27.7.13

The Mocking Smirk of the Loot Gods

"What's your luckydo?" - Every Grummle ever

There are some days when I just have to shake my head and smile at the weird way that things work out.

The thing about random loot drops is, obviously, that they are random and impossible to predict. You might go for weeks without getting drop, or get three great pieces in a row. Call it RNG Hell, the Loot Gods, Bad Luck or whatever, but blame random chance for that one item of gear that you've been unable to upgrade.

That's where I was last night. My gear was looking pretty good; 522 or better on every single item except for Boots (502 Raid Finder, so at least current tier) and my Shoulders.

The shoulders were embarrassing: [White Tiger Mantle], my LFR shoulders from last Tier that stubbornly refused to upgrade themselves. Weekly LFR runs of Iron Qon and Primordius and almost daily Heroic Scenario runs in the hopes that I would beat the miniscule odds and get a 516 drop with stats that weren't entirely useless.

Nothing. The Loot Gods were displeased, apparently.

I had given up hope completely of ever getting a drop. I was convinced that the drops didn't exist (much like the Shield from Tortos and the Twins, but that's another ranty, Gear QQ post). So I resigned myself to grinding towards Exalted with the Shado-Pan Assault and just buying a set.

And last night, right after Ji-Kun fell over dead into her own green slime, this popped up:


Finally! I was so excited. I wanted to teleport out immediately and buy them, but my raid leader told me to have some damned patience and wait until the end of the raid.

The Loot Gods are bastards, though. After more than two months of waiting and hoping and begging, once I was Exalted and could just buy the damned things and get the suffering over with, what did Primordius drop? Yup: [Spaulders of Primordial Growth].

My raid team all laughed and told me that at least I hadn't spent the money on the reputation gear and would I please finally shut the hell up about shoulders, already?

Now, you're probably saying, "So what?" This sort of thing happens to us all at one point or another. Random is random, after all.

But the Loot Gods have a real flair for the ironic. Guess what Iron Qon dropped? Yup! [Shoulders of the Crackling Conquerer].

I didn't even bother to roll on them. Yes, they're my best in slot and I would absolutely love to have them...

But three sets of shoulders in one night is just too much for any Paladin.

26.7.13

Ahead of the Curve: Lei Shen

Lay the proud Usurpers low!
Tyrants fall in every foe!
Liberty's in every blow! 
Let us Do or Die!  - Robbie Burns, Scots Wha Hae.


I really like my new Raid Team.

I suppose that they're hardly new any more. I have been raiding with them for three months now, and we've been from one end of the Throne of Thunder to the other. We've exulted in glorious victory together and toiled in hardship and defeat at the hands of our enemies. Good times.

Interesting factoid: The Snails on the stairs to Ji-Kun have killed more of us than Primordius and The Twin Consorts combined. Adversity, thy name is Gastropod.

Anyway, I'm really proud to be part of this group. When I joined them—undergeared and ill-prepared—I was understandably nervous about my performance and acceptance into the group. After all, I was replacing the former Raid Leader—also a Holy Paladin—who knew these people, had more experience with the fights and much better gear. Although I would never had admitted it at the time, my greatest fear was that the raid leaders would realize that I was a talentless hack after the first few pulls and ruthlessly relegate me to Non-Raider-Pariah status permanently.

Isn't it always nice when your Worst Fears don't come true?

To their credit, the group (and guild in general) made me feel right at home. To me, at least, Acquired Taste was an instant fit.

It's nice to have a home again.


AHEAD OF THE CURVE


First of all, I'm really glad that Blizzard has finally implemented this kind of Achievement. It's something I have been advocating for a long time. It finally provides a way to differentiate between people who put in a lot of work to kill a boss while it's current, and the Tourist who goes in after the fact to just look around. I love it!

Acquired Taste runs two different 10-Man Raid Groups. When I joined the guild both groups were at a very similar point in their progression and there was a healthy rivalry between the two as to who would get the next progression kill. Sadly, the Prime-Time raid always seemed a step ahead of the Late-Night Crew, but I'm proud to say that both groups have managed to down Lei Shen and are 12/12.

Despite the fact that the Late Night Crew has had a revolving door of people, we've managed to get things done. Doing a quick count in my head I can think of 6 or 7 different tanks we've used, at least as many healers and DPS that come and go before I can even learn their names. But the personality of the group has stayed constant. It's actually remarkable that we've managed to keep steadily progressing with all the turn-over, and (while I hope they don't read this because I wouldn't want to inflate any egos) it's a testament to Ittymar and Amara, our excellent raid leaders.

We actually downed Lei Shen almost a month ago, but I'm posting this now because last week was special. It was the first week that we downed the entire instance without extending the lockout, and it was the week that I personally got my 12/12 achievement as I had been absent when we first killed Iron Qon and The Twins and the group had extended the lockout to tackle Lei Shen. This week we took them down in order.

Now we're going to start playing around with Heroic modes, which will be another first for me.


NO ONE'S DEAD SO KEEP YOUR HEAD OUT OF YOUR ASS

Apparently, our resident Warlock FRAPSes our raiding nights. This is a first for me; I've never been able to watch myself play the game, and it's especially odd seeing it from another's perspective. It's pretty cool, actually.

Here is our first Lei Shen kill. Look for the Paladin in the full Tier 9 transmog running through bad stuff and generally being out of place all the time if you want to find me. I'm the one calling the tanks impatient at the beginning if you're interested in what I sound like.




22.5.13

The Bottom End of the Learning Curve


In Which the

DWARVEN BATTLE MEDIC

Comes to the

STARTLING AND EMBARRASSING REALIZATION 

That he has Been Playing his Class

LIKE A TOTAL NUBCAKE.





Mists of Pandaria has introduced a lot of changes to all the classes, as is normal with any expansion. When Cataclysm launched I spent hours obsessively scouring each PTR patch note and news release for any change. So I had a pretty clear idea of how the rather fundamental changes to the game, and healing in particular, would play out. 

Come Mists and I did none of that. In fact, since it's launch I've spent far more time in my Protection Levelling/Questing/Pull-Twenty-Mobs-And-Mow-Them-Down spec than I have healing.

So the past few weeks have been spent not only in a frenzied effort to raise my gear level from its former barely-enough-for-LFR level to something that wouldn't completely embarrass me in a normal mode Throne of Thunder 10-Man, but it's also been a steep learning curve to fully understand my class again.

Big things like Talents I had a pretty decent grasp on, at least in the broad strokes, but in reading up on them in the excellent Bossypally Talent Guide I realized that some of my choices were less than optimal. Particularly Hand of Purity, which had been transformed from middling to awesome since the beginning of the expansion, a talent that I had never really considered before that I now consider an essential tool.

I also didn't fully appreciate the effect that normalizing Mana would have on Paladins. In all previous expansions, Intellect was a Paladin's no-brainer, don't-even-think-of-gemming-anything-else-dumbass, best Stat. Not so for Mists. Now the once lamented Spirit is a Holy Paladin's best friend, to the point that the once useless Blue Gems are pretty much all I need now. That was a head-scratcher when I first read about it, let me tell you, and it went against two expansions worth of common sense.

Similarly, Mastery is now such a viable gearing strategy that Ask Mr. Robot considers it the default way to build a Holy Paladin, relegating a Haste-heavy build to the status of the Ugly Cousin that ain't quite right in the head.

I admit, I took the lazy route this expansion: at the start of Mists I didn't do much in the way of homework on my class, and just kept gearing and gemming and playing the same way I had in Cataclysm.

But there's nothing like a Raid Boss to quickly show a person just how bad the lazy way is.


FEET WET IN THE THRONE OF THUNDER

Staring a progression boss in the face for the first time
in a long time. Please ignore the skeletons.
I have officially been a Raider again for three weeks now. My new guild Acquired Taste is full of excellent people who were more than willing to help me get geared up, as well as hand-hold me as I learned the new fights. Their help, as well as some getting some long-awaited good loot-luck in LFR, has seen my iLVL rise from 476 to 501 in three short weeks, still on limited play-time. I'm managing to keep up with the other healers, despite my still-inferior gear.

But lordy, it's been a challenge. Walking on to a raid team that had three bosses on farm that I had never before encountered or even studied, being expected to contribute in a meaninful way and not hold the raid back, all while sporting several blues and one or two PVP gear pieces. Not to mention that this is a brand new guild for me and I'm still in my probation period, so if I don't impress I run the risk of losing not just my raid spot but potentially my new guild as well. But hey, no pressure, right?

In the end I think I've done pretty well. The first week we downed Tortos for the first time, and we followed it up with a last pull of the night, three-people-left-standing Megaera kill the week after. Our third week saw Ji-Kun fall, with the Battle Medic on nest-healing duties.


FEELIN' GROOVY

It's felt great to be back raiding again. The people I'm with are great, the Throne of Thunder raid is excellent and it's nice to finally be caught up with the game again and to feel like I've got things under control.

What? Patch 5.3 dropped today? It's got a whole bunch of new stuff to figure out, two new epic questlines and dozens more dailies to do?

Son of a bitch.



26.4.13

The Long Road Back

In Which the

DWARVEN BATTLE MEDIC

Attempts to Reconcile

CERTAIN LAMENTABLE EVENTS 

and Makes a 

FATEFUL DECISION.






For reasons that I cannot quite understand, this expansion hasn't really caught my imagination. Don't get me wrong, there are a lot of really great things about this expansion; I'm really impressed with the levelling experience, for example, and the visuals are spectacular—probably the best that WoW has ever done. Mists of Pandaria has humour, great stories and a lot of things to do. But it just hasn't captured me: I like Pandaria, but I'm not really excited about Pandaria. And I don't know why.

Actually, I think I can make a guess. I think it has something to do with the fact that I have no goal to achieve this expansion.

Once I hit 90 I simply felt lost. Run a few heroics, get some decent gear, start running LFR. Once that was done, then what? Dailies? To what end? What is the point of gearing up a character if not to raid? It becomes rather like a girl dressing up in her best ballgown, twirling in front of her mirror night after night because she knows she's never going to get the chance to go to the dance.

At the risk of beating the same old dead horse and paraphrasing real-life Forsaken zombie James Carville, "IT'S THE RAIDING, STUPID".

Since January when some tumultuous real-life changes hit the Battle Medic household, I have essentially been taking a sabbatical from my Paladin. I've spent very little time playing WoW since then, and the vast majority of it has been on various different Alts on various different servers. Alt levelling, low level PVP, dipping my foot in the dark side of Horde levelling. Basically anything other than logging onto my main.


THE LOW POINT

So imagine my surprise when I finally do log in only to discover that my guild has transferred servers. And they went Horde as well. Double whammy.

It was a surprise, to say the least. The letter that is automatically sent from Blizzard is a terse slap in the face as far as notifications go. In fairness to the guild, I wasn't around so it's certainly not their fault that I didn't know—the website had plenty of info and I'm sure it was discussed at length in Mumble. So I don't blame them and wish them all the best on Mal'Ganis as damned, dirty Hordies.

But it did leave me feeling rather abandoned and alone. And it got me wondering whether or not I still enjoy this game enough to be paying my fifteen bucks a month for the privilege.

Blues just ain't gonna cut it anymore.
As it turns out, fuck yeah! I do.

Time to get back to work and start gearing in preparation for raiding. I'm way behind and I've got a long way to go, but damn, I'm looking forward to the challenge. I've just joined up with a new guild that has a late-night raid team that should work around the Dwarfling's schedule, and importantly, seem like fun people to be around. A fresh start, so to speak.

Look for more from Battle Medic in the very near future. I'm certain I'm going to have a lot to talk about.


13.12.12

Year The Second: An Unexpected Journey

I'm a little rusty at this, so you'll have to bear with me a bit.

I almost didn't realize it, but Tuesday was the second anniversary of the creation of Dwarven Battle Medic. It's an occasion that deserves celebration but is marred by the dust on everything around here and the conspicuous lack of party guests.

Still, it's totally worth it.
There are many reasons why I haven't been posting much lately, and for the sake of your sanity I'm not going to get into them. Suffice it to say that real life has fundamentally altered how I play the game.


LIFE WITHOUT RAIDING

Raiding, once my passion and purpose within in the game, is no longer possible. Scheduled, uninterrupted time simply doesn't exist.

This fact has been the largest contributing factor to the stagnation of Battle Medic: without raiding, what is there to talk about? Looking back on my past posts, I talked a lot about raiding. As a WoW player, being a successful raider (at least, within my own goals) was something I took immense pride in, worked hard to achieve and thoroughly enjoyed. As a result I've had to find other things to do to make my play time enjoyable. It's been a hard adjustment.

Gone are the days where I had a meticulously crafted gearing plan and would chain heroics in order to achieve it. No more meticulous research on mechanics, strategies or min-max gobbledegook. No more pressure to get to a point where I could contribute without letting my Guild or Raid Team down. Instead, I've been playing at a very relaxed pace. And once I got my head around the fact that I am, even if it is against my will, a non-raider, I've been enjoying myself quite a bit.

It's kinda nice not to have any pressure.

But the really interesting thing that is only now just dawning on me is that it brings me full circle to the way I played when I was initially levelling up my first characters. Before I hit max-level for the first time I would never look ahead or research or do anything that would take away from the joy of discovering what comes next. It was, in many ways, a very innocent time. A time when I could enjoy the game on my own terms and not have to worry about whether I was DOING IT RIGHT because it simply didn't matter as long as I was having fun. That's the mindset that I discovered, or rather rediscovered, as I trekked through Pandaria.

So as the second year of Battle Medic winds down and a new one begins I find myself in the strangely familiar position of enjoying the slow, immersive solo game and yet wanting to do more. Now, how do I write about that?



5.9.12

A Good Day


Over the past month or more I admit that I have been neglecting poor, ol' Battle Medic, and not without more than a little guilt. I have not, however, been neglecting the game entirely. I have been sneaking and conspiring, negotiating and stealing rare moments to indulge in Azeroth playtime whenever there was an opportunity.

And the majority of that time has been spent blowing stuff up. Mage-style. Warlocks beware.

My little gnomish pyromaniac has slowly and painstakingly progressed into the mid-60s and is slogging through the mire that is the Outlands.

Anyway, today was a good day. I have been intermittently fishing the high, lonely lakes of Terrokar Forest for the Mysterious Mr. Pinchy for a long time now. Every single skill point in Fishing that my Shaman has achieved has come in the futile hunt for this nearly-mythological crustacean. But no luck. Never even a sniff.

Until today.

Today was a good day.




19.7.12

Sightseeing and Raiding Achievements

"The distinction between the past, present and future is only a stubbornly persistent illusion." - Albert Einstein
Perhaps one of the more lamentable facts of life when it comes to World of Warcraft raiding is that as each new tier of content comes out, the raids and dungeons of previous tiers tend to get quickly abandoned like an awkwardly phrased metaphor. This phenomena typically gets worse the older a raid is until the only time people will visit is to do the raiding equivalent of sightseeing. Now that's all fine and good if the purpose is simply to revisit a raid that has been completed previously for the sake of nostalgia, but what about someone going in to see a dungeon for the first time?

There are some magnificently complex and wonderful encounters in these old raids. The truly sad thing is that the typical sightseer will go in as an overlevelled and overgeared wrecking machine and rip through these old bosses with the same level of delicacy as it would take to open a Chunky Soup can with a stick of dynamite. Bosses die and encounters are completed with no regard to the very mechanics and elements that make the fights actually interesting. The end result is that the player smacks around some poor, lonely, underpowered bosses and gets the achievement for completing the raid, but doesn't actually experience or understand the raid on anything but the most superficial level. It's rather like going to Paris and never leaving the McDonalds in the airport; you get the stamp on your passport to say you've been there but can't really say much other than the hamburgers are awful.

Sadly, this essentially renders the Raid achievements and the titles that are associated with them meaningless.

Take my Shaman and Paladin as examples. My shaman wears the Starcaller title for defeating Algalon. She got it long after Ulduar was relevant, as an 85 in a full raid of level 85s. I defeated the encounter but really don't have an appreciation of what the fight is all about, nor does the title have any true emotional value; it just looks neat.

My Paladin, Thosif, on the other hand, typically wears his Kingslayer title with pride. I earned that title with my previous guild Shadowgarde through a lot of hard work and effort while the encounter was still the pinnacle of raiding (Halion just doesn't count and everybody knows it). The title and the achievement have meaning to me precisely because I feel that I earned them. The fact that a person can take a group of 85s and blitz their way through Icecrown Citadel in an hour and get the title makes it feel a little less special as well; I know I earned it, but others would probably just assume I got it the easy way.

Now, before anyone gets huffy and starts calling me an elitist, this is just how I feel about it personally. There are lots of reasons that people like going into old raids and dungeons at high levels, and I am certainly don't want to take anyone's fun away. But for me, the thrill of raiding comes from the challenge, and if I'm going to experience a raid for the first time, that's how I'd prefer to see it.

The obvious problem is that it's virtually impossible to get a group of people at the appropriate level in the appropriate gear together at the same time to run an old raid. Very few people will halt their levelling progress on a new alt long enough to gear him to run a raid, and even if someone did it's unlikely that they would be able to find enough other people who were doing that at the same time. It comes down to motivation: There simply is no incentive to do an older raid at the proper level. It's much simpler to either get a guildmate or two to run your alt through it, or wait until you're maximum level.



THE TEMPLATE: HERALD OF THE TITANS

There is, however, one singular achievement (technically a Feat of Strength) that a sightseeing raider can't get: Herald of the Titans. This little gem of an achievement requires a player to be the appropriate level as well as have the appropriate gear for the encounter. No overpowered tourists allowed.

This title is unique in that it is only available for a limited time while a character is level 80 and once you've passed that threshold you're out of luck on that character. If you want the title now, you're going to have to pause your XP, gear up your level 80 alt and find a group willing to go with you and kill the encounter the old fashioned way.

In essence, what this achievement does is make this single old raid encounter permanently relevant.

This achievement is not new—it's been around since Ulduar itself—but as we move into the new expansion I think it can give Blizzard a template for future raids. Why couldn't each new raid tier have a meta achievement with similar requirements to Herald of the Titans, each one with a unique and desirable vanity reward such as a mount or pet? The players that are running it while it's current would get it as a matter of course, but it could give people reasons to run the previous tier with their alts using the proper gear even after it is no longer the cutting edge. This would allow people to get the feeling of Burning Crusade and Vanilla raiding (of having to progress through each tier sequentially) if they want it, but would not actually require anyone to do it if they didn't feel like it.

And while we're on the subject, why couldn't Blizzard add similar achievements to older raids? Why not bring the Hand of Adal title back, but require that only a level 70 in a level 70 raid group could get it? How difficult would it be to reinstate the Immortal and Undying titles from Naxxramas with a character and item level restriction? What would be the effect of a Karazahn achievement that awards a miniature Wolfman or Strawman pet? Would there be a massive move towards creating level 70 raiding teams on Twitter to farm this beloved raid instance? If the rewards were unique enough, the hardcore would likely start frothing at the mouth to get alts to the proper level to get them.

Hell, a new Lady Vashj title might even make Kurn resubscribe for Mists.

Blizzard has made a big fuss about making sure that there is lots of things to do at maximum level, but adding a couple of these little achievements and rewards scattered through the beloved and excellent older content would give people things to do before max level that are equally important to do. Right now, the content is massively weighted towards the maximum level, and that is by design, but that also means that—by design—there is a massive amount of content that the vast majority of people will never get a chance to experience properly.

With the advent of Cross-Realm Raiding and soon Cross-Realm Zones there will potentially be lots of players who might be interested in halting their levelling progression on an alt in order to do some older raiding for their one shot at a unique reward. It may help remove the pressure to level as quickly as possible just so that there's something that they can do with their friends, and allow people to stop, smell the roses and actually experience the content that's out there in this big, virtual world of ours.