Sunday, September 26, 2010

i am not a forest

Hi, new raiding people. I'm working very hard to learn all your names, what you do, and how to work with you.

My name doesn't have funny characters. It's pretty much pronounced the way it sounds.

It's not Elwood.

It's not Elwynn.

I'm not a forest. I'm not even a tree! Er, wait... Perhaps I've just been confused a very, very long time...

Friday, September 24, 2010

10s, 25s, or banana?

Over at, there's a poll going for who's planning to do 10s or 25s come Cata. The verdict is in: lots of players want 10 man raids, and many players are calling this the death of 25s. In game, there's almost a venom that comes out with this discussion, as if there's a horde of players who have secretly hated 25 man raids and can't wait for them to writhe in a horribly-fiery-painful death.

However, there are a few advantages of 25s that I haven't seen discussed too much. I'm glad that there are a lot of players excited about the change to lockouts (it means that Blizzard made the right choice, and that lots of players are doing 25s when they don't want to). But I don't believe that 25 man raids will die, especially not by fire. There are advantages that larger guilds have in terms of logistics.

1. Maintaining extras in a 25 man roster is easier than 10 man. All raiding guilds want to have at least a couple of extra damage dealers and healers hanging out in the wings. So the guild over-stocks itself, knowing that every raid night, a couple of folks won't make it, and a couple will be benched. It's expected that in a healthy 25 man guild, there's a wait list (perhaps not over this past summer or fall, but, you know). In this case, you have anywhere from 7 to 14% (3 or 4 of 29) of your raid group sitting out each week. Ideally. Odds are, in a 25 setting, it would be less because the larger the group, the more likely there's a meeting/school event/birthday that keeps a raider away.

In a 10 man group, ideally, you still want to overstock but the line between too few and too many is less clear. Suddenly 12-25% (3 of 13) of your raid force is going to be sitting on a given night, if everyone showed (which grows more likely with a smaller group). If your main tank doesn't show, it could spell a cancellation. In a 25 man raiding guild, there's more likely to be someone who can switch specs for the night or be brought in.

2. 10 mans rely a lot more on 100% raider attendance. How many 25 man raids have you done in the past few months, shy a damage dealer or two? Or, even with the most borked raid comp you could think of? I can think of plenty times we've gone and done the easy bosses with 20. Hell, we've progressed with 24.

Try that in 10 man? There's achievements for that, but I doubt it's a healthy thing to try to do new bosses that way, and not consistently. Especially if healer mana is as constrained as predicted, doing a fight shy one raider on 10 man is a risky endeavor that will punish the healers the most. Culling a damage dealer prolongs the fight, dropping a healer could push remaining healers too much.

3. 10 man raids will be tuned for the same gear level and be harder. For the first two tiers of content in Wrath, I never did 25s, and I found 10s to be pretty hard at gear level. I think the strict 10 man progression raiders would agree, too, if you don't outgear the instance, 10s aren't exactly faceroll now. I never did ICC 10 without severely overgearing it. Period. I came in with 245 gear, when it was tuned for 232 gear. That's a big difference in spell power, luxury stats like haste and crit, and blue bar. That's extra gem slots, too! I'll admit, I have no idea what 10 man progression in Icecrown should have felt like, because I was already geared with 25 man ToC gear.

If 10s are being tuned without the lower gear requirement, a lot of players might find 10s harder than anticipated, especially since each player is 10% of the equation, as opposed 4% in a 25.

4. 10 man and 25 man often have different loot systems. I'm a huge fan of EPGP. I think it's pretty darn fair (I'm biased, as a player with 100% attendance who only takes what she needs). Since I do 25s and that's where my "best" upgrades come from, I could care less when I lose a /roll in a 10.

I suppose this statement relies soundly on a few assumptions. Most 10 man runs I've ever seen do a /roll, often limited what you can main spec per wing/per boss. I haven't heard of many 10 man guilds that have a formal loot system, and I have a hard time picturing how something like EPGP or DKP would work. I don't have any experience with loot council, but any system that favors attendance over a /roll is going to put the players is going to put the casual folks recruited to be available when you're short at a severe disadvantage.

ESPECIALLY if there's less loot per boss on 10. That could get nasty. In a 25 man, a casual member just helping out for the night still might walk away with some upgrades despite an attendance system (more drops per boss, the sooner stuff gets sharded/goes to offspec). In a 10 man, it seems less likely, especially if the 10 man is designed to "gear players up" more slowly than 25 mans, then more of your players are still waiting on specific upgrades. The regular raiders would be hurt by a /roll, but the casual would have no incentive to join if they have to pass to the regular raider.

Less loot in 10s also exacerbates the recruitment issue. Less gear going to offspecs could limit your raid's flexibility. It's been easy in Wrath to maintain a viable offspec (how many druids and paladins do you know that have three sets of gear?), because with the dailies, badges from two lockouts AND two/three weeklies, and drops from two lockouts, the gear is out there. In Cata, we'll only get one lockout, and we'll be capped on how many PVE points we can get in a week.

If 10 mans are designed to take more time to gear up, that further delays the drops going to off spec, limiting how many folks are going to be able to switch as needed. Players who value their flexibility may have incentive to do 25 man raids. I imagine that even 10 man raiders will be able to keep offsets, but they might have to mix and match some lower tier gear to do it.

While it's true that healers and casters maybe be able to use a lot of their main gear for their offspec, that doesn't help tanks, paladins, or enhancement shamans. Their offsets will be built from scratch.

5. 25 man raids, in Cata, can shift down to smaller raid sizes on short nights, while 10 man groups can not shift up. A low attendance night won't cancel the larger raid, assuming there's enough tanks and healers, as they can at least do a fight or two at the 10 man size.

6. Problem players and cliques can claim more authority in a 10 man raiding group. Lots of players like 10 mans for the intimacy (I do, too). I have accepted that in a 25 man environment, there will be at least a couple of absolute dicks. If I choose to progress in only 10 mans, I wouldn't put up with even one. I'd want to genuinely like and respect everyone in my 10 man group, while it's expected that in a larger group that just won't happen. Personalities meshing in smaller groups is more pivotal for group success than in larger raids.

Smaller groups can potentially be polarized by issues and personalities. Just like the difference in feel between a small business and a corporation, the comfort and intimacy can become a liability if not carefully handled. In that respect, 25 man guilds can promote emotional distance and professionality, which some players look for in their raiding environment.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not trying to suggest that 25 man raids are less likely to get emotional or have drama explosions, because that's not true at all! What I am trying to say is that it rocks the world of a 10 man guild when 10% or 20% of your raiding force ragequits. That's the potential to call the raid for the night, which is quite a bit of power in the hands of one individual. In a 25 man raiding guild, the individual holds less power and therefore can't emotionally blackmail the group. Granted, these aren't the players you want in your raid anyways, but calling a raid early for a night or not raiding at all is dangerous for guild morale. I've always felt there was a higher potential for fallout in a 10 man group over the 25. It's more intimidating to risk pissing off 24 people than 9.

6. 10 man healers will (likely) be less specialized. This is quite a bit of speculation on my part, but I predict that Blizzard's motto for healers of using the whole toolkit will come out much more in 10 man raids than in 25's. In larger groups, there is more room for specialization, while in small groups there is a need for versatility. Healers who want to specialize could very well be happier in 25 man raiding group, especially healers who expect to be doing the same job all the time. That isn't to say that tank healers will never cast raid heals or vice versa, but I predict that I want to define myself as a tank healer, I'll need to stick to 25 man raids to do it. In a larger group, it's easier to specialize and expect to fulfill that role. A lot of healers will love the versatility of healing in 10 man raids (I like playing my priest and druid more in 10s than 25s) but some will still prefer to specialize.

7. Managing a 10 man really isn't that much "easier" than managing a 25, it's a busy job no matter the group size. I've done both, and obviously YMMV, but personally I've found being an officer in 25 to be simpler even if the volume of tells is always worse. With a larger team of officers, my role was clearly delineated and there was almost always another officer online to confirm policy or ask for support. Going back to the small business analogy, a 10 man officer is going to juggle more hats. The 25 man officer is going to take care of the assignments given to them, and deflect other matters to the correct officer. Established roles make for less stress and less stepping on toes.

If I were offered a leadership position again, I'd rather take it in a 25 man guild than a 10. The argument that no one will want to manage 25s falls flat for me. It's a lot of work and emotional investment to manage a guild, no matter its size.

TL;DR: If Blizzard stays true to their design mission of play the raid lockout you WANT to play, I believe 10 man raids will be a lot more prevalent, but I don't think it's the death knell for 25 man groups. There will still be incentives to do the larger raiding groups, and I think there will be enough players who genuinely want to do 25 mans to do them.

I have yet to see what raiding will be like in Cataclysm, but I have a good feeling I'll be playing with the folks I want to raid with, whatever lockout that ends up being. I voted "banana".

LICH KING UPDATE: I KILLED 25 LK LAST NIGHT, and completed 7 hardmodes this week! (My guild is up to 8 hardmodes, but my internet sucks so I had to step out for Saurfang, which really bummed me out.) BUTBUT shiny new mace and I just broke 43,000 mana!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Tanking Pet Peeves: The FNG

Today's Contained Rant: The FNG Tank.

Perhaps he's been a DPS for most of the expansion, but decided it was time for him to hop into his protection off-spec and go at it. Or maybe he's a newer player to the guild, again, main spec dps or healer, who's doing some temporary tanking. Or maybe she thinks she's doing the raid a favor. Hey, cool, sometimes we need those less-than-full-time tanks to be ready. I do appreciate the efforts that people take to keep us raiding.

That being said, there's a huge difference between being a new tank and being that guy. It's attitude. I find myself having lots of patience for folks learning new roles, but I think we can all agree: no one wants the FNG. You know, the guy who is new but doesn't think he has anything to learn.

1. I really am glad you're doing your best to pick up the adds, but please don't EVER use Righteous Defense on the main tank. The Lich King is not a ping-pong ball, and it tends to freak out everyone in the raid. Yeah, and please don't, when you're asked by the raid leader not to EVER DO IT AGAIN, respond in vent with an attitude that clearly says you're waiting for it to come off cooldown to use it (again).

2. It's great that you're learning your class, but please don't assume that the other tanks have an equivalent to each of your abilities. Oh, and please don't assume it was the tanking that wiped us suddenly. It's not okay for you to get in vent in a 25-man raid and ask the tank "why don't you just use your AOE taunt on the player who has the adds?". That's because warriors, druids, and death knights don't have anything quite like Righteous Defense. And really, we didn't wipe from a tanking issue so please clear vent so we can trouble-shoot what DID wipe us.

3. Thanks for your flexibility, but we don't suddenly need you to to tank all the time. No, really, we've been doing this boss for almost a year now with these two tanks who are BOTH HERE RIGHT NOW IN TANK SPEC, why are you whispering the raid leader about this?

Sunday, September 19, 2010

setting new sails

'Tis International Talk Like a Pirate Day! Have ye joined in the fun?

For me blatherins today, I've got a bit of secret, 'twill change me an' Mayhem's lives. Fer a long time, I been a bit unhappy in the ship we sailed in, how we took care of our crew, an' how we charted the waters. It be hard, it be!, to serve as first mate when yer captain and you want different shores and treasures! 'Twere it not for the love I had for the crew, I'd not've stayed so long.

So t'day we got a hard day before us, breakin' the news to the crew and handin' back me hat. We got a new ship waitin' to set sail, an' the monsters they seek be fearsome indeed! We're headin' into some harrd modes, ahoy!

I'm quiverin' in me boots, that me sword will be sharp 'nough and me hand steady. Will I be paladin enough for these new sailors, or will they make me walk the plank?

Saturday, September 18, 2010

is WotLK over yet?

Not for me :)

Since we've been wrapping up the last handful of achievements for Glory of the Hero, Mayhem joked with me: we'll be finishing Wrath the same way we started, doing violet hold every day...

Up to 73 H-VH runs now, but I'm okay with that. He needed A Void Dance, then I won't ever be going back. Well, till my next 70+ character. It'll happen. Maybe this time it won't be a healer!

Yeah, right. My shaman is 36 and specced resto. It's a lot of fun.

Whether I realized it or not, the Lich King might have been my last big goal of this expansion. Considering I've always enjoyed the social dynamic of 10's more than 25's, getting my KS title, then helping my guild get it a week later, was pretty satisfying.

I want to clear 100k gold, but, I'm so close that earning another 5k over eight weeks isn't anything. There's no reason for this goal, especially since if I had just not gone so crazy with BOE gear every tier I'd easily have 300,000 gold. (Wow, I should really be embarrassed about that). This is a good reason NOT to power-level enchanting, tailoring, leatherworking, and alchemy. In Cataclysm, I swear I'm gonna slow down...

Glory of the Hero. I have three our four left, I just need to do them. Mayhem got his drake last night, hurray! Seriously, I just need to buckle down and do them.

Some hard mode ICC10 fights. Last night we went and got down LDW, Fester, and we almost got Rot and dangit if we just had time for one more attempt we would have had it. (Oh, lootship, too, but, duh.) It was a lot of fun, and this might be the raid I'm most looking forward to in the coming weeks. I

So, how about you? Is it game over yet, or do you still have things to knock off your list before the expansion?

Also, since bloggers are also writers, I found this hilarious:

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

tank healers and vent

There's a school of thought I've run into more than once that healers don't have to be as aware of timers as DPS and tanks because they should be staring at bars. I have to say, perhaps my perspective is unique as I've only really been raiding in 25 man content for less than a year now, and I have since learned how to communicate in vent.

I know, it sounds so simple--just push the button and talk, right?--but there are lots of ways to communicate well and many more ways to communicate poorly. I remember trying to help my man RL 10 man raids, and complaining to him about all the things that people weren't doing, as they weren't doing them, yet I would refuse to just open my vent channel and say "please switch to the kobolds ASAP" or "remember to move the fire away from the raid" or "phase transition, get ready to run". I was, and still am, afraid of being the Bitch.

I'd like to think I've gotten better. It took getting to know the group I played with, and learning that sometimes I really do need to impart information right now. I call out timers. I remind the raid that stuff on the ground is coming up or to get ready for the big fear. I announce my status: I say "Enlynn's valked, big heals on the tank" or "Enlynn's dropping stacks, big heals on the tank" or "Enlynn's silenced, big heals on the tank" (recurring theme here, yes?).

I struggled with calling out my status for a long time. I don't wish to be perceived as self-important, but tank healing and tanking are the most communication-sensitive parts of the game. It's a natural thing to coordinate tank-swaps, adds, debuff management, and anything else that endangers the tanks. It's the first check of the game, keeping the tanks alive to soak the beating. Healers and damage dealers come second.

(I'm not suggesting that tanks and healers and damage dealers are more or less valuable in a group. Tanks are a single point of failure in an encounter, we won't get to the enrage timer if the tanks can't stay alive to see it).

Part of tank healing is not hps or gear or skill, it's reliability. It's not very exciting that our peers are talking about hypothetical damage per second, set bonuses, and pew pew, while I'm maximizing... my reliability factor. How many times have I been incapacitated by an encounter mechanic and thought I didn't need to call it out on vent, only to have the tank go splat because, get this, no one knew to help me heal.

How many wipes could I have prevented if I just pushed the button and said "big heals on the tank"?

There's another huge upside to learning to communicate with the team. My silence means that all is going well. If I want the raid healers to trust me to heal the tank, I really do want to call it out when I can't, otherwise we have three raid healers twitching tank heals because they can't trust me to ask for help when I need it. If they trust me, they can focus on what they need to do, knowing that if I get unchained magic, frost beaconed, or sucked into the sword, I'll ask them to heal the tank.

In a pug, it's even more important. Assuming that the raid leader is paying attention can be a dangerous mistake. I joined a pug LK10 last week, and I unabashedly called out each time I needed help. It covers my ass. If I'm asking for heals on the tank and the tank dies, I did the best I could do and I am not the only one to blame. If I ask for heals on the tank and the tank lives, I've saved us from a wipe. Was it actually necessary? It's hard to say, if they other healers were good they saw it on their raid frames that I was valked or in the dream or in the sword, and were adjusting before I called it out. But again, that's making some pretty serious assumptions.

I'm not an expert on when to call out and when not to. I'm sure that I've called out the most unnecessary things, while keeping my mouth shut when I shouldn't have. Most of the time, it wouldn't wipe the raid if I didn't (or would it?). It's not a chance I want to take. I'll call it out just in case.

I'm sure half the raid thinks "ugh I wish she would just shut up sometimes", but they can deal. I'm not trying to be self-important, I'm trying to give us the best shot we have of boss kills and shiny lootz. Given the choice, I'm sure they'd prefer that I'm calling out my status than calling them out. How many times do you have to be mind controlled before you learn to bite, hmm? (Whoops, the Bitch came out after all!)

What do you call out in your raids? Do you help announce timers, remind players to focus an add, or speak out when you are locked down by a raid mechanic? Do you appreciate it when your tanks and healers are proactive in vent, or does that healadin drive you crazy?

Friday, September 10, 2010

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

stupid things i didn't know

Randomness here today.

1. I used to think it was great because early in Wrath I taught myself to fly from Dalaran anywhere from Northrend. Well, normal people with their functional computers can see Dalaran from miles away. This is only a skill when you have all your settings turned down (honestly, it's not even then).

2. I had some serious totem envy in Gnomergon when I saw that someone else's fire totems looked way sweeter than mine. I pondered this for runs and runs--was he specced for this?--and then it hit me. Each race of Shaman has it's own totem. Mine only look like fence posts because I play a cow. I've been on the Alliance side for so long I got used to their only being two types of shaman (big shoulders or not).

3. The Lich King is dead! And I was able to christen my shiny new computer by one-shotting him the very first day I had it with a well-constructed PUG. (Perhaps not a stupid thing I didn't know, but still news.) And no, I didn't release when we all died. I did DPS the hell out of him after we got rezzed, though. Gogo 3k judgements!

4. Paladin heals have graphics. I used to love Holy Shock when it made the recipient shudder as they got the heal, like Prayer of Mending or maybe that I was just trying to knock over the dps. Turns out there's golden light there, too.

5. Today is Tuesday. I woke up this morning thinking it was Monday, and wondered why in the world I couldn't fill up the Auction House before I went to work... Happy Tuesday, everyone!