Life in Azeroth

Archive for the category “World of Warcraft”

Holding out for a Hero

I’ve temporarily (I think it’s temporary) put my WoW subscription on hold. I really thought I was back for good this time (apologies for the Take That reference – I thought I was better than that) but I’ve ended up taking on too much stuff. I’m enjoying this stuff and not complaining but I’m finding myself too busy to play. Plus I know I’ll be getting even busier in January when other parts of my life kick into action, and this means my play time will shrink even further. And I can’t – won’t – pay monthly for something I’m hardly playing. I feel guilty enough as it is – not long back I paid for a faction transfer for my mage and a realm transfer for my pally. Of course I was playing a lot then, enjoying the game & all rose tinted spectacles about my life as a WoW player. But things change so quickly (indeed for me they can change in a heartbeat) and now I’m regretting those purchases.  I think I should have known better.

I’m sure I’ll be back though. I will miss it and I’ll return. It always happens. But right now I’m looking for something to fill this WoW shaped hole – albeit a WoW shaped hole I wasn’t filling with WoW itself.  I don’t want to give up playing games altogether of course (perish the thought!). I am still playing Minecraft (for my fledgling YouTube channel) & Hearthstone (because I have dreams of one day being good) but the former can feel rather lonely and the latter gets me so frustrated and tense that I can only play in short sessions (plus all those Reno Jackson decks mean games are taking ages now). I want something else, something I can dip into, something free, something “MMOy”, something fun. I want to be able to play when I feel like it without feeling guilty about the times when I don’t. It could be The Secret World – I have a real hankering to play that game again. It won’t be Wildstar – I have decided I don’t like the “look at the ground & move” combat system. I thought about the Elder Scrolls – I enjoyed the game once, but now when I visualise it I just seem to see a lot of dull brown and yellow areas that all look alike and lack the colour and vibrancy of WoW.

And that’s the problem- when I think of other games I compare them to WoW and nothing seems to offer what WoW offers. There is such a variety of things to do in Azeroth, such a variety of experiences on offer. And over the years I have enjoyed so many of them. But if I don’t play the game enough all this is irrelevant.

I have also thought about forgetting the whole MMO thing & maybe just getting more into Heroes. I’m assuming that’s something I can just dip into when the fancy takes me. I’ve not played it much. I know it’s got lots of features I like (pretty colours, cool heroes, an AI to practice with, real people when I feel brave enough etc). Could be perfect for me. The more I think about it the more I think it might be time to transition from MMO to MOBA.

But then I think of WoW Pet Battles and I feel just a little bit sad.




Yay More Blinking

 Given that one of my mains is a Mage – she was Frost but now she’s Arcane (she got tired of the little elemental & his needy ways) I thought I’d better have a look at the changes planned for this spec.
According to Blizzard  “Mages are in a very strong place compared to most classes, both thematically and mechanically” with “a lot of distinction among Arcane, Fire, and Frost Mages“. Therefore the changes they are making are more around improving our current gameplay and the quality of our stressed out lives. This includes Summon Refreshment which will automatically provide a stack of food if you’re on your own (ie me) and a table of refreshments when in a party or raid (ie everyone who’s not me). Fair enough I suppose but I’m quite civilised – I like to lay out a nice table even when I’m a billy no mates. Dining etiquette is on a downward slippery slope here.
Specifically on Arcane, Blizzard say that Arcane Mages require “Unparalleled skill … to manipulate the volatile forces of the universe.” – Oh dear, maybe I need to rethink the spec. They go on to say, “These practitioners push their magical knowledge to its very limits—often to the brink of their own exhaustion“. Yes that’s me to a tee. Many a night you’ll find me slumped over the keyboard weeping from the stress and strain of it all. Three buttons! Three buttons! It’s inhuman that’s what it is.
To help us burnt out Arcane mages our Arcane Charges will now be an “actual resource located underneath [the] Mana bar instead of a stacking debuff.”  Excellent. To be honest I never have much of a clue about my buffs or debuffs. I can only look in so many places at once (one place actually – and that’s usually my keyboard). When I do lift my head I like to admire my pretty portrait in the top left hand side of the screen (yes default UI- did you expect anything else?) so this will help me a lot.
Arcane also has a new Mastery  which increases our maximum Mana by a percentage and increases the damage bonus from Arcane Charges. Anything with the word “increases” is good for me, unless it refers to the size of my thighs. According to Blizz this “should make the Mastery feel a bit more interesting by allowing more aggressive Mana usage“. Excellent. In readiness for this I have drafted some awesome snarling & growling emotes. They want aggression I’ll show them aggression (I’ll also have some passive aggressive ones up my sleeve too – just in case the raid needs a change of strategy).
Good news for me with Displacement (instant cast, removes Blink cooldown for 4 seconds). I love blinking I do (obscure shout out to any UK reader who watched Big Brother Season 2 a gazillion years ago). Blinking does get me into trouble though – in real life my boss interprets blinking as dissent (so I now glue my eyelids to my forehead) and in game when I regularly blink into bad stuff at every inopportune moment (once during the Warmaster Blackhorn encounter I of course blinked right off the edge of the airship – it was a proper guild raid though (thank goodness) so everyone was nice about it even though I think I caused a wipe).
And that’s pretty much all the main stuff as far as I can make out. If I’ve missed something important (& I probably have – I skim read anything that included numbers and a”%”)  let me know. Nothing ground breaking as far as I can see but in fairness that’s what they said. I wonder what they have planned for the Restoration Druid though? I am of course a healer in training too. I trust there will be no blinking (now that would be a class change) – I really want to maintain my eyes wide open, bunny in headlights approach to healing. It has served me so well….

A Tasty Bone

I’ve not been a complete slacker during Blizzcon. I wrote something on the opening ceremony for Geeks and Geeklets (which you can see here). By the way I’ve also started doing a Roblox YouTube series there too (nothing to do with WoW of course- although I may end up so good I’ll be able to recreate Azeroth in Roblox. Maybe. So far I’ve made a tree and a door.) In regard to Blizzcon I’ve mostly been catching up on the various panels that I’ve been too tired to watch in real time (I’m old and weary) & catching up on people’s views and opinions on these panels.

It’s fair to say everyone is very excited on what the Systems Panel offered yesterday- particularly on Transmog and Professions. In a nutshell you’ll get a Wardrobe holding all the finery you’ve ever been entitled to (account bound) & there’ll be a questing approach to professions. Personally I’m not wildly excited about the Transmog stuff (although I can see why other people are – it looks amazing). The problem is when it comes to clothes anything approaching good taste and style has always alluded me (in both real and virtual life). I have tried to change. I once dressed poor Seashell in the High Inquisitor Whitemane set. I  thought she looked awesome until someone laughed at me in Stormwind. So now Seashell is wearing a simple Runecloth set that I put together with my tailoring and that’s about as good as it gets. So while I’m happy for everyone else I’m not sure these changes are going to help me look good.  But I look forward to seeing all my old stuff again and creating some wildly mismatched looks that appeal to no one else but me.

As for the Profession changes –  well the questing approach could certainly be interesting. I hope the quests are challenging enough to give us a real sense of achievement when you get the profession reward but not too time consuming that by the time I complete then the reward is old hat (and as Seashell is a tailor it could literally be an old hat). In regard to the “no fighting over nodes” change – well to be honest on my server I never see much of this any more. Maybe it’s the areas I choose to hang out in but I’m usually on my own (was it something I said?) But again I can see how this could be welcome to many.

All of the above seem to be big crowd pleasers – I’ve just never  been part of the crowd. Legion isn’t out any time soon but look you get a Wardrobe and your own nodes. It’s the small things that matter it seems. People are happy now and all loved up for Blizzard when days before they were raging at delays and the lack of news. Seems to me that all Blizzard needs to do is keep throwing the odd tasty bone at its core audience. I don’t think this approach will get the subscribers up to 10M again but maybe that’s something Blizzard no longer need given all their other games? They’ve done enough to keep a large part of their current playerbase feeling happy, well fed and contented. Didn’t take much really.

And so the Machine beeps on

So WoW subs are only down by 100K. The WoW community on the whole is delighted with the news, taking it as proof that WoW has stabilised. I hear the word stabilise & I think of intensive care and life support – it’s always heartening to know your loved one is stable but deep down you fear they’re never going to tap dance on the kitchen table again. Still, ask any dinosaur, stable is better than extinct.

Reading some comments over on Blizzard Watch there is a view that the remaining 5.5 million subs are the diehard fans who will never leave  WoW –  new content or no new content they are there for the longhaul(or until they too go the way of the “definitely not tap dancing again” dinosaur).

But perhaps some of them are like me – not quite a diehard fan, but not a fair weather fan either. Last year I subbed, unsubbed, then subbed again. I got bored with WoW then re-enthralled with WoW. Even now, during the same play session, I can run out of things to do then suddenly think of something and become overwhelmed with things to do. Generally my view on whether I want to be in Azeroth or not has little to do with the content of the latest expansion (and certainly not the latest raid) and far more to do with my feelings about life in general. In the right frame of mind Azeroth, like life, offers limitless opportunities for fun and stimulation. In a different frame of mind it reveals itself to be the ultimate time waster, a meaningless distraction until my bones turn to dust.

Anyway undoubtedly some people returned to WoW because they are excited about Legion. Whether that expansion will deliver what they want remains to be seen. There is likely another contingent too that will never leave WoW – some habits are too hard to break, some habits mean too much to break. Then there are those like me – here today, gone tomorrow, back again the day after. It’s not that I’m disloyal – I don’t really understand loyalty when it comes to a game. I reserve that for my loved ones (however hard they sometimes make it). It’s just that sometimes I want to do other things. Sometimes the power of its pixels wears rather thin.

Now is not one of those times. Right now I’m part of the 5.5 million. Right now I’m helping it stabilise. I’m helping the machine sound its rhythmic beep.  But nothing lasts forever.


The Butcher says…

Everyone and his pup seems to have a view on raiding in WoW but what about the bosses themselves? They have to put up with group after group coming at them hurling all manner of spells and abilities and of course have to adjust their strategy based on the difficulty setting of the raid (I’m including LFR within this generic raid term here – I know – crazy old me). What do they think about it all? Is it working for them or is it back to the drawing board for Blizzard? I sat down with the Highmaul Butcher (as opposed to my High Street butcher – he hasn’t got a bloody clue about WoW raiding but can fillet a steak without an addon) and asked him for his thoughts on the subject.

Me: Ok I’ll cut straight to the chase – LFR, Normal, Heroic or Mythic?

Mythic every time my friend, every time. Normal and Heroic have their moments I’ll grant you that. But really if it’s not Mythic it’s not real raiding –  it’s just different degrees of derping. Or do I mean twerking? Which is the one where you wiggle like this? (Shows me – my eyes bleed.)

Me: I think that’s twerking … sort of. Can you stop now please.

Yes yes you’re right. Got to think of the old hips. Anyway I don’t mean to be disrespectful to the non-Mythic guys and gals – yes I said gals – I’m all politically correct now – Blizzard made me go on a course after I messaged Ms. Iron Reaver inviting her to pound a certain part of my … well anyway I was asked to go on a course. But in terms of the non-mythic raiders – while I do throw some tricky stuff at them, you know Cleave, Gushing Wounds that sort of thing (and when I’m really showboating I get into a sort of Frenzy that puts the fear of god in them),  the bottom line is it’s all watered down from Mythic. In Mythic I pull out all the stops. I even have the Night-Twisted Cadavers along for a bit of added spice. And what they can do with their Paleobombs – well even I get nervous when I see them approaching. For the other raids I do what the Powers That Be tell me. And that is,  “Put on a show Butch but don’t go crazy now. Some of these raiders are sensitive folk and we don’t want to lose them. At least not until Overwatch is out of Beta.” (Pauses) Umm no I mean … they didn’t say that …not at all … oh dear I’ve said to much. This is all off the record right?

Me: If by off the record you mean published on a blog read by few then yes totally. So what’s your strategy for LFR?

Alcohol. Lots of it. Me and the trash play a drinking game. One shot every time someone stands in bad stuff and dies – easy obviously. Two shots every time a DPSer accuses everyone else in the raid of being AFK.  We down the bottle when the raid descends into Lord of the Flies type madness and everyone eats a healer.  That’s the best bit. To be honest I’m paralytic in most LFRs.

Me: Do you think it’s all too easy?

Look you know the score. Its a bit of lighthearted fun. Honestly I don’t give a toss as long as they’re paying their subs and I collect my paycheck. Easy peasy lemon squeezy. It’s all about the money when you come down to it. They pay it and I take it. I’m not going to complain. But if I want a real challenge I go Mythic. No question.

Me: So not Normal or Heroic?

Well to be fair those groups try – they really do. Me and the boys call them The Tryers and we mean no disrespect by it. Earnest, sincere – I’ll give you that. Real nice people for the most part. Sometimes I join them on Mumble or Teamspeak  – they don’t know I’m there of course – and I listen to what they’re saying and god bless them, they’re really planning things out. Someone is told to do X and Y, someone else Z – and yes I know my alphabet – just the last three letters though- they’re the only ones you need. Anyway I just laugh because I know that nine times out of ten they are all going to get stage fright on the first attempt and start hurling god knows what in my direction. But they get there in the end. And then we all pose for a lovely screenshot. I have to play dead of course so you don’t ever see me smile but inside I’m beaming – I’m that proud of the little group.

Me: And mythic?

Hard core bad asses everyone of them. The fights really take it out of me to be honest but it’s great challenge and when I beat them the endorphin rush is second to none. We really work for it though – I don’t think that’s always appreciated. And I’m bummed that us Bosses are not getting the Moose in the next patch. I kinda thought that’s what Blizzard had in mind when the Moose was datamined – a little thank you to us Bosses. But no it’s another perk for the high end raiders. I can’t even buy it in the shop. And the thing is – well my first cuddly was a moose so I really wanted this mount  and (sob) and (more sobs) – oh let’s change the subject – I get upset just thinking about it.

Me: Ok so what about the future?

Well I’m looking to retire – I’ve made no secret of this. I’m getting too old for this raiding lark. And the writings on the wall- look I wrote it over there – “eSports is the future”. I wish I could get into Heroes I really do, but that wannabe from Diablo got my gig.  So I’ve got my eye on Hearthstone now. I’ve written god knows how many letters to the Powers That Be suggesting I become an 8 mana rare  – think Molten Giants but way cooler. In fact maybe your readers can help me out here? I know for a fact Blizzard base all their development decisions on the number of tweets they receive on a subject. So go on – let’s get  #ButcherForHearthstone trending. Do it for me. Please.

LFR – the Couch to 5K approach

Recently there’s been a lot of discussion about LFR and raiding (particularly since patch 6.2.3 was announced). The point is often made that LFR is not real raiding, it’s too easy with no mechanics worth talking about, people are in there just to get loot that they don’t really deserve (since it’s all too easy) and people in there don’t try at all/don’t need to try (in fact the little sausages are probably tabbed out watching Netflix). It’s also said that because it’s so watered down & easy it does not either (a)prepare anyone for proper raiding nor (b)encourage people to try out proper raiding. Therefore Blizzard have failed in all their intentions. Shame on you Blizzard.

I want to challenge some of these points. I admit that what I’m saying here is from my own personal perspective and my arguments will not apply to everyone. However, I suspect they will apply to more people than just me and I think it’s a perspective worth exploring.

First: the “too watered down/no real mechanics” argument:-

For me this doesn’t feel true. There are sufficient mechanics in LFR for my abilities.

For example -in Highmaul Kargath has a Chain Hurl ability that will move one tank, one healer & three DPS to the stands. If you don’t know about it & you are the one picked it’s going to be disconcerting to say the least (I’ve not experienced it yet but that kind of thing always throws me – literally in this case) and you need to know what to do (basically just kill things and survive!).  There is also his Berserker Rush ability which can do huge amount of damage if not tanked correctly (according to Wowhead in LFR Kargath should be tanked in, or near, an active Flame Pillar).

Similarly in Blast Furnace  Phase 1 there are Heat Regulators to destroy. While (according to Wowhead) in LFR only 5 bombs are needed to destroy each one you still need to know what to do with the button should it appear on your screen.

And finally Iron Reaver. The guide on Wowhead for the Normal level encounter provides paragraph after paragraph of information on dealing with mechanics that include Barrage (the advice is not to try and out range but instead run to the sides), Pounding (during which you should use raid cooldowns & move in close to the boss to avoid Immolation patches that are being pushed away) & Blitz (which you should avoid by watching Iron Reavers’s feet). In the LFR section it says, “There are no mechanical differences in the Looking For Raid difficulty of this fight. Players should still focus on survivability”. Helpful! So unless things have changed since Wowhead was last updated this means there are mechanics in the LFR version of Iron Reaver- indeed the same mechanics as in Normal, but without any of the proper raid team benefits of good communications and strategy (& I say this sadly as I died in the LFR Iron Reaver encounter- clearly mishandled Barrage, Pounding & Blitz and never noticed her feet).

I accept that Iron Reaver is not typical & that in most cases the mechanics in LFR are more like the first two examples –  nowhere near the level of the normal raiding. But nevertheless there are mechanics. There is stuff to avoid, disperse and use cooldowns on. It is not stand in one place & hurl your spells.  And these mechanics can feel more difficult to deal with because they are being dealt with by a group of random strangers.  Of course your LFR group could be filled with overgeared raiders who can pretty much blitz through everything. But these pros are not in every LFR & arguably while they might speed up each phase of a fight, you are still likely to experience most of the mechanics in each phase & and these – for me anyway – mean I must give the encounter my total attention. Even concentrating so hard I ground my teeth to dust I died in the Iron Reaver encounter and I’ve felt totally frazzled in the others. This may say more about my ability than LFR but I can’t be on my own here (surely –  please say there are others like me!). One reason LFR exists is so that people like me (with less ability than others) have a chance to experience some raid content at a level I/they can deal with. I would say LFR gives me that.

As a side note: this doesn’t mean other people are not coasting on the back of the more experienced/better geared raiders who are running LFR. This probably explains all the raging and arguing. The pros get angry with all the poor abilities/presumed lack of effort on show. They have done this at a harder level – why can’t the rest of us get it? Are we all AFK (no we are not – but some might be). But in any case none of this is specifically an LFR problem – it’s a people problem. People could choose not to coast & people could choose not to get angry. Everyone could choose to  give 100% effort and help/guide where they can. That people don’t is a sad indictment of people. But not necessarily a sad indictment of LFR.

2. Onto the gear argument – people run it just for gear & don’t put any effort in and don’t deserve the gear.  I’ve run Highmaul a number of times in one week just to get more experience with the encounters and to practice healing.  I know I might be atypical here (again) but surely I’m not the only one doing this. I want the practice. And while I know I’m healing LFR & not a Normal Raid, for me there are still numerous challenges – raid boxes to look at and understand, an addon to get used to, mouseovers to practice etc.  So LFR offers more benefits than mere loot  – LFR gives me a place to practice abilities I can’t practice when I quest alone. And while I know there are always 5 mans I don’t feel confident enough for them yet – one mess up on my part could cause a wipe & I’m not ready for that.

3. The final argument – LFR does not prepare anyone for raiding nor does it encourage anyone to raid.  Again for me having completed a few LFRs as a healer I am now curious enough to read up on the normal raid equivalents to find out how the mechanics differ. So eg I read about what you need to do if you are on the Chain Hurl team in the Kargath encounter and I consider what it might be like to be a healer on a Normal Raid dealing with this. If it was a team of like minded folk (i.e. nice, supportive & friendly) and there was time to plan out the approach, agree the strategy & also agree that heads can stay firmly on necks if there is  a wipe, would I be interested in trying? I find myself thinking yes maybe I would like to try this out.  I am interested. I might do it. So Blizzard perhaps chalk me up as a partial success (only partial mind – I still have to be brave enough to do it). Again LFR is (for me) working as intended.

Indeed the only bit of LFR that definitely isn’t working for me is the Tourist Mode idea – ie LFR as a way to let casuals see the end of the story. In LFR  I am normally concentrating so hard at what I’m doing that I do not take in any of the story & barely notice any part of my surroundings. And when there’s a cut scene I escape out of it so that I’m not left behind. I really do think that story completion should happen elsewhere. I take in far more of the story when I’m questing alone.

But back to LFR. Is it real raiding ? Umm no – not if you only class raiding as what you get in a Normal Plus raid.  But who cares? Is this not semantics? Would everyone feel better if it wasn’t called Looking for Raid but was instead something else – Looking for Fun perhaps (although that could be embarrassingly misconstrued!)? Perhaps Looking for Practice which would at least convey the idea that this could be approached as a form of training – not training for being in a raid team per se (since you’re not going to get the raid team communication/strategy side in LFR), but more a type of Proving Grounds for using skills/abilities within a larger group setting (I mean all those people on the screen – takes some getting used to) and  for dealing with mechanics that give a flavour or the type of thing you will get in a raid. LFR could be seen as a way to start flexing muscles that do not get flexed on solo quests or on 5 mans. Perhaps LFR is the raiding equivalent of a Couch to 5K running programme, with Normal Plus raids being the 10K, Half Marathon & Marathon equivalent. It could be said that LFR, like a good Couch to 5K running programme gets you out there doing something different and flexing muscles that haven’t been flexed before (or in years). But like training for a marathon, normal raiding is a whole different ballgame that demands a different level of commitment, dedication and focus.

In summary: I would argue that with the right frame of mind & intention LFR can be an experience that makes someone at least curious enough about proper raiding to think about what it would mean to join a proper raid team. I know this because it has happened to me. Would I be thinking about all this had I not tried LFR? No. And that for me is why LFR is worth doing and worth keeping. It’s got me off the couch.



Virtual Blizzcon – here I come (maybe)

Getting very excited about Blizzcon & strongly considering buying a Virtual Ticket. Even my toes are tingling (although that might be because the boiler is due a service). Now I know some people have decried (hysterically rent their garb more like) the lack of WoW stuff at Blizzcon but to me (a)it seems pretty much the same as normal – although I’ve not got any graphs to prove this (slacker yes) (b)it is Blizzcon so has to cover all Blizzard games not just WoW and  (c)umm  can’t think of a third one – I’ll distract you by singing until we get to the next paragraph.


Ok. Hope you enjoyed that. Anyhoo I am a big Hearthstone fan (& total pro within the hardcore level 17 circuit) so for me the mix of WoW & Hearthstone stuff is perfect. I’m unlikely to spend much time watching the other game segments. I’ve never done a lot  in Starcraft & Diablo, am only mildly interested in Overwatch & while I have enjoyed Heroes whenever I’ve played it, I haven’t played it much. So for me its going to be the WoW & Hearthstone items that draw me in – with the real toe tingling excitement reserved for the Hearthstone championship (I loved it when little Fruitbat won last year  – I’m such a fan)

I am particularly looking forward to the following:-

  1. The opening ceremony – I will be all snuggled up on the sofa bed watching this  (I bring it out for special occasions – I believe the Queen does the same). I wonder if any big announcement will be made? I know most people think there will be nothing big for WoW but I, the lone voice in the Azeroth wilderness, continue to hold out the hope that they will announce WoW is going F2P. Now I know there are no doubt (a)zillions of reasons why this will never happen (b)why this would a bad bad thing (c)why this could mean the END OF THE WORLD (OF WARCRAFT) AS WE KNOW IT but (a)I don’t like spending money every month (b)I don’t like spending money every month (c)I DON’T LIKE SPENDING MONEY EVERY MONTH. But I love the game & feel sad without it (boohoo poor me and my first world problems). And let’s not talk about WoW tokens – they don’t work for me. I have never been able to make much gold – I think I must lazily vendor all the good stuff or something. I basically make enough gold to get by but not enough to buy a token. Heyho. F2P please – you can do it just for me if you want.
  2. The Legion overview – excited to know more about this & finding out likely timescales (assuming these are realistic & not just made up on the night to get the crowd cheering).
  3. The Hearthstone “What’s Next?”  item – oooh interesting, although I’m not sure I can handle much more new stuff in Hearthstone right now. I’m still getting my head around TGT. And I don’t even know what I would want in the way of new stuff – I’m very happy with the game exactly as it is. What I definitely don’t want is anything in the way of in-game chat. There’s already too much BM with just the limited emotes available. I do not want those asshats to be allowed to string a sentence together (assuming they can). I like my Hearthstone like I like my men – silent and defeated (a joke dear husband, a joke)
  4. Hearthstone World Championship & Exhibition match –  needs no words – just excitement & popcorn (even though it will be crazy o’clock in the morning when I’m watching this I’m sure I’ll be awake enough to stuff some popcorn in my mouth – or a pizza).

Somewhat less excited about:-

  1. All the contests – not for me. Crowdsourced entertainment. The sort of thing you have to be there & drunk on atmosphere (or something else) to enjoy.
  2. The cinematic segments – if these are basically “Look at how we made this – don’t we do a good cut scene?” then they are not for me. I expect Blizzard to be able to do a good cutscene and I’m not their mother. I’m not giving them a pat on the back and extra pocket money for a well designed orc, even if they managed to colour inside the lines.
  3. Epic Cosplay & You – this sounds like a “Look at how this person made a super duper Naga outfit. You can do it too with three cardboard boxes, four hundred rolls of toilet paper and one partially sedated goldfish.” Not for me. I have better things to do with cardboard boxes and toilet paper (although admittedly have yet to find a way for the goldfish to earn its keep).
  4. Anything introduced with the words “Deep Dive” –  business jargon that has no place in a games convention. Plus totally insensitive to the goldfish.

One last thought:-

Just noticed it says Opening Ceremony on Main Stage, but Simulcast Ceremony in Halls A, B, C & Arena. Ooh Simulcast. This must be a new Sims-like game. How come nobody else has noticed this. Blizzard Watch – I demand an article speculating on what it means post haste. It’s going to be Blizzard does the Sims I just know it. Now that’s something I would be interested in. I’m definitely going to buy a Virtual Ticket for that. Money well spent.


Showing the love – updated blogroll

I temporarily removed my blogroll when I restarted blogging a few weeks ago as it was about a year out of date and some very fine bloggers had stopped blogging. However, since an equal number of very fine bloggers have started blogging or have recently come to my blogging attention (& incidentally I’ve now overused the word “blogging” so much it’s lost all meaning) I wanted to update the blogroll and reinstall it to its rightful place in the widget column over there ——->

Here’s a quick overview (although I assume most of you are familiar with most, if not all, of these fine blogs):-

The Ancient Gaming Noob – in depth posts that cover a number of different games including recently an Eve Online post that reminded me of just how much that game blew my mind.

Hardcore Casual – a blog I read to find out about games I’d otherwise never know anything about (so thank you for getting me out of the virtual house)

Bio Break – this blog made me want to play Wildstar (although I’m still resisting) but also covers lots of other games (look at the category menu – don’t I feel inadequate now?!)

Tobold’s Blog – lots to read here – the sort of blog that always distracts me from what I should be doing.

Healing the Masses – – in depth posts that give me some insight into current issues in the wider MMO world. This makes me feel all knowledgeable & stuff (wasted of course on real life friends and relatives  – they ignore me now).

Gamer by Design – interesting blog by someone who has also developed his own game. Another blogger (there are a few on this list)  that makes me feel slightly ashamed of my own rather stream of consciousness approach to writing. These bloggers do research, analytics & graphs. I feel like I’ve over achieved if I check something on Wowhead.

In An Age – writing about Hearthstone and so a definite winner for me (I really should write more Hearthstone posts – I’m sure everyone’s dying to read about my adventures at level 17  – Blizzcon here I don’t come). It was from In An Age that I today found out about the Warsong Commander card nerf (bye bye Patron Warrior – I never knew how to play you).

The Grumpy Druids – rediscovering this now I’m into my druid. There’s also a podcast – how’s that for value?

Atherne’s Adventures –  recently discovered. Covers a few different MMOs from a perspective I like.

Some people will never leave my blogroll.  These include Tome of the Ancient (, The Redridge Chronicles

(  and Sheep the Diamond ( The same goes for Alt:ernative Chat (dilemma of the day – should I or shouldn’t I include the colon?) –   – my hat is well and truly off for the sheer volume & quality of her writing there and at Gamers Decrypted too (

The latter four bloggers were all in my blogroll from the start. I also continue to owe nearly all my visitors to Blessing of Kings (  – so thank you Blessing of Kings :)

Other blogs I like include (GamingSF), (Rambling thoughts about WoW), (Moonshine Mansion – covers Wildstar) and (Cathedral of Tainted Souls – who has also left some really great comments on this blog).

I have kept the link to The Bossy Pally & the Wooden Spoon ( – I think it was the first WoW blog I ever read (back when I was playing Terema the Pally  – now 85 and stranded in Pandaria on a PvP server) and it was definitely the blog that made me want to start my own. Plus it still has the best name & header that I’ve ever seen.

So there you have it. My favourite blogs. I know I’ve probably forgotten someone – please forgive me if it’s you. And if I’m not reading you but should please leave a comment & I’ll drop by for a visit & a cuppa.


Whack A Mole Healing

I decided to try doing some healing on my Druid now that I’m too scared to play Balance. Sometime ago I managed to get Proving Ground Silver in my Restoration spec & so I know I could go off & try to Florence Nightingale it up in a Heroics, but  I’m no fool – there’s no way I’m up to that. I need a safe and supportive atmosphere to practice my healing. Therefore I decided to venture into LFR….

Actually it was fine. You couldn’t say it was safe or supportive – no one actually spoke. But no speaking means no criticism or abuse,  no “Frip is the useless one” (yes last week still stings) and I didn’t feel quite as exposed as I’d feel in a 5 man (i.e. it would not be an immediate & catastrophic wipe if I fell off a cliff at the exact moment the tank pulled – this has happened to me in the past).

It did start off a bit shaky though. When I first entered I could only see a few people. There was this big Npc stood right in front of me begging me to click him of course, but I was too scared to approach him or click anything in case I did something wrong. But something didn’t seem right. The chat box said a mage had conjured refreshments but I couldn’t see anything (& I always like joining in with the refreshments). So eventually I plucked up the courage to approach the Npc & of course I was meant to do this all along because he is the guy that sends you to the arena where as it turns out everyone had already gathered to have a picnic.  Classic start!

But from then on it was fine. I was using the default UI raid frames in the middle/bottom of my screen – tanks separated out on the left, then the healer column, and then 4 dps columns. It all seemed straightforward. I life bloomed & rejuvenated like a master (or a deranged gardener – you choose). I suspect I overused Wild Growth, didn’t dispel as quickly as I should have & was overly keen on using Tranquility just to see a  sea of green numbers filling up my screen. Anyway I was so happy with the way the first wing had gone that I immediately queued for the next bit & by the end of yesterday I’d done it all. I think I must have missed the Brackenspore bit though. I didn’t see any friendly mushrooms throughout the run and the dungeon guide had said to heal them up to get some buff or another. I was a bit on edge in case I forgot to do this (my immediate reaction whe I see a mushroom is never to heal it I must say). But anyway I didn’t see any.

But actually seeing things in LFR is a bit of a problem for me. During the raid I’m so busy focusing on the all the green bars that I’m not really aware of anything else going on. When DBM tells me that some enemy spell is on such & such a person I first panic, then struggle in vain to find said person amongst all the names. I’ve now made the boxes a bit bigger & ticked the box to show dispellable buffs but not sure it will help. By the time I’ve found the person in need the crisis has passed and they’re either dead or best friends with another healer and I’m off the Christmas card list. Similarly as I’m so raid box focused I don’t actually know where anyone is standing. Therefore if I need to go  to someone I don’t know where they are. And if the tanks go out of range I end up just running crazily towards the boss in the hope that will help me get the tanks back in range. It usually works (although some LFR bosses now have a restraining order out on me) but I know this won’t always be the case. I’m sure there’s a way of configuring the default UI raid frames to give me more help here, or maybe I need to use Grid (just downloaded it from Curse as it happens) to make things clearer? I need something to help me understand better what’s going on & who needs what. Until I do that I’m basically standing where I hope it’s safe, staring unblinkingly at everyone’s green bars & banging out heals as quickly as possible. It’s like an intense whack a mole session – fun yes but very very bad for the eyes.


Rotation Madness

After the debacle of my last dungeon run I decided to revisit Icy Veins to try & get to grips with my Balance Druid. While I know the last run was particularly bad because of the individuals involved I am still uncomfortable with my reliance on Bitten’s Druid Spellflash to play my Druid. I want to better understand the rotation.

So fortified with a strong coffee & a sugary pop tart I earlier sat down to study the Icy Veins guide – specifically the rotation page that can be found here:-

It all started well enough. The intro reads:-

This guide has been reviewed and approved by Gapezilla, one of the best Balance Druids in the world, who raids in Encore, and whose stream you can watch on Twitch, and by Cyous, a high-end Balance Druid theorycrafter and retired raider, who raided in Promethean. You can follow him on Twitter.”

Well these guys must know what they’re doing. I’m clearly in safe paws here.

The guide begins:

Apply and maintain Moonfire and Sunfire on the target.

You should try to apply and refresh both DoTs when you are [at] their respective Peaks (Lunar Peak for Moonfire and Solar Peak for Sunfire), but this is not essential.

This end bit immediately troubles me. When job applications say something is desirable but not essential you know they’re using it to sort the wheat from the chaff. I don’t want to make the wrong call here. But on the whole it seems ok. I mean I know what a DoT is (and that group on Monday called me useless. Bah. Piffle.) Ok add me to the wheat pile sir.

Since Sunfire lasts considerably less than Moonfire and since it is only available when you are in a Solar Eclipse, you will have to refresh it before leaving Solar Eclipse (or right after entering it) in order to maintain full uptime on it.

Whoa there! You told me to apply & maintain both but are now telling me Sunfire isn’t available until I am in Solar Eclipse. This implies Moonfire is always available. But later on you say you can only apply each DoT when you are in its respective eclipse. So why are you singling out Sunfire here and giving me pause for thought (or is it Paws for though – heh heh)?

I digress. It goes onto say:-

Cast  Starsurge

You should cast Starsurge often enough to make sure that its charges are always rolling.

Rolling? Is this a technical term? I’m assuming it means always building up new charges rather than letting Starsurge sit back all maxed up with unspent charges? If so please say that. What’s with all this faddy “rolling” talk. I was born in the 70s. The only roll I know is Rock’n’Roll and even that was old school in my day.

Casting Starsurge in Lunar Eclipse will grant Lunar Empowerment, and casting it in Solar Eclipse will grant  Solar Empowerment (both buffs last 30 seconds).

30 seconds. Awesome. Note to self: must not waste it by dancing, however tempted.

You should always use up the charges provided by these buffs before re-casting Starsurge, so as not to waste any charges.”

Sorry I was dancing. What charges would that be then? Not Starsurge charges as you’ve said not to use Starsurge. Do you mean Lunar/Solar Peak charges? Is that even a thing? 

Later on it says:

…you will have to make sure to use up all the charges of the current buff before re-casting Starsurge in the same eclipse. For example, if you have 2 stacks of Solar Empowerment, you should not cast Starsurge again in Solar Eclipse, because the stacks will be overwritten. We cannot stress enough how vital it is never to overwrite an Empowerment buff.

Oh god I’m shaking. I never realised how dangerous this is. I might OVERWRITE AN EMPOWERMENT BUFF. Do you know what that means? No? Thank God. Not just me then. But it’s serious stuff. It’s in bold & everything.

You should cast Starsurge as you are approaching a Lunar or Solar Peak so that you can cast the buffed spells at (or close to) the Peak.

More bold. My nerves can’t take this. Even “Peak” is capitalised. Perhaps they’re over egging it though – like when they tell you not to use a mobile phone in intensive care (a bit of texting by the bedside never did anyone any harm my grandmother used to say – in fact she said it while she was in intensive care as it happens, but then her machine went all funny and they took away my phone).

IcyVeins continues:-

Thanks to Shooting Stars, you will sometimes get a free charge of Starsurge

Awww thanks Shooting Stars. You shouldn’t have. Really you shouldn’t have. Take it back. I don’t know what to do with the ones I already have.

Cast Wrath while you are in a Solar Eclipse

Cast Starfire while you are in a Lunar Eclipse.

Simple dimple. Even I can do this bit. On a good day. Perhaps I’ll just ignore the earlier stuff & spam these ones. Just kidding. I know I have to apply DoTs when available, use Starsurge to keep it rolling, don’t use Starsurge when Lunar & Solar empowerment buffs give me some other charge (I trust some icon will flash at this point), but do use it just before/after entering eclipse to get said buffs. And of course don’t stand in fire, try to be a bit social by typing in chat, grow 8 more hands and another pair of eyes. Easy peasy.

But then just as I’m getting confident Icy Veins blows it all by saying:

This is the basic rotation cycle. There are certain subtleties with regards to eclipses that you will need to understand. This is a very important aspect, which we discuss in our detailed rotation section.

Oh god. I need more cofffee. That was the simple stuff?

I look at their advice for the opening rotation:

The ideal opening rotation at the start of the fight is as follows:

Cast Incarnation: Chosen of Elune 3 seconds before the pull.

Note to self: tell PUG tank I need to be alerted 3 seconds before every boss pull. That’ll go down well.

Prepot and cast Starsurge 1.5 seconds before the pull.

Prepot? I’m assuming this is tech talk for swig a potion. I’ll stick to my coffee thanks. And 1.5 seconds – crikey that’s precise. Even heart surgeons allow for some flex in their timings (or Granny’s did – another reason for the intensive care machine mishap perhaps – so can I have my phone back now please? I have a funeral to arrange.)

Back to Ivy Veins:-

In case you are closer to the boss than maximum range when you begin the fight, use Starsurge 1 second before the pull, instead.

Whaa? Firstly comma overload. Secondly I never stand anywhere other than max range. Often in fact I’m out of range checking Recount & wondering why my DpS is so low. Thirdly – 1 second? Where did my 0.5 go? I’m just going to ignore this bit. This is balance rotation at a quantum level.

I skim further down.

Astral Communion spell … accelerates your Balance Energy cycle by 300% for 4 seconds. This ability is channeled, and it makes it easy to quickly get into a desired Eclipse, if for some reason you want to do this.

That last bit is vague isn’t it? Why would I want to pick one over the other? Until I’m advised differently my decision will be based on where I am in my monthly cycle (fits with the overall theme I think).

In order to keep up Sunfire, you need [to] refresh it shortly before leaving Solar Eclipse, or … sometimes you will need to refresh it immediately on re-entering Solar Eclipse to prevent it from dropping off. This is acceptable.

Thank god. I thought I’d made a major faux pas the last time I did that (like the time I ate my soup with a fish knife)

There no longer is any real restriction about when it is too soon to refresh a DoT.

Good stuff. Those restrictions were onerous. I’ll just spam away. I think I’m getting the hang of this balance stuff.

If you are using Euphoria as your Tier 7 talent, then there is a slight change in how your DoTs should be refreshed. Namely, Moonfire only needs to be refreshed every other  Lunar Peak, and  Sunfire only needs to be refreshed every  Solar Peak (instead of casting it twice per cycle).

What? No! Just shut up, shut up, shut up.  That’s it. It’s over. I’m out. I’ll never get the hang of this and I’m never looking at the sun or moon again. Cat form here I come. Clawing, ripping & shredding. I can do that (you should see me eat chicken). Just nobody mention combo points. I really don’t want to know.

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