Don’t forget! I’ve moved!

Since I still seem to be getting some hits ’round here, I figured I’d remind everyone that I’ve moved to a self-hosted and much less lockly (Yes, it’s a word!) domain: altadin.com

If you haven’t updated your bookmarks and RSS feed yet, please do so!  I miss you.  /sadface

November 4, 2009 at 7:12 am 2 comments

Fel Fire is moving …

… and undergoing a “small” makeover in the process!

If you’ve been following me for any length of time, then you know I abandoned my warlock somewhere between Naxxramas and Ulduar.  I will always be  a warlock at heart (figuratively; everyone knows warlocks don’t actually have hearts — or, if they do, they keep them in a jar on a shelf somewhere and take them out to scare small children during Orphan’s Week or for other special occassions), but given that I currently raid as a restoration shaman and, occasionally, as a protection paladin, the truth is that I feel rather “trapped” by my brand.  Even though I’ve never been a strictly warlock blogger, I am compelled to write from a ‘lockly perspective, which, increasingly, I just don’t have.

So.  My new domain (although clearly titled towards my current passion) is a little more open-ended.  I will eventually categorize my posts by the classes that I play and create drop down menus, creating the look of three alt blogs in one.  If this sounds at all interesting — or you think you may actually miss me (you will miss me, right?) — wander over to my new place and take a look around:

http://www.altadin.com

Hope to see you there!  /wave

September 21, 2009 at 6:24 am Leave a comment

What I’ve been up to …

… in the World of Warcraft and beyond!

I was laid off.  I knew it was coming, of course. I received my 90 day notice a hundred and something days ago, so I had plenty of time to tie up loose ends and look for something new — which I found, thankfully.  Not all of my former coworkers have been so fortunate.

I started a new job!  A better one, with more responsibility, an ultra-casual dress code, catered lunches every day and — best of all — an honest-to-Earthmother office.  (Yes, that’s right: I am no longer a cube-dweller.)  I’m not crazy about the 50-mile drive from cowtown to the Scottsdale Airpark … but as long as it doesn’t make me miss raids, I’ll deal.  (The promise of a Wii-centric corporate wellness plan helps!)

I threw guild recruitment wide open to stave off the summer slump … and retained exactly no one.

I’m still a little irked about that, actually.  I scheduled enough two-week trials to keep summer raids on the calendar (give or take a few Saturdays), but none of our initiates seemed to work out long-term.

The resto druid /gquit in a fit of pique after I benched him from a hard-mode Iron Council attempt after his fourth or fifth death-by-Overload.  (Exactly how does a druid — the most mobile healer in the game — fail so spectacularly at moving?!)

The new healadin /ragequit exactly three hours after I promoted him to raider because he lost a spellpower mace to a veteran with higher Priority under our EPGP system.

And the mage/warlock/warrior/death knight clique who applied together disappeared together shortly after we extended the warrior’s trial (he was pulling tank level DPS … as fury) and asked the Death Knight to make a home somewhere else (he was worse).  (Sorry, guys. The tag above my head reads <Surreality>, not <Costco>. We don’t do package deals ‘round here!)

We are, however, recruiting.  Either a tree or a healadin, and assorted DPS.  Just sayin’.  >.>

I cleared Trial of the Crusader on 10 and 25, and Trial of the Grand Crusader on 10.

If you’ll pardon the pun, this instance is a colossal disappointment.  It’s far too easy, even on “hard mode,” and with disproportionately good gear for the (lack of) challenge.  We aren’t a server first guild.  We’re a server fourteenth guild … and yet our alt run (main-tanked by yours truly!) full-cleared ToC 10 the first week it was available, while our achievement team earned A Tribute to Skill in the 10-man version shortly thereafter (in our first real attempt, and while running only two healers on Anub’arak). 

Yes, I know: it’s the “catch up” tier, so the so-called casuals can experience Icecrown without having to waste time in Naxxramas or Ulduar. R.I.P., linear raid progression.  /tear.

I carved a nice little Elle-shaped niche out of the glyph market, following Kyrilean‘s guide, and have made 20K gold in the last three weeks with very little effort.  (The Sons of Hodir may miss me, but I sure as hellfire don’t miss them.)

I dabbled in 3v3 arena, as a resto shaman, with a feral druid and marksman hunter as partners.  Yes, I know: if we were to respec and make a few minor (/cough) gear tweaks, we could become the flavor of the month “beastcleave” team.  But I love to heal and Jef doesn’t, so we’ll learn to love our sub-300 rating.  (No, I didn’t miss a zero!)  (Beastcleave is getting nerfed, anyway.  So there.)

I’ve been leveling my druid alt, with the half-formed idea of transferring her off-server to play with real life or possibly even blog friends — if they’ll have me.  The problem is that almost everyone I know who isn’t on Black Dragonflight is Alliance, and Alliance catform is just sad.  I love my little Taurenkitty and would hate to trade her fierce mane and tribal war paint for bubblegum fur and body glitter.

I’ve been contemplating wedding plans.  No, I haven’t actually started making wedding plans yet.  That’s far too intimidating!  I’m just contemplating starting them.  So far, all I know for sure is that the Maid of Honor has demanded (and therefore, will wear) a butt bow.  Of course, I’m a little worried about how that will work for my guild’s warrior tank, who is lobbying for bridesmaid status, in spite of the fact that he is neither bride nor maid…

We shall see!

September 14, 2009 at 7:41 pm 11 comments

Introducing: Elam!

KittenonramanMy slightly quirky dear friend and fellow shaman — albeit of the WINDFURY!DEAD variety — has recently started his very own WoW blog.  If you frequent the class forums (/shudder), you may know him as Elam; he’s the author of the stickied enhancement guide, Totem Eclipse of the Heart.

In blogosphere, he’s simply shamanonramen.wordpress.com.

… No, I didn’t ask.  Nor do I intend to.

Sometimes, you just have to nod, smile — and click your rezz button.

<3

August 17, 2009 at 8:30 pm 2 comments

I’ve fallen in love …

… with tanking!

My baby paladin isn’t a baby anymore.  Thanks to a whirlwind heroic spree and some insanely good luck (including an Essence of Gossamer and Ancient Aligned Girdle out of her very first heroic!), “little” Larissyn went from stumbling through regular Halls of Lightning to off-tanking Ulduar 10 in a little less than two weeks.

It started on Wednesday, when I joined an alt-friendly “guild PuG” of VoA 25.  Several of our real tanks were there, but they opted to DPS and let me MT (mostly because of the strangled noises I made on Vent, I’m sure >.<).  After I stopped /flailing — at this point, I had yet to tank anything harder that Heroic Trial of the Champion — I buckled down and …

Hey, no deaths! 

On Thursday evening, Jef’s baby retadin — the oh-so creatively named “Retnewb” /cough — and I joined a (mostly) alt run of Naxx 10.  I off-tanked for my guild’s main tankadin … which means that I ended up perfecting my prot-DPS rotation, because holding aggro against a full T8.5 tank with BiS everything was near impossible.  Still, Eanin let me MT a few bosses, including Maexxana but excluding Thaddius (because they still don’t trust me to make that jump). 

It was at this point that my luck turned slightly sour: only one tank drop — a defense trinket I didn’t need with my current set, but pocketed for future use) — but a ton of spellpower plate that Retnewb wouldn’t touch with a 10-foot polearm (if he happened to have one, that is; the RNG has not smiled upon He Of The Porcupine Hair).

Dear Naxx,

You’re about as subtle as a wolvar in the Venture Bay Aquarium. 

No, I do not want to heal.  Thankyouverymuch.  If I found clicking brightly colored boxes in no particular order fun and stimulating, I would be a shaman.

Oh, wait …

No Love,
Larissyn

Nonetheless, I threw on my new Holy gear and hastily assembled dual-spec for Sapphiron and Kel’Thuzad, to help our druid healer  in the event of an untimely iceblock.  (I feel compelled to mention that the sapling in question is the alt — the alt! — of one of our core hunters.  He solo-healed all four wings with no wipes and only the occasional clothie death.  Seriously: nerf druids.)

I was feeling a little better about my fledgling tanking skills after that Naxx 10, so when a few of the guild’s better geared alts decided to run a late night Uld 10, I said “screw you” to sleep and volunteered to off-tank.

Naturally, they PuG’d a Death Knight.  Thanks for the vote of confidence, guys!

The Death Knight ended up /afking out while the group was still in the (seemingly interminable) forming stages, so I was pulled in it at the eleventh hour and in an act of what I’m sure was sheer desperation. 

And, lo and behold …

It went well.  Shockingly well, given that both tanks were alts, both healers were alts and DPS ranged from our guild’s powerhouse of a ret paladin, to an enhancement shaman who dies so often he really should consider training Spirit of Redemption, to my fiance’s woefully undergeared altadin (who nonetheless pulled third damage on a few fights).

Flame Leviathan.  Piece of cake.  My paladin actually helped three-man him when she was still in Ornate Saronite, and her ilevels have improved considerably since then.

Razorscale.  Easy one-shot.  I was terrified of adds running amok and slaughtering clothies, but they were actually easy to pick up and control.  I noticed after the first wave of adds that our MT would walk his pack over to mine, presumably to to make things easier on DPS, so I started trying to meet him halfway.  The taunt rotation on Razorscale went smoothly, although I needed a quick crash course on Vent.  (“Announce it when you get your third stack; taunt when he gets his.”  Simple enough.)

Ignis.  I was on construct duty.   Since we were running a pretty strong group, even for alts, we decided to tank the constructs and simply burn Ignis.  By the end of the fight I had five or six constructs on me and was barely feeling it.  I did mistaunt at one point, which led to a loose construct in the raid (my healer resto-tanked it for the eight seconds it took for my taunts to come off cooldown >.>), but I eventually managed to get him back.  (Note to self: mouseover macros!)

XT-Deconstructor.  Add duty again.  We accidentally triggered hardmode (oops!), and I somehow managed to get targetted for no less than six light and gravity bombs in a row, so I spent most of the attempt running back and forth, taunting the spark towards the melee and dropping void zones as far away from the ranged as my size 6 sabatons could take me.  It was frantic and fun, but we just weren’t prepared for hardmode so we ended up wiping it and going for the fast, normal kill.

Iron Council.  I tanked Stealbreaker, and then Runemaster after Stealbreaker went down.  I don’t think I completely sucked at kiting Stealbreaker out of runes of power … which I know from our many, many 25-man hardmode wipes is kind of, sort of important. (Jef said I did great, but has ulterior motives so I tend not to believe him.)

Auriaya.  Ugh.  I had the hardest time controlling the kitties!  I threw my shield at them as soon as they were in range, but one of them escaped and went straight for my healer.  She got a couple of good swipes in before I finally managed to pull her away.  This fight, more than anything else in the real or virtual world, reminds me why I’m a dog person.

Thorim.  Tunnel duty!   The arena team actually wiped on our first attempt (Our priest died, so we were forced to activate hardmode so the resto druid who had been healing me could jump down into the arena to save the MT … but solo-healing hardmode Thorim on an alt run?  So not happening.), so I had two opportunities to tank in the tunnel.  Fortunately, I’m often assigned to heal Keaton while he tanks this in our achievement run and in Uld25, so there were no real surprises.  I was a little nervous about the tanking rotation on Thorim himself, but between Jef whispering me when to taunt and DMB announcing it in big blue letters, I was able to figure it out.  >.>

Mimiron.  P1 = Prot DPS.  P2 = More Prot DPS.  P3 = OMG-THERE-ARE-ADDS-EVERYWHERE-TAUNT-IS-ALWAYS-ON-COOLDOWN-AND-LOOK!-THE-SHADOW-PRIEST-IS-DEAD-AGAIN!.  P4 = … I’m facedown on the floor, but so is Mimiron, so.  Whatever.

We called it there. 

Niether tank had a FrR set for Hodir, and it was a little too late in the night to contemplate the small wilderness that is the Conservatory of Life.  We may pick it up again tonight, if our achievement run isn’t able to field a group (we’re currently working on Firefighter on our mains /shudder), or we may just let the ID reset and try again next week. 

The hands down best part of the run?  Hearing “… Hey, when did Elle break 40K HP?” on Vent. 

That totally made my night.  T8 shoulders and a new holy shield were just icing on the cake.

August 17, 2009 at 2:24 pm 4 comments

On a lighter note …

Argent Confessor Paletress hits like a gnome.  And not one of those squirrely little rogues, either!  No, she hits like a drunken Voodoo Gnome under the influence of Noggenfogger who’s been debuffed to Hellfire and back (and I don’t mean with Curse of Weakness — although that too!)

In other words: she can totally be tanked by an enhancement shaman. 

/flex

August 6, 2009 at 5:31 pm 2 comments

Do you ever find yourself second-guessing your second guess?

We knew it would happen.

Summer crit our raids.  Between the usual attrition to Real Life™, pre-patch ennui and widespread disinterest in the watered-down endgame, attendance tanked.  Suddenly, instead of attempting the hardmodes and the meta-achievement we desperately wanted to complete before the release of the new tier, we found ourselves 22-manning Ulduar, PuGing from our Friends & Family ranks and flooding the market with BoE epics and abyss crystals.

In a last ditch effort to save the guild from stagnantion, I threw recruitment wide open.  I was determined not only to replace those fairweather raiders I just couldn’t count on, but also to seed a small bench to cover the inevitable weekly absences that are all part and parcel of running a Mostly Casual® guild.

Over the course of the last month, I’ve recruited two warlocks, three mages, a rogue, a Death Knight, a fury warrior, an arms warrior and an enhancement shaman.  It sounds like a lot, but — summer attendance being what it is — it still wasn’t enough to reliably fill raids.  And even when we could assemble 25 raiders in one place at one time, we didn’t have the cumulative DPS to tackle hard-modes because we were forced to invite undergeared players as an alternative to running two or three or ten raiders short. 

… then 3.2 hit, and our long-MIA members came crawling out of the woodwork. 

Last month, we had to PuG DPS — DPS! — from /trade to fill an Ulduar-25 raid. 

Last night, we had 36 would-be raiders scattered throughout the Tournament grounds — including some players we hadn’t seen consistently (or at all!) for weeks.

Literally overnight, raid slotting became a nightmare.

Do I invite the rogue who raided throughout The Burning Crusade and still tops the damage meters, in spite of being a full tier behind in gear … but who disappears for months at a time with no warning at all?  

Or do I invite the rogue who joined us halfway through Ulduar and suffered through the very worst of the summer slump with 100% attendance … but who can barely eke out more DPS than our feral druid (when he’s tanking)?

(For the record, I invited the consistent but subpar rogue to last night’s raid — our first real foray into T9 — but will make a point of talking to him about his performance before the weekend.  If he can’t put out respectable numbers for his gear, then he’ll need to step aside in favor of someone who can.  I also had a brief chat with the flakey rogue to get a handle on his intentions.  He says he wants to raid again, so I’ll try to start slotting him in where I can and assess his commitment from there.) 

I’ve been very open with my members about where we are as a guild, what my goals are for the new tier, and how I intend to prioritize raid spots (i.e.,  to those players who have been filling them — provided that they are also competent).  Nonetheless, there was a bit of drama last night when I wait-listed one of the mages I recruited to fill summer raids in favor of a new and much better-geared recruit.  In between add-on induced disconnects, I attempted to explain to the mage that his DPS was too low for Ulduar, let alone for a new tier of content.  We were committed to helping him gear up in Uld so he could contribute to progression raids in the future … but until then, he would have to sit out. 

… Of course, now that I’ve actually done the Beasts of Northrend, I realize it’s an easier and much more forgiving encounter than many of the fights in Ulduar.  In hindsight, I’m sure we could have overcome the mage’s subpar DPS.  But I had no way of knowing that going into the Colesium for the first time, and felt it was unfair to ask the rest of the raid to carry deadweight when there were better options.

I attempted to explain all of this — but the mage essentially accused us of using him, and then casting him aside in favor of “returning friends.”  He /gquit before I even finished slotting the raid.  (Ironically, one disconnect and a thoroughly hopeless Death Knight later, he could have subbed back in if he’d just stuck around.)

To be fair, we did “use” him: he was a warm body to fill our raids.  But he was also someone we genuinely liked and were committed to helping succeed.  He came to every Ulduar raid he signed up for and walked away with several pieces of T8.5.  We invested in him, and had every intention of continuing to do so — just not in progression content. 

And I absolutely did not cast him aside in favor of “returning friends.”  In fact, I wait-listed all of our “returning friends” in order to trial new Initiates.  It seemed like the right thing to do, since I recruited the Initiates to raid (not to ride the bench!) and the “returning friends” were the ones who made it necessary for me to open recruitment in the first place.

The idea was to invite the better-geared Initiates, and sub them out over the course of the raid for raiders on standby (such as the mage) if it turned out that their DPS wasn’t commensurate with their gear … but, obviously, that didn’t work out. 

I’m sure that things will sort themselves out in the next few weeks, as we are better able to assess our new Initiates’ skill and determine who to invite to the guild as a raider and who to let go.  The novelty of patch 3.2 will wear off, as will the newness of the Coliseum (which I can already see myself coming to loathe — given that one thoroughly uninviting and lackluster room tied to completely nonsensical lore is the setting for no less than six new instances). 

I don’t know.  Maybe we shouldn’t have benched the mage.  Maybe his loyalty throughout the summer slump should have been rewarded with an invitation to our first run at the Trial of the Crusader.  But I feel we made the best choices we could in the limited amount of time we had to make them in, especially considering all of the variables we had to take into account (raid composition, prior attendance, order of sign-ups, rank, gear, skill… etc.). 

I’ve tried very hard to create a supportive guild environment, with clear and transparent rules regarding raid invites and loot distribution.  For the most part, I think I’ve done a good job, but situations like this lead me to start second-guessing myself. 

And then I start second-guessing my second guess, and it’s all downhill from there.

*  *  *

There have been a couple of similar situations recently, now that I think about it. 

Two weeks ago, one of my casual hunters threw a very public temper tantrum when I wait-listed her from a Tuesday raid.  She lives in Australia and can only raid on Saturdays: not once in two years of raids has she showed up for a weeknight!  I’ve bent over backwards to accomodate her schedule, recruiting players who can “timeshare” her spot (i.e., who can raid on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, but not Saturdays) and occasionally even wait-listing members who can make all three days in order to ensure that she never has to sit out on the one evening each week that she can raid with the guild.

She isn’t a strong player, to be honest — she will forever be known as the hunter who noticed that her bow was broken after we pulled Sarth 3D — but she had been with us from the beginning and I felt a strong commitment to her as a result.  I consistently defended her, including to other officers and my own fiance, who were often tempted to bench her for her poor situational awareness and abyssmal reaction times … which, thanks to the Aussie bloggers I read, I know is due at least in part to latency.

The week before last, she decided to take some time off from work to see lower Ulduar — which, due to her schedule, she usually misses.  By some miracle of timing, the raid was actually full.  I couldn’t make room for her without sitting someone with better attendance, better raid performance and a stronger claim to the spot.  But because he’s a sweetheart, Keaton (our main tank and raid leader) volunteered to step out for the bosses she needed … which turned out to be all of them.  

We brought her in after Flame Leviathan, but she resented having been wait-listed from initial invites, and — after stewing quietly for several bosses — dropped /raid in the middle of a hardmode XT attempt.  We were forced to wipe to reset the encounter.  Keaton demanded an apology; she refused, and I kicked her and her host of alts from the guild.

Ironically, the new raider she lost her initial spot to was the same mage who /gquit last night. 

Sigh.

We also had a small loot dispute yesterday, in which a few items were mistakenly looted out of order. 

We make a point of looting tier pieces first, so winning a non-tier piece from a  particular boss won’t cause a player to lose out on the tier piece she really wanted.  However, in the excitement over new boss loot — not to mention some initial confusion as to how the new universal tier pieces work — our master looter accidentally awarded a pair of off-spec plate DPS bracers to our Death Knight tank before dealing with the tier token.  This cost the Death Knight just enough Priority that it appeared, on our EPGP lists, that I should receive the guild’s first piece of T9.  But there was no way I was going to let taking off-spec bracers cost our DK his hard-earned tier piece, so  I passed the token … which prompted our paladin tank to ask if he could have the off-spec bracers the DK had won, since taking the tier piece first would have dropped the Death Knight’s off-spec bid to second place.

(And we thought tradeable BoP items would make life easier…)

This is where our loot rules failed us.  “Legally,” the paladin was entitled to the bracers.   But it would have been silly for him to take them over the Death Knight, since he attends one or two raids out of three — and almost always as a tank — whereas our Death Knight is a DPS/tank hybrid with 100% attendance.   Personally, I have a hard time believing that our oh-so competitive tanks (who tend to be prickly about seniority), will let the Death Knight see much MT time.  For those raids the paladin is present for, the Death Knight will most likely end up an OT on trash and DPS on any bosses that don’t require four tanks.  For those raids the paladin misses, the Death Knight will be a full-fledged tank … but then, neither of them will be using DPS bracers then.  >.<

I’ve never felt the need to build a “loot council”-type override into our rules, but I was very tempted to last night.

The paladin eventually passed to the Death Knight, for which I was grateful.  (It’s a relief to know that my officers can make intelligent loot decisions for the good of the guild.)  Unfortunately, the long, drawn-out discussion about loot rules that took place in /officer chat delayed the raid and caused no small amount of frustration to those who couldn’t see the conversation … and even more to those of us who did (and found the entire situation rather asinine).

*   *  *

None of these relatively minor incidents is insurmountable; in truth, we’ve already recovered from them.  But, still … I find myself second-guessing the decisions I made, and secretly dreading next Saturday’s raid (when I get to make them all. over. again.)   Things were never this difficult in TBC, when raiding was hard and those “barriers to entry” that we’ve debated into the ground nonetheless served to create an determined and dedicated raid, with members who were excited about the content and invested in each other’s success. 

I hate the revolving door that endgame raiding has become, and occasionally find myself longing to step down — if not from raiding altogether (which I still enjoy, with all the passion of an addict), then at least from having to make the hard decisions and deal with their inevitable fallout.

August 6, 2009 at 12:16 pm 9 comments

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