a big aoe fest and can't make out a damn thing that's happening.

So, remind me: people prefer this over other roles... why exactly?


Alas, poor Outland

Levelling my shaman through Outland in the past weeks left me with one impression above all others, namely that Outland has been hit by the levelling nerfs worse than any other area.

See, I still remember reaching level seventy on my first character: At the time I ran some instances while levelling, but still also had to complete all the quests in Hellfire Peninsula, Zangarmarsh, Terokkar Forest and Nagrand, before I finally dinged seventy about halfway through Blade's Edge. The alts that followed were all a bit faster, hitting the level cap in Nagrand or towards the end of my Terokkar questing. The latter already started to feel borderline wrong, because what's the point of having all these zones to quest in when you don't even need to go through half of them to reach the cap?

Anyway, when my shaman hit sixty-eight and thus officially became ready for Northrend, she had only just finished questing in Hellfire and started on Terokkar, skipping Zangarmarsh entirely. If progression from the old world to Outland worked like that, you'd suddenly find yourself ready to go through the Dark Portal at some point in Ashenvale. It kind of makes you go: "What? Seriously?" My shaman's ding happened during a Mana Tombs run and I immediately started wailing at my party members that I didn't feel ready for Northrend yet, and they poked fun at me in return.

Since then I've ventured to Northrend on occasion to train my professions and to run Utgarde Keep and the Nexus, but since I've quested my way through Howling Fjord and the Borean Tundra about five times this year already, I decided to go back to Nagrand for my shamans early seventies, just for a change of pace. The experience gains and item rewards aren't as good, but since the mobs are all green to me I burn through everything pretty quickly. And I'm even having fun listening to Garrosh mope, knowing how annoying he gets once he stops doing so.

I wonder if this is how vanilla veterans felt when BC made so much of their old endgame obsolete. I never got to see much of vanilla at sixty, but in BC I did everything at seventy and loved every minute of it, so seeing all of that great content become abandoned and obsolete makes me sad.

Then again, I think the problem in this case is that it's not even just the endgame - I don't mind that Netherstorm and Shadowmoon Valley are quiet and that people aren't regularly raiding Tempest Keep anymore. But Nagrand? Nagrand has always been a mid-level zone, yet in BC it was always bustling with activity anyway. These days it's dead quiet except for some lone ranger asking if anyone wants to group for Durn the Hungerer in general chat and being greeted by tumbleweeds, or the occasional zone-wide yell that "Bloodworm" has defeated Mogor because some death knight wanted the achievement.

Alas, poor Outland, I knew you - but it seems that newer players really have no reason to get to know you at all anymore. Who can blame them, if you can be ready to move on to Northrend before you even had time to get properly started on anything in Outland?


Wrath's inconsistency problem

With patch 3.3 coming out soon, I've been spending some time thinking about the things I am and am not looking forward to, and why I still consider WOTLK an inferior expansion to BC. One of the reasons that I've come up with is what I would call Wrath's inconsistency problem.

WoW is a game that is always changing, and that's a good thing - it's an important part of what keeps it interesting. However, I've found that in Wrath, many of the changes that are related to aspects of the game that I like (instances, raiding) have been increasingly... random. That is to say, they don't follow a consistent pattern; instead one patch changes things into a certain direction, then the next one changes them back, then the next one goes into an entirely different direction again. This makes me cranky because it makes me feel unnecessarily jerked around, and as if the developers are treating the live servers like a big beta project, happily trying out new things all the time just to completely discard them again a month later, leaving players in a state of confusion and uncertainty.

Case in point: dungeon and raid emblems

In BC, badges of justice were originally introduced to provide raiders and dungeon runners with a consolation price if the gear they wanted didn't drop even after repated runs of the same instance. At least the badges you gained in the process got you that little bit closer to another new item.

In Wrath, this somehow changed into emblems becoming the main source of upgrades since you can buy entire tier sets with them now, and any useful items that drop from bosses are pretty much just a bonus. With that in mind, Blizzard said that there'd be different tiers of badges for different levels of content, to avoid situations like in BC, where people farmed Karazhan to get gear that was as good as some drops from tier six content. So far, so good.

Except two patches later they decided that actually, people should be farming heroics to get tier nine and even though there'll still be different types of emblems, you'll only see the two newest types drop anywhere and will then have to trade them for lower types. So basically, we're back to the BC system with the one "advantage" that people can't farm for gear that's coming in the next patch in advance (since instances drop the "wrong" type of emblem until then), and the disadvantages of people being left with a whole slew of useless badges every time a new patch hits, the requirement to do a lot of hopping back and forth between different vendors to acquire the right amount of emblems of the right type, and some seriously messed up pricing between tiers (so that for example a pair of ilevel 213 leather boots costs nearly twice as much as an ilevel 226 pair of gloves or belt - that kind of thing leaves me frustrated every time I want to buy something new for one of my alts).

Case in point: tier items

Back in vanilla WoW, all tier items were class- and slot-specific and dropped from raid bosses. In BC this was changed to a tier token system that combined three classes into one token, to avoid getting too many completely useless drops, especially with the reduced size of raids. You can argue about whether this was the perfect system already (I wouldn't say so myself, coming from a raid force that never got enough conqueror tokens), but it was a step up for sure.

They kept this system for the first half of Wrath, then decided that the Crusader's Coliseum would drop tokens that were useable by all classes and for all slots. However, you'd also need emblems to buy your tier, in addition to those tokens. At least for twenty-five-man raids, ten-man raiders got to buy their stuff with tokens only. And the tribute chest for twenty-five-man hard mode would give tokens that were slot-neutral, but limited to three classes again, in the old style. O...kay, sounds slightly complicated, but let's roll with it.

Except that for Icecrown, once again, Blizzard decided that actually they didn't like the changes they made in the last patch all that much, so they are revamping the system once again. I can't recall whether the new tokens are going to be class-specific, slot-specific or both, but they definitely won't be neutral anymore. And you'll have to buy the ten-man version of the item first, and then use that to upgrade to twenty-five-man with your token. What the eff, can't these people make up their minds? Why do I feel like I need a manual for "how to get my new tier" every time a new patch hits? Whatever happened to just killing the boss and going yay?

Case in point: raid difficulty

At the start of WOTLK, Blizzard said that they wanted to make raiding more accessible, but that it would still increase in difficulty later on. Fine by me. Naxxramas was very easy, Ulduar was harder, plus it had some super hard modes for the hardcore.

Then along comes the Crusader's Coliseum, a huge step backwards from normal-mode Ulduar, and with a separate lockout for doing all the fights in hard mode. Okaaay, if that's the way they want to go...? But no, there comes Icecrown, where the multiple lockouts idea has once again been scrapped and you can instead toggle hard modes on and off on the interface for individual bosses.

This kind of thing just makes me want to tear my hair out. Every time they change the way these things work, raiding guilds everywhere have to start discussing anew how and when they should work on each difficulty. Is that really necessary? Could nobody figure out in advance that offering the same raid in four different difficulties wouldn't be that great an idea? Did they have to use us as lemmingsguinea pigs first to measure just how burnt out and bored people would get?

Cataclysm is supposed to change a lot yet again, both in terms of game mechanics and in terms of the environment. I'm still curious and hopefully optimistic about those changes, but I really hope that the developers will make a plan and stick to it this time instead of completely changing direction again as soon as patch 4.1 hits - I'm getting really tired of this constant back and forth.


Five years of WoW, three years of WoW for me

Calli of Pew pew lazers! made a post reminiscing about five years of WoW yesterday, which in turn inspired me to go and remind myself of just how long I've been playing the game myself. As it turns out I completely missed my three-year anniversary a little over a month ago. Three years... that doesn't make me part of the "I've been playing since beta" elite, but it's still a fair chunk of time. Time sure flies when you're having fun!

As I said in my very first post, I made this blog because I didn't want to clog up my personal journal with too much WoW talk, but when I first started playing I did make a few posts about it on my private blog. Looking back at those entries three years later is quite interesting I have to say.

Let's take a look at my thoughts about WoW on the day I installed it, the 20th of October 2006:

[After talking a bit about The Sims 2:] I also got a completely different computer game in the post today: World of Warcraft. I know I said I wouldn't, but those were just the last fragments of denial from someone who was just too curious to resist the temptation any longer. Especially after I talked to mechanichamster [the first ever friend that I made online], who's been playing for a while and assured me that it was all good fun.

Would you believe that the thing that inspired me to buy WoW back then was Warhammer Online, which hadn't even been released yet? Basically my boyfriend at the time was into Warhammer tabletop gaming and while that wasn't exactly my cup of tea, he managed to get me interested in the universe behind it. Reading up on it online I ended up finding Warhammer Online's "under development" site, which then in turn got me really curious about the concept of fantasy MMORPGs. But Warhammer wasn't out yet, so which other games were there like it? The answer I found is obvious.

Unfortunately he wasn't around today to give me any guidance, so I just started by creating a Human Paladin on a German server and ventured out on my own.

I started on a German server because being Austrian I only got access to the German version of the game by default, and it just seemed the natural way to go. I switched to an English server only a few days later though, where a Swedish friend and aforementioned mechanichamster rerolled night elves with me.

My choice of starting out as a female human seems a bit strange to me these days, as I've become a staunch supporter of the idea that I'm already a human in real life, why would I want to play one in a fantasy game too? I think it can be explained though: At the time I didn't really know what to expect from the game, and I assumed that there would be a lot more RP in MMORPG than there actually is. As someone who never played any of the previous Warcraft games I was worried about being utterly clueless about the lore of all the different races and making a fool out of myself, so starting out as a human made the most sense. Anyone knows what to expect from being a human, because they are one! (Apologies to any trolls playing.)

Why did I go for paladin? Because after reading the manual (yes, I'm one of those people who actually sit down and read the manual), I was convinced that I wanted to play a class that could heal itself and paladins sounded nicely sturdy on top of it.

[screenshot of my paladin in the Goldshire inn at level six]

This is Isadora. She's even decently dressed and everything! Though I'm sure I'll end up finding some more revealinguseful armour soon enough.

Now this bit amuses me to no end, looking back at it. We tend to make fun of WoW's chainmail bikinis and roll our eyes at how what looks like perfectly fine armour on males suddenly shrinks and exposes all kinds of body parts when put on a female character, but when I first started playing I was actually surprised by the fact that my character came with a decent shirt to cover herself and full-length trousers. If you think about it, the average piece of fantasy art tends to be a lot less kind than that to its female characters.

Being a newbie was fun, starting from the moment that I entered the realm and was hopelessly confused because I couldn't see myself, having merged with a bunch of other characters that stood in exactly the same spot as me. A lot of exploring, general stupidity and annoying death followed. And I almost laughed myself silly when I found the corpse of "Dumbledore" in the forest. I can kind of see why people find this addictive, because the world is huge, and as you enter it for the first time it seems as if the possibilities must be endless.

I think this is a pretty solid summary of the average newbie experience, though I was a bit surprised to be reminded that I was actually aware of how badly I was doing and that I was feeling vaguely embarrassed by it. Whenever I look back at my newbie days I remember all the things I did wrong and badly, but I forgot that I was also mostly aware of not doing so well. Which in turn makes me wonder if we don't give bad players enough credit sometimes, being way too quick to dismiss them as hopeless causes that just don't know how to play.

Still, I think that all on your own it's bound to become a bit boring after a while, especially with all the running around you end up doing as you level up. I haven't really interacted with any other players yet beyond helping each other out at defeating the occasional monster, and I'm a bit worried about making a fool out of myself due to my noobishness.

Basically I knew from the first day that the game wasn't going to hold my attention if I was to stay an eternal solo-er. I find the addendum "especially with all the running around you end up doing" particularly amusing, because it shows that I realised very, very early on that the reason you need company is that there are long stretches of time when there's nothing too interesting going on and when you'll want to have someone to chat with in the meantime.

I haven't even figured out how to make my character wield anything but that giant hammer thing yet, and I'd really like her to have a different weapon. Not that there's anything wrong with it in terms of functionality, but there's just something very ungraceful about clubbing wolves to death with a giant mallet.

I think it's easy to forget just how daunting even small things can seem to someone who's completely new to the game. The manual said paladins can wield swords, why couldn't mine? It took a friend telling me that I needed to see a weapon master and then some time until I actually managed to find the one in Stormwind.

It's also evidence that I valued my character's looks highly from day one. Can't go around killing things with a mace when a sword would look so much cooler!

If any of you've been secretly playing WoW already, feel free to let me know - or if you've been thinking about giving the game a try but haven't yet, now would be just the perfect time to keep me company!

My Swedish friend replied with "I'll install tomorrow", and so my fate was sealed.