Ghostcrawler Gave Me A pony

Posted: 8 April, 2011 in Dungeons, Tanking

Just in case you’ve been living under a rock these last few days, Blizzard announced a new feature in the next patch:  Dungeon Finder: Call to Arms.  To sum up, Dungeon Finder will now be checking to see which roles are most under-represented and offering a Call To Arms quest to any0ne willing to queue for a random in that role.  At the completion of the instance, i.e. final boss kill, the person answering the call to arms and queuing in that role will get a goodie bag, similar to the Bag of Useful Goods you get for queuing for a low level dungeon.  This bag will contain gold, a chance at a rare gem, a chance at a flask or elixir, a good chance of a rare non-combat pet (including cross-faction pets) and a rare chance of receiving a mount.  This includes mounts like Reins of the Raven Lord, a mount that you normally get from running Heroic Sethekk Halls every day for two years.  Or don’t get.

Or in other words, “Pretty please tanks, come join the random dungeon queues, we’ll even give you a pony!”

This one’s opened a can of worms the size of Nebraska.  The problem that Blizzard are trying to address here is the ridiculous queue times for dps, which is caused by the lack of tanks in the dungeon system.  So what causes a lack of tanks?  Well, three main reasons.

1.  At entry level gear standards it’s a thankless job that requires a lot of skill, knowledge of boss mechanics and patience, and is rarely worth the effort to reward ratio.

2.  Once your tank has all the gear they need from Justice/Valor points there’s zero incentive for them to ever run a heroic again.

3.  Loot whores who can queue as tanks, but are scared of the responsibility, so they queue as dps or healers and then roll need on the tank gear.

Blizzards’ Call to Arms offers a partial solution to Problem #2, and no solutions whatsoever to Problems #1 and #3.  Let’s say you’re one of the tanks who falls into the overgeared category.  Is this going to encourage you to submit to the Random Dungeon Lottery and risk getting Grim Batol with a group of mouth-breathers again?  Possibly.  I’d hazard a guess that any tank in this category might only persuaded to queue for a random again if they’re not already reputation capped and can’t get a group from within their guilds.  So, time for an experiment.  Hands up any tank who’s covered in raid gear and Tier 11 and doesn’t have a full guild group ready to go within 10 seconds any time they say “Anyone fancy a heroic?” in guildchat…

Anyone?

No, I thought not.  Okay, question time.  If you’re dripping in ilvl 359 or better tanking gear and you don’t already have the Swift White Hawkstrider or the Reins of the Raven Lord, which is the least painless and fastest way of getting them?  Is it…

1.  Submit to the Looking For Moron system and take a lottery ticket that in no way guarantees you’ll get a group that’s even capable of completing the instance, for the slim chance that your goodie bag might drop a mount?

2.  Run over to Sethekk Halls or Magisters Terrace and run from the start to the required boss in about eight minutes and kill them in about 10 seconds for the slim chance that they might drop the mount you’re after?

Yeah, not too tough a question when you put it like that, is it?

What this system will do, is boost the number of idiots queuing as tanks.  The window-lickers who queue in pvp gear as tanks to get instant queues and then act surprised and say “But I’m dps” when the group asks them to get on with it and pull the first trash pack.  The keyboard-turners who wander into heroics with intellect shields and spellpower mail because it has more stamina than the greens they were using before.

Congratulations, Blizzard.  You just encouraged Wilbur to queue as a tank.

Courtesy of the ever-reliable Daily Blink

Asshole Chicken

Posted: 18 March, 2011 in Cataclysm, Dungeons

I noticed an interesting response to a forum post by a blue reported on MMO Champion this week and it’s in regards to a subject that’s been causing me no small amount of bother lately.  Dungeons with optional bosses, and Halls of Origination is the major culprit here, tend to get skipped through straight to Rahj, the last boss, avoiding the optional bosses completely in order to just get the place done and collect your daily Valour points.

This is a curious problem.  Skipping the question of the social dynamics behind the whole thing for the moment, there are some drops from those bosses that are for particularly hard to fill slots for certain classes.  The thrown weapon from Ammunae being a good example.  Rogues, unless you kill Ammunae in Halls of Origination and get lucky with the drops, the next best thrown weapon you can get is a lvl 318 green from a quest in Twilight Highlands.  There are no other options outside of raids or epic pvp gear.  Sorry, you’re shafted.  Enhancement Shamans and Hunters are up Shit Creek too, since there are NO other Mail shoulders available from drops other than the Bloodpetal Mantle, also from Ammunae.  Shamans and Hunters may be up Shit Creek, but they at least have a paddle in the shape of the justice point Wrap of the Valley Glades, although the stats are going to sub-optimal for certain specs.

I’m also finding it hard to find expertise gear on Fingers, my Rogue, so that means no Mouth of the Earth from Earthrager Ptah.  Healers are missing out on the lovely Scepter of Power from Setesh, Ammunae’s Band of Life Energy and Isisets’ Blood.

So.  Lots of useful loot, not to mention bonus justice points and reputation from bosses that are being skipped entirely, against the wishes of up to 80% of the groups doing them, just to get the dungeon over as quickly as possible.  Why?

Blame the tanks.

Yeah, I know it’s bad luck to speak ill of our lords and masters, but it’s true.  If the tank doesn’t want to kill the optional bosses, they don’t get killed, and if the group revolts and demands those bosses get done, the worst thing that’s going to happen to the tank is that they have to take a deserter debuff and do a cooking and fishing daily while they wait until they can get their instant dungeon queue again.  Everyone else is stuck in the instance for another twenty minutes waiting for another tank, and the next tank who zones in is going to take one look at which bosses are left and think Christmas and all their birthdays have come at once, pull Rahj before the group can say “Hi and welcome, the last tank was a selfish prick” and leave faster than it takes for the game to report “You have earned 70 of currency: Valor Points.”

In a nutshell, it’s a big game of asshole chicken.  The tanks don’t need any of the loot from the optional bosses with the possible exception of the bracers from Isiset, since bracers are one of those slots where relatively few other options exist.  They have no incentive to not be assholes.  They want to kill Rahj and be done.  The dps and healers may want to kill the optionals, they have no incentive to rush straight to Rahj, so they try to impose their wishes on the reluctant tanks.  Everyone’s being an asshole, you just sit back and wait to see who blinks first.

You can blame it on poor design and to some extent it’s true.  The setup of Halls of Origination lends itself to people being selfish assholes, no argument there, but people still have to make a choice about whether or not they’re going to be pricks to the rest of the group.  To be fair, this kind of rampant dickheadery isn’t actually the norm.  What I tend to see is the tank asking if anyone minds if they just kill Rahj and be done, and one of a few things will happen.  Either no-one cares and everyone’s happy, or a minority want to kill other bosses and get outvoted (usually the rogue), or the majority want to kill more bosses and the tank says “Tough shit” and pulls Rahj anyway.  Or he doesn’t even bother to ask.

The problem here, and in other situations like this, isn’t down to dungeon design.  It’s that there are no penalties to being an asshole.  This is a social game whether we like it or not, and regardless of how special the tanks of the world think they are, they don’t solo current heroic content, it’s a team effort.  When you submit to that dungeon queue what you are actually doing is accepting a contract to work together with four other people to achieve a common goal.  That common goal may be to blitz through the content as quickly as possible and get out, but if the majority of the group want to farm everything in there you need to either submit to the majority decision and go along with it or say up front that you don’t want to do that and find another group.  The time to do this is when you zone in, not when you’re looking Rahj in the face.  There’s nothing wrong with being selfish, just be up front about it.  Otherwise you’re just being an asshole.

And in Other News
I’ve not been idle the last month, although the lack of blog updates could have easily led you to believe otherwise.  I’ve been levelling alts like a thing possessed, working on heroic 25 man raid content, filling gaps in one of the ten man raid teams and generally keeping busy.  Our work in 25 man heroic Blackwing Descent was rewarded last weekend with this:


So that’s two down, ten to go!  In more amusing news, I noticed this particularly inventive guild recruitment ad in the trade channel:

Yeah, good luck with that.

Cya next time!

Wheeee!

Posted: 22 February, 2011 in Cataclysm, Raiding

I mentioned in my previous post how certain raid encounters and I aren’t on speaking terms.  Well we went back to Throne of the Four Winds last week and told Al’akir just exactly where he could stick his Wind Burst.  I’d like to say we spanked him good and proper, but the truth of the matter is we were as much the spankee as the spanker.  It really is an absolute twat of a fight but I’m definitely getting better at it, even if I’m nowhere near good enough yet.  However, despite my substandard performance overall I at least nuked what needed nuking, stood (mostly) where I needed to be stood and a result…

And since Calli is Exalted with her guild, that meant she was able to purchase…

Behold... THE SPARKLE PIGEON!

Which is nice.

 

It’s funny (funny peculiar not funny ha ha) how Blizz prioritise their raid bosses.  Perhaps “prioritise” isn’t the right word.  What I mean is, we killed Cho’gal on our second attempt the first night we saw him.  He’s actually pretty much a pushover.  Furthermore, I know why we’re killing Cho’gal.  He appears in numerous cutscenes as you level up to 85 while questing, and there was the whole pre-Cataclyms event thing that he caused.  He’s the bad guy, we have to kill him.  A bit like closing the barn door after the horse has bolted, but yeah, Cho’gal must die.  I get that.  Al’akir on the other hand…

Al’akir?  Who is he exactly?
An elemental lord like Ragnaros.
Oh ok.  Why do we care?
Uh, because he drops phat lewtz?
No he doesn’t, they’re rubbish that hardly anyone wants.  And he’s hard.
He’s the only boss you’ve not killed.  If you kill him I’ll give you a pony.
Ok, that’s an incentive I can get behind!

So yeah, Al’akir eventually deaded, at the cost of many tears and nights of frustration.  Why?  Because he’s there.  I’m sure there’s some lore reason buried away somewhere that explains why he’s the massive threat he is and we….  Zzzzzz.  Sorry, nodded off.  Blizzard are usually pretty good at this, that’s the surprising thing.  I don’t get why we need to bother Al’akir, he never harmed me that I’m aware of, but I mostly don’t get why Blizzard failed to give me at least the semblance of a reason why I should care.  As I said, they’re usually pretty good at this sort of thing.

Just as an example, take a look at this quest text, something we usually skip over while reading the summary at the end, guilty of it myself.  On this, and I’m sure many other occasions, they’re usually worth reading.  This one in particular is hilarious.

See?  Hilarious.  Blizzard can come up with the goods, and they usually do.  But contrast that with the npc you need to escort out of Felson Keep for one of the Lol Barad dailies, you know… the one that’s really, really, really bugged.  He speaks like a robot on prozac.  When you contrast it with the love and imagination that’s gone into quests like the example above, or the amount of setup we got for going into the Bastion of Twilight and laying the smack down on Cho’gal, it just jars when you compare it to quests like Walk a Mile In Their Shoes or bosses like Al’akir.

Which is wierd, because as I’ve shown, Blizz can and usually do a spectacular job on this sort of thing.

Oh, what do I care?  I’ve got a Sparkle Pigeon!

Wheeee!

A Confession

Posted: 16 February, 2011 in Cataclysm, Mage, Raiding, Warrior

We spent the entirety of Monday night wiping on Al’akir in Throne of the Four Winds this week.  He’s the only boss we’ve not killed yet and the 25 man team should really be moving onto Heroic raid content, yet leaving one boss unkilled feels like failure, so off to the Throne we went.  Twice we got him down to less than 9%, and phase three of the fight is really the easiest part of the whole encounter, so by rights the guy should be dead.  However, Al’akir is the kind of boss who highlights my biggest problem in raiding – information overload.

It’s not just Cataclysm raiding, hard mode Hodir in Ulduar was another brick wall I ran into, and there have been others, but Al’akir’s the most recent example of the kind of problem I have on bosses where there’s just too much going on for me to remain effective.  The problem is, I’m 41 next month.  My reflexes aren’t what they used to be, there are youngsters in our raid who act like they have the reaction times of rattlesnakes on crack and they handle fights like this with ease.  Me, I need time to process things, time to let muscle memory take the slack that my reflexes can’t handle and my brain can’t process.  In this fight, you need to lay the smack down on the boss while ensuring you avoid three potentially lethal abilities.  The first is a pretty standard chain lightning effect, so…  spread out.  The second is a wall of cyclones that rotate around the boss.  There’s one gap in the wall and if you’re not in it, you get picked up and carried with the cyclones, throwing lightning bolts around your raid as you go.  It’ll probably kill you, but the major danger is the damage you do to the rest of your raid.  The final ability is a wind blast that the boss does to knock everyone back a certain distance.  Unless you’re hugging the boss it will probably knock you off the edge of his platform.  This won’t kill you, you get caught and eventually blown back up, but taken into consideration with the wall of cyclones it can be very nasty.  The thing is, they both happen at the same time throughout phase one.  So you get the warning that he’s about to do a Wind Blast and you naturally want to be close to the boss, except there’s a wall of cyclones approaching and the gap in the wall is away from the boss.  Decision time, folks.  Try to make the gap in time and get close to the boss so the wind blast doesn’t knock you off?  Or try to outrun the cyclone, but you then run the risk of getting caught in the chain lightning aimed at the group next to you and overloading your healers.  Or you can just jump off the edge and do zero dps for the next ten seconds, prolonging the length of time it takes to get into phase two where the wind blasts stop, and there’s no guarantee you won’t end up thrown into a cyclone anyway when you land back on the platform.

During all this, you’re contantly rotating your camera around, looking both ways for cyclones, keeping an eye on the timer bar for wind blasts, moving in, moving out, moving back to the group you’re supposed to stay with to avoid extra chain lightning damage, spinning the camera to ensure you are actually in the gap in the cyclone wall, watching the ground near you in both directions for the tell-tale graphic effect that warns you a cyclone is about to spawn and deciding where to move in advance if it does and somehow doing damage to the boss as well throughout all of it.  There are people who can handle this amount of information processing with ease the first night they see it.  I am not one of those people.  I can stay alive or I can do competitive dps, until I’ve done the fight enough for muscle memory to take over, I simply cannot do both.

My crappy dps probably cost us a kill on Monday.  We’d all be riding around on Dark Phoenixes right now if I’d sat the raid out.

Of course, sitting the raid out means I never get the experience to be any good at it.  So there’s the Catch 22.  On the bright side, I am good at the one thing that certain others amongst the raid are manifestly not – firing my frikkin’ lazerz at the correct target at the correct time.  Usually the targets that don’t have the damage debuffs on them from everyone else that makes you look good on damage meters but do in fact need to be killed quick or everyone dies.  Oh hi Snobolds on Northrend Beasts, yes I’m looking at you.  In phase two of the Al’akir fight, the boss summons some little friends, and every time you kill one the boss gets a damage debuff.  They need to be killed roughly one every 20 seconds in order to maximise the damage to the boss without running out of the little buggers.  Perhaps it’s my 21 years of military service, but when the raid leader says “You, you, you and you, kill these adds every 20 seconds”, that’s exactly what I do.  I don’t get overexcited because a shaman just popped heroism and forget that there are still adds up that need to be killed or we lose the damage debuff on the boss, I kill adds.

Similarly, whenever there’s an unglamorous job that needs to be done which is going to cost you dps, I’m usually the one who does it.  In Naxxramas at level 60, I was the guy who corpse camped adds watching for scarab spawns on Anub’rekhan.  I was damn good at it too, none of those little bastards ever got away from me.  I was also the guy who switched to Frost spec on Deathbringer Saurfang in Icecrown Citadel in order to get a ranged snare on the Bloodbeasts when they spawned, and this probably led to our first successful heroic 25 man kill of him.  But I wonder, now do I volunteer for this stuff because I know that my dps on new bosses isn’t going to be what it should, but hey, I can always point to the vital low dps job I was doing as an excuse?  Or do I get picked for these jobs because the raid leader knows a) I can be trusted to do it well or b) because the loss of my mediocre dps won’t be a raid wiper.  Or in fact is it a) and b)?  I think it used to be a), but as the years went by and my reflexes and ability to quickly process information deteriorated, I suspect there’s a large element of b) coming into play too.

And the thing is, I don’t want to be carried, but I suspect I am.  Don’t get me wrong here, on those occasions when I can power up the lasers and nuke away like I never nuked before, I’m still perfectly capable of keeping up with the big boys, and once I’ve learned a fight and committed it to muscle memory I produce pretty decent results.  The problem is that you rarely get to stand in one safe spot and blaze away like an 80′s action hero anymore, and progression fights on 25 man heroic content are not the place to be for people who can’t process 15 different things at once and still produce rockstar dps.

I’m not saying I’m the only person in our raid who underperforms.  Everyone has bad days, but their consciences are their own problem, not mine.  I don’t want to be raiding if I feel like I’m the reason we’re not getting bosses killed, but I do want to be raiding.  So…  a quandary.  It doesn’t help that there’s one mage in our raid who is an absolute god.  I’m never going to be, and never have been as good as he is.  There’s no bad feeling here, he’s an immensely likeable and knowledgable player, but holding myself up against him as a comparsion wouldn’t be fair on anybody, let alone just me.

Curiously, I seem to be doing consistently good dps on Gorn, my Fury warrior.  This is wierd, because Mister Melee DPS and I have rarely been on speaking terms with each other.  I suspect the reason is that as a Warrior I find myself waiting just that fraction of a second longer for abilities to come off cooldown, that it allows me a reaction time budget that you just don’t get on a Mage.  I’m beginning to wonder if the best course of action might not be to retire Calli and try to earn a raid spot on Gorn.  But…  well I’ve got a hell of a lot invested in the old girl.  It’s going to hurt, but it may be the honest thing to do.

I guess we’ll just see how it goes.  I need to do better, it’s just a question of working out what, and how.  Ideally I’d be doing better on Calli, but “doing better” may mean not raiding at all.  I just hope I’m honest enough with myself to recognise which is the correct option and act on it.

Mah Hat is on FIRE!

Posted: 23 January, 2011 in Cataclysm, Mage, misc

A mostly trivial post today, I just had to submit a screenie because the Mage tier 11 look is so freaking awesome.  Remember kids, anyone not a Mage sporting this look is clearly just a wannabe.  Yeah you heard me Warlocks and Shadow Priests!  Shoo!

Halp! Mah hat is on FIRE!

 

With apologies to Tam

The Margin For Error

Posted: 18 January, 2011 in Cataclysm, Dungeons, Tanking

I finally bit the bullet and tanked a Heroic on Gorn a couple of days ago.  Surprisingly, it wasn’t that bad.  I might even go so far as to say it was mildly fun and not at all butt-clenchingly scary.  Which is strange.  See, I’ve run many Heroics on Gorn as a Fury warrior and they’ve ranged from “Ok” to “So awful you’d rather stick needles into your eyes than take one more step”.  Yet the first one I actually tanked myself was really rather pleasant.

Gorn’s not an incredible tank.  He’s not tanked anything since Icecrown except a normal Stonecore at level 84, and that was pretty rough.  What made the difference was the group I ran with.  First of all, they were all guild members.  Raiding guild members or their alts, and were geared appropriately.  They were not selfish cocknockers gaming the Dungeon Finder by queueing for Heroics in pvp gear half an hour after they hit level 85 and expecting to be carried through.  These folks know their shit.  Secondly, we actually used what crowd control was available to us intelligently.  Thirdly, everyone knew the fights, where to stand, where not to stand, and what to kill first.  Targets were marked and killed efficiently.  No-one stood in Bad. And finally, we were all on voice comms.  Result – Heroic Halls of Origination completed, no wipes, a couple of achievements knocked over with a newbie tank in less than an hour.  Job done.

Now the purpose of this post isn’t to flex my epeen over the lesser mortals who struggle through a heroic for three hours and then give up on the third boss.  (Although it is a pretty impressive epeen and you can touch it if you ask nicely)  Instead, I’m going to talk about what the military call “force multipliers” and something I like to call “the margin of error”.

Force Multipliers
A force multiplier is essentially something that helps you punch above your weight.  Let’s look back at the previous expansion.  In Wrath of the Lich King, we had force multipliers coming out of every orifice available.  Take two level 80 tanks, one who just dinged 80 half an hour ago and who’s sporting the finest in green world drops and quest rewards, and another who’s had the Lich King on farm in 25 man heroic for two months.  One tanks heroics with 23k health fully buffed.  The other tanks heroics with 50k health unbuffed and has over 60% avoidance.  Having better gear is a force multiplier.  You hit harder, have more health and avoidance and heal for more with less than people in lesser gear.  Even your Joe Average tank towards the end of Wrath was rocking 35k health unbuffed.  Your average level 80 quest mob in Icecrown had 11-12k.  I was one-shotting them with a single Arcane Blast while doing dailies.  That’s why Blizzard had to give starting mobs in Cataclysm triple the expected health pools, anything less would have been a joke, and we still facerolled over mobs even though they had 35k health.  Just to put things into perspective here, we’re doing dailies and killing mobs with 80k health, some of them have 115k health.  It’s not a problem.  Fel Reaver, that terror of Hellfire Basin, the sound of whose feet could send noobs scurrying for the hills in panic….   104k health.  I have more health than Fel Reaver.

The Margin For Error
Having all these force multipliers thanks to gear gave us a massive margin for error.  What this means is that if we make an error, we have a comfortable margin in which to compensate for it.  If the tank doesn’t round up all of the mobs and one goes for a healer or a dps, it wasn’t a big deal, because the healer could just heal through it or the dps could just kill it.  If the healer tabbed out to check Facebook and missed the pull, it wasn’t a big deal because the tank had so much health and avoidance they could pretty much tank without heals for the first fifteen seconds of any fight, and in any case, the dps put out so much raw damage that no trash pull lasted much longer than fifteen seconds anyway.  I’ve even seen tanks stay up through bosses with a healer disconnected.  People were so overgeared and the dungeons were so relatively easy that the margin for error was so huge we relied on one force multiplier and one force multiplier only – our gear.  This made us lazy.

Fast forward to today and we’re playing a whole different ballgame.  It’s almost like the start of Wrath, where we had rubbish gear, crappy health pools and struggled to push out 2k dps on a good day.  Except it’s not like the start of Wrath, because dungeon mobs in Cataclysm are not the gentle, playful, happy go lucky funsters we all know and love from Halls of Lightning.  The mobs and particularly the bosses in Cataclysm Heroics are lean, mean killing machines that want to tear our your guts and wear your spleen as a hat.  And if you give them half a chance that’s exactly what they’ll do. Again and again and again until you lose the will to live and go to cry on the forums demanding nerfs.  The problem here isn’t that we have relatively crappy gear.  It isn’t that the dungeons are too hard.  The problem is that we’ve had such good gear and had such gentle dungeon mobs for so long that we’ve forgotten that other force multipliers exist.  We believe that we have no margin for error.  But we’re wrong.

L2P
Crowd control is a force multiplier.  Focus fire is a force multiplier. Spell interrupts are a force multiplier.  Talking to each other is a force multiplier.  Hell, just paying attention is a force multiplier. But like any force multiplier, having it and knowing how to use it are two very different things.  Take two paintball teams and give one of them voice comms.  Instant force multiplier, but only if you teach them how to use it.  If you don’t, you just have one team getting their arses handed to them by a team that aren’t telling “Your Mom” jokes to each other from the opposite ends of the playfield.  Similarly, it’s all well and good telling the Mage to polymorph the target marked with the Blue Square, but if you then slap a blue square over the head of an elemental and immediately pull, it’s not the Mages fault that the elemental eats the healer.  Top tip – Polymorph only works on humanoids and beasts.

Stripped of our great gear we need to use our other force multipliers to overcome problems that our crappy gear alone clearly isn’t going to carry us through.  But we need to know and understand the limitations of the options available to us.  Rogues can’t Sap Elementals, and they can’t Sap anything that’s in combat.  Warlocks can’t Fear undead.  Shamans can’t Hex elementals, but they can Bind them.  A Mages polymorph heals the target to full, so probably best not used on the mobs surviving the dragon bombing run in Grim Batol.  A Mage can interrupt a spellcast, but only once every 24 seconds.   Yes, your Priest or Shaman can dispel that spell haste buff on the enemy caster giving you so much trouble, but it’d be a lot better if your Mage used Spellsteal on it instead.  Curse of Elements might be a significant dps boost for your casters, but if the mob casts a fast heal that restores 50% of its health and you’re short of interrupts, Curse of Tongues might be a far better option.

I’ve played every class to level 80 (and four to level 85) so I know these things.  I wouldn’t expect everyone to.  That’s why talking to each other is probably the most simple but effective thing you can do to help punch above your weight in Cataclysm dungeons.  It’s where everything listed above begins.  The rot set in when the Dungeon Finder tool was introduced.  With one stroke, people didn’t even need to speak to each other to find a group, let alone to faceroll their way through Wrath dungeons.  Most folks find speaking to their groupmates an alien experience these days.  Just remember that like any tool, talking is something that needs to be practiced, and not everyone is good at it.  If the number of Worgen Deathknights named on a variation of “Evilclaw” is anything to go by, there are still plenty of people for whom English isn’t a first language but who are reasonably fluent in Stupid.  Keep it simple.

Above all else, remember that this is just a phase.  It won’t be that long before you’re covered in Tier 11 epics and feasting on Ozruks tears.  Loken in Heroic Halls of Lightning killed more players at the start of Wrath than any raid or dungeon boss in living memory, six months later he was a joke.  In the meantime, get out there and talk to each other.  Learn your weaknesses and exploit your strengths.  It might do you some good, and you might actually have some fun along the way.

Capitalism: A Love Story.

Posted: 4 January, 2011 in Cataclysm, Rant

The start of a new expansion is never a good time to level a profession.  Which is kind of ironic considering it’s exactly the time almost 100% of your server are going to want to level a profession.  Actually, that’s not 100% true.  The start of a new expansion is exactly the best possible time to start levelling a new gathering profession, but it’s Shitsville, Tennessee if your profession depends on those raw materials, because the price goes right through the roof and doesn’t stop until it reaches low earth orbit.

On my server, a single hypnotic dust, that’s ONE dust, not a stack, was selling for 70g.  A single cindercloth, and yes that’s ONE cloth, not a stack, was selling for 20g.  A lot of people got very rich, very quickly at the expense of people who were trying to level their tradeskills.  Now you could argue, and it’s a perfectly valid point, that there are all sorts of ways to turn this situation to your advantage.  Instead of desperately trying to gather enough enchanting materials to level your skill to a useful level, you should disenchant everything you loot and get from quests and dump the raw materials on the market, make an absolute killing and then buy back the material a few weeks later when the market stabilised to less ludicrous levels, in order to level your enchanting then.  Same with any other skill that relies on things people gather.  The problem here is that if you’re in any kind of raiding guild you need your tradeskills to be maxxed out in order to make the epic quality gear that gives you the best start in the raid environment, with the best enchants on them.  So I, and I’m sure many others, spent 36,000g levelling my enchanting and tailoring in order to get to the stage where I could make stuff I was actually likely to need.  Yeah, that’s not a typo.  Thirty-six thousand gold.  Ouch.

The next kick in the teeth was that covered in Icecrown25 Heroic gear as I was, I couldn’t even use levelling enchants on my gear until around level 84, because the gear I was getting from quests wasn’t worth using, and the gear I was wearing was below item level 300 and therefore couldn’t be enchanted with any of the new stuff I was learning.  Technically, the quest rewards were better in a lot of cases, but taking into account the fact that the stuff I was wearing had shoulder enchants I could actually use and gem slots I could fill, they were still pound for pound better than a lot of the new gear available that didn’t come from a reputation faction at level 83.  I suppose it’d be churlish to complain too loudly about this last point because at the end of the day I was actually covered in Icecrown25 Heroic gear.  So I wasn’t exactly struggling.

Once you’ve hit level 525 in those professions, however, the fun doesn’t stop there.  Leatherworkers, Engineers and Blacksmiths need Chaos Orbs to actually make any of the shiny stuff available, and for whatever lunatic reason, Blizzard chose to make these things Bind on Pickup AND allow any mouth-breathing moron capable of staying conscious long enough to queue for a random heroic the ability to click Need on them.  Not only does this mean your Blacksmiths, Engineers and Leatherworkers got screwed out of masses of gold levelling their professions in the first place, but they also got screwed by their fellow players out of the materials they needed to actually do anything useful with those maxxed out tradeskills.  Let me assure you, if an asshole can click Need on a Chaos Orb they can’t actually use, they will click Need on a Chaos Orb they can’t actually use.  Because they’re assholes and that’s what assholes do.  It took Blizzard two weeks to realise how fundamentally broken this was and change the loot rolls so that only people a) with the relevant profession and b) with a skill level of over 425 were able to roll Need on the Orbs.  Tailors, however, were included in the list of people who could click Need.  Because there’s precisely one tailoring recipe that needs the things in order to create Dreamcloth, which is what tailors use to make their epic cloth gear; and there are FAR easier, cheaper and less dickheaded ways of making Dreamcloth than screwing other professions out of Chaos Orbs for it.    So now you Blacksmiths etc only need to worry about asshole Tailors screwing you out of your Orbs, which is, at least, an improvement.

One way in which Blizzard attempted to make tradeskills more rewarding, or at least less of a grind, was to award mutiple skillpoints for the recipes that used the most expensive materials.  This is actually a very good idea.  You could, in theory, gain up to five skillpoints on certain recipes.  I know in the past that I’ve had the choice of making six or seven yellow items for a potential five point gain using materials that are easy and cheap to source; or five orange recipes using materials that cost a second mortgage on your parents house, and I go with the yellow recipes every time.  Now it can actually be more economic to make the more expensive item, because you’re going to get more guaranteed skillups from it and you get a useful item to boot.  Or at least that’s the way it works in theory.  Let me tell you about enchanting…

I’ve just spend about a billion gold and levelled enchanting to 470.  I can now make the Mighty Agility on a Two-Handed Weapon enchant, and it’s going to give me FIVE skillpoints every time I do it.  Fantastic.  It should only now cost me a few million more gold to do that enchant a few times to get to level 480.  So, what do we need?  Three each of dust, essence and shards.  Ok, I’ll only need to sell one of my childrens kidneys to afford that, it’s do-able.  Er…  why is it still being filtered out from my “Have Materials” filter?  Let’s look at that again.  Oh.  I need a Runed Elementium Rod for this.  Great, so where do I get that?  It’s not on the trainer…  Wowhead to the rescue!  Sold by a vendor in the Twilight Highlands.  Ok, that’s not too bad, I’ll just remortgage my house to buy the shards it costs for the recipe.  Got it.  Wait, what’s this…  why is the Rod recipe red?  Needs skill level 515.  FIVE ONE FIVE? To make a level 470 enchant?  Are you fucking kidding me?

Just to make sure this is all spelled out properly for everyone, in order to actually make the enchant that gives you a five point skillup you need to make a Rod that requires such a high enchanting level that the five point skillup is now greyed out and 100% completely useless to you.  Yes enchanters, they fuck you coming and they fuck you going.  You do in fact, get fucked both ways.  They’ve since reduced the skill required for the enchant to…..   drumroll….  more drumroll…  trust me it’s worth the wait…  500.  Sorry, but yeah, you’re still getting fucked.

There is a bright side to all of this pain and grief, however.  Once you’re in a position to actually start producing anything useful from your tradeskills, you can start making the money back pretty quickly.  Prices for crafted epics are outrageously high for a number of reasons.  First, they’re better quality than heroic dungeon gear, equivalent to current tier raid gear, which is a new move from Blizzard.  Secondly, people are basically venal, avaricious, greedy shits who will screw you out of as much gold as you are prepared to hand over in exchange for this epic crafted gear.  But you did have it coming by listing your hypnotic dust, obsidium ore and cindercloth on the auction for such ridiculously high prices in the first place, so we crafters are not shedding Tear #1 over your crying as we pocket our 16,000g for the pants you desperately want that only we can provide. And it’s not like you can’t afford it, you’ve got 36000 of my gold out of me, time to give it back.

Of course, the only real winners in this situation are the herbers, miners and skinners.  And they’re all Chinese and work in shifts from a dormitory in Beijing.  But hey, they’re hiring, because judging by the price of just about anything on the auction houses these days, business in the gold-selling sector must be very, very good.