Monthly Archives: July 2010

Strict Stalemate

As Shaen would say, Gigantic Tirion approves.

If you’ve been reading here, you may or may not know that I’m the guild leader for an awesome group of people. (They’re awesome, it just so happens that I’m the guild leader). I’ve written about our commitment to tens raiding previously, and I’ve also written about why I’m so happy to be raiding with them all.

What I have to write at the moment is a bit more difficult, and I’ve held off doing it because the matter was still under discussion. The discussion has stalled, because I think we’re all at a loss as to what more we can say. A post that Traxy made about strict tens recently has prompted me to think about it even further.

For those unfamiliar, the “strict ten” designation was invented by Guild Ox as a method for people whose primary guild focus was tens to measure progress against one another. Business Time has adhered to it for as long as I’ve been a member. It’s a bit arbitrary, because it has to be. They have to draw the line somewhere to separate between “guilds who only do tens” and guilds who do tens but primarily twenty-fives. I’m sure there are many guilds out there who focus exclusively on tens, but haven’t worried about meeting the criteria. We’d always said that if we no longer had reason to adhere to the restrictions, we’d let them go.

In the past, we have had reasons for wanting to stick to them.

  • Recruitment: Because the role we fill is so specialized, almost all of our recruitment is cross-server and in some cases, even cross-faction. The idea of strict tens draws any combination of confusion, curiosity, straight through to outright scorn. The Guild Ox rank enabled us to advertise as a strict ten guild, and demonstrate to prospective applicants that we were serious about what we were doing. I’ve spoken to many of our current members who admitted that the ranking did help to attract them to the guild. It’s a way of saying, “This is what we do, and we do it well.”
  • Pride: What progression raid guild isn’t proud of their achievements? In the small pond of people focusing on and restricting themselves to tens, we do pretty well. We achieved our 11/12 hard-mode status along with the first pack of strict tens to do it. We’re currently ranked tenth for progression in the US, and 16th in the world. It’s pretty neat to be able to say that, nice to have the “badge” to put on the guild’s front page and feel that all those hours you’ve spent wiping to this boss or learning that ability “mean” something, at least in this limited sphere.
  • Identity: “Strict tens” forms the backbone of what we do, and why. We focus on ten mans because we like them best and we like raiding as a smaller group. We’ve kept the Guild Ox ranking because we like to be able to say, this is what we do, this is why we do it, and we think we do it pretty well. Perhaps the ranking itself isn’t essential to that; it does help to solidify it.

But lately, those reasons have been warring with some other reasons, equally compelling, to let the “strict ten” designation go, or else reasons why the first reasons don’t seem to matter as much.

  • Recruitment: We have a really stable player-base, and extremely low turnover. We also seldom have to turn to the forums for recruitment any more, because lately the trend has been for applicants to come via word of mouth. They are friends of friends or similar, and so we don’t have to wow them as much with “Look at how awesome we are!” The stability and appeal of the guild speaks for itself because it’s more usual that we can’t find a raid spot for someone than that we have empty raid slots, summer vacations aside.
  • Limitations: Whenever someone joins BT, they’re aware that running 25-mans is verboten unless we’re consciously bringing them in with the understanding that they already have the twenty-five man achievements, and so continuing to run the content doesn’t really matter. This had the potential to create a real culture of the “haves” and “have-nots,” but fortunately it never materialized that way. People who still enjoy a twenty-five man pug on occasion do so, and those of us who have never done them – we haven’t done them because we don’t want to, so there’s no loss on either side. The problem is that there are people who have alts at 80 that had raided before they joined up with us. We have a few members who belonged to tens guilds before, but the majority of us came from twenty-fives. Because of the restrictions, they can’t have their alts in the guild, so they sit either guildless, or in alt guilds. Frankly, I think that stinks. We have a channel for connecting with people on out-of-guild alts, but it’s cumbersome. If you’re in the guild, you’re in it, you shouldn’t have to sit outside just because you’re playing another character.
  • Obsolescence: “Strict ten” isn’t going to mean anything once Cataclysm comes out. Because of the changes to raid lockouts and to loot, there’s not going to be any functional difference between guilds that run twenty-fives sometimes and tens sometimes, or only tens, or only twenty-fives. There’s going to be equality with regards to the loot, and no need for restrictions of any kind. We’ll just be raiding tens together, and not feel as though we have to run twenty-fives to fill certain gear slots or to manage to compete at the top level of content.

I'm not saying I understand how Bolvar feels or anything, but...

So with all of this in mind, first we discussed, then we discussed some more. Then we put it to a vote, very simply phrased – who was in favour of dropping the strict ten designation, and who was opposed and wanted to keep it?

The vote was split exactly down the middle. Admittedly, I abstained. Half of the guild wants to let the restrictions go. This won’t have a major functional difference for us, we think, because the people who want to run twenty-fives already can, and the people who don’t – still won’t. I’ll be honest with you, it leaves me feeling incredibly torn. To let the restrictions go won’t actually help us with our heroic Lich King attempts. Some people in fact were actively opposed to the idea that we might “game” the encounter. They really, really want to do it with the gear available to us. I can’t blame them.

The other half of people are in some cases people who never took to the idea of “restrictions” in any case. They don’t like anyone telling them what to do with their game time, or saying what they can and can’t do (whether they’d actually want to do it, or not). They’d be just as happy to see the strict designation go. It doesn’t change who we are, after all, only how we appear. I can’t blame them, either.

On both “sides,” if you can call them that, are people I care about and each is essential to the success and well-being of the guild. I want to do right by them, and I want them to be happy. My initial feeling was that in the result of a stalemate, we would maintain the status quo. After all, if we say, “We’re going to let the strict tens designation go,” we’re saying, “We’re going to take this away from you even though it’s important to you.” I thought that there was no actual loss on the part of the people who want it to go.

But the more I think about it, the more I start to wonder. The people who’d like to put their alts in the guild so as to hang out with their friends – aren’t we taking something from them, too? Rather, we are keeping it from them, and I don’t like that either. If we stop being strict ten and then go on to kill heroic Lich King, it might feel hollow compared to if we had maintained the designation; whether or not the reality of our gear bears out the fact that it was a big accomplishment. If we continue to stay “strict,” whether we kill the Lich King or not, are we choosing prestige and bragging rights over the happiness of our guild-mates?

I’m really not sure, and I’ll admit that I’ve puzzled over it, and thought about it, and I still don’t feel any closer to the “right” answer now than I did when the discussion began. Originally, this entry was going to end there, but then I received the following comment from a new reader, Archel, on my most recent entry. I want to share it with you. It eerily strikes to the core of what I’m trying to say:

I’m one of those people who had google haphazardly drop them onto your blog last week when searching for something like “Healing Deadmines Paladin” and have been reading happily ever since. I don’t think i’ve ever read a blog in my life, but this one drew me in. The game seems so cold now, so matter of fact. Badges per hour, gear score, gogogo. At first hearing your stories of having to deal with such people while you leveled and being happy just to find the occasional considerate person put me into even more of a funk.

There have been moments in wow over the years that I remember most fondly. Time periods when my RL friends and I happened to be on the same page, just having fun playing together. The time where I embarked on a new server and found new friends and we played together and had fun before the greed of raiding, the efficiency of progression, or the jealousy of human nature tore us apart. The time when a random Tauren Druid tossed me a heal as I got some adds in Hellfire, and we ended up talking and leveling together to 70 from there.

Oddly enough, during most of those periods I always thought it was progression I wanted; To be in the best guild of the server and to be the best in that guild. I accomplished it at times, and it wasn’t that great because the guild itself was run like a business and I was a mere resource. Looking back, getting server firsts really wasn’t as fun as just questing with that druid.

I admit feeling a pang of jealousy when seeing you describe a guild rerolling horde and leveling together. Actually wanting to play together for fun. Actually wanting to talk to one another and not just logging in five minutes before raid time and logging off five minutes after. I felt the same pang when I saw the post about Lara coming over to level with you, or when I saw you describe what makes you love 10 man raiding by taking the time to draw your guildies and describe what they meant to you.

I don’t really know what point i’m trying to make here and probably sound mostly like a sap… I just think it’s cool to see that somewhere, on some server, people are still having fun together and being good to each other.

The crux of the matter is, I think that the guild has evolved into something truly worth belonging to. We take the time to talk about these things because we care how our guild-mates feel about them. We’re taking so long to have the discussion because it’s worth considering carefully. And no matter what we decide, if we stay true to the heart of what the guild is about, we shouldn’t go too far wrong.

Getting everyone to fly into a circle for this picture actually took amazingly little time.

Allegiance: Conclusion

In which we discuss whether we’re Horde or Alliance

You might remember earlier this month that I wrote about whether people had a strong attachment to a particular faction or not, which faction, and why. It had a poll in it, and I promised I’d post the results afterwards. I also asked other people to write on the same topic if they were interested! A few people took me up on my offer to expand their thoughts on the matter:

Gareth over at Altoholic’s Diary wrote about how he started out as Alliance but found out that his heart truly was for the Horde.

Coincidentally, Alas from Kiss My Alas stole my brain (I needed that) and wrote about her experiences Horde-side within twelve hours of my writing about it. Neither of us knew, I swear!

Finally, prompted by some of the discussion in the comments, Kamalia wrote a moving Ode to Orgrimmar.

Who can resist a good pie chart?

There were also many expansive comments. I loved reading all of the different viewpoints. The results of the poll were equally interesting. So interesting, in fact, that I made a chart from them. I’ve colour-coded it for viewing convenience. It is blue leaning towards purple for Alliance folks, red leaning towards purple for Horde, and green for something in the middle. It seems like my readership is fairly evenly split, with a bit of an Alliance bias. Exactly half of respondents either play Alliance exclusively (20%) or identify as an Alliance player although they may have characters of both factions (30%).

The other half play Horde exclusively (8%, somewhat less than the die-hard Alliance folks) or they play both but their heart of hearts is for the Horde (35%). A minority of people don’t have a strong feeling towards either faction and play both equally, or else feel that the factions are irrelevant to their enjoyment of the game (7%). That’s not surprising to me, anyhow, since the “faction” aspect of the game is pretty heavily sold from the very beginning. You must choose before you even make a character, are you for the Horde or the Alliance?

I’m curious why it might be that there are fewer Horde-only people than Alliance-only people. It’s not possible to draw anything conclusive from such a small sample size. I think that many of the my readers are paladins, and the Horde has only one race that can be paladins, so perhaps that’s part of it. Your conjecture or comments are welcome, though!

A few things to keep in mind; this only represents people who read here and felt inclined to vote in the poll. I don’t remember exactly, it was something around 130 people or so. I’m glad that those of you who are Horde don’t mind reading someone who is so unabashedly draenei-oriented. There’s always an opportunity to bail out, though – having Vid’s “quizzical little goat face” up on the header, as Tam would put it, makes it pretty clear from the beginning.

In which we become somewhat more Horde than previously

Meantime, Lara gave me a great idea that our guild is pursuing at the moment. We all made Horde-side alts on our server and we’re going to level and do some LFD together. Having them on the same server is awesome because you can mail heirlooms across factions! They really need to institute cross-server mailings for heirloom items.

Before we started, I thought long and hard about what I was going to make. It had to be a hybrid healer/DPS. I didn’t want another paladin, nor really a druid. I finally decided to make a priest (Pugging Priest?) because even though I have one already, she was one of my first characters and I wonder if I really didn’t give her a fair shake.

So, meet my new Forsaken priest, Mildred:

She has heirloom gear. Skull motif? What skull motif? You'd think I was undead or something.

I had never done the Forsaken zone, or any of the related quests at all, and all of this comparative morality stuff is making me think I should give it a shot from their point of view. (I still won’t poison the draenei in Hellfire though, when we get there). Most of the guild has been happily leveling Horde alts together, and we’re now in the mid-twenties to thirties range. Mildred is going entirely Disc thus far, and I’ve been enjoying it. We did RFC umpteen billion times, Deadmines, Shadowfang Keep, and most recently Blackfathom Deep. One thing worth noting here – being a priest makes it much easier to deal with warlocks at this level than being a holy paladin ever did. I’m just – here, have a renew, and it’s no problem. I remember reluctantly healing life-tapping warlocks while resenting every bit of mana they were taking.

It’s been fun to level these alts as a guild, and I couldn’t really call it pugging since mostly we wind up playing together anyhow. We have a Horde-side guild (with a bank and tabard!) It’s homey, even if it is a bit strange. During one of our dungeon runs I remarked, “This feels weird, because it’s completely foreign, but it’s also completely familiar.” Maybe when we eventually get to 80 we’ll take our little Hordies on a raid or something. You never know!

By the way, in case you missed it, be sure to check out the contest I’m running: The Well-Dressed Paladin, because we all need some more fashion in our lives. I’ve received several entries already and I’ve enjoyed them all quite a bit. It’s going to be fun to share the entries at the end, although choosing the best isn’t going to be easy!

Gallery

The Well-Dressed Paladin: A Pugging Pally Contest!

This gallery contains 1 photos.

As Vid leveled her way through Azeroth, Outland, and beyond, it’s no big secret that she hated the clothes she was wearing as she did it. (She did, I did, we all hated them). They were weenie roasting forks. They … Continue reading

Chowing down on a bit of stormcrow

I’ll admit it up-front and with absolute sincerity: you guys were right. I wrote a pretty bitter entry last week about how pugs were getting me down; but as with many things it’s usually a safe bet to look at your own actions and attitude before deciding the problem is somebody else.

Oh, don’t get me wrong – the quality of pugs at eighty has been variable. There are jerks out there, it’s just that sometimes they are me. Or more likely to be Voss (just sayin’). Anyway, experimentally the other night when I was having trouble sleeping, I started queuing up for pugs on each of my characters in quick succession. It went a little something like this:

Utgarde Keep: Forget the strudels, have some humble pie.

After writing that last blog post about my beloved characters, I’ve had renewed mage interest. I think It’d be nice for Millya to nab the luscious four-piece mage set bonus before the expansion ends. So I queued her up, and to my surprise the wait wasn’t even that long, soon I was alongside some other good folks in Utgarde Keep. I wasn’t off to a strong start when I found that I couldn’t cast Arcane Brilliance. What the heck, why not? No reagents. It didn’t even make sense, because I’m of the school of preparedness that never has me leave home without a stack of at least 100 of the things. No matter, I just cast the single buffs. But whoops, what’s this? I hadn’t realized I was in Frost spec. Well…Frost is nice for heroics, it won’t be a problem, right?

It wouldn’t have been a problem, except that I’d forgotten a key detail. Frost is my all-out, balls-to-the-wall PvP spec. I remembered this to my chagrin as the tank skirted by a pack of mobs to continue on to the next corridor… Speak (my beloved water elemental) was not so happy to do so. I saw him go charging by and my heart sank. Oh crap… he was set to aggressive. I like him to charge around and attack everybody, you know – when I’m in a battleground.

Wearing only a thin bit of cloth and whimpering, I blinked down the hallway hoping that the tank would notice the pack of angry Vrykul chasing us. Fortunately for me, he did, and we killed them amid my abject apologies. I don’t think the tank was too mad, because he just said “heh,” and that was all that was said the whole instance. The rest passed without incident; I switched back to Arcane mid-way through, actually did decent damage, and finished up. That’s not a knock against Frost mages, incidentally. It’s just that my Frost spec is very PvP-centric, so it can’t put out the kind of numbers I can with Arcane. It was only later when I went to check my mail, incidentally, that I found out what had happened to my arcane powder.

In a fit of summer inventory cleaning – I’d put it on the auction house. I’m still shocked that nobody wanted it!

This is my mage being fearsome.

Violet Hold: So you’re healing, right?

Next up I queued my super moonkin, Shae, for a heroic. I chose only DPS because it was late, and I didn’t really want the responsibility of healing. I joined the group happily as the load screen for Violet Hold came up. Great, Violet Hold! I love this place because my Starfall can’t accidentally pull extra mobs. Not that I would ever do that.

The only aberration as we zoned in was the night elf with the little plus sign next to his portrait. A priest, okay then. He looked sort of…shadowy, for a healing priest. I figured that he intended to drop shadow form and throw out a few heals when necessary, and so I didn’t question him. A few portals in, though, I was starting to wonder. Most of the group was at half health, the tank was even lower. I dropped moonkin form to HoT us all up, and then went back to DPSing. As the instance went on, I realized that he had absolutely no intention of throwing a direct heal, ever. (This was borne out by the stats at the end – all of his healing was Vampiric Embrace healing).

Granted, he still did quite a bit of Vampiric Embrace healing. More than I did with my direct healing. But as healers know, it’s not just how much you healed but rather when you healed that matters. I suppose I could have bitched at him. Frankly, I think queuing as a healer in order to nab a quick queue when you aren’t actually healing is pretty lame. But I wasn’t in the mood for an argument, so instead I took it as a personal challenge. I wanted to do the maximum amount of DPS, while still keeping the group alive. I managed both goals; as we finished Violet Hold a little while later. I mopped the floor with his DPS and I’d been healing. Nobody died, DPS was done, and Frost emblems were collected. It was actually one of the more fun heroics I’ve run in awhile.

This was the best moonkin screenshot I had in my folder: moonkin jousting. Because that's just how we roll.

Then for a final bit Reflection (Halls, that is).

Commonly accepted as the place where many pugs go to die, it’s the instance that Vidyala heals the most. I guess it’s because her gear is good enough (I’m not sure exactly how the LFD system works) and that many people queue for it specifically because of loot they want. So when I say “I’m willing to heal something at random,” someone else out there is saying, “HoR please.” I joined the group to heal (even though I just said that I hadn’t wanted to heal as my druid) primarily because I’m more comfortable healing with Vid than DPSing. The group consisted of another paladin tanking, a warrior and a mage in charge of the DPS. I’m sure there was another DPS there… but I can no longer remember who they were. They didn’t say a thing the whole time!

The pally tank, on the other hand, made sure we knew exactly what he wanted. “Get in the corner please,” he said. Obligingly, we all filed into the little alcove and crowded into the corner as we waited for the first trash. The trash continued with no problem. I’ll be honest here, I love healing HoR. I don’t think any amount of gear would make it boring. There’s never a time when I can sit back, relax, and stop healing. It was great! I even like fighting Falric. When I was first healing that fight at eighty it gave me hives. Now, I like to see that I can fill those green bars back up to 100% even though the healing/damage reduction debuff is increasing all the time. Even the fear that he does isn’t quite so nerve-wracking; it used to bring me within a hair’s breadth of death.

After we killed Falric, our intrepid tank said “CORNER,” and then “SORRY CAPS,” and I had to laugh. I told him, “Tank, you’re making me feel like my dog.” (“Go lie down! No, over there. Do it nowwww.”) The group laughed, but the tank remained firm. The corner was the place to be. After we’d killed more interminable trash waves and Marwyn, the tank paused to tell the mage (I think they were friends) what to expect from the next part. He concluded ambiguously with “experience a bitch.” As we were killing the next trash, the warrior yelled “BLADES OF LIGHT.” Again I laughed and asked him about it, and the ensuing conversation took us through the chase scene. He said, “It’s like Herod!” I asked him if it was a macro or did he just yell it when the mood struck him. He told me it was a macro with Bladestorm but only when he also popped his trinkets and some other ability, because he didn’t want to be spammy or anything. I only saw him yell it once during the instance, which means 1) he’s succeeding at not being spammy, but also 2) bad DPS! think of all of those wasted trinket opportunities.

Unfortunately there was no useful loot for either the mage or our warrior, but we parted with friendly exclamations on all sides.

I actually had this in my screenshots folder. I'm not sure why.

So, just a quick recap. In the first pug, I was the doofus. In the second, compensating for someone being something of a doofus was quite fun, and in the third everyone was nice, it went very smoothly, and no one was a doofus. Maybe it’s the difference in attitude (mine), maybe it’s that pugs are meant to be experienced purely as a “true” pug – no guildies, friends or relations, just you and four random strangers. All I know is that I had a good time, and I haven’t begrudged the time spent in LFD to pick up extra frost emblems for the past week or so at all.

What’s my main again?

I started playing WoW as a priest. It seemed like a good idea at the time. I’d played healers in other games, I liked the idea of being a “support” person, and everything I read about the various classes suggested that priests were the healers. If you were going to be a healer, be a priest!

My priest lasted until about the mid-40s. We had a group of people we grouped with regularly at the time. They consisted of: a prot warrior, a prot paladin, a holy priest, another holy priest, and an arms warrior.

Oh, we were bad. I mean, none of us really had any idea what we were doing, except that everything we were doing took an eternity. I fostered a dislike of Sunken Temple that stems from that time. There is no instance that should take five hours to run. (I’ve since learned, naturally, that it was “smite” DPS that led to this phenomenon. I actually like Sunken Temple now.) But I’d had enough. There was no need for healers, and in the guild we were in at the time there was an abundance of them at max level as well. “We need a real DPS class,” I declared. “I’m making a mage.”

There’s no business like H2O business

I'm conjuring mana strudel!!1!

And so Millya was born. I took to maging like a fish to water (or something burning to…something else burning, if you prefer). I leveled her in less than half the time it had taken me to level the priest. She ripped solo through every zone she went to with no trouble. I loved it.

Mil was my raiding character through the end of Burning Crusade, what I raided of it. She was my first character to eighty without hesitation once Wrath came out. It was only once she was at eighty that there was trouble in paradise. We never had enough healers to field runs, even five-mans. I had actually leveled my priest to seventy in my spare time. She was sitting there; getting her to eighty wouldn’t take much time.

I set my beloved mage aside to help out when it was needed, and I have nobody to blame but myself! No one forced me into it, I made a conscious decision. So it was that the first raiding I did in Wrath – setting foot in Naxxramas – was as a priest. I later replaced the priest with a restoration druid, but the decision had been made. Millya had become an “alt.”

I still stubbornly clung to her, though. She was my chef character, my fishing character, my mount collecting character: the character I would play whenever I had a spare chance. I maintained her gear level with emblem gear. If I hadn’t done so, I never would have had the opportunity to transfer servers and join our current strict ten guild as a raider.

It was glorious! There hadn’t been a mage in the guild in a long time, so everyone marveled at strudels, portals, bonus intellect. I loved raiding as Millya again, trying to do the best DPS I could. I finished off Ulduar with her, she who had barely seen Naxxramas – stepped straight into Ulduar hard-modes and never looked back. She was my Firefighter character, she earned a Rusted Proto-Drake. I raided with her through Trial of the Crusader, Trial of the Grand Crusader, and the beginning of Icecrown. But then a problem arose.

HoT like me

Starfalllll!

We’d lost a few healers, and we were always coming up short. Some encounters favoured two-healing, others we struggled with healing them and we felt that three might make the difference for a victory. Recruiting to allow for enough full-time healers to always have three would mean that we’d wind up having too many riding the bench. At the same time, a mage friend of mine had been looking for a new guild. Two mages wouldn’t be ideal, and I knew he was a really quality player.

What we needed was a hybrid – someone who could DPS when needed, and swap to heals in-between bosses. I’d raided in both roles. I knew that I could do it, and moreover I had the character for it, too. Changing mains to my resto/balance druid, Shaedre, was a no-brainer.

As a balance druid, she brought buffs that the group had previously lacked. Without a warlock we didn’t have 13% additional spell damage. Her resto gear was actually superior to her balance gear initially, so I knew she could hack it to heal content when needed. Millya took a backseat while we went back and finished off Ulduar (we were late to the Algalon game, unfortunately), but still she is my Starcaller.

I mean this literally, because I gleefully wade into trash and cry, “Starfallll!” Shae is my current raiding main and I do love playing her. She’s the one with the Frostbrood drake, earned through weeks of ICC heroic-modes. She got extremely lucky and scored an Anzu mount shortly after we transferred to our new server, too. (Good omens!) When we down Heroic Lich King, she’ll be the one to do it. She’s my character that will finish out this expansion, no question. However…

The little pally that could

The goggles, they do nothing!

There’s this other character I have, you may know her a little bit. She started out as a lark that could basically be summarized by, “Can my patience surmount over 150 instances with pug people?” The answer was yes, but moreover writing about her adventures started this blog, has introduced me to so many awesome people and has been more fun than I could have conceived.

Since we’ve started our weekly alt runs, Vid’s been trotting through ICC happily, and I realized something. I really like paladin healing. Okay, I had a suspicion already, since I quite enjoyed levels seventeen to eighty via LFD. I mean I like it when I’m raiding, too. Suddenly the choice isn’t so clear any more. When Cataclysm comes, I’m not sure which character I’ll most want to experience it with. I suppose it will partly depend on how the classes are changed between now and then, and how it alters my enjoyment of them. (Huge hint: New moonkin art could quite potentially tip the balance. I can laugh good-naturedly, but sometimes being the raid group’s walking, squawking practical joke can get a bit old).

The drawback, though, is that I’m not nearly as comfortable (or skilled) at melee DPS as I am at ranged. A swap from mage to moonkin was pretty intuitive, but a similar swap to retribution wouldn’t be as much so. If I were to play a paladin, it would undoubtedly be as a healer primarily. I remember scoffing when Vid was mid-level, “Oh she’ll never be my main, etc.” You think I’d learn never to say “never.”

Ultimately, it’s going to depend on what the guild needs when Cataclysm comes out. Until then, I’ve had to reconcile myself to the fact that I can’t put too much effort into one character or get fussy about who achieves what and when. Some people have one clearly defined main that they wouldn’t even consider changing. I won’t lie, I envy that a bit! All your achievements and collections in one place is nice. At the same time though, I’ve reallly enjoyed all of the different classes and roles I’ve tried, and I think I’d be worse off for having missed out on them.

I will have to make a choice at some point – just hopefully not any time soon! I remember Cass writing about how her auditions were over. She knew who her main was going to be! I won’t spoil the ending, it’s worth the read. As for me, I suppose I have to admit that Millya’s probably not in the running, simply because she doesn’t have hybrid capabilities and I’m learning that I’m a hybrid at heart. I like being able to fill the role that is needed. For that purpose, a druid and a paladin definitely fit the bill.

p.s. – Big thanks to the generous and talented Loreli of AoD studios for the Vidyala post-it portrait above. I love it! The art for the other characters is my own.

Not on my watch

This is a slightly late Blog Azeroth shared topic suggested by Ecclesiastical Discipline (I knew I couldn’t type that correctly on the first try…) and it’s a doozy:

When should a healer let someone die?

I’m going to go out on a limb here and hope that my history bears me out. That means “please don’t dig through my blog looking for an instance of when I let someone die deliberately,” but in general, my answer is “I won’t.” Wait, it’s coming back to me, that’s not entirely true. There have been certain special circumstances where I did so, but in general my answer stands.

Tossing out heals for pugs since level 17.

I see the role of a healer as a facilitator. It’s part of what makes it so much fun, at least for me. You are a support for the group. When life gets the group down, you are the one to be there cheering them on, and bandaging their wounds. I take that role seriously, and it’s not lightly that I abandon it.

The damage dealers: “Whoops, I did it again.”

That means that when an over-eager DPS pulls aggro, I view it as a personal challenge to keep them alive. I know some healers would challenge me on this, and even some tanks. (You yank it, you tank it!) There are exceptions to this. When I was leveling Vid, my mana was pretty precious. I didn’t have forty-thousand mana to throw around, nor did I have the ability to simultaneously heal more than one person. I have a responsibility to the tank to heal them, and a further responsibility to keep myself alive so that I can fulfill the first. The other three group members take a back-seat to that. So when a DPS needs heavy healing because they pulled, I might do it – but only if it doesn’t put the tank or myself in jeopardy. This comes into play more in heroics at eighty. My restoration druid has so much mana, she hasn’t drunk a thing in weeks. Needing to heal a DPS probably means I’ll stop casting wrath to direct heal someone.

Again, it’s very situational. In a raiding situation, if someone pulls aggro they are likely to be dead. I’ve told you about the fury warrior-turned-warlock in our guild. His nickname is Dirtface, and it’s Dirtface for a reason. In his words, “I play because the ground in ICC is tasty and delicious.” His death is routine. I still try to keep him alive when I’m a healer. During one heavy pull in our last alt raid, our off-tank had to take a phone call. I’m not sure if he was actually AFK or just distracted, but we had a Fury warrior off-tank for awhile. And heck yeah I put Beacon on him. I wasn’t aware that the tank was AFK, I just knew he didn’t have aggro, wasn’t taking  damage, and didn’t need it. Dirtface lived.

The flip side of this (because I am DPSing at least as often as I am a healer) is a very resounding “mea culpa.” As a healer I try to keep the DPS alive. As a DPS – I don’t expect to be kept alive if I pull aggro. Whether the tank is “bad” or not isn’t relevant, it’s my job to manage my aggro. Sometimes I impose on my healers to heal me when I have gone overboard DPSing, and I’m very grateful for their benevolence, but I don’t expect it. Generally if I die, I have no one to blame but myself!

The wall of bricks: “We can handle all of this, right?”

If a tank dies, I get an immediate wash of intense guilt and regret. It always feels like a personal failure, and in many cases it is. The only exception to this is if a tank really was trying to do too much. I don’t mind a tank pulling aggressively, but I’m not apt to “punish” him for it either. I will do my damnedest to keep a tank up through hell and heavy pulling, but if I fail in that case I wouldn’t take all the responsibility on myself. It comes back to the tank and healer relationship. I was fortunate to have considerate tanks when I first started getting my hooves wet healing as a paladin at eighty, and I usually made a point of saying, “Hey, I’m still pretty new,” just as a heads-up. It’s part of the tank’s responsibility to know their healer’s limits.

I know I’ve pugged in with a great tank when they make their first few pulls a bit cautiously, or even ask me what I’m comfortable with. I know what they are doing; they’re feeling out to see how far they can reach with me backing them up. Only after they get a feel for my healing do they start to pull more aggressively, and I love that. In a short amount of time you’ve established a rapport and trust, even just for the 20 minutes you’re in the instance together, and those are always smooth runs. I like being able to trust the tanks I’m with, which is probably why I tend to prefer tanks I know.

A tank won’t die if I can possibly prevent it, unless he is an incredible jerk. I ran into such a tank wayyy back in my Deadmines days, and I checked: even then I didn’t kill him. Because if he dies, it means that other people are likely to die, and that’s not my decision to make.

It’s my off-spec that is Retribution

Occasionally I do run into a situation when someone will expressly ask or expect me to not heal someone. I know I’ve said I won’t let someone die, but there are a few exceptions, and here they are.

  • Avoidable environmental damage, a.k.a. “Why is the ground burning me?” For this I follow a general rule of “Once, shame on you, twice shame on me.” If someone is standing in something that’s killing them and I can heal them through it, I probably will – the first time. This will be followed by a general reminder, “Please watch out for such-and-such” on the ground. A repeat offense might be healed, but definitely not a third. This is a lesson situation. If there’s no consequence for standing in fire, people won’t ever learn not to stand in it.
  • The tank is having a hard time with someone continually pulling aggro and they ask me to “Please not heal so-and-so” or “Just let them die.” I still have a really hard time with this. It’s happened when a DPS thought they could pull groups instead of the tank, which is not the same as pulling aggro. This is a situation in which I feel the healer has to back up the tank, but it’s always a judgment call. Does it really justify withholding heals? In some cases it does. But I don’t like doing it. The biggest reason is because death of any kind in most instances punishes the whole group and not just the recipient. If I let them die, we have to then resurrect them, have them get their mana back, and probably rebuff them which costs me and other party members a reagent in any case.

In short, I don’t like punitive healing. If I’m there healing, I’m going to keep everyone alive to the best of my abilities. Sometimes DPS pulls aggro, mistakes happen, things get messy. I revert to my priorities: self, tank, DPS dead last. Sometimes that means they do wind up dead, and if they don’t I feel I’ve done a good job.

Most importantly, when I’m on the damage dealing side and I pull a bonehead maneuver and the healer has to heal me through something smacking me in the face… I make sure and thank them! Usually in the form of, “Thank you for saving me from my own stupidity, I know it was above and beyond the call of duty.” Because it is; the healer isn’t obligated to heal you through extraordinary damage if you bring it upon yourself. Treasure them and be grateful when they do, and remember it if you’re ever on the flip-side! If more people showed a little love for their healers, there’d never be a healer shortage. It can be an incredibly rewarding role when you’re grouped with great people.

These pugs aren’t house-trained.

perky pug

Aw, isn't he cute?

I’m actually a fairly easy-going person. In all the time I spent pugging with Vidyala on her way to eighty, I really didn’t meet very many people that made me angry. Oh, I met some jerks, and it’s pretty well-documented here when I did, but not too many.

Things have changed since the only pugging scene I see is the eighty heroic one, and it’s getting pretty tiresome. A few recent examples, just to illustrate my point:

The scene: Heroic Pit of Saron

Voss and I queued for a random and were immediately fitted into a group that had lost its tank and one DPS. (I wanted to take my ret set out for a spin!) Of course they were more than halfway through the instance; having stalled at the gruesome trash pull as you head up the slope. We defeated it without any problems while the group went on about how they had a “tank who could actually tank.”

Tellingly, the mage was AFK for all of this trash, only deigning to join us again as we approached the corridor to run up to the final encounter. That went reasonably smoothly, even though I was doing something like 40% of the group’s DPS. This is sad mostly because I don’t think I’m all that good at being ret, although my gear is decent. We kill Tyrannus in the Longest Kill Ever, and he drops some things. The mage starts complaining, presumably because he was after the Never Melting Ice Crystal, and then he says, “Does anybody need that?” (A spellpower staff). Usually that’s what people ask when they themselves need it. So we all said that we didn’t need it. The mage rolled needed on the staff, said “Great, that’s my gold then :p” and then dropped group.

I’m left appalled that people can be so blatantly greedy and rude. I hope it isn’t reaching a point where we’ll all have to Need on things we can just to avoid people who think they’re entitled to loot more than anyone else. Did he think that any of the rest of us wouldn’t also sell the staff for the gold, or disenchant it or whatever? I have no words.

The scene: Heroic Old Kingdom

Voss is playing his DK and a bunch of us had queued together, leaving only one pug slot. It starts out harmlessly enough with an exchange of hellos and etcetera. I’m playing my moonkin main so I have to admit, I haven’t been paying very much attention. I am just hurting things and coasting along. I had pulled aggro at one point, but Starfall often does that to me. We’re all on vent just hanging out and shooting the breeze, when the mage pug says in party, “You know death and decay is great for making aggro.”

“Is he being bitchy?” I wonder incredulously in vent. Since we’ve been doing alt runs and getting gear for him, Voss’ DK has rock-solid aggro.  I haven’t noticed him losing aggro. He’s also Frost, and D&D is on a 30 second cooldown, plus most mobs die so quickly any way. It’s a heroic. It’s trash. It’s heroic trash. Seriously? And the mage is doing a good deal less DPS than either of us. We immediately go into “Why are you messing with our guildie mode,” I ask him if perhaps he has a magic button that will enable him to do decent DPS, and if so he should press it. Stews stops healing him (though he says later that he kept bandaging and potting so he never did die). We finish the instance without further words on either side (the wait was too long to just kick him).

Again, we met rudeness with some of our own, but I just can’t understand people being rude without provocation. I’ve run with some truly terrible tanks in my LFD adventures. When I run with a tank like Voss on any of his characters, it’s like the heavens open up and angels sing and there’s a shaft of sunlight that says, “Lo! And there shall be threat generation!” Then I’m happy. Even when the tank is terrible, I don’t say so, what’s the point?

The scene: Heroic Oculus

I still groan inwardly (and outwardly) when I see the loading screen for this place. It isn’t that it’s hard. It’s that herding three other chickens through it always proves to be an exercise in frustration. The other issue is that when we do it, we like to go and clear off the first platform initially. Then we proceed to the inner ring, so that there’s no backtracking. You have to kill all the platform sentry guys anyhow.

For whatever reason, pugs have trouble with this concept. They feel we should proceed directly to the inner ring. Rather than following along with (usually the tank and the healer, although this time I was DPSing again) we went to the platform. They went to the inner ring. Voss said (politely!) “Hey guys, this way,” and immediately one of the other DPS got snippy. “We have a tank and a healer here,” he said, “Just go.”

“Actually, I’m the tank, ” Voss said. Rather than deal with it, we just dropped group and took the debuff. The looong debuff. I was left hand-wringing, “I just wanted to hit some things in the face with my giant sword. Is that too much to ask?” When did people start getting precious about which way they’d go in Oculus? Is it really That Big A Deal to just roll with where the tank and healer are going? It isn’t as if we’re this huge prima donna pair (I am the tank so I can do whatever I want, that’s what being the tank means).

That’s only a random sampling of recent heroics with this kind of thing in them. I’m not sure what it is about hitting 80 that causes people to abandon any semblance of civility, but it’s pretty tiresome. Vid has pretty much purchased almost everything she could want with frost emblems, and she’s starting to spend them on retribution gear at this point, so it isn’t a really urgent mission for me. None of my characters need the daily frost emblems and so I only queue for a heroic if someone in the guild is going and needs another person, or if I want to try something out (such as my retribution spec). But even for that, it’s really not worth it.

Am I alone in this? I’m guessing I’m not, at least one of my guildies routinely winds up in Pugs From Hell. (Whenever he goes without one of us, I’m not really sure if he has bad luck… or if pugs are just bad.) Tell me your pug horror stories, get it off your chest. Or better yet, tell me about a pug you’ve had that’s been just really good. I need to believe that not all people pugging at eighty are complete jerks!

But then when you least expect it...

p.s. – I’m planning a sort of a contest, I just have to get a few things ironed out before I share the details, but stay tuned for that. I think it is going to be great fun.

Allegiance

My troll: no matter what else may be said about her, she has impeccable fashion sense. For a circus clown.

My predilection for draenei characters probably doesn’t come as much of a surprise here. Of the Alliance characters I have that are above level twenty, eight out of nine are draenei. I know. But I do have three Horde characters – two Tauren, and a troll. At some point I’d even faction changed my shaman and made her a troll, but I ended up reversing the change and transferring her back to my “home” server. (Blizzard makes a lot of money from people like me). Why did I end up reversing the change? I wasn’t playing her where she was… and I’d started leveling another draenei shaman because it felt strange not to have one.

The fire festival has proven to be a great opportunity to level alts, though, and due to a summer cold I’ve had plenty of time to commit to the mindless grind.  I chose to use the time to work at leveling my troll mage, taking her from level 63 to 69 in a few days. The bonus XP was fantastic, and I’ve been leveling through a combination of judicious questing and LFD. The queue times have been a bit longish – I’d say a half hour, on average – which was just enough to break up the monotony.

So having experienced the “pug scene” in Outland recently on both Alliance and Horde characters, what’s the difference? I’d say there really isn’t one. People of either faction are equal parts friendly or business-like or jerkish in approximately equal proportions. It has been refreshing to both revisit my mage roots and relax a bit. There isn’t much pressure on a mage in pugs, apart from “Water please” and “Can I have another stack of water?” I’m absolutely fine with playing vending machine and pumping out some DPS. I’ve been leveling as Frost because it’s a blast.

When I hit level 68 I was so excited – Northrend, finally! Not to mention, this is my first Horde character who has ever “leveled” this far. (Faction transfers don’t count). I remembered that Horde take a Zeppelin to Northrend rather than a boat. Alliance-side, I really enjoy Borean Tundra, so I went to Orgrimmar to catch the Zeppelin that goes there.

My first realization: I didn’t buy a Tome of Cold Weather Flight for this character back when I had an 80 on the same server and could have. Oops – it looks like she’ll be trekking her way across Northrend. But no matter, that was how the game was meant to be experienced, right? Something like that. Within a few minutes I was hopelessly lost in the area around Warsong Hold. Getting lost isn’t really new for me, but it’s something I suffer from particularly when I’m trying to play Horde. I’ve spent long minutes circling in Orgrimmar or traveling around the spokes of the wheel of Undercity… or just plain running into dead ends in Silvermoon. Horde architecture feels so aggressive and alien to me. Warsong Hold is definitely imposing, though, don’t get me wrong. It’s very grand. I don’t recall feeling that way when I went to Valiance Keep. Then again, I didn’t get lost there either!

So I thought, maybe you’re coming at this from the wrong angle. What’s Howling Fjord like from a Horde perspective? A quick portal to Undercity and another Zeppelin trip later and I was about to find out. Here’s where I hit my second stumbling block. Now, I’d had an inkling of this before. My mage was previously resting at level 63, and there’s a reason. I’d been happily questing through Hellfire when I got to Falcon Watch and encountered this quest, Source of the Corruption. Okay, an Apothecary planning something heinous isn’t really news, but the quest text stopped me in my tracks.

Uncorrupted draenei, like this unlucky fellow here, are virtuous champions of the Light. What corruption caused their great race to devolve into the Broken and Lost Ones?

I’ve heard a theory that exposure to fel energies is what caused the mutation. I would like to put that theory to the test.

He’s got a draenei prisoner next to him. Needless to say, it doesn’t take much of a leap of logic to figure out what he’s planning. I didn’t do the quest, although I hear that the draenei dies at the end of it, and I stopped leveling my mage then too. I know it sounds extreme, but the quest and its inevitable outcome really turned me off, and I dropped the mage cold. I know it’s silly, but I felt like a traitor.

Vid, who to the best of my knowledge has never force-fed something fatal to someone else. Just sayin'. Except a sword/axe/pointy object. Does that count?

It took me a few months before I felt like picking up my mage again. This time through Outland, I was really doing mostly instances. I didn’t do very many quests, and I was a happy troll, killing naga and whathaveyou.

Until Howling Fjord, and this quest: The New Plague. With this one, the Apothecary tells you that he needs you to retrieve samples of the plague that the Alliance had gotten ahold of. Okay, I think, remembering the Wrathgate sequence I’ve seen from the other side – well, you’re going to be using it any way so I may as well help you. That is, until I get to the boats where I can find the plague samples. The place is just swarming with Alliance soldiers, and by some perverse decision I don’t understand – most of them are draenei. You can all stop and have a laugh now at the notion of a Troll mage ducking and weaving her way in-between hostile Alliance mobs in a vain effort not to aggro and have to kill any of them. Lucky for me, the follow-up quest is even better – go and test the plague out by throwing it at their fleet! I kept questing here for a little while, and so I did have to kill them and hear that particular death sound that usually means, “You just let someone in your party die.” And I know that it’s bizarre, but I had a really hard time with it.

In fact, I sort of hated it. Other folks lately have been talking about quest morality, and yes, I know it’s virtual, it’s not real. But you start to identify with the characters, races, and yes, even particular factions. Anea wrote about how she didn’t want to kill Thersa Windsong. Rades responded with a post about why Thersa Windsong must die. (Both really interesting posts, incidentally, I recommend them wholeheartedly). But I’m not talking about the morality of a specific quest here, or metagaming – it’s more a general aversion to many quests because of what is probably by now a deeply rooted Alliance loyalty of my own. I know my troll character doesn’t give a hoot about killing draenei or not killing them. She probably likes it, and probably hates the Alliance. This isn’t about her, it’s about me. I don’t think the Alliance are the “heroes” and above reproach, or that everything they do is good. I just think that they are my people. I loved doing the Mag’har related quests as a troll, and I intend to go back and finish out the chain that has Thrall coming to Garadar. I like Thrall. But I’ll always be only masquerading as Horde, even though I can connect with the people who play it. I think I may be ruined forever.

So here’s my question to you (and an excuse to use the poll image I made forever ago)! First of all, the poll.

For the record, my answer would be one of the last ones. I’ll post the results after a week or so, I’m actually quite curious to know the “demographics” of people who stop by. Now for the actual questions we can discuss in comments: Why did you choose the faction you did? Have you changed factions at all throughout your time playing WoW, or would you change if you could (disregarding guild allegiance, if your friends played a different faction, etc.)

And when you play the “other” faction, what do you notice? What’s strange? I still flinch when I see Horde flags and expect guards to come running at me, but I’m getting used to running instances with blood elves and Forsaken. I know that at least one member of our guild has said he wishes we were a Horde guild, and an old friend of mine cautioned me when I first made a Horde character, “You won’t play Alliance again, Horde is a better faction.” What do you think? If you have more to say about this than a comment can hold, feel free to write about it on your own blog and I’ll link any related posts here!

p.s. – Please keep it polite and respectful, since I do expect both Horde and Alliance folks read here. No bashing from either side! I know sometimes these Faction discussions can get heated, and then before you know it you’ve got some kind of Varian Wrynn-Wrathgate situation on your hands, and we don’t want anything like that.