Monday, March 23, 2009

Of PUGs, flight, and de-cursing...

Yes... this is probably the internet's five-millionth, PUG-rant WoW post. Sue me.

My raiding friends decided to put together and alt-based Naxx run on Saturday night. They don't really allow for alts to rotate into their main raiding group -- for pretty good reasons, actually -- so the way they get their alts geared is with 10-mans and the occasional "alt night".

My druid has been collecting dust for a while. I can't seem to get any momentum for in-guild 10-mans, so he's just been sitting in Icecrown doing the occasional daily and trying to complete the various Icecrown quest series. I haven't even been requested for 5-mans lately, so he's pretty dusty.

This alt night was a good excuse to dust him off and maybe pick up an item for him. Mostly I wanted to see how bad my DPS was and hopefully get a decent cat-DPS rotation down. (More on this in another post... maybe.)

So I sign-up and show up on time. There are about 12-15 people signed up or pulled in from the various guilds that make up the raiding group, but there don't seem to be any more online or wanting to go or that aren't already locked to another Naxx25. The raid leader goes the PUG route. This is fine. You can meet some people this way. You can show them how you do things. Sometimes you find that diamond in the rough or you find alts from other guilds with similar policy. Sometimes you get people that know what they're doing and just haven't done in with a particular class before.

*This* was not one of those nights. :)

The first sign that things were going to be rough was that 3 people didn't have flying mounts. Not just epic flyers. Flyers at all. Ugh. You know you're going to wipe a few times with 10+ PUG members in Naxx, it's just a question of how often and how many people you lose after each couple of wipes. Frustration thresholds tend to be very low with many of these folks, even if they are the ones causing the wipes.

Now... I'm not exactly a great WoW player. I know this. I'm fine with this. I don't play as much as some people. I don't have the time to invest in getting every last item and trinket that I can to improve my character. I do try hard, but there is only so much time I can devote to WoW and still be a decent husband and father. Family first. That said, I have 2 80s and a 71. All of them have at least flight. Both 80s have epic flight and Northrend flying. Thinking about that is a little scary, actually. 12,000g! Jeez. That's not counting the intermediate riding skills along the way, the mats for the Warlock quest (which I did do past 60, but still did), and all the other things you have to spend money on in WoW.

So... the comments start in Vent. Most of the raid is not in Vent because the server requires registration and passwords and they're not going to stop the raid and make 10+ PUG accounts. We'll do it the old-fashioned way. A few comments are made (by other PUG'ers):

RM1: "how can you not have a flyer?"
RM4: "dude..."
RM9: "nub"

The answers...?

RM8: "this is my 2nd 80..."
RM3: "how do you make that much gold?"

Wha-huh? Really?!? See the above paragraph. I have 3 flyers and 2 epics. I play a couple of hours a night maybe 3-5 times a week. I raid. I buy consumables. If *I* can have a flyer, you can do it, too. I have no idea what you're spending your gold on, but I can make enough doing daily quests and general at-level-80 questing to earn a basic flyer in a week. Easy.

Anyway... a few wipes ensue as we all knew they would. The warlocks are nearly run out of stones to make "demon flashers" but we manage to clear the Spider wing and head for Plague. This is where it gets really good. We lose two people in the raid and have to find two more PUGs. Wanna guess? Yup... *neither* one has a flying mount, so we're up to 1/5th of the raid now that needs to be summoned into Naxx. I wonder to myself if these people wonder why they have to PUG Naxx. (Yes... I was PUG'ing it, too, but on my second character.)

We seem to have just enough DPS to get the gargoyles down, so we're probably OK for Noth. Seem to have a good class mix. Should be fine. We explain to the off-tanks how we do the pick-ups for the Noth adds, the raid leader gives the mages the heads-up for de-curse, and the rest of the instructions go out.

Pull #1: Curse goes on. Curse does not get removed. Wipe. In about 45 seconds... if that.

Raid leader re-explains to the mages that it's *really* important to get the curse off. If we don't, we wipe. It's not that we might wipe or that it's really healer intensive if you don't de-curse. WE WILL WIPE IF YOU DON'T REMOVE CURSE! (My caps, not his.)

Pull #2: Curse goes on. Curse gets removed from 2 people. Wipe. We might've lasted more than 45 seconds this time. Maybe.

So... in Vent:

Me: "Hey... I'm a druid. I can de-curse. Should I help out?"
RL: "You're feral, right?"
Me: "Yeah... but I think I have that button somewhere... Lemme see... Oh, yeah... that's what it looks like..."
*** I get a couple of chuckles in Vent ***
RL: "Better to have you help out than to wipe, I guess..."
Me: "I'll do what I can..."

Now... I don't have Decursive or anything like that. I just don't use it. I'm Feral, remember. I know -- barely -- how to make stuff mad and smack me in my bear's face. I'm not that good at that, nevermind trying to de-curse a bunch of people. Hey... I have a humanoid form? Cool! :)

In raid chat:

RL: "OK... I'm going to ask the Druid to step out of cat form and help de-curse. We really shouldn't have to do this with TWO mages, but it's better than wiping."
RM1: "He shouldn't have to..."
RM2: "huh?"
*** Other generalized grumbling, mostly from the PUG members ***
Mage1: "what's a curse..."
Mage2: "i'm supposed to do what?"

Remember... we're on our third try now. Raid leader re-explains FOR THE THIRD TIME the importance of de-cursing to the mages and we pull again....

Pull #3: Curse goes on. I frantically mash my de-curse hotkey and we manage to get through the first phase. I was still getting hit by something -- I'm not sure what as I was playing whack-a-mole and watching the curse cooldown and not much else -- but we managed to live. Second curse goes on, I get it off 4 or 5 people, but it's not enough. Blam! Wipe.

Someone's getting testy and posts the "de-curse meter" from the fight:

Me    -- 9 removals
Mage1 -- 3 removals
Mage2 -- 2 removals

OK... that's pretty sad. Again... I know I'm not good, but this is sad. If a guy who didn't know where the de-curse button was on his taskbar can get 9 curses removed without Decursive or much else, what exactly are the mages doing?

*** More generalized grumbling ensues in raid chat ***

Pulls #4 and #5: At this point, the Vent channel is in stitches laughing at the mages. Each time the curse goes up they're calling for me to "Save me!", "Save US!" or "Go, Annai, go!" We manage to live through at least two curses on each pull but I think a few people are still blowing up and the attrition is killing us. After the second curse of the last two pulls, I think I was taking two much damage and before I could heal meself I went down. As we were running back from the 5th or 6th try, the raid leader decided to call it. Without enough de-cursing, there was no way to get past Noth. If we couldn't get by him, neither of the other two wings would have allowed us to fare much better.

The meters for the last two fights were pretty much a mirror image of the above. The mages might have gotten off a couple more desurses, but not many. I thanked them for having me along and they laughed and thanked *me* for trying to nearly single-handedly keep the raid going. At least I managed to get a cool idol and two upgrades for a guild member. It was still absolutely amazing the sheer number of 80s who didn't have enough gold for flying and/or didn't know how to decurse. One of these players was a double-whammy. He couldn't fly *and* couldn't decurse. If I bothered to remember his name, he would have gone on my /ignore list.

I logged off and downloaded Decursive.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Raiding Achievments... Good, Bad, and Ugly

The group that I run 25-mans with recently started to focus on getting the last few achievements some of them need for the Glory of the Raider meta-achievement. They clearly posted this in their sign-ups and asked people to post a list of what they still needed. They indicated that in some cases there would be intentional wipes while we tried to get some of these done.

Sometimes this is kind of fun and interesting and does allow people to better learn these fights. Sometimes it's just frustrating and needlessly delays the raid. Trying to do Heigan with 15 people because 10 are standing outside the door because they "can't dance" (many for reasons beyond their control like lag) is kind of silly. When 5 more people die and instead of wiping you try to nibble away at Heigan, it just becomes silly. The "Shocking" achievement is another one. Be a micro-second behind swapping position on a Polarity Shift and you've just screwed 24 other people. Grrr....

This is a good group -- there... I've said it again -- but I kind of hate these raiding achievements. Ones like "Make Quick Werk of Him" and "Arachnophobia" are actually fun. "Werk" and the "Safety Dance" should be the goal of every raider every time they face those bosses. Others are just ridiculous. The 20-or-fewer just means that 5 people don't get to go. (My group hasn't started this yet.) Others require a perfect execution of fights that really aren't that easy and adds undo stress to content that is otherwise on "farm" status for the most part. Still others require perfect execution of *all* the fights in Naxx for an entire raid lockout.

It's all well-and-good to make the achievements. Make 'em hard. I'll get the ones I can get and the others just probably won't happen. And they won't happen for most raiding guilds, frankly. The loss of enjoyment on some of these comes from those few players who feel they have to have every achievement and if they don't get it, they look for someone to blame. This leads to various tattle-tail mods popping up in raid chat (even when those mods are often wrong) and hard feelings start to show. A small lag hiccup on some of these fights, and you die. Die on the dance and you've blown *2* achievements for the whole group. I died last night during KT to an Ice Block. There's nothing I can do about that but get healed. I didn't. I died. It wasn't the first death to a boss so I didn't blow an achievement for the whole group, but some of these things are just beyond control.

Go for all the achievements you want and have fun with it. Just don't be a jerk about it if -- or more likely *when* -- some of these are simply out of reach for the group you run with.

Friday, March 6, 2009

On Having Two Accounts...

Last March I bought a second WoW account. It was my son's birthday. He's at that weird age where he's hard to buy for. He gets all A's and B's in school. Good kid. Too old for most toys; too young for anything really serious. He had been playing WoW quite a bit and gotten a mage up into the 30s or 40s (at the time) ... I think. But... I couldn't really help him out. Yeah... I could toss him some gold or scan the auction house for an item or two, but not really help.

Enter the second account. It was given as a birthday gift, but it wasn't for his exclusive use. He wouldn't have the password, but it would allow us to play together, run instances (me blitzing mostly), and do some direct helping. At the time, I had my 70 Hunter and my 70 Warlock. My Druid was just a baby. (NOTE: This was all done before Refer-A-Friend was an option.)

So... the second account was created. After some discussion about what to do, we decided to move my Warlock to the second account. The Warlock was a tailor/enchanter so it made sense. Remember this was before the days of enchanting Vellum. Having him on the 2nd account meant that I could directly enchant my own items simply by having both accounts logged in on different computers. Warlocks make excellent low-level instance blitzers. Round up a bunch of mobs with the voidwalker and Seed of Corruption the snot out of them. It was fun making big piles of mobs in places.

As an ulterior motive in this whole thing was my desire to get my Druid up to 70 before the expansion. With that character, I could be either a tank or a healer, whatever the guild needed. (Again... this was before Balance was a "real" spec, so it was just really those two options.) I had tried a Paladin, but didn't like it and couldn't bear -- no pun -- the thought of getting that character to 80. *shudder*

Now that a year has passed, I got to looking back at this experience and learned a few things:

  1. I *hated* dual boxing. Putting a toon on /follow and running low-level instances alone for XP is about the most boring thing you can do in WoW. I did it a half-dozen times for my Druid and couldn't stomach it any more.
  2. I *liked* helping my son. He and I could rip through places pretty quickly. We had a system down where he'd lock mobs in place with Frost Nova while my DoTs and SoC was ticking. We just tore stuff up.
  3. Until the expansion, managing your characters on two different computers sucks. If you have two fast/good computers, it's no sweat. If you have one *really* good computer and an aging laptop, it's a marginal nightmare. You can't really mess with your UI on the laptop because it can't take the add-ons. If you mess with your bars in one place, it messed up the other. Add-ons? Forget it. Macros... they weren't stored by Blizzard, they were stored locally. Another nightmare.
  4. If you have a good enough computer with enough RAM, you can run two instances (probably more) of WoW on the same machine.
  5. Having one Blizzard Authenticator with two accounts is enough, although kind of a pain. At $6 a pop -- if they're in stock -- I'd probably recommend just getting two and labelling them for the proper account.

When WotLK came out, the boy swapped over to a Death Knight. He had gotten the Mage to 63 (?) by then and I thought it was a real waste to start over, but having his own 55+ earned him a character slot in my book. The DK is now almost 71 and he's hit Northrend. The biggest issue now is that we'll probably have to drop another $25 to move characters. His DK is on the first account, and since I got my druid to 80, too, that means there will soon be 3 80s on that account and my lonely 70+ Warlock on the 2nd. Oh... the horror. :)

Just thought I'd get down -- however boringly -- my thoughts on second accounts.


Thursday, March 5, 2009

Rally the Troops!

As previously discussed, I've been doing 25-man raids for a few weeks now with our raiding partner. Once I was comfortable enough -- having seen all the fights with the exception of Kel'Thuzad more than once -- I started putting out feelers within the guild for running our own 10-mans. I didn't want to be the raid leader *and* guild leader, but no one else was stepping up. Response was lukewarm, but I got enough feedback from within the guild and from our other, smaller raiding partners that I put an event on the in-game calendar.

(As an aside, that's really a pretty good tool. I wish I could use it for all my raiding sign-ups but our allies mostly use web-based tools. We used to use a web tool ourselves, but when the former guild leader flipped his wig and shutdown our website with little to no warning and refused to transfer ownership -- oh look! another topic for another day! -- we switched to the in-game tool. The timing was pretty good. It also allows people you don't want to have access to your website to have access to your raid calendar. Anyway... good job, Blizzard.)

Last Monday was our first joint run. Things started off badly. During the week, I had gotten 2 tanks lined up and had 4 -- count 'em *four* -- healers lined up in case there were drop-outs, no shows, or other issues. I had a DPS-spec'd Shaman and a Shadow-spec'd Priest also willing to go and re-spec if needed. Twelve (12!) signups in total and I had 3 other people on the standby-but-not-signed-up list. Woohoo! I could manage nearly 50% attrition and still get the raid going.

Paging Mr. Murphy! Mr. Murphy to raid day!

About a day before the raid was set to go, I got messaged in-game by one of the tanks that they didn't think they could make it. They were going to try, but couldn't be sure. Well... OK... I've still got my main tank lined up and I *should* be able to find an alternate OT. In an absolute *worse* case, I could swap to my druid. By no means ideal, but it could be done. That day I put some more feelers out on some allied forums to try to replace a tank.

For the raid, I was hoping to stay on my hunter because given my rapid acquisition of Naxx25 gear, I knew we could support a few undergeared DPSers and still get by. It wasn't like we were all going to go in with quest greens and blues. Hopefully, we'd get those new folks some gear in the process.

My hope was to get 6-8 guild members into the run and then fill the holes with those left. I was also hoping to pull in some new-to-raiding folks and get them some gear and enthusiasm for the process.

At a half-hour before raid, I started forming up the group. My tried-and-true fellow hunter (FH) and all-around good guy was first into the raid.

FH: Um... bad news, the MT was on earlier and can't make it tonight.
Me: #*(&@(#&$(@&$%#@!
FH: Want me to start looking around?
Me: I had a couple of alternates. Going to try to find them.

/Tells and channel hopping ensues and I miraculously find two tanks. One is probably overgeared for 10-mans, the other will re-spec and off-tank, but has enough gear to be fine. Phew!

I start looking at my sign-ups and looking at who is only. Of 12 signups, 6 are online.

Me: (#@(*&#@(!&@#

Warlock joins. Shadow Priest. Start hitting up my alternates. Holy Priest comes over. He's overgeared, too, but the raid panels are growing and if they're willing to come, at this point I just want the raid to go off. Second healer, another Holy Priest shows up. Death Knight added. Holding the last spot for the GM of the other guild. He's a mage. The decurses will be nice for the Sarth trash. Wait. Wait. Can't wait anymore. Tanks have a Boomkin in their guild who wants to come for Sarth, but can't stay for Naxx. Add him and let's go.

We got the raid going -- finally -- and it was a bit anti-climactic. What I had hoped would be a raid filled mostly with my guild, ended up as 4 from mine, 3 from another, and 3 from a third. All good folks and we worked well together, but only one member of my guild even needed 10-man gear, really. We managed to blow Sarth away quickly. We replaced the Boomkin with another Shadow Priest (4 priests total) and moved on to clear out Spider Wing. With the exception of Maexxna, everything was a one-shot and pretty handily at that. The big spider caught us at a bad time on a couple of web-wraps, but she went down on the 3rd try.

Two more 10-mans on the schedule this week. Time to rally the troops again!

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

And I was doing so well...

...keeping up with an almost post-a-day pace.

/e slaps his own wrist


OK... enough silliness.

My guild (well... OK... 4 of us and some help) made our first guild-sponsored foray into Obsidian Sanctum and Naxxramas last night. We had 3 members each from our wonderful guild allies and did pretty well. Sarth (no drakes) went down very easily. The first two bosses in the Arachnid Quarter suffered similar one-shot fates. Maexxna decided to be uncooperative and made us kill her on the third try, although she was down to 2% on the first go. Frustratingly close. I'd almost rather wipe at 20% than 2%. We lost a warlock earlier in that fight when I didn't manage to break her out of the cocoon fast enough. That was probably the difference.

Our healing lead complained that that fight is all about the random number generator (RNG). He would know better than I. Get a web wrap at the wrong time and have the tank take spikey damage and you're in trouble. When the numbers are kind -- as they were on attempt #3 -- and she goes down with hardly a fuss.

Although I levelled my Druid to 80 first in WotLK, I found that I *really* didn't like tanking. When our 10-mans didn't really get off the ground and I couldn't do enough DPS to warrant spots in raids (with a tank spec, go figure), I quickly got my hunter up to 80 and have been taking him to raids. I would like to start gearing my druid, though.

Wow... this one is boring. Gonna post anyway. I need to keep writing, even if it's not particularly compelling, I'm putting words on digital paper. I'll have something better soon, I promise. I still have a "To Do" list of things to talk about from a while ago like 2nd accounts and a few other things. Only the best WoW bloggers are all that interesting to read. I'm not there... yet.