Friday, May 15, 2015

First Date

Combined Run


As you may have inferred from the recruitment post, we've been having attendance issues and honestly, I've been part of that problem. We made one more go of it last night but again we were a couple people short. Tachi, one of our officers, contacted another guild on our server about running with them. They ran a similar schedule to ours and thanks to Flex could accommodate our group.

We made our first combined run last night. They are starting to work on Heroic bosses and had already downed both Heroic Gruul, and Heroic Beastlord.

When our officers discussed this plan I was concerned. Out of all the roles none is affected by a situation like this more than the tanks. DPS is just extra DPS. Healers are needed as the raid size increases. But no matter if you have 10 or 30 players, you always need two and only two tanks. If they were killing Heroic bosses in all likelihood they had their tanks.

I've been offset on Ret stuff for months. Actually, I haven't even been Ret for months as I can solo just fine as Prot with Seraphim and Holy Avenger. They opted to let me tank for the night and one of their regular tanks went DPS.

Heroic Bosses


So here I was again, needing to prove myself to another group of players who never heard of the man, nay, the legend, that is Honors Hammer. We started with Heroic Hanz and Franz.

Heroics don't change any of the mechanics, everything just hits harder.

A lot harder.

Surviving the Suplex was our first issue. I usually try to wait until right before they are going to cast it and sometimes I miss it. On Normal, its not too big a deal - the externals are enough to keep me alive. On Heroics, yeah...

Squish. Like grape.

But Suplex was just the first problem. Shattered Vertebrae made surviving just the Bosses melee swings difficult. Movement is also was a much bigger deal. Unlike DPS or Healers, when Tanks move to avoid the stamping plates or the moving plates, we have to make sure to not turn on backs on the boss. If we do (and I did) we take extra damage because we can't block or parry and we can get killed (and I did).

We wiped several times, but the group seem to take it in stride. Their raid leader was great. He reminded me of Kreelix, DC's fearless raid leader. He tried to ascertain the issue, calmly explained what needed to be done differently and encouraged us to go at it again. Actually, everyone in the raid from the other guild seemed pretty cool. The stamping plates pretty much one shot Healers and DPS on Heroic so getting people through the stamping phase was key.

After several wipes, we had one of those pulls that in hindsight feels almost magical. 

Tanks get hit in the face, healers make the bars go up, DPS makes the bars go down. The raid moves in a coordinated synchronized dance as if they are all of one mind. The mechanics are dealt with in textbook fashion and the bosses go down with nary a death among the raid. This was the first time DC had killed anything on Heroic in BRF after downing several heroic bosses in Highmaul. We represented well on the damage meter as well with Dirty Casuals taking the top three spots.

Next would come the loot and another test for this fledgling relationship. It was decided we would leave everything to a /roll. A plate helm dropped which would have been an iLevel increase over my T18 helm but I didn't roll on it since I was loathe to break my sweet two piece bonus. The loot was handed out without any drama as far as I could tell.

We moved on from Hanz and Franz to try Heroic Thogar. I was more than a little nervous as Thogar has never been a fight I've done particularly well on and getting the split coordination down with a new tank always takes a little time.

If you aren't familiar with the fight, at one point the trains fill the middle of the raid. Your raid needs to split up and deal with each side. If you don't split the mobs on the side without any players will throw lethal bombs at the players. That is generally considered A Bad Thing. The complicating part of the split for tanks is managing the tank swap debuff. Once separated, you can can't swap anymore until the phase is over. The best thing to do is for the tank without the debuff to grab Thogar just as the split phase starts. Otherwise the debuff stacks too high and you have a tank death which is hard to recover from. It took a couple of attempts to work that out.

That was just the beginning of our struggles. The moving trains are far more unforgiving on Heroic and getting hit pretty much one shots you. With just a little bit of lag, it can look like you are clear on your screen when you are really still in the Danger Zone. (Someone cue Kenny Loggins). We made several solid attempts making it to the second split phase once or twice before we had to call it for the night.

Aftermath


The team was just happy to be raiding again and there is already talk of running with them again next week. They are going for a full clear of Normal BRF to get their "Ahead of the Curve" achievements. I have to be honest, it would be pretty cool to get that. I don't think I've been 'Ahead of the Curve' since SoO. Some obviously wonder if this will protend a guild merger at some point, but that isn't something I think our officers will decide right away. Basically this was a first date. A good first date where you really enjoy the food and conversation and maybe even kiss her on the cheek when you say good night. But nobody is looking to pick out curtains together just yet.

Retribution


I'm fairly certain my performance wasn't impressive enough to get a regular tanking spot and I'm actually okay with that. Going back to being the backup tank might just be the best thing for me. I don't want to get into the situation again where my ability to log on each night basically decided if we could raid or not. That's not a good situation for me or the guild.

There's another IRL move coming for me in the next couple of months and I'll be AFK for at least a week or so, and while its still several months away, I know that once we get into August and September, I'm going to want to be able to have my Thursdays and Mondays available. Most guilds have people who can't raid during the summer. I'm just the opposite. I have more free time for gaming over the summer than the winter.

All this means I need to get serious about Ret again. Thanks to the way gear works in Warlods, my Ret set is actually pretty decent. All my tanking plate does double duty. The biggest problem is my weapon. I'm still using the one I got from Highmaul LFR. I also have low iLevel trinkets, and the only cloak I have is my tanking cloak with Bonus Armor tanking cloak which admittedly doesn't do much for Ret.

I don't have enough Apexis Crystals to buy anything, and I'm loath to spend my precious gold. My options at this point are limited to LFR, trying to PUG Normal Highmaul or BRF or doing PVP.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Why Am I Still Playing WoW?

As a WoW blogger, I am contractually obligated to talk about the drop in WoW subscription numbers. I guess it could be worse. Were I a sports blogger, I would be contractually obligated to talk about Tom Brady’s cheating balls, and really, nobody wants to hear that.

I’m sure you’ve heard by now that WoW is back down to 7 million or so subs and that basically everyone they gained at the start of Warlords has once again left. This used to be the kind of news that I took seriously and worried about. What was happening? What would Devs do about it? Would WoW even be around in a year or two? But after years of watching sub numbers ebb and flow, I’ve just reached the point where I don’t care anymore how many subs WoW has.

Why Am I still subbed

The biggest reason I’m still subbed is I look forward to playing and when I’m in game I’m enjoying it. It’s really that simple. I’m in a guild with good people and we are having fun clearing content and progressing. Even the nights we wipe and don't kill many bosses, I still enjoy it. What we do with our free time should fill us with energy and ignite our passions. If WoW doesn’t do that for you, then it makes total sense that you stop your sub and find something else that does.

Each time I’ve left WoW, it’s been to go to another MMO. First SWTOR swayed me away. I’m such a Star Wars nut and I totally bought the whole 4th Pillar thing. I thought that was going to be a huge thing and for a while it was. Then I left again for Wildstar. It was so fresh and I loved the Sci-fi setting, the humor and the action combat. I was sure it was going to be huge -- HUGE. If I was any great predictor of the great MMO success by what I liked, Wildstar and SWTOR would be juggernauts. Clearly, I’m a sample size of 1.

Each time left, I ended up coming back to WoW, my first MMO love. I don’t know what another game could really offer at this point that would make me want to give up WoW to try it although I would like to try GW2 at some point (their Engineer class looks like a lot of fun).

I think I was always going to be an MMO player. If you remember, MMOs started out as a niche genre. A few months before WoW was originally released it was predicted that the MMO market would never get bigger than about 500k players. That ended up being a little off. I tend to think that even if MMOs had stayed niche, I would have played them and enjoyed them, so it’s no great shock to me that I still enjoy them even as they start to become a niche thing again.

Tokens

As I mentioned before, the token has really changed my game time. Everything I do in game feels like it has a purpose and is contributing to my ultimate goal of buying another token to keep me from having to pay actual cash for my sub. I’ve been tracking my gold for about 3 weeks now and it looks like I’m making a token’s worth of gold every 18 to 20 days.

At this rate, I won’t have to pay money for my sub again for a long time. A financial decision on World of Warcraft will essentially never come.

I’m paying for the game by playing it. Why not stay subbed? 

I do worry a little because I’m essentially making this gold passively through my two Garrisons. The Salvage Yard, Barn, Gem Boutique and Treasure Hunters are my major source of income. I do wonder if Blizzard will have to adjust the passive gold generation because if I can make enough gold to fully fund my sub in about 45 minutes a night -- then just about everyone else should be able to as well. I guess Blizzard doesn’t care because somebody paid real money for that token. It just wasn’t me. So to all you guys buying my gold, just let me say thank you for paying for sub! I appreciate it!

Garrisons

I’ve read several blog posts that have pointed to Garrisons as one of the chief problems with Warlords. It’s predictable that whenever sub numbers drop, people will pick their pet peeve as THE be all end all reason why subs are down. But prior to Garrisons, the number one thread on the Official forums was always about how Blizzard had to add player housing to WoW. Blizzard experimented with the Farm in MoP and then went whole hog and gave us our house, and our fortress in Warlords. It’s another example of MMO players thinking we want one thing but after the Devs give it to us, we realize it really isn’t what we wanted. I made this mistake with Wildstar in regards to 40 man raids and grueling attunements. I thought both would be fantastic ideas and in the end neither really was. I love my Garrison because it’s essentially paying my sub right now but I totally get how its isolated players from the world. Warspear needed to be another Shattrah, another Dalaran, but it never happened.

Big Screen

Will there ever be another uptick in subs? The greater likelihood is there won’t but you never know. There is the little movie coming out next summer which will introduce WoW to millions of people who may have never played the game. Will this herald a new generation of players? I have no idea, but neither does anyone else.

The bottom line is I have no idea what the future holds for WoW. As long as the servers are on and I’m still having fun, I’m going to keep playing, regardless of what the sub numbers are doing.


So how about you? Are you still subbed to WoW? Why or why not? Let me know in the comments!

Thursday, May 7, 2015

[Horde] Dirty Casuals of Hyjal is Recruiting - Tanks!

My guild, The Dirty Casuals of Hyjal (Horde) is looking to recruit raiders for our team. We are currently 8/10 in BRF with just Blast Furnace and Blackhand left. I had some decent luck recruiting through the blog last time so I'll give it another shot.

We are currently recruiting Tanks of any class. Between my move and other IRL stuff going on, I haven't been able to be on consistently. Case in point, my daughter has a dance recital tonight so I'll be there. Our other tanks would really prefer to be Boomkins or Windwalkers.

We'd also accept Healers, Melee DPS or Ranged DPS. More people is always good.

Dirty Casuals is a laid back group. We like to kill stuff but we don't yell and scream when someone fails or we wipe. We don't care what class you bring because we are far more interested in getting to know the person behind the keyboard than what your avatar brings to a particular raid. The only thing we come down on hard is our members being jerks to other members.

Our current schedule is Monday, Tuesday and Thursday 9:30 EST to 12:30 EST. We love the Flex system that allows people come and go as they need.

We are currently raiding Normal mode with ambitions to go to Heroic once we kill Blackhand. We'd encourage you to try us out through a Cross Realm raid first before you decide to transfer.

If you have any other questions, feel free to hit me up on Twitter @honorshammer or you can hit up our official Twitter @TDCasuals.

Friday, May 1, 2015

WoW Tokens


The WoW token has changed how I view and play the game. When I first heard of the WoW token, I thought I’d be a gold buyer. I’ve never been particularly good at making WoW gold and the idea of spending $20 to get 100k gold (the number being speculated at the time) sounded really good. There were so many things I would buy myself from pets to mounts to heirlooms.

Then the reality hit. The token started at 30k gold and now hovers around 23-24k. I would never have 100k gold to buy one, but 24k gold? That seemed so much more doable, in fact, it almost seemed reasonable to think I could make that much gold in one month. The JC daily alone gives me about 200g per day (6000g per month or about ¼ of what I’d need). I’m somewhat frugal in the real world, and the idea of letting others pay for my game time really appealed to me. I went from prospective gold buyer to hard working gold seller.

I starting looking at spending gold differently. My brain instantly translated the gold to real world dollars (using approximately 1000g = $1). That 20k gold repair mount? That’s going to cost me $20. It didn’t seem quite so appealing anymore. 30k gold for a Mythic BoE. Yeah, no thank you, I’ll just wait for a drop. Very little in game is more appealing to me than saving up for Tokens. The only exception would be gems and enchants for my gear, but Honors is a JC which helps on the gems part. The only thing I really spend gold on is enchants and I'm not getting new gear all that often.

I've gotten to the point where I actually started a spreadsheet where I track the amount of gold I have at the start of my play session and what I have at the end. I realize there is probably some addon that would do that for me, but I like doing it myself in Excel. My goal is to try to make about 1000 gold per day. If I do that, I can easily purchase a token each month and I won't need to spend cash on my subscription. April was a successful month and I bought a token last night which pushes my sub out to August.

The Mage


I realized pretty quick that having only 1 level 100 was a major hindrance to the gold making. I still had the Level 90 boost from buying Warlords. But what to use it on? I really enjoyed playing the Mage for the Dirty Casuals twink group. I also considered boosting a Monk but I felt like it would be a very similar experience to my Paladin (Tank/Melee/Healer). Thus, my level 90 mage was born. He’s now around 98 and I’ve got him learning Engineering and Inscription. Granted Engineering has never been a cash cow, but I just like it, and you know, I should still do some things in the game for the pure enjoyment of them. I've built him an Inn and he's recruiting nothing but Treasure Hunters.

The Next Toon?

Once the Mage is 100, I'd like to start working on some additional toons to get into their Garrison and also to prepare for the next expansion since 6.2 is supposed to be the final Raid teir. I thinking about taking a break from tanking for the next expansion, but I'm not sure which class I'll play. I've enjoyed leveling the Mage, but oh man, is he squishy. I've never felt so vulnerable out questing. It is to the point that I upgraded the Barracks to get him a Bodyguard. I really like toons that more solo capable and unfortunately a couple of the best classes (Warlock, Death Knight) really freak me out. I don't think I'll ever have one as my main.

I have several toons of various classes and levels scattered across different servers. I have an 85 Warrior, an 80 Druid, a 60 Shaman and a 51 Hunter. The problem is that it costs $25 to transfer a toon so I'd have to be confident any toon I transferred to Hyjal could make me at least 40k gold. A Otherwise, its not worth it. A Level 90 boost will set me back $60 (or about 4 months of subscription).

My other option would be to level up a toon from scratch on Hyjal. I could have him learn skinning and either Herbalism or Mining. Of course, trying to avoid transfer fees is how I've managed to have multiple alts of various levels scattered across the different servers I've called home. If I was going to level a new alt, I'd really prefer to have the Level 1 Mount and I'm about 7 Heirloom short and getting them is going to cost me gold.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Guest Post [Savvy Mark] Real life effects us all

Today I'm handing over the blog to one of my guildmates, Savvy Mark. I'll be back posting Soon(TM). Without further ado, here's Savvy!

Real life effects us all. 


     Everyone's reasons for playing MMO's is different.  What isn't always obvious when you start is the amount of time that you invest into it.  Not sure how long you've been playing? Type /played on your "main" and you will find some disturbing information.

     Now do that with all your toons on all your accounts.  The total can be huge.  But is this a waste of time?  Unfortunately (or fortunately) we have no means of tracking time spent with our televisions in the "on" position.  If you are like me, you turn the TV on when you are in the house (and some sleep with their TV's on).

     A little about me, I am an avid gamer going back to the days of the Atari 2600 (1979).  Adventure was my first foray into fantasy game land.  My game console migration led me to the Colecovision, Nintendo Entertainment System, Tandy 1000SX (my first computer which ran at a then whopping 7 Megahertz with 640KB RAM and had two 5 1/4" floppy disk drives), Sega Genesis, Sony Playstation, Sega Dreamcast, Nintendo Game Cube and finally a laptop and desktop which are both 4 and 8 years old respectively.

     My wife and I get into it about my game time.  She doesn't see playing an MMO as being the same as watching TV while texting friends/following Twitter or Facebook.  She's even concerned that I am setting a poor example for my son (who plays PS4 and gets on voice chat with his friends).  There are times when I've logged in to World of Warcraft simply to chat with friends or guildmates.  Is that really playing games?

     I bring this up because with 22 years of life in the Navy, playing games has been a great way to pass the time when away from home.  The problem is that now I am in the house and I still have a burning desire to kill things online, and with friends.  I quit WoW for over a year because I couldn't justify paying a subscription to go to an island in Pandaria and be bored.  With no new content for over a year, I quit.  Warlords of Draenor caught my attention and being guildless I almost quit again.  I have Honor's to thank for his post announcing that his guild was recruiting.  They were nice enough to allow me to raid with them across servers.  I did so with a hunter with full arena gear (I was 660 I-level) and being competitive in the DPS meters (and not dying by standing in fire, etc). 

     When the time came to move to the server, I went to my "main", the enhancement/resto shaman: Savvymark.  Savvy has been on both factions and has been every race (except Goblin).  I have used her for over 8 years.  Enhancement Shaman is one of the most underused class/specs in the game.  To be a female Tauren makes it even rarer.  But I like it that way.  The enhancement shaman is the most unique class/spec in MMO's today.  A combination melee/spell caster that provides utility to the party/raid from melee range.  But I like it that way.

     So what's with the title?  Well, real life effects life in game.  I have had to limit my playing time drastically.  Raiding twice a week (sometimes 3 times) is viable and I don't have much time for anything else.  Planning for an upcoming retirement, job searching, house hunting, etc. and I still want to kill things online with friends.  This is a thank you to Honor's for finding me an online home for my favorite toon (I have since recruited a few real friends to this new home as well).  It's a balance I'm going to have to maintain.  I've met new friends and found a welcome place to kill things.  I salute you Honor's for helping this guy. 

Thank you, Savvy. I'm glad I was able to help. Savvy has been a great addition to the Dirty Casuals. If you are looking for a new home in World of Warcraft, hit me up in the comments. You can also check the original post. We are 8/10 now and I think we could even use another tank in our rotation with a strong DPS offset.

Friday, April 3, 2015

I'm All About That Boat, Bout That Boat

I apologize for the lack of updates. Real life has intruded in a big way but last night we had one of those raid nights that you are telling stories about 2 expansions later.

Real Life Stuff


I was late getting online as we were negotiating to buy a house. Part of the real life stuff that is going on is that we decided to sell our house. It sold really fast. I mean sign in the yard on Wednesday, signed contract to buy the house on Friday. We couldn't really start looking until our place sold. The real estate market in my home town is extremely hot right now and if you put in an offer on a house contingent on selling yours, it will only be accepted if you already have a signed contract on yours.

We've been looking for the past month, but with the market so hot, there aren't nearly as many houses on the market as usual. We faced the basic problem of what we could afford near town was either small or in a not so great area. The stuff that was big enough and in decent areas was further out and would require a longer commute.

We found a place we liked. It is a little further out than we wanted to be but it has the room we need and it is a nice brick house in an older, established neighborhood which is what we wanted. The biggest issue is that the people who currently live there aren't moving until June and we sort of have to move out of our place by the end of April.

Good gravy, that's this month!!

Maidens


Once I got the offer signed and emailed to my agent, I was able to log in. The team was heading to Flame Bender. She went down in one shot. We then knocked out Kromog. My warrior co-Tank got his Protecting Palm. Shields actually do drop!

With that out of the way, we went to work on Maidens. We had made some really solid progress the previous Thursday and we consistently were getting to the 25% phase when the bosses all gain new abilities and pretty much everything goes crazy. Our best attempt was about 12%.

We noticed how long the fight goes and we decided to experiment with getting two Bloodlusts off during the fight. With the early Bloodlust we had to really slow down DPS toward the 3rd boat phase. After a couple of attempts like that, we opted to try pushing them through before the 3rd boat phase. Sorka's boat gives us the most trouble so we opted to make that one the one to skip.

The plan worked well. We were able to push Gar'an down to 24% before Sorka went over. That meant that Sorka stayed on the platform and we didn't get her boat phase. We got Gar'ran down and the damage from Sorka and Marak kicked up a notch. Steel (our warrior tank on Marak) went down. I taunted, but with both Marak and Sorka beating on me I didn't last long.

Both tanks were dead but Sorka and Gar'an were dead. Marak was still up at like 10% health. Tachi, our Boomkin, went Bear form, taunted and then hit every speed boost he had. Just before Gar'an got to Tachi to melee him (and probably one shot poor Tachi), Gar'an stopped to channel his Blood Ritual spell. Tachi put some more distance between himself and Gar'an, but soon after the Blood Ritual, Gar'an went over and finished Tachi. We were moments away from a Battle Rez but we didn't have any Battle Rezzers alive.

We were down to two Hunters, our priest, paladin and shaman. It was pretty crazy. The Hunters turned their pets Growl on. Gar'an went under 1 million. Kite, DoT and run. Slowly the numbers ticked away. Our priest went full Smite mode. Kite, DoT, run.

I thought we were headed for one of those agonizing 1% wipes, but then Gar'an toppled over and achievements filled the screen. Somehow, someway, we had survived, and defeated the Maidens.



Loot was handed out, but they didn't drop anything that would be an upgrade for me. Of course, with the move going on and not being sure about my availability going forward, I was only going to take something that one of other tanks (or soon to be tanks) didn't need. We now have a couple of guys with 4 set bonuses and only Blast Furnace and Blackhand remain undefeated for us.

Looking Forward


As we get into the meat of packing, my play time and blog time is going to be limited. I'll be without internet for some period of time during the move. I'm also not sure how the longer commute is going to affect my availability.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Let's Give Kromog a Hand!

WoW has been something of a haven for me this past week as my life in the real world has been fairly chaotic. Thursday night, we started on Kromog. After much discussion on Twitter and Maintankadin, we found a suggestion that the first tank on Kromog only take one stack of Warped Armor and then the second tank would pick him up and get two stacks. Then we would rotate as stacks cleared.

It was a good plan and with me starting initially, my stacks were cleared by the time the 'hands' phase was over. I only had to remember to taunt him to make sure my co-Tank didn't get his third stack. We still had to deal with three stacks from time to time and we used external cooldowns to help him through.

I continued to use "Stupid Paladin Tricks" to avoid the 'rune' phase completely.

The first 'rune' phase, when the Runes of Grasping Earth are showing up, make sure you are NOT in a rune. Yes, that's right, don't be in a rune. When Kromog is about to cast Thundering Blows, you hit Divine Shield. You'll still get knocked up into the air but you'll take zero fall damage. Once you land, Taunt the big guy and continue tanking. You need to be ready with a cooldown in case he casts Fists of Stone before you co-Tank is out of his rune/hand.

For the second rune phase, you use Blessing...errr...Hand of Protection. I'll get that change through my head at some point. When the third rune phase comes up, Divine Shield should be ready again. The one thing you've got to remember is not to use Lay on Hands as an emergency button in the 30 seconds before Thundering Blows is cast. Otherwise, you'll have Forbearance and not be able to cast Divine Shield.

What that meant was that as soon as Kromog was finished channeling his stomp, I was already in melee and he never used Stone Breath on the raid as a whole. It also meant one less hand for DPS to have to help free up. They could concentrate on my co-Tank and the healers.

That helped us out. The other strategy note we made was putting our DPS DK in the middle for AoE. It took several attempts, but we kept getting to enrage before we would lose people to attrition or we'd lose a tank or two. Finally, we had that pull where everything comes together and we downed him.

I managed to win the roll for the Tier helm. Of all the Tier pieces, this was the one that would be an actual iLevel upgrade (about 20 iLevels to be precise). The Tier piece reminds me a bit of Tier 5.

The next night, we didn't raid, so I hopped in LFR and did the Black Forge. I was after Kromog specifically. He cooperated and dropped the LFR shield. I was finally able to replace the 363 Ogre Dinner Plate I had been using since pretty much I hit 100.

With Kromog dead, we headed over to put in some attempts on Thogar. This fight is chaotic. You almost have to know where the next train is coming to know where to go. The biggest problem Steel and I had was managing the debuff during the phase where the two trains separate the raid. Even if one of us taunted right before that phase, the stacks still seemed to get too high before the phase ended. The adds seem to hit pretty hard and my health yoyos a bit too much for my taste.

We didn't get very far on Thogar usually dying during the split phase. We'll get back to him soon and hopefully start making some progress.